Author Topic: Separate Ways  (Read 5928 times)

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Separate Ways
« Reply #60 on: January 23, 2018, 01:52:49 AM »
The disturbing turn in Greentail’s mental state, and her attack, is sadly somewhat common in those with certain forms of dementia and brain damage when confusion meets up with a diminishment in impulse control.  The short outburst and her previous difficulty in remembering details shows the reader very clearly the extent of what she has lost mentally.  In the wake of such events her brother’s anguish and uncertainty is very understandable.

And then the mudslide intervenes.  This is not only a plot device to force Greentail forward and to show her lingering weakness, but it also presents a very real risk for our wayward trio.  Not only are they being challenged by a duo of Tyrannosauruses who want to get vengeance and facing the common threat of the potentially unseen sharptooth, but they must contend with Mother Nature itself as an adversary.  Though they escape unscathed physically, it is obvious that Greentail’s psyche has taken yet another hit.

The last scene is quite nice as it finally seems to push some of Yarel’s concerns about Ruby into dormancy at least for the moment.  However there is one thing that might not fit for some readers and that is the reaction to the swimmer upon hearing Dein and Terri’s names.  Would a swimmer even know a sharptooth’s real name?  Or would the swimmer simply know a leaf-eater moniker made to describe certain sharpteeth, such as those used for Screech, Thud, and Redclaw? Overall this is a minor point but it did stand out for me.

Overall, however, this was a nice little chapter that moved things along in the omnivore sub-plot.  I guess the questions that lie ahead include whether Dein and Terri might beat the omnivores to their destination, and what will become of Greentail.  Only time will tell.

There were a few minor odd phrasings that I did notice in this chapter that I will go ahead and point out for future reference.  Overall they are quite minor, but they do stand out at times.

managed to rose on her feet

This should be “managed to rise to her feet”

But how could they when Greentail could hardly walk and her normal, kind behavior could change at any moment.

This should end with a question mark.

More and more the moving soil was flowing over the cliff and Yarel knew that he and his companions were in massive danger.

“great danger” works better here.

Yarel frowned in deep thought, glancing at his sister who seemed to simply resign to the role of a listener in this discussion.

“who seemed resigned to her role as listener” might work better here.

“B… but I’ve helped both of you as much as I’ve been able in the past few days! What more would you wanted?

“What more would you want?” or “What more do you want?” would be better here.

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


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Separate Ways
« Reply #61 on: February 27, 2018, 06:41:01 AM »
Review of The Hunt in the Nightly Valley.

Yeah, it's truly been a while. I guess trying to read so much for the fanfic awards kinda put me off for a while. Anyway, what a chapter to pick up the story again :o

There are different portraits of Chomper's parents in fanfiction. You portrait them as ruthless killers with no empathy which, in a way, is certainly the most logical approach here. Though I am curious, what they'd be like if Chomper hadn't been killed. Anyway, it makes them super scary and it works well for this story for sure! :)

Well, to say this was a good scene would be kind of an understatement. While not dragging on eternally, the scene provided good descriptions of action and environment, not too many and not too few, and the course of action of both parties was pretty logical too. You weren't afraid to take a more brutal approach and have characters get hurt... and possibly even die. Neither the injury of Chomper's Mother nor Ruby's friend are clearly safe. As for Ruby, I feel her previous injuries were later mostly ignored when the focus was on Greentail's struggles though.

Overall, a great chapter, Sovereign. Expect more reviews soon! ^^spike


Well, without further ado, here's the next review :)

Peak's outrage is understandable but I can't help but feel there's nothing good about him.

Oh, bullying. Petrie sure had himself humiliated there, wow. I truly wonder how he is going to adapt to the new enemy he's just made. :P

Also, I can't help but wonder how this murder is going to effect the herd and Petrie's new life. And what role does Ortin play? Also not sure if he's worthy as a friend yet :P

Well, I'm curious what'll be next. ^^spike
« Last Edit: February 27, 2018, 09:03:24 AM by Ducky123 »
Note to self: finally create that signature lazy bum! :P


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Separate Ways
« Reply #62 on: March 01, 2018, 08:13:53 AM »
Okay, I read yet another chapter yesterday. :D

It is good to see Greentail surviving this horrendous injury for now but her situation looks... less than promising...

Head injuries are quite horrible and dangerous since often you don't see them from the outside. In Greentail's case of course the bloodloss made the head injury quite obvious to Ruby and Yarel. The descriptions of the condition Greentail is in at any case is very accurate and, afaik, describes the heavy concussion very well. Some symptoms the poor girl is suffering from even suggest some sort of trauma. She's not paralysed though there are very obvious neuronal issues that keep her from moving much. Her sense of vision seems to be badly damaged so one can only hope that all of this is just temporary.

One thing I find quite remarkable is how you highlight the struggles of Ruby and Yarel with the decisions that they have made in the past that led to the current situation and the decisions that may await them sooner than they like. Secondary, despite the disadvantage that it got them into, both have made a decision against all logic (in Yarel's case that decision was made in the previous Ruby chapter). Ruby doesn't leave her friends in order to save her ass to gain some distance from the sharpteeth while they're recovering and find her family on her own accord even though it'd be the smartest move. Yarel (and Greentail) retrieved Ruby from the sharpteeth's grasp despite the mortal danger of doing so which led to the current decision. Secondary, Yarel's decision to keep trusting Ruby despite the trouble she caused them, quite possibly causing Greentail to be permanently damaged... well, it truly shows what a strong character he is and it also shows how strong their friendship already is after such a short while.

Wall of text, summary being: I like what you did there, keep it up :DD
Note to self: finally create that signature lazy bum! :P


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Separate Ways
« Reply #63 on: March 01, 2018, 10:13:11 AM »
The Peace that Ran out of Time

The pale light of the rising Night Circle shined upon a small patch of green in the middle of dry, wide plains. Only the distant call of a fast runner and the small creepers in the ground penetrated the calm of the Mysterious Beyond, a state of affairs that was by no means unpleasant to its denizens. The creeping cold had taken its toll on this place, too, but it was a great improvement from the flyer herd’s previous stop, at least to the young boy who was slowly flying below the canopy of the small forest, the fatigue unable to hide his enthusiasm about this evening. A careful smile fought to make its way into his face as he approached the place where he was meant to meet his new friends. The day’s long flight had tired him once again but the promise of this meeting had given him the courage to go on. Many thoughts were flowing through Petrie’s mind as he looked at the bushes and grass-covered ground below him.

Oh, Petrie hope everything go well tonight! Ortin will still be sad but maybe he in better condition than yesterday! Me just hope Glide hasn’t changed her opinion about Petrie and will still be willing to be there! Me will see it soon and hopefully nothing bad will happen today.

Every movement and gesture Petrie made while flying mirrored his excitement and even slight nervousness but to his luck, the forest’s edge soon opened below him. He and Pterano had chosen to sleep by a small stream in the slightly more hillier region of the woodland not far from the others and to the boy’s relief, his uncle had mostly signaled mere happiness when he had told about Ortin and Glide.

However, those thoughts were swept away when he suddenly saw a familiar form standing on a large rock in the distance. Her rather large crest and wide wings revealed her to be Glide and after a few seconds, he also spotted Ortin’s slightly smaller form talking to her from the ground. Petrie cringed slightly at this knowledge, highly lamenting the fact that he was the last to arrive but at least the two seemed to be in somewhat good spirits. That was a relief as Petrie had feared either of them had faced new hardships on this day. Luckily, that didn’t seem to be case. With a quick dive, Petrie dashed towards the rock Glide was standing on but he slowed his speed just in time to complete his landing smoothly. He then spoke in a high and excited voice which he tried to calm down somewhat just in case the duo’s sentiments were heavier than he had thought from up the air.

“Hi to you both! Me hope Petrie didn’t keep you waiting for too long!” He said as he looked at the two other flyers’ eyes turn to him. To his slight worry, Glide seemed somewhat unsure by something whereas Ortin’s eyes were weary with lingering pain. It was the girl who answered to him first.

“Oh, hi, Petrie. We have been here only for a short time so it’s alright.” From the corner of her eyes, she could see that Ortin, too, wanted to greet Petrie so she passed her turn to speak to her friend. Ortin scratched the corner of his as he talked, his voice confirming what Petrie had seen earlier.

“We all survived this day so I guess everything’s well enough. However, this day hasn’t been really easy for either of us but it’s much better than yesterday, at least.” He said in a tired voice but Petrie could see from his half-open eyes and drooping limbs that this wasn’t the ordinary exhaustion, rather it was the kind of mental pain that could be expected from anyone in this situation. Petrie looked at them with some concern as he realized that his unlimited optimism was probably premature. He took a small pause, frowning slightly as he prepared to answer.

“Petrie glad to hear that. These things never leave us easily but… we just have to live with them. Petrie has seen it before but… there no reason to think about them the whole time. It better to have something else to think at least for a moment.” Petrie said, willing to make his point clear as, despite his sympathies for Ortin in this terrible situation, he simply wanted to see him cheer up for a moment. However, the other boy’s other frown rose slightly while his face
seemed rather unmoved.

“I know but it’s much easier to say than actually do. I’m sorry but I’m not sure whether I can play today.” That comment earned concerned looks from Glide and Petrie but to the latter’s surprise, the girl seemed as unhappy with that exclamation as he was. She tried to reason with her friend as she had also hoped for a more light-hearted and friendly evening than the previous one.

“I don’t know how you feel, Ortin, but we cannot keep dwelling in that pain for the rest of our lives. You deserve to at least try to resume your life, that’s what your dad would have wanted.” Glide said as she looked glumly at her friend but Petrie, despite all the tragedy he had gone through during his life, understood that simply trying to comfort a grief-stricken friend wasn’t enough to encourage them to move on with their lives. He knew that having someone to listen was extremely important but a true friend would also strive to make the another one to see the good in this world and to appreciate their presence in more ways than as merely mirrors of their own pain. And that was one part of friendship Petrie was very good at. The flyer suddenly took off from the stone he had been standing on and spoke in a more cheerful voice while making a few loops to try to make the two join him in the games he had already been preparing for.

“But life be more than all doom and gloom, Ortin! Sometimes the best way to get over bad times is to merely play and try to have fun! It not always easy but it for your own good! Just try to catch Petrie and you will already feel much better!” The young flyer said as he suddenly turned around and headed towards the heights and the stars which cast their tiny light all around the dry landscape. Ortin looked at Glide with clear bother, not knowing how to respond to the other boy’s sudden display of cheer and mental ease. Some part of his mind wanted to join Petrie in the endless skies but his head nearly ached with stress and endless mourning and his wings felt heavy, as if he was carrying stones upon them.

However, the other part of him wished to relax for even a short while and to forget his misery for even a short while. The sorrow had dominated his life ever since his great loss and in a way, every moment he hadn’t spent with his friends had felt extremely distressing and difficult to go through. Maybe there was some wisdom within Petrie’s words after all and it wouldn’t hurt to try to comply to his simple request. He looked at Glide for a moment and the girl put on an appreciating smile, clearly encouraging him to do as Petrie said. She, too, wanted to have some fun after these long, dark days. Ortin then turned his gaze to the skies and took a brief sigh before concentrated all of his willpower to flapping his wings and after great efforts, he felt his feet rise from the hard, rocky ground. He then opened his mouth and spoke in an extremely forced and unsure voice which still showed his appreciation to his new friend.

“Be careful what you wish for, Petrie! You won’t get far!” He cried as he started to head towards the other flyer quickly. Chase the Wind, as this game was called among the flyers, wasn’t his favorite but it could be amusing enough in the case Petrie had more tricks in sleeve in addition to the ones he had used against Glide during their contest. Seeing that the situation had started to ease somewhat, Glide followed her friend’s lead and joined the game.

Petrie was more than excited to see that his plan seemed to be working and he immediately turned his gaze forward in order to keep the distance with him and the two other flyers. He kept his pace somewhat slow as he knew it would be a good idea to let the two gain on him and eventually to reach him in order to get the game really going. The flyer could still feel some awkwardness in the atmosphere but he could feel it growing less pronounced by the minute. With any luck, things might get even better once his companions truly got absorbed into the chase.

Petrie smiled with a playfully malicious expression as he once again gazed behind him, looking with a content expression as Glide overtook Ortin whose flight still seemed extremely difficult and heavy-looking. The trio were now flying far from the ground and even after the briefly oppressive moment with Ortin, the boy breathed in relief as the cool wind blew to his face. He now welcomed it as his dear companion as the cold breath, accompanied by the sight of a beautiful horizon opening below him, took him to his next adventure. And now he even had new friends with whom he could share wonderful gift of flight and with any luck, no further tragedy would be heading his way anytime soon. Feeling that the air was growing slightly too heavy and freezing for him, he quickly turned around and dashed towards his two friends, trying to take them off guard while also giving them a chance to get closer to him if they could read the situation right. However, he didn’t have the slightest of ideas how well one of the other two could counter his playful gambit.

Ortin’s eyes still seemed to simply gaze into the horizon, unable to give up to the childish joy that he, to his deep regret, hadn’t been able to share with many flyers due to the status of his family as well as well as his difficult relationship with the kinds like Hoist. However, Petrie’s surprising move quickly opened his eyes wide as the prospect of him being able to catch the other boy seemed to become a much closer prospect. He followed closely as Petrie’s plunge suddenly started to stabilize just before he’d reach his two chasers but little did he know that he wasn’t the only one who could use the air currents to his advantage.

Seeing he direction which Petrie was now heading towards, Ortin concentrated all of his attention to trying to see the conflicting, overlapping winds in the air as his father had always taught him. In order to keep any sharpteeth or other enemies as far as possible, he would have to try to maintain a more favorable situation in the sky as it would provide him with the key to either escape or to take the fight to his opponent. In this case, Petrie might be able to forge a great speed with his sudden dive but to his misfortune, the forest, which the other boy was quickly approaching, would block most of the wind and potentially leaving him a calm mass of air, making it easy for someone to reach him.

It’s time to teach you a lesson, Petrie! You may be good but I’m still better, you’ll see!

Ortin thought as he suddenly dashed left, preparing to head towards the direction which would give him the best advantage. To his immediate relief, he could see that he was right. A powerful if short-lived gust was just forming in there which Ortin used to his best advantage. Petrie looked in surprise and astonishment as the other boy approached him with a great speed, making it impossible for the brown flyer to try to avoid the inevitable. After a few seconds, Ortin finally reached Petrie and with an almost happy smirk yelped as he flew past his new friend.

“You’re it, Petrie! You should try to keep a keener eye on the wind!” He said but to his immediate shock and slight chagrin, it was only a few, ephemeral moments, he felt another gust of air above him before he saw Glide’s familiar face appearing before him. She chuckled with some amusement before she spoke his taunts to her friend.

“And you have to keep a keener eye on us, Ortin! You never paid any attention to where I was!” She said as she suddenly turned upwards, attempting to gain more altitude before either Petrie or Ortin had the time to react to her surprise move. Petrie looked at the duo’s moves in surprise while feeling genuine happiness for the first time in many, long days. It was as if some great burden was lifted from his shoulders after the countless, heartbreaking moments he had been forced to go through lately. He was more than happy to have other flyers to play with him as his time with his siblings had always been a difficult one and he had never had the time to have a lighthearted time with them. Petrie took another mischievous smile before he reached towards the heights after his friend.

“Good move, Glide! Ortin never knew what was coming!” He cried while suddenly cringing at a mass of cold air he flew through while the other boy looked at Petrie with a careful grin.

“I never expected her to follow me like this! Prepare to get squashed, Glide!” He said while looking at the girl with a joking face. Glide looked at her chasers while deciding it was time to make things really interesting. With a sudden twitch, she turned on her back and before either of the other flyers had time to react, she headed towards the ground but only to rise again in a similar angle, forming a full circle while only increasing her speed.

Ortin and Petrie looked at the display in approval but the two then nodded at each other, clearly having something in mind. The two suddenly headed towards the opposing sides of Glide who looked at them with some puzzlement and worry but before she had a real time to react, the two suddenly entered a powerful current in the air and headed towards her with astonishing speed. However, just before they reached her, Petrie moved downwards and Ortin upwards before their paths crossed around Glide, taking the girl off-balance and sending her spinning a few times around and even causing her to plunge downwards for a good distance before finally regaining her balance. She then looked at the laughing boys in mock outrage before she cried to them again.

“Hey, this game wasn’t supposed to be a team chase! I’ll show you both!” She said, causing the duo to spread out again. The amazing displays of skill and bravery continued on for a long time, giving the trio a chance to observe at each other’s strengths while also allowing them a lot of time to finally get to know each other in the depth they knew each other to deserve. For Petrie, it was the fulfillment of his initial hopes in his new herd, while Glide and especially Ortin were more than happy to have something else to think beside their personal drama. Each of them could only hope that this evening would be a harbinger of the good days to come. The innocent games continued well into the night until all of the three finally realized how heavy and weary their limbs were slowly growing. The first of three to land was Ortin who watched eagerly at his friends follow him. Even through the inescapable cold grip in his heart, he couldn’t help but feel some warmth returning to him as Glide landed beside him and Petrie followed her very shortly. Ortin inhaled the cool breeze which briefly flushed beside him and said eagerly to his friends.

“Good going! We’ve never done such awesome tricks together before, Glide! That was really great!” He said as he looked at Glide pant slightly due to her fatigue. Petrie was the first one to answer as he, too, was beyond amazed at how well this initially-awkward night had ended.

“Me think so too! Petrie had a really great time and me could see you did too! Thanks a lot for this night!” The boy said as he yawned inwardly, looking with a wide smile as it was clear that it was clear that it would soon be time for the three to go their own ways. Glide, however, wasn’t ready to part just yet. She raised her hands from her knees and spoke to her friends in a warm and deeply appreciating voice.

“I really did, Petrie. Those tricks of yours were really neat even if you two played that dirty team work too many times! Still, that was pretty great and it even made… made me forget about my family and tomorrow. I just wish I could do it again.” Her beak turned into a cringe as the girl raised her look towards the sky, apparently hoping for something to happen. Petrie and Ortin exchanged brief glances before the latter one asked carefully, frowning heavily as the words left his beak.

“Glide… you’ve mentioned your family many times as if you don’t like them. What’s your problem with them?” He asked, deeply wondering what was going on in his friend’s life. Now that he thought about it, Ortin couldn’t help but feel he should have asked this question earlier but on the other hand, Glide hadn’t truly taken up the subject earlier. Now, however, he felt was a good time to learn what was going on in his old friend’s mind. Glide glanced at Ortin with some worry and seemed to hesitate for a short while. However, after seeing Ortin’s concerned look and Petrie’s conflicted face, she decided it would be time for her to speak.

“I wouldn’t want to bother you with my little worries but… it’s my mom and dad. I don’t know why but they have decided that I’m a lazy slacker and I’ll have to do much more work to become the kind of daughter they want to! It was alright for a long time but in the past weeks nothing seems to be enough for them! Especially after I lost to you, Petrie. They demand me to take the worst wind on our flights and to skip our breaks because they think I don’t work hard enough! What kind of crap is that!” Glide suddenly kicked a small rock lying on the ground and cringed heavily as the pain slowly crept up her feet. It was clear that this was something that bothered Glide heavily and it didn’t take a lot of thought for Petrie to draw parallels to his own past. However, he decided to answer simply to give the girl some encouragement in her situation.

“B… but why? Petrie can see you a very good flyer as you showed again this night! This not make any sense!” Petrie stuttered as he tried to come to terms with the tale he had just heard. He knew more than well that parents could sometimes demand too much from their kids but Glide’s situation simply didn’t seem to be logical in any way. She was a stronger and quicker flyer than many others he had seen in his life. He could see Glide shrugging briefly before Ortin continued from where the other male had left off.

“Yeah, that’s just stupid! Haven’t they noticed you’ve passed the tests far better than many others?!” Ortin said as he looked at Glide who returned an equally dark gaze. She answered shortly in a low and thoughtful voice.

“Well, that’s not enough! Mom says she was always the fastest flyer of her herd when she was my age and dad’s apparently decided that I’m just not good enough. He was furious when three others beat me at one last year’s test and both of them have told me not to fail that badly at this Cold Time’s test! Just thinking about it makes me… ouch!” Glide once again kicked at another rock but this time it was large enough that she immediately grabbed her foot in a futile effort to alleviate the pain. Petrie would have smiled at the nearly comic display but there was another thing in his mind.

“What test you talking about? Petrie never heard of such things!” The young flyer asked in deep wonder, prompting a hollow and joyless answer from Glide. She was, once again, slightly surprised to hear Petrie knew nothing of the herd’s customs but the reality returned to her mind quickly.

“They are organized every Cold and Warm Time to put the young herd members’ skills to a test. They are the best time for us to show our best to our parents but even more, to other kids. Nothing really comes out of them but the worst flyers won’t be really popular in the following weeks which forces each of us to do our best.” Glide’s head was buried between her arms and it was clear her thoughts were far from those trials but they immediately invoked familiar memories within Petrie. He was somewhat surprised to hear flyers everywhere shared similar traditions and after all the relaxed and joy-filled moments in the sky, Petrie, for the first time in days, spoke without thinking about his words beforehand. And that proved to be a mistake he’d regret soon enough.

“Gee, that sound almost like the Great Day of the Flyers but we only did that once. Petrie…” Completely lost within his newfound sense of safety, Petrie only realized the implications of his words until he heard Ortin’s sharp voice interrupt his words.

“The Great Day of the Flyers? B… but that kind of joke is only organized in very few places and certainly not among lonely families in the wastes!” Ortin narrowed his eyes and realizing what he had done, a cold needle seemed to penetrate Petrie’s heart. He took a few steps back and started to stutter, trying to find words that could save the situation. Petrie’s hands trembled in fear as he looked at Ortin’s eyes. How could he have done this? Everything had went so well and then he had done the worst mistake possible! The next remark only worsened the boy’s growing panic.

“In fact, I think I once heard it is only a thing in the Great Valley these days as only those wimps there think flying in a line is of some use! Why have you taken part in that, Petrie?” Petrie’s breathing quickened as his gaze fell to the ground. He would have wanted nothing more than to sink into the ground in order to avoid the inquisitive eyes of his two companions. To simply hope that the last minute had never happened. Oh no no! Why did Petrie say that! What can me do…?

No matter what, the flyer realized there was no escape from this situation, regardless of what he did from this point on. And every moment he simply stood still staring in shock would only make his mistake more apparent. Petrie took one, deep breath before he did his absolute best in trying to sound honest in his next words.

“Me… me think Petrie heard about that day when we found someone from the Valley lost in the surrounding cliffs and for some reason, me just thought about…” No matter how much he had wanted to believe otherwise, even the boy himself realized his words wouldn’t have convinced even a yellowbelly. The only thing he could do from now on was to listen Ortin’s chilling and highly worrying words.

“Sure! And I’m actually an old hidden runner who just happened to join a flyer herd! You’re from the Valley, aren’t you, Petrie? I always thought your “past” didn’t sound too believable.” Ortin’s accusing stare seemed to finally break up the last vestiges of Petrie’s confidence but he still attempted to create one, final defense for himself.

“No! Me never even heard about the Valley. Uhh, Petrie mean…” The flyer backed down even more when he realized he had just spoken against his former claim. He felt increasingly sickened by the fact that he had not only compromised his friendship with the two with his mistake and also his uncle as well. One moment he had been happier than in ages and now everything seemed to be falling apart once again. Petrie’s face was a mask of fear as he turned to look at Glide whose look was even more hostile than Ortin’s.

“I can’t believe we were fooled this long! I should have known a worthless fool when I see one. The Valley is a joke and so are all of those who live there! Let’s go, Ortin. We have nothing to tell this moron anymore.” Glide turned dismissively around and prepared to take off but the next voice she heard stopped her momentarily. It belonged to Petrie who was approaching her in an effort to try to save at least some of the terrifying situation.

“No, Glide! It true, me come from the Valley, but me had no choice! Petrie come here only because uncle Pterano thought me better of here than alone! Me so sorry for all this.” Petrie’s head fell completely as the apology left his lips. To his tiny relief, Glide’s wings relaxed somewhat, signaling she still wasn’t leaving, but it still hardly meant everything was fine. The female waited for a few seconds before answering and when she did, she didn’t even turn to look at Petrie.

“You know what, Petrie: I don’t care. The Valley and its denizens have always been something a true flyer should never become and their flyers are an insult to us who actually have to work to survive in this world! And that includes you! Ortin, what are you waiting for!?” The sudden revelation seemed to infuriate Glide beyond measure and the sight of Ortin looking around himself in deep conflict only further annoyed her. Petrie had lied and deceived the two for days and Ortin still thought about what to do? What could he possibly be thinking about?

Ortin would have wanted nothing more than to follow his old friend but this whole situation was something he hadn’t been prepared for. Petrie had betrayed him and the rest of the herd and it was true he despised everything about the lazy, self-righteous flyers of the Valley. His father had told about the one time he had visited it in his youth and the few flyers living there had acted like they were the only ones who truly knew how to become a flyer worthy of the legendary leaders of the past. They had mocked and insulted his father for thinking the skills he had learned far in the Mysterious Beyond were nothing when compared to their own misguided traditions like, the Great Day of the Flyers. The fact that Petrie was a part of that sickening group of dinosaurs brought great anxiety on him, too, but even then, he couldn’t close the other part of his feelings away.

Despite this revelation, Petrie had proven himself a capable flyer and a trustworthy friend. He had been the only one who had come to comfort him on that horrid morning two days ago and even on this evening, Petrie had found way to lift him up from his earlier melancholy and anxiety. This was the same flyer who had given him hope of ever getting over the biggest tragedy of his life but here he was, completely caught of lying to the herd and also infiltrated their ranks from the very place many flyers despised above all else. No matter how much he hated what he was going to say, there were no alternatives to it. Not at this point, at least. The young boy’s teeth hurt as he gritted them together and after a few moments, Ortin found the courage to open his beak to answer to the other flyer.

“You should have told us about it earlier, Petrie. The Valley is one place no one among us can stand and I know dad would have agreed with Glide. I don’t like this but Hoist and the others would be overjoyed to find we would be friends with someone from the Valley. See you tomorrow, Glide.” And with those words, the two dinosaurs took to the air, leaving the flyer they had a few minutes earlier called their friend standing alone in the darkness. Silent sobs could be heard in the black plain as Petrie was left to face the new reality, alone and forsaken.

The Bright Circle slowly crept over the distant horizon, signaling the end of the cold and clear night. Any dinosaur that would have been there to observe it paint the wide plains golden with its light would have been enamored by the sight even if the rays were unusually cool in these early days of the coming Cold Time. However, every one of the flyers used the little time they had to rest as thoroughly as they could and none of them awoke before the world turned bright again. Lenel was one of the first flyers to awake into the new morning. The first thing he did in the waking world was to scratch his back which itched annoyingly after the long sleep. Apparently he had been sleeping on some kind
of cone but it mattered little to the pale flyer as he rose up from the ground.

His eyes moved instinctually to look at the rest of the herd and his gaze was seemingly concerned. The past days had only been a continuation to his worries that things weren’t going the way he had hoped. Despite his long and never-ending efforts to create trust between the groups that had joined together to form this new herd, it was slowly beginning to look like it was all for naught. Peak still trusted no one but himself and Nira wanted very little to do with the others. Nimble seemed genuine enough but in the end, could she be trusted either? As a further dent to his mood, thick clouds were gathering in the sky, potentially signaling the fall of the first ground sparkles of the Cold Time. That fact would hardly ease this day’s flight. Lenel’s lonely thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a rather low but clearly female voice behind him.

“Are you alright, dear? You seem to be waking earlier and earlier each day and you’ve seemed concerned lately. Is it the others?” Lenel took a deep breath as he turned around to face his mate who had just risen to her feet and looked at him, her eyes narrowed in an apparent show of worry. The male turned quickly to look at her but didn’t bother to force any kind of confident look to his face. Lenel was anything but a proud and dutiful flyer but his beloved mate was one dinosaur in the world he didn’t want to be dishonest with.

“Yes, Sireia. Peak has been a thorn on my side ever since we invited him to join with our herd but he’s gotten much worse lately, especially since that old fool killed Wenan! An attack against any of the great families is a heinous crime but if he thinks he can try to sideline us others because of it, he is badly mistaken! We’ve always tried to get the others work as a team but he and the others are willing to let all of that go to waste because of one insane old flyer!” Lenel momentarily raised his voice before he realized his rising frustration. Sireia knew as well as him what was happening as the two had nearly always strived to work as one, sharing each other’s tasks but also the rest of their lives. The female eyed at Lenel with a deep frown, full well understanding his frustrations. The two had long shared their hopes for the herd’s unity and she knew all about the other leaders’ fear for further integration.

“This isn’t the first times things have been rough, Lenel. Peak has voiced his distrust towards us many times before but every time things have ended well enough.” She said as he moved besides her mate to greet the new day. Lenel sighed slightly, not knowing how to best answer to her words. He didn’t like the situation in the least as he thought about Peak’s paranoia and Nira’s seemingly dismissive attitude towards her peers. For many long Cold Times, Lenel had enjoyed his position and the love of her mate had always been there to comfort him. Now, however, the fights with the other herds and the four leaders’ quarrels had grown more frequent and the light-colored flyer’s usual calm demeanor was severely tested. In addition to that, this herd and its growing status among the other flyers of the world hadn’t brought him any closer to finding the legendary treasure of his family, the fountain of eternal happiness his grandfather’s mother had told him when he was but a hatchling. He shook his head slightly as he looked at the tan-colored female.

“This is far worse than those times, my love. It really feels like something’s happening within Peak and that’s the thing that really worries me. He has never shared our vision truly but never before has he tried to push us aside! Not to even speak that I haven’t been able to find even the faintest of traces of my family’s old charge! Not one of the other herds have been able to tell me anything about it, no matter how much I’ve searched for clues about my own birthright! Not even the smallest of remains of his story in twenty Cold Times! What a waste!” Lenel’s breath quickened as the complete futility of his life’s work flowed into his mind. All his life he had been trying to search the rumored source of his ancestor Olres the Famed’s power. His wisdom and decisiveness were the source of many stories but these days nobody knew what gave him his power. Lenel’s hands trembled as his frustrated mind yearned for an answer to that very question.

Sireia, on the other hand, turned to look at the Bright Circle which was slowly appearing from under the distant horizon and frowned deeply. She couldn’t deny the truth in her mate’s words as the two had gone through so much in their efforts in keeping the herd together and in trying to search for old tales about Olres’ life. Ever since she and the pale flyer before her were hardly more than adolescents, they had shared those two goals in their lives and acted together in their efforts to reclaim the old glory of Lenel’s ancestors. A goal few ordinary flyers, like her, would scorn at.

“Twenty Cold Times? Has it really been that long? At least I’d it hasn’t been wasted at all! Look at this herd we have managed to gather! Very few flyers have been able to call three other herds together yet here we are, leading one of the largest herds in the Mysterious Beyond! And I’d never call these times we have shared wasted.“ The female said with a slight smile and grabbed slowly Lenel’s hand who attempted to deny the gesture at first but gave those thoughts up very fast. He slowly turned to face his mate and sighed deeply. He would have wanted to rebuke her words with some another swear but the sight of Sireia’s green eyes calmed him down somewhat.

“You’re right. I wouldn’t trade any of these days with you away but I just cannot give up chasing my goals as long as I live. I know you understand that. No matter what, I’ll find Olres’ secret and once I do, nobody will question our herd’s worth in this world. Thank you for being here, Sireia. I couldn’t do this without you.” The two flyers joined hands and looked at each other in deep appreciation before the female answered softly.

“Don’t forget that I agreed to help you on this path long ago. We’ll solve this puzzle together, Lenel, and no one will stand in our way. Not Peak, not Nira, nor anyone else.” Her words were resolute but they still carried the same softness to them as before. The two flyers’ serene moment lingered for several moments before a distant screech took them back to the reality. Lenel looked into the distance with a clear look of weariness and the male’s slight displeasure shined through his words.

“It’s time for me to join the others in starting today’s leg of our journey but don’t worry: I’ll join you again when I can.” Lenel said with a wide smile, the Bright Circle shining right at his face. Sireia nodded to her mate in clear approval and answered to him shortly.

“I know, Lenel. Make sure to safeguard our herd’s safety. I’ll wait for you in the same spot as usual.” The female said as she and her mate suddenly took off and headed towards their own directions. However, as quickly as he let left the ground, the dark thoughts and suspicion returned to the pale flyer’s mind as he looked at the sight below him. With any luck, the herd’s situation would stabilize before long but no matter what, its dissolution wouldn’t be an option at this point. Lenel would make sure of that.

As Lenel had predicted, the weather grew far less pleasant as the day progressed. The cold but bright night gave day to a cloudy if somewhat warm day but those things only paved way for something few flyers would have wanted to see. The air was filled with huge, moist ground sparkles which hid absolutely any trace of the land below from the eyes of the migrating dinosaurs. They made flying more fatiguing and dangerous as usual as no one could know exactly their position in the grey sky.

Pterano’s mind was filled with worry as a wide river opened far below him. The body of water was almost completely covered by the quickly dropping ground sparkles, a hazy sight that perfectly matched his own situation. Lenel had asked him to keep a close eye on the movements of Peak and Nira for reasons he could only guess. He had hoped the crisis was over but apparently there was still deep suspicion within the herd’s leadership. However, his other concern was a much closer one to him. Petrie had seemed to be completely broken ever since the duo’s awakening but the two hadn’t had any time to discuss it before the herd started the day’s journey. He knew Petrie had met with Ortin and Glide on the evening so he could only suspect something had gone wrong with them. He cleared his throat carefully and then asked the obvious question from his nephew.

“What went wrong last evening, Petrie? You know you can tell me whatever happened between you and Ortin and Glide.”

The sudden question hit Petrie like it was a physical blow. The same, bitter thoughts were flowing in his mind over and over again and they were slowly turning into a banging headache. He had hardly had any sleep during the night and every time he had momentarily drifted into the waking world, the same mix of guilt and hate returned to the boy’s thoughts. Petrie could only look before himself as he didn’t even know who to blame for his newfound misery. Glide and Ortin can get eaten by a sharptooth for all Petrie cares! How could they do that to someone who just tried to make things easier for everyone! If they think they so much better, Petrie can survive alone just as well!

“Nothing anyone should know about, uncle. This all just so wrong! Me just wanted to play and get them better and… and then…” At this point, Petrie couldn’t continue his sentence any further. His face had formed into an expression of hate, a kind which very few had never seen from his nephew before. Petrie felt the blood circle in his head as he did his best to avoid the urge to simply let out a loud screech. As if the last weeks hadn’t been enough, now those two idiots think they are in any position to judge him! If he had been even a bit calmer, he would have noticed his reaction was a far cry from his Valley days. This change, however, wasn’t lost on the older flyer. A deep worry started to form in Pterano’s mind about what could have happened, considering this stark contrast to Petrie’s former carefree attitude and Ortin and Glide’s quick change of mind. There was only possibility that entered Pterano’s mind after he heard those clues. If Petrie had blown his cover… Pterano merely shook his head in an effort to shake that possibility off his shoulders until this issue had been dealt with.

“Answer me honestly, Petrie. Did something happen between you three that gave the two any ideas about where you are from? I said that was…” Pterano was completely taken aback by Petrie’s immediate rebuke to his uncle’s question. As if the memory of that terrible moment wasn’t enough, now Pterano was going to interrogate him for these things? Petrie’s answer was more like a pained retort which momentarily drew the answer of a few surrounding flyers.

“So what if me did?! That still not give them any reason to…” Seeing the gazes turn to him and his nephew, the light-brown male did something neither he nor Petrie had expected, even less wished for. Pterano hit the younger flyer sharply to his cheek, silencing him immediately. It took a moment for Petrie to regain his balance and even more to realize what had happened but before he managed in that aim, he could feel his uncle’s claws closing around his beak. This wasn’t something the flyer had ever expected to happen but before he had the time to object, Pterano hissed sharply, his wish to silence his nephew more than clear.

“Be silent, Petrie! Do you want everyone to know the truth? It’s bad enough that you told it to Ortin and Glide so, for Bight Circle’s sake, don’t make things any worse!” The older male kept his voice somewhat low in order not to draw any more attention to him at this point. Even in this situation, Pterano felt terrible for forcing to silence his nephew like this but he simply didn’t have a choice. Only the most trustworthy flyers were to be told the truth and the only one Pterano had ever told of his past was his benefactor in the herd, Lenel. To the older flyer’s slight hope, however, it seemed like neither of Petrie’s friends had spread the word either. Petrie immediately started to struggle to escape his uncle’s grasp which the older flyer allowed soon enough. The boy immediately resumed his attack on his uncle the moment he could open his beak again.

“Never do something like that again! Petrie…” The young flyer barely had the time to begin forming his answer before a terrifying, ear-tearing screech could be heard from the sides of the herd. Petrie didn’t even have the time to ask what was happening before a group of other flyers suddenly hit the herd’s left wing, not too far from the duo. The group of flyers were completely surrounded by the heavy, merciless barrage of falling sky sparkles, making it impossible to even see the other parts of the herd itself. The weather wasn’t particularly cold which only helped create the perfect cover for a deadly ambush. The entire situation exploded the moment two of three of the dinosaurs who had been calmly flying a few seconds before begun to drop to the ground, their chests, wings and necks sliced open by the attackers. Pterano cried to his nephew, knowing his survival could very well be a matter of seconds.

“Move to the herd’s center, now! We’ll keep you safe! Go, Petrie!” The flyer cried, dearly hoping his nephew would heed his advice. He didn’t have the time to see if the boy did as he was told as the herd had to form their defensive circle without any delay. Even if he would have wanted to ensure Petrie’s safety, he knew he’d do it better by following the orders he had been given for situations like these.

Petrie, on the other hand, looked in growing panic as the world around him turned into a complete fuss. What in earth was happening? Who was attacking the herd? Where had his uncle gone? Where should he go? Everywhere around him groups of flyers were appearing from the seemingly impenetrable whiteness and disappear again after a few seconds. No matter what, he’d have to do as his uncle had told him but where was “the center” of the herd? Cries of pain could be heard everywhere around him and the flyer knew his time was running out quickly. With a sigh of deep worry, Petrie immediately turned downwards and disappeared into the cold mist.

Nimble looked in growing fear and anger as another of the flyers started her long drop to the ground near her. The aging female joined the slowly strengthening line of defense but the swift, brutal manner in which this attack had been executed shocked her beyond measure. Fights between different flyer herds weren’t that rare, true, but usually they held at least some meaning. This seemed merely like a brief raid against an opponent which was in no way ready to defend themselves, something most flyers despised beyond measure. But the reason for this attack mattered little: now she and her fellow leaders would only have to get their lines together and push the cowardly attackers back and find out who led them and bring him or her to justice. This was her duty to those who had already fallen to this shameful ambush.

“Take the fight to them, my friends! They will never win this fight with those numbers!” Nimble cried, struggling to raise her voice over the wailing wind. She could hear cries here and there but what worried her the most was the lacking of her peers’ commands. It was as if they weren’t anywhere nearby her at this point. She needed their help in order to get the situation under control quickly enough. She turned around to face two of her most trusted followers: Longcrest, her revered tracker who had helped to find the flyer who had killed Peak’s cousin a few days ago, and a younger-blue colored male called Kero. She glanced at the latter first and wasted no time in giving her orders.

“Call Peak and the wing he’s leading here, now! We can win this this but for that, I need all the help I can get! Longcrest, ensure that Lenel and Nira are also on their way!” The younger deputy nodded quickly before he headed to the direction where Peak was supposed to be. Neither did Longcrest waste any time before he headed to execute his superior’s order. Nimble frowned as she caught a grip on his opponent’s wing. Without any second thoughts, she pulled her opponent and made him lose his balance, a short moment which allowed her to bring an end to this small duel. No matter what, this was a fight she was planning to win.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 10:13:25 AM by Sovereign »


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Separate Ways
« Reply #64 on: March 01, 2018, 10:22:02 AM »

The quickly escalating chaos was one that had truly got Peak off-guard. Suddenly, assuming by the cries and terrifying mess, the left wing of the herd had fallen under attack but that display awakened little will to help within Peak. The aging leader looked into the raging symphony of falling sky sparkles in slight hesitation as he prepared to address his followers. No matter what, this wasn’t a situation where it was a good idea to make brash decisions. The incoming attack could be only a diversion to open a way for the attackers to strike in the back of the herd. Peak was clearing his throat in preparation for his orders when he saw a young male flyer flying towards him with a terrifying speed. Peak immediately raised his right hand, a mark for his deputies to stop the invader. For all he knew, the newcomer could be a mere failed assassin. He looked in anticipation until the young flyer had been stopped before he demanded in a stern voice.

“Did you come here to kill me or what business do you have with me?” The bad visibility and heat of the moment prevented Peak from recognizing the other flyer immediately but his answer refreshed Peak’s memory quickly. The younger male’s voice was in the borderline between alarmed and pleading but those qualities did very little to soften Peak’s cold look.

“What is this, Peak? I’m Kero, one of Nimble’s most trusted servants! Her group is under attack and she demands your immediate help! She is in risk of being outnumbered and our victory could depend on mere seconds!” The flyer pleaded as Peak waved his deputies to release the messenger as his name immediately reminded him of the other dinosaur’s identity. Peak frowned at those news but the messenger’s words did very little to alleviate his doubts. He had to keep Nimble’s rear secure just in case another group of enemies was in the way and besides, Peak didn’t even trust in what the messenger was saying. For all he knew, Nimble could have been behind Wenan’s murder and she could well be planning something against him with this request. His next words were ones that shocked even his own deputies who had been looking at him with an expecting look.

“You know as well as I do that we have to prepare for the most surprising moves our opponents can throw at us, Kero. Our herd stands as one but in case of attacks like these, it is every wing of it for its own. I trust in your capabilities to repel this attack by yourself.” Peak had hardly any time to cross his arms after he concluded his answer when one of his own deputies shouted at him in a disbelieving voice.

“P… Peak? It is our duty to help them! They’re our fellow herd members, for goodness’ sake! Surely you didn’t mean…” The female deputy was asking in disbelief before her superior cut her rant short. Peak turned to look at her with an angered look, his eyes communicating his stance was final. Peak’s words dipped with poison as he prepared to silence the chorus of surprise and wordless condemnation all around him.

“I meant exactly what I said! Ever since Nimble stood with Lenel against me and Nira in an effort to call that worthless Karel’s joke of a herd amongst us, I’ve always suspected something was wrong and my cousin’s murder proved it! I’m not going to fall for another trap!” The orange flyer cried, killing any opposition to his words immediately. He could still feel confusion among his deputies and Peak knew he was taking massive risk with his decision. If his suspicions proved to be false, he could be charged with causing the deaths of some of Nimble’s followers in case something went wrong. However, that was a risk Peak was willing to take in the light of the recent events. He had lost all the trust he had had towards his fellow leaders, including Nimble. The messenger stared at the older flyer in deep shock and disbelief. This wasn’t a possibility he had been prepared for as a fellow herd member refusing to aid the others was something that he had thought to be completely unthinkable. Shortly after Peak’s answer, he spoke to the higher-ranked dinosaur in an almost pleading voice.

“But she needs your help! We may not lose this battle but the lives of many of our friends are in your hands! Please reconsider this, Peak!” The young male asked, his every gesture telling of the deep disgust he held at this whole meeting. To his overwhelming disappointment, however, Peak’s position changed little when he answered.

“This audience is over! Tell Nimble that she has my complete trust that she can handle this problem herself! Now, go!” Peak turned around to implicate that he had spoken his last word. It took every last bit of the messenger’s willpower to not attack the higher-ranked flyer but he knew it would only make matters worse. He started to flap his wings faster when he spoke one last time before returning to his leader.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake, Peak. Nimble and the others won’t forget this.” And with those words, the young flyer turned around and headed towards the direction of the center of the horrifying fight.

The flyer’s eyes scanned the sight around him in complete fear, not willing to believe what he was seeing. Everywhere dinosaurs, both friends and foes, were falling from the skies and the ferocity of the assault was nothing Pterano had ever seen. And worst of all, he didn’t have the least of ideas what the enemy was aiming for as they’d never break the defenders’ ranks as the attacking herd was barely one-third in size as compared to his own. No matter how he looked at it, Pterano couldn’t see any sense in this bloodshed but of that mattered little. All that mattered was a brief end to this fight, a prospect for which he was offered a chance to help soon enough.

Out of the nearly impenetrable haze suddenly appeared another flyer which clearly attempted to conclude her assault as quickly as possible. To the newcomer’s disappointment, however, her opponent was far from an easy-to-trick novice who could be taken out with one swing. With a quick move, he dodged the attack and even managed to cause one, small scratch to the attacker’s thigh as he dived below her. Pterano felt sick at having to resort to violence against a fellow flyer but he wasn’t given a choice in the matter. This small moment of repositioning allowed Pterano to get a better look at his opponent. She was much younger than Pterano, however, and despite her attempts to get through his opponent’s defenses with brute force, Pterano managed to stand his ground. The bluish flyer seemed to grow frustrated and it was at this moment when Pterano knew his initial defense had succeeded. Young flyers often felt like they were capable of anything and it was clear that she was more than eager to prove himself to his superiors at any cost.

