Author Topic: Of Hubris and Submission  (Read 298 times)

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Of Hubris and Submission
« on: August 13, 2019, 02:47:26 PM »
Of Hubris and Submission

The wind howled in the flyer’s ears as he eyed at the two passes in front of himself. From what he could tell, one of them headed right into the direction that he wanted but it would likely expose him and his herd to a greater danger than the other path that seemed to lead to the wider plains where his followers could more easily defend themselves. A slight frown rose to his face as he thought about his situation, still cursing the fact that his sister wasn’t here beside him where she was supposed to be.

A darker look rose to Pterano’s eyes as he thought of Volant’s decision. How had she dared to question his abilities like that? During the four days that had passed since his and his followers’ departure from the larger herd, not one of his followers had ended up as a sharptooth’s meal and all things considered, he was more than happy with himself thus far. But deep down, he wanted to show his sister the full extent of his abilities by reaching the Great Valley before her and the others.

Deep down, he was more than hurt by the fact that he had been forced to embark on this path alone. He already missed spending time with his nephews and nieces, telling them ever more of this wondrous world of the flyers… but no, they were with Volant now. All except poor Petrie… The flyer’s heart fell as he thought of the boy whose flight had ended so very early in his life. He continued to dwell in his doubts and inner fears, forgetting completely that he wasn’t alone at all.

“Mom, when are we going to move on? I’m too hungry to wait here for any longer!” A weak voice asked, causing the older threehorn’s face to drop slightly. Swiftcharge turned at her daughter, more than willing to see the endless whining and begging stop as soon as possible. Her voice was nearly a hostile one as she addressed the girl.

“We will move on once he decides the best way forward, Nila. Not any sooner.” She said, her expression silencing the child immediately. However, it wasn’t long before she heard another voice speak to her, one that made her mood fall even further.

“We don’t want to wait for any longer! Mom, we haven’t eaten anything since…” He started but this time, the older threehorn cut him short. She wasn’t willing to listen to such weakness any longer and she made it more than clear as she spoke to the boy.

“Neither have I, Aren, but I’m not here complaining about things I can’t change all the time! A threehorn can get through any hardship and a real threehorn does so without endless whining. Our kind is always supposed to be the pillar of sanity and strength, no matter what! Your father knew it as well as I do and you’d do well to remember it as well! We’ve been safer with Pterano than any time before and that’s something to be grateful for!” She said, her face falling as she thought of her mate.

She still loved him greatly but for some reason, he had declined to join her in Pterano’s herd. he had claimed that their kind didn’t need the guidance of a barkbrain, a thought that
made the female more than enraged. A threehorn had to do whatever they had to in order to keep their loved ones and those who depended on them safe and that’s what Swiftcharge had decided to do. If Topps was too stubborn to listen to the wisdoms of their own kind, then so be it!

His approach annoyed her even more considering that he had seemed almost indifferent to Cera’s disappearance. Even after they had lost one of their own children, he had declined to listen to the one dinosaur who could keep their family safe! Inside, she felt deep appreciation for Pterano for her efforts to safeguard his followers from the sharptooth threat after the disastrous attack during the Great Earthshake. With any luck, he could lead them to the Valley while preventing any further tragedies on the way. However, her thoughts were cut short by her third remaining child.

“But mom, can’t you even ask him what’s wrong? Even if it is up to us to keep the other kinds in line, we still don’t want to waste any more time here than we have to!” Struggle said, causing Swiftcharge to sigh deeply. She was just about to rebuke the child’s request when a spiketail near the threehorn family joined the conversation.

“Indeed. If you won’t do it, I will! Pterano seems more confused and more fearful by the day and I don’t like it in the least!” He said in a tense voice, causing the female to look at her oddly. After a moment, she sighed slightly and spoke to him in a resigned voice.

“Very well. However, we shouldn’t push him too much as our survival depends on him, after all.” She said as she started to approach the flyer, hoping to get this conversation over with without any delays.

A slight concern rose in Pterano’s chest as he looked at the pass leading to the plains, slowly starting to think that to be the best way to go. He knew that it would endanger a lot but on the other hand, he knew his followers wanted to get out of this mess as quickly as possible. But even then, the flyer was conflicted…

“Pterano! What’s taking so long? We should get on the move!” He heard a familiar voice say and he rolled his eyes in annoyance as he turned to look at Swiftcharge, knowing he couldn’t get rid of her without explaining himself. There were times when he was less than happy about her presence but on the other hand, she was a priceless help in defending his herd and because of that, he appreciated her more than he had usually shown. Knowing her to be a trustworthy dinosaur, the male suddenly leapt towards her and spoke to the female in an arrogant voice.

“There are some situations where I have to weigh on how to move forward. I’m sure even someone…” He said, soon realizing his mistake. The threehorn snorted at him in annoyance, answering in a heavy voice.

“Don’t treat me like an idiot, flyer! You are not the only one with a brain here! I’m more than willing to follow you as long as you keep us safe but that attitude of yours is something you should fix now rather than later.” She said, knowing Pterano wouldn’t want to argue in front of the herd. The flyer knew very well that any further fuss would very likely hurt his authority and he then spoke to the larger dinosaur in a more silent but just as pompous voice.

“I will change my ways only when I see fit, threehorn. As for our best way to move forward, we have to reach the Valley without any more delays. And I know just the way no one else could guide us through!” He said but something within his words made Swiftcharge more concerned than he had expected. The female looked at him with an odd look, somehow guessing just what Pterano had been thinking about.

“Whatever you’re about to do, Pterano, focus on keeping us safe from the sharpteeth. I and my family can take the hunger for a bit longer but if any of us will meet their end in a sharptooth attack, I will make sure you will regret the day you hatched. I promise you this much.” She said, meaning every word she said. Inside, she wanted to believe she had made the right choice when she had joined the flyer’s herd and she hoped Pterano would listen to her warning.

The flyer looked at the threehorn in the eyes for a moment, something within her face causing Pterano’s bravado to fail. He saw no hate in Swiftcharge’s eyes but rather fear. The exact same kind of fear and sorrow Pterano felt in his own heart as well. Even if Petrie hadn’t been his son, he still wanted to believe his loss had been somewhat comparable to that of Swiftcharge’s and inside, the flyer realized just how the threehorn felt. Hesitantly, he gave the larger dinosaur a careful smile as he turned at the others and spoke to them in a cheerful and encouraging voice.

“I’ve made my decision! We will go right to the wide plains closer to the Great Divide as that will allow us to guard ourselves from the sharpteeth far better than in those passes! We will make it to the Great Valley together, that much I promise you my faithful followers! Now, follow me to our paradise!” He cried as he took into the air to lead the others as he had done for days already. The others looked at him in relief, more than thankful for being able to move on after the pause. Swiftcharge slowly moved towards her children and spoke to them in a harsh but encouraging voice.

“Let’s get on the move, all of you. We still have a long distance to cover before the evening if we ever wish to leave this blasted place behind.” She said, following the rest of the herd. The three children looked at their mother with bothered and concerned looks but knew better than to start arguing with her. The trio gave a collective sigh, each of them still regretting it greatly that Cera wasn’t here with them. They could only pray in their minds that they wouldn’t join their sister anytime soon.

A slight smile rose to his face as Pterano felt the wind wheezing around his beak in the early morning’s light. He looked at the Bright Circle briefly before looking keenly at the horizon to see a trace of any kind of movement. If a sharptooth appeared anywhere near his herd, he’d know of it minutes before they were near enough for a real assault. The flyer also glanced at the five other dinosaurs keeping an eye at the immediate surroundings of the waking group of dinosaurs in the case their leader somehow missed the potential attacker.

The small, dead forest near the herd bothered the flyer somewhat as it offered  potential hiding spot for a daring fastbiter but in the end, it didn’t make the male too bothered. The other guards had kept an eye in that direction for the entire night and really, no sharptooth would be able to attack the herd that way.

Even then, the barren horizon dampened the flyer’s mood somewhat. It seemed just as dry and inhospitable as the lands his herd had went through and there wasn’t a real change in the horizon. Still, Pterano was more than happy with himself thus far as he had managed to keep his followers safe and they were covering a good distance every day. At this rate, no one would have to go through Tuulen or Petrie’s fate before reaching the Valley and if he managed doing just that, he knew his demand to rule the herd would be vindicated. He’d be celebrated and even his sister would have to acknowledge…

Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by a loud cry from the distance. He immediately realized it was an emergency call and inside, the flyer cursed deeply. He knew this was a bad thing but he wasted no time heading towards the direction of the call. He was the leader and it was his charge to protect those that followed him to his best ability. Hopefully it just wasn’t something that would weaken his position in the herd…

It wasn’t long before Pterano noticed a small group of his followers gathering near the edge of the dead forest, their body language causing the flyer’s heart to skip a beat. Some seemed desperate, some were clearly trying to do something but… what exactly? He landed behind his followers and spoke to them in an authoritative tone.

“Let me pass, all of you! I have to see what has happened so don’t…” He said but as he saw what was the problem, he froze in his place. Before him lied two young swimmers, their bodies torn to a countless pieces and their father kneeling by their side, sobbing inconsolably. That second seemed to stretch on forever and that sight was something he’d never forget. Especially the other child’s horrified stare on her ruined face seemed to accuse the flyer directly for what had happened. Both of them were dismembered sickeningly,
nearly making Pterano want to vomit. He then spat in a weak voice the obvious question.

