Author Topic: Separate Ways  (Read 12117 times)

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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #80 on: August 08, 2018, 06:41:28 PM »
And now the metaphorical shoe begins to drop.  Though both Pearl and Detras are angry at the situation and what it means for their family, we now get a better view of the unique perspectives of each parent.  Each is concerned for their family, but Pearl's concern is informed by her empathy for her children whereas Detras's, by necessity, is informed by knowledge of what this situation could mean for them all.  And, unfortunately for Ruby, this means that something that many Westerners would consider unconscionable, the sacrifice of one child to save the rest, might be on the table as a possibility.  The fact that Detras is willing to risk himself in the process of saving his family is a sign that this is borne out of love for his family, but the utilitarian perspective really puts the fastrunners in a category of their own culturally.  I think that you have succeeded quite well in making them seem utterly foreign in terms of values, while at the same time making them approachable in terms of their love and concern for one another.  That is a delicate balance any time it is attempted, but from my perspective it works quite well.

The little game and banter between the siblings was a nice touch the break up the inherent tension in the chapter.  Though, with the events of this chapter, I can only imagine that the tension is going to build up.  It would probably take a miracle now for the fastrunner family to avoid a tragedy of some kind.  And I suspect Detras's journey might be setting them up for such a tragedy...

A good chapter as always.  :) I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #81 on: August 31, 2018, 03:02:52 PM »
Of Utter Loss and Yearning for Home

Increasingly violent shivers were making their way into the young flyer’s limbs as he lied in the rocky ground. The wind was rising again and it carried small amounts of the ground sparkles with it, covering the night sky with a slight but clear white curtain. However, none of it mattered to Petrie as the flyer stared towards the woods to his left, every part of his mind screaming in fear. For a time which felt like an eternity, screams of pain and creeping death could be heard there as the air was filled with flyers attempting to tear each other to pieces.

A sickened look rose to Petrie’s face as he stared at the ongoing battle. Somewhere out there, his uncle was giving his all for some cause of which Petrie knew nothing about, the flyer completely at a loss of what was transpiring. Just when he had hoped he’d seen enough death for one day, the flyers with whom he had lived for a week now suddenly attacked each other for no apparent reason! Had the whole world gone completely mad? And worst of all, not even Pterano had told him what was going on, other than making the boy promise to stay here, no matter how distasteful it seemed for him. Petrie could only stare at the battle with empty eyes, repeating his wishes for his beloved uncle over and over again.

That senseless bloodbath seemed to go on forever and Petrie felt more lonely than he could remember in all his life. Here he was standing in the darkness, waiting for his uncle to return to him with no one else here to keep him company or encourage him. He could as well forget everything around himself and to simply cease to be, with no one around him even noticing. That thought, however, was still drowned by his fear but eventually, the thing Petrie had waited all night long had waited came to pass.

Ever so slowly, the screams seemed to grow fainter and the dark forms of the flyers landed back into the white ground. The battle was over and if there were so many survivors, certainly uncle Pterano had to be one of them! A dinosaur with his experience and wisdom would certainly be one of the winners of any stupid fight! He had to be on his way back here right now, Petrie thought to himself. Most likely, his form would appear against the flying ground sparkles any moment now.

However, many moments passed by and only the black sky, along with the lesser lights and the Night Circle loomed over the herd of flyers. The only thing that changed was that the momentary silence was interrupted by Lenel’s distant voice which made Petrie frown somewhat. It had been the pale flyer’s mate who had invited Pterano to this bloodbath and she would have to know what had happened to him. Petrie still cringed as he thought about leaving his sleeping place but in the end, the danger his uncle had warned about seemed to have passed finally. Petrie had listened to his request faithfully but now was his time to get answers.

Only when Petrie prepared to spread his wings did he realize that he had unconsciously crossed his arms on his chest to shield himself from the cold while shuddering terribly. The night was colder than he could remember in all his life but even the frigid wind didn’t stop him from swallowing his fears and taking off into the sky. His eyes were fixed on Lenel’s form who, along with a few other flyers, stood in front of the rest of the herd. The boy felt his heartbeat quicken terribly as he saw the terribly ruined bodies of fallen flyers here and there but he was slightly relieved when he couldn’t see his uncle among the fallen below him. The flyer’s stomach suddenly seemed to turn upside down as he saw the savagely gutted and mutilated corpses below him but he attempted to only pay attention to their faces. And no matter how much he looked around himself, his uncle’s remains weren’t here but where was he then? The older flyer wasn’t among the gathered members of the herd either. Suddenly, Petrie’s thoughts were interrupted as Lenel suddenly cried in a loud voice.

“In due time, we’ll make Deron and Peak pay for what they did but for now, we have to resume the journey we set ourselves on! We have to help the wounded but when the Bight Circle is highest on the sky, we will again head towards Streli’s Hills! Use the rest of the night as you see fit but keep the peace. We earned it with a heavy price.” Lenel said as he turned around to speak something to his mate and the younger male Petrie didn’t recognize. Many of the herd members seemed beyond confused or heartbroken but none of them seemed to question Lenel’s words right now.

Petrie landed near the others in order not to raise suspicions but his eyes bored into Lenel keenly. This flyer knew about his uncle’s whereabouts and in one way or another, he would find out what happened to Pterano. However, even Petrie realized how volatile the situation was and there was a chance the pale flyer wouldn’t answer to his questions but considering his uncle’s position in the herd, maybe some hints could be found by old-fashioned eavesdropping. As the other flyer started to disperse, Petrie again took off and used the confusion and his small size to disappear into the woods above the spot where Lenel and the others were standing. Even from where he was sitting, he could see a triumphant but sadness-filled look on Lenel’s face. Petrie jumped to a lower branch as he saw Lenel turn to his followers and spoke to them appreciatingly.

“Thank our ancestors’ name you were successful, Sireia. I don’t know if I could have carried on without you. Also, well done Taria and Kero. I guarantee none of you will regret taking part in what happened tonight.” He said silently and Petrie struggled to hear what the fresh leader of the herd was saying. To the young flyer’s relief, Sireia answered in a more powerful voice.

“I couldn’t have left you to see the coming weeks through by yourself, Lenel. Nira was a fierce opponent but even she was no match for me and Haste. Well done, my love. We made the correct choice, after all.” Sireia said as Taria, Haste and Kero nodded at her remark. The latter cringed at the antics of his companions but he knew more than well that dying with Nira would have hardly advanced the cause of Nimble’s former herd. He could think about his future later but right now, Lenel offered him his best chance to move forward. He spoke to his new leader in a seemingly uninterested but revering voice.

“You have my gratitude for bringing our internal struggles to an end, Lenel. For once, we can hope to live in peace but at what a cost? How many flyers did we lose because of Peak and Nira’s pride?” Kero said as he narrowed his eyes, just looking at the scores of dead dinosaurs around him. This question made Petrie’s heart skip a beat as this was it. It had been probable from the beginning this kind of question would be asked sooner or later and it would be near impossible for Lenel to overlook the possible loss of his deputy. Petrie, too, knew this but those thoughts were buried under the resuming shudders of his hands and the quickening of his breaths. The entire world seemed to freeze still as he waited for Lenel to open his mouth. The pale flyer looked at Kero with regretting eyes and he took a deep sigh as he answered.

“Far too many, my honored deputy. At least forty or even fifty, most of them from either my or Peak’s former herds. Many great flyers were lost and worst of all, that coward Peak managed to escape! I swear he’ll pay for this soon enough.” Lenel said but his words did little to improve Petrie’s mood. If the light-colored flyer didn’t tell of his uncle to the others, he would have to ask him soon enough and hope…

“How about Pterano? Did… did he make it?” Taria asked as she realized that Lenel’s other deputy was nowhere to be seen. Petrie suddenly felt as if a cold grip had suddenly turned his innards upside down. This was truly it. This answer would be the one which would decide so much for the young flyer and his future.

Please, say that uncle Pterano still alive! Petrie no know what me do if… if…

The air around Petrie seemed suddenly frigid beyond words but the situation grew only worse when Lenel answered, his face a mask of regret and sorrow.

“He did not, Taria. Peak killed him in the most cowardly and disgusting of ways when we faced Bluegust in that forest. He… he is gone.” Lenel said as he brought his hand to his face and shook it silently. However, everything that happened after that moment was lost to the lonely flyer above them. The boy’s mind seemed to become petrified still as the realization started to slowly fight its way into his consciousness. It simply couldn’t be! His uncle, who had done so much for him, couldn’t be dead! Certainly Lenel was lying! There was no way that could be true! There just wasn’t!

Before he even realized it himself, Petrie flew down from his branch, not even caring to hide his presence from the other flyers. For now, the only thing that mattered was to prove that Lenel was lying. Petrie flapped his wings furiously, tears starting to fall from his eyes as he started his search for his uncle, holding one last ray of hope that he might still find his uncle alive and well in this withered, dark forest.

However, the night didn’t hold such terrifying surprises to everyone. Glide’s breathing grew easier bit by bit as she reached the still-numerous group of flyers recovering from the fight. She, too, had been forced to follow the battle from the sidelines, fearing for the safety of her parents but there they were, discussing the recent events with a few other flyers, a fact that didn’t sit well with the younger flyer. If they thought that informing her of their survival wasn’t important, maybe showing she cared about them wasn’t either. Glide suddenly turned to her right and spoke to her friend with whom she had shared this night’s fears.

“Well, at least they made it, Brownbeak. But… why would anyone join a bloodbath like this? This… this is completely sick!” Glide said as she looked at the fallen, most of whom she had known at the very least by name. Most of them had been good flyers and herd members but here they were, slowly growing colder in this unhospitable, desolate land. Brownbeak moved from his friend’s side to crouch and look at one of the dead closer, only to shake his hand.

“Blackclaw had taught me for many seasons on the more difficult wisdoms. I can’t believe he’s gone.” He said as he raised to his full height, looking at his teacher with tearful eyes. Glide looked at him briefly, remembering how often Brownbeak had told her of Blackclaw and the ways the former had learned most of his most impressive tricks.

“I’m so sorry. He certainly sounded and seemed like a good flyer.” That was all the comfort she could offer as she had never known the fallen flyer herself. Brownbeak stood still for a moment, looking at the older flyer’s unseeing eyes without blinking even once. After a short while, he began to stutter with a wavering voice, trying to calm himself down.

“He certainly was, Glide. Our herd will never be the same without him and the others. And to think this was all because of Peak… I can’t believe we followed him all this time.” Brownbeak said with a clear tone of bitterness in his voice. He had heard Lenel’s speech and the fact that both Nira’s sister and Nimble’s old deputy supported him had been enough for him to accept his new leader’s explanation at what had happened. Glide couldn’t really disagree with him and shortly, she began to think aloud, not meaning for the other flyer to hear her words.

“I’d just like to know if Ortin’s alright. I hope he didn’t have to get hurt because of Peak.” She said, looking at the sky in slight worry. Brownbeak frowned at her words and turned to her almost unnecessarily aggressively.

“Didn’t you hear what Lenel said? Peak escaped and it is more than likely he took all of his family with him! If he hadn’t, at least some of them would have spoken against Lenel!” Brownbeak spoke, not feeling too much compassion against Ortin after all his family had done on this night. Glide, on the other hand, took a highly concerned look and rose to her wings, soon realizing that her friend was right. Ortin or any other member of his family was nowhere to be seen which could mean only one thing: her oldest friend was no longer a part of this herd.

Desperate sobs accompanied Petrie as he flew through the silent forest, feeling slight hope rise within him as he saw that there were far less corpses around here. Maybe, just maybe, Lenel was mistaken and Pterano had made it after all. The young flyer left no glade or cave unchecked as he tried to find his uncle on this most nightmarish of nights. Even giving up the search came to Petrie’s mind… until he saw it.

In the middle of a small clearing surrounded by giant shadows of dead trees, Petrie saw a flash of the familiar hue of brown. Petrie almost felt his breath stopping as he turned towards that sad sight, soon realizing he had not been mistaken. Before him lay the unmoving form of his precious uncle who had symbolized unlimited wisdom, bitter betrayal and unselfish and limitless protection to the young flyer. Petrie stood still for a moment and as the long-denied emotion slowly started to overflow his mind, the flyer finally collapsed to his knees, starting to cry inconsolably.

“Please, get up uncle Pterano! Me know you can do it! Me cannot do this alone! Ohh, why this have to happen?” Only the dark ground met Petrie’s gaze as his tears fell towards it, his eyes shortly rising back to Pterano. Petrie could see that his throat had been slashed open but it mattered little to him now. Of all flyers, his uncle had been the one who had deserved this the least! The times when Pterano had found him wandering the wastes, the way he had brought Petrie into the herd and how he had helped him through all the hardships… all those beautiful times were now only a memory. His mind dwelling in the past, Petrie moved to his uncle’s side and hugged him for the last time, ignoring the countless wounds and the blood covering his body.

Pterano’s shocked eyes seemed to bore into Petrie’s mind and slowly, Petrie realized he was now completely alone. His only helper in the herd was gone and without him, Petrie knew there was little binding him to those cursed savages who would stop at nothing to just get each other killed! Without his uncle, even a life of loneliness would be preferable to living in this herd who had claimed the life of his uncle! The boy moved to his uncle’s side, weeping horribly as he closed the older flyer’s eyes and whispered to his ear weakly.

