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The Lone Dragon

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #220 on: June 29, 2017, 11:20:55 pm »
Chapter 61: The Great Gamble


Thud and Screech were both staring at the egg, the green Fast Biter’s expression was confused and the blue Fast Biter’s was shocked and defensive. Thud turned to look at Screech still looking like he had seen a Flyer going out with a Swimmer. Screech’s scent was also surprising, the scent of fear and his body language was also out of place. Thud noticed that his claws were in a battle position and his leg muscles were tense as if he was about to pounce. In order to placate Screech, Thud took a step back and put his hands at his sides in a non-aggressive gesture. Screech relaxed visibly. A loud snore brought their attention back to Red Claw, with a nod of understanding both Fast Biters rose with Screech holding the egg in and the light blue skin in his hands as they both walked a safe distance from Red Claw and behind some rocks. This was a conversation that they’d rather not have close to Red Claw.

“Why?” Thud asked in a hushed voice when they were sure they were safe from unfriendly eyes.

“Because it feels right” stated Screech also in a quiet tone.

Thud shook his head and wiped his brow with his head “What are you talking about Screech?” Thud put his hand down in an exaggerated gesture and looked at his friend. He knew Screech well, they were childhood friends that had stayed together for years. Their families had originally been rival packs with their own territories, each keeping to their own until an incident involving a rather disastrous hunt. Since both families were small with only six adults between them and by chance they were hunting on the same day and the same Longneck. It was also the first time that Screech and Thud had accompanied their parents on a hunt but ended up wondering off and meeting each other.

It was amazing at the innocence that even Sharpteeth children could display, neither of the boys knew of each other’s pack and began playing, however they chose the wrong place and time to start a play fight which ended up taking them both into the view of the passing Longneck that the Fast Biters were currently waiting for. He decided to crush the life out of them after all two less Sharpteeth meant two less threats to worry about.

The two rival packs heard the screams and noticed that their respective children were no longer with them and ran to the rescue. Combining their strength, the two packs managed to save their children and take down the Longneck and hence forming an alliance between the packs which would later merge to become one. Screech and Thud would grow up and do everything together from then onwards but in all that time Thud had never seen Screech do something as strange as this.  

“Screech, I don’t think there was any right or wrong option here, it’s simply survival, life or death just like usual” Thud wasn’t sure where this strange sense of morals was coming from.

“The hunt was but do you know what is so wrong about it?” asked Screech staring straight into Thud’s eyes. Thud looked down, he knew what his friend was referring. The deal with that strange old Swimmer.

“It does make me feel a little worried” Thud thought that Swimmer was not to be trusted, she had willingly betrayed her own kind and the reasons behind it were obviously treacherous and devious. These traits alone wouldn’t have hit the Fast Biters hard if it she was a fellow Sharpteeth but the fact that this was actually a leaf eating Swimmer made the situation very unnerving, even more so considering that she could speak in their tongue.  

“Us taking orders from that Swimmer is wrong, she obviously wanted to stage that hunt as a torture for those two Swimmers she told us to spare and if what she says is true then she is sure to try and kill the child and we helped her do this” said Screech seriously before looking down and caressing the skin with his claw.

“We do owe her for at least giving us a meal,” said Thud putting his hand on Screeches shoulder “but why save the egg?” he asked.

Screech answered with firm conviction “Because I am going to do one thing right today regardless” he said.

Thud sighed and shook his head. “What do you plan to do? Raise a Swimmer hatchling?” Thud meant it to be a sarcastic joke but he inwardly wondered what Screech was planning to do with the egg.

“I’m going to give it to its family when we enter The Great Valley” said Screech.

Thud’s mouth fell open, he put both his hands onto Screech’s shoulder. “Who are you and what have you done with Screech?”    

Screech rolled his eyes and push Thud away “I’m still me, Thud” he said with firm irritation.

“And how do you propose to accomplish this?” asked Thud dramatically.

“I plan on deserting as soon as we enter The Valley”

“Are. You. Crazy!?” hissed Thud fiercely. “Do you have a bloody death wish cause that’s what will happen if you desert Red Claw.” Screech was about to reply when another voice, unfamiliar and unexpected entered the conversation.

“I think Screech is right”

Both Fast Biters jumped, scared momentarily out of their wits when around from behind the rock came the battered form of the brown Fast Biter they had seen during fight against the Swimmers earlier. Not knowing who he was or what his intentions were both Fast Biters stood their ground in a combat ready stance.

The Fast Biter didn’t seem to worry or even notice the aggressive stance of Screech and Thud, he walked silently in front of them, his body was covered in numerous gashes covered in dried blood and his eyes had a rather shrunken look to them, not to mention they were red from crying with noticeable bags beneath them.

“Who are you and what do you want?” demanded Thud firmly, managing to keep his voice quiet but at the same time menacing.

“Who I am doesn’t matter to you but I am not against you if you plan on defecting” said the Fast Biter calmly, his words sounded almost dead and exhausted. “I want to help you”

“Help us?” said Screech in a deep voice scorn with sarcasm.

“Why? Give us one good reason why we should trust you” Thud pointed an accusative claw at the Fast Biter.

“I overheard the talk you had with that Swimmer” stated The Fast Biter as if the last comments hadn’t even been mentioned.

“So? What’s it to you?” asked Screech, his eyes narrowing as he looked over the Fast Biter, he could tell he was not lying by scent, however he could also decipher the feelings of despair, (calm) anger, pain, a tinge of relief and determination. He wished he had more backstory on this Fast Biter because emotions can only elude a dinosaur’s motives so well.

“I saw what you did Screech,” He was looking at the two items held in Screech’s grasp. “I think it was an honourable thing to do” Screech and Thud looked surprised. “I will relieve you of your burden and bring it to the Swimmer with whom it should go too”

Screech clutched the items closer, not willing to part with them and feeling even more suspicious of the Fast Biter now. One could easily see the mistrust that Screech and Thud held. Screech was not willing to part with the egg that he taken a great risk to save, he had kept it secret from a ravenous Red Claw and he didn’t want to think what would happen if that Biter were to find out that he was protecting leaf eaters.

“You have shown me that I can trust you” said the Fast Biter passively. Something that surprised both Screech and Thud whose guard momentarily dropped, no Sharptooth had ever said that to them since they had joined Red Claw. Now they were shunned by those in The Sharptooth community, meaning that all they had was each other and that was not favourable odds for either of them.

“You trust us?” said Thud unsurely.

“You have just shown that you are not the fiends that everyone says you are just by talking to defect from him and by saving that one egg” The Fast Biter made a gesture in Red Claw’s direction. “I think it is the right decision”

“As do I” said Screech in agreement though Thud still looked rather contemplative. Screech looked at his friend. “You heard Red Claw roar when he charged that Swimmer, that was Sharptooth’s call, we can’t stay here you know what he did to everyone, Leaf eater and Sharptooth alike. He killed our families and only we survived but we’ll be next on the kill list now that Red Claw is becoming like Sharptooth and if that should happen we’ll be dead and The Valley will become a boneyard”

Thud looked down at the mention of their families, he let out a sad sigh, the memory still pained him, the night that Sharptooth came out of nowhere in the dead of night during their last years of youth and slaughtered his and Screech’s families without hesitation or mercy it was only through his parent’s efforts that they escaped with their lives, they fled while their parents tried in vain to hold the tyrant off. After that the two friends swore that they would never be hurt like that again and that would soon lead them to teaming up with Red Claw and be the strongest and deadliest Sharpteeth around even if it meant being tyrants but now they could no longer stay true to their word by staying with that tyrant, it was something that had sadly taken years for them to learn.

“You have both suffered by Sharptooth’s claw, you need not suffer anymore,” The Fast Biter said in a consoling way. “Red Claw expects to have an easy trek into The Valley but I don’t think that Swimmer means it to be a fast one and that means you’ll be stuck in the Badlands for how long and without any food for Red Claw.” Screech and Thud both exchanged a worrying look at the prospect of staying with a hungry Red Claw for an extended period of time. “Let me go ahead with the egg and the skin, I know the Swimmer and her daughter. I can find them and give it to them and warn them of Red Claw and when the time comes you can help stop another Great Sharptooth from every coming to life. That I think should be more than enough to redeem yourselves in the eyes of other Sharpteeth” said The Fast Biter.

By now both Fast Biter’s were convinced of that The Fast Biter was indeed on their side. Reluctantly and carefully Screech handed Bluey’s last remaining bit of flesh along with her egg to The Fast Biter who took hold of them as if they were a precious, fragile gem. He pulled a bandage leaf out from under his tail where it had been awkwardly tired and was about to place the egg and skin inside when Screech and Thud both gasped.

“You were the one that stole part of the kill!” said Thud loudly. Screech shushed him angrily.

“You’re not the only one who was hungry” said the Fast Biter, he winked at them as he placed the egg in next to a second egg, it appeared that Screech and The Fast Biter both had similar views on the issue.

“Good Luck friend but can I ask,” said Thud “Why were you after that Swimmer?”

A look of melancholy passed over The Fast Biter’s face “We have a history which we have finally resolved” was all he said. With on wave of his hand he turned and sprinted off silently into the night. The two Fast Biter’s waved once as they watched him leave.

“Now that is not something you see everyday” said Thud.

“Yeah, but let’s get back to Red Claw before he starts hunting us, I don’t know about you but I just need sleep now” With a yawn Screech and Thud both headed back to their sleeping spots with a lot on their mind.


*


The Great Valley, A Few Months Later, The Cold Time    


A cool white mist spread across the water giving a mythical feel to the large waterfall near The Swimmer’s nest. The water was not iced up yet but it was already freezing cold. The only motion was the ripples coming from the waterfall that broke up the crystal-clear image into a distorted, wavy one. The clouds above The Valley were grey and blocked the sun from view giving the light a dull quality to it. The land was blanketed in a thin layer of white snow as was the trees and cliffs. There was still plenty of vegetation around but everyone knew that would soon end with the coming of the first storm of The Cold Time. Some dinosaurs were gathering some green food in hollow logs as an emergency store of food. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath was Ducky standing on the water’s edge. She exhaled an icy mist forming around her mouth as she did so and she opened her cerulean eyes to see the crystal-clear water in front of her as she took a deep breath and dived into the water.

Like every other time it felt like every inch of her body was being stabbed and cut by millions of small teeth. It was painful but after getting through the initial shock of pain and dizziness, her body rapidly lost heat. Ducky didn’t stay still any longer but started swimming slow and steady around, having no particular direction in mind, all she was trying to do was get used to the freezing water which was already draining her energy and making her shiver. Ducky’s skin which was a light blue before now started to become deeper as her shivering increased and the familiar cloud of fatigue descended over her mind but she would not give into its demands or the consequences could be fatal.

Swimming near the surface Ducky could see her folks watching from the bank and as she looked ahead she could clearly see the lower portion of her mother’s body standing by lest her daughter lose consciousness while in the freezing water. However, the point of this exercise was not only to get her used to the water temperature which would be similar to what she would face during The Trial but to increase her endurance to it. Every day since she began her training a week ago she had done this and after a shaky start had slowly begun to improve, her aim was to stay in the water for the required amount of time that Cyrest had set, about ten minutes.

Thankfully she had the option of withdrawing all the time and was encouraged to take it and while she hadn’t made the required time yet, she was getting closer to it every time. “So cold, so cold” whimpered Ducky in her mind. Even after a week she still hadn’t gotten used to the cold chill of the water. She was struggling to keep moving not only because of her violent shaking but also because she was rapidly losing feeling in all her limbs and her eyes were stinging with pain causing her to close her eyes occasionally when the pain became too much.

She didn’t know how much time she had spent in the water but it felt like ages to her and as she started to sink, Ducky knew that now was the time to get out. She swam in a very wonky manner towards her mother until she was right in front of her and with a swift movement was raised out of the freezing water and into the cold morning air. “I am glad that there is no wind…I am…I am” thought Ducky. She could recall the windy first day she did this and coming out of the water to the wind was no relief at all.

Ducky’s teeth clicked and her body shook violently, her skin was now a deep blue and her breathing was very, very slow. As she felt her mother hoist her up to chest height she immediately pressed herself into her mother’s warm body in order to get warm. Her mother’s arms enveloped her, keeping her close to her body and serving to keep the heat in.

“Ducky, are you alright dear?” asked her mother with concern as she waded toward the bank. Ducky could only nod an affirmative which her mother took to be an “I’m okay” sign.

Sura stepped back onto the bank. Cyrest and Ruphus were both waiting for her, Ruphus was quick to check up on his daughter. “She’s fine” said Sura as he approached and was glad to see her mate calm down. “Well done Ducky, you’re getting closer, not quite there but you will be soon” said Cyrest reassuringly though Ducky didn’t exactly respond, she was too cold to even make a coherent phrase and even than she did not feel too keen on getting back in the freezing water the next day.

“We’ll be back soon” said Sura and headed off at brisk pace towards the hot vents that bedtime stories were usually told around as she had done after every one of these icy practices, the warm ground and air created by the vents would be a significant help in warming Ducky and help prevent her from catching a cold or any other sicknesses for that matter.  

It had only been recently that Ducky got back her full abilities. Her leg had healed within the first couple of weeks but her ribs took a great deal of time to heal. After she regained the ability to walk she was allowed to move around but not to go around running or swimming, though she was allowed to enter the water and it was always in company but it was the good friendly company of her friends and some of her clutch mates.

Overall, her recovery was not too uneventful but a little dull at the same time. Ironically it was during the early stages of her recovery that was the most eventful mainly because of Rapid. The poor boy had become the subject of his younger sibling’s pranks, his clutch mates were more understanding and would verbally joust with him (and very successfully at that) however their younger brothers and sisters thought that this was the chance to humble the family’s prankster.

It was these series disgusting and degrading pranks which are best left unsaid that resulted with Rapid being more humiliated then he had ever been in his life.  He felt more pained and furious then ever and the worst part of all for him was that it happened all in front of Ducky’s friends including his favourite Threehorn, Cera. He was so enraged that when he found out who the perpetrators were, he actually tried to strangle his younger brother which ended very badly for both of them for he had inadvertently hurt himself more than his brother with the scar on his leg tearing open and bleeding when he leapt at him. Sura had to intervene and she and Ruphus had more than one thing to say to their son, Silvlar who was the ringleader of his clutch mates in the pranks against Rapid. Every child of the second clutch was punished, Silvlar especially. Not only were they grounded but they were given their older siblings responsibilities but they were also tasked to look after the younger brother’s and sister’s nest which was job that none of them liked at all and they were all to do it for a month.

It had surprised Rapid when his own clutch mates defended him and Echo actually ended up almost knocking Silvlar out after Rapid failed. Ducky’s friends were also sympathetic to Rapid’s plight, though his leg was in even worse shape now that he had torn the scar open and he was reprimanded by his mother for his foolishness and temper as was Echo but they got off lightly as the main worry was tending to Rapids bleeding leg. Now Rapid was nearly able to walk but he was still to be kept off his feet for another week till he had fully healed.

Trough was actually integrating well with Ducky’s various siblings. He got along with each of Ducky’s clutch mates and most of her younger siblings. He also found himself in a position that he had never experienced before, the desired boy. It seemed that not only was Diver interested in him but so was Sandy and Opal but and he had actually grown to like them all a lot and even better was that Opal was starting to come out of her shell. It happened one night shortly after Ducky’s return to The Valley when Opal had awoken from a rather unpleasant night terror and went for a calming swim, being careful to avoid any collision with Merri who was going through one of her sleep swimming nights which happened every now and then. She didn’t know however that Ducky had also been awaken by her sister’s groaning and upon her return to the nest Ducky openly addressed her.


“Opal?”

Opal jumped in fright she had not expected anyone to be up at this time and had not considered that her brawling might have actually woken up anyone. However, when she regained her senses and recognised who was actually awake she immediately was by her twin sister’s side in case she needed something. “Ducky, are you okay, do you need anything?” she asked with concern, kneeling down in front of her sister who was immobile as ever.

“I am okay Opal, I am, but are you okay?” asked Ducky, she actually looked more worried than her twin. Opal was thankfully truthful, she shook her head and looked down sadly. Ducky put a concerned but reassuring hand over Opal’s hand. “What is wrong?”

Opal’s answer was unconventional, she grabbed hold of Ducky and hugged her as tightly as Ducky could take. A few tears fell onto the ground beside her “Damn it, damn it all, I hate this stupid Trial, I don’t want you to die” Opal let out a barely repressed sob and continued to hold on to Ducky like frightened hatchling.

Ducky’s eyes widened and embraced her sister just as tightly and nuzzled her in an attempt to comfort her, even though the embrace hurt terribly. She understood now just how deeply Opal had been affected by all that had recently happened and while she was tough and had lived through plenty of hardships none of them came close to this one. The long absence of her mother and sister and the coming Trial of Destiny which could easily claim the life of her dear sister.

“I know Opal, I do not like this Trial either no, no, no” she said, giving Opal a put on the back with her hand.

Opal broke off her embrace and wiped tears from her eyes but more came in to replace them. “Why? What’s the point of it all? Why you?” lamented Opal in a whimper as she looked down at the ground vertically and said in a tone full of malice “I hate the Swimmer who did this to you”

Ducky could not think of anything to say to Opal’s questions, they both knew the answers but they had yet to sink in with Opal who was racked with another sob. “I might not do The Trial if Mom and Dad can convince everyone that there is a Swimming Sharptooth in the caves” said Ducky hopefully though she neglected to say that if the worst should happen then regardless if there was a Swimming Sharptooth in the caves or not she would still do The Trial. She had to stop it from ever happening again, if she completed it then she would have power eventually to stop The Trial and she could also unmask the Swimming Sharptooth and show to everyone that it was rigged. It was an extremely risky game to play. A gamble with life and death.

“If that fails then please don’t die, I love you too much” Opal pulled Ducky into another tearful hug.

Ducky broke off, quicker then she wanted to, there was still something she wanted to find out. “Opal? Why are you always away? Everyone is worried about you” Ducky looked deep into her sister’s eyes which still contained a lot of sadness.

“I just wanted to be alone” replied Opal to Ducky’s surprise.

“But that is not like you Opal and I want you home, like you were before” said Ducky.

Opal sighed sadly looked down, her tail drooping behind her. “I know, I just wanted you home and now The Trial is coming….” Opal took a deep breath in. “Okay, I don’t want to be alone anymore I just want to be with you and mom” said Opal in a whisper. Ducky nodded and offered her hand to Opal, an invitation to sleep with her which was not turned down. The two sisters slept peacefully that night and Opal would thankfully shed the antisocial attitude she had built in the morning and start to finally be herself again.



Since then Opal had started to revert back to her old self and finally started to socialise with Trough who enjoyed her company, usually Opal knew the latest gossip around The Great Valley but now she had a bit of catching up to do since she hadn’t visited any of her none Swimmer friends for ages. Apart from her twin Opal had the second largest number of friends that were of other kinds, however their gatherings were rather different to that of The Gang, of course they played and talked but didn’t exactly go on adventures and were more home oriented with one meeting place which they all stayed around.

Opal was really interested in Trough for the life he had lived in with the herd and not just because of her sister’s interest in him. She was curious about the places he had been and of the other Swimmers in the herd and she was especially interested in hearing about her deceased Aunt Bluey from Tough since he knew her so well before she died. Even though talking about Bluey still filled him with sadness, he found that talking about her to Opal and Ducky’s other siblings to be quite satisfying both for him and them.

Jane was absolutely loving her stay in The Great Valley, here she could intermix with the Sura’s latest clutch who were around a year old and while they may have been older then her, they were also in the same boat and welcomed her with open arms, every day they played together, ate together and slept together. Cyrest, loved seeing his niece grow and prosper with Sura’s children it was something that had been denied to her but now she had lots of children to interact with, turning her life onto a much better route.

In terms of The Gang Littlefoot was finally able to spend some extended time with his father Bron, the most time he had ever had with him since they first met. Already the bond between father and son had grown with triple the speed then it had before. Everyday Littlefoot could spend time with his father which was mainly in the mornings or evenings as he spent his time over at Ducky’s nest with his friends, supporting Ducky through her slow recovery.

In the evenings Bron, Shorty and Littlefoot would all go to the smoking hot vents at night and Bron could finally tell Littlefoot of his adventures during his time away and his young but the most special stories that Bron told were centred around his mate, Littlefoot’s mother. Littlefoot listened with intense concentration with a rather dazed expression. He had not known much about his mother’s life, when he was young he had always seen her as his mother but through Bron he was gaining a new and more detailed picture of his mother.

Though Littlefoot didn’t want to admit it but his memories of his early days were vague and his memories of his mother were starting to slowly fade away, this pained him though the sleep story he had before Ducky left The Valley had refreshed his memories of her. Her beautiful, soft and comforting voice, her strong faith and believe in him as well as her undying love for him and even the warmth of her body.

It was these stories about her that Littlefoot absolutely craved.

Life was relatively the same for the rest of The Gang although Cera still had yet to get used to seeing her father with half of his right horn missing and Ruby and Chomper were slowly integrating with Ducky’s siblings, her clutch mates were more accepting while the second clutch siblings were warier of them.

Finally, Sura arrived at the hot vents with Ducky, she placed her daughter onto the hot rock close to the vents and made a windshield with her body as she lay down beside her small shivering daughter.

It didn’t take to long for Ducky’s shivering to stop thanks to the warm body of her mother and the warm air exhaled from the vents. “I feel much betterer now mom yep, yep, yep” she said.

Her mother nodded but she wasn’t ready to leave just yet as she warmed her hands near the orange glow of the vents, she still had one last thing to say before they went home. “Ducky, we are going to start teaching you Sharptooth manoeuvres after you get used to the water” she said.

“Okay mom, I will do it, yes, yes, yes” said Ducky in her usual cheerful voice, she liked doing fancy manoeuvres and it brought a smile to her mother’s face when she spoke in that happy mannerism, which was a great boost to her mother’s morale.

Sura did indeed smile lovingly at the sound of Ducky’s good spirited voice and her catchphrase “Good, we will begin your training as soon as you feel comfortable in the water as it is now, come dear” said Sura with a gesture of her head in the direction of home and pushed herself back onto her two legs and headed for home with Ducky in tow however they failed to notice a pair of eyes watching from afar, if only the owner of those eyes hadn’t stumbled onto them at that precise moment.


*


It wasn’t long before the duo arrived back at the nest, Ducky was greeted warmly by everyone present. “How did it go, any better?” asked Echo when he caught sight of his now warmed up sister, he was referring to Ducky’s training session.

“Yep, yep, yep. Much betterer, soon I will be able to do it, yes I will” said Ducky cheerfully.  

“Don’t get to comfortable,” said Sura with a mischievous smile on her face “Just because it’s The Cold Time does not mean that you won’t be training” She caught Echo’s eye who looked a little worried about the prospect of going into the freezing water now, she read her son perfectly. “And don’t worry dear, it will be happening on dry land” Echo sighed in relief at his mother’s words.

His clutch mates were all within ear shot when their mother said this. Their younger siblings however were doing all the chores around the nest along with some of the undesirable work as punishment for their prank on Rapid, they did not look to happy but their punishment would be over in a few days. “What sort of training?” asked Diver who approached her mother with her siblings and The Gang who also listened closely, they had arrived after Ducky and her mother had left for the vents and where finally looking forward to having Ducky fully back in action with them.

“Not the swimming type of training” said Ruphus from behind, the other adults standing next to him.

“What do you mean?” asked Ray, confused.

“We will be teaching you about traditions, socialising, leadership, courtships and everything in between” explained Ruphus. There was an “Oh” of understanding from his oldest children however it was at moment when a great commotion made itself known as a cluster of loud voices bellowing chaotically towards them. Sura and Ruphus both stood to attention with their fellow adults joining them. Everyone looked in the direction of the voices and in a few moments five adult Swimmers appeared and were all moving towards them looking rather irate but that wasn’t the thing that put Sura and Ruphus on the defence, it was that these five Swimmers. Two females and three males were the respective heads of their own families, traditionalist families.

“Sura, Ruphus!” bellowed the lead male, a light brown. “You have a lot of explaining to do” he said as if he were talking to naughty children.

“What is the meaning of this?” said Grandma Swimmer.

The ten Swimmers stood face to face, five on either side like two separate armies preparing for battle, one group being more battle scarred then the other. The tension rose and the kids backed far enough away so that they would be out of any immediate danger. The older children rallied their younger siblings so that they were all ready to break if needed. Even The Gang was weary they stood were they were and watched the confrontation unfold tensely.
The lead brown spoke again, harshly “I’ll tell you the meaning, you!” the Swimmer pointed at Sura an Ruphus “are violating our traditions, teaching a child the wisdoms!”

Sura and Ruphus both took on defensive stances and in an unspoken word so did everyone else in line but their rivals held an aggressive stance. “We’re giving our daughter the best chance at The Trial, Harley” said Ruphus firmly to the lead Swimmer.

“How did you even know?” asked Sura.

Harley gestured to his left to the female next to him, she was a light green, yellow colour and was shortest of the adults, her name was Felene, she let out her explanation in a shocked voice. “I saw you talking to your daughter at the hot vents about the wisdoms and The Trial,” she fidgeted nervously. “I can’t believe it” she whimpered.

“And she told you?” deducted Sura.

Harley nodded, then the dark green Swimmer on his right who was rather well muscled said “That and the fact that you’ve been going around asking certain families to stop The Trial for the whole Cold Time, claiming that there is a Swimming Sharptooth in the caves, untangling them from your web of lies has not been easy”

Sura, Ruphus, Cyrest, Merri and Grandma Swimmer looked shocked, they’d been found out and very openly too. Ever since her return Sura and Ruphus had worked hard to try and get some of the other Swimmer families to support her and she had only mild success with two families that might help but now all the hard work taken over the last few months had been undone. The Swimmer, whose name was Rilath continued “and you disappearing out of The Valley and returning with one who survived The Trial anyone could guess what you were doing” he said.

Sura stepped forward boldly. “I do what I must to protect everyone in my family, I’m not going to send any child, least of all not my own daughter to die!” she said firmly almost beak to beak with Harley who like Sura was glowering at the other.

“So, you don’t deny it” he said, he looked down at the children, his eyes weaving around till he had spotted Ducky in between Trough and Spike looking fearful while they stood slightly in front of her like loyal body guards. “She needs a substantial punishment for violation of our traditions, I’m not sure what, banishment or death, I would go banishment for you but your daughter….- Ah!

Sura slammed into Harley and knocked him to the ground, she looked furious and betrayed. “You will never touch my daughter or any of my children, you son of a tar pit!” she shrieked. There was a clamour from both lines as Sura was held back by Merri and Ruphus while Harley was helped up by Rilath and Felene, he was seething.

“Oh, you are so going to pay for that. You loathsome heap of crap!” He shouted back at Sura.

“Get away from our nest” said Ruphus in a low voice, tinged with savageness, a fire blazing in his eyes, he was at breaking point, first they come to his nest, threaten his mate and the life of his daughter and then insult his mate right in front of him. Both sides stared at each other tensely when another voice from behind spoke.

“Why hello my ëdears’ how nice to see you again” said a cold feminine voice which spat out the word dear as if it were a poison.

Everyone jumped around to see an old female Swimmer, gleaming with water after coming out from the river right behind everyone and in front of the children. It was Sculra.

In an Instant Sura and Ruphus had moved right on front of Sculra, barring her from the children. Merri also broke position to stand off to the side, ready to help rush to either side should the need arise. Sura didn’t stop her run though and this time managed to plow directly through Sculra, almost knocking her to the ground but pushing her a reasonable distance from her children.

Every Swimmer in Sura’s family old enough to know Sculra was glaring at her, The Gang and Trough also, along with Cyrest though Grandma Swimmer didn’t know this was Sculra but was regarding her with a cold look. However, if looks could kill then Sura and Ruphus could each destroy a pack of Sharpteeth just with the look of uttermost loathing they directed at Sculra. It had been months since they had seen her and neither of them were good occasions.

“Oh, come now is that really a worthy greeting from the ëcompassionate’ mother you are Sura?” said Sculra with a devious smirk. Sura looked like a volcano about to erupt, if she was able she’d be burning where she stood, with smoke coming out of her nose and ears but even without those additions she still looked like she was about to go into a fiery fury.