“W… what happened here? I mean… how did it happen?” He asked, not even trying to keep up his appearances on this moment. Yes, he had seen a lot of death in his life but this was different. Those… those two children had been his to protect and here they were, lying in pieces in the ground. This moment of shock was suddenly ended when a hollowhorn next to Pterano spoke to him in a mocking and outraged voice.

“Isn’t it clear, oh “great leader”?! They were gutted by sharpteeth YOU failed to spot in time!” He spat into the ground, earning the grief-stricken father’s hate-filled gaze immediately afterwards. He looked at the flyer for a moment before speaking to him heavily.

“And we trusted that you would keep us safe, Pterano! But now my babies are gone because I ever trusted you, bastard!” He cried, clearly at a loss of what to do now. For the briefest of moments, the smaller dinosaur was at a loss of what to say until he heard a voice behind him that made him breath at least a bit more easily.

“Calm down for a moment, all of you! Why are their remains here and not where we slept?” Swiftcharge asked, the implications within her words clear to everyone. Every dinosaur present looked at the female sternly before the swimmer snapped at her in clear rage.

“What are you saying, hornface? That it doesn’t matter that my children are…” His voice died down as he couldn’t finish his sentence. It was just too monstrous to say out loud. The threehorn, however, walked towards the swimmer until her horns nearly poked at his face before starting to speak harshly, even excessively so.

“I am saying that it’s more than likely that your children ran away from the herd and at that point, it is no longer our job to guard them. I was also guarding all of you the entire night and I certainly am not going to take the blame for you not being able to take care of your own offspring!” She yelled, knowing full well that her words wouldn’t be well-received. And indeed, the swimmer’s expression turned from astonished to shocked before finally showing signs of outrage. His voice trembled in hate as he answered the female.

“H… how dare you? HOW CAN YOU CLAIM THIS IS MY DOING? IT WAS YOUR JOB TO KEEP THEM SAFE AND NOW YOU BLAME THEM AND ME FOR ALL OF THIS? I ALWAYS KNEW THREEHORNS ARE MONSTERS BUT…´” At this point, Swiftcharge had had enough. She grunted in annoyance before taking another step forward and hitting the male into the ground and speaking to him threateningly.

“And I always knew bigmouths are nothing but weaklings who start to whine about everything even if they aren’t able to even carry their own weight in a herd! I’ve lost a child as well and I know damn well it was because of my and my mate’s own mistakes that we have to learn about! I miss Cera so very much but have you heard me going around the herd blaming every other dinosaur for it? Have you?” She asked in a more restrained voice, a few others around her moving to contain her should the situation escalate further. The swimmer seemed to be willing to answer to the threehorn with an even more hostile tone but before he had the chance, a flyer whose presence they had already forgotten joined the conversation.

“Stop, both of you! We have to move on as quickly as we can and it won’t help anyone but the sharpteeth if we spend our strength fighting each other! Current, I am more than sorry about what happened but Swiftcharge has a point. We only guard the herd and we simply are not able to keep an eye on adventurous younglings in the dark of the night. So, remember everyone, tell your children to never, ever leave the safety of this herd so that we’ll never again have to see thins kind of a tragedy!” He cried, hoping he’d be able to save his face at least somewhat after his earlier inability to respond to this unexpected loss.

Swiftcharge looked at the flyer grimly, knowing that despite her intervention, Pterano had undermined his reputation and authority greatly. Deep inside, her own respect towards the flyer was starting to fail as she had seen behind his pompous and inspiring façade. Behind it was only an unsure and weak flyer but even now, the threehorn wanted to believe that façade would be enough. Current looked at his leader with a despising look, not willing to believe that the flyer had practically sided with the threehorn. Even then, he knew he couldn’t argue him in front of the herd so he simply turned his face away from him.

Inside, Pterano could tell that no one among the herd seemed particularly impressed by his words but even then, none of them seemed to challenge his authority at least for now. Even he knew that his earlier failure at act as the voice of reason and stability within the herd had taken a serious hit but even then, the only thing he could do now was to move on and hope he could make his followers forget about all of that. He then waved at his herd as he rose to his wings.

“But now, follow me! We have to get on the move if we ever wish to reach the Valley!” He cried and each one of the dinosaurs did as they were told, knowing they had no real options. Even then, they could feel that this journey would be even more difficult than they had initially expected.

“When will this endless walking end? I can hardly take another step!” Nila said in a fatigued voice, clearly more than distressed by her situation. The Bright Circle was casting its heat on her back and inside, she felt only a gaping hole in her stomach that cried out to be filled. Her vision was starting to grow dimmer but even then, she took a step after step forward, knowing what the alternative would be. It wasn’t long before Struggle answered to her, the other girl’s voice much harsher.

“Hush, Nila! Haven’t you listened to anything that mom has said? We are threehorns and we can go through any hardship so shut up!” She said, not willing to listen to anything her sister had to say. She had always been more than annoyed by Nila as she had easily been the weakest one of her siblings and she seemed completely oblivious to her charge as a threehorn.

Of all of her siblings, she missed Cera the most. She had always been closest with her now-dead sister as they had always shared their parents’ outlook on life as well as their inner and outer strength. If Cera was still here, this march would be far easier as at least in that case, the two could encourage each other forward instead of being forced to help the weaker ones forward, However, Nila didn’t seem like she was even listening to Struggle’s words.

“I don’t know how long I can go on… I’m so thirsty and tired… I don’t think we’ll ever reach the Valley…” She said, even her hope starting to fail her slowly but surely. However, it wasn’t Struggle who answered that comment this time but Aren.

“Struggle’s right, Nila! We others aren’t having it any easier and we don’t need you making it just worse! You are still here unlike Cera so be grateful that you at least still have a chance to make it through all of this! All of us are doing our very best and so should you!” He said, exchanging approving glances with Struggle. Even if he didn’t always agree with her rather harsh opinions and words, she was still someone he could look up to and he had always been on rather good terms with his older sister. Even then, he had been slightly upset that Cera and Struggle had most often simply spent time with each other, leaving him out of their games far too often for his taste. Struggle took a brief sigh to calm down before her eyes widened at a sight that opened on her left side.

“Now, look at that… That’s quite a sight, isn’t it brother?” She asked as she looked at the massive cliff that appeared to her next left side. It seemed as if someone had cut the world in two as the plain suddenly gave way to a massive drop where one could hardly even see the ground under the cliff. However, there were still some mountains that could be seen in the distance which confirmed to the child that this was in no way some edge of the world from a children’s story. Aren nodded to her before answering in an awed voice.

“Now that’s something you don’t see every day. I…” He started but before he could finish, his mother spoke to the children harshly, willing to get her point through as quickly as possible.

“Stay far from the edge, all of you. I don’t want to see any accidents or dangerous games, understood?” She asked, more than knowing what the younger threehorns had spoken about. She knew Nila was growing extremely weak and inside, she was seriously starting to fear whether she was correct about herself. It seemed like any step could be her last and inside, the female wasn’t nearly as sad as one would think. It was the way of the world and if a threehorn couldn’t avoid becoming a burden to the ones around them, then the Circle of Life would cast its judgement soon enough. As a mother, she regretted all of that greatly but that’s just how things were. She was suddenly woken up from her glum thoughts as she heard a loud voice cry from far in front of her.

“Get moving, Current! You can’t stay here alone! You have to come with us!” A male cried to which the swimmer’s familiar voice answered to him in a broken tone.

“I don’t have to anywhere if I don’t want to! Without my children, I have nowhere to go and I’m too hungry to take another step! Actually, I made it this far only because of the kids!” He cried with  a clearly deranged voice, the horror of his reality slowly clouding all of his rational thoughts. The threehorn sighed deeply as she started to approach the scene, her own nerves starting to get stretched as well. She’d show him just what she thought about the weak links among the herd but before she even got close to that scene, one of the spiketails spoke in annoyance.

“Show him just what we think of weaklings like him! Soon, he’ll gladly move forward and stop wasting our time!” The female cried but at this point, Swiftcharge saw the swimmer for the first time since the morning. Her eyes widened as she saw him approaching the edge of the cliff with a horrified look on his face. He then turned at the others and his tone grew ever more insane as he spoke.

“Stay away from me, all of you! This entire search has cursed all of us! All we’ll find out here is certain death!” He cried, those words earning dismayed looks from the others. Each of them knew that the swimmer’s words could very well be true which made them all the more hurtful to the others. None of them really cared about the swimmer as they held the respect of few other kinds but all of them hated to see any member of the herd act like this.Swiftcharge couldn’t help but wonder where exactly Pterano was in a moment like this but she suddenly cried to Current in a threatening voice.

“And yours will be guaranteed if you ever resign to your own weakness! The only way you can show to your children and to all of us is to join the group and to find the Valley! You are the only one who can keep their and your mate’s memory alive!” She yelled, hoping that she could somehow snap the distressed dinosaur awake from his insanity. However, his next words bothered the threehorn even more than she could have expected.

“You mean the memory of those who perished on these cursed plains because of the cruelty of this word? Oh no, I don’t think so! This search was a folly from the beginning and I will not continue it alone! Mark my words, everyone, you will pray that you had the same decision as I before the end!” he yelled and at this point, even the leader himself made his presence known. He flew just above the swimmer and addressed him in a voice that sounded even like a begging one.