“Goodbye, uncle Pterano. Pe… Petrie hope you have a good flight where…. wherever you are! Th… thanks for doing everything you did for Petrie.” He said as he forced his gaze away from the horrifying sight. He felt like every part of his body was getting crushed by the weight of this place and by his memories. He took one, last horrified look at his uncle before taking off from this episode in his life. He would fly to some place where he could try to rebuild his life and to at least attempt to find a way to return to the Valley. He owed it to his uncle to find a better life than what this nightmare offered him. In mere seconds, Petrie soared over the trees but he couldn’t guess this would turn out to be a mistake.

The wind seemed to be in his favor and Petrie hoped that he’d be able to escape from the others soon enough. All coherent thoughts had long since left Petrie’s mind and only a desperate plan to escape from his recent life and loss seemed to flicker in his mind. Even if he knew he was wrong, every second that passed seemed it seemed like he could escape further away from the recent tragedies. Petrie looked expectantly at the distant mountains, hoping he’d get some kind of hint about the Valley’s whereabouts. With any luck, many of the Valley’s residents had forgotten his part in the tragedy during the meeting on that day which seemed like it had happened so, so long ago, as if to a completely different flyer. Yet, those hopes were soon cut short as Petrie saw a larger flyer suddenly glide before him, effectively blocking off his escape path. The younger flyer twitched noticeably as the newcomer addressed him in a rough voice.

“Turn around now, kid! No one is to leave the herd while we still have to find out the depth of Peak’s treachery!” The flyer said in a voice which brokered no disagreement but Petrie hardly listened to him. Everything but the memory of his uncle’s dead face was wiped away from the boy’s mind and he was in no way interested to speak with anyone right now. He quickly turned into a deep dive while giving the other flyer his answer.

“Me not care anymore! Just go away and leave Petrie at peace!” He spoke, earning a deep frown from the older flyer. However, the boy didn’t waste any time looking behind himself nor did he really bother to even attempt to make much distance between himself and his chaser. Petrie fluttered through the powerful winds towards the night, not turning his head even once to look around himself. And in the end, Petrie didn’t twitch a muscle when he felt his left wing being grabbed by the other dinosaur’s claws.

“When I give an order, I expect you to obey! Do you really want me to report further about this?” He said as he turned Petrie around and forced him to land shortly. Petrie couldn’t bring himself to raise his gaze at the other flyers: all he could do was weep without an end and to try to form some kind of answer.

“Me… me don’t care about it anymore! Tell Lenel, kill me here or do whatever you want! Even if it would be better than to go on with your herd!” Petrie cried as he struggled to wipe his tears away with his wing. The older flyer tried to keep his face as grim and authoritative as possible but the depth of the boy’s sorrow got to him quickly. He didn’t know Petrie so he didn’t have any idea what had happened.

“None of us, not especially a child, can survive out there by ourselves. Petrie or whatever you called yourself, I don’t know what happened but…” He started but Petrie wouldn’t let him finish. He suddenly wailed to the guard with his full force, not able to stay silent anymore.

“Of course you don’t! Of course nobody knows how uncle Pterano was attacked from behind for nothing! None… none of this should have never happened!” Petrie said as he buried his head in his hands again. The guard looked at him with a frown, not approving of the boy’s antics in the least but he could relate to his pain. Yet, he wasn’t going to let the younger flyer think he was getting soft towards a potential deserter of the herd in its most vulnerable moment.

“They never should have but I’m sure your uncle died for the right cause, something many of my siblings couldn’t claim. Petrie, you must understand that life is full losses and death but it is no reason to resign yourself to despair! Our herd has given us everything and our deeds for the sake of our companions are the reasons we have to go on with our lives as each flyer should know! Petrie, I have no option but to take you back.” He said, knowing that he had to obey the orders he had been given, now more than ever. The younger flyer looked at the guard with teary eyes, not giving his words much heed. His uncle was gone and no words from his captor would change that solemn fact. However, he wanted nothing less than to follow this dinosaur back to the herd who had caused him so much sorrow.

“But you can just say that you never saw me leaving! Petrie promise me never tell anyone me ever met you! Me will never…” He started but again, the older flyer put a grimmer look on his face and bowed towards the younger male, this time clearly meaning what he said.

“I would let you go if that were up to me but this time it simply isn’t. Peak and Nira might still have allies among us who might work against us or contact Deron without our knowledge. Follow me and know that I will notice it if you even think of trying to flee again. Let us waste no more time, we have a long day ahead of us still.” The light-green colored adult said as he took off. For a few moments, Petrie thought of turning around again and trying to lose his chaser but that would only make things worse. With a sickening feeling in his stomach, Petrie took off and followed the guard, his mind too filled with regret to even mind being forced to return.

That flight progressed in complete silence as Petrie saw the faintest of glimmers in the eastern horizon. It wouldn’t be long before the Bright Circle would rise to the sky after which a departure for another day’s flight would be imminent. With heavy eyes, Petrie glanced at the ground below himself, realizing that most of the herd had dispersed to either mourn their fallen loved ones or rest for the challenges of another day. But at the very least, no visible tensions could be seen in the ground which at least brought the slightest of reliefs to Petrie’s mind. He suddenly looked in regret as the other flyer suddenly turned downward, heading towards the still-darkened ground. Just as Petrie touched the ground, the guard looked at him and spoke to him in a silent but decisive voice.

“Be thankful that I won’t relay the news of your attempt to escape forward. I’m sorry for your uncle but even then, make sure this will never happen again. Safe flights for you, Petrie.” The guard said before turning around and heading back to see for his own duties. Petrie was left to stand alone in the darkness, not having even the briefest of chances to answer to the other flyer. The boy stood still, looking into the horizon before he sat down and started to weep again. However, to his misfortune, he would find soon that he was far from alone.

Complete nothingness filled Glide’s head as she stood alone on a small branch of a tree overlooking the wide battlefield, trying to ignore the gory sight. Her eyes were fixed on the distant Night Circle, thinking of her own loss. No matter how difficult it was to believe, Ortin was gone, driven away simply by the fact that he was related to the wrong flyer! The mere thought revolted within Glide’s mind but even worse, there was nothing she could do about it! She didn’t have the slightest of ideas where he and his family had headed and even then, Glide realized it well enough that she couldn’t head after him anyway. Peak was apparently a traitor to the herd and no matter how much she hated the idea, she knew Ortin was considered little better by her own family now.

Unconsciously, Glide shook her head and narrowed her eyes as she explored the skies as if she expected to see Ortin flying there. She had spoken with her parents already and they had told her to abandon her friendship with Ortin immediately and to forget she ever knew him. That thought infuriated her without an end and as so many times before, she hoped that the boy would be on her side right now instead of her self-righteous parents. Yet, she knew that was impossible and she wasn’t ready to turn her back on everything she had known just yet. A longing look rose to her eyes as she whispered to the looming Night Circle.

“I will meet you again, Ortin. I promise it.” That moment seemed to stretch on forever until she suddenly noticed something which caught her attention. Two flyers suddenly landed not far from her and she immediately recognized the other one of them. “Petrie? What is he doing here on a time like this? Well, why should I care about anything he does?” She asked, forcing her gaze away from the boy. She was still more than disappointed by his revelation as there was no place anywhere more pathetic than the Great Valley. They might think their the center of the world but in truth none of its residents could survive two seasons in the Mysterious Beyond anymore. Such was the price of losing one’s most important wisdoms.

Yet, Glide suddenly realized how very alone she now was. Only a few days earlier, she had had three close friends but now she only had one and even Brownbeak had had the nerve to practically claim it was Ortin’s fault that he had been banished from the herd! Now, Ortin was gone and Petrie had revealed his true home, one that could never be reconciled with the efforts surviving in the wide reaches of this world really took. Yet… he had beaten her in his test back when they first met and the sense of strategy and cunning had certainly impressed her greatly. And to think of the times when he had known her, Petrie had never shown the weakness many others in the valley had been told to possess.

Glide looked at Petrie who was left alone, not knowing of his woes. However, she suddenly felt more miserable herself than in ages as she thought about the fate Ortin had been forced to face and the coming, lonely days without her closest friend. On a time like this, the girl couldn’t help but feel some compassion towards the other flyer even if her mind still rebelled against breaking the ice between the duo. Maybe someday but as things were, she simply couldn’t forgive his dishonesty and lies this easily. The young flyer took another sigh as she looked at the slowly lightening sky. It would take a long time for the herd and its members to recover from this bloodbath but if Lenel acted as wisely as before, maybe someday this nightmare could be forgotten. Her moment of melancholy was suddenly interrupted as another form suddenly appeared to the clearing, one that wiped away Glide’s sadness away immediately. She gritted her teeth together as she turned her gaze at Petrie again.

If you ever were worth anything, prove it now! Show Hoist that you are stronger than you’ve shown thus far!

All sense of time had disappeared from Petrie’s mind as he sat still, tears falling to the ground all the time. It was as if the world itself had become one with the darkness now surrounding him, everything in it swallowed into the never-ending despair. His last conversation with his uncle returned again and again to the boy’s mind and waves of guilt washed over him again and again. Had he decided against listening to Pterano’s warning, he could still be alive! Why did he have to let his uncle face the danger completely alone? How could he ever allow this to pass? This was all his fault! He should have stayed by Pterano’s side until the very end, not stay behind like some complete weakling! It… it was all just so very wrong. Why couldn’t…

“Oh, Petrie. I can see that everything going the way you wanted. What a pity.” Petrie twitched noticeably as he heard that voice and he turned his gaze to the speaker in complete shock. And the face that greeted his gaze was the one he had wanted to see the least now. For a moment he thought of leaving but where would he escape now? He only turned his gaze away from the slightly larger flyer and spoke in a voice that was barely a whisper.

“Get lost, Hoist. Me have nothing to say to you now.” He said, hoping he could simply wish Hoist away but inside he knew that wouldn’t be the case. But if he had to prepare for another beating, it would matter very little. Nothing mattered anymore to the young flyer. However, his fears about Hoist were proven right as he moved to Petrie’s side and spoke in a more mocking voice than ever before.

“That wasn’t nicely said to the only one who can show at least some sympathy, Petrie. Are you not going to thank me for using my time to come greet you in a time like this?” He asked, moving in front of Petrie, his face looking as offended as possible. Petrie, however, didn’t pay those words any heed, only burying his head deeper into his legs. The silence seemed to reign for a few moments as Hoist stared at Petrie, his face growing increasingly angry towards the other boy. Petrie prayed for this meeting to end as he heard Hoist’s footsteps growing ever closer. The older flyer knelt slightly before Petrie and cocked his head while forcing his face into a devilish smile.

“I know all about your uncle, Petrie. I know all the details about it. It’s amazing how quickly these things spread, isn’t it, Petrie?” Hoist said while watching Petrie’s teary eyes growing more desperate by the second. Every part of Petrie’s mind wailed in sorrow and outrage. As he heard those words, he finally turned to face Hoist who stared the younger boy in the eyes. Petrie soon tore his eyes off him and growled in a voice almost unrecognizable for the flyer.

“Get away from here, now! Petrie no want to hear any more of that!” He cried, knowing his torturer wasn’t going to grant his wish. And indeed, Hoist moved to his side and spoke in a triumphant voice.

“And why would I do that, Petrie? Because you say so? It’s much funnier to stay here and watch a complete idiot mourn for his weakling of an uncle! Pterano was never much of a flyer and anyone who allows himself to be ambushed from behind doesn’t deserve a second chance. Admit it, Petrie. We’re all much better off without him slowing us down.” Hoist said with a confident smirk, circling Petrie ever so slowly. The latter, however, had had enough. He turned towards Hoist and cried with all his might.

“Uncle Pterano the best flyer ever and me not listen to anyone speak bad of him! Me…” At this point, Petrie was cut short by a heavy blow that landed right on his right cheek near the base of beak, sending the young flyer flying from his rock into the rocky ground. The brown-colored dinosaur gasped for air in shock as he heard Hoist speak to him again.

“Your uncle had his moments but most of all, he was unworthy of being anyone’s deputy. And the fact that he thought bringing you into the herd… no flyer with even a hint of a brain would ever consider such a thing. Or don’t you think that was one of his many mistakes?” Hoist asked as he kicked Petrie on his side as he struggled to regain his footing, sending him rolling into the ground again. The younger flyer cringed at the pain which was radiating all over his body now. However, he suddenly felt a part of his inner agony give way to a growing anger, one like which he had never felt below. He raised his head back at his foe and tried to let out a clear threat , one whose effect was largely lost by Petrie’s voice.

“Take those words back, Hoist! Petrie will not be asking for a second time!” He said as he felt his hands seething with growing rage as he looked into Hoist’s mocking eyes. The larger flyer didn’t seem to pay his threat any heed as he pinned Petrie to the ground and smiled to him widely.

“You were a mistake from the beginning and one’s relatives tell a lot about someone. Now that I’ve seen just how worthless you are, I must admit that I’m surprised how very, unbelievably pitiful your moron of an uncle must have been. It served him just right to be killed the same way he lived: without honor and without any…” This time, it was Hoist’s turn to be interrupted as Petrie finally forced his hand free and hit at his torturer under his beak, breaking Hoist’s hold on him completely. The older boy looked at his opponent in astonishment as he briefly wiped his hand at the spot which Petrie had hit before he again approached the other flyer.

