Author Topic: Separate Ways  (Read 12119 times)

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Separate Ways
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2017, 12:14:53 AM »
Necessary words have been said between the friends, with the exchanges between Chomper and Ruby, and Ducky and Petrie being the most important from what I can tell.  Though Chomper seems to have finally had some perspective given to him by Ruby concerning his instincts and why he committed his actions, I fear that Ducky's turmoil is still unresolved.  And with the fate of the gang's  parents (and also the gang's fate in terms of potential exile due to being friends with a murderer) being up in the air, they face a very uncertain future.  I sense that the ominous clouds in the sky are a hint of things yet to come...

This was another well done chapter.  :) I look forward to seeing what the gang faces next in what is quite possibly their last journey as the Gang of Seven.

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


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Separate Ways
« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2017, 11:55:47 AM »
Two Paths Diverged

The Bright Circle scorched the open desert mercilessly, its burning rays dropping down upon a small group of dinosaurs far below. However, most of them were too deep in thought to really notice the heat, especially as the wind was rising slowly. Littlefoot’s feelings were highly mixed as he walked forward alongside his friends. The journey’s magnitude hadn’t dissipated any but on the other hand, the feeling of utter despair was slowly starting to wear out. On its place had grown a feeling on uneasiness and concern which wasn’t enough to raise anyone’s spirit but it was easier to bear than the crushing feeling of overwhelming sadness that had been his and his friends’ companion during the previous night. However, there was one new thing that clouded the longneck’s thoughts.

Soon after they had taken off in the morning, when Littlefoot’s thoughts started to clear out, it hadn’t taken a lot of time for him to figure out what had happened between Petrie and Ducky in the early morning. Luckily, the crisis seemed to have ended for now but there was no telling how long that’d last. Littlefoot sighed as he thought about the two close friends’ feud and to which lengths it had most likely already developed. The whole fight saddened him greatly as the do’s antics had often been a lightening element during their past journeys and that knowledge made the fighting ever more difficult to understand. He could only hope it wouldn’t resurface again today and that it would even begin to drown beneath the other problems of the present.

I guess I’ll have to speak with Cera about this. She heard what was going on so she should know what’s going on. I just have to hope those two can keep their fight to themselves for now.

Petrie shuddered as a more powerful gust hit his wings, forcing him to ascent somewhat higher to get above the rising wind. The flier struggled to keep his attention in searching for sharpteeth in the ground below but to his rising anxiety, the flying sand was starting to seriously obstruct his ability to search for them. Even if he didn’t want to admit it to even himself, he knew he wouldn’t be able to see a two-footer sharptooth in the horizon, let alone a much smaller fastbiter. As a tiny relief to the distressed flier, the group of seven friends hadn’t seen any other dinosaurs during the whole day save for a small herd of spiketails not a long time ago. Still that didn’t mean that the threat wouldn’t appear in the coming hours and the rising wind concerned Petrie without measure. Soon enough, he would have to land altogether as there was no sign of the wind starting to grow any weaker.

In addition to the beating blow, his eyes were starting to be covered in sand, making the flier’s efforts to fly in a straight line looking more like a desperate struggle to even stay afloat. Petrie was more than resolute about staying in the air and to safeguard his friends from sharpteeth. He would go to any lengths to do his job… until an even more powerful gust hit him in full swing, throwing him out from the sky like a tiny rock. However, to Petrie’s luck, his ordeal had been noted in the ground.

“Petrie! Do your best to slow the fall! I’ll try to catch you!” Littlefoot called as he saw his friend fall from a dangerous altitude, one that would cause a serious injury to the brown flier. Petrie did his best to flutter against the wind and to make his contact with the ground as painless as possible. He managed to slow the fall somewhat while Littlefoot charged towards the spot where he’d most likely land. The longneck’s eyes followed his friend intensely and Littlefoot gritted his teeth when he prepared to halt Petrie’s plunge.

He was only partly successful. One final gust took Petrie a few inches upwards, making only his left wing hit the longneck’s back. As a result, he hit the ground behind him, taking a few forward rolls before his fall finally stopped. The flier lied still for a moment, panting heavily and taking a fearful expression to his face.

“Petrie, are you alright? That was a nasty drop!” Littlefoot said as he charged to his friend’s side. He couldn’t see any serious injuries on him but he had to make sure that his friend was alright. Petrie bled from a few spots and had a few cuts on him but it seemed to be nothing too serious.

“Petrie okay… even if me not fly in that storm anymore! No flier can stay up there!” Petrie said with a mix of relief and chagrin at the accident. He knew he was lucky to have survived without further injuries but that did little to dissipate his anger and frustration at the situation.

“Sometimes I’m happy that I cannot fly! Because in that case I’d been up there and up there isn’t where I’d want to be!” Ruby said as she looked at the sky which was starting to turn brownish because of the sand. Even if neither of those present didn’t wish to accept it, they knew that there was a real chance that this could turn into a full-blown sand cloud at any time.

“Me neither but if me not up there, how we knew if there’s sharpteeth near us? Petrie have to go back there to see if we safe!” Petrie said as he spread his wings to see if they were okay. However, Littlefoot interrupted him right away, speaking in a resolute yet kind voice.

“No, Petrie! You cannot go back up there! The wind’s only growing worse and the next fall could be worse than the last one! You have to wait until the storm eases even a little!” Littlefoot said in clear concern, determined to convince Petrie to listen to him this time. The flier knew that his friend was correct but he also wanted to do all he could do to help the others in the best way he could. He was about to answer when Cera interrupted him.

“Besides, which kind of sharptooth would be dumb enough to be here anyway? If we can’t see anything here, neither can they! We should search for some kind of shelter though.” The threehorn said, willing to calm the flier down. Even then, her own fears were starting to rise slowly as she looked around her. There were no cliffs or larger hills anywhere to be seen and with them disappeared any chance of finding a cave to survive the rising sand cloud.

“Well… there are some sharpteeth that hunt in any weather but they are very unusual. And because of that, I’d say we shouldn’t be too concerned. We’ve had enough bad luck with us already!” Ruby sounded somewhat uneasy as she spoke but it was apparent that she knew her words were at least mostly true. Petrie looked at the two as he answered.

“You… you right, Cera and Ruby. It would be too much bad luck if they find us here. But there no shelter anywhere around us! Even from the sky Petrie saw nothing we could escape the sand cloud!” The flier spoke in a resigned voice when he thought about the hapless sight from the sky. His friends exchanged worried glances as each of them knew how dangerous sand clouds could be. It hadn’t been too long ago when they had found themselves in one during their search for Bron. Littlefoot gulped as he thought about Petrie’s words and answered quickly.

“Then we have to walk faster! We’re bound to find something sooner or later and the sooner we get there, the sooner we’re safe! Let’s go!” Littlefoot said as he spoke to his friends. He truly hoped he was correct as soon all of their sight would be vanquished and with it, their last sense of direction would be wiped out. Even then, if what Petrie said was true, it would take a true miracle for them to find shelter anytime soon.

To each of the seven friends’ growing fear, the sand cloud continued to gather strength in an increasing pace. Chomper felt like his whole mouth was filled with sand and that his eyes were completely covered in dust. The young sharptooth felt miserable as he struggled to keep up with the others, being too big to ride on his friends like Ducky or Petrie but too small to get through the unsavory soil with even relative ease. His steps were forced and increasingly difficult but still he managed to keep up with the others, even if he couldn’t say how long that’d last.

Chomper would have wanted to close his eyes to shield them from the storm but in that case following the vague forms of his friends would become almost impossible. Sure, his smell could tell the rough direction they were in but locating them would be immensely difficult in this storm. Chomper struggled to hear if his friends had anything to say but he heard nothing. After minutes that felt like they stretched into hours, he heard something in the wind, a voice he decided could belong only to his friends.

“Did you say something, Littlefoot?” The young sharptooth yelled as hard as he could but to his chagrin, he received no answer. He tried to run to the longneck’s side but the thickening sand hindered and slowed his efforts. However, soon he heard a question that brightened his mood somewhat.

“What is it, Chomper?” Littlefoot’s voice was beyond meek in the middle of the howling wind but Chomper could hear what he said.

“What did you wish to say? I heard you called something to me!” The young sharptooth said in a confused voice. Why would Littlefoot ask this question if he had just called to the others? Littlefoot took a puzzled face and looked at the others.

“We said nothing. It’s hard enough to move forward, let alone speak.” Littlefoot answered matter-of-factly and continued his march. Chomper was extremely conflicted at first and tried to listen to the wind once again. He was sure he had heard something but if the voice didn’t belong to his friends, then who was it? At first Chomper heard nothing but as moments flew by, he heard the distant, vague voice again. It was closer this time and it was heavily altered by the thundering winds. As he listened to it for a few moments, a sickening, terrified feeling started to form in his stomach. The mysterious voice sounded like a fastbiter but something seemed wrong. The footsteps of the pack seemed unnaturally exact and loud but he guessed it had to be because of the wind. However, the most important thing was that the voice was moving straight towards him and his friends.

“Littlefoot! Fast biters are moving towards us! They are still far but I think my cries told them our location!” Chomper said in a panicked voice, prompting a similar expression from Littlefoot. He turned to look into the direction Chomper pointed but saw nothing but the ghastly, brown curtain that hid the rest of the world from his gaze. There was no trace of any threat in this endless, brown wall but Littlefoot knew better than to overlook Chomper’s warnings. He shuddered at the thought of a clawed forelimb suddenly reaching from the sandy air seconds before it’d cut his throat wide open. The longneck’s voice was that of uncharacteristic panic but he managed to keep his calm to a certain degree.

“You heard Chomper! Run as fast as you can but whatever you do, stay together! If we lose each other, we will never be able to find you again!” Littlefoot was preparing to run straight forward when Chomper continued to speak in an extremely horrified voice.

“We have to change our direction, they know which way we’re going! But if we’re lucky, they won’t smell us in this sand cloud!” Chomper said and started to head towards the left, prompting the others to follow him. Petrie cringed at the changed direction as it would rob him of the last idea where he and his friends were. Still, he couldn’t question Chomper’s reasoning so he stayed quiet. Even the flier understood that any more speaking would only help the fast biters to navigate through the flying sand.

Chomper did his best to prevent himself from falling in the treacherous sea of sand dunes but that didn’t change the fact that the fast biters were gaining on them all the time. He could hear their footsteps growing louder by the minute but, to his great puzzlement, he couldn’t smell anything from that direction even if the wind was blowing from there. The whole situation seemed like one from a terrifying sleep story: a chaser gaining on you middle of a terrifying flux from which there was no escape. In mere moments, the enemy would be upon them despite their change of direction. Chomper swallowed in fear as he prepared to speak to Littlefoot.

“Littlefoot, the fast biters… Aaahh!” Chomper’s words were interrupted by the appearance of a fast biter’s face from the brown veil and the next thing he knew was that he was flying in the ground, coughing sand from his mouth. The screams of his friends accompanied him as he raised his gaze back upwards. The first fast biter had kicked him out of the way, most likely not even noticing him and it was mounting its assault on Spike who was walking last of the seven friends.
Littlefoot turned quickly on his heels, preparing to go to any lengths to save his friend from the predator. However, three more appeared quickly from the sand cloud, stopping the longneck momentarily in deep shock. In this moment of desperation, he was more than happy to hear Ruby’s voice call near him.

“Spike is safe for now, for now safe he is! Run forward no matter what and try to dodge the beasts as long as you can!” Ruby cried as she clawed the fastbiter to its thigh as deeply as she could. The sharptooth had managed to inflict a long wound to Spike’s side but Ruby couldn’t tell whether it was anything serious. However, this wasn’t the place to think about such things. Spike whimpered as he continued his escape and it was clear that the injury was extremely painful and it would require some kind of treatment sooner or later.

Reinforced by the extent Spike’s injury, Ruby could tell that the situation was extremely dangerous for her and her friends. Even after the initial attack’s failure, the fast biters would still hold a clear advantage in this chase. At this point, the seven friends managed to stay together to a large degree even if they had spread a little farther than before to make the running easier and the threat of any attacks less dangerous. Ruby could feel her heart beating in her ears as the sand hindered her breathing. The fast runner couldn’t know how long she’d be able to keep this up.

Petrie tried to stay as calm as he could but that didn’t change the fact that he shuddered uncontrollably and whimpered slightly. However, the flier soon realized that he was only hindering Cera’s ability to escape by riding on her back. Despite knowing the immense danger he was putting himself in, Petrie spread his wings and headed towards the raging skies.
The flier felt nasty battering as the wind and sand attempted to ground him once again. However, Petrie wasn’t about to let that happen anymore and with herculean effort, the flier managed to keep himself stable enough to be able to follow his friends. It took a moment before Cera realized Petrie’s absence but the threehorn quickly noticed him flying nearby and nodded to him in approval. However, it was mere seconds until Petrie saw two fast biters appear from behind him, heading towards his friends.

“Cera, look out!” Petrie cried as the fast runner reached out to Cera. The threehorn heard Petrie’s warning just in time and quickly rolled to her right side, making the fastbiter run past her, right towards her other friends who let out a scream as they did their best to make their escape. Cera had already regained her footing and tried to rejoin her friends. However, it would prove harder than she thought.

Two of the fast biters had reached her friends and in the chaos of the moment, Spike along with Ducky and Ruby had started to flee into different directions. Trying to survive the chase was the main concern in their minds even if Ruby realized the error she was making. She could still see Littlefoot and the fast biters’ silhouettes in the distance and quickly regained her composure.

“Spike, Ducky, come back! We have to help them, help them we have to!” Ruby yelled to the spiketail but to her deep concern, no answer came. Had Spike already gotten lost in this hellish desert? If so, there was very little she could do to him at this point.
Petrie looked at the scene below him fearfully, knowing that the chance that some of his friends wouldn’t survive the day was growing by the minute. He could see three fast biters ganging up around Littlefoot and Cera who did their best to defend each other but Petrie knew that they would need his help if they wished to preserve any hope for survival. With a sickening feeling in his belly, Petrie dashed at the closest of the fast biters, trying to cause enough damage for his friends to make their escape.

The sharptooth cried as Petrie’s beak penetrated into its upper back, thrusting deep into the carnivore’s flesh. The flier felt his whole word grow numb due to the force of impact but he frantically continued his assault. He was about to call to his friends when a sudden rebuke from the beast sent the flier into the flurry of winds, one of which grabbed him into its fold before he could regain his balance. The last thing he saw of the scene was one of the fast biters striking a heavy blow on Littlefoot’s hind leg, one that would certainly slow his escape. At this point, however, Petrie could do nothing but watch as the ground disappeared under him and as the hot wind only increased his ascension towards the heights and further towards the north. The flier’s efforts turned into desperate flutters as he disappeared into the swirling burrow of flying sand.

Cera looked in horror as the brown flier was being dragged into the sky, fully knowing that it would take a long time before Petrie could even hope to take control of his own flight and begin his search for his friends. She could only hope that he wouldn’t hurt himself or worse in that terrifying storm. However, even more pressing and dangerous was the scene unfolding before her eyes. Littlefoot screamed in pain as the gaping wound on his leg started to color the ground below him red. The threehorn looked at her friend in defiance as he started to speak.

“Just go, Cera! I cannot run fast enough and even if I could, my blood will tell them where we are!” Littlefoot panted as he struggled for breath but the threehorn merely snorted as the duo charged against the fast biter that Petrie already wounded. Cera’s charge fell the carnivore to the ground when the threehorn answered.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Littlefoot! We’ve got to find Petrie and Spike before these monsters do!” Cera’s voice was almost indifferent to the situation as all of her concentration had been dedicated to finding ways to survive the dangerous encounter. She was surprised as she heard a growl to her right side as Chomper bit one of the fast biters to its leg. As a result, the larger carnivore kicked Chomper with all of its might, sending the young sharptooth towards his two friends and he stopped near Littlefoot’s front legs.

“Are you alright, Chomper? That was a nasty kick.” Cera said as she looked at her friend in concern. Chomper took a few breath as he looked at his bruised side.

“That hurt but it’s alright. Right now we have to get away from the fast biters!” Chomper called in a loud voice while he felt the air return to his lungs. Neither of his friends objected to the sharptooth’s proposition and once again headed to the unknown, their sense of direction long since gone. Ruby joined them shortly but it was mere moments before the escaping dinosaurs heard a panicked yell as one of the sharpteeth managed to trip Cera, felling the threehorn to the ground. Littlefoot and Ruby were already preparing to rush to help her when two of the other carnivores jumped between the friends. Littlefoot looked in despair as they closed the ring around Cera, his fear reinforced by the knowledge that he had been unable to help a friend in need.

“We have to go Littlefoot! There’s… there’s nothing we can do!” Ruby spoke in a broken voice as she looked at Littlefoot’s expression which was glazed at the shuddering threehorn. The longneck had seldom seen such despair in Cera’s eyes, in fact, not since the duo’s first meeting with the sharptooth all those long Cold Times ago.

It… it isn’t going to end like this. It just cannot! Cera… you were with me back then, now I’ll stay with you!

“Ruby, we can still save Cera! Come on, help me!” Littlefoot said in an absentminded voice as he moved to help the imperiled threehorn. Ruby felt terrible at being forced to face this situation. Her intellect and all the wisdoms she had learned during her life told her to flee but she couldn’t just leave Littlefoot or Cera here to die! The fast runner followed Littlefoot quickly, trying to break the fast runners’ formation but the carnivores did something the duo hadn’t expected. They quickly turned around and attacked the duo headlong, forcing them further away from their prey.

Littlefoot fought against his own overwhelming sobs as Cera’s whimpers and calls for help grew ever more distant. Of all the possible disasters he could imagine, this was the one he could bear the least. His friend, the oldest one at that, would soon being butchered before his eyes and he could nothing but watch the coming bloody display. Cera had been the first friend he had made in all his life and the only one whose friendship he fought for a long time. Littlefoot saw the duo’s games in the small lake on that fateful day before his eyes, the time when she saved everyone by arriving to help them beat the sharptooth, let alone all the good, precious times they had spent during their time together. The thought that this would be the goodbye… this wasn’t a scenario he was about to live to tell about.

“You won’t get Cera, you monsters! If you want her, you’ll have to kill me first!” Littlefoot cried as he charged at the larger dinosaur, forcing it to back off a bit even if the carnivore still held the control of the situation. Ruby looked in horror as she saw Littlefoot charge headlong a the fast biter, fully knowing that he didn’t expect to survive the attack. Ruby fought against hope that he would come to his senses but she could see that wouldn’t be the case. The little longneck was overcome by fear and sorrow, all traces of his reason being sept away by this moment. Ruby bowed her head as she contemplated her own options.

Ruby knew she would never forgive herself if she fled now, realizing that she would forever more blame herself for the death of the others but the other option wasn’t much more appetizing. She knew throwing her life away like would solve nothing. Ruby looked with ultimate sadness at Littlefoot’s struggle, knowing there was no chance the longneck would prevail against the beast. The fast runner saw Chomper rushing to his friend’s side and even in this position, Ruby knew what she’d have to do, even if she hesitated greatly in making that decision. No matter the outcome, she was resolved to stand with her beloved friends as long as she could. That was, if she had any chance at being able to do so.

Two new fast biters appeared from the sand curtain, suddenly moving between Ruby and the others. The fast runner looked in despair as Littlefoot was starting to lose ground against his opponent, a distinct look of panic rising to the longneck’s face. This sight nearly broke Ruby as Littlefoot had always led his friends with utmost dedication and intelligence, not once losing his cool or calmness in face of danger. Now, however, Ruby saw that Littlefoot’s capacity was nearing its limit as the longneck slowly started to  accept what was happening.

“Run, Littlefoot! You must run or we’ll all be eaten!” Ruby called in desperation, tears falling from her eyes as she realized she had just spoken in favor of leaving Cera to die. Such an option wasn’t acceptable to anyone involved but Ruby had been prepared for such a scenario all her life. Even during her early childhood, Ruby remembered that her parents had told her to abandon them even if it meant not seeing her parents or siblings ever again in the knowledge that the survival of the family was more important than any of its members’. Now, however, such a thought was a bitter and outrageous one without end to the young fast runner but it seemed like these new sharpteeth were giving her little choice.

“We cannot do that, Ruby! We cannot give up before doing our best!” Chomper answered in an almost matter-of-factly voice, even if his voice wavered without end. Ruby knew he was right but she had been cut off from the scene, hindering her ability to interfere. The last thing she saw before the fast biters started to charge towards her was that of the sharpteeth felling Littlefoot to the ground, ready to cut his neck and Chomper charging towards him. Cera was too far to be seen at this point but Ruby feared that the worst had already come to pass. She called one, last desperate time before she was forced to flee the scene.

“Chomper, come here this instant! I cannot return home without you!” Ruby tried one more time, remembering that the young sharptooth was both her friend and her utmost responsibility. Ruby would have wanted to collapse to the ground in sorrow when she received no answer but she wasn’t one to give up so easily. She might have failed in her mission but she wasn’t about to throw all of her parents’ lessons and their legacy away like this. Her friends’ fates were no longer in her hands and the best way to help them right now was to ensure her own survival. Ruby turned on her heels and headed to the direction she hoped would lead towards safety.

Petrie twitched in panic as the hot, swirling mass of air continued to take him ever higher and further from his friends, unable to do anything but watch the display and hope for the best. The horrifying flight seemed like it had lasted for hours and the flier had lost all sense of time and space. Slowly, the wind started to seem like it was losing some of its violence and power and it gave the brown flier some room to maneuver his movements. With herculean effort, Petrie managed to straighten his body and to regain some form of control of his own movements but they were still highly forced and dependent on the wind. Still, that little relief was just enough to save his life.

Like a ghostly giant, a massive cliff suddenly appeared before Petrie who was moving fast enough for the force of the collision to crush the small flier like an egg. Petrie realized this immediately and he did his all to stretch his wings to a better position to reach for the upward winds.

Oh, no, no, no! Me must find the right wind or me done for! Just have to… get higher!

Petrie flapped his wings as he tried to avoid the deadly collision and soon, to his great relief, he started to rise quickly towards the heights. He couldn’t see the top of the cliff and he fought with all his might to avoid closing his eyes as the menacing rock drew ever loser. That was when he felt it: a powerful gust towards the skies that literally skyrocketed the flier upwards. The air flushed in Petrie’s ears as he approached the top of the cliff. Petrie prepared to grab to a large rock to stop his flight but another gust jeopardized his plans somewhat. It sent Petrie right towards the cliff, hitting his left wing on a group of sharp rocks which cut a long wound to the delicate membrane and causing a nasty hit to his arm. Petrie panted in shock as he grabbed at the solid ground with all his might.

The wind still threatened to wipe the flier away with it and Petrie realized that being dragged to another whirlwind would be his end with his wounded wing. Even through the pain, Petrie understood the magnitude of these few seconds. A step after step, Petrie crawled forward and kept himself as firmly in the ground as he could. Soon, he saw a large rock on the mountain top, one that could perhaps shield him from the wind long enough. The flier’s eyes were completely sore with the sand and every part of his body either hurt or ached.

Just… a few more seconds… and me can rest! Me… hope friends also be okay!

Petrie tried to imagine his reunion with his friends as a motivator to keep him going. He didn’t even think about the fast runners at this point, all of his attention put upon remembering the things that he was prepared to survive for. Petrie crawled slowly under the rock, where lied a narrow but deep cave. The flier couldn’t say whom it belonged to but it would have to accommodate the newcomer for the duration of the storm. Petrie felt the wind’s violent force dissipate as he descended into the small pit, an endless wave of relief washing over him. After the horrifying danger he had just gone through, it was a huge reprieve that he was here at all. For now, he was safe at least.

The fast runner couldn’t even say at this point how far away her chasers were. The original sounds of chase had largely been buried under the sounds of the howling wind, a testament to her expertise in finding a complex, easy path that would be difficult to follow in this weather. Ruby knew that the fast biters most likely thought she was overcome with panic but at this point, she simply took the easiest path though the desert, the one which seemed to have the thinnest mass of sand. Even then, she could still hear the footsteps behind her but they were growing weaker by the moment. She knew there was no chance her chasers would be able to smell her in the storm so she would only have to find a shelter where she would hide from the carnivores.

The primal instinct of survival was the only thing that kept Ruby’s thoughts sensible at this point. Her conscious mind was a maze of self-accusations and fears but her brain still worked tirelessly to ensure the fast runner’s survival. Ruby’s face was a mask of resoluteness even if it hid a massive array of different regrets about the last hour’s events. Ruby was running in a trance-like state, her mind focused on only one thing while holding the other thoughts steadily in bay. The time would come soon when those would be released in full swing but for now, Ruby’s eyes scoured the sight in front of her.

Small rocks, sand dunes… nothing that can hide me. What’s that? Oh, just small bushes… Hey, that could work, work that could work!

Ruby suddenly saw a tiny ravine which was hardly equal to her own height but there was one option that was worth exploring to her. The fast runner grabbed a large handful of rocks from the ground and threw them over the ravine while jumping to it herself. The fast runner grabbed another, larger stone and threw it among out of the ravine and jumped headlong under a dune, trying to cover herself as well as she only could.

Seconds dragged by as Ruby held her breath in this most oppressing of situations. The footsteps grew louder until the fast runner heard the fast biters jump over her, following the voice and the still slightly swirling spot where the rocks had landed. They didn’t seem to hesitate for a moment even if in a normal lighting they could have seen the half-buried fast runner shivering in the ground. Ruby could see that her moment had come and started to crouch in the ravine, using all of her experience to move as quietly as possible. Soon enough, the carnivores would come back searching for her and by then, Ruby knew she would have to disappear into the slowly easing storm.

Oh, please don’t come back yet! Just give me one minute and I’ll make it, make it I will! I’ll come back to search for my friends when the storm ends. They’re alright, I’m sure!

Ruby continued to repeat those words in her mind endlessly, fully knowing that it was only one of the many possibilities. For now, the fast runner simply wasn’t ready to face the truth that her friends were more than likely gone, the endless, unsure hopes accompanying her as she slowly moved away from the fast biters’ grasp. As soon as the wind started to die down, the time would come to search for her friends but for now, she had managed to outsmart the sharpteeth. Ruby could only hope her luck wouldn’t die down with the slowly weakening sand cloud.

Sorry for the slight delay but I had some planning to do with this story! I'm done with them now so I should be able to resume my usual schedule. The events of this chapter are extremely momentous and the probable death of most members of the Gang will start a new part in this story, one that will stretch the abilities of Ruby and Petrie to their very limits! Let me know what you think about these developments and see you in the next chapter! :)


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Separate Ways
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2017, 01:29:55 AM »
Wow, I honestly don't know what to say about what has transpired in this chapter.  The gang have continued their headlong journey into the unknown only to be overtaken by the unforgiving, blistering sandstorms of the Mysterious Beyond.  Then, in their most vulnerable moment, they are attacked from a seemingly impossible direction - the wind itself.  The scattering of the gang, with Petrie being blown away and Ruby finally resorting to instinct, is one that looks dire at this point.  One wonders if the fastbiters are the ghosts of those who the gang has bested before or if the gang itself might be ghosts by the time the next chapter roles around.  In any case, I look forward to seeing what happens next.  :yes

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


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Separate Ways
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2017, 11:45:02 AM »
Separate Ways

The small mountaintop was bashed mercilessly for hours, the strong winds wiping out each recognizable landmarks atop the whole mountain range. The entire desert around it was being formed anew as the old mounds of sands replaced the old ones and formed a new face for the entire region. It was as if the earlier version of the same area was being replaced by a new, alien land as happened so often in these wide desert areas. It was in large part because of this phenomenon that made the deserts surrounding the Mysterious Beyond as treacherous as they were. The familiar landscape from a past migration wasn’t the same that greeted the traveler next time he or she traversed through those same fields.
 However, that mattered little to a young flier who was tightly nestled in a small tunnel on the top of the high mountain. Petrie shuddered in fear and pain as he looked at the swirling sands above him, counting seconds and hoping that the terrifying wind would soon start to die down. Soon after reaching his sanctuary, Petrie had calmed down enough to investigate his wing to see the full extent of the injuries he had suffered during the storm. The brown flier felt a mixture of shock and relief as he looked at his injured body part. On one hand, a deep cut penetrated the thin membrane and the pain in his arm told the flier that it was most likely sprained. However, he was still able to move it without the pain growing too intense, pointing to the fact that it wasn’t broken.

At least me wing will get better soon but it hurt so much and Petrie cannot fly!! Oh, me hope momma and friends here!

Petrie’s thought turned immediately back to his companions who were still out there, lost and in serious danger in that terrible storm. The flier got the urge to immediately rise up from the hole and head to help his friends escape from the fast biters but the young dinosaur immediately realized that it was a foolish thought to begin with. Even if he could fly in his current condition, the chance that he’d find his friends out in that sand cloud would be extremely unlikely. For better or worse, he had no chance but to wait out the storm and to see what he could do afterwards.

The adventurous flier felt sick at this forced inaction, especially as the memories of the fast biters returned to his mind. The others had been in a deadly danger when he had been separated from them and now… Petrie couldn’t even think about the situation where his friends were now. The possibility of them being helplessly devoured by the ravenous carnivores was a possibility the flier wasn’t ready to confront. Petrie whimpered in anxiety as he tried his best to fight against the rising panic within his mind. In this agonizing state of mind, Petrie realized that any kind of action was better than to simply drown himself in his fearful images.

Hmm, the tunnel seem to get wider! Petrie wonder what be out there?

The flier decided to head deeper into the tunnel, hoping to find anything that would keep his thoughts together at least until the storm ended. Noticing that the wound in his wing was still bleeding, Petrie crouched to the ground and covered his wound with mud that was lying on the floor in order to end the bleeding in his wing, knowing that it was the quickest way to stop the blood leaving his body. The flier gulped as he headed towards a larger opening… until a creature of tiny size appeared before the flier with an agitated look on its face.

“Get out, big beast! I want to see none of your kind in my home!” The small dinosaur raged, its fury looking almost amusing to the flier who was at least twice his host’s size. Even then, Petrie knew that this creature’s help or enmity could be a major factor if he ever wished to get out of here and to get his wing healed. The smaller dinosaur’s appearance was a minor source of concern for the flier as it resembled a fast biter in its body build. Even then, Petrie relaxed somewhat as he realized that it was far too small to be of any threat to him and it didn’t even have sharp teeth. Even then, Petrie stuttered heavily as he answered.

“O… okay… but why? Why cannot Petrie stay here?” The flier realized that his answer was beyond awkward but he was already confused by the whole situation. The smaller dinosaur looked at his guest in an investigative way, slightly easing his composure as he realized that the flier wasn’t preparing to attack him. Even then, he wasn’t about to ease his stance any as he was far from ready to trust in the younger dinosaur’s benevolence. Each and every creature in the Mysterious Beyond was a potential enemy and this young flier wasn’t an exception.

“Because those giant creatures out there always think I and my children are an easy meal! I cannot know when you are going run over me and ruin my eyes with your beak or attack my nest! It’s bad enough that you found our home and I’m not going to let you go any further in, bark beak!” The small two-footed dinosaur put his hand to his hips, willing to show Petrie that he meant what he was saying. The flier felt disappointed by this cold welcome but even then he realized that if his “host” wasn’t planning to let him to the cave, there was still a chance he would be of other kind of help. Before that, Petrie realized that he should give further proof of his lack of threat before moving to asking favors.

“Gee, me couldn’t even catch you as long as me wing hurt! It bent badly when Petrie was swept up here in your home! Even if me wanted, Petrie could hurt nobody!” The flier’s voice turned once more into a melancholic one as he was reminded of the drama that was most likely happening somewhere in the desert. The smaller dinosaur slow turned his gaze at Petrie’s wing and noticed that he was speaking the truth. A flier that couldn’t fly was a harmless one and, more often than not, a dead one in the Mysterious Beyond. Even then, the small theropod could tell it wasn’t broken and the flier still held a chance of survival.

“The next time you get such a wound, don’t try to cover it with mud because you might get sick afterwards. But don’t worry, it seldom gets too serious. In any case, you may call me Hider.” The small fast biter looked at his guest in slight sympathy and his stance with the flier was slowly softening. Petrie noticed this and he was relieved to see that the situation wasn’t as tense anymore as It had initially seemed.

“And me name be Petrie! Me only stay here until the sand cloud stop, then me go away! But me like to know… what are you?” The flier asked, willing to know more about his host. He had never seen anyone like him and he was interested to hear more about his kind, if only to calm his stretched nerves. The smaller dinosaur looked disappointed by this question as he was used to such questions in the past. With a sigh, Hider answered the question. He turned his side at Petrie and showed his tail which, to the flier’s astonishment, was just as long as the rest of the creature’s body.

“Very few bigger kinds think we are worthwhile of noticing, let alone remembering! We are called the bigtails, as they are far bigger than most other kinds’. Even then, I haven’t met too many others of our kind but the tales tell there are lots and lots of us! We may be small but we may still be the greatest kind there is!” Hider said with a prideful look on his face. Petrie looked at the small dinosaur in astonishment, failing to hold back his laugh. This small, rare creature the most important dinosaur there is? Petrie wasn’t often mean against new dinosaurs but this was a situation where he couldn’t hold back his amusement.

“You call that a big tail and you think your kind be the most important of all dinosaurs? Haha, that be so funny!” Petrie snickered before he saw the small dinosaur look at him with a stern look which immediately ended Petrie’s laugh.

“I’ve also heard about the arrogance most fliers show against us “lesser” beings. There’s a reason why I never cared about your kind anyway! If that is what you think, just be on your way already!” Hider was about to turn around when Petrie realized his mistake. Only this small dinosaur would be able to help him in this mess and he couldn’t afford offending him any further. Even if he wouldn’t no longer accept him as readily, there was only one thing where Petrie needed an answer from him.

“Me sorry, Hider! Me… Petrie didn’t mean to be mean! Bigtails actually be very scary…. like this!” Petrie tried to amuse the smaller dinosaur by snarling at the air and making a face that was supposed to be scary but only ended up looking comical. Hider looked at the flier in slight amusement and simply sighed at the display. He then spoke in a serious manner, willing to get the intruder away from his home as fast as he could.

“What do you want from me? If you don’t want to eat us, then why aren’t you going back to wait for the sand cloud to end?” Hider’s voice was tired but it was now devoid of the earlier chagrin Petrie had caused him with his unthought comment. His voice wasn’t as friendly as it was before but Petrie was now confident enough to ask his host for help.