The older flyer looked with some amusement as the other combatant’s efforts to gain the upper hand suddenly intensified considerably. She suddenly threw himself upwards, trying to head straight for Pterano’s throat and to send him down from the sky once and for all. All of the younger dinosaur’s efforts were concentrated on getting Pterano off-guard and on using brute strength to ending this fight once and for all. However, this was exactly what the older fighter was counting on. He had seen many fights during his life and if there was one thing he had learned from them was to keep his mind calm in any situation and that was the knowledge that saved him from this fight also.

With one, decisive move, Pterano quickly lost some altitude and just as his opponent attempted attack his head, the brown flyer grabbed his opponent’s other leg and pulled quickly downward. This took the other flyer off guard and sent her towards the ground quickly. However, Pterano knew she’d regain his balance before he’d reach the ground and with a heavy heart, quickly plunged after her and with one, powerful scratch the older flyer cut his opponent’s chest open and the massive injury ended the young female’s life within seconds.

Pterano took many, long gasps as he looked at the falling dinosaur, his mind heavy with the knowledge that he had just killed another dinosaur who was in many ways just like him and he couldn’t help but remember his old deeds. However, he slowly turned his gaze upwards, suddenly remembering what was at stake here. Not only was his herd under attack but the attackers also threatened his nephew and his friends which was something he wasn’t going to tolerate at this point. Volant would never forgive him if something happened to Petrie under his watch, not to mention the light brown flyer himself. His moment of self-reflection was suddenly interrupted by a call from another flyer above him.

“Don’t just stay there, Pterano! Come help us, now! We are at a risk of being overrun!” The speaker suddenly turned to repel another enemy’s attack and Pterano suddenly realized that he had no time for even the slightest of pauses here and with newly determined movements, Pterano headed to rejoin the battle. This cowardly assault had to be repelled at any cost.

The young boy’s breathing resembled more like panicked rasps as he suddenly halted his terrified flight. After many long minutes of horrified rushes, he finally saw the large group of the herd’s younglings before himself. Petrie felt like his heart was attempting to break away from its chest as he listened to the sounds of battle around himself, something that felt ghastly beyond measure. This was something out of his worst sleep stories, especially as his uncle was somewhere braving the surrounding carnage. Petrie couldn’t even begin to think what would happen if Pterano didn’t make it… However, his attention was quickly drifted away from his fears by a loud call from somewhere within the group.

“Stay still and try to keep calm! Whatever you do, don’t leave the group!” The voice was silenced by the heavy ground sparkles falling to the ground but their meaning wasn’t lost on anyone in the group. Not that anyone would have even had the courage to try to leave the safety of larger numbers at this point. None of those already gathered seemed to pay any attention to Petrie at this point, even Hoist, who was flying on Petrie’s right side, seemed completely unwilling to cause any mayhem as even he couldn’t deny the seriousness of the reality unfolding around the children and adolescents of the herd.

For a short moment, Petrie caught a glimpse of a familiar form in the terrified fuss in the center of the battleground. Glide’s pale face flashed between two other flyers above Petrie and she was accompanied by another flyer. At first, Petrie bitterly thought it to be Ortin but this new flyer was larger than the other boy and his coloring was of far brighter blue. For a moment, Petrie thought about trying to approach the flyer he had thought of as his friend on the previous day but soon enough, he decided against it. If Glide thought of him as a mere weakling and a liar, so be it. He could forge his way ahead in his life completely without the self-righteous female’s help and that was what the brown-colored flyer was planning to do.

Petrie suddenly raised his gaze to look to his right as an extremely pained screech rang across the hazy sky. That cry marked the end of another life, a knowledge which was more than enough to cause a chill of fear creeping down Petrie’s spine. Petrie’s expression turned into a worried cringe as a single thought formed in his mind. Somewhere around there his uncle was risking his life to believe the dinosaurs who had served as his family for many Cold Times but especially, him, his nephew.

Please, try to survive this fight, uncle. Petrie believe you strong and smart enough for this! Me believe in you!

Steady streams of blood flowed across Nimble’s body as she received another blow to her chest. The female gasped in pain at the power of the impact but she knew more than well there was no room for any kinds of moments of weakness in this fight. She looked in approval as one of her followers hit the attacking flyer to his head which managed to buy Nimble just enough time to finish her opponent off. However, the flow of enemies seemed incredibly discouraging to the flyer as she looked at the sight before her. More and more of the attackers were moving towards her, even risking being outflanked by the defenders in case they lost the initiative in the battle. Longcrest had told that Lenel and Nira were on their way but they were being held at bay by the attackers’ flanks. The outcome of the battle was clear, however, and the enemy seemed merely intent on buying time for some purpose. Nimble was about to rejoin the fight when Kero suddenly appeared from the haze near her. Knowing time was of the essence, she suddenly demanded answers from her messenger.

“It took far longer than I had hoped! Well, how long until Peak arrives? Speak, now!” Nimble felt extremely uncomfortable looking at her battle being fought for her but she had to get the message. Despite his absolute misgivings of his message, Kero took a sigh and gave his report.

“It took a while to find him but I… I failed my task, Nimble. Peak declined your request.” Kero nearly spit the last words from his mouth as he saw his leader’s open wide with surprise and shock. The female’s breaths grew increasingly unsteady as she answered to her aide in utter disbelief.

“What? He can see quite well the situation! He must help us or we will be crushed!” She cried as she looked at the battles near her. Kero merely shook his head before answering the question.

“He claimed that everybody is just waiting for a chance to betray him and destroy his family completely. I… I tried to speak sense to him but he didn’t even listen to what I had to say. I… I’m sorry, Nimble.” The male finished silently, unable to shake off the feeling that the failure to get help was somehow his doing. Nimble was about to answer when a sudden cry emanated near her.

“Another wave of attackers is breaking through! We need help, n…” The flyer’s words were cut short as the group of two dozen attackers ended his struggles for good. During the span of a few seconds, this new group broke their enemies’ defenses. Nimble looked at the sight in shock and to her ultimate surprise, they were heading straight towards her! Had the attackers been after her all along? Why?

Those questions were ones left for another time as the situation had turned from bad to worse in record time. For a moment, Nimble even thought of trying to flee in the wake of this attack but in that case, she could be stripped of her position and family’s fame. A flyer of her stature had to act as a beacon of hope in the face of defeat and that was exactly what she was going to do. Besides, she had just enough followers to stand as chance of keeping the rest of her comrades’ lines of collapsing before Lenel and Nira had the time to join the fight.

“Everybody who’s not engaged in a fight right now, gather around me! Let’ put an end to this outrage!” She cried as she looked at a group of flyers gather around her to face the rapidly advancing group of enemies. Knowing that she couldn’t let them retain the initiative, she called her followers to meet them in a headlong charge. Among them was one certain orange flyer who was far from happy to answer this call to arms.

Pterano looked at the enemy group in fear as the moment of collision approached. The fight had seemed to drag on for hours on but luckily to him, only a few scars here and there reminded of this terrifying struggle. The light-brown male got some relief from the knowledge that the defenders had managed to keep the enemy at bay, and the children thus safe, but this small group of upstarts were threatening everything. No matter what, he wasn’t going to let these bastards break the defense completely. He owed that much to Petrie and he would go to any lengths to ensure his nephew’s safety.

The impact of the hit with the enemy was a ferocious one and Nimble cringed deeply in pain as he felt the enemy’s claws sink into her chest. However, such hits wouldn’t be enough to bring her down just yet. With one, powerful hit, she attacked her opponent’s throat and tore it open before he poor flyer could even regain her defense. However, in this one, small fight, the enemy had a clear advantage. They had managed to keep most of the herds busy from helping her in this one struggle and the outcome of this fight would be decided by the fact how long the defenders could keep the invading flyers at bay. To the formers’ misfortune, it seemed like the attackers were not going to give them any quarter in this fight.

“Attack the old female, now! Don’t let her get away!” One of the flyers, apparently their leader, cried as he finished another one of his opponents. His words confirmed what Nimble had expected: for some, unknown reason, she was their target. All of this bloodshed was most likely because of her. However, she wasn’t going to let this madness go on for any longer. This arrogant, sadistic upstart would face his equal right now and without his leadership, this battle would be over. Nimble waved two of her followers to come with her and she answered to the attacker soon after he had concluded.

“Flee now and maybe we will let you go alive, whoever you are! There has been enough bloodshed already!” The female tried one, last time even if she knew herself this effort was most likely futile. She wasn’t surprised in the least when an expecting, mean-looking expression rose to the other leader’s face. It was clear that he wouldn’t be backing down from this challenge.

“It’s such an honor to meet the flyer I’ve heard so much in person, Nimble. I see that your leadership has brought much joy to you.” The dark-brown colored flyer said in mocking respect, something that only enraged Nimble further. Whoever this flyer was, it was clear that he wasn’t going to give up his attack at this point. Nimble would have liked to attack him immediately but she realized that if she’d learn more of her enemy or even his name, she or her followers could bring him to justice in the future, no matter the outcome of this battle.

“These insults will get you nowhere, you bastard. Who are you and what made you start this nightmare? Speak!” Nimble spat her words which only earned a dry, emotionless glance from her opponent. The male waited for a moment before he answered in the same rather high and mocking voice as earlier.

“We’ll see if you ever deserve to even know who I am. As for why I’m here, well, let’s just say I’m here to pay some debts to one of your companions. It’s rather ironic really, none of this has anything to do with you but you are the one who’ll pay first! But enough talking! Attack!” Suddenly, the flyers surrounding the dark-colored male started to fly towards the small, remaining group of defenders which opened the way for their superior to engage Nimble without any threat of being outflanked by any of her followers.

Nimble frowned deeply as she looked at her opponent’s followers losing ground and her but it mattered little as she was forced to face their leader in this fight. She cringed in fear as she saw her counterpart attack with a nearly manic-like ferocity and unlike most who resorted to merely attacking and quick victories, this mysterious flyer didn’t make any real mistakes. No matter how much Nimble tried to search for any holes in his composure, there were no moves she could punish him for nor any opportunities to regain the momentum in the frantic duel. Nimble had fought countless battles in her life and she had learned to exploit her enemies’ own strengths against them but this flyer seemed much more disciplined yet decisive than most of the opponents she had faced in her life. However, each flyer had his or her weakness in fight, a fact she had learned to never forget, no matter how dire the situation.

Blow after blow found their way through her defense but Nimble used those moments to observe at the flying patterns of the male to see if there were any chances for her to exploit some of his weaknesses. To her immediate relief and growing hope, she noticed that the other leader repeatedly relied on retaining the higher ground and making sure Glide was forced to stay on the defensive. Or so he thought. Nimble realized that his opponent’s certainty of her incapability to counter his moves were her chance to break away from this terrifying grip of death.

Just as her attacker was about to strike another blow towards her, Nimble realized that her opportunity to turn the tide of the fight had come. The male was approaching her with his wings closely on his sides to get all the power he could gather to his attack and even if Nimble knew she couldn’t deny the effectiveness of his fighting style, there was one thing she could try to win this one-on-one fight. She suddenly thrust herself steeply upwards and just as the male was adjusting his course to that of Nimble’s, the lighter colored flyer did something her opponent hadn’t expected in the least.

Her heart seemed to be bursting out of her chest as Nimble turned to meet her fellow leader’s attack. She screamed in pain as the attacker’s beak tore a deep, gaping wound into her side but she didn’t forget her plan for a second. Just as the two were bypassing each other, Nimble turned around and for a moment, the male’s neck opened before her. Only one thrust and the arrogant bastard who had caused so much death and tragedy would be sent on his final journey towards the ground which opened so far below the two leaders who knew that their lives were on the line here.

However, that one thrust never came. Just as Nimble had raised her claws to land the killing blow, she felt a mind-breaking pain emanating from her upper back, followed by quickly growing streams of warm liquid through her back. For a moment, Nimble felt like the shock would start her dead spiral but with herculean efforts, she could retain her position. Even then, the battle was all over. Even through the glazed stare of her fear-filled eyes, she realized she had already missed her chance to win the most important fight of her life and some cowardly bastard had caused her the decisive injury. Breathing deeply in shock, Nimble turned around to see a familiar face staring back at her.

“Longcrest! B… but how? You were one… one of my most trusted deputies. Why?” Those were the only words Nimble’s frenzied mind could form as she looked at her highly respected tracker’s eyes, which communicated nothing but contempt ant hate, glance at her in contempt and hate.

“I served you faithfully for a long time and all I got for it were disrespect and noble ideals which only led to us being tied to those three fools! You reduced our herd into our competitors’ slave! I wanted to believe you’d become a wise leader in time but you proved me your weakness every time! I never wanted this to happen but our herd deserves better than this unreal, fake unity you brought us!” He cried just as the other male suddenly rose up and before Nimble could do anything, she could feel the other leader’s claws on her throat. At this point, she knew it was all over. One of her most trusted deputies had deceived her for many Cold Times and she was at her enemy’s mercy. The terrifying pain, however, mercifully blocked the most bitter thoughts on this darkest moment of her life. She could only listen in resignation as the other flyer behind her spoke one last time.

“Longcrest answered my call more readily than I had even hoped and I cannot blame him seeing how easy your herd was to divide and break. I had hoped that I wouldn’t need his help but you put on a good fight, I’ll give you that. But I said I might tell you my name, didn’t I? Remember to tell Peak’s cousin, Wenan was it, in the Great Beyond that Deron will make sure Peak will follow both of you soon enough.” And before Nimble had any time to think about the implications of those words, Deron opened the veins in his opponent’s throat, finally bringing the duo’s fight to the end. Nimble’s eyes were quickly dimmed by the cloud of death as she slowly fell to her back and begun her final plunge to the depths below. The flyer’s wings fluttered in the chilly winds as her unseeing eyes were fixed on the skies he would never brave again. With one act from a traitor, the dinosaur who had once been one of the most trusted and beloved leaders of all the flyer herds was sent onto her last journey.

Deron looked at Nimble disappear into the clouds below and on that moment, he knew his mission had been accomplished. He let out a loud whistle and in a matter of moments, all the remaining members of his herd turned around and with quick dashes, disappeared into the white curtain of falling ground sparkles before any of the defenders had any time to start a chase. Only moments after Deron’s call, a silence of utter shock descended upon the herd as they knew they’d never catch the attackers in this impenetrable haze. The fight that all of those present had been drawn into against their will was over but in a way none of them would have wanted.

With the brutal assault in the snowstorm and Nimble’s death, the herd’s momentary relief has been completely crushed. How will the survivors react to the loss of one of their leaders and to the terrible consequences of Peak’s pride? And how will Petrie adapt to his breakdown with the flyers he had thought of as his friends?

I deeply apologize for the long gap since the last chapter, especially as it, too, was preceded by a longer pause. Truth be told, I had many problems with planning the future course of the plot with this story and I spent weeks trying to fill in the holes in my previous plans. I know I said the same thing last time but this time I truly believe I’ll be able to move ahead with full steam again. In any case, I hope this chapter makes up for the long wait to at least some degree! :) Now, I have two short stories to complete for the prompt contest but after that, I’ll resume my main stories in full swing!

Ducky123: It’s good to see you reviewing this fic again. :yes  I wouldn’t call Chomper’s parents heartless in this fic even if they certainly hold little sympathies for our three heroes. They are intent on avenging their son’s death at any cost at this point and in addition to that, they’re enraged to themselves for ever trusting a fast runner with Chomper’s safety. As Yarel said, however, the duo have been doing sharptooth things all their lives and they have built up quite a questionable reputation already. Chomper's death merely redirected their attention towards Ruby and her friends but usually they fight because of every sharptooth's drive for dominance and food, not because of the mere will to kill. As for your next reviews, well, a lot of questions were answered in this chapter.

I’m happy you found the next chapter enjoyable as well. It’s true that in many ways the three omnivores acted in ways their species’ wisdoms would have deemed unacceptable and at this point, it seems like those decisions have come with a great price. However, it’s true that their friendship has been strengthened considerably in the last chapters but neither is their journey completed yet. :DD

« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 10:33:53 AM by Sovereign »


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« Reply #65 on: March 02, 2018, 06:29:36 AM »
You're welcome for the reviews! I'm just trying to catch up on the developments! :DD

I'll also keep my next review short. Seems like Petrie and the herd are now embarking on a huge journey and adventure! Certainly liked your approach here, you did describe some locations which was nice but you didn't overdo it either :)

It is good to see that Ortin has talked to Peak but I feel Peak's words were hollow in meaning. Luckily for the boy, he's now befriended Petrie and managed to make up with Glide as well. The coming day sounds like one to look forward to for all of them :)

Might get to read another chapter later yep yep yep


Edit: Here you go

Wow, certainly a lot has happened for the three omnivores. That mudslide sounded extremely terrifying and it's far from obvious that all three of them made it through. Poor Greentail had to push her broken body to the limits she is now struggling with, her mobility still hindered somewhat with no sign of full recovery at this point. Though who knows how much things are going to improve for her as sometimes these things simply take a bit longer than a week to heal.

The encounter with the swimmer was really scary and completely unexpected :o For a moment I thought Ruby was a goner. She certainly has luck on her side when it comes to surviving close calls haha.

Yarel and Ruby finally spoke their minds. I'm just glad they managed to find a consensus they can both live with. Let's see what the next chapter holds in store :)
« Last Edit: March 05, 2018, 02:57:32 AM by Ducky123 »
Note to self: finally create that signature lazy bum! :P


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« Reply #66 on: March 05, 2018, 09:28:44 PM »
Wow, there was a lot to process in this latest chapter. The chapter began with what looked like could have been a prelude to Petrie and his three friends regaining some sense of normalcy after the terrible events of the prior days, but then one little sentence put all of that out of the realm of possibility.  Though Petrie has begun to be changed by his difficult struggle, he still retained the need for companionship, and the resulting willingness to trust in light of those he calls friends.  Now it seems, with his ill-advised admission, that the trust he had struggled to build with his companions has now been destroyed.  And with the events at the conclusion of the chapter I can only imagine how the forthcoming paranoia will build in the time to come.

The exchange between Pterano and Petrie was likewise well done.  Due to the need to keep up with the flyer herd and to now blow his cover, Pterano could not directly confront Petrie's obvious downturn until some time had intervened.  But the fact that he noticed shows the extent of his concern for his nephew.  The resulting scolding, though obviously traumatic to the young flyer, is understandable under these circumstances.  With Petrie's admission he risked not only himself but Pterano's position as well.

And then there is the battle.  Though I must admit that I found some of it hard to follow, that is understandable when one is confronted by a battle in three dimensions.  Peak's prideful decision seemed in character, but also incredibly ill-advised as the potential negative consequences to herd cohesion outweigh any benefit.  And, with the resulting death of a deputy, these negative consequences now seem certain to manifest.  Whatever recovery the herd may have had over the last few days has now been washed away in the snowstorm.  I can only imagine that this will not be the end of the bloodshed.  Dark times certainly appear to be in the future for the flyers.

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


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« Reply #67 on: March 12, 2018, 10:12:48 AM »
I had to let the latest one sink in a little bit.

The developments are striking and extremely game changing so to speak though I had some issues with this scene. I'm not sure why but I feel that it may be a little early in the story for such a terrible event to occur. Besides, I found the battle itself very hard to follow due to the chaotic nature of it.

The death toll makes me wonder how often such hideous attacks occur. Due to the weapons even non-sharptooth flyers possess and the fragile build, it is strikingly easy to kill one another. I'd even go as far as saying there might be more survivors in a likewise battle among sharpteeth.

Either way, I can see why you had trouble writing and planning this chapter and I don't think I have much constructive critism to offer myself, unfortunately. Let's see how this is going to effect the herd dynamics, especially since Peak is continuing with his dickery :lol
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« Reply #68 on: March 24, 2018, 10:33:19 AM »
Payback and Reunion

The wind whistled in the aging fast runner’s ears as he tried to see something about the landscape that lied before him. The white ground sparkles had started falling only a short time ago but they were quickly closing the ground into their soft embrace. The air was also turning into a much colder one, a fact which was only underlined by the effect of the frigid breeze. Finding any food for him or his family could soon become a real chore, especially as he suddenly noticed his companion trembling violently.

“Try to gather yourself, Arial. This is nothing compared to the chill that we’ll face in the months to come.” Detras said apologetically as his gaze met that of his daughter’s. The younger fast runner calmed down immediately even if it was clear that she was still just as uncomfortable. She answered to him, trying to put on a braver face.

“I know, dad, but the first few days of the Cold Time are always the worst. It sure feels colder here and it did back home.” She said in a slightly nostalgic voice, still not completely feeling at home on these faraway steppes. Still, she knew it was for her and her family’s good and besides, it wasn’t that different from the Hanging Rock after all. However, her words prompted a faraway look in her father’s eyes.

He still heavily regretted that his family had been forced to flee from their home but it simply couldn’t be helped. It had recently become an even dryer place than usual and devoid of any remarkable concentrations of green food. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to drive the fast runners away but Red Claw and his growing horde of minions became ever more used to braving that maze of rocks and hills. It was the day when a small group of fast biters ambushed him and Pearl and injured his mate severely when the four fast runners had decided their time on Hanging Rock was up, a decision which each of them had regretted heavily. Luckily, he had still remembered the exact spot of his grandfather’s old home which had offered his family at least a temporary refuge.

The trek had been a long and hard one for all of the fast runners but especially on the children. Orchid had done his all to brave the journey but he hadn’t been able to hide his fatigue and longing for the Hanging Rock. Arial had had even more trouble with keeping up with the others as he and Pearl wanted to make good distance every day to reach the Desolate Rise.

However, the detail that the old male regretted the most was that they had been forced to leave without being able to tell Ruby about it in any way due to the immense danger of the moment and chaotic nature of their flight. Any delay might have given Red Claw enough time to catch the fast runners which wasn’t something Detras would have wanted to even consider. The light bluish male couldn’t help but wonder how his other daughter was doing. With any luck, Red Claw would be gone and the fast runners back at Hanging Rock before Ruby or Chomper had even learned of their absence. However, Detras finally shook himself out of his thoughts when he answered to the younger dinosaur.

“Yes, it does but that’s because we’re even further away from the Big Water we were at Hanging Rock. But believe it or not, it’s going to be even warmer around here when the spring comes again.” Detras smiled as he answered while he once again sniffed at the air to see if there was anything nearby that could sate his family’s hunger for today. Meanwhile, Arial’s eyes opened wide as she answered to her father’s words.

“B… but that makes no sense! Why would it be colder here at one time and then warmer at another? Aren’t all places just warmer or colder than others?” The younger fast runner asked in bewilderment. She knew there were many things she still didn’t know but this one thing felt even weirder than many others she had heard. The male, to his slight relief, caught one scent which caught his interest but before he told about it, he decided to sate his daughter’s curiosity.

“Not really, Arial. Nobody knows why but it is a fact that the farther away you are from water, the bigger difference it is between seasons. That’s just how it has always been. As for other things, do you smell anything, Arial?” The older dinosaur asked, willing to let his daughter hone her own skills also on this search. He had asked her to come with him as an additional pair of eyes to ensure their safety but it could also work as a little exercise for the girl. Arial frowned slightly, turning to look around herself. She knew her father well enough to realize he had caught a scent of something but the female wasn’t quite sure what. She raised her sniffer as high as she could but the freezing wind made even normal breathing difficult. She knew the value of reading one’s surroundings by its scents but this was one of the worst circumstances for that. After a long while of trying, Arial finally gave up, looking at her father apologetically.

“I don’t dad. The wind’s too powerful and cold for me to smell anything.” Her gaze was a resigned one as she looked at her father with some shame. To her relief, Detras didn’t seem upset at all by her failure and he even smiled as he answered.

“I doubt I could have either at your age but you also did it wrong. The wind indeed buries most scents and that’s why you should try to keep your sniffer away from it while still being able to smell as many directions as you only can.” Detras said cryptically, prompting a confused look from her daughter. Smelling the scents in the wind while still keeping her head at the opposite direction? Was such a thing even possible?

“I don’t understand, dad. That doesn’t make any sense.” She said while looking at a distant hill which stuck out of the low-lying plain like a sore finger, providing one of the few landmarks on this frigid, monotonous steppe. Detras decided to prolong his revelation for a short while longer as he decided to address her daughter’s confusion.

“Have you noticed how we’ve walked by even the slightest of mounds this whole time? I’ve always lowered my head near them to catch scents that are carried by the breeze but at those points the wind no longer freezes your sniffer. Even in this kind of place, one should always try to make sure you aren’t surprised by something you can only avoid. But there’s no reason to linger here. I think there’s some kind of deceased leaf eater in that direction. That should be enough food for today.” Detras said as he pointed to the duo’s left and begun to head to that direction. Arial turned up her sniffer as a gesture of contempt as she answered.

“Do we really have to eat that? Those rotten corpses taste terrible!” Arial said as she already could feel the rancid, pungent smell of a deceased dinosaur. Detras took a small sigh before he turned to look at his daughter, his eyes gleaming with a stern tone to them.

“Arial, you know as well as I do we don’t have a choice. We have to get by with what little we can find or catch and reminding others that you’d like to have better food doesn’t help anyone. So follow me! I reckon your mom and Orchid are getting hungry.” The male said to the still-frowning girl. He couldn’t be angry at her for her words but he hoped she’d learn to think of others more in the future. Arial looked at the sky which was filled with ever-darker clouds, implying without doubt that the ground sparkles wouldn’t stop falling for a long time. With a resigned look, she quickly sprinted after her father into the white curtain of a beginning Cold Time.

If possible, the rising wind bit even more severely on three other halfteeth who were attempting to make as good distance as they only could before the ground would be completely covered by the sparkles falling from the sky. None of the three wanderers could remember the weather ever being this cold this early in a Cold Time which hardly improved their spirits any. The whole world seemed like one freezing hell at this moment but even then, the journey itself was advancing far faster than any of them had even hoped. But that came with a heavy price for a certain green colored thinclaw.

Greentail cringed as her legs felt like they were about to snap in half from the pain. She had managed to find one walking rhythm which allowed some kind of mobility but it was far worse than any kind of limping she had been forced into by some less dangerous injuries. Her current walking resembled something between jumping on her left leg and pushing her body forward with the other one. At first it had gone fine but as the long moments stretched into minutes and then into hours, the pain in her legs grew increasingly more profound. Not to even mention that she had to first try to feel whether there were any obstacles before her as her eyesight was still gone.

Ruby could see her companion’s forced walking and she couldn’t help but admire her perseverance even in this situation. Even then, her gaze was directly in the land before her as she waited for the cliff the swimmer had told her to appear in the horizon at any time. She couldn’t wait to meet her family again after all this time as she hadn’t seen them since her and her friends’ stroll into the Hanging Rock so long ago. How much had her siblings grown and learned since then? Was everything well with her parents? And most importantly, why had they left the Hanging Rock before telling her anything about?

Cold shivers ran along her back as she thought about Dein’s words back at the river valley as she knew were heading the same direction as she was. But even then, the excitement at the reunion mostly overshadowed her worst fears and she knew she couldn’t find them quickly enough. Today could be the day she had waited for all those hellish weeks since that most terrible of days. In a way, the knowledge she had done her best to salvage what she could for her family was something she could already foresee giving her some peace of mind after all her trials and allow her to really begin rebuilding her life somehow. It would be tough but…

“Ouch! Dammit all! This is a fucking joke!” Greentail suddenly cried as she fell to the ground after her right leg had hit a large stone sticking from the ground. A loud thud could be heard as she hit the ground and her lack of normal command of her hands made it impossible for her to shield herself from the coming impact. The result was a nasty hit to her chin and a few scratches here and there but the worst hit had come to her pride and already fragile mental state. It was mere seconds before she could hear Ruby’s voice.

“Greentail? Are you alright? Did that hurt badly?” She looked in worry as the other girl attempted to scramble her way back to her feet. At first, she tried to decline Yarel’s help but she realized becoming an even greater burden on her companions would help nobody. She put her hands on her slightly bleeding knees when she answered. She was boiling at everything inside but she decided to keep it all inside for mere respect to the two other omnivores.

“I… it’s alright. It’s just really hard trying to walk like this for long. But I’ll manage.” Both of her companions could see from the way she gritted her teeth that things were far from alright and after exchanging glances, Yarel spoke to her in a soft voice. He was still troubled by his fight with Ruby but he tried to keep his calm in order to make this trip at least a bit less stressful for all of three omnivores.

“We can take a short break, Greentail. We’ve already gone a long way and…” The boy attempted to reason but his sister only cast a murderous if slightly misdirected glance on him while quickly moving to the direction she thought was the correct one. Yarel sighed briefly before he suddenly gasped and felt a hand hit his back and then he found himself lying in the ground, the white ground sparkles gently dropping on his back. He was about to ask the obvious question when Ruby hissed, her whole being trembling in fear.

“Sshh, both of you! Don’t say anything! It’s them!” Ruby whispered as she slowly crept down a small mound. Greentail, who Ruby had also managed to tackle in time, felt her spine grow as cold as the world around her as she heard those words. Yarel slowly begun to explore the direction Ruby had pointed at and it didn’t take many moments before his eyes shared the same sight with the girl’s. The two sharpteeth were marching in the far distance towards the same direction as they but it seemed like they hadn’t spotted the three small dinosaurs just yet. Even then, the mere sight of these cursed monsters made the boy’s claws turn into a vicious curve. He would have wanted nothing more than to claim his revenge against those who had likely ruined her sister’s life for good but even then, he realized the trio’s chances of even fielding a challenge against the sharpteeth was practically zero. There simply was nothing to gain from attacking the predators, no matter what he would have wanted. He merely cringed in anger as he answered.

“They don’t seem to be after us now. With any luck, we can wait for them to simply go away and continue our journey soon enough.” He nearly spat his words out. He remembered Dein’s threat very well but that didn’t change the odds of any kind of confrontation with the sharpteeth. Ruby looked at Yarel in slight outrage but she couldn’t deny that this Yarel was speaking the truth. The trio clearly weren’t in mortal danger right now but she knew more than well the duo’s plans. As she dwelled in her dark thoughts, she suddenly noticed something highly interesting.

Even in this great distance, it was clear that Terri was limping badly and the duo’s overall pace was far from the normal one. It seemed like neither had the sharptooth survived with a mere scratch from their previous encounter. Even now, the fast runner could remember the massive, gaping wound would in Terri’s side which was enough for a lake of blood form around her. The more Ruby thought about it, Terri was still most likely seriously injured but their drive to avenge their son and lost pride seemed to drive the two sharpteeth like the deadliest of storms. But that did little to…

Ruby suddenly flinched noticeably as she realized something important. If Terri was this badly injured, it was most likely that she wouldn’t pose a serious threat to any of the omnivores. The fast runner could feel her heart beat in her chest as a brave, even desperate plan rose into her mind. Using the network of tunnels under the plain, they could surprise their opponents utterly which could open them a window of opportunity. If that succeeded, there could be a chance she and Yarel would be able to at least cause a nasty injury to Dein, maybe even a lethal one if they got lucky, but she still didn’t know to which extent the female had been incapacitated. Also, if the sharpteeth were able to find Greentail in her condition, she’d never forgive herself for her loss, not to even mention Yarel’s reaction. Even then, Chomper’s parents were going to threaten her and her friends again soon enough and now was a good chance to ensure at least a short reprieve from these two predators. She begun to speak to her companions as silently as she could.

“We could but if they kill my family, we don’t have anywhere to go and if we have nowhere to go, all of this has been for nothing! As you can see, Terri is badly injured from our last meeting and it should be possible for us to trick Dein with some kind of trap. This offers us a good chance to make sure they won’t chase us again for a long time!” The girl spoke as she already tried to come up with some kind of plan. To her slight chagrin, Greentail was the one who answered.

“You can’t be serious, Ruby! Haven’t we already fought enough? Do you want us all to end up like me or even worse?” She hissed in anger as she tried to make her friend see reason. Yarel wasted no time in backing his sister’s point.

“Indeed. We have nothing to gain by sacrificing ourselves for no reason! Terri might be injured but she can still be far more dangerous than we think! I’d like nothing more than cause those bastards a slow and painful death for what they did but this is just madness!” He said, prompting an angered look from Ruby. She knew what Yarel thought of her motives but his claims that she was just seeking for trouble helped her mood none.

“What would really be madness is to just wait for Terri to get better so they might attack us again! We injured her only to her belly and that will recover far faster than Greentail will! Can’t you see this is our best chance to try to make sure we won’t be threatened again?!” Ruby spoke as she looked at the two sharpteeth moving ever further from the three friends. Yarel gritted his teeth together in deep thought but he couldn’t question Ruby’s line of thinking. If they’d let Terri off the hook this time, the one upside of Greentail’s sacrifice would be lost for good. He simply nodded to Ruby, answering briefly to her point.

“You better have a good plan then, Ruby. We must make sure Greentail stays safe for the course of this fight. I just hope we can make those two monsters pay for all of this.” Yarel spat from his mouth, meaning every word. He clanked at his sister who seemed to be just as willing to join this effort but she realized there was nothing she could do at this time. The two simply looked at the fast runner as she slowly started to explain her plan.

“So do I, Yarel. Do you remember those few caves we saw earlier here and there on this plain? Here’s what I think we should do…”

An approving smile appeared on Detras’ face as the sight of a rather recently died threehorn stuck out from under a quickly growing pile of ground sparkles. The corpse was practically untouched which would mean that it could provide food for his family for tomorrow also. This was far more than he had hoped for and it wasn’t even too far from the Desolate Rise. He turned to look at his daughter with a wide smile, more than happy for this find.

“We were lucky today, Arial. I don’t even want to know what caused the end of this poor threehorn but it just proves how much all things are connected to each other, doesn’t it?” Detras said in his usual style, once again willing to let the girl to think for herself. Arial was still more than disgusted by the idea of eating this for two days but she knew she had no real choice. Her father’s words, however, prompted a mere nod from her as he was more than well aware of how things worked in the Mysterious Beyond.

“I do, dad. One dinosaur’s end is another one’s luck. But I still wish we had something else to eat.” She sighed, earning one, disapproving look from her father. Still, Detras knew there was nothing to gain from any more arguing so he simply waved to his daughter as he prepared to begin a trek back.

“Well, this is all we have. But now, we must find Pearl and Orchid as they’ll want to share this meal with us! I’m sure they, too, have done their best to find food for us too. Let us…” The male suddenly stopped his words and once again begun to sniff the air, this time a frown forming to his face. Arial cocked her head in slight worry, looking at her father in an asking look. After a moment, she asked carefully.

“What is it, dad? Is something wrong?” The girl asked, prompting the male to turn her gaze on her. A clear look of worry radiated from Detras’ face as he looked at her daughter.

“There are sharpteeth nearby, Arial. However, the scent seems like a familiar one…” He suddenly turned to look at the direction where he thought the scent was coming from and the more he thought about, the more certain he became of the fact that he hadn’t erred. What could Dein and Terri possibly be doing somewhere around here? They had met the two sharpteeth briefly on their way to the Desolate Rise but back then, the two had shown little interest in their journey as long as Chomper and Ruby just stayed in the Great Valley. What could probably bring them here? The fast runner wasn’t too worried as the two families had been allies for a long time but still, they were sharpteeth and quite feared ones too. Even in this situation, caution wouldn’t hurt any. He quickly turned to look at Arial and spoke to her in as reassuring voice as he could.

“I think it’s Chomper’s parents. It should be alright but in case something’s wrong, stay here while I’ll go see what they’re up to. Can you do that, Arial?” The male wanted to keep his daughter safe regardless of what was going to happen. The younger fast runner nodded to her father as he was preparing to move on as carefully as he could.

“Yes, daddy. But try to come back soon.” She said with some worry before Detras gave her one last reassuring smile before beginning his investigation. The small hills here and there eased his hiding somewhat as he wanted to be completely sure he saw the sharpteeth before they saw him. Once again, he had made sure the wind was on his side but it would take one miscalculation for the predators to see him, giving up any advantage he had. The seconds proceeded slowly as he crouched closer to the duo but it wasn’t many minutes until he finally saw what he came looking for. He was hiding behind another hill, careful to make sure his bright colored crest didn’t reveal him at this point.

It certainly is them but… they move in far more nervous way than usual and… why is Terri moving as if her stomach is aching all the time? Is… is she hurt?

The most obvious of observations were the first one that caught Detras’ eyes but there was something in the carnivores’ expressions that worried him greatly. These two looked seldom friendly by a long shot but right now, a certain ember of hate seemed to emanate from their eyes. This one realization seemed to worry Detras beyond measure as he had no idea what could have caused this change of behavior in the two predators.

However, this raised another dilemma for the omnivore. Could he trust that the rage of the sharpteeth wouldn’t be a threat to him and his family and meet his old allies face to face or try to lead them astray in an effort to keep his mate and children safe? The duo’s friendship had been an important asset for the fast runners countless of times but he despised few thoughts more than the thought of two enraged sharpteeth threatening his family. Suddenly, a sense of dread begun to settle over the aging omnivore as the more he followed the duo’s advance, the more he feared that something terrible had happened that would explain this sudden change of behavior. He would have to advance carefully without causing further problems but before the sharpteeth had proven otherwise, they were a very real threat to his mate and children. With a deeply worried sigh, he slowly rose up from his position and knew there was only
one way to see what the sharpteeth were really up to.

Dein looked at his mate in some worry as the two quickly moved towards the place Detras had told them about on that day so long ago. He still regretted it had to come to this but Ruby and her cursed friends had vanished completely after that terrible night. Dein still cringed at the memory when he returned to tell the bad news to her mate. The entire clearing where she had lied had been painted the ground completely red and she had already turned dangerously pale. The male had already feared for the worst but suddenly with quick action, he had managed to decrease the bleeding with leaves and mud just enough for her situation to slowly stabilize.

Even then, it seemed like she hadn’t survived with just a massive scar on her belly and side as she had continuously coughed since then and she seemed to tremble quite often. Despite all that, she had wanted nothing more than to finish their quest. The male had been just as eager to agree but he still worried as Terri’s temperature didn’t seem to be dropping at all. Well, they’d reach the fast runners’ home very soon and the mere thought of ending this chapter in their lives would certainly give both of them the peace of mind to finally begin moving on from the greatest loss a parent can go through. Maybe then…

“It’s a surprise to see you two around here. What brings you here, Dein and Terri?” The two sharpteeth turned to immediately look at the speaker and both of them were more than surprised to see Ruby’s father approach them this openly. It was clear he hadn’t heard of any of the last weeks’ events. Dein looked with some worry as a smile formed to the female’s face as she answered. It was clear she had something in her mind, something she wasn’t planning to tell the smaller dinosaur.

“That hardly concerns you, halftooth. It was difficult enough to stand against Red Claw after your cowardly flight so you should keep your questions to yourself around us.”

Well, at least she’s as friendly as always. But if she believes I’ll just greet her like a friend, she’s badly mistaken! Detras looked at the predator’s eyes while hitting his foot against the ground in a thoughtful look. The two seemed like
things were completely normal. Too normal, in fact. This whole meeting was extremely awkward for the fast runner as it was getting clear that he wasn’t told everything. When he answered, he tried to sound dry and rather uninterested to keep at least a resemblance of pride in this conversation.

“As I told you, we left only because we were forced to do so. As for your claim, I have the right to know why you’ve come to my home and what you are trying to find here.” Detras knew he was playing with fire but he hoped that trying to sound a bit more confident than normal could force the predators’ to reveal their true cards more easily. If they decided against upping the stakes and answered his question, they’d prove they still see him as an ally. If not… something would be seriously wrong.

Terri eyed the other dinosaur with growing anger but she managed to hide her feelings admirably. This fast runner was completely oblivious to everything that had happened and with any luck, he’d reveal their location or even lead her and her mate to his family, making the two predators’ work that much easier. Still, it seemed like Detras didn’t trust the duo’s presence in these lands which was something she’d have to address.

“Don’t attempt to show yourself to be any more important than you are, Detras. We came here on our search for a new territory. Less than a cycle of a Night Circle ago Red Claw fell we fought him for hours on end but in the end, those wastes were far from a place worthy of us living there. We decided to take this route as I’m more than sure you wouldn’t object to our passing, would you?” Terri growled somewhat as she spoke, earning a brief but clearly surprised glance from Dein as his mate’s claim wasn’t something he had expected. Their triumph over Red Claw hadn’t been too far away but it was something the two hadn’t been able to ever achieve. However, the male’s confused look wasn’t lost on Detras who realized immediately Terri was lying. But for what reason exactly? He realized he’d have to play along for now and see which route this conversation would take.

“Of course not but… you managed to finally send that monster to the Great Beyond? It must have been quite a battle indeed.” Detras said in a mock revering voice as Dein’s reaction had proven that this whole claim had been a lie. Dein felt rather awkward in this situation but he decided to finally join the conversation to try to make it seem at least a bit more natural.

“Which we were forced to engage in without help. But that’s all in the past. We’ll be in our way soon enough but we’d like to know where your home… the Desolate Rise, was it, is? We should know its location in case we ever need your help again.” The male finished, finally confirming Detras’ fears about this whole situation. If the two thought he’d reveal them his home’s location after lying to him this crudely in a clearly threatening situation, they were up for a surprise. At this point, the fast runner knew he’d have to get rid of the predators before they realized his true intentions. He couldn’t help but lament it had come to this but in the constant battle for life, everybody’s allegiances changed nearly daily. He was just afraid this surprise would make his own demise only a much closer prospect.

“O… of course. Follow me, I’ll show the way there.” Detras cringed as he turned around. He didn’t want to face his two guests any more than he needed to as he knew they wouldn’t attack him headlong as they would have done so already if they were going to do so. He would only have to lead them astray and then try to use his knowledge of the environment to make his escape. He tried to do his absolute best to try not to think about all the implications of these new developments as all that mattered at this point was to try to ensure that everyone in his family would survive this unsavory encounter. He felt some relief as he heard the loud steps of the sharpteeth resume behind him as they’d swallowed his bait.

The fast runner’s mind ached as he tried to think about the best place to try to lose his followers and reach Arial again. He begun to walk into the nearly opposite direction from the Desolate Rise but where… That’s it! Nearby lied a small gorge which would be too small for the sharpteeth to fit in and if he were quick enough, they would never see where he had escaped to! Detras concentrated all of his thoughts on staying calm and looking as natural and trustful
as usual. His life depended on his ability to act believably enough until he’d lose his two chasers for good.

Ruby looked around herself with some worry as the tunnel slowly started to slope upwards. Her plan to use the tunnels dotting the wide plain to outflank and surprise the sharpteeth wasn’t without its faults but it offered her and Yarel their best chance to ambush and trip Dein, earning the two omnivores just enough time to incapacitate him. Luckily for her, the cave was leading towards the same direction where the sharpteeth were heading and moving here was far faster due to the absence of the ground sparkles. That offered her some hope but she knew she couldn’t rest before this encounter with the dinosaurs who, despite everything that had happened in the past, had turned into her mortal enemies.

The fast runner looked in expectation as light suddenly shone into the tunnel before her. The pale light of the slowly dying cycle of the Bright Circle was just enough to cast one pillar of silver into the wide tunnel but for Ruby, it was a promise of a safe tomorrow with the last loved ones she had left. With a brief sigh, she turned to her companions, her gaze stopping at Greentail.

“Alright, this is it. Greentail, I’m sorry you can’t come with us but there’s nothing you can do to help out there.” Ruby said, seemingly just shaking it off as a fact. Greentail cringed at those words but all of the three omnivores had agreed to this after Ruby had explained her plan. The girl merely nodded to the fast runner, her voice sounding weak and bitter as she spoke.

“I know, Ruby. I wish I could but… I just hope you’ll be able to do this.” Greentail sighed while looking at Yarel with some worry. The boy took her hand briefly, not willing to prolong this moment any further than necessary. No matter what, he wasn’t about to leave his sister to face the future on her own.

“I promise we will, Greentail. I’m not going to join mom and dad just yet. Stay safe here while we make sure we won’t be attacked again.” He merely sighed before he nodded to Ruby before the two headed for the opening ahead the two. Greentail listened to their departing steps and sat on a small stone in the darkness. She hated the fact that she was completely useless while his brother endangered his life at least partially to avenge the fate that had befallen upon her. Despite Yarel’s encouraging words, she knew his safe return was far from guaranteed. And without him, the irrevocably maimed and completely lost omnivore couldn’t say whether he would have the ability or even the will to continue wandering in this world which had already taken so much for her. Greentail shook her head, simply praying that this day would have a happy ending.

Detras’ eyes wandered in the landscape before him as he feverishly tried to come up with the best way to execute his brave escape from the two sharpteeth. He didn’t have the slightest of ideas whether they expected him to have any doubts about his loyalties but it was more than clear that they wouldn’t be letting him off the hook easily. Luckily for him, the place that would serve as his salvation opened before him. It was one of the many gorges that dotted the plains around the Desolate Rise, most of them connected to the vast underground network around this seemingly flat expanse of earth. Detras smiled as he realized the many similarities between his old home and new one. It wasn’t likely a coincidence his grandfather had chosen Hanging Rock as his new home back then. But soon enough, he’d have to begin his flight from this most threatening of situations,

The fast runner took a quick glance behind himself and noticed that very little, aside from the predators’ rising suspicion, since they had started their short trek. Detras knew the situation would only grow more threatening by the minute and he decided to break the silence for the last time.

“We’re getting close. It shouldn’t take too long anymore.” He said merely, earning a quick snort from Dein. The dark green sharptooth answered to him with a somewhat tired voice, willing to make sure Detras was going to cooperate until the very end.