“Now you’ve done it, weakling. I will show you what happens to those…” Hoist started but before he could finish, Petrie cut him short with a louder voice than before. The younger dinosaur’s face had suddenly turned into a complete antithesis of his usual one, completely overtaken with rage towards Hoist. This monster dared to insult uncle Pterano’s memory like this and think he’d get away with it? Gone were any fears about the larger boy’s strength or obvious advantage, replaced by the will to defend the only thing that still remained.

“No, it you who has done it, Hoist. Me make sure you take back what you said before the end!” He cried while Hoist suddenly frowned at Petrie’s answer. However, the former decided against further threats and suddenly charged towards Petrie, attempting to overwhelm him with his mere brute strength. However, something had awakened within the younger flyer and Petrie immediately stepped aside from the attack and then leaped towards his foe from his side. Hoist yelped in surprise as he felt Petrie’s leg land a surprisingly heavy blow to his thigh but even then, he thought it mattered little. With a confident turn, he moved to finally exact his revenge but suddenly he felt something which took him completely off-guard.

With all his power, Petrie pushed Hoist forward, right towards a pile of loose rocks, knowing that nobody would be able to hold their footing on that spot. And indeed, after a few seconds of stumbling, Hoist felt himself falling to the ground, the loose earth around him making any attempts of quickly regaining his footing almost impossible. For the first time today, Hoist felt fear rise within him as Petrie moved above him, the younger flyer’s teary eyes filled with a hint of triumph. Even if he couldn’t bring his uncle back, he could at least make the flyer who had insulted uncle Pterano like that pay! However, just as he prepared to begin his attack, he heard Hoist whimper at him with an almost panicked voice.

“Petrie, stop! Don’t you realize it was all a joke? There’s no reason to get that mad!” He said as he looked at the haunted look in Petrie’s eyes whose expression didn’t twitch one inch at those words. Instead, he merely snorted at the larger flyer as he pinned him more tightly into the ground.

“It too late for that now, Hoist. Petrie said me not ask you again.” He said in a voice none of those who knew him in the Valley would even recognize. Never before had Petrie been that broken, desperate and hateful at the same time and all those emotions molded together in this sickening moment. Pure horror emanated from Hoist’s eyes as Petrie hit him right between the eyes and again in his chest, crying with a lost voice to his hated foe.

“This one is for uncle Pterano! And this one for the beating you gave me last time!” He cried while the memories of his last days with his uncle and the fear of his earlier meeting with Hoist encouraging him into an ever-blinder rage. He hardly noticed Hoist’s efforts to begin his counterattack, the younger flyer using his advantageous position perfectly to maintain his decisive edge. He managed to inflict a cut or two on Petrie’s sides but they were nothing to the hits he received one after another. However, after many attempts, Hoist finally managed to cause a deep wound to Petrie’s belly which finally caused the younger flyer to screech in pain.

Yet, it wasn’t long before the larger, dark-colored flyer would regret even his momentary success. Petrie glanced at his bleeding abdomen quickly before grabbing a large stone from beside him, not really realizing what he was doing. Only a flicker of fear had the time to flash before Hoist’s eyes as the stone collided with his skull, causing him to almost to black out. It took him many seconds to realize that the tearful flyer had moved to batter his chest with the rock, causing him to bleed with an increasing intensity. In this moment, all reason and thinking had departed from Petrie’s mind as the only thing he wanted anymore was to have some way of fighting off his own tearing pain. He hardly saw what he was doing, his thoughts locked within the fortress of despair.

Hoist, on the other hand, stared at his opponent in shock, the younger flyer’s pure rage and hate completely overwhelming him. Even if he had wanted to avoid it until the very end, the dark-colored dinosaur realized within his fading consciousness that Petrie was not going to give up. His mind was battered terribly by Petrie’s hits and Hoist slowly realized that without help, he would never make it away from the frenzied flyer’s attack. With all his might, he suddenly cried to everyone who would hear him.

“HELP ME, ANYONE! GET THIS LUNATIC AWAY FROM ME, NOW!” He cried as he tried to twitch under Petrie’s grasp. The younger flyer didn’t even register his opponent’s words but he decided that he didn’t want to hear another word of him. Hoist let out another scream as he saw Petrie raising the stone again and when right after he saw it once again fall towards him, everything went utterly black.

The impact of his hit wasn’t lost on Petrie who soon realized that Hoist’s struggles disappeared slowly. For the first time since his attack, Petrie stopped for a moment to look at his handiwork, looking at the unmoving flyer below him. Even in the middle of his distress, he could see that Hoist breathed but that was where the good news stopped. He was utterly battered and there were several deep wounds within his head. Suddenly, Petrie’s tears started to fall even more intensely as he realized what he had done. He looked at Hoist’s blooded eyes which had closed after his savage hit but the mere sight of the wounded, unconscious flyer below him. He was about to collapse on his back in horror but those thoughts were soon ended as he felt another flyer grab his wing and tore him away from Hoist. The soon thing Petrie realized was a female voice cry to her in utter shock.

“What happened here? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” She cried as two other flyers moved to help Hoist. The whole scene felt unnatural to Petrie as he faced the furious newcomer in her eyes. He was surprised to see her to be the flyer he had seen with Lenel earlier tonight but what was her name… yes, Taria! However, that helped little in a moment like this and Petrie’s answer was hardly intelligible as he spoke.

“Me never meant it to happen! He… he spoke bad things of uncle Pterano and… and me couldn’t take it! Petrie so sorry!” He cried as he saw the two other flyers doing their best to halt Hoist’s bleeding. He was in a far worse condition than anyone had realized at first and his whole life was on a wing’s edge. Taria realized that immediately and she hit Petrie quickly before she answered to him.

“Out here, we simply don’t beat each other to the brink of their final flight! Pray that Hoist will survive or because you don’t want to know what will happen to you if he dies! Even now, whatever we will do, it’s far too good for you, you cursed bastard!” She cried as she sent Petrie to the ground again, giving her another hit to his chest. Petrie didn’t even bother to rise from the ground anymore, slowly starting to hope someone would simply end it all. In a matter of an hour, everything was ruined. His uncle was gone, he had nearly killed Hoist and there was no telling what would follow. As Petrie gazed at the rocky, dry ground, he suddenly noticed his left hand moving towards his throat, ready to escape from this hell once and for all.

Maybe it really is better if me just go to join uncle on his journey. Me have nothing left here. Goodbye, momma and sorry. Petrie so sorry for everything.

He thought as he prepared for his final act but just as he put his claw against his soft throat, he was interrupted by a now-familiar voice.

“Leave him be, Taria. I will speak with him myself.” Petrie raised his gaze slowly to see Lenel walking towards him and the female. Almost immediately, Taria shot back at her leader in an unusually sharp rebuke of the light-colored flyer.’

“Just look at what he did! We all know that he has to be banished even if Hoist lives! There is no reason to prolong any of this!” Taria cried as she glanced at the terribly wounded boy being carried to a safer place. Lenel frowned at her before speaking in a low but calm voice.

“I know, Taria, I know. But… I have something I want to tell Petrie before we do anything else. Help the others in making sure Hoist lives.” Lenel said, making clear he didn’t want any more objections. Taria frowned at her leader and answered only briefly before turning around and leaving the scene.

“Very well but do it quickly. We don’t need any more trouble with Hoist’s parents or they might be the next one to leave if you get soft on him. He isn’t Pterano and remember that you owe him nothing!” Taria said before moving to join the others in helping Hoist. Lenel narrowed his eyes, not willing to waste time on matters like these on this volatile hour but deep within himself, the pale flyer couldn’t watch his honored deputy’s only relative like this. He quickly spoke to the boy before rising to his wings again.

“Petrie, follow me without any second thoughts, now. Your situation is bad enough as it is.” He simply said before taking to the air. Petrie felt his limbs grow heavier than tree trunks as the weight of all that had happened befell on him. Yet, something in Lenel’s tone raised some interest in him as the newfound leader of the herd had no hate and above all, loathing in his voice. In the end, he had nothing to lose so why shouldn’t he give his uncle’s trusted leader a chance? With an exhausted sigh, Petrie began to flap his wing and the scene of the lowest point in his life.

An enraged frown had lingered on Glide’s beak for many minutes as she looked in disgust at the aftermath of Petrie’s frenzy. For the very first time, someone had found the courage to stand up to that son of a bellydragger and how he was treated as an enemy of the herd? Gone were the feelings of loathing towards Petrie and it had only been the fury and the quick progression of the events that had prevented her from joining the boy in finally showing Hoist his rightful place among the flyers.

How can the grown-ups be so blind to Hoist’s acts all these seasons? I mean… he has been a total cancer upon all of us! Nothing of worth would be lost if he didn’t recover at all!

Glide thought as she kicked at her branch in rage. The thought of Petrie’s dishonesty still infuriated her but not nearly to the same degree as Hoist’s words to the other boy. The girl quickly took off from the tree and headed after Petrie and Lenel, hoping that the former would survive from this without any major punishments. Deep inside herself, Glide realized that something important had changed in her approach towards the flyer she had already counted as her friend.

A brief sigh escaped his mouth as Lenel landed on the cliff overlooking the rest of the herd, looking as the edge of the Bright Circle started to appear into the sky. He frowned somewhat as the events of the night started to drift away from his mind, replaced by the hope of the new dawn. He was more than relieved by the lack of opposition towards him thus far but it mattered little if there were still significant groups who would want to see him dead. The time to reinforce his position would come very soon but first, Lenel knew he’d have to reconcile with his past to the best degree. Pterano’s death had been a terrible tragedy and his loss was unlike anything he had felt in many, many seasons. And as a living testament of the tragedy was the completely broken boy before him who was now completely alone in this world. However, Lenel got some relief from the plan he had in mind as he spoke to Petrie.

“As Taria told you, we cannot allow single herd members to attack another like that. If Hoist dies because of you, many here would demand me to return the favor to you.” Lenel said while looking downwards at the distressed flyer, trying to open the discussion in a way which would leave him in complete control of the situation. Petrie’s head dropped, only now realizing that his crying had finally stopped. Most likely he had simply ran out of tears, the flyer supposed. Still, his voice was forced and distressed as he answered to his leader

“Petrie understand but Hoist ask for it! He attack uncle Pterano again and again and when Petrie tell him to go away, he hit me in the beak! Me know me should have not done it but… but me couldn’t help it.” He said, only carefully eying Lenel’s reaction. The older flyer frowned somewhat, not finding reasons not to believe Petrie’s tale. However, his new position didn’t allow him to waste time solving the issues of children’s fights. No, even if Petrie was his late deputy’s nephew, he wouldn’t have invited him here just to listen to his explanations. Lenel turned around to look at the rising Bright Circle as he spoke.

“I hope you speak the truth, Petrie. Mocking Pterano this morning is something I wouldn’t stand either but without further proof than your word, I fear there’s not much I can do about it. I’m extremely sorry about your uncle. He was one of the bravest and most loyal flyers I’ve ever met and… and I will regret my whole life that I was unable to save him.” Lenel said as he narrowed his eyes to shield them from the increasingly powerful beams of pure light. He had crossed his hands behind his back and his head drooped slightly towards the ground.

Petrie, on the other hand, frowned slightly, not knowing whether or not he should trust anything Lenel said. On one hand, this was the flyer Pterano had spoken of so very fondly and respectfully but on the other, why would anyone in this heard care one bit about him? He had never really met Lenel before so why would the older male show any real kindness toward him? And even a dinosaur as young as him realized that Lenel would probably have more pressing duties than speaking to him. No, there was no way that Lenel was telling the whole truth right now.

“Well, it help little anymore. He gone forever… but why you want to tell Petrie anything? Me not my uncle… me just some worthless flyer who everybody hate now.” He said, the guilt and fear suddenly overwhelming his courage again. Lenel turned his head to look at Petrie briefly, surprised by the answer. He had expected his audience to raise the boy’s confidence but apparently he was mistaken. But it seemed like Petrie was brighter than he had thought but in the end, he should have expected as much from Pterano’s relative. There was no reason to prolong this meeting if Petrie didn’t want to and Lenel quickly moved to his real point.

“Petrie, it is true that I mainly look at you through Pterano but believe me when I say I don’t want to see his nephew like this. I failed him miserably and there is nothing else I can do for him, true, but I know that neither would he want to leave you behind to drown in your own despair. Because of that, I have a proposition for you, one I think that you, too, find interesting.” Lenel said, his voice hiding nothing from the other flyer. Lenel had turned to observing his herd which was waking up from its brief and troubled sleep. The hour of today’s flight was slowly approaching but he wanted to finish his business with Petrie. The young flyer frowned slightly, slowly beginning to calm down from the many humiliations. Even if he couldn’t trust Lenel fully after all that had happened, at least he wasn’t attacking him whenever he got the chance. He hesitated for a while before he retook the eye contact with Lenel and answered.

“Well, me guess me should thank you even if it does nothing for uncle anymore. What is it you wish to ask of Petrie?” He asked simply, not willing to prolong the conversation any more than he’d have to. Yet, in the end, pretty much anything Lenel could propose would hardly make things worse. Lenel took an understanding smile on his face and nodded briefly before answering. He was still covered in in the countless wounds of his fight with Peak but if he felt any pain, he hid it masterfully.