“Petrie would like to know if… if Hider tell me where to find food when the storm ends? Me cannot fly so…” The flier was confident the bigtail would get the hint and he did shortly. Hider took a deep expression and pondered at the situation. There wasn’t too much food for a leaf eater here but Hider decided that helping the flier wouldn’t be against his best interests. He hadn’t had many visitors and he was slowly starting to grow a liking to this young flier. He approached his injured guest and spoke to him in an almost friendly voice.

“I’ve seen some spots of green food on the lower slopes of these mountains but I don’t know if it’s good enough to it. I can get by eating crawlers and buzzers but you’re not so lucky. It won’t be easy for you to get there and it exposes you to flying sharpteeth but that’s the only way you may survive long enough for your wing to get better. However, if I remember correct, even there’s not too much of water down there.” Hider’s voice didn’t hide his concern for the flier’s safety and Petrie realized that his survival was far from guaranteed. There was something in the small fast biter’s expression that puzzled Petrie but he decided to leave it be. Still, he nodded to the smaller dinosaur in approval and thanked him before heading towards the mouth of the tunnel.

“Thanks, Hider! Petrie will try to get there after the sand cloud ends!” Petrie smiled at the smaller dinosaur who returned the gesture. He spoke one last time to the flier before he headed towards his nest.

“Be safe, Petrie. I haven’t helped many outsiders but I truly hope you’ll live through this.” Petrie looked as the small, yellowish fast biter disappeared into the darkness, hoping that the storm ended soon. Even if Petrie couldn’t see it, Hider’s face had a conflicted expression, unsure what to do about the flier. Perhaps it was best for him to keep a low profile for now and to take a look if Petrie was as innocent as he seemed. The flier was left alone in the dark tunnel, the silent, oppressive, silence falling down upon him as the horrific images of his friends returned to his mind, Petrie’s mind too spent to even fight their dominance in his mind anymore.

Heavy panting could be heard from a small ravine as Ruby tried to calm down from all the drama she had just gone through. She had run for a long time to escape from the fast biters’ grasp, finally deciding that she had lost them in the curtain of raging sands. Ruby looked in deep relief as the air started to finally clear and the wind’s humming ease in her ears. Even the Bright Circle started to finally return to the sky but at this moment, Ruby’s fear started to return swiftly. She had survived the encounter but what about her friends? Ruby’s face turned into a mask of concern and sickly horror as she slowly stood up from the small gorge she had hidden in. Wherever the fast runner looked, only the monotonic sight of newly-settled sand greeted her eyes. This didn’t help to calm Ruby’s nerves any.

“Where’s the ravine I used to escape from the fast biters or the hills that were near the place when… when it happened?” Ruby talked to herself to try to relieve the stress of the moment but to her horror, she couldn’t answer her own questions. There was nothing worth seeing or remembering in this land of extreme heat and monotony. Ruby frowned heavily as she tried to come up with a plan to find her friends. She had been told to always keep a track of her surroundings to keep an idea where she was and to come up with a plan where her companions would most likely gather. For now, however, the most important part was to try to locate the place where she had been separated from her friends. She had arrived from the direction that now was to her right but she had taken many turns and twists during her escape, denying her any chance to reliably tell the way she had come from. However, that mattered little at this point. She had to do something and she’d do whatever she could to track her own path back into that fateful place.

“I just hope the f… fast biters won’t find me again. Luckily the wind is blowing from behind me so they can’t smell me even if they were close enough to smell me!”

An hour passed during which Ruby was unable to do anything but blame herself for this whole situation and especially about Chomper’s disappearance. In addition to losing her dearest friend, perhaps forever, she had also lost more than that. Chomper had been her responsibility, her charge granted to her by her family. Without him, Ruby didn’t know how he would be able to return home. When the word about this nightmare spread, her family’s hard-earned alliance with Chomper’s parents would more than likely turn into open enmity. Only because of her, her parents and siblings would be in mortal danger from now on.

But that mattered little to the young fast runner who was far too concerned with the fear of being never able to see her friends again to care about the herd relationships. Tears fell from Ruby’s eyes as she recalled all the times she, Chomper and the others had spent together. Ruby cringed as she thought about her own situation. If the worst were to prove true, what would she do? Would she find the courage to carry on or would she die on this desert like the others?

In her anxious thoughts, Ruby didn’t notice a slight depression in the ground and the fast runner tripped on in it and fell head long into the ground. She quickly rose up and was surprised to see another dinosaur’s recent presence here. The footprint was too covered with sand for the young fast runner to recognize which kind of dinosaur it belonged to. It was a large, four-legged leaf eater but that was all Ruby could tell. No matter who had done it, it wasn’t one of Ruby √ęs friends.

“At least the fast biters haven’t returned and the wind is still good for me because it keeps me safe! I just hope the others have been as lucky!” The fast runner spoke to herself as she did her best to prevent despair rising within her. On the positive side, the wind was still quite powerful and it kept the extreme heat of the desert in an acceptable range. Even then, Ruby’s expression turned into an ever more fearful one. According to her guesses, she was approaching the spot where she had left the others. Sooner than later, she would find out if the worst had come to pass or if she could rejoin her friends as a result of miraculous luck.

Petrie looked in careful hopefulness as the wind was slowly starting to die down. He had worked hard to keep the tunnel mouth from being drowned in sand and his efforts had paid off nicely. The tunnel’s rocky walls were now covered with dust but it mattered little as the opening itself had stayed unblocked. Seeing that it was now safe for him to investigate his surroundings, Petrie rose carefully from the hole, doing his best to safeguard his wing from any extra stress. Even then, it hurt immensely to pull himself to the mountaintop.

The first thing that caught Petrie’s attention was a large stone pillar rising on another nearby mountain and some unusual-looking formations within it. It looked almost like… some parts of it could be recognized as resembling a wing and a beak. After a small time of observing the rock, even a more cynic creature could see it resembling a large flier. Petrie looked at it for a moment and found it quite intriguing to see it.

Uncle Pterano would want to see this! He always think the fliers best of all dinosaurs!

Even then, it helped little at this moment. Hider had told him to search for food on the lower slopes of these hills and he would do so. The flier felt miserable at being forced to do this alone but he understood it had to be done if he wished to retain the chance of ever seeing his friends again. Most of all, his last conversation with Ducky returned to haunt Petrie on his hour of rare loneliness. That fight only this same morning wasn’t the way Petrie would have wanted to part from his closest friend. His own preach about unimportant things when Ducky was already feeling so bad… a few tears flowed from Petrie’s eyes as he investigated the walls of the mountain.

Why did Petrie have to be so mean! Me should have let her be or at least try to help Ducky! This be all me fault! Petrie just hope me Ducky soon and make things good!

The flier had been taken away by the winds before he had learned the severity of the danger the others were in. He tried to keep himself confident that they were okay even if the presence of the fast biters also took a great toll on his own his hope as well. Still, as long as there was a possibility that his friends were alive and well, Petrie knew he wouldn’t give up.

The ledges of the mountaintop were in many places quite steep and the wind still blew over the mesa-like hill rather strongly. Petrie grabbed tightly at the edges of the cliff and investigated the western side of the Mysterious Beyond surrounding the mountain. From it opened another endless expanse of a desert, interrupted only by a small, winding line in the far distance. Petrie decided that it had to be the river he and his friends were looking for but the distance was far too great for him to cover without flying.

Turning his gaze straight downwards, Petrie could see to his slight relief a greenish spot far below him. There seemed to be a small pond down there and it could sustain him long enough for his wing to recover, just as the tiny fast biter had said. However, reaching it was far from easy. There were small ledges here and there and with some luck, he’d be able to use them as stepping stones downward the cliff. However, that would require his wings to be able to support his weight for a few seconds at the time.

Petrie moved to a slightly high part of mountaintop and tried to put his wings to a careful gliding position. The brown flier prepared for stinging pain to interrupt his flight when he took the jump. The young flier gritted his teeth in pain but to his surprise, he managed to land before the pain became impossible to bear. Petrie panted for a moment while he prepared for the coming ordeal. No matter the problems, he would reach that green oasis and heal his wing before long. His whole survival depended on his ability to do that.

The wind had started to completely settle around another juvenile dinosaur far below the flier’s position, completely oblivious to his survival or injury. However, she too, was approaching a critical moment in her own attempt to find her friends. While Ruby didn’t have the slightest of ideas about her location, her instinct told the fast runner that she was approaching the place in which she had been separated from her friends. Ruby felt terrible as she looked for any signs of battle or last struggle for life. She knew she wasn’t prepared to face the more gruesome possibilities that could lie near her but Ruby didn’t have a choice at this point.

The fast runner scoured the endless sand dunes but she found nothing of worth. The Bright Circle was already starting to fall to the horizon when Ruby was ready to give in to despair. She had found nothing and her chance of ever reuniting with her friends again were dwindling by the minute. Ruby kicked the ground in a mixture of agitation and sadness while she tried to come up with any new ideas.

Come on, Ruby, come up with something new! I have to find something to determine whether my friends are okay and if they’re okay, how to find them! I must find them because if I don’t, I won’t find them later either!

Ruby was just preparing to give in to her inner turmoil in this hellish situation until she noticed a few footsteps in the ground. At first, she didn’t see anything interesting but after a moment, the fast runner could tell that they belonged to a young threehorn which seemed to have run with all her or his might to the west, most likely away from something. However, this find nearly stunned Ruby as she started to think about the implications. If Cera had run here alone, she must have been able to escape from the fast biters’ ring of death! And if she had done that, there was a very good chance that she was still alive!

Ruby started to immediately follow the footsteps which were also starting to get burrowed under burrows of sand. Admittedly, they didn’t seem too fresh but who cared about that if Cera was alive? Ruby smiled and chuckled to herself as the fast runner headed after the trail most likely left for her by one of her beloved friends. If she found the threehorn, she could most likely be able to tell what had happened to the others. Their absence worried Ruby greatly but there was a chance that Cera had simply been separated from them, just like the fast runner herself had.

The brown flier looked at the scene below him with a fearful expression. He had enjoyed high places ever since he found his ability to fly during his and his friends’ battle against the sharptooth but things looked so much different when he was bound to the ground. The drop would have been far from scary if he was flying but knowing that he wouldn’t be able to save himself with his gift of flight in case he lost his footing terrified the young flier without end. His kind wasn’t supposed to surrender to these kinds of ordeals.

“Petrie cannot look down! Even thinking about that make me all funny inside!” Petrie shuddered as he slowly backed away from the cliff, doing his best to calm his terrified nerves. No matter what, he would have to get down or face starvation. The thought of that made him feel even more miserable as there was nobody there to give him courage. He was alone in a way he hadn’t been in many long Cold Times. Even then, one thing seemed to give Petrie courage in this moment of utter fear.

The cliff resembling a flier seemed majestic and comforting, even more so than the fabled Saurus Rock to the young dinosaur. His uncle Pterano had told him so much about the time of the fliers’ dominance in the world and something in Petrie’s mind told him that those tales held more truth to them than his uncle’s other tales. Even if the flier was far from ambitious or proud, those tales combined with this impressive sight made him want to prove that he wasn’t a scaredy egg.

If those fliers back then were so tough, so can be Petrie! Me won’t stay here while me friends in trouble! Just wait and see!

The flier moved quickly back towards the fall and his eyes momentarily rolled in his head in an almost comic fashion. Still, Petrie put all of his concentration to the issue at hand and started to investigate the best path downward. Maybe he could jump between the small ledges here and there. Due to his small size, there was a chance those falls wouldn’t hurt him. The small ledges stuck out from the steep cliff like small fingertips but they seemed to be quite treacherous in many spots. Even then, Petrie gulped and prepared to jump to the first ledge. The drop was a long one but Petrie did his best to slow down the fall.

Just don’t fall… A few more meters… My wing hurt so much!

Petrie dropped to the small cliff with a considerable speed but, as he had hoped, it didn’t hurt him at all due to his attempts to slow down the fall. Still, it didn’t earn many jubilations from the flier as he looked downwards. He had hardly passed a tenth of the total distance with his first jump and there seemed to be at least eight more of the drops left. Petrie looked at the sky in melancholy, at this point ready to give up quite a bit to once again be able to return to the bluish hue. However, his mournful thoughts were interrupted by a call from above him.

“Be careful, Petrie! You don’t have to go that way!” The flier quickly turned his gaze upwards and, to his surprise, he saw Hider look at him. Petrie was more than happy to see him but why had he decided to seek out him now? The flier turned to look at the bigtail with a questioning look and asked him carefully.

“Why… why not? Petrie can’t see other ways down! And why you tell me this? Petrie thought you wished me leave as quickly as me could!” Petrie wished to know if there was more to these “bigtails’” attempts to hide from him and the other outsiders than they had wanted to tell. Anyway. the flier stood still and waited for further instructions Hider would wish to share with him.

“That’s not important for you to know but there’s an easier way you should seek out! If you can get to the side where I’m standing now, you’ll find a tunnel that leads a long way downwards! Go find it!” Hider said while he moved away from Petrie’s sight but he could still hear the smaller dinosaur’s voice. The flier looked a bit confused by this turn of events but he decided to listen to his helper. What reason would there be for him to trick the young flier at this point?

Petrie grabbed the rock near him as far as he could and the small grooves in the cliff provided him with enough foothold to avoid dropping down into the faraway ground. Even then, Petrie’s advance was extremely slow and it took a long time for him to reach the spot Hider had shown him. It was a joyful sight for the young flier when a small hole appeared in the wall next to him. Petrie moved inside the newly-found tunnel and he was stunned to find himself face-to-face with his benefactor.

“I’m glad you found this place, Petrie. You may pass through our home this one time.” Hider spoke in an approving voice, his expression much more relaxed than it had been during their first meeting. Petrie was stunned by this turn of events as he had already thought he had seen the last of the small fast runner. Still, Petrie couldn’t hide his chuckles of relief when he answered.

“Thanks for showing this easier way, Hider! But… why you only tell of it now?” Petrie knew there was something more the smaller dinosaur wanted from him and he was willing to hear what it was. He wasn’t angry at the bigtail but he wanted to hear his explanation.  Hider seemed to hesitate for a moment before answering but soon he seemed to come to the realization that honesty was the best policy here.

“You see, Petrie… I have to make sure that everyone who finds their way to me and my family are completely harmless and now I’m sure you mean no ill to me or my children. I had to observe you for a while before I was sure of it… and I’d also like to ask a favor of you, Petrie.” Hider’s voice was simultaneously serious and hopeful as he answered. Petrie was initially unsure about what was coming but he wished to get this as quickly as he could. His friends were still out there and even if the flier knew there was nothing he could do to help them, Petrie felt frustrated at being here talking to this strange and fearful dinosaur. Petrie was seldom one for rushed conversations but once again the situation’s graveness returned to his mind.

“Petrie happy to help but please tell it quick! Me have to get me wing good again as fast as Petrie can!” The flier hoped that Hider wouldn’t ask too much as he wished to get this over with. The small theropod had showed him nothing but kindness but Petrie was too distracted mentally to fully appreciate the help he had been given. Hider could see Petrie’s distress and for the first time, a small amount of compassion started to appear in his eyes. He could see that the flier had more to him than initially met the smaller dinosaur’s eye. Even then, he wouldn’t be able to help the young dinosaur no matter what he did. A form of distant friendship was all he could offer at this point.

“I’d like you to promise that you will do your best to keep our home safe from other fliers like you and in return you’ll always be welcome to rest here or visit this mountain. There have been many others of your kind around here and sometimes it gets really hard to stay away from their sight. Most of them won’t hurt me but some others think we bigtails are their food.” Hider asked his young friend who looked relieved by this proposition of mutual help in the future. The small fast biter’s offer didn’t deserve much hesitation and Petrie answered him nearly immediately.

“Me… Petrie think that sounds good.  Me not know those fliers but Petrie try to keep you safe after all you do to help me! Me haven’t seen any sharptooth fliers but a group of fast biters be running on the sandy plain below us! Me… me friends in danger because of them!” Petrie turned to look at the opening below him, only the blue sky greeting his sight. The flier sighed deeply, trying to calm down as well as he simply could. Hider, after finally hearing about his friends, seemed even more concerned for his friend as he knew how difficult it would be to lose sharpteeth in that burning hellscape, especially during a storm. Petrie would be more than lucky if his friends had made it out alive from the jaws of the predators. He took a small pause before he answered to the larger dinosaur’s words.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Petrie. It isn’t easy to escape from a fast biter once they get your scent but such things happen in the Mysterious Beyond as it did to my mate during the last Warm Time. I saw her fall but there’s still hope for you, Petrie. If your friends were smart or fast enough, they might still be alive. I hope your friends had some luck with them too.” Hider sounded surprisingly relaxed as he recited his personal loss but it was clear that he had gone through a lot to try to get over her loss and to give their offspring the best chances for the future as possible. Petrie’s head fell as he heard Hider’s words, the flier’s mind immediately drifting back to his own father whom he had never known. His mother had told him that he had fallen before his son’s birth but she had never told him the circumstances of his death. Petrie had long since accepted that this was a story he’d never learn.

“Me so sorry to hear that, Hider. But Petrie know me friends still alive out there. They far too smart to be eaten by those dumb fast biters! It too long a story but me know this not the end for them. I’ll look for them once me wing’s alright again!” Petrie knew there was no more comfort he’d be able to give his helper and the smaller dinosaur understood that there wasn’t much more he could say to aid the flier. Maybe it was for the best if he’d merely show him the way down the mountain’s tunnels.

“I bid you a successful search, Petrie. But before that, follow me. I’ll show you the way to the lower slopes and to the green food.”

The footsteps were growing fresher by the second as Ruby sprinted as quickly as she could to find her friend. It seemed like the threehorn had ran rather slowly, most likely because of exhaustion, because the footsteps were slightly uneven in their frequency and their maker was approaching too quickly for Ruby’s liking. There were small drops of blood here and there but such small amounts were of no serious harm and pointed to the possibility that the threehorn was probably just fatigued.

A small hope rose in Ruby’s mind as she saw another, deeper, ravine opening before her. If Cera had fled there, there was a good chance that she’d found a shelter from her chaser. The small gorge seemed to hold many caves where Cera could have found a refuge. All that was left was to find where she was and to look for the others! The footsteps led deep into the ravine but they were now easier to follow as the wind hadn’t even started to erase them in the sheltered gorge.

Ruby felt her hope arise as she realized she was soon about to reunite with one of her friends. Such a joyful occasion would be an immense break from this day of sorrow and fear. The fast runner sprinted towards the cave where the footsteps led to…. and screamed in horrifying shock. All that greeted her eyes in the cave was the bloody remains of a threehorn which were terribly mutilated by the jaws of a sharptooth. Most of the flesh was gone and the corpse was beyond all recognition but Ruby knew exactly who this threehorn was.

“Cera… is it really you? I’m… I’m so sorry for running away! I should have stood with you! No… this cannot be real…” Ruby collapsed to her feet as her mind ran in overdrive. Her friend’s destroyed body lied before her and that meant only one thing: Cera was gone forever. And if the threehorn had already passed away, it would be easy to assume that the rest of her friends hadn’t managed to escape either. Tears fell from Ruby’s eyes as she looked at the fallen threehorn’s crushed skull, realizing that she was now the last remnant of the Gang that had only hours before thought they’d stay together always. It was just too much to bear…

How was she ever going to forgive herself for running away in the moment in which her friends needed her the most? She had indirectly caused the ghastly sight before her as there must have been something she could have done to save the others from this terrible fate. The fact that she had called for abandoning Cera only made the fast runner feel more miserable even if she knew she had said that to save the others. No matter what, Ruby knew that her happy Cold Times with her friends and the last part of her childhood were truly over and there’s nothing she could do to try to bring it back.

Ruby sat for a long time weeping besides her friend’s corpse, not caring for anything except her own sorrows. Was there any reason to repeat this horrifying feeling and search for the rest of her friends or was it better to accept the inevitable and try to create a new life for herself? If Cera, the strongest and proudest of her friends, was gone, so were the others, their bodies lying somewhere else in the endless expanse of sand around her.

Ruby looked at her hands in bitterness and snorted as she realized to whom they belonged to. An enemy of the Great Valley, failure of her family and the betrayer of her beloved friends. So much had gone wrong lately for the fast runner to be able to take it anymore. For the first time in her life, she felt completely worthless, as a villain who was needed by nobody. She had only brought misery to everyone she had loved and betrayed every promise she had made to those she cared about. An endless array of self-accusations dominated Ruby’s mind as the evening was slowly starting to encroach upon the Mysterious Beyond.

“How much longer we go on?” Petrie asked when he felt like he had walked for hours on end. The dark tunnels made it easy for him to move and it took a lot of effort for the flier to avoid crashing into the walls around him. Hider laughed a bit before he gave his answer.

“Actually, we’re there in a moment. The opening is just after this turn.” Hider said and the next thing that greeted Petrie’s eyes was the slowly dimming light of the falling Bright Circle. Before the duo opened a barren plain on which grew some dry but large leaves. On the other side of the small oasis lied a small pond and a stream that brought the much-needed water to it. For the first time since his separation from his friends, Petrie felt a slight relief fill his mind. In a few days his wing should be in a condition to fly once again. The wound had already stopped bleeding and the pain in his sprained arm was finally starting to dissipate.

“This look like a nice place, Hider! Thank you for showing Petrie the way!” The flier spoke as fatigue was slowly starting to encroach upon him. Hider smiled to his friend slightly before he answered.
“You can’t have too many friends in the Mysterious Beyond, Petrie. I’m just happy to finally meet someone who doesn’t see me as a dinner or as a mere nuisance.” Hider’s voice carried a small amount of sneer to it but it wasn’t directed towards the flier. The world had taken a lot from him but he still appreciated the good that life had brought him. Such an attitude was a necessity for many in those barren lands in order to escape the fear of tomorrow. Each day could easily be one’s last so it was necessary to enjoy the present. Petrie took a slightly amused look as he answered to the bigtail.

“Petrie think so too. Thanks for everything, Hider, but me no need to worry about new friends when Petrie’s old ones are still out there. Me leave in a few days to search for them.” Petrie said with a hesitant look to which Hider nodded in understanding. He was happy to receive some company to color his monotonous life but he understood that Petrie would be on his way soon and right now, he’d most likely require rest. The small fast biter turned around and answered one last time to his guest.

“I’ll be here if you need anything before then. I hope your wing gets better soon. See you later, Petrie.” The smaller dinosaur then left Petrie alone, for the first time since the storm letting Petrie to relax somewhat. His body yearned for rest but he was still troubled by the disappearance of his friends. The flier walked to the edge of the cliff and eyed the desert below. Not a smallest trace of life could be seen but Petrie knew his friends were down there somewhere. No matter what, the flier would search them out. He continued to look at the horizon for many long minutes until the Bright Circle finally fell behind the horizon, ending this day of misery and disaster. Petrie prepared to go to sleep before he took one, last look into the dark expanse.

Me will see you soon, everyone! Petrie been separated many times but we always find a way back! I’d just want to know all of you get away from the mean sharpteeth! Just hang in there and wait for Petrie!

The flier then walked under the dry bushes, trying to hide himself under their leaves and even in his mental state, Petrie couldn’t escape is fatigue for long.

The darkness had fallen by the time Ruby’s mind had finally started to clear out. She had lost all sense of time was she dwelled in her dark thoughts. Cera’s voice had greeted her eyes many times during her lonely hours, only making herself feel ever more miserable. In her mind, she was beaten enough that she didn’t even know whether she cared about living on in this nightmare. However, Cera’s corpse’s proximity only made her feel worse and she decided that it was best to leave it behind and try to gather herself elsewhere. She had gone through the farewells in her head already and the fast runner could only form a few words between her desperate sobs.

“Go… goodbye, Cera. You were the best friend I could ever hope for.” Ruby wiped her tears once again as she once again burst into full-blown tears. Turning her back on her friend for the very first time was simply too much for the fast runner. In this situation, Ruby was too broken to pay attention to a large shadow overlooking her above the ravine. Two eyes of a predator stalked the young oviraptor as she moved along slowly. A lost youngling would be an ideal meal for him. Still, the beast had to make sure that the young fast runner wouldn’t be able to escape from his sudden attack. He prided himself for assaults that no slow-minded sap sucker could escape from.

Ruby could feel her blood run cold as she heard a loud thud behind her. She turned instinctually around to see a full-grown sail necked sharptooth stand in front of her. The fast runner let out a loud cry and tried to search for an escape path. However, all of them were blocked as the bigger dinosaur had prepared a perfect trap for her. There was no way for her to try to outrun the large predator and neither could the fast runner defend herself against the superior foe. There was only one desperate measure left, one that she hadn’t used since his arrival in the Valley, at least not in a grave situation like this.

“Please… allow me go!” Ruby knew her words were far from correct but she had never spoken the sharptooth language fluently and even her earlier skills had rusted during her life with the leaf eaters. Her parents had did their best to teach her but Ruby had never been too interested to learn this language. Now, however, the young fast runner dearly hoped she had been smarter back then. The sharptooth’s composure changed somewhat but it was still clear that she was in serious danger. The larger dinosaur then answered coldly.

“A fast runner who can barely speak. Why should I spare you, young one?” The sail backed sharptooth stopped his advance to investigate his prey. There was no way for her to escape anyway so he might as well see if the younger dinosaur had anything to offer. Ruby was stunned to see that even her lacking communication had saved her for now. Still, she had to come up with something and quick. It was clear that the sail back wasn’t planning to let her go for nothing. The fast runner stuttered unintelligible words before a sudden realization came to her.

“I see footsteps earlier, they would give you more to eat! I’m too small for you to eat, too small I am!” Ruby was somewhat relieved that the sharptooth words started to return to her mind but she was also disheartened by the snort her information earned and disgusted by her own proposition. Here she was, hours after losing her friends, offering innocent dinosaurs to this beast to save her own hide. Even in this dangerous situation, an accusing voice called from her mind.

Awesome, Ruby. I’m sure this is what the others would have wanted!

“I’ve heard countless such claims before and every time my dinner tries to run away, thinking they can escape from me. I have no patience for such playing anymore.” The sharptooth approached a few more steps, upping the amount of threat he was imposing on the fast runner. At this point, Ruby realized all was lost. She prepared to face the end but she tried to make one last, desperate defense.

“Please, don’t do this! I’ve already lost Chomper and all my…” Ruby was stunned to hear her alerted defense being interrupted nearly immediately. She didn’t even know why she brought up Chomper but she hadn’t expected that statement to raise the sharptooth’s interest. However, the answer she received puzzled the fast runner greatly.

“Lost Chomper? You know the son of Dein and Terri?” The sharptooth’s voice was unreadable and Ruby couldn’t read whether her acquaintance with the young sharptooth was a positive thing in the eyes of this predator. Still, this was the first thing in the conversation that raised his interest and Ruby understood she didn’t have a better chance than this. She swallowed deeply before she answered.

“Why… yes, I did. In fact, I was his caretaker for many long Cold Times before I lost him today, perhaps for good. Oh, poor Chomper…” Ruby could feel the grief was once again seeking a firm grip of her mind when she heard the sharptooth’s answer. It was a highly relieving one even if Ruby knew that her life still hung in the balance even if she was no longer in immediate danger.

“Maybe there is a chance we’ll be able to work together, fast runner. For the time of our cooperation, you may call me Stealth.”

Things are starting to become clearer after the chaotic last chapter. Our protagonists are slowly starting to come to accept their situations and to try to find their own ways to survive the separation from their friends. I hope you enjoyed the developments here as well as Stealth's inclusion in this story! (He appeared first in Farewell to a Changing Land)  :) I'll be interested to hear your thoughts about this chapter and see you soon! :smile


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Separate Ways
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2017, 01:43:16 PM »
My goodness, unless there happened to be another threehorn youngling out in the barrens it seems that Cera's luck, and quite possibly that of her other friends, have come to a tragic end.  This line of the narrative, in particular, captured the mood:

Ruby looked at her hands in bitterness and snorted as she realized to whom they belonged to. An enemy of the Great Valley, failure of her family and the betrayer of her beloved friends. So much had gone wrong lately for the fast runner to be able to take it anymore. For the first time in her life, she felt completely worthless, as a villain who was needed by nobody. She had only brought misery to everyone she had loved and betrayed every promise she had made to those she cared about. An endless array of self-accusations dominated Ruby’s mind as the evening was slowly starting to encroach upon the Mysterious Beyond.

Now that the poor fastrunner has now encountered the killer of Cera it will be interesting to see her feelings on the matter.  Will she feel some need for retribution on the killer of her friend?  Will she see it as part of the Circle of Life?  Will she see herself as a villain in the same mold of the sharptooth in question?  These questions, and the fate of the other members of the gang, will have to wait for the subsequent chapters in order to be answered, and I eagerly await the next installment.  :)

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


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« Reply #25 on: August 24, 2017, 03:42:35 PM »
Threats and Alliances

Only the Night Circle’s pale light illuminated the dark desert as two dinosaurs quickly moved through the dire landscape. Ruby looked at her companion with an awkward expression as Stealth suddenly hastened his pace. The fast runner’s mind was only burdened further by the many questions that the sharptooth’s arrival had brought to her mind. As if being forced to help a predator on their hunt wasn’t enough, there was something about him that made Ruby even more worried. At first she had thought this to be same dinosaur who had killed Cera but none of his behavior seemed to point to that monstrous possibility. Also, the corpse wasn’t too fresh so Stealth would have waited for hours for a new victim which didn’t seem likely. The more she thought about it, Ruby came to a conclusion that Stealth hadn’t killed Cera but there were still other unanswered questions. Why did he care about her relationship with Chomper and perhaps most importantly, what would happen to her once the hunt was over? The two had marched in constant silence for a long time before Stealth finally broke the silence.

“Where did you see the footprints? I’m slowly getting fed up with this walking.” The sharptooth’s voice was grim but it didn’t carry any immediate threats. However, it was clear Stealth wanted a proper answer and it made Ruby bothered. She had a slight idea where to look for but if she couldn’t find them for some reason any time soon, she would be in major trouble.

“Uhh… only a little longer, Stealth. I’m… I’m sure they’re nearby.” The fast runner hoped from the depths of her heart that she was correct as this was the area where she thought she had seen the footprints.

“You better be right, fast runner. Your kind may be ofen useful but I’ve also learned that you’re seldom trustworthy. Always trying to slither away from your promises…” Stealth answered flatly which made Ruby cringe heavily. She’d have to win the sharptooth’s trust if she wished to live through this. Breaking the ice between them would be a good way to start and there was one thing she thought could spark the predator’s interest.

“Stealth, how do you know Chomper? You seemed suddenly much nicer when I mentioned him, much more nicer you were!” The young fast runner asked carefully, careful not to make any hasty conclusions. At least Chomper hadn’t told of other really scary sharpteeth than Red Claw so maybe there could be a way to survive her journey with Stealth. The sail backed sharptooth initially looked at her dismissively but answered nonetheless.

“I never met that brat himself but I know his parents more than well, to their disaster. You said that you looked after Chomper for many Cold Times but you also said you lost him.” Stealth stated with some interest but it was clear that he held no respect for the young sharptooth. Ruby wasn’t sure what to make about Stealth’s words but they upset her greatly. Stealth looked with an unreadable expression as he saw a few tears flowing from Ruby’s eyes.

“He’s… he’s gone! All of my friends were ambushed by fast biters and I already found Cera’s body! All… all of them are dead!” Ruby was overwhelmed by her own words and she was angered to see Stealth’s expression. It wasn’t definitely one of compassion and it carried distinct contempt for the fast runner. While Stealth held his threatening composure, Ruby could see that his mind was wandering in the sharptooth’s own memories. It was clear that he wasn’t a stranger to her situation but that didn’t soften his stance any. However, parallel to his own arrogant expression, his eyes held another flicker in them: the flicker of ambition.

“If a sharptooth was ambushed by those brainless ankle biters, it serves him just well! It’s never a good idea to become friends with sap-suckers anyway. This went bet…” Stealth’s words were interrupted by Ruby’s greatly angered voice which momentarily surprised the predator.

“Don’t talk like that about my friends, sharptooth! They were much better dinosaurs than you or your kind will ever be! I don’t care what you’ll do but I won’t listen you insult my friends like that!” Ruby yelled furiously and she meant every word. She was prepared to help the sharptooth in exchange of her life but she wouldn’t let him insult her fallen friends. Stealth looked at her with a hostile expression and raised his head as he answered.

“Do you really think you can stand up to me, you sorry excuse for a half tooth? Do you think you are the only one who has lost someone they care deeply? Things are never easy in this world and I cannot stand whining about things you cannot change! I gave you the chance to survive until the dawn and I trust you still wish to take it!” The last sentence was mostly a statement as Stealth was more than confident that the fast runner was clever enough to make the correct decision. Ruby retained her stand but deep inside, she knew that she didn’t care in the least what this brute thought about her or her friends. All that really mattered was her own and her friends’ memories’ survival. Still, she wished to test Stealth’s patience even further to learn more about the sharptooth’s true goals.

“I never thought a loner like you would understand anything about these things. I will find the leaf eaters for you but I ask you to stop insulting Chomper or my friends! It was never supposed to end like this…!” The smaller dinosaur’s composure started to finally break but Stealth was far from done with the conversation. She had accepted Ruby’s offer in order to learn more about Chomper’s family and perhaps even to make an offer of his own. Like all sharpteeth, Stealth knew respect came only true dominance but loyalty came only through mutual respect. If she could return the favor to Ruby after the hunt, there was a chance that he might be able to gain valuable ally and to snatch one away from his rivals.

“How do you think Dein and Terri will react once they hear of these news? If they were ready to leave their only child with you, they must have trusted you and your family greatly.” The statement was largely rhetorical but it hit the nerve in Ruby’s mind. She knew full well what this meant. A family of fast runners who are direct enemies with sharpteeth wouldn’t likely last for too long. She could only hope that she and her family were far away before the two predators heard about what had happened.

“You know what they’ll do! They… they were the only sharpteeth who thought of as friends and now everything is ruined! But why would you care about what they will do to us? You have nothing to do with them!” Ruby cried to Stealth as the sharptooth started to circle around her with a complacent expression. He revealed his teeth and his eyes widened in clear agitation. Ruby begun to back down slowly as she feared that she had agitated Stealth somehow. When he started to speak, the sharptooth’s voice dipped with poison and bitterness.

“I have everything to do with them, actually. You or other sap suckers wouldn’t know it but me and most of my kind once lived from the Woodlands of Plenty or, as they’re called today, the Land of Mists. Back then, we had everything we needed: shelter, food and a home. However, everything changed when that cursed rain started and continued for weeks on end. Our own land turned against us and all of our food escaped from there before us or were eaten by the new sharpteeth moving in with the water. I was almost eaten by a bellydragger myself!” A clear hatred burned in Stealth’s eyes as he spoke. Ruby was stunned to hear of his original home as she had heard of it both from his friends and parents. It was an age-old paradise that had served as a home for leaf eaters as far as anyone could remember. It had also lured in many sharpteeth but they weren’t enough to make the dinosaurs leave their fertile land. Ruby looked at Stealth in surprise, not expecting the sharptooth to be from that lost paradise.