“Please, my friend, don’t do this! I promise you we will reach the Valley in a day or two and on that day, you’ll regret even thinking of ending it all! You have my, Pterano’s, word ab…” He started but before he got any further, the swimmer interrupted him once and for all. His cry drowned the flyer’s words as he prepared to do what he had threatened to do.

“Oh, no, no, you will never find anything in this cruel, horrifying world! Farewell, all of you. I will eagerly wait to meet all of you again soon enough!” He yelled before he suddenly leapt into the air. Swiftcharge ran to look at the scene but there was nothing she could do anymore. She cringed as she looked at the male disappearing into the depths, accompanied by cries of horror and sorrow. Just before Current hit the distant ground, the threehorn tore her eyes away from him. She could tell the moment of the smaller dinosaur’s demise from the collective gasp among the rest of the herd, something that didn’t exactly improve her mood any. Her voice was an angered one as she spoke to the others.

“Let’s move on. That coward doesn’t deserve even our pity.” She said sharply, hoping to hear no objections. If there was one thing she hated, it was those who left those around them to trouble while themselves escaping from it and that included those who killed themselves. That was against the threehorn ways and to her personal philosophy as well. Pterano frowned deeply at those words but decided against arguing with the threehorn. He sighed slightly as he spoke to the others.

“Swiftcharge is right. May he find peace but we others still have our own lives to live. Come, everyone. We will prove that Current was wrong all along and when we’ll reach the Valley, maybe he’ll know his mistake from the Great Beyond. Let’s go.” He spoke with a bothered voice, casting one final look into the lower plain below himself. He couldn’t help but regret what had happened but even then, it wasn’t his fault. He had his own role and by the Great Flyers of old, he’d see it to the end regardless of what weaklings like the swimmer would say!

Even then, he could very well see that this loss hardly made his job any easier. Even if his herd didn’t want to admit it, seeing one of their companions to take his own life was something that dampened their mood greatly. Pterano could only hope that he’d soon find something that would help restore the herd’s hope or it would be more than likely that
his grip over his followers would soon completely fail. He cringed deeply as he took to the skies, knowing that his journey had very likely taken an irrevocable turn for the worse.

Three days had come and gone and even the usually steadfast and optimistic Pterano couldn’t help but feel fatigue creep into each part of his body. It felt like even flying was starting to get too tiring for him and he couldn’t even say how he could flap his wings anymore. His entire body ached with hunger and thirst and he started to curse his own situation as well. The tole of a leader was slowly starting to lose its shine for the flyer but even then, deep down he remembered just why he had taken up that role and why he’d see it to the end. Even now, the thought of his triumphant arrival to the Valley made his heart swell as did the thought of Tuulen and Petrie smiling to him from the next world on his moment of success.

Even then, he couldn’t help but feel bothered by the fact that he had thus far seen none of the famed landmarks leading to the Great Valley. There was not one trace of the Rock that Looks Like a Longneck nor of the Mountains that Burn. Of course, there had to be multiple paths to their destination and he knew that the greatest flyers had always forged their own path, not caring about the words or advice of others. Still, it would have encouraged him if he knew he was going the right way but even then, he was following the Bright Circle wherever it fell. Sooner or later, he’d be able to quell his thirst and hunger and prove he had been right all along!

However, he knew very well that not all within his herd saw it the same way. The last three days had taken a heavy toll on them and he could very well see that many of his followers resembled walking skeletons more than actual dinosaurs. Even worse, he had started to hear some of them starting to question his very leadership which was something that made him sick in his stomach. Sooner or later, they’d reach a breaking point and on that moment, only the Bright Circle knew what would happen. And that moment would come far sooner than the flyer had feared in his worst sleep stories.

“Mom, please help me… I can’t take another step…” A pleading voice spoke and those words were followed by an immediate thud. Swiftcharge’s heart dropped immediately as she heard those words, knowing very well who had spoken them. She turned around and her eyes met the very sight she had expected. Nila was lying in the ground, completely unmoving save for a weak breathing that seemed so fragile that it might end at any moment. However, the older threehorn’s voice wasn’t just yet as mournful as even she herself
had expected.

“Dear, you can still go on. You aren’t like those others who have fallen behind. Just think of what your father will say when he’ll see you again.” She said, hoping her encouragement wouldn’t fall on deaf ears. There had been five dinosaurs by now whose journey had ended and she knew very well that she was growing weaker herself by the second. However, to see her daughter like this… her old philosophy about the Circle of Life was starting to slowly break down. It wasn’t long until the girl answered and Swiftcharge knew immediately that this wasn’t the same kind of situation like the previous ones. Her daughter’s strength was really spent for good, a thought that made her blood run cold.

“No, I cannot, mom. I can’t even rise up anymore. Just say hello… to daddy for me.” She said, her eyes closing slowly. Her mother could still see that she was alive but she wouldn’t be for much longer at this pace. She looked at the child in horror, her motherly instincts starting to wake up slowly. She had already lost one child and she simply wouldn’t lose another one like this! She suddenly turned at the others and cried at them in shock.

“Everyone, stop! I need help for my daughter!” She cried, her pride telling her to avoid asking for help from the other kinds but this time, her feelings beat the wisdoms of her kind. Inside, she knew she wouldn’t be able to carry anyone for a long time in her current condition and she was far from sure what she wanted the others to do either. And the other dinosaurs’ answer was just what the rational part of the female’s mind had expected. One flyer flew past her and simply snapped in an annoyed voice.

“Your problem, threehorn. It was you who had told us others to mind our own business so I’d advise you to live by your own rules, Swiftcharge!” He said, causing the threehorn’s world to stop completely. Yes, she had said that but never had she thought that she’d be in the same situation herself. Suddenly, her composure started to break and tears started to drop into the dry ground as she looked at her daughter’s unmoving body and listened to the sobs of her two other children. This simply couldn’t go on for any longer.

Suddenly, Swiftcharge remembered her last conversation with her mate, only now realizing what kind of fool she had been. Had she just listened to him, she would be with him and not in this hellish wasteland looking at her own starving child. How could she have believed Pterano back then to solve all of her problems? The female’s eyes narrowed considerably as she thought of the flyer. Here he was acting as if he knew the answers to everything even if thus far he had shown absolutely no evidence of any secret knowledge or even of any kinds of leadership skills.

In this moment of defeat and horror, the threehorn’s entire bitterness was targeted at the flyer. Without him, everything could be well or at the very least, they couldn’t be any worse. He had lead her and the others to this horrifying place and she could very well see that the others’ strength was getting spent as well. It was at this point that Current’s last words returned to her mind. In one way, she already regretted having to go through this ordeal when the swimmer had escaped all of the problems of this world.

As Swiftcharge looked at the eyes of her two standing children, she realized this couldn’t continue. At this pace, all of her children would die and it would all be because her own stupid, sickening dec… No, it wasn’t her own fault. It was Pterano who had got her to join this doomed quest and if she wanted to have any chance to make the others see the truth and to take their fates back to their own hands, she’d have to make them see just how pathetic Pterano just was. In order for her to rise, he had to first fall as the leader of this herd. She suddenly let out a loud cry on which she called the flyer to her.

That screech made Pterano’s heart jump to his throat. He knew that Nila was growing weaker but even then, he had hoped to avoid any kind of clash with the threehorn. Not only had she been an important dinosaur in keeping the herd safe, she had also been his staunch supporter only a short time ago. Even then, he had no choice but to check what was wrong with her or else his reputation would be undermined even further. he took a brief sigh as he headed towards the female, knowing full well that everyone stared at him in a mix of anger and curiosity.

The flyer’s mood fell immediately as he saw Nila lying on the ground, immediately realizing that his worst dreams were being realized. He knew full well that Swiftcharge would speak for many members of his herd who were on the verge of losing a loved one to exhaustion and hunger. His voice was a firm one, knowing he couldn’t seem weak during this conversation.

“I’m sorry about your daughter but there is nothing we can do for her now. We all know that we have to reach the Valley or share the same fate.” He said, knowing full well he was right. He shuddered inside as he looked the female in her eyes, seeing the rising anger within her eyes. He could only hope that he could withstand whatever was to come. Swiftcharge stepped forward towards her leader and spoke to him in a cold voice that dipped with hate and disgust.

“We all know that it was you who led us here, Pterano! All of our hardships have been because of you!” She yelled, looking closely at the dinosaur around her. Even now, she knew that she couldn’t head out alone with her children as that would mean certain death. Now, she had to either overthrow Pterano or follow him against her will. The flyer looked at the threehorn in a stern look, genuine outrage starting to rise within him.

“You dare? You should be honored to be able to follow me, Pterano, on this momentous journey instead of being led by those who lack vision! The others are very likely to have perished already!” He yelled, knowing his position was on the line now. If he did everything right, it would be much more unlikely that any others would question his leadership either. However, he was far from prepared to the larger dinosaur’s next attack. She didn’t care that her children were visibly terrified by what was happening but right now, making the others to see truth about Pterano was the most important thing for her.