“You are evil” she said though Sculra didn’t react to her condemnation rather she lifted a curious eyebrow. “We know of that Swimming Sharptooth in The Crescent Caves and don’t play games with me, you know what I’m talking about because you know it’s there, you’ve always known and I know it was you who sent that Flyer to hurt my daughter” she growled, pointing an accusative finger at Sculra.

“Oh,pfft” said Sculra waving her arm dismissively “I haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re talking about, Sura” she said, though her eyes seemed to say “Well done, Sura” in a truthful mockery as she moved around towards the other group of adults though her every action was tailed closely by Sura, Ruphus and Merri. “Oh, Cyrest it’s been far too long” she said coming around to Cyrest’s rear.

“Not long enough Sculra” replied Cyrest through gritted teeth, trying his best not to look at the Swimmer that had been the cause of so much pain. However, Sculra just walked directly in front of him. “You look so old and frail” she said coldly.

“And your just as devious, cold and indifferent to pain as ever” replied Cyrest.

Sculra rolled her eyes impatiently. “Oh, don’t be so vain,” she said in an irritated voice. “You haven’t changed a bit” she added in a dry monotone.

“and neither have you it seems, Sculra” replied Cyrest.

“So, your Sculra, I’ve heard a lot about you and none of it good”

Sculra turned and found herself face to face with Grandma Swimmer.

“And who are you, one of Sura’s worthless relatives?” she asked in an uncaring way.

“That would be her mother your talking to youngling!” hissed Grandma Swimmer. Her statement was degrading but no less accurate since compared to her, Sculra would indeed be a youngling.

Sculra glared at her “Better than being an old fart like you” she countered aggressively. Grandma Swimmer let out an exclamation of disgust at Sculra’s insulting remark.

“Don’t you dare talk to our mother like that!” shouted Merri whom Sculra ignored despite Sura and Merri curling their fists. Instead her eyes scanned the scene till they became fixed on one Swimmer.

“Been learning The Wisdom’s have you?” stated coldly, not doubting that what she was saying was true.  

However, Ducky stood her ground. “I did the true Trial and I completed-ed it, yes I did” she put her hands on her hips and stood up proudly, it now occurred to everyone just how much Ducky had changed since the announcement of The Trial, where there once stood an easily frightened, nervous Swimmer was now a brave one who had confidence in her abilities and now had a lover’s relationship. This new Ducky still had all the trademarks of the old one, from her speech, love and compassion but she was older and had a tried and tested inner strength to stand up for those she loved.

Sculra looked momentarily surprised, she had been caught off guard but she regained her cool almost instantly however the other Swimmers were gazing at Ducky in shock, hardly daring to believe what they had just heard. “It’s true, we all saw her do it” said Littlefoot, everyone who had watched Ducky’s Trial spoke up affirmation. If only Sculra was phased by this.

“That’s your account,” she said, whether she believed it or not was no concern to her but she assumed that she did which meant trouble in her book but she knew how to deal with it. “The account of one who wants to avoid doing The Trial at all costs, the words of a coward” she added, the traditionalist Swimmer’s seemed to nod in agreement.

“Our account is true, which means that you should stop The Trial!” said Cyrest in outrage.  

“That’s if it were true but I’m afraid there is no witnesses’ worth mentioning, none I would trust to scratch my back anyway” retorted Sculra.

Sura advanced on Sculra “Now listen here you- “

“I do not care!”

Everyone turned to Ducky when she shouted out over her mother, she looked up at her mother then at Sculra with firm conviction in her eyes and a determination that no one had ever seen in her before. “I do not care if you do not think I have done The True Trial or not,” Ducky pointed to Sculra and said firmly “I will still do this Trial and if I complete it then you must promise in front of the whole Great Valley that you will never ever, ever hold The Trial again no matter what and you will leave me and my family alone, yes you will” Everyone was staring at Ducky in astonishment, even Sculra, it took a full ten seconds for her to fully register Ducky’s words.

Everyone was shocked by Ducky’s bravado, even Sculra who had never expected something like this and it confused her to some degree, she knew what danger she was going into and yet this little Swimmer was still willing to do it. It was funny to Sculra that she almost felt a little admiration for her bravery but she quickly relented and the foolishness of the youngling’s decision. “Alright then child but if you fail, then know this, your family will be punished with banishment and you would have failed to stop one of our oldest traditions” she said with a sly smile, feeling confident of a certain victory, nothing anyone here could teach her would keep her alive against a Swimming Sharptooth.

“Okay” said Ducky. Her mother shook her head as if she was trying to get a Flyer off it.

“Ducky, you don’t have to do this! We can find a way to stop it” said Sura in a pleading voice but her daughter’s mind was already made up.

“I will do it because she will just continue to do it unless I stop it, I am not going to let any more Swimmer’s take that Trial no, no, no” said Ducky, she was more determined than ever to make sure that Swayer and all the other Swimmers who had taken this Trial would not die in vain, it was a promise and a commitment she had made for herself a long while back and she was not going to break her word.

“I accept your terms,” said Sculra “And don’t worry, about The Wisdoms, you’ve already learned them so there’s no point in trying to stop you anymore, it’s not like it’s going to make any difference anyway”

The other traditionalists looked a little uneasy about Ducky learning the Wisdoms and Sculra saw this “You say she needs to be punished for The Wisdoms. Well, let The Trial be her punishment and let her family’s punishment come after she fails” said Sculra arrogantly and turned tail on everyone to walk away into the foliage and to places unknown, while there was more she wanted to do with Sura she found Ducky’s foolish gamble good enough for now but still, she would need to take some precautions just in case. In the meantime, the other traditionalists also left leaving Ducky and her family and friends alone.

Silence was left in their wake as everyone was still processing what had just happened and the very high stakes agreement that had been made between Ducky and Sculra, no one could believe that Ducky had spoken like that to Sculra.

“What in the world have you done Ducky” said Ruphus, sitting down in mental exhaustion.

“You didn’t have to do that!” cried Sura in dismay.

“And what if the worst should happen?” questioned Cyrest. All the adults save Grandma Swimmer were throwing their comments at Ducky like a storm, so much so that they didn’t notice Ducky slump down on the ground in dismay and close her eyes tightly and put her hands over her head and just tried to regain control of her now erratic breathing.

“SILENCE!” All noise stopped when Grandma Swimmer shouted out catching everyone off guard and making a few of the children jump in fright. Grandma Swimmer quickly approached Ducky and lay down beside her. She placed her beak beside her and gently draped a hand over Ducky’s back as her granddaughter let out a choked sob, she was simply overwhelmed at present and no one but her appeared to have noticed that.

“Oh my, you brave little one” she said she and Ducky nuzzled each other. “You were so brave but you scared all of us” She cuddle Ducky close provider her with some needed comfort and support. Sura, Merri, Ruphus and Cyrest looked a little sorry about how they reacted, while they were within their rights to do that they forgot that Ducky was just a child, she didn’t need to have everyone at her throat.

Sura and Ruphus both approached their daughter. “We’re really sorry little one” said Sura, in a quiet, apology.

“We shouldn’t have reacted like that, you just did something we never expected” said Ruphus looking at Ducky with sympathy as her friends and siblings were coming in to provide additional comfort for her.

It took about a minute for Ducky to finally calm down “I am sorry but I had to, I have to stop The Trial” said Ducky, her voice going back to an apologetic tone.

“Oh Ducky” said Sura as she bent down and shared a nuzzle with her “We will do everything to prepare you so that stupid Sharptooth will never catch you” she said. She couldn’t raise an objection now. The agreement was made and Sura knew that even if it wasn’t made the result would still be the same if the Trial went poorly but now Ducky had a real chance if she won The Trial would never be run again but the agreement came with a cost. Swimming Sharptooth or not Ducky was voluntarily going to do The Trial, but she was determined to make sure that no one ever needed to go through the pain of being chosen for The Trial as she did. It was an act of bravery and selflessness that none of them had ever seen before.

“I know” whispered Ducky as she was finally released from the embrace of her family and friends but she got up pretty quickly.

“I need a walk” she said simply. “Alone” she added as Trough started moving forward but he stopped after that statement and stood still with everyone else as Ducky walked away to get her head around what she had just done.


*


The brown Fast Biter ignored the stunning sunset and all its glory. He sat inside one of the many caves that he had scouted since arriving in The Badlands, he had been scouting every inch of them for months but they were a nightmare to navigate, it appears that his theory about the time it would take to finally move into the main part of The Valley was correct. He had been confronted with so many dead end’s and sheer cliffs and unpassable vegetation that he clearly understood why no one came here. Finding food also proved to be a challenge since there was nothing big to eat so The Fast Biter resorted to fishing whenever he came across a water body but all the fish were small so he coupled that with a diet of bugs which were plentiful and that along with the fish kept him sustained.

He could only imagine how much trouble it would be for Screech and Thud and Red Claw when they came through here, food was very short at this time of year since it was the cold time but the good thing about The Badlands is that they were well sheltered and nearly every cliff had a cave. The Fast Biter dared not venture to far into them in case he got lost but they were still an effective use of shelter and what’s more he was starting to hear and smell leafeaters in the distance which was a good sign that he was getting close to finally reaching the main part of The Great Valley, somewhere he thought he would never see.

Looking down on the rocky ground of the cave he was currently sheltering in he looked at the two Swimmer eggs in his possession. Why did he help rescue it? Why did he volunteer to take them to their rightful family? He supposed it was some way to truly say “I’m sorry” to the Swimmer that he had pursued for so long, why did he stop chasing her? They were in the same boat now, he had lost a brother, she, a sister. How he wept for the truth about his brother after the battle but he also wept for that Swimmer for having to go through the very same loss that he had.

Red Claw was a reclusive Sharptooth, competitive and ambitious but Sharptooth himself was a true tyrant king and that is what Red Claw wanted. No, what he was starting to become and if he, one Fast Biter could make a difference to the victims, then he would do it and with any luck he would bring him down before the tyrant could truly be made. Looking at these two eggs he couldn’t help but feel sorry for the hatchlings that would grow up without a mother but at least they would be with family. He still didn’t know how he would find or even confront the Swimmer but he would get around to it when the time came, which wouldn’t be too much longer. He let out a sigh and finally turned his head to behold the beauty of the sunset.


*


The sunset was nearly over, The Bright Circle was barely poking over the mountains and The Night Circle was starting to become visible. The sky turned to an enchanting hue of purple as twilight set in. It was at this moment that Ducky finally came out of the cave at what was Ruby’s thinking place, it was here that Ruby would often come when she needed time alone to ponder on her biggest issues and now Ducky could truly understand why she liked the place, the view was simply stunning. While Ducky loved sunsets and sunrises there was something enchanting and mystic about twilight that was just intoxicating. She sat near the edge of the cliff and watched the slow passage of the sun and moon. What was the final moments for one body was the beginning of the other body.

Ducky knew she should head back home, her parents would be worried if she didn’t come back home soon, she had been here for a while now, the words she had spoken during the confrontation still ringing in her eyes as if she had just said them, there it is, it was finally out, she could truly stop The Trial but if she failed then her family would suffer. “I wish it did not have to be like this yes I do, I really do” she said to herself sadly.

“You got that right”

Ducky nearly jumped at the voice and turned to see three other dinosaurs watching her with apprehension and sympathy. “What are you all doing here?” asked Ducky in mild surprise, she may have wanted to be alone but that feeling had passed so the coming of Littlefoot, Ali and Trough made her feel a whole heap better.

“We were worried about you” said Littlefoot.

“We’ve been looking for you for ages” said Trough.

“So have the others but we split up in order to find you” said Ali. The three friends all moved as one to Ducky’s side, Trough sitting next to Ducky and holding her hand while Littlefoot and Ali flanked the two smaller Swimmers.

Ducky lay next to Trough, his body the only thing keeping her up as she closed her eyes and allowed her best Swimmer friend to embrace her, no words were needed as none of them knew the words to say to Ducky at the moment. The whole situation was unprecedented and even after knowing about the Trial this long it still seemed a fresh wound and Ducky’s announcement was just as heavy a blow as hearing about The Trial in the first place but Littlefoot and Ali had a little more background on Ducky’s motives thanks to Trough who had told all of The Gang earlier in the day. They now knew why Ducky chose to do this, to protect any other Swimmers who could be selected for the Trial, to protect her family and give a final sense of closure to those who lost their lives doing The Trial along with their families.

It was this showing of compassion that left a titanic mark on them, the sheer selflessness left them stunned but at the same time scared because it would mean that Ducky would be going into a situation that none of them would willingly venture and yet she had chosen to do it. It left all of them emotionally exhausted.

“You okay?” whispered Trough.

Ducky nodded “Much betterer” she said, the presence of her friends would always give her comfort, even in the darkest of situations. The two Swimmers shared a passionate embrace in the twilight glow with two Longnecks standing on either side like sentinels. Ducky didn’t want the moment to end, she was happy and comforted now but still knew that it was better to get home before her parents started worrying and with a nod to Trough they both hopped onto Littlefoot’s and Ali’s back. Littlefoot with Ducky and Ali with Trough as they made their way down the mountain side.

It was a journey they took in silence and ended once they met up with the other members of The Gang. Spike was kind enough to allow both Ducky and Trough on his back, he was happy to see his sister back and a little happier than before even though his core was still rocked by Ducky’s announcement and unlike the others he knew his sister well enough to understand her motives without being told but he resolved to himself to be at Ducky’s side as much as he could, she needed support now more then ever.

The friends said their goodbyes and each went home though as Ducky settled down for sleep she found that she was just to restless and fearful to find comfort in sleep. “I’m scareded” she whimpered.

“I’m with you” Trough snuggled right next her, it was exactly what they both needed to sleep peaceful however neither of them noticed Sura’s eyes open and staring up at the sky and praying with all her heart that everything would be okay yet she found little comfort and it would be a long time before sleep finally came to her.
What's the point in being mad if you don't do mad things now and again?


Sovereign

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #221 on: July 01, 2017, 05:07:56 pm »
This was a quite nice chapter. The time skip was most likely a good idea because Ducky's recovery would have been quite long otherwise. The developments with her were really well done and I'm getting the feeling that the final Trial is getting close.

The scene with Screech and Thud was a welcome look into their relationship and past but the overall thing with the egg... sure, they might have problems with their conscience but I never got the impression that sharpteeth (especially those two) would care about leafeater eggs too much. Otherwise, the appearance of the third fast biter was an interesting one and it'll be interesting to see what part he'll play in the future.

Poor Rapid... I can only guess how terrible it is to have so many siblings bullying you continuously. It was great to see that the others are doing well and I'm sure Littlefoot appreciates Bron's stories about her mother. It's really sad that he's forgetting her slowly but that cannot be helped.

The scene with Sculra and her followers was a highly infuriating one. I must say that you captured the emotions nicely there even if I'm not sure what Sculra was up to. The Trial was already set up after all. Anyway, Ducky's character development took a good leap forward here and her actions were truly well executed here. Sura should give her far more credit at this point than she does. Also, the last scene was heartwarming and a good affirmation to the help she'll get.

This was a great chapter and it was a useful interlude before the final push for the Trial. I guess that from now on, these moments respite will be far and between. Whatever happens in the next chapters, I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with. :)

The Lone Dragon

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #222 on: September 11, 2017, 06:56:16 am »
Chapter 62: Social Graces


With a startled cry Sura awoke from her night terror, another one about that blasted Trial. She still hadn’t quite wrapped her head around Ducky’s actions, though she understood them and in her heart Sura knew that Ducky was trying to do the right thing. But the danger that she was putting herself in clashed head on with her motherly instincts but Sura didn’t let that stop her giving Ducky the support she needed. A quick look at her surroundings showed that it was early morning, it was not at that stage where The Great Valley woke up but Sura didn’t feel like going back to sleep now that she was awake. She finished her background check then went onto persons inspection. A glance at her base showed her first clutches along with Trough, Spike, Ruby and Chomper. Ruphus was sleeping with the second and third clutches while Cyrest was sleeping with Jane and her mother and Merri was sleeping close to her mother but beside the nest of eggs which were all accounted for, there was also another smaller nest in which rested Bluey’s sole egg.

Slowly Sura got to her feet and stretched her arms out. The amount of snow was relatively the same as yesterday, nice and thin though the dark clouds hovering just other the mountains indicated that the layer of snow would soon become thicker in the coming days. “I might as well get breakfast ready” thought Sura and walked off towards the water, there may still be leaves on the trees but they were few and far between and becoming an increasing rarity however the underwater plants still thrived though getting them would mean a freezing dip in the cold water.

While Sura was out freezing her tail off in the cold water the children who slept with her started to wake. There was a chorus of tired yawns as everyone stirred and stretched though the young Swimmers had to untangle themselves from a mess of bodies that they had previously been huddled in. Rapid however stayed exactly where he was since he still couldn’t walk.

Spike, Ruby and Chomper also had an easier time getting up since they were so big. Ducky and Trough got up without any ceremony as had often been done with them. They would often have to take the teasing of Ducky’s clutch mates when they woke in the mornings but not every time thankfully, least not in The Cold Time.

The activity woke Ruphus who sleepily glanced at them and turned back down, he was too tired and it was too early. “Morning everyone” said Trough.

“Trough” acknowledged Echo as he got to his feet and stretched his arms ahead of him and cracked his knuckles loudly making Trough cringe. “I’ll never get used to that” he said inwardly. He thought it was an unnatural sound, too much akin to breaking bones, yet without doing so. He never understood why Echo and Rapid did that in the mornings or when they were about to do physical activity.        

Trough walked to the water’s edge and despite the freezing temperature he splashed his face and with a gasp he jolted back, wide awake. “You don’t need to do that every time you wake up, Trough” said Opal in a little amusement.

Trough walked back to the nest “Nothing better than a little cold water to wake you up in the mornings” he said cheerfully.

“I’ll pass” said Chomper simply.

“Water that is cold to a Swimmer is freezing to everyone else” said Ruby with a nod of agreement.

“Breakfast” Everyone looked to see Sura coming over and placing a pile of underwater green food on the ground along with a few tree stars from the Swimmers personal Cold Time storage but she had another addition, two handfuls of snapping shells for Chomper and Ruby who would not dare get into such freezing water lest they were starving and on their last legs.

“Thanks, Mrs Swimmer” said Ruby and Chomper together when they saw the snapping shells.

“Your welcome Ruby and Chomper” replied Sura warmly as everyone dug into their own breakfast while Sura turned her eyes on her still sleeping mate. She gave a mischievous look as she walked over to him.

“Morning dear” she whispered in her mate’s ear. “Come on, we’ve got to get up, my dear” she said a little louder however Ruphus groaned and turned his head away and raised the tip of his tail and made a “bugger off” gesture to her. Sura sighed and rolled her eyes “Well, don’t blame me for what happens next” she said.

All of Sura’s children stopped to watch in eagerness, though Trough, Ruby and Chomper looked on with interest. Sura went over to Ruphus’s torso and gently placed her foot on a certain area of his upper tail then she pushed down gradually until she was almost crushing Ruphus tail. Ruphus grimaced with his eyes closed but as Sura increased the strength of her foot on his tail he let out a gasp and let out a high pitch cry which lasted long after Sura had taken her foot off. Not only had she successfully woke up Ruphus but everyone else as well with the loud cry. Ruphus was now whimpering like a girl and holding onto the area of his tail in a curled-up ball.

Sura stood over him with a raised eyebrow. “I did warn you” she said.

Ruphus was hyperventilating from the experience “Why Sura?” he just managed to get out in a rather breathless voice.

“Perhaps it wouldn’t have happened if you had got up when I asked and not thrown your tail up at me” she said sternly, she did however give him a lift up.

“Let that be a lesson kids, don’t cross your mother in the mornings, unless your Spike, she’s to cranky to wait with everyone else” said Ruphus with a groan.

The Swimmer children were all chuckling amongst themselves though Chomper, Ruby and Trough grimaced to what Ruphus had to go through. Trough leaned over to Ducky and asked in an undertone “Does this happen a lot?”

“Not all the time, no, no, no. But sometimes if Daddy is too tired to get up” replied Ducky in whisper.

“Remind me never to get on the wrong side of your mother Ducky, bullies I can take but not her most infamous wake up calls” said Trough in a nervous undertone.

The pair giggled at the statement before going back to their breakfast as the rest of the family starting coming out from their slumbers.

“Children” the older of Sura’s children looked up at their mother. “When you have finished breakfast your father and I will take you to start your other form of training and be advised this is private so only you children are coming along” she said her last line to everyone and Trough felt that she almost singled him out, knowing that he liked to stay around Ducky and her clutch mates.

Her children started murmuring amongst themselves with curiosity while they all made short work of their breakfast. “I will see you later guys” said Ducky to Spike, Ruby, Chomper and Trough before turning to follow her parents as they led her and clutch mates away from the nest. She received a chorus of goodbyes from her friends as she left, leaving behind a curious Trough in her wake.

Their parents took them for a short walk over the river and onto the side of the bank closest to the cliff face, past the trees and over towards a small shallow creek, barely a foot deep in a large secluded clearing. It was a nice little place but the children recognised it as being the ëalone’ spot for their parents. Although they had never seen it, they had heard only the description of it and now they could see why their parents liked to come here, it wasn’t too far away and it was a quaint little place.

It was here that Sura and Ruphus stopped after they came to a fallen tree which they used as a seat while their young ones gathered in front of them watching and waiting expectantly. Ruphus took a deep breath in and out, seeming much more relaxed “It’s been too long since we’ve been here, dear” he said.

“I didn’t know how much I missed this place,” she said then looked down at her children “Did you know this was the place that your father and I got back together after our long separation” said Sura to amazement of the children.

“And here is where we will do the next phase of your training” said Ruphus. He exchanged a quick look with his mate “Shall we?”

Sura nodded. “Might as well get the most awkward out of the way first” she said.

“Awkward?” questioned Rapid.

“Courtship background” answered Sura to the shock of her children, many of the boys and one or two of the girls were saying ëeww’ and shaking their heads. Of course they had no real interest in courtship yet but it was vital that they learn that now and before The Trials as it was a crucial part of the out of water testing.

“Now, now dears” said Sura, in loud, slightly irate tone as she called for silence which was given almost instantly. “We’ll try to make this nice and quick so we can move onto the other stuff”

“What are you going to teach us?” asked Echo nervously, he did not have high hopes for what he would be shown and he doubted any of his brothers and sisters did either.

“We’re just going to run through dances, traditions, nesting and changes you can expect when you reach The Time of Great Growing, nothing to extreme” said Ruphus in an attempt to reassure his kids but inwardly he thought this would be an uncomfortably long day for the children. “Oh, and we’ll be telling you what they’ll expect during this part of The Trials” he added.

After receiving some affirmative nods from her children Sura gave Ruphus a smile “I think it’s time to show them what happened when we reconciled here” she said.

Ruphus returned her smile “Well then dear, may I have this dance?” He offered his mate a hand

Sura held her mate’s hand “Certainly” Sura and Ruphus got up from and walked into the stream closely. “Watch closely little ones” said Sura as she and Ruphus stood facing each other only an arm’s length apart. Now that they were sure that they both had their children’s attention they began an archaic courtship dance that they had once performed on this very spot on the day of their reunion.

They began by humming their own separate tunes. However, the first kiss they performed was met with the predictable ëeww’ response from all but Ducky who watched in earnest, she knew how it felt better than any of her siblings. After three short but direct kisses Sura and Ruphus simultaneously brought their beaks right down so they were facing the ground then they both brought their heads back up to face the sky, they kept their beaks from touching while they did this but that changed with the next part of the dance. They couple levelled their beaks and as they continued their separate hums which started off slow at the beginning but had now built up in speed and volume in a beautiful duet of light and gentle from Sura and a calm and deep tone from Ruphus. Sura and Ruphus both placed their beaks beside their counterpart so that they were touching and began to twirl a few times around each other, nuzzling each other up and down, alternating between a full standing form and a bent form, their duet was reaching its climax as they both slowed their circle until they stood face to face with smiles on their faces. The two Swimmers held hands and arched their necks then touched the tips of their beaks together and finally ended their separate songs. When they ended their song’s, they broke off and were hence finished with the dance.

Turning back to their children who had looks of interest in their faces and in many case’s smiles though Rapid still looked the most sceptical. “Wow, that was so cool mom and dad” said Spinner.

“Yep, yep, yep” said Ducky in agreement who through the whole dance felt very strange, she kept on envisioning doing the dance with Trough, it made her feel warm but when she became aware of this she actually blushed. Echo noticed and gently elbowed Ducky’s side he smirked and said “Ducky and Trough, parents of the biggest Swimmer family in The Great Valley” he whispered. Diver and Spinner giggled under their breaths while Ducky’s blush only grew more intense.

“Well, little ones” said Sura causing everyone to break from what they were doing as they remembered where they were and each gave their mother their undivided attention. “That was the courtship dance, it is performed only by mates and lovers” she said.

“And do you know what the best part of this is?” asked Ruphus with a devious smirk, when he didn’t get an answer he said “You are all going to do this very dance in The Trials with another Swimmer from another family” he said as he struggled to hold back his laughter at seeing the shocked and somewhat horrified expressions of his children. Sura chuckled and so did her mate.

“You mean we have to kiss another Swimmer?! Yuk!” exclaimed Rapid.

“It is not that bad” said Ducky in an attempt to brighten the mood but it just made Rapid more ill-tempered.

“Perhaps not so bad for someone with a blooming crush on the Swimmer she kisses” he said. Ducky’s face turned bright red, no one had stated that so openly to her since she came back to The Valley though she and Trough were still referred to as lovelings occasionally by Cyrest or Diver but she and Trough hadn’t been kissing, all her siblings had to go on was there sister’s current relationship and the past experiences that they had heard about from Ducky or Diver.

“Ahem”

Everyone became silent as Sura cleared her throat loudly. “Now then we’ll teach you how to do this step by step, because when the other herds come there is going to be a few days set aside for you all to meet the other Swimmers you’ll be up against but you must also use this time to find a Swimmer you’d like as partner to do the dance with”. Everyone gasped, dumbstruck, this was not something that they had expected and it wasn’t to most of their liking, Ducky herself looked like she’d been slapped in the face. When she had seen the dance performed by her parents the first and only person she could see herself doing the dance with was Trough but Trough wasn’t ready for The Trials and her brothers and sisters were not an option which was a blow because she already had the perfect partner and yet he couldn’t do it with her.

As Ducky gasped she heard another gasp nearby that was not from her siblings she turned her head and looked into the bush but she couldn’t see anything but right before she turned back to her mother she saw or she thought she saw a glimpse of light brown disappear from sight.

“Now, now little ones, I’m sure you’ll all find someone to do the dance with and by the way you can come out now, Trough” said Sura warmly. Every looked around in surprise at Sura’s words but Ducky turned around to the bushes she looked at before seeing Trough emerge looking rather nervous and embarrassed, he’d been caught flat footed.

“Since Rapid isn’t allowed to walk for another few days I suppose you can be Ducky’s partner for today’s practice” said Ruphus, giving the couple a wink.

“What are you doing here?” said Ray and Spinner at almost the exact same time to Trough.

“He was to curious for his own good” said Sura with a chuckle. “Now pair up, children one boy and one girl in each pair” The Swimmer’s hurried to their pairs. Echo with Diver, Spinner with Sandy and Ray with Opal while a rather dejected Rapid sat out.

Ruphus was the first to begin tutoring. “Alright, face your partner, usually you’d want your own song but this is not a requirement of The Trials so you start with three direct kisses” Ruphus stopped and looked at his children expectantly however only Ducky and Trough did this first step and without hesitation though they lingered a bit too long on the last one “and make sure they are nice and short” added Ruphus when he noticed that.

With more than a little apprehension Sandy and Spinner did the first step though they were sure to wipe their mouths afterwards. Ray and Opal followed soon after but Echo and Diver just stared at each other awkwardly, neither wanting to make the first move. It didn’t exactly surprise their parents as Echo, Rapid and Diver were the tough ones and shied away from any kind of romantic nature.      

“Oh, hurry up you two slow pokes!” said Rapid impatiently. Echo sighed and he and Diver proceeded to make three very quick kisses before breaking off.

“We’re doomed” said Echo.

“Totally” agreed Diver.

Sura and Ruphus both laughed at their children’s attitude. “You’ll get used it” said Ruphus.