“I… I’m sorry to hear about that. I’ve heard from my friends that it was once a beautiful place but you weren’t the only one who was forced to leave. My parents tell that it has been the only place in the whole Mysterious Beyond to have been a home for dinosaurs for too many generations for anyone to remember. But… but what does that have to with Chomper or his parents?” Ruby was a curious soul and she would have loved to hear what Stealth knew about his old home’s tales but she knew she wasn’t on good enough terms with the sharptooth to speak about such things. He would tell what he wanted and Ruby would have to stick with that. Stealth snorted in clear annoyance as he heard Ruby’s last question. He had already told his companion quite a lot but there were things he wouldn’t share with the fast runner.

“Let’s just say that they made my life a living hell when we left the Land of Mists. Chomper hadn’t been born yet and we weren’t even close to their territory but that seemed to mean little for them. That’s all you need to know, young one. Let’s just say that I’ve got a few things to settle with them.” Stealth concluded vaguely, his eyes slowly starting to calm down once his mind started to relax somewhat from the intense hatred that had been apparent in them earlier. Ruby frowned as she heard his answer. The sharptooth’s behavior was getting on her nerves but, to be fair, her family’s relationship with Dein and Terri had been far from pleasant either. The two were always demanding favors and their attitude towards her parents was just as grim and arrogant as Stealth’s was towards her. With Chomper gone, she didn’t feel a real reason to stand up to the sharptooth’s revenge.

“I… I understand, Stealth. They helped us many times but now that Chomper is no longer here, he is no longer here to bring our families together and in that case, we will be enemies! Chomper wouldn’t have wanted me to say this but my family will never be safe if they hate and chase us! Not that I’m sure my family is safe even now. They weren’t back home when I lasted were there.” Ruby pondered in growing desperation. Once again, she was willing to sacrifice one piece of her and her friends’ past in order to try to help her lost family. This made the young dinosaur cringe heavily at her own actions but she knew a fast runner wouldn’t be able to keep her hands clean forever. Nevertheless, the whole situation was taking its toll on her. Why can’t things ever be simple anymore!?

“Alliances and pacts change all the time, young one. You may think there are permanent bonds between dinosaurs but in the end, every deal you make is only an alliance of convenience. I thought that your pact with Dein and Terri might be about to end soon and that’s exactly why I was interested about Chomper in the first place. I knew he was being raised by some pitiful sap suckers but the news you brought me opened new possibilities. Perhaps I would be able to help you and your family against Dein and Terri in the future.” Stealth said oddly and even if his words once again angered Ruby, she knew he had a point. She would never be able to explain this to Chomper’s parents and she couldn’t afford to pass up another potential ally. However, Stealth was still a stranger to her and making an alliance with someone you couldn’t trust would most likely end in a disaster. She would see this hunt to an end to see whether she would proceed with Stealth’s proposition.

“I’ll think about it, Stealth. I still w… Hey, there they are!” Ruby said as he started to run forward until she stopped again. She would have wanted to collapse to the ground at the mere relief of finding the footsteps again. They had nearly disappeared and they were barely visible but the vague silhouettes of them could still be seen Stealth ran after her but his expression turned sour once he saw the footprints.

“Threehorns?! Of all the bark breaths, you had to lead me to the threehorns’ trail?” Stealth asked in annoyance as he sniffed at the ground. The smell was vague but he had no doubt he’d be able to track them down. However, he knew full well how dangerous a full-grown threehorn could be, especially if they moved in a herd. This development didn’t please him at all. Ruby was extremely bothered at the revelation but her answer was interrupted before she could open her mouth.

“I have no choice but to chase them but this was your idea! You will help me in this hunt and ensure that it is a success!” Stealth hissed in clear annoyance. This was one thing he had hoped to avoid but then again, a threehorn would provide him with more food than the small fast runner could. In a way, this was a challenge that would be useful to hone his skills and to once again show that no leaf eater would be able to stand against him. Ruby gulped as she heard the command, full well knowing that a threehorn could slay her in a matter of seconds. She stuttered as she answered to Stealth.

“But… but what can I do? I’ll be smashed before I do anything, regardless of what that anything could be!” Ruby knew that it wasn’t exactly true as she knew that her parents had often worked together with sharpteeth. There were many ways how a fast runner could make herself useful in these situation, even if she hoped Stealth wouldn’t know that. However, it soon became clear that her hope was misplaced.

“Don’t talk trash, fast runner! You may not be the most capable there is but you can at least cause mayhem among the threehorns and try to separate one of them from the others!“ Stealth answered while looking suspiciously at his companion. He knew Ruby could do more than she implicated, raising chagrin in the sharptooth. Ruby looked at the sharptooth in clear worry but she knew that she had no real choice. With a resigned sigh, she started to follow the sharptooth.

The situation was a new and horrifying one for the young fast runner. Here she was walking with a sharptooth and preparing to help him kill a threehorn, a kind with which she had spent so much time with. In a way, it wasn’t only her coming deeds that troubled her. The things she had seen and felt during the last hours seemed to have drained her ability to give any more understanding to the threehorns. Perhaps I simply don’t have any more tears to shed or compassion to share. Ruby thought glumly as she saw the footprints fast growing fresher.

The dominating feeling at this point for Ruby was that of numbness. The loss of his friends continued to grip her heart with a cold embrace but Ruby started to be too tired to be overwhelmed by that. At this point, to her concern, the fast runner mostly thought about the coming hunt and the eventual face-off with Stealth. Her mind was working on overdrive to come up with a plan to survive this night and to free herself from Stealth’s leadership. The sharptooth looked steadily forward, seemingly oblivious to the things that were moving in the fast runner’s head.

However, that was far from the truth. The new knowledge he had gained could prove most useful if the fast runner was speaking the truth. If Dein and Terri’s only son really was gone, that would open up new possibilities for the deep-brown sail backed sharptooth if he played his cards well. The two-footers were a respectable power in the Mysterious Beyond but Stealth knew he could take them on eventually. With Ruby’s and her family’s help, he had every chance to succeed.

Then again, there were other sharpteeth to be considered, most notably Red Claw. Stealth knew that he was more cowardly than most other sharpteeth but his allies and brute power were a force to be reckoned with. There were still many others but Stealth knew he was only one of the countless predators in the Mysterious Beyond and he had no way to spread his influence far from his own territory but he would seek out the justice he was looking for. He would defeat the two sharpteeth who had caused him so much harm and safeguard himself against any further threats from his competitors.

To achieve that, Stealth knew he’d have to gain allies of his own. Unlike Red Claw, the smaller sharptooth knew that trying to impose one’s will upon the others wasn’t a way to build a safe future and the fast biters weren’t too loyal allies. The ankle biters served only their own interests and they would betray their leader the second an enemy promised them more. No, Stealth had a different idea on how to achieve his goals. The fast runners, hidden runners and egg stealers would serve him more frantically if he showed them even a modicum of respect. They were completely helpless before his fangs and claws and if he could only prove that he would treat them even just a bit better than his competitors, he’d earn their trust and help for good. In addition, they could cause mayhem among his enemies and to help him in the coming battles.

The sharptooth looked at Ruby in a self-confident expression. Even with a small gesture he could earn her trust and to forge an alliance with him and in the sharptooth society, as the fast runners very well knew, such alliances were done for both parties’ whole families, in essence gifting Stealth with new allies while robbing them from his enemies. Chomper’s death made all of this possible and it was highly likely that Dein and Terri would yearn for Ruby’s blood sooner or later. If he was lucky, that could give him a cause to rally the rest of his allies against the two grief-stricken sharpteeth. But he was far from ready to do that. There was still a long road for both him and Ruby if they wished to end their menace once and for all.

Ruby could tell that Stealth wasn’t sparing her because of sheer benevolence but there was nothing she could at this point. The guilt-stricken fast runner knew she had lost everything except her family and even after her losing Chomper she knew she couldn’t give up because of them. She wasn’t about to let Dein and Terri hunt down her family because of her failure. She wouldn’t let Arial and Orchid to grow up without their older sister nor would she let the memory of her brave friends fade away from this world. Even after everything that had occurred and despite Ruby’s loathing towards herself, there were still things that she couldn’t let to come to pass. She would make sure that at least her family would stay of danger. The only question was where were they? The fast runner couldn’t even say with certainty that they were alive but it was an assumption Ruby knew she’d have to make for the sake of her own sake. Finding them would be a major challenge but one she knew she’s see through. Ruby’s thoughts were interrupted by a sudden remark from Stealth.

“They’re close. We should start the preparations for the hunt.” Stealth’s remark was matter-of-factly and it carried no other meanings than the voiced one. Ruby looked at him in puzzlement until a few words from her mother came to her mind. She had once told her that in case green food was nowhere to be found, she’d have to rely on other sources or food, sometimes even her fellow dinosaurs. And once that day came, Pearl had told her daughter to prepare well for the coming hunt. The course of action, the prey’s weakness and the possible escape had to all be planned in advance or she wouldn’t live through many hunts. Ruby felt nervous as she reflected on the situation as she had never before actually engaged in a hunt. She had always had enough green food, scaly swimmers or snapping shells to feed her but now Ruby knew she couldn’t show her inexperience to Stealth. For better or worse, she would have to be ready for this.

“You’re right. The threehorns have most probably stopped for the night, for the night they have stopped! If they’re asleep, they’ll be easier to ambush than if they weren’t asleep!” Ruby said in fake excitement, her conscience beating her mercilessly.  How could she do this? How could she sacrifice others’ lives to her own, even if Stealth had promised to help her? How low could she fall before she’d get even the briefest of respites?

The fast runner shook her head in dismissal. There wasn’t any reason to dwell in those thoughts. She had already pledged to help Stealth in this deed and any hesitation would only lead to her death. Ruby looked at the sharptooth as he snorted dismissingly.

“Threehorns are never all asleep, young one. We must stay hidden and plan this thoroughly if we wish to both live through this. There are four full grown threehorns with no children.  This hunt seems more dangerous by the minute. I need you to do some scouting before we get to work.” Stealth said decisively, knowing that Ruby wouldn’t escape now that he had her scent. A fast runner would be an ideal scout for this mission due to her small size and little threat towards a threehorn. However, that didn’t calm Ruby down any. She immediately protested Stealth’s proposition, willing get at least some concessions from him.

“I can’t go in there alone! If they suspect something, they’ll crush me before I know what crushed me!” Ruby said in fear as she spoke to her companion whose expression darkened with every word Ruby spoke. It was clear that her protests were getting on his nerves very quickly.

“I’ll be in more danger than you’ll ever be, kid! You don’t have to put yourself on the line trying to fight those beasts so stop whining! If you still wish to question me, consider our pact to be over! Now go, and if you don’t return to me soon enough, know that you won’t be able to escape from me!” Stealth moved closer to Ruby and lowered his snout to Ruby’s level and revealed his teeth. Ruby looked them in fear and fought against her whimpers as she turned around.

What can I even see that would be worth seeing here? Mommy told me only what I should see but now how I would see it!

The young fast runner walked towards the threehorns, even her weaker sniffer smelling them clearly. She couldn’t feel many nuances of them as a sharptooth would but even Ruby could tell that there were two males and females and that weren’t worried by their location. The young dinosaur looked over the next sand dune and saw the four threehorns lying there, apparently asleep and possibly complacent about dangers. However, that wasn’t an assumption she could base her plan as if it happened to be wrong, the whole hunt would be in jeopardy.

Hardly a grain of sand moved as the young fast runner stalked towards the leaf eaters. Stealth had said to look for weaknesses and the places to strike but how would she be able to tell what they were? None of them looked sick or to be in a dangerous position. They were all young adults and would most likely disembowel both her and Stealth in a matter of seconds if disturbed. The fast runner could almost feel Stealth’s suspicions rise the longer it took for her to come up with something. If he knew about her inexperience, there was a risk that he would decide against continuing their pact.

Hmm? Did the female on furthest away from me rasp? There it is again! But why…

Ruby moved closer to her, realizing that the threehorn seemed extremely exhausted, her breaths being heavy and her whole body much limper than the other ones’. If she was correct, this one wouldn’t be able to escape with the others in case of an attack. But that left one more question unanswered. In what scenario would the others abandon one of their own? Ruby suddenly felt extremely guilty as she thought about her own deeds. She was about to cause the very same heartbreak to the three other threehorn that she had just experienced. Despite those thoughts, the fast runner forced herself to act. Stealth was waiting and she would earn her freedom was that threehorn had fallen. She would do this for her family, the last ones left in this world she cared about.

Greyhide stirred slightly in her sleep as another, more forced breath moved through her bone-dry throat. None of her companions had eaten or drank in days but for some reason, she was the most severely affected. The small group had been banished from their herd two weeks ago for daring to propose their migration into the fertile paradise called the Great Valley but, as was a custom with threehorns, their leader had rejected the plan. As the four had continued to insist on their point, they had been banished from their herd in the middle of large bog to the west but that hadn’t dispirited the four threehorns. They had decided to seek out that land and turn their back on the herd and everything they had known before. However, Greyhide was quickly starting to question their decision.

All four of the threehorn were starving and there was still no sign of the wondrous Valley. The farwalkers’ tales had told that it had lied somewhere to the south, embraced by many deserts and a line of fire-spitting hills which the dinosaurs living there called the Smoking Mountains. However, those directions were vague and Greyhide knew she wouldn’t be able to move on for long if they didn’t find something to eat. She wasn’t even sure whether she’d be able to see the next evening at this pace.

The fatigued threehorn turned to her other side with great effort and prepare to return to sleep when she saw something unexpected. It could have been just a shadow but she could have sworn that she’d seen a young dinosaur running up the hill somewhere. This development puzzled her somewhat but it didn’t worry her too greatly. It was most likely an egg-stealer or a fast runner and neither of them would be a threat to her or her companions. It was most likely just some harmless child who had gotten lost in the wrong place. Greyhide closed her eyes to return into the realm of sleep but her disgusting feeling of starvation hindered those efforts greatly. With an annoyed reaction, she realized that the sleep wouldn’t return to her for a while.

“And how do you expect me to get my claws on that weakling if her companions are there to protect her? Even if she cannot fight, that still leaves three!” Stealth said in disapproval as she looked at this fast runner. She had found many good details they would all be for nothing in case he wouldn’t be able to use them. Ruby looked at him in annoyance and answered immediately.

“I know that! My life depends on this and I wouldn’t make such a mistake, such a mistake I wouldn’t make! I’ve thought about this and I believe there’s way we might scare the others away!” Ruby said firmly, not willing to listen to Stealth’s comments right now. She wished to get over this night and Stealth was slowly getting on her nerves anyway. Stealth snorted before he answered, still somewhat oblivious to what Ruby had in mind. However, he was relieved to hear that Ruby wasn’t as useless as he had initially thought.

“Scaring a threehorn that badly isn’t easy. Even if I attacked them in surprise, they would still stick together. The threehorns aren’t only dangerous but they’re also too stubborn for their own good. We might have a chance if we could make an impression of a larger group of sharpteeth but it won’t be easy. Is the place good enough for such a bluff?” Stealth asked, his mind quickly starting to come up with an idea on how to surprise his prey. The threehorns might be stubborn but they also understood the futility of fighting a lost battle. They would likely be willing to leave their starved companion if they thought they were fighting a losing battle.

“I think so. We should succeed if we follow these few ideas…”

Stealth looked at his surroundings in an unsure look. The fast runner’s plan was reckless and it would take a great deal of confusion among the threehorns. He was far from happy with the knowledge that if the threehorns called the duo’s bluff, he wouldn’t a chance against the four leaf eaters. He didn’t question Ruby’s idea but there were so many things that could go wrong here.

Stealth had stationed himself behind a few, high sand dunes on the eastern side of the four dinosaurs in order to remain unsmelled as long as possible. Ruby was near to him, trying to create first impression of threat and she’d later give way to Stealth to divide, the threehorns, once again giving Ruby a chance to deepen the chaos with the right combination of voice and shadows. Stealth truly hoped it would succeed as a failure wasn’t an option. The sharptooth knew this was a risky gamble but it was the only thing for him to gain new allies.

Ruby wasn’t much more trustful of her own plan and part of her wished that it wouldn’t be a success. The preparations for the hunt had somewhat eased the burden of today’s events but she knew they would return stronger once she would be left alone. She had spent so many years seeing herself essentially as a leaf eater that she had almost forgotten what life was truly life in the harsher realm of Mysterious Beyond. Even back when she had lived there, her parents had taken care of nearly everything for her, letting their daughter to enjoy her childhood while it lasted. Now, she was alone and living the same life both of her parents had been forced to in the past. The life of painful decisions and shameful alliances that would ultimately overcome her if she wouldn’t be able to become the master of her own decisions and emotions. A fast runner couldn’t afford the luxury of choosing her allies or trying to live by any noble ideals. Her parents had often been stressed or saddened without end but the younger Ruby hadn’t understood the full reasons for their internal conflicts. Now she knew.

This night would be the first one of such occasions. Engaging in an active hunt had been something she hadn’t even contemplated in the last three years but now she knew what it took to survive in her new and true life. It was something Ruby despised greatly but there was no reason to whine about it. Only one question remained: would the whole society of leaf eaters be closed before her or would she find the courage and opportunity to strike a balance between the two worlds she now found herself in?

It doesn’t matter now. As long as I get out of here while I’m still alive, I should be happy with it! The fast runner started to walk towards the leaf eaters and prepared to start her part of the hunt.

Greyhide was just about to fall to sleep again when a small scratching voice reached her ears. But just as with the young dinosaur she had seen earlier, this wasn’t enough to raise her alarm. However, it distracted her greatly and those annoying interruptions would make sure that the next day would be a living hell for her. The threehorn tried to immerse her thoughts on the last time her herd had been in a large, green land that granted enough green food for everyone. Even if she knew that her herd had been that of farwalkers, Greyhide also found it hard to believe she had voluntarily left that fertile paradise. If she would ever reach the Great Valley, she knew she’d never leave it again.

Sleep was slowly starting to reclaim her dreamy mind when a loud call awakened her once and for all. It was a massive boulder that had dropped near her from a nearby cliff, nearly crushing her under its weight. The next voice put all of the threehorns in alert. A cry of a hungry sharptooth.

“Put up a line of defense! we won’t let a damned sharptooth scare us!” One of the males yelled as they moved to a formation where they’d defend one another from harm. No sharptooth could penetrate that defense alone and the threehorns knew it.

As did Ruby. The fast runner knew that the boulder would make the leaf eaters believe there was a full-grown sharptooth near her position even if Stealth was already moving to a different position. Now would come the most dangerous and risky part of her plan. She’d have to make an impression of a sharptooth herself as Chomper had done so many times in the past. Of course, her old friend had the advantage of actually being a sharptooth himself. The omnivore would have to be very quick and careful with her impression.

The fast runner moved between the Night Circle and the threehorn in order to paint a highly twisted sight of herself. Ruby spread out her clawed arms like a sharptooth would and did her best to hide her crest from sight. Ruby used all of her knowledge to minimize the actual attention the threehorns would give to her and maximize the impression of her long shadow looking like a featherhead sharptooth’s. Ruby also growled as deeply as she could, trying to copy the speech patterns of the sharptooth language. The fast runner could see Stealth looking at her, implicating that it was time for the attack itself. Ruby took a deep breath and started to slowly run towards the threehorns.

“Why is it attacking so slowly? And why does its claws look smaller than they should? What…” The threehorn’s question was left unfinished as Stealth suddenly charged at the four threehorns when their gazes were transfixed on Ruby’s suspicious form. However, forgetting to mind their surroundings was the one mistake that cost them dearly. The dune where Stealth had charged from was very near to the lead eaters and they stood no major chance before the charging sail backed sharptooth. His teeth sought out their target very quickly.

Determined eyes were fixed on the advancing predator as Greyhide raised her head against the larger dinosaur. She started to run forward as if to charge but Stealth knew this was only a bluff. The sharptooth could tell immediately that a pure unthought attack wasn’t something any sensible leaf eater would do. Stealth realized that she tried to make him fall to a serious mistake and to outmaneuver him before he could recover his composure. Stupid leaf eaters! They always fall for the easiest of tricks!

The two dinosaurs faced each other in a quick but decisive encounter. Greyhide was surprised to see the sharptooth unaffected by her attack and the threehorn knew she was in no position to attack the predator due to her fatigue and the sail back’s larger size. Trying to bluff her opponent long enough for the others to save her was her only way to survive and she put on a more defensive posture. Her attack had stopped for now.

The sharptooth knew that his window of opportunity was narrow and that he’d have to end the fight in seconds if we wished to avoid the others’ attacks. The predator wasted no time charging against the threehorn, and to his relief, he could see that the fast runner had been right in her observations. The leaf eater was too weak to put on a real defense against him. Stealth quickly kicked and clawed the threehorn’s front legs and quickly moved to attack her sides.

The smaller dinosaur knew her position was dangerous and probably lost but she knew she’d have to do one last attempt to save herself. Her companions deserved that she’d give her all to their cause and a chance to kill the sharptooth for his deeds. Greyhide had seen many of her packmates fall in the claws of the sharpteeth in the past but such a fate wasn’t one the threehorns feared. They held the view that everything that would ever be ended when the threehorn took his or her last breath and after that, nothing. Their kind regarded bravery and loyalty as the most important traits in a herd and few of them actually thought about the price of those actions. If nothing happened to them in the case of the ultimate sacrifice, then there was little reason to try to escape it. But that didn’t mean that even the threehorns were looking for trouble: there was little reason to continue fighting lost struggles. Greyhide knew she had been nothing but a burden to her companions and now she had at least some chance to prove herself right.

A restrained cry could be heard when Greyhide threw all efforts in defending her sides aside and she aimed at Stealth’s leg instead. A screaming pain emanated from the threehorn’s belly but, to her relief, her plan had worked. Stealth fell to the ground with a loud thud but that didn’t keep the sharptooth down for long. Just long enough for the three other threehorns join the fight. Greyhide might be seriously injured but with any luck, the sharptooth would pay for his deeds.

A conflicted pair of eyes followed the scene in worry. Ruby knew that this would be her chance to escape and to abandon the arrogant sharptooth to decide his own fate. There was little chance for Stealth to be able to both fight of the threehorns and to track her down before those tracks would be wiped out for good. The predator who had forced her to this sickening deed deserved nothing better than to fall at the hands of those he had worked so much to hurt. Ruby was a loyal and understanding dinosaur but Stealth’s deeds raised great apprehension within her, even to a degree that she no longer cared whether he lived or not.

Even then, there was still a good chance that Stealth could fight his way from this dangerous situation and in that case it would be clear that he’d hunger for blood. Moreover, Chomper’s parents would still be a major threat to her own family and there was no way they’d be able to face Dein, Terri, Stealth and Red Claw and survive for many Cold Times. Those sharpteeth had very little in common but all of them would be out for her family’s blood, a scenario that wouldn’t end well for the half teeth. Stealth was the only one who would be able to provide them with even a promise of safety. With luck, his other allies would do the same and the fast runners might have some hope of surviving even in the longer term.

But what could she do? She had no way to help Stealth in the fight and it was highly unlikely that the threehorns would buy her shadow as a threat again. Ruby frowned as the precious seconds flew by without her doming up with anything that would help Stealth who was increasingly being pressured by the furious threehorns. However, the answer came to Ruby just as she was about to accept that there was nothing she’d be able to do. Perhaps there was a way she could maker them chase her instead if she insulted their pride badly enough or at least buy time for Stealth to escape? Perhaps there was no way to beat a threehorn in fight at this point but it was easier to hurt one of them mentally anyway. It wasn’t long before Ruby had reached the hearing distance. Stealth was clearly planning a counter attack to get rid of his opponents when they heard a young, feminine voice call from behind them.

“First you sleep so deeply that we can attack you right away and then you turn your back on the unknown? It’s no wonder that one of you won’t see the Bright Circle’s next rise!” Ruby felt sick at her own words but she had made her decision. She could only wonder how terrible it must feel like to hear jeers from others when your friend was in serious danger. Even then, to her chagrin, the threehorn didn’t seem to pay her any heed and they continued the fight. Ruby knew that she’d have to get more attention to herself even if she knew the full danger she was putting herself in. She moved closer to them and upped the insults she was throwing at them.

“I could sneak around you and find all of your weaknesses without you even noticing! I always knew threehorns were slow-minded, good-for-nothing brutes!” Ruby fought back against the things that rose to her mind with those words. I’m sorry, Cera, but you wouldn’t understand, understand you wouldn’t. I'm just glad you never had to see me like this!. To the fast runner’s relief, the closest threehorn to her turned towards her and growled in cold hatred.

“Once we’ve disposed of your master, you’ll be the next, despicable child-murderer! I don’t know what you’re doing with a sharptooth but I’ll make sure that’s the last thing you’ll ever do!” The larger dinosaur then turned to face Stealth again who looked at Ruby in anger. For all he knew, she could be trying to plot against him by the minute.

“Stop talking with them! The weak one is already fading and we must only get rid of these others at this point!” Stealth said to Ruby who knew she didn’t have the time to speak with the sharptooth right now. Her plan wasn’t working as intended and there was only one thing she could do at this point to save the situation: to become a threat herself. And there was only one candidate for her to even have a chance to harm: the wounded, poor Greyhide. Ruby quickly ran towards her and before anyone could see what was happening, Ruby jumped to her back, revealing her claws which could wound a leaf eater even if they were a far cry from those of the sharpteeth. However, while Ruby was helping Stealth in this bloody deed, she wasn’t going to bring harm to the threehorn herself. The impression was enough.

“She’s trying to attack Greyhide! Prevent her!” The threehorn to her left called and two immediately moved to help their companion. Ruby quickly jumped off and ran away but the fuss opened an opportunity for Stealth. He kicked one of the male threehorns to the ground and went for his neck but the threehorn managed to parry the attack with his horn. However, a deep wound opened to his throat even if it missed the major arteries. He would live if he could escape now. The other threehorns could see that Greyhide wasn’t able to run anymore and one of them called to her in panic.

“Get up and run, Greyhide! We cannot win with just two of us! We must escape, now!” The threehorn called but Greyhide knew it was over. She had lost too much blood already and she slowly collapsed to the ground. Her voice was slowly weakening as she answered.

“Just go, Taren! I would have just slowed you down! Go and find the Great Valley! I’m… I’m happy you could reach it!” The other threehorns looked at their companion briefly before they nodded and left the female into the mercy of the powerful sharptooth and the sneaky fast runner. Ruby looked at Greyhide in grief and sympathy and walked to her side and spoke briefly.

“Thank you, Greyhide. I know it’s hard to understand but you’ve given new hope to me and my family. I never wanted any of this but… it … just happened. I wish it hadn’t.” Ruby concluded sadly, not expecting the threehorn to understand. She just wanted to show that she cared and to prove herself that she still realized what things were important to her at this point. However, she was still disheartened to hear the answer.

“I hope your master gives you a painful death in the end, egg-stealer! I always hated your kind as you were always ready to sell anything for a small price! I…” Greyhide’s struggles ended suddenly as Stealth approached her and finished the job he had already started. Ruby looked at the threehorn’s lifeless eyes in sorrow when he heard Stealth’s somewhat relieved voice in her ears.

“It’s good that I don’t have to listen to those sap suckers myself. I’m sure it was all…” Stealth looked at his meal in clear anticipation when Ruby’s angered voice quickly interrupted him.

“Just stop it, Stealth! Stop insulting things you know nothing about because to insult things you have a good reason! Greyhide was an innocent, feeling dinosaur whose life we just took!” Ruby yelled to Stealth in anger and approached him quickly. A distinct look of loathing could be read from Ruby’s face, one that told the sharptooth that he had gone too far. However, there was no for him to show it to the fast runner and he took another step and growled directly at the smaller dinosaur.

“I know full well what we did, fast runner! Do you honestly think we don’t think about our food after the hunts? You’re right that we don’t mourn them or hold any special speeches to them. We know that they were living beings like us sharpteeth and we can only imagine the horror they feel before they join their loved ones in the Great Beyond. The fact that we think give them the respect they deserve and share their strength in our bodies is all we can do for our victims! It is a burden we sharptooth have to live with and if you think we’re happy about it, you’re badly mistaken but we cannot life in the endless cycle of self-hate!” Stealth looked at Ruby in anger, the duo staring at each other for many long seconds before Ruby sighed in resignation. She had kept her end of the bargain: not it was up for Stealth to keep his.

“I hope you’re right, Stealth, as I’ll never know what truly goes in your mind. I don’t even know if I’d even want to. But anyway… am I free to go now?” Ruby said in utter exhaustion. Stealth looked at her in a judging look, weighing his next moves carefully before he decided to answer with another question.

“Have you considered my proposal…?” Stealth left the ending unsaid to imply that he was finally asking for the fast runner’s name. It would be obligatory for any allies to know each other’s names and Stealth knew this was the moment for the younger dinosaur to accept his alliance or leave as a stranger and adversary. Ruby looked at Stealth for a moment, loathing the sharptooth greatly but she knew her situation hadn’t changed any. Stealth was an ally she couldn’t pass up.

“My name is Ruby and I agree with your offer, Stealth. I’ll help you if you ever need help in your journeys.” Ruby’s voice was dry and it carried no major enthusiasm. Stealth saw all of this of course and he gritted his teeth in disappointment at Ruby’s antics. Still, she had accepted the alliance and that was all that mattered at the moment.

“Very well, Ruby. As a thank you for your support, I promise to defend you and your family if you’ll ever be threatened by another sharptooth. As a mark of our alliance, let’s share this meal together as newly-formed packs do.” Stealth was ready to turn when he heard something surprising from the fast runner. Ruby cringed heavily at the proposition and turned her head away in disgust. She might have helped in this cold-blooded murder but she wouldn’t fall to such kind of barbarity. Her kind may be able to eat both green and red food but that was a step Ruby wouldn’t take, at least not like this.

“I won’t, Stealth. I’ve already done things today that I’ll never forgive myself for but that’s something I won’t do. The threehorn is all yours. Farewell, Stealth.” Ruby was about to turn around when the puzzled voice of Stealth reached her ears. The fast runner wanted nothing more than to free herself from the sharptooth’s companionship and she merely stopped to listen to the larger dinosaur.

“I have something to tell which is of interest to you. You told me before that you don’t know where your family is.” Stealth said cryptically, those words chilling Ruby greatly. What did Stealth know about his family unless… The fast runner turned around immediately and answered in a frantic and hostile voice.

“Don’t say that they’re… If you laid even a claw upon them, you’ll pay for it!” Ruby yelled in a loud voice to which Stealth simply smiled in an unreadable way. Ruby’s outburst was to be expected but luckily, those weren’t the news he was about to tell.

“Don’t worry, Ruby, they’re alive and well. In fact, I saw them heading towards the east near the Smoking Mountains a few weeks ago. I don’t what they were doing but back then I didn’t think Dein and Terri’s allies’ whereabouts would be of much interest. However, I thought this would interest you greatly.” Stealth continued to smile in slight complacency as Ruby’s expression relaxed immediately. The fast runner was more than relieved to hear that at least her family was still alive after the shocking emptiness in the Hanging Rock. She didn’t even know what she’d do if they, too, were gone. With a deep sigh, she answered to the sharptooth.

“Why did they go without telling me? Where were they going? Were Arial and Orchid okay?” Ruby asked without giving much thought to her words. It was obvious that Stealth wouldn’t be able to answer to those questions but the words came without thinking but even then, there was no harm in asking. Stealth snorted slightly as he answered, not willing to be questioned like this.

“As I said, I didn’t pay them much attention but I did recognize them. I know all of enemies’ friends because it will become a useful knowledge in situations like these. That is all I can tell, Ruby.” Stealth said in a final and dry voice. it was clear that the audience had ended and Ruby nodded to the sharptooth before she answered.

“Thanks anyway, Stealth! Thank you for telling me this. At least now I know what I’ll do. I hope you have success in your hunts.” Ruby said, trying to improvise some kind of parting farewell to the sharptooth. Stealth answered shortly before he turned away from the fast runner.

“Remember our alliance, Ruby. It may be needed sooner then either of us expect. But until then, safe travels, young fast runner. I hope you’ll find your family.” With those words, Stealth finally turned around and moved to enjoy his meal. Ruby herself was starving but she still decided to fight her primal urges. Eating another dinosaur wasn’t something she’d do this soon after losing her friends. She had already shamed their memory by helping the sail necked sharptooth in this hunt.

Still, Ruby looked at the slowly lightening sky with some relief. The storm was over and she was free from Stealth’s tyranny. And most importantly, she had finally learned that her family was alive. Ruby knew she had lost far too much tonight, her friends, much of her self-respect and her whole former life. That realization gripped the fast runner’s heart heavily and she knew that pain would never leave her chest. Tears started to fall to the ground as Ruby once again relived the most terrible moments of her life. She would never forgive herself for losing Chomper and her dear friends in the manner she did.

However, the knowledge that her family was still alive was slowly awakening her hopes again. She would seek them out and help them survive the coming revenge of the grief-stricken sharpteeth. There was still something left for her to defend and she’d see her duties through before it would be time to contemplate her future further. The choking panic that had gripped her throat for these past hours was slowly starting to wear out as the warm morning winds met her feathers. Whatever happened from now on, it could only be an improvement from the horrors she had just lived through.

And here's the next chapter! Ruby has survived his encounter with Stealth and, after learning about her family's survival, some kind of relief is finally in the horizon. However, the search for her family will be a difficult one which will further test Ruby's merits in the Mysterious Beyond. I hope you liked this chapter and see you in the next one! :)


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Separate Ways
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2017, 03:03:23 AM »
With the loss of her friends (at least in terms of their immediate presence... and quite possibly more permanently than that) Ruby has been forced to partake in the first questionable alliance of her life.  This, as has been made clear in the narrative and in her own misgivings, is a common necessity in fastrunner life.  Though to say that she was perfectly fine with her "deal with the devil" would be quite the incorrect statement.  Stealth has clearly been hardened by his life and his attitude grates on Ruby's already overburdened mind, but she soon realizes that she cannot give in to her own desire to defend her friends' honor.  As far as she knows they are all dead, and unless she wishes to join them she needs to make herself useful.  Her ability to consider her options in the hunt (including briefly considering leaving Stealth to his own devices) and to do what was necessary certified her alliance with Stealth and, in many ways, confirms her passage into the realm of adulthood.  Though she now knows that her family lives, when she sees them she will not be the same fastrunner that they once knew.