“Then show the way, halftooth and stop wasting time on…” At this point, Detras decided he had reached the most favorable position he could possibly ask for. Without the least of doubts, he suddenly sprinted towards the gorge, more than willing to escape from this nightmare. However, afterwards happened something he hadn’t expected.

Only seconds after the fast runner had taken his first steps towards his salvation, both of the sharpteeth suddenly did what they could to stop the treacherous fast runner’s flight. Terri’s face had turned into an even darker one as she realized that even getting rid of these cursed halfteeth wouldn’t be easy. She and her mate quickly raised large rocks from the ground and aimed them towards the escaping dinosaur’s path, attempting to obstruct his flight. That attempt succeeded nearly perfectly as the boulders fell only a few meters before the omnivore, forcing him to stop completely. Neither of the sharpteeth wasted any time to use this small window of opportunity to their advantage.
Terri cringed violently as she jumped to close Detras’ escape path as a sharp pain emanated from her wound. To her increasing anger, she noticed that some parts of the wound opened again from this effort but that was a price she was willing to pay for an opportunity to crush this cursed traitor. Detras looked around himself in horror as the two sharpteeth closed in around him but even then, he realized that there was one chance for him to make his escape. He looked at Terri’s scar briefly, realizing that it was far from healed. Even if the female did her best to ignore the pain, the instinctual aversions towards pain could allow him to live through this. Detras didn’t have the time to even take one last breath before his effort but he knew he’d have to do it quickly.

The sharptooth looked in slight surprise as Detras suddenly started running towards her, not expecting any omnivore to be arrogant enough to actually attempt charging towards a sharptooth like this. She suddenly crouched sharply and hit her claws to the ground, attempting to impale the insufferable fast runner. She looked in red rage as Detras managed to dodge certain death by only a few inches but even then, it once again stopped his momentum completely.
With quick reflexes, she immediately bowed towards him, attempting to crush his puny body with her jaws.

However, as she prepared for her final strike , the one thing she feared came to pass. A brief cry escaped Terri’s jaws as the scarred side of her belly stretched further than it was supposed to and once again, the already-weakened predator’s blood poured to the ground in noticeable amounts. She did her best to ignore the pain and finish her job but even then, the feeling of her side opening to ever larger degree foiled her desperate attempt.

Detras panted in shock as the predator’s teeth approached him quickly before suddenly stopping just above him, her expression twisting with utter torture. A slightly more fearful dinosaur would have wasted the precious few seconds shivering in fear but Detras knew more than well that his life and likely that of his family’s was at stake here. He quickly recovered his footing and resumed his flight. At this point, he only prayed deeply that Dein wouldn’t be able to reach him before he’d flee to the safety of the gorge.

The male sharptooth’s mind was a flurry of sock and hate as he looked at Detras disappear into the endless plains but even then, he had to make sure his mate wouldn’t be forced into the same mortal danger she had been in only a few days earlier. He was about to bow to his mate whose face didn’t communicate the slightest of appreciation at the male’s concern. She held her belly in clear pain but she wasn’t going to let this damned injury hold her still any longer. She merely growled at her mate as she rose back to her feet.

“Don’t just stay there, catch him! That bastard won’t escape from this place!” Terri growled as she struggled back to her feet. Her whole leg was slowly painted red and Dein immediately answered to her.
“You cannot continue the chase! Things are already badly enough! Chomper wouldn’t have wanted you to get yourself killed without any reason!” Dein was just as willing to avenge their son’s passing as his mate but he wasn’t willing to pay for it with Terri’s life. However, the female only swept him aside and her voice nearly even unsettled Dein himself.

“Shake it off, Dein! I won’t stay still as long as those fast runners still live! Chomper was always too soft to have understood any of this but even then, he was our only child and I won’t let his killers get away with it! Come with me or stay out of my way!” She cried as she headed after Detras with an astonishing speed. Dein wasted no time following her even if he still had his serious doubts about this whole endeavor.

However, it was all too late at this point. Detras looked behind himself in great relief as he realized that he had managed to create a gap of five longnecks between himself and his chasers. The gorge grew ever closer by the minute and it wasn’t many seconds until Detras faced a steep fall before himself. He frowned for the slightest of moments as he looked about the best way to proceed at this point. The fast runner took a brief sigh before he suddenly leaped to a lonely platform near the top of the rocky wall. He was just about to begin his descent using a slightly sloping formation of rocks to his left until something unexpected happened.

Just as he was beginning his descent, a wall of claws hit the platform which he stood on, the impact breaking parts of the cliff apart from the main rock. Detras cried in fear as the spots to which he had grabbed on with his hands broke apart, sending him to a quick fall towards the depths of the gorge. The seconds suddenly seemed to stretch on for hours as he looked at the cliff slowly grow ever more distant, slowly driving his brain to realize what was happening.
However, he wasn’t done quite yet. Feeling the opposing wall meeting his head violently, he suddenly turned around and did his best to at least slow down his fall. Detras’ face twisted as he looked at some of his claws break at the painful drop and the skin in his fingers being grinded away. However, it was just enough to slow his fall just enough. The impact into the bottom of the gorge caused a massive hit to his bottom and it took many seconds until he realized what had happened.

The omnivore shook his head as he tried to contemplate what had just happened. His fingers and lower body ached considerably but slowly, he realized just how lucky he had been. He raised his gaze to look upwards and saw his chasers look at him in clear and intense frustration. The sharptooth wouldn’t be able to reach him down here but he still knew he wasn’t on clear waters. He’d have to alert his family of this danger as soon as he simply could but at least
he had learned what he had wanted. The future seemed extremely for the fast runners but at least for now, he was safe.

Ruby cringed heavily as she looked at the two sharpteeth engage in their chase, unable to quite see the reason for their sudden behavior. However, she could see that Terri’s situation had once again deteriorated heavily which would only make her plan all the easier to execute. It would take mere time for Terri to lose enough blood to become unable to pose a threat but as for Dein… this time she and Yarel had time to prepare for their meeting with him. Luckily she had noticed one large lake of hard water not far from their position which could probably become Dein’s downfall.

At this point, anyone who had known Ruby for a long time would have been able to see how much the last weeks had actually impacted her. Here she was planning to seriously injure, even kill, another dinosaur without a major emotional conflict. True, her feud with these two predators was already personal but before the loss of her friends, she would have always searched for another way to deal even with the dinosaurs she had despised the most, namely Red Claw and his minions but ever had she contemplated of actually getting rid of them for good. However, a lot had changed since those happier days and Ruby’s frown only grew more profound as Yarel spoke to her.

“The lake seems just as slick as we thought it would be. We won’t receive a better chance to try to take Dein out as Terri doesn’t seem like she’ll be able to attack us too quickly. I just damn right hope this works.” The boy said as he looked into the distance with the two sharptooth apparently backing off from their earlier hunt. Whatever they had been after had most likely gotten away which hardly earned any sympathy towards the predators from either of the omnivores. Ruby started to walk forwards while he turned to look sternly at Yarel.

“So do I because this is the least I can do for my family and Greentail. They might be the parents of the dinosaur I called my best friend but they still are not the same dinosaurs Chomper was. I just hope he’ll forgive me, wherever he is.” Ruby sighed as he prepared to execute the next stage of her plan. She walked closer to the spot where the predators were and slowly but surely, she put one of her claws on her left arm and closed her eyes in anticipation of what was about to happen. If she was about to draw the attention of the two sharpteeth towards herself after their recent chase and to do that, she’d have to make them believe she’d be an easier pray than whatever they had chased earlier.
And to do that, she’d have to make them believe she’s injured and the only way to make them believe that was for the claim to actually be true.

After one, long breath, Ruby suddenly sunk her claw into her arm and with one, disciplined movement, stretched a long and deep wound between her feathers while simultaneously letting out a long, loud cry. Ruby started to pant immediately as the pain of her self-inflicted wound started to radiate through her body. Ruby trembled as she opened her eyes again but made it sure that she didn’t glance at her injured limb even by accident. She immediately moved on to peek over a small mound and to her immediate relief, she could see that the two sharpteeth had heard her yell. Now everything lied on the success of her and Yarel’s plan.



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Separate Ways
« Reply #69 on: March 24, 2018, 10:40:23 AM »

For a few moments, Detras froze on his heels as the piercing cry penetrated the white skies. He could have recognized that voice at any time but… the fast runner simply didn’t want to believe his ears.  It sounded just like Ruby but it simply couldn’t be! Her elder daughter was safely in the Valley as she had for many Cold Times but… even then… Detras cursed in his mind as he realized he simply had to make sure that his ears had deceived him.

The fast runner suddenly turned around and headed towards the gorge’s other side which was far easier to climb than the other one and there even lied a small hill on top of it. With any luck, that would offer him a good enough view to see that he had heard wrong. Detras’ legs were slowly becoming weary of all the running but he didn’t have time to give those feelings any heed. He took a turn after another on the winding way upwards and it didn’t take him too long to reach the top of the rare hill of the plains. The quickly strengthening wind initially forced him to shut his eyes but after a moment, he turned to look at the direction of the cry.

Dein and Terri’s forms were the first things that caught his attention but he immediately turned to look further into the white wastes. At first, he saw nothing inside the flurry of falling ground sparkles, the bright wall enveloping everything inside it. However, after a moment his eyes caught a sight of something moving inside the cold curtain moving away from him, something red or even pink… Detras’ eyes flushed wide open as he realized he knew this dinosaur after all.

It… it is Ruby! B… but how? She should be in the Valley… she… she doesn’t even know we should be here! And where’s Chomper?

His elder daughter’s appearance shocked Detras without measure as it raised countless questions which would have tremendous impact on the fast runners’ situation. Detras could feel his forehead turn into a frown as he realized those questions wouldn’t likely have any good answers. However, the sight of the two predators heading after the young girl brought Detras back to the reality. Whatever her reasons to be here, his daughter was in grave danger and he had no way to help her by himself. The omnivore could feel his stomach sink disgustingly as he realized he would need to get help immediately even if he knew it would make Ruby’s situation ever more dangerous. However, he knew he didn’t have any options at this point. With a sickened look on his face, he sprinted towards the direction he had left Arial in, hoping things wouldn’t turn any more dire before he could return to help Ruby.

Yarel looked at the approaching sharpteeth with an eager look in his face, more than ready for a new encounter with the two predators. At first, he had found his companion’s plan more than reckless and senseless but the more he thought of it, he wouldn’t trade a chance at avenging Greentail for nothing. It wouldn’t return her to the way she was but at least it would prevent these two beasts from ever again hurting another dinosaur. He chuckled in his mind as he waited behind a small rock near the hard water which was already buried under the white cover, turning the lake into a potentially dangerous spot for a two-footer.

However, all of that would be up to Ruby’s success on baiting them deeper into the hard water and even after the duo’s disagreements, he couldn’t help but admire Ruby’s readiness to lay down her life for this effort and even luring the sharpteeth around with her own blood. At least it seemed like she was also ready to lay down her own life also, something which brought slight relief to the boy’s mind.

Ruby moved ahead in a slightly limping way, as if to show her chasers that she had hurt her leg which had caused her the injury. The two were gaining on her extremely fast and even Ruby couldn’t fight her growing panic anymore. She
was able to keep her attention on the plan even if her entire mind ordered her to abandon this deadly folly and run for her life. She looked behind herself and saw the two predators reaching for her in a scary speed. A look of malice was more than apparent on their faces as they could barely believe their luck at catching Ruby injured and all alone in the middle of this plain. Ruby’s pained cries did little to dampen their enthusiasm at ending this charade once and for all.

However, both of them were too concentrated on their maimed prey to realize that something was deeply wrong. Yarel looked at the duo’s advance, increasingly worried that the two seemed to be crossing the lake without major difficulties. The two slipped a few times but when it became clear that neither of them were going to fall, Yarel knew it was his time to act. He grabbed one large stone from the ground and headed towards Dein who wasn’t too far away from him. The whistling wind prevented the dark green predator from noticing him quickly enough but Terri saw some movement from the corner of her eye. She quickly turned around and approached Yarel in murderous self-confidence. This kind of cowardly ambush would never succeed against the two.

Before Yarel had the time to dodge the surprise attack, Terri leaped towards him and tried to close her claws around the boy. Yarel, however, jumped forwards in order to escape the deadly limbs of the sharptooth. Dein noticed his slide immediately but his mate’s endeavor blocked most of his options of stopping the omnivore. For the slightest of moments, Yarel thought his plan was a success.

The thinclaw quickly approached the deep green sharptooth’s leg, only increasing his speed in order to take the beast off-guard. Afterwards, he would use his stone to try to hit Dein’s ankle, hoping that the rock would be large enough to hurt it seriously, most preferable even crush the leg. Yarel looked in approval as Ruby turned around and headed to help him. The boy closed his eyes as the collision grew ever closer and his slide was soon stopped by a powerful thud against the carnivore’s limb. Dein felt his heart sink as his leg begun to slide from under him, causing him to lose his balance immediately. The sharptooth tried to instinctually pull his leg to its former position but that effort only caused his other leg lose its footing too. The world stopped for the male predator as he fell towards the ground, his chin hitting the hard water with a violent force.

For the briefest of moments, Yarel begun to fear that his plan had one fatal flaw as he looked at Dein slowly beginning to fall on him. The thinclaw nearly froze as he looked at the towering beast wobble and slowly beginning to fall just towards him. However, he managed to keep his cool and immediately, sank his claws into the hard water and pulled himself forward with all his might. Only moments before, the beast hit the surface of the lake, Yarel managed to escape his shadow and avoid this most grisly of fates.

Yarel would have wanted nothing more than to take a short breather after the close call but he knew he had only a few seconds’ window to execute the next phase of the duo’s plan. He and Ruby exchanged brief, hopeful glances before both of them grabbed their rocks and headed towards Dein’s legs. The sharptooth did his best to regain his footing but the slippery hard water hindered his efforts greatly. For a few moments, the two young dinosaurs were brave enough to believe they would be successful, that they indeed would be able to render Dein incapable of threatening the two perhaps for good. Every muscle in Yarel’s face was tense at the expectation of finally getting some justice for his sister. A loud cry emanated from Dein’s snout as the two, large rocks hit against his ankle, opening deep wounds around it. A few more hits and it would be all over… except that the two had forgotten one, important detail.

While Terri was indeed beginning to feel weak and wobbly from all the blood she had lost, the two omnivores had made a serious mistake when they had counted her incapable of causing them any significant threat at this point. She growled in anger as she saw her mate fall to the ground and the two smaller dinosaurs immediately gathering around his ankle to execute their despicable, pathetic plan. The sharptooth wasted no time in getting to the male’s help. To her own disaster, Ruby was too immersed in her efforts to attack Dein to pay attention to Terri until it was too late. The light green predator leaped towards her in utter outrage and just as Ruby realized what was happening, the sharptooth’s claws closed around her left leg, scratching five, long wounds to the limb.

The fast runner immediately dropped her rock and gasped in horror as she realized her earlier blindness. As she looked at her left, she saw a sight that would have caused nightmares to any leaf eater or halftooth as Terri’s outraged face growled right at her. The girl glanced at Dein’s bleeding leg and for the briefest of moments, she thought about finishing her job before fleeing but even then, she realized that would be a complete folly. She and Yarel would never be able to finish their work before Terri would be able to disembowel her. With a frightened voice, she cried at Yarel who was looking at the scene in disbelief.

“It’s too late, Yarel! Run!”

Even if Terri was unable to understand the meaning of Ruby’s unintelligible mongering, she could realize their meaning well enough due to the situation. And she also knew that any kind of change of plans from the omnivores at this point would be for naught. On this surface of hard water, they’d never be able to outrun a sharptooth, no matter how hard they tried. For the first time since the beginning of this surprising hunt, a glimmer of triumph begun to shine through the sharptooth’s pain as she quickly blocked Ruby’s escape while Dein managed to grab Yarel’s leg and trip him to the ground just long enough for him to rise to his feet and ensure Yarel would never escape from him again. For the briefest of moments, Terri thought of bidding her final address to the fast runner but she finally decided that the fulfillment of her debt to her darling son would be all that mattered on this moment. This despicable, plotting, good-for-nothing brat didn’t even deserve a quick death after all she and her friends had put her and her mate through but her urgent wish to close this chapter in her life was all that mattered.

His feet only slid on their place as the thinclaw attempted one, final escape from this situation. It was getting awfully clear that his selfish quest for revenge had backfired horribly and because of his stubbornness, he, alongside with his brave friend, was going to lose everything. And he couldn’t even think about what would happen to Greentail after his passing. Even though he wanted to see her live a long and happy life, in his heart Yarel knew Greentail would never find another meal by herself nor would she be able to avoid any dangers. A sickening feeling rose to Yarel’s throat as the image of Greentail slowly wandering aimlessly and starving alone rose to his mind. He had brought the most terrifying of fates on the dinosaur who meant the most to him in this world without any reason and tears begun to form in his eyes as he realized the full implications of what he had done. Hopefully, Greentail would find it in herself to forgive him when the two siblings finally reunited in the dark reaches of the Great Beyond…

The two older fast runners looked in utter horror as their daughter did her best dodging Terri’s frantic assaults. Arial and Orchid’s diversion hadn’t changed the course of the fight immensely and Pearl could feel her heart pounding in her chest as she watched at her daughter shuddering beneath the sharptooth’s vicious form. The older female couldn’t come up with any sensible reason for Ruby to be here but none of that mattered on this terrible moment. Pearl already felt more than worried about what had happened to Chomper but for now, saving Ruby from the mess she had gotten herself into was the only thing that mattered. She would never forgive herself if anything happened to the younger fast runner while she could have prevented it.

To her encouragement, however, she could see that Ruby and her companion had had a good idea on how to try even the odds against the massive predators. Maybe… just maybe it would offer her and Detras the opening they’d need to end this mess once and for all. Terri glanced at the two in annoyance, knowing that even those pitiful omnivores could be capable of hindering her plans at her current condition, especially as her mate was just a bit too far to help her. With an increasingly frantic and enraged drive, she began her attempt to close her arms around Ruby and impale her but something happened before that, something the carnivore hadn’t quite expected.

Her parents’ sudden appearance was like a breath of happiness from her long-gone past, something that had been untainted by tragedies or larger personal misgivings. Even then, Orchid and Arial’s cheerful but concerned eyes and her parents’ gallant rush to her help made Ruby realize that once again, she had made a serious mistake by ever engaging in this plan. The whole course of today’s events suddenly fell upon her as she realized that the sharpteeth had likely chased one or both of her parents earlier which meant they had some kind of plan in store for the two predators. A plan she had ruined by her selfish wish to prove something to herself. Ruby cringed as she cast another volley of curses at herself but that realization made her also decide one thing. She’d do her absolute best to try to stand her ground in this fight and try to ease the burden she had placed on her parents’ shoulders without any good reason.

Twisting her mouth into an agitated grin, Ruby suddenly jumped closer to Terri, dodging her attack while also being able to stretch her belly wound a bit further, causing a slight snarl from the predator as she stepped back in order to earn another opportunity to strike at the smaller dinosaur. However, her dizziness and increasing weakness prevented her from realizing that her time was already up. She started to waver slightly as Detras and Pearl’s claws stroke at her body. Ruby looked in great relief as her parents appeared at her side, finally deciding this battle that only a minute before had seemed to be her very final one. However, there was one more thing to be done before the omnivores could begin their flight. She would have liked her first words in a long time to her parents to be less urgent but she couldn’t abandon her friend at this point. An endless joy was apparent in her voice as she cried to the two fast runners arriving at her side.

“You came just in time, mom and dad! It’s so good to see you again!” Ruby said in great relief as she looked at her parents arrive at her side. She nearly forgot the danger she was in at this sudden reunion but even that momentary joy was interrupted by her father who immediately asked her in a stern voice. He was also happy to see his daughter again but even more he wanted answers.

“Why are you here, Ruby, and what happened to Chomper? As for your last whim, no fast runner should search a fight with a sharptooth and you know it!” The male said while he briefly stopped near Ruby. The girl was stunned by the abrupt reaction to their first reunion in many Cold Times but she still understood her father’s questions. She was about to answer when Pearl suddenly answered to her mate’s words.

“Is this the way you greet your daughter you haven’t seen in an eternity, Detras? Don’t worry, Ruby. I’m happy to see you back home.” Pearl glanced at her mate who was about to rebuke but Ruby realized they wouldn’t have any time to waste arguing. She answered to her mother while also glancing at Detras.

“Thanks for coming here to help us, mommy and daddy. But right now, we have to save Yarel! There’s no time to waste!” She cried as she pointed at the boy who shivered under the brutal attack. Detras was just about to ask who his daughter meant but after he raised his gaze a bit, it was more than clear whom she meant. Initially, he was about to answer that it would be far too dangerous but he soon realized they couldn’t let this stranger to die like this, especially as he seemed to have helped Ruby in her long journey. He would get to the bottom of Ruby’s deeds in the last weeks soon enough but right now, the most important thing was to end this dangerous attack. He soon yelled to the two females as he saw that Dein wasn’t injured like Terri but for that, he had another plan, one which would build on Ruby’s original idea…

“Very well but know that we will see this issue through later. We’ll help him but we need to also make sure Dein won’t be able to chase us! Let’s try to get him to the brightest and warmest spot on the lake and we might stand a chance!” The fast runner cried as he looked at the noon’s rays shine upon the central part of the lake. He already smiled as he thought about his idea’s success but he knew he couldn’t get complacent. Terri was too weak to continue the fight but Dein was still unharmed and he’d certainly pose a deadly threat to the omnivores. Luckily, he, too, would soon pay the price for threatening his family.

The sharptooth looked in disbelief at the smaller dinosaur, who, against all odds, had managed to dodge his strikes one after another. While the thinclaw indeed had problems maintaining a stable footing, the slippery hard water made it practically impossible for him to maintain a stable footing during his attacks. He was constantly on the verge of falling again which infuriated him greatly. Yarel had attempted to escape a few times but that was something he had been able to prevent until now. His mate’s struggles troubled the male without an end but he knew she’d never forgive him if he let the thinclaw off the hook. However, a sudden chorus of mindless, brainless-sounding grunts stole his attention as he once again attempted to resume his threat.

“Yarel! Try to get away from there and follow us! You’ll make it through this!” He sudden turned his gaze at Ruby who was standing about two longneck lengths away from him while her parents had spread a fit further around her. Yarel cringed heavily as he looked at the sharptooth but he had been through enough with Ruby to believe she was trying to trick him somehow. He gulped audibly as he suddenly jumped forward, trying to get enough speed to make at least some distance between himself and the beast. He couldn’t even guess what Ruby had in her mind but it hardly could be any worse than his current situation.

Neither did the carnivore waste any time before trying to cut his escape but the frozen lake made any fast movements for a dinosaur of his size nearly impossible. Dein cringed as he slowly tried to gain momentum, all the while Yarel’s image grew ever smaller in his eyes. Dein looked in fear as Terri’s panting grew ever worse and she slowly fell to the ground in a controlled manner. Even then, he wasn’t about to give up now. He had come too far to betray his mate now.

Pearl looked in worry as she slowly approached the point Detras had pointed at. It was clearly the only spot on the lake which hadn’t been blocked by the clouds during this whole day and while it wasn’t quite weak enough to be close to breaking, its surface was filled with water which had melted away from the rest of the frozen surface. A perfect place to trip the predator again and finish the job Terri had interrupted last time. Luckily to her, Orchid and Arial had returned to their parents just in time for her to tell them to roll down another boulder which, if timed correctly, it could serve as a further insurance for the omnivores’ plan. However, they’d have to make the predators believe this was but a chaotic chase, seemingly devoid of any ideas other than saving Yarel from the mess he found himself in.

“Arial! Orchid! Prepare the boulder! Send it going the moment the sharptooth begins to clearly waver! She cried as she suddenly approached the predator who, at every moment, seemed to be getting ever closer to Yarel. The boy, on the other hand, slowly started to realize what the fast runners were getting at. He could feel the sweet warmth of the Bright Circle smiling down upon him as he looked at the sky, realizing that the chill of the Cold Time seemed to drift away for even a moment under this short moment of peace. However, he suddenly felt his legs beginning to slip below him even faster than he had noticed due to the unusual warmth of this grim day. He managed to just throw himself forward slightly before he collided with the hard water, sliding with a still great speed forwards.

However, neither did his chaser have any easier time. Dein growled in annoyance and disbelief as the water made the frozen surface of the lake treacherously slippery but unlike Yarel, he was able to stop his fall with his hands. Even then, the hard water prevented him from regaining his footing quickly and by the time he had regained control over his movements, something happened he hadn’t expected. A huge rock was sliding down a nearby hill right towards him while the predator was unable to escape from its path, no matter what he did. Dein looked in horror as the rock drew ever closer to him while watching helplessly as the rock hit his lower leg, the boulder hitting his knee with a terrifying power. The sharptooth looked in shock as his knee seemed to literally pull up from his leg, twisting the rest of the limb into a disgusting position. The dark green dinosaur looked at it for a few seconds in shock, the shock rendering him unable to feel any pain for a few moments.

But when the initial shock wore off, the pain was far worse than the sharptooth had even expected. The whole leg radiated hellish anguish as the loose knee crushed each and any gristles around it. The whole area turned black within a few seconds and it was on this moment that the sharptooth knew his hunt had failed. He didn’t have any possibility of getting rid of any of the omnivores anymore, his mate was at death’s door and…

Suddenly the maimed sharptooth realized that even through her terrifying injuries, Terri had again risen to her feet and approached him quickly. This time her composure no longer seemed enraged or desperate: only worried and utterly defeated. This sight made Dein ignore his pain as it still seemed not all was lost. He suddenly cried to his mate and started his efforts to once again rise up and attempt to make his escape.

“Come to my side, Terri! We must lose those cowards as soon as possible!” Both of the predators knew how utterly pitiful it was for two sharpteeth escaping from a handful of halfteeth who posed an actual threat to them but it mattered very little for Dein at this point. If he continued to fight here, he’d fall for sure but an escape today would enable him to restore his and his mate’s honor some other time. Dein could see Terri was using all of her strength to reach him and he did his to return the favor. The two had hunted enough times together to know each other’s line of thinking and both of them realized, no matter how distasteful it was, that there was only one way to live through this terrifying setback.

The momentary sense of triumph was slowly beginning to wear off as Yarel saw Terri growl to her mate’s call. The quickly rising wind and the howling breeze hid the words’ meaning, however, but Yarel still couldn’t help but feel this would be the moment he had waited ever since Greentail’s injury. He smiled in expectation as all of the omnivores were about to charge at the two sharpteeth to bring an end to this encounter all of those present would have wanted to avoid in the first place. However, it was at this moment that something happened which he hadn’t expected. The two sharpteeth simultaneously struck their claws into the hard water which begun to create widening cracks in the lake’s surface. The duo hit it again and again while the omnivores tried to move around the quickly growing cracks under the feet.

Even then, it wasn’t many seconds until the hard water finally gave up under the beating of the two predators. They looked with great relief as the water begun to pour from the cracks and the hard surface of the large lake was being split into two separate parts. The divide grew wider by the second but even then, both of the sharpteeth knew they didn’t have any time to waste as the halfteeth would very soon find a way around this crack. However, Terri and Dein looked content as they looked at the skies above them which covered with the ever-increasing masses of the falling ground sparkles. It would offer them just the needed cover to escape into the plains before the omnivores could stop them. Today had been a massive humiliation but at least both of the sharpteeth had survived this ordeal. It would take a long time for the predators to recover from their injuries but when they did, they’d make sure these kinds of setbacks wouldn’t happen ever again. And at that point, neither Ruby nor her cursed family would escape their fates any longer…

The young fast runner panted in approaching exhaustion. Dein and Terri’s trick had been a highly unexpected one and she prayed in her mind they hadn’t been able to get too far away during these past minutes. She didn’t even want to think of the possibility that they had gotten away as all of today’s efforts would have been for nothing in that case. However, as she reached the spot where they had last seen, she realized it was all over. There were a few stains of Terri’s blood and their first footsteps but the speed at which they were being buried until the white clothing of the world and the rising wind made Ruby realize her chase had failed.

“They...! They’re gone! We’ll never catch them in this storm…” Ruby said as she fell to her knees, panting heavily in fatigue. Deep down, she knew her plan had been successful as the threat to her family was repelled for now but a complete, irreversible victory had been so near… Now, Chomper’s parents were once again a threat only waiting to surface again. She lied in the ground for a few seconds before she suddenly heard a softer voice behind her.

“Ruby? Are you alright? You are hurt!” She heard her mother’s voice behind her as she looked at her thigh which Terri had scratched during the duo’s fight in the lake. Ruby, however, only looked at it and despite the pain it caused, it was one of the last things in her mind right now. It and the disappointment about the fight’s outcome were both being replaced by the utter relief of this situation. Against all odds, she had found her family and kept her word to her friends. She looked at her mother and rose to her feet as she answered.

“Oh, that’s nothing, mommy. At least now that I’ve found you at long last. Thank you for coming to help me!” She said as the two dinosaurs approached each other, hoping this reunion stretch on forever. They embraced deeply as they both realized how badly they had missed each other. Pearl whispered into her daughter’s ear silently as she looked into the far distance.

“I was so worried about you when your dad told me what was happening. B… but why are you here? And where’s Chomper?” The older fast runner said in apparent puzzlement. It was clear she, too, wanted to know what had happened but the apparent moment of ease was ended the moment when Detras opened his mouth. The male’s earlier alarmed and concerned composure had turned into a suspicious, even angry one. The more he thought of it, the more certain he was that today’s disaster had been Ruby’s doing.

“That’s what I’d like to know too. You’ve got an awful lot to explain, Ruby.” Detras put his hands on his hips in clear displeasure and Ruby could already see she wasn’t given the luxury of an easy homecoming. Her expression turned into a worried one as her eyes suddenly met those of Yarel, immediately reminding her that there was one thing to do before the inevitable and worrying reckoning with his parents about all the implications of her failures. She gulped noticeably as she answered to her father.

“I do, daddy. But before that we’ll have to go tell Yarel’s sister the good news. Chomper’s parents hurt her earlier and it’s one of the reasons we did what we did. She has waited for us long enough.” She said silently, ashamed for forgetting Greentail even for a moment. Her parents exchanged glances and despite their differing thoughts on their daughter’s recent doings, they could see that this was something she’d have to do before exchanging the news to them. Pearl nodded to her and Yarel after a moment in approval.

“Don’t take too long, Ruby. The sharpteeth are still out there and I’m sure all of us want to hear each other’s stories. Stay safe.” She said, looking at the two younger omnivores approvingly. Ruby gave her mother one last smile before nodding to Yarel. She was more than happy to tell Greentail the good news after all that had happened during the past hour. The fast runner could only hope this day wouldn’t turn sour once her parents learned of the depth of the mess she had got them all in.

With the fast runner family’s reunion, the most terrifying and mentally taxing journey in Ruby’s has come to an end. What’s more, Dein and Terri’s vengeful quest ended in a failure but even then, what kind of reward does this victory hold for Ruby? Greentail’s injury and the two sharpteeth’s shadow will hang above her for a long time, especially as the future is unlikely be all bright even now… With this chapter, Separate Ways exceeds 200 000 words which is a great milestone for this fic. It doesn’t seem too long ago since I started this story but here we are nearly a year later! I hope you found this chapter a worthy continuation to my most liked story and tell me what you think of this installment!

Ducky123: There definitely happened many things here but I felt things needed to get moving in order to preserve the story’s flow. I could certainly have developed things further before this point but I felt these events had to happen now in order to prevent the plot from beginning to drag. It really seems like fight should have been written more slowly, though. Still, it’s good to see you’re enjoying Peak’s antics as we’ll hear more of him soon enough.


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« Reply #70 on: March 27, 2018, 10:07:39 PM »
Ah… and now we get to see what Ruby’s family is up to.  The dialogue between Detras and Arial is quite in character for how I imagine him, loving to his children but also not wanting to hide the hardship of the world from them.  Though the fact that his mate was described as severely injured, and the fact that she is not involved in the initial scene, did initially make me fear for what may have transpired to her.

And speaking of severe injury, we are once again confronted with Greentail’s lingering discomfort before the reminder of what is after them rears its ugly head.  Terri is limping badly in the Cold Time’s bitter snow, but she is still a threat to them if they again have their scent captured by the large predators.  Which leads to Ruby having a daring plan that I am sure Detras would both be proud of and horrified by.

The resulting confrontation between Detras and Chomper’s parents, and his ability to escape them just in time, is quite well done and believable.  The elder fastrunner is saved in the end by his lifetime of knowledge of his own abilities, and a healthy dose of luck.  A luck that nearly ran out for all of the half-teeth in the resulting melee that followed.  Ruby’s plan nearly led to the unraveling of both her companions and her family, but in the end they managed to win an incomplete victory over their two former allies.  Though now I can only guess how Detras and Pearl will react to the knowledge that Ruby’s friends were chased from the valley, and that Chomper has been killed.  In many ways their hopes for a united front against Redclaw seems to be a forlorn dream.  Now survival has to be an end in itself.

This was a nice chapter as always. (: I look forward to see what happens next now that the fastrunners are again united.

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


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« Reply #71 on: April 12, 2018, 03:45:18 AM »
This chapter was packed full with action, wow!

First of all, it was a nice respite to finally see the story from the POV of Ruby's folks and it didn't occur to me that they were headed the same place after all.

It seems brute force lost against the fastrunners' wits, however the sharpteeth had enough sense to retreat as the battle was lost. It was a very thrilling and well-written battle and I'm looking forward (dreading?) to read about Ruby telling her long story to her parents. How are things going to develop now and what can be done about Greentail? And above all.... how well will they get along with each other? I'll stay tuned :)
Note to self: finally create that signature lazy bum! :P


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« Reply #72 on: April 22, 2018, 03:07:27 PM »
On the Doorstep of Disaster

For a seemingly endless amount of time, the world around the young flyer seemed to be but one white prison with an impenetrable wall isolating him from his surroundings. To make matters worse, the cries of pain and death made him feel more miserable than in a long. long time, knowing that there was a chance he’d never meet his beloved uncle again. Petrie’s teeth ached as he gritted them together in deep fear, his face a stiff mask of utter despair. There were some commands and orders which rang through the endless skies but the overall noise prevented him from making any sense from them.

Every now and then, the young boy took a look at the rest of the children around him, knowing that each and every one of them had a loved one risking their lives for the herd. Petrie was slightly bothered as he couldn’t see Ortin or Glide anywhere and to be completely frank, he didn’t care anymore. If they thought they were so great and perfect, there was nothing he’d have to say to them anymore. Petrie had tried to see them as his first real friends since that fateful day but it seemed they were little better than Hoist and his friends. The flyer seethed at the mere thought of their last meeting which he resolved to cast away from his mind for now.

However, he soon saw something which brought his attention back into the present. At first, he noticed nothing out of the ordinary but after a moment, he realized he had been right. The sounds of battle seemed to dissipate in a matter of seconds, the never-ending shouts of the dying dinosaurs fading into the ghastly curtain of the arriving Cold Time. At first, Petrie stood still in order to hear if the fighting would resume but as the moments flew by, gasps of uncertainty and calls of the survivors filled the scene above him. The battle was over. And that meant he’d have to go see that Pterano was okay! Petrie dashed into the whiteness with a great speed but his quick advance was quickly halted by a slightly larger flyer whom the boy knew, to his great regret.

“We have to stay in a group until we are told it is safe! Turn around and join the others!” The speaker was Eleria, the insufferable flyer who had tricked him into Hoist’s trap a few days ago. Right now, her expression wasn’t particularly vile or threatening but if she thought Petrie had even a remnant of respect towards her after her last trick, she was badly mistaken.

“Petrie will go see that uncle Pterano still alive! Get out of me way!” The younger flyer said to the girl’s apparent displeasure. It was true that she despised the outsider heartily but this had been one thing she had tried to help the best she could. The children had been ordered to stay together in emergency situations and as an older dinosaur, it was her charge to keep the younger flyers in line. It was for this reason she answered to Petrie in a louder voice than before.

“You’ll see about that soon enough but you cannot go there alone! We don’t know if it’s safe yet!” She said in growing annoyance, frustrated by having to fight with this puny moron who shouldn’t be here in the first place. However, Eleria wasn’t the only one getting fed up with this scene. No matter what the herd protocol said, Pterano was his only loved one who was still around in this unsavory place. Had Eleria been any other flyer, the choice whether to listen to her would have been a hard one but now it was a no-brainer. He merely snorted towards her before catching a downward current of air in an effort to lose her as quickly as possible.

“Me no care about what you say! You may tell the others what you want but it make no difference to Petrie!” He said before he quickly bypassed the girl who was left to stare at the white fall of the ground sparkles, secretly content with the fact that this would hardly help Petrie in the eyes of the rest of the herd members. He was making her and Hoist’s efforts far too easy.

Heavy panting accompanied his gasps as he looked at his opponent suddenly flee from the battle. He felt like he had been forced to face dozens of enemies in battle but to his relief, he had only suffered one serious injury: a long and deep cut into his right thigh. However, it would hardly become a life-threatening one which made him luckier than many other survivors of this senseless bloodbath. However, as he regained his breath, a serious question rose to his mind. Why had the attackers left this abruptly? They had suffered heavy casualties but what had they expected by attacking with a much smaller force against them? Had they actually dreamt of a total victory or did they have some other objective? The later possibility chilled him to the bone but anything could have happened in the horrifying heat of the battle. The scene around him was completely calm as his surviving allies had spread out in a large area in order to avoid any kinds of attacks to their back in the fight. The flyer was just about to go investigate the situation when he suddenly heard a relieved and familiar cry behind him.

“Uncle Pterano! You alive!” The older male turned to look at his nephew who looked at him with a mixture of happiness and alarm. Knowing he could have very well fallen today, he was more than glad to see Petrie again. However, the scene was far from safe and that was the first thing that mattered here.

“Petrie? What are doing here? You should have stayed with the others! The battle has ended for now but we don’t know if they will be attacking again!” The light-brown flyer said as he realized he was already neglecting his orders by not concentrating his whole attention into guarding the herd’s safety. The younger flyer’s face fell slightly as he realized his mistake but he was still more than happy with knowing his uncle was alive.

“Me know but Petrie wanted to see everything’s alright. It was terrifying to just wait out there without knowing what was happening here.” He said, cocking his head slightly. Pterano cringed at the answer, understanding Petrie’s completely. However, he still had to send him back to safety until it was clear what had happened.

“Well, now you know. I’m glad you were so worried about me but please, wait patiently for my return if things like these ever happen again. Is that alright?” He asked, giving the younger flyer a friendly smile. Petrie returned the expression and was just about to answer before another, louder voice reached their ears.

“What the hell happened here? All the survivors, report to me at once!” Pterano turned to look in the voice’s direction, immediately recognizing the voice. It had taken a long time for Nira to reach the scene of the battle but at least it seemed like she believed the threat was over for now. The older flyer looked at his nephew and said the obvious to him.

“Return to the others now. I am needed elsewhere.” The older flyer asked before heading towards the direction of the voice, dreading the news he’d probably hear soon enough. Many flyers had fallen this day and it was more than probable he had lost someone he respected highly. Petrie, on the other hand, retained his earlier happiness at the fact that his uncle had made it. It was likely that someone would voice their disappointment at his absence with the others but none of that mattered at this point. His uncle’s survival was the only thing the boy had cared about and that one blessing had been granted.

Nira looked at the group of flyers gather around her, feeling increasingly sickened at the few number of the flyers in Nimble’s wing who had made it through the savage attack. She bashed herself without an end as she thought about the time it had taken her to gather her group and head to Nimble’s help. It seemed that the battle had ended in the defenders’ victory but many questions remained. Who was the aggressor and why had he or she attacked? And most importantly, where was Nimble herself? Cold shivers creeped across the female’s back as she called to her fellow leader.

“Nimble? Please report to me, now!” She tried to call again but to no avail. Her fellow leader should have heard her call by now, despite humming wind of this frigid season. The only voice that met her ears was Lenel’s equally troubled voice as he moved to the female’s side.

“We have to keep searching for her, Nira. She may be wounded or simply lost in this cursed haze!” He said, looking in increasing anger into the sky which only seemed to become more covered by the ground sparkles. The mere thought of one of the main leaders of the herd falling like this was a revolting one for him as he could only imagine the repercussions of such a loss. Nira looked at the male for a while but before he got the chance to answer, one of the gathered flyers stepped forward.

“It’s no use, Lenel. Nimble is gone.” He said simply, willing to make his main point clear. Kero had stood by his leader’s side during the fight even if he had been separated from her just before the end. However, the sight of his beloved leader’s shadow dropping through the white sky was one that he’d never forget, no matter how hard he’d hope otherwise. His words earned a quick gasp from Nira who looked at the male in utter shock.

“How do you know this? Did you see her falling? Answer me!” She asked in a loss of better words. She could see that Kero was being genuine but there could be a possibility he had mistaken in his claim. She knew none of the deputies would make these kinds of claims without proof. Kero didn’t waste a second before he gave his answer. He was on the verge of tears but his loyalty to his fallen leader demanded him to calm down.

“I did even though I was too far away to help her. The attackers manage to drive us away from her and their leader took her out after a long fight. She was about to win until… until Longcrest betrayed her.” Kero spat the name out as a shocked face appeared on Nira and Lenel’s faces. Longcrest betraying Nimble? He had been her most loyal ally and one of the most respected members of the entire herd! He had always been there to help when he had been needed and he had saved the herd far more than once. This overflow of information slowly filled Lenel’s mind with dread as he couldn’t even begin to think how this would affect the already-tense atmosphere in the herd. As long as this case hadn’t been completely dealt with, he had to be vigilant to try to maintain the remnants of calm in the herd. Willing to get some proof of Kero’s words, he suddenly turned at Pterano and the female deputy, Taria, and spoke to them in a silent voice.

“Go look to the ground and try to get a good guess about our casualties. Also… if you’d find Nimble, I’d be grateful.” He said simply, his gesture followed by a similar order from Nira. None of the flyers hesitated for a moment as each of them wanted to do their best to help on this horrifying hour. For now at least, the two seemed to be on a similar page on how to proceed from this dark situation. Nira then nodded to the male in clear regret and growing disgust at the situation.

“How could this happen? Why didn’t she ask for help faster?” At this point, Nira didn’t wait for a good, definitive answer but the bitter, angered growl that she heard stunned her without measure.

“Nimble put her trust in Peak but he… he declined her request! And because of that, she is… she is…” The male’s earlier, forced calm broke immediately as the irrevocability of what had happened crept into his mind. Just like that, because of one flyer’s mistake and another’s treachery, the kindhearted, wise leader he had followed his whole life was gone forever. However, his sorrow was soon abruptly stopped as the flyer who had caused all of this suddenly appeared from the sky above him with a completely emotionless face, doing his absolute best to hide any traces of his true feelings about the situation.

“I did but only to defend myself and those who put their trust in me! I did as I saw best and I’ll stick by my decision!” He said as he joined the other leaders, earning a stunned and outraged glance from Nira who couldn’t believe what she was hearing. After all this, Peak still attempted to create the impression that he was completely innocent in this tragedy? She immediately flew closer to the male and spoke to him, her voice radiating with anger.

“What have you done, Peak? Our herd is nothing if we cannot trust in each other’s help! We have saved each other many times in the past already! D… do you have any idea what this means?” She asked rhetorically but Lenel realized there was something else to be done before they could get to the real process on deciding how to move on forward from this day. Peak had finally gone too far with being nearly directly involved in the death of one of the four leaders of the herd and he wouldn’t escape from this without a punishment. But that would have to wait for a while longer.

“None of us does yet, Nira, but we have to gather the herd and take them to safety before we’ll decide on how to best secure our herd’s stability. Peak, we will talk about this soon enough.” Lenel said, knowing more than well that his lifelong effort to unite at least some flyers together was under serious risk here. He couldn’t uphold that effort alone, though, so he’d have to try to make Peak see reason before things would escalate too far. He knew many in the herd had already grown hostile to some of their leaders and it wouldn’t take a lot for the herd to split apart, if not descend into violence completely.

Peak looked at Lenel with a murderous glare but he understood that he’d have to comply for now. His reputation was also on the line here and any further failures could shake also his followers’ trust in him. Willing to try to take the initiative before his peers, Lenel let out a loud sky, rallying the herd to the three leaders. Still deeply stunned by all that had happened, Nira glanced one, last hostile look at the orange male but she knew they couldn’t keep the herd under uncertainty any longer. They deserved to know what had happened and any further delays in telling them the news would be interpreted as hesitation or incapability from their part.

It didn’t take long before the sky around the three started to fill the gathering dinosaurs. Many of them were badly injured but most of them seemed only confused and concerned about what had just happened. All of them knew there had been a battle but its briefness and mysterious nature bothered many among them. Lenel turned towards the gathering flyers, knowing addressing them would be up to him as it had been him who had called them in the first place. Only at this point he realized how badly the loss of his old, trusted friend had hit him as his voice fell clearly as he addressed the herd.

“I apologize for the delay before calling all of you but it took us this long to get a hold on today’s events ourselves. We were attacked in a cowardly raid and many of us lost their lives trying to defend the rest of our precious herd. As of now, none of knows for sure what has happened but with a heavy heart, I announce we must assume the worst concerning Nimble.”