“No matter what, they can’t be doing any worse than we are! About your vision, Pterano, I really doubt you even know which way we’re going any better than we others do! If you know anything more than we do, tell it now!” She said, really wondering what kind of an answer she’d receive. The flyer gulped as he looked at the expression of those around him, seeing very well that he couldn’t get out of this situation in any way. He took a firmer look and crossed his hands as he gave his answer.

“I know the same stories as the rest of you but I’ve managed to find further hints about the Valley’s location from the old, treasured tales of the flyers. The Rock that Looks Like a Longneck is roughly where the others are going but according to one of our legends, the promised sanctuary is further north than the others seem to believe. I will show you the way and at that point, you will learn not question our kind’s wisdom.” He said but immediately, the threehorn rebuked. Pterano knew very well that his answer was an improvised one as inside, he knew the way to the Valley only as well as the others.

“Oh? Then why didn’t you tell of that to the others? Am I to understand that you sent my mate to certain death because you were too proud to even mention you knew all of this? Am I?” She asked, causing Pterano to frown even further. He looked nervously around himself but his courage wasn’t failing him just yet. He soon regained his composure as he spoke again, more than annoyed by this conversation.

“Of course not. Do you really think I’d rid anyone of that paradise willingly? I only thought about these things once we left the others! I would have gladly told them but I hadn’t managed to put all the pieces together back then!” He said but at that point, Swiftcharge’s eyes flashed triumphantly. There it was, the opening she could use to attack the flyer and perhaps prove his real motives to the others. She grunted deeply as she spoke to the flyer.

“So, you are admitting that you didn’t know the way when we left the others? You admit that all along, you told us to follow you even if you knew nothing? Did my daughter follow you all this time simply because you lied to us?” She asked with a trembling rage, seeing that some of the other herd members’ faces were tightening as well. Pterano realized his mistake as well but by the Bright Circle, he wouldn’t fail here! He had been born for this role and no threehorn would take that away from him! His voice was beyond toxic as he spoke.

“The main thing I promised was safety and I’ve kept my word! I’m flabbergasted that you dare accuse me of wrongdoing even if I’ve worked tirelessly to find out the best path forward for you and the others! I haven’t failed any of the pledges I made when you decided to follow me!” He said, his own rage overshadowing any of his internal doubts or worries. However, his heart fell completely as he heard another dinosaur speak to him.

“Save for the one that you alone knew the way! And to be honest, I couldn’t care less about you and your kind’s children’s stories. They are most likely pure lies after all!” The hollowhorn cried, causing the others to start gossiping as well. The flyer froze in his place for a brief moment, not willing to hear he had just heard those words of arrogance. He stuttered as he started to speak, those words having insulted him personally.

“They are the greatest source of wisdom of all. If… if you are suggesting they’re all wrong, I…” He started but before he got any further, a third dinosaur yelled in growing anger.

“The flyers are nothing but cowards! I bet Pterano would abandon us the moment we no longer will be of any use to him! I’m not willing to give my life to such a leader!” He cried, telling Pterano that things were approaching a critical point. More and more dinosaurs started to speak of treacherous deeds and the flyer knew but one way to stop it completely. He suddenly rose to his wings and cried in a loud, commanding voice.

“Those who wish to follow me to the Valley, tell so immediately! Move closer to me so that we may show these upstarts their rightful place! Know that the lives of your loved ones depend on you making the right choice! In the name of the noble flyers of the past, I promise to you that what I said is true! Show your loyalty to me and I will bring you salvation!” He cried, looking at the dinosaurs below him. He cringed inside a he didn’t see any of them budging for a few seconds, knowing that the chance of him succeeding in
making his case were deteriorating by the second.

That fact, of course, wasn’t lost on Swiftcharge either. She looked at the dinosaurs around her, looking in growing hope as none of them seemed ready to cast their hopes on the flyer. It wasn’t long, however, before one grumpy clubtail spat into the ground and spoke to Swiftcharge.

“Bah! I’d follow any fool rather than you or your mate, Swiftcharge! You’ve never brought anything but trouble with you!” She yelled as she walked near Pterano. The threehorn cringed at the other female in clear despise but there was nothing she could do about her. However, her spirits fell further as another swimmer spoke in a worried voice.

“I agree. At least Pterano has given us something to believe in unlike you and your kind, threehorn. I have no wish to live under your tyranny!” He snapped and joined the two dinosaurs. Swiftcharge looked in astonishment and growing outrage as she looked at more and more dinosaurs joining the flyer’s followers, knowing that her gamble was on the verge of failing completely.

This fact wasn’t lost on Pterano either. He smiled widely as he looked at more and more affirming their loyalty, having a hard time keeping a smile creeping to his face as he saw another dinosaur heading towards him… until finally nearly two-thirds of the herd stood around him. At that point, he couldn’t hide his triumph and he suddenly called sneeringly at the threehorn.

“Well, Swiftcharge, it seems you didn’t know my herd as well as you thought! Are you willing to give up your idiotic attempt to guide us all to oblivion or do you really wish to have a battle? It is up to you now.” He said, knowing that his rival had but one option at this point. He knew full well she wouldn’t start a full-fledged bloodbath here and her eventual surrender would only improve his position within the herd. Her sister would certainly be sorry she ever questioned his ability to rule the herd once everyone would tell her of his

The threehorn looked before herself in shock, not having expected it to end like this. She could feel similar sentiments among those who still stood by her but… but it mattered little now. What mattered was that her effort to wrestle the herd away from Pterano had ended in a failure and that meant that she’d have to march on following him until her children and she herself would fall into the ground, never to rise again. She couldn’t believe most of the herd still trusted Pterano, a testament to the utter stupidity of the lesser kinds. She only regretted for having to suffer for the mistakes of others. Her voice was a sickened one as she spoke but fighting would help no one at this point. She looked into the ground, cursing the day when she had joined Pterano.

“I have no choice but to give up, Pterano. Lead us forward.” She said, this situation making her more hopeless than she had thought. Not only was her family going to die but she had also been forced to submit before a flyer! At this point, she understood Current’s farewell completely. Pterano looked at the threehorn for a while before finally acknowledging her words.

“Very well. I am not going to punish you for your effort as I know full well how it feels to lose your child or someone you see as such. But from now on, I don’t want to see more uprisings like this one as we already missed precious time and energy we should have used to reach the Valley. Follow me and remember we’re all in this together.” However, before Pterano could even start moving, another flyer approached him. The orange-brown flyer immediately recognized him as one of his followers and he could see deep excitement on
his face. Pterano frowned slightly as the other male seemed to ignore him completely but his mood improved as she started to speak.

“Marvelous news, everyone! I found a pass full of green food only a short distance in front of us! That’ll refresh us perfectly before we move forward!” He exclaimed with a wide smile as he looked at his companions. Swiftcharge couldn’t absolutely believe her ears as she heard those words, merely the suggestion that such a moment of salvation and happiness was at hand. She looked at the two flyers with wide eyes as Pterano asked the other male the obvious question.

“Where? Are you sure you’re not lying to us?” He asked, doubt creeping to his heart as well. The younger flyer shook his head quickly before waving to everyone to follow him.

“Follow me and I’ll show you the way! Come now, many of us are getting very weak!” He said, those words immediately causing a deep frown to appear on Swiftcharge’s face. Of course she was happy to hear that but… but what about Nila? Her heart ached as she looked at her now-unconscious daughter lying in the ground. She couldn’t leave her lying around here all alone even for a short while! It would hardly take a minute before sharpteeth would attack her and tear her small body to pieces!

Even then, the female knew she was out of options. She would either stay here to protect the child while others would bring food, if they would at all, and risk falling to the predators’ assault in her current weak state along with her other children. Even then, a slight relief rose to her face as she suddenly realized the obvious solution. If the flyer spoke the truth, then there was a chance she could carry Nila to this oasis and hope she could still recover from her weakness! Hope arose within her chest as she followed the herd and spoke to her children warmly as they got on the move. She gently raised the girl from the ground and put her on her back, content by the fact that she still breathed.

“Let’s hope the flyer was right. This journey might end up well after all!” She said, not able to foresee just yet how wrong she could possibly be.

“There is the opening, everyone! Soon, we can all eat our fill!” the flyer called as Pterano saw a distant tunnel opening far in the distance. He let out a deep breath of relief as he thought about it all. Only an hour ago, she was at a risk of being overthrown from his position as the leader and soon, he would be celebrated as the one who led the herd to this oasis in the middle of a wasteland! Maybe it wasn’t the Great Valley but it would spare his followers from some suffering in the days to come. He turned at the younger flyer and spoke to him happily.

“Good job. I promise you that I’ll let everyone know of your deed when our journey will finally reach its end.” He said, causing the other flyer to look away from him with a slight blush as he hadn’t expected to earn Pterano’s respect. He stuttered slightly as he answered, more than grateful about his leader’s words.

“I… I only did my duty, my leader. I wanted to help everyone in the only way I could.” He said but Pterano no longer listened to him. He started to hear distant roar in the horizon and soon enough, he realized it was being caused by falling waters. That in itself only confirmed that there had to be green food out there but… the flyer wasn’t a fool. It was certain that large bodies of water lured all kinds of dinosaurs near it, including sharpteeth.