This was a good chapter overall, and it really highlights the omnivore perspective that we have not seen very often in the LBT fandom. The only thing that I would caution is that sometimes less is more when it comes to description.  For example instead of giving a very literal description of a situation sometimes it is best to imply what is going on, or to express it indirectly, and to let the reader fill in the blanks.

Instead of this:
The fast runner hoped from the depths of her heart that she was correct as this was the area where she thought she had seen the footprints.

Try this:
The fast runner stared in the area where she thought she had seen the footprints.  Her heartbeat quickened as hope mingled with fear.

Overall, however, this was a welcome addition to this story that opens up some hopeful, yet difficult, times ahead. I look forward to seeing how our intrepid fastrunner fares in the chapters to come.  :)

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


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« Reply #27 on: September 02, 2017, 03:41:05 PM »
The Search and an Unexpected Find

The morning was aging rapidly by the time the Bright Circle’s rays shone into a small cave, gently awaking its only denizen from his deep slumber. The flier’s eyes started to open lazily as he started to scour his surroundings, his mind still having a hard time to accept that he was no longer in the Great Valley. Even if he slowly started to come to terms with the idea that he was alone in the Mysterious Beyond, that knowledge no longer came as a wave of desperation as it had initially. Rather, Petrie looked melancholically around himself, these moments of loneliness reminding him how dearly he had loved his life and those dinosaurs around him. He wasn’t starving, Hider was often keeping him company and his wing no longer hurt but it just wasn’t the same.

Whereas before he would wake up in his own home, surrounded by his family and preparing to face the next day along his friends, now he was sitting alone in an unknown mountain, simply waiting for his wing to heal completely. The harsh landscaped around him was a far cry from the graceful beauty of the Great Valley but most of all, the lack of his friends’ companionship brought great sorrow upon the young flier. He was far from used to this loneliness and it was clear that he wouldn’t stay here for much longer. Petrie knew he’d have to leave as quickly as he could, maybe even today if he had recovered well enough.

The last two days had been filled with unending concern and intense hoping that his wings would get better soon. In the first morning since his arrival, the young flier had tried to take a small glide but that had only ended in a painful fall to the ground, only worsening his condition. Petrie had felt himself beyond miserable at that point as he was being forced to accept that his friends were likely journeying on without him by the minute. Luckily the pain soon gave way to a mere aching which no longer prevented Petrie from exploring the hills around him.

Unluckily for him, most of the hills were too steep for him to climb so those small, lonely adventures were rather short and uneventful. There was only one instance when the brown dinosaur had seen something of note. It happened in a narrow cliff overlooking a wide plain, not far from Hider’s nest. Two sharpteeth fliers were flying around the hills, their eyes scouring the hills in search of something, most likely food. To Petrie’s fortune, the small theropod had told him to stay hidden as well as he simply could and the flier managed to stay hidden within the small cracks in the stone, looking in fear as the other fliers flew past him. It was after that encounter when Petrie decided to comply to Hider’s counsel and leave further exploring to the times when he had fully recovered.

After that trip, the rest of Petrie’s day in the mountains were painfully boring. The young flier wasn’t used to staying completely still and just sitting around wasn’t something he wanted to do. The last day had almost been a breaking point for him to embark on another trip around but he decided to fight his urges. The entire situation was a torturing one of the adventurous young flier, even to a degree when he felt intense regret at waking up. Still, Petrie knew that this was for his own good. But that didn’t change the empty look gleamed in Petrie’s eyes as he slowly woke up.

The young flier took a long yawn and rose slowly to his feet. To his positive surprise, his wing no longer hurt and the long, once gaping wound was turning steadily into a scar. It didn’t even send shivers of pain through the rest of his body whenever he moved it, bringing a hope of escaping this temporary prison for good upon the young dinosaur. Even the thought of once again rising to the skies was a highly exciting prospect for the brown flier. If he could do that, he would find his friends as quickly as he only could if they hadn’t gotten too far in these days of painful waiting. But all of those thoughts were behind one major ordeal. He would have to see if his wings actually were in a condition to fly and there was only one way to find it out.

Ohh, Petrie hope me wing’s already good again! Me can’t wait to find me friends and return home again! They must have run away from the evil sharpteeth, Petrie don’t need to worry at all!

The flier walked to the small plain, willing to test how well his wings would carry him. The flier hadn’t tried really them ever since his painful accident in the morning after his arrival so he had no way of telling how well they’d carry him. Petrie took a deep breath as he moved to a tiny ledge in the plateau and jumped from the rock which was so low that even falling from it wouldn’t cause a noticeable injury. Petrie carefully moved his right and then his left wind to a gliding position. The fall was too small to make any major conclusions but to his great surprise and relief, Petrie felt only a tiny dull pain in his right wing but and the flier landed without any problems. A wide smile appeared to Petrie’s face as he realized that he had managed a small flight without his wings failing him. With high expectations, Petrie climbed to a larger cliff overlooking the entire plain. A fall from here would hurt quite a bit but Petrie was confident that he’d be able to land effortlessly.

As before, The flier’s wings spread out, the masses of air stacking against them and making them protrude upwards due to the resistance of the air. The strong winds of the mountains blew against his membrane-like wings but Petrie managed to keep most of the stress on his healthy wing. Despite that, Petrie cringed in pain as the injured muscles started to cry out under the weight of his body. Still, the flier managed to keep his balance and even make a few curves before his legs once again touched the ground. Despite the momentary agony, the brown flier chuckled in great delight.

“Me knew me wings would carry me again! The Warm Time itself help Petrie get better! Me knew we did the Celebration as we had to!” Petrie thought in happiness as he remembered the last time when his life had been on its normal tracks. A lot had happened since then but Petrie knew the Bright Circle and the great fliers of the distant past wouldn’t let him down. One way or another, he’d find his friends and things would go back to what they once were, even if Chomper and Ruby’s situations would still be unresolved. No matter what, all of that would be decided in the coming days. There was but one test left for him to pass: flying off the edge of the mountain itself. Petrie unknowingly took a few steps back as he looked over the cliff but knowing that sooner or later, he’d have to take the leap of faith. If he failed, a serious injury would be a miraculous outcome but Petrie knew he’d succeed. He took one, last breath and jumped over the edge into the vast nothingness.

The first flapping of his winds was a forced one and his anxious flutters caused by his aching body  seemed to strike him off guard. Petrie realized in growing fear that there was a real chance of falling if he didn’t regain his poise. The flier instinctually took a plunge downwards to bring himself to a balance once again and immediately entered to a upward current once he was able to. It was a major endeavor for the still-weakened flier but he eventually reached the edge of the mountain again. Petrie took many thankful and deep breaths as he fell to his knees, panting heavily. A joyful expression creeped to the flier’s face as he finally raised his hands from the ground.

The young dinosaur understood that he wouldn’t be supposed to fly for at least another day but each day that he spent here waiting only weakened his chances at finding his friends ever again. For better or worse, he would leave today. There was only one thing to do before then: to inform Hider about his departure. The bigtail had been invaluable help for him in these past few days and there was a very good chance that Petrie would have starved without his help. It was only fair that the flier would tell him his farewells before the two would part, most likely forever.

“Hider? Where are you?” Petrie called in an asking voice as he entered the bigtail’s network of tunnels once again. He still wasn’t allowed to visit them freely as his companion wished to live by his ideals of ultimate safety for his children. Petrie looked in the cave in slight disappointment and called in a louder voice. It took nearly a minute before the small theropod appeared from one of the tunnels that led up the mountain. He stopped near Petrie and answered to him in interest.

“What is it, Petrie? Did you sleep badly again?” The bigtail said ironically, reminding the flier for the first night he had slept in the mountain. Even through his fatigue, Petrie spent the whole night whimpering and seeing fearful images about his friends. Hider knew it had been a hard situation for the flier but he hoped Petrie had already got over that night. He was surprised to hear Petrie’s confused but excited answer.

“Wha… no, Petrie slept quite well! I came here to say that me think me finally ready to go to look for me friends! Petrie’s wing feel much better already!” As an affirmation of his words, the flier briefly took off and flew a quick and fast circle near the cavern’s mouth. It was still somewhat clumsy but Hider could still see that Petrie was completely overjoyed by the return of his gift of flight. The theropod’s answer was approving and surprised by the flier’s swift recovery.

“I’m happy to see that you’ve recovered already for your own sake, Petrie. If you stayed here for a few more days, there’s a chance you would have been sighted by the evil fliers!” Hider smirked to Petrie’s confusion but the flier merely nodded to his benefactor’s words. He had seen the sharptooth fliers in the distance but they hadn’t manage to threaten him greatly yet. Nevertheless, they brought shivers down his spine as they brought Rinkus and Sierra clearly to his mind. While they would probably not eat him, Petrie’s mind filled with distrust towards their kind.

“Anyway, thanks for showing me this place! Petrie wouldn’t have survived all this if you no help! Me hope you stay well even after Petrie leave!” The flier said quite light-heartedly, remembering that Hider had survived long before his arrival. He would do more than well even without the flier’s presence.

“I’ve survived for so long even after the loss of my mate so don’t worry about me. I’ll just say that I’m happy I got to meet you. You were the first flier who didn’t treat me like dirt.” Hider said in an approving voice, genuinely pleased that he had been able to help someone in need. His life had been extremely lonely and Petrie had provided him with another purpose than merely surviving. Nevertheless, the small theropod hoped that he had gained a friend for many Cold Times to come. Petrie cringed at his last words but didn’t let them bother him too much.

“Petrie not that kind of flier! Anyway, me must go as quickly as Petrie just can if me wish to find me friends!” The flier said in excitement, hardly able to contain his yearn to get the heavy burden of uncertainty away from his shoulders.

“May the winds be kind to you, Petrie, and good luck on your searches. Whatever you do, try to think like a bigtail and stay safe. I’d hate to hear that you didn’t make it.” Hider affirmed in a show of sympathy, knowing this was likely the last time he’d ever see Petrie even if he survived his search. Still, farewells were nothing new for the denizens of the Mysterious Beyond and they never got any easier. Petrie turned away to preparing for take off when he turned one last time to look at his helper.

“Don’t worry, Hider. Petrie know how to lose bad sharpteeth. As long as you doing good, Petrie will too!” With those words, Petrie started to flutter his wings and slowly, the flier rose from the ground and Petrie started to fly towards the direction where he’d last seen his friends. Hider looked at the flier’s departing form, sighing deeply as he admired his guest’s youthful excitement. He truly hoped Petrie would be able to reunite with his friends and rebuild his life again. If not, the harsh reality of the Mysterious Beyond would soon extinguish his carefree attitude. Hider looked glumly as the flier disappeared into the blue sky, leaving him stand in the cliff. Once again, he was alone and forced to take care of his family’s safety. Petrie’s companionship had been a welcome change into his routine but that was over now. With a resigned look on his face, Hider walked glumly into his home again. It was far from easy being a bigtail and forced into this kind of solitude.

Two keen eyes scoured the distant land as Petrie panted in fear as he looked at the fall should his wings betray him now. The flier’s advance was still full of ordeals and slower than it usually would be but Petrie knew his current pace would be sufficient for now. Nevertheless, slight shivers ran down the young dinosaur’s spine as he knew he’d have to retain a very high altitude in order to see as far as he simply could. His friends had most likely moved forward without him if they had survived the attack in the first place.

Hmm, we were going towards the Big Water but which direction it be? If Petrie remember right, we were going by the mountains, searching for some river. But it not the same river me saw a few days ago from the cliff…

Petrie frowned heavily as he tried to clear his head. So much had happened during that terrifying day that the way the direction they were going had quickly disappeared from his mind. He had some inklings on which way to go but they were far from certain. Actually, Petrie knew that this search would be highly up to luck and that brought additional waves of concern over the flier’s burdened mind. For the first time since his injury, the real depth of this search’s hopelessness started to dawn upon the young dinosaur. On the mountain, he had stayed safe in the knowledge that he would get better soon and with it, a chance to rejoin his friends. He had never given actual thoughts to how far the others could have gone during these three days, if they had gone anywhere, that is.

Still, Petrie looked at the enormous scene opening up far below him. He couldn’t have accepted the possibility that the realm of flying would have been closed from him forever if his injuries had been more severe than they were. This was the place where he was supposed to be and Petrie couldn’t help but feel distinct pride at his ability. The days when he was afraid of his gift had been miserable to say the least, and his friends’ help in him conquering his own fears was but first of the countless things that they had helped him with. He hadn’t given his ability to fly much thought since those faraway days but now the overall joy of his survival begun to dawn upon him. It wasn’t a coincidence that so many fliers thought so much of themselves, Petrie figured.

After being forced into a life of a landwalker, he finally came to a understanding of the world that was robbed from all of his friends and what kinds of deeds he was able to do that his friends couldn’t even dream of. He had done many favors to them that needed him to fly but he had never thought of it in more detail. Back then he had simply seen it as a natural state of affairs whereas now he got more context into this difference between him and his friends. In this moment of hubris, Petrie momentarily understood why his uncle had always seen fliers as the best of all dinosaurs.

Hours passed slowly as Petrie did all in his might to ease the amount of stress had his injured wing was forced to go through. It was rather easy in the normal flight but each and every sudden gust forced him to use both of his wings as a way to recover his balance, bringing another wave of pain through his small body. Every one of those unsavory situations made Petrie cringe as he thought about the danger he put himself in if the wind started to rise again but he knew he had no choice if he wished to cover as much distance as he simply could. Even then, the initial optimism of his quest slowly started to fade away from the way of confused fear.

There be nothing down there! Just some ground fuzzies and some other small creatures but no trace of me friends! Oh, where are you all!

Petrie thought in growing despair as his eyes finally caught something of note. This development, however, brought even more concern to the flier’s mind. Five fastbiters were walking below him, looking at the flier in annoyance as this potential prey was far beyond their grasp. Petrie, on the other hand, dived a bit closer to them to investigate the sharpteeth closer. The predators that had attacked him and his friends had been greatly covered by the flying sand but Petrie had got the impression that two of them had been of brown color and three yellow ones but most of these ones were very light-colored for sharpteeth and they looked quite starved anyway. Petrie merely gazed at them and realized that these weren’t the same sharpteeth that had been behind the attack on his friends.

However, their appearance was a reason for concern. If there were even more sharpteeth around these plains, it wasn’t inconceivable that his friends had met some others of them. Even if they had survived the first encounter with those beasts, that didn’t mean that they were even alive. Petrie recovered his altitude quickly and decided to end scouring this cursed desert. If his friends were still alive, they must have headed towards the direction they were going before the sharptooth attack. If he wouldn’t find them near the rivers that led to the Big Water, Petrie no longer knew where to look. The Valley wasn’t an option as the flier knew none of them would abandon Ruby and Chomper on their last journey together. His options were quickly growing thin and his inner fears ever more profound.

The endless expanse of the desert slowly gave way to a slightly greener plain but it was still highly devoid of leafeaters and sharpteeth alike. Petrie knew he was getting closer to the river and to the first destination of his friends but the flier found nothing that would indicate that any of his friends had ever been here. A cold grip started to squeeze Petrie’s heart as the horrible realization started to dawn on him. His friends could anywhere, lost and alone and his chances of ever finding them had grown extremely thin days ago. Had they gone back to the Valley? Probably not because of their virtual banishment and it was becoming clear that things weren’t going the same way as he had thought. Either they had lost their way or Petrie himself had gone lost or… or…

Petrie couldn’t even finish that thought. He would have to find the others and quickly if he wished to even hope to calm himself down and save himself from this ghastly future. Oblivious to the pain it caused him, Petrie increased his speed and started to look around himself feverishly. Only low hills, dry grass and small ponds greeted the flier’s gaze as panic was slowly brewing inside him. Without his friends, Petrie knew he didn’t have any place to go until things got better in the Valley again, if they ever did. If he ever found his way back there again… at this point, the poor flier couldn’t even say which way his home was. Petrie did his best to fight the growing horror in his mind but he was only partially successful.

Minutes turned into hours as the flier flew desperately forward, around the river and its surroundings, only a few spiketails and hollowhorns greeting his sight. In addition to his internal torture, a growing fatigue started to slow down Petrie’s flight. His wing hurt without end and the flier, even in his desperate mental state, realized that he’d have to land or risk falling from the sky as a result of his wings giving up under him. Tears started to form on Petrie’s eyes as his legs touched a large rock by the riverside. All the stress of the past days finally gave way to the cruel reality: he was and at least for now would stay alone. It was at this moment when the possibility that his friends didn’t survive their encounter with the sharpteeth became a real option. Searching for them could very well be a lost cause, further demoralizing the flier.

What could he do? He couldn’t return home at least for a while after Chomper’s deed and returning there would only open new wounds and probably end in his official banishment. His friends and family were all the flier had and losing them like this started to quickly break his spirit.

Why this had to happen! Why couldn’t things stay as they were! Me so sorry for all bad I did, Bright Circle, Warm Time or whatever be mad at me! Just let Petrie find me friends…

Petrie listened to the sounds of the insects in the nearby bushes and the gentle sound of the slowly flowing river. The voices of the fading Warm Time moved Petrie deeply as he stopped to look at his surroundings. He looked at the small river in the middle of a field of grass, it’s waters waved slowly by the tiny breeze that calmed Petrie down somewhat. The flowers were starting to fade away in anticipation of the coming Cold Time but the traces of their bloom were still evident in the middle of this sheltered oasis. This was a beautiful place as long as thing went in the Mysterious Beyond but all of it was worthless if he were cursed to wander these lands alone. Surrounded by the tranquil environment, something finally gave in within the flier’s mind and tears started to slowly flow down his cheeks. They weren’t as much tears of sadness as tears of resignation. How could he have been foolish enough to believe he’d find his lost friends that easily? It had been so long since Petrie had last been alone and it was a thing he’d never had wished to experience again. The young flier’s sobs blended gently into the environment as Petrie’s mind dwelled in his happy life that had just ended in the most abrupt and sudden way possible.

However, Petrie wasn’t as alone as he thought. Six yellow eyes looked down upon him from the heights, reveling in the flier’s sorrow as it gave them a perfect opportunity to end his struggles before  he could do anything to oppose them. The predators glided slowly in the heights, willing to affirm that nothing was in the way of the hunt’s success. There was no one between them and their prey and each of the beast’s knew what that meant. With expectant nods towards each other, the flying predators plunged downwards at their unsuspecting target.

Petrie’s thoughts were too clouded by his internal struggles to pay any heed to the threat that was just falling down upon him. It was only when the flapping of their wings revealed their approach that Petrie’s eyes turned upwards. The young flier squeaked in shock as he saw the three beasts plunge straight at him. Petrie quickly jumped from the stone and glided across the river before starting to gain altitude, trying to escape from the sharpteeth before they could see where he was going. However, Petrie’s hopes proved to be misguided as his chasers flew right after him. The young dinosaur could feel his heartbeat growing ever more frantic when he looked at any potential help from around him. There were no small caves for him to hide in and there was no chance for him to loose the three sharpteeth middle of a plain.

With a sickening feeling, Petrie could tell that the predators were quickly gaining on him despite his best efforts to escape. Unless a miracle happened, his life without his friends would certainly be cut short. As a final effort to save himself, the young flier tried to hide under a small bush behind a rock. Petrie looked in silent fear as the three predators flew above him in confusion, not seeing their prey disappear inside the rare piece of thick vegetation. However, the sharptooth fliers stopped quickly, knowing full well that their prey wouldn’t have been able to escape this quickly. With annoyed and slow turns, they turned around and it didn’t take long for them to figure out what had happened.

Silent shudders were all Petrie could do as he saw the three fliers approach him. He knew that he was trapped and without any chance for survival. At this point, Petrie couldn’t even begin to think why he’d ever leave Hider’s mountain only to be eaten a few hours later. Even worse, he had forgotten the small fast biter’s advice when the first problems arose. It just wasn’t fair for him to lose everything, including his life, in a matter of two days! The flier closed his eyes and prepared for the worst, saying his goodbyes to his family and his friends… until he heard a very familiar voice stop the fliers’ advance upon him.

“Stay where you are, fiends! Leave my nephew be, now, and don’t come back!” Pterano’s form suddenly appeared from behind the predators, the larger flier suddenly beating one of them to the ground. The light-brown flier had managed to get a surprise element to his side but even then, he was a leaf eater and his capabilities to fight were much weaker than his enemies’. Pterano knew he had only one chance to save his nephew. When the three beasts started to approach him, the older flier called to Petrie in a frantic voice.

“While they chase me, fly upstream until you find large rapids! I’ll meet you there!” Petrie looked in astonishment as his uncle tried to shake of his chasers in an almost desperate manner. The young flier would have wanted nothing more than to express his happiness at this reunion but he knew that making fuss of himself would help no one. Still, Petrie felt immense relief at seeing his uncle again for the first time in many, long Cold Times. He could only hope that Pterano would be able to lose his two chasers without problems. Even through his concern, Petrie knew he’d have to comply to the older flier’s command.

Be safe, Uncle Pterano! Petrie can’t wait to see you soon!

The young flier immediately flew back towards the river and started to follow it immediately. Petrie didn’t know this land’s environment so he didn’t have the slightest of ideas how long the journey to the rapids would be. The young dinosaur flew as quickly as his exhausted wings simply could and, to his immense luck, it didn’t more than an hour until the flow of the water started to increase. It soon increased to a full-blown rapid, most likely the same one Pterano had referred to. Petrie landed beside the river and sat down in deep concern, counting seconds as his mind started to wander in the most gruesome of images if the sharpteeth fliers would reach his uncle.

However, at least those fears quickly gave way to a feeling of happiness and relief as the lone silhouette of a large male flier appeared in the horizon. His uncle had managed to shake of his chasers and he seemed mostly unharmed. Petrie couldn’t wait for his arrival and quickly took off to meet him as quickly as possible. The young flier was the first one to speak as the two fliers approached each other.

“You made it, Uncle! Petrie can’t believe me met you here! Those sharpteeth nearly got me!” The young flier called as he flew closer to Pterano. He could see that the older flier was completely exhausted but it seemed like he had escaped unscathed from the surprising encounter. A distinct look of relief and joy could also be read from Pterano’s face as he approached his nephew.

“Those villains aren’t a match for a true flier! It isn’t that hard to lose them, I’ve done it for countless times already… but what are you doing here, alone? Why aren’t you in the Great Valley with my sister?” The older flier asked in rising concern, realizing that his nephew wouldn’t wander in these parts without his friends without a very good reason and Pterano knew that answer wouldn’t likely be pleasant. Petrie’s expression turned considerably darker and he decided that it wasn’t a story he wanted to tell immediately. Petrie knew he’d break up many times during it and there were things he wanted to know about his uncle as well.

“It be a long story… and Petrie don’t want to tell all of it now. Me just say that… me friends gone and me cannot return to the Valley. What… what about you uncle?” Petrie sniffed as he fought back against the incoming wave of emotions. Even thinking about the past days was painful enough even if his reunion with his uncle helped things a bit. The older flier looked extremely worried by his nephew’s words, knowing that something terrible must have happened. Pterano could see that Petrie was broken by those events and it seemed like his friends were no longer around. Pterano’s eyes received a haunted look in them as he thought what that had meant. Even if he had mostly been an enemy in the eyes of Petrie’s friends, he had learn to respect them, especially the young longneck for his open-mindedness and efforts in finding out the truth in everything. If they were all truly dead, it indeed was a major tragedy for everyone. But most of all to his poor nephew… Pterano’s voice was silent and extremely saddened as he answered.

“I’m so sorry, Petrie. Nobody should go through anything like that. They were all great dinosaurs in their own right. They deserved much better than this. We might have been on different sides but I could see that they worked always for the right things. I’m sorry.” Pterano moved closer to his nephew and looked in compassion at Petrie who raised his gaze to meet that of his uncle’s. The younger flier’s voice was slowly beginning to be engulfed in his sobs as he answered.

“Me not know if they dead or not… Petrie was blown away before me could see if the sharpteeth got them. Me try to search everywhere but find nothing! Maybe the evil sharpteeth got them after all!” Petrie started to cry as his uncle moved closer to nuzzle his nephew. Pterano knew that Petrie’s guess would likely be the most probable scenario if they were ambushed by a group of sharpteeth. He took a long sigh as he thought about the younger fliers’ situation. He didn’t know why he couldn’t return to the Valley but apparently there was more going on than he knew.

“We don’t know what happened back then but you’re right about what was the likely outcome. Most sharpteeth are easy to outsmart but once they get you by surprise, it’s often over. I’ve seen it many times in my life… However, I know that your friends were smart enough to have made it a tough fight. Still, there’s a chance that they’re still alive, Petrie, but we may never know. The necessity of parting with dinosaurs close to us a sad lesson of life that most of us in the Mysterious Beyond have learned.” Pterano said in a thoughtful voice as he answered. He knew his words were most likely correct but finding a lost friend in the endless expanse of the world, especially if there was a good chance that they were dead, would be extremely unlikely and required unbelievable luck. Petrie sniffed one last time before he answered.

“Me hope so much that they alive, uncle, but me already tried to find them. But… how are you doing here? You been away for four Cold Times! How you survive here all alone?” Petrie tried to change the subject into a more comfortable one as he had thought numerous times how his uncle was doing during his exile. This wasn’t the circumstance in which he wanted the reunion to commence but Petrie was still gladdened by this meeting. Pterano could see the Petrie truly wished to changed the subject and he turned gaze away and sighed deeply.

“Has it already four Cold Times? It has gone faster than I ever thought… Anyway, Petrie, I’ve done rather well. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been alone at all since the first days of my exile. I’ve found a herd and I’ve stayed with them ever since. Things haven’t always been easy or pleasant but I’ve managed to live with them for a long time. There are good fliers there but also some… less friendly ones. I was here on a regular scouting trip. You were unbelievably lucky that I happened to be nearby. The others don’t care much for outsiders. Whatever you do, Petrie, don’t ever again linger out in the open, no matter what! You could have avoided the sharpteeth if you had paid attention to your surroundings! I understand your situation but mourning is a luxury you can’t afford out here.” Pterano said as he put his hand on his nephew’s shoulder. Petrie sniffed one more time before he answered.

“Petrie know that but… it was just too hard. There was nothing else I could have done. Me… me just feel so lost.” Petrie said silently, ashamed to appear this miserable before his uncle whom he had once revered so highly. This was the flier who had given him so much inspiration and widened his knowledge of the fliers’ past. Even after the search for the Stone of Cold Fire, Petrie had retained his respect for the older flier due to the bravery he had shown in saving Ducky. Pterano’s hard composure crumbled somewhat at his nephew’s answer but the seriousness of the situation remained. Pterano decided to answer a simple but extremely important question.

“What are you going to do now, Petrie?  If you can’t return to the Valley, you will have to find a new place to stay.” The older flier stated simply, prompting Petrie to look at him with teary eyes. This was the question that he had asked himself countless times but the answer remained as elusive as ever. The young dinosaur let his head fall again as he shook his head.

“Me not know. There no place for Petrie to go now.” The flier said glumly, not seeing any acceptable path before him. Pterano looked at his nephew with a concerned look on his face. It wasn’t an option he was excited to propose but perhaps Petrie would find his place among his herd? He knew it would take a lot of effort for Petrie to adapt to the strict life by the strict traditions of the fliers, many that he knew Petrie would find distasteful or even cruel. Nevertheless, this was a way for his nephew to continue on from his terrifying situation, one that Pterano would be able to accompany him for some time.

“Petrie… I know you won’t find it as pleasant as your life in the Great Valley but… my herd would likely accept you as one of its members. It’s mostly a tough life but I’ve lived with them for many Cold Times and here I stand. Once enough time has passed, we may both return home and there is a chance we may stumble upon your friends if we’re lucky but for now, I could help you get accepted as one of us.” Pterano said carefully, knowing that his proposal would once again lead to more quarrels with his sister should she ever know about his offer. However, if she had been unable to keep Petrie in the Valley, there was nothing she could say about the issue. Petrie raised his head to look at Pterano, weighing his words heavily.

“Wh… what do you mean it be a tough life? Petrie no like the sound of that!” The young flier knew he didn’t have much of a choice but he wanted to know what his uncle was talking about. Any kind of life would be better than to starve alone in the Mysterious Beyond but he wanted to know more about the situation before he’d accept. Pterano looked at Petrie with a bothered look before he answered.

“I won’t lie to my own nephew. It’s a life of a farwalker with long flights and little food. As I said, most of us are extremely welcoming but there are others who deem power and dominance over other flier herds. They are extremely proud of their supposed lineage from the greatest of the fliers of the past and they believe they have some greater purposes to fulfill. Things would be much easier without them but most of the others respect their positions. Because of them, clashes with other groups of fliers, including sharpteeth, aren’t that rare but I’ve survived this long without major injuries. Still, I wouldn’t ask you to join us if I thought you wouldn’t survive. But I understand if you wish to try your luck somewhere else.” Pterano said, hoping for Petrie to accept even if he knew it would be dangerous. He held little respect for his herd’s leaders but Petrie’s companionship would help him survive his last year of exile. With any luck, they would be able to return to the Great Valley together later on. Petrie frowned as heard his uncle’s answer. His description didn’t sound too appealing as he knew little worse than violence. This kind of migratory and unsure wandering simply wasn’t the kind of life he’d want to lead. He was about to answer to his uncle when another wave of arguments flowed into the young flier’s mind.

Where else would he go at this point? Even in the unprobable scenario that his mother would be able to persuade the others to let him return, he wasn’t sure if he would want to do that. The Valley was filled with memories of his times with his friends, serving as lingering ghosts wherever he walked. That, in combination with his own loathing at Dasher and his never healing wounds with the clubtails made Petrie realize that he had no real place to return to. He would explain everything to his mother later but for now, he needed time to calm down.
Petrie looked into Pterano’s eyes to determine whether he truly believed if accepting his offer would be a good decision for Petrie but no matter how he looked at his uncle, he could see only genuine concern and the still-lingering joy at their reunion. Petrie sighed as he realized that no matter how stark the contrast between the coming days and the last ones, it would give him a chance to rebuild his life, and in case a miracle happened, to hear rumors about his friends. The young flier’s voice was saddened but firm as he answered.

“Petrie has no choice, uncle. Me come with you.” The flier answered in a decisive voice, knowing that any farwalkers or-fliers wouldn’t accept any burdens with them. Petrie had survived migratory life before and he would be able to do so again. He tried to put on a braver face as he spoke, to a degree when Pterano couldn’t help but admire his nephew’s courage. He had almost expected the younger flier to refuse but it seemed like the courageous young flier had surprised him once again.

“You’ve really grown a lot since we’ve last met, Petrie. You’re not the same flier that I left those four Cold Times ago. I can see a lot has happened lately.” Pterano said in an unreadable voice, clearly impressed by Petrie’s answer. The latter looked at his uncle in an inquisitive look, realizing after a moment that his uncle’s words were supposed to be a compliment.

“Me know that, uncle. Me just hope none of it had happened. It seem like we didn’t make the celebration good enough for the Warm Time.” Petrie said glumly, acknowledging that the older flier’s judgement had been a correct one. Pterano nodded at his words, fully knowing the beliefs behind that occasion. He was a highly superstitious dinosaur as were most of the fliers, including his new herd. The older flier answered to his nephew in an appreciating voice, willing to underline the impression the younger flier had brought upon him.

“Regardless of any of that, I’m happy to have you with me, nephew. Let’s go find the others.” Pterano said, willing to quickly make sure that the herd didn’t have any objections on his nephew joining them. He also hoped bring Petrie something else to think than his friends. The latter did his best to make a happier face and his voice was almost cheerful as he answered. In the middle of this great tragedy, it was more than a miraculous relief to find his long-lost uncle here. The thought of their coming adventures brought Petrie a fledgling optimism that he’d get over the recent events. He could only hope the other fliers would help him with that.

“Me too, uncle. Me very happy to have found you! Show where the herd be!”

The two fliers took off, heading towards the west and to the temporary home of the migrating flier herd. Petrie felt better than he had in days but the last question remained: were his friends dead or alive? Petrie took one, unsure look behind him, seeing only the same dusty river and dried landscape that had greeted his eyes before. With a pained sigh and a conflicted feeling in his stomach, the flier turned his gaze back forward and decided not to look back again.

In the midst of all the things that have lately gone terribly wrong, Petrie has managed to find a familiar face in a highly unlikely moment of relief for him. However, this opens the door for a life that Petrie hasn't been used to since his early childhood and it will hold many dilemmas for him soon enough... I hope you enjoyed this chapter and see you in the next! :)


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Separate Ways
« Reply #28 on: September 04, 2017, 06:36:49 PM »
More so than even the previous chapters, this introspective offering really puts us in Petrie's mindset as he recovers from his injury.  Though often portrayed in fanfictions as the least brave of the gang in many instances, it is obvious that his adventurousness will not tolerate too long of a period burdened on the ground.  Though, on a much sadder note, it seems that he has only had a chance to truly relate to his friends' land-prone condition after their apparent demise.  I wonder if the feelings of guilt will continue to plague him much like the loss of his group burdens his uncle.

As for the appearance of Pterano, this is a welcome surprise to Petrie but also a signal of a change in his situation.  Now he is, like his uncle, a fugitive or sorts from the valley.  Now, much like Ruby, Petrie must face a situation that he otherwise would have only encountered later in his life: then need to strike off on one's own and face the harshness of the world.  At least Petrie now has a herd it seems, but only time will tell if his original herd remains, or if he and Ruby are all that remains in the desolate wastes.

I look forward to seeing how things develop from here.  :)

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


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Separate Ways
« Reply #29 on: September 14, 2017, 03:02:50 PM »
The Meeting of Halfteeth

An increasingly chilling wind swept through the dry plains as Ruby continued her trek towards the direction Stealth had said her family had gone. The fast runner was growing tired of all of the running she had gone through during these past few days but at least she had been able to extinguish her hunger with green food. The desert had soon given way to grassy fields which seemed to drag on forever. Ruby was covering good ground every day even if she knew her directions were more than vague. Stealth hadn’t been of much help in locating the other fast runners but his advice was all the tired fast runner had. If she ever wanted to reunite with them again, she’d have to hope for good luck on this search.

Her own heavy breaths and the howling of the wind were the only things that could be heard as Ruby stopped for a moment of breather. She had run for hours on end and that took its toll on even her kind. She knew she was further east than she had ever been in her life and that her family could be just behind the next hill or many daytrips away. The choking pain of losing her friends was slowly wearing away even if momentary sobs and continuous sadness accompanied her lonely journey. The lingering guilt of all her deeds since the perilous chase of the egg stealers weighed on her shoulders, making her appearance look more wearied and tired. Still, the fast runner knew she had to push on. If she gave up, she could already say farewell to the last chances of ever finding her family.