That announcement hit Glide savagely as she listened to Lenel’s words. Had he actually just claimed that Nimble had died in an attack like this? But… that couldn’t be! She had been one of the flyers she had looked up to all her life as had many other children along with her. She took some, desperate hope in the fact that Lenel wasn’t sure about Nimble’s whereabouts but she knew he wouldn’t make such statements lightly. She took a brief gulp before she said the flyer beside her the most important thing swirling in her mind.

“That isn’t true! Of course Nimble should have survived that attack with ease… there is a chance she’s still alive, isn’t there?” She looked at her mother who was flying beside her. The older flyer, named Skybeak, frowned deeply at her daughter’s question. She had often disapproved of the girl’s overly optimistic view of things at the expense of simply looking the reality in the eyes. The older dinosaur looked at Lenel in slight worry, the magnitude of the herd’s loss also apparent in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Glide. Lenel knows what he’s talking about and she would most likely be here if she were able. Nimble would never let us worry for her without a good reason.” She said mournfully, equally shocked by her loss as her daughter. Nimble had made a name for herself even before joining with the other herds, her never-ending efforts to help her followers in any ways possible becoming one of her greatest assets during her life.

However, there was one time Glide remembered more clearly than any other, one day when Nimble had become the hero for her she was today. It was almost exactly four Cold Times ago when a massive flying rock had caused a large fire in a forest the herd had been resting on that distant day. Most of the flyers had been sleeping when the disaster struck and much like on this day, the quickly spreading fires seemed to make any kind of meaningful coordination of the herd impossible. Nira, Peak and Lenel were once again unable to come to an understanding on how to proceed while a few families had been surrounded against a massive cliff by the fire, the flames preventing their escape into the sky. Among those trapped had been one of her dear childhood friends, another girl called Helin. Against the agreements between the four leaders, Nimble had decided to act quickly and decisively, immediately gathering a group of volunteering flyers to find those needing help without any concern for herself.

Nimble and her group soon found the three families slowly being surrounded by the merciless fire and almost instinctually, she knew what to do. There had been a small lake nearby and she ordered the others to get some water to pave way for the poor dinosaurs’ escape. After wards, she had been the first among those to gather the water on large tree stars to let Helin and the others to escape from their death trap. She had even helped them out of the circle herself, suffering many disgusting injuries due to the fire herself. This had been only one case where she had proven her bravery as a leader and there had probably been other, even more important ones but that day had been one when Nimble had concretely saved her friend from a terrible death. However, those thoughts were interrupted by a male voice from her right. Her parents had immediately come to search for her after the fight had ended for which she was highly grateful. However, what his father Northwind said next served only as a continuation to the reasons why she preferred to spend as little time with her family as she only could.

“Only the strongest make it through these fights. We don’t know yet what happened but a flyer must never let himself be outsmarted by others. I’m sorry you had to hear this, Glide, but I hope you see why we want you to train as hard as you simply can. You won’t survive for long if you let yourself being beaten by an outsider.” He said silently, willing to seize this chance to underline his point to his daughter. However, Glide snorted as a response and answered in a cold voice.

“Whatever, dad. I’m doing my best but this isn’t the time to begin preaching me about that! Don’t you realize it?” She asked, earning a murdering glare from her father. However, Northwind decided against pressing the point as he realized it would only escalate the situation which wasn’t something he wanted after the horrifying battle. Their conversation was soon ended completely as Lenel finished his speech.

“So, in case it isn’t clear yet, we will stop here for today to tend to our wounded and investigate what happened. I, Nira and Peak will hold a meeting very soon and we’ll address you again as soon as we can. I understand most of you are upset by what happened but I ask you, keep the calm until we know who the attacker was and how this could happen.” Lenel forced his gaze to remain neutral as he looked at the many angered and confused flyers before him. However, it seemed that for now, none of them were prepared to question his order. He simply prayed that wouldn’t change later on. With a forced, heavy wave, he invited the others to join him on his search for a safe place until this nightmare could be dealt with once and for all.

The sight that met his eyes in the ground was a truly sickening one. Here and there lied fallen flyers whose bodies were sickeningly crushed against the rocks, dead trees and small hills dotting the landscape. Pterano gulped in clear fear and sadness as the fresh corpses of the dinosaurs who only an hour ago had been thinking, living flyers filled his whole sight before his eyes. This wasn’t of course the first time he had seen this terrible sight but there was something in the dead flyers slowly getting buried under the white ground sparkles that touched him deeply. The sight reminded him of a dear memory slowly vanishing from a dinosaur’s mind with time, slowly disappearing as if they never existed, just as these poor flyers.

“Let’s split up. You two search the southern part of the battlefield and we’ll go north.” The speaker was one of Nira’s deputies, a rather young female whose expression was rather fearful and even untrusting. Even if nobody had said it aloud just yet, it wasn’t likely that the attacker, whoever he had been, had happened to simply find the herd’s weakest spot in the middle of the falling ground sparkles in full attack readiness. No, the other herd had known about their movements and as far as the four flyers were concerned, it could very well be anyone in the herd. Taria frowned at those words but she knew that was the most logical way on how to proceed.

“Very well. Call us if you find her before us.” She said as she took off towards the more southern parts of the wide field that was quickly being painted completely white. She, too, cringed as she looked at the crushed bodies of the flyers around her but there was nothing to be gained from showing pity for the fallen. There were a few familiar faces here and there but thankfully, none of them were anything more than acquittances to her. Yet, her mind swirled in the unanswered questions of the day.

Taria had always been one of the flyers who had heartily advocated against putting their herd’s future into the hands of other, possibly untrustworthy leaders. She had become Lenel’s first deputy many Cold Times ago and ever since she had tried to support his efforts in bringing the four herds together, no matter her own misgivings about the issue. She didn’t regret any of that, though, as she had found a lovely mate and in time, they had had three children who Taria had sworn to protect more than anything in her life. And right now, the other herd’s attack and the lingering distrust inside the four herds was threatening what mattered most to her.

The female flyer shivered slightly as another cold gust hit her eyes and threw her back momentarily. The wind had thrown the dead in an unbelievably wide area and the search would grow only more desperate as more of the white sparkles fell to the ground. Taria suddenly saw a flyer with a similar light color to Nimble but as she grabbed her up from the ground, she realized her mistake. The fallen flyer’s body had been crushed but enough remained for her to know it was not her. She took a brief sigh in growing desperation as she heard an agonized but clear call from Pterano.

“Come here, Taria. Kero spoke the truth.” He called as the female looked at him in surprise. With careful movements, she began to approach him but to be completely honest, she felt no fear, no regret at those news. She had never looked up to Nimble or even respected her as she had often seen the now-deceased flyer as a weak and too hesitant for someone in her position. Taria’s expression was highly unmoved as she arrived to Pterano’s side.

Nimble lied in the middle of a small hill in the middle of the large plains, the ground sparkles already burying much of her quickly cooling body. Unlike many other flyers’ remains, Nimble’s face was practically unscathed by the fall but it was more than clear to the two that her whole backside was completely crushed to pieces. Pterano sighed in regret as another cold gust moved past him. Nimble’s face had forever frozen into a mask of shock and horror, a testament to Longcrest’s betrayal and her untimely death. The flyer’s light-blue color almost blended into the whiteness surrounding her and Pterano knew there was only one thing left to do.

With minimal gestures, the male kneeled beside the deceased flyer and put his hands on her eyes and slowly and gently, pulled her eyelids down, as if to bid good luck on her final flight to the Great Beyond. After that brief gesture, he rose up and looked into the far distance to see the wind throwing the ground sparkles all around. Many lives had been extinguished today but only one of them would be remembered in the future. A terrifying thought for all those who had given their lives for the dozens of other dinosaurs whose lives had ended on this day. With a silent voice, Pterano spoke to the other flyer.

“There’s nothing more here for us. Let’s go give our report to Lenel.” And after those words, he gave the call the call to the two other flyers further in the distance. After they had reached him, the four dinosaurs left that one place for the very last time. The small, wind-beaten hill in the middle of the endless wastes of the Mysterious Beyond, the nearby small stream’s waters gentle lipping bidding farewell to the flyer who only a small while ago had worked for her herd’s best as she had always done.

A gentle thud could be heard as the orange flyer’s feet hit the ground below him. Peak took a few breaths to calm himself down from the many hours of constant flying even if he knew there was no time for it really. He was slightly relieved that the battle had not resumed but he knew another fight was very soon in the horizon. He frowned deeply as he looked at the rest of the herd landing on this small plain which still held some, withered remains of green food, full well knowing the seriousness of what had happened. But if the others thought they could single-handedly tell him what to do, they were in for a surprise.

Yet, deep down Peak knew he had made a mistake. If it was proven beyond any doubts, he would be ready to apologize and make amends before Nimble’s followers but he had done what any sensible leader should have. He had shielded his own herd from any ambushes and made sure it wouldn’t be them who had to suffer. Nobody could deny that even if he knew his hand was far from a good one in the coming argument. He knew Lenel had grown to despise him heartily and Nira wouldn’t likely be any softer towards him either. He looked at the others in worry before he raised his gaze at the small group of flyers who had followed him closely.

His heart grew heavy once again as he saw his mate’s absence in the line of his family, the fate having separated them only a few months before. Only one of his brothers, his aunt and his two children, as well as Ortin remained of his glorious line. It pained him to see them in such small numbers but it made it only so much more important to safeguard their future. He spoke to them as they landed one by one, knowing he didn’t have a lot of time before he’d have to join the others in this critical meeting.

“Stay here while I’ll go put the others in their place. I won’t let them dishonor Nimble’s memory by trying to use her death to blackmail me.” He said coldly, knowing the hypocrisy of his words but his family knew nothing about what had happened. He didn’t like lying to them but the delicate situation left him no choice. He looked in slight worry as his daughter answered to him.

“But why would they do so? None of this is your fault!” She asked with an utterly innocent voice which made the older flyer hesitate for a moment. The blind belief her daughter was showing towards him was truly heartwarming but he had to think about his appearances. With the coldness and unmovable composure which had become his trademark, Peak answered to the young girl.

“We are all just worried about what will happen now, Gust. I’ll tell more when I have some more information about all this.” Peak said, preparing to leave for the inevitable meeting. However, he was once more interrupted by another of the young ones.

“Just make sure all of this will end now! I don’t want anyone to suffer the same fate as dad and all the others!” Ortin said, his face seeming disturbingly haunted as the ghosts of his own tragedy returned to his mind after all the death he had seen today. The yesterday’s meeting with Petrie had already saddened him greatly and even now, he wanted to think of the other boy as a friend. However, all the drama between the two and Glide as well as the sudden battle had turned his mind into a completely unsolvable mess. All he wanted now was some stability to decided what should be done in the future. Peak looked at his young relative with a slightly sympathetic look, knowing the depth of his sorrow. Even if Ortin wasn’t his own son, he owned it to his cousin to keep the boy safe as long as he could.

“You have my word about it, Ortin. I’ll do my best to make the others see reason. Stay safe while I’m gone.” The orange flyer said as he took off towards a small dale by the river surrounded by range of hills. There he’d make sure to do all in his power to keep his family’s honor intact, no matter the cost.

The female flyer eyed the other dinosaurs around her, the seriousness of the moment more than tangible in the air. It wasn’t usual that the leader’s mates were invited to these kinds of gatherings which was another indicator of what was at stake here and Sireia would make her best to support her mate and the duo’s lifelong quest even now. She stood at Lenel’s side, making it more than clear she would act as more than as a mere spectator today.

Other dinosaurs present were Nira and her sister Haste as well as four of the herd members who had stood by Nimble’s side at the decisive hour. It felt extremely awkward to have only three of the leading families together instead of the usual four as Nimble had never taken a mate nor had any children. As a further aspect to her tragedy, her revered family had died with her. However, those thoughts mattered little as Peak’s form appeared in the horizon. Sireia felt awkward herself as the four survivors of Nimble’s group hadn’t had the time to tell nearly anything of value yet and so the nature of today’s battle would be had to be investigated in this meeting as well. Sireia looked with an unreadable expression as Peak landed near the others, the flyers forming a rough circle between the low hills. The ground sparkles were still falling with the same intensity as before but the attendees were close enough to each other for the weather to be of little consequence. Seeing everyone was present, Lenel took the liberty to speak the first words of the gathering.

“We all know we’re here to try to come up with some ideas on how to regain our herd’s trust after today’s horrible tragedy. I could already hear some of our followers gossip about our inability to keep them safe.” The pale flyer said before taking a brief pause. The other leaders looked at each other in suspicion while the flyers who had witnessed Nimble’s downfall looked mostly outraged. Lenel himself was seething internally, wanting nothing more than to teach a lesson or two to Peak about abandoning one’s allies in the hour their need. Nira continued from where Lenel had left off, knowing there was no need to hide any of the issues from the other flyers here.

“If we understood correctly, Nimble and her group were attacked directly and the attacker fled before we could do anything to help. While the question about how they knew about our position at all in that weather is a good question in itself, there are even more disturbing things at play here. Namely the honored Longcrest’s betrayal and Peak’s failure to lend his aid in the thick of the battle.” Nira cast an accusing glance at the male which immediately prompted a response. Nira wasn’t any more content with the orange male than Lenel but she had to restrain her true feelings in an effort to keep the meeting calm.

“And with traitors like him, any sensible flyer should hesitate to rush to battle judging by only one flyer’s words. I will apologize to the herd if you can prove there wasn’t a larger group of traitors among us and that the damned attacker wasn’t threatening all of us. Not before that.” Peak said with a louder voice which he dropped slightly after realizing escalating the situation would do very little to help his position. However, those words failed miserably in trying to keep the others from getting agitated. Kero immediately turned to look at Peak and growled to him in outrage.

“”One flyer”? Nimble herself sent me, one of her deputies, to seek help! What should have I done differently!? You killed her just as much as the attackers did, Peak!” The young flyer cried in rage, willing to extract his own justice on Peak immediately. Seeing that this argument would soon get out of hand, Lenel crossed his hands and spoke before Peak could answer.

“I fear Kero might be right but we mustn’t make any false accusations. No one knows what they’ll do in times of danger and we must wait until the end of this meeting before we’ll blame anyone directly.” He said even if his face communicated his disgust at Peak’s actions. He looked in slight surprise as Haste started to speak next. The female was often grumpy and overly self-righteous which caused her to be relatively disliked within the eyes of most of the other herd members.

“Then let us stop rambling and try to get something done! You four, did you see anything about the attackers or their leader? I hope you didn’t come here just to waste our time.“ She said as her usual angry tone earned some annoyed glances. Haste wasn’t usually invited to these kinds of meetings but Nira wanted someone she believed she could trust to accompany her today. She had made her distaste at Nira’s decisions clear in the past but apparently the two were still in somewhat good terms with each other. Kero and the other three survivors of the heat of the battle looked at her in anger before one rather young female stood forward. She refrained from any kinds of angered looks, her mind’s eye instead focusing on those vague forms in that white sky.

“I think I saw the one whom the others seemed to follow. It was all very unclear and blurred as you might understand but I think it was a dark brown male. He had an unusually large crest but otherwise, he didn’t seem all that strong physically. However, his moves were very quick and his constant attacks caused a constant threat to Nimble. Oh, poor Nimble…” She shook her head as she tried to wave off the growing melancholy of this day. Sireia narrowed her eyes as she listened to those words. Almost instinctually, she demanded another answer from the younger female.

“Do you remember anything of note about his voice or his face?” She asked in slight expectation, the younger female’s descriptions stirring some memories in her mind. She had met many famous flyers in her life and she couldn’t say for sure if her guess is right judging only by those vague descriptions. She listened with great interest as one of the other flyers stepped forward and answered that question.

“I don’t know about his voice but I thought I saw a long, gaping scar in his throat. It must have been near to a lethal one back when he received it.” At this point, another flyer also realized whom the others were talking about. All the gazes turned to Peak as he spoke to the others.

“I always knew that cursed Deron would spell trouble again. I should have finished him when I had the chance.” He said with an angered, faraway look in his eyes. The name was unknown to all others in the herd which prompted a slightly annoyed question from Nira. She glanced at her mate, as if to ask whether he knew anything about the issue.

“Who is Deron and how do you know about him? Speak!” The atmosphere of distrust only increased further as it became clear this had been a threat Peak had never told the others about. More and more seemed to be learned about him by the minute which hardly made his situation any easier. Peak spat to his right before he gave his answer.

“He was an arrogant upstart I met many Cold Times ago on one of the driest seasons I can remember. He tried to challenge me and my herd for one of the last patches of green food anywhere near and of course that lowborn, stupid boy lost! He had managed to make quite a name beforehand but after I had totally humiliated him before his followers, I thought he had learned his lesson. It was only later I heard he had survived and willing to have his revenge against me.” He said bitterly, clearly bothered by these news. Those words quickly earned another outburst from Kero.

“So you knew that we had a potentially dangerous enemy somewhere yet you never bothered to even tell us about it! I guess it was your idea to let us think we were safe and let your “allies” do your dirty work for you! Is that it?” He cried, all of his anger slowly erupting out from his mind. Peak, however, had had enough. He moved closer to the insolent flyer and before anybody could react, he scratched a long, gaping wound to the other male’s cheek and growled to him in deep hate.

“You aren’t fit to blame me about anything, weakling! Say that one more time and…” His words were quickly cut short as Kero attempted to repay his attack in kind, his arm only to be grabbed by the older dinosaur but just as he was about to continue his assault, Kero’s three companions suddenly surrounded Peak and tied him against a nearby rock. He was just about to object when Lenel suddenly walked towards him, his eyelids trembling in unreleased hate.

“When I and Sireia invited you to join our growing numbers, we made it more than clear that we should act as one and share all our knowledge with each other to counter these kinds of threats! Not only have you directly betrayed your word but you have also attacked your fellow herd member without a good reason! What a complete waste!” He said as he prevented himself from losing his patience even more badly. However, Peak quickly fought off the other dinosaurs and moved closer to Lenel and answered to him with a similar tone. He took slight relief from the knowledge that Lenel couldn’t take this matter any further or he’d risk a complete breakdown of his whole herd now that Nimble was no longer here.

“And some of you have betrayed me even more severely! Someone in this herd commanded that old fool to murder Wenan, my cousin, and you forced me to back down from finding out who! I never thought Deron would have the guts to attack us again and that’s why I never told about him! These kinds of claims are meaningless when compared to the fact that we have had two traitors among us lately and who knows how many more are lurking among us!” Peak shouted, his suspicious look making it more than clear that he meant that he didn’t trust anyone around him. He had already thought about it but there was no reason to let out his final trump card… not yet. Lenel looked at him for a moment but he soon decided that pushing this issue further wouldn’t be helpful. He needed Peak and in an effort to this straightly accusing him of treachery would truly risk a breakdown of his life’s work. He merely waved his head and turned around while giving his answer.

“That’s what I’d like to know, Peak. As things are, anyone could be the one who ordered his death. I had thought that that old flyer acted alone but today puts things in a completely new perspective.” He said bitterly, looking at the others present in growing anger. Since when had his young self’s dream turned into this haven of plotters and hypocritical backstabbing? Peak looked after the light-colored flyer in an expression which was no less antagonistic than that of Lenel’s. The threatening situation was quickly shattered by a remark from Haste. After those words, it was clear he was far from informed about the whole truth of the herd’s disarray.

“Why in earth do you bring this up again? Wenan was killed by that one traitor and that’s that! Why would these tragedies be connected in any way?” She asked in a suspicious look, clearly not enjoying the situation in any way. However, her question quickly answered by Sireia whose eyes bored deep into the male.

“Because there is someone or some group inside our herd that is trying to weaken us and hurt our chances to work together! Never before has any of our family members been killed by our own followers and when that is followed by another hit such as this, there is no doubt about it. Longcrest was one of them and now he can spread the information about our plans to any other madman who yearns for our blood! And the worst part is that I don’t think those two were even working alone! With Nimble gone, they have already succeeded in seriously threatening our authority.” Sireia said in clear anger. Her comment was quickly rebuked by Nira who seemed mentally exhausted by all that was happening but her point only underlined the great dilemma the three leaders were now forced to face.

“What do you propose we do, then? Torture our own herd members until they break down and say they were willing to kill their own friends? Is that what we’ve come to?” Nira cried to Sireia who immediately gave her answer. However, none of them noticed one additional pair of eyes which appeared under the shadow of one of the hills surrounding the scene.



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Separate Ways
« Reply #73 on: April 22, 2018, 03:10:30 PM »

Petrie hadn’t managed to get a moment’s worth of rest ever since the end of the battle. His uncle had been busy with his own duties and he simply didn’t want to suffer the agonizing atmosphere of the herd. As the long, lonely minutes passed on slowly and the extremely worried looks of the herd’s leaders became more apparent, the boy noticed his old instincts make themselves known once again. As on so many occasions in the Great Valley, his seemingly-peaceful life was turned upside down and Petrie wasn’t a flyer to simply sit idly as things went horribly wrong. That will to act was one the things his friends had planted too deeply within him for it to ever leave him, the flyer figured.

His heart beat in his chest as he peeked to look at the older flyers, the ground sparkles conveniently making it hard to spot the small dinosaur leaning against a far larger rock. There were a few flyers circling the skies above him, most likely guarding the gathered leaders’ safety, but with any luck they wouldn’t see him through the ground sparkles and shady hiding place. The boy didn’t know himself if there was any reason for him to take this risk but it was at least better than to stay with the others and be forced to listen to their whining or, even worse, meet Eleria or Hoist alone. The young flyer peeked towards the gathering, just in time to hear Sireia’s angered words.

“No but we have to make the others trust us again and slowly, one by one, seek for the traitors and take them out! That’s the only way we can keep our herds as one!” She said, knowing her words were easier said than done. If there truly was a larger collusion between Deron and the members of the herd, it was likely they’d go to any lengths to hide their true loyalties. However, her ponderings were interrupted by Haste’s next remark.

“And then what? Do you really believe the others will approve of you secretly killing your own followers because of your doubts? When the word spreads of today’s battle, we all know to whom all the blame will be directed towards! They’ll demand action or we’ll all be seen as ineffective fools!” She shouted as she looked at Peak. The orange flyer looked at her with a murderous look but before he could answer, Lenel opened his mouth while scratching at the corner of his eye.

“We’ll get to that later, Haste, but first we should agree on the points we can all agree on. First of all, I second my mate’s proposition of finding the traitors among us. Of course we’ll have to explain this to the others but I think they’ll believe us if we simply act and work together. However, we have to use flyers no one knows will work for us as our eyes or our enemies will never reveal themselves.” He said in a tired voice, increasingly worried by this meeting’s conclusion. He knew this was one “easy” issue but Haste was right in that Nimble’s followers would never accept Peak escaping from his horrifying failure without a clear punishment. However, executing the possible traitors would be difficult without the cooperation of Peak’s herd which would require him to accept whatever sanctions were coming his way. Luckily, Nira answered to him before he could dwell further in his own fears.

“I agree. None of us knows what Deron and Longcrest are after and if our best tracker was indeed a traitor, none of the others can be counted out either. However, it would also help if we only knew more of our enemy. We should send someone to search for information about him from the other herds and if he has earned any additional enemies. We cannot let him get away with this.” Nira said, cringing at what was to come. However, she knew none of the leaders could ever again truly trust each other as there was a chance that some of them could, no matter how distasteful the thought was, be working together with Deron. Nimble’s absence made things extremely volatile and even before the others could know it, someone could have very easily took advantage of the chaos. All of the heads present turned to look at Peak as he answered.

“Indeed. While it may be my fault that he didn’t face his end long ago, I will grant my help and support to you on that upcoming search and investigations… if we keep Kero’s words a secret.” He said simply, quickly receiving a stunned glance from the other flyer. Kero was just about to object when he realized there was nothing to be gained from escalating the situation. A silence reigned for a few seconds as the others thought about how to answer best to Peak’s proposal. All of them knew his words were rather reasonable but on the other hand, hiding the truth would hardly benefit anyone in the long run. Lenel, knowing his lifelong project was on the line, looked at Peak and despite parts of his mind crying against what he was going to say, gave his answer to the orange-colored male.

“While I appreciate your cooperation, Peak, I’m afraid that won’t do. Do you really expect that to stay a secret given how many will be touched by your mistake? Do you expect us to dishonor Nimble and her family’s memory by lying about her downfall?” Lenel said, waiting for Nira to continue from where he had left off. This was the part the two had dreaded the most but they had decided this would be the only settlement to the herds’ feud that could stand a chance of success. The female walked to his side and with equally grave voice, she spoke to Peak.

“Such a decision, if it were revealed, would spell an end to our herd, Peak. All of us make mistakes but when a flyer is in your position and has your responsibility, those mistakes have consequences you have to pay. We have been forced to stomach your opposition to most of our plans for many Cold Times even if they have often hurt us more than benefited. We have always listened to your concerns and in return we’ve received only distrust and arrogance. Yet, time and time again, you have also proven to be a reasonable leader and a trusted ally but now, we ask you to once again show such wisdom. We ask you to leave the leadership of your herd and to pass it to one of your family emembers, most likely to your brother.” Nira said, never breaking her eye contact with Peak for a moment. She breathed heavily, knowing the next few seconds would decide many things about the herd’s future. After she had concluded, Peak’s expression stayed unmoving for a few moments, apparently registering what he had just heard. The tension was tangible in the air as he slowly raised his gaze to Lenel and Nira and as the words started to flow out of his mouth.

“So it was always about this, wasn’t it? Regardless of whether it was you or someone else who helped Deron in his despicable attack, I cannot believe you are attempting to use her death this directly for your own ends! Right after you blame me for trying to disrespect her memory? I will have none of this!” He panted as he looked at his peers, his worst fears slowly beginning to materialize before his very eyes. So the others were actually attempting to dethrone him in favor of his incapable, slow-witted brother! Oh, that would suit them very well! Peak nearly snapped as Lenel spoke to him, the tension between them once again growing to a dangerous degree.

“We rule over the others simply because we have proven to be capable of recreating the legendary deeds of our ancestors, Peak. So were you for a long time but you lost your right to claim Deria’s legacy when you failed your ally and those who trusted in you! That is the pact each of us has with our herds and when that pact is lost, so is your ability to lead the others. Do as you are told and we’ll let you stay with us and no further harm will come to you. I and Nira promise you this much.” Lenel said, hoping these old traditional ways would make Peak see reason. The light-colored knew he was correct but actually trying to strip another member of the Great Families of their power was an extremely rare punishment, one that was most often replaced by some other option. Yet, neither Nira nor Lenel saw a better way to see this situation through. Peak immediately looked at his two opponents in disbelief, taking a short pause before he asked extremely sharply.

“You promise me a life of humiliation and defeat? Tell me honestly, Lenel and Nira, what kind of leader would accept such an ultimatum, especially when his own family is under serious threat? Would you doom your own children to a life of fear and shame? I demand you to pull black this demand at this very moment!” Peak cried to the other flyer who realized that this argument was getting extremely dangerous but even if he believed in Peak’s words, he and Nira had already put their own credibility on the line here. There could be no backing off now without at least a major compromise. He listened in gratefulness as he heard Nira take the matters in her own hands.

“And let your mistake go unpunished? You know as well as we do that this is the best, the only way to go forward! You have to swallow your pride and do what’s best for you and all of us! We promise we’ll keep you and your family safe. Or don’t you trust that any of them will be able to take your place as the head of your line? Do you really distrust them that much?” Nira tried to reason, inwardly understanding Peak’s hesitancy to negotiate about this issue but she also grew increasingly annoyed by his antics. She had accepted Lenel and Sireia’s original offer to unite the duo’s herds simply because she believed it would keep her own followers safe and that it could be a way for her to claim a more important place among all the flyers of the Mysterious Beyond. But now, the promise of safety seemed like a complete joke and the herd itself seemed to be unraveling at a rapid pace with Lenel not able to do much about it. In her heart, she slowly began to understand that things would never be able to return to what they were on this very morning. Nimble’s death had broken even the flickers of trust that had existed earlier.

The young flyer listened to the meeting in complete astonishment and worry. Had the wind somehow made him hear wrong or were Lenel and Nira really trying to force Peak to stand down? He hadn’t spent too much time within the herd but even he realized he was witnessing something of great importance. Petrie didn’t have the slightest of ideas how but Ortin and Glide had made the four, or now three, highest ranked flyers of the herd seem nearly indispensable for their safety. Peak had seemed like a hesitant but rather reasonable dinosaur during his joining contest and he could only guess about the reasons why he was suddenly this hated.

Suddenly, Petrie saw a vague shadow above him, reminding the boy that he wasn’t supposed to be here. Shortly after the guard’s passing, Petrie slowly crept deeper under the cliff and threw some more ground sparkles on himself. He shivered heavily but that was something that he was willing to go through in order to witness this meeting until the end. It was highly unlikely anyone would miss him, anyway.

“The question isn’t about whether I trust them but none of them are capable of taking my place and you know it as well as I do. In the end, your or any other dinosaur’s promises are worth completely nothing. Isn’t that right, Lenel?” Peak answered, taking a smile which immediately made the surrounding flyers’ blood run cold. The deep disgust and slowly released grudge were slowly released but none of them knew what the orange male actually meant. However, those words prompted the light colored dinosaur to step forward and answer in an angry voice. Every muscle in Lenel’s face was completely stiff as he spoke.

“And what does that mean, Peak? Are you now claiming we’ve betrayed you by forcing you to face the consequences of your own mistakes? Are you?” He said as he stared at Peak’s eyes. However, he was slightly taken aback as his opponent didn’t seem to care about his insult in the least. Instead, he took a few steps to his side and after a moment, he gave his answer.

“I see you’ve spent a lot of effort to hide your true intentions, haven’t you Lenel? When I was invited to your pathetic group of “allies”, you told me your only goals were the hopes of uniting at least some of our kind to the mighty, harmonious herd they were in the time of our old stories. There was never a word about your willingness to use us as mere stepping stones to finding your dear ancestor’s secret. I wonder why that was never brought up?” He said as all of the faces around him turned to stunned and disbelieving ones. What was Peak talking about? Olres’ story was well known to all of them but Lenel had never spoken of him to the others. Where had Peak’s sudden and unbelievable claim suddenly come from? All eyes turned to Lenel as he prepared to rebuke this outrageous attack.

“What in the name of the Bright Circle are you talking about? Olres’ secret is a mere story and no flyer in his right mind would ever even try to search for it! That claim is not only ludicrous but it also insults my family!” Lenel cried as he looked murderously at Peak. However, most of his disbelief was directed at the question of how Peak knew about it. Only Telo, his now-deceased teacher, and Sireia knew all about his motives and he trusted them both greatly. Peak disengaged from the standoff before he began to walk around, looking at each of the other attendees.

“I have more ways to gather knowledge than most would think. Isn’t it rather interesting that a leader of a dwindling herd suddenly has a vision to begin walking in the footsteps of our greatest legends seemingly without any special prize for himself? I’ve heard about the antics of Lenel’s herd’s own storyteller and nothing was more important to him than seeing the rebirth of Olres’ family! We have all been used but still, I wanted to see our effort succeed because of my own children, my own family! Yet, now I know how things really are.” Peak grinned, a sense of victory already apparent in the eyes of the others.

However, his words hit Nira the worst as her mind flew back to the day when Lenel had approached her for the very first time. Back then, she had also been gullible and inexperienced and she had only looked at things from the perspective of her own benefit. Of course, she had weighed heavily the threats of such a move but Lenel and Sireia’s friendly and excited faces had made her confident of their sincerity soon enough. That most beautiful of Warm Times had seemed like an endless blessing and soon enough, she had taken the duo’s cause as her own and not once had she looked back… until now. With a dark look, she turned to Lenel and asked him a question which only further increased the tension within the group of flyers.

“Lenel, you told me back then we would be building our future on the basis of our kind and families’ pasts. You even mentioned that “in time, we all will find whatever we are looking for.” Is that what you meant?” She asked in growing doubt and disbelief as she looked at the light-colored male. However, it wasn’t he who answered to her question. Sireia stepped towards her and narrowed her eyes heavily as she answered.

“We only meant what any flyer or our status would have said! What my mate said carried only a symbolic meaning of our kind’s destiny as a united kind of dinosaurs surrounded by those barbaric landwalkers. Peak has clearly gotten out of his mind.” She said as she looked at Peak who returned her glance. Her point was soon reinforced by Kero who wanted nothing more than to see Peak crushed in this argument.

“I second to that! Ever since Wenan’s death, he has been only a shadow of himself and coming up with lies to defend his words only proves it! Please, Lenel and Nira, relieve him of his command!” He said pleadingly to the two. However, Nira merely looked at the ground before she realized just how little there was for her to believe. Sireia had seemed far too eager to disprove Peak’s words and even then, she would hardly support the words of someone who in essence called her and her mate traitors and liars. Yet, it would be unlikely that she’d hear anything but lies and emotion-based claims from Peak either. However, the tension of the moment was momentarily broken by a loud cry less than one longneck’s length to their left.

“Who’s there? Show yourself!” A loud cry suddenly broke Petrie’s peace as the sudden screech penetrated the sky. He barely had the time to turn around until a menacing shadow seemed to drop right at him. The boy’s mind had already been already overflowing with the meeting and the feeling of dread had only grown with each passing second. The possibility of direct combat seemed very real and no matter what, this gathering would barely end without a major decision. However, all of that was swept aside as Petrie heard the sudden call. If he were caught peeking at this highly sensitive meeting, it would be probable that he might even be banished from the herd.

However, the guard had chosen his attacking direction cleverly. His large size blocked any hopes Petrie had of escaping in his direction, making the small spot between the hills his only option of even dreaming of escaping this threatening situation. If he was caught now, there was no telling of all the things he could be accused of. The boy took a sudden leap upwards, praying in his mind that the ground sparkles would hide him long enough for him to escape without being recognized. He owed that much to his uncle, if not for anyone else.

Without the least of warnings, another flyer suddenly flushed out from the sky right towards Petrie, clearly attempting to stop the young dinosaur’s flight. However, Petrie was far too angered at the whole world to let this another obstacle hinder him. Realizing that the guard had a far better wind than him, Petrie suddenly turned downward, hoping that this unexpected move would even the odds. He cringed slightly as his belly touched the white surface of this newborn world, a testament to the daringness of his escape. Even the slightest of gusts would throw him to the ground, ending any hopes he had of escaping. However, just as the other guard was about to reach him, Petrie utilized another breath of wind and to everyone’s surprise, took off towards Nira at full speed.

The female looked in surprise as a young flyer approached her from the whiteness of the sky, for the slightest of moments forgetting her situation. She was already preparing to defend herself from a potential attack when she saw him suddenly head towards the heights, quickly disappearing from her sight. This brief incident only deepened her worries as the guards seemingly weren’t even up to this simple task. An omen which hardly held anything good for the herd.

Did Petrie lose them? Or are they still after me?

Even Petrie himself couldn’t believe the ease at which he had managed to lose his chasers. There still could be heard shouts and threats behind him but they were quickly growing fainter. At least this terrible weather had its benefits like this. With any luck, nobody would find out the identity of that young flyer who had mysteriously infiltrated that most important of meetings.
Yet, those thought began to immediately bother Petrie. Would Peak be able to see reason or would the argument get out of hand and even end in violence? At this point, the only thing mattered was that he and his uncle would make it out safely of all this. To Petrie, everything was completely optional after the loss of his new friends. Yet, he’d look forward to seeing how things would develop from here. And he had an inkling he’d learn of it soon enough.

Peak looked at the sky in deep annoyance, frustrated that the meeting had been interrupted by one brat who didn’t know where he wasn’t supposed to stich his beak into. He could only hope he’d be caught later on but right now, some lost child was the last of his concerns. He hadn’t forgotten Kero and Sireia’s last insult and right now, he knew the time had come. This was a moment from which there was simply no return. Not after all the distrust and bad blood that had been released in this conversation. Peak’s gaze fell suddenly as he could only guess what kind of reaction his next words would prompt. Slowly but surely, he then raised his eyes again and started to speak in a low and apologizing voice.

“I assure all of you, my words weren’t a lie but I guess none of that matters at this point. No one of you will believe anything I say anymore anyway. Nimble’s unfortunate passing and its aftermath leave me no options but to announce mine and my followers’ withdrawal from our common herd.” Suddenly, the air froze still as Peak’s words stunned everyone who heard those fateful words. Even after all this, no one had expected Peak to go this far but apparently they were all proven wrong. Sireia looked at the male in utter disbelief before she crossed her hands and answered in an utterly toxic voice, one even she knew would help any potential reconciliation any.

“You’re ready to make this move after all this time? Has our common dream really meant nothing to you, Peak? I and my mate have done our all to forge a herd worthy of our pride and you are just going to throw it all away because of your stupidity?” She asked, willing to blackmail the renegade leader if nothing else. There was nothing more she could do as any of the founders of the herd could leave it at will even if none of them had done it before. Peak glanced at the tan-colored female but knew better than to fall into her trap.

“We will leave after all of my old friends have recovered from their wounds. After that, we’ll treat you as any other herd we’ll meet in the future. My decision is final.” He said as he followed Lenel’s reaction to his announcement. He was panting from disbelief, willing to shake today off as some kind of waking nightmare. In a matter of mere hours, his worst fears were coming true without him having the power to stop the sickening flow of events. With a growling, outraged voice, he begun to speak to the orange colored male.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake, Peak. I always thought you were too weak for the vision the three of us always shared. But know that your departure means little. We will survive just as well without…” At this point, his outburst was suddenly interrupted by another female voice to his left. Lenel was shocked that he was interrupted like this but the next thing he heard was one that broke his composure finally and completely.

“No, Lenel. It’s over. Without two of our leaders and the trust between us two gone, there’s no future for our united herd, no matter what. I’m sorry.” She said silently, fully realizing the implications of her words. No matter how much she despised Peak’s decision, she could see there was no reversing his sudden announcement. And if there was any truth to the orange male’s words, Lenel had been far from honest with his words earlier and at this point, she didn’t know what or who to believe. Her trust in this herd had passed with Nimble’s death and the trio’s failure to come up with any good ideas on how to move on from her loss.

Lenel, on the other hand, felt his heart stop at those words. Had Nira actually said what he thought? The same flyer who had joined his cause full of optimism on the most precious Warm Time of his life? He treasured the memories of those days without an end but now, even those golden times seemed to be stained by his own failure. With a haunted and disappointed look on his face, he turned to Nira and whispered in deep shock.

“Are you serious, Nira? Do you mean those words?” He asked simply, hoping against hope to hear her answer negatively but a mere nod greeted his eyes. Not even a sudden cry from Haste seemed to drag him away from his mental anguish.

“Don’t do this, Nira! We’re still far safer with larger numbers! If we go through with this, we’ll just be one of those weak and vulnerable groups of flyers which are continuously attacked by sharpteeth and other herds! Is that what you really want? Is it?” The dark-colored flyer asked, her voice filled with antagonism and disappointment. Nira immediately frowned at that question and rebuked her sister’s whining about her decision.

“I asked you here only to advice and support me, not question my decisions in front of the others! If you have nothing else to say, then be silent! I wouldn’t announce these kinds of decisions lightly, Haste.” She said bitterly. She and her sister seemed to agree about anything very rarely and she had hesitated a long time about whether to ask her here even now but unlike usual, Haste had seemed quite eager to attend this gathering. The younger sibling looked at Nira in annoyance before she seemingly conceded to her sister’s will.

“Mark my words, Nira, this was a serious mistake and one we’ll regret later.” She said before crossing her arms. Lenel looked around himself in apparent defeat, his gaze slowly moving around the circle of flyers he had only a while ago seen as his loyal companions. To think all his life’s work would end like this… it was just too much to bear. He listened to Nira’s call as the female exchanged final glances with Peak.

“We had many good times together but everything ends in time. My herd will leave for good tomorrow morning. Have a safe journey, all of you. I doubt we’ll meet again anytime soon.” She said simply before taking off. Peak prepared to follow her but before that, he addressed his former fellow leader in a mixture of apology and triumph.

“I hope you’ll see your mistakes in time, Lenel. For you did more than your share during our times together, your dishonesty being the worst of them.” He said before heading into the sky. The emotion of the moment filled Lenel slowly and he slowly collapsed to his knees, his breaths growing heavy under the gentle falling of the white sparkles from the unknown heights of the sky. Now, it was likely he’d never learn Olres’ secret, he’d never be remembered as anything other than just another fool who wasn’t strong or clever enough to halt his legacy’s slow death. And worst of all, he had betrayed his mate’s trust in him and only led her to the life of failure and disappointment. However, unlike his mother and distant ancestors, Sireia was still here and he’d be able to at least make amends with her. However, the look in his mate’s eyes was something he hadn’t expected in the least. It wasn’t a look of anger, not of defeat and certainly not one of blame. It was a look of righteous rage but it wasn’t directed at him.

Suddenly, Lenel’s emotions stopped swirling as his and Sireia’s eyes locked at each other. Almost magically, the duo’s minds seemed to join together, revealing their thoughts to each other. And looking at the female’s burning eyes, Lenel realized this wasn’t the end. All wasn’t over yet as long as the final breakup of the herd hadn’t come to pass. And it never would as he and his mate would make sure of it, one way or another.

And just like that, the herd that took years to bring together has seemingly split apart in one day. However, Lenel and Sireia don’t seem to be willing to see their work go to waste and no one can say what this will bear for the battered group of flyers as well as for Petrie and his uncle… This chapter was quite a challenge to write as it held so many scenes that had to be handled very carefully but I hope I managed to make this important chapter an interesting one! Go on and tell me what you think of it! :)

Ducky123: Those certainly are major questions that are going to shape the future of our favorite fast runner very soon. Without spoiling anything, the answers to those questions will shape the whole nature of this dearly-waited reunion. It was a long time coming but now that Ruby has finally found her way to her last loved ones in this world, it’s time for her story to take another direction… That being said, thank you for your review!

« Last Edit: April 22, 2018, 03:29:30 PM by Sovereign »


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Separate Ways
« Reply #74 on: April 24, 2018, 02:45:36 PM »
And now it seems that the flyers have come home to roost. (sorry, I couldn't resist misusing the old proverb  :p ) Now it seems that the alliance of herds has come to an end, with the factions again fraying apart until the burden of mistrust, loss, and mutual paranoia. The issue of what Pterano and Petrie do now is going to be quite important.  In the case of Petrie, especially, he has lost much trust with the peers of his age group and now might be a suspect in the 'spying' incident at the meeting, assuming he wasn't identified by one of the guards outright.  If Petrie gets suspected of being some kind of spy then he will be in a world of hurt with the prevailing sense of paranoia washing over the herd. Although I must admit that I did have some difficulty in following the plots and counter-plots in the flyer situation (I had to re-read things a few times to make sure that I got the herd dynamics correct), I am looking forward to seeing where things go from here.  :yes

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #75 on: May 31, 2018, 10:13:05 AM »
One Journey’s End

Orchid grinned expectantly as he listened to the relieved but fearful chattering of the three fast runners slowly approaching him and his sister. He had been puzzled by his older sister’s quick departure to search for her friend as he would have wanted to greet her long-lost sibling as soon as possible after her miraculous survival in the horrifying fight against the two sharpteeth. He and Arial exchanged eager glances as they looked at Ruby, Greentail and Yarel slowly walk towards the small glade covered by a thick layer of the white ground sparkles whose falling was slowly coming to a halt. Yet the dancing shadows cast by the white skies hid any trace of the young children from anyone who didn’t know their exact location.

The girl looked at her sister in worry, also realizing that something terrible had had to happen to her lately. It seemed like none of her family had had an easy time lately but at least she could give Ruby a merry homecoming, reminding her of the endless, better days back when they had all lived together in the safe embrace of the Hanging Rock, long before the arrival of Red Claw or the dictate of Dein and Terri concerning Chomper. Yes, this would be a happy surprise for her after whatever tragedy she had faced in the past weeks…

A heavy burden was slowly building on her heart as Ruby looked at the slippery wastes before her. She was eternally grateful that she and Yarel had made it through the close encounter with the two predators but on the other hand, today’s momentous reunion was slowly shredding her mental truce with herself to pieces. Now that she had completed her long journey to warn her family of the terrible danger, did she have the courage to rebuild her life from the scratch? Did she have a place with her family after she had hurt them this badly?

Yet, she wanted to believe the answer to that question could be found right next to herself. For the first time in a few days, Yarel seemed at least somewhat relaxed as the hope for at least some help concerning her sister was within sight. Despite her sickening condition, the only family she had left had gone through it all with her, never losing the sight of which was truly important. The fastrunner knew she didn’t deserve the love the thinclaws had shown towards each other but it gave her slight courage that things wouldn’t end up as badly as she had feared in her darkest moments. Her moment of pondering was suddenly interrupted as Yarel started to clear his throat but just before he was opening his mouth, a sudden shock swept across the pink fast runner as she was suddenly tackled into the ground sparkles by two smaller dinosaurs. At first her mind began to register it as another attack of a sharpteeth but as two very familiar voices rang in her ears, her face turned into a smile immediately.

“Welcome home, Ruby! It’s great to have back with us!” Orchid and Arial cried as they giggled at the sides of their sister whose initial shock wore immediately. The duo’s faces radiated as they greeted Ruby which heartened their sibling without end. The thinclaws looked at the three in clear surprise but they realized this was a matter between the fast runners. Ruby gasped a few times before she rose to a sitting position, looking yes wide at her siblings as she answered to them with slight stutter.