“In fact, I need you to only do two of my followers a brief favor. Your uncle told me everything about himself, you and your histories in the Great Valley. I cannot even begin to imagine what drove you to join us in the first place but if even a part of what Pterano told me was true, you’ve built quite a reputation back there. I want you to speak the denizens of the Valley allow my followers into the Valley to gather some vital information from the flyers living in there.” Lenel said, speaking slowly while looking into the far distance.

Petrie frowned deeply at his cryptic words, completely taken aback by this offer. How could he possibly show his face in the Valley again? Sure, he had thought of flying there on his own only an hour ago but it had been a panicked effort which in the end was never a serious thought! They couldn’t have possibly forgiven him for the death of the clubtail and he would only bring further trouble and sorrow to his family if he returned! He was already considering declining Lenel’s offer when the last thought returned to his mind.

His family… Petrie had tried to push them away from his mind in order to try to forget what he had lost. If the clubtails and domeheads would still oppose his return, he would only bring more pain for everyone Yet… Petrie knew he had no future here. Here he was alone and despised and on the verge of banishment or death for his crime. No matter how he tried to see things otherwise, he couldn’t ignore how very much he wanted to meet his family again. After a long while, Petrie finally gave his answer.

“What information you wish to get from the Valley? Petrie no agree if it hurts me family or the families of me friends! Also, what happens to Petrie if me succeed in getting the others into the Valley? Must me return here to be banished from the herd or worse?” He asked, crossing his arms in a show of some distrust at Lenel’s plans. The pale flyer looked for the first time disappointed by Petrie’s answer, him being far more suspicious of his motives than Lenel had expected. However, it was becoming clear that Petrie would in the end agree to his proposition, especially after his next words.

“Petrie, I understand that you have a hard time trusting me after all but happened. But in this case, I only want to find out more about Deron, Peak and their plans and any additional threats that might be nearby. Even if I despise its residents as much as all of us, the Valley and the Farwalkers going through it know more than nearly anyone here in the Mysterious Beyond even realize. We need to make sure we won’t be attacked or betrayed again. As for your question, I’m going to offer you more than merely delaying your banishment. If you succeed in getting my allies in, I will make an exception on your case and allow you to stay in the Valley for good. I know it is what Pterano would have wanted me to do.” Lenel said in an unwavering voice, a slight smile rising to his face as he saw Petrie freeze completely still.

Petrie tried to form some words but the sudden influx of emotions suddenly washed over him. Was he really being offered a chance to escape from this nightmare? The thought of rejoining his family for good after these few days… Petrie hardly remembered the last day he had slept in peace alongside his brothers and sisters. And maybe… just maybe, they would know at least something about his friends which could offer him at least some reprieve but… would the Valley ever be the same without his friends? Could he ever feel himself at home in the land where he had once played days after days with his dear friends? Yet, no matter what, Petrie knew he owed it to his family and friends to keep going forward. There was absolutely nothing left for him here and after a moment, Petrie nearly found himself speaking to Lenel with a voice which even bordered on a bit of happiness.

“Well, me guess Petrie accept it. When should me and the others be on our way?” Petrie asked carefully, not truly even daring to hope that all could go the way he would dream. Lenel smiled at the boy carefully, happy to see his plan working perfectly. With any luck, he would find a way to locate Peak and secure his hold further over the herd. And what else would be a better place than to search for additional stories about Olres than the Valley? Lenel managed to keep those thoughts hidden from Petrie as he gave his answered.

“At the same time as the rest of us leave for Streli’s Hills which will happen not a long time from now. I will inform your companions of their mission and I’ll give you a short while to prepare for your journey. It will be a long flight to the Valley, after all. Return here when the Bright Circle reaches its highest spot in the sky. But remember not to raise any further fuss: there are many who would have wanted me to send you away immediately. I take quite a risk keeping you safe for now.” Lenel said while turning his gaze away from Petrie once again, implying that the audience was over. Petrie, however, took a small step forward and spoke once more to Lenel.

“Petrie will, Lenel. Thank you again for giving me this chance.” The young flyer said as he saw the pale flyer nodding at him for the last time, prompting Petrie to take off into the wide skies of the early morning. His flight was heavy with the lingering loss of his dear uncle but fighting for a spot in his mind was the hope that he’d see his family and even friends again. The mere thought of it made Petrie want to somersault in joy but he simply couldn’t after this night of tragedy. Even after all that had happened, maybe his uncle had given a priceless gift to him for seeing after him during these long, fear-filled days and guided him towards the coming return to the Valley. Petrie turned his eyes to the skies, looking at the fading stars of the dawn, his eyes glimmering with tears and emotion. In a voice too silent for anyone to hear, Petrie whispered in a wavering voice.

Thank you for everything you did for Petrie, uncle Pterano. Me wish you have a great journey.

After the terrifying tragedy of the night, a new path has been opened for Petrie which seems to be able to solve all of his problems. Is this the last day Petrie will spend with the herd and how have things changed in the Valley since his departure from it? From now on, there’s a chance that we’ll see a slowdown in my writing pace but I still hope to get a chapter done (for either one of my stories) once in two weeks. Other than that, I hope you liked this chapter and please let me know what you think of it!

« Last Edit: September 02, 2018, 11:13:05 AM by Sovereign »


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #82 on: August 31, 2018, 03:39:50 PM »
/cracks knuckles

Ok I recently reread this entire story, so I think I can actually leave a review that doesn’t sound totally incoherent,,, but I apologize if this comes off as incoherent babbling

Damn, this chapter was wild from start to finish (and I mean that in a good way) from that entire scene with Petrie and Hoist, to the ending where Petrie comes to the realization that he no longer has anything to gain by remaining with the herd, and I really liked how you ended this chapter. 

I don’t really have any criticism to offer, except that this chapter seemed to go a little quick, but it’s not really a problem since it worked well regardless. All in all, this chapter was very well done and I look forward to reading the next chapter!  :Mo
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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #83 on: September 01, 2018, 03:59:35 PM »
Wow.  I had known since the events of the last chapter that this installment would be one hell of a ride, and this chapter did not disappoint.  It begins with the growing fear in Petrie's mind that his Uncle might not have made it, which is only confirmed by what he hears from the adults in the meeting.  It is then that we see something in the flyer break.  In many ways his Uncle was his last true connection to his old life, his old values, and his hope of a future with something approaching normalcy.  Seeing his uncle slain is not just traumatizing to him in a physical sense, it is an utter body blow to his psyche. Him telling the guard off in his despair is an understandable reaction.  It is lucky for Petrie that the adult understood that Petrie was not in the right mindset and chose to keep this outburst and escape to himself.

And then there is Hoist.  To say that his actions here is infuriating would be an understatement.  And to say that Petrie completely letting lose and injuring Hoist to the point of potential death was a welcome development is even more of an understatement.  The fact that normally timid and unsure Petrie was willing and able to take such an action is a testament to how much things have changed.  Petrie knows now that is has crossed a line.  Besides the consequences between him and the flock there is also the (in my opinion) the more interesting consequence of what Petrie is now willing to become.  Lenel's quest to Petrie hints at something darker in the works.  Something that might cause a dangerous collision between Petrie's new life and the remnants of his old life.  I am both eager to see, and dread, the coming mission to the valley.  I sense that things are now going full circle, with Petrie having possible banishment over his head just like how his uncle had to live with such a burden.  One wonders what Petrie will do with this ironic legacy - whether he will rise to the occasion or fall into some of the same traps that his uncle descended into.  What we saw in this chapter is the birth of a more broken, darker Petrie.  And his journey has only just begun.

Excellent work as always.  :)  I just noticed a few odd word choices that you might want to consider revision.  For example, "Out here, we simply don’t beat each other door of their final flight!" was very odd wording as there are not doors in LBT.  Likewise Petrie telling Pterano to "rise up" instead of telling him to "get up" was an odd wording not typical in such a circumstance although technically being grammatically correct.

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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #84 on: September 21, 2018, 03:09:27 PM »
To Save a Family

”How much further are we going, mommy?” Ruby whispered as she shivered at another slight gust of the wind. The seemingly endless network of tunnels seemed to make the weather even colder which made her feel worse by the second. The fastrunner waited with some worry for her family’s inevitable clash with the longbeaks but she knew that the coming confrontation was more than necessary for their future. Pearl answered to her daughter in an equally silent voice as there was no telling where the sharpteeth were right now and they had far better ears than the fastrunners did.

“Not much further, Ruby. I think we are slowly getting close to the spot where we saw them the last time.” She said without turning to look at Ruby. Even if the shock of her conversation with her mate yesterday had died down slightly, she couldn’t help but feel the pressure of guilt within her heart every time she heard the younger female’s voice. She would have wanted to share her burden with someone but she of course couldn’t afford to bother her younger children with these kinds of horrible decisions. For now, she would only have to live with her own guilt until Detras returned. After she heard Orchid speak to her, the older omnivore finally stopped.

“But what can we do against the sharpteeth, mommy? We all saw what happened last time and now daddy’s not here to help us.” He asked in a worried, even fearful voice. The boy couldn’t hide how little trust he had in their quest. He was even more worried by the fact that Pearl had ordered Yarel to step aside from this task.  She claimed he had done enough already and that this was something the fastrunners could do without him, especially as this was the first opportunity for the siblings to calm down after Greentail’s horrible tragedy. Pearl took a brief sigh before she turned around, forcing her face to look as natural as possible.

“Very well, children. I hate to ask you to face a danger like this one but we have no options if we want to live in safety from the longbeaks. I have a plan which I think can work but please, be careful no matter what happens. If I get into trouble, run and don’t look back. Your survival is much more important than mine.” She spoke, part of her hoping to end up in the sharptooth’s mouth to escape from this most horrifying of situations but even then, she would never want her children to grow up without her simply because she was weak enough to carry her charge in the family. She cursed that she had asked Orchid and Arial to accompany her but even the two young children could be of use as extra eyes to keep her and Ruby as safe from any ambushes as possible. Ruby looked at her mother sadly before muttering deep in thought to her.

“Then I really hope it will be a good plan, a good plan I hope it is.” She said, dreading all the things that could go wrong soon. She knew longbeaks weren’t nearly as dangerous as two-footer sharpteeth but still, they were much stronger than fastrunners. Her mother had mentioned there were four adult longbeaks which hardly was good news for four fastrunners, three of which were children. Pearl glanced at Ruby briefly before clearing her throat.

“So do I, Ruby. But first of all, do you remember when I said I want to check at these caves last evening? In fact, it was back then that I started the preparations for my plan. You see, I and your father found one rather young swimmer’s carcass not far from here a few days ago. We could immediately tell from her smell that she had been horribly sick with a disease we couldn’t identify. Still, we could see that the meat was far from being fit to be eaten as we could get very sick from it. But if a sharptooth ate it… well, it would hardly bother us.” The fastrunner with a slight smile, wondering whether the sharpteeth had taken her bait. However, her hopeful thoughts were soon interrupted by Arial who answered to her mother with a clear frown.

“But… if we know that the swimmer was sick, the sharptooth should smell it from far away! They would never fall for that!” She said, cocking her head slightly with an asking look. The other omnivores exchanged similar glances and they grew ever more curious as a slight if forced smile rose to their mother’s face. The older fastrunner waited for a few seconds before giving her answer.

“They would… if they could actually smell anything about the meat. You see, I and your father like to keep some things with us that could be of some use one day. After we let the swimmer lie one night on a pile of stinkweed, not even the hardiest of sharpteeth could smell the illness under it. Some predators might get suspicious from that smell, of course, but we have seen just how desperate the longbeaks really are. I bet at least one of them couldn’t even begin to resist the lure of a free meal.” Pearl said as she attempted to hold back her chuckles. Ruby listened to her mother before looking at her questioningly.

“But… that is only one of them. There are still sharpteeth we have to face and if there are three sharpteeth, they’re too much for us to handle!” Ruby said, once again seeing the mournful hint deep within her mother’s eyes. Even if Ruby wanted to completely overlook it, the younger fastrunner knew that this was a flicker of fear, even horror about something that was to come. Ruby frowned briefly, not able to hide the chill that expression brought her from even herself. Pearl could also see the brief look of worry in Ruby but decided to go on with her regardless.

“Remember, Ruby, that we are not here to kill those longbeaks. We only need to show them that trying to compete with us for the lands around the Rise isn’t worth it. If we could catch the one who ate the swimmer and show the others that his or her life is on the line, I believe they could get the message. But let’s go while the morning is still young. Remember when I told you earlier that spreading into two groups is our best chance.” Pearl said as she turned around, smelling at the moist air entering the tunnel from the opening near the omnivores. Ruby exchanged brief glances with her siblings, able to only recite her mother’s wishes about her plan’s success. To her astonishment, she could soon see the tunnel spreading into two different corridors, both of them clearly leading to the wide plains over the network of tunnels. Well, that explained what her mother had meant when she had told her to take Orchid with her while Pearl and Arial would go together. Well, now was her chance to repay her family at least a part of her failures and she was more than ready to head into the action. She took a brief breath before quickly glancing at Orchid and giving him an expectant smile.

“Keep in mind what mommy told, Orchid. Stay close to me and make sure to not let yourself be seen, at least before me. Let us make our home safe again.” She said before seeing a somewhat nervous nod from her brother before she walked forward, carefully sticking her head out of the tunnel, investigating the sight around her carefully. She knew more than well that her color was far from optimal for the Cold Times but that only meant that she’d have to take even more care in trying to hide her presence from the predators, wherever they were.