Suddenly, Pterano felt cold shivers going through his spine. He couldn’t help but feel that he was making a grave mistake by going in there but even then, he didn’t have a chance. Either he would quell his herd’s hunger and thirst or he could tell them to turn around, a proposition which would hardly be well received by his followers. In the end, if he denied them this oasis, he knew very well that they would be as good as dead anyway. The flyer took a deep breath as he turned at the other flyer and spoke to him with a bothered voice.

“Of course, that is all any of us can ask from you.” He said, the change of tone in his voice not lost on the other flyer. However, he decided against asking what was wrong with him, instead focusing on what was to come. Soon enough, everything would seem much better again.

Pterano, however, looked in front of himself tightly as he saw a narrow pass opening in the mountainside in front of himself. That was apparently the only way to the falling waters and the green food which made Pterano even more fearful. In a place like that, his herd would have a hard time defending themselves against any threat. He turned at his followers and spoke to them in a stoic voice.

“Follow me and keep an eye on your surroundings! We don’t know whether there are other dinosaurs here besides us so don’t forget to hold up your defenses!” He said, earning many worried looks among the herd. Each of them knew about this threat of course but each of them also knew they’d have to get food, now.

However, those words didn’t make much of an impact on Swiftcharge. The threehorn had already lost her honor and self-respect so she couldn’t care less about herself. All of her thoughts were centered on her daughter, praying she could still stop her from joining her dear Cera in the Great Beyond. She looked eagerly as the pass grew closer, praying the worst of her family’s hardships were now things of the past. Her heart started to beat even more rapidly as she saw the pass opened in front of her and she felt it hide her from the scorching heat of the Bright Circle. She could see the pass already widening at the other end so it wouldn’t be long now until she could save Nila and her other children as well…

Even Pterano couldn’t hide his astonishment of what he saw as the brief shade gave way to the bright daylight. The sight that greeted him was one he hadn’t even dared to dream of after the other flyer’s story. There were various falling waters around him and even better, there was more green food than all of the members of his herd could ever eat! The flyer looked in shock down from a nearby cliff, seeing that there was an entire Valley of green below him, more than enough to feed all of his followers for many, many seasons! He looked at the scene of extraordinary beauty around himself, realizing that this was the culmination of his life’s work. Even if this wasn’t the Great Valley itself, it would still be more than enough for his hungry herd. With a wide smile, he turned to look at the other dinosaurs who were seeing the same wonder as he had, not able to believe their eyes. Pterano wasted no time speaking to them in the most pompous voice he could muster.

“Wasn’t this what I promised you? The day you cast your fates with me, you made the decision that saved you and your loved ones from certain death! The journey was a difficult and difficult one but now, we’re safe! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt by the mistrust you showed towards me earlier but that matters little! We’re saved now and it was all thanks to me!” He announced, looking as important as he simply could. The other flyer frowned slightly at those words but he nor any other member of the herd could claim otherwise. Without Pterano’s lead, they would have never found this place and now, they had to give him the respect he deserved.

Even Swiftcharge was beyond bewildered by this turn of events. Even if she had only an hour earlier tried to depose Pterano and even if her kind wasn’t known for resigning any argument, she now realized just what a fool she had been to actually oppose Pterano. Not only had she shamed herself but she had actually… she had actually nearly doomed her children to certain death. She frowned deeply as she stepped forward to speak to the male.

“Pterano… I’m sorry for what happened earlier. I see now that… that I was wrong.” She said, earning many gasps from those around her. None of them had ever heard such words from a threehorn before and they knew they were unlikely to hear them ever again either. Pterano was similarly shocked by it all and he was for a moment at a loss of what to say. However, he never got a chance to give that answer. The very moment he was preparing to accept the larger dinosaur’s apology, a loud rumble could be heard behind the herd.

The flyer frowned as he looked at the source of the noise, his initial confusion suddenly turning into fear. The pass he and the others had used to enter this valley was quickly getting blocked my massive boulders dropping from the hills surrounding them and even worse, there were sharpteeth running down the hills after blocking their prey’s escape path! The flyer looked in horror as all of the hillsides around him suddenly filled with fastbiters, knowing that his worst fears had just been realized. So, this entire oasis was nothing but a trap after all. For a moment, he nearly froze still, not able to do anything but wait for the end.

However, he soon found his courage and took a decisive expression. No, he wouldn’t allow these cursed beasts to steal his moment of triumph! He’s beat them back and show what happened to those who tried to steal his hard-earned victory from him! He suddenly cried with all his might, his tone leaving no room for hesitation.

“Form a ring around the children, immediately! We have no time to linger!” He yelled, at first content to see everyone doing as he had told. Yet, it soon became clear that there wasn’t nearly enough time for them to prepare for the fight. The flyer cringed deeply as the carnivores swarmed towards one of the clubtails, tearing him to pieces in a matter of seconds and throwing the rest of his fatigue and hunger-weakened herd into disarray.

The situation was the most ghastly for Swiftcharge as she saw the world around her turn into a chaos. She knew she’d beat a dozen of these bastards in her normal condition but right now, she could hardly stand, let alone fight! She suddenly turned at Aren and Struggle and spoke to them in an alarmed voice.

“Stay close to me, both of you! We have to stay together or we’re lost!” She yelled before she suddenly noticed one of the fastbiters leaping towards her from a cliff near her but she was just quick enough to show the beast the depth of its mistake. She bowed her head quickly and smiled in satisfaction as the sharptooth got impaled within her right horn. Cringing in disgust, she threw the bleeding corpse away from the horn but it was at this point that she heard a horrified cry from just behind her.

“Mom, help me! I can’t… AAAH!” Swiftcharge’s eyes widened as she heard that yell, knowing immediately whom it belonged to. She turned to look at the source of the cry and her heart skipped a beat as she saw what was happening. A pair of fastbiters were circling around her children while Struggle was defending them both in her usual, brave manner. However, her defense was quickly failing as one of the beasts managed to trip her into the ground and draw a long, deep wound into the girl’s back.  It wouldn’t be long now until she’d fall under the onslaught.

If the older threehorn didn’t have a say in it all, of course. Swiftcharge wasted no time demonstrating that her name fit her more than well. Before one of the carnivores could even realize what was happening, she was being trampled under the furious mother’s feet, her body broken into mere bloody ooze. However, all of that still took precious time… too much of it in fact. The other fastbiters looked at the demise of his companion in horror but even then, then, the younger threehorn was in his mercy.

Struggle had tried to regain her footing but before she managed to do so, she realized it was too late for her. She screamed in a loud voice as she looked at the sharptooth quickly bowing towards her, his eyes burning with pure bloodthirstiness. The young girl could do nothing but watch as the beast’s claws dug into her flesh, streams of blood spraying to her face as her consciousness started to fail. Struggle could form a single thought as her life started to escape from her broken body.

Hang in there, Cera. I’m coming with you.

The truth was quickly starting to dawn on Pterano as he followed the raging battle. His herd was too tightly drawn into the melee with the predators to give his orders any heed, leaving him as a helpless spectator to this horrifying fight. Inside, he knew very well that his followers were in no condition to fight and he could see it with his own eyes as well. The clubtails and threehorns who would usually trample a large host of fastbiters alone were quickly forced to merely fight a losing battle as they tried to defend themselves from the inevitable.

Yet, even now hope lingered within the flyer’s heart. Maybe, just maybe, newfound strength and courage would rise within his herd which would save them from this looming defeat. He narrowed his eyes as he looked into the ground, hoping the tide of the battle would still turn.

The world seemed to fall apart around Swiftcharge as she looked at her daughter’s blood streaming away from her body. She had loved Struggle perhaps more than any of her other children, aside from Cera, as they had been the proudest, the strongest of her offspring. To see her fall nearly broke her spirit, knowing that no matter what happened from now on, this loss could never be reversed. Struggle was gone and nothing could undo that monstrous fact. The horrified cry of her son filled her ears but at that point, she only cared about the fastbiter in front of her.

Her eyes turned red with rage as she decimated the cursed sharptooth in a more brutal manner than she had ever fought before. The smaller dinosaur tried to fight back but the threehorn’s assault was far too powerful for him. For a while, she was about to continue her rampage but her plans were interrupted by Aren’s loud call.

“Mom, look out! Now!” He yelled and immediately, the female could see another attacker trying to jump at her, however, this time she only had time to dodge the attack but as she did so, she realized her terrible mistake. Nila had still lied on her back and the quick, prompt movement caused her to fall from her mother’s back. The child quickly dropped into the ground, causing her mother to gasp in shock. The unconscious girl would be in the predators’ mercy in the ground but before she could do anything about it, Aren decided to act in order to prevent the last one of his siblings move into the next world. However, the next thing he heard was his mother’s call as she realized just what her son was doing.

“Aren, don’t do it! Get out of there!” She yelled as she saw another sharptooth running towards the boy. Aren had never expected another attack that quickly and due to his youth and inexperience, he hadn’t even thought of all the risks he could face by doing the right thing and saving his precious sister. However, before he could even react, he felt the beast’s jaws closing around himself, the following pain lasting only a few seconds before everything went dark for Aren and soon enough, for his sister as well.