“Yes, yes, yes” agreed Ducky.

“I’m not sure I want to get used to it” said Spinner.

“Let’s move on to step two” said Ruphus. The rest of the dance steps passed with relative ease for the children, they even found the first three kisses easier when they made a full run through of it. “I hope you are paying attention Rapid, you’ll need to do this as well” said Ruphus.

“Bah!” replied Rapid in a mixture of irritation and disgust.    

“What other things do we have to learn?” asked Opal.

“Good question Opal,” said her mother as she let out a long, tired sigh “Traditions”

The reception was not well received by her children. “Isn’t The Trial a flipping tradition?” asked Ray irately, his parents nodded.

“Then what should we have to do with it!?” yelled Rapid angrily.

Sura let out a long sigh, she knew this was going to be a more then sour subject but it had to be done now. “Not all traditions are bad little ones” she said neutrally.

“But not all traditions are good” said Sandy as she folded her arms and shook her head.

“You are right Sandy, not all traditions are good but for every dinosaur kind they make up a part of their culture and identity it is one way that we all distinguish our different kinds” said Ruphus.

Ducky raised her finger to her chin in contemplation “But is not seeing a different kind of dinosaur enough?” she asked.

“Usually it is, though for each kind their traditions make them feel really unique to others and it helps to distinguish the same kinds of dinosaurs from each other like the different types of Swimmers” said Sura.

“So, we’re going to give you a background on our traditions” said Ruphus. He was aware that this was a very sore subject with his family but it was a major part of The Trials hence the need to teach them to his family and besides they would also gain an understanding of why so many Swimmers are ëloyal’ to their traditions.

The children all found themselves reluctantly sitting through a session that involved learning about not just courtship traditions but others involving what foods to eat, where you should sleep and so many other specific things that you’d the person who made them up was trying to write out the only way Swimmers should live their lives. Not all traditions were that specific. There were big traditions involving birth, death, rites of passage and courtships as well as picking herd leaders. It was rather intricate.

Sura and Ruphus explained that the general traditions and a few big ones they did follow through but that was all. Thus far that included the sacred bathing after birth in which all children are bathed in a watering hole. They also followed sleeping spot traditions but those were more dictated by common sense rather than anything else. That was really the only traditions that the Swimmer family followed but the kids were all given a background on the punishments that came from violating traditions. The bigger the tradition violated the bigger the punishment but that punishment was usually subjective to the family judge or the head of the family.

“I’m afraid I had once broken traditions when I was younger,” said Ruphus his voice cold and distant, like an unpleasant memory. “The smallest punishment was three days without food, the most common was a five-minute beating” he explained to the shock of his children.

“I’m glad you don’t do that to us” said Sandy.

Her siblings and Trough agreed.

“We would never ever hurt you like that” said their mother as if the very thought of hurting her children was a crime. “But not all families are as lucky as this one” she said.

The talks also briefly discussed dead traditions “which are traditions that are no longer performed hence they are dead” said Sura.

“What traditions are dead now?” asked Ray.

“Dark ones” answered his mother.

“Ones you don’t need to know” added his father to the groans of his children. However, Ducky recalled something she heard during the herd meeting at The Big Water that The Fast Biter crashed. “Mom, I remember that the Swimmer herd leader’s mate said about a dead tradition about males marking females, what does that mean?” asked Ducky.

Her parents grimaced at the mention of that tradition, there was a reason why they were only being brief on this topic. “You’ll know when your older dear” said Sura.

“But I want to know too!” called Diver, her siblings piping up with her.
Sura and Ruphus exchanged a nervous glance. They’d rather not talk about this but for the sake of stopping their children’s inevitable nagging they decided that telling one dead tradition should motivate them against asking about them anymore.  

Sura took a deep breath, this would not be pleasant. “It used to be how males would get females as mates by marking them” she said.

“Marking them with what?”

“That’s all you need to know” said Ruphus firmly. That wrapped up that awkward conversation.

“Thanks for the save” whispered Sura as she wiped the sweat off her brow. Ruphus gave her a curt nod, the message was sent that this was not a topic open for discussion.

“I will leave the nesting part out since you already learned how to make a suitable nest during our temporary move the last time The Great Valley was flooded” said Sura.

“Which wraps up what you need to know about out of water part The Trials but we think it’s a good idea for you to learn about what changes will happen during The Time of Great Growing” said Ruphus.  

The children gave him somewhat curious and apprehensive looks.

“Apart from lots of growth spurts you boys will find yourselves becoming stronger and your voices will become deeper” said Ruphus to the boys.

“You girls will also be getting bigger and stronger and your voices will also be more…mature and those are only the less major changes” said Sura

“What are the big changes?” asked Ray nervously.

“The big changes are mood swings; the boys can become more aggressive and the girls can become more witty and defiant basically you can show emotions that you usually don’t” said Sura, scratching her chin as looking up as she tried to recall her Time of Great Growing.  

The children looked more than a little nervous by their mother’s description of mood swings. “You’ll also become more interested in Swimmers of the opposite gender” said Ruphus.

“Like Ducky and Trough? They’re already interested in each other” said Diver making said couple look uncomfortable.

“Yes, but more extreme, the boys might actually start fighting over girls for their attention” said Ruphus.

“What! Are you saying we have to fight others to get a girl?” asked Spinner.

“I don’t like the sound of that” said Sandy.

“I do not either nope, nope, nope” said Ducky.

“Hopefully not dears, it’s an instinct of males and I’m hoping you’ll all be reasonable” said their mother.

“There are a few other things that you’ll experience as well,” said Ruphus “Namely a desire to swim fast, an increased appetite, some sleepless nights, growing pains and an event that is akin to nest wetting” The kids gasped at the description, especially the last part.

“We are not hatchlings!” shouted Rapid angrily.

“We know you’re not hatchlings but it’s not something you’ll always be able to help Rapid and don’t worry it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it just another sign that your growing up” said Ruphus in an attempt to reassure his children, rather unsuccessfully with most of them.

Well over half of the children were now looking like they’d rather be chased by a Sharptooth rather than endure The Time of Great Growing. “That’s all we have to say little ones, you can go and play now” said Sura as the first flakes of snow fell onto the ground. “Just make sure to be back before dark” She received an affirmative chorus from her children as they all headed off to their own destination, leaving their parents alone.

“Well, that went better than expected didn’t it, dear?” said Ruphus.

“They took it better than me and my siblings. Two of my sisters fainted and my brothers were so worried about wetting the nest that they slept on a bed of leaves for months” said Sura.

“My siblings were always like ëthat won’t happen to me’ and even tried convince my parents that there was no Time of Great Growing, my sister was so scared she’d go into a breakdown whenever she heard the words, we couldn’t mention it while she was around or she’d start her drama queen panicking act” said Ruphus as dramatically as he could, waving his hand about in a rather dramatist way.

“And what of yourself Ruphus, didn’t you stick your tail up at the whole idea even if it means sticking it up at your siblings or parents?” asked Sura playfully as she nudged him with her elbow.
 
“I got into so much trouble and a very sore ass whenever I did that, I wish I knew what I do now so I wouldn’t be that stupid” chuckled Ruphus along with Sura.

“While I was the good girl who didn’t worry about the whole thing” said Sura teasingly.

Ruphus suddenly laughed.

“What?” asked Sura in amused curiosity.

“Just wondering how sore Rapid’s ass will be soon”

The mates laughed at the thought “Anyone ever tell you that you’re a devious father?” asked Sura.

“No, but you’ve already said that my idiocy is larger than The Big Water” chuckled Ruphus.

Sura and Ruphus leaned up against each other in a warm cuddle as the white snow fell around them in an almost mystical show.


*


It was a little while later that Trough, led on by Ducky arrived at the Gang’s favourite meeting place; The Secret Caverns. Everyone who had accompanied them on the journey home was present. “So, you say that Chomper and Ruby used to live in those dreary looking caves?” he asked.

Ducky nodded “They are not that bad with Chomper and Ruby around nope, nope, nope”

It was then that the two children caught sight of The Gang. They all appeared to be making snow forts and trenches and stocking up on snowballs in preparation for a snow battle. Everyone stopped to say ëHi’ to Ducky and Trough as they arrived.

They all knew that Ducky couldn’t play till her ribs healed but she was welcome to watch. “So how was your lesson?” asked Chomper.

“It was very good” said Ducky.

“It was interesting” said Trough.

“Wait, you went as well, Trough?” asked Chomper, said Swimmer nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell us, that way we could have found out all these Swimmer secrets” said Cera as she shoved some snow into a drift to hide behind.

“Swimmers only Cera” said Ducky in a teasing voice, waving her finger at as if she were scolding her younger siblings.
 
Cera smirked, she was not done yet and she knew how to get Ducky to talk. “So, what did you guys do?”

“Oh, we learned all about traditions, The Time of Great Growing and…um…love things yes we did” Ducky was unsure how to say that part with any tact, she had yet to realise that Cera had caught her flat footed.

“So, you were taught how to love?” said Cera with a repressed smile.

“Well, we learneded a Swimmer dance that Swimmers that love each other do”
Jackpot. Cera was struggling to hold back a giggle and so was Shorty who winked at Cera. “Can you show us?” asked Shorty innocently.

“Um…I think I can...” said Ducky then she called Trough over and told him to follow through with the dance they had recently learned. However, they couldn’t hear the suppressed laughter of their friends as they became enticed with each other’s movements.

When they finished however it was time to break the red paint. “So, you guys are mates or lovers huh?” said Cera now letting the dam burst as she started laughing along with Shorty.

“Now we just need a dance for Littlefoot and Ali” laughed Shorty.

“Hey!” said both Longnecks at the same time.

Ducky and Trough on the other hand were indeed rather red faced. “Errr, she’s not…I mean we’re not…”

“We do not….” Ducky and Trough could not go on any further, they were to mortified.

“Yeah right” laughed Petrie from the air.

“You guys are so funny” said Ruby.

“The Lovelings doing their love dance, if they’re not in love then why do they do it?” said Shorty.

Cera laughed. “Good one, Shorty”

Trough was looking for somewhere to hide but all of a sudden felt a ball of snow shoved in his hand by Ducky who was also holding a snowball with a wicked smirk on her face. They nodded once and threw the snowballs why everyone was busy laughing. They struck each Cera and Shorty right in the face. It was now Ducky and Trough’s turn to laugh at their surprised friends.
 
Cera and Shorty looked totally dumb struck, well they were certainly snow struck. Ducky and Trough quickly hid behind Spike’s fort. “Oh, it is so on!” said Cera and ran to her fort along with Shorty. Littlefoot and Ali ran behind their fort and Ruby, Chomper and Petrie hid behind their fort. Spike also ran to join Ducky and Trough. The stage was set, the clouds were gathered and the storm was just waiting to burst. Everyone stared each other down as if they were playing a game of chicken. Everyone who had hands was holding snowballs up while the others had their tails in drifts ready. Suddenly all hell broke loose. Snowballs and snow drifts were launched from each fort and hitting the other forts in a large field of fire. Everyone hid behind their forts in order to stay out of the firing line. Petrie however made daring dive bombing runs at both Cera and Shorty since the four footers couldn’t do much against a flyer and his runs were devastating.

Cera and Shorty ran from their fort towards Ruby and Chomper and created a united wave with both their tails that covered their targets in snow however that left them open for attack against Petrie who was about to go in for another dive bomb when he was knocked out of the sky by a snowball from Trough. The two Swimmer’s then began firing on Shorty and Cera as they were completely open as did Littlefoot and Ali. In only a few moments Cera, Shorty, Petrie, Chomper and Ruby were covered in snow while the game became focused on the Longnecks and Swimmers with their Spiketail ally.

However, Ali and Littlefoot were too far away from Ducky and Trough who through relentless bombardment drove them out. The Longnecks made a bee line for the Swimmers and had just reached the front of their fort. With a smirk Littlefoot and Ali prepared to snow them in as they each raised their tails but Spike was quicker. He jumped in front of Ducky and Trough and used his tail to cover Ali and stun Littlefoot while Ducky and Trough finished him off with a volley of snowballs to the face.

The game ended with lots of laughing as everyone went back over to Ducky and Trough’s fort. “Good game guys” said Littlefoot.

“We beat you” laughed Trough to Cera and Shorty who exchanged one look and then used their tails to bury the two Swimmers.

“Got you back!” laughed Cera as Ducky and Trough climbed out and shook the snow off their bodies. A cold wind suddenly howled and blew right over then. Everyone shivered and dark clouds were now dropping snow in a blizzard.

Trough pulled Ducky onto Spike’s back. “Secret Caverns, quick!” shouted Littlefoot and they all took off across the field as the snow and wind howled around them. It was only by luck that none of them crashed into the cliff when they got to the slope that led up to the caves but the wind was howling in their faces bringing nothing but white for the eye to see. The children banded together for warmth and strength as they moved up the slope as one. As soon as the cave entrance came into sight they ran into it and out of the storm. Everyone was shivering and shaking off snow from the sudden blizzard but they all huddled together near the wall and out of the wind.

“That was a blast” said Trough who like everyone else was shivering uncontrollably.

“You can say that again” said Cera.

“At least we are all okay” said Ducky.

Everyone looked out the entrance at the howling blizzard, everyone in the Valley knew how to handle these and families while they may worry, they were obliged to keep the children in their immediate vicinity safe while any other children not in the presence of an adult had to get under cover. It was common sense and everyone tried to get under cover, searching for children would have to wait till after the blizzard since finding anyone was like looking for a needle in a haystack, the size of a mountain.

For now, the Gang was safe in The Secret Caverns and waiting out the blizzard.

“You know,” said Trough, a slight stutter to his voice as he shivered. “I’ve never seen a Cold Time like this”

“Nor I” said Ali.

“I have” said Shorty.

“We get it all the time here” said Chomper.

All conversation stopped after that, they just huddled together in a shivering mass. Outside the blizzard blew, ice and snow gathered everywhere and the wind howled like a banshee. However just as quickly as it began the storm suddenly stopped. The children walked to the entrance but stayed just inside the cave but the view they witnessed was one of winter wonderland. Everything was covered in a thick layer of snow and many of the still water bodies had a thin layer of ice over them.

“We’d better get home” said Littlefoot.

The group confirmed his statement and quickly dispersed to their separate families so that they knew, they were all safe. As soon as Cera was out of sight she ran home as fast as she could to not only warm up also out of concern for her little sister; Tricia. This was her third Cold Time and such weather was really dangerous to younglings at her age of any kind. Cera literally skated across a large area of stone with ice frozen over the top of it, she thankfully knew how to handle drifts like these and just kept her balance and steadied her centre till she made it through then went back to her hard sprint.

“I do hope she’s okay” Cera reframed from saying that thought, even though it was a well-known fact that she cared deeply for her little sister and everybody knew it. She still retained her tough side while in public except around those closest to her. Those closest to Cera be allowed to see a through her tough mask included her family and friends with whom she was much more open to then anyone else. Finally, she skidded to a halt at her nest and Cera thanked the stars when she saw Tricia in her nest with Tria right next to her and keeper her warm. “Phew” said Cera in relief though she was still panting from her long run.

“Cera, you okay?” asked Tria in concern.

“I’m fine Tria, just had a long run” replied Cera as she walked to Tricia’s nest, the young pink Threehorn was shivering with cold but she still looked happy to see her big sister arrive.

“Cera!” she said.

Cera smiled and placed her own body beside her little sister’s. Cera spoke in a warm, soft voice that she reserved only for Tricia. It was a rare sight and before Tricia’s birth Cera never spoke in that tongue, even to her own clutch mates who were highly competitive and hard with her but Tricia. She was much softer than them and in Cera’s opinion; so much sweeter and cuter. “If only they were still here” sighed Cera inwardly. She had often wondered what her siblings take on the younger Tricia would be but she would never know. It was a fact that never failed to make Cera feel a little disheartened but it took only one nuzzle from Tricia to warm her heart once again. “Yes, Tricia, we’re okay” she nuzzled her in return in an almost motherly way.

“Cera, go, nah huh” said Tricia rather much like how Diana and Dana used to talk. “I wonder if I ever talked like that with my sisters” thought Cera, it was something that was never really talked about between her and her Dad. The subject was always buried as it generally brought both father and daughter a great deal of pain when they thought about the ones that they lost.

“No Tricia, I won’t go away from you again” said Cera reassuringly. She had a much better understanding of Tricia’s speech thanks to Ducky’s lessons on understanding toddler talk and her own personal experience. She knew Tricia was telling her not to leave her again, Cera realised that she was probably referring to her adventure to The Big Water which so soon after The Killer Storm had made Tricia really fearful for her big sister.

“Why Cera go?” asked Tricia. She snuggled up to Cera, it was always something that scared her, the thought that Cera left so often, because of her. Of course, Cera never knew this was a concern of Tricia’s since Tricia could not effectively communicate the point across. “I had to Tricia. If my friends or family are in trouble then I will always help them” she said gently.

Tricia seemed to understand because she nodded. “Cera know, no bad” Tricia finished her sentence with a point to herself with her front leg.

Cera looked shocked at what Tricia implied “No Tricia, I love you, you’re my sister, I would never leave because of you” Tricia smiled and snuggled up with Cera.

“And there’s softy Cera” said Tria.

“Humpth” said Cera sticking her head up with a short snort.

The deep laughter of her father caught the attention of all the females who turned in the direction of Topps who was still chuckling at Cera’s response. He was a different sight that Cera was used to having lost half of his right horn during The Killer Storm, Cera felt sure that she would never get used to that sight.  

“It’s good to Cera has lost none of her stubbornness” said Topps.

“Your one to talk!” retorted Cera.

“Now I think we should talk about a suitable punishment for Cera, Tria”

“What!?” said both Tria and Cera at once.

“I’ve been thinking and waiting a very long time and the decision has been difficult, what to do when Cera runs away from The Great Valley” said Topps with a devious smirk. “Grounding? No, that’s not going to do anything except giving us headaches over all her complaining” said Topps.

Cera looked rather affronted though Tria couldn’t help but giggle at her step daughter’s plight. “I can’t make you look after Tricia, you enjoy that too much. What could I do to get it through your thick skull that these wild stunts you kids pull are against all we’ve taught you?”

“Perhaps you shouldn’t bother, no punishment you can think will stop us adventuring when we need to” said Cera smugly however what Topps had to say next knocked the smile from her face.

“Or perhaps you can keep our nest tidy during The Cold Time” Cera paled. “Oh no, he wouldn’t” she thought.

“Oh, I would,” chuckled Topps as he seemed to read his daughter’s mind effortlessly. “For the rest of The Cold Time it is now your job to shove all the snow out of our nest and that means the whole nest, not just the sleeping spots” He laughed at Cera’s somewhat dumbstruck expression.

“You’d better get started then, Cera” chuckled Tria, giving her a playful nudge. Cera only wished that her father was joking but the fact that he was watching her expectantly said something different; “this is no joke so get going” That was the basic translation of her father’s expression now.
 
Cera looked at her nest. There were several large trees in the North and right across from that was a very steep hill that Tria had shoved Topps down on more than one occasion. There was a grove of tall grass over to one side with a path through it that led up and down another hill next to them. Opposite that was the main path down the nest over to the plain below. The sleeping area had Tricia’s nest in a tree stump and which was between Topps and Tria’s sleeping area.

Cera grimaced. “And this is why I hate adventuring” As she thought of just how much work she would be in for. With a resigned sigh, she stuck her frill into a nearby drift of snow and began to clear it away. “It’s going to be a long Cold Time” she groaned inwardly.


*


A few small flakes of snow settled on the ground outside the cave. It was carved deep into the earth of the cliff and ran into a network of cave systems that only someone who knew them would dare to enter into those dark, deep places that seldom saw light. It was near the entrance to this cave, in the light of the pale sun that the brown Fast Biter lay. Next to his body in a small nest of leaves were two Swimmer eggs that Bluey had produced before she died, accompanied by a piece of her light blue hide.

The Fast Biter had trekked deep into The Badlands and for months he had been navigating the difficult terrain and labyrinth that he found himself in and all the while taking care of the two eggs that he refused to eat. Now his diet consisted mainly of fish, snapping shells, bugs and small mammals since there were no dinosaurs to be found in this area and The Fast Biter could easily understand why no one would want to come here on a regular basis. It was a labyrinth of small Valley’s and narrow treks and the terrain was as tiring as it was treacherous, especially to big dinosaurs although The Fast Biter couldn’t help but marvel at its beauty yet at the same time it was also a little lonesome. The only living noises came from bugs and rare shriek of a Flyer as it flew over which was seldom here.

However, he knew that he was getting closer, the scents of dinosaurs were getting stronger and the distant sound of them going about their daily lives was growing nearer. This helped reassured him that he would soon be out of these Badlands and into the main part of The Great Valley itself. From there it was only a matter of finding that Swimmer.

The Fast Biter sighed as he thought of that Swimmer. He didn’t exactly expect a welcoming reception from any leafeater least of all this one, after all, every other time they had met resulted in a life and death struggle for both parties. He looked down at the eggs, they were the promise of life that both his brother and the Swimmer’s sister had lost and while he couldn’t do anything about the loss of his brother to a natural disaster he could do something about the Swimmer’s loss. It was an ambush organised by one of her own kind, carried out by a tyrant that was so wrong and he would not allow that wrong to stand, he would do something that was right, no matter what that meant.

Getting up and stretching his legs, he headed deeper into the cave to drink at a small spring that he’d found. It was then that he heard a small rat nearby. Homing in on the sound with quick precision he found the rodent digging a hole in the earth of the wall, it hadn’t even noticed the approach of the Fast Biter until it was too late. With a snap of his jaws the small rat fell dead in his mouth and was swallowed quickly, The Fast Biter licked the blood off his lips and was about to head off when a scent hit him.

He advanced cautiously onward into the dark and found himself standing in a large scrape. He sniffed it intently and found that there was the scent of Swimmer on it and not just any Swimmer. “The Swimmer that organised the attack with Red Claw” deducted The Fast Biter. The scent was old by a week or so and led deeper into the cave. The Fast Biter narrowed his eyes, it was a risk to follow the scent out of the bad lands when he didn’t know where it would lead but if this Swimmer was here then that meant that she probably knew her way around so her path should not lead him astray. The Fast Biter ran back and retrieved the eggs and hide then advanced into total darkness. His movements were slow and there was no sound, just oppressive silence. He stepped slowly and kept one hand on the cave wall at all times as he advanced, relying solely on his sense of smell to guide him. It was strange how his footfalls seemed so loud now with no other sound, they felt out of place though for violating the usual silence of these deep, dark caves.

The path was heading upwards and gradually became steeper till he was almost climbing up the slope but all of a sudden it levelled off and the sound of flowing water could be heard. The Fast Biter moved on forwards, seeing nothing but invisible pitfalls and imagined creatures hiding in the darkness that haunted the dreams of all dinosaurs, he felt fear but all he need to do to continue was brush the eggs with his hand and he would have the courage to continue. Suddenly his foot dropped down with a splash and he found himself in a shallow stream. The Swimmer scent was gone but he didn’t think he’d need the scent. “Follow the water up and out” said The Fast Biter and started to wade through the freezing water slowly. Step after step he took through the water on his journey but still hadn’t found a way out. He didn’t know how long he waded, he was shivering to much but he soon heard the sound of a waterfall, one that he practically walked into. Even better was there was a dim light coming from the cavern above the waterfall. He could barely make out the rocky walls but knew that he had to continue and so grabbed the weathered rock and began to climb despite his freezing body and despite the water coming down next to him he pushed on. The eggs held safely in the loose-leaf strap on his tail.

Finally, after a tremendous effort The Fast Biter with aching limbs and heaving breath reached the top but as he started pulling himself over the ledge he felt the eggs start to slip out of the leaf. The Fast Biter gasped and reacted an instant to slow. He managed to catch one of the eggs in on hand but the other one dropped down the waterfall and into the darkness, never to be seen again.

“Dammit!” hissed The Fast Biter furiously at his clumsiness but he at least still had one egg and that was good enough for him. Following the light, he found himself at a cross road with path one going up and another going left, both were waterways and both had light at the end of the tunnel but since The Fast Biter was tired as hell he chose the level left path and soon was walking along a tunnel towards a waterfall but there was another passageway coming from the left of the river which was dry and The Fast Biter could clearly see Swimmer foot prints on the ground. Concurring that this was probably the right way he followed the tracks into a large dry cave with a large black hole at the opposite end but there was a large crack in the wall and an old deserted nest beside it. The Fast Biter could smell the old Swimmer’s scent, she had obviously been here before. He walked over to the crack in the rock wall and looked out of it and was confronted with the view of The Great Valley.

The Fast Biter gasped, he had made it, The Valley was right there but the problem was he was viewing from what must have been a very high cliff because he could see a huge expanse of the Valley which meant that his elevation must be high. He could see trees, rivers and lots of snow covering everything and hundreds of leaf eating dinosaurs. It was paradise. “I guess there is a reason why it’s called The Great Valley” said The Fast Biter. Now he just needed to find the Swimmer and from that height it would be much easier than simply searching in the dead of night.

The Fast Biter didn’t realise that he was in one of Sculra’s reclusive nesting sites and this particular one was used as a post of spying on The Valley residents but the main reason as The Fast Biter was about to discover was to keep an eye on one family. The Fast Biter gasped. There, near the base of the cliff was a nest and the Swimmer he saw down there made him know right away that this was the nest he had been looking for and he was right above it. He could see five adults and who knows how many kids along with the Spiketail, Swimmer, Fast Runner and Sharptooth he had seen during that fateful day. He was rather surprised to see a young Biter down with the Swimmers but they all appeared to be getting along quite well.

“Now I just need to get down there somehow” said The Fast Biter.

SNAP!

The Fast Biter turned at the sound of a snapping stick behind him and was suddenly staring into the surprised eyes of Sculra who had just entered the cave. The two stared at each other un movingly as if time itself had ceased for them but that short period ended with Sculra growling and charging at full speed towards The Fast Biter.

There was nowhere to go except the hole and The Fast Biter was not interested in fighting when he was spent so he ran to the hole in the back of the cave and after a quick prayer to his ancestors made the leap of faith and disappeared I
into the dark before Sculra could catch him.

The Fast Biter slid on the ground on what seemed to be an underground slide but he couldn’t see a thing and his ass was really taking the blunt of hits as he tried to keep the egg safe in his grasp. Finally, he came tumbling out of a hole at the bottom and into some very dense bushes the egg falling from his grasp and rolling on the ground ahead of him but it was thankfully unharmed.

With a groan, The Fast Biter forced himself into a standing position, he messaged his scraped tail and felt the warm blood on his rear as he picked up the egg and quickly moved away from the small entrance as fast as he could in case that Swimmer came after him. The Fast Biter pushed to the edge of the foliage and looked through the bushes and watched the Swimmers on the bank. The adults were currently looking away but the children were everywhere. This was obviously a very successful family, the perfect place for the egg. “Well, this is it” whispered The Fast Biter, he knew that there was virtually no way to get close to the nest without being spotted so he summed up his fortitude and took a deep breath before moving out of the bushes and slowly across the stream with the egg held in his clawed hands. He grimaced as his tail touched the water, the icy water made his scrapes sting like mad but he forced himself on a little faster just to get out of the water. It was then that a young Swimmer standing on a rock near the bank spotted him.


*


AHHH! Sharptooth!” screamed Sandy. She sprinted from her rock as fast as her legs could carry her and headed for her parents, everyone seemed to have heard Sandy’s call since they were all running to their parents. Sura and Ruphus along with Cyrest, Merri and Grandma Swimmer ran to Sandy.

“Sandy, what’s going on? Are you okay?” said Sura in concern.

“Mommy, Fast Biter” Sandy pointed behind her. Sura raised her head and her jaw dropped when she saw The Fast Biter that had once hunted her standing just a few metres away and gazing at her calmly, he appeared to have something in his hands but she couldn’t see what. She stared at him in astonishment, where had he come from and what was he doing here? The Fast Biter advanced a few steps towards her.