As the fast runner’s panting grew less profound, she started to investigate her surroundings. The sloping hills covered with slowly waning grass spread as far as eye could see, any sorts of landmarks highly vague in this sight of the waning Warm Time. The Cold Time was coming and from now on the weather would grow more hostile each day. Ruby realized that she’d have to find her family soon as the searching could become too difficult and dangerous in the height of the least hospitable of seasons. The fast runner was about to sprint off again when one small detail in her surroundings caught her eye. That… that looks almost like a tree! But there shouldn’t be any of them here but… if there is, there might be many more! And that means many good things!

Even if that didn’t help her search directly, there might be someone in a forest around here who Ruby could ask about her family. If they truly had come around here, it was likely that somebody had heard about them. Also, the cover of the woods would shelter the young dinosaur herself from the chilly winds of the plains. Ruby quickly took off and headed towards the distant tree and, to her relief, she could see she was right. The shadowy form of a forest’s edge opened ahead of her, possibly offering her with something that could help her in this unsavory, lonely march.

The canopy of the trees rustled as the dry leaves rubbed slowly together. The entire forest was dying, its green food quickly being chilled by the dropping temperature. Ruby looked around herself in disappointment, saddened by the fact that the season was later than she had thought. It wouldn’t be many weeks until the frozen sky stars would begin to fall from the sky again. That only increased the urgency of her quest. It was time to see if there was anyone in this forest that could be of any help.

However, it had to be done in silence. Any kind of yelling would draw each and every sharptooth nearby towards her and that wasn’t something any omnivore would be willing to do. Ruby started to move forward, searching for the most shadowy of places to hide her presence as well as she only could. Avoiding the fallen leaves was the most challenging part of her efforts as the dry leaves would certainly give away her position if she wasn’t careful. Also, she’d have to try to hide her position as well as she’d be able. If she ever met someone, Ruby had to make sure that she would be the first one to notice her counterpart.

Even if the Bright Circle was still high in the sky, the dying scenery of the forest chilled the fast runner deeply. Many of trees started to form threatening images in the eyes of the still-distressed dinosaur and the cold air didn’t help any. Occasional sounds of the ground fuzzies or small buzzers often made her turn quickly around to check if any creature was trying to sneak up on her. To her relief, none ever came but this desolate scenery pulled her nerves to their breaking point. All of the recent events seemed to have made her more sensitive to any possible threats.

Ever since her parting with Stealth, Ruby realized that she was constantly alerted by even the slightest of voices or smells from the distance. She hadn’t met any other dinosaurs since the sharptooth and she knew it was quickly beginning to burden her down. The fast runner knew that she’d have to conquer her own fears but it was easier said than done. She could never tell if she’d meet Chomper’s parents or someone who knew about her last day in the Valley. The loss of her friends and the pact with Stealth had created a situation where she had too many enemies these days.

“Calm down, Ruby, there’s nothing dangerous here! You cannot go around fearing everything because if you fear everything, you cannot do anything! Just take it easy!” The fast runner had developed a habit of speaking to herself as it brought at least some change into the endless silence. She had never been this alone before and it truly wasn’t what she’d want to experience in the future again.

To Ruby’s slight relief, the wind indeed started to die down but the weather was still raw and cold. She gulped and begun to move between the bare trees. The atmosphere of utter loneliness and impending death made a great impression to Ruby who had only wanted to come here to take shelter from the grim wind of the open plains. She was already beginning to give up trying to find any friendly faces around here until she noticed something highly interesting. A few broken branches in the ground and odd-looking formations of leaves around the spot. The fast runner was already ready to see it as a trick of the wind but after a moment, Ruby realized that today’s wind wasn’t strong enough to break branches. There was no doubting it: someone had walked from this incautiously. Even if Ruby knew that her sniffer wasn’t quite strong enough for doing any great or exact conclusions from a waning smell trace, it was good enough to find out something. In the Mysterious Beyond, even those vague details could be the difference between life and death in the absolute worst-case scenario.

Hmm… it seems like it was… something quite close to my kind? Not quite but it definitely isn’t a sharptooth and if it isn’t a sharptooth, maybe I could ask it a few questions! It is maybe a female and it wasn’t too long ago when she was here! I’ll have to go find who it is!

The fast runner started to increase her pace as she sprinted towards the direction she thought the other dinosaur was headed. The traces were surprisingly fresh: with any luck, it wouldn’t take many minutes until she’d catch the other dinosaur. Even then, she’d have to keep her cover in the case she wouldn’t turn out to be friendly: a wrong judgement was always extremely dangerous in the Mysterious Beyond.

The sound of silent steps suddenly ended when Greentail stopped to catch her breath. She had ran for some time ever since her carelessness with the branches near the forest’s edge, a mistake that could become costly if the wrong dinosaur ever found the scene and caught her trail. However, it seemed like she was safe for now as no dinosaur seemed to be coming her way. A lucky occasion on likes of which she simply couldn’t trust in the future. Ever since her and her brother’s separation from their family after the tragic day, both of their lives had been on razor’s edge.

The young thinclaw sighed as she reflected on their situation. For now, they had food but that would change once the Cold Time would arrive in earnest. She and Yarel were both beginning to grow desperate in their struggle for life but they should find some place where there would be food even after the coming chill. Soon it would become a real problem to find either green or red food, especially for a duo of young adolescent thinclaws.

“It’s almost time to tell Yarel that I’ve… What’s that?” The omnivore asked herself as a sudden voice caught her ear. It sounded like a louder-than-usual thud of a footstep and the voice was coming right after her. The thinclaw cursed briefly as she realized that she had been followed after all. If nothing else, she’d have to hide quickly and hope that the chaser would give up soon. However, if all that failed, she’d simply have to run and hope for the best or fight.

The small clearing in the forest was completely empty as Ruby reached the spot. To her chagrin, she could see that that the scent trail suddenly stopped, seemingly stopping near the center of this small opening. Cold shivers flowed through the fast runner’s back as she realized what that meant. Either she had a supernatural enemy around her or, in a more likely scenario, the dinosaur whom she had chased was near and most likely waiting for her to enter the glade in order to attack. Ruby felt her breathing grow forced as she slowly backed towards the woods and to safeguard her own position. The fast runner’s eyes scoured each piece of vegetation around her and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

With trembling feet, she rose up from her sitting position and begun to advance again. Ruby knew that her counterpart was waiting for her somewhere but on a bright side, she knew that it wasn’t a sharptooth. It was most likely another halftooth like her but Ruby knew well that even another fast runner could attack her if he or she was hungry and desperate enough. With careful steps Ruby started to move towards in the shadows.

“Why did it have to stop? It seems like that beast is really up to something… Anyway, it won’t sneak up on me!” Greentail thought as she waited impatiently for her chaser to show herself. The thinclaw had heard the other dinosaur to stop nearby but she hadn’t caught a glance at her. The young dinosaur would have wanted to simply turn away and flee but she knew that nothing would prevent her chaser from following her, possibly endangering Yarel also if the other dinosaur should prove a threat. For better or worse, this situation had to be dealt now. One of the things Greentail hated the most was the prospect of unending threat lingering above her. Unfortunately, that had been her fate during these last few months.

The thinclaw climbed over a large rock next to her to see a bit further away. Soon enough, the Cold Time no one would use these bushes for hiding but for now, there was still enough leaves for a small dinosaur to use as a cover. Greentail’s eyes scoured each of the possible hidfing places with care but none of them seemed to hide anything unusual. No extra wobbling nor any suspicious shades. A distinct fear started to rise in the thinclaw’s mind as she slowly descended from the rock to once again search for her new nemesis.

Ruby twitched quickly as she heard a few napping of branches in a bush not far from her. It was just near a large rock that was no more than two longneck-lengths away from her. The fast runner’s reactions to this development were highly conflicted: on one hand the enemy was drawing close to her without her notice but on the other hand, now Ruby knew that her counterpart couldn’t be any older than she was due to her subtleness in moving through these woods. In the best-case scenario, she was only as confused as the fast runner was but counting on that would be a terrifying mistake. Her parents had always told her to remain as unseen as she could until she knew for sure that she was safe. After the recent events, she had finally realized the full wisdom of that advice. Ruby hoped beyond hope that she wouldn’t have to resort to violence but that was a threat always hung upon her.

The two omnivores approached each other in silent anticipation, both of them knowing that the situation could turn even deadly at any moment. Greentail was hiding in a small hole in the middle of two trees, small insects running p and down her legs as she covered in respecting fear whereas Ruby was sitting atop a small rock, trying to get a glimpse of her counterpart. At this point, their advance halted as both wished the other one to do the next move. In case the other one would be hostile, both of the females understood that this could be the choice between life and death. Both of their gazes were locked on the positions where they expected the other one to be located. Greentail was slowly growing worried by her location and by the whole hiding game. She knew her chaser wasn’t an adult and most likely not a sharptooth but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a threat. Her urge to run away from her unfavorable position grew by the minute as she realized her mistake at hiding at the lowest place in this place. All either of the omnivores could tell was that there was one adult longneck length between them at the very most.

Ruby felt the moments drag by as her frustration started to silently grow at the overall situation. No matter what, it seemed like the other dinosaur wasn’t going to take the initiative and Ruby started to realize that it was now up to her to take matters into her own hands. The fast runner looked around herself and after a moment, she realized something that could give her an opening. A small boulder lied near the edge of a small slope heading towards the hideout of her opponent. With luck, it could cause a small rockslide which would force the other dinosaur to make her move. Ruby smiled in self-confidence as she slowly moved towards the rock, ready to break this mind-breaking impasse.

The thinclaw didn’t know at first what was the reason for the ground starting to shake. She had seen some small movement on the hill overlooking her but she hadn’t seen anything clearly. It was only when the form of the large boulder appeared from between the trees when she realized what was going on. Instinctually, the young omnivore jumped from the hole and started to run as far as she only could from her chase. She had given up her position and the other dinosaur had the advantage of terrain. Fleeing was her best chance at this point.

Ruby looked at the fleeing form in surprise and slight embarrassment. This wasn’t any kind of deadly killer: it was a thinclaw who was probably even younger than she was. The fast runner had never before seen such an omnivore before but her parents had told her of them. They were a highly elusive, feathered kind who weren’t often in good terms with the fast runners due to their similar lifestyles and consequently conflicting roads. Ruby could see that the other female had a similarly slender body to hers and thin but powerful legs, a testament to her great speed. The fast runner could see that the thinclaw resembled her own kind In many ways but it had longer feathers, no crest and a longer but thinner tail. No matter her kind, Ruby was slowly starting to appreciate the fact that she’d decided to chase this stranger.  Here was someone who’d probably know what was happening in these lands and with whom she’d be able to exchange a few words. Immediately, the young fast runner sprang after her former adversary in a calmer way in order to drop the impression of threat.

The leaf-filled ground made Greentail’s flight even more difficult that it would have otherwise been in these woods. They constantly threatened to trip her and they forced the thinclaw to decrease her speed in order to prevent herself from falling. The omnivore was alerted to see the other dinosaur beginning to follow her and it seemed like she was gaining on her quickly. With a panicked decision, Greentail decided to increase her running speed to lose her chaser. However, that proved to be a serious mistake.

The thinclaw quickly tripped on a thick mound of leaves which had seemed to be solid ground. One moment Greentail was running for her life and in the next she found herself in the ground breathing deeply in shock. At first, she waited the possible pain emanating from her leg but none ever came. With an overjoyed realization, she noticed that her body seemed relatively unscathed by the fall but the fast runner had nearly reached her already. She was about to continue her flight when she heard Ruby’s frantic call.

“Stop! I don’t mean you any harm, I just want to talk to you, talk to you I want!” The fast runner called to the thinclaw who seemed to be frozen by this declaration. After all this stalking, this dinosaur was telling her that everything was alright?

“If you mean that, stay there! After all this, I don’t just believe that you never wished me harm!” Greentail snorted harshly, prompting Ruby to stop immediately. She could easily relate to her position and even the fast runner felt the lingering chill of the stalking in her bones. It was clear that the duo’s instincts would have a hard time forgiving the other dinosaur.

“Al… alright. Even then, it is true, true it is! I simply followed you when I caught your scent because meeting someone here is better than not meeting anyone at all!” Ruby tried to sound lighthearted but it was clear that Greentail wasn’t convinced. The fast runner’s voice sounded too forced for her to believe it right away.

“Then why did you sneak up on me like a hungry sharptooth? First you followed me and then you stalked around me, searching for the best place to attack and after all this, you seemed to be willing to hunt me down? Do you think I’ll just overlook that?” The thinclaw’s voice stayed aggressive but it grew slightly less panicked by the moment. Perhaps this meeting didn’t have to end in violence after all despite the initial tension between the two omnivores. Ruby looked at her in slight amusement, understanding what had just happened.

“I think you know what we were doing. I thought you were stalking me and possibly lead me to a trap! I tried to keep myself safe while you thought I was hunting you! We must have looked so stupid trying to save ourselves from each other even if neither of us wanted any harm! We must have looked so silly!” Ruby tried to hold back her chuckles but failed miserably. After many days of loneliness and internal conflict, any kind of humor was a reprieve to her taxed mind. Greentail looked at the fast runner oddly at first but she soon realized the situation they had been in. Despite her initial anger at Ruby, she couldn’t help but see the same humor in all this as the fast runner did. The two laughed on for a moment as the initial mental barriers they had created for themselves started to break down. At this moment, it was clear for both of the assembled dinosaurs that there was no immediate threat in store for either of them.

“Alright, alright, I guess I have to believe that you weren’t after me. What’s your name, fast runner?” Greentail asked with some curiosity, eager to learn more about her new acquaintance. She wasn’t too happy by this meeting but there were some things of value she could learn. Ruby smiled at her in approval and answered briefly.

“My name is Ruby, Ruby it is! What’s yours and what are doing here alone?” The fast runner asked one of the most obvious questions to which Greentail frowned slightly. She hadn’t expected the fast runner to ask her these questions so quickly but in a way, she understood the other female’s line of thought.

“My name is Greentail but I’m not alone here. My brother Yarel was looking for any shelter for the night in the other part of this forest but he should return soon enough. Our reason for being here, however, is none of your or anybody else’s business.” Greentail cringed as she answered. She was taken aback by this strangers antics and not exactly in a good way. Still, she couldn’t see the harm in being honest as it was highly unlikely that the two would meet ever again anyway. Ruby looked at the thinclaw in slight disappointment but decided to press on with the issue that she had initially searched out the other dinosaur for in the first place.

“I thought so. You don’t have to tell anything you don’t want to but I’m here to look for my family. Have you seen any other fast runners around here lately?” The young omnivore asked carefully in order to find out if her family had actually treaded around these lands lately. Ruby knew that the chance that this thinclaw knew anything about her family was extremely small but she’d have to take every possible chance at finding out more about their whereabouts. Greentail seemed to think for a moment before she answered.

“I haven’t seen any of them but I’ve heard that there’s a place further towards the Land of Sinking Grounds where they’ve often lived even if they haven’t been seen in a while. I don’t know it this has anything to do with you or your family but that’s all I’ve been told about fast runners.” The young thinclaw looked thoughtful as she spoke, apparently thinking about something she didn’t want to talk about to her companion. Ruby, however, looked at her hopefully and her voice was thankful as she answered.

“I don’t know anything about that but thank you for telling me! I’ll go look in that…”

“Greentail! What are doing here? And who’s that fast runner?” A male voice could be heard nearby as the adolescent thinclaw walked down a nearby slope. His expression wasn’t exactly grim or accusing but he clearly wanted an explanation. The deep-red dinosaur looked at Ruby in puzzlement, clearly not sure if he approved about her presence. Even then, he waited for his sister’s answer before he made any further conclusions.

“She’s in the same situation as we are. It seems she’s looking for her family that she says has passed around our forest in the past weeks but luckily for her, she didn’t ask you as you’ve proved wouldn’t have spotted them eveb if they were I front of you!” The female thinclaw answered in a dry, surprisingly serious voice. She was glad to see that her brother had joined them as the two had almost all their lives worked and planned their actions together with varying success. Yarel casted a grim look on her sister but he was interrupted before he could return the favor.

“And I guess you’re Yarel as your sister already told me about you. It’s great to meet you! I’m Ruby!” The fast runner answered in a slightly awkward voice, seeing that the newcomer wasn’t quite as approving about her presence as his sister. Still, his voice was restrained and even kind as he answered.

“It’s always a relief to see someone who doesn’t try to kill me, Ruby. But as my sister very cleverly said, I haven’t seen any of your kind around here.” Yarel said oddly and glanced at his sister while Ruby cringed as she thought about her answer. She wasn’t too familiar with the lands Greentail had described and there was a good chance that she wouldn’t be able to find her family without the duo’s help. However, she knew that the two thinclaws most likely would wish to get rid of her rather quickly but she wasn’t quite done with the duo yet. After a moment of thinking, Ruby finally found something to say to Yarel’s remark.

“I heard where my family has probably been going so thank you for telling me! But… I also heard that you two know this forest very well. Could you show me at least the direction where I’m supposed to go?” Ruby asked, glad to have come up with a way to combine help for her quest and the effort to getting to know the siblings better. An idea was slowly beginning to form in her head as she listened to their words and antics. Perhaps there was a chance she could ask them to accompany her on this journey? They didn’t seem too happy about their situation and the prospect of two thinclaws surviving a Cold Time by themselves wasn’t a likely one. The two siblings exchanged glances and Greentail answered shortly.

“Well, I guess we could. It isn’t that far but it’s easy for a stranger like yourself to get lost in these lands. Follow us, we’ll show the way!” The female thinclaw answered in a slightly disappointed voice which disheartened Ruby somewhat. It seemed like she was receiving another chance to get to know these two dinosaurs better but she didn’t know if she could use it as well as she could..  Greentail didn’t seem too excited about her company and Yarel’s approach seemed somewhat conflicted and there was something about him that puzzled the fast runner heavily. Despite that, the pink dinosaur thanked them quickly in a happy voice before starting to follow the two deeper into the realm of dying trees.

A few bothering minutes passed by as Ruby thought about any way to reopen the conversation she and Greentail had started before Yarel had arrived to the scene. The male’s appearance seemed to have flattened his sister’s spirits somewhat which seemed a bit worrying. He seemed to be as friendly as his sister but still it seemed that not everything was well between the two thinclaws. Yarel seemed highly thoughtful about the fast runner’s presence in some way which was a highly unusual way to approach another dinosaur. He wasn’t angry or hateful but he just seemed… bothered. Ruby wondered deeply what was going on in the male thinclaw’s head.

Yarel could easily notice that Ruby had something in mind, something she hadn’t let out just yet. Even then, he was conflicted about this meeting. For many years he had seen other omnivores as constantly plotting, even malevolent, and even if those sentiments had started to die down during his and his sister’s new life, he still didn’t know what to make of her. Thinclaws rarely dealt with other kinds, even less so than the fast runners, and the mere thought of cooperating with another omnivore was an odd one to him. He and his sister had gone through so much together and the deterioration of their relationship was another thing that weighed Yarel’s mind. The life of constant struggle and danger had spread both siblings’ nerves to their limits and the only growing arguments between the two weighed on him greatly. Even then, any new face was a small reprieve from his oppressing reality which made the young dinosaur had admit to himself that he welcomed the fast runner’s company.

The three omnivores walked swiftly through the dying forest in silence as each of them thought what to make about this meeting, most of all Ruby. She had asked for the others to accompany her so she knew it should be her who should respark the conversation. The fast runner took a deep sigh before she broke the silence of the whispering woods.

“I’ve already told why I’m here but I’d also like to know what you are doing here. And it’s difficult for me to know about it unless you tell me about it first!” Ruby asked in a soft voice, willing to make the two siblings to resume the conversation. It was Greentail’s voice who first greeted the fast runner’s ears. The female thinclaw felt slight annoyance at the fast runner’s insistence and her voice was even unnecessarily grim. The voice was little more than a whisper in order to hide their position from all dangers. As a matter of fact, the three were moving in a straight line to stay as silent as possible.

“As I said, it’s none of your business! We’ve been living in these lands for months and that’s all you need to know!” The thinclaw’s voice was surprisingly grim and Yarel quickly glanced at her in slight chagrin. It was clear that despite his reservations about this situation, he disapproved his sister’s antics.

“Actually, we, too, have had a pretty rough time lately. Let’s just say that we don’t even know where our family is. We once tried to search for them but it has all been for nothing. We probably lost them when we tried to attack a spiketail herd because I was starving. Our kind isn’t supposed to hunt other dinosaurs so we failed and in the midst of all that, we got separated from them between the charging beasts. By the time we got to safety, no trace of our parents could be seen and all we heard were the brainless snorts of those monsters! It all happened in the early Warm Time so it has been a long time since we two were forced to survive on our own.” Yarel’s voice was rather glum but it was clear that he had had a long time to handle his internal conflicts about the issue. Ruby looked at him in compassion when Greentail’s voice answered to her brother.

“You don’t have to tell everything, Yarel! You should remember that keeping your knowledge to yourself is always the best way to stay safe! That’s what mom always said!” Greentail hissed to Yarel in a silent voice which Ruby couldn’t hear. The male returned his sister’s annoyed expression and answered in an equally frustrated voice.

“Who cares about that here? We’ve got much better things to worry about than some dumb wisdoms!” Yarel answered in an angry voice, his hands put on his hips to underline his determination. Ruby looked at the two in puzzlement, unsure what to make of the siblings’ internal quarrel other than that it wouldn’t help her in getting to them.

“I care and you should too if you wish to live! We can’t trust any outsider at least right away and you know it!” The female said in a grim voice which only seemed to deepen Yarel’s determination.
“Does she look like a threat? There’s a place for this but…” The male’s answer was interrupted by Ruby’s slightly bothered remark.

“You don’t need to fight about this! I’m sorry about what happened to you but this doesn’t help!” Ruby said in a sterner voice than usual. She was seriously beginning to doubt whether these two were worth her time. It was clear that they weren’t as receptive towards her as the fast runner had initially thought. Greentail sighed as she thought about her brother’s words. She stood behind her points but she knew her brother wasn’t a fool, either. Greentail often thought that his ideas were too hopeful and that he often didn’t consider all possible risks associated with his ideas. His excitement would often have to reined in for his own safety. She looked at the fast runner in some compassion and walked towards her carefully.

“I’m sorry about that. Things have just been kinda rough in the past weeks. We’ve just found ourselves fighting about stupid things and we know it but this atmosphere gets really depressing before long.” The thinclaw answered, her expression taking a slightly calmer tone. Ruby looked at her in puzzlement but decided against pushing the issue any further. Yarel followed his sister and continued from where she had stopped.

“You’re right, Greentail. I still hope things were better but after we got separated from our parents, things haven’t been too well. It is slowly beginning to bother both of us.” Yarel sighed as he spoke and looked at Ruby in clear apology. The fast runner could easily see what he meant: she was already growing frustrated by her own search. Anyway, there was little she could say to comfort the two siblings. Ruby merely sighed and answered in the only way she could.

“That’s no wonder. I’m already noticing the same thing with my own journey. I already feel anxious whenever I stop to think about my situation. Anyway, how much longer is it to our destination?” Ruby asked, knowing that the moment of truth was slowly falling upon the small group. The longer Ruby had spoken with the two siblings, the more she had gotten the impression that they thought that any change to their current reality would be heartily accepted. Ruby knew it was far too much to hope but a small if fleeting thought flowed in the fast runner’s mind. Perhaps the two thinclaws would want to come with her? Before Ruby could advance her idea, Greentail answered first in a thoughtful voice.

“It shouldn’t be too long from now on. Come, follow us! You’ll be in your way in no time…” The two thinclaws waved Ruby to follow them and the fast runner happily obeyed. Ruby took a small sigh of relief: she had managed to get to know the two better and the chance that they’d come with her had just got better.

“There it is! The hills where the fast runners have been seen are in that direction. I don’t know how far as that’s all dad told me!” Greentail smiled as she pointed into the distance which looked pretty much like any other field in the Mysterious Beyond. Dry, inhospitable plains as far as eye could see but Ruby knew she didn’t have much of a choice. This had been the only hint that she had ever since Stealth so if she ever wanted to find her family, she’d have to take this vague and unsure chance. She turned to look at her guides and spoke in a relieved and happy voice.

“Thank you both so much for showing me this! I would have never found the way if you hadn’t made me find it!” Ruby said as she reflected her situation. Once again, she had a clear direction and her hopes of reuniting with her parents and siblings had grown once again. Even if the hole left by her friends would never heal, at least she’d be able to carry on their memory. All was not lost.

“I hope you’ll find your family, Ruby. I just wish we had been of more help but we’we already told everything we know.” Yarel said glumly as he shivered in the wind from the plain fields. He didn’t know what to think about these events or the fast runner but he knew that his own life would stay unchanged even if he and sister were able to help Ruby. This knowledge alone brought the look of resignation to his face. Ruby looked at her new friends in slight hesitation, knowing that this was the time to speak or stay silent forever. She had already given it a lot of thought but she knew that any company was better than the overwhelming loneliness. Ruby hoped beyond hope the duo felt the same way.

“You’ve already helped me a lot but… I just wondered… would you be willing to come with me? My parents know a lot: they might even know where you’d be able to find your own folks!” Ruby knew her question was sudden and it was likely to be rejected but the fast runner wanted to try give the duo a way out from their situation and perhaps even a chance to rejoin their own kind. In addition, she knew that the coming Cold Time would be a true danger to two adolescent thinclaws to survive. However, the siblings’ reactions were what Ruby had expected.

“Th… thank you, Ruby, but we cannot just go! It’s the Mysterious Beyond!” Greentail answered in confusion and surprise but Ruby merely smiled as an answer. She had expected this answer and rebuffed immediately by another question.

“What about it? This forest isn’t any safer than those fields as you’ve told me and we all have a better chance to survive if we stick together! And I already heard that you don’t have any reason to stay here! I understand if you want to stay but you don’t seem too happy with this place.” The fast runner said in a completely calm voice, willing to let the two make their own decisions. Both Yarel and Greentail looked at each other in confused looks before the male answered to the fast runner.

“Uhh, just a moment, we have to talk about this with just two of us.” Yarel said in an unreadable face while Greentail’s glanced at him in clear anger and disappointment, prompting a puzzled expression from Ruby. Reinforced by Greentail’s sudden hostility, the fast runner understood that the siblings needed some time alone so she only answered briefly.

“Okay but don’t take too long! I want to get moving as soon as I can!” Ruby said as she looked at the two thinclaws move back into the forest. The fast runner didn’t know what to expect from her companions but she truly wished they’d decide to come with her. So much had happened and Ruby simply didn’t want to part with the first friendly faces she had met on her journey. Ruby looked around her and sat on a rock, burying her head in her hands in anticipation.

“Why did you take me here? Do you honestly think we have any reason to go with her? Even if she wishes no harm to us, we cannot simply go with anyone who asks it!” Greentail hissed in an angry voice, revealing her teeth to her brother in a show of anger and annoyance. It was clear that she was far from impressed by Ruby’s proposition. Yarel returned a remarkably less aggressive look but it was clear that he wasn’t ready to give up on the issue just yet.

“I know it’s crazy but at least doing something and going somewhere is better than just sitting here! We know that this life isn’t meant for us and I’d like to take any chance we can to get away from this!” The male said in frustration and pity at himself. The last months had been very tedious for him and the constant hiding from sharpteeth, the struggles against other omnivores for food as well as the recurring fights with his sister had taken much of the relief he had initially felt from finding this small sanctuary in the Mysterious Beyond. He knew that leaving with a complete stranger wasn’t something he’d do in usual situations but this certainly wasn’t one.

“We have everything we need and the hardships are nothing when we know what it could be out there! I agree that things might get boring and annoying sometimes but just try to see things from someone else’s eyes than your own! We might be walking into the maw of some sharptooth the next day we leave!” The young thinclaw said as she tried to reason with her brother. At this point, she had to admit that her brother had a point but she also knew that she was right in her own way. At many points in the past months she, too, had hoped for a better future than this pitiful struggling against larger and more dangerous dinosaurs but if there was one thing she hated, it was risking her life without a good reason. No matter what, a silent life here would be a better option than mere running to a probable death. The gleam in Yarel’s eyes brightened as he heard his sister’s answer.

“And we might also be eaten or frozen do death if we’re not lucky! You heard what Ruby said: we could even find out where our own kind lives: we don’t know all of the wisdoms we need to and thee are still things we have to learn about survival! Even if we won’t find our family, we might be able to learn something that we need to know to know when we’re bigger!” Yarel said almost pleadingly to his sister who looked at him in an unsure expression. Sure, it was true that there had still been things they hadn’t been taught yet but the two had managed to survive this long without them. A thinclaw’s life was far from easy or simply but she was growing increasingly concerned by the risks of this venture. What if the fast runners knew nobody who could be of help?

“Like what? It isn’t like any thinclaw would tell us, a pair of unknown kids, anything! You know as well as I do that it’s not going to happen! Besides, we haven’t done that badly as it is! We might have been lucky also but I don’t see any reason why we should change the way we live!” The green thinclaw said in a calmer voice which forced a worried look to Yarel’s face. It was true that no stranger would help them but if they could prove themselves useful to someone, things might become a bit different. Still, the male knew that his argument was highly being overshadowed by his true intentions: the mere will to find something more in his life than this agonizing subsisting.  

“You might be right about that but are you truly willing to just wait and grow old in this small place while waiting for death? I know things might get rough out there but Ruby needs our help! Trying to help out a rare friend is reason enough for me to at least see if there’s anything we can do for ourselves or for others! Maybe we can even find a new place where we might be able to live in safety! Also, just think about it: we have fought for stupid things five times this week and I admit it: seeing you has often spoiled my day. I really want that to change.” Yarel tried to reason to her sister whose expression took an increasingly worried turn at his brother’s honesty.. Her initial, stern rebuffing of his brother’s arguments were slowly starting to melt as she couldn’t question his line of thought. Even if she was offended by her brother’s words at first, she felt the same way. Trying to salvage their once-close bond was a thing worth considering. There was a lot to lose but some other important things to gain. Truth be told, the female was slowly starting to question her own stance. She lowered her voce as she prepared to ask a question from her brother.

“Yeah… I know what you mean.  But…are you sure you want to do this? Things might even grimmer and more dangerous out there and there is a chance we’ll gain nothing from all of this. Many of our wisdoms speak against this kind of quick changes in our lives, especially if we can avoid it.” At this point, Greentail’s relaxed gestures told that she had dropped her complete opposition to her brother’s proposal and it had turned into a genuine question. The two siblings looked at each other for a moment as they contemplated about this situation.

Yarel was slightly embarrassed by his insistence as he looked into his sister’s eyes. This was the dinosaur with whom he had shared all his life and who had stood by his side and protected him for countless times during their childhoods. All of his early memories were filled with different games and acts of mischief and all of them contained the picture of this very same thinclaw. Even in this rough time, she had helped and comforted him and now he was almost forcing his point on her. Yarel felt a sting of guilt and self-doubt as he realized that he might be acting selfish at this point and perhaps luring his sister into an early death. Still, he knew he was genuinely saying what he truly thought was the right thing to do: to help him and his sister to survive even in the future.

Greentail’s eyes looked like they were piercing her brother. She knew that she was right in many ways and it was highly possible that she should stand her ground for the sake of both of them. However, Yarel had seldom asked anything of her and she could see that he was truly willing to follow this strange fast runner into this adventure. The young dinosaur had always admired her brother’s courage and his willingness to find the best course of action on hard times, even through the recent ordeals.  The two had never overstepped on each other’s hopes or ambitions and they had always shared everything from food to the decisions that had concerned both of them. Her own intuition told her to play things safe but at this point, she didn’t know what to think. For as long she could remember, the two had always worked together and that bond had slowly been eroded during the past months of struggle. That had to change.  She listened in deep interest as Yarel answered.

“That depends on the wisdom we are speaking about. One of them also says that we should try to always make ourselves more able to survive and to always create more help for ourselves in the coming days. This might be our chance to do that. I’m not saying you’re wrong but I simply hope that what I’m saying is the right way to go.” Yarel said in a more silent voice in order to be as convincing as he simply could. His own gestures were seemingly worried and his sister could see his nervousness. However, Greentail was slowly coming to the realization that there was some wisdom in her brother’s words. Ruby had seemed to be genuinely willing to get to know the two better and even overlooking her friendliness, there could truly be some allies and knowledge to be gained on this journey. Greentail took a deep breath before she forced a slight smile to her face. Her voice was deep as she spoke.

“It can’t be much worse than the other things we could do. We’re far too smart for any sharpteeth to catch and it won’t be too long a trip anyway, I think. I’m slowly beginning to think you’re right, brother. We still have a lot to learn.” Greesnout answered softly, prompting an equally eased expression from her brother. It was clear that the male was overjoyed by this development. After all these months of ordeals, finally the future promised something else. He merely nodded and smiled happily before he answered.

“Thanks, Greentail. I’m sure neither of us will regret this. Come on, let’s go tell Ruby that we’ll go with her.” The two siblings then turned around and headed back to the opening where Ruby was waiting for them. For some reason, the atmosphere between them seemed a bit more lighter already.

Ruby was gazing far into the horizon, sitting on the same rock with her hands supporting her head which was lying on them. The higher elevation of the forest’s edge provided the fast runner with a good view over the nearby plains and hills with a small stream flowing through the dry scene. Notwithstanding the barren sight, this place reminded her so much about her old Thinking Place in the Great Valley. She would have spent hours there thinking about different things in her life but they had always ended with another game or adventure with her friends. In this place, she could have almost expected Chomper’s voice calling for another game of Hide and Seek. Ruby sighed as she tried to force her thoughts to some other subject which wasn’t exactly a problem.

Dozens of conflicting things were running down on the pink dinosaur’s head. First and foremost, had she done the right thing by offering the two siblings a chance to come with her? She hardly knew them and it seemed to have already brought a slight argument between them. Even if they decided to come, could she actually reward them in any way? Sure, her parents might know something about those two but would they be of any help to them? No matter how the fast runner looked at things, she realized she had only invited them for her own selfish hope of getting rid of her own loneliness. She knew her motivations was more than understandable but still a sting of guilt lingered in her mind.

For many Cold Times, her siblings had been all the company she had ever needed and even then she had been required to do shorter trips and journeys alone for her family. Even in her early childhood, she had spent a day or two alone without problems but it seemed like the Great Valley had taken that ability away from her. Even now, she could see Littlefoot’s face whenever she was deep in thought or Ducky’s small form run towards her from the corner of her eyes. At first, those hallucinations had nearly broken her but at this point, they only made her feel only more miserable. She knew that inviting the two to accompany her only as substitutes for her lost friends was the wrong thing to do but that couldn’t be helped anymore. For better or worse, the die had been cast.