That bloodbath wasn’t lost on Pterano and he couldn’t help but feel heartbroken when he heard Swiftcharge’s mournful cry. The flyer realized that his dream was swiftly dying and that his followers would pay the price for it. Though, maybe there was something else going on in the battle that could give him at least some hope that there could still be a happy ending to this all…

However, almost immediately his eyes were locked on a lone hollowhorn who was doing his very best trying to prevent himself from falling into the green forest below the battleground. He was hanging from the edge of the cliff but even then Pterano knew he didn’t have the strength to pull himself up from the certain death. For a brief moment, the poor dinosaur locked eyes with his leader, pleading for his help. However, Pterano could only give him his most sympathetic expression possible, knowing that the other dinosaur was beyond saving at this point.

The duo’s gazes parted when the hollowhorn finally let out a loud screech as his grip failed, plunging him into the abyss. His drop seemed to last forever within Pterano’s eyes and his desperate dirge would return to haunt the flyer for many nights to come. When the hollowhorn finally disappeared from the flyer’s sight, everything went blank within the latter’s mind. Like his grandiose hopes of leading his own herd to the Valley, so was the hollowhorn gone, all because of his mistakes.

The situation was even more surreal for Swiftcharge. The mother looked in horror at the remains of her three children that lied mutilated in the ground while the battle still raged around her. All the days they had spent together, all that they had done to each other, all the memories… all of them had led them here, only to be flushed away by the cruel hand of fate. Just like Cera, they were gone, robbed from her forever. She wept inconsolably as she was surrounded by the remains of the three most precious dinosaurs to her that had remained in this world.

At that moment, it felt like everything was over in the female’s eyes. There was no reason to go on anymore and she could just as well allow the fastbiters to reunite her with her children… and maybe her mate would be there as well. However, it was at that point that she noticed the dinosaur whose sight made the threehorn’s blood boil without an end. Pterano had led her here and he had forced her to bow before himself only briefly before he’d lead her entire family to their doom! Even if she died today, she would take that cursed bastard with her! She snorted deeply as she started advancing on the high rock Pterano was standing on, knowing just what she’d have to do.

The flyer had unconsciously brought his hands to his face, slowly realizing that it was all over. Over half of his herd had been slaughtered and within a few minutes, all of the remaining dinosaurs here would be sharpteeth. Now, the only thing that remained to be decided was whether he’d join the fight and face his end alongside those he had betrayed or whether he’d fly away, preserving the most important thing: his very life.

However, before he could even start thinking about what to do, he felt a sickening impact just below his legs and it didn’t take long until he realized that the very stone he had stood upon was broken. The next few seconds were a complete mess for Pterano but the next thing he noticed where he was, he was staring right at Swiftcharge’s face, a sight that horrified and saddened him beyond measure. There was a murderous look on her face but it was accompanied by an endless stream of tears and an inconsolable look of betrayal. The flyer’s eyes widened in horror as the threehorn started to speak to her.

“When you reach the next world, stay far away from my children when you see them or I’ll make sure your eternity will be that of suffering and pain, bastard! This is for Struggle, Aren and Nila you sorry excuse of a beakb…” She started but her brief second of rage were what saved Pterano from being trampled to nothingness. Seeing that their chance to take out the ferocious threehorn, three fastbiters suddenly leapt at the female, immediately tearing into her neck with a ferocity seldom seen from their kind.

Swiftcharge yelled in pain as she realized that these were her last moments in this world. She would die here and now, along with her children. Not that she particularly regretted it anymore. however, she suddenly realized that her time was running out and she tried to finish the flyer off before her life was snuffed out for good. However, she felt her consciousness dimming quicker than she had expected and her strength went along with it. She let out one last sigh before her heart beat for the last time. She headed to the reaches of the Great Beyond, more than eager to meet Cera and her three other children again.

Pterano, on the other hand, looked in shock as the threehorn’s blood streamed upon him. Yet, even worse than that was the sight of the dying threehorn’s body falling down towards him. If he couldn’t drag himself from under it, Swiftcharge would get his revenge even in death. Pterano quickly turned around and jumped to safety with all his might. As he lied in the ground after his landing, he heard a loud thud behind himself.

As he carefully turned to look at the direction, he noticed that the larger dinosaur’s head lied only inches from his feet, making Pterano cringe deeply as he realized what would have happened had his jump been just a bit shorter. He couldn’t help but feel sad for his rival at this point even if she had tried to crush him to a thousand pieces. After all, he had taken everything from her. The threehorn had been right: all of this had been his fault. Pterano looked at the battle and everywhere he turned his head, he saw another one of those who had trusted him fall into the ground. Falling with them would be the only right thing that he could do but even then, some primal thought deep within his mind warned him again doing anything rash like that.

He was still Pterano, the most fearless flyer in existence and even after this setback, he couldn’t deprive the world from his vision! With a sickened look, he rose to his wings, willing to get safe from the fastbiters as soon as possible. He looked at the battle for a brief moment, seeing the last vestiges of his herd being slaughtered. This was a true disaster but how could he have known that it would end like this? After all, he had wanted to avoid coming to this Valley but he knew his herd wouldn’t have accepted such a decision! Even if the male’s rationality fought against that conclusion, one single thought lingered within his mind: none of this was his fault. Knowing there was nothing here for him anymore, he turned around and fled the scene. A few dinosaurs were appalled to see their leader leave them to die like this but luckily for Pterano, none of them would be able
to tell the truth to the others.

Pterano’s mind was paralyzed from the horrors he had just seen, feelings of guilt, denial and sorrow filling his thoughts. He was nothing but a cowardly monster who had led dozens of those who had trusted him to their deaths. Yet, he was also a victim of pure bad luck who had just tried to give the others a better life. But only one thing was true without the slightest of doubts: his herd was no more, their bodies most likely filling the bellies of the fastbiter herd right now. There was only one thing he could do at this point: to try to find the others and hope they’d find the Valley in time. He just dreaded the obvious meeting he’d had to go through soon enough: for the first time in his life, he’d have to admit he was wrong.

The day had turned to night as the lonely flyer fluttered over the battered, dead reaches of the Mysterious Beyond. During all of those hours, he saw absolutely no life below him save for a few, lonely ground fuzzies. Inside, a terrifying thought rose to his mind. What if his sister and her entire herd had met the sane fate as his own? While such a scenario would give him some relief from his horrible mistake, he would never hope such an end for his dear sister nor to his nephews and nieces. He would never forget the horror and pain in Swiftcharge’s face as she had lost all of her children. The pure hate and disbelief within her eyes… Pterano shuddered as he even thought about all of it. He’d never want to see that expression as long as he lived.

Even the sky took a condemning quality to it in the distressed flyer’s mind. it seemed that every sky puffy and breath of wind was a soul of one of those whom he had led to their doom. While before he had only seen Tuulen and Petrie haunt him and remind him of his failures, now he had dozens of others joining the chorus of contempt and bitterness? Where would all of this end? However, there still lingered one ember of Pterano’s old bravado within his heart, one that told him that there was only one thing that could redeem him: to one day give an even greater gift to those who still remained in this world. Yet, that would have to be left for seasons to come as right now, Pterano only wanted to find his sister, knowing she’d owe it to her to tell just what happened to his herd.

The shadows of the evening were already growing long by the time the flyer found what he was looking for. A sting of guilt arose within him as he saw the massive forms of the two longnecks, the many flyers… as well as that of Mr. Threehorn. If the Bright circle had any mercy left for him, Pterano prayed that he could avoid him at least for tonight. He had no heart to tell him of the monstrous truth, at least not yet. His mind grew ever heavier as he saw a dead tree housing a family of flyers, telling Pterano that his journey was nearing its end. Now, he’d only have to tell Volant about all of it…

“Momma, How much further do we have to go? We’ve flown for many seasons and yet, we’re no closer to anywhere!” one of the boys exclaimed as he spoke to his mother, his eyes half-closed as he spoke. However, it wasn’t long until one of his sisters frowned and looked at the boy with a slight frown.

“That isn’t true! Did you already forget that momma said she saw the rock that looks like a longneck yesterday? We’re getting ever closer!” She said, earning a tired nod from Volant. The older flyer looked around herself with a sad look, hoping she wouldn’t have to listen to that whining for much longer. Yes, she loved her children without an end but without Pterano, trying to keep them calm had become much harder. Only now did she realize just how much the children had loved his stories and his never-ending optimism.

Yes, she was bitter for what he had done but at this point, she wasn’t petty enough to accuse him about that. The only thing he wanted anymore was to reach the Valley and knowing they they had passed the first landmark on the way there heartened her greatly. However, this entire journey had taken a dark turn in her mind after the loss of Petrie. Every morning, she’d wake up expecting to see a child that would never return to her. It hit her like a falling rock every time and she couldn’t help but believe she had failed her son’s trust by not being able to save from his grisly fate. After that day, everything had seemed like a bad sleep story, especially as she had been forced to face the stark reality alone. Her voice was a sad one as she answered her daughter.

“Yes, you’re right about that. Even then, I cannot say how much further we have to go. I… I just don’t know.” She said, not even looking at her children as she spoke. The younger flyer had of course noticed this change within their mother, each of them regretting to see their once encouraging parent drifting ever deeper into the depths of depression. The boy stepped forward carefully, cocking his head slightly as he spoke.

“But… what if uncle Pterano returned to us and told he had already found the Valley? And what if he had also found Petrie on the way?” He asked, his young mind unable to understand the concept of death just yet. Volant sniffed deeply as she heard those words, nearly snapping at the younger flyer in anger and only barely able to contain her anger.