Ruphus stepped forward and growled threateningly, he didn’t know where this guy came from but he would not let his family come to harm under his watch. The Fast Biter stopped and did something that Ruphus did not expect, he placed himself flat on the ground, in a gesture that meant full submission. If he wanted to, Ruphus could easily crush the life out of him but as it was he was rather taken aback by The Fast Biter’s actions. Ducky also looked rather shocked to see The Fast Biter again. “Chomper, come here” said Sura, gesturing him to follow as she advanced in front of the Fast Biter and lowered herself in front of The Fast Biter who was still laying on the ground. Chomper arrived at his side, ready to translate whatever words would be said in this coming conversation.

“Hello” said Sura in an uncertain voice.

The Fast Biter looked up and moved into a sitting position. Ruphus took up post beside Sura, ready to defend her at a moment’s notice.  

“Hello Swimmer, I’m sure you didn’t expect to see me again”

“No, I didn’t” said Sura when she heard Chomper’s translation. “How did you get here and more importantly why are you here?”

The Fast Biter took a breath after he was given the translation by Chomper. “I’m here to do something right, consider this gift a peace offering but I think it will mean more to you then that”

Sura blinked in confusion but that changed when The Fast Biter took Sura’s hand and placed an object in her hands. Sura slowly opened her hands and gasped, tears filling her eyes. In her hands was a single Swimmer egg and next to it was a severed bit of light blue flesh, both of which belonged to Sura’s recently deceased sister; Bluey.

One of Bluey’s eggs had somehow been saved and brought into The Great Valley by The Fast Biter that had once ruthlessly hunted Ducky and Sura.


     



Finally completed this chapter after two months and three cases of writers block. I actually completed this chapter a few days ago, the reason I didn't upload it was because my internet was fried by lightning during a storm and I only got it back up today after a week of no internet access. Any hope you enjoy the chapter.

Ducky123

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« Reply #223 on: September 18, 2017, 05:01:32 am »
Review of chapter uhh... 60 I believe :p

First of all, I'm sorry about your writer's block mate, should have reviewed this sooner to boost your writing spirits :p

I must say this chapter was pretty solid. Of course it couldn't reach the level of the previous chapters simply because the plot wasn't as thick. Nonetheless, you've done a fine job! I find the balance between the aftereffects of the attack - mental and physical, light-hearted scenes to brighten the mood as well as new revelations and hints at what is going to happen in the future. ^^spike

Now a bit more specific...

Trough: Having him seek to be lonely in his dark mood is perfectly natural. Now that things have calmed down, he is also able to see reason at last, regretting his outburst and conscience kicking him in the butt. I wonder if the meeting with the swimmer is going to have any further significance (as in whether she'll play a role later on, I'm really curious about that :)), it was certainly a good idea to include such a scene, yep yep yep!

I am happy that he and Ducky are on good terms again, however I need to second what Sovereign said in his review that the solution if the conflict could have gone a little less... smooth (and I'm not calling for more slapping there :p)

Family stuff: Well, Ducky's siblings sure got mad at Trough, I'm beginning to take a liking to Diver for her personality :smile It sure is great v
How supportive they are of their sister.

The conversation of the grown-ups sure has interesting developments in store. Whether their plan is going to work out remains to be seen though...

Sculra you b*tch... letting Redclaw in is one way to get herself kicked out if her actions are discovered... if not worse!

I'll catch up on the rest asap, was a good chapter ^^spike

-----

School is boring so here's review of chapter 61:

Whoa, things are picking up quickly in this chapter :wow

Screech and Thud, who would have thought they have good inside (Ducky was giht in her song, huh?

Damn and I thought this was gonna end with murder... Ducky may have prevented bloodshed with her bravery (which would be so OOC if it weren't for the developments of the previous 60 chapters) but at what cost? We now know that the trial WILL take place, all hope of cancelling it is now lost unless they get the other inhabitants to kill Sculra or the Sharptooth. If Ducky didn't make it (which I doubt because... you wouldn't kill her off would you? :p), it would mean death or exile for her family. Not a bright outlook,is it?

The final scene was very well done, providing a peaceful and heartwarming end of this rather eventful day :yes

I must also agree that the timeskip was the right decision. Great chapter again, might get to read the next one as well, school is so boring today and the teachers don't notice me reading and typing teviews all the time :p

-----

Made it :p

Review of chapter 62:

This chapter must have been at least twice as long as the other two, certainly not short on action :DD Hope I don't forget anything.

First of all that was a pretty funny first scene, haha. Poor Ruphus...

Courtship lessons... priceless :lol Lucky I read that part during my break, had to snicker all the way through xD

The scene with the gang was a joy to read as well, well done!

Lol... poor Cera on snow shovvelling duty xD

But really the top of the cake was the final scene. This was a truly amazing chapter, mate! Keep it up! ^^spike

Note to self: finally create that signature lazy bum! :P

Sovereign

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« Reply #224 on: October 05, 2017, 08:49:49 am »
Even if I said I wouldn't review other stuff before finishing the contest marathon, i guess that wasn't to be. :p This was a very nice way to ease things out a little and show that Sura and Ruphus aren't completely hostile to the swimmer traditions. The idea of this chapter was very funny and deepened the different sides of swimmer culture as well.

The way the adult swimmers showed the dance and told about the less pleasant traditions were quite amusing and interesting at the same time. The way the parents teased the children and the kids' reaction to the whole display was crafted well as was the way they told about the traditions that should be forgotten. The scene told that while the adults had their quarrels with Sculra, they still weren't ready to throw away the traditions. However, I wouldn't use the words culture or identity here as they don't seem to fit LBT too well.

Even if the first part didn't really advance the plot, the last part certainly did. It was good to see the unknown Fast Biter toget the egg to Sura in a friendly manner. We'll see what he'll do from now on but for some reason, I don't trust him. He feels too helpful and friendly to others and I'm quite sure he isn't doing that for charity. For now, however, it's good to see that Bluey's last legacy is safe.

This was a pretty funny chapter that gave extra focus on the swimmer family's future and their childish denial of the inevitable. I enjoyed Ducky and Trough's reactions to the other swimmers' and the Gang's teasing and the kids' games were also quite pleasant. The last part opened way to further drama in the future as the role the sharpteeth isn't probably over yet. Anyway, very fun and enjoyable job here! :yes

Sovereign

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« Reply #225 on: March 20, 2018, 03:54:46 pm »
Is this story still in progress? It's been a while since the last chapter. :unsure:

DiddyKF1

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #226 on: March 20, 2018, 09:42:09 pm »
Quote from: Sovereign on Mar 20 2018, 02:54:46 PM
Is this story still in progress? It's been a while since the last chapter. :unsure:
I was wondering about the same thing.  According to FF.net, it's been six months since the last chapter. :unsure:
My fanfics:
Love is an Adventure
Waters Rise, Illness Flies
A Swim of Silence
A Swimmer's Sad Secret
A Swimmer's Sad Secret
A Broken Family
The Hurting of Desire
Secret Love

"It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices." -Albus Dumbledore


The Lone Dragon

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« Reply #227 on: March 22, 2018, 02:42:20 am »
This story is still in progress. The last few months have been rather busy and I've lacked motivation to write as well as having to deal with a writers block and plot issues but I've been writing again and already have a sizeable chapter, maybe slightly shorter then usual but rest assured my long hiatus will be broken, hopefully within the week. I must also say that I'm glad to see that people are still interested in TST after all these months and I'll make sure to not fall behind on my writing again.

The Lone Dragon

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #228 on: April 10, 2018, 08:16:53 am »
Chapter 63: Crazy Cold Time

Sura had to choke back a sob as she held the egg and flesh in her hand, even though the flesh was old and smelly she still nuzzled it like it was the most important object on earth even if it was from a dead Swimmer. It was one small part of her sister that had physically made it to her and she cherished it. However, that was nothing in comparison to the egg that she held so carefully in her hand as if she feared it would break at any moment. Her sister would have more than one child, one that none of them expected would come, however the most shocking thing about the situation was the person who had delivered these two precious parcels; The Fast Biter.

Sura looked at The Fast Biter and nodded before she went back to place the egg and flesh next to the appropriate nest. Many of the children gazed at the egg in awe as their mother returned to her previous position; in front of The Fast Biter and to his surprise, she offered him a hand. He looked at it a little hesitant at first but he eventually took Sura’s hand and allowed her to help him up.

“Thank you” said Sura.

The Fast Biter nodded, he understood what she would say long before she said it.

“How is this possible?” asked Sura.

Chomper translated her query.  

“I’m sorry, I lost one egg on the way, I managed to save one of your sister’s eggs while Red Claw wasn’t looking and…Screech? Saved another one” Chomper’s translation was one of surprise. Ruphus cocked his head in confusion.

“Why would Screech save one of your sister’s eggs? That doesn’t sound like him” he said more to Sura but Chomper still translated his words to The Fast Biter who was also the one to answer.

“Because we thought it was the right thing to do, that hunt was wrong, Red Claw was starting to become Sharptooth and they have suffered by his claws”
“How did you even get here?” asked Sura. The Fast Biter’s response surprised her.

“The Badlands and I’m not the only one who is using that entrance” said The Fast Biter.

Sura and Ruphus shared a concerned glance at what The Fast Biter was implying. “What do you mean?” asked Chomper, as The Fast Biter replied Chomper’s face paled. “Oh no”

“What is it Chomper?” asked Ruby.

“It’s Red Claw, Screech and Thud, they are heading here as we speak in The Badlands they got through a hidden entrance.”

Everyone gasped. This was very bad news. If Red Claw had found a way into The Valley through The Badlands which were basically inaccessible to the larger dinosaurs of The Great Valley that could match Red Claw in combat then they were all in significant trouble.

The Fast Biter began speaking again but Chomper was to shocked by the announcement but luckily for him; Ruby also could understand Sharptooth and said “It’s not as bad as it sounds. Screech and Thud want to defect and only I managed to find a way through and I don’t think that they’ll risk coming into The Great Valley in The Cold Time, there is not enough food and the way I came in Red Claw would never be able to pass”

“Screech and Thud want to defect?” said Chomper in astonishment.

“That’s something I never would’ve thought I’d live to hear” said Ruphus. However, Sura was more curious about The Fast Biter then the current news. “Where did you come from?” she asked. Her question was translated quickly.  

The Fast Biter pointed up to an area of the cliff near the top of the waterfall. “There is a cave up there and a nest that I found, it overlooks the entire area and she found me there and chased me down a hole that led to the bottom, behind those bushes” He pointed to the bushes he had come from.

“She?”

“A female Swimmer, old as him” The Fast Biter pointed at Cyrest “She was very……cold and was not of a hospitable disposition.”

“Who would be?” said Chomper to an undertone to Ruby “If a Fast Biter appeared near a Swimmer” Ruby nodded. However, their talk was cut off by a rather hasty movement.

Sura didn’t waste time when she was given the translation. She sprinted past The Fast Biter and into the water with a furious splash and charged through the water, a large wave proceeding her body and she reach the other shore and advanced through the bushes and their it was. A large hole at the bottom of the cliff, concealed by the foliage. There were The Fast Biter tracks and as if to confirm Sura’s suspicions there were the Swimmer foot prints that no doubt belonged to Sculra. “This is how she snuck up on us the day Ducky made that agreement with her” Sura looked up at the top of the cliff just as Ruphus arrived on site. “How long has that evil monster been spying on us?” whispered Sura.

“I’ll find out” Ruphus said fiercely then disappeared into the hole.

The slide was steep, almost vertical, but still a very tight angle and the dirt was slippery but the sides of the wall had plenty of handholds and the small size of the tunnel made it easier for Ruphus to climb but that didn’t mean that it was easy. Soon Ruphus was panting and sweating with the effort and his arms ached as he pulled himself up on and on but his efforts were rewarded, soon he saw a small light above him and he quickly climbed with his reserve strength and pulled himself through the small hole in the floor of the cave. Panting with exhaustion.

“Why, how nice to see you, Ruphus” said a falsely sweet voice, though there was a subtle hint of venom in it. Ruphus stood at his full height when he looked over at Sculra leaning on the cliff wall where the large crack could be seen.  

“I can’t believe you” said Ruphus quietly though his next works were shouted as loudly as a breathless Swimmer could shout. “How long have you been spying on us from here!?” he clenched his fists and gritted his teeth at her.

Sculra walked over to him and around him, brushing her body against his in a seductive manner. “I’ve been around long enough to see you in action big boy” She gave his upper tail a slap and Ruphus turned red in the face from embarrassment but that quickly changed to downright fury when he got the implications of Sculra’s message that she had seen him at his most intimate times.

“How dare you! How dare you invade me and my family’s privacy! You sick bastard!” Ruphus pushed her away, none to gently. How much he wanted to attack and kill that disgrace to their kind and the longer he thought about it, the more the idea appealed to him. He looked around the cave, it was secret and no one was around; yes, he would do it and this time no one would stop him.

Ruphus advanced towards her in a fighting stance and snarled two words “You’re mine!”

With those words Sculra looked suddenly fearful, she turned tail but it was too late to run. Ruphus charged and dived for Sculra and they both fell on the ground. The scuffle broke out as Ruphus pulled himself up on Sculra as she tried to kick him off, resulting in Ruphus getting a few good blows to the belly but despite being winded Ruphus pushed on, punching every inch of Sculra his fists could reach as he pulled himself up towards her neck.

Sculra was nowhere near as young or strong as Ruphus but that didn’t mean that she didn’t have any fight in her and Ruphus was already tired out from his climb. She managed to roll over so she was above Ruphus and gave him a punch to the face and stood up on his body and stomped her foot down on his chest. Ruphus gasped in pain but just as Sculra turned to run, he lassoed his tail around her leg and pulled her down. Ruphus and Sculra both rushed to their feet as fast as they could.  

Ruphus got to his feet first and with a yell he charged right into Sculra, the two Swimmers smashed into the cave wall with the crack on it with a loud crash that shook the wall. Ruphus opened his mouth and sank his teeth into the flesh of Sculra’s chest, there was a terrible shriek from Sculra as her blood flowed down her chest and in blind retaliation she kicked Rupus hard in the upper tail. Ruphus gasped and moaned in pain as he feel on his knees, still holding onto Sculra however she pulled him up and slammed him against the wall and proceeded to make a quick succession of punches at his face but through fear induced speed or instinct Ruphus dodged each blow however the wall behind cracked further.

Ruphus slid onto his knees and headbutted Sculra in the gut and lifted her and threw her over him and against the wall which was now covered in huge cracks letting in more light to the interior of the cave. Sculra got up but only received a faceful of fists as Ruphus landed blow after blow onto her face which turned red with blood from her nose. “FEEL THIS!” Ruphus thrust his elbow over Sculra’s throat and pushed her hard against the rock wall, chocking her.

Sculra coughed, she just managed to choke out “You know it won’t make a difference, your daughter will still do The Trial, your beloved mate has made sure of that by teaching her the wisdoms” Ruphus was too blinded with rage to hear, he was actually filled with an unpleasant kind of happiness at seeing his nemesis in this pain and to Sculra’s dismay she found Ruphus pushing harder at her throat. She chocked and tried to breath but her airway was constricted, she realised to her horror that this might be it, her hands wobbled about wildly and she tried to push Ruphus off but he had her pinned. However, he had her pinned to tightly. Sculra started to sink lower and lower, she was almost on the ground, her face blue due to oxygen depletion.

CRACK!

It all happened in an instant; the entire wall gave way over the onslaught while Sculra and Ruphus cantered on the edge but because Sculra was now in a sitting position, only her top half dangled out over the edge, while the rest of her body was safely inside the cave and just enough to keep her from falling. Ruphus however was not so lucky he had been pushing with all his might against Sculra and when the wall gave way he fell right over her and off the ledge and down into open space.

Falling.

Someone screaming. “NOOO!”

The water coming up to meet him.

SPLASH!  

All went black.


*


“No” Sura whispered. She shook her head in denial and advanced through the water much slower than before. When she saw Ruphus fall, tumbling uncontrollably from near the top of the cliff she ran as fast as she could towards him but everything, his fall, her scream, her movements, the screams of her children; they all seemed to happen in slow motion except for the rapid pulsing of her heart which was now on overdrive as she made her way through the water towards the other side of the river and the opposite bank when she stopped.

A sickening feeling of dread came over her as she saw blood fill the water. Sura shook her head violently, unaware of the tears falling or her children running over to the fallen body of their father with her. Sura finally arrived at the body of her mate, she had to hold her mouth shut in order to keep from chucking up as she walked through her mate’s warm blood. Sura pulled a motionless Ruphus onto the shore and cradled his head in her arms, just as she had done when her sister was fatally wounded.

She observed that the right side of Ruphus’s body had taken the brunt of the impact of not just the water but also the rocks. His right side was covered in gashes and scrapes. His head was bleeding on the side and his lips and nose were also scraped up badly. Blood was actually coming from his mouth and his right arm and leg looked very badly out of place; they were both dislocated.

It was the water that had saved Ruphus, it had cushioned his fall just enough but it was too shallow and the area he fell in was one of mild rocky topography and that was the main cause of all his injuries. Sura let out a slight sigh of relief when she saw Ruphus breathing. He was a lucky guy. Sura pulled Ruphus’s head up and nuzzled him.

“Daddy!”

Sura looked up to see all her children coming towards her looking terrified, many were crying. “He’s alive!” she yelled out in order to put her kids minds at ease, however they were still traumatised from seeing their father fall and nearly die.

“What’s going on here?”

“Is everything alright?”

“Oh my!”

Everyone turned to see several other Valley residents approaching, apparently attracted by the all action. This included all four of the Longnecks, Topps, Ariel, Mr Thicknose and a few Hollowhorns, Flyers, Clubtails and other dinosaurs. All the other members of The Gang were now present too. Everyone gasped when they saw Ruphus though and many of them screamed when they caught sight of The Fast Biter.

Mr Threehorn was immediately on defensive when he saw The Fast Biter. He advanced in a threatening manner, his horns lowered but The Fast Biter didn’t move or even change his stance from before he was just watching Ruphus having his leg and arm relocated with two terrible cracks by Grandma Swimmer and his body carefully carried back to the nest where he was gently laid down in his sleeping spot so everyone could see the state he was in.
His body was swamped very quickly by many of his children who pushed him and begged him to get up but their father was unseeing and unhearing. Their aunt gently nudged them all away and allowed them to come with her so she could provide them with comfort. No one seemed to notice the open cave above or Sculra crawling away, coughing up blood and totally drained of energy as she disappeared from her old nest without being spotted but the marks of the fight were still left on the cave and her along with Ruphus.

“What happened? Ruphus? The Fast Biter?” asked Grandpa Longneck.

Sura took notice of Mr Threehorn’s threatening position near The Fast Biter. “Don’t hurt him, he has done nothing wrong here, he is here with our leave for now”

“Have you lost your mind, Sura?” retorted Topps, not taking his eyes off of The Fast Biter.

“No, he has returned one of my sister’s eggs to me and has not tried to harm any of us” said Sura firmly.

“Then what happened to Ruphus?” demanded Topps, sounding convinced that The Fast Biter had attacked the wounded Swimmer.

“He fell from up there” Sura pointed up to the new cave high up on the cliff.

“Where did that come from?” said Ariel and flew up to take a look at the cave. She saw the old nest and the footprints of The Fast Biter and two Swimmer’s and a lot of the sight was drenched with blood. She glided back down. “It looks like a fight happened up there, I could see The Fast Biter tracks and two pairs of Swimmer tracks” she said.

“Then it could have been The Fast Biter” said Topps glaring at The Fast Biter.

“It wasn’t!” said Sura firmly. “He was down here the whole time Ruphus was up there and he only went up there because The Fast Biter said he saw Sculra up there” Everyone looked at Sura in surprise.

“Ruphus went up there and short while later the cave wall broke open from the inside and Ruphus was falling and saw I Sculra, clear as day, she was on the ground” explained Sura.

Oh, my goodness” said Grandma Longneck.

There was a sudden groan and a choked gurgle before Ruphus could be seen opening his eyes and rolling onto his belly and coughing up all the blood that had leaked into his mouth. When he finished he lay there in a trembling heap, rubbing his head and letting out a pained moan. Sura was by his side in an instant and she made sure Ruphus knew that, she embraced and nuzzled him. “Never scare me like that again dear” she said holding on tightly to her mate.

Ruphus could only allow himself to be hugged by Sura, he was in too much shock and he had a terrible headache. He lay back and moaned as Sura gently helped him back down. Everything was spinning to him and he could not form any clear, coherent picture since all images and sounds were blurred only smell and touch could be relied on to gain any idea of what was happening.  He felt Sura’s hand and held it tightly, he was very dazed and he couldn’t really remember what had happened before but after a few minutes he found his vision clearing and his memory returning. He saw in his mind’s eye Sculra, the fight and the fall but the conversation they had was still little more than an incoherent babbling.  

“Ruphus, how do you feel?” asked Sura anxiously.

“I feel like I’ve had several rotten treesweets” he gave a slight chuckle despite his situation as did Sura who gave him a relieved smile.

“I’m surprised it’s not more than that” chuckled Sura in a vain attempt at humour but she couldn’t hide the relief she felt at seeing Ruphus like this, he was okay despite his fall.  

“Daddy” Ducky was the first over to her father having been held back when her father fell by Trough and Ruby, now she threw herself onto her father’s beak and held it tightly, shivering uncontrollably. “I am so glad you’re alright” she whispered, wiping away a single tear as her father put a hand around her and held her gently by his beak while he nuzzled her consolably. However soon Ducky was joined by no less then all of her siblings along with Spike and in no time Ruphus found himself swamped by all his children. They were all so relieved that their father was okay and there were a lot of nuzzles exchanged between him and his children.

It took a little time but he finally managed to get all his children off of him and raise himself into a sitting position with no shortness of grimacing from the painful grazes along his right side. “Just stay put dear” said Sura with much concern as she helped her mate over to the nearest rock so he could sit with a back rest.

“Not like I can do much else at the moment dear” replied Ruphus as he laid his head back.

Sura got up and walked back to the assembled adults, none of whom was standing in a relaxed position, everyone was tense with The Fast Biter around. Topps was actually maintaining an uncompromising guard over him but The Fast Biter never moved from his position or showed any act of aggression. As a matter of fact, he sat on his haunches and watched with hardly a move, rather much like a statue.  

“What are we going to do with this guy?” asked Topps staring down at The Fast Biter.

“He’s here at my leave Mr Threehorn, he’s helped my family and The Great Valley by coming here” said Sura with more authority than last time.

“HA! That’s a laugh, what has he done to benefit you or The Valley?” said Mr Threehorn as stubborn as ever.

Sura huffed out of annoyance. “Come with me” she said firmly to all even though her words were spoken specifically to Topps as she marched quickly to her nest and picked up the newly returned egg and held it in front of her so everyone could see it. “That Fast Biter returned me this egg from my sister who was killed by Red Claw at great risk to himself and he also told us news of Red Claw’s coming, if that is not worthy of trust then what is?” she asked.

“He could be playing you for a fool, making you trust him then in the dead of night he’ll take you in your sleep” said Topps in response, raising a fair point which Grandpa and Grandma thought to raise.

“He might be right, have no way of knowing what he really wants” said Grandma Longneck.

It was then that Chomper stepped in with a more compelling argument. “I smelt no lie from him”

“And you’re a Sharptooth” said Topps.

“Mr Threehorn, Chomper has our trust and he say’s The Fast Biter’s words are true, I trust Chomper and if this Fast Biter has gone out of his way to do this for my family and the Valley then I am willing to put doubt aside and trust him for the moment” said Sura a little harsher then she intended when Topps made the attack on Chomper.

Topps and Sura were now facing each other down in a fierce staring match with everyone watching with apprehension. Neither was standing down from there fronts and it was set to continue for a very long tome but that was not something anyone was willing to stand by and watch. Grandpa Longneck stepped between them both. “Break it up you too, there is no need for this behaviour” he said firmly eyeing them both. Sura reluctantly withdrew her gaze from Topps as did he with her. Grandpa then turned to Sura. “I am inclined to trust Sura and Chomper but I don’t trust The Fast Biter to stay around but if what he says about Red Claw is true then perhaps he should stay but not around the children.” Ruphus nodded in agreement from where he sat and so did several others.

“Fine” said Sura “but then where would The Fast Biter go then?” she gestured to the apprehensive looking Fast Biter, he understood what was going on through Ruby’s translation and now he was not sure if he liked where the conversation was now going.

“How about The Secret Caverns?” said Chomper. Everyone looked at him, making Chomper think he’d said something wrong but this train of thought couldn’t have been more wrong.

“That’s a great idea, Chomper” said Ruby “he could live in The Secret Caverns and we could keep an eye on him” she said.

“And your willing take that risk? He could eat you in the middle of the night” called one of the nearby Longnecks.

“Regardless we still need to decide now whether to let him in and under the supervision of Chomper and Ruby.” said Grandpa Longneck, he looked around at the assembled dinosaurs, it wasn’t the whole herd but the whole herd never actually showed for meetings anyway since they were voluntary for the most past but there was still a significant number of spectators that represented every herd in The Great Valley. “And I think we should decide this now.”

“I vote no!” said Topps firmly, a cascade of ëNo’s’ followed him. However, the Fast Biter let out a sharp screech that made everyone turn to him. When he was sure he had silence he turned to Chomper and started growling when he was done communicating with Chomper he stood to attention as Chomper addressed the assembled dinosaurs.

“He say’s that he will swear in blood that he will remain with us at all times and that he will not harm a single dinosaur in The Great Valley and if this pact where to be broken then he will accept his death by The Valley’s residents without hassle” Chomper finished addressing everyone and The Fast Biter saw this as his time. He may have already had a nasty scrape on his tail but this ritual required a fresh offering of blood now. He drew his claw over his side and a little over his abdomen which was a far larger wound then necessary but he knew that now was not the time for half measures. He placed his bloody claw up and bowled his head, he just needed to wait till they returned the favour.

Chomper translated The Fast Biter’s ending growls. “If you accept me then return the favour if not then you can do what you want with me. But remember that I know where Red Claw is coming from and I can help fight him.”

The residents started murmuring among themselves for several minutes but soon a consensus was finally laid in to Grandpa Longneck. “It appears that the majority is in favour of The Fast Biter staying” He said.

Sura stepped forward to the Fast Biter and with a sharp stone she cut her side and offered the bloodied hand to The Fast Biter, he took it and the shook hands. They had an agreement.

“Take him away then” growled Topps unpleasantly to Chomper and Ruby before he marched off in a rather foul mood.

“See you guys later” said Chomper to his friends and they all exchanged a fair well as Chomper and Ruby led The Fast Biter off towards The Secret Caverns.


*


“Well, that is not something you see in The Great Valley everyday” said Cyrest as he helped dress the cut on Sura’s side.

“I can’t believe he went through all that trouble to take Bluey’s egg here, he had no reason too” replied Sura.

“That’s what troubles me, he seems to kind and we have no idea what his true motivations are. If you ask me we shouldn’t trust him when all he might be playing at is a ruse to get close to us and particularly you. You can’t let your guard down around him” said Cyrest.

“I can’t explain it Cyrest but there’s something about that Fast Biter that makes me think that he’s worthy of more then my trust” said Sura.

Cyrest shook his head and sighed “There’s a time and a place to go on a feeling Sura and it should never be when a life is at stake”

Sura raised herself and chuckled “There are those whose lives have been saved by a mere feeling Cyrest, don’t forget that” she walked back to Ruphus.

Cyrest followed her but Sura quickly changed that subject before Cyrest could make another remark. “I think it’s time we gave Ducky a run down on the manoeuvres that we’ll teach her after The Cold Time ends since all water training is practically on hold now.”

Cyrest gave Sura a stern looked that she avoided but while Cyrest had his quarries with Sura about The Fast Biter he couldn’t deny that she was indeed correct. With an irritated sigh he called Ducky over. Normally they might do this someplace else but since it was no secret that Ducky was learning the wisdoms now and coupled with the presence of The Fast Biter in The Valley and that fact that Sura was keeping a close eye in her mate after his fall he took her over to her parents. Ducky made it over with her Grandmother joining them presently.

“I think now it’s time for you to learn about the manoeuvres that we’ll be teaching you, we’re not going to practice them yet until the end of The Cold Time” explained Cyrest.

“Okay” said Ducky.

However, before the lesson could begin properly they interrupted by the arrival of all of Ducky’s clutch mates and Spike. “Can we stay too” asked Diver, she was intrigued about the topic of the lesson.

Ruphus chuckled “Your call, dear.”