Also, would Greentail’s advise be of any worth? Surely there could be other fast runners in these lands than her family and nothing pointed to the direction that the place they were going to was inhabited at all by now. Sure, it was possible that if they found any more dinosaurs around here that they could be of help. If Stealth had paid attention to a few small omnivores, so would many others. If her family still lived, Ruby knew there was a good chance that she’d find them eventually.

Ruby gazed at the distance with half-closed eyes as she waited for the thinclaws’ decision. She had lost all sense of time by all the things going on in her head to even notice how long their conversation had been going on or even their sudden return. The young oviraptor continued to look at the horizon with dreamy eyes when she herd a now-familiar voice behind her. Ruby was slightly startled as she had completely forgotten to watch her surroundings.

“Uh… Ruby? Is something the matter?” Greentail asked as she looked at the thoughtful fast runner. She quickly jumped from the rock and turned around and answered in an even protective voice.

“Nope, I was just thinking about things and thinking about things is something I do a lot! Uhh… did you decide something already?” Ruby cocked her head slightly as she answered. There was a hopeful if bothered look on her face. Even after her misgivings, she still wanted to think her proposition had been the right one and she was somewhat heartened by her new friends’ composures. They seemed somewhat relaxed, happy even and the fast runner could tell that this wasn’t the face of someone who was about to deliver bad news. This impression was further reinforced by an approving nod Yarel gave his sister. The male’s answer was relieved as he gave his answer.

“I guess you could say that. We’re coming with you.” Yarel said with a wide smile on his face. Even if their relationship with Ruby had been a brief one, he had a feeling that this was a dinosaur who would be able to help them as well as herself. If nothing else, she’d provide he and his sister with a great adventure. Ruby’s eyes took a highly surprised and heartened look into them and the fast runner was about to stutter as she answered. This was the answer that would finally allow her to begin her new life.

“Th… thank you so much! I didn’t know what to expect but I sure am happy to have you come with me, happy about it I am! I’m sure none of us will regret this!” Ruby was highly at a loss of words by this surprising display of trust and faith her new companions had just provided her with. She slowly walked closer to the two whose expressions were slightly more reserved but it was also clear that they, too, were happy about this development.

“Let’s just stay away from any sharpteeth or spiketails, alright? I want to still be alive once we find your parents.” Greentail said in a cheeky grin, even if the inclusion of spiketails puzzled Ruby somewhat until she remembered the story they’d told her earlier.

“That’s what we do! No stupid sharptooth will be able to outsmart us again! I just hope we’ll find your family before it gets any colder!” Slight chuckles accompanied Yarel’s remark as he was highly sensitive to the cold. Once again, Ruby notified the mention about sharpteeth in his words and it was becoming apparent that there was more to these two than she had initially thought. Anyway, she was only happy at this point that the two had accepted her request.

“I’m sure we will, Yarel! They couldn’t have gone too far as I heard it’s been only a few weeks since they left! Also, my brother and sister are too young to go fast so we should reach find quickly. But don’t speak about sharpteeth… I’ve had enough of them at this point…” Ruby turned to look to the ground for a moment, fighting to hold the painful memories of the fast biters in bay. After a moment, however, she realized that talking about it wouldn’t help so she forced a smile to her voice and continued.

“But don’t worry about that! I’m just happy to have you here! Come on, let’s go before it gets dark!” Ruby said as she waved her new friends to follow her. The two thinclaws looked at her in slight excitement even if the lingering flicker of doubt could still be read in Greentail’s eyes. However, it was she who answered to Ruby as the three prepared to enter the wide fields in the east.

“We have a long way to go before we can rest! We have no time to lose so let’s see what’s out there!” Greentail said as her two companions nodded. It was a lucky occasion that had brought the three dinosaurs together in the first place and their joining into a group was an even larger blessing for them to stick together. Even if the quest to find the missing fast runners held any meaning for only one of the three, the thinclaws also knew that there was a lot to gain in this journey. All of them only hoped this quest would be easier than their previous ordeals.

After the seemingly never-ending tragedies, Ruby has finally managed to find friendly faces on her journey. Her quest remains far from complete and her new companions, while truly honest about their willingness tohelp the fast runner, might bring further complications in the future. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and any feedback is appreciated as always! See you all next time! :wave


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« Reply #30 on: September 18, 2017, 01:17:08 PM »
Ever since her parting with Stealth, Ruby realized that she was constantly alerted by even the slightest of voices or smells from the distance. She hadn’t met any other dinosaurs since the sharptooth and she knew it was quickly beginning to burden her down. The fast runner knew that she’d have to conquer her own fears but it was easier said than done. She could never tell if she’d meet Chomper’s parents or someone who knew about her last day in the Valley. The loss of her friends and the pact with Stealth had created a situation where she had too many enemies these days.

“Calm down, Ruby, there’s nothing dangerous here! You cannot go around fearing everything because if you fear everything, you cannot do anything! Just take it easy!” The fast runner had developed a habit of speaking to herself as it brought at least some change into the endless silence. She had never been this alone before and it truly wasn’t what she’d want to experience in the future again.

The above quote exemplifies your grasp of Ruby as a character.  She has lost her friends and family, and is just beginning to deal with the reality of being alone.  The mental toil that can take on anyone is severe, but even more so when one is already dealing with feelings of guilt and loss.  Though, unbeknownst to Ruby it seems, she is already beginning to think more like her kind (in terms of schemes and alliances) than the mindset of her old friends.  When one begins thinking about life in terms of allies and enemies, costs and benefits, regrets and lessons, one has truly transitioned from childhood to the adult years.  When she does find her family they will find a fastrunner changed in a very profound way.

The sneaking up on/ambush on the thinclaws was marvelously done, as was the decision to show the spectacle from both perspectives.  The role of an omnivore in the Mysterious Beyond is indeed a precarious one and it is understandable how each would fear a potential ambush from something even of their size. The continued distrust once they begin to talk is also quite believable, as each would see the other as a competitor out to benefit themselves at the expense of anyone else.  Now it looks like the trio can search for better lands together which opens up the possibility of even further development of the omnivore mythos, in addition to the possibility of future drama.  At the very least though I am glad that Ruby is no longer alone.  The last thing she needs is to be alone with her feelings of uncertainty and guilt.

I don’t really have much more to say about this chapter except that it does set up an interesting situation moving forward, with each of our wayward protagonists now having allies at their side and being forced into a reality where their old moral codes no longer apply.  It will be interesting to see how they adapt to this harsh new reality.  I look forward to seeing where each of their journeys will now take them.  :yes

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


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Separate Ways
« Reply #31 on: September 25, 2017, 10:43:05 AM »
I was hesitant about writing any reviews just yet after the first two chapters. Having read until the Ruby-Chomper chapter, I think I've read enough to have a first impression worth sharing :)

As I said, I had a bit of an issue getting into the story at first but I can't name any reason for this. This does not mean the first two chapters were any bad at all, I guess I just didn't see the bigger picture at first. Not introducing the reader to the main conflict of the story right away isn't a bad move at all, allowing for some nice slice-of-life scenes and conversations that only make sense to the reader after reading a bit further ;)

I must say choosing this approach of the Ruby/Chomper issue was really smart. I mean we all know that day would come sooner or later but this was just an accident, leaving the two innocent (or, well, guilty until proven innocent lol). I am definitely excited to see how they're going to resolve the situation and what obstacles need to be overcome. Are they even going to return to the valley? I shall find out :)
mostly inactive due to exam preparation. Includes my creative work in particular which is entirely on hiatus. Hit me on discord if you need something, I'm more active there :)


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« Reply #32 on: September 26, 2017, 10:29:54 AM »
I'm extremely happy to see you giving this story a shot! :D I understand that the beginning might be a bit vague to start with but I hope that it'll justify themselves soon enough. I just like to start my longer stories rather slow and on a silent note to give things time to naturally develop into something more intense later on.

Also, thank you for your kind words concerning the way I took with Chomper and Ruby. Even if their story initially treads on rather familiar grounds, I'm happy to hear that I succeeded in taking a rather fresh route to start things with. The accident approach opens some interesting plotlines which will lead to further possibilities in the future. Anyway, thank you for your review and for giving this fic a read! :yes


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« Reply #33 on: September 28, 2017, 03:22:41 PM »
Petrie’s First Test

The two fliers flew in silence for a while, both of them keeping their words to themselves during the first part of the flight towards this herd Pterano had told Petrie about. The older flier looked at his nephew with a worried look as he simply couldn’t fathom all the horrors Petrie had gone through lately. What had happened in the Valley if all of the five children had been forced to leave and what had happened to the others? Even without knowing those answers, anger started to rise in Pterano’s mind as he thought about the reasons why    Petrie had been forced into this situation in the first place. How could Volant have let Petrie leave the Valley like this? Why hadn’t she prevented the expulsion of her son or at the very least ensured that he was alright in the Mysterious Beyond? No matter what had happened in the Valley, Pterano couldn’t find a way to explain how this could have come to pass. When the two siblings would reunite in the future, it would be Pterano’s turn to question his sister.

Even then, for the moment, the most important thing was that the young flier was no longer alone. The mere thought of the flying sharpteeth chasing his poor nephew chilled the adult flier to the core as he realized that he would have most likely already died if it wasn’t for him. There would still be time to confront Petrie’s past but for now, the most pressing issue was to ensure his future. Pterano turned to look at the younger flier in concern and spoke in a soft voice.

“Petrie… there are some things you need to know about our herd if you’re going to get accepted.” The older flier said carefully. There were a few details that Petrie would have to remember when they’d meet the other fliers. Petrie looked at his uncle in clear unease and gulped before he answered.

“And what is that, uncle? Is there going to happen something bad?” The flier’s question was careful as he was still highly conflicted about all things that had happened. Finding his uncle here was an immense relief for him but he couldn’t shake of the past days from his mind in a moment. Petrie knew that they probably never would never leave his mind but perhaps his uncle and the other fliers could provide him with something to get over the nightmare that was his life at the moment. Pterano shook his head as he answered to his nephew’s logical question.

“No but there are some things you’d need to hide in order to avoid… startling the others. You see… they wouldn’t want to hear about your friends or the Valley. The herd is very traditional and many things the fliers do in your home wouldn’t be accepted here. Living with the other herds for example.“ Pterano cringed big-time as he spoke, knowing that this would be painful to Petrie who, despite his respect for his uncle, regarded his friends and the rest of the Great Valley in high regard. Petrie wouldn’t need to disown his lost companions but he’d have to make it seem like he had spent his whole life alone or with other fliers. The younger flier’s  answer was to be expected.

“Wh… what? Petrie won’t just say me not from the Valley! Me have lived there for almost all me life and me won’t say otherwise because of some fliers think me should!” Petrie’s voice was shocked above all and he seemed extremely puzzled by his uncle’s words. Had he really asked him to turn his back on his home and his friends? The young flier simply couldn’t believe this was what his uncle was after.

“Nephew… I’m not asking you to forget or insult them but it would help a lot if we could come up with another way to explain why you want to join us. None of them know about your mother or any of my or your real past. I know it’s harder for you but this this is the only way we can ever hope to get you in. I know that at least Peak won’t believe us without a good explanation.” Pterano spoke softly, trying to reason with his distressed nephew. He realized that Petrie would never do this willingly but he knew what he was talking about. At this point, he couldn’t allow Petrie to wander off to the Mysterious Beyond alone but he knew the duo had a far better shot at surviving with their own kind. He could only hope he could make Petrie see things his way.

“B… but me don’t want to say Petrie something me isn’t! Momma always said me to tell the truth and she and the other grown-ups say you were banished because we couldn’t trust you! Why would Petrie do the same mistakes you do in the past?” Petrie tried to stutter some kind of defense to his case and he hoped it could change his uncle’s mind. However, those words hurt Pterano deeply as Petrie disappointment had been one of the greatest punishments after the Valley’s decision. Even if the younger flier had still appeared to admire him, he could see the flicker of betrayal in Petrie’s eyes as he flew away from the Valley on that fateful day those four Cold Times ago. That was a moment he’d never forget. Still, he couldn’t help but lament Petrie’s childish naivety about Volant’s words.

“I’m sorry about that, nephew. Your mother’s right about me but here we can’t always do what is right. I wouldn’t want to say this but there’s a lot for you to learn in the Mysterious Beyond. Sometimes things… don’t go quite the same way as they did in the Valley. But I know you’re strong enough to take this step. I’ve already seen it, Petrie, when you saw me as I truly were back then.” The older flier tried to put on a wide smile as a way to encourage his nephew to take this step into the unknown. His words were genuine as he trusted in the boy’s ability to adapt to new situations but he had never expected it to be easy even for him. Petrie sighed as he answered.

“Me guess you’re right, uncle. But, me like to know, who be Peak?” Petrie’s voice was turning to a more resigned one and he tried to at least ask something that could give him encouragement and perhaps knowing more about the flier Pterano had mentioned would cheer him up somewhat. It seemed like his terrible day was far from complete. Pterano gave the younger flier an approving nod as he answered.

“He’s one of the herd’s leaders and likely the one who’ll cause us the most problems. He’s rather trustworthy when you get to know him but he’s also extremely suspicious about newcomers. I’d say we need a really good backstory for you if we’re going to get past him, Petrie. But don’t worry, we’ll manage to do it.” Pterano said as he tried to make Petrie see the urgency of his warnings. The young flier seemed to be already mentally fatigued and even if Pterano hated to see him like this, it would likely be to his own good to push the issue.

“Me no know about any of this, uncle. That place no seem like something Petrie would like to go. Maybe it better if me just go away.” The flier looked at his uncle with an extremely downtrodden way, for a moment making Pterano wonder his own stance. However, no matter which way he looked at it, his proposition would still be to Petrie’s best.

“Don’t say that, Petrie. We cannot just stay here! What would your mother say if I let you wander off alone into the wilderness! No, we’ve got only one way to go forward, Petrie. I promise you, you can trust your old uncle in this.” The older dinosaur tried to put on as friendly composure as he could and Petrie looked at him in distinct approval. It was clear that he still respected his uncle clearly and even if he still had severe misgivings about this, he slowly started to realize that something interesting could come out of this. Something in Pterano seemed to flicker a small blaze of adventure inside the beaten flier, just strong enough to snap him out of his saddened mental state.

“Pe… Petrie hope you right. Me can say me not from the Valley but me won’t say anything about me friends! Petrie owe them far too much to insult them now!” The young flier said in determination, prompting a conflicted loom from his uncle. Pterano knew this was all he could ask for but even then, he could only hope no one asked anything of the Valley or things might get bad sooner than later. Anyway, he realized that he couldn’t push Petrie any further. He could only hope that this was enough.

“Very well, nephew. I’m glad you can see that we have to do this but we still have to come up with an explanation for your willingness to join us. What do you say about this idea…”

About an hour later, a long range of mountains opened up before the two fliers. The terrain around them was still dry and largely flat but there were small plots of grass here and there, just enough to sustain a migrating herd on its journey. Petrie looked at the looming hills in slight interest, eager to meet his new companions and to see if there were any other fliers who would be worth getting to know. His uncle’s words still worried him somewhat but he knew he’d have to get over his sorrow sooner or later. With any luck, he could find new friends among his new herd.

Pterano, on the other hand, looked around himself from time to time, trying to see where the other fliers were at this moment. After a while of searching, he could see a form a flier in the distance, telling Pterano everything he had to know at this point. He whispered to Petrie quickly as he turned his direction towards the spot where one of his companions had just landed.

“Follow me, Petrie. We’re close to our destination.” The two fliers then flew for a moment in silence, a small plateau in the mountains soon opening under them. Petrie was surprised to see that there was almost fifty fliers here, the herd being much larger than he had initially expected. Most of them were young adults but a few children and older dinosaurs could also be seen among them. To Petrie’s relief, most of them seemed rather friendly even if most of them held noticeable scars in their bodies, apparently caused by the claws of another flier. Even then, boy decided to keep an open mind at this point for now as the two landed on a higher area overlooking the rest of the small sanctuary in the mountains. The older flier looked at his surroundings briefly and approached a rather tall female after a moment of hesitating.

“Fena, where are Peak, Nira, Lenel and Nimble? I tried to look at them when I arrived but I couldn’t see them anywhere.” The older flier asked neutrally from the female as he wondered where the herd’s leaders’ were at the moment. The other flier looked at him with a slightly dry expression until she answered.

“If they are not somewhere around this place, they’re probably scouting the surrounding areas. But as usual, they should be here soon. But who’s that boy with you?” Fena asked in puzzlement as she saw Pterano’s new companion. He had always appeared as a loner in the herd and this new kid’s appearance confused her greatly. Pterano had prepared for this question already and he had decided that the truth was the best policy here.

“Oh, he’s the reason why I even want to meet those four. He’s my nephew Petrie and he’d like to join this herd.” The flier spoke calmly, trying to keep a rather low profile before he’d get the leaders’ attention. Petrie tried to put on a slight smile as he looked at the light-brown female. He felt extremely awkward but he tried to stay as normal-looking as he could. Fena looked at the young flier in surprise and spoke to him in an almost friendly voice.

“Is that so? We seldom get any new children to our herd but I hope that you will find your place among us. I wish you luck in trying to get on those spitfires’ good side.” The young adult flier said to Petrie who tried to return her kindness with a smile, no matter how forced it’d turn out to be. He answered quickly to her words.

“Thank you for the wishing! Petrie also hope all go well today!” The young flier said in growing confidence even if he was still highly conflicted about everything that was going on. Still, it was nice to see that the first flier they’d met was somewhat approving of his presence. Fena chuckled slightly to the young flier’s speech pattern before she was interrupted again by Pterano.

“I’m sure we will do well, Fena. Thank you for your help but me and Petrie should go search if any of the four are anywhere nearby. Fare well until we meet next time.” Pterano glanced at his nephew to follow him when he heard a surprising remark from Petrie. The young flier looked at his uncle with half-closed eyes when he spoke.

“Actually, can Petrie wait here for a moment. Me flew for hours already before me met you with me injured wing!” The boy spoke in a weary voice, prompting a thoughtful look from Pterano. It was true that Petrie had gone through too much today already but it was also likely that he would get the attention of some other, possibly hostile, flier before he’d return. Even then, that was a chance he was willing to take as he thought about Petrie’s situation. He had deserved a moment of rest after all his journeys.

“Alright, Petrie, but try to be safe. The last thing we need at this point is to make some kind of fuss.” Pterano said as he prepared to take off. Petrie was sitting by a cliff’s side surrounded by somewhat tall grass. The young flier could have sworn he couldn’t have raised a wing at this point and his voice was more than thankful when he answered.

“I will, uncle. Thank you for letting me stay here for a moment.” Petrie said as he saw his uncle nod at him in approval. The larger flier then took off and left Petrie to spend some time alone, trying to gather his thoughts. If everything went well, he’d soon have a new home and even if it would never replace his old one, any home would be better at this point than the panic he had gone through before his uncle had found him. After a moment of rest, he would be ready for the meeting with the herd’s leaders. Pterano had seemed very confident about his idea and the boy saw no reason to doubt him. Even if his head was still a complete mess, his uncle’s appearance had given him new strength. He was left to rest alone in the relative safety of the tall grass.

Strong flapping of two wings could be heard as Hoist flew above the newcomer. The adolescent flier had noticed him right away when he and Pterano had arrived in the small, closed plain which the fliers called the Widewing’s Rest after one of the legendary fliers of the past. Hoist was seldom impressed by newcomers and this one seemed even more pathetic than usual. He was rather small and undoubtedly younger than he was and if he was already fatigued by the journey, he would have no place in this herd. Hoist smiled wickedly as he decided to test this flier’s resolve.

After many minutes had passed by, Petrie felt his strength slowly starting to return to his limbs. They were still wearied by the flying and his injury hadn’t healed fully. Still, he knew that a little more rest would return his usual strength. His wing was a more worrying thing at this point as it was clear that not everything was still right with it. However, with any luck he wouldn’t be required to fly for a day or two. Petrie’s thoughts were a complete flux as he tried to calm down from his earlier despair. A deep sorrow and concern for his friends still bothered the young flier but at this point, those thoughts were slowly taking a backseat. The adrenaline of being introduced to a new group of unknown dinosaurs were slowly taking the lion’s share of his thoughts. Until they were thoroughly interrupted by a quick, painful pain in his shoulder.

“Ouch! Who did that!” The flier said as he looked around himself. A rather sizable stone had hit his shoulder but luckily it hadn’t made a deep wound. Still, the young boy was highly angered and worried by this turn of events. After glancing around himself for a while, he suddenly jumped upward in order to dodge another incoming rock. Petrie was about to take off to find his tormentor until a rather large, muscled adolescent flier appeared from the grass surrounding Petrie. He wore a mean smile as he started to speak.

“So a lazy, slow, good-for-nothing kid wishes to join us! Hah! I’m sure even your uncle cannot save you from what our leaders have in mind!” The greenish-colored flier said as he moved towards Petrie who felt his heart sink at this development. This was far from what he had wanted to encounter right now. Ever since meeting Hyp and his gang, Petrie had developed a distinct fear towards bullies. It had only been deepened during the preparation for the Great Day of the Fliers and the unwanted attention he had gotten from his siblings back then. However, this time he wouldn’t give quarter to the newcomer.

“Petrie no need uncle Pterano’s help to get accepted here! You’ll see, me will do good when me can show Petrie can do!” It was highly unusual for Petrie to act like this but his nerves had already been stretched by the last days to heir limit and this flier’s antics seemed even worse than the bullies in the Valley.

“Really? I doubt no one will give you a chance for that when you can’t even speak right! “Me Petrie, me so good at flying”, just give me a break!” The greenish flier chuckled in mockery, willing to immediately provoke the smaller flier for his antics. Petrie’s face grew increasingly more red as he heard his tormentor’s words. Some of his siblings had pointed out that he should try to fix his speech pattern with new dinosaurs but Petrie simply couldn’t. His speech pattern had grown to be a part of him and he simply wasn’t able to drop it immediately, even if he wanted to. Petrie took a few enraged breaths before he answered.

“We’ll see what will happen but for now, just go away! Petrie not like to hear of bullies right now!” The flier tried to end the situation but the larger dinosaur seemed to have a different idea. He moved even closer to Petrie with a highly arrogant expression, clearly willing to escalate the situation further. Petrie felt his heart sink at this development as this was the last thing he would have wanted to experience. Even then, Petrie knew that he wouldn’t be left alone easily. He was smaller than the other flier, he had no friends and he couldn’t simply outfly this villain. Petrie knew he would have to survive this agonizing situation somehow as his tormentor approached.

“And why would I do that! It’s not like a brainless weakling like you can do anything about it.” The flier raised his fist and Petrie knew immediately what was going to happen. However, this day’s events had not only taken a toll on him mentally, it had also strengthened his resolve to survive it. With quick reflexes, Petrie grabbed the larger flier’s fist and with the element of surprise, pushed him backward. The larger flier looked at Petrie in surprise and rising anger as he prepared his answer. He panted slightly as he spoke again.

“So you really are up for a round? Great… that’s just what I wanted too…” The greenish flier started to walk threateningly towards Petrie, who realized that he meant what he said. Petrie was already preparing for the worst… until a surprisingly low but clearly female voice called from behind him.

“Hoist, stop it already! I thought you realized what it meant that you’ll be beaten by the grown-ups if you didn’t try to behave! This doesn’t seem too promising!” Petrie looked at the newcomer in surprise and deep gratitude as the flier she had just called Hoist turned towards her. His face and voice dipped with loathing as he answered to the female flier. She looked slightly younger than Hoist but it seemed like she was clearly able to resist anything the male would have in mind. She was deeper-brown colored than any flier Petrie had seen before and it seemed like two knew each other well enough, clearly to both of their misfortune.

“Stay out of this, Glide! This brat doesn’t belong in the herd and our rules doesn’t concern him! In fact, I can do just what I want with him!” Hoist said with a loathing voice, knowing that in theory he was right. The herd treated only its members with respect and as long as the small flier was an outsider, no one would care about anything he would do to him. However, Glide looked at in clear annoyance, being able to realize what Petrie was up to here.

“That is as long as he’s an outsider. If he joins us, you will be punished as usual. I’ll make sure of it.” Glide said with heavy words. She held little respect for the smaller flier but even more she hated Hoist’s antics. Ever since she could remember, he had been a troublemaker and as long as she could prevent him from doing harm to anyone, she’d do it. Hoist looked at her in deep annoyance but he knew she was right. Even if this newcomer had been an ideal victim for him, he knew he couldn’t get away with his this if Glide was around. With an extremely hateful look, Hoist walked past the female and spoke in a cold voice as he left.

“Mind my words, one day I’ll draw the line how long you can stalk me. One day you won’t be this lucky.” With those words, Hoist took off and headed further down the plateau and disappeared among the woods downhill from the duo’s position. Petrie breathed deeply ass he realized that he had been saved barely from a bad beating. He panted in relief as he answered to Glide for her timely intervention.

“Th… thank you! Things might have gone really bad!” Petrie tried to chuckle somewhat in order to calm down again from the unsavory incident. He was glad to see that there were also some nicer fliers in addition to bullies. Glide looked at Petrie with a thoughtful look and answered to him shortly.

“Yep, things seldom go well with that moron. Always pestering those younger than him and thinking so much about himself. However, you better begin thinking how you plan to get through the coming test if cowering  is all you can do. Glide’s voice was rather dismissing and it didn’t hold any real friendliness. Petrie realized that she had helped only to prevent Hoist from doing his things, not to help him. Nevertheless, he was thankful for her help.

“Me know that… Me name’s Petrie and me can do better than that. Actually…” Petrie was going to continue when a very familiar voice called to him from above.

“Petrie! Everything’s ready, those four fliers are waiting for you right now! We mustn’t keep them waiting!” Pterano looked at Petrie’s companion in slight surprise, not really knowing her personally. He had seen the girl many times but he had never really found out anything about her. Anyway, it wasn’t important at this point. Petrie looked at his uncle in approval before he heard Glide’s words to him.

“I guess I have to bid you good luck there but be prepared to prove your worth. We won’t take any dead weight with us.” After those words, Glide left the scene and left Petrie alone in the cliff. He was highly puzzled by what the female had meant but it was apparent that things wouldn’t be as simple as he had hoped. Things were looking more complex by the minute. However, there was no time to wonder about that now. He answered to his uncle briefly before joining him in the sky.

“Let’s go! Petrie feel much better already!” The young flier said as he rose to the older flier’s side. Hoist had scared him deeply but Glide had seemed to be nice enough. Perhaps if he’d pass the leaders’ test, there would be other fliers he could get friends with? Pterano looked at his nephew n deep thought, noticing that something else had happened between the two children than mere conversation but at this point, preparing his nephew for the coming ordeal was the most important part.

“I’m glad to hear that, Petrie. We can talk about what happened here later but there’s a few things I’d like to tell you. I can speak for you before the heads of the four great lineages but only you can prove your worth to them. They won’t demand perfection from you but they want you to show respect to them as well as prove that… your past is worthy of joining us. Also, they’ll want you to…” The older flier was surprised as he was interrupted by his nephew. Petrie was clearly nervous but apparently the other flier had told him something about the coming conversation.

“Show that Petrie a good flier who won’t slow the others down. Me already heard that.” The young flier said in a forced voice, slowly beginning to wonder if he would be able to do that. His wing still hurt and he wouldn’t be able to show any real feats of strength with it. Pterano nodded to him in acceptance before he continued.

“That’s right. If I know anything, you have to beat some other flier of your age in some kind of flying challenge but I know there are very few fliers in the world who can beat you, if even half of the stories you’ve told me are true. That’s why I haven’t told you anything about it until now. I just hope your wing is in a good enough condition to do this.” The older flier said in slight worry, full well knowing that Petrie would have an additional handicap in the challenge but he had been serious when he commended his nephew’s flying skills. He had seen them himself during the search for the Stone of Cold Fire and according to Petrie, that had been only one of his adventures.

“Petrie hope so too. But me will do me best, uncle.” Petrie said simply as he prepared mentally for the coming meeting. He feared that something might go wrong either in the challenge or with his past but he was prepared to do his all. He owed it to his uncle and it provided him with the best chance for survival. Pterano looked at Petrie his last words of advice before he started his descent.

“Just remember what we talked about earlier and it’ll be fine. Try to calm down and let me do the initial talking.” The older flier said as a small opening in the middle of a forest opened under the duo. A small waterfall opened on its side which then turned into a raging stream. The small clearing was covered with colorful flowers despite the late season and a cool breeze blew through the field. The small forest around the glade was closely bordered by steep cliffs, making the forest very hard to reach for everyone but fliers. Petrie could easily see why the herd had chosen this hidden sanctuary as one of its homes. It truly was a flier’s paradise forever hidden from the eyes of the other kinds.

The young flier looked at the assembled dinosaurs in deep interest. There were a bit over a dozen fliers assembled in a circle, among them Glide which both surprised and heartened Petrie greatly. Most of them seemed middle- aged but there were also many younger ones. However, most of Petrie’s attention was directed at the four fliers who stood in the middle of the circle, apparently holding much respect from the others. Pterano had already told Petrie a lot about the four leaders of the great lineages and the boy could already tell which one of them was who. To his surprise, all of them were relatively young, barely older than his own uncle.

The deep orange male standing on the left side of the semicircle had to be the one his uncle had called Peak and his expression seemed just as suspicious as Petrie had expected. He didn’t look angry or mean but he certainly held little sympathy for the smaller dinosaur. Even then, there was something in him that somewhat comforted Petrie: as if beneath his grim exterior was a just, even sympathetic leader.

The next one had to be the one called Nira as she had the light red color his uncle had told him about. She seemed extremely proud and Peak’s suspicion seemed to have been replaced by a sense of superiority. Petrie’s earlier intuition about Peak’s internal friendliness was now turned to worries about the female’s sympathies. Petrie could only hope she’d turn out be friendlier than she let out.
The third one had to be Lenel who was a somewhat smaller, light tan-colored flier. He wore a somewhat absentminded expression but he looked at Petrie with some interest. However, the young flier could see that he was here only because of duty. His true interests were hard to determine at this point.

The last of the four fliers seemed to be the most approachable and Petrie could remember his uncle calling her Nimble. She held an even friendly expression and looked at the two newcomers in clear interest. Petrie looked at the four with a curious expression and despite his nervousness, he could feel that the four were respected for a reason. The initial silence was broken by a remark from Peak which started the discussion. His voice was somewhat high but not unnaturally so.

“So, Pterano, this is the one who you think should join us. I hope he knows what is expected from him.” Peak went straight to the point as he seldom was a one to waste time. Petrie looked at him in surprise and he was about to answer when Pterano answered for him.

“I’ve told him everything he needs to know and I’m sure he won’t let you down. I promise he’s worthy of this great honor, respected inheritors of the Great Fliers.” Pterano spoke with a sincere voice. Despite his revering words, there was no additional grandeur in his gestures. Despite his willingness to speak for himself, Petrie was somewhat relieved that there wasn’t need for any additional verbiage in this meeting. The four looked at Petrie, clearly judging him carefully. The young flier felt extremely bothered by the fuss that was being made around his arrival but he understood its necessity. He was extremely relieved when the next one of the four fliers, Nimble, opened her mouth.

“Where have you come from, Petrie? It’s very odd that we haven’t heard of Pterano’s nephew before. He has always told us that he has no family.” Nimble’s voice was far softer than Peak’s even if it was clear that she expected to hear the full truth. The female’s eyes bored into Petrie as she waited for the answer. The young flier knew that it was his turn to speak and after a brief gulp, he opened his beak.

“P… Petrie was all alone before uncle Pterano found me. I… I hadn’t met him many times as me lived with me family not far to the east from here. Until… until the sharpteeth came!” Petrie started to sob at this point and he didn’t even need any encouragement for it from the situation. The concept of the story was mostly true and the mere thought of his actual family was enough to bring tears into his eyes. It was enough for the young flier to use his most likely gone friends as a decoy for his personal matters but he realized that nobody would be hurt by it. For better or worse, he would have to carve out a new path in life for himself. The older fliers looked at Petrie, most of them in suspicion and disbelief, but Petrie could see that he wasn’t being judged unfairly. He would have his opportunity to conclude his story before he'd be interrupted.

“We lived on a mountaintop that overlooked a large plain. Our nest was located in a small tunnel opening from its peak. Petrie met uncle Pterano a few times when he visited us. He wasn’t often near us because, well… he and momma had a long fight about stupid things. Still, me and me family lived there for me whole life until… until it happened!” Despite his conflicted mental state, using hider’s home and a twisted version of his actual story as a basis for his story helped him a lot to keep his thoughts assembled to the issue on hand. Only the last part of his tale was completely made up.

“Momma was looking for food for me and me siblings. We had always been safe from evil fliers because of the great hide of our nest but that didn’t last. When momma was gone, four evil fliers attacked us and… and all me brothers and sisters were killed! And so was momma when she came back! Petrie hid from them for hours and me managed to lose them in the tunnels! It was pure luck that me ever found uncle after that… he already saved me life once! Me have nowhere else to go.” Petrie shook his head as he spoke. Even if his siblings still lived, he had lost enough to relate to how losing your very family would feel like. Tears fell steadily to the ground as Petrie thought about his real past which wasn’t much happier than the one he had just told. Pterano cleared his throat before he continued from where Petrie had concluded.

“I found him wandering near the Longbeak’s river alone. I know that what you don’t often accept new members to our herd but please, I’m the only family he has left. I should have been there to defend him and his siblings and that will bother me for the rest of my life. Petrie doesn’t deserve to live alone at such a young age.” Pterano offered to the four fliers who seemed to weigh the duo’s words heavily. Surprisingly to Petrie, there was absolutely no whispering or any kind of communication between the older fliers: it seemed like each of them kept firmly to themselves. This surprised Petrie greatly as the grown-ups in the Valley had always quarreled with each other. Either these ones had already agreed on this issue or they didn’t trust each other at all. Soon after Pterano had concluded his statement, Peak answered him.

“We haven’t seen many scattered flier families during our travels. Where was this mountain and what did it look like?” The flier asked. He knew he wouldn’t be able to know where Petrie had actually lived but he would see whether the young dinosaur knew at all what he was talking about. Nira looked at her peer with a clearly untrusting look but decided to stay silent. Petrie, on the other hand, concentrated heavily on remembering some details of the surroundings of Hider’s home. After a moment of thinking, the giant stone which clearly resembled a flier came to his mind but it was possible that the other fliers would know it. He had to keep his past in as small a focus as he only could.