“Arial! Orchid! Wh… where did you come from? I thought you were waiting with mommy and daddy, wait with them I thought you did!” She said, not really knowing how to best answer to them. Yet, the two had never been ones to follow their parents’ instructions so in the end, this was something she should have expected, the fast runner figured. Orchid walked closer to her, his demeanor mirroring the emotion of the moment. His expression strayed at the border of affection and happiness but somehow he managed to include both of them in this answer.

“We wanted to see you now, Ruby! We never got the chance to greet you before you left again and we wanted to make sure you couldn’t escape us this time! We’re just happy to see you after all these Cold Times!” The boy said, glancing happily at his younger sister who walked to his side. And deep inside, Ruby understood her siblings completely and after taking a moment to gather her thoughts before finally giving an answer that gave justice to the duo’s reaction to her return. She slowly rose back to her legs, rubbing a slight layer of the ground sparkles from her feathers. She then bowed towards the two children and before either of them had a chance to react, closed them both into a tight embrace.

“So am I, Orchid and Arial, so am I. I haven’t seen you for too long.” She said, the three siblings’ embrace continuing on for several seconds as Ruby recalled at their many games together. After a while, the three let go of each other and Ruby asked the two with an unreadable expression.

“How have things gone for you? Have I missed something I shouldn’t have missed?” Ruby asked carefully, looking at the innocent faces of her younger siblings. She savored this small nostalgic moment before she’d have to relay her news for her parents. She looked in expectation as Orchid immediately answered.

“There sure is! Last Cold Time, I met the mythical red colored fast biter that can only be seen during the peak of the frigid days! I was so lucky!” The boy said boastfully, more than happy to use his earlier adventure in the freezing cliffs surrounding the Hanging Rock as a source of pride for himself. He had asked his parents and occasional strangers about his mysterious savior many times but he had learned nothing more of him than the vague whispers of the spirit of the Cold Time itself. Ruby looked at him in interest when Arial hit her brother playfully, taking a mock angry look at the other fast runner.

“You sure weren’t as you nearly froze to death! Your story of this fast biter was simply a tale you made up in your mind in the night while you waited for rescue!” The girl said, somewhat disappointed at Orchid trying to spread his tale forward as the truth as it was far too incredible for her to believe. Her brother returned the hit just as gently as he rebuked his sister’s jealous remark.

“I did not! I was freezing, that is true, but the fast biter led to me to safety! That is the truth!” He said, remembering that day as a combination of one of his most horrifying failures and one of the most incredible wonders in his life. He understood his sister’s hesitance to believe him but her next remark hardly helped the two siblings find a common ground.

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

Ruby looked at the sky, shaking her head slightly at the duo’s so very familiar and childish antics with great nostalgia. She, too, had heard of the red fast biter but she had always shaken him off as a mere story. But all that mattered was that the two had been spared from similar tragedies to hers and that they were largely unchanged by the hardships of the last months. However, she also knew that she’d have to put a stop to the duo’s fight and go meet her parents for their sake and as a gesture of gratitude for the two thinclaws who were slowly beginning to shiver under the merciless beating of the cold wind. Ruby quickly moved forward with a slightly stern look but was careful not to ruin the mood of the reunion.

“Stop that, Orchid and Arial! I’m sure both of you have many more tales to tell me but for now, we should go meet mommy and daddy. Is that okay for you?” She asked in a friendlier look, doing her best to show appreciation for both of them. The children calmed down almost immediately and neither of them seemed to object to the older omnivore’s proposition. They both nodded soon to Ruby’s words, realizing that that meeting had to commence sooner than later. Ruby’s heart swelled to look at her siblings’ faces once more but the coming talk spoiled this moment’s preciousness. She had to let out the terrifying pressure of guilt before it swallowed her mind whole. She then turned around and called to the two thinclaws who seemed more than eager to continue the journey.

“Come on! It isn’t a long way back anymore!” She said before beginning to head towards the spot she had left her parents at. She was happy at the presence of her friends and siblings but none of them knew the depth of her personal disasters. And before they’d reach the bottom of her sickening failures, she would never feel truly at ease around any of them.

A slight frown appeared on the male’s face as he dragged the massive carcass a bit further, the movement only enabled by the slippery, icy ground. Detras would have dearly wanted to question his daughter immediately but he trusted Ruby enough to allow her to get the friend she had spoken of. An atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt flew over him and his mate as they wondered deeply at what had happened. For a long while, however, silence reigned as the two wanted to surprise their daughter with the miraculous source of food Detras and Arial had found before the fight against Dein and Terri. Yet, even if on the outside everything seemed like everything was well, the duo’s uncertainty of the future reigned supreme.

After their initial meeting, it was clear that something terrible had happened to Ruby and Chomper and it was more than probable the predators’ attack was their daughter’s doing. Detras wanted to believe it wasn’t so but he dreaded to hear the full truth of Ruby’s last days in the Valley. He had always wanted to trust in his daughter but he couldn’t help an outraged expression rising to his face or his mind darkening at what was coming. Even if she did her best to hide her own fears, it was clear a similar sentiment was making its way into his mate’s thoughts as well.

“She should be able to find us here again, dear. Let’s hope she’ll be coming back soon.” She said, panting slightly from dragging the threehorn’s remains to at least a bit closer to their long-lost daughter. Detras glanced at the corpse with a slight melancholy as he had hoped such a find could satisfy his family for at least a few days but Ruby’s new friends would most likely force him on another hunt far sooner than he had wished for. Yet, none of that mattered now. All that did was to find out what had happened and how to best safeguard his family’s future.

“She should be here at any time. I just wish she isn’t the cause for all this. She should have learned far better by now.” He said, knowing most leaf eaters would have find his reasoning cold, cruel even, but survival under the countless threats of the world demanded everyone, especially the fast runners, to avoid doing serious mistakes. He could only dread at what was coming and even if he hated the fact himself, he didn’t know if he could stand the truth of his daughter’s probable failures. Pearl looked at her mate with a slight worry before turning to look at the clearing wastes around her. The female was even more hesitant her mate to acknowledge her own doubts but deep down, she also feared at what she would hear soon.

“We just have to listen to what she has to say before we can think about such things. Even if she has done something brash, all of our children have always proven to think about our common good before themselves. You know it as well as I do.” She said, prompting a sudden unsure look from Detras. He suddenly looked around himself before remembering something that momentarily shocked him deeply.

“Speaking of our children, where’re Orchid and Arial? I haven’t seen them since…” He said, looking at the hill he had commanded them to push down the decisive ball of ground sparkles on the predators. Now they were nowhere to be seen which worried him somewhat. He had completely forgot them in the midst of his conflicting emotions about his eldest child’s unexpected return. However, that mystery was solved far quicker than he had expected. A distant childish banter immediately reached his ears and the omnivore turned his gaze to his right, somewhat relieved to see that his younger children had merely followed Ruby and not gotten to any unnecessary danger. However, Detras felt himself grow nervous as he dreaded what his daughter would tell him. He looked in appreciation as his mate chuckled slightly before turning her gaze at the male.

“It seems we don’t need to worry about them even half as much as we do, dear. They have always been more resourceful than we give them credit for.” She said with a smile that nonetheless failed to hide what lurked behind her friendly façade. She, too, knew what was at stake and she’d make sure Ruby wouldn’t get away without answering for her past deeds, no matter hard how hard it would be for the kind-hearted fast runner.

“What happened to you, Greentail? Why are you walking like that?” Arial asked curiously, looking at the green dinosaur’s forced movement and clearly bothered expression. She and her brother were highly curious fast runners and Ruby’s mysterious friends raised their interest immediately. They could see the tension in Ruby’s face but that didn’t prevent them from getting to know the thinclaws who were coming to their home for at least a short time. Greentail herself was far from surprised at the younger half tooth’s question but she didn’t mind it too badly as the duo’s appearance had clearly cheered up the otherwise dark mood over the three other omnivores. Willing to present herself as normal as she could, Greentail gathered herself to speak slowly and as clearly as she could.

“Let’s just say it was an accident. I hurt my foot badly the first time we met those damned sharpteeth but it prevented me from partaking in the fight today. But it’s getting better by the day.” Greentail lied as she wasn’t willing to go over all her struggles to the younger girl. She’d most likely learn of it in due time but for now, the answer she gave was as good as any. However, the injured thinclaw wasn’t getting any reprieve before she was bombarded with another question.

“Where did you two meet Ruby? Where were you living before then?” Arial asked in interest, not knowing the toll her cheerfulness and interest were taking on Greentail. However, the latter decided to answer on her question once more but her condition forced her to give shorter answers than she would have liked.

“At a forest west from here a few days ago. I and Yarel had stayed there for a long time since… since one very bad day.” Greentail sighed in clear annoyance. In truth, she remembered nothing about what she was talking about and without Yarel and Ruby’s help, she would never have been able to sate the younger dinosaur’s curiosity. Yet, Arial was already trying to present another question to the other female.

“Oh… what hap…” She started before she heard a stern voice before her. Ruby suddenly turned around and faced her sister, willing to give Greentail at least a slightly easier time.

“Arial, you may ask those questions later but for now, let’s take it easy! Greentail is as tired of the journey as we are. Let her be for now!” The fast runner said, earning a slight smirk from Greentail. The maimed omnivore hadn’t minded Arial’s company but she had truly tried the limits of her ability to hide her terrible injury. Arial looked disappointed and somewhat puzzled by Ruby’s words but before she had any chance to answer to them, another call from a nearby hill interrupted the small group’s banter immediately.

“We’re here, Ruby! We’ve got a surprise for all of you!” The pink fast runner turned to look at the source of the voice and she was surprised to see her parents at another point than the one she had left them in. However, their words brought her slight hopes that the coming meeting wouldn’t necessarily be as tense as she had expected. She quickly turned to her siblings and friends and spoke to them in expectation.
“You heard them, heard them you did! Let’s see what’s waiting for us!”

All of the young omnivores’ eyes grew wide as they saw the massive form of the dead threehorn lie at the ground. Even if they had fought to keep that feeling at bay, it was clear that the three friends were ravenous after the long, difficult days of constant danger and hardship. Ruby had never expected her parents to present her and the others with such a treat but she was more than happy to have been proven wrong. Only Arial looked disappointed to find that this “surprise” had been the same piece of rotting meat she had already complained to her father about. However, she decided against bringing up her distaste at old meat again and simply stayed silent for now. Pearl smiled slightly as she spoke to the younger omnivores in a warm voice.

“I thought you might be hungry after your journey here, young ones. You two are also welcome to join us for helping Ruby return to us.” She said, prompting thankful smiles from Yarel and Greentail. It wasn’t often that strangers were invited to join another half tooth family’s meal and both of them realized the meaning of Ruby’s parents’ gesture. Yarel answered to her with a careful smile while still retaining some carefulness in this situation.

“Thanks, Ms. Fast Runner. We certainly…” He said somewhat awkwardly but the female cut her short immediately.

“My name’s Pearl and my mate is Detras. I’m happy to meet you, Yarel.” She said, also noticing that the other thinclaw’s situation was rather worrying but she decided against bringing that up just yet. Willing to further break the animosity between the omnivores, she quickly buried her snout into the threehorn’s ribcage, more than thankful for finding a dinosaur of this size in these cold wastes. The others joined the meal immediately but it was clear that one question hung over the eating omnivores, one that would have to be left out sooner rather than later. And it was Detras who at last turned his gaze at Ruby and took a demanding look. His voice was soft but it was clear that he demanded a clear and definitive answer.

 “Ruby, I know these things might be hard for you to tell but I and your mother would like to know what happened to you in the Valley. And most of all what happened to Chomper.” He said, looking at his daughter’s blood-soaked face fall immediately. He knew that whatever had happened weighed on her immensely but the threat Dein and Terri possessed to his family was still a very real issue and he’d have to get to the bottom of this in order to decide with his mate the best way to move forward. Ruby looked at her father for a few seconds and swallowed deeply as she prepared to give her answer. She looked absolutely miserable when she opened her mouth again.

“Daddy… Mommy… May I start from the beginning?” She asked carefully but to her slight relief, Pearl answered to her almost instantly.

“Of course, Ruby. Do as you see best.” She said, doing her best to reassure her daughter in this terrible moment. She was only partly successful as Ruby’s mood fell immediately as her mind returned to the last days of the now long-gone happy days of the last Warm Time. A faraway formed in her eyes as she began to recite the most horrible months of her life.

“Well, it all started on the night of the Late Warm Time’s day, just after I and Chomper had returned from the Valley’s celebration…” She cringed in deep regret as she recalled her chase for the egg stealers and she lived again the excitement of their recapture of the invaders’ catch… as well as the following disaster which still bothered her nearly every night in her sleep stories. However, the last time she had been forced to dwell in her guilt this deeply was when she had recited the true course of actions to her dear, now-departed friends. The mere memory of how much she had lost on that one, single night nearly forced her to her knees but with great effort, she managed to continue her tale.

The income of her daughter’s desperate words battered Pearl’s mind as she tried to put herself to Ruby’s place during Volant’s interrogation and the following hours. The only thing that forced her to divide her attention from Ruby’s words was the deep breathing of her mate and Detras’ scratching of the corner of his eye. Even if Pearl regretted deeply the fact that all of the duo’s attempts to unite the Valley against Red Claw lied in ruins but apparently it weighed even more on her mate. However, it was the next part of Ruby’s tale that touched her even more than the first one had. Ruby looked at her parents pleadingly as she told where she had continued after her exile from the Great Valley.

“It wasn’t long before we decided we should seek you out and ask how we should proceed. At that point, all I wanted was to get Chomper safely home for the sake of our family but… well, you’ll hear of it soon. Anyway, we headed for the Hanging Rock immediately but we were relentlessly chased by a sailback sharptooth who I met again later. Or rather our friends were. All the while I tried to think on how to best move forward but I could come up with nothing else than to seek you out. But you weren’t at home, at home you weren’t.” Ruby crossed her hands and let her head droop to the ground, fighting back her sobs. Only now did she realize the amount of tragedy that could have been avoided if her parents had been there to guide her forward. To think that her return to the Valley and what came after would never have happened in that case... Detras looked at her in slight hesitation, his thoughts still swirling at the moment when Ruby had ruined the spiketail’s egg but he decided to give his answer. However, his voice was even colder than he intended, startling both his daughter and mate.

“We would have liked to tell you about our departure but we simply didn’t have the time because it was a question of mere days before Red Claw would have attacked our home and we never got a chance to send a flyer to the Valley. I’m so sorry about that, Ruby. But if you hadn’t tried to play the hero back then, all would still be well and our departure would have meant little.” He said, trying his best to let Ruby finish her story before making any judgements but he was already getting annoyed by Ruby’s inexcusable actions. Pearl cast her mate an angered look and spoke to him quickly.

“She only tried to do what she thought was best, as should we all, Detras! We cannot judge her for that!” She said while putting her hands on her hips. She also regretted Ruby’s choice but she would never use this situation to attack her own daughter. Detras snorted slightly at that comment, always more eager to mind his own business in the wide and dangerous world than his mate. Yet, he let out that argument be and the duo returned their gazes at the younger omnivore. However, a third pair of ears listened to her story just as eagerly as her parents.

Yarel decided against interrupting his friend’s tale but he was more than happy to hear about her past. The girl’s constantly fearful and saddened behavior as well as her mysterious relationship with Dein and Terri had puzzled him greatly. She had never told about what had happened, aside from Chomper’s death, which was something Yarel had never really approved off but at least she had told him about that. And thus far, he had a terrible feeling he wouldn’t like what was to come. Anyway, he resolved to only listen as Ruby opened her mouth again, startled by her father’s words.

“Anyway, we soon found our friends who were looking for us. All they wanted was for us to return to the Valley even if Petrie’s mom had told us to go away. I tried to tell them that wasn’t possible but… Littlefoot was a better speaker than I’ll ever be. He was certain the others could speak us back in after we’d helped the Valley so many times during our stay. And… the best thing of all was that he was almost right.” A longing smile crept to Ruby’s face as the feeling of their journey back into the Valley resurfaced in her mind. If only she could return to the past and do it all again… A single tear formed in the corner of her eyes as she thought about another evening breeze at her Thinking Place after a long, happy day playing and adventuring with her friends. The hope of returning to her lost paradise seemed again so very real and seeing that hope collapse again in her mind’s eye hurt once again terribly. Those flowing memories seemed to stretch on for hours even if Ruby knew herself they were only a few fleeting seconds in real life. As she prepared for the next part of her story, she looked at the white sky, thinking about all the sacrifices of her friends and their parents, crying inside about the futility of it all.

“We made it into the Valley that same evening and against all expectations, Petrie’s mommy decided to help us against the rest of the Valley! It’s hard to believe it even now but each and every one of my friends, even Cera, made their folks believe us even after what we’d done. That meeting was long and difficult for all of us but in the end, most of the Valley’s residents voted in favor of us staying and forgiving us from my mistake. For a few seconds, I hoped all was well, that no one would have to suffer anymore because of me. But that wasn’t to be.” Ruby said as the image of the charging clubtail once again appearing in her eyes. That terrible
moment would never leave her mind as long as she lived but not because of the threat to herself… rather because of what it did to Chomper.

“The clubtail couldn’t stand the sight of me getting released from that situation. She… she started to charge, more than happy to face the charge of murder in the Valley if it meant the end of her child’s killer: me. I was frozen in place and she would have got me… if it weren’t for Chomper. He… he jumped forward and bit the mourning mother’s whole throat open.” Ruby turned to look at a distant mountain, her shame preventing her from facing neither her parents nor her friends. That whole moment had been one never-ending cycle of tragedy but she had long since accepted her gratitude to the blue sharptooth, no matter how distasteful his action had been. Her moment of reflection was soon interrupted, however, by a voice which quickly stole all her attention.

“You froze in place? Do you know how different things could have been if you had escaped her yourself?” Pearl asked carefully but she did not bother to hide her disappointment at Ruby. She had spent so much time trying to make Ruby always think about survival before all else and she had apparently casted those teachings away far too readily. Ruby looked at her mother, her head almost drooping to the ground as she answered.
“Yes, mommy. More times than I remember but…” She began but her answer was quickly cut short by her father’s far more angered voice. Detras took a few steps forward and to Ruby’s horror and disappointment, there seemed to be very little compassion in his eyes.

“For goodness’ sake, Ruby, you are a fast runner, not some dumb spiketail who’s ready to offer an easy meal to any sharptooth by not knowing how to act! This would have been a valuable if long overdue lesson to you if it hadn’t already cost us the Valley’s trust forever!” He cried, making the thinclaws move a bit further from the fast runners. Both of them were astonished by Ruby’s past but it was clear things would escalate further in this conversation which was something they both knew there was little they could add to it. Ruby looked at her father with a pleading look and she spread her arms in growing fear as she answered.

“I know but I was already preparing to celebrate our victory with my friends! I never could have thought she’d attack me because if I had, then I would have been ready for her attack! It’s all my fault but that short moment made me forget all you’ve taught me. I was just so happy I could stay with my friends a bit longer. I’m so sorry daddy.” She said while crossing her arms and shifting her weight from one leg to another awkwardly. What else was there to say? All the apologies and regret would do nothing to regain the Valley’s lost trust nor would it revive the dream of a united front against Red Claw but those words were all the poor fast runner had left anymore. Whether her parents would accept them was something that was out of her realm of decision, however. For a slight moment, Detras felt a flicker of true compassion for his daughter’s situation back then but her one mistake had already cost him and his family so much for him to completely accept her position. The older omnivore looked down at his daughter as he spoke, willing to hear her tale to the end before making any final, potentially premature decisions.

“As am I, Ruby. I do not blame you for savoring that moment and I cannot judge you because it wasn’t me who had to face the wrath of the Valley alone. But I’m saddened that Chomper’s true nature revealed itself that way. We always knew you couldn’t stay in the Valley forever and that was why I had hoped you wouldn’t get too close to Chomper’s old friends. They are leafeaters, Ruby, and even if your future in the Valley wouldn’t have necessarily been as short as it was to Chomper, you wouldn’t have been able to spend the rest of your life there. Do you understand what I mean?” He asked, forgetting his brewing anger momentarily.
Ruby certainly wouldn’t escape her mistakes without any consequences but this was a lesson to Orchid and Arial as well.

It took a few seconds for Ruby to register what her father meant and when she finally understood her point, her expression turned, for the first time, to that of clear chagrin. Even after all this, his father suggested she had been wrong to get to know her beloved friends as well as she had? The girl knew what his point was but this certainly wasn’t the right time to raise it up. Yes, fast runners very rarely had any meaningful contacts with the leaf eaters and it was true she would have to had bid Chomper and the others the final farewell soon enough, she would never regret getting friends with them. She raised her voice and this time, she seemed to almost confront her father.

“I do, daddy, but that has nothing to do with that meeting! Each and every one of my friends was just as good a dinosaur as any of the fast runners I’ve ever met and even if we would have had to live apart in the future, I know we would have always savored our times together, our times together we would have savored! It was only after that meeting after the others’ true love for me and Chomper showed itself. Their parents… they saved us from the others when we escaped from the Valley and Littlefoot and the others offered me to get Chomper home after that. We did our best to find his parents but it was then that… it happened.” At this point, Ruby’s momentarily regained confidence faltered completely. The memory of the sand cloud and the mysterious fast biters and the whole following chaos was far too much for her to bear at this already horrifying moment. She collapsed to her knees and panted for a few moments. She tried to gather her courage to speak of that final event but a first, she thought she wouldn’t be able to do it. It was only when she felt two hands closing around her arms that she woke up from her despair.

“It’s alright, Ruby. Please get up.” She heard a silent voice call to her and she turned to see Arial on her left side, her expression a mask of concern and apology. This small show of concern warmed the older omnivore greatly but Orchid’s words did even more to raise her from the shadow of her life’s darkest day.

“It’s all over now. That’s all that’s important.” Even if neither of the two weren’t too familiar at how things went in the Valley, they hated to see their older sister like this. Due to their young age, neither of them could begin to understand the depth of Ruby’s pain but their innocent and genuine concern gave Ruby enough courage to regain her hold of herself. Slowly, she regained her footing and looked at her siblings, her expression radiating with thankfulness.

“Thanks, you two. It’s only just that… the next part will be the worst of it all. You’ll understand when you’ll hear it.” More so than with the earlier sequences of her tale, Ruby seemed to completely withdraw into her mental shell, the words coming like a steady river of thoughts straight from her mind. Even if she hadn’t realized it herself, this was one moment that had swirled in her mind over and over again. However, she had attempted to pull it away from her conscious thoughts but none of that helped voice that terrible day to someone who had never been there themselves. The young fast runner began to speak slowly and in comparison to the rest of her tale, the descriptions were far more vivid even if Ruby didn’t realize it herself.

Pearl looked at her daughter’s heartfelt tale with a clear look of compassion. She could see that every word took a heavy toll on Ruby and the images of the raging sky and utter despair crept their way into the older female’s thoughts as well. She could easily tell how that tragic event had looked like but even then, no words were enough to tell the feeling of the massacre. Each and every one of the omnivores listened silently to Ruby’s tale, her parents with an unreadable expression due to their attempts to come up with an opinion of their daughter’s actions. Orchid and Arial took a few steps away from their sister, clearly fearful of her story while Yarel looked at Ruby, not realizing how similar their pasts actually were. Her words returned his mind into his own day of terror, when he was nearly crushed to death by the spiketails. As she neared the end, Ruby’s mental shell slowly started to break apart and her gaze started to wander around the wide plains filled with the cover of the white ground sparkles. Her voice turned nearly into a whisper as she finished her tale on a note that mirrored the mood of those terrible days completely.

“…and that was the last time I ever saw him. There was nothing I could do to stop him from helping Cera. Later, his mommy and daddy told me they had found him lying nearby later.” Ruby said, tears dropping to the ground from her cheeks. She had many times thought whether she could have said Chomper but she knew those were only guilty thoughts. She had done all she could… which had achieved nothing but death and sorrow to everyone around her. Now everyone knew what she knew: all remained was to see whether they’d accept her actions or not. She took a deep breath as she heard her father’s voice answer her tale.

“Nothing you could do? Ruby, did we not tell you how important it was to keep him safe? He was your charge, your duty to us, your family! He was all that kept our alliance with Dein and Terri and the Valley together! And you left him to die!?” Detras said as he grabbed a stone near himself and threw it away with a terrible force. He had trusted Ruby with this most important of tasks and she had failed miserably and possibly doomed them all! Now the reason for the predators’ actions was completely understandable and no parent, especially a sharptooth, would ever forget such a loss. Pearl looked at her mate and rebuked to him quickly.

“Calm down, dear! She needs your help, not anger!” Pearl said angrily before turning her gaze at Ruby. Her expression softened little as she realized her mate’s points were more than valid. She would have liked to simply bow down and nuzzle Ruby as she often had when she was little but she simply couldn’t let this terrible news be rewarded.

“Ruby, we told you to never let him out of your sight! Even in the case of a sharptooth attack, we always told you to do your before saving yourself! Simply running away in a threatening situation shouldn’t have been an option to you.” She said while putting her hands to her hips, attempting to balance her response between that of a gentle lesson and a stern punishment. She looked at Ruby’s watery eyes and waited her answer when another voice cut into the conversation.

“Not to even talk about you should have done your all just to stay in the Valley, safe from danger! We decided against punishing you for searching us out the Hanging Rock but do you remember what we told you back then? To stay away from each and any deeds that could put you and Chomper in danger! I see you didn’t listen to a word of it.” The last sentence hurt Ruby deeply as she thought about the note her family had last gone their own ways. Of course she should have listened to that warning but… her friends’ influence was always enough to forget the caution she had been taught her whole life. Had she truly strayed that badly from the fast runner her parents had wanted her to be? Shaking her head, Ruby couldn’t even say anymore. The only thing she knew was that she wouldn’t trade any of her adventures with her friends away.

“I did, daddy, but it just… happened. I never meant it to go like…” She began but almost immediately she was interrupted by another outburst from Detras. The male hated himself for attacking his daughter like this but he simply couldn’t accept her pitiful explanations. She had known exactly what she was supposed to do but apparently she had been far from ready to be trusted with an important task like this.

“But you did, didn’t you, Ruby? You knew how much the leafeaters fear and even hate us, you know the extent of Red Claws’s threat and still you acted like all was well and safe in the world? But I guess it was our fault for thinking you could be trusted…” He said while shaking his head. It was at this point that Pearl decided he was going too far and answer to him immediately.

“That’s enough, Detras! You’re helping nobody with your words!” She said, earning a quick rebuke from the other fast runner. Detras immediately turned to look at his mate and answered in an equally annoyed voice.

“Neither would any easier words which would make it seem like she did the right thing! Don’t you realize it, my love? Red Claw will overrun ever larger areas of the Mysterious Beyond and without Dein and Terri’s help, we can only try to hide and run from our end but in the end, either Red Claw or Chomper’s parents will find us!” He cried, only then realizing how badly he was scaring Orchid and Arial. Yet, it was exactly for their sake that he was speaking as he was growing ever more fearful about whether they’d ever reach adulthood. How could the omnivores hope to fight off the sharpteeth the next time they’d meet? The male’s mind was a complete flux of fear and regret which wasn’t at least eased by his mate’s answer.

“We will hold them at bay like our wisdoms have told us! We can run from them if we need to but right now, I’m not going to listen to you speaking to our daughter like this! Stop it or leave us be!” She said, for the first time seeming to calm down slightly. It was true that he and her mate had been in similar situations before but back then, he didn’t have young ones to tend to. However, he soon realized that he was not helping anyone in this dark hour, he calmed down slightly before giving his answer to Ruby and Pearl.

“We’ll talk about this later, Pearl, alone. I’ll meet you at the Rise later.” He said before he suddenly turned around and headed away from the gathered group. Ruby looked at her father with a sorrowful look and one last time, tried to cry after him.

“Don’t go, daddy! I…” Ruby cried before being interrupted by her mother. She didn’t know whether Detras had even heard her but her mother’s expression commanded her to be silent immediately.

“Let him go, Ruby. Things are tough enough already and things are already hard enough for us here. I can’t blame your father for saying what he did, though.” Pearl crossed her arms and looked at Ruby with a look that bothered the younger female heavily. She had always known her tale would hardly sit well with her parents but deep down, she had hoped they could forgive her for her mistakes. Ruby spread her arms in growing desperation as she answered to her mother.

“I… I always did what I thought was right… even if the things I did were not the things that you told me to do. For many Cold Times everything went as I had hoped so I thought that… that I was doing what I had to do.” She said, slowly realizing how badly she had actually forgotten her task. At this point, she expected another outburst from her mother, another remainder of her own stupidity… but what greeted her ears was a softer tone that nonetheless brokered no disagreements.

“I know, dear. But thinking forward is the most important wisdom our kind has. We have to look far into the future and try to find the path forward which seems to be the one with the least risks. The world harbors many traps for a lonely fast runner and we have to always prepare for whatever is coming our way as best as we can. If you had thought about what would have happened to you and us if Chomper had died on your adventures together, or what would happen if you were suspected to be the one responsible for the loss of the clubtail’s egg, things would be far better, would they not? I’m sorry you didn’t learn this lesson before it was all too late for all of us.” Pearl finished cryptically, slowly turning Ruby’s face to look at her with her hand. The older omnivore’s voice wasn’t that of anger but that of a resignation which worried Ruby just as badly. Her mother’s face seemed to be devoid of any emotion but deep down, it was clear she was just as fearful as her mate. Ruby gulped, eager to simply sink into the ground but despite that, she tried to answer to her best ability.

“Yes, mommy. So am I but… it’s too late now. There’s so much I’d do differently if I got a second chance but… there’s nothing I can do about it anymore. But… I think we may have another ally against Chomper’s parents and Red Claw.” She said, feeling this was the right time to bring her meeting with Stealth up. It wasn’t much but at least it would widen her family’s potions of survival at least a little. Pearl frowned slightly but decided not to show her interest just yet.

“And who’s that? Not many dinosaurs are able to stand against Dein and Terri, as you very well know.” She said, crossing her arms in expectation. For the first time since the beginning of the conversation, Ruby felt like she could attempt to salvage at least some of the trust she had lost.

“It wasn’t soon after the fast biter attack that I met a lonely sailbacked sharptooth who nearly got me before I even saw him! I helped him on a hunt and in return, offered us his help against all who would threaten our family. He could certainly be of great help when Chomper’s mom and dad return!” Ruby spoke in a voice which cheer surprised even the girl herself. Pearl crossed her arms, not exactly amused by the mention of a sailback. Of all the sharpteeth, they were often the sneakiest and most violent ones and very rarely interacted with other kinds. However, at least Ruby had survived that encounter so she didn’t see any major harm if she let her daughter continue her tale.

“And what was his name?” She asked simply, knowing she would most likely recognize this mysterious predator’s name from the many tales she had heard in her life. Ruby hesitated for a short while after seeing her mother’s apparent skepticism about her words.

“His… his name was Stealth. He told me to contact him again when I knew of an approaching danger.” Ruby said, worried about what she’d learn about the sharptooth from her mother. Pearl scratched her forehead slightly, knowing that name was familiar from somewhere. But where had she heard of that dinosaur… oh yes! Immediately, Pearl glanced at her daughter again and answered immediately after she had recalled where she had heard that name.

“Stealth? I haven’t heard of him in many Cold Times and even then from only Dein and Terri. They mentioned him to be an arrogant brat who had managed to slip away from them after his parents tried and failed to attack their territory for some desperate reason. That happened many Cold Times ago so I’m surprised he survived this long.” Pearl said, not exactly willing to put too much faith on a lonely, young sharptooth as the protector of her family. However, Ruby wasn’t about to let the issue be skipped this readily. Stealth’s promise was the only good piece of news she had for her family and she wanted them to at least seriously consider this option.

“He seemed to hate Chomper’s mom and dad for some reason but he never mentioned to me why. He was far younger than they, it is true, but for some reason I think we can trust him in this!” Ruby said, attempting to get to her mother at least some degree. However, a new voice joined the conversation at this point.

“All of us know we can never trust a sharptooth! All they want is to use us for their own ends and after that, to have us for an easy meal!” Yarel stepped forward, looking rather worried by his friend’s words. It was one of the things he had found to be true during his life: a thinclaw could trust only him- or herself and others like them. Pearl glanced at the boy briefly before sighing slightly.

“There’s more to it than that, Yarel, was it? While it’s true that few sharpteeth see us as friends, we could make lasting alliances with them if we can trust in each other’s true goals enough. Like we once did with Dein and Terri. We just have to weigh carefully whether it’s worth it to take that leap forward.” Pearl looked at Ruby briefly as she spoke, making the younger female look ever more pitiful. Yarel, snorted at Pearl’s answer, not at all confident about her wo0rds but decided against trying to claim he knew more than Ruby’s mother.

Yarel’s joining of the conversation, reminded Ruby of another thing that she had nearly forgotten in the midst of the desperate argument. However, the boy seemed increasingly keen to get his own issue forward and Ruby knew he and especially Greentail deserved that much. Carefully, she turned her gaze upwards and spoke to Pearl.

“Mommy… I hope you’ll speak to daddy about Stealth but there’s another thing I have to ask you, ask you I have to. Last time we met Chomper’s parents, Greentail, Yarel’s sister, had a terrible hit to her head, as you can see.” Ruby took a brief pause and in clear relief, Greentail took a few steps forward. She could vaguely see Pearl turning to look at her but whatever expression she had was a complete mystery to the maimed thinclaw. She continued briefly from where Ruby had continued, this time talking as she normally would, not willing to hide anything from the only dinosaur who could help or at least say something about her future.
“It… it’s true, Pearl. We would all be very grateful if you could use your knowledge to tell me if I have any chance to return to… what I once were.” She said silently, her own voice bringing her intense shame. Pearl frowned at first as she tried to understand Greentail’s words. They were extremely unclear and her limping and empty gaze in her eyes told her immediately that the news she’d have to share would hardly be something the younger omnivores would want to hear. With forced steps, she approached Greentail while answering her request.

“I can certainly take a look but I warn all of you immediately that there’s nothing I can do to help days after the hit. All I can try to do is to look if you’ll ever have a chance to recover from this.” She said, not revealing her first impressions about Greentail. Yarel moved to his sister’s side as a sign of support, and spoke in her stead. Every last muscle of his face was completely tense which only told about the depth of his worry for his sister.

“Please, do what you can, Ms. Fas… Pearl. We understand you might tell us something… bad.” He gulped, earning a fearful look from Greentail. Pearl moved further towards the girl and spoke to her as softly as she
could in this situation.

“Very well. Stay still while I look at your wound and answer to my every answer as honestly as you can. Do you understand?” She asked, earning a quick nod from Greentail. Pearl stopped just before her and after a brief exchanged nod from the green thinclaw, she slowly moved to look at her head. It took minimal effort for her to find the spot where the stone had penetrated her skull and the sight of that spot made even the older female cringe big time. Even now, the wound seemed to suppurate with some thick goo and it had barely even started the process of actual healing. It seemed to spread all the way from her forehead to the back of her head even if it was clear that the worst hit had come to the front of her head. The hit had torn many feathers around it away, leaving a bald, bloody trail in its wake. With an already bothered voice, Pearl asked the girl.

“How long did it take for you to wake up after you received this, Greentail?” She asked, fearing about what she’d hear. Greentail seemed thoughtful for a second, her mind still struggling to recall details even from the tales Yarel and Ruby had told her. After a moment, she asked with a clearly haunted look.

“Well, all of that happened at a night four days ago… and I woke up just as it was getting dark again. Or so Ruby and Yarel told me.” She said, looking at Yarel as if to confirm she remembered right. Pearl gulped as she heard those words. She had been unconscious for nearly a day? That was a terribly long time after a head injury and not many woke up after it anyway. She followed her first question with another, willing to find out about Greentail’s mental abilities.

“What do you remember from your earlier life? How much of it did you forget?” Pearl asked the most basic questions but none of the answers she received raised any hopes in her. Forgetting a Cold Time prior to the accident and her many handicaps worried her greatly but Yarel and Greentail’s pleading looks made her try her very best at finding some signs of eventual recovery. After a long while of questioning, Pearl sat down on a rock, as if she were fatigued by merely asking those questions. Ruby quickly ran towards her and asked the older fast runner in clear worry.

“Is everything alright, mommy or is something wrong?” She asked, earning a quick relieving glance from Pearl even if it was clear her announcement wouldn’t be what they had hoped for.

“I’m fine, Ruby, but… I don’t think you are.” She said, looking at Greentail, clearly apologizing to the young girl. The latter frowned in fear but gathered herself quickly and asked, her tone carrying a clear sense of dread.

“I know it but… please tell me everything you know. Please.” She asked, her expression turning into a more confident one as she spoke. Over and over again, she had lived her death in her own mind and even if it would be hard to hear those thoughts become a reality would be far more difficult, she was already past the times when she hoped for a toned down, untruthful version of what would happen. Pearl looked at her for a few seconds and then sighed, preparing to give her verdict.

“Greentail… the mere size of your wound made me think about the worst as I’ve seen other dinosaurs fall with far less injuries. You are extremely lucky to even be with us anymore. However, I cannot say the same about what comes next. If you speak the truth, you have managed to regain your ability to speak and move quickly but after that, your pace of healing has dropped really fast. You still have some hope of being able to run properly one day but that day is far in the future, if it is ever going to come.” Pearl took a brief pause, hating what she had to say. Greentail looked already more than beaten but the older female knew the three other omnivores wanted the truth and nothing less. After her pause, she began to speak again.

“My own parents told me that hits to the head are some of the most horrifying injuries one can get and there’s nothing most dinosaurs can do to help with them. Greentail, I’m sorry you had to go through all what you did as no one would deserve what happened to you. I’m truly sorry about all this. Your ability to recover some of your lost abilities is a cause of some hope but… it would be better if you accepted that you’ll never be the same dinosaur you once were. Unless there happens a true miracle, you will always limp badly and your eyes are not going to recover completely. Your memories might return slowly and your mind’s eye to your surroundings might regain some of its sharpness but that’s all you can really hope for. I’m sorry but there’s nothing more I can do.” Pearl said with an apologizing voice. It was clear that even after all the mental drama of the day, the older female still meant every word of compassion to Greentail.

The thinclaw, however, felt a sudden void fill her mind. This was the piece of advice she had come so far to hear? Even if her partial blindness and other handicaps had already become a part of the dinosaur she was now, sudden, deeper understanding suddenly made itself known to her. So this truly was it. She’d never be able to be of use to anyone again and even with her brother’s help, it was unlikely she’d ever survive to adulthood. With forced movements, she turned to again look at Pearl and with a tortured voice, answered to the dinosaur who so long had been her only, elusive hope who had in the end been able to do nothing for her.

“Is there nothing I can do? Can I do anything that would help me regain at least something of what I lost?” She asked, her voice completely mirroring her mental state. Pearl looked at her with clear regret but she merely shook her head.

“There isn’t. The damage is in your head and not even the most legendary of dinosaurs have ever been able to answer the secrets of how to mend injuries in there. Time is the only thing that can help you, I’m afraid.” She said morbidly, a complete silence falling upon the small group of omnivores. Despite the lingering divide between Ruby and her family, for a moment the white sky seemed to entwine every one of the dinosaurs into its relieving embrace. A freezing breeze slowly crept through the plains, the coldness quickly penetrating the fast runners’ and thinclaws’ plumage almost immediately.

Yarel shuddered as the breath of wind surrounded him but he gave it no heed. His worst fears about his sister had been confirmed which was more than enough for him to forget everything else around himself. Greentail seemed slightly less broken than he had expected but Yarel couldn’t help a few tears of sorrow from falling down his cheeks. It had been he who had persuaded the duo to join Ruby’s quest, it was his fault that all of this had happened! And worst of all, Greentail seemed to remember nothing of that conversation which forced him to carry that guilt alone. On that somber moment, he would have wanted nothing more than to change parts with his poor sister, to for the first time in his life to carry the consequences of his own mistakes. But even then, he knew none of those thoughts would help any. He looked at a distant gust of ground sparkles in the distance as he answered.

“Thank you for your help anyway, Pearl. This was all we could ask of you.” He said, not finding any further words to say at this horrible moment. Pearl took a brief, joyless smile as she answered to the boy.

“Of course as you helped Ruby to return to us. Even if it was in circumstances we would have wanted to avoid.” She looked again at Ruby before turning around. She then glanced at her children and the thinclaws and continued to speak.

“Ruby, it will take a lot of work for all of us to clean up the mess you created for us. To begin with, there is one thing we’ll need your help with soon enough but we all will have to rest before that. As for you, Yarel and Greentail, you are welcome to come with us for a short while as thanks for your help. Let’s go home.” She said before turning to look into the calm wastes, preparing for the remaining trek to the fast runners’ new refuge.

Ruby looked at her siblings swallow the last pieces of meat from the threehorn’s skeletal remains, taking a careful sigh of relief. While it was clear her mother and especially not her father were going to see her the same way again for a long time, at least they hadn’t turned her away into the fledgling Cold Time. Yet, deep down, bitterness flowed in her mind of her parents’ reaction to her deeds as especially Detras had seemed to dismiss her friends’ fate completely. Even then, her mother’s words about the upcoming task were intriguing ones and maybe, just maybe, it’d offer her the first step on her way to redemption in her family’s eyes. With a swift gesture, she waved her friends to follow her into the slowly darkening afternoon of the Mysterious Beyond.

After many weeks of fear and regret, Ruby has finally managed to get the word of her deeds to her family. However, even if this terrible part of her life is coming to a close, her parents don’t seem to be taking their daughter’s actions well and it’s likely that more drama is on the way… I’m sorry for the slight delay in publishing this chapter but most of it was due to a trip of mine. Even then, I hope you liked chapter and as always, see you next time!


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #76 on: June 08, 2018, 01:55:27 PM »
First of all I must express my apologies for the delay in reviewing the latest chapter.  Between the forum situation and preparing my classes for the summer semester I have not had as much reading time as I would have liked.

Now this is truly a coming to terms of sorts for Ruby, as she gets to go through the same admission that Petrie went through with his uncle... though in her case it does not appear the same understanding is there.  In her culture (if that is the right term) the situation is harsh and bonds can mean the difference between life and death for both oneself and one's family.  Yet she has failed to protect Chomper and with that broken promise comes the possibility of vengeance, not only against her but against her entire family; and with this the fate of much more of the Mysterious Beyond is now also under threat.  In such a situation Ruby's duty was clear: to try to save Chomper even if it meant almost certain death.  But, as with many things in life, the decisions made in a mere second can have lasting consequences.  I do hope Ruby can rely on her two companions to help her in dealing with this guilt and the strong rebuke from her parents.  I suspect the desire for her to go off so that Dein and Terri would chase her and not her family will be quite strong.

And I must compliment you on how you handled the alliance with the fastrunners and the leaf-eaters and showed an aspect of this culture that is probably quite foreign to many in Western societies.  I am sure many readers when reading the events of this chapter will feel for Ruby (I certainly do) and then also think of her father as being too harsh or even think that Ruby deserved no rebuke at all due to the circumstances.  However this self-oriented view of the world, where one's individual life is of utmost importance, is a byproduct of decadent and rich societies from which the day-to-day struggle to survive is no longer part of the common experience.  In most of human history the survival of clans and families necessitated alliances which could be counted upon even in times of greatest hardship - this is where the hospitality principal came into play, for example: where even one's enemy who took shelter in one's own house could be expected in some cultures to be cared for (and for him to not betray the host) until he departed the next day and the vendetta could then resume.  Such cultural norms were such because the survival of multitudes relied on their upkeep.  Now this is utterly foreign to much of Western culture, especially American culture, but I think you capture the primacy of alliances and the greater good in this chapter.  Though he loves his daughter greatly, for Detras it would have been better if Dein and Terri had discovered her body alongside their son.  At least then the alliance would have been fulfilled with the blood of both parties, and the struggle against Redclaw could continue.

But now, for all of the omnivores, it is time to contemplate the uncertain future as opposed to the unchangeable past and the dark present.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2018, 02:02:29 PM by rhombus »

Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale
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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #77 on: July 25, 2018, 09:36:38 AM »
The Decisive Strike in the Night

The cold wind rang in his ears as Lenel slowly prepared to land on a small clearing near his own herd away from the other flyers. The late evening’s freeze was starting to settle over the dry, unhospitable land but none of it mattered anything to the flyer or his mate. Lenel’s face was completely unmoving all the flight but behind that stoic mask swirled dozens of conflicting thoughts and fears. One way or another, this night would change everything in his and many others’ lives but in which ways, he couldn’t say just yet.

As he glanced at his mate, Lenel saw that her mind was in a similar swirl. However, it was clear that neither of the two were resigned to their fate in any way even if both of them knew their options were few. The small clearing under the two flyers overlooked the wider plain in which the weary flyers were trying to overcome the shock of the battle and mourning their lost loved ones. Lenel gritted his teeth as he landed, preparing to address his mate but just before he had the time to open his beak, the embattled leader suddenly heard another voice from above him.

“Lenel! Sireia! It’s good to see you back here! Did the others admit that most of our losses were because of their mistakes?” The speaker was Taria who suddenly landed near the two, clearly more than eager to hear the news. However, what she heard was far from what she had wanted to hear after the tense day. Sireia quickly glanced at her and spoke in clear annoyance, not approving of this interruption in the least.

“Leave us in peace, Taria! We have a lot to discuss still and we don’t need anyone here listening to us! Now, go!” She said in a low voice, prompting a somewhat worried and even upset glance from the other female. She knew better than to question Sireia’s words but she couldn’t leave just yet. With a more careful tone, she spoke back to Sireia.