“They take the butting in after you” retorted Sura playfully but nevertheless she didn’t think there was any point in sending her little ones away when they’d just eavesdrop. “Gather round then little ones.”

“Wait for me!” cried Trough and hastily joined the group.

“Ok that’s it? No one else trying to get in?” asked Cyrest and when he received no answer he took that as his que to start the lesson. “Right, you know the basics,” he spoke more to Ducky “We going to put emphasis on those and build up for more advanced stuff.”

“I think it’s best to start with one of the most common and useful manoeuvres that our kind can do; The roll” The children looked at each other with interest then back to Cyrest expectantly. “This move is a simple roll or spin of your body while going in a straight line but it helps by making you move faster and if your real good you can break off in literally any direction, perfect for tricking Sharpteeth biting at your tail.”

“That doesn’t sound so hard” said Rapid.

“I am sure I could do that yep, yep, yep” said Ducky.

Cyrest supressed a smile as he thought of the trick behind the move. “It’s tricker then it looks, for it is very disorientating especially because if you want to go faster then you’ll spin faster and breaking off into different directions when your dizzy means it is very easy to get wrong but once you get past that then it is very useful”

“I can handle dizziness” said Spinner.

“Of course, you can mister tail chaser” teased Sandy.

Trough’s eyes lit as he saw an opportunity to have some fun at Spinner’s expense. “Oh, so that’s why you swim in circles, you are chasing your tail which is not something a Swimmer doing the Trials would do, only a little tail chases his tail” That got the children laughing while Spinner looked rather indignant. “I’m especially surprised that you’ve never caught it even after all this time” Spinner gave Trough a rather dirty glare and stuck his tail up at him deliberately catching Trough by surprise, he didn’t think he had offended him that badly.

“Spinner! You turn around and apologise to Trough” said Sura sounding disappointed in her son.

Spinner grumbled and slowly turned to Trough with a rigid glare. “I’m sorry” he said through gritted teeth as he turned around and walked away from the gathering still fuming.

“What was that all about?” asked Trough to Ducky in an undertone.

“I will tell you later” replied Ducky in a whisper.

Trough nodded and returned his attention back to the lesson. Cyrest described what each manoeuvre achieved but he neglected to mention how they were executed for the obvious reason so none of the children would think to try something they didn’t know, he would of course explain how they were properly performed to Ducky when the water finally warmed to a more reasonable temperature.

He described the barrel roll, the one eighty tail spin which would allow a Swimmer to turn in the opposite direction very quickly. He told them about the longitudinal and latitudinal swimming styles which the children were already familiar with however he said that they needed to be perfected to great speed to be very useful.

However, it was after the basics were finished and Ruphus, Sura and Ruphus started addressing the more imaginative swimming moves that were deployed in a situation when a Sharptooth was around, though most of them were designed for use against land based Sharpteeth like Fast Biter’s and the like who didn’t have the natural edge that a Swimmer possessed when they were in the water. Something that many children found interesting was that these Swimming moves were more aggressive and focused more on attack involving a tail belt, headbutt or a side blow from the hands or legs once or twice as a way of stunning the threat before a quick escape.

However, when they started referring to moves that would counter other Swimming Sharpteeth there were much fewer, the emphasis was put on a more evasive and slippery approach to escape as swiftly as possible which was all good when it came to dealing with Belly Draggers and other large Swimming Sharpteeth. But there was one great big hole in this tutelage and that was that these moves were designed to go up against threats that were slower and less manoeuvrable then a Swimmer and when it came to use against swimmers that were fully designed for water like fish or sharks as Sura found out during her chase with the Megalodon, these moves were barely enough to keep her alive.

It was something that Ducky seemed to notice. “Is there any way to get away from a complete Swimmer Swimming Sharptooth?” she asked as she was aware that the creature in the caves was not like anything that could be counted with the moves that she was being told about.

“I don’t recall any move that could be any use against a full Swimming Sharptooth” said Cyrest.

“But I do”

Everyone turned to look at Grandma Swimmer. She was older then Cyrest and had hence been around when the true swimming manoeuvres were in use and though she was never proficient at them, she had seen them performed so many times that she knew how they were done.    

“Really?” asked Sura.

“I know what the master moves were dear, yes even though I never had the skill to perform them I knew and remember all Swimmers that could do them which were few and far between. I even knew a Swimmer who could perform the master manoeuvre itself” Stated Grandma Swimmer.

Everyone looked a little confused when she spoke about the master manoeuvre and the master Swimmers. “I thought those moves were just old tales” said Ruphus, rubbing his chin sceptically.

“Oh, they were as real as you or I but they are largely forgotten but I knew someone who could do them with ease” replied Grandma Swimmer.

“Who?” Everyone said at once.

Grandma Swimmer looked at Sura with a smile. “Your father.” She chuckled at the astonished look on her face. “Believe me, he was so good that he showed off these moves all the time just to rub it in the other Swimmer’s face, cheeky guy.” She smiled at the memory. “Did you know that the day I met your father was the day he did the master manoeuvre itself and right in front of me too.”

Sura looked surprised, once again she was given an insight in the life her father used to have before she was born and from the sounds of things, she thought he sounded a bit like her when she became an adult.

“But what is a master manoeuvre?” asked Ducky curiously.

“It is the move that defines you as a true master Swimmer however it’s largely been forgotten save in old stories. It was a young Swimmer about your age that invented it. His name was Aquarius* the stories say he was albino and not much is known about him except that he lived in the time of legends of our kind which was many lifetimes ago.”

Everyone looked enthralled with Grandma Swimmer’s story so she continued.

“The Master manoeuvre was created as a way to counter actual Swimming Sharpteeth. It was created when he was your age little ones, he is the sole reason why The Swimmer Trials exist. He created something at a young age that was the pinnacle of a Swimmer’s ability so the elders decided that whenever younglings reached his age they would undergo a rite of passage that allows young Swimmer’s to show what they can do in the water.”

That was a rather big surprise for everyone gathered. None of them had know where The Swimmer Trials had originated from till now and it was amazing that they were created by a Swimmer of their own age.

“He didn’t exactly invent it over time, he kind of made it up on the fly, a desperate attempt to save his life from a Swimming Sharptooth at The Big Water and a herd of Swimmers were passing by the cliffs and saw him perform it. It was terrifying, he swam through the creature’s open mouth at times, the move was so dangerous, as dangerous as The Trial itself and yet he just managed to keep one step ahead of that Sharptooth at all times and when he completed it, he left the Sharptooth heading in the wrong direction and he was able to escape to the shore unharmed and I know how it is performed” concluded Grandma Swimmer.

Ducky gazed into the distance, her mind a flurry. If a Swimmer her age could outmanoeuvre a true Swimming Sharptooth then why couldn’t she? This new Swimmer had now become a beacon of hope for her. He was someone that did the impossible and reminding her that even the impossible was within her limits and he didn’t even know the wisdoms. But she did. She could do this and if she could do that master manoeuvre then she was sure that she could do it The Trial, if her Grandmother could just teach her. She felt a daze of excitement as this new hope revealed itself to her, there seemed no doubt in her mind that she would succeed in The Trial which was a very comforting feeling.

“Could you teach me Grandma, could you?” she said in desperate hope and excitement. However, the look she got from her Grandmother made her stomach drop.

“I wish I could little one, I truly do but I was never that good at moves like that and while I remember how it is done, I’m afraid that without me showing you then you will never be able to perform it” she looked away at the rather desperate face that Ducky had on become one of defeat and a little of fear as a part of the hope she had just gained left her but not completely. After all this had been done before. A Swimmer her age had gone up against a Swimming Sharptooth and come out on top, she would do all in her ability to do the same. Little did Ducky know that that The Trial was mirrored after that particular move. The idea was to pit a Swimmer through a difficult life or death situation that was achievable to the Swimmer to perform however over time that tradition had been clouded and changed and now was being used to suit the needs of the vilest opportunist Swimmer in The Great Valley.


*


“Welcome to The Secret Caverns” Chomper growled in his native language as he entered the now familiar cave system with Ruby beside him and the strange Fast Biter. He eyed the caverns with a neutral expression that was impossible to decipher but the scent he gave off was one of satisfaction. After all he had seen many caves before and had recently been staying in them more often then he used to.

“Why call it The Secret Caverns?” asked the Fast Biter, wondering why a place with the term ësecret’ was common knowledge to the residents rather than secret as its name implied.

Chomper shrugged “I don’t know, I think it is because it’s never been fully explored”

Ruby nodded. “It’s not like anyone but us and our friends ever explored this place but even we haven’t seen all the places there are to see in the caves.”

The Fast Biter sighed thoughtfully as he walked over to the wall and started digging out a scrape leaving a silence that was only broken by the sound of claws scraping on dirt. It was an uncomfortable experience for both Ruby and Chomper.

“So…I’m Chomper and this is Ruby” The Fast Biter paid then no attention as he continued to work on his scrape which only made the two friends feel more awkward so they waited. All the while as he scraped a sleeping spot The Fast Biter thought over the recent events. He now knew that the Swimmer he had met up in that cave was not to be trusted in the least and yet he didn’t tell them what he knew about her betrayal, perhaps it was because he thought that he might be able to make the most profit from that situation and maybe also to spare the feelings of that Swimmer he once fought. Finally, The Fast Biter had finished his scrape and laid down in it and started licking his wounds clean.

The silence finally got the better of Ruby and she spoke out in an attempt to break the ice. “Who are you then? We never got your name and having a name is better then having no name at all” said Ruby inquisitively.

“Do you always talk like that?” The unexpected question caught Ruby by surprise, it wasn’t said in a hostile tone but she could certainly here the irritation in The Fast Biter’s voice.

“Not all the time” she said nervously.

“She speaks the way she likes” said Chomper looking unimpressed by The Fast Biter’s rude comment.

A disgruntled “Fine” was all the reply he got. The Fast Biter looked out into The Valley with a distant look on his face. What he was thinking was lost on the two friends but it was evident that he wanted to be left alone…or so they thought. As they were about to leave the Fast Biter spoke to them. “How does a young Biter and Fast Runner end up in The Great Valley with leafeaters that they can somehow get along with?” they turned at once to see a curious look over their guest’s face.

“I was hatched by my friends and Ruby promised to look after me here and our friends allowed us to stay here” said Chomper.

The Fast Biter eyed him with even greater curiosity. “You were hatched by those leafeaters?” He recalled the children he saw during the battle on the plains. It was a rather diverse range of children that was not usually seen.

“It’s a long story, they found me rather by accident but when I hatched they took care of me, saved me from egg stealers and got me back to my mom and dad” The Fast Biter laughed at Chomper’s explanation.

“I’ve heard some wild stories but that is the most unlikely I’ve ever heard” he said though spasms of laughter.

Ruby and Chomper look at each for a moment. “It is true though” said Chomper with Ruby nodding beside him. “My friends saved me and we came here because it’s safe from Red Claw, he thought I was an abomination because I’m friends with leafeaters.”

The Fast Biter stopped laughing at that, the explanation seemed to explain why the two were here but he could hardly get his head around that Chomper was friends with leafeaters but when he dug a little deeper he saw no reason to doubt, one was because Chomper could speak leafeater, an ability he would only gain from long exposure to leafeaters and the most important part was the lack of deception or untruth in his scent. He also couldn’t help but feel sorry for Chomper’s plight of being hunted by that giant tyrant of a lizard.

“And can I ask…that Swimmer, the adult brown. What is her name?” he asked.

“Perhaps you could give us your name before we tell you, we asked you first anyway” said Ruby, raising an eyebrow in a contemplative expression.

“My name is not important.”

“Now that’s is just a load of crap” said Chomper.

“Everyone’s name is important” said Ruby.

The Fast Biter sighed and held a claw over his head as he shook it with annoyance “Fine, my name is Striker, now will you tell me the Swimmer’s name?”      

“I think her name is Sura, she’s our friend, Ducky’s mother” said Ruby.

Striker nodded, he now knew who those two Swimmer’s were but before he could continue pondering there was an unexpected guest.

“RUBY!”

Everyone jumped as Petrie swooped in low over there heads and stopping in front of Ruby’s face and hovered there. He wore an expression of urgency and he was panting with exertion. “What is it Petrie?” asked Ruby.

“Outside……now!” was all Petrie managed to say between ragged breaths.

The sense of urgency was such that Ruby quickly ran outside of The Secret Caverns and what she saw made her freeze and gasp.

“Oh…..my” she in a small voice.  







*Aquarius. For those of you who don't know Aquarius is the character I'm currently playing as in the LBT RP. When I saw the Fanfition topic for a LBT legend I thought that I'd try to incorporate one into my most recent chapter. I don't plan to put a bit more development into this legend later. For those of you who are doing the RP I set Aquarius time many generations in the past.

I declare the half a year TST hiatus over. This chapter has been in the works for months and is shorter then my more recent ones which is a pleasent change. I am really glad to finally get the next chapter up and I'll try to keep a more regular schedule of posting new chapters. Yep, yep, yep :Mo
 
   

Sovereign

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #229 on: April 11, 2018, 03:23:25 pm »
It's truly great to see another installment to this story. I was a bit worried about its continuation due to the long pause but I'm glad that wasn't the case. As for this chapter, it was a rather nice way to break the hiatus as it contained several scenes I enjoyed thoroughly. It was also great to see a reference to Aquarius and it didn't feel at all like an unnatural addition. His backstory worked really well here and also added another good layer to the Swimmer Trials lore.

The encounter between Ruphus and Sculra was rather intense and it emphasized once again how delicate the relative peace between Sculra and the others actually is. Ruphus' attack was an intense one even if I didn't really believe that the female would actually die just yet. The following scene of his family checking up on him was also a touching one and it's good to see that Ruphus will be okay. I was a bit surprised that they weren't interested to seek revenge for Sculra about her deed, though.

The fast biter is still quite a mystery though, I must agree with Cyrest that there certainly is something wrong with him as he acts so unlike any normal predator. I guess we'll learn more about his loyalties later but for now, I can't help but believe he'll have a large role for better or worse, most likely for the latter. The cliffhanger in the end left me very curious about the continuation, even if it would be a good idea to check missing words in key scenes like these.

All in all, I'm really happy to see this story resuming again. It was the first LBT fic I ever read and fell in love with and it has brought us so many memorable scenes and great characters it would have been a real shame to see it end this close to completion. Keep it up as this story still holds immense potential for the future! :DD

Ducky123

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #230 on: April 15, 2018, 04:22:33 am »
The long wait is over at long last :wow

Oh dang you almost got me scared there. Killing Ruphus would have been a bit too tough, don't you think? :P Hah, Sculra got her butt kicked at last! Felt so good! However, she survived so she's still a possible threat...

Oh hello Aquarius :P Interesting little tale you included here. Those advanced wisdoms sound pretty darn cool! Also, poor Spinner...

The fastbiter was accepted, however he's acting strange. Can he be trusted? Somehow his actions contradict his attitude in that scene...

Also...

Putting such a cliffhanger at the end... you better write the next chapter AS WE SPEAK!!! :P

Great return, keep it up mate! :)littlefoot

DiddyKF1

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The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #231 on: April 15, 2018, 10:53:08 am »
I have reason to be excited again! It's nice to see this story running again. I've been gradually reading through it on FanFiction.Net over the past year, but I keep forgetting to leave reviews because each chapter leaves me feeling astounded. So, I'll just word it like this as a review for the whole story in general so far: the whole story has been absolutely amazing so far, and it's led me to gain an even softer spot towards Ducky than I had during my childhood. The plot has put such a dominant impact on all the characters we love so much, and I've enjoyed reading every chapter that's brought out those near-heart attack moments, like Ducky almost losing her mother.

Keep up the good work, and take as much time as you need. :) Like I said, you've gotten me really excited for that inevitable time when the Trials arrive!

The Lone Dragon

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #232 on: August 14, 2018, 08:26:09 am »
Thanks for the feedback guys. Here's the next chapter.


Chapter 64: Striker’s Move

Chomper walked or rather almost stalked through The Secret Caverns as if he was actually hunting a hapless leaf eater. He crouched low to the ground and treaded so quietly that if he hit a stone or made a step louder then he’d wanted then he would cringe at how loud the sound was to him. His expression was much less guarded then his posture, there was visible pain and sorrow as the sounds of quiet sobbing could be heard nearby in the deep recesses of the caves. Chomper reflected that if he hadn’t the heightened sense of smell that his kind had then he would never have found what he was seeking. Chomper took a few steps to the edge of the cave the sound was coming from; the light was almost none existent in this area so when he poked his head into the cave he had to strain his eyes real hard to see the sobbing pink form of a Fast Runner on the ground crying in quiet heartbroken sorrow; Ruby. 

He moved inside and walked towards his stricken friend but he had forgotten to watch his step as the rock he tripped over almost sent him tumbling but the sound caused an immediate reaction from Ruby who turned sharply to the unexpected noise and as soon as she saw who it was she shouted “Go Away!” Her voice was torn and sore from the hours that she had spend weeping and contained so much sorrow, more the Chomper had ever experienced in his short life.

Chomper cautiously walked forward with his hand out “Ruby, I am worried about you, I just want to-“

“Leave me ALONE! Ruby shouted at his face. “You don’t understand!” she got up and ran at him. Chomper jumped back and turned tail as he was chased out of the cave by Ruby. As soon as he was far enough away Ruby retreated to her enclave and continued to cry her eyes out. Chomper approached again but this time he just listened to Ruby’s sobbing. He felt like his heart was slowly being torn out at hearing Ruby break down in this way, such a way that not even she had ever done before. Chomper wanted to help but he knew that she wasn’t ready for help yet and it couldn’t be from him, after all what did he know about what Ruby had been going through this past couple of days? He needed help and he knew exactly who to call for help. He turned and ran away as fast as he could, Ruby needed the right help and he would give it to her.


*


“Spinner!”

Said Swimmer turned his head around to give a less then welcome reception to Trough. “What do you want?” he said in a mocking voice, his expression more then a little agitated.

It didn’t stop Trough from approached where Spinner sat upon the large rock near the edge of the waterfall. “I just wanted to apologise for what I said before about you chasing your tail” Trough generally did look apologetic after all Spinner had been giving him the cold shoulder and had been seething for longer the Trough thought it was possible to. Ducky had told him very clearly that he should make amends with Spinner before it got any worse.

“Oh, after what? Two days! You don’t know what it was like” Spinner said working himself up and waving his arms agitatedly as he jumped down and landed with a ‘huff’ on the ground at the base of the rock, right in front of Trough.

“I don’t even know what your referring too” replied Trough in a deadpan voice.

“I’m referring to before we came to The Great Valley, you have no idea how much other Swimmers in the herd made fun of me like you did and I’m not going to take anymore of it from anyone even if Ducky has a soft spot for you” Spinner said angrily.

“Ohhh” said Trough awkwardly. “I didn’t know” he said with a more sympathetic look on his face after all he had been in the same boat as Spinner for a very long time.

“Yeah of course you wouldn’t know. No one knows why I swim the way I do except my nest mates” said Spinner irritably. Trough could tell that Spinner was running out of patience very quickly and that if he wanted to have a productive meeting with him then he’d better not go around pushing Spinner’s buttons or the results could turn bad for both parties.

But Trough’s curiosity was sparked.

“So why do you swim in circles all the time?” he asked.

“It started when we were little tails living in The Mysterious Beyond and it’s also the story of how Ray got his scar” said Spinner, he seemed to quiet his tone and was already set on telling his tale. Trough leaned against the rock and pondered. He remembered Ray’s defining feature; the long scar on his leg that was a great hinderance on his swimming abilities. That made him all the more interested, he listened closely to Spinner’s narration.

“It was during The Days of Rising Waters that it all happened….”


*


Many Years Ago in The Mysterious Beyond:

The weather was anything but welcoming, dark clouds hung in the sky and a low mist of white fog made visibility difficult for even the best sighted individuals and that wasn’t taking into account the constant rain that pelted the ground in cold long-lasting showers. This was The Days of Rising Waters or at least what it was like in The Mysterious Beyond and unbeknown to the inhabitants of the land, this vigorous week of cold and drenching water was the last they would receive for a very long period of time.

The area around the river was almost pitch white for the herd of swimmers gathered there. In weather like this many were taking shelter under any trees that grew nearby which made for a very patchy distribution among the herd which from a defensive point of view did no favours. The fog made it even worse, hardly anyone could see where they were going and opted to stay in their own line of sight which wasn’t very far. Some were a bit more nervous with such low visibility but they needn’t have worried as the weather would make hunting for any potential predators a virtual impossibility due to lack of sight and smell and the increased risks involved in hunting.

It was under one of the thicker sections of trees that Ruphus, Sura and Merri rested, they all lay on the ground as it was the only way to effectively see any of the children as they could not even be discernible from their normal elevation but even than it was still tricky to see them. In such weather Sura had told her little ones who were no older then little tails to stay next to her and their father at all times however no one noticed the absence of three children.

This lapse of attention was due to the fact that Sura’s children were not the only ones there, as a matter of fact half of the herds children were crowded around the adults. This was because they had been all playing in the same area when the fog and rain came down and Sura’s family had the closest nest available and were in charge of watching the kids for the day which was swapped around the more attentive members of the herd regularly.

So, with so many children around and so much talk between them and such bad visibility it could be understood that Spinner, Rapid and Ray’s absence had not been noticed.

The three boys were down near the waters edge and had taken advantage of the low visibility to sneak back down to the river.   

“So wha we do?” asked Spinner.

“Dive it!”

“No way!” said Rapid in immediate protest to Ray. “You aways win when Diver not pway” said the small Swimmer.

Ray blew a raspberry at Rapid “Spoil spot” he teased.

“Na, we do this-“ Spinner hurled some dark brown, cold mud at his brothers, catching them both unawares as there bodies were splatted with the dirty substance. “Gang up?” said Ray to Rapid; said Swimmer nodded and just like that they were both after Spinner with cold lumps of mud in their hands.

“Cannot cach me, slow tails!” taunted Spinner arriving at the waters edge and jumping off the edge and into the water.

What happened next would haunt Ray till the present day and was a decision he that he regretted the most in his life. It was something that would change his personality and outlook on things forever. The moment that Ray and Rapid arrived at the waters edge they both threw their mud down into the blinding fog which was impenetrable but the splashes said that they had both missed. “I get him” said Ray.

With those words Ray took a deep breath and hoping to show off he leapt into the air and did as many backwards summersaults as he could before to go in straight but his skill wasn’t as good as he thought he splashed down at a diagonal forty-five-degree angle. It wasn’t the entry that would do the damage it was doomed to go wrong from the very begging as Ray had opted to take a blind jump into fog, not knowing what was below.

For Rapid it was a strange sight to see his brother disappear into the white mist as if it was water itself but after the splash the sound of his brother screaming in agonised pain made him jump back crying out in fright. Ray’s right leg had been cut vertically almost down the entire front leg and it was no shallow wound. Ray surfaced and held onto the rock and screamed in high pitch voice tears raced down his cheeks and his body spasmed as he started going into shock.

Back at the nest Sura and Ruphus had both launched themselves to their feet at once. All play stopped and everyone in the vicinity turned their heads towards the scream. “RAY!” Sura shouted. Ruphus however reacted fastest and hadn’t hesitated to run towards the water with his head bent low till he found Rapid looking terrified.

“What is going on?!” he said to him urgently, Rapid cringed at his father’s loud voice, he looked like he had wet himself and judging by the smell, the guess probably wasn’t far off but Ray’s screaming voice kept Ruphus mind fixed on finding his son.

“Spinner, Ray and I were pwaying an Spinner wen in the river and Ray wen after him” said Rapid sounding rather shaken, he had tears falling from his eyes as he had been rather startled by Ray’s screams.

Ruphus got on his belly and edged himself down the edge and extended his arm and as soon as he felt Ray he grabbed him and pulled him up.

“Come” he said to Rapid as he took Ray back to the nest. He and Sura looked over him both looking horrified and Sura turned white, this was the first time that she saw anyone of her little ones in this much pain or with a wound this severe.

“Mommy” sobbed Ray, holding his arms out to her. Sura took Ray and cradled him in her arms, keeping her beak right next to him. “Shh, it’ll be ok little one, we’ll fix you up real soon” she said in a motherly voice that hid the terror that she was feeling but gave her son much needed comfort as he held onto her in pain.
 
“Merri go find any herbs you can, I need to get Spinner” instructed Ruphus, taking command with well-practiced stride as Merri nodded and headed off though she would be hard pressed to find anything in this fog while Ruphus headed back to the river in order to find and bring back Spinner.

While Ray was being comforted by his mother and the shaken Rapid was being comforted by his siblings, Spinner meanwhile was already a fair distance down stream as he had assumed that he would be followed and had stayed beneath the water as the visibility under the water was surprisingly clear and much better then what it currently was on land. He soon stopped swimming and broke the surface.

He was instantly assaulted by the calls of his father which came from further upstream. “SPINNER!” he yelled. He sounded urgent and worried as hell as he searched through the fog. The Swimmer was about to start heading back when it happened the rumbling of earth and the tumbling of trees and the startled cry of nearby dinosaurs that Spinner could not see in the fog and all of a sudden, he was swept off his feet by a powerful current and carried downstream. “DADA!” was all he managed to get out before he was pulled underwater.

The current carried Spinner down the river faster then he had ever moved in his life, it would have been rather exhilarating had he not been in such peril. Spinner only just managed to break the surface, his head was the only thing above the water and it was the most surreal feeling he had ever experienced thus far as the fog turned everything white and he could not see ahead of him and yet he was travelling incredibly fast but with no sight.

Spinner’s heart was racing, he managed to stay at the surface with a little kicking as he was still a little tail and that meant his body while being designed for swimming lacked the experience or strength and endurance of anyone older and that meant that Spinner needed to utilise more strength to stay up on the surface. However, the fact that he couldn’t see was a great factor in what was about to happen as he travelled down a slight incline which only increased his speed the sound of fast running water came up to meet him and this was taking into account that everything was still shaking around due to the earthshake.

Spinner had only enough time and common sense to brace his body for the impact of another countering current which hit him like a kick to the gut, leaving him winded. It was only then that he started to notice that he wasn’t going down stream anymore, rather he was going around and around and around. The young Spinner had no idea what was going on and even if the mist had all but dissipated he’d not be able to name the phenomenon that he was caught in but had he been able to see then would be just as, if not more fearful for his life if he had seen it.

He was stuck in a whirlpool.

The earthshake had opened up cracks in the river bed and underneath was an underground reserve which was largely filled with air, as the water rushed down into the chamber it created the whirlpool that Spinner was now trapped in and if he didn’t get out of it then he’d be doomed; trapped in an underground cave that would be completely flooded.

Spinner was nearing the peripheral when he was sucked down by the current. It was in these moments that time seemed to slow for Spinner almost to a close as he had already accepted that fact that he was probably never going to make it out of this situation and while he desperately tried to fight his was back to the surface, he could feel his need for air grow and the stronger current pulling him further down without much effort.

Spinner looked up desperately to the surface as calm enveloped his mind, the calm that comes before unconsciousness. He could feel himself starting to lose his vision, he looked down to see that he was in the inner portion of the whirling prison and he was dangerously close to the bottom when suddenly the whole scene turned gold with light, he looked up and was almost blinded by the Bright Circle.

He gasped despite being underwater but he had enough sense to close his mouth instantly but the sight that he beheld was like nothing he could ever see and coupled with his slower then usual mind it felt like everything was moving at slow motion. He stared up at the surface. The near perfect viability of the water was marked by rocks and plants all caught in the swirling current but the eye of the whirlpool was largely clear and the golden light came straight through creating a beautiful moving picture which reflected off all the stones that were caught in the current.

Spinner was also moving at an incredibly pace and all in a circle yet keeping his eye on the light, kept him from losing his direction. The experience was just indescribable to the young Spinner but he would never ever forget this feeling of intoxication. He closed his eyes, as he was only inches from the bottom and the litter of the river was blurring his vision. This was it.

Splash!

Spinner felt his tail jolt and all of a sudden, he felt himself rapidly rising out of the control of the natural forces around him and up and out of the water. He gasped and coughed as his lungs took in deep breaths from his near drowning experience. His tail was caught in his father’s beak and he was standing in two legs as the water was only up to his waist but with the ground collapsing beneath his weight he didn’t remain stationary and dived for the bank and dug his hands in and forcibly pulled himself out of the water with a strained groan.