The young fastrunner investigated every hill, stone and dead tree around her, a slight smile rising to her face as she realized that the predators were nowhere to be seen. She sniffed at the air, immediately realizing that the sharpteeth had been here not too long ago but she couldn’t quite decide in which direction they were right now. In any case, her mother had guessed that the longbeaks’ sleeping place was located in some small gorge somewhere to the north from here. Ruby frowned slightly as she looked at the soft layer of ground sparkles covering the entire ground, knowing how difficult walking through these cold fields could easily become. Yet, Ruby’s expression relaxed somewhat as she realized that the ground sparkles would hinder the advance of the sharpteeth even more. After a few seconds, he quickly turned to look at her brother and waved to him quickly.

“Come on, Orchid! We’ve got to act as quickly as possible!” She said as she began to make her way through the wide fields, knowing that the next minutes would be vital if she and her family wanted to remain unnoticed by the sharpteeth. With a fearful look, Orchid obeyed his sister’s words and headed after her, struggling even more due to his smaller size but at least he could follow in the larger fastrunner’s footsteps somewhat comfortably. Silence reigned over the two as they started their effort to safeguard the Desolate Rise’s safety from this most dire of threats.

Deep shivers flowed through Detras’ whole body as he stood still in his tracks, trying to overcome the coldness that penetrated his wet plumage. He knew more than well that a sky water on a Cold Time’s day was one of the most horrible and dangerous weathers to a fastrunner as it rendered his feathers completely useless. He looked at the grey sky, praying deeply that the sky water would end soon enough but it seemed to be a fat chance. The entire sky was covered by the dark, heavy clouds and there was no end in sight for this sickening weather.

Yet, Detras knew no amount of sky water would stop his quest now that he had followed the predators’ tracks the entire night. There had been moments when the fastrunner had been sure that he was close to finding the cursed sharpteeth but somehow, their scent seemed to disappear like a breath into the soft twilight of a Warm Time’s evening. And right now, Detras was seriously beginning to wonder if he had lost the tracks of the two predators as he hadn’t found a trace of their scent in a time which seemed like forever to a tired dinosaur who fought against the creeping chill with all his might.

Second after second, the male’s breaths grew easier as he calmed down after his latest sprint through the steppe that was so characteristic of these lands. There were times when he hoped he wouldn’t have been forced to spend the Cold Time here but he simply wasn’t given a clear choice in the matter. Either it was these damned plains or the constant threat of being crushed by Red Claw and now, Dein and Terri, too.

Yet, suddenly he saw something which caught his attention immediately.  Detras was surprised as he saw the forms of a few trees far in the distance, marking at least some of the monotonous plains. Suddenly, Detras felt his interest rise as he was quite sure that the predators would have more than welcomed this kind of reprieve from the merciless winds that had blown through the night. The aging male shook his body heavily, looking as the drops of water flew everywhere around him, heading for the small forest before him.

The run didn’t take a long time despite Detras falling a few times due to the hard water under the treacherous cover of the ground sparkles. The fastrunner smelled around himself with all the concentration he could muster but initially, Detras feared it was all for nothing. He sighed deeply, slowly beginning to wonder what he should do next… until the wind suddenly changed course and Detras suddenly caught a scent which made him twitch noticeably. He immediately turned around and walked towards a nearby clearing and sure enough, his eyes confirmed what his sniffer had told him. There were a few drops of blood on the clearing which was clearly Terri’s and most interestingly, it was nearly fresh! The two sharpteeth had to be somewhere nearby, a thought which soon turned Detras’ excitement into fear. With slow and careful steps, Detras began to backtrack towards a nearby tree, beginning to clear his thoughts shortly.

The duo were very close to him and if he retained even the least of care, he should be able to gain the advantage of surprise over his foes. All he’d have to do is to stay calm and keep his mind calm and all would be alright… for now. Detras gulped nervously as he started to walk forward again, knowing that from now on he would have to utilize all of his care and experience in trying to move forward without being spotted.

Detras walked with short, careful steps with which he tried to do his very best in not causing any noise due to the ground sparkles. His heart beat in his chest as he looked what lay behind every tree or stone and even the forest’s shifting shadows suddenly seemed to take the form of a sharptooth. It wasn’t for himself Detras was worried for but without him, his family didn’t stand the slightest of chance in trying to stop the revenge of the sharpteeth. He was his family’s only hope of solving this crisis and that knowledge laid like a heavy stone on the fastrunner’s back. One mistake and it was not over just for him but to his whole family as well.

The minutes passed slowly as Detras felt the scent of the sharpteeth grow stronger by the second. Luckily, the wind blew from behind him and the two predators had no way of smelling him in any way. Detras was just about to jump down from a small hill but he decided against it as soon as he noticed a claw sticking out from a tree not far before him. Detras cocked his head slightly, realizing immediately what was going on. Apparently Terri was left to rest alone as Detras tried to get at least something hunted with his bad leg. Detras suddenly felt his feet wear off as he crept closer to the maimed sharptooth, knowing that all depended on his initial move.

Soon enough, Detras caught a better view of the scene and it confirmed to him immediately that his initial thoughts had been correct. Terri was lying in the ground, taking heavy breaths while the horrifying wounds on her sides still dipped with blood. The sharptooth wasn’t asleep but it was clear that the injuries took a great toll on the predator’s ability to respond to any threats. Without Dein, even a fastrunner could attempt to strike the sharptooth down.

Yet, Detras suddenly realized this was it. Either he’d make his move to try to take Terri out and Dein after her or he could walk to her and voice his proposition to the predator, hoping she’d listen to him. Detras felt his mouth starting to ache from grinding his jaws together while trying to make his decision. If he’d try to attack Terri, there most likely wasn’t turning back from that decision. He would have one shot to save his whole family and even then, he would have to somehow beat the frenzied Dein afterwards.
Alternatively, he could try to make amends but in that case, he would be in Terri’s mercy and even if things went like he hoped, that success would mean Ruby’s death.

In his heart, Detras knew there was only one choice. He would never forgive himself if he didn’t even try to save Ruby from this grisly fate. Seeing that he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity, Detras took a step forward and all his might, rushed towards the predator, knowing he couldn’t get closer to her without revealing his presence. The fastrunner focused all his concentration on the sharptooth, knowing how very much depended on the next few seconds.

“Wait a moment here, Arial. I have to think for a while…” Pearl whispered to her daughter as she looked at the longbeak in a small gorge below her. The others were nowhere to be seen and that fact offered her a chance to take the initiative. She smiled as she saw Ruby in the distance, slowly approaching her and the gorge. The older female could see clear signs of vomit in the ground not far from the predator, confirming that her plan had worked. The other dinosaur was no match for her in this state. A slight look of hope formed to Pearl’s face as she thought about the next few minutes. However, she was soon interrupted by Arial who looked at her mother with a slight fear.

“But what if the other bad sharpteeth return? You and Ruby cannot hold them back!” Arial asked, prompting a swift sigh from Pearl who quickly turned around.

“You heard what I told earlier. There’s a chance they value their companion’s life more than these empty plains. And if they don’t, well… you know that we still have the advantage when we’ll be on the run and there will be one less sharptooth to think about. But please keep an eye on the surrounding lands, Arial. I want to know when the danger approaches.” Pearl said, glad that this mission gave him a small diversion from the seemingly endless worry about Ruby’s future. Right now, she knew she was doing what was best for her family and without a major catastrophe, she wouldn’t regret the outcome of this day. Arial frowned deeply but she knew better than to question her parents’ orders on occasions like these. She merely whispered to the older omnivore as she saw Pearl heading to the edge of the gorge, preparing to take control of the situation.

“I will, mommy. I will.” She said as Pearl gave her an encouraging nod and quickly jumped down the wall, the drop being too small to even cause the slightest of pain to the female. The sharptooth was in a far too miserable condition to even realize the attack which gave Arial a relative peace of mind. She quickly crouched down to the ground, shuddering slightly under the light sky water and the moist coldness of the day. Yet, those thoughts were swept away as she looked at her mother approach the sick sharptooth. However, fearful thoughts rose to Arial’s mind.

Where were the other sharpteeth? Hunting would be the most logical answer but if at least a part of what her parents had told her was true, longbeaks would never leave their territory unprotected like this. A sudden wave of fear flushed over the young fastrunner as she wondered if the sharpteeth had headed for the Rise to take over it but those thoughts died down as quickly as Arial realized that it made little sense for the predators to even consider attacking it. After all, it merely provided a few places to hide from the wind for a sharptooth whereas it gave shelter to those hiding from their kind. The longbeaks were here to fight for this territory, not for the hills lying on it.

But even then, Arial could feel her fears grow ever stronger as she looked at her mother and Ruby who was quickly approaching the gorge. She had grown to trust her mother fully during her short life but even then, she had also been through too many dangers to shield herself from any worries she had about her family’s situation. From the many encounters with Red Claw of the fastrunners to Orchid’s near-freezing on the preceding Cold Time, the frailty of the Circle of Life was well-known to her. She laid practically still, her eyes locked at her mother when she suddenly saw brief movement at the corner of her eye. She immediately rose up from her lying position and with all her might, cried to her sister.

“Ruby, look out!”

It was at this exact same moment that Ruby realized the danger she was in herself. As if from pure air, the three remaining longbeaks suddenly appeared around her, cutting off her and Orchid’s escape. The omnivore nearly panicked in this dangerous situation, not able to explain to herself how she couldn’t have noticed the predators earlier. True, they were all rather light-colored but they were still twice her size, dammit! The only probability was that they had smelled her through the fog-like sky water and quickly crept to a striking distance from her. But even then…. their attack seemed far too coordinated to be a product of mere prompt attack. Yet, there was no time to worry about any of it. She suddenly turned to Orchid and shouted to him quickly.

“Orchid, follow me! We can escape from them if we’re quick enough and to be quick enough, we have to use the right path!” Ruby cried as she headed towards the gorge her mother was on, knowing the three other paths we’re blocked by her chasers. Orchid looked at his sister in terror as he headed after her, calling to her quickly.

“But mommy has the fourth longbeak! Why aren’t we telling it to those sharpteeth as she told us!?” Orchid cried, not really understanding the situation any more than Ruby. The
older fastrunner glanced quickly at her brother but didn’t stop her flight.

“Because the sharpteeth have us now and mommy would never sacrifice either of us for one sharpteeth! Now, follow me and ask those questions later!” She cried as she wondered what to do in this situation. She couldn’t really draw the predators to her mother as it would risk her as well and lose the only advantage the four omnivores had. Ruby had known from the beginning the idea of challenging the longbeaks had been a dangerous endeavor but it had been one she had wanted to do in order to protect her family. The element of surprise had been her family’s best tool to fight of the immediate threat posed by the predators but right now, that edge had been lost horribly. Even worse, the cover of the ground sparkles in this area wasn’t thick enough to seriously slow down the advance of the sharpteeth. It wouldn’t take long before they’d reach her at this pace so she’d have to find some spot she and Orchid could use to finally turn their surroundings into their advantage.

Pearl looked in horror as she saw Arial head towards the direction Ruby was in, completely unable to decide what to do. She could either go help her children, something which she yearned without an end to do, but that would require her to kill the longbeak immediately and thus robbing her family from any kind position of power in the eyes of the sharpteeth. However, Pearl knew she had only one real chance of hoping to salvage the situation and that was to present the ultimatum to the three dinosaurs immediately and clearly. She smiled slightly as she saw how the sky water had turned the ground slippery, allowing her to pull the practically unconscious sharptooth up from the gorge. It could barely let out a whimper, let alone do anything to prevent Pearl’s plan. Soon, she would learn whether she and her children would walk away as victors or whether this sharptooth would join her ancestors in the Great Beyond.

A brief whimper escaped from Arial’s mouth as she struggled to pull herself to her feet as she jumped down the cliff into a high pile of the ground sparkles. She lost her balance for a brief moment but her mind didn’t drift from her sister and brother for a moment. She could see Ruby and Orchid approaching her quickly but she noticed the sharpteeth on their heels just as well. Ruby seemed completely drown in her horror but she didn’t forget her brother for a moment. Yet, Arial couldn’t help but realize that the duo’s survival was on an edge of a claw, the quickly hardening ground stealing the omnivores’ advantage severely. Yet, Arial looked at the ground and after a small moment, cried to her sister.

“Turn a bit further to the left, Ruby! The ground sparkles are much deeper right here! But under it is a lot of hard water so look out!” She cried, hoping that there was some way she could help them further. She could see Ruby turning her gaze towards the direction her sister had pointed at and the older fastrunner quickly nodded at her brother and did as was ordered. Arial spoke in the leaf eater language so the sharpteeth had little idea what she had just said. It didn’t take long for the duo to reach the spot and it was only with struggles that the managed to hide how slippery the area was from the sharpteeth. Ruby frowned deeply as she saw Arial just standing there even if it was more than apparent the two would reach her in a matter of seconds.

“Get moving, Arial! We have no time to waste!” She cried as she saw her sister do as was told, relieved by the fact that the ground sparkles had indeed slowed their chasers down a bit. Even more, Ruby suddenly noticed her mother with the unconscious longbeak approaching appear from the gorge, bringing her prisoner for the sharpteeth to see. She was just about to speak when something unexpected happened. Just as she was about to follow her siblings into relative safety, Arial forgot her own advice from a few minutes earlier. The girl was concentrating all her strength for a jump into the pathway into the gorge but soon, she realized that all her soles were touching were a few spots of solid, slippery spots of hard water, sending the young fastrunner flying into the ground with a violent force.