“Very well but I need something to tell the others. Many are dying to hear at least something about what happened during the battle. What should I tell them?” The deputy asked, still taken aback by the antics of many of the flyers who had searched her out for answers during the past hours. She expected another attack from Sireia but instead, she received an emotionless answer from Lenel who walked closer to his deputy.

“Tell them that we still have some issues to decide. Our future is hanging in the balance and the others have to wait a bit longer.” He said, not willing to let anything slip to the female. He trusted Taria but not enough to let her know about the results of the meeting just yet. The deputy looked at Lenel in slight disappointment before speaking to him finally.

“It shall be done, Lenel. Just don’t take too long: many in the herd want answers soon enough.” And with those words, the flyer took off and left Lenel and his mate alone in the bald hill from which could be seen all of the four parts of the herd. The pale flyer crossed his arms and inhaled the breezing air as he looked about the countless stars slowly appearing into the sky. The evening was not unlike the previous ones but the seasoned leader sensed that deep unease hang above the flyers. After a while, he finally spoke to his mate.

“We never should have allowed Peak into our herd. I should have guessed that he’d threaten us with something like this soon enough but even I didn’t think he’d betray us like this!” He cried as his eyes slowly turned from the stars to his mate whose stern gaze surprised Lenel to a degree. The green-eyed flyer let out a brief snort as she spoke to the male.

“We took him in because we hoped he could be reasoned with but that was all just a lie. But in the end, his treachery hurt him more than it will us.” She said, fuming from the display of pride and cowardice the orange-colored flyer had shown. Lenel looked at him with a slight frown, wondering what his mate had meant. Yes, Peak’s followers could very well suffer from the break-up of the herd but he knew there were other possibilities about what Sireia had implicated. He slowly raised his hand to his forehead and scratched it a few times as he spoke.

“But the thing that really sickens me is that that scum managed to get Nira join him too. But if those too think they can simply destroy our herd and get away with it, they’re badly mistaken. We’ve come far too far to simply be deceived now.” He said, still trying to sort his thoughts even now. He knew what his words implied but his emotions drowned them under their swirling maelstrom of disappointment and hate. He hated to even think of murdering his old allies but in the seasons long gone, he had done many deeds which even now sickened even Lenel himself. Attacking the two turncoats would hardly be worse than slaughtering a rival herd or killing the children of his rivals. Lenel had hated himself even back then but leading a herd in the Mysterious Beyond demanded the willingness to do what was necessary, when it was necessary. Sireia took a brief look towards Nira’s herd before answering to his mate, her voice shaking from anger towards the two other leaders. She glanced at her mate while a certain kind of fear and concern started to swell in her heart as well.

“We have, Lenel. We have. But even then, our options aren’t what we ever hoped for. Not even after Nimble’s loss.” Sireia spoke as she started to think about what had to be done. Slowly, Lenel turned to her and the gaze in his eyes stunned even the female for a short while.

“Are you ready for this, dear? If we decide to do this, it’ll be a step from which there is no return. I hate to even think about it but I’ve made my choice. My family has never hesitated in the face of disaster and I won’t be the first. Will you stand by my side?” He asked, genuinely willing to hear Sireia’s opinion. All their lives, the two had shared respected each other without an end and no matter what they did, they made sure neither of them were ever forced to do it. However, despite her fears, this wasn’t one issue where she wouldn’t hesitate. Almost immediately, she answered to the male.

“My love, you know that I’ve worked with you to unite our herds ever since we met and I’ll see it to the end. However… do we have what it takes to… to take out Nira and Peak and get away with it?” There it was. She had offered to kill one of those she had sworn to lead the united herd with. It was a terrifying thought for the tan-colored flyer but as a leader’s mate, she had seen many terrifying things in her life and if this is what her and Lenel’s common dream would require, she would damn right do it! The latter looked surprised by his mate’s decisive tone and immediately turned back to investigate at the spots where Nira and Peak’s herds lied. A certain kind of sorrow could be seen on his face but it was dominated by decisiveness which left nothing left for guessing. He had done his best to forge a common future for the herds but now, Peak and Nira tried to block the path he had followed all his life and he would allow no one to hold him back now. Lenel knew he would regret this decision more than once but he had to make a decision and now, there was only one right one. After a while, he started to speak slowly.

“Thank you for staying by my side, Sireia. You’re right that this will be far from easy but Peak said they’re only leaving tomorrow so we have until the rising of the Bright Circle to do this. We have to act quickly before the others learn the truth. It’ll be bloody but if we silence them quickly enough, we’ll be able to blame them for tonight’s attack and we have a chance to claim their herds after that.” He said, already dreading at the chance that this plan could fail at a crucial moment. If the two could regain their ranks quickly, it would be he and his mate that would be wiped out. After a while, Sireia asked silently.

“It shall be done but… don’t we have a choice? We could try to make at least one of them see reason or we could simply accuse them now for treachery.” She asked, willing to look at all the possibilities before acting. Lenel turned to her slowly as he answered to her question.

“And what if either of them simply lies and attacks us as soon as our attention is drawn elsewhere? And we cannot simply go and make accusations, dear. We have no proof to back up our words but if they are gone… then nobody can present us with a real challenge. We must remember Peak and Nira’s herds are still loyal to their leaders. This is the only way we stand even a slight chance.” He said, his mind slowly starting to move to planning the coming night’s actions. Sireia nodded at him, knowing this wasn’t the time for compromises or half-hearted efforts. She then cast a brief smile to her mate before finally moving to his side and then speaking to him in a more courage voice than before.

“I understand, Lenel. But when we finally make our move, I’d say we wait until the night has truly settled in. And we should start with Nira.” She said, slowly shedding the pretense that she or her mate had a choice in this matter. In the Mysterious Beyond, only the strong thrived and Peak and Nira were only driving all of the herds to ruin. Lenel’s eyes widened slightly as his mate spoke, not immediately realizing what she was getting at.

“And why is that? After all, Peak was the one who started it so I thought we’d start with him.” He asked, willing to hear what Sireia had to say. In more times than once, her mate had had great ideas on how to move on and she fully had his ear in nearly any issue. Sireia frowned slightly but as she answered, her voice was a highly thoughtful one.

“Perhaps but there are other things to consider as well. Peak fears even his own shadow right now and I’m sure he has ordered half of his herd to guard him and his family. Nira, on the other hand, didn’t seem to realize the full impact of what had happened and with any luck, that could give us an opening against her. Even then, that doesn’t mean our task will be an easy one.” She said, the implications of her words clear. even Nira could expect something and in that case, this night would be even more dangerous than the two flyers had expected. Lenel took a brief pause before he answered.

“You’re right, of course. We have to plan every move before we get on the move but at least I have you by my side, Sireia. It’s all I could hope. For the beginning, I say we move on Nira’s herd like this…”

Petrie panted in utter fear and exhaustion as he finally landed between two high rocks in the middle a completely flat wasteland. He could feel his limbs being completely stiff with fear as he crouched even lower between the rocks in order to escape the sight of the two flyers who had headed after him after his failed peeking at the meeting of the three remaining leaders. He gritted his teeth as small crawlers began to climb upon his wings and legs but the prospect of being caught like this weighed more upon him right now. Even now, he didn’t know how badly he had failed because of his curiosity.

Had the guards already recognized him? Was hiding all for nothing in this situation? Had he doomed his and his uncle’s efforts to live among the herd? The moments after he had been spotted were a complete mess and he didn’t have the least of ideas who had seen what back then. For all he knew, he could already be seen as a treacherous spy which could mean…

The flyer shook his head as he fought even against his own breathing. The rocks were large enough to hide him but any movements or voices could alert the flyers to his location. The piles of ground sparkles did little to help his cause but as the moments dragged on and on, he realized he was still alone. No accusing cries or flapping of wings were to be heard anywhere nearby and even the small slice of the dark sky was completely empty expect for small remnants of sky puffies and the distant, glimmering stars. He… he was safe for now.

With slow, careful movements, the boy rose to a sitting position and moved to look outside from his small refuge while wiping the crawlers away from him. It took a brief moment for him to see his chasers and he couldn’t believe what he saw. They were already heading back to the meeting place, after only a few minutes of searching. Petrie frowned slightly as he thought about what that’d mean. However, if that was the case, there was little reason for him to stay here. With careful flapping of his wings, the young flyer headed towards the skies, still making sure to avoid any sudden ambushes that could still be in store but slowly, his mind turned back to more personal matters.

Had uncle Pterano returned from his duty and if he had, how would he react to his absence? After all he had gone through, the boy wanted nothing less than to start arguing with his uncle at this point. Petrie’s eyes scoured the white ground beneath him to search for the spot he and Pterano had landed when they first had landed in this land. The dozens of wounded or mourning flyers below him made Petrie increasingly sick as every hill and gorge was filled with dinosaurs who were fighting for their lives or had lost a loved one. Yet, that was part of his life now and unlike after seeing the old flyer killed in cold blood, there was no longer pure disgust nor disbelief for what he was seeing. This was something he had never wanted to happen but… it felt like part of his life at this point. And for Petrie, that thought didn’t seem to bother him as much as he would have hoped. Slowly but surely, a certain clearing surrounded by dead bushes came to his view. At first, it was but a bleak image like in a memory but as it slowly became clearer, Petrie’s heart fell completely.

So uncle Pterano be here after all. Now me in big trouble… but… who is that?

Slowly, another form appeared from the black haze and at first, Petrie didn’t have the slightest of ideas who that could be. At first, Petrie hesitated about moving closer to that sight but he realized Pterano was completely drawn into the discussion and he started his landing near the two, willing to hear what they were up to. And after a short while, his eyes slowly caught the sight of the one his uncle was talking to. It was Lenel’s mate whom he had just seen in the meeting? But what was the female doing here? Except for… demanding Pterano to punish him for his spying.

Petrie’s heart seemed to freeze momentarily but then happened something which surprised the boy without an end. The two quickly nodded to each other and just like that, they took the air and left the scene. Petrie looked after them in utter confusion as he tried to come up with some explanation. Both of them were even more worried than he had expected but it seemed like something worse than punishing one wayward child. Petrie was left sitting between the ground sparkles, deeply conflicted about how to proceed. He was an adventurous spirit but even then, he had already messed badly enough and uncle Pterano was more than capable of handling another meeting with Lenel and his mate. Petrie slowly walked into his nest for today, waiting for news from his only benefactor in this cold land.

“What is this all about, Lenel? Why did Sireia get me at this hour?” The light-brown flyer asked, narrowing his eyes slightly as he looked at his superior. Sireia had told him very little during their journey and he was more than nervous about what he’d hear here. He knew the meeting had been a total failure but other than that, he knew very little about what was going on. Taria was already here so whatever Lenel was planning to tell had to be of absolute importance as the pale flyer seldom called his deputies together in times like these. The other male crossed his arms and answered to his deputy almost immediately.

“Taria and Pterano, I called both of you here to announce something that neither of you would have wanted to hear. Even I and my mate struggled to accept the reality but the truth is, Nira and Peak have betrayed us. As you may have heard, they’re planning to break up our herd and according to Peak’s words, we have to expect today’s attack was at least partly his doing.” The two flyers twitched noticeably as they were told these news, not willing believe their own ears. Both of them had learned to accept both of the two as competent allies and trustworthy leaders. And now Lenel was claiming they had killed Nimble on purpose? It didn’t take long until Pterano asked with an unbelieving voice.

“What? But… that’s impossible! There’s no reason why they’d ever do such a thing!” He asked, Taria nodding to his words slightly. Lenel and Sireia both frowned to the deputy’s words but it didn’t take long until Lenel answered again. His voice was heavy and clear regret could be seen within his eyes.

“Peak always seemed to have secrets we never knew about and in addition, none of his contributions to our meeting seemed to even suggest he ever trusted us. As for Nimble… maybe Peak only felt that getting rid of her would make Nira join her and perhaps even form a new alliance with her soon enough. No matter what, their plot is a disgusting twist to the fate of the herd I know both of you dreamt we were creating.” He said, regretting the fact that he had to lie to his trusted deputies like this. It was already bad enough that he had to do this in the first place but he had to make sure neither of the two would decline participating in tonight’s task. The two wouldn’t likely see the herd’s breakup as the same inescapable pit he and Sireia did so the tale had to be made even more dramatic for the duo. He had never lied to his deputies before and if the Bright Circle smiled upon him, they would understand his motives soon enough. He looked at Sireia briefly as she underlined her mate’s point.

“What matters is that they have thrown away everything away we worked for together for selfish or wrong reasons. We’re not sure what they’re up to in the coming weeks but their actions will bring ruin to all of us. I… I wish there was another way but we have to take control of our herd, no matter what.” The female announced, finally revealing her plans to the two. She wasn’t sure how they’d react but she trusted them enough to ask them to help in this fateful fight. Pterano felt like a stone had fell on his head as he started to contemplate those words. Lenel was planning to get rid of his competitors and to take command of the entire herd?

At first, that thought didn’t worry him that much as he thought about all his times serving the light-colored male and during all those seasons, Lenel had never let him or his herd down. He had always kept his word to his deputies and never had his followers went through unnecessary hardships under his leadership. Even then… there was no telling what would happen in the weeks to come. A sting of guilt formed within chest as he thought about the ways he had attempted to become a revered leader in the past. Lenel was not him but… after those days, he had never again believed that a single dinosaur should be responsible for the lives of dozens of others. If he had had someone to stand up to him during his own journey into the Great Valley, the most painful day in his life would never have happened. He started to speak silently, hoping he wouldn’t upset Lenel and Sireia too badly with his words.

“With all due respect, I doubt that’s the best…”

“I’ll do it gladly. Peak and Nira never seemed to be fit to lead even their own herds so I’ll help getting rid of them for the good of us all.” Pterano was immediately interrupted by
Taria whose voice left no guessing for her loyalties. There was not the slightest hint of hesitation or doubt in her voice which didn’t really surprise the light brown flyer any. Taria had always been a loyal deputy and she clearly trusted Lenel and Sireia in all their efforts. The latter wasted no time voicing her relief about Taria’s ready acceptance.

“Thank you, Taria. We need as many of our herd to help and it wouldn’t be possible without your help. We are honored to have you beside us.” She said while smiling at the other female widely. She had learned to respect the shorter flyer greatly and this only reinforced that impression. Lenel doubled down on her mate’s words before turning his gaze at Pterano.

“So am I, Taria. We won’t forget this. But how about you, Pterano? Are you willing to stand with us this night?” He asked, looking at Pterano in a way which nearly took the brown male off guard. His expression was far more decisive than it had been in a long time and after a moment, Sireia and Taria also turned to wait for his answer. The pressure only complicated his thoughts and all he managed to let out were a few forced stutters.

“Lenel, I…” He started before he finally regained control of his own thoughts. He wasn’t a flyer who was easily intimidated but this moment was enough to catch him off guard. He still didn’t believe Lenel’s plan was the best one to move forward. He wasn’t willing to kill his old companions in cold blood, damn it! He had been a part of too many tragedies before and what would Petrie say if he came back telling of his bloody deeds?

However, it was the memory of his nephew that changed his line of thinking completely. What would happen if he declined Lenel’s offer? He didn’t know whether the pale flyer would really hold it against him but at least his position as a deputy would be history in the best case. in the worst case, he and Petrie could be exiled from the herd if Lenel was successful and if he wasn’t… well, the sight of a bloody fight within the previously friendly herds didn’t sound like a good option either. In any case, return to the Valley wasn’t yet an option and life in a small, hated herd wasn’t something Petrie deserved after all he had gone through.

In the end, there were no real options. Failure to join Lenel would lead to worse tragedies for his nephew and to himself in the long run. He had stood by the other male’s side for many Cold Times so he might as well walk this path until the end. He could hate himself later for once again failing to live in peace and without taking part in disgusting and deadly endeavors but he knew how explosive the situation was. If he did his part well enough tonight, his position in the herd would become a far more important, a thought which even now excited the flyer’s mind. After a moment, he finally bowed slightly to Lenel and gave his answer.

“I am, Lenel. I’ll do whatever is necessary to restore peace to our herd. You have my word of it.” He said, finally releasing the clear tension within the small hill overlooking Lenel’s herd. It had grown increasingly tense as the others had waited for Pterano’s answer. Immediately, the pale flyer crossed his arms and an approving smile rose to his face. His voice was highly revering but still extremely grave as he spoke.

“Time and time again, you two prove I chose my deputies wisely. Both of you will continue to stand by my side in the seasons to come and know that I’ll forget none of the great deeds we’ll do together. I thank both of you from the bottom of my heart.” Lenel said as he slowly walked near to the cliff to face the flyers who would soon be up for a surprise.
Yes, this would be the night when the time for waiting and empty promises was over. If taking out his rivals was what it took to restore his family’s old fame, then so be it. He then slowly turned out and spoke to Taria and Pterano who were looking at him expectantly. He was just about to speak to them when a shadow suddenly appeared over the small group. The pale flyer was clearly startled as he didn’t want any of the other flyers witness this meeting. He was even further startled as his eyes finally saw who the newcomer was. He immediately waved his deputies to his side in case their new guest tried anything suspicious.

“What are you doing here, Haste? Shouldn’t you be helping your sister explain her madness to all her followers?” He said as Nira’s sister turned to look at him. He had seen her very rarely and even rarer still were the duo had talked with each other. He held absolutely no trust to the greenish flyer and he would have wanted nothing less than for her to disappear. However, as she spoke, Lenel’s eyes widened quickly.

“Helping my sister? Nira would have needed help far before she would have agreed to join Peak’s folly! In fact, I am here to apologize for Nira’s mistakes on my entire family’s behalf.” She said while bowing to Lenel slightly. The male felt extremely awkward by this sudden appearance but even then, Haste did very little to help anyone’s cause here. In an almost angered voice, he answered to the newcomer in a way which made her twitch slightly.

“I appreciate your gesture, Haste, but it has very little meaning as long as Nira’s in charge of your herd! So, if you’ll excuse me, we, too, have our own preparations to make if we’re going to survive after you and Nira are gone!” Lenel spoke, hoping Haste to take the hint and simply leave at this minute. However, the female’s mouth turned into a slight smile as she answered. Pterano felt shivers creep up his spine as the female spoke, completely stunned by what he was hearing.

“Without a doubt you do, Lenel. However, there is a chance that you don’t have to prepare for that possibility. Because I’m more than willing to end Nira’s endless row of terrible mistakes. If we allow her to have her way, our whole family will follow Nimble’s lead!” She exclaimed, for the first time receiving Lenel’s full attention. The pale flyer was increasingly haunted of learning about all the hatred and distrust within the herd but with any luck, his could work in his favor. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Sireia who suddenly walked towards the other female.

“And why would you even consider such a thing? If you are willing to betray your own flesh and blood, why do we have any reason to trust you, Haste? There is no bond that is more important than family and you know it!” She said, upset by the greenish dinosaur’s antics as she knew how much blood ties meant for the great families. Even she, who had been born as part of a group of ordinary hatchlings, had always respected her siblings without an end and to see Haste practically offering to betray Nira didn’t sit well with her. She knew it could benefit her and her mate’s cause but if Haste held this little respect to others, she was far from a trustworthy ally. However, she was quickly answered by Haste who crossed her arms, her long crest casting its shadow across the small glade.

“Yet, our families are one thing we cannot choose but, thank the Bright Circle, we can choose our friends. For as long as I can remember, Nira has always done the thing that hurts us the most. Before we joined with you, she always conceded our territories instead of ever taking a stand! In the last Cold Times, she has all too often sided with the fool Peak instead of attempting to do something worthwhile! Today was simply the latest continuation to her madness and I’m willing to salvage what I can of our family’s legacy! To do that, I’m willing to betray Nira, Sireia. I’ll do it gladly.” She said as she glanced at the tan-colored female who was slowly starting to back down from her earlier position. Lenel looked at her, his mind dwelling in many different issues at the same time. Haste’s appearance was a highly suspicious one but he couldn’t question the benefits of her help. Her cooperation would have to be ensured but there was little reason now to turn her away. He moved closer to the female and looked as a flash of light from the Night Circle ran across her face.

“In case I decided to accept your help, Haste, what do you offer me in return? And what do you hope to achieve with your betrayal? To take your sister’s place and then tell me you’re going to leave the same way she did?” Lenel narrowed his eyes as he spoke, willing to hear about his potential ally’s plans. Haste quickly took a look at Sireia and the two deputies to see whether they were planning anything for her but soon turned back to Lenel.

“I know everything about my sister’s precautions and I know the best way to attack her. And most of all, once I take her place, there will be no one in all our herds who could question our motives. I already hold the loyalties of many and Nira’s star is already falling. In return, I’m ready to pledge myself to your service as a gesture of apology for all the mistakes my sister has done. Our family owes you that much, Lenel.” Haste said respectfully, her eyes communicating nothing less than complete reverence and trust. Her words made Pterano and Taria gasp as they both knew few of the great families ever recognized other one’s superiority. The female quickly walked to her mate’s side and whispered to him silently.

“Send her away, now. She is completely insane and trusting her will be a grave mistake. Trust me in this, Lenel!” Sireia said in deep frown, finally getting enough of the newcomer. She had never trusted Haste but this meeting was even more suspicious than she had feared. This realization was not lost to Lenel, of course. Either Haste was absolutely desperate or she had some other, hidden motives but the latter part of her offer was something which appealed to the male in more ways than one. He bowed towards his mate as he answered, speaking in a soft and persuasive voice.

“Only a fool would trust someone who promises things like that, dear. But luckily we can get what she’s offering without ever leaving things up for a chance. We need an ally, Sireia, and if she’ll try anything suspicious, we’ll act faster than she will! I don’t like this any more than you do but this is a chance we’ll have to take!” The pale flyer said before again turning to face Haste. Sireia looked at him in clear disapproval but she could see her mate had already made his choice. Lenel hated the idea of ignoring the female’s concerns but there truly were no better options: after a successful attack, the last thing he wanted was to be overthrown because of his lack of powerful allies. His face returned to its former, inspiring expression as he gave his answer.

“I accept your proposition with one condition, Haste. We plan to keep our herd united and for that end, we need your help to deal with Peak, too. None of us will rest until our unity has been confirmed.” Lenel said, dreading about how many things could go wrong with the orange flyer. Attacking him would be highly risky but he was a far more serious threat than Nira would ever be. Haste’s eyes widened as he realized the full implications of Lenel’s words but even then, not one gesture implied her to be disturbed by them. Instead, she answered calmly to Lenel’s final terms.

“I agree. I didn’t expect for this proposition, Lenel, but Peak is another flyer who ever should have lead even the tiniest of herds. You have my help.” She said, making Sireia shake her head slightly. Lenel, however, nodded to her briefly before finally addressing his deputies again. Haste took a slight smile as she looked at Lenel, more than happy by her success.

“Pterano, Taria, start to gather small groups you know you can trust for today’s mission. We will gather here again when the Night Circle casts its glow against those mountains in the north. Time is off the essence and use the time you are given wisely. I trust both of you know what to do.” Lenel said, looking approvingly at the two flyers. Taria’s face carried a clear look of expectation whereas Pterano opted for a more balanced and serious expression. He was the first one to answer.

“It shall be done, Lenel. We’ll be ready when the time comes.” He said simply to which Taria continued in a low voice.

“We’ll stand with you until the end. Those fools won’t have a chance.” She said, following Pterano towards the darkened skies. The light-brown flyer knew his duties but he knew today’s mission also brought a clear threat with it. And he would never forgive himself if Petrie wouldn’t learn of his whereabouts on this tragic night.

The minutes passed on slowly as Petrie waited for his uncle’s return. He knew Sireia wouldn’t most likely call him for nothing but he had hoped to finally get a short chance to get a good night’s sleep after today’s horrible ordeals. He would have wanted to simply drift into the world of sleep stories and forget everything for a few hours but even then, he knew something important was happening. The way the meeting had gone and the fact that Lenel’s mate had been here to call him at this hour told the young flyer that things were far from he hoped. He continued to look at the clear, cold skies even if the frigid gusts made him shiver from time to time. He could only hope that this nightmarish episode in his life would soon enough come to an end. Even in this situation, the sleep was slowly taking a hold in his mind when a familiar form finally appeared in the distant sky. Immediately, the boy’s eyes were thrown open and he rose to a sitting position to wait for his uncle’s return. He looked expectantly and immediately addressed him happily.

“Finally you return, uncle Pterano! Where were you all this time?” He asked, deciding against revealing all he knew just yet. He looked as the older flyer slowly caught his breath and then answered to his nephew. The lighter-colored dinosaur took a sterner look as he gave his answer.

“I could ask the same of you, Petrie. Didn’t I tell you to stay here while I was helping the others with safeguarding the peace? Didn’t I, nephew?” He said, still disappointed by Petrie’s earlier failure to listen to him. The herd was far from safe right now and tonight, if ever, he hoped Petrie to simply take the hint and do as he was told. The younger flyer’s face fell as he thought about his chase from the guards of the meeting. No, that wasn’t something Pterano had to know about. Instead, he sighed and answered in genuine regret.

“You did, uncle. Petrie just wanted… something else to think back then. Me hate to stay here doing nothing when anything, especially bad things, can happen! Petrie sorry about that.” He said while crossing his arms. He hated to upset his uncle but he also hated the thought of simply being a burden for everyone around him. The older flyer’s face eased clearly and he sighed deeply and raised an arm to his forehead as he answered.

“I know you prefer action to merely waiting and seeing what’ll happen but listen to me, Petrie: this is far unlike anything you’ve seen before in your life. For these few days, everything can change around us and everyone around us can turn out be our enemy. I trust you completely, Petrie, but this isn’t something you’re prepared for.” He said, trying to put the most genuine and caring face he could. Petrie looked at the older male’s display with clear worry but something in Pterano’s antics told him that this time, the warning was something he simply shouldn’t overlook. He gulped and with an equally honest look, answered to the older flyer.

“Petrie… Petrie understand, uncle. Me know nothing about what me should think right now. Ever… everything is just a complete mess.” He said while letting his head drop slightly. Pterano looked at him in sympathy, cursing the day he had asked his nephew to join him in this collapsing herd. After that day, everything had gone astray and as in all those earlier times, others were one again paying the price of his mistakes. He knew he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for today’s coup but he wanted to reassure his nephew in this crucial evening. He sighed as he looked towards the main group of the flyers.

“I know, nephew. I know. I had hoped that you wouldn’t have to see things like this but… let me try to find a way out from this terrible situation. I promise it’ll already be better when the Bright Circle rises to the sky again.” He said, hoping beyond hope he wasn’t lying. Even now, he hoped Lenel wasn’t doing a horrible mistake but whatever happened, the die had been cast and there was no going back. Petrie raised his head to look at his uncle and asked carefully.

“How… how can you promise it, uncle Pterano? Nimble and the others will not come back, no matter what we do.” He said, naively only thinking of the damage that had already been done, still oblivious to the true threat that hung over the flyers like the darkest of sky puffies. Nira and Peak had likely informed their herds of their decisions but Petrie had been nowhere near them so he still hadn’t heard of the sickening truth. Pterano cringed at those words but he suddenly noticed the Night Circle’s glow creeping towards the northern mountains and even if he hated that knowledge, he knew his time would soon be up. He suddenly laid his hands on Petrie’s shoulders and spoke to him silently, as if almost in a whisper.

“They are not, Petrie, but it could be far worse than that. I’ll try to do what I can do to prevent further bloodshed. Promise me you’ll stay here, my nephew. This time I mean it, for your own sake. Whatever happens in the coming hours, stay here and wait for the night to pass. Please, Petrie, promise me that.” He said pleadingly, meaning those words like never before. In this moment, all dreams of personal glory were completely gone and only his nephew’s safety was in the lighter colored flyer’s mind. His expression disturbed the younger male greatly as he had never seen Pterano like this. The change from the self-confident and fearless flyer he had first learned to know couldn’t have been starker and despite breaking many of his earlier promises. Petrie realized that this time his uncle’s request surely came from his heart. He would have wanted nothing more than to be able to help his benefactor but this was a moment he simply couldn’t lie to the dinosaur who had done so much to save him from the deepest sorrow of his life. He waited for a moment before answering in an equally silent and heartfelt voice.

“Petrie promise that, uncle. Just promise Petrie you’ll be safe yourself.” He said, immediately hitting back at Pterano with another wave of emotion. He took a brief smile before speaking, highly moved by his nephew’s display of concern.

“I guarantee that to you, Petrie. But before I go, I’m very proud of the way you have changed ever since I found you at the river. I’m happy we met again even if it should have been in better circumstances. We’ll meet again in the morning, my dear nephew.” And before the boy received even the briefest of chances to answer, the older flyer took off and left the darker-colored dinosaur alone in the endless darkness. Petrie’s expression turned into one of utmost concern and fear, the winds of the Cold Time’s night suddenly feeling much more freezing than ever before.

“Are these all that you managed to gather, Taria?” Lenel asked as he checked at his deputy’s four companions who looked at him respectfully, all of them ready to follow him and the female through whatever was requested of them. Taria frowned slightly but decided against taking her leader’s words too literally yet. She had done what had been asked of her to the best of her ability.

“They are, Lenel. They aren’t many but you know all of them yourself and we both know they’re more than capable of handling dozen of enemies.” She said, prompting Lenel to cross his arms as he contemplated his deputy’s words. He had hoped for more but it was true that each of their companions had to be completely trustworthy and it was true, this was a group he’d lay down his life in any moment. If need be, he would call the rest of his herd but for now, he hoped these carefully-chosen flyers would be enough to see today’s plan through. He was just about to answer when another approaching flyer caught his attention. He frowned deeply as he saw Pterano approaching with only two companions, knowing that there would have been many more capable flyers within his herd but apparently his deputies didn’t have enough time as despite everything, he still trusted their judgement as if they were his own.

“Well met, Pterano. I had hoped more from you but I guess this is what we’ll have to go on with. We have no time to waste anymore. Those cursed fools are going down!” Lenel said, more than enraged by his former allies’ actions. The gathered flyers nodded approvingly while Haste soon walked towards the deputies with an expectant look on her face. She started to speak as soon as Lenel had finished.

“Indeed they are but we can’t afford to make any mistakes. I will advise you on how to move forward but the honored Lenel will still lead this effort. We have spoken a lot about this and we have decided that spreading our forces is the best way to move forward…”

“Do you think the others will approve of this? You are not their real leader and frankly, they have very little reason to follow any of your orders or decisions.” Nira asked silently, more than exhausted by today’s events. Her announcement to her followers had been far from well-received but no one had given her a direct challenge over her decision to once again take her own herd’s matters to their own hands which had brought her slight relief. But it had also brought her an unexpected guest who offered another interesting chapter in this seemingly never-ending saga of alliances and twists.

“Some of them most likely will, Nira. It is true that I’m not related to Nimble in any way but many saw the way I acted as her deputy and I hold the respect of many flyers in our herd. Half will probably break away from us but that’s a possibility I’m willing to take.” Kero said, his voice still wavering with sorrow. All his life he had done his best to earn his place in the herd and the honor of doing his all to help his family live in peace. Nimble had been a dear friend to him and even in this situation, the male knew there was nothing else he could do to salvage even the remnants of the authority that had died with Nimble. And he knew that the best anyone could do in this situation was to try to join Nira’s herd for protection. Nira nodded understandingly, knowing that Kero’s words made perfect sense.

“I see. It’s a real shame to see your leader’s legacy crumble like this but we never know where our end will finally wait for us. Nimble will certainly be missed.” Nira said genuinely as there had been times when she had truly seen the fallen flyer more as a friend than as a fellow leader. She had been one dinosaur with whom she had understood completely and next to her own family, Nimble had been the one whose company Nira had enjoyed the most. Kero raised his gaze into the skies while crossing his arms briefly. Up there, his dear friend was watching over him and he could only hope he wouldn’t her and their herd down completely.

“I hope her final flight was a calm and happy one. We will remember her memory for as long as at least one of us are still in this world. May the beloved ancestors cast their curse upon that damned Deron.” Kero said while the sight of Nimble getting ambushed in the middle of the raging storm with him unable to do anything to help her. Nira took a sad smile as she answered.

“It will, eventually. No one will be able to escape their fates forever. However, Kero, I have to ask, are you willing to give up any hopes you might have of ever reclaiming Nimble’s position as my equal? You aren’t a member of the great families so even your claim to watch over your own herd is a frail one.” She said while raising her beak upwards, knowing she had the right to demand this much from the male. Kero returned the melancholic smile as he answered.

“Of course I know it, Nira. I would never have come here if…” Suddenly, a silent crack could be herd from nearby, immediately alerting the female as well as the four guards who were ensuring their leader’s safety. Nira immediately moved closer to the spot where the voice had come from, knowing that she couldn’t be too careful tonight. She hoped that this relative calm would remain as she still trusted Lenel and peak enough to avoid counting them as potential threats. She still regretted that she had had to follow Peak in his decision but she simply couldn’t continue dwelling in this group of endless lies and mistrust. The guards, too, started searching for any signs of intruders but there seemed to be no movement in the small pit-resembling depression in the ground which was surrounded by Nira’s herd members.

The female frowned as her eyes searched the darkness around her, knowing better than to let anything up for a chance this night. Kero looked around himself in worry, equally conflicted about the whole day’s aftermath.

“You’ll stay here, Haste. I don’t want any kinds of surprises from you now.” Sireia said flatly, immediately declining the other female’s plead to speak to Nira in an effort to catch her attention. She didn’t know whether Haste was serious or only trying to test her but his answer was a clear one. She knew that any kinds of mistakes at this point could cost her and her mate their lives. Lenel was leading his group towards Peak as it was safest for the two rival leaders to die simultaneously. The female still cringed at that thought but the thought of killing her former allies, her former friends wasn’t completely out of the question after all these seasons of conflict and fighting. Each herd by extension, every flyer was in charge of themselves and she was only doing what was the most sensible one for her.  Haste glanced at her and hissed angrily.

“Do you want to do this or not, Sireia? How can I pave the way for you others if I won’t be able to get their attention away from your attack?” She said angrily, doing her best to change Sireia’s mind. The tan-colored flyer, however, wouldn’t hear any of it. She had a plan and she would stick with it, no matter what.

“You know what we have to do! Taria, taker two of your companions and do what you must!” Sireia spoke silently as she watched at Nira’s dark form in the distance. Taria nodded and soon enough, she and the two other flyers moved to drop a massive boulder down a nearby hill towards the hole Nira had chosen as her sleeping spot for this night. The sound of falling ground, which was somewhat dampened by the hardening earth, would be enough to draw at least some of the guards away and open a chance for the two and two others of their followers to move on Nira. Sireia smiled slightly as the massive boulder rolled down the hill, just silent enough to avoid catching too much attention from the other flyers. It was mere moments before the guards responded to the voice and Sireia knew her time was at hand.

“Let’s go, now! We don’t have much time!” And so the two females rose again to the sky, knowing that the minutes would decide whether their plan would succeed or whether their very lives would end in this nameless wasteland.

Lenel’s eyes scoured the ground as he and Pterano started to land near Peak’s resting place. The pale flyer cursed internally as he looked at the scene, his adversary having just as many dinosaurs as he had expected. This would be far from easy, especially as he had little knowledge about whether Peak was expecting something to happen. Even worse, this attack would have to be shown as a defense as without any of Peak’s close relatives, it would be a struggle for him and Haste to prove that Peak had been but a traitor from the beginning. Well, that issue would have to wait until the herd was his to command. He whispered silently to his companions, willing to make sure that he would execute this plan flawlessly.

“Peak has to be somewhere out there as I know him and he would never leave his family unattended. We have to create an opening as quickly as possible.” The light-colored flyer said as he examined the flyers circling their leader. Pterano frowned slightly, knowing there was little time to waste. If Sireia, Haste and the others were unsuccessful in their attempt and the word would spread of their endeavor, all would be lost. He looked at the scene for a while and then noticed something which caught his eye.

“The area to their left seems to be more lightly guarded which could be the way we should use. It seems like our best chance, Lenel.” He said, noticing there were only four flyers circling Peak’s left side. Lenel narrowed his eyes to see better in the dark and after a moment, he nodded to his deputy with some approval.

“You’re right, Pterano. Follow me, everyone! From now on, whatever happens, don’t forget our mission. If all else fails, I’ll call for reinforcements but hopefully that simply won’t come to pass. Come on, there is no time to waste! It is time to ensure that all your children will be able to sleep in peace even in the future!” He said as he slowly started to move forward, taking great care in ensuring that he wouldn’t be spotted prematurely. Pterano followed him closely and in the dark night, even the guards couldn’t spot them just yet. Lenel cringed as the ground sparkles creaked below him but that sound could be minimized with slow and careful steps. However, that didn’t last long as suddenly, Pterano’s leg sank deeper into the white cover of the earth, the following sound being more than enough to raise unwanted attention. The light brown flyer cast an apologizing look at his leader but almost immediately, two flyers headed their way, alerted by the sudden sound.

For the briefest of moments, Lenel already feared that all was lost. Even in the darkness, he and his followers would be easily seen in the middle of the sparkling white ground and he immediately gave an order to his companions.

“Rise to the air, quickly! We have to take them out before they can give the alarm!” He said, knowing his order could be a long shot but he was willing to take any chance offered to him in this moment of danger. The flyers immediately spread their wings, obeying the order of their leader. The small group spread quickly away from the spot where the voice had emanated from. The duo had failed to notice the other flyer’s disappearance and that was the last mistake they ever made. As they circled over the bald plain, Lenel quickly waved his wing and just after the two guards had left back towards Peak and his family’s resting place, three flyers moved at them with their full speed, immediately slicing their throats wide open. The whole display was too quick for either of them to even begin a call to the others but on the other hand, they didn’t have to.

In the middle of this unsavory attack, Lenel hadn’t seen one flyer sleeping much closer to the spot of this bloody display. A young, slightly bluish boy was woken up by the thud of the flyers hitting the ground and the first thing his eyes caught was the blood of the guards raining to the ground along with the poor guards. There was only one realistic thing for poor Ortin to do and that was to scream with all his might.

The entire atmosphere of the night had turned eerie for Nira very quickly. She was a seasoned fighter and a long-time leader of her herd and she had been forced to learn to recognize danger when she was facing it. And she also knew that any potential enemy would want to face her alone and defenseless, as any attacker should, but luckily to the, she wouldn’t give them that chance. She looked at her guards disappear into the darkness and in a further show of apparent ignorance about what was most likely going on, she turned again to look at Kero but before she could speak, she heard what she had already expected and immediately, gave a silent call that could only be heard in the areas nearby to the pit she had chosen as her resting place. At the same time, she turned around and just as the attacker was about to hit her, she quickly caught her leg and threw her to the ground, just in time to repel the first attack towards her. She looked self-confidently as ten more of her followers flew towards him, each of them willing to give their lives for their leader. Nira herself was, however, completely stunned as she recognized the attacker.

“Haste? What in the name of…?” She started as another flyer quickly flew towards her and it was only a matter of few fleeting moments that she managed to dodge the attacker’s charge. Even then, one of them managed to sink their claws at her right side, making her cringe in pain. Even then, she gathered herself as her guards slowly gathered around the attackers, clearly intent on ending this brash attack. Nira looked in utter astonishment at his sister and stuttered to her in disbelief. She had more often than not disapproved of Haste’s propositions and the two sisters had never enjoyed too warm relations. But to see her trying to attack her… Nira’s eyes also wandered at Sireia, her presence confirming her worst fears. She was only disappointed that Haste was with her.

“I never thought you’d go to this, Haste! I know you’ve disapproved of my decisions in the past but for the sake of all that is good in this world, why did you join those who only wish to manipulate and rule us? Is this the way you are trying to prove that you should have been at my place from the beginning?” She asked, anger slowly overtaking her initial shock.

Sireia, on the other hand, was glad that the other female was taking her time to question Haste. She had been better prepared than she had expected but even now, all was not lost. She could see growing determination in Haste’s eyes and she knew that she wasn’t about to give up her claim like this. Especially since she had another advantage Nira didn’t have a clue about. Additionally, Kero’s presence opened another possibility of trying to ally with Nimble’s former followers but before that, they’d have to emerge from this struggle. The slightly shorter flyer tried to take a few steps closer to her sister but she was immediately blocked by the newcomers. Her voice dipped with bitterness as she spoke to her

“Even that is a better option than heading for a certain decline and doom, yes! We were a proud herd once but you gave up out territory, our honor to join with Lenel, only to cast that alliance away because that foolish Peak claimed senseless things! My sister, I have tried to help you rule our herd with wisdom but you never once thought you might be mistaken yourself! Even then, we’ve been through too many good times for me to want to fight you. Step down now, Nira, and I will spare your life and even keep you as my deputy.” Sireia’s head immediately turned at Haste as she had never spoken of these kinds of offers. She had agreed to kill Nira and this remark hardly raised her trust in the other female’s motives. Nira’s beak turned into a pitying smile as she answered to her wayward sister’s words.

“You don’t have any of the qualities needed to take my place, Haste. I’d like to teach you that much as I’d like nothing more than to simply forget this meeting. Even then, our family and herd have always been my charge and you know as well as I that the mantle of a leader simply isn’t simply passed on to others. And even if I could, I’ve cared for our herd members for more Cold Times than I can remember and I would never pass my position to someone who is ready to kill her own her sister! You may reveal your deal with Lenel right away, you cursed traitor!” Nira cried as she moved closer to her sister whose expression, to Nira’s growing outrage, was completely unmoved by her words. Instead, Haste simply turned to look at the flyers around her as she spoke to Nira in a low voice.

“I’m so sorry you couldn’t see things my way, Nira. I truly am. Now, do it my friends!” The female cried as Nira frowned deeply. What did she mean? She wouldn’t possibly…
Nira’s thoughts were completely halted as she suddenly saw something she had never thought possible even in her worst dreams. Nearly half of her own guards suddenly sank their claws into their own comrades, immediately throwing them all, including Kero, into complete disarray. Nobody knew what was happening as flyer fought against flyer and friend against friend. Haste smiled as she realized her own allies had kept their oath to her despite the highly volatile nature of her plan. Haste and Sireia quickly started to fly towards the other leader, knowing now was their time to act. Nira started to back away but soon enough, she realized there was no escaping from this challenge. She quickly took off to prepare for the upcoming fight, hoping there would be a satisfying end to this night of sorrow and betrayal.

The young flyer gasped loudly, his eyes turning into round spheres of utter despair and disbelief as he looked all hell break loose around him. The sight of the guard being crushed to the ground would be one he’d never forget in his life but what followed it was even worse. Immediately Lenel, who the poor boy had regarded as a trustworthy flyer, and his companions flew towards him but just as the blue-colored flyer thought he was done for, they moved past him with full speed, heading straight for the rest of his family! After his first shock drew off, Ortin headed to make sure that he wouldn’t have to lose a loved one, even a more distant one, ever again. His grandmother was the only real family he had left but Peak and the others had still helped him get over the loss of his dad.

A cold fear grabbed Ortin’s heart as he rose to his wings, dreading what he’d see as he headed after the small group who had betrayed his family like this. As he rose to the dark, frigid sky, his eyes caught a scene even more monstrous than what he had expected. The whole plain before him was completely covered with fighting flyers as a quickly growing group of flyers attempted to block the attackers’ advance. Ortin wasted no time heading for heading to find at least someone who could stop this display of pure madness. He looked around himself as if in frenzy, his mind unable to process what was happening before his eyes. The boy’s small size enabled him to bypass the fighters highly undetected and after a moment, he spotted the flyer he had hoped to see the most.

“Grandma! What is going on? One moment, I am…” He started but immediately as he landed, his grandmother put her hand around his beak and spoke to him as smoothly as she could from her own shock.

“It’ll be alright, Ortin. I promise you. No group of thieves or traitors will be able to get through our herd. You know that.” She said, looking in worry as more and more of the guards headed to stop the attacking group. Ortin, however, didn’t calm down any as he quickly pulled his grandmother’s hand away from holding his beak and cried to her in near panic.

“But it is Lenel leading them and Petrie’s uncle is there, too! If they have more flyers to help them, then… then…” Ortin said until he quickly felt the words getting stuck in his throat. Those news caused the older flyer to again raise her gaze at the flyers, her own eyes widening greatly. She would have wanted to help her grandson but only a shocked
remark left her beak after those news.

“May Warekli, our most beloved ancestor, watch over us.”

Pterano gritted his teeth as he landed another blow against another flyer who was doing all in his might to hold him and his companions back. Thus far the attackers’ advance hadn’t halted completely but the whole mission had turned into a desperate struggle the moment Ortin had revealed his and companions’ presence to everyone within shouting distance. The light brown flyer was beyond sickened as he saw the young boy flee in utter fear, completely shocked to see him, of all flyers, threatening him and his family like this.
After all, he had been one of the flyers who had first shown at least some friendliness towards his nephew on his hour of need.

But as always, times of crisis always had innocent victims no one had wanted to cause. Even if Ortin would be forced to suffer from this attack, he was still acting for the good of all the dinosaurs in these four herds. That thought wasn’t much for the older flyer but it was all he had to keep himself calm on this most fateful of nights. A slight look of relief rose to his face when he finally got the upper hand against his opponent by forcing him against a pile of rocks and then outpowering him into a bad position. It wasn’t long until he was victorious in his own fight but it was but a little episode in the midst of the wider fight.