Both he and Spinner were panting from the exertion. There was a loud splash from the river as the ground collapsed and the whirlpool blew itself out violently sending a wave heading out from the collapsed shape. Ruphus pulled himself into a sitting position and dropped Spinner into his arms. “Oh, my that was too close, this is why we don’t let you wonder off in weather like this” he said in a rather breathless voice, it didn’t have any bite or lecture in it just pure relief and exhaustion which got through to Spinner more then a lecture would have and he just hugged his father who pushed himself up and made his was back to the nest, the glow of the bright circle chasing away the cold, dense fog.

From that day onwards, Spinner would never forget his experience with the whirlpool, the sensation was addicting and he was always trying to replicate it and to do that he believed that he had to create another whirlpool which was why he swam in circles like he did. Ray however was less lucky; his aunt had managed to get only a few herbs back to him in the short time but she was able to collect more after the fog cleared but the damage was already done. It was a time where Sura and Ruphus feared that Ray would lose his leg which was a death sentence for anyone but through carful application of herbs and a very long time off his leg Ray was able to walk again however he was never able to move or swim the same way, he had become the most liable and weakest of his siblings in the water which was still a form of conflict for Ray even to the present day.

The aftermath of Spinner’s whirlpool incident saw a large increase in bullying for the little Swimmer who was treated like a hatchling by his peers for his new strange habits. He only receiving sympathy from a few close friends and some of his siblings. He would never be rid of the bully’s till the day of The Great Earthshake.


*


Back to the present:

“Geez, I-I…wow, so Ducky isn’t the only one who’s been stuck in a whirlpool but Ray…that’s just shocking.” Trough said who was rather amazed and startled by the story that he had been told by Spinner, it opened up his eyes to regarding both Spinner and Ray. He never understood just how they had become the Swimmers they were now until today and the story had very deep roots.

“You have no idea how bad it got after that, I am ashamed because I hated the Swimmers who teased me so much that when they died in The Great Earthshake; I actually felt happy and that is wrong” Spinner looked away, his face contorted with disgust and self-anger. “Then you come and bring it up again after all this time.” He turned back to Trough with a scowl.

Trough looked rather shaken and he grimaced at Spinner’s expression but hearing his story truly did make him feel sorry for Spinner. He understood what he felt like to be teased and wishing that either he was out of the picture or the bullies and that had been a form of stress relief for him for years, imagining all the ways the trio might get taken out of the picture but at a cost of making himself feel like he was a bad person for thinking such things. “I’m really sorry Spinner, I know what bullying feels like and I had no intention on being bad to you” His apology was genuine and Spinner could see it in his face and could hear it in his voice.

“Thanks” he said, he held his and to Trough and after taking it they both made up with a shake of there hands, neither noticed Ducky watching from across the stream with a happy smile on her face.

“Ducky!”

“Petrie! What is it?” Ducky looked up to see Petrie panting, he looked like he’d flown a marathon against a headwind, his tongue was all droopy and his breathes were long and fatigued.

“No time to explain. You, Spike and friends, to The Secret Caverns now!”


*


The tap of claws on rock could be heard approaching slowly and in any normal circumstance Ruby would have been on guard but these were not normal circumstances hence the reason why Ruby completely overlooked the sound in her dry sobs. The cave she was in was rather dark but spacious but she lay right at the corner of the cave wall so it was not overly obvious where she was by sight to the new guest that had entered what could be called her ‘mourning cave’.

It wasn’t until Ruby could hear the tap of claws behind her that she turned her head up and stared into the glowing eyes of The Fast Biter or as he had recently called himself; Striker, however no one had called him by his name so far. “What do you want!? Can’t you leave me alone!?” she shouted in a dry, exhausted voice that was magnified and echoed by the cave. The Fast Biter stepped back, he didn’t look surprised even though he didn’t understand the leafeater that Ruby had hastily shouted in.

“I know what it’s like” he said dryly.

Ruby seethed as she switched to the Sharptooth language. “What do you know!? Nothing about me or how I feel! Now get away from me!”.

“No.”

Ruby glared at the insufferable Fast Biter.

“Are you completely daft, I said-!”

“I lost a brother”

Ruby coughed on her sentence as she had not expected that answer and by look she was being given, the look of familiar melancholy and depression of someone who had lost someone very dear to them was clear. The Fast Biter looked like he had aged several years in a few moments.

“Oh, I know what it feels like more then you know” Striker lay down next to her. “That was why I hunted those two Swimmers, it was my belief that the adult had killed my brother in cold blood, something I know is not true now”

“I can’t take it anymore, anymore of this I can’t take” said Ruby looking at the ground and closing her eyes.

“You can and you will,” The Fast Biter’s reply sympathetic but also firm.

“Are you that insensitive!?” shouted Ruby.

“No, I’m just hard” replied Striker with humourless laugh.
 
Ruby go up and walked to the cave wall away from him “If you not going to do anything useful then go away!” hissed Ruby with an angry bite to her words but they had no less effect on Striker then a leaf falling from a tree.

“We are so similar” he said.

Ruby looked back at him looking affronted to be compared to The Fast Biter that had hunted one of her friends with a ruthless persistence that rivalled Sharptooth himself. “No. We. Are. Not!” Ruby punctuated each word with a long breath as she glared at Striker, she pushed herself to her feet. “I’ve lost so much, those I hold close are always the ones in danger or the ones going, I lost my first friend and ‘you’ hunted someone that I trust and now I must loose even more!? What is wrong with this stupid, messed up world!?” Ruby’s voice rose the longer she talked without breath though her words were not as much aimed at Striker but rather the world around her as she held her arms up in emphasis. She stopped her rant breathless and hyperventilating her head angled down with her hands on her knees and tears falling to the ground at her feet.

“The fact that we have both lost so much makes us similar, I lost a brother, I’ve lost packmates and I have no family to ever return too” said Striker after a short respite for Ruby. He sounding more sympathetic however there was pain written all over his face. “You will get over it, with help or without it, take it from someone who knows” Striker wanted to say more, to help out, to really open himself and give her comfort but this was not what he generally did and by habit he stayed colder then he wanted and he knew that he could never risk opening his heart to anyone, he would stand alone as had ever since he lost his brother.

He left Ruby and walked out to the entrance of the caves to see quite a gathering. The children that he assumed where Ruby’s friends were all heading off towards a shady spot beneath some trees where a family of Fast Runners rested.

Striker’s eyes hardened and he took off at a sprint out towards the distant cliffs; he still had work to do.


*


The Stone Circle

“How can we be sure that whatever that Fast Biter said is the truth?” said Mr Thicknose. He stood in the middle of the circle with the grown ups all listening, the fact that a Fast Biter who had an apparent history with Sura had shown up and returned an egg to her and said that Red Claw was coming into the Valley from the Badlands and that Screech and Thud wanted to defect had caused quite a stir among the Valley adults and a huge controversy. The question raised by Mr Thicknose had certainly been one that was on the minds of the adults; was the Fast Biter trustworthy? So far no one but Sura had any trust in him.

“Chomper said that he wasn’t lying and I could tell by the way he looked at me. What we should focus on is what we are going to do” said Sura.

“Your sister’s death has clouded your judgement” said Topps firmly receiving a few nods of support. “The Fast Biter that hunts you gives you an egg that was supposably from your sister and you instantly trust him. Can’t you see that he’s using you!”

“Don’t you dare bring my sister into this Mr Threehorn! Your right that I’m still recovering from losing my sister but to say that I can’t tell if I’m being used is wrong. I know that I can trust that Fast Biter despite our past and don’t ask me how, it’s just a feeling” said Sura, she was rather affronted by Topps comments but she stood firm to her beliefs. “What if The Fast Biter is right and we let Red Claw attack us even after we have been warned we should at least be prepared to mount some kind of defence” said Sura.

Many looked at Sura like she was paranoid a few wore sympathetic expressions as they certainly believed that she was mentally exhausted from her recent trauma a few however did believe that a defence should be prepared just in case but no one trusted The Fast Biter.

“Sura, I’ve scouted the Badlands and have found nothing and I even went into The Mysterious Beyond and Red Claw and his Fast Biters were all out there, not a threat” said Ariel slowly.

“He might just be biding his time. The Badlands are not exactly the most accessible of places and in The Cold Time there is not much food” said Sura after a brief moment of thought.

“I think it is time to stop this pondering,” A new voice said. Everyone turned to face the entrance. A tired and somewhat thinly deep purple Fast Runner stood, his expression, tired and grim. There were signs that he had been morning. “I sent my eldest daughter here to learn how you all work together and I must say that the children have been greater teachers then their elders.”

There were a few gasps of disgust “The nerve” said a Domehead. Topps directed a furious look at Ruby’s father and growled but he was cut off when the Fast Runner continued his speech.

“Whether Red Claw is coming into The Valley or not is irrelevant. It is time that The Great Valley dinosaurs and those that inhabit The Mysterious Beyond put aside their differences and unite. Red Claw has been plaguing the Mysterious Beyond for too long and you all stand here happy to be safe in your little paradise till the plague comes to you.”
 
No one interrupted Ruby’s father as he took the main floor in The Stone Circle.

“How long would tyrants like Sharptooth have been around if all the herds united initially? We cannot wait for a new Great Sharptooth to come into existence. If we unite as one then Red Claw will be finished once and for all. I propose that the herds unite and with the help of the Fast Biter, Screech and Thud and us Fast Runners we bring the fight to Red Claw and if we can’t do that then we at least prepare for what I’m sure will be his inevitable coming”

There was silence as Ruby’s father finished his speech but no one said anything as they were still processing what he had just spoken and it was indeed a lot to take in.

It was Topps that finally spoke up.

“You expect us and Sharpteeth to work together?!” he said as if the idea was unthinkable.

“If your kids and my Ruby can do that with Chomper then what is stopping you from doing the same? I know that Red Claw has been hunting your kids, wouldn’t you want that threat to be eradicated?” hit back Ruby’s father firmly.

There were a few shocked murmurs among the gathered adults at the Fast Runner’s tenacity, but a few couldn’t help but feel inclined to help him in his cause. “Well, perhaps we should allow some time to think on this and then we shall meet back here in the morning and have a vote on Mr Fast Runner’s proposal” said Grandpa Longneck.

The meeting area largely dispersed except for the parents of The Gang.

“I should let you know that if your children don’t turn up then don’t worry they will be helping Ruby and will stay for as long as needed” said Ruby’s father.

“How is she?” asked Grandma Longneck, she truly felt for the grief that the youngling was feeling.

Ruby’s father looked up, tears in his eyes and he took a shuddering breath “She’s inconsolable…..Losing a sister tends to do that to a child.”


*


The echoes of many footsteps echoed throughout the cave as Chomper led his five friends through The Secret Caverns. Everyone had anxious looks on their face except for Petrie who despite being worried was rather breathless, he lay on Spike’s back in exhaustion after warning each of his friends at full speed and he did indeed come up against a head wind for most of the time and wind flying was never Petrie’s strong point but he still managed to get through it though he would need a long time to recover from his rather hard flight.

“And she’s been like this since her family arrived?” asked Littlefoot with grave concern to Chomper.

“Yes, her parents showed up two days ago. The Cold Time has been very hard on them and they all looked really thin and hungry, they were hoping that they would be able to find shelter and food here but Ruby’s little sister didn’t make it, she starved” said Chomper as they walked.

There was a massive sigh of sadness from the friends. “Poor Ruby” said Ducky looking down. Spike gave a sad whimper along with a nod of his head.

“We tried to help her but she wouldn’t talk to any of us, that’s why we need your help” said Chomper.

“Wait” said Cera, “You need our help? What about you and her family, she has them now surely they can help he?” She said sceptically.

Chomper stopped in front of them. “I don’t know but for some reason she will not accept help from them.” He slumped down. “You guys, we are just like family to her and if anyone can get through to her when her real family can’t, it’s us” said Chomper.

His statement had a lot of gravity. It was easy to say that Ruby was a friend but at the same time to the gang she was there family, it was same for all of them, The Gang was not just a bunch of friends that had been forged in the harshest of trials, it was these adventures and misadventures that they became more then friends but one family. Ruby was no exception, she had spent so long away from home with virtually no contact with her birth family with one exception and in that time, she had been on many adventures with her friends and the bonds of friendship soon started to become the ties of family. A family that Ruby had when she was away from her real family.

And at the moment Ruby’s Great Valley family was closer then her real family so they were the best chance of providing comfort and closure for Ruby.

The group had now moved into the range of Ruby’s now very subdued and occasional sobs which almost stopped them all in their tracks. To hear Ruby cry like this was so hard to bare and it was obvious that she was in a terribly frail state both physically and mentally. It was in silence that the gang stopped and beheld Ruby.

The Fast Runner was still up against the cave wall and she was a right mess. She lay on her belly exhausted from sobbing, her eyes were red and tear tracks were clearly seen on her cheeks and she had very large bags under her eyes indicating that she hadn’t slept. Her nose was also very much blocked but at the height of her crying she had blown out quite a lot of the internal contents of her nose and as a result her arms and wrist feathers were covered with mucus and snot but that did not seem to even register in Ruby’s mind. Her head was angled at the wall and her breaths came in shudders, she hadn’t noticed the gang enter yet.

“Ruby” said Littlefoot in a shocked voice he looked like he was seeing a ghost and, in some senses, he was. The Ruby he was seeing was barely a shadow of her former self, her sister’s death had been a devastating blow for her.

Ruby let out a sharp exhale when she heard Littlefoot and her head jolted up as if pulled up by a string and she croaked “Go-“ her voice broke and fell silent and flat, she was spend and didn’t even have the strength to form proper words anymore, she crouched against the wall but her friends walked up to her and sat down beside her with Ducky jumping onto her back and Cera and Littlefoot at her side and Spike with Petrie and Chomper facing her.

Ruby couldn’t handle it anymore, she had no strength to run away in any sense so she just hid her head in her arms even as her friends lay around her after a few chocked sobs she grabbed the first thing in sight which was Chomper who was standing in front of her. Chomper was caught off guard but was relieved that Ruby was only hugging tightly and letting out dry sobs. “I’m sorry” she whispered to him, it was all she could say.

She finally started to feel at home with Chomper hugging her and Ducky comfortingly rubbing her back and her friends all gathered around her in a show of support that she had never been given her whole life. It turned out to be just what she needed. Her sobs died down and within a few minutes she lay amongst her friends hardly able to speak but comforted enough to have no need to continue mourning.

“You feeling any better Ruby?” said Chomper.

Ruby nodded, she truly did feel better, she was spent from crying and isolation but now when the company she needed finally arrived she felt a like she had regained a tiny bit of the love that she had so recently lost.

“Thank you, thank you everyone” said Ruby she sounded tired but significantly better. However, Ruby was not as strong in a physical sense as she had been before she was graced with the unexpected arrival of her family. This was highlighted when she tried to stand and take a step forward and only ended up falling forward but thankfully Littlefoot dashed in front and stopped her before she hit the ground. Ruby gratefully leaned on his body and with Chomper coming to her other side and surrounded by her friends she made her way out of the cave.

Standing in the clearing below the entrance of the caves were all of Ruby’s surviving family members including her mother, father and brother. They all looked up to them when they appeared and there was a genuine feeling of relief for them as Ruby appeared to be finally pulling through the worst part of the pain. The Fast Runner family walked over to meet Ruby. It was a surreal feeling for Ruby, she felt like she was with two different groups but both she considered family; one was her birth family and the other was her Great Valley family.

Ruby was escorted into the waiting arms of her birth family for the first time since her she returned to Hanging Rock. When they had first arrived the only thing that she embraced was the body of her starved and shrunken sister who was on death’s door, she only lasted long enough for her to hug her older sister and say her last word; “Ruby”. Her own name as spoken by her sister had echoed in her head for ages since then and the image that went with it, the image of her sister breathing out her last breath had and was still haunting Ruby.

But now those feeling of pain were momentarily kept at bay when she finally embraced her family once again. They were her warmth in this cold time, they reminded her that while life could often be cold and cruel, the ones that she loved would often be the ones to warm up her life and that is precisely what Ruby was feeling now. That despite all the sadness and cold isolation she had put upon herself the proper reunion with her family warmed her up enough to keep away the cold that had been so dominant for her these past couple of days.

“Oh Ruby” said her mother. She couldn’t say anything more she just held her in her arms. She helped escort Ruby along with her brother to the shady spot under the tree and laid down with them together as they had not done since before she had left for The Great Valley but her mate stayed behind with The Gang.

“Thank you, kids. We were at a loss at what to do, she didn’t seem to come out for anyone” he said to them.

There was a general thanks from the friends but this was taken humbly as they all were still concerned for Ruby’s wellbeing.

“Will she be ok?” asked Cera, the look of understanding on her face said clearly that she had experienced the same kind of grief.

“She will recover……. eventually” said Ruby’s father. He let out a giant sigh. “We did not think to expect a Cold Time this harsh and because of our arrogance we must all suffer” He certainly sounded like he had been through a rough time, his voice was gravelly and tired, just as his body was but his expression was one of deep regret that was clear to all members of the Gang that had lost someone close. It was guilt; Ruby’s father obviously blamed himself for all the misfortune that had befallen his family but he was not met with scorn but sympathy.

“It not your fault, Ruby Dad” said Petrie with a shake of his head.

“You can’t be prepared for everything” said Littlefoot in support.

“And blaming yourself will not help anyone nope, nope, nope” said Ducky.

Ruby’s father took a great huff, he knew they were all right and it reinforced his point that these children were wise beyond their years but despite this knowledge, he still felt the pain of a father who had failed his child. “Thank you again for being there for our Ruby, you can let us be to be with our daughter, it’s been to long” Ruby’s father turned away and walked back to his family. Ruby was laying beside her mother and fast asleep from exhaustion but there was still content that she was at last with her family again.


*


“If only I knew of this sooner” growled Striker under his breath as he sprinted down a track, hidden from the naked eye but once you got past the large amount of close knotted trees and shrub which was a slow process then there was a path uncovered on the other side. A long, broad, rocky path that led down the side of the Badlands and straight down right in front of the clearing that he first arrived at after he passed through the secret entrance. Now he knew a way through the Badlands that would bypass every labyrinth that he had navigated for ages and not only that but this path was large, large enough to easily fit large dinosaurs like Two Footers and even Longnecks on it without any difficulty.

This path was the key.

It had everything that was needed for his plan to be successful but first he had to set it into motion and that is precisely what he was doing. It was night time and the stars were covered by clouds making it perfect for stealth operations and considering the condition of Ruby it had been rather easy to give his two ‘supervisors’ the slip.
 
Striker ran through the passage and out into The Mysterious Beyond at full speed, a cloud of dust billowed behind him he sniffed in deeply, trying to get a whiff of the scent that he was looking for; it didn’t come. It would appear that Red Claw had chosen to find more suitable grounds to hunt but that didn’t dissuade Striker. He returned to the sight of the battle which he remembered very clearly and stopped to look at the ground for footmarks but it was a useless endeavour as the snow had long since covered up any. He did however give pause when he saw the bleached bones that belonged to Sura’s sister.

He let out a huff and moved away, without footprints or a scent he needed to find high ground, looking over the flat plains of the desert there was one outlier that caught his eye. A tall dune a few kilometres away. Striker took off for it at a more conservative speed but it didn’t take away too much from his speed. He soon arrived at the dune which had a small cap of snow near the top. With a tired huff he planted his claws and feet into the dune and slowly started to scale it. He growled at the cursed obstacle, it was a drain to reach up to even half way let alone the top, he stopped only a few moments to look up at the top of the dune and just by luck there was a passing desert tarantula. Striker didn’t hesitate to devour it before moving on, he took a lot longer then he wanted it but by the time he reached the top he had a vantage point that allowed him to see as far as the naked eye could.

It was from this vantage point that fortune or misfortune depending on which view his plan was viewed in smiled on Striker. He found what he was looking for and ran along the ridge he had a good distance to cover but like before it was nothing that would stop him. As he ran along he couldn’t help but be conflicted by his choice but he shook his head, this was something he had to do, it was the best move and most of all it was the right move not matter what others thought. As he approached Red Claw he slowed the Sharptooth was sleeping but to Striker great surprise was that he was far from alone, including Screech and Thud there was an additional ten Fast Biters sleeping nearby.

Striker’s eyes narrowed and he stopped to glare coldly at the new additions to Red Claw’s ‘cause’. The tyrant had probably been advertising this new secret way into The Great Valley and in the midst of The Cold Time, it wasn’t surprising at just how much of a following you could generate if you offer them a large surplus of food. “Poor fools” thought Striker as he approached Red Claw, he noticed that once again only Screech and Thud were awake but they would not be the only ones awake for much longer.

“ROAR!”

Everyone jumped and went to their feet but when there didn’t seem to be a cause Striker stepped forward out of the shadows. “Red Claw!” he called. The blood eyed Sharptooth turned to Striker.

“I remember you from the battle.” He pointed a claw at him to which Striker nodded. “Who are you and what do you want.” His eyes narrowing.   

“I heard what that Swimmer said about the secret way into The Great Valley, I have scouted through its Badlands and I can get you into the heart of The Great Valley in less then a day” said Striker.

Every Sharptooth gave him sceptical looks but his scent didn’t lie and that is what gave Red Claw a huge grin but then went back to his harsh demeanour. “Tell me where it is!” He growled harshly.

“I can only show you” said Striker in a deeper voice as he locked eyes with the giant tyrant. “I will lead you into The Valley and all I want is to partake in the feast. I cannot do this alone and you cannot get into the Valley effectively with surprise without me. We need each other and those leaf lickers are unsuspecting. Together we shall catch them unawares and have a giant feast.”

Red Claw broke off eye contact and bellowed out to the gathered Fast Biters. “We leave immediately, by tomorrow the feast that we have all dreamed of shall begin!”

The Sharpteeth roared in unanimous agreement. They were coming and The Great Valley would have no chance of stopping them now but no one but the shocked Screech or Thud noticed the cold gleam in Striker’s eyes.

The Fast Biter’s plan was now in motion.

Sovereign

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #233 on: August 14, 2018, 10:32:02 am »
Now this was a good chapter after the rather long wait. Ruby’s sorrow and Spinner’s story were both established rather well and they added another layer of drama to this story. Additionally, Striker’s two-faced plans are soon reaching a climax which hardly means any good for the residents of the Valley.

The first scene with Ruby and Chomper established the main point of this chapter really well and the fastrunner’s feelings were elaborated excellently. Especially her and Striker’s talk was an interesting one even if it was quite sad to see someone treating Ruby like this. Yet, it is important to remember that in the Mysterious Beyond, bad things happen all the time. However, the way this storyline was started bothered me quite a bit as we had absolutely no clue about what was wrong with Ruby until over halfway through the chapter and I don’t really see why it wasn’t brought up earlier to clear things up a bit.

As for Through and Spinner’s talk, the duo’s interaction felt natural, especially in case of Through’s complete obliviousness to what had upset the other swimmer that badly. As for the story, it was an interesting look to another one of Ducky’s siblings’ pasts and to explore his unique characteristics. The tale itself was an intense one and opened more of the dangers of the waters. The chapter’s ending cast a bad shadow over the fastrunners’ attempts to get the herds work together with the sharpteeth if one of the only ones they had accepted is going to betray them.

All in all, this was a good way to continue this amazing story. While most of the developments may not have been too directly linked to the “main plot” of this fic, each of them offered another memorable episode on our way towards the inevitable clashes with Red Claw and Sculra. It’ll be great to see just where Striker and Red Claw’s (as well as the main characters’) next steps will take them. :^^spike

DiddyKF1

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #234 on: August 14, 2018, 12:21:55 pm »
I had a feeling that Striker was going to betray them, and my suspicions seem to be correct. For once, I would have to agree with one of my least favorite characters in the series. Then again, since Striker is a double agent, maybe there's a 50/50 chance these are his true colors.

Ruby has certainly taken a huge blow with the loss of her little sister, and although I wasn't sure at first at the beginning of the chapter, like Sovereign pointed out, you captured her emotions of the loss tremendously well.

Wow. Poor Spinner. He has had quite a rough past, and he has never recovered from his PTSD after that whirlpool incident so long ago. If I were in his position, I also would have felt terrible after some life-long bullies died because they never reformed or were given a chance to be forgiven. That was an amazing backstory of Spinner's past and you did a great job at capturing how it has continued to effect him after all this time.

Now I'm really hyped for that inevitable moment when Red Claw makes his move. The only question left to be answered is: Will the residents be ready for when that happens?

OwlsCantRead

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #235 on: August 15, 2018, 09:59:53 am »
Oh, yay! This got updated. I'd been following this story for a stupidly long time, but I won't bore you with my thoughts on the 63 chapters prior.

I legitimately don't know what to feel about Striker. On one hand, I feel just a tinge of sympathy for the fact that he lost his brother and is likely in it for vengeance.
On the other, yeah. He's a backstabber. Can't feel sympathy there. For some reason, I feel he's more complex than the average sharptooth, but the story seems to paint him in a bad light.

Anyway, I highly suspect that the day of reckoning draws near now. Does this mean the trial will actually start soon? It has to be during (ha!) or after the ambush. :)
A quaint creature who soars when the Night Circle is highest in the dark sky, messing up his circadian rhythm in the process. Truly, a tragic flyer.

In terms of LBT, love to write stories! :)
Current Fics: Waves Crashing Upon the Sky, Five Stages of Grief, Scrambled Eggs, and Our Safe Haven.



What is a signature? A miserable pile of secrets! Enough talk... scroll down already!

Ducky123

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #236 on: October 24, 2018, 04:26:58 am »
Review of chapter 64:

Okay, so the last chapter left on a strong cliffhanger and now Ruby is crying in extreme sorrow, something Ruby typically doesn't do. Looks like you took a scene like that ahead of the explanation for it and I think it needs no explanation. With Redclaw around and her family among his enemies... :sducky

Explaining the unique quirks of Ducky's siblings through stories like that is amazing! Spinner's tale is really intriguing and explains both his behavior and Ray's injury. Trough realizing that he was being a bully was a nice touch as well, considering his backstory.

But then Ducky is called by Petrie in great urgency so my time skip theory is already obsolete :P

Hmm, Striker trying to comfort Ruby with little success[\i]. We still don't know what Ruby is mourning about but it's obvious that he knows what he is talking about... What are fastrunners doing in the valley though. Her family? What remains of it? I shall find out...

Oh, this is just perfect. The Great Valley residents getting roasted for their constant arguing and lack of cooperation, quite unlike their children, is just too true. And here you finally reveal it... she lost a sister. Terrible but I initially thought she may have lost her whole family so she still has family to return to (and I hope someone points that out eventually).

Oh man Ruby is quite a mess. Masterfully described her situation and the whole scene was as heart-wrenching as it was heart-warming. Ruby's reaction is very relatable, first rejecting anyone but then finally accepting the company and feeling better at last. Death by starving though, I would have expected Redclaw to be behind it. Maybe that would have fueled the anti-Redclaw coalition even more. At any case, it's amazing that you're trying to finish this unfished plot of the tv-series!

So Striker has a plan up his sleeve? Well, he better be... Redclaw's current army is extremely dangerous.

Holy crap that was some chapter mate. You're getting better and better ;)

The Lone Dragon

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #237 on: January 05, 2019, 09:56:47 pm »
Chapter 65: Day of Reckoning



“What are you playing at?”

Striker ignored Screech’s question. It was broad daylight in The Great Valley. Over night Striker had led Red Claw and his Fast Biters through the Badlands and into The Valley however Red Claw was cautious because Striker knew the Badlands, he suggested a location hidden in an oval canyon off the main path of the Badlands at the very border however it only had one entrance which was the only way in or out. But Red Claw was counting on the fact that the sap suckers would be unable to find and in that time he, with the help of his Fast Biters had successfully made themselves hidden under the trees to keep away from Flyers and from this point Red Claw sent out a few small teams under the cover of darkness to scout the land. But on this morning Red Claw send out his most exclusive group for a task that required no small amount of stealth. Screech, Thud and Striker were tasked with looking around the Valley and observe the residents as they proceeded with their everyday tasks. This information combined with the knowledge of the lay of the land was crucial in constructing an efficient plan of attack and he only trusted his closed Fast Biters for this job as one screw up would mean the loss of surprise which was a necessity for the situation.