“I don’t know about Pterano but please, stop asking about Petrie. He… isn’t going to return, just understand that much.” She said while shedding one, single tear. She turned to look at the rest of the herds, each of them feeling as if their cause was becoming more worthless by the day. Most of them had lost at least one child and those were some losses not even a true paradise could undo. She took a deep sigh as she heard a loud thud from a nearby branch, followed by a loud cry from her children.

“Uncle Pterano! We’re so glad you’re here again!” They cried as the male embraced them, albeit only half-heartedly. Volant’s heart skipped a beat as she looked at him, not able to believe her eyes. Her brother had actually returned but… why? What had happened? Inside, a deep worry arose inside Volant as she started to think of the implications. Even if she was somewhat relieved to see him back, worries and uncertainty about the situation drowned those sentiments completely. They were further strengthened as Pterano whispered to the female while slowly disengaging from his nephews’ and nieces’ collective embrace.

“C… could we talk about this alone, sister?” He merely said, earning a shocked look from the children. Volant could see the horror and guilt within her brother’s eyes and she took a deep breath as she addressed the younger flyers.

“You heard your uncle. I have some things I have to talk about with him.” She said, her deep frown killing any objections immediately. Pterano gulped deeply but he and his only sibling wasted no time flying to the next tree, making sure to be able to oversee while having this most important of conversations. Volant tried to calm down before asking the obvious question.

“Well, don’t waste any more time and tell me what happened to the others, oh great leader!” She snapped harshly while putting her hands to her hips. That was the most important question and it was quite clear at this point that he hadn’t led them to the Valley and returned to the others. She looked with a demanding look at her brother whose mind was a complete mess.

What could he even tell his sister? Pterano couldn’t even begin to imagine a loathing look of despise on his sister’s face as she had been one dinosaur who had never treated him like an outsider or as a nuisance. He knew the truth wouldn’t be received well but even then, she’d see through him immediately if he started lying. A great pressure was building within his chest as he prepared to speak, some of the things he were going to say being too monstrous for himself to hear.

“I… it wasn’t my fault, I swear, Volant! None of it was!” He said, those being the only words he could say. That answer only deepened the female’s concerns but even then, she wasn’t going to see her brother starting to slither in misery before her. She slapped him with a loud force before asking in a colder and more threatening voice.

“What wasn’t your fault? Tell the truth and the whole truth only!” She said, staring into the male’s eyes. Pterano’s heart raced as she tried to come up with an answer that would do justice to both the fallen and himself. However, he couldn’t bring himself to twist the truth and he spat his answer out in disgust.

“The others… they are gone. We were ambushed by a large group of sharpteeth in a small valley. It was horrible… most were torn apart before my eyes while a few others dropped to their deaths from a nearby cliff.” He said, those words stopping Volant’s world completely. She had feared as much but hearing those words from her brother’s mouth was a horrifying moment for the flyer. Inside, outrage was building inside the female at the thought of his brother leaving her to tend to the children alone while pursuing his own insane dreams which only ended up killing everyone who had cast their lot with his brother. Not only that, she knew many of the other herds would also scorn at her as well for her brother’s deeds. Volant cringed deeply at those words, shock apparent in her voice.

“Did everyone share those fates? Are you sure about that?” She asked, her voice trembling as she tried to contain the anger building inside her for a while longer. Pterano looked at her with a guilty look but this time, he didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I am, sister. Not one of them escaped save for me.” He said, having seen even the few flyers falling prey to the fastbiters’ onslaught. He couldn’t help but feel guilt for having escaped but at the very least, their story would now be known to their loved ones. Volant turned to look at the rest of the herds, already wondering how these news would be received. Her breaths grew heavier by the second as she started to speak to the male.

“Pterano… do you have any idea about what you’ve done? Because of you, one-third of our herd is dead and now, the others deserve to learn the truth before long! And even worse, you shamed Tuulen and Petrie’s memory by using them to forge your doomed effort! CAN YOU EVIN BEGIN TO UNDERSTRAND WHAT YOU’VE DONE?!” She asked again, her despair and anger building more by the second. Pterano looked at her with a sad look, for the first time in his life finding no words to defend himself. Even then, he had to say something even if that answer turned out to be even more pitiful than he had expected.

“I couldn’t know it would go that way… Things just went the way I hadn’t foreseen…” He said, knowing those words wouldn’t win him any more sympathies. However, Volant wasn’t
done with her answer, her hate only growing by the second.

“And all for what? My children would have deserved to have you here alongside them all this time as would have I. Only in the past days had I even began to realize that I needed you after all but you were too busy leading our friends to their ends! And even worse, you threw away your entire future with that small mistake of yours!” She raged, knowing the others would never accept Pterano’s return. And to be completely truthful, neither would she for a long, long time. The male was just about to answer when the duo heard a cry from below them.

“Who are you raging at, beakbrain? We others are trying to sleep and… Pterano? Is it you?” The flyers’ hearts froze as they heard a clubtail’s call from below them. Even Volant was extremely alarmed by those words as even now, he would have preferred to keep her brother’s presence a secret. However, before either of them could speak, another voice further away from the two cried loudly.

“You heard that? Pterano has returned!” And after those words, there seemed to be movement everywhere. Each and every herd had had a loved one or a friend in Pterano’s group and even if all of them were nervous after hearing only the flyer had returned, they knew they had to hear what he had to say. Volant crossed her arms and took a deep breath before glancing at her brother. After all, it was he who would be under fire shortly, not her. She spoke with a cold voice as more and more dinosaurs gathered around them.

“Sort your own mess, Pterano. If you think I’ll defend you for anything that you’ve done, you’re terribly mistaken.” She said as the male gulped deeply. He had no idea how all of this would go. However, he was far from confident as Mr. Threehorn’s voice reached his ears first.

“Tell immediately where you left my mate and children or you’ll be sorry, beakhead!” He cried, followed immediately by Ura’s loud call to the flyer.

“How about Current? If he’s in trouble, you won’t get away with it!” She cried even if Current had only been a close, long-time friend of hers. Volant nodded at her brother angrily, taking a few steps away from him as she thought about the storm that was about to rise in a matter of seconds. The male flyer felt as if his heart was about to escape his chest but after a moment, he calmed down and decided that there was no reason to delay the inevitable. His voice wavered horribly but he stayed far calmer than even he had expected.

“To my utmost sorrow, I have to announce that our journey was a failure. All of the others… they’re dead. I’m the only survivor.” He said, complete silence following those words. Countless stunned looks stared right at the flyer, the latter seeing in slow-motion as the truth started to dawn upon the others. He knew that soon, so very soon, the silence would end as quickly as it had descended. He looked with a mournful expression as tears started falling from the gathered dinosaurs’ eyes.

However, it was Mr. Threehorn who spoke first. Everyone moved away from him as he stepped forward, his voice rife with hate and shock.

“You have the nerve to tell me that my entire family is gone, Pterano?! Then, tell me why you’re here and not dead along with them!” He yelled, that question first forming within his mind. His heart was slowly breaking to a thousand pieces but even now, his pride as a threehorn demanded to hear what the flyer had to say. His mere presence here was an insult to the fallen so he’d better have a good explanation. However, after a moment, Pterano offered something that hardly helped his cause.

“I should be but… there wasn’t really a reason for any of it. Besides, I wanted to tell you about what happened.” He said, not even trying to come up with a lie. However, those words made the larger dinosaur only tremble in hate as he tried to register what he had just heard.

“There wasn’t a reason for you to die? Not after you led my mate and my children to their deaths… Pterano, if you have even a flicker of honor within you, come here and I’ll give you the best death you can have! A much better one than a cowardly bastard like you would ever deserve!” He yelled, tears falling as he thought about it all. He had lost everything… first Cera and now the rest of his family as well… The sickening situation made his blood boil as much as it made his heart fall apart. It wasn’t helped by a familiar voice speaking to him from his right.

“Now, Mr. Threehorn, let’s be reasonable. Let’s hear everything he has to tell and then we’ll decide what to…” An elderly voice asked but the threehorn wasn’t about to let him finish. He quickly turned at the other dinosaur and shouted in outrage.

“Reasonable? I’d want to see you be reasonable if even your mate was taken away by this filth, longneck! This evening, we all have to go through Cera and your boy’s loss again because of him! And I certainly am not going to listen any more to his pathetic lies! Now, let’s force him into ground to help him do the right thing for once!” He cried, seriously ready for that option. Many others around the threehorn seemed to either completely agree with him or at least give their silent approval. At this point, even Ura wasn’t prepared to object as she thought about the horrors the others had most likely be gone through. It pained her deeply but for now, she’d step aside and hope that justice would be delivered soon enough.

Volant’s eyes opened in shock as more and more rocks started flying towards her brother, not having expected the others go to these lengths to punish him. Deep down, she felt that not even her brother deserved to be treated like this and certainly, she wouldn’t allow this enraged mob trample over him. She knew there was nothing for him here anymore as the others would not forgive him in a long, long time. She suddenly turned at the male and spoke to him in a much softer voice already.

“Get out of here, brother, before it’ll be too late! Even you don’t deserve all of this.” She said, causing the other flyer to look at her sadly, cringing as one larger rock hit his head. His entire body ached as more and more rocks hit and he wasted no time doing as the female had told him. This was far from a warm goodbye but it was the only one available to them now.