Lenel cursed as he thought about whether to call the rest of his followers to back him up in this sickening battle. It would offer him an advantage momentarily but the risk was that if the words of this spread across the rest of the flyers, this fight itself could tear the herd into pieces, this time literally. He would have hoped to do this silently but in the end, it would have been little more than futile wishful thinking. If he ever wanted to be capable of leading the flyers after today, he would have to prove his capabilities here. He quickly took down another of his adversaries nearby and then gave a quick command to his companions.

“Break their line in the middle and finish this, quickly! We cannot let this carnage linger any longer!” Lenel knew that Peak’s downfall would hardly calm the situation down immediately but it would offer him an opportunity to hold his line and with any luck, prove to them that he had only done what he had to. He had a lot of respect among Peak’s followers as well and if he put a good enough impression following his victory, he might just pull this mission off before his losses would become too high. However, his command was almost immediately followed by a voice that Lenel had waited to hear ever since he first had begun this attack.

“I always knew this was what you were really planning, Lenel! I knew it was you who was to blame from all our troubles from the very beginning! I should have done what I did long ago to reveal you as the traitor and murderer you truly are!” The rather high but steady voice of Peak called as the orange colored flyer landed between his guards, knowing that impressions and acts of bravery were far more important in these kinds of situations than anything he could say. The fighting didn’t stop, however, and Lenel knew he had to avoid seeming to escape from the battle to argue with Peak. He fought himself free from any adversaries before he found a time to give his answer to Peak, full well knowing that he couldn’t allow Peak to claim the initiative in the battle for the hearts of minds of the fighting flyers.

“You certainly have a lot of experience of treachery, Peak! Or have you already forgotten why we’re here in the first place? Or all the tales of you winning your old battles with pure plotting and backstabbing? Lenel shouted as he quickly parried the attack of another of his opponents, more than relieved by the courage his followers were showing in the face of the enemy’s superior numbers. Peak shorted slightly as he walked closer to the fighting dinosaurs, simultaneously raising his hand to order more of his subordinates to join the fighting.

“That’s what all flyers who want to live old should do. I, however, would never have tried to snuff the life out of my rivals in their sleep! You are a complete disgrace to Olres and all those who have ever followed you and believe me, Lenel, I’ll make sure you will never again spread your lies again.” The other leader said as he spoke to his long-time rival and his newest enemy. However, his words reached only few flyers as most of them wanted to only ensure that their side would prevail in this fight. However, it mattered little to Peak who, no matter who looked at his situation, trusted that this night would be his. Defeating Lenel’s pathetic attempt to overthrow him would only make him stronger in the eyes of his herd so no matter what he did, he would emerge as the victor in the upcoming dawn. Pterano looked at the orange flyer in anger, not believing the trash he was hearing. Granted, Peak had his appearances to hold and it was unlikely someone like he would treat his potential killers with respect but it seemed Peak was completely out of touch with reality. However, those thoughts were overshadowed by the fight until he heard one call from Lenel, one that he hadn’t expected him to use just yet.

“Then prove to me you are worthy of your position, Peak! Fight me and if your skills are as great as your words, I’ll acknowledge you as a true leader in every sense of the word! Do the right thing for once and save our followers’ lives!” The pale flyer cried, causing his counterpart’s eyes to widen immediately. The call for a one-on-one fight wasn’t uncommon among flyers but few leaders who regularly used it lived until the next Cold Time. It was usually a test of strength between two flyers who wanted prove their dominance over their rival but just as well, nobody had an obligation to accept that challenge. After his initial surprise, Peak noticed that a few of the fights had halted to hear his answer and almost immediately, Peak’s face turned into a frown.

“You’ve got quite the nerve, Lenel. After all you’ve done, you think you can simply come here and think you can prove you’re right by challenging me to some puny fight? A slimy traitor like you will never get the privilege of standing as my equal again! March on, my friends! Wipe this fool into the Great Beyond!” Peak cried and immediately, more and more of Peak’s herd members began to fill the scene and Lenel knew he was left with no other choice. He let out a loud screech, calling for his own followers into the scene as well. He had wanted nothing more than to avoid this possibility but a full-fledged fight inside the herd was starting to look like an unavoidable scenario.

Petrie shuddered as he heard the sudden cry penetrate the sky which had been preceded with countless of cries of pain and death. The young boy was completely penetrated with fear as he knew that something was going on within the herd, something of which his uncle was part of! The flyer looked to the direction of the sounds, wanting nothing more than to go ensure that all was well with Pterano, that no harm would befall upon him. Yet, the look in his eyes when he had told him to stay here still lingered within the child’s mind, the pleading stare still haunting his mind without an end.

His soul called for action and during the few seasons of his life, he would have found the will to help his uncle but slowly yet surely, Petrie realized that Mysterious Beyond was not the Great Valley and Pterano had far more experience of surviving out here than he did. Seeing how concerned he was for his nephew’s sake had changed something in Petrie’s mind and despite his terrifying fear, he knew what he would have to do. For the first time in his life, he would listen to the advice given to him from grown-ups. Petrie’s body shuddered with fear but with all his willpower, he sat down to save his uncle from any further concerns or heartbreak in case all would go wrong, hoping he could hide his fears as efficiently as the night embraced the young flyer in its dark embrace.

The flyer took a few steps backwards and panted heavily as she looked at a wide wound in her belly while preparing for her two opponents’ counterattack. Even if Nira knew she had put forward a good defense, she also knew she wouldn’t win against her two opponents by her own. Her guards and Haste’s traitors were still engaged in a deadly melee and Nira knew they wouldn’t help either side in time. She had thought for so long that she had been protected herself well enough but never once had she suspected her sister of ever trying to betray her! Never once had she thought that there had been so many within her most trusted followers who would be willing to side against her this readily. How much hate and distrust lingered inside the herd she had thought to have led wisely all these seasons? Those thoughts sickened her but right now, that wasn’t something she could affect right now. All she could was to try to somehow live through this as despite it being her most probable way of survival, she would not pass her position to her sister. No flyer who would be willing to go this far to fulfill her own desires could be trusted with the lives of dozens of dinosaurs. Nira looked feverishly around her, trying to find something that could allow her to either escape or turn the tables against her foes but to her growing fear, nothing worthwhile met her gaze.  In growing realization and shock, Nira understood that she had but option: to prevail against these two or to fall in fight and fulfill her duty to the herd she had given her all ever since she was but a girl.

Her opponent’s attempts to disengage from the fight annoyed Sireia greatly but she also knew that she couldn’t get too greedy in her attempts to stop Nira’s maneuvers. One misstep would give the experienced fighter an opening to turn the tide of the fight and crush her with one, well-executed move. She and Haste had managed to wound their foe but the fight was still undecided but the tan-colored female knew that every second that passed made her plan ever less likely to work. She would have to end this quickly, regardless of the risks such a move could contain. She could see Nira was trying to catch her breath among the terrifying pain caused by her new wound and Sireia decided that her moment had come.

With a powerful push, she flew towards Nira but just as she was about to hit the other female, she rose slightly higher, attempting to distract her from her real plan. Sireia had noticed that there was a powerful gust behind her opponent which she knew she could use as a way to buy Haste enough time to get the decisive advantage the duo needed to win this struggle. Nira looked at the other flyer with slight surprise but even then, she knew she had to keep her focus on both of her opponents. During the split second she looked at her sister who was also advancing towards her quickly, Sireia flipped to catch the wind and as Nira turned her gaze back towards Sireia, it was too late for her to stop the other female’s assault. Yet, even now, Nira wasn’t completely helpless. She saw that Sireia’s control of her own flight was far from perfect and despite her momentum, the other flyer had left parts of her side unprotected. Nira cringed as she felt Sireia’s weight pull them both towards the rocky ground but she quickly managed to sink her claws into Sireia’s abdomen, making her screech in pain loudly.

Yet, her valiant attack also marked the end of the proud leader’s stand. Haste flew towards the two other flyers, aiming her attack straight towards her sister’s head. Little emotion could be seen on the female’s face for her sister, the only look being that of triumph and hate. It took Nira a few seconds to recover from the initial collision but when she finally did, she found herself pushed towards the ground by Sireia, the sharp-faced dinosaur’s hands strictly restricting Nira from any kind of hopes of escape. Sireia herself was in deep pain but she knew this was her chance to end this fight once and for all. Nira tried to struggle against her opponent but after she saw her sister approach her, her efforts turned into panicked kicks and cries which only confirmed her defeat. After a short while, Haste hit her head and throat with a terrible force, sparing Sireia only barely. The attack had been unbelievably effective in its brutality, ending the life of another of the four herds’ leaders life in a matter of seconds.

His eyes turned into a deep frown as Peak saw over a dozen more opponents joining Lenel’s side of the battle. It seemed like he couldn’t simply crush the green-eyed flyer’s followers with pure force even if it was still clear that he had the upper hand in the struggle for his own followers’ future. The battle was earning more and more attention among the other flyers as the sounds of fighting grew more profound. Yet, despite his distrust of others, Peak wasn’t one of the leaders who was prepared to hide behind the backs of his companions, only waiting for his herd to buy his victories to him. No, he would lend his all safe the lives of as many as he could and after the fight’s escalation he quickly waved another dinosaur nearby to him.

“Go and try to get Lenel away from the others, Bluegust! I’ll come help you soon but until then, I have to secure that there’s no way for those bastards to break through our ranks!” Peak said to the enormous flyer who was nearly twice the size of his brother who was by no means a short dinosaur himself. Bluegust’s strength was widely renowned and he had been an invaluable right hand to Peak during their times together. The larger flyer nodded to Peak quickly, yearning to get down to action.

“Of course, brother. That traitor will go down before we know it! Just make sure you won’t screw things up on your own.” He said, earning a brief frown from Peak. Bluegust was
the only one he let to joke on his behalf even a bit but he still disapproved of his antics more often than he had hoped. He snorted in annoyance as he went on to lead his herd into
another glorious victory.

“This is no time for jabbering! Time is off the essence so get on the move!” Peak said, looking smugly as another of Lenel’s pathetic flyers fell under their enemies’ attack. Soon enough, their leader would follow them into their end and he could finally prove that he was right about the others’ weakness and treachery all along.

The fight had turned into a static one which made Pterano curse big time. Not only was the battle become more dangerous but also much more deadly. Both of the herds would suffer greatly which was a scenario he had dreaded from the very beginning. Yet, there was no turning back now. The defenders’ lines were getting thin and Peak knew most likely himself that fleeing from this fight would mean his actual defeat. Despite the countless cuts in his body, Pterano felt slight hope swell within his chest. That was, until his eyes wandered into the sky and caught a sight that shocked him without an end. The shade of a massive flyer was dashing towards him and Lenel and that shadow could only belong to one flyer. Bluegust’s ferocity and brute strength were widely respected even among flyers who had never seen him and it had often been his presence alone that had saved his allies in previous battles. Pterano quickly cried to Lenel who was too busy defending himself to pay attention to the attacker.

“Take cover! Don’t just stand there!” He cried, earning an annoyed look from those around him but Lenel knew better than to ignore the others’ warnings. Without even looking what his deputy meant, Lenel jumped heavily backwards and in the last possible moment, saw what had made Pterano sound that terrified. Instinctually, Lenel prepared for the attack and concentrated all his strength for one leap. Just as the larger flyer was preparing for the hit, Lenel jumped forward and grabbed the attackers’ right wing and quickly pulled him from his original course, sending the attacker to hit the ground headlong. The light-colored flyer looked at the scene in relief, knowing this attack could have very well been his end. Immediately, he moved to finish the fight but he underestimated Bluegust’s swiftness.

The larger flyer was completely taken aback by Lenel’s cold-headed reaction to his attack and his oversight of his opponent’s skill had caused a serious setback for him but if he had counted Lenel away as a weak and slow fool, Lenel now saw his opponent as a brainless brute. Lenel thought that Bluegust would never guess just where his finishing move would come the larger flyer knew very well what his opponent would do. He quickly rolled to his left side and when Lenel saw that his trick had failed, it was too late. He did his best to turn around and away from the powerful dinosaur’s way but it was for nothing. Bluegust grabbed Lenel’s left wing and pulled him nearer to him and before the higher-ranked leader could even begin to fight his way towards freedom, he found himself pushed towards a large rock, facing his enemy in a position in which defending himself would be completely hopeless. Lenel used every muscle in his body trying to break Bluegust’s hold but it was all for nothing. In the back of his mind, Lenel was already coming to terms with the fact that all his ambitions, all his hopes would end from the hands of a flyer he had always deemed but a useless fool.

However, there was another flyer nearby who wasn’t about to let the bloody display move forward the way Peak’s brother would have hoped. Pterano had looked at the swift battle in complete astonishment, simultaneously impressed by Lenel’s reactions and Bluegust’s ferocity, the display stunning him for a few moments. A few moments which could very well prove to be the difference between his leader’s survival and death. Bluegust looked like a flyer of legend crushing a puny upstart as he towered over Lenel and the expression on his face told that no mercy would be given or asked tonight.

Instinctually, Pterano took off from the ground and flew towards the duo, hoping beyond hope to reach Lenel in time. With the pale flyer rested his own life and Petrie’s future in the herd as it was very likely Lenel’s deputy wouldn’t simply be allowed be allowed to leave other tonight’s bloody display. And without him, his nephew could very well starve in the loneliness, facing the same grim fate he had saved the boy from. The position Lenel had promised him was far from his mind the moment he saw Bluegust pushing Lenel towards the stone with ever-increasing force and prepare to crush his opponent once and for all. In just a few moments, Lenel’s ribcage would crush into a thousand splinters and the fight would be over once and for all. Pterano heard the blood beat in his ears as he tried to feverishly save his benefactor of the past seasons. Just as it seemed like Lenel was giving in to the pain and Bluegust was about to give the final blow, Pterano hit his back, sending the larger flyer rolling to the ground, causing him to release Lenel from his sickening grasp.

However, that save didn’t come without a price. Pterano followed the larger flyer into the ground and before he had the time to rise up, Bluegust turned around and grabbed Pterano’s left leg and with one, quick move, broke it as if it were but a small, withered stick. The smaller flyer looked at that display in deep shock, the pain slowly starting to spread across the rest of his body. Without his leg, he couldn’t run and even flying without the control of all of his limbs would be slow and forced. Bluegust knew that, of course, and he quickly resumed his offensive. Pterano tried to rise up but the pain and his ruined leg made any attempt to stand against his opponent futile. He looked with wide eyes as his opponent approached him, seeing the murderous glare in the massive brute’s eyes.

That development wasn’t lost on Lenel of course. He looked in horror at what was happening to his deputy and he knew he couldn’t leave Pterano completely alone, no matter his injury. He immediately moved on to repay his debt to the light-brown flyer… until his flight was suddenly interrupted by another flyer.

“Don’t bother to stop my brother now, Lenel. Your deputy deserves a clean end instead of serving you in the case you happen to be able to slither away from here!” Peak said as he suddenly landed near his opponent, accompanied by three of his followers. Even if the light-colored flyer hadn’t noticed it, Bluegust had succeeded in getting the two higher-ranked flyers away from the main scene of the battle, opening a way for Peak to step in and finish what his brother had started. Lenel was completely taken aback by this development, not expecting Peak to appear here himself. After their initial clash, Peak had seemed to dismiss the idea of a fair confrontation and even with his guards accompanying him, this was a surprising development. However, Lenel knew he had another charge to do first and that was to save Pterano. He flew forward, not seeming to notice the newcomers and quickly pushed aside the flyers who tried to cut his dash.

Yet, even now, Pterano wasn’t completely helpless himself. Even with his broken leg, he managed to hold his ground against his opponent for a while which seemed to annoy Bluegust without an end. He had already been twice at the verge of victory and this cursed weakling wouldn’t delay his fulfillment of his brother’s order. Pterano’s movements were slow and forced but even now, he kept his cool and with great efforts, managed to even wound the larger flyer a few times. Bluegust, however, was more than ready to simply get over this nonsense and quickly stepped forward, attempting to simply force Pterano backwards and utilize her inability to walk to his best advantage. Pterano knew all too well what that plan would mean for him and he knew he had to do something now. Lenel was still too far away to be of any help so he had to do this himself.

Bluegust seemed to overwhelm Pterano’s entire vision and the smaller flyer knew he had but one chance to save himself. Peak’s brother suddenly waved his hand in an attempt to his adversary and at that moment, Pterano made his move. He jumped forward as quickly as he could and he quickly scratched Bluegust to his chest with all his might, hoping this could save him from the obvious counterattack. The larger flyer let out a pained scream but his injury didn’t prevent him from crushing Pterano one and for all. However, there came another development he hadn’t yet expected.

Lenel knew his position was extremely dangerous but once again, Pterano had surprised him with his bravery and unwillingness to give up in the face of desperate odds. He looked in deep admiration at Pterano’s attack and before Bluegust could do anything to hurt his deputy, Lenel doubled down on Pterano’s hit and sank his claws deep into Bluegust’s chest, causing the giant flyer to finally take a few steps back in disbelief, slowly raising his and on his wounded torso. The wound wasn’t lethal, yet, but it was far more than he had expected from Lenel’s deputy. Lenel quickly saw his chance and headed straight towards Bluegust, knowing this was his chance to get to Peak.

The situation was beyond unbelievable for Pterano who looked at Bluegust’s struggles in awe. He and Lenel had succeeded in beating off the giant flyer’s attack and the defeat of Peak’s brother would almost certainly lead to the other leader’s defeat! Soon enough, he would be able to tell Petrie that all was well ag…

That brief moment of victory was suddenly interrupted as Pterano felt his back being grabbed by another flyer and before he received the chance to even twitch his head, he felt a terrifying pain in his throat and instinctually, he turned to look at his chest and the last thing his fading eyes saw were sickening streams of his own blood dropping to the ground. Before he managed to form even another thought, the light brown flyer who had only started to redeem himself of his past fell to his knees, only to fall to his side to the ground.

Peak grinned in disgust as he pulled back his hand from his victim’s throat. Today had gone far from the way he wanted but at least this insufferable fool was now dealt with. He had often seen Pterano as a trustworthy and honorable flyer but he had chosen the wrong side in this conflict and paid for it with his life. There was no time to mourn his unneeded death and he immediately raised his gaze up… only to see something that froze his heart momentarily.

The brutal display made everything stop in Lenel’s eyes as he looked at his deputy’s broken body. Only a few seconds earlier, he was prepared to celebrate this great victory with him and soon enough, Pterano would have received the honor of standing by his side at the head of this great herd. All these Cold Times, Pterano had been a valuable ally… and even a good friend. Lenel knew he’d be missed greatly in the weeks to come but right now, he had to press forward in the only way possible. With a quick sprint, he took a firm grip on Bluegust in order to show Peak that he had the upper hand over his brother, one that couldn’t be taken away from him anymore. The larger dinosaur was completely unable to fight back as his injuries seemed to render him completely unable to resist his opponent’s attack. Lenel then cried to Peak who was stopped by the pale flyer’s latest trick.

“Fight me one against one or I’ll slaughter your brother right here, you cursed assassin! Don’t take another step, Peak!” Lenel knew he was in a completely hopeless situation if
Peak wouldn’t notify his threat but Lenel knew that wouldn’t come happen. Peak might be many things but all his life, his loyalties had lied with his family and Peak would never allow his brother to die if he could only avoid it.

The orange flyer looked at the display in utter outrage, cursing himself over and over for allowing this thing to happen. He should never had let his brother come here in the first place as the battle had already been won! Bluegust was one of the strongest fighters he had seen but even then, Lenel was by no means an easy opponent. His overconfidence had brought his family one step closer to its end and even if he knew simply attacking Lenel would bring him the victory here, he couldn’t find it within himself to simply allow his brother to die like this. With a resigned wave, he told his companions to stay still and called to Lenel in a loud voice.

“Very well, Lenel! Let my brother go and you will get the privilege to face me yourself! You have my word about that in the name of my family, the children of Warekli himself!” Peak said, giving the most powerful pledge he could. At this point, he couldn’t turn back or he’d risk losing his authority and position in the eyes of his own herd. Lenel stared at Peak for a moment before taking a brief sigh and releasing the seriously wounded flyer from his grasp. Bluegust took one, last gaze at his opponent before moving away from the dark plain, knowing full well what his defeat meant. Lenel then cocked his head and spoke to Peak in a forceful voice.

“Then command your guards further away from us, Peak! We’ll fight right here and now!” Lenel cried, not willing to call for a duel when the other flyers were present, not when he was practically on a mission to assassinate a fellow leader, no matter how good his intentions were. Peak frowned deeply at his opponent’s latter demand but in the end, he didn’t want a public argument with a flyer who could make his role in Nimble’s downfall so much better known to the others. He turned at his followers and spoke to them silently.

“Move to a safe distance to guarantee this traitor won’t try anything funny. It won’t take me long to end this charade once and for all.” Peak said and his followers slowly moved away from the coming battlefield. Deep down, both flyers knew they could trust in each other’s word as both of them had proved themselves to be true to their word, a quality which made at least situations like these more comfortable. Lenel nodded approvingly as he moved closer to Peak, preparing for the coming fight.

Peak narrowed his eyes, shutting the dark plain away from his mind as he looked at Lenel. Deep down, he had expected Lenel to make a move after his announcement but an attack of this magnitude and brutality wasn’t something he had prepared for. But none of it mattered any. He had made his decision to forge a new, more glorious path forward for his herd, one that would be worth fighting for. He had been one of the more resourceful and respected leaders when he led his own flock a long time ago and he would be it again. For the sake of his ancestors, his fallen cousin and for his children who would carry on his legacy for the ages to come.

His limbs felt unnaturally heavy as the magnitude of this confrontation fell on Lenel’s shoulders. If he ever wanted to find out Olres’ secret or earn his place on the legendary flyer’s place, Peak would be an obstacle he’d have to beat. Not to even mention that Sireia’s future would most likely fall alongside him as her name would be forever tainted by his alleged treachery and defeat. And, even more than he actually knew, the sight of Pterano’s downfall appeared to his sight. His poor deputy had done all in his might to serve him and in the end, he hadn’t even managed to save him from Peak’s cowardly attack. He had seen many of his friends fall during his long seasons but something in Pterano’s end sickened him beyond measure. A chance to take out his murderer would be the least he could do for his deputy who had embarked on his last flight. Outrage built inside Lenel as he cried to his opponent.

“Then let us begin! I’ll take great pleasure for making you regret all you’ve done, Peak!” Lenel cried as he took off, heading into the dark heights above him. Peak snorted for the last time before spreading his wings, knowing full well this fight would be far from an easy one. Lenel had practically put his back against the wall with this challenge as defeat would mean his death and his family’s downfall. His guards were now bound with their honor to tell the truth about what happened here and most likely it would be the victor’s word that would weigh more on the other flyers. Even worse, Lenel was a quick and clever fighter and beating him would require every bit of courage and skill he could utilize. He answered to Lenel’s taunt briefly before searching for the best wind possible.

“You will take back your lies before all this will be over! You’re going down at last, Lenel!” He cried as he suddenly took a plunge downwards, trying to get the best speed he could in order to earn the upper hand in the upcoming charges. Lenel realized that immediately but he also had to admit Peak had chosen his position more wisely than he had. In order to prevent Peak from attacking right away, Lenel headed higher towards the skies where the wind was nearly nonexistent. Once again, the sight of the larger battle appeared to his sight and to his horror, he could see that a quarter of both herds had already fallen and the rest were getting increasingly desperate to pull some kind of victory out of that hell. Lenel couldn’t help but wonder if Sireia was now among them or… or had she already fallen from Nira’s hand. That thought nearly made Lenel nearly forget his task at land and that was something he couldn’t afford right now.

The pale flyer’s plan had indeed robbed Peak of some of his momentum but he was still approaching Lenel with a worrying speed. The latter knew that he was practically but a nonmoving target for his opponent and Lenel realized this situation called for a surprise. Momentarily, he relaxed his muscles and then concentrated all his strength into a large somersault which he then used to gain some speed to answer to Peak’s attack. With any luck, this earned him a new way of attacking his opponent from a direction he hadn’t

Yet, Peak was far more familiar with his fighting style than Lenel had ever realized. Peak grinned slightly as he looked at Lenel’s dash and just as he was about to use his new speed to head for Peak’s back, the orange flyer used another gust to turn around and by then, it was too late for Lenel to change his plan. Peak rose slightly higher which enabled him to plunge straight towards Lenel’s back, his claws digging at his flesh and his weight breaking the other leader’s flight completely. However, Peak knew this didn’t decide the fight yet and he immediately headed after the falling flyer, willing to make him pay for all the lives that had been lost today because of him.

His back felt like it had been hit by a massive boulder as Lenel did his all to regain his balance. The wounds were already bad enough but Peak’s hit at his very spine made his attempts to stay in the air far more difficult. He tried to turn around into his normal flying position but the aching in his back made those attempts beyond painful. Yet, Lenel knew it couldn’t be broken as he could still move all his limbs without problem. Peak could have caused only a momentary, harmless injury he would simply have to get over if he wanted to survive this. He saw Peak heading after him and the green-eyed male knew he had but a few seconds to make his move. Lenel steeled himself like never before to start his counterattack.

He would have wanted to scream from the bottom of his heart as he finally forced himself into his natural position and in the last possible moment, stopped his plunge towards the sharp rocks of the unhospitable earth. He could see slight annoyance and surprise in Peak’s eyes but the latter still seemed hardly taken aback by Lenel’s move. The flying was beyond painful to Lenel and he knew he would lose sooner or later due to his temporary disability. He would have to get a counterattack on Peak now if he wanted to win this fight.
The orange flyer, however, frowned as he saw Lenel’s almost natural-looking flight. He had already counted him as a goner and sure enough, his hit had been powerful enough to even snap a weaker or smaller flyer’s entire spine in two. His opponent had to be in horrible pain and that meant only one thing: now was the opportunity to take the foolish flyer out of this fight once and for all. Yet, Peak knew better than to underestimate Lenel even now but if he decided against acting now, Lenel might have time to plan his next moves and even find some way to counterattack. Knowing that now was his time, Peak moved to break Lenel’s hopes once and for all.

Lenel, however, didn’t need any more time to plan his moves as Peak did exactly as he hoped. The pain in his back prevented him from mounting an effective attack, true, but that didn’t by no means mean he wasn’t able to defend himself. Peak put all his attention into a quick attack which let his opponent answer to it if he timed his strike correctly. He looked at Peak’s attack, looking as terrified as Peak expected him to be. Just as he was about to sink his claws into Lenel once again, the pale flyer suddenly shoot upwards and then fell to his side, allowing him once again to regain the initiative in this fight. And he had already decided where he’d directed that advantage. Lenel felt a certain sense of triumph wash over him as he fell on Lenel and immediately directed his attack on his head and in a few moments, Lenel found what he was looking for. A blood-chilling cry filled the night as Lenel’s claws sank into his fellow leader’s eyes.

His entire world turned into a pain-filled hell the moment his vision failed for the very last time. His sensations were completely overshadowed with pain and his thoughts were completely blocked by one primal drive to get rid of the attacker, no matter what. The shock of surprise and will to live shut down Peak’s calculative mind for a moment but even then, he knew how to best get rid of his enemy. Peak turned his back towards the ground and as he felt Lenel’s grip starting to fail, Peak quickly grabbed his wing and pulled it with all his might. Lenel gritted his teeth together, making sure to hold his grip for as long as possible. His mouth turned into a slight smile as he saw the long wound he managed to create on Peak’s cheek and throat before he was finally plunged away from his opponent. Before Lenel had any time to think what he would do now, he hit the ground with a violent force, leaving him completely unmoving for many seconds.

Even after his victory in the small fight, Peak was even more miserable than before. The endless darkness he saw before himself horrified him before an end and the sickening pain radiated ever further into his body. Even now, it was nearly impossible for the proud flyer to realize that his eyes had been most likely ruined for good. And all because of that one, cursed traitor…

Peak’s fear suddenly turned into a desperate rage as his mind slowly reminded him of what he was up to. Lenel was still out there even if he had fallen to the ground. Even now, Lenel would not escape his punishment and Peak was more decided than ever to get rid of the flyer who had caused him so much harm during this past day. He would find Lenel even without his sight and make him hope he had never met the leader of Warekli’s line in his life.

Lenel groaned slightly as he slowly began to recover from the horrific crash to the ground. He held his head, hoping beyond hope it would stop aching soon enough. His head and back felt like they were about to explode but he, too, couldn’t bring himself to forget where he was. He raised his gaze towards the skies and it didn’t take long for him to see Peak’s form flying above him. At first, Lenel was about to shoot up to prepare to finish this fight but then he noticed how very wavering and unsure his flight was. He nearly faced Lenel but despite that, he seemed completely oblivious to his opponent’s presence. It was only when he saw the blood across Peak’s face that he remembered what he had done before his horrifying hit. Peak would notice him eventually but his current condition would be the decisive advantage in the coming showdown.  Looking at his opponent with a self-confident smile, Lenel took a small pebble from the ground and threw it to the ground before him.

That sound alerted Peak immediately as it was a welcome change from the dark silence that was now his world. For the briefest of moments, Peak thought that Lenel was most likely stirring from his hit but the next moment he realized that Lenel wouldn’t be that careless. That sound was but a pathetic, old trick which Lenel thought would save him from certain defeat. However, even now, Lenel wasn’t about to let his opponent to take the initiative. Peak headed towards the ground, feeling the wind in order to find out where his opponent was hiding. However, it was at this moment that Peak noticed something which took him back completely. Small traces of light suddenly fought their way into his consciousness. His right eye wasn’t completely ruined with any luck, he would regain his vision one day. However, Peak didn’t let that development divert his attention from searching for Lenel. He had to mind his surroundings as it was nearly certain Lenel would try to use his opponent’s injury for his advantage, as any sensible dinosaur would do.
Yet, attacking even a blind flyer wasn’t easy for Lenel now. His body bled from many spots heavily and the necessary, last dash would not be a simple task. Moreover, Peak wouldn’t let anyone surprise him right now, if he could only possibly avoid it. Yet, Lenel knew the decisive advantage was his and there would be no better opportunity for him to act. With silent steps, he walked towards a nearby cliff and quickly pulled a pile of rocks down to the ground. As the boulders hit the ground, Lenel flew to his left, knowing that would make it impossible for Peak to answer to his assault. The pale flyer took a few more steps before finally casting his die. Within a minute, either he or Peak would embark on the eternal fight to the next world.

Peak was completely taken aback by the flapping of the wings to his right, turning to face the attacking flyer in sudden fear. Lenel’s diversion had worked perfectly and it would take a miraculous defense for him to stop Lenel’s attack. He listened keenly to his foe’s approach and then suddenly relaxed, realizing all wasn’t lost yet. He suddenly jumped forward towards Lenel, realizing how weak Lenel actually was now. The impact led the two dinosaurs rolling to the ground, fighting for the final strike of the night. The two gave no quarter as they fought for their ambitions and living and foregone friends and family. Lenel received a nasty hit to his throat, for a moment thinking it was all over but to his luck, none of his major arteries had been cut. In return, Peak received a sickening wound to his chest that painted the orange flyer’s torso red. Hit was followed by another hit and blow was only traded for another blow. The horrifying fight seemed to stretch on forever until Lenel finally found a new opening.

The other leader had trouble answering to his assaults and in this situation, he could to cast aside all carefulness and to decide this fight with one, last surprise. Peak was annoyed by his disability but soon enough, Lenel’s back and wounds would buy him his victory. Just a few more hits and… suddenly Peak’s thoughts were interrupted by a new wave of pain from his chest. This hit was more brutal than any of the ones that came before and immediately the flyer realized Lenel had cast off all defense for this attack but to the orange flyer’s shock, the mere strength of the attack keeping him back. He could feel Lenel striking again and again and he didn’t seem to care of any counterattacks, no matter what Peak did.

The dinosaur’s entire mind did its all to block the terrifying pain and to finish this fight once and for all. He finally had Peak in his grip and he’d see this fight until the very end. He could see his opponent’s injuries already holding him back tremendously and it would take but a few more moments and he’d be victorious. Slowly, that thought drove the agony from Lenel’s mind, causing him to smile as he thought about his life’s greatest victory.

It was also clear to Peak that he had lost. In a matter of mere seconds, Lenel would give the decisive blow and his life would be over once and for all. For a fleeting moment, the usually-headstrong leader already resigned to his fate, knowing it was his duty as the head of his herd to accept defeat in order to save the honor of his family. It would be better for him to simply leave this world with dignity instead of betraying his vows. However, those thoughts were suddenly swept aside as a new realization came to his mind.
Was he truly going to give this murderous bastard the joy of utter victory and deliver those who had believed in him to the hands of this monster? Was he truly going to allow Lenel the chance to lead one of the most powerful herds in nearby lands? Peak knew he alone held the knowledge of Lenel’s plans and the authority needed for others to listen to him and giving up now would only mean that no one would stand against Lenel from now on. No, even if he would have to pay for his life with his honor and leadership, he still had a role to play in the coming Cold Times and for him to buy that role, he had to get away from this fight now.
With a wicked kick, Peak hit his opponent and quickly rolled to his side, spreading wings in a desperate attempt to flee. Lenel quickly grabbed his opponent’s leg, trying to prevent
his escape but with one, decisive hit to hi the pale flyer’s head, Peak forced Lenel to let off of the limb. After noticing that he was free, Peak cried to Bluegust who had followed the fight all along.

“Bluegust! Go get Swiftbeak, Koria, Ortin and Highpond! We have to get out of here, now!” Peak knew that not even his guards would fight for him after his escape but with some luck, he and his family would be able to rebuild their position once Lenel’s leadership would turn into a complete disaster. Peak knew that without him, his followers would lose soon enough and after that defeat, Lenel could have free hands to get rid of his family. He regretted having to ask his brother to get his children, Ortin and his aunt but Peak needed all his strength into getting away from here alive himself. His sickening bleeding and blindness made the flying a complete nightmare so he needed to concentrate all his efforts into saving himself.

Lenel looked in utter disappointment and outrage as he saw his foe taking off into the endless black skies. Despite their differing thoughts and motives, Lenel had always deemed Peak a trustworthy flyer who’d do anything to uphold his respect among his followers. Now he had thrown all that away with his escape but even now, Lenel wasn’t about to let him live. He knew just as well what his own rival’s escape would mean and with high hopes, flew after Peak with all his might.

Yet, he soon realized it was easier said than done. As Lenel straightened his back and prepared for the chase, his back quickly reminded him of his injuries. Immediately, the flyer crouched his body and only barely avoided another crash into the ground. As he had stabilized his fall, Lenel could already see Peak beginning to disappear into the blackness, realizing he’d never catch the escaping flyer in his current condition. For a moment, this realization paralyzed him completely, not willing to believe that even after all the bloodshed and struggles, he had let his opponent get away like this. After all that had happened, Peak should have paid for his deeds. To think he had failed this close to the victory…

It was at that moment that Lenel realized that he had still accomplished what he had come here to do. Peak had been dealt with and if Sireia had managed to do her part of today’s attack, his plan would be a complete success! Lenel suddenly shot up again and headed towards the main battlefield, knowing this was the time to make his move. His flight was slow but with some effort, he could make it look somewhat authoritative and normal-looking. As Lenel saw the fighting flyers appear under him, he suddenly saw Sireia and Haste among the heavily-wounded but still surviving combatants. And that had to mean that Nira had been dealt with, making him shudder in excitement and relief. With as strong-looking movements as he simply could, Lenel moved downwards towards the ground and called to the fighters in a loud voice, knowing that he could still lose everything if he couldn’t get Peak’s herd to listen to him. At the very least, the fighting ended the moment Lenel opened his mouth.

“Halt the battle! We have lost far too many lives already because of Peak’s disastrous decision! I’m here to announce that he and Nira are dealt with but I did only to restore things to what they should have been all along! I regret it greatly but it was those two who called today’s attack upon us, only to break our glorious herd apart!” Lenel started, holding a brief pause before continuing. He glanced at his mate and Haste briefly and the two immediately returned that look, ensuring Lenel that all was well. Just before Lenel was about to continue, however, one of Peak’s followers cried to him in white rage.

“Go to hell, Lenel! It was you who attacked us and the honored Peak! He would never betray us and all of us know it just as well!” He shouted, earning a chorus of approving voices. The situation began to grow dangerously tense again when Lenel answered to that accusation.

“It may be hard to believe but I doubt they told you what we really learned at our meeting earlier today! Well, let us allow another flyer who decided to take a stand against those who would betray us tell you the truth!” Lenel cried, nodding at Haste to come to his side. There were many from Nira’s herd present as well and he knew that anything could still happen in this volatile situation. Haste flew graciously to his side, earning many unbelieving gasps from the gathered flyer. Some looked at the duo in disbelief, some with hope whereas the others were overcome with rage but still they allowed Haste to speak. Her voice was grave and even Lebel was surprised by the genuine tone in the female’s voice.

“What happened today was a terrible tragedy. It is true that I and Sireia acted against my sister and I will regret that for as long as I live. However, I know many of you agree with me that Nira was growing weak and her decisions have hurt each of us more than once. But it was only today that she did what finally made me make my decision. They and Lenel never told it to you but it certainly was Peak’s indecision that caused Nimble’s downfall. Many flyers, including Kero, Nimble’s old deputy, can confirm this beyond any doubts. Peak demanded the others to stay silent about it but he soon made things even worse.

At the meeting we learned that Peak certainly knew Nimble’s killer before and he admitted his hesitancy to tell us about it. We couldn’t help but accept the fact that there was most likely some kind of agreement between Peak and Nira about attacking us earlier.” Haste spoke while Kero nodded at her words in the ground. The male had made the same agreement he had proposed to Nira with Sireia and right now, he knew he had made the best decision for Nimble’s old herd. Many in the crowd looked beyond unbelieving as they considered Haste’s words. She had never been one of the most liked or trusted flyers but many of Nira’s former followers couldn’t help but agree with her sentiments. Additionally, Nimble’s deputy’s agreement to the duo’s words killed much of the starkest cries. Many of Peak’s followers looked completely confused but still, some outrage still lingered within them. Lenel swallowed forcefully before continuing, more than impressed by Haste’s words.

“That is right. There were times when Peak worked with us as he was supposed to but there were many times when I truly wondered whether he was really ready to see others as his equals. To those of you who believed in him, I know you think I’m lying and he decided to leave our herd because it was best for all of you. Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong! We all know what happens to those herds too small to defend themselves! Each of you has lived a safer life among our herd and Peak sought to destroy it because of his personal feuds with Nimble and me! I faced Peak in a fight and he escaped like the coward he is! There are many among you who know I’m speaking truth!

Now, I cannot force you to disobey Peak’s orders but he is gone after he ran away like the coward he is! Nira is dead because of her mistakes but her sister is more and ready to take her place and lead her herd towards a better future! Now, I ask those from Peak and Nira’s herds, will you be willing to leave us and forge a future for yourselves or follow me to Streli’s Hills and to continue your lives in peace?” He asked, knowing much was depending on this one question. If his offer was rejected by many of the flyers, Lenel knew his credibility would take a heavy blow. He kept a steady face as he prepared to face the inevitable backlash. An all-out challenge at him was highly unlikely, though, as there were few flyers with the position to even hope to challenge a leader of one of the great families. But to Lenel’s chagrin, it took less than a second before the first voice cried out.

“We won’t stay here for a moment, murderer! I and my family will be safer anywhere but under your leadership!” A female voice cried and she immediately rose to her wings and she and her children left the scene immediately. Other voice followed the first one, which only escalated the angered voices around the herd.

“I would follow Nira to the Great Beyond before bowing before you, Lenel! May the Night Circle curse you and your cursed lackeys!” He said and slowly but surely, Lenel saw a flyer after the flyer leave the scene. His heart dropped as he saw dozens of dinosaurs head towards the dark skies, utterly disappointed by how things turned out. After the last flyer had taken off, Lebel took a deep breath before looking at those who had decided to stay. All of his remaining followers were here and to his astonishment, the vast majority of Nira and Nimble’s herds ha also decided to remain with him. However, Peak’s group had already suffered greatly in the fight and there were roughly two dozen of them remaining from the herd that had numbered over a hundred only a few hours earlier. Yet, these were the flyers he’d have to do with. And in the end, even this was better than he had feared only a while ago. Many among these flyers most likely stayed here simply because they knew the alternatives were worse and there would even be ones who are staying only to claim their revenge against him. In any case, this night he was victorious and he knew it as he raised his voice and addressed his new, united herd again.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank each of you for making the right decision! In due time, we’ll make Deron and Peak pay for what they did but for now, we have to resume the journey we set ourselves on! We have to help the wounded but when the Bight Circle is highest on the sky, we will again head towards Streli’s Hills!” Lenel smiled as he looked at the few cheers among the audience. He exchanged glances with Sireia who was equally relieved as he was. Yes, he would give this herd the safety they’d need but from now on, it was the time to truly begin fulfilling the quest, solving the secret of Olres’ legendary deeds, he had set as his destiny.

And with one well-timed and daring plan, Lenel has assumed control over the whole herd. Once again, peace reigns among the flyers but how will this peace bought with blood hold? Also, his uncle’s passing will undoubtedly change Petrie in more ways than one… Yes, I know I went a bit overboard with this chapter’s length but maybe it will make up for the two-month wait for this chapter. I hope to get the next installment done far faster than this one. Let me know what you thought of this chapter and see you next time!

rhombus:  As always, your analyses are spot-on! Ruby indeed will have a hard time trying to make her parents see things her way as her whole survival is the issue both Detras and Pearl seem to lament. The highly primitive loyalties and motives are one thing I enjoy writing and I’m happy you think I’ve succeeded in that. Ruby still has her siblings and new friends’ support but from now on, the fast runner also has to prove her worth to her parents before she can forgive herself from her old “original sin”. Ruby’s next few chapters will be a bit more slow-paced but I truly hope I’ll make them just as interesting as the previous ones.

« Last Edit: July 25, 2018, 09:53:28 AM by Sovereign »


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #78 on: July 30, 2018, 11:42:54 PM »
Wow, there certainly was a lot to take in this chapter.  It is never easy to construct a chapter that simultaneously presents intrigue, an active battle, and an easy-to-follow progression of events.  All too often battles have a tendency if one is not careful to descend into a rapid-fire progression of scenes where the reader can get lost in the details and not see the big picture.  Though some details remain (for the purpose of the plot I am sure) unclear, you have succeeded in presenting the terror and confusion of the coup in this chapter and the ferocious trading of allegiances and betrayals as each family and side tries to achieve their ascendancy as if their lives depended on it.  Because it truly does. 

I really do feel for Petrie in this chapter.  He has just got done returning from avoiding being detected during his straying from his designated space, only to finally agree to follow his uncle's orders to stay put under his reassurances... to now be told that his uncle is dead and that he is on his own.  For better or worse Petrie will now need to survive or die on his own wits.  It is truly a trial by fire of the worst sort for him.

If there is one criticism that I have for this otherwise superb chapter it would be with one stylistic point.  For some reason Pterano's death scene did not quite resonate with me with the same emotion as some of the prior deaths. I think that part of that could be due to the pacing of the scene.

That brief moment of victory was suddenly interrupted as Pterano felt his back being grabbed by another flyer and before he received the chance to even twitch his head, he felt a terrifying pain in his throat and instinctually, he turned to look at his chest and the last thing his fading eyes saw were sickening streams of his own blood dropping to the ground. Before he managed to form even another thought, the light brown flyer who had only started to redeem himself of his past fell to his knees, only to fall to his side to the ground.

The ending of the scene itself, which is meant to convey finality and growing horror is somewhat diluted in its effect due to the perfunctory way in which some things are described.  For example "before he received the chance to even twitch his head, he felt a terrifying pain in his throat" is in the passive voice which lessens the emotional impact and it would probably have more impact as something like "before he could react Pterano's throat erupted into blinding pulsations of pain" to allow us as readers to better feel the impact of what was happening to the character.  The passive voice is something that I perhaps use too often in my works (I have been trying to limit its use) but it is something that is often best to avoid in a climatic scene like in a character death.

All that being said, that minor quibble did not dampen the impact of this chapter.  We are now faced with two characters who feel truly alone, Petrie due to the death of his only loved one in this united flock of power-hungry Machiavellians, and Ruby due to the breach with her prior obligations.  In the next chapters we will undoubtedly see how they fare under the harsh pressure of being forced to follow their own destinies.  And I look forward to seeing how that develops.

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #79 on: August 08, 2018, 11:05:55 AM »

A Parent’s Choice


The young fast runner’s eyes widened as she saw the steep mountain rise before her. It seemed like one, massive rock sticking out of the never-ending plains, surrounded by a small ring of lower mounds. Even from here, she could some trails leading to the higher slopes of the central hill. In many ways, this sight reminded her of Hanging Rock but its surroundings broke that illusion. This range of mountains stood alone in the middle of endless plains and the mounds of white ground sparkles made that impression of loneliness even more profound. Yet, this was the new home of her family, the place she had heard her parents call the Desolate Rise.

Silence reigned over the small group as the shadow of the previous discussion still lingered over them greatly. However, none of them was more conflicted than Ruby who, despite her curiosity about this place, felt only overwhelming guilt for joining her family like this. Her father’s reaction still hurt her deeply as not in her worst dreams had she dared to think her parents were actually sorry for her survival. Suddenly, the saddened gazes of Orchid and Arial and the confused gestures of the thinclaws seemed to become blaming and enraged ones which slowly drew Ruby’s attention away from the slippery ground.