The three Fast Biter’s were now located right near the entrance to The Secret Caverns where they observed the entirety of The Gang along with Ruby’s family who had set up residence in the clearing outside the caves. They had already completed their day’s observations and all that time Screech and Thud had been interrogating Striker in an attempt to find out what he was up to but he had remained closed to it all, only speaking when he needed too.

“You two head back to Red Claw and give him the report. I’ll meet you there.” He started getting up but Screech grabbed him by the arms and pulled Striker down while Thud pushed down on Striker’s back with a low hiss.

“You’re not going anywhere until you tell us what you are doing” snarled Thud in Striker’s ear. Both Fast Biters were done with his cold shoulder act, they needed to know what he was really up too. From their view he was going to double cross Red Claw but now he was actively helping Red Claw and betraying the trust of the few residents in the Valley that had any for him. They didn’t trust him either and were done with all this tail chasing, it was time for some answers.

Striker snarled back but he was already at a disadvantage. “We are going to ambush the ambushers” he whispered.

“What are you talking about?” said Thud.

“Get off me and I might tell you” growled Striker firmly.

However, before any move could be done there was a shrill scream from somewhere in the distance the three Fast Biters listened and so did the others near the Secret Caverns. “What in the blazes is going on?” whispered Striker.

“I don’t know” said Screech.

“I have a bad feeling about this”


*


“Oh no! Someone is in trouble they are, they are!” cried Ducky when she heard the scream, they all jumped when they heard it but now Littlefoot was taking command.

“Come on, we’ve gotta help whoever is screaming!”
 
“Stop! You kids stay here!” said Ruby’s father. “I’ll go,” he ran off in the direction of the screaming while The Gang reluctantly stayed put.


*


As soon as Ruby’s father had run off the three Fast Biters followed suit but they kept to the shadows as much as they could, after all running through the Valley in broad day light was bound to get them caught. That was if their cover had not been blown already because on the wind, they could hear the sound of Fast Biter growls intermixed with the screaming.

“What the hell are those fools doing?!” hissed Striker in an undertone.

“They are probably to starved out of there minds to think right” said Screech.

“What do you mean?” Striker slowed his run slightly to look at both Fast Biters.

Screech looked a little hesitant. “The way Red Claw got hold of those Fast Biters, he told us to scout the nearest packs and bring him to them while they slept. He spoke of The Great Valley and how it would be the greatest feast we could desire. Of course, he didn’t do that without holding the pack leader under his foot when he initially attacked him”

Striker shook his head and supressed an angry growl. Of course, those poor Fast Biters were starving with The Cold Time and upon threat of death; they went in for food but not for Red Claw at least Striker hoped not. They were desperate and that might work in his favour but he was hesitant to reveal himself to any of them as it could mean exposure which would get him killed.

The three Fast Biters slid onto their belly’s and crawled up a small hill to see the carnage. Twenty Fast Biters had attacked a small group of Valley residents including a small group of Hollow Horns and Swimmers, a Tupped Head, a Club Tail and a two pink Threehorns. Overall a group of about twelve but that number was halved. Only one from the two groups of the Hollow Horns and Swimmers was still standing and the two Threehorns were left in a fractured defensive position. Surprise had been a great killer.

The Threehorn was fighting fiercely protecting the infant that was hiding under her body, with fierce shouts that could be heard for miles. From behind The Fast Runner could be seen sprinting onto the scene to reinforce the besieged leafeaters. But it was a fight that they’d be lucky to escape from in one piece.   


*


“NO!”

“Cera, wait! Stop!” shouted Littlefoot as he tried to grab Cera’s tail but he was a little too late and ran in the direction of the screams of her stepmother and sister. Littlefoot ran after her, his friends mobilising and running behind him.

Cera’s mind was almost completely numb except for one thing; A terrible memory which was all she heard in her mind as she ran.

“How did it h-happen?”

The answer to that question that she had asked her father after she heard the terrible news had haunted her ever since she came to The Great Valley, just as Ducky was terrified by her own experiences with Sharptooth. Cera sprinted at a speed she never knew she had and like a tank she went straight through everything in her path be it rocks or trees they all yielded to her mad rush. Up the hill and…..

Cera gasped.

“Your mother was coming back from the stream, it was a dark night and I was barely awake, your sisters were with her, they had woken thirsty when she was coming back was when it happened. It happened so quickly…..”

Tria screamed in pain, the formation that she was in was a tight back to back with the Hollow Horn, Swimmer, Club Tail and Ruby’s Father. All of the were now wounded in some way. Each of Tria’s legs were cut and bled but Tricia was unharmed through her screams of terror drowned out all sounds.

“Your sisters hid under your mother, they were out in the open and the number of Fast Biter’s that came I don’t know, it looked like a dozen and they swarmed and I ran.”

The Hollow Horn let out a shout as three Fast Biters attacked simultaneously. Taking out his legs and slashing at his exposed belly. The horrified dinosaur desperately held his wound closed with his hands in order to prevent his viscera from falling out but it was all for naught as his neck was slashed open and he fell down to the ground in a puddle of his own blood. Ruby’s Father had no choice but to run as he was out flanked but the Fast Biter’s weren’t going for him….   

“I ran as fast as I could, your mother yelled and fought with a strength I have never seen from the even best fighters.”

Tria was surrounded, she had been isolated from her allies although pressure was still being kept on them but her motherly instincts were in full spring. She never stayed still and brandished her horns at any who dared approach and swung her tail and even leapt on her hind legs but she did that very rarely so as not to risk exposing Tricia to a potential attack.
 
“Your sisters screamed, your mother told them to run and she tried to do it with them but there was nowhere to move to. She was surrounded that’s when The Fast Biter’s rushed forward as one.”

Tria moved back only slightly. “Get away from us!” she shouted, growling and grinding her teeth. Never had Cera or Tricia seen this fury and bravery from Tria, this unwillingness to back down in the face of innumerable odds. It was such a Homeric display of courage and defiance. However, she was not prepared for the Fast Biter’s full-scale assault.
 
Cera charged down the slope at full speed any thought of self-preservation was gone in the face of such an old memory returning before her eyes and this time Cera was here to witness it but she would not let the outcome be the same. The Fast Biter’s swarmed over Tria.

“Half the Fast Biters attacked her lower body while the rest jumped on her back, she roared and tossed about but they held with claws, I was to late. They got the back of her neck and dragged your sisters out. They fell and……”

Tria tossed her head violently trying to dislodge the Fast Biters on her back she stayed on the move as the rest were trying to get her flanks and legs, she couldn’t last any longer.

“I failed and I screamed….”

“NOOOOO!!!!”

Cera leapt up into the air and landed on Tria’s tail and leapt up onto her back and knocked the closest Fast Biter off of Tria’s back by knocking his legs out from under him with her horn. She never stopped in her movement, any Fast Biter in her sight she rammed and sent falling onto their comrades to be crashed by Tria’s feet or impaled by her horns. Cera was as berserk as Tria was protecting her daughter only Cera was protecting the one who she looked up to now as a mother.

The Fast Biter’s were in disarray, three of their number had been killed and another wounded and they were forced to pull back and respite and the sound of thundering footsteps approaching signalled the arrival of reinforcements led by Ruby’s Father. 

From their hiding place Striker pushed Screech and Thud forward. ”Go and get them out of here!” he hissed. “Await my signal to begin your attack at dawn” said Striker pushing the two surprised Fast Biters up. They looked at him with apprehension. “Go! If Red Claw askes I was killed trying to escape, lead them to the Badlands and lose them there”

The two Fast Biter eventually nodded and ran off, down the hill. “Get out of here you fools! Follow us now!” Shouted Thud just as the Valley elders charged forward, a few residents followed them but some stopped at the horrible scene of battle. The Fast Biter’s seeing that they were now terribly outnumbered bolted except for one foolish Fast Biter who tried to nick off with a piece of meat from one of the dead hollow horns ended up with a horn going straight through his chest as the horn was pulled up by a furious Mr Threehorn he tilted his head up and send the Fast Biter flying but he didn’t get up after he hit the ground rather unceremoniously.

“Tria! Are you and the girl’s all right?!” Topps quickly made over to his wounded mate. She was now lying on her belly to take the pressure off her injured legs but her flank was covered with slashes and punctures from Fast Biter claws and her back had a few bites. Alone none of her injuries were fatal but the sheer amount of them meant that they didn’t need to be fatal to claim a victim. Only Grandma Longneck and Sura and Ruby’s Father had stayed behind while the rest of the gathered members gave chase to the fleeing Fast Biter’s.

“I’m not sure if I feel worse or look worse” said Tria, she sounded exhausted but her mate nuzzled her. Tricia had come out from her hiding place and was huddled up to her front right foot, she was crying and trembling all over; clearly terrified. “Shh, I’ll be alright Tricia” said Tria, she nuzzled her daughter and with her leg she pulled her close however it was then that Topps noticed Cera.

She was still standing on Tricia’s back. Like Tricia she was trembling all over and she was also doing something very uncharacteristic of her, she was crying and not just a few tears but a waterfall of them. She gazed out into the distance in what looked like a trance however there was one thing that was very different about Cera; The blood on her horn, just like the blood on her father’s one full horn. This symbolised her first fight in which she drew her foe’s blood.

“Cera?” Topps said in a sympathetic voice that was as uncharacteristic for him on a normal day as Cera’s current state. He understood how combat felt and what it was like to draw blood and he knew that Cera had seen her fair share of combat but something about the look in his daughter’s eye, the sheer depth of emotion that he could see. This battle was only second in comparison to the powerful emotions that Cera was feeling. When she didn’t respond to his inquiry he went over to Tria whose wounds were now being tended to by Sura.

“What happened Tria?”

“Tricia was having a snack and I was talking with Mrs Topped Head then those Fast Biter’s came out of nowhere and we were surrounded, they attacked us” said Tria, she sounded very much out of breath and rather strained emotionally. She had just been talking to one of her friends and now only minutes later the ground was stained with there blood and leaving Mrs Topped Head dead and all the other in the clearing except for Tria and Tricia and even she wouldn’t have survived had it not been for Cera and Ruby’s Father bringing the other Valley residents. 

“How did those Fast Biter’s get into The Valley?” said Topps in shock but Sura was quick to chastise him.

“The Fast Biter told us Red Claw found a way through the Badlands, he must have told other Sharpteeth about it” said Sura.

Topps at this moment was now inclined to believe what Sura spoke of, after all the fact that his mate and daughter were nearly killed because of his own arrogance was a blow that now stung his conscious. Normally an apology from Mr Threehorn was something heard seldomly as his pride found it hard to tank such a blow so he refrained from doing it as much as possible but in this case, when he was probably at fault and that fault had put the lives of his family in danger, he could suck it up. “I’m sorry” he said not only to Sura but more importantly his family. Tricia was still frightened and Tria was badly injured and Cera was in a state of pure shock and it wasn’t difficult to see why. At least for Topps. He could tell that Cera had been fighting to save the life of someone that she could now call ‘mother’.
 
“Topsy, you could not have known if it was true” said Tria in a vain attempt to cushion the pain of guilt on her mate but he shook his head.

“My foolishness caused this” he said quietly, he nuzzled Tricia and Tria and moved off, he could see that they were ok enough but not Cera, she was an emotional wreck right now though it hardly showed but under that shocked expression and wide eyes she was screaming and crying over the mother she lost so long ago. However, Topps could not allow Cera to continue to let her think like this, it was only hurting her and distracting her from the heroic deed that she had just pulled off.

He went in front of his daughter. “Cera?” he said in the rare counselling voice that he had used when talking about personal issues. When she didn’t respond he nuzzled her which seemed to have the intended effect of breaking her daze like trance. She looked at him.

“Dad?” she asked.

“You saved them Cera, my brave girl. You saved Tria and Tricia”

“They’re safe?”

Topps smiled and nodded “Thanks to you, your mother would be so proud of you Cera, just as I am” Cera chocked up at the mention of her mother and though she was clearly trying to hide it, she was on the verge of breaking, there was so much moisture in her eyes. It took only a few seconds for Cera to breakdown and nuzzle her father. For a few moments Father and daughter exchanged nuzzles and Cera finally let out all the hidden pain that she had stored up for years.

“I couldn’t let…I-I wasn’t there before when….it…happened. I had to stop it”

“You did stop it Cera, you are a true Threehorn and I am so happy and proud that you are my daughter” He broke contact with her and after Sura assuring him that she would take care of his mate he started to head in the direction of the Valley residents that had gave chase to the Fast Biters however he passed the Gang on the way and on a passing glance he said to them. “Look after her” he gestured to Cera, voice coming back to its usual tone as he headed off and the Gang went over to Cera.

“She is lucky to have such good friends” Mr Threehorn let out a smile as he knew he was leaving his daughter in good hands, even if one of them was an insufferable Longneck and the other was a naïve little Sharptooth. They at least would make sure that she was okay.


*


Evening at The Stone Circle:


“We no longer have a choice, we saw what happened today. Tomorrow we must attack with overwhelming force.” Ruby’s Father said to the assembled crowd. Everyone was there including Striker, who stood next to Chomper and Ruby.

“We need every able-bodied fighter available to help get rid of this menace once and for all” said Mr Threehorn. Which was seconded by everyone, even by the Longnecks.

“We can’t allow these Sharpteeth to continue raiding The Great Valley, until we are sure they are none left in The Valley no one goes anywhere alone and the children will need supervision and we’ll all need night watches tonight, so if you don’t have any one to do a shift then go sleep with another family and ensure you all take turns keeping watch tonight” said Grandpa Longneck.

“I’ll go” said Sura.

Ruphus stood up and placed a hand on his mates back. “You’re not leaving me behind this time dear.”

Sura shook her head “You are not going Ruphus, you are too badly injured!” she protested firmly.

“You’ve stood alone for far to long dear, if you are going into battle then you’re not going to leave me behind. It’s time for me to be your mate properly, I’m not going let anyone hurt you again.” Ruphus stood beside her and just as Sura was opening her mouth to protest he pushed her bottom jaw shut and gave her an understanding but firm nod. He was not taking no for an answer, whether she liked it or not he would stand by her side.

Sura took his hand. “I hate you sometimes,” she said quietly with a smile.
 
“I’ll take the strongest Threehorns in the Valley, while you three lead the other Longnecks,” said Topps to Bron, Grandma and Grandpa Longneck. Ruby’s father stood up and said rather poetically “United we stand, divided we fall,” he walked over to stand along with those who would go and fight. There was silence as gestures were exchanged between the various residents of The Valley. One by one the same look of resolve came over those who would fight and an expression of fear from their loved ones followed by reassurance before one Domehead two Clubtails, four Spikethumbs, a few of The Valley Flyers and about half a dozen hadrosaurs of various kinds stood to with the fighters. All in all, it was a group of about twenty-four fighters strong.

Actually… twenty-five. 

There was a satisfactory growl from the entrance of the Stone Circle. Striker had arrived. He walked over to the assembled fighters and joined them with a grim nod of his head. He was going to fight with them against Red Claw and his Fast Biters.

“We will meet just before the dawn at the entrance to the Badlands then I believe he will lead us to where Red Claw is hiding by his sense of smell,” said Grandpa Longneck and with that it was settled however the last order of business was to organise a reserve force which was to protect the residents and was made up of everyone who was not joining the attacking force.


*


Dawn, the day of battle:


Cera awoke for earlier then she normally did, perhaps it was the restlessness that had plagued her all night ever since the attack on Tria and Tricia. The fact that as soon as her father up, he would join the assembled team and once they were ready, they’d head off to face Red Claw in battle and it was both these reasons that Cera was sleep deprived. She yawned and blinked, her eyes had large bags beneath them and she let out a huff as she pushed herself to her feet and stretched her legs. Tricia was sleeping right next to her still and she was thankfully sleeping peacefully. After the skirmish Tria and Tricia spend the day at the nest. Tricia had needed comfort from everyone including Cera and it was here that Tria could finally speak to Cera.

“Cera, thank you for saving me and your sister. You gave me a heart attack to do it but I don’t think we’d be here if you didn’t,” said Tria.

Cera took a deep breath and sighed, her eyes angled down for a few moments before going back out to look at her step mother. “I lost my mother and my sisters in the same way and I wasn’t there. I couldn’t let the same thing happen to you or Tricia, you are my family. I had to try,” said Cera as she nuzzled Tricia and as she broke off the look that passed between her and Tria was simply, a mother’s pride in a daughter. “Come here you,” Tria said as she and Cera finally truly nuzzled each other like the mother and daughter they had now become.


Cera smiled at Tria, she could see that her wounds were slowly healing thanks to the quick work of Sura but she also noticed that her father was not at the nest. She quickly looked around and saw him standing on the edge of the hill their nest was located on. She walked over to her father’s side. Topps took note of his daughter. “Are you feeling any better Cera?” he asked in his quiet voice that he reserved for tender family moments.

Cera looked up at her father and nodded. For a few seconds they stood tall upon the hill as the first light started to make itself known. However, neither was under any illusion of what today was to be. The battle between the Valley and Red Claw was about to begin, as it was Topps only had a short while before he had to leave and Cera was more subconscious about this moment as this might be the last time she ever saw her father in one piece. As it was, she was concerned that her father might be at a disadvantage when she looked at the horn that was broken during The Killer Storm but she was quick to remind herself that her father was a real fighter and that he’d never go down that easily.

“Be careful Dad,” said Cera as Topps took a single step forward though he stopped and turned to look at Cera.

“You know I will be,” he said with a reassuring smile but back to his usual gruff tone as he headed off. However, Cera had a bed feeling in her gut, the was a lot riding on the outcome of this fight and more factors influencing it then meets the eye.


*


At the Stone Circle the adults going in for the first and hopefully only attack was gathering. The Spike thumbs and Domehead were already there and so were over half the hadrosaurs and all the flyers. Soon however they were joined by Bron, Ali’s mother; Brace. Grandma and Grandpa Longneck arrived along with Sura and Ruphus and later the two Club Tails and Topps along with another Threehorn and Mr Thicknose however they were now waiting on Ruby’s Father and Striker. They all stood together waiting restlessly but silently, not a word was spoken and the tension was thick in the air as everyone psyched themselves for combat. Eventually The Bright Circle started to appear over the mountains the last two members of the attack party appeared.

At an unspoken word Ruby’s father walked side by side with Striker and Grandpa Longneck as the fighting herd headed off towards The Badlands. The group was silent the whole trip and as they travelled through The Great Valley, they passed many places and residents including Thundering Falls and the bystanders all watched them solemnly, many had grim expressions and on the rare occasion when they were passing the nest of one of the fighters they’d be sent off by their mates or children with a hug and reassuring words that everything would be ok. 

As they reached The Badlands Striker put his nose to the ground and sniffed, even though he knew where Red Claw was hiding and of the forces assembled there but none of The Valley residents knew this so he decided to maintain the façade that he was working with them which was believable since he actually was working with them. When Striker saw the entrance to the canyon he stopped and pointed. “In there” which Ruby’s Father translated to the leafeaters. On a silent signal the strongest fighters and largest dinosaurs took their places at the front of the group. Both Topps and his companion Threehorn, Bron, Brace, Sura, Ruphus, the Clubtail and a couple other Hadrosaurs took the lead while in the second row followed the lighter dinosaurs and the older ones including Grandma and Grandpa Longneck and Mr Thicknose.

In the front row the Threehorns and Clubtails took the centre and their flanks were guarded by the battle hardened Ruphus along with Sura and the two more experienced Spikethumbs along with the Domehead. While the wide flanks held the Brace on the right, protecting the heavier fighters and Bron on the left with the lighter fighters and high above the group were the Flyers hiding in the clouds but they could see everything from their elevation and held position for when they would engage.   

It was redecided that the best fighters would go in the canyon and be the spearhead of the assault while the reserve force would hold back and blockade the narrow pass out of the canyon which was the only way in or out as per Striker’s intend. This was his main reason for choosing this location as it had only one pass and it was easily defensible; the trick was getting in before Red Claw was aware of their intents and if Screech and Thud had done their part then they would.

Striker reflected on what he and Red Claw’s ex lieutenants had planned the day before.

“What is the first thing you do in a hunt?” asked Striker rhetorically.

“Scout the area, see what the terrain is like and where your prey is,” said Screech.

“Exactly and that is the first thing Red Claw will do as he is doing now, he’ll probably do it again next morning for an early attack,” said Striker.

“Your point being?” inquired Thud as the lay beneath the bushes and cover near the waterhole.

“My point is that we can use this against him. If you guys take the scouting expedition with a couple of those Fast Biters then we can have the edge in this fight. All you need to do is lure the two Fast Biters away and dispose of them silently then wait till the Valley Residents arrive. Red Claw won’t move out till he gets your report and if he stays there while you delay returning then the Valley residents can cut him off then….we attack,” explained Striker.

Screech and Thus looked at each other. “Clever biter,” said Screech.

“If we come out of this alive, we should become a pack, we could use you,” said Thud.

Striker didn’t say anything for a moment as he looked surprised by the offer but dodged the question with one of his own. “Will you try this plan?”

Both Fast Biters exchanged a silent look and nodded one between them, two determined Fast Biters looked back at Striker. Screech responded. “We will.”   

It seemed to Striker that Screech and Thud had indeed upheld their part of the plan as Red Claw and his Fast Biter’s did not seem to be around however Red Claw was smart enough to leave a watch which was still standing Striker stopped as they caught sight of them.

The Fast Biters were about to shout an alert one in a blur of blue and green the two brown Fast Biters fell to their knees with there claws held over the bleeding necks. All they could get out was gurgles as Screech and Thud finished dispatching them with kicks to the necks. Striker smiled and nodded to them both and they nodded back. This display also worked in their favour as it showed what Sura had claimed about them wanting to defect. None of the residents attacked them but rather Screech and Thud joined Striker and Ruby’s father at the front of the assault force.

Swiftly the Dinosaurs made their way into the canyon, the reserve group held back to blockade the pass and the attack force advanced forward.

The Fast Biters and Red Claw were all mobilised but they were caught completely off guard by this substantial force but when Red Claw saw Screech, Thud and Striker; the latter he had been told was dead leading the leaf eaters made him see red. “KILL THEM!” He shouted.

With a loud roar on both sides the two opposing forces charged at each other.

Red Claw went straight for the Fast Biter’s who dared to betray him and the Fast Biter’s rushed forward as one towards what they considered to be the weakest part of the attacking phalanx, such a formation was only as strong as it’s weakest members and while they were not along, it still appeared that Sura and Ruphus were the weakest of the bunch. However, as the charge made its final approach a few of the Valley’s Flyers including Arial swooped down, low from the rear and smashing into their backs or attacking the back of their heads and necks with their talons while another set attacked from the front.

They only did a low swoop with talons outstretched in a faint. A few Fast Biters dodged, others fell flat on their belly’s and a couple tried to swipe the swooping Flyers from the sky. However, the attack from behind only bloodied up the Fast Biters but their frontal charge was stopped but not the charge of the Leafeaters. With the Fast Biter’s attack shattered on that front the Domehead charged followed on the flanks by the Spikethumbs with Sura and Ruphus holding the rear.
 
The Fast Biter’s sped out of the way but a few came in at the sides but the dome head was already retreating, covered on the flanks by the Spikethumbs while Sura, Ruphus and Bron protected their rear.

Red Claw was quickly encircled by the three Fast Biters, they used their speed to keep out of his range while the Threehorns Topps and his companion charged forward. Red Claw retreated quickly but was hassled by his former henchmen from behind Red Claw looked like he was in trouble when….

“Shit!” Topps shouted when he saw what was happening behind him.


*


Petrie was souring high in the air effortlessly. The updraft more then made up for his lack of flapping as he glided down towards Secret Caverns, he was over the river that led to roaring falls and decided to take a quick detour to drink before moving on. His mother had left early that day and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why or where she was going. She made sure to give each of her children a comforting rub before she left however, they were all still asleep at least that’s what Petrie thought, he had been up at the time.

The way his mom had acted made him feel like he was not going to see her again. Of course, he and his friends had all been told about what the planned response to Red Claw was and that had made them all nervous. It felt even worse for Petrie after his mother left. He quickly got up and took flight into the quiet early morning. He flew up till he was gliding on the thermals with no effort and taking in the scenery with deep calming breaths.

It helped calm him significantly and as the first light fell over The Great Valley, he allowed himself to believe that his mother would come out okay. However, after the adults had left Petrie noticed something from his elevation. “What Hyp, Mutt and Nod doing?” he said to himself and with a single flap he pointed his nose down and entered a steep dive. His speed tripled and the wind roared past his face. No matter how many times he did this he still enjoyed the experience.

Petrie levelled off close to the tree line. The three adolescent dinosaurs were nearly adults but were still not old enough to participate in combat and yet they seemed to be following the trail of the adults that were going to attack Red Claw.

Petrie stayed just out of side in a glide just above the thick tree line behind the three dinosaurs that used to bully his friends. He knew that they could be idiots sometimes but this might take the cake. He couldn’t always see them under the trees but he could hear them.

“Are you sure this is a good idea Hyp?” asked Nod. He sounded nervous.

“Of course, it is, we won’t be in harms way. I know a way up the cliff, we can watch the fight from the cliff top without being in harm’s way,” replied Hyp, he ignored that potential danger of walking onto a battle field.         

“But what if we fall? Or if the Grown-ups see us?” asked Mutt.

Hyp shook his head in irritation. “We won’t fall if we don’t stand over the edge Mutt and the grown ups will be to busy fighting to look for us,” said Hyp. “Now come on or are you both scaredy eggs?” Mutt and Nott quickly shook their heads and said they weren’t and followed Hyp. That trick always worked on those two idiots.

“Me and friends need to stop them,” said Petrie and flew off to get his friends to get the bullies out of trouble…again.


*


“Crap! They’re behind us!”

“Where did they come from!?”

“Ahhh-gluk!”


The rear of the leafeaters that had been guarding the entrance of the canyon had suddenly become under attack from the rear. A fresh group of Fast Biters numbered at around twenty was attacking. The last few days Red Claw had dispatched a couple of Fast Biters to round up as many as they could in the hope that he could rally more fighters against the Valley and they seemed to have arrived at the right time. Seeing Red Claw under attack and the backs of the Valley’s second group of fighters from the rear.

It was a massacre. The Swimmers and Hollow Horns and other lighter Hadrosaurs were being dispatched rapidly. Mr Thicknose, Grandma and Grandpa Longneck were more fortunate to be in the front rank which had managed to turn but were making a hasty retreat along with all the surviving Hadrosaurs but now they were trapped in between two groups of Fast Biters and they were out-numbered.

The front line which was making an effective advance stopped when they heard the commotion and looked on in horror as their rear guard was overrun. “Xeno, stop those Fast Biters!” bellowed Topps to the other Threehorn. Ruphus had also reacted quickly. He took Sura ordered the Domehead and one of the Spikethumbs back to help hold the rear while Bron tried to cover both ends with his massive body.

The leafeaters had two thin lines facing a large opposition on two fronts. The odds had turned dangerously in the favour of the Sharpteeth.


*


The Gang including Shorty, Ali, Trough and even Diver once she heard would not be left out and in doing so, Petrie’s brother; Thermal who would not part from her and went with them. Even Ruby pulled herself together enough to come but her younger brother; Amethyst was also coming with her. He had been parted from her to long and was still worried about his sister’s mental state after so recently losing her sister.

Petrie had told them all what Hyp had planned much to their disbelief. “And I thought they couldn’t do anything more stupid,” said Cera after Petrie told her now after leading them to where he last saw the three older dinosaurs and from there Chomper took over with his sniffer.

“I hope they don’t do anything silly I do, I do,” Ducky rubbed her hands anxiously from atop Spike’s back.

“Ducky, they already have,” deadpanned Cera with a roll of her eyes.

“Let’s just concentrate on getting to them before they get themselves hurt” said Littlefoot.

“Or worse killed,” added Shorty.

That earned him a glare from Littlefoot but the gravity of his words were already felt and Chomper moved quicker as did the rest of them but Hyp and Mutt and Nod were already starting the climb up the narrow path towards the top of the cliff that overlooked the battle.