“As Petrie said, there be a big desert below it and a small stream on the lower hills of it. Petrie loved to play there when everything was alright. Also, me and me siblings often explore the hills and there be many cracks and paths. We would have liked to fly away from our home but momma always said we had to stay there to hide from evil fliers. Now me finally know why.” Petrie’s voice sounded very genuine due to the real place to which he based his tale as well as the real sorrow that flowed in his mind. His remark prompted the last of the four fliers, Lenel, to finally join the conversation.

“The closest desert is the one surrounding the Great Valley. I hope you never visited that place, did you?” The flier asked in a skeptic voice, clearly having his doubts about Petrie. Even if visiting the Valley wasn’t a crime, Lenel wanted to know if Petrie had anything to do with that place. The young flier looked at the tan-colored, rather young flier and felt his stomach drop. He felt extremely bad for being forced into this situation but his uncle had told him what to answer in this situation.

“Petrie heard of it but me never went near it. Momma said it too far and it too dangerous.” Petrie said in a sheepish voice, willing to give the impression that he had wanted to visit it as it was easier to believe than a mere assurance that he had never heard of it. Even through his guilt, the young flier was rather happy about himself and his success thus far in trying to sound as honest as possible under the circumstances. Lenel seemed somewhat satisfied by his answer and the next remark brightened his mood greatly.

“It seems like everything is in order. I have nothing else to ask at this point.” Nimble said as she looked dryly at her peers. Even if she would never let an unfit flier into the herd, neither did she like pestering others because of her own, most likely ungrounded doubts. Even if new members were a rather rare occasion, this wasn’t a unique event and the four knew this was really a routine interrogation. Peak sighed slightly as he couldn’t really object to Nimble’s words. There seemed to be nothing really suspicious about this flier. However, there remained one final thing to be done before Petrie could be welcome among the herd.

“Very well, Petrie. We trust that what you tell us is true but even then, a tragic past doesn’t mean we have to take more burdens among us. You have to prove that you can keep up and even benefit the others in the future.” Peak said in a more relaxed voice, clearly more willing to get over this thing at this point. Petrie felt a shiver of concern flow through his innards until he felt a hand fall down on his shoulder and a warm whisper in his ear.

“You’ve done well, Petrie. Really well. I’m sure you will beat any challenge before you.” Pterano said silently as the duo prepared for the announcement. Petrie glanced at his uncle and nodded happily. He had surprised even himself and the fact that his uncle approved of his performance reassured the young flier greatly. It was Lenel who announced the challenge.

“First we need a good rival for you during this test… Glide, could you come here?” The male said as his eyes scoured the audience. There were very little children among them and the female was the first one who caught his eye. The younger flier glanced around herself in surprise, not expecting to face Petrie again this quickly. Last time she had helped him out of pity and loathing for Hoist but now she was called on to determine whether he had the right to join the herd. This wasn’t something she would have expected or wanted but there was simply no option of rejecting Lenel’s request about this issue. With slightly hesitant steps, the young female started to walk forward.

Petrie, on the other hand, was surprised by his turn of events. He had seen Glide among the attendees but for some reason, he didn’t expect to meet her during this challenge. However, he was slightly relieved by this fact as he would have hated to do it against the kinds of Hoist. Even if he hardly knew Glide, he knew that there would be some kind of mutual respect between the duo which relieved Petrie somewhat. He and Glide exchanged nods as the latter walked near to the four older fliers. Even then, Petrie couldn’t help but fear for the coming minutes. He knew this challenge would be far from an easy one. Nira proceeded to explain the further rules for the little contest. Her voice was rather dry but it was clear that she knew the significance of this test.

“Petrie, you have to prove that you won’t be a hindrance to us and for that, you have to beat one of us your age. The flier here called Glide will be your opponent this time. The two of you will fly to the higher slopes of these hills and behind them lies a group of  mesa-like hills. Above the highest of them lies two large yellowish berries which you will have to bring to us here. Needless to say, neither of you can sabotage your opponent during this race and you too, Glide, must give your all. Petrie, you have to beat Glide or at the very least not lose to her by more than half a minute and you are able to join this herd. Is everything clear?” The older flier asked in a questioning and distant look. The earlier suspicions were slowly being wiped away from the leaders’ faces but that didn’t help Petrie greatly.

The boy felt a great fear rise within him as he tried his still-wounded wing. Even if the earlier intense pain had all but evaporated, it still hurt to move it and the old injury would make this race extremely difficult and even painful. Despite his hesitance to admit it, deep inside Petrie had little doubt that he’d be able to beat his competitor in normal circumstances but now, things would become more complicated than they should have.

The other flier’s fears weren’t lost on Glide but it didn’t move her greatly. Even if Petrie seemed to be nicer than many others in the herd, he was still an outsider and if he wasn’t up to this task, he would never deserve to be anything else. Glide had enough on her mind already and being forced to test Petrie wasn’t what she would have liked to do. Still, she would give Petrie a fair chance to prove himself. He deserved at least that much. Nimble looked at the two in anticipation and after a moment, she said rather softly.

“You may go but don’t forget to play fair! We will know if you break the rules!” The large female said and it wasn’t long before the two children took off towards the higher slopes of the mountains. From now on, it was up to them to see whether all of the fliers had gathered for nothing.

Both of the fliers started to take off immediately but the male was highly dispirited by Glide’s wings’ more powerful gusts, giving her a clear early advantage. Petrie looked at Glide’s disappearing form as he tried to gather momentum for his flight. His first few powerful flaps were accompanied by deep pain and even if Petrie managed to get airborne, his initial speed was too slow. The young flier cringed as he could feel his uncle’s eyes bore into his back while he tried to begin his chase. The mesa was apparently rather far so he would have a chance to show his experience as a flier before the end. Even if his wing was still injured, the boy still had a few tricks in his disposal.

A brief snort came from Glide’s beak as she looked quickly after herself. She was stunned to see how quickly Petrie dropped from her pace. It meant either that he was injured or the weakest flier she had ever met but it mattered little at this point. He would have to do something to save himself from defeat but Glide was at least happy to be seen this favorably against the newcomer.

The wide plateau soon turned into a harsher if more even ground which would rise slowly for a bit shorter time. Petrie looked in worry as Glide was only a small spot in the sky at this point but he was slowly reaching a good speed himself. The instinct of competition started to quickly rise in Petrie as he saw the ground grow ever more distant below him. Despite the still-aching wing, Petrie knew that this was the life he was supposed to lead. Away from the troubles of the ground, simply looking at the horizon in awe and preparing for the next adventure. For the first time since leaving Hider’s mountain, a genuine smile rose to the flier’s face despite his still uphill battle to reach Glide in time.

The young flier looked at his competitor in expectation as he saw that she was no longer creating more distance between the two. Still, in order for him to win this challenge, Petrie knew he would have to do something unexpected, something that would surprise Glide and the four leaders of the herd. Luckily, Petrie knew that he was up for it: he hadn’t survived all of his times with his friends for nothing. Just wait, Glide! Petrie will show what me can do!

Suddenly, Petrie raised his wings to a sideways position, using it to gain altitude and quick. The wind was blowing from in front of the two fliers, making Petrie’s efforts extremely tiring but it also slowed Glide down a bit. However, if all of Petrie’s experiences from falling had taught him anything, it was that controlling his own movements in extremely high speeds was instrumental in the perfect command of flight. Petrie knew his mother had often told him to fly safe and not risk an injury with too brave tricks that might backfire. However, the boy knew he had no choice at this point. He would have to use all the speed he might gain from a long dive downwards and to use the wind to retain his momentum during his trip back to his uncle and the others. Petrie’s heart grew cold as he realized how difficult it would be to grab the berry from the cliff on that speed but he knew that was a chance he had to take at this point but that was a matter for later. Right now, he would have to locate the mesa before he would be able to put his plan into motion.

The highest peaks of the mountains started to slowly get behind Glide as she looked at the wide scene before her. The mesa where the berries were could be seen far below her and it wouldn’t take many minutes until she’d reach it. She was slowly relaxing her pace as she saw how far behind Petrie was getting from her. She lamented the lack of competition somewhat but on the other hand, it only made her job ceremonial. Soon, she would be free to rejoin her best friend, Ortin, for the rest of the day and to slowly prepare for the next migration of the herd. Petrie’s fate would be a shame but only the strong thrived in this world. That was why the fliers ruled it and that was why the weakest of the fliers had no place among the others. That was how it had always been and that was how it was supposed to be.

Petrie, on the other hand, had far different ideas. The highest mountain peaks looked like mere hills below him and he could hardly spot Glide as she flew forward the centermost mesa in a quick pace. Petrie was many minutes’ flight behind her but his surprise move could turn the tables of this challenge. The young dinosaur looked in concern as he saw Glide land on the mesa to get her berry from the ground and embark on her flight back to the others. It was clear that he would have to give his next trick his all or he would find himself all alone again, probably even drawing his uncle to the disaster with him. Petrie knew this wasn’t a possibility he could allow to come to pass.

However, any hurry could prove extremely dangerous in these speeds. Petrie could feel the wind growing slightly stronger which would help him keep us his speed later on. The mesa was far below him and trying to estimate the exact distance was difficult. However, something within Petrie told him to just trust his instincts. The young flier shut his eyes and took a deep breath as he prepared for the deep dive. Well, here me go! Petrie not gonna fail, uncle!

Suddenly, the boy opened his eyes and pointed his wings steeply downwards. There were serious upwards air streams but Petrie managed to dodge them and keep his balance in check. His wing strained under the stress but Petrie knew this was something he would have to live with for the next minutes. Water was beginning to form in the flier’s eyes as he saw the mesa grow swiftly larger below him and Petrie moved a bit further away from it. He knew the next few seconds would be crucial and the next moment, Petrie once again turned his wings into a more stable position, immediately turning his direction towards the mountain.

His eyes scoured the hilltop feverishly, trying to see where the berry was. Luckily for him, it lied in the middle of the mesa in a small crack to protect it from the winds. The time seemed to slow immensely as Petrie tried to turn himself towards the spot in order to get the best shot at grabbing it. It would by no means be an easy task as Petrie was flying faster than he ever had before and the tailwind helped him retain that momentum. The mesa grew close in an immense speed and Petrie prepared for the decisive moment. The berry grew closer and closer… until Petrie quickly but decisively grabbed it into his beak.

Even the flier himself was surprised at his success and it took immense willpower to snap himself out of his astonishment and prevent from crashing into the ground with the crushing speed. Petrie quickly started to strive for more altitude, just in time to prevent from hitting a large boulder near the spot where the berry had lied seconds before. Even then, Petrie gulped as he looked at the sight before himself. The mountains that had looked like miserable hills from the sky were actually formidable hindrances at the more traditional altitudes. Petrie gulped as he realized that upholding his indispensable speed and navigating his way through the mountains in time wouldn’t be a simple task.

For the another flier, nothing in the hills seemed too complex. Glide hadn’t seen Petrie since grabbing her berry and she expected the male to have probably given up and flown away voluntarily to avoid the shame of accepting defeat. The female flier still flew in a normal speed but she knew she no longer had to try to push herself to her limits. Her victory was all but certain as Petrie was nowhere to be seen at this point… until she heard a rather loud screech not far away from her.

Petrie cried in shock as he realized that he had no option but to fly through a narrow gorge, one that he would have probably tried to avoid even in a normal speed. Still, he didn’t have the time to avoid it. The flier shuddered as he flew through the rough tunnel of protruding spikes and quick turns. All the sentient thought had given way to natural instincts which struggled to navigate his way from this most dangerous of situations. After many seconds of fighting, however, Petrie managed to rise up from the crack to the world above.

Once again, Petrie took a deep breath of relief as he had survived another extremely dangerous trick that, in a worst-case-scenario, might have turned fatal but he had survived with flying colors. What was more, he could see his opponent flying before him and he was quickly closing the distance. Petrie’s face turned into a wide smile as he realized what that meant. Petrie still have a chance! Now wings, please don’t fail me now!

Glide looked in astonishment as she saw the boy fly after her. He had appeared from out of nowhere and even worse, he was flying at a terrifying speed. That was a trick Glide couldn’t have explained no matter how she looked at it but the challenge wasn’t over yet. The plateau which they had left from opened far away in the distance but it wouldn’t be long before the fliers would reach it. Right now, Glide was flying above a pass through the mountains which would soon open into a small clearing above the plateau which served as her target. After the clearing opened only forest between her and the leaders. On a sour note, Petrie was gaining on her fast. With all her might and strength, Glide flapped her wings to reach the best possible speed. The victory of this challenge was on a razor’s edge.

Minutes dragged on slowly as Pterano gazed expectantly into the horizon. It had been almost half an hour since the duo’s departure and concerns were slowly beginning to form in his head. Even if he knew his nephew was a highly capable and experienced flier, it might have been too early to put him through this challenge at this point. His wing had seemed pained earlier and it was unlikely that Petrie’s mood helped him any on this challenge. However, Pterano knew there was no way it could have been delayed without raising suspicions. For better or worse, Petrie received only one chance to show his stride.

The flier gazed carefully at the four higher-ranked fliers and he could see that they were quickly becoming rather tired of the waiting. Still, he was beyond grateful that they had given Petrie this chance to prove himself. There was no doubt that his relationship with Lenel had helped him in getting this meeting gathered. The tan-colored flier had offered him a sort of pact in that he sometimes did some tasks to Lenel like supporting him on meetings as well as doing some scouting for him. In return, Lenel gave him some favors such as having some of his concerns addressed to  and some simple benefits in the herd. Despite his resolution to never venture away from an honest, honorable path, he would still be more than happy help the flier who he deemed the most worthy of the four fliers to lead.

Not that Petrie needed to know about such issues. The poor boy had went through enough as it was and he was too young to be drawn into these herd politics. Pterano would tell him sooner or later about it but for now, he would keep his personal dealings to himself. Still, none of that mattered any as long as Petrie hadn’t beaten Glide in this vital challenge. The flier hadn’t lied when he said he would follow Petrie into the life of solitude but he dearly hoped that wouldn’t come to pass.
The older flier was looking to the ground deep in thought as he suddenly heard voices of cheer and expectation around him. When he turned his gaze upwards, his own face fell steeply as he saw Glide appearing from over the trees in the distance, with Petrie nowhere to be seen. Pterano’s hopeful expression turned into a nearly desperate one as the seconds passed without Petrie appearing after the girl. Only a moment more and the half minute would be done and Petrie completely defeated in this challenge. However, his faith in his nephew had been strong ever since the duo’s first meeting. Petrie was smart enough to get through this. Pterano knew it.

After a highly agonizing moment, the flier’s trust in his nephew was finally rewarded. Petrie appeared from among the mountains but he was desperately behind his competitor. At this pace, the boy would lose this race. However, after a moment, Pterano saw something surprising. Petrie was approaching like a flying rock and he was clearly faster than Glide. Pterano could see that it was going to be a tough flight but Petrie still had a chance. Absentmindedly, Pterano crossed his arms and whispered silently to the wind.

“Hurry up, Petrie! I know you can do this!”

Glide could see from the expressions of the fliers that while she was still in the lead, the last leg would be all but easy. Somehow, Petrie had managed to surprise her and drag her into this agonizing situation. She would reach the opening in less than a minute but would she be the winner or someone who had just been defeated by a complete outsider? Even if she was impressed by Petrie’s display, that wasn’t a possibility the girl would wish to go through. Glide closed her eyes and started to flap her wings more furiously than in a long time, resolute to give this home stretch her all.

Whimpers could be heard from Petrie’s mouth as he charged forward, his initial momentum highly upheld by the strong tailwind. He could see how far ahead Glide still was but his speed was unmatched by the work her muscles did at this point. Petrie narrowed his eyes as he struggled to find the most favorable air stream to finally decided this urgent challenge and to earn his place among the herd. The wind whistled in Petrie’s ears as the forest below him grew ever closer. The flier’s wings had stayed mostly still during the glide and they had been spared most of the stress. With immense excitement, Petrie realized that he would reach Glide in time, despite the girl’s feverish struggles. Petrie could already see his uncle waiting for him in the distance and it was at that point that Petrie realized that he should quickly start to slow down his speed.

However, that turned out be easier said than done. He was moving too fast to be stopped at this point, at least in time. Petrie didn’t have time to react before he dashed past Glide, right towards the goal… and right towards the canopy of the trees. The flier quickly lost his balance and with two swift somersaults, he reached the clearing where the other fliers were waiting. However, he couldn’t regain his control in time to avoid further problems.

The young flier hit the ground with immense speed, sending him rolling forward in an almost comic fashion. It took many seconds until he finally, stopped. Petrie’s eyes were spinning in his head as he realized what had just transpired. The race was over and he had won. He had managed to justify his uncle’s trust in him and earned his place in the herd. Petrie raised his head slightly from the ground as he saw the other fliers quickly running towards him. However, Petrie said only one brief statement before he once again fell to the ground in immense relief for his miraculous victory.

“Petrie won’t be doing that again anytime soon. It seems me not so good at landing after all.”

Hearty laughter rang through the assembled crowd as they heard the winner’s comment. Pterano smiled widely as he looked at his nephew. He had prevailed despite his injury and shown what he had learned during his many years of adventure. Pterano could see that Petrie was unharmed by his fall but he needed a lot of rest after everything he’d gone through. The older dinosaur looked at his nephew in sympathy: he or anyone else wouldn’t be going to deny the relentless young flier’s well-earned rest.

Despite the unfavorable odds, Petrie survived the challenge set upon him by the four leaders of the herd. Now it's up to him to forge a new future among them but it will be far from easy. There are many who won't take kindly on the newcomer but also others who are easier to approach. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and see you in the next one! :)


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« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2017, 01:46:58 AM »
Well, I've caught up until chapter 8 and I think it is a good moment in the story to recollect my thoughts. I will probably fail to remember all points I have a comment on but I'll cover the main things, don't worry ^^spike

Maybe I should start with the little argument that Ducky and Petrie had. Truth be told, I'm not sure if the issues she is having within her family (interesting development btw) justifies such a fierce reaction. I would expect this sort of complaint from Cera though who seems to be quite soft in your story so far. Then again, we've already learned how she grew softer over time.

Another note on Ducky: She doesn't use contractions, nope nope nope :p

The sharptooth encounter was certainly refreshing, although it seemed a little too easy for the Gang here and there. Still it was good too include such a scene.

An empty Hanging Rock... well that leaves many open questions ^^spike

And now we come to the meeting... well, what should I say? Just when you think everything is gonna be alright again, things go shit. :D Chomper was defending Ruby and in doing so had to kill. Nobody is going to understand that this was a purely defensive action, they will have to leave now for sure. Leaves the question what the Gang are going to do. Undoubtedly they will want to stick to their friends though that'd mean leaving their families and home. If they stay at home, they are going to have a lot of assaults to face... really thrilled to see what route you're going to take. :o

Same goes to Grandpa by the way... he will not exactly be popular now :p
mostly inactive due to exam preparation. Includes my creative work in particular which is entirely on hiatus. Hit me on discord if you need something, I'm more active there :)


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« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2017, 09:38:01 AM »
Wow, you're making great progress! Thanks again for the reviews. :)littlefoot

I know being this angered by her siblings seems unlikely for Ducky but I think her earlier problems with Spike explain it somewhat. After all, she's not immune to getting upset by others and I hope the scene in the Meeting of the Herds sheds some light to her situation. As for Cera, I don't see her having any reason to get really tough at this point. Sure, the whole situation is getting on everyone's nerves but I, too, think she's much calmer today than she once was. I've tried to keep her somewhat angered when that kind of behavior should be expected from her, however. As for Ducky's speech pattern, thanks for pointing that out. :)

And now we come to the meeting... well, what should I say? Just when you think everything is gonna be alright again, things go shit.

Yep, that's a great way to sum up that chapter. :lol I felt like that was the part that finally drove the Gang over the point of no return and it certainly is a turning point for the story. As for the thoughts near the ending, there's only one way to find out. :p  


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« Reply #36 on: October 03, 2017, 02:47:57 AM »
This was a rather intense chapter as the full ramifications of Petrie's current situation have now been made known to the reader.  It seems that my hunch that the flyer herd is quite rough has been proved true, as they only accept the strong and worthy into their ranks.  This is perfectly justifiable as the herd's survival depends on not having excess weight in the form of herd members which will slow them down, but this also presents a harsh environment for Petrie to adapt.  The arrival of Hoist is a testament to this and I suspect he will be trouble in the future.  

The resolution of Petrie's test was handled quite nicely and also provided a captivating peek into everyone's perspective. Petrie's drive to not weaken his uncle's position might be hint that in his thoughts he realizes some things that Pterano thinks he is too innocent to understand, while Pterano's thoughts give a peek into the herd's volatile political situation. Though in such a herd an ally like Pterano would be a useful thing indeed.  The fact that Pterano was willing to risk his position for his nephew shows that the redemption in the seventh film was not a tentative one.  The manipulative character remains, but their is virtue underneath.

The only thing that broke my suspension of disbelief in this chapter was the use of "minutes" as a unit of time by the flyers.  I think something like "by the count of thirty" would work better and avoid using a human unit of measurement.  Likewise I think some of the explanations of Pterano's motivations would have worked better as written out thoughts to 'show' the reader the situation as opposed to direct explanation in the text which merely 'tells' the situation.  But notwithstanding those two recommendations, this chapter was very nicely done.  :)

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


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« Reply #37 on: October 05, 2017, 01:48:09 AM »
Got around to read the next two chapters so here's review of chapter 9 & 10 :)

The gang find themselves in an extremely difficult situation here. They aren't welcome in the valley (though they could return) and neither so in the Beyond. Only one thing is certain at that point - that they will not stay together. Now they have to make a tough choice and I love the choice that you went with :) In my opinion, it was the only option that allowed the story to drag on, the children going into the Mysterious Beyond to bring Ruby and Chomper somewhere safe despite the huge risk a trip into the Beyond meant for them. It just goes go show that they're all behind Chomper's actions, believing in his innocence (aka. he was simply defending Ruby as well as himself). Should be interesting when you consider that neither location of their parents is known ^^spike

Ruby's pep  talk was also well done there. Let's just hope the predatory instincts of Chomper don't reveal themselves once more..

The next scene is very interesting... Petrie decides it is time to try get on good terms with Ducky again which is a good idea. However good his intentions may have been, it had to be Cera of all who ended the resulting fight. Truth be told, the situation is tricky and both contribute equally to the final result. While Petrie should have been more understanding of the situation (and keeping the Bright Circle out of this xD), Ducky didn't have to act so aggressively when all Petrie wanted was trying to understand her,  however bad he had failed in doing so. It's sad to see these two fighting like that but it is an intesting plot :p

The growing sandstorm already told me the day was not a lucky one for the Gang... and I was so right...

Honestly, I don't know what's the best approach here... you could have fleshed out the fight with the fastbiters and turned it into a super epic, possibly tearful and fatal scene. On the other hand, the suspense of not knowing is simply too sweet to voice any critism whatsoever :DD I remember you mentioning that this would be Ruby/Petrie centered... now I know why :sducky

Thrilled to read more, man! :lol
mostly inactive due to exam preparation. Includes my creative work in particular which is entirely on hiatus. Hit me on discord if you need something, I'm more active there :)


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« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2017, 01:01:21 PM »
Journey Towards the Distant Lands

The chilling wind started to slowly die down as the shadows begun to grow longer in the wide fields of the Mysterious Beyond. After their initial joining together, the following hours had seen a somewhat less talkative period as each of the three dinosaurs knew that they would have to cover as much ground as they absolutely could today. Even if the two thinclaws had some kind of idea where they were going, they had never tread these areas before. All of their knowledge had come from their now-lost family, making the journey's completion as unsure to them as it was to Ruby.

As a sign of the gradually ending plains, a few hills started to appear in the distance but they were far from real obstacles. Still, Yarel felt some relief that the monotony of the endless barrens would be finally replaced by something new. Despite the rapid pace they were running on, the male thinclaw's mind worked on overdrive as he tried to ponder who his new companion actually was. As things stood, the only thing he knew about Ruby was that she was as lost as he and sister were and her beaten expression told that her past hadn't been a happy one. What had happened to her and where had she come from?

Yarel found it extremely strange that a lonely fast runner would have survived in the Beyond on her own but even stranger was the fact that she appeared to know where her family was. If she had always known about their location, how had she been separated this badly from then in the first place? The fact that she had been so far away from her family while still knowing their location didn't make any sense to the young thinclaw and he found her whole situation highly puzzling. After all, while he and Greentail shared the same fate as so many other young dinosaurs under the Bright Circle, they had never learned what happened to their parents, even if the implications of their absence were rather morbid. Clearly there was a lot to learn about his and his sister's new companion. Following the long hours of endless running, Yarel's mind started to gradually shift to the days following his and his sister's forced adaptation into the cruel, never-ending competition for life in the Mysterious Beyond.

The young thinclaw looked in clear fear around himself, the narrow gorge slowly beginning to open up as a cliff overlooking an inconsolable expanse of lifeless desert. His sister seemed to be in slightly better spirits but both of the adolescent dinosaurs knew that their survival was highly uncertain at this point. Even then, it was Yarel who was a bit more mentally taxed by the loss of their family and this new, dangerous life they had been forced to adapt during the past week. He spoke to his sister in a trembling voice as the hot wind blew against his face.

"This doesn't look like a good way to go. I don't think mom and dad went here. Oh, how I hoped we had never met those damned spiketails! Without them, everything would be still well!" The boy said in a hopeless voice, the stress of these horrible days quickly getting into him. Greentail wasn't in much better spirits but at least she tried to keep her thoughts from wandering in the same depths of despair as her brother's. She went on to check that it was safe enough for the duo to descent to the plain from the rather high cliff they were standing on. After seeing that there were enough footholds, she answered to her brother with a deep sigh and a saddened face.

"So do I. You should have stayed silent about your hunger in the first place but… I guess it's not really your fault. We were all hungry at that point. But the worst part is that we don't even know if mom and dad made it out from that mess! We could find them now… or… or…" Tears started to fall from Greentail's eyes as she tried to fight against the terrifying images of her parents being crushed under the feet of the massive, frenzied leaf eaters. The last sight of the stampede was one that neither of the siblings would never forget or forgive. Yarel looked at his sister in a guilty look and he answered to her quickly.

"It's just not fair! I tried to say that we wouldn't have to begin the hunt but that didn't matter after I had to whine about my hunger. If… if they're gone, it's all my fault!" Yarel said in desperation, earning a sympathetic look from his sis sister. In her heart, the female couldn't question her brother's logic but it mattered little at this point. The two siblings had only each other now and they would have to stand together. In a silent voice, Greentail whispered.

"Let's go, Yarel. We've got to find food or we'll starve. I'm sure that we'll find them soon enough." Greentail said as she looked at her brother for the last time before beginning to walk silently forward. She knew that neither of them believed her words but at the very least, the two would have to keep on believing. That was all either of them could do at this point. Yarel looked at the other thinclaw sadly before starting to follow her downwards. The two had a difficult climb ahead of them.

Even if neither of his companions could see it, a haunted look returned to Yarel's eyes as he thought about that day. Not only was it one the first ones in their new lives but also one that could have been their last if they hadn't been cunning enough. Even if few knew about it, the sharpteeth were far from the only danger his kind faced on the endless, unforgiving plains of those lands.

The two siblings resumed their directionless march soon after they had reached the ground. The duo's hunger was becoming a rather overwhelming companion to both of them but one that they couldn't get rid of quickly at this point. With resigned faces, they begun to walk by the hills, trying to find something that could help them calm their hunger or, in a miraculous situation, give them a flicker of hope of finding their family again. The two knew the latter possibility was a distant one as they had run for nearly an hour from the spiketail stampede. The frenzied leaf eaters had been numerous and they hadn't let any of the thinclaw's escape easily. The hope of rejoining them still lived but it was becoming more of a hopeful thinking at this point.

Even if both of the young adolescents were mentally tasked at this point, it was only each other's presence that prevented them from falling at this point because of exhaustion and despair. Even if no words were exchanged, the two could feel the other sibling's support and the hope they offered of a better future to each other. Ever since their early childhood, they had shared everything they had and worked as one in the face of every obstacle. That didn't change at this fearful time. Yarel was far too shocked to even thinking about smiling but his sister's presence gave him the courage to move on. Without Greentail, he would have given up and even if the two had never spoken of it before, he knew his sister felt the same way towards him.

The two young thinclaws walked silently forward, hoping to find some kind of reprieve in the middle of the monotonous hellscape. They were too emotionally taxed at this point to effectively even investigate their surroundings in the way they were supposed to, let alone the skies above them. A rather small, near white sharptooth flier grinned above the duo before turning away, headed towards a clear destination with great speed.

Yarel looked at his sister in deep appreciation, again remembering how lucky they were to still both be in this world together. That day, the two siblings faced their first real injustice and the moment when they realized what kind of threats and uncertainties they faced in the world. Unlike most of the other halfteeth, thinclaws weren't afraid to join up with other kinds if it helped their own survival. They weren't as fast as the fast runners or as stealthy as the hidden runners but they safeguarded their situations with more care and calculation than the other kinds. Those were traits that had saved the two siblings on that somewhat distant day.

Greentail cringed as she felt like her feathers felt like they were about to catch fire. The Bright Circle had burned down on them for hours on end and it felt like things were only growing more desperate by the minute. They wouldn't be able to continue walking for much longer and even if she did a better job in hiding it than her brother, she didn't feel much better than he did. Without the cool of the still-faraway night or water, they wouldn't get much further. She couldn't help her mind wandering to the time just two days earlier when everything was still well. The two siblings had been supposed to seek our their own paths in a few Cold Times, it was true, but they wouldn't have wanted it to end like this. Also, from a more practical point of view, they hadn't completed their training with their parents which could prove to be a fatal flaw if the two youngsters wouldn't be able to learn them by themselves.

Her thoughts wandered in the visions of her lost happiness but, slowly but increasingly, the female's ears started to catch worrying voices. They were still distant and vague but, hearing their consistency and increasing loudness, Greentail felt the chill creep up her spine. It felt like a large herd of dinosaurs were heading their way, directly their way, which made the young thinclaw look around her in fear. She still couldn't see them anywhere but the steady, drumming voice of menace grew ever closer. She quickly turned to her brother and spoke to him in fear. It was clear from his concerned face that he, too, had picked up the ominous sound.

"Can you hear that, Yarel? Come, we must stay hidden! Let's get behind those rocks, now!" The female said and sprinted towards a formation of rocks near the mountainside. They were large enough to hide a sharptooth and the whole mountainside seemed to be covered by them. No weak-scented leaf eater would ever look behind those rocks even if they knew about the duo's presence near this mountainside. They should be safe in their newfound hiding place for now. The two siblings were hiding on a small ledge behind the boulders, the low cliff overlooking the desert and enabling the two a good, safe view of the soon-to-arrive dinosaurs. When the first ones came into the duo's view far in the distance, Yarel gasped and whispered to her sister I astonishment and anger.

"B… but those are the same spiketails that killed mom and dad! I know the smug, self-righteous face of their leader!" The male said in seething anger, not giving further thought to the possibility that their reunion wasn't a complete coincidence. Greentail glanced at the herd for a long time and she could see her brother had been right. But how and why were they on the trail of the two thinclaws? Hadn't they already taken enough from them? Deep bitterness started to resonate from both siblings' faces as they looked at the horde of spiketails growing closer to them. To both of their anger and increasing concern, it seemed like they were every as bit determined to do something as the siblings were to survive.

"What are they doing here? They couldn't… unless…" Greentail said as she looked at the sky. She had heard that lone fliers could often make pacts with any herd if they thought it could help their own survival or give them something they yearned. The female looked at the sky and it didn't take long for her to see that there was a sharptooth flier flying above them. Greentail's heart sank as she realized that the villain had most likely been spying on them the whole time and was guiding the spiketails towards them right now. But why? The thinclaw couldn't come up with a reason why they would be hunted like this… until she remembered something that quickly made her almost panic.

"Mom and dad had already attacked one of their children and maybe they could have killed it and some of the others! That flier is guiding them right towards us!" She whispered in anxiety to her brother who looked at the spy in clear anger as it flew once again over them. Yarel knew that they couldn't escape from its sight which meant that they couldn't let it follow them any longer. One way or another, it had to be either persuaded to leave their trail or… otherwise made sure it would never bother the siblings again. Soon, as a desperate move, Yarel started to shout and make faces to the flier. At this point, the spiketails were still too far to hear anything with their miniscule sense of hearing.

"Get here if you dare, you stupid beakface! Come get us if you so badly want to linger here, sharptooth! we're not afraid of you!" Yarel cried, soon getting the flier's attention. It tried to ignore the male at first but Yarel didn't let up his taunts. Greentail looked at her brother in alarm and said to him in an angry voice.

"What are you doing, Yarel?! Stop it or you'll tell our location to this whole desert!" To her horror, the male didn't seem to give her any heed and continued with his shouting. After a short while, the flier stirred in clear annoyance and flew closer to the halfteeth, hissing in very broken leafeater.

"Silence, brats! I no need to listen that when me wait for food!" The sharptooth flier hissed, preparing to turn around when Yarel answered to him in a loathing voice, willing to taunt him even further.

"Nice skill in leaf eater! I always knew a flier who has to trust the spiketails can't even get his own food!" Yarel answered in sharptooth, willing to get the discussion going no matter what. The sharptooth looked at the two in amusement, willing to continue this debate with his next meals.

"At least I will still get to eat whereas you have already eaten for the last time! The spiketails have a bone to pick with you but all I care about is the warm, juicy blobs they will leave when they are done with you! Only a little more time and those fools might even get here! Spend your last moments well!" The flier still flew well over the siblings in order to avoid any chance of accidents. Yarel knew that his whole idea was extremely risky and had many problems but he'd have to try. The two could outrun the spiketails for a while but sooner or later, they would catch them. Getting rid of this flier was the only way they could hope to survive.

"So all you care is food. You're not too clever as we two wouldn't keep you fed for three days! Any one of those spiketails would give you a better meal or even any corpse that might lie out there! You a really bad even in these sharptooth things! Yarel tried to raise some curiosity or at least anger in the flier, trying to get him listen to him or at least get to his reach. The older dinosaur looked at the thinclaw oddly, not knowing what the brat was up to but he wouldn't just let this pipsqueak begin mocking him.

"There is nothing that can save you at this point and you know it! If you wish to make it easy, my pawns will be happy to just end it all in one stomp!" The flier said, sitting down on a high rock above the two siblings. Greentail stayed silent as she realized that Yarel's "plan" was the only thing that could save them now.