The group had just entered the hills surrounding the Rise when Ruby suddenly felt her right leg stepping over a sliver of hard water which made her fall towards the steep slope to a pass below the half teeth. The girl could already see herself falling to the depths but it was at the last possible moment that she managed to get a grip of a smaller rock which stopped her fall. Ruby panted in shock as she realized nobody could have helped her had she not have managed to stop her own slide. She was only starting to regain her breath when she heard Orchid’s alarmed voice call to her.

“Ruby! Are you alright?” He cried as his sister slowly pulled herself up to the narrow path in the middle of two mighty cliffs reaching towards the white skies. She took a brief smile as she answered.

“I am, Orchid. Or at least I’m much better than if I fell because if I fell, I would not be alright at all. I just have to make sure I don’t do that mistake again.” She said with slight happiness at Orchid’s genuine concern but it fell immediately as Pearl cast a deep frown towards Ruby. The younger female felt her heart drop again as she spoke to her.

“Please do that, Ruby. The Rise is an even more treacherous place than Hanging Rock ever was and I’d hate to see you being unable to learn from the past.” She said, the implications clear for everyone. Ruby looked at her mother almost pleadingly even if she stuttered deeply as she attempted to speak.

“Mommy, I… I’m doing my…” She started but Pearl’s sharp voice cut her short immediately.

“It isn’t a long way anymore to our home but I have to ask you to wait for a while in the small opening this pass ends in. I have to have a long talk with your father and I’m sure it won’t be something any of you want to hear.” She said coldly, making Ruby cringe deeply. It was as if her mother had become ever more hostile during their walk which hardly raised her any more hopeful for her parents’ conversation. Ruby glanced at her companions and each of them seemed just as concerned as she did. After a moment, Ruby nodded briefly to Pearl and spoke in a silent voice.

“I understand. I… I just hope daddy won’t stay mad at me forever.” Ruby crossed her arms and looked pleadingly at her mother’s eyes. Pearl, however, crossed her arms as she answered.

“We’ll see if there’s anything we can do to make things better but eventually, it’ll be up to you to do the hard part for all of us.” The older female said, something in her tone making Ruby gulp audibly. She didn’t like in the least what she heard but in the end, a new argument would solve nothing and it would make the situation only more toxic. She answered feebly as the rest of the group headed towards the central part of the Rise.

A deep sigh broke the absolute silence in the darkness of the deep cave. The halftooth’s thoughts raced like a hundred fast runners escaping from a vicious herd of sharpteeth but to the aging dinosaur himself, it felt like his mind was completely frozen. Detras welcomed a cold breeze flying to the cave as he had always preferred the early Cold Time’s winds against the burning heat that had so often reigned in the Hanging Rock. Yet, even his surroundings offered little comfort to the concerned father as he crossed his hands behind his back and headed towards the opening to his family’s home.

The opening into the cave was located on a small plateau surrounded by a few higher hills but it still offered an impressive panorama of the surrounding lands even if it offered little relief to the fast runner right now. His eyes scoured the endless plains before finally locking his eyes on a wide, light blue spot far to the east. It was one of the largest lakes Detras had seen and it was the only break from the monotonous lands which surrounded his and his family’s home. The lake had been a good spot to teach Orchid and Arial to catch scaly swimmers but the white ground sparkles would make the journey there too difficult during the Cold Times. The two were ever so happy to learn more from the world and from the ways of being a fast runner and their curiosity had been a source of great pride and joy to the aging male.

However, only thinking of his children made Detras’ heart ache. During the past hour, he had fought hard to keep the sight of Dein and Terri tearing his two beautiful children to pieces as mere ghosts within his mind. Ruby was also within his thoughts but his feelings towards her were more complicated. Sooner or later, Dein and Terri would recover from their horrifying wounds and the fast runner knew without a doubt that next time they would return better prepared and probably accompanied by some of their allies. That time, there would be no salvation from their revenge and the two had proven that none of those whose scent they had caught could run from their wrath. And no matter how he hated that thought, he could blame only one dinosaur for his sickening thoughts.

Why did you have to do this to us, Ruby? I know you didn’t do it on purpose but because of you, we are all in mortal danger! It… it would have been better for everyone if you had stayed with Chomper until…

“You are standing on the place where you can most easily see the whole Rise but still you allowed me to escape from your gaze, dear. I’d expect more vigilance from my mate.” Detras twitched noticeably as he turned around to see Pearl standing behind him, looking at him with a mixture of saddened amusement and slight anger. The male was taken aback by her silent approach and immediately damned himself for letting himself be surprised like this. If she had been a fast biter, his concerns would now be over once and for all. Detras soon relaxed and answered to his mate with a deep sigh.

“As you should, Pearl. I should have known better than to forget my surroundings like this. But where did you leave the others?” He said simply, able to see full well that his mate was about to open the obvious conversation. Both of them knew it would be far from pleasant but it was of vital importance to the survival of their family.

“I left the children and Ruby’s friends a bit further away from here. Especially Orchid and Arial don’t deserve to listen to your raging, Detras! Get a hold of yourself before you make things any worse for all of us!” Pearl said, more than annoyed by Detras’ earlier antics. She could understand his concern and fear but she wouldn’t allow them to poison her and the lives of her children lives any further. Thus far, the two had provided Ruby, Arial and Orchid with a good place to grow up and learn the ways of life and even if the oldest one had made the duo’s job much harder, Pearl wasn’t going to let things change now. At first, Detras was about to counter his mate’s point and to defend his actions but soon enough, he had to admit she was right. Simply fighting in front of the young ones would help nothing and after a deep sigh, Detras answered.

 “I know, my darling, I know. It’s just that… Orchid and Arial deserve much better than this. Than… what Ruby turned their future into.” The male gulped audibly and to Pearl’s surprise, he seemed to be on the verge of tears. Of course, she knew just as well the danger Chomper’s parents posed but they had been already fought away once. And it was very unlikely that Dein and Terri would show themselves again before the Cold Time had passed. Pearl took a few steps forward and put her hand on her mate’s cheek and answered to him softly.

“Their future is safe for now, Detras. It will be many cycles of the Night Circle before anything bad can happen to us.” She spoke, trying to get Detras to calm down. The danger hung over their family but the imminent attack had been thwarted. However, her words failed to calm Detras down who gently lowered his mate’s arm from his face.

“But what then? What happens the day after the Bright Circle wipes away the only thing that protects us from those two? I know we won them today but that was only because Terri was already wounded and they weren’t careful enough to avoid the hard water. The next time they come, they’ll know better than to leave anything up for a chance. Pearl, we will have no way to escape from them on that day.” A haunted look radiated from Detras’ face and it troubled the female greatly. She knew Detras was right as no fast runner in his or her right mind would attempt to fight against a two-footer sharptooth even once. She looked towards the pass where her children were waiting and shook her head as she thought about the horrors that were waiting for them in the future. With a bare whisper, she answered to her mate and tried to find a way out of this nightmare.

“Then we have to get away from here before those two get a chance to recover! They’ll never…” She began but Detras saw no reason to let her continue as he had already went through this possibility many times in his mind.

“We cannot do that, Pearl! Dein and Terri found Ruby and us with ease and they’ll do so again! And even if we somehow managed to hide our scent, they probably have eyes and ears everywhere! We can never escape their gaze by running away!” Detras said despairingly, doing his best to find a way to save his family from certain death. Pearl felt her own fears rise in her mind as she looked at her desperate mate try to calm his own nerves. For a moment, she thought one comment from Ruby would be the answer but she soon voiced her disappointment.

“Ruby proposed we could call one sailback she meant on her journey to help us. You, too, may remember hearing about Stealth but even then, he’ll offer little help against Dein and Terri. A sailback could never stop even one two-footer, let alone two!” She said as she slowly sat down on the cliff overlooking the distant lake, following the example set by her mate. Detras looked at the cliffs and caves he had thought would serve as his family’s shelter for many more Cold Times but right now, even they seemed threatening to the aging omnivore. The seconds seemed to stretch on forever as the two mates shared their concern together like they also did in times of joy, relief or pride. However, that moment was soon broken as Detras slowly turned his head towards his mate and spoke silently, knowing his words would spark a huge wave of confusion and rebuke.
“Our only option is to make peace with Dein and Terri. They protected us all those seasons and even now, they are the only ones who can save us from certain death.” He said, prompting Pearl to gaze at him in utter shock. Had she heard right? Did her mate actually propose the unthinkable? She was forced to believe she had heard wrong as even her mate would realize it was impossible.

“Are you out of your mind, Detras? No dinosaur, especially a sharptooth, would ever forgive another who has caused the death of their only child! You know it as well as I do! And it’s unlikely that, they will forget the way we humiliated them today!” The female said, expecting to hear a sigh of surrender and some kind of agreement from her mate but what she heard instead made her whole body tense up and her mind grow shocked in outrage.

“We can most likely forget what happened earlier but as for the first part… there is a way.” Pearl could see a single tear fall from Detras’ left eye but it did little to calm down her reaction. Was her mate actually proposing what she thought he was? Was he completely insane? She wasn’t about to murder her eldest child to appease some pair of bloodthirsty predators! A pleading tone could be heard in her voice but she wasn’t able to keep her voice down as she responded to her mate.

“Please, tell me you don’t mean it! This might all be Ruby’s fault but she doesn’t deserve to be sacrificed like this! I won’t allow it!” She cried, knowing that settling disputes between families like this wasn’t unheard of among sharpteeth and halfteeth but she had always shook such traditions off as nothing more than sick aberrations of a few dinosaurs’ minds. To hear her beloved mate propose something like this was a complete abomination for her and she prayed deeply Detras would realize it too. However, the male looked at her in apology and then spoke to her just as firmly. He felt his heart being torn apart by his own words but there simply were no real alternatives he could see. He finally rose from his sitting position and asked his mate silently.

“Then will you allow her, Orchid and Arial all die in the claws of those two? I’d want to take any other way out of this situation if we simply had one. You have my word of it.” He said, already swelling in the thoughts of what would happen if he’d have his way. Pearl stared at the male in complete disarray, not knowing what to answer. All their time together, Detras had been a reasonable fast runner and a good father and Pearl knew he wasn’t saying what he was because he merely wanted to upset her. But even then, sacrificing one of her own children because of this… she had been extremely lucky not to have been forced to lose any of her offspring yet and she certainly wasn’t willing to start now. And she couldn’t believe her mate hadn’t considered more options before suggesting such a monstrous thing.

“But there are, Detras, and you know it! Even if we aren’t able to escape those bastards, they are still terribly injured right now. If we got rid of them now, none of us would have to die because of that duo’s yearn for revenge!” Her words were a slight surprise for Detras as he hadn’t fully considered that possibility. Yet, it didn’t raise his hopes a lot as even badly injured, Chomper’s parents were still extremely dangerous. He turned to look into the white distance as he gave his heavy-hearted answer.

“That may be, dear, but fighting against a two-footer would still be nearly a death sentence for any fast runner. We must certainly take that chance if we get it but if we don’t… making peace with them must be our goal at any cost. Do you understand, Pearl?” He asked unusually directly, willing to hear that he and his mate were in agreement. His mate looked the male in his eyes, trying to find something to answer to his words. Solving disagreements between families was something she had heard of during her childhood and it had terrified her back then but in the end, she had also learned that survival of at least some of her children was her charge as a mother. Many fast runners wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice one of their own in the name of the common good. It was one of the ways of life she knew existed but it was one she had wanted to avoid. Tears suddenly appeared to her eyes as she suddenly moved to embrace her mate and stuttered to him, her voice completely broken with sorrow.

“Then we must give our all to killing the sharpteeth before they can recover! Because if that doesn’t succeed, I can’t… I can’t bear to think of it… poor Ruby…” She sobbed as Detras put his hand at her back and took a deep sigh. How he hoped that option was an easy one but he knew full well that few half teeth had ever stood against a two-footer and lived to tell about it. Even worse, there was another thing his mate had overlooked. She let her panting wear off for a while before answering to her softly.

“Neither can I, Pearl. Neither can I. But the Circle of Life must live on even after we have joined our parents in the Great Beyond. And because of that, I’ll go face Dein and Terri alone.” He said, earning another unbelieving twitch from his mate who then broke the embrace. Pearl looked at her with still-teary eyes and snapped at him, her voice revealing nothing but deepening confusion.

“How can you even suggest that? Of course I’ll come to ensure that Ruby will live a long and happy life!” She said, not able to comprehend how her mate would tell her to stay here. Detras took a more serious look which implied that his more emotional wave had passed. From now on, he’d do what he had to, for better or worse.

“We cannot leave the children to defend the Rise in case those cursed longbeaks return or we could find that we’ve lost our home once we return. You will need to keep the children safe until I return.” He said simply, making Pearl want to start an argument but no matter what, she couldn’t find a way how she could prove her mate wrong. The longbeaks had been a real nuisance for a long time and it wasn’t unlikely that they’d make their next move soon enough. Immediately, the long scar in her left cheek started to ache as she remembered her last encounter with them. It had been a few weeks ago when she and her mate had tried to drive them out from the nearby lands for good but things had gotten more dangerous than the fast runners had expected. Pearl would have wanted nothing more than to accompany her mate on his quest to find Chomper’s parents but she knew that she had to stay here. It had been Detras who had forged the alliance with the sharpteeth and they would listen to him more easily than his mate. After a while, Pearl nodded to the male and spoke silently.

“Very well. I’ll keep them safe but please, promise me that you’ll do your all to save our daughter. Promise me this, Detras.” She said pleadingly, causing Detras’ eyes to drop slightly as he knew that it would be far from easy at this point. Yet, he loved Ruby without an end and he would make sure to give his all to either kill the injured predators or try to rebuild his family’s alliance with the predators without being forced to sacrifice Ruby for that cause. He knew it was unlikely but he wouldn’t allow his weakness to become his eldest child’s end.

“Of course I promise that much, dear. I’ll try to return within two days as Dein and Terri most likely haven’t had the time to get too far yet. Let us pray that I’ll return with good news.” He said, mentally preparing for the fateful meeting with the sharpteeth as he knew it would be one of the most difficult moments in his whole life. Deep heartbreak could be seen from Pearl’s face but she knew this was the best option for the fast runner family as a whole. She cocked her head slightly as she prepared to address her mate again.

“I’ll pray for you the whole time you’re gone. But before you go, your antics hurt Ruby badly. We should go…” Pearl began as she suddenly felt the ground under her beginning to crumble slightly. At first, she thought an earthshake was about to begin but then she realized that voice was actually coming from the fast runners’ home cave. It didn’t take long before she realized what was happening and quickly, she spoke to Detras.

“Come! if those cursed longbeaks are at it again…” She started but decided against finishing her sentence. Detras didn’t hesitate a minute following her as it wasn’t the first time his family’s secret tunnels would be under attack from their competitors in this harsh, cold land.

Greentail walked around the narrow pass, her mind doing its best to try to calm down after the long journey. She was slowly getting used to her limited sight and slow limping but it did little to change the fact that her hopes of any meaningful recovery had finally been crushed. She was able to tell hers hadn’t been the first head injury Pearl had seen and that made it even harder for the girl to accept this would be her lot in life. The fact that the sharpteeth who had done this to her had also been terribly injured brought her slight solace but in the end, that knowledge did little to improve her situation. Moreover, being forced to wait in this pass for minutes on end did little to ease her mental torment. Even the earlier friendly banter with Ruby’s siblings had stopped the moment Ruby’s father had begun his verbal assault against Ruby.

The thought of the fast runner reminded Greentail of another issue. She and Yarel had now helped Ruby find her family and in the end, all the two had to show for it was a head injury and a temporary refuge virtually devoid of any food. In this moment, Greentail cursed the day she had decided to leave her former home forest even if she remembered nothing of it herself. Yarel followed his sister’s steps in worry, full well knowing what thoughts most likely circled in her mind. He was deeply disappointed in the outcome of this journey himself. He was happy that he and his sister had at least some shelter for a few days but it was obvious neither he nor Greentail could stay here longer than a few days. Yet, maybe there could still be some help to be received from the fast runners. He soon addressed his sibling and tried to give at least a forced smile.

“It’s alright, Greentail. We’ve made it this far and if Ruby’s family can live out here, so can we.” He said, hoping to calm his sister down instead of making her again mourn her own fate. Yet, he was happy to see that she was beginning to act a tiny bit more like herself instead of the incapacitated wreck she was earlier, whether she realized it herself or not. Even if she wouldn’t be of much use in finding food any time soon, it would help just to have the old her by his side again. The female thinclaw, however, wasn’t as confident about their situation as her brother.

“Even I could see there is no more green food anywhere and living by ground fuzzies and dead dinosaurs will be extremely hard, especially for me. But now that we are here, we don’t really have much choice. We could never make it back to our home before the arrival of spring. It’s simply too difficult to walk in the ground sparkles for long.” Greentail said, while kicking a pile of the sparkles to emphasize her point. However, it was at this point a new voice joined the conversation.

“There are many places around here where there should be some green food left, Greentail! Mommy and daddy showed us a lot of places around here but why can’t you just stay here, with us?” The rather high-pitched voice of Arial spoke, more than eager to speak of anything else than her sister’s situation. Ruby, however, decided to answer before the thinclaws could, chuckling slightly as she spoke.

“They most likely will for a while but they can’t stay forever, forever they can’t stay. It simply isn’t how our kind does things. But I’m sure you’re welcome to live with us for a while.” Ruby said at the two siblings, earning a slight frown from Yarel. He had expected this much but he already knew that neither he or his sister wanted to live as a burden for Ruby’s family in a harsh time like this. Yarel looked at Arial with some amusement and his voice was equally friendly as he gave his answer to both fast runners.

“Your sister is right. We are used to living on our own and we have learned a lot during our journey here. If we simply can, we’ll likely be on our way in a few days but until the Cold Time comes to an end, we won’t be going too far. You never know when Ruby needs our help with something again.” He smirked slightly, trying to lighten the situation to some degree. He still regretted the way the fast runner had acted during their journey but there was simply no reason to hold that against her anymore. What was done was done and in the end, Ruby had kept her word. He and Greentail had known the risks of following her but in the end, both of them were still alive. That was what mattered the most. Ruby frowned playfully as she answered to Yarel’s words.

“Hey, I didn’t need saving so often! I was about to get even only a few times!” She said with fake chagrin, earning a slightly concerned but simultaneously amused look from Arial. However, it was at this moment that they heard another voice call further from the distance.

“Ruby, Orchid, Arial, Yarel and Greentail! You may now come out from there!” Ruby twitched with shock as she heard her mother’s call. She had feared meeting her parents again after Pearl had left to speak with her mate as Ruby knew it was unlikely that it would be any more pleasant than the previous one. At the very best, she could hope for them to forgive her in the coming weeks. Her face immediately fell as she turned around and headed for the inevitable conversation with her parents.

A terrible pain crept to Detras’ chest as she saw Ruby walk towards the small opening between the hills surrounding the Desolate Rise, standing just under the majestic mountain containing the fast runners’ home. His discussion with his mate had been sickening enough but facing his daughter he had been so willing to sacrifice for the good of the family was even worse than he had expected. He could feel a similar but even stronger sentiment within his mate but there was no turning back now. He would do what he had to with Dein and Terri but this reunion with his daughter only made him feel more miserable than nearly any time before in his life which hadn’t been exactly easy either. Especially as he had to lie to Ruby this whole meeting if he wanted to keep the cover for his upcoming journey up. He out his hands on his hips and took a partially genuine look of anger on his face as he was still more than bitter to Ruby for putting their family to this situation in the first place.

“Ruby, I’m… I’m sorry about the way I acted earlier but you have to understand what kind of curse you have brought upon us. Chomper’s parents won’t forgive this easily.” He said, the anger still apparent in his voice. Pearl did her best to look as natural as possible even if her gestures revealed her inner anxiety. Ruby, on the other hand, felt too miserable to pay her mother much heed right now. She only crossed her arms and looked at the ground with eyes filled with utter sadness.

 “I know, daddy. I wanted to warn you but in the end, it was clear all along I would only bring the trouble to you and if I only brought you trouble, maybe I shouldn’t have come here after all.” She said, partially knowing she was right. She was more than happy to see Orchid and Arial again but those feelings of happiness were largely overshadowed by the girl’s guilt. Detras, on the other hand, didn’t want to prolong this crushing moment any longer as he wanted to get over this as soon as possible. He quickly bowed towards Ruby and put his hand on her shoulder and spoke to her silently, hating himself as he did it.

“Don’t say that, Ruby. We have missed you greatly and we are more than thankful you came for us. But as long as Chomper’s parents threaten us, none of us can feel truly safe. That’s why I’ll go after them to see how we can best defend ourselves when they return next time.” The older fast runner said, hoping Ruby wouldn’t realize his lie. She wasn’t stupid and it was clear that there was very little he could actually do against the sharpteeth except perhaps find out their condition. Ruby’s eyes widened as she heard about her father’s plans, not expecting her parents to act this quickly but… it made sense that this threat had to be dealt with quickly. She was too mentally burdened, however, to question her father’s motives right now.

“You will? But… but what if they see you first? Even now, they are far too dangerous for a single fast runner to face. And won’t mommy come with you?” She asked in confusion, not expecting these kinds of news right now. The girl looked with some unease as her mother cleared her throat as she attempted to hide her own horror at the situation.

“You should know your father is more than capable of hiding his presence when he wants to. He’ll be just fine. As for why I’m not going with him, there is another issue we will need to deal with. Something that just reminded us of itself.” Pearl said, breathing deeply to keep her voice natural. She was more than grateful that she could turn the subject to an easier one as this another issue was something which was not a lie at all. Ruby, cocked her head deeply, noticing that Orchid and Arial were whispering to each other something which brought her some bother. Yet, none of them seemed nearly as concerned as they did with Chomper’s parents. Her voice was a highly wondering and curious one as she asked the obvious question.

“And what is that, mommy? What’s the problem?” She asked but the answer didn’t come from the dinosaur she had expected. Instead, it came from Orchid who looked at his mother with some frown.

“It’s those longbeaks again, aren’t they mommy? Didn’t they get enough last time when daddy beat them up?” He asked with a slight smirk, remembering that day two weeks ago. He chuckled slightly as he remembered that fight’s ending but his laugh was soon ended by a stern look from his father.

“That wasn’t funny, Orchid! Your mother was badly hurt! I only did what I had to prevent them from wounding her further!” He snapped back, making Orchid’s face fall slightly. Ruby looked at the older male questioningly and was just about to ask what he meant until she realized the scar in Pearl’s cheek. She was surprised she hadn’t noticed it before as it was still red and the area around it was still featherless. She cringed slightly as she spoke.

“What happened? What did the longbeaks do?” Ruby asked, her knowledge of their kind highly limited. She knew they were some kind of rather large sharpteeth but in terms of speed and agility they were no match for the fast runners. But it was rather worrying if their kind really was stalking her family around here. Pearl’s eyes took a faraway look to them even if she didn’t feel like telling the whole story right would be necessary. Instead, she gave a simple answer that would hopefully give her daughter a basic idea of what was happening.

“The longbeaks appeared here a about a month ago and ever since then they have tried to fight us for food and a few times, they have succeeded. We tried to make an agreement with them a few weeks ago but it didn’t… go too well.” She said while lowering her hand from her cheek. She was about to continue before Yarel took a step forward and asked with slight confusion.

“But… we shouldn’t be able to face a longbeak and live to tell about it! They’re much bigger than we are and they’re sharpteeth!” He said, earning a slight nod from Detras. The latter took a brief moment before answering and when he did, his voice was still tense but his anger was slowly wearing off.

“You’re right and normally, we would have had to flee before them but out here, we have one thing our favor we usually don’t have. And they are the tunnels penetrating this whole plain.” Detras began, allowing his mate to continue from his remark.

“We use them to get close to them and then attack them briefly and then retreat back underground. They aren’t too smart and they’ve never been able to find their way through that maze of tunnels. That has been the only way we have been able to keep them at bay. However, they have since started to destroy those tunnels by beating the walls of the frailest of them until they finally come crushing down. We just heard another of them collapsing which alerted us a short while ago.” Pearl finished, earning a slight frown from Yarel whose mind returned to the tunnel he and Ruby had left Greentail in during their fight with Ruby’s parents. It would have been unlikely that it had been the only one in this plain so these news made a lot of sense. His thoughts, however, were cut short by Ruby’s answer to her mother’s words.

“Then we have to get rid of them soon enough! It must be bad enough to find food out here without being forced to fight for it with some longbeaks!” She said, not giving yet much thought to the question why her parents hadn’t done so before. Detras snorted briefly before answering to that comment, his answer as dry as could be expected.

“Believe me, Ruby, when I say that we’ve tried that more than once already. Those longbeaks may be stupid but they are also very persistent and neither do they seem to have other place to go. It’s unlikely that we could fight or scare them away but Pearl will stay here to make sure they won’t get the upper hand either. Yet, we have to make a move against them soon before they think we’ve given up completely.” He said, knowing that territorial disputes like these could take a long time to solve but right now, they were largely swept away from his mind by his upcoming search for the two sharpteeth. He looked with weary eyes as Arial spoke with an expectant voice.

“And when they and Chomper’s parents are gone, everything will be well here! I can’t wait for it!” She said, causing Detras to simultaneously cringe and smile inside. On one hand, he was happy that his younger daughter could still see things in that optimistic light but if he and Pearl couldn’t fulfill those expectations, there would be even more heartbreak on the way. Pearl tried to smile at Arial too but those efforts were still doomed to fail despite her best efforts. Still, her voice was largely normal as she answered to Arial.

“Neither can I, Arial. But that won’t be happening today. I’d say we’ve had enough fighting and danger for one day, don’t you think?” She said, more than ready to rest a while after the already horrifying fight against Dein and Terri. None of the younger halfteeth seemed to mind her words but to Detras, they were an implication he should get on his way soon enough. After all, the more time he wasted here, the colder the predators’ trail would become. He cleared his throat before again addressing his daughter, still feeling sick by his dishonesty in this conversation. Yet, he had to complete his act or risk raising any unnecessary doubts within Ruby.

“I hope to be back before the Bright Circle rises to the sky on the day after tomorrow. For your sake, Ruby, I hope I’ll find some way to prepare us for Dein and Terri’s next move.” He said, his earlier annoyance returning to his voice. Ruby’s face once again darkened as she saw her father’s angered face but she knew she deserved it completely. Her voice was but a whisper as she answered.

“So do I. But whatever you do, daddy, please stay safe.” Ruby decided against adding anything more to her remark, knowing that Detras hardly was going to embark on a journey like this without a real plan. The older fast runner felt himself even more miserable than before after hearing his daughter’s heartfelt words and he could only barely hold back his emotions. He took a brief moment before answering and when he did, his earlier tone was replaced by an unsure, even guilty voice.

“I’ll do my best, Ruby. Everyone, I’ll return as soon as I can. Take care until then.” He said as he waited for the inevitable farewells. He didn’t have to wait them for long.

“See you soon, daddy!

“Make sure those sharpteeth won’t haunt us again anytime soon!”

 Arial and Orchid cried, finally prompting the older male to turn around and begin his quest. Ruby looked at him in deep worry, knowing the risks associated with a journey like that but she knew she could only hope the best for him. She even considered asking to join him but she knew she’d only slow him down as she knew she was nowhere near as good at hiding or scouting as her father was. Still, she felt more than guilty as she knew full well none of this would have happened if it weren’t for her mistakes. However, this short moment of silence was soon ended by Pearl who decided that it was time to end this conversation.

“We are all grateful to your father for doing this, Ruby. It won’t be easy but if anyone can succeed today, it’s him. But I’m hardly mistaken if I say you and your companions will want to rest a while after your journey, Ruby.” She said, willing to allow things to settle down at least somewhat before her mate’s return. Because that could be the most disastrous day in the whole family’s history and Ruby deserved at least some time to calm down before then. The younger fast runner glanced at Yarel and Greentail and only now realized herself the toll forcing her way through the ground sparkles had taken for her.

“You’re right, mommy. We started our journey today right after the dawn so a small time to rest would be a good idea now.” She said, earning an understanding look for Pearl. She spoke one last time to her daughter before taking off.

“I thought so, Ruby. Our nest is on a cave up there. I’ll go investigate the damage the longbeaks caused to the caves before I’ll join you children but I promise I’ll stay safe out there. See you all later.” She said as she turned around rather quickly, earning a slightly surprised look from Ruby. However, she was more than ready to have a moment of peace and to explore her new home.

A small smile crept to her face as Ruby left another of the paths leading to the central plain of the Desolate Rise. She could see why her parents had chosen a place like this as their new home as it was extremely safe from most enemies due to the narrow passes leading to the omnivores’ nest but it also resembled Hanging Rock in many ways. If the situation had been any easier, she could have felt home out here already. However, her eyes got a curious look as she looked at the mountain in the middle of the range of sloping hills, willing to finally see whether her family’s nest was anything like their old one.

She cringed slightly as she stepped on the small ramp leading higher to the hill, remembering her earlier slip and near-fall into the deep pass. The drop would soon become a deadly one which made climbing the path a bit worrisome for the young girl. Yet, she trusted in herself enough to swallow those fears and to simply head forward. It didn’t take long before the path joined the summit of the mountain, surrounded only by a few lower hills here and there. And in one of them, Ruby could see an opening into the cave which could be nothing else but the entrance to her new home. She was just about to go see it when her eyes caught something which stopped her immediately. At first, she thought she was mistaken but soon enough she realized that she could still see her father in the distance, apparently trying to locate the trail of the sharpteeth.

Ruby sighed as she saw him, the older dinosaur’s actions proving how much she had hurt her family by coming here. Right now, she would have wanted to simply sink into the rock and to swipe away herself and her actions and with them, the threat she had brought here with her. Not even realizing it herself, she sat down on the cliff overlooking the plains just like his father had done earlier. She buried her head in her hands while trying to find at least some comfort in this brief moment of silence. For the first time since her departure from the Valley, she felt slightly as ease as now there were no sharpteeth threatening her nor was she under pressure to continue any journey.

Sure, that was only one side of the fast runner’s mind. Despite the slight reprieve from dangers, she would have to face the longbeaks tomorrow and the next showdown with Chomper’s parents hung above the Desolate Rise. Ruby’s eyes drifted dreamily through the white landscape, exploring the hills and gorges that could be seen here and there. The surrounding lands felt even more monotonic over here and it did in the morning but at least the sky stars had stopped falling. Even if it was unlikely they’d melt away before the spring, it would take at least more time until walking through these lands would become too challenging.

But she couldn’t simply bury her fears under the sleeping landscape as the implications of her return manifested themselves in the back of her mind. Even from now on, she’d do her all to defend her family from the furious sharpteeth but even with her and her father’s efforts, would it be enough? The fast runner would do all in her might to undo her mistakes but she knew there were some things she couldn’t make right no matter what: hopefully there wouldn’t come any more of those. As for her friends, Ruby cringed as she thought about their situation. They would live here for a while but it wasn’t usual for strangers to live with another halftooth family for long. Would they find their place in these lands or had she led them a dead end, with one of them irrevocably maimed? Most likely that was another thing that would come to haunt her in the…

“You can’t stay the whole evening here, Ruby. We noticed you’re thinking too much bad things today.” Ruby twitched noticeably as she heard the voice and immediately she turned to look at the newcomer. Her eyes immediately met those of Arial’s who looked at her in a mixture of concern and expectant smile. Ruby saw Orchid by her side and she tried to give them an approving smile but it fell far short of what she had tried. She then looked at her siblings wearily as she spoke.

“I’m sorry for that, Arial, but things are a complete mess, a complete mess they are. I was just trying to clear my thoughts here.” She sighed, knowing she was far from pleasant company right now, especially to her young siblings she hadn’t met in many Cold Times. She turned her gaze back to the distance as she heard Orchid’s voice speak to her.

“Out here, completely alone? That isn’t what you used to do before.” He said, remembering the days when Ruby had shared nearly all her concerns and joys with her siblings. She had never been one to spend time alone back then. Ruby’s eyes widened slightly as she realized that detail herself. Her times away from her family had changed her in more ways than she’d realized and it was more than logical that her siblings would realize it before Ruby herself. The older fast runner looked at the boy, her eyes half closed.

“Now that I think of it, you’re right. I guess that’s because when I first arrived into the Valley, I had a really hard time fit in despite Chomper introducing me to his friends who welcomed me without second thoughts. I guess I was just too different from them in the beginning and many others in the Valley never saw me as one of them, something I learned later. After those long and stressful days I often went to sit alone on a hill much like this one to try to find the good things that had happened on those days. After a while I noticed they helped me a lot so I figured they’d help me here as well.” A slight smile rose to Ruby’s mind as she spoke. Speaking of her friends still hurt her but the overwhelming, crushing pain associated with those memories were slowly drifting away. The younger omnivores looked at their sister in slight sympathy, not fully understanding what she had gone through in the Valley but her answer confirmed not all had been well even before Ruby’s journey back to her family. Orchid crossed his arms briefly before glancing at the opening below him where he could see his mother finally returning from her investigations. After that, he answered to Ruby again.

“Those days must have been real difficult to get through but… maybe there are other things that could help you have some fun after all that’s happened.” The male fast runner said, prompting an asking look from Ruby. If she was paying the situation any more thought, she would have told what Orchid meant but now, she only stared into nothingness and asked absentmindedly.

“And what is that, Orchid?” She said in a voice that fully revealed her lack of interest in his words but the younger fast runners didn’t let that dampen their excitement any.

“Aww, you know what we mean, Ruby! Hide and Seek has never been the same without you!” Arial said in a high-pitched and happy voice which widened her sister’s eyes immediately. Of course that’s what the two were after but even then, she was far from the right mood for playing anything. She turned slowly to face Arial and spoke to her softly.

“Thank you for asking me but I have too many things in mind and if I have too many things in my mind, I can’t play very well.” She said but the two younger omnivores weren’t about to give up that easily as they had never expected Ruby to agree immediately due to her apparent fatigue. However, neither of the younger dinosaurs wanted to see their long-lost sister like this. The three had enjoyed so many good times together and Orchid and Arial knew this would cheer Ruby up at least to some degree. Orchid stepped forward and gazed at the older fast runner with a pleading look.

“But maybe if you tried it, you would feel much better! The Rise has far better hiding places than the Hanging Rock ever did! I’m sure you’ll like it!” He said, prompting a slight frown from Ruby who was just about to rebuke her brother’s comment when Arial continued from where the boy had stopped.

“We saw how badly mommy and daddy treated you earlier but we’ve missed you for a long time, Ruby. We want our first day together end better than this.”

“Please, Ruby??!!”

Orchid joined his sister’s plea which immediately earned a brief look of displeasure from Ruby but when she saw the sad smiles on her siblings’ faces, her annoyance disappeared immediately. She could see that the duo truly meant what they were saying which warmed the older omnivore even more than she had expected. Their pleading and loving faces forced Ruby to return a deeper smile than anytime before on this day. She took a sigh and she clearly hesitated for a few seconds but soon enough, she gave her answer.

“Arial, Orchid… you know I cannot say no to those faces. But remember that it’ll be only be a few rounds, okay?” She said while putting her hands upon her siblings’ crests and brushing them slightly. Ruby’s heart swelled as she saw her siblings’ faces brighten up in a second as they realized they had been successful. Both of them swept Ruby’s hands away as they started to head towards the ramp leading into the plain below the mountain.

“You’re the best, Ruby! We knew we could count on you! Come on, we promise we won’t make it too hard for you in the beginning!” Orchid cried while running the narrow path down with a speed that made Ruby cringe slightly. She followed the two with a much slower pace which made the two look at her with some puzzlement. However, she soon learned the solid spots on the path and she didn’t even lose that much to her siblings in the end. Arial chuckled slightly at Ruby’s carefulness before speaking to her again.

“We usually start here. The best places to hide are the caves and the many cliffs on the passes leading here but for now, we promise to stay near this opening. We know you don’t know the Rise very well yet so you’re it first. But don’t worry, we’ll make it easy for you today!” She said while Orchid finished her instructions.

“You know the rest but make sure you won’t cheat! You always had a bad habit for it!” He said with a smirk which earned an amused smile from Ruby who poked the boy in his chest playfully.

“Says the king of all cheaters! I always had a hard time believing in the Valley that they played fair and square after my experiences with you, Orchid!” She said which earned a look of mock chagrin from Orchid. It warmed all three of them to know that despite the three Cold Times that had passed, the siblings themselves had still remained largely the same. Ruby turned to look at the nearby rock of wall to show she was ready to begin.

“Well then, be on your way you little pests! I’ll show you I don’t even need to know this place to outsmart you two!” She said while hearing the two younger fast runners to force their way through the ground sparkles, wondering how the two planned to hide their tracks. Otherwise, finding them would be far too easy. Ruby kept her curiosity bay and counted all the way to the hundred before finally turning around, more than ready to let the thrill of the search override at least some of her most morbid thoughts.

She frowned somewhat as she could easily see her siblings’ tracks in the ground sparkles but a bit further from her they seemed to grow less profound. Apparently the two had headed towards an area where there was a thinner layer of the sparkles and thus it would be easier for them to find some place to hide. Yet, even these footsteps told Ruby the area where her siblings had most likely hidden themselves. It was a rather small and sheltered part of the central part of the Rise, overlooked by the high hills steeper than in other parts of the small range of lonely hills. There were small cracks everywhere in the hills and it didn’t seem to be too difficult to climb them even for her siblings.

That realization alongside the sight of a long-dead pile of dried grass immediately raised some old memories within Ruby’s mind. Suddenly she remembered Orchid and Arial’s most usual spots in the Hanging Rock and noticed how similar spots she could see around herself. Arial had often went to hiding in some of the most verdant of bushes as she knew she could quite easily slip from the seeker’s gaze if she was nimble enough. An expectant smile rose to Ruby’s mind as she walked towards the large group of dead bushes, more than eager to see if her guess had been the correct one. The leaves had fallen off long since from the bushes but their mere size prevented anyone from seeing what lurked within them. It didn’t take long until Ruby saw a familiar hue of pink flash among the vegetation. Before Arial got any new ideas, Ruby called after her with slight chuckles.

“I saw you already, Arial. It was fair that you decided to use the same kinds of shelters you always did. I guess Orchid has climbed to some of the hills around us, then?” She asked, remembering well how Orchid had often climbed to the most difficult of cliffs which bordered on being outright dangerous. However, she hoped he had received some more sense during her time in the Valley. Ruby looked triumphantly as Arial crawled to her sight in slight chagrin.

“You were even faster than we thought! Maybe we made it too easy for you after all, Ruby!” She said, trying to put her disappointment behind her. Ruby started to already scour the hills surrounding her, quickly spotting one path upwards which seemed rather promising. The older fast runner grinned at Arial before taking off.

“It was nicely done, Arial, but next time you may already do your best. It shouldn’t take long to find your brother if he took a similar spot you did…” Ruby said as she headed towards the path leading to one of the hills surrounding the center of the Desolate Rise. An expectant smile rose to her mind a she remembered one of Orchid’s worst faults in this game: his nerves. He would often reveal himself if the seeker got too close simply by trying to desperately flee further. Ruby stopped for a moment as she reached the small hilltop overlooking the surrounding plains. It was barely a third of a longneck’s full height over Arial’s hiding place but it was very easy to climb to, prompting Ruby t be sure that Orchid was somewhere around here.

Suddenly, the fast runner stopped to investigate the rather narrow area around her. There were a few cracks in the higher cliffs around her, making them more than sound places to hide. Ruby stood completely silent, trying to hear any hints but to her slight disappointment, she heard nothing but her own breath and the weak whistle of the Cold Time’s breeze. Slowly, she walked towards one of the crevices but there was nothing to be seen there. Only a few hues of twilight hung in the dark air and there was no trace of her brother. Ruby frowned somewhat and then walked towards the next crack. This one was larger and it had several massive boulders, some of which leaned towards each other. Yes, this was the ideal place to hide…

Ruby advanced very slowly, not even allowing her own footsteps to disturb the perfect silence. Avoiding the stones in the darkness was far from easy but by no means impossible. She stopped once in a while to allow her eyes get used to the lack of light in the hill’s narrow crevice. Just as she was reaching halfway to the looking wall, she could suddenly hear the slightest sound of the ground sparkles moving aside under somebody’s foot. She immediately narrowed her eyes and moved towards the direction of the sound which had come from behind a boulder twice her own height. She increased her speed and as she did so, she could hear the other dinosaur’s footsteps again and in that moment, she knew she had caught her younger brother. In order to tease him a bit further, Ruby decided not to voice that she had found him but allowed Orchid to trip himself on a stone in the ground as he tried to escape from his sister’s gaze. However, he knew it was all over the moment he saw Ruby appear above him, her hands on her hops as she spoke.

“Well, well, if it isn’t my dearest brother. I guess this was an improvement from some of the places you found back at the Hanging Rock.” She said while offering her hand to help Orchid back on his feet. The boy, to Ruby’s surprise, didn’t seem disappointed in the least as he seemed pretty excited by Ruby’s good memory of their old games together.

“This was nothing, Ruby, and you’ll see it wouldn’t be that easy the next time! Uhh, if you want to have another round, that is.” He asked, suddenly remembering his sister’s earlier misgivings. Ruby looked surprised for a short while before answering the boy.

“Why, sure I want, Orchid. This is much better than simply dwelling in my own fears. There will be enough time for that anyway.” She said, forcing the fearful thoughts from her mind as she spoke. She could see Orchid’s eyes widening with joy as he waved to his sister.

“Well, let’s go then! Arial must be waiting already. It’s great to have you back here, Ruby.” Orchid said almost under his breath which prompted Ruby to twitch slightly. She couldn’t completely agree with him yet but at least she was happy to be able to spend time with her siblings yet. For now, that was all that mattered.

“It is, Orchid. I’ve waited for this ever since I left the Valley.” She said, her vague tone confusing Orchid slightly. Yet, the two fast runners headed back towards the opening spreading below them, ready to finish this momentous day with numerous games filled with happiness and joy.

The darkness seemed to attempt to swallow the sparkling white cover of the earth as the night began to fall upon the world. The day’s death was accompanied by a rising wind which every now and then seemed to fight their way under the aging fast runner’s plumage. Detras shuddered slightly as he looked at the plains around him, knowing that the weather would get even much colder than this which hardly raised his spirits but he wasn’t about to let that hinder his most important of quests.

He frowned slightly as he realized that most traces of today’s fight had been cleaned away by the day’s winds. However, it would do little to slow him down as he still knew just where the small lake on which they had outsmarted Dein and Terri was located and that was where he’d pick up their trail. He panted slightly as he saw the frozen body of water appear from the endless shadows, the hard water glimmering magically under the brilliant star-filled sky. Even now, Detras couldn’t completely ignore the majestic sight but he didn’t waste a second heading towards the small pond.

Now, where did it happen? I guess it was about there and… aha! There it is!

The fast runner thought as he wiped away a layer of the ground sparkles to reveal a massive splotch of Dein’s blood, frozen into the hard water for the remainder of the Cold Time. The overwhelming smell of blood flowed into the fast runner’s nose, the dinosaur smelling the sharptooth’s presence as if he was with him right now. Detras smiled as he had just found the point from where to begin searching for the two sharpteeth but it would get more difficult from now on. The fast runners had an excellent sense of smell compared to most other dinosaurs but they weren’t sharpteeth and they most often weren’t supposed to follow their prey for a long time. Without drops of blood, the points where Detras could without mistake identify either of the sharpteeth would be far and between. He would have to use their resting and relieving spots as his guide but even then, the terribly injured sharpteeth could not be far and with any luck, he could finish them off without them knowing it. And if he couldn’t…

A horrible cringe rose to Detras’ mind as he tried to fight off the potential outcome of his quest out of his mind. He would do what he could but he was a father of three children and he’d do anything in his power to keep them safe. But he also had to think of the future and it was his duty for all members of his family that drove him forward. Detras took a deep sigh as he prepared to start his chase for his former allies. He put his hands on his knees as he panted slightly, raising his gaze towards the countless small lights of the cloudless night.

A brief glimmer of the stars’ light flashed within Detras’ eyes before he finally tensed his muscles in preparation for the rest of his chase. Suddenly he forced himself into a swift sprint and in a few seconds, he had disappeared into the all-penetrating night.

And so Detras has embarked on a quest which will not only decide the safety of his family, but the very survival of his own daughter. Trying to stand against the sharpteeth could well be his end but is the alternative something he’s willing to go through? And will the fast runners be able to prevent further bloodshed with their coming standoff with the invading predators? Next, I’ll write my last short story of the year as most of you know it'll go on a hiatus for a few months. As for this chapter, let me know what you think of it and see you next time!

rhombus: I’m glad that you found the structure of the chapter successful as I knew that it could get a bit confusing due to all the stuff that was happening. There were a few scenes I thought of adding but that installment was already too long for that. As for Petrie, you’re right that he decided to finally listen to “reason” in the worst possible time and that will undoubtedly haunt him in the future.

I can’t say I disagree with you about Pterano’s death. I can easily see that the scene might not have been as good as the character deserved but I tried to do create a shock effect for that scene but apparently it wasn’t powerful enough. Personally I feared that this momentous scene would disappear under the other action but I hope to avoid such mistakes in the future. Yet, in the end, I’m happy you found the rest of this chapter successful as it was one of the most important ones thus far. Thanks for the review, as always!