*


Red Claw might have laughed at the predicament of the leafeaters at that moment when he saw then trapped by the newly arrived Fast Biters however, he barely spared a thought to them. He was consumed by anger at the three Fast Biters currently facing him down. Screech, Thud and Striker.

“I will tear you apart limb by limb and eat you alive! You traitorous sap suckers!” He bellowed at them. He never for a second thought that he would be betrayed by his closest followers but he was actively confronting that reality and he knew that if those Fast Biters hadn’t arrived when he did then the ambush would have succeeded. That was another point that Red Claw could not fathom. How was it possible that those three Fast Biters had managed to communicate with the Valley and organise such an attack? It didn’t seem possible but if there was one that he blamed most of all it was Striker. That mysterious Fast Biter was the cause of all this, that he was certain but why would he turn against his own kind? Against him? Red Claw had no clue and he honestly didn’t care if he never found out, all he cared about was making them all suffer for their betrayal.

He charged forward with a mouth open and roaring at his former allies but they quickly broke from formation and ran in three separate directions. Striker went head on with Screech and Thud heading for both flanks. The leafeaters where thankfully to busy with all the Fast Biter’s to care about their battle and that was something that Red Claw could not take for granted. He charged left at Screech with his jaws lowered, he knew there was no way to effectively get out of this trap but he knew how this trap worked and was prepared to counter.
 
As Thud attacked from behind and Striker closed in on the flanks. Red Claw lunged at Screech who jumped out of the way but stayed within striking distance as a constant threat. Red Claw glanced back and saw Thud leap and he swung his tail up and battered him out of the air and straight into the cliff. Thud fell and did not get back up, whether he was alive or not Screech and Striker didn’t know but while Thud was knocked away, Striker had jumped onto Red Claw’s flank and climbed to his back all the while making sure to thrust his claws deep into the fiend's flesh, the back of the neck was now in his sights.

Red Claw fell and rolled which briefly crushed Striker beneath him and losing his hold on Red Claw Screech bellowed from the side and made a rush for Red Claw’s flank but the giant tyrant was not buying it. He was charging at Striker.

Striker struggled to his feet but any chance of escape was impossible now with Red Claw so close or so it would have Ariel not swooped down in front of Red Claw and clawed at his eyes. Red Claw growled and shied away from the attack and tried to bite Ariel but she was already out of range. Striker used this time to get up and regroup with Screech. Looking past Red Claw they could see that the battle was not going in their favour….


*


“Come on up here!” Chomper pointed to a narrow path running steeply on lose rock up the cliff face about a kilometre from the canyon where the fight was taking place. The path was a one four-footer dinosaur path and would fast travel once they reached the top as there were no turns and it was clear that this was the only way Hyp and his friends could have gone but that gravel was a problem. Petrie and Thermal flew to the top.

“Ducky, Diver, Chomper, Ruby, Amethyst you guys, are light, you get up there and we’ll follow you,” said Littlefoot.

“Okay Littlefoot,” said Chomper. Ducky and Diver went first. The loose ground was rather tricky to get a foothold on as it broke away very easily yet they managed pretty well.

“Come on Diver!”

“You can do it Ducky!”

Petrie and Thermal called out to their respective friends while the two sisters kept close to each other and while climbing was difficult, their light weight allowed them to progress up the cliff. Somewhere near the top the ground came lose under Diver’s feet and she let out a shout as she held on for dear life but the ledge, she was holding onto was crumbling. “Help me!” she cried just as she fell only to have Ducky grab her hand.

“I’ve got you Diver I do, I do!” said Ducky. Diver in the meantime grabbed another hold and finding it stable she grabbed hold of it, taking the pressure off Ducky.

“Phew, thanks Ducky.”

“You’re welcome Diver yes, yes, ye-EAAAA!” Ducky’s hand hold collapsed under her weight and she fell upside down.

“Ducky!” Everyone gasped as Diver lunged her hand out and grabbed the tip of Ducky’s tail but she was struggling to hold on.

However, help was not far away in the form of Petrie and Thermal. “Grab on Ducky!” said Petrie and held his talons out and Ducky took them while Thermal grabbed Ducky’s tail and together with a lot of hard flapping they got Ducky to the top. “Thank you Petrie and Thermal,” said Ducky once they set her down on the ground but they nodded.

“We go get Diver now,” said Petrie and they both went down to Diver and Thermal stretched his talons out to her hands while Petrie grabbed her tail and with puffs of exertion, they slowly carried her to the top and promptly fell in a heap as both flyers struggled to catch their breath after that flight.

“How are we going to get up there?” inquired Cera.

“There must be a way, Hyp is big like us, he must have some way to get up to the top,” said Littlefoot.
     
Ducky called from above “Like this vine!” She pulled a vine that was concealed beneath the slippery slate and bushes on the side. Ruby went down to the right side where the vine outline could be seen and grabbed it. “This must be how they got up, so we can get up the same way,”

She started to climb and with the help of the vine she managed to reach the top without nearly as much effort or trouble as Ducky and Diver. Chomper followed then once all the light two footers reached the top, they started pulling up there four-footer companions who weld the vines in their mouths. Once they were all up they set off along the rocky path in single file.


*


“Duck Dear!” Sura listened to Ruphus and just on time as a Fast Biter leaped at her only to pass over her and go straight into Ruphus tail. Once he fell down Ruphus slammed his foot on the Fast Biter’s head hard, cracking his skull and killing instantly. Things had gone from bad to worse as The Fast Biter’s attacked both sides, they were trying to get in between the lines of leafeaters so they could attack both lines from the centre with only their backs to fight. Stopping them was incredibly tricky and required the big dinosaurs to go onto a sight formation of body against body but that couldn’t be done with the smaller dinosaur on the flank.

The Fast Biter’s kept a sizable pinning force at both ends to keep the back to back phalanxes from charging. The risk was to great that they’d be out flanked and it was tricky to fend of the Fast Biter attacks as they made repeated harassing attempts before retreating again, never engaging the phalanx head on which was suicide. However, the vulnerable flanks that was mostly being protected by the two footers was being tested as the remaining Fast Biters attacked with unrelenting ferocity. The greatest danger was fatigue and that was what the Fast Biters were trying to do. Tire the defenders down ‘till they could make a successful attack. The whole outcome of the battle was dependant on whether the Leafeater’s two-footer flank held.

Sura, Ruphus and Ruby’s father and Bron were effectively taking command and pulled everyone into a semi-circle that connected both phalanxes but this formation was looser as hadrosaurs weren’t as strong as the others so it was hoped that by maintaining a small amount of fluidity in their defensive form, they might be able to hold better against the Fast Biters by being able to use their tails.

However, The Fast Biters were exploiting the gaps, trying to get through, past the defenders to cause havoc for the centre but Ruphus, Sura and Ruby’s Fathers and Bron were not allowing them. They stayed away from the front lines and stopped any Fast Biter’s getting past their defence but that was becoming increasingly difficult. Bron was taking centre stage at the front of the semi-circle and his presence posed a huge threat to the Fast Biters but they never attacked him, they were only trying to get around and past him. However, that task was incredibly difficult, only their numbers allowed them to get past him.

The Valley Flyers were being a great help to them as they constantly swooped the Fast Biters on dropped rocks from above and killing several, it was now becoming a war of attrition between the Hadrosaurs and the Fast Biters and so far, it was even but that was about to change….

“GAHH!”

“They’re breaking through the centre!”



*


Hyp, Mutt and Nod were currently hiding behind a large rock and looking down over the battle of apprehensive expressions. It certainly was not the easy victory that Hyp said it would be but rather long, drawn out and bloody. It was carnage, as to what they were seeing. Mr Threehorn and the other Threehorn both had red horns from the Fast Biter’s that they had managed to impale and many of the Fast Biter’s that had attacked the main defensive line were covered in some form of cut or bruise which was also similar for the leafeaters, especially the longnecks but the real carnage was over on the flanks were the Hadrosaurs and Fast Biters were fighting.

The Fast Biters attacked and then broke off and again while the exhausted Hadrosaurs weathered each attack. A Spikethumb, a Swimmer and a crestless Swimmer had all been killed and they had watched it happen as Fast Biters overwhelmed them and delivered bites to the neck or slashed open their bellies, spilling viscera and gore all over the ground and turning the ground into a blood bath. The wounds on the leafeaters were more severe here and there was no respite. The Flyers however were untouched and they had seen a few Fast Biters had their skulls crushed by the rocks they threw down at them.

However, the most terrifying death that the three saw and averted their eyes too was when Ruphus was tacked to the ground by a Fast Biter but tripped it with his tail and rolled onto his belly and thrust his arm against the Fast Biter’s neck hard till he had chocked to death. Which was simply to violent even for them, to get up that close and personal and choke someone ‘till they were coughing up blood was simply disgusting. But the stand-off between Red Claw and the Fast Biters was also real tense. Striker, Screech and a couple Flyers were making things real tricky for Red Claw who was constantly on defence and was covered in numerous small wounds and Striker was attacking with the ferocity of someone who was already dead with no regard for his safety and as such he had the largest gashes and bruises of the allied Fast Biters.

The three spectators silently watched. Transfixed by the fight, so much so that they didn’t notice the new arrivals.

“Hey! What are you idiots doing!” came Cera’s agitated voice from behind. All three of the ex-bully’s jumped and turned around to see The Gang standing a few paces behind them.

“Where do you come from?” said Mutt in surprise.   

“We came to get your sorry asses out of trouble again,” said Cera.

“We don’t need saving!” hissed Hyp back angrily.

“GAAAHH!” everyone forgot about the heated conversation and immediately looked at what was happening below. For the Gang it was a rather terrifying vision. There folks were trapped between the hammer and the anvil but they were still holding a formidable defensive formation despite being under siege from both ends.

However, it was the flank that was currently in trouble. The Domehead had his legs slashed out from under him by a pair of Fast Biter’s who jumped on his backs and quickly bit out his neck, killing before he had a chance to get up. Ruphus was already running to assist but he was to late and now they had a hole just beyond Bron’s reach. He ran into the breach despite being outnumbered but he had battle experience on his side. He headbutted the Fast Biter that was still on the Domehead. The Fast Biter only turned in time to meet Ruphus’s head with his own, something he was not prepared for and fell down in a daze. Ruphus quickly crushed his head with his foot. The other Fast Biter was a blue female and she let out a wild shriek and leapt on top of Ruphus. The pair fell to the ground but Sura was at hand to knock the Fast Biter off her mate with her tail and she finished the job in the same way Ruphus had done with the Fast Biter from before. Ruphus was covered with small gashes on his belly as Sura helped him up to re-join the defensive line under the cover of the Flyers.

Sura looked terrible, battle was something that she loathed and the act of killing even Sharpteeth in that way made her sick. Ruphus didn’t have a problem with this and seemed to own the battle, fighting with passion and bravery and never hesitating to make a kill.

Once the line had reformed the Fast Biters began the attack again with more vigour as the defenders were now starting to crumble under the heat of battle.


*


Ducky, Spike and Diver all had to avert their eyes at what they just saw their parents do. It was disgusting and vile on a level they had never imagined, never had they seen such ruthlessness from their parents. Ducky had to force down the bile down to keep from throwing up, a tear fell from her wide eyes and she shivered. Diver was a little better, she briefly covered her mouth with her hands to stop herself from throwing up. Trough and Spike both huddled up to Ducky and Thermal comforted Diver.

“The grown-ups are in trouble” said Shorty looking over the battle.

“They not going to last long like this,” said Amethyst, looking anxious, his hands trembled when he spotted his father down there.

“We need to help them!” cried Littlefoot.

“But what we do? We up here,” said Petrie.

Everyone was stumped as they tried to figure out a plan.

Ducky meanwhile was sitting on the ground next to Diver. “I’ve never seen mom and dad like this,” said Diver in shock.

“I’m scared-ed Diver,” said Ducky, emphasising exactly what her sister was feeling. The two briefly embraced tightly while Spike nuzzled them both, he was also startled by the brutality of his parents and fearful for the outcome but from his perspective, it looked like they couldn’t possible help. “It’s not like we can drop a rock on Sharptooth’s head this time,” he thought.

He looked at his friends and saw the same expressions of fear and helplessness on them as they hid behind the large rock.

Wait!

Spike’s eyes widened as he looked what they were hiding behind and suddenly jumped up with surprising enthusiasm. This single unexpected act caught everyone’s attention as Spike grunted excitedly and tapped the rock with his paw. Everyone was motionless before the light of realisation burned in their eyes.

“I think Spike has an idea,” Littlefoot grinned and narrowed his eyes.

“And I like it,” said Ali.

Cera ran to the rock “What are we waiting for? Let’s do it!” She crashed into it with all her might.


*


Screech and Striker tried to pull a dazed Thud back to the defensive lines. After a while of fighting Red Claw and no real gain on either side, Red Claw decided to kill Thud while he was unconscious but neither Screech nor Striker was going to let that happen as Red Claw charged towards Thud who was starting to come back to himself, he found his back under attack as both Fast Biters leapt on it. Striker once again trying to go for a quick kill at the neck while Screech slashed and bit at Red Claw who bellowed in pain and swung his body like crazy, turning his head and snapping at Striker, only missing cause Striker jumped down and ran to Thud while Screech kept Red Claw busy.

“Come get up you, we’ve still got a fight to win!” Striker slapped Thud and without waiting proceeded to drag him back, they were all tired and needed a little respite but that wasn’t going to happen. As soon as Red Claw forced Screech off his body by rolling on the ground the Fast Biter ran towards them, though he was much slower and seemed to be limping. Screech pulled Thud up and they all tried to head back but Red Claw quickly recovered and was already charging at them, plus there was a whole load of Fast Biter’s in between them and their Leafeater allies.   

But just before Red Claw reached them a loud shout echoed over the Valley echoing loudly off the walls. The language was in Sharptooth and turned all the heads of the Sharpteeth and Leafeaters in the direction of the voice. “Hey Red Claw can’t finish off a single Fast Biter? You must be pathetic! But of course, you could never catch us even with help!”

Red Claw was enraged, he roared at the top of his lungs at the small insufferable Biter that was standing at the top of the cliff with his friends standing by him. “I’ll have you! You Sap Sucking Traitor once this fight is over! You’ll be sorry you ever crossed me!” He shouted to them as they were too far away for him to do anything but just was about to turn away, he felt the same feeling he felt during the last hunt.

The feeling of undying rage and hate filled his mind, the voice of someone long gone spoke in a voice that made him cringe. “KILL THEM, KILL THEM ALL NOW!!!!”

The roar that escaped from his parted jaws froze the entire battlefield, once again the roar of Sharptooth terrorised the world.


*


Sura turned white when she heard that roar but it was nothing like the sense of dread when she looked to where the roar was directed. At the kids on the top of the cliff watching the battle, how or why they were there was beyond her but she felt her heart almost stop when she squinted her eyes and made out the forms of her children Ducky, Spike and Diver.  “no…No…nononoNo! NO!” she screamed in anguish and terror. That beast was going for her children and she was barred from reaching them by all these damn Fast Biters….


*


“Everyone Push Now!”

Everyone thrust their bodies against the giant rock in an attempt to push it off but this rock was huge, heavy and stubbornly lodged in place and nor where they expecting what came next. The entire cliff face shook but they kept pushing until Petrie looked to the side only to shrink back in terror “G-G-GUYS!” He shouted in a panic as he pointed down. Everyone followed his gaze to see Red Claw holding onto the side of the cliff rust beneath the boulder, he had jumped a distance that only one Sharptooth had been known to do in the past; Sharptooth himself. Jaw snapped maniacally inches away from them.

The children screamed and pushed harder while Ducky, Petrie, Diver, Trough, Thermal and all the smaller children retreated back in terror. However, Nod did something unexpected he ran towards Red Claw and lashed his clubbed tail at him but that was his last mistake.

The air split with Nod’s scream of pain as Red Claw bit down on the club and pulled him off the edge, he shook his head violently and threw him off the cliff and into the air spinning like a top and screaming all the while. Everyone was stunned and all fighting stopped as he fell straight to the defensive line. His tail clubbed slammed into Brace’s head and she tumbled to the ground, knocking over the larger dinosaurs like dominos. Nod fell headfirst into the cliff on the other side of the canyon and fell to the ground; dead.

With a screech the Fast Biter’s charged into the breach, attacking every dinosaur in sight.

That was it.

The defensive line shattered and the battle degenerated into a wild fight for survival.


*


Striker looked at the chaos around him. His plan was falling to ruin and yet even if the battle was lost, he could still help. He looked up at Red Claw and the boulder and saw the tipping point, the rocks that were keeping the boulder from falling; they were the key, his eyes hardened, he knew what to do.

Striker charged towards Red Claw and leapt into the air and grabbed hold of his tail with his hands and climbed up. He moved up as fast as he could towards his head, the kids and the boulder.


*


“Help!” Sura screamed, she fell to the ground as a Fast Biter slashed her leg and she fell on her back. Ruphus was too far away. She closed her eyes but the Fast Biter was smashed off her. She looked up in relief to see Mr Thicknose covering her. “Thanks” She got to her feet but another set of Fast Biter’s hit Mr Thicknose from behind and jumped on his back. Sura gasped and tried help get the Fast Biter’s off by pulling them down but she ended up head butting one off and sending him falling onto the other. Mr Thicknose was still alive but the damage was already done. Sura looked desperately around for her mate and back to Mr Thicknose whose back was shredded. “Ruphus!? Ruphus!? Some one help me!” She screamed desperately. This was it. She knew it. There was no escape. They were all going to die.

“Get away from him!” Sura stood beside Thicknose as a pair of Fast Biter’s came. She may have been doomed but she’d still fight to protect the others even if it cost her everything.


*


“Come on keep pushing!”

Chomper was hyperventilating and sweating like hell, it was the dominant scent around his friends. Never had he expected this from Red Claw and that roar that belonged to Sharptooth, he whom he only knew from stories and reputation was erupting his ear drums from beside him. The giant maw was constantly trying to get at them but the rock was blocking him but he was still getting alarmingly close. However, the rock still wasn’t budging.

Suddenly he heard Striker’s snarl from beneath and gasped. He risked a look and saw Striker climbing up Red Claw’s back, he was at his neck but continued to climb, he was heading straight for them!

“What the hell is he doing!?” thought Chomper.

Red Claw was suddenly aware of Striker and shook his head violently. Striker jumped and grabbed hold of the base of the cliff just beneath the rock and frantically clawed at the rocks there but Red Claw grabbed him with his jaws. Sinking his teeth deep into his back. Striker gave an all mighty groan but he held on to the rocks still while Red Claw pulled but with the added strength of Red Claw the rocks beneath the boulder gave way and Red Claw let Striker go. He tumbled limply down and grabbed hold of Red Claw’s tail but it didn’t stop his fall, it mealy delayed it but as luck would have it. Screech and Thud were right at the bottom to catch him and move him out of harms way.

Chomper seeing this yelled at the top of his lungs “Push!”


*


Sura stopped focusing on the battle when she heard the friendly Fast Biter’s moan, she looked up to the cliff and saw him falling into the arms of Screech and Thud but a few seconds later a low rumble sounded as the boulder Red Claw was beneath was pushed off the top by the kids. Red Claw looked terrified and the roar that left his maw was profoundly his and it was filled with horror.

All fighting stopped as Red Claw seemed to fall in slow motion and a rockslide falling from just above him. He hit the ground on his back but the crash was barely heard thanks to the giant rocks that fell on top of him.
 
The canyon filled with dust and everyone watched and waited as the rumble died off. Once the dust cleared, Red Claw became visible. Only his head and neck were visible while the rest of his body was covered and pinned by the rocks. He let out a low groan of pain; he was still alive, but helpless and vulnerable.

Everyone was stunned for a moment but that lasted only a second as Topps took the initiative and charged all or nothing through the shocked Fast Biters and straight towards Red Claw with his horns lowered.


*

Red Claw gazed at the charging Threehorn in horror. “Not like this!” He tried desperately to move but he couldn’t move a muscle. He was doomed and he knew it. “Curse them all!” was his last thoughts as Topps rammed his good horn straight through his neck. Red Claw gurgled violently as blood gushed from his neck and filled his lungs. The mighty head that once terrorised so many dinosaurs fell to the ground.
 
Red Claw was dead.


*


Topps pulled himself free from Red Claw and without hesitation he charged at the Fast Biter’s who upon seeing Red Claw die broke ranks and fled from him but they were caught between the other Valley dinosaurs who attacked from behind. The inner Fast Biters were routed and didn’t even attempt to fight. They ran from the leafeaters in terror but the other group of Fast Biters closer to the entrance started to reform but the leafeaters had the advantage now and with morale sky high.  While the Fast Biter’s were barely holding together as the first group ran past them and into the Badlands, towards the hidden entrance.

The Valley residents reorganised their line and in one massive move they all charged the hapless Fast Biters. Those that tried to fight were crushed and seeing their comrades fall was the last straw that broke their back. The Fast Biter’s turned and fled with a good portion of the Valley residents chasing them away. 

The chase lasted only until they reached the secret entrance which was promptly sealed by Bron. Using his massive tail to belt the wall till it caused a rockslide that sealed up the hidden entrance. They were safe once again. They had won but at a heavy cost. There was still wounded left to attend to in the canyon that didn’t join the final charge.
 
Battered and weary the group of bloodied dinosaurs slumped their shoulders and headed slowly back up to the canyon.


*


The children and the grown-ups arrived at the entrance to the canyon at almost the exact same time. Greetings were briefly exchanged before everyone moved into the canyon to be greeted by a blood bath. Sura had stayed by Mr Thicknose side but there was nothing she could do. Seeing Ruphus approach her, alive but bloodied she leapt into his arms and hugged him tightly and let out a few sobs. Littlefoot was the first to go over to Thicknose, followed by his friends, except Ali and Shorty who were heading to Brace and Hyp and Mutt who were going over to Nod. When Sura finally broke off from her mate she headed deeper into the canyon but not before she asked Chomper to accompany her as she headed for Screech and Thud as they gathered beside Striker.

“Mr Thicknose……”

Littlefoot was at a loss for words at the sight of his old teacher. He was covered in blood the back of his head was torn open but he remained alive only to say his last words. “Goodbye kids, have good lives….” His voice was hollow and distant and barely audible but as he said those last word’s he fell limp, finally allowing death to come for him.

Littlefoot bowed his neck low to the ground and sat down, the tears began falling in waves. Similar actions were taken by his friends as they shed tears and mourned the old teacher that had been such a good friend to them in life. 

However, a sudden scream tore Littlefoot from his own mourning.

He looked over his back to see Ali screaming by her mother with Shorty nuzzling her but doing no good. He grimaced and felt his heart sink further. Ali had lost her mother, just as he had lost his. The hit Brace had taken from Nod’s tail had cracked her skull open like an egg, killing her almost instantly but that was no reassurance for Ali in the slightest. With a chocked sob he forced himself to stand and walk slowly over. The body of Ali’s mother could hardly be seen through his tears but his mother’s body was clear in his mind eye and it tore at his heart.

“Ali” he said as he neared. He saw a blurred form charge at him and hit his body. Ali cried and sobbed into his back loudly and he cried silently with her, they both felt the same pain after all and if Littlefoot could do anything to lessen that pain then he would. As he blinked away his tears and saw Shorty approaching and beyond him Hyp and Mutt bowing over the lifeless body of their friend. It was a heavy cost for victory.

Meanwhile Sura and Chomper sat down next to Striker. The Fast Biter smiled when he saw her. Sura took his outstretched hand as she sobbed but he wiped the tears off and spoke in the incomprehensible Sharptooth that Sura could not understand well with one small exception. “Grrowl raahr rerer grroool…..S…ur…a.”

Striker closed his eyes and his hand dropped and Sura was left shocked by hearing him speak her name in leafeater. She looked at Chomper.

“Striker said ‘Don’t mourn me, Sura’” said Chomper, he was also shocked by what he heard. Had Striker really been trying to understand leafeater? Why did he have to die? Why did so many have to die?

Despite Striker’s words Sura sobbed over him, still holding his limp hand but she was mourning everything. Never would she have dreamed that this is where she and the Sharptooth that nearly killed her and her daughter would end up.

Thud started growling at Chomper, in a very lengthy monologue and when he was done, he and Screech walked off. They were leaving the Great Valley for good. Red Claw was dead and they were free, they had no more business with The Great Valley and its residents. 

Chomper tapped Sura’s arm. “Yes Chomper?” she said in a chocked-up voice

“Thud said that Striker told him that he did what he did so he could stop another Great Sharpooth, like the one that killed his family, leaving only him and his brother. He is glad that he will see them all again,” said Chomper.

Sura looked at Striker. “I hope you found them in the end,” she said to him and got up and walked away in the direction of her little ones who were already being comforted by Ruphus as was Petrie by his mother and Cera by her father and Littlefoot, Ali and Shorty by Grandma, Grandpa and Bron while Ruby’s father was embracing Ruby and Amethyst. She joined her family but she nuzzled Chomper as well, he deserved it. They all did. If it wasn’t for those kids and Striker then they never would have won the battle.

If only it wasn’t at such high a price.   






Special thanks to Ducky123 for proofreading this chapter.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 10:01:42 pm by The Lone Dragon »

Sovereign

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #238 on: January 07, 2019, 03:24:51 pm »
It is exciting to see all the pressure that has been building inside the Valley finally reaching its climax. It was only a matter of time until Red Claw made his move and all of it blended nicely around Striker and Sculra’s (who curiously wasn’t seen in this chapter) plots. It seems that this story is indeed heading towards its conclusion which is a bit melancholic feeling after all these years.

The initial attack against Tria was a cowardly one but it was rather nice to see her and the children survive even through that conflict. The buildup for the eventual fight was quite thorough but in many ways, I must confess I’m not a big fan of large-scale battles. This chapter was full of intense fights and many of the deaths were portrayed in a satisfactory manner. Especially Striker’s end was portrayed in a good and believable way and his complex path to this chapter received an end that fit it more than well. Mr. Thicknose was handled a bit quickly but wars have more casualties than can be handled in one chapter.

And of course, Red Claw’s threat is now over and it was only fitting that the Gang, with Chomper’s lead, were the ones who delivered the sharptooth his demise. I would perhaps have wished to see this chapter deviate further from the generic style of portraying battles as I don’t think that telling about fighting lines works too well in LBT. Likewise, it wasn’t that original for the sharptooth to be practically beaten by falling stones.

Now, with Red Claw out of the picture, only Sculra remains of the many threats the Valley has faced and I’ll look forward to seeing what kind of downfall she’ll receive. What is clear is that her plans are now ruined once and for all. We’re entering this fic’s final parts and I look forward to seeing just how Ducky’s journey comes to an end. :)

DiddyKF1

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Re: The Swimmer Trials
« Reply #239 on: January 10, 2019, 12:13:15 pm »
I've never read a LBT story chapter with more bloodshed than this. It was all the more fitting by describing it as a "massacre."

Although this provided us with an epic battle that has brought us ever so closer to that final climax, this felt just as burdening as the bloodshed that resulted in Bluey's untimely death. So much death in one chapter, even more than any previous chapter in the story, will bring a lot of mourning and weight down upon the valley.

I couldn't have imagined what those Fast Biters were thinking when they foolishly attacked Tria and Tricia, but it was amazing for Cera to finally step in and defend her family so that history would not repeat itself. I think we saw a big change in Cera's character in this chapter.

The battle itself was absolutely terrifying, and for a while I was actually afraid that Red Claw would eventually win. What I especially did NOT see coming were Hyp, Mutt and Nod's actions starting a chain reaction that ultimately led to the Gang delivering the final blow to Red Claw. It did seem a bit unoriginal that they defeated Red Claw in much the same way they defeated the original Sharptooth, only without the drowning, but nevertheless they got the ending they wanted.

As for Striker, I was sad to see him go the way he did. He sacrificed his life to help those he knew he had to help, and ultimately he died an unsung hero of war. This may not sound too LBT-like, but in my opinion, he died with honor. :cry

So, now that the Sharptooth threat to the whole valley is gone, all that is left to focus on is the final climax between Ducky and Sculra, and that blasphemous Trial of Destiny, which I'm sure is ever so close now. Sculra's plans are completely ruined, but I don't see her backing off just yet until (in her eyes) Ducky has been dealt with. It's been nearly three years since I discovered this story, and I can't believe we're getting close to the final climax. :wow