“Very well, Volant. But I promise you this isn’t the last time we’ll meet. The others will calm down in time and on that day, I’ll redeem myself. Farewell.” He said as he headed towards the skies, a few other flyers trying to stop him but soon realizing they wouldn’t be able to catch him even if they tried. Pterano listened to the screams below him, hoping that Volant wouldn’t get in too much trouble for allowing him to escape like this.

He took a deep breath as he looked at the wide wastes before him, the guilt lingering deep within him. He had failed today but it only forced him to try to make the world a better place some other day. He would one day rejoin the others and make up for all of his failures. This was the low point of his life but like the flyers of old, he would prove that he would rise above all of that. A storm of guilt, shock and hope lingered within the flyer’s mind as he prepared to embark on a journey of healing and redemption some time in the seasons to come.

This was my response to the August prompt and it’s also the last one before December so now, I have several months to devote to Separate Ways alone. I’d also like to note that I used the dialogue prompt so the month’s theme, Greatness, isn’t really a part of this story. As you may have noticed, this fic was mostly a retelling of Pterano’s backstory presented in the seventh film. I also wanted this to be some kind of sequel to One Fallen, Two Torn Apart and I utilize the events and motives established in that fic to reflect that.

The story has many differences to the one we saw in the film but the reason for that is that none of the ones who told about Pterano's journey to the kids were there to witness the events for themselves and as for the latter parts, it’s conceivable they wanted to hide their rash actions from their children. That being said, I hope you liked this story and hopefully, Separate Ways’ next chapter will be out soon enough.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2019, 11:03:41 AM by Sovereign »


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Re: Of Hubris and Submission
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2019, 12:01:27 PM »
I must say that this tale was a rather interesting one that expanded the role of not so well utilized character, unlikely previously on the universe. Pterano’s characterization was kept on point, and what I liked most about this tale in its entirety, was how the flyer’s past was heavily expanded upon from the released information available of this particular character. Broadening the characters own personal story is something that is not usually seen quite often, and even if there was a lot more potential to further expand his backstory, I feel like this was well enough on its own already, as it showed the guilt, horror and resentment in more forms than one over the course of the story.

In this tale, we truly see the horrifying effects of Pterano’s separation of the herd come to light in multiple ways. As not all of the members of the original herd joined up with Pterano's own, we see a very clear rift forming between the two herds. However, it is something that's not really brought forth by the characters themselves much. The only exception to this appeared to be Swiftcharge. Despite the fact that she initially was more than willing to join Pterano's quest to find the Great Valley, she still found herself doubting her newfound leader, and for a good reason, might I add.

It was especially heartbreaking to witness how the children reacted to these negative changes around them, as in the end it was the very cause of the reason for their deaths. Not only did it affect children, but also all of the herd members in some way or another, as was the case with Current and his suicide after losing the one thing that made him keep going in the hellish world they were born into.

Pterano's insistence that he was the only one who could lead the herd to salvation, while a noble one, an obvious lie, as pointed by the flyer himself at one point. Indeed, Pterano's own ambition ultimately led to this tragedy occurring. Part of being a leader is to listen for your subordinates and embrace their discoveries when they find a better way to succeed. Though, in this case, it played a major part in extinguishing the herd forever, something that absolutely no one could've possibly predicted. One could say that this entire fiasco started with Pterano's almost fanatical need to prove himself worthy of being a leader.

Finally, while Pterano attempted to atone for his sins and wrongdoings, he went in the wrong direction with that plan to one day redeem himself and rise above the world greater than ever, which would outright fail him yet again in the future. Well, that certainly was some good tale indeed, and I have to return to my previous point about expanding the universe with these small details one can put into their story, it most definitely made the story much more enjoyable. Very solid job with this one, Sovereign! :)
« Last Edit: August 14, 2019, 12:22:57 PM by Anagnos »


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Re: Of Hubris and Submission
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2019, 01:16:03 PM »
I really like that this is a followup to "One Fallen, Two Torn Apart" because that is a well-fleshed out backstory to the flyers, and this is undoubtedly the same.

There is a sense of melancholy that pervades throughout this whole story because we all know that it will not end well for anyone unfortunate enough to cast their lot with Pterano. The sense of despair that drives Current to catapult himself to his own demise, the almost what-if where Swiftcharge attempts to usurp power from her leader and change history is all made moot when we remember how history played out. The irony in the sense that victory is told only by the winners is a daunting one considering that it drives Pterano so far in his competition with Volant, and the scant glimpse of victory where those in his group rejoice before everything falls apart in a devastating ambush is heart-wrenching due to the whiplash when their worst fears come to life.

Perhaps that is most scary about this fic is that while Pterano does admit his guilt to the valley for losing everyone who trusted him as a leader, no one except him can describe the betrayal that whoever remained on the ground must have felt at the end when he turned tail and fled, best exemplified by the scene  where a grief-stricken Swiftcharge with nothing to lose tries to take Pterano with her.

Something telling is that while Pterano feels unimaginable guilt by the end, he isn't willing to accept he is beyond redemption, and it is this scary thought that will lead him astray to his search for the Stone of Cold Fire. In a sense, his desire to redeem himself for this setback is an eerie recurrence of his need to prove himself in his argument with Volant to begin with, bringing everything full circle in the most harrowing of ways. In that sense, it is an excellent look at what LBT7 condenses in a two minute flashback. :)
This quaint creature soars when the Night Circle is poised at the highest point of the twilight sky, messing up his circadian rhythm in the process. Truly, a tragic flyer. :P


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Re: Of Hubris and Submission
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2019, 02:44:31 AM »
This story begins with a very humanizing look at a side of Pterano that we do not often get to see in fanfictions - his actions prior to and during the tragedy that defined him.  In the process we see a far more complex character than other stories present - one who is prideful, yes, but who also has a genuine concern for his followers and in the greater good of leading them to safety. But, as they say, the path to hell if often paved in good intentions.

The struggles and suffering of the children during the journey really helps to capture the hopelessness of the situation. From the two swimmers who die while leaving the group, to one of Cera's siblings falling due to lack of food and rest, we see Pterano's vision turn into a growing hell at a rapid pace. Despite this he is able to maintain control of his makeshift herd, albeit with difficulty, using his gift of oratory and correctly reading the group.  Then, as if to validate his leadership and the hardships of the others, fate brings them to what looks like a sanctuary with food and shelter... only to reveal itself as the site of their doom. In many ways Pterano's respite from another dinosaur's revenge might have been the least merciful option from his future self's point of view.

Overall this was a very somber, yet enjoyable, tale concerning Pterano's hubris and ambition.  It is a story of one flyer's good intentions being subverted by one's own yearning for power and recognition, and ultimately leading to the doom of innocent dinosaurs who only wanted to find safety for themselves and their families.  This great ambition is shown to be transformed into a great desire to redeem himself in the eyes of himself, Volant, and everyone else, which foreshadows the events of the seventh film.  This is truly an amazing response to the August prompt, which has lived up to the promise of that premise.  :)

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: Of Hubris and Submission
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2019, 04:47:20 PM »
Anagnos: I’m happy to hear you liked Pterano’s portrayal here as he really is a character that has a lot of potential, both in his past and in future. You’re completely correct in saying that I could have taken this story even further, though, and I’m quite sure one could write over 100k words about the events this tale and One Fallen, Two Torn Apart are based on. :idea Yet, I found this was a good compromise and it seems you think so too.

Your observations about the plot are very good and it’s nice that the slow escalation in the herd’s plight seemed to work. Pterano indeed was the only reason why any of these tragic events happened even if the fate was far from kind either. Yet, it’s true that Pterano took all of the wrong lessons from this adventure but that’s the character we know. Thanks a lot for the review!

OwlsCantRead: It’s good that you found this little tie-up to the previous story a good idea as I felt that One Fallen, Two Torn Apart might deserve a sequel of sorts. It is true that reading about any disaster whose outcome is known from the beginning is very eerie as it makes one really feel the darkness closing in on the poor victims. Swiftcharge’s efforts could have changed what happened later on but alas, that was not to be. :sducky

And yes, it is at the same time sad and sickening that the story of that fateful battle can only be told by Pterano who will never, ever reveal the truth to the others. Swiftcharge, for example, could have just fallen off the cliff as far as the others know which isn’t something she deserved after all she went through. Also, you’re right that Pterano shares practically the same motive in the film as he was unable to get over what happened here. I felt like the flashback needed some further meat around it to make it feel more real and more dramatic.

rhombus: I’m glad you pointed out that not in one point did Pterano want anything but the best to his followers. That is one of the defining points of his character and even on the verge of disaster, he thought of himself as the only one who could save the others. But considering that his pride ruined everything that was good within him, that is little to cheer about. Also, you are most likely right that Pterano is haunted at least as much as Swiftcharge’s death as the hollowhorn’s drop into the abyss even if we never saw that in the film, obviously :p

As for your last paragraph, that about sums the story and Pterano’s character up perfectly. As I said to Anagnos, I could have been more thorough on analyzing Pterano’s motives but who knows, that might happen one day. After all, there is still room for more prompts about Pterano’s past, both before and after the events of these two fics. Overall, thanks a lot for the review and the kind words, rhombus! :duckyhappy