Ruby noticed this development immediately but to her horror, it was too late for her to help her sister. Every possible thought in her mind screamed against what she was seeing as Arial tried to shake off the power of the impact on her head, still seemingly oblivious to what was happening around her. It was only when she heard her mother’s voice when she returned into reality.

“Stop right there or you’ll have one less companion, you bastards!” Pearl cried as she looked with mournful eyes as Arial turned her gaze behind her. Everything seemed to happen in complete slow-motion: the initial relief of seeing her mother turning into a dawning concern and the moment one of the sharpteeth hit her into the ground, the child’s expression turning into one of despair and begging. Pearl didn’t even notice the cry leaving her mouth as the predators suddenly stopped their advance. The aging fastrunner looked at her foes in complete shock and fear as one of them, a blue-colored male, spoke to her.

“I’d advise you to release her, you pitiful sap-sucker, if you don’t want this miserable brat get torn apart here and now!”

The serene silence of the forest was shattered completely the moment Detras’s claws touched Terri’s neck, the tranquil realm of the frigid sky water soon pierced by a shocked cry of an enraged sharptooth. The male knew he’d have to end his attack quickly as even in her current condition, Terri would soon regain the initiative. Detras didn’t even remember when he had last engaged in an attack this brutal as he tore his way through the thick skin of a sharptooth. Terri immediately attempted to raise her head away from Detras’ reach but the fastrunner managed to prevent it with his sheer weight. Terri cried in pain as she realized the danger she was in, trying to hit the omnivore with her claws and force him back but Detras managed to hold his ground even if the predator managed to inflict a few piercing wounds to his legs.

Even through the pain she was in, Terri realized that she didn’t have the luxury of beginning to panic. She had heard Detras’ charge but she hadn’t managed to force her body to defend itself quickly enough due to her injuries. She hadn’t even seen the attacker but she knew Detras’ smell well enough to let her recognize him. The sharptooth would never forgive herself if she gave the damned omnivore the joy of beating her with a shameful attack such as this. Even if she felt her blood starting to flow to the ground again, the female took a brief moment to prepare herself for the next maneuver with which she hoped to end the fight once and for all.

Detras, on the other hand, was more than happy with the progress he was making. Maybe Terri had been injured badly enough during their last meeting to not actually be able to hinder his attack! Maybe, just maybe, he had been correct to place his bet on attacking the sharptooth and not simply offer Ruby to be slaughtered without a fight. Perhaps he could save all the members of his family after all and forge a new way forward for them… Detras prepared for another attack to tear deeper into Terri flesh but then happened something the male hadn’t foreseen.

With a powerful twitch, Terri pulled herself towards Detras, causing the fastrunner to lose his balance completely. Before he could rise up, he could feel a terrible, unspeakable pain emanate from his tail and immediately afterwards, he felt another horrifying hit against his fatigued body. Terri’s tail hit him just below his chest, sending the omnivore flying against a nearby tree with a sickening force. Detras nearly lost his consciousness as the terrible aching and the pain radiating from his tail flowed through his entire body. He managed to keep his thoughts around his mission but that helped little when he only with forced struggles managed to even regain his footing. From the corner of his eye, he saw something that made his already horrible situation even worse.

“In the name of our ancestors, what happened Terri? Why did you…” He asked as he saw Detras’ battered form near her mate. The omnivore looked at the newcomer in horror, realizing full well that his chances of success had just grown considerably worse. Of course, he could try to run away but in that case, all would be lost. He would have wasted his chance to strike a new alliance with the sharpteeth and even worse, both of them would be after his family soon enough. Detras hesitated as he saw the horrible wound in his tail but even then, he couldn’t back down anymore. In effect, he had promised his mate that failure simply was not an option today. In his heart, Detras knew he’d have to make a stand or fall for the sake of those he loved. Terri’s answer to her mate bought him a few seconds of time but it wouldn’t make any real difference.

“This child murderer sneaked upon me and he has stabbed us all in the back more than once! But this time, he won’t go anywhere from us…” She said as she completely ignored the pain in her neck and belly, completely determined to finally send the fastrunner into the Great Beyond. Detras followed with newfound courage as Dein followed the female, knowing that no matter what came to pass, he had done his all for his mate and children. Yet, even now, the fastrunner wasn’t going to give up by a long shot. Already, new ideas rose within the mind of the omnivore who had nothing more to lose in this fight.

The sharpteeth quickly closed in around their prey and even now, it was apparent that Dein’s leg was still more than hurt by his earlier injury. Terri was moving forward on her mate’s right side and Detras realized that with any luck, he would be able to land another blow on the female if she acted quickly enough. With a brief smirk, Detras suddenly sprinted towards a rather large rock near the spot where Terri was right now, hoping he would be quickly enough to escape the claws of the predators long enough.

Soon, Detras realized he had been correct to assume that he had calculated his timing right. While Terri could walk without major difficulty, any quick movements of her torso brought her immense pain. As the carnivore turned towards her foe, Detras used the stone to initiate his counterattack. With all the power he could gathered in this thighs and calves, the fastrunner leaped right towards Terri, gritting his teeth as he felt another blow from Terri land in his back. Yet, it was little when compared to the impact of his hit. The weakened sharptooth tried to maintain her footing at all costs but after a few seconds Terri realized she was fighting a losing fight. In a matter of moments, she found herself falling backwards towards the ground but before she felt the cold touch of the ground sparkles, she hit her mate as well, sending both of the sharpteeth crashing down.

Detras notice that his time had come yet again. The two predators had no chance of hindering the fastrunner’s attack but this time, Detras used his hindlegs’ claws as well to cause as much damage to the sharptooth as he simply could. As he attacked, he cried to the sharptooth will all his might.

“Nobody threatens my family and lives to tell about it! Not even you!” He cried as he prepared to give the finishing blow to the predator and there was nothing Terri could do about it during the second she had left before Detras would end her struggles for good and she knew it as well. However, it was at this point when she realized that the fate was on her side this day.

Just as Detras prepared to finish his opponent off, a powerful gust of the wind hit him, causing his already-wet plumage pull him heavily to his right. Detras didn’t give it much thought and that was his worst mistake on this grey, chilly day. He concentrated too much of his weight on his left leg and just as he was about to tear into Terri’s throat, he for the first time realized just how slippery the sharptooth’s scales had become. With deep horror, Detras fell on his belly before sliding down from Terri’s chest back into the ground.

The tension hung heavily in the air as Pearl faced the sharpteeth, trying to come up with any way to gain an advantage against the longbeaks. Very much like with his mate, the female’s duty to all her children conflicted with her charge as a mother, something which sickened Pearl without an end. She would have wanted to scream as she saw the horror in Arial’s eyes as the girl tried to force herself free from the sharptooth’s grip. Pearl would have wanted to cry as she saw Arial trying to beg for help but her calls died in her throat which was heavily squished by the longbeak’s hands. The trio stood near the fastrunner in the gorge, not far from the fastrunner who held the ill predator with an equally firm grip.

“Well, what will it be, halftooth? Will I get the pleasure of getting rid of this weakling or will you see some sense and give up? Do what you wish but you’ve already lost this fight and your territory.” The longbeak growled with a mean smile, savoring the panicked whizzes that managed to escape from Arial’s mouth. In her heart, Pearl knew there was only one choice for her to make. No matter what, she simply couldn’t allow Arial to get killed here and now. The Rise simply wasn’t worth that much. The female took a deep breath as she prepared to give her answer, oblivious to the fact that the fastrunners hadn’t given their last word just yet.

“Now think, Ruby, what you can do because if you can do nothing, then all is lost! Oh, why, why, why, are things like this again!” Ruby whispered to herself as she pulled two feathers from her forehead, ignoring the pain it caused her. Orchid looked at her in sympathy even if his thoughts were just as concentrated on his younger sister. The two had slipped to the opposing side of the gorge to escape the incoming danger, knowing full well that they weren’t the longbeaks’ target. Besides, this position offered the two some shelter from the predators’ eyes which allowed them to help their mother. The only question was how exactly were they going to do it?

Ruby looked at Arial’s struggles in horror, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until her mother would give up the standoff, thus robbing the omnivores of their new home. Ruby was close to simply giving in to her inner despair when she suddenly realized something. The cover of the ground sparkles was much thicker on this side of the gorge and the sky water had made the piles of white more fragile than they usually were. If only that idea would work… well, there were no options available for the two fastrunners anymore. Ruby quickly whispered to Orchid with renewed hope as she heard the longbeaks give their threats to her mother.

“Orchid, I might have an idea, an idea I might have! You see that there are two steep cliffs right there? If we could make too large balls from the white ground sparkles and pull them down…” She started, allowing Orchid to fill the left of her proposition by himself. Orchid frowned for a brief moment before his expression turned into one of understanding. He nearly smiled as he answered to her older sister.

“…the balls might just cause enough trouble for us to free Arial at least!” He finished, relieved by Ruby’s words. However, the older omnivore wasn’t done yet.
“Not only that because if we drop them at the right spots, then we may just cause enough fuss for the sharpteeth for us to drive them away in fear! But we have only one chance for that, Orchid! Make it count, brother.” Ruby winked happily at the boy to which Orchid nodded at the older fastrunner quickly.

“I will, Ruby! This could even be fun…” He said as he turned around to gather his own pile of the ground sparkles. Ruby did the same and only a few moments later, she had managed to create a ball large enough to cause serious harm even to a longbeak. And not a second too soon as she heard her mother give her answer to the predators.
“You win. Just let my little girl go and we’ll leave these…” She started but Ruby didn’t even want to hear her finish her sentence. She quickly turned to Orchid and whispered to her in annoyance and urgency.

“Now, Orchid! Push it down!” She said as she pulled her boulder of pure white to the cliff, praying her plan would work. There was still a good deal of the ground sparkles left on the walls of the gorge which would hopefully only add to the impact of the hit later on. She frowned as she realized how sticky the wet ground sparkles actually were and only now did she realize that the balls wouldn’t roll too far, a thought which made her curse internally. Yet, there was no option at this point. Either this idea would succeed or her family would be left without a home for the duration of the chilliest weeks of the Cold Time.

“…we’ll leave these plains for good. Please, just don’t hurt her.” Pearl swallowed her tears of sorrow for Arial as she spoke, all thoughts of defeat washed away from her mind as she looked at the struggles of her younger daughter. The apparent leader of the longbeaks took a brief grin as he knew that he had managed to turn this annoying struggle into a victory at last. The fastrunners would leave these lands and even if these plains certainly were a harsh environment, he and his companions would survive here through the worst if there were no competitors with whom they’d have to share the precious little food available in this cursed wasteland. The deep-red longbeak stepped forward and spoke triumphantly to Pearl.

“Of course but all in due time. We’ll release her once you let Swiftclaw free. It wasn’t nicely done for you to poison her but in the end, what else could we expect from your kind. But enough jabbering. Let her go and I’ll return the favor immediately afterwards. We have to make sure that there won’t be any more plots.” The sharptooth said, knowing that his offer was far from fair but as it was, he was in a clear position of strength. Swiftclaw wouldn’t be in a condition to hunt in a good while anyway and he could see the fear in the mother’s eyes, knowing she cared about Arial far more than he about his packmate.

Pearl, on the other hand, was about to rebuke the predator’s proposition when she realized the futility of it all. She could see that the beast wasn’t about to compromise now and any further fighting could easily end Arial’s life as well. She knew this was a terrible gamble but she had no choice but to agree to the other dinosaur’s terms. With a deep sigh, she prepared to take a few steps back to allow her hostage to escape… before she was interrupted by a loud grumbling from her right. Her eyes opened wide with shock as he saw the two massive balls of ground sparkles appearing over the cliff, heading right towards the longbeaks. Even worse, their mere size seemed to drag masses of the sparkles with them, causing the predators to freeze still for a few seconds.

However, those few seconds was too long a delay for them as when they finally attempted to flee, the scene around them was already being covered by the mass of white pouring right towards them. Arial could see the shock within his captor and just as another wave of fear poured over him, Arial could sense that her time had come. With a great swiftness and power, she kicked her captor in the stomach, causing him to yelp in pain and shock, loosening his grip just enough for Arial to be able to force herself free. She frowned in fear at the avalanche around herself but knew she’d have to get away quickly if she wanted to avoid being captured again. With a brief gulp, she disappeared into the white cloud and left her captors behind.

Pearl, on the other hand, hesitated terribly what she’d have to do. Of course, she’d have to help Arial but… she couldn’t just leave the longbeak her companions had called Swiftclaw here. Even in her condition, she could try to attack the fastrunner or escape. And after all that had happened, there was hope for a real victory against the sharpteeth, thus ridding her of any real reason to even hold a hostage. The ill predator could at the very least offer her one, irreversible win against her foes. The fastrunner turned to look at the longbeak in the eyes and spoke to her briefly.

“I’m sorry I have to do this, Swiftclaw, but I have no choice. I hope you can forgive me.” Pearl said sadly as she looked at the sharptooth’s horrified eyes. She struggled to speak through her sickness but managed to form only a few, incoherent words.