"Why don't you do it yourself, beakbrain? Are you too scared of us?" Yarel smirked, knowing that this was the most obvious line of thought to go for. The flier snorted in clear loathing, not twitching a finger as a response.

"Why would I when I'll get to eat you in any case. I have no reason to get involved in any way!" The flier smiled toxically, staying above the two adolescents. At this point, Greentail decided to intervene as she couldn't stand simply staying by in this discussion. Also, it could give the conversation a more interesting turn.

"But we do know where you can find more food! We thinclaws know a lot of things!" The female said happily even if her mind was growing increasingly desperate. The duo could see the spiketails moving ever faster towards the duo, the herd being only fifty longneck lengths away. The flier looked at the two in interest, knowing there would likely be nothing of worth the younglings knew but he would try to milk out any piece of information he could at this point. His victims didn't have much of a choice in any case. Yarel looked at her sister awkwardly but let her continue her tale. He didn't have much to lose anyway.

"There's a beautiful land surrounded by mountains and rivers, one that has been the paradise of the leaf-eaters as long as anyone remembers! Dad said it is a good place to live for a sharptooth too! It is only six daytrips away and you wouldn't have to hunt with the dumb leafeaters anymore!" Greentail exclaimed in fake eagerness, knowing that the land was real but she couldn't care less where the flier was as long as he wasn't bothering her and her brother. The flier looked at the two in a judging expression.

"Are you talking about the Great Valley? If you are, just forget it! That place is guarded by hordes of fliers and it would be a suicide to even get near it! If that's the best you can offer me, just give up!" The white flier said, once again rising to his wings. Yarel realized what her sister was striving at and answered the flier.

"No, that's not it! We're…" At this point, Yarel was cut off by a cry behind the three dinosaurs. The spiketails were now within a shouting range of the flier. He turned to them and said to the two siblings before leaving.

"Don't worry, I'll lead them off for now but don't think I'll let you go! I want to know everything you wished to say. Now, shoo, go while I distract them!" The flier said as he took off towards the spiketails, leaving the two siblings stare after him in confusion and momentary relief. Had they truly managed to buy the flier to their side? Yarel turned to his sister as they started to sprint further way while trying to stay hidden behind the rocks.

"Why did you bring up that place, Greentail? There's nothing of interest in that land! Why did it come to your mind?" The male said, trying to find out what his sister had been after. To his puzzlement, her answer didn't bear any resemblance of doubt when she answered.

"It just did… when I tried to think about what dad told us. He always said that the Dell of Change held many old mysteries within it and I couldn't help but say it… The way he told about it always intrigued me. He said that even the dinosaurs living there know nothing about its past anymore… I'd really like to see it someday." Greentail said as her mind wandered in the many mythical tales passed on to her and her brother about the ancient home of the legendary herds of old, riddled in untold tales now remembered only by very few families anywhere, her own one of them. Yarel frowned as he heard her answer. He had never thought about those tales in as great detail as he had often seen them as some kind of bedtime stories. The fact that they were brought up now puzzled him greatly but on the other hand, there was no time to waste.

"Do you see that, Greentail? The spiketails are moving to the other direction! It seems like our tale really worked! The flier really thought that your stories were worth sparing us!" Yarel said in deep gratitude, feeling the sweet relief flow to every inch of his body. Greentail returned his smile as the two young dinosaurs continued to struggle to advance in the unsavory rocky ground. It wasn't long before the flier once again appeared in the duo's line of sight, this time the siblings only welcoming his presence. He landed near the two and put a more friendly face than before.

"Those fools are going the wrong way, thanks to me! You may show me your gratitude by telling me if this land of plenty exists and how can I reach it! Tell me and you are free to go!" The flier's mouth turned into a mean grin that sent shivers through the siblings' spines but they knew they were largely at this flier's mercy. Greentail gulped before she started to speak.

"It… it does exist! I heard that there have always countless herds of dinosaurs living there and that should also be good for you! As I said, you can fly to it in six days, just past the Great Swamp, the Threehorn Peak and the White Hills! I promise you that you'll live much better out there than here!" The sharptooth listened in interest, knowing that the siblings weren't likely to lie in this situation. They sounded honest and their directions seemed logical enough. He turned to Yarel and asked a simple, final question.

"Does she speak the truth? Is it as she claims?" The sharptooth asked, earning a brief nod from the male. The flier looked at the two for a moment and suddenly, he took off and emitted a long, loud whistle. Greentail turned to him quickly and cried in fear.

"What are you doing?! They'll hear us!" She yelled, earning a mocking expression from the treacherous flier.

"If I'm going on that long flight, I'll need a little snack first! Did you honestly think I'll just let a good, easy meal run away because of a promise? Fools!" The flier said as he begun to rise higher to alert the spiketails of his exact position. The siblings exchanged a quick glance and took two, large rocks from the ground and after a brief moment of aiming, threw them at the flier. He was too sure of his own intelligence to even bother looking downwards. Soon, the two sizeable rocks hit him, one in his head and one in his chest. They caused enough shock and pain for the flier to cause him to lose balance and fall towards the ground and quickly, he dropped to the ground, not far from the thinclaws. He dropped with his head hitting the ground first, his forehead crashing on the ground violently. The thinclaws looked at the flier in disgust and Greentail started to walk towards him in an outraged, determined look. When Yarel realized what she was up to, he yelled quickly after her.

"No! He might have tricked us but we can't begin killing anyone we wish! We…" Yarel said in clear alarm. He held nothing but disgust and hate towards the untrustworthy villain but he wasn't willing to drift to the life of a killer, whether or not the dinosaur in question deserved it. Greentail looked at him in surprise and her expression quickly turned into a darker one.

"We cannot keep this traitor chasing us until we get crushed by the damn spiketails! I'm not sure if this idiot deserves to die but at least I know that we don't! It's either us or him and you know it, Yarel!" Greentail said as she turned around to approach the wounded, unconscious flier again. Yarel looked at his sister in a bothered way, knowing that she was right. However, he couldn't silence the sound of conscience whispering in his ears. He wanted to think that the flier wouldn't be able to follow them at this point and he had often wished to avoid bloodshed until it was a complete necessity.

"There are other ways to keep him from following us! A flier who cannot fly has no way of spying on us. There's nothing we get from sparing him but if we start killing others, where will it end? Even an injury might make the spiketails kill him but then it is his own fault for joining them, not ours. We are not sharpteeth and we can also choose when we should kill and when not!" Yarel tried to reason, moving closer to his sister to prepare to do his deed. Greentail was about to answer when the ground suddenly started to shake violently. In a flicker of fear, the female realized they had forgotten the real threat and suddenly, she yelled to her brother.

"Run or we'll be surrounded! Do it, quick!" With a quick and precise strike, Yarel sliced the entirety of the flier's wing, creating a deep cut that at points penetrated the whole membrane. This sharptooth wouldn't fly for a very long time and there was a chance he never would. The pool of blood under the wing grew quickly larger but the wound alone wouldn't be lethal. Without an infection or any other predator, he would live. The young thinclaw looked at his handiwork in regret until he heard a raged yell from before him. Yarel knew his time thinking about his deeds was up.

"Finally you'll pay, sick child killers! We'll sent you to the Great Beyond with your cursed family, cowards! I promise it!" The apparent leader of the spiketail herd yelled as he charged towards the two omnivores. Both Yarel and Greentail felt a heavy flicker of hatred flow through their minds at the mention of their family but any sensible creature wouldn't in the way of a charging spiketail herd. Yarel looked at the leaf eaters in terror and followed his sister as quick as he only could. There would be no mercy from the spiketails and a quick flight was their only opportunity to escape.

Deep fear flowed through Yarel's mind as he thought about those moments. To his and his sister's disaster, the leaf eaters had directed them to a dead end, the flier apparently having had the time to tell them the best course of action in their mission. The sight of the high slopes all around them with the massive dinosaurs charging at them was something he'd never forget.

"We're… we're trapped! There's nowhere we can go!" Yarel panted as he looked in despair at the high cliffs. The raging spiketails would be here in a second and there would be no escape from their wrath. Greentail looked at her brother in fear, knowing that he was right. No mercy would be given but she wasn't about to give the comfort of victory to the stupid spiketails. There was only one way to go to: the two would have to climb the slopes upwards and hope that the spiketails wouldn't be able to find the duo again.

"Climb, Yarel! We have to get away from them, now!" The female yelled as she jumped to a slightly gentler slope, using her claws to secure a small if satisfactory foothold. Yarel followed shortly, knowing that they wouldn't be joining their family in the Great Beyond just yet. They would have to pass on their memories, their stories and their knowledge. Too much was at the stake for the two siblings to be trampled by the brainless spiketails at this point. Slowly but surely, the two adolescents dragged upwards, ever closer to the first cliffs and away from their chasers' grasp for good.

One of the deputies of the herd could see what was happening and he knew that if they managed to get to the higher slopes of the hill, all would be lost. Their children would go unavenged and the abominable young halfteeth would only spread ever more pain and sorrow to everyone around them. Even the sharpteeth fought with some honor, facing their victims in battle but these monsters only sneaked around at night, waiting for the chance to butcher an innocent child without remorse. The mere thought of it caused the deputy to cry in cold fury.

"Well, don't just stand there, prevent them from escaping! Follow me!" The large spiketail ran to the wall below the two siblings and started to beat the wall with his mighty tail. The other spiketails noticed what he was doing and it was mere seconds until the wall shuddered with the force of the spiketails beating it. Yarel looked at the scene below him and for a moment, he knew all was over. He knew that he was about to be wiped to the middle of the herd, crushed under their massive feet. He looked at his sister who seemed equally desperate about their situation. They prepared for their inevitable end… until Yarel realized something that might help them. There was a small ledge near the two which could give them some extra breathing space before their fall. He yelled quickly to Greentail in sharptooth to keep their words secret to their chasers.

"Jump there! We can try to outrun them after it!" Yarel said as he took his own leap of faith to the small platform-like hill below him. Soon after his jump, he heard Greentail also succeeding in the leap. However, he realized that this brief reprieve lasted no more than a few, agonizingly fleeting moments as another, massive hit from the spiketails struck the duo off-balance. In a second that resembled an eternity, the two young thinclaws dropped to the raging, murderous mass below them.

For a moment, Yarel waited for the end, for a spiketail's leg to crush his body under their enormous weight. For the knowledge that all of the lessons his parents had given him were for nothing and that he was the failure who would end the unbreakable lineage of his proud ancestors. However… they never came. Yarel's eyes were open the whole time but the first time he realized what was happening, he could only see two spiketails falling upon him. With a panicked reflex, the boy jumped away from their reach, happy to know that at least luck and fate hadn't abandoned him just yet. But… where was his sister? She was nowhere to be seen and he simply couldn't believe she had been as lucky as he had. As much as the fear burned his thoughts, Yarel knew he couldn't dwell in those fears. The bellowing sounds of the spiketails overwhelmed his ears and he could already see some of them charging towards him.

Still, it wasn't easy for a large, slow dinosaur to hit a small thinclaw. Yarel's body was far more subtle and receptive than his tormentors' and his mind registered the situation faster than theirs. However, the mere brute strength of the larger dinosaurs was more than enough to threaten the young male. Yarel jumped and run around the falling feet and swinging tails, one of the latters finally hitting him. The omnivore flew towards one of the walls around him but it was at this moment that he saw something that made it all worth it. He saw a flicker of Greentail's reddish beak among the flurry of spiketails and even in his slightly injured state, he knew he couldn't linger for a second. The thinclaw could feel the dozens of murderous eyes glare into him as he rose up, determined to reunite with his sister once again. With a quick sprint, the young male darted off into the raging herd.

His legs hurt and head ached but though pure determination, the young dinosaur manage to find his way though the leaf eaters but it took many agonizingly long minutes for him to even see his sister again. She was trying to reach the opening from the dead end, struggling to find her way through the spiketails to her salvation. Yarel quickly un towards her, trying to join her in her flight. However, it was at this moment when he felt a terrifying pain in his tail, one that caused him to emanate an ear-screeching cry. At the same time, he heard a venomous voice speak to him from his side.

"You've run your last, killer. Today, you'll join your victims, in the place where you will never hurt anyone ever again!" The spiketail said and started to land his leg on Yarel… until it was the leaf eater's turn to scream. Greentail moved to his side and before he could react, she sliced the surprised spiketail's eye wide open, its contents flowing across his face. In extreme pain, the spiketail released Yarel's tail and bumped against another spiketail, causing the already confused situation escalate into a full-blown chaos. Greentail took her brother's hand and dragged him with her while speaking in a sharp voice.

"Are you alright, Yarel? That was a nasty hit." Greentail asked as she looked at Yarel's badly injured tail which clearly hindered the male's flight. Yarel panted violently from the close call but he managed to answer somehow.

"Not… not as bad as it could have been. I guess I'll survive… if the spiketails won't catch us." The boy said, praying that the spiketails wouldn't catch him at this point. To his relief, he could hear that the spiketails had started to fight among themselves, not knowing who had hit who or why. Greentail's smile answered to him what he needed to know: the chaos they had had unknowingly caused had actually saved them. Without the order immediately returning in the herd or their flier's miraculous recovery, there was nothing the spiketails could do to prevent the siblings' flight. Yarel took one final sigh of relief as he turned his gaze back towards the desert before him, knowing that his and his sister had survived this ordeal. The two were safe.

Those memories still chilled Yarel to the bone as he realized how much of his life would never had happened if it weren't for his and his sister's actions on that day. Even if the last months had been an ordeal after ordeal, he wouldn't have traded them away for even a high cost. Even if his mood had often been somewhat downtrodden, in his heart Yarel understood the depth of his luck of being able to remain in this world through all those times.

The continuing silence was slowly getting on Ruby's nerves. The journey had started in a positive manner but for some reason, things had grown more tense and awkward in the last hours. Greentail looked mostly interested in her surroundings, investigating any landmarks or threats frantically while Yarel was deep in thought, seemingly oblivious to everything that happened around him. He didn't look sad or haunted but there was something that told the fast runner that she should know about what bothered him. In a careful bat happy voice, she turned to look at the thinclaw and opened her mouth.

"What is it, Yarel? You've been very thoughtful for a long time, very thoughtful you have been!" Ruby asked, willing to know if there was something that bothered him at this point. The male seemed to completely snap out of his thoughts, almost taken aback as he answered.

"What?... It… it's alright. I was just thinking." He answered, not knowing if she was interested at all about his and his sister's endeavors. Greentail looked at her companions in slight interest while continuing her observations. Ruby frowned slightly at the answer but presented another question to the thinclaw.

"Thinking about what? There are many things to think about because there are so many things that have happened!" The fast runner said, willing to hear at least some kind of answer from Yarel. He thought for a moment, realizing that all of his memoirs about the faraway days had been caused by his own ponderings about Ruby's past. He could as well use this opportunity to voice his thoughts.

"Well… I was just wondering… It's not often that a lone fast runner happens to search for her family if she knows where they are. I mean… if you know where your family is, why weren't you with them in the first place?" Yarel asked carefully, fully aware that the answer would be likely to be far from happy. Ruby looked at him with sad eyes, knowing this discussion would have to come sooner or later. She knew there were many parts in her past that the two siblings would have a hard time understanding but at least they deserved to know. With a deep sigh and a wavering voice, she answered.

"It is a very long story and I don't want to tell it from the beginning but I was doing a favor to my family. I was looking after our allies' child in a place not far from our home. The boy I was taking care of was called Chomper… until… until other sharpteeth got him." Tears started to fall from Ruby's eyes as the memories of his dear friend flashed in her mind. For the first time, Greentail decided to join the discussion. Had Ruby just claimed he had overseen a sharptooth youngling because of his parents' request? It wasn't unheard of but occasions like those were extremely rare.

"Other sharpteeth? Were you guarding a sharptooth all by yourself? Why in earth would any sharptooth to leave their child to a fast runner's care?" The female thinclaw asked in puzzlement, not finding a good reason for such decision. Ruby looked at with sad eyes and decided to put more light on her situation.

"Because Chomper's parents were trying to take their fight to their old enemy, Red Claw, and they knew that my family could be trusted. I and Chomper went on to live in the Great Valley where we stayed until… it doesn't matter." Ruby knew she had said everything important and she wasn't about to tell what had happened on the day after the celebration of Late Warm Time's Day. Her revelation earned her a respecting silence as the siblings pondered this new information. Neither Red Claw's or the Great Valley's names were unknown in the Mysterious Beyond that the wider picture was slowly starting to form in their minds. Greentail asked the fast runner in clear disbelief.

"The Great Valley? Did you seriously live there? With a sharptooth? And did your friend's parents take down Red Claw?" The first questions were obvious but the last one was another understandable one for the thinclaw. Every large, power-hungry meat eater was a thing to be considered to their kind and each time one of them fell, the power of balance in the nearby lands changed immediately. Greentail hadn't fully understood those issues just yet but she knew they would be vital in the future. Ruby looked at the sky with gloomy eyes as she answered.

"Yes, yes and I don't know. I know it's hard to believe that we could get to the Great Valley but we did! You can only guess how difficult it was to try to prove that we were not a threat and only later I saw that everybody continued to think of us like that even then! It is not a good place for a fast runner, a good place for a fast runner it isn't! As for Red Claw, I haven't heard of him or Chomper's parents in ages." She said in slight bitterness as she cursed in her mind Dasher's decision as she had done so many times in the past week. Yarel looked at Ruby in sympathy as he heard the toll those memories had taken on her. He could see what had happened but he wished to affirm his thoughts.

"So your task failed and now you're returning to your family to tell what has happened?" The male asked carefully, anxious not to upset Ruby further. He could see that the discussion was taking a heavy toll on her as her expression turned ever into a darker one. The fast runner looked at Yarel and nodded slightly.

"That is my plan. But I fear what they'll do once I tell them that the sharpteeth who were our allies will now be our enemies. This was my most important task yet… not to even speak about what happened to my friends!" The fast runner said as she tried to keep her calm. Of course, these thoughts flowed through her mind nearly all the time but talking about it brought the scars and the fear to the surface of her mind. Yarel and Greentail exchanged glances about something after which the sister opened her mouth again.

"I'm sorry, Ruby. But I'm just thinking… Were Chomper's parents by any chance called Dein and Terri?" The female asked carefully, her awkward movements with her hands revealing her nervousness about these things but their reason was a mystery to Ruby as she answered.

"Yes. I never remember that everyone knows them even here. What have you had to do with them?" Ruby asked without clear interest in the issue. To her, the sharptooth duo was nothing but an embodiment of her own guilt, the vengeance that would take her to the Great Beyond once her past would catch up with her. At this point, Ruby didn't really care what the two had to do with the thinclaws but she asked of mere friendliness. Yarel looked somewhat concerned as he answered.

"We don't really know them but we were told that they are a fearsome pair, one of the most deadly forces that we should avoid at all times. They might not be as evil as many other sharpteeth but our cousins, who we met every once in a while, told us that they are extremely strict about their growing territories and they can't stand any competition or anyone who would ever even think of standing against them. They've killed dozens of dinosaurs simply because of fear and shows of dominance, far more than Red Claw or many others. They might be as nice as sharpteeth go if you're on their good side but… once things get bad with them, things get really bad." Yarel sounded extremely worried by his own words as it dawned on him that he and his sister would also be threatened if the sharpteeth ever located them. Greentail's haunted look only reinforced that impression.

"Oh… my parents only told me that their support would help us survive Red Claw and other sharpteeth and that we could trust them. But I should have known that they aren't that nice because they are what they are. But… I hope I never have to meet them again! If what you tell is true, then we won't stand a chance if they find our trail!" She said in a saddened look, knowing that this was another blow on the duo's motivation to follow her but at least they seemed to still be willing to go with her. That was a relief at least.

"Then we have to make sure they never find us. At least it isn't really likely that they'd find us here… is it?" Greentail asked in slight worry. She wasn't exactly anxious to meet the two vengeful sharpteeth on this journey. Ruby sighed and turned to look at her.

"I don't know where they are, as I said. But I don't like to think they're anywhere around here. But that's enough about me… I'd like to know more about you two. Where did you live before… that day? Did you have other siblings?" Ruby tried asked, trying to get the two open up about more than their last disastrous months. Greentail looked at the fast runner in a bit of puzzlement before she answered.

"Well, I don't think it hurts for you to know a bit about us. Our family's kind of wandered around our old land even if we still had a home we always returned to. It was a rather dry land on a plateau between a large desert and lowlands slowly sloping towards the Big Water, almost a cycle of a Night Circle away from here. It wasn't the lush paradise as we've heard the Great Valley to be but we learned to love our home as it was. I and Yarel were the only kids our parents had, a rare thing for our kind, but we liked how things were. Even if it was a rather tough life back then, I'd give anything if we could return there. But we weren't strong enough to stay there without our parents. Maybe we will return there once we're older but I don't really know about it." Greentail's voice was almost dreamy as she told about her old home. Yarel looked at her in compassion and continued from her tale.

"There were many thinclaw families there and many of them were our relatives. We called that place the Lonely Heights as had many thinclaws before us. There were some problems with the other packs but mostly things stayed peaceful. Our home was a cave near the lowlands and overlooking the distant Big Water. I spent many evenings looking at the lands below us and thinking how things would be outside of our home. Still, I think I realized that I had everything I wanted already back then. I don't know why but there was magic in those times we shared with our family. I wonder how the Heights are these days?" Yarel asked to himself as he recited the memories of his lost home. Greentail looked at him in understanding, knowing what he meant. Ruby glazed at Yarel in sympathy, knowing full well what he meant, feeling the same way about his times with Arial, Orchid and Chomper, not even mentioning the rest of her friends. She was about to answer after a long pause until she was interrupted by Greentail who looked around herself in thought.

"Have you noticed that the land is going downhill as we walk? I think we are getting closer to one place that I remember leading to the direction we are going." The female thinclaw said in thought, looking at the gently sloping plains before her. Ruby and Yarel looked at her, willing to hear what she meant. Greentail looked at her companions with a neutral expression as she continued.

"If I remember right, there should be a big river valley going to the east. That should lead us closer to your family, Ruby. I think it isn't too much further away from here. Follow me, we might make it there before the evening!" She said, sprinting right forward. Yarel and Ruby exchanged glances and started to follow their friend to their next destination.

Two more hours passed in a quicker-than usual sprint as the three friends wanted to leave these plains behind them. The night would become extremely cold and unprotected by any vegetation, freezing would be a real threat. Also, they could hide from the predators more effectively if they had some kind of shelter during the night. Even through the quick pace and long march, none of three felt any kind of fatigue. They had a clear destination and each of them had gone through far worse ordeals than this. As a result, the journey went on quickly and the Bright Circle was still over the horizon behind them as the still-green forests started to appear around them. The three omnivores didn't stop until the newly-discovered woods grew too dense for them to run at full speed. Still, they had completed this leg of their journey and before the late evening as well. Ruby panted in deep relief as she broke the silence soon after their first pause since their discussion.

"I… I thought you said there would be a large moving water here but I've tried to look for it and everywhere I've looked, I've seen nothing! Is this the right place?" Ruby asked, still drained from their trip. Still, she was interested in finding the moving water as it would likely lead them to the right direction. However, in this forest, there was a chance of the trio getting lost. Greentail looked at the fast runner with a weary look and answered shortly, every bit as tired as her friend.

"It should be. Can't you see that there are rocks rising around us and the forest is going downhill! I think we will find it soon enough!" After taking another breath, the thinclaw begun to move again albeit in a much slower pace than previously. Ruby followed her quickly, realizing that she was right. The ground was clearly sloping downwards which could only mean one thing which was shortly confirmed by Greentail's call.

"Come here! I think you'll find this a sight worth seeing!" The thinclaw cried near her companions, prompting both Yarel and Ruby to follow her voice. She was standing on a high cliff which commanded a truly majestic sight. Below the cliff opened a large woodland centered around a wide river, its waters bathing in the golden grace of the falling Bright Circle. The canopy of the trees flushed slightly in the cold breeze of the evening wind, whispering their own secrets in the gentle silence. Behind the valley in the far distance opened another open plain but the moving water continued its eternal journey to the lands behind this small refuge of life under the weight of the approaching Cold Time. Ruby sighed in adoration as she looked at the yellow-colored waves of the river, her hopes of reuniting with her family only growing in the face of this beauty.

"Th… thank you, for taking me here you two. Now I know we're on the right way." The fast runner took a deep breath, feeling the cool air refreshing her tasked mind and body. For this night at least, things seemed promising enough. Her family had to be out there somewhere and she would find them safe and sound. This is something she resolved to do. Yarel smiled at the sight and the fact that they had made such great progress on their first day together. He answered softly as he prepared to turn away.

"It's all thanks to Greentail. She was always better in remembering where things are than I am." He said, eager to find a place where they could enter the realm of sleep stories for the night. The female thinclaw looked at her companions in a mixture of happiness and slight worry. She answered in a silent and thoughtful voice.

"This is the nearest place that I can remember to the fast runner home I can remember. I just hope that we will find our way even after we move on tomorrow." Greentail wasn't often unsure about what she was doing but she hated feeling helpless in situations like these. She managed to keep calm but unsavory thoughts flowed in her mind. Ruby frowned as she addressed her friend.

"It's alright. We wouldn't have gotten this far without you and we will find the way forward even if we don't know where we're going!" The fast runner said, taking a slight smile as she relieved the thinclaw. Greentail looked once more to the valley blow her, saddened by her lack of knowledge regarding this place. During her many lessons, this was the easternmost place she had ever remembered. She could remember the place she thought would be Ruby's family's home lied somewhere in there but Greentail didn't have the slightest of ideas where. Still, that was a concern for tomorrow. She jumped away from the ledge and joined her friends.

"I hope you're right, Ruby. We might have a really long day ahead of us so I suggest that we find something to eat and some place to sleep!" The thinclaw said in a tired voice. The night would soon fall and the dark would bring the increased threat of sharpteeth with it. The two other omnivores nodded in agreement and started to follow Greentail deeper into the woods. There certainly was no shortage of food here and even if the green food was getting dryer by the day, none of the three were in a mood to whine about it. They spread out to gather their favorite food in peace as there was still enough light for the three to stay relatively safe of predators if they were careful. Ruby gathered a few large berries from the bushes and some larger and thicker leaves from the lowest branches of the trees. She accompanied them with a handful of grass even if she had always found them tasteless and unable to calm her hunger. She enjoyed her pickings as she walked back to the others who had another surprise waiting for her. Yarel was carrying a large, furry carcass that had already begun disintegrating slowly. Ruby felt a flicker of sympathy towards the creature flow in her mind. It was the same kind as the Skip, the helpful little creature who had helped her to find her family last time. The fast runner just finished her last berry as Yarel called to her.

"Look at what we found! It isn't often that we find this much meat just lying in the ground! Do you want to share, Ruby?" The thinclaw said as he dropped the poor rodent to the ground and looked at Ruby in an asking look. The fast runner looked at her friend awkwardly and pondered at the situation briefly. She hadn't eaten a piece of meat since her trip to the Hanging Rock with Chomper and even if she didn't need to eat meat, the salivation in her mouth and the sudden urges to savagely rip through the carcass told her that her body wanted meat once in a while. Emotionally the rotting corpse nauseated her but the fast runner realized that her mind was set up. Additionally, trying to keep to her own in this issue could offend her two friends.

"Thanks you a lot! I'd certainly use that right now. Shall we cut it to three parts?" Ruby answered with a slightly awkward voice. She could remember how disgusting the fish had tasted last time but to be honest, she had snacked with clams and other small things she could find in the Valley. She had never been this long without the other side of her diet so maybe her urge would overshadow her mental hesitation?

"Sounds good to me. I'll take the head and neck!" Greentail said as she sliced the rodent's head from its shoulders. Ruby gritted her teeth in a mixture of disgust and excitement as the smelly, disintegrating bloody entrails started to flow out from the body.

"And I'll take the middle part! I simply love the taste of it!" Soon after his sister, Yarel sliced the torso's main part from the lower body, leaving Ruby with the legs and hips. The fast runner didn't waste time moving to her prize and despite her conflicted thoughts, she dug into the carcass immediately. All restraint, however, was lost as the bloody remains of the creature touched her lips. It was like another hunger she hadn't realized before manifested itself in her mind. It felt like yearning for something natural even if the fast runner had no doubts she could have kept those urges in check if she had wanted to do so. For now, she devoured the small rodent with deep appreciation. Still, this brief moment was over all too soon as Ruby realized that only a brownish-red spot was left on the ground, all other parts of the creature disappeared into her stomach. She raised her hand in slight disappointment as she heard Yarel speak.

"That was a treat! It's been too long since we last found something like that." The thinclaw said as he took off a piece of meat on his cheek. His voice blazed with content at the situation and the fast runner couldn't really object. She was about to answer but Greentail opened her mouth first.

"Like three days? Trust me, it'll be a miracle if we find these things even half as often!" The sister said as she looked in regret at the remaining blood on the ground. Even if green food was the main source of nutrition for her kind, any chance to get meat was welcomed. Ruby looked at the siblings in slight repulsion, looking at Greentail's yellowish and Yarel's greenish head-feathers being colored in red by their meal and gritted her teeth at their complete disregard to that issue. The fast runner had seen that many times before, of course, but it had been a long time ago with her family. She knew her own face was probably just as messy but that detail seemed to drift into the background in her eyes. Still, she kept her calm and only sighed slightly as she spoke.

"I haven't found any of them since I left the Valley. Still, thanks for sharing it with me. It was really tasty, tasty it was! The fast runner said as she moved closer to the duo. Greentail looked at her friend in a weary look as she answered.

"Of course! If we journey together, we must share anything we find. There's nothing to thank us about." The female thinclaw said as she turned to look at the forest to her left. Yarel realized what she meant by her gesture and continued from her comment.

"I'm drained! I'd say it's time we found a place to sleep." He said, looking at Ruby in an asking expression. The fast runner couldn't object to his proposition as her legs felt fatigued by the long run of the day. She merely nodded to him and the trio entered the dense thicket. Somewhere out there would be the most secure spot from the sharpteeth they could find at this time.

Only a short while later, Ruby found herself lying on a carpet of soft moss next to a large rock, stretching her limbs in anticipation of the approaching sleep. Her companions were near her, Yarel choosing to sleep in a more uncomfortable but more silent spot between two trees surrounded by bushes and Greentail in a fallen, hollow log not far from the two. The thinclaws seemed to have fallen asleep nearly instantly and the fast runner could also feel the sweet weariness spread to her whole body. This evening was far more pleasant than the last one during which she had shuddered alone in the wind-swept plains. Even if her new friends would never fill the gaping hole of the last weeks, for the first time it wasn't the overwhelming despair and oppressive guilt that accompanied her on today's final conscious moments.

The waving of the branches in the gentle night wind slowly closed Ruby's eyes even as the uncertainty of tomorrow hung in her mind. Would she and her friends find the way further east to the place Stealth had mentioned? Would the good mood inside the group last and could she even hope that no more unfortunate accidents would happen before she could join her parents and siblings? Even in her half-sleeping, relieved mental state she realized that there were still several uncertainties before she could feel truly calm again. Still, those problems would be issues for tomorrow. With a deep sigh, the fast runner was crossing into the maze of happy and worrying sleep stories… until a certain voice awoke her completely from her fledgling slumber. A roar of a sharptooth billowed over the forest like an avalanche, returning the omnivores to the present in an instant. The two thinclaws seemed only startled by the voice itself but it bore a far more haunting overtone to Ruby. Greentail quickly moved to the mouth of her log and asked in a worried voice.

"Did you hear that? Where did it come from?" She asked in a trembling voice, only knowing that the danger wasn't imminent. Yarel looked thoughtful at first until he spoke already in a calmer voice.

"Somewhere far away. We did try to hide our scent when we came here, didn't we? I'm sure he won't find us here." The male spoke thoughtfully, reasoning that any sharptooth would rather chase an easier prey than the three fast omnivores even if it ever found the trio in their hideout. However, Ruby's next words froze the siblings' expressions still and caused cold sweat to form on their chin.

"But they will. They are not just any sharpteeth… they are Chomper's parents, Dein and Terri!" The pink fast runner said in a haunted voice, her words' implications clear to everyone present. If they had as painful history with Ruby as she had said, they'd go to any lengths to find and kill her. And that meant…

"That… that means they have your scent, Ruby! Have they really followed you this far?!" Yarel sputtered in a horrified voice, his eyes still from the new threat. His sister's gaze mirrored his own face until the thinclaws turned to look at Ruby, ready to begin their flight. Ruby spoke to the duo fast before she sprinted past them.

"They are still a long way away from us! Come, we have to get to the river to wash our scent away! It's our only hope!" The thinclaw siblings darted after her without a second thought, knowing that they'd have no chance if the sharpteeth ever reached them. The halfteeth had a few moments of respite, a few moments during which they'd have to cut the vengeful parents' chase. Their very lives depended on their ability to use that little time they had to their best advantage.

Ruby and her new friends have set off on their journey but they didn't get far before another threat rose from Ruby's past. Chomper's parents aren't likely to forgive Ruby's failure but can the falfteeth escape their revenge? I hope you enjoyed the developments here and I'll look forward to your comments! See you next time! :DD

Ducky123: Yeah, the Gang isn't going to abandon Chomper at this point and each of them are willing to give him the farewell he and Ruby deserve. The journey itself would have been a difficult one but as you've seen, things became even worse than the Gang could have expected. :sducky The fight between Petrie and Ducky has turned into a rather bitter one and the stress in Ducky's mind overshadowed her reason in this scene. The two would have been able to get over their problems in normal situation but now things have become too difficult for that.

As for your comments about the next chapter, I'm glad to see you liked it! I could have taken it to a more terrifying and intense level but tragedies seldom are epic or give credit to people as much as they should. Still, it's good to hear my choice was satisfactory here. :) And you're right, this is where the duo's own stories begin! Thank you for the review! :yes


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Separate Ways
« Reply #39 on: October 22, 2017, 11:42:50 PM »
And now, unfortunately for Ruby, it seems that the shadows of the past are coming to pay a visit to the remorseful fastrunner. The very idea of Chomper's parents going after Ruby is a tremendously sad one, and one that Chomper himself would have certainly not approved of. Her best hope right now is to avoid their sniffers - though the parents will undoubtedly wonder what the fastrunner is doing in their area - and what it means for their son.

The interactions from the thin-claws was also quite good and gave some good backstory into their frame of mind. Now we will just how to see how the trio's story develops in the chapters ahead, and if they end up having two enemies that no dinosaur would ever wish to have...

This was a good chapter, as always.  :) I will keep my fingers crossed for Ruby as the situation develops.

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