“Pl… ease, don’t do this! We’ll lea…” She began but Pearl didn’t want to listen further. The risks of showing mercy right now were simply too large and the longbeaks’ alpha hadn’t shown much respect to his companion’s situation either. With a heavy heart, Pearl tore into the sharptooth’s throat, feeling as her lifeblood flowed over her hands. It wasn’t long until Swiftclaw’s struggles ended, earning little more than a brief frown from Pearl who bowed her head briefly at the fallen longbeak.

Still, she knew better than to waste more time. With all her speed, she sprinted towards the avalanche, only one thought swirling within her mind. She had seen the boulders of white hit the predators nastily and it was likely that some of them were injured seriously. However, none of it mattered for as long as Arial was out their in mortal danger. Oh, Arial, please be safe… I cannot lose you like this!

Suddenly, the female’s eyes caught the sight of something which made her breaths calm down immediately. Among the pale curtain painted against the grey sky flashed a brief hint of light red. Pearl immediately headed towards it and soon enough, she caught the sight of her younger daughter who clearly gasped for air among the flurry of the ground sparkles and cold winds. Pearl wasted no time tying her ands around her daughter, speaking to her in utter relief.

“Thank goodness you’re alright, Arial! I already feared for the worst!” Pearl said warmly as she looked towards the slowly easing avalanche, knowing that the brief moment of reprieve would soon be over. Still, she couldn’t pass this chance to savor this sweet moment of reunification with Arial. The girl coughed a few more times before chuckling briefly and answering to her mother.

“I’m fine, mummy. They couldn’t hurt me before I lost them in that white sparkle cloud.” She said happily, slowly managing to shake off her initial shock. Pearl smiled at the younger fastrunner before releasing his embrace and taking a more serious voice than before.

“You’ve done more than enough for now. Get out of this gorge and stay safe until this is all over. I don’t want to risk you again.” She said as she headed towards the slowly disappearing cover of the avalanche, hoping she could overwhelm the sharpteeth one by one before they could recover from the hit.

However, neither had Ruby been idle during the display unfolding under the cliff she and Orchid had caused the surprisingly large avalanche. Ruby gritted her teeth, suddenly realizing the danger she had put her sister in. The balls had hit two of the sharpteeth directly but Ruby couldn’t say as much about the one who had hold Arial in his grip. The fastrunner knew she simply couldn’t hope that Arial had escaped without being hurt: she’d have to make sure of it. She heard Orchid speak to her with a horrified voice.

“Did you see if she made it? Arial might have been buried under the ground sparkles for all we know!” The boy cried, earning a look of utter horror from Ruby. She didn’t waste time answering to her brother.

“I know, Orchid, I know! Stay here while I’ll go find her!” She cried as she prepared to jump into the gorge, not seeing anything under the whirling cloud of the sky stars. Orchid looked at her in shock, not willing to hear what he had just heard. He turned to Ruby in horror and cried to her.

“But you can’t! The longbeaks are still out there!” He cried, as he saw Ruby trying to find out the best spot to jump to. Her voice sounded annoyed, almost angered as she cried to her brother.

“Well, so is Arial and I’m not going to just stand here and hope for the best! I have to help her!” Ruby shouted as she leaped into the gorge, causing the boy to run after her but he stopped just short of jumping after her. To Orchid, all of this seemed just so wrong and messed up… as if everything was suddenly coming crashing down around him. He buried his head in his hands, trying to simply pray that Ruby hadn’t made a grave mistake.

With a desperate move, Detras tried to climb back to his earlier position but it was all for nothing. Terri rose back to her feet shortly and when Detras tried to run away, he could feel Terri’s claw penetrate his left thigh, once again felling him into the ground. The male attempted to rise to his legs but the pain prevented him from moving at the pace he needed to escape. In deep horror, the omnivore realized that he had completely failed. His horrified look was reflected from Terri’s red eye as she prepared to strike the final blow. Knowing that he had absolutely no choice left, Detras cried to the two sharpteeth.

“Please, listen to me! I came here to propose that we recreate the alliance between our families!” Detras shouted, knowing just how stupid he sounded. After all he had done, he didn’t even himself expect the predators to listen to anything he had to say. Yet… there was a chance if he could make himself look as genuine as he simply could. Dein frowned immediately and moved to a spot where he could completely block the other male’s flight, no matter what would come to pass.

“You protected Ruby even after what she had done and you’ve attacked me and my mate twice now. Even one of your kind should realize that we’re past the point of ever being allies again, don’t you think?” His voice wavered with rage as he prepared to end this pitiful struggle once and for all. However, some hidden, lingering respect deep within the sharptooth towards his former respected ally forced him to delay his hit one more time. Terri, however, was going to do her mate’s job for him but not before Detras started to speak again.

“Dein, Terri… I know we’ve wronged you more times than once. You have the right to kill me if you wish but I assure you, I and my family didn’t know what Ruby had done the last time we met. And… well, nothing I can do will bring Chomper back. I’m so sorry to you both.” Detras said, not having to force a mournful expression to his face. Suddenly, the memory of his first meeting with the young predator, his initial misgivings about him and the way the young boy had proven him wrong returned to his mind. During their time together, Detras had grown to even like Chomper and the way Ruby and Chomper’s friendship had started immediately from their meeting made him feel even worse for both Chomper and her daughter. The ghosts of the night Dein had forced the burden of overseeing Chomper flashed before his eyes as did the flickers of approval and worry within the boy’s face later on that day. Detras suddenly realized for the first time that Chomper, too, was actually gone, sent far too early into the shadowy, immortal reaches if the Great Beyond. Detras’ own thoughts were interrupted the moment Terri stepped forward and spoke to him in utter disgust.

“Stay far away from my son, wherever you’ll go you bastard! He must never again suffer from the hands of cursed fastrunners!” She said as she lowered her claws towards the fastrunner, seeing the resignation in the omnivore’s eyes, knowing it was all over. However, she was suddenly taken aback as her mate snapped sharply at her.

“Stop right there, dear! Now!” He said, looking at the outraged face of her mate as she turned to look at him in disbelief. She revealed her teeth to Dein and growled to him in utter rage.

“It was all his fault that Chomper is no longer with us! He knew Ruby was incapable of keeping him safe and you’re willing to let him go, just like that? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR CURSED MIND?” Terri shouted but her mate didn’t twitch a muscle in his face as he listened to her words. He was just as infuriated by Detras’ failure but he still wanted to hear all his options before he’d do something irreversible. He, too, took a more confrontational stance but kept otherwise his emotions at bay for now.

“At least I know you aren’t completely in control of yours, Terri! I would want nothing more than to gut this weakling and then force Ruby to look as I tear the rest of his sorry family to pieces! However, remember that we still cannot abandon everything for the sake of our revenge! We must remember the tasks Detras did successfully for us and I know his family won’t go down easily even if we kill him! Dear… we still need allies against Red Claw. We can still give Chomper a brother or sister and ensure that our family survives, even if Chomper is gone. And for that, we must consider all our options before we do anything we might regret later.” Dein said, not able to believe himself what he was saying but he knew that this was something he’d have to consider in this situation. Terri looked at her mate in astonishment and Detras realized this was his chance to join the conversation again. He crossed his hands and raised his gaze at the two sharpteeth as he spoke.

“I regret that I attacked you like that, Terri, but please, consider my situation too. Ruby did horribly wrong but if Chomper were alive, wouldn’t you do anything to save him? My charge is towards my children first and foremost as I know it has always been with you, too. It doesn’t make what I did right for you but I know you understand why I did what I did. I simply wanted to save my child so very desperately.” Detras said as a single tear fell down his cheek. Usually any dinosaur would have wanted to hide any show of emotion in front of an enemy or foe as far too often, they would have been considered a display of weakness. But to anyone who saw the blue-colored fastrunner could see that his tear wasn’t a sign of weakness but of sorrow and resignation. However, it wasn’t enough to calm either of the sharpteeth down and Dein lowered his head to the omnivore’s level and spoke to him slowly and threateningly.

“You’re not going to talk yourself out of this, Detras. You cannot bring back our son and for that, there’s nothing…” Dein started as he prepared to slaughter the halftooth but Detras quickly raised his voice, his mind nearly locking itself from any coherent thoughts as he spoke his next words.

“I cannot bring Chomper back, that is true, but there is still something that I can do to give my amends to you! You… your son is gone and the only way I can apologize for it is… is for me to lose a child too. The same one who started this nightmare from the beginning.” Detras said as he suddenly felt more tears appearing in his wide, horrified eyes. He couldn’t believe this was happening and the whole scene around him seemed like one from a distant, sick dream. From the corner of his eyes, he could see a surprised look from Dein who was astonished that the fastrunner would go this far to offer peace to him and his mate. He twitched visibly as he answered to the omnivore who stood in front of him, only his tears breaking the halftooth’s illusion of stillness.

“You would be willing to go this far… simply to repent for what you did to Chomper? To kill Ruby yourself?” He asked, not able to hide the fact how very impressed he was by Detras’ offer. True, it would do little to make his own loss any easier but at least it proved that Detras was very serious about his repentance of his past. And deep inside, the sharptooth couldn’t deny that he admired the spirit and brutality within Detras, suddenly remembering why this dinosaur had been his most trusted ally for so many seasons. Terri, however, was far from confident about the fastrunner’s offer and he quickly turned at Detras and snapped at him in annoyance.

“Cut it, Dein! You cannot seriously be considering forgetting Chomper’s memory because of that offer?! Ruby’s life is nothing compared to that of our beloved son and you know it as well as I do! We won’t even become close to even even in the case we obliterate the whole litter of those bastards! This ends here and now!” Terri cried as she suddenly bowed towards Detras, preparing to crush the pitiful traitor’s body to nothingness. Her enraged eyes burned with pure hate as all her senses were waiting for the sweet song only a fresh kill could awake within a sharptooth’s heart. However, just as she was about to end the conversation once and for all, she could suddenly feel a powerful hit on her left side which caused her to fall into the ground with a great force. She immediately turned to look at her mate who frowned at her deeply.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Just let me kill the damned pipsqueak and…”

“For the ancestors’ sake, get a hold of yourself, Terri! You know as well as I do that killing him would help nobody except your own thirst for vengeance and our kind simply cannot live with only their urges guiding them! Chomper wouldn’t have wanted us to sacrifice our whole lives simply because we want to somehow pretend like our loss has been completely paid back. Detras on the other hand, is showing a real wish to move on and… maybe Chomper will be happier in the Great Beyond if his friend will be with him.” Dein nearly broke down as he finished, once again drowning himself in the monstrous reality of what was happening.

Terri rose to her feet and growled loudly at her mate even if her expression showed the dozens upon dozens of emotions swirling in her mind. She had tried to cut those thoughts away but she, too, had been more than happy to hear about how happy Chomper had been with the omnivores and especially her friendship with Ruby had heartened her greatly. In the end, however, Ruby had betrayed Chomper but maybe… maybe the fastrunner could keep Chomper company until she and Dein would join them in the next life. Trying to fight back her emotions, she spoke to her mate in a far softer voice, one that sounded nearly pitiful from the mouth of the sharptooth.

“Are you truly willing to do this, Dein? Do you really mean what you’ve told me?” She asked, frowning deeply at the whole situation. Dein nodded briefly, his expression just as saddened as his mate’s. Detras had never thought to see the two sharpteeth like this which only confirmed that his words had done their job.

“I do, Terri. The Circle of Life has to go on even without Chomper and we have to trust Detras to do his part in all of this. We have nothing to gain by turning down this offer.” He said, looking at the female’s eyes for many seconds, the two willing to share their sorrows with each other as they had done for so many Cold Times. This moment seemed to stretch on forever until Terri finally tore her gaze away from her mate and growled to the fastrunner with a barely restrained voice. It was clear her disgust hadn’t disappeared anywhere but she had accepted that she simply had to move forward and try to forge a new way forward in life. Detras cowered slightly but kept his stance as defiant as he could through the overwhelming sorrow which invaded his mind.

“You have exactly one day to return to us and present us with the lifeless corpse of your cursed daughter, Detras! If you fail to do this, know that neither of us will never show you any mercy again!” The predator cried, her heart far from being in her words but she had decided to trust her mate enough with this. Detras looked at her with sickened eyes and tried to fight back against his tears as he answered.

“I… I understand. But I beg you… give me two days until I’ll have to return to you. I… I’d like to spend one more day with Ruby until… until I put her to her sleep.” Those words were the most painful ones in his whole life and he simply couldn’t keep his emotions at bay any longer. The moment of Ruby’s hatching, her first steps and the last starday they had spent together… he couldn’t believe Ruby would soon join those memories… and by his very own hand! Detras put his hand on his chest as he tried to catch his breath, a distant flash of sky fire briefly illuminating the woods. Despite his efforts, Detras felt like he would suffocate in his own shock but he was almost immediately interrupted by Dein’s angered voice.

“One day. It is not like Ruby gave us even that much. Now, go, and remember that tomorrow morning, either one or all the members of your family will lie lifeless on the Desolate Rise!” Dein cried, sending the fastrunner on his way. Detras felt shivers from other reasons than cold flushing through his body as he forced his wounded leg to at least some kind of speed. The fastrunner simply stared right in front of himself, as if trying to block all the sorrows of the sorrows of his life away from his mind. The very worst situation any parent could face was now approaching him quickly and after that deed, nothing would ever be the same again.

A soft thud could be heard as Ruby hit the thick layer of the ground sparkles covering the gorge, even her waist sinking into it as she forced the dizziness caused by the impact away. She gazed around her, at first seeing nothing as the wind and the slowly easing shower of sky water covered the world in a hue of grey. The fastrunner forced herself up from the hole she had created and soon, to her utter surprise, her eyes caught the sight of something that surprised her heavily. To her right, two of the longbeaks painfully forced their bruised bodies from under the massive balls created of the ground sparkles. Deep wounds covered the spots where they had been crushed against the opposing walls with a horrible force. Ruby instinctually cowered, knowing she would still be in grave danger if the two noticed her presence. With a shocked voice, the other of the sharpteeth spoke to his apparent alpha and asked him weakly.

“Damn that avalanche! But no matter. Shall we turn around and finish them?” The predator asked before the larger sharptooth quickly hit him in his cheek, growling to him in clear frustration and anger.

“Do you think either of us is in any condition to fight? Even a damned fastrunners could beat us now! Let them have this cursed hellscape, we’ll find some far better pace to spend the Cold Time like this! Blueye can join us but we are in no position to help him now!” The longbeak cried as he and his companion sprinted out of the gorge, their severe wounds bleeding heavily and it was also clear that they had broken a few bones as well in the hit. A wide smile rose to Ruby’s face as she heard those words but quickly and surprisingly even to herself, a new idea rose to Ruby’s mind. She hadn’t even realized her thoughts to drift away from her current situation but hearing that there was still one longbeak here, alone, made Ruby’s mind to begin working overtime.

Seeing that the two others had left the scene, Ruby quickly forced her way towards the remains of the two ground sparkle balls, knowing that it would be the spot where the remaining predator would most likely be in. She quickly knelt to dig into the massive pile of white left by the avalanche, hoping she would be in time to help the longbeak. She was almost about to give up when she suddenly felt desperate twitching below her. With quick moves, Ruby concentrated her efforts to allow the predator to breathe again and only after a few seconds did she see the hues of red among the ground sparkles that told her that it was time to begin her plan. As long as she saw that the longbeak could breath, Ruby put her hand on the dinosaur’s throat and spoke to him in a low voice. Usually, it would have been ridiculous to even think of fastrunner threatening a larger sharptooth but the latter was nearly complete incapacitated by his injuries which gave Ruby the chance to take the initiative.

“Stay right there, sharptooth. Your companions have left you and I won’t hesitate to take you down after what you did to my sister. But first, I want to hear your name.” She said, her expression leaving little up to interpretation. Once, not too long ago, Ruby would have hesitated to take a life but one by one, the past had eradicated those barriers completely. She still hoped it didn’t come to that but she wouldn’t have regretted killing the longbeak to any meaningful decree. The predator looked at her in slight shock, slowly realizing his situation. His voice was hoarse as he spoke, knowing just how badly his pack had been beaten.

“I am known as Taro . But if you had wanted to really kill me, I would have never known it. So, tell me what you want and let us both get on with it!” He said, knowing just how humiliating it was to be at the mercy of a juvenile omnivore but he knew just as well that there was some reason to Ruby’s hesitance to get rid off of him. The halftooth frowned at the beast’s lack of respect but saw no reason to hide her proposition any further.

“Very well. I’m ready to let you join your friends if you make sure they’ll never bother us again.” She said, willing to see just how the sharptooth would react. To her disappointment, he rolled his eyes in clear annoyance, answering to her almost immediately.

“Is that it? You just told me yourself they had left so there’s little for me to say to them! You got Swiftclaw and we others are hurt so we have to forfeit this territory for you anyway. There has to be more to your demands than that.” The sharptooth said as he forced his hands free from the cover of ground sparkles before Ruby forced him to stop with a deep and sharp frown. Her voice took a more serious tone as she answered.

“You are right, right you are! I need you to find one dinosaur and tell him he’s needed here immediately to defend his allies from incoming danger.” She said, causing the predator to narrow his eyes slightly. His interest grew slightly as it was interesting to hear just who the fastrunner expected to come to her aid. He seemed to relax somewhat as he answered to the smaller dinosaur.

“Then, by all means, tell me his name! I cannot contact him if I don’t know who we are talking about!” He said, prompting Ruby to take a brief sigh. She had no idea how all of this would turn out in the end. She hated to do this without her parents’ knowledge but if her mother insisted on trying to fight Chomper’s parents without any further help, all would be lost. After all she had gone through, she wasn’t going to give away the aid of the only dinosaur who could stand against the two sharpteeth. Ruby lowered her voice considerably as she spoke to the longbeak, knowing that she was taking a huge gamble here.

“He is called Stealth. He is a rather young, dark-colored sailback who pledged an alliance to me not too long ago. If I were you, I wouldn’t consider simply ignoring my request as I’ll make he’ll know about your lies as well.” Ruby said, looking with some outrage as the longbeak’s face turned into a kind of a mocking smile. His face turned into a slightly amused one as he answered.

“Stealth, eh? I wonder why he would ever even hesitate to swallow you whole at first sight. I have a hard time believing he would even bother to…” He began but Ruby stopped him short by pulling his throat harder towards the ground. Ruby raised her voice again and her expression returned to the more threatening one she had held earlier.

“That doesn’t concern you, sharptooth. Do you accept my proposal or do you prefer to join your companion in the Great Beyond?” Ruby had never before threatened anyone like this and she prayed she’d never have to again, no matter how foolish that thought was. Still, Ruby felt sick beyond words as she wanted nothing less than to spread death and sorrow around herself, something which she had found herself doing more and more as of late. Still, this wasn’t the time to show her hesitation and she managed to hide her misgivings from the predator completely. The sharptooth looked into Ruby’s eyes for a few seconds, as if to weight her sincerity. Yet, after a moment, he started to speak in a resigned voice.

“Very well. You win this time, fastrunner. I’ll tell Stealth that you request his help out here.” He said, looking as Ruby’s face relaxed somewhat in apparent relief. However, before he could even twitch one muscle in his body, Ruby quickly straightened her hand and with a quick tug, pulled one of the feathers on the beast’s crest away. The sharptooth looked at the omnivore in slight shock but then calmed down as Ruby released his throat from the dangerous grip she had held him in earlier. Ruby spoke to him quickly, noticing the air slowly beginning to get clearer all around her. She spoke to the longbeak with a slight smirk as he forced himself to his feet once more.

“For your sake, I hope you keep your word, Taro. Otherwise Stealth, as well as my family, will know of your betrayal but if you do as you promise, you will have our thanks. Now, go and leave us in peace.” She said as the sharptooth frowned at her and seemed to even hesitate for a moment but soon enough, sprinted towards the wide plains in search of his companions. Ruby looked in worry after him, praying she had made the right choice as she heard her mother cry to her.

“Ruby! Thank… thank the ancestors you’re alive! I was so very worried but… where are the longbeaks?” The older dinosaur asked as Ruby turned slowly to look at her mother in an odd look which went unnoticed to her mother because of the joy of the moment. Ruby smiled slightly but she hid many doubts beyond her seemingly tranquil expression.

“The sharpteeth ran away after the avalanche, ran away they did! Our home is safe again and we don’t have to worry about that threat ever again, mummy!” She cried, seeing Orchid and Arial also running towards her. She would have wanted to rejoice this moment of triumph but the coming confrontations yet to come as well as Stealth’s future arrival prevented her from fully celebrating just yet. Deep inside, Ruby couldn’t help but feel that her worst threat thus far, no matter what form it would take, still waited to reveal itself.

While the immediate threat caused by longbeaks might be over, Ruby’s more than right to fear for the future. With Detras’ journey’s conclusion and the possible inclusion of Stealth in this mess, the coming days will hardly be easy ones… After this chapter, I’ll hold a brief pause from writing to plan this story’s future developments but it shouldn’t take too long. As always, I’ll welcome any thoughts you might have about this offering and see you next time. :)


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #85 on: September 25, 2018, 10:53:54 PM »
This chapter begins with what is an ominous beginning.  The elder female obviously understands the danger that the family is now facing as they face off against the longbeaks.  Though she cannot say the full details of her fears to her children, she clearly informs them of what they must do in the coming confrontation.  The use of basically impromptu biological warfare (the sick swimmer) shows off the intelligence of the fastrunners.  They must use the brilliance of their own minds and the speed of their own feet to compensate for their lack of strength and numbers.  I sense a hard struggle ahead…

...and I was indeed correct.  Though the scene with the longbeaks was as chaotic as expected, the action was easy enough to follow as each fastrunner did what they could in order to survive the confusing situation that followed.  As soon as Arial was confused about which direction she should go I was all but convinced she would end up being a casualty in the family’s mission to make a point to their threatening neighbors.  Though in the end the entire family made it unscathed… or so it seemed.  Though Detras’s mission to the sharpteeth was action-packed and filled with danger it finally ended in success.  Though at a terrible price.  Now it seems the cost for his family’s safety will be Ruby’s premature end.  I wonder how Ruby will escape from this final cruel twist of fate or if she, like her other friends besides Petrie, will meet a tragic end.

This was a good chapter as usual that certainly moved the fastrunner sub-plot along.  Though I certainly understand the need to look at a story’s plan and to make sure everything is developing as it should, I do look forward to this story’s continuation when you are ready to resume it.  :yes

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #86 on: October 19, 2018, 02:33:54 PM »
A Supposed Salvation, A New Beginning

After a long, cold morning marred by intermittent showers of sky water, the Bright Circle started to peek ever so weakly through the heavy clouds which were so common for this gloomy season. Many of the peaks around the three flyers were being painted in light yellow as the sweet warmth reached Petrie’s beak. The land far below him was completely white but at least he received this brief breath of warmth here in the sky. That made his flying and increasingly tired breathing a bit easier.

It had been nearly two hours since the trio’s departure from their herd, the flight being characterized by silence during this journey from which only two of them were meant to return. At first, Petrie had been worried of his companions but after a short while, he could see neither of them seemed to pay him any heed. His two companions were Northwind, Glide’s father, and Kero, the flyer even he recognized as Nimble’s apparent successor. The young flyer couldn’t tell much of his situation judging by their behavior as two of them hid their emotions perfectly. Not that Petrie would have even wanted otherwise: all that mattered was his chance to finally retake his life once and for all and try to salvage what he could of it. At this point, Petrie didn’t care in the least about the two older flyers after their arrival in the Valley.

Minutes passed ever so slowly as the Bright Circle shed more of its grey cover, making the day feel warmer than in weeks. Petrie’s half-closed eyes stared into the horizon as a distant sight suddenly caught his attention. Far, far, in the distance appeared two tiny pillars of smoke, something which at first didn’t register properly in the boy’s mind. However, after a short while, he started to investigate his surroundings and realized something that made his heart jump greatly. He knew these canyons and mountains from his flight towards the Big Water so long ago and that could only mean one thing! He suddenly flew closer to the two older males and yelped in expectation.

“Those hills just over the horizon… they’re the Smoking Mountains! It not be much further until we reach the Valley!” He cried as he only barely managed to prevent from somersaulting in the air. If he were alone, he wouldn’t have hid his joy but in the presence of these two he felt like he’d have to maintain some kind of control over himself. He frowned somewhat as the two other flyers glanced at him, Kero being the first one to speak.

“Just as we planned. I can see from your face that you’re returning home.” He said somewhat coldly, putting additional emphasis on the word home. Before Petrie could answer, Northwind continued from the other dinosaur’s comment.

“He certainly is. I won’t forgive Glide anytime soon for showing her weakness before the likes of this murderous brat.” His voice was even more hostile than Kero’s and he didn’t even look at Petrie as he spoke. It was clear that he thought very lowly of the boy and his composure communicated nothing but disdain for the young flyer. He had witnessed Glide’s defeat at his hands and if his daughter couldn’t beat even some weakling from the Great Valley, she wouldn’t survive a week when it became her time to take her place in the harsh world. Petrie was the embodiment of her failure and his incident with Hoist hardly raised his opinion of Petrie. The younger male, however, gasped in annoyance and flew to Northwind’s side to answer to him.

“That not fair! Glide did well but me had to do better if me wanted to beat her! That no reason to be mad at her!” He cried loudly, a profound change of tone from the early morning. The closer he got to the Valley, the stronger conflict it evoked inside him between joy and grief. It felt like there shined the warmest Bright Circle inside him but the center of his heart bore a horrifying, crippling pain that would never leave him. For now, however, the adrenaline in his veins enabled him to hide his loss at least to some degree. However, the older flyer’s snort seemed to lower his mood immediately.

“It’s interesting of you to defend her as I could hear a lot about your last meeting. I always advised her against meeting you ever again after her humiliation and I was very pleased when she told me your and her friendship was at an end. It’s better for us all when you return to the life you belong instead of holding us back!” He said without any regret for his words. He had expected Petrie to rebuke his words but instead, a weak smile rose to his beak. It was clear the older flyer didn’t know of one conversation Petrie had had just before his departure from the herd, one that had offered him some closure after all that had happened.

Shivers of excitement and despair fought for the control of Petrie’s mind as he landed on a small branch at the edge of the forest on a spot where there were no dead flyers anywhere to be seen. He gasped for air as he thought about everything that had happened during the past hour, overwhelmed by it all. His eyes were red from the endless tears of the morning and his whole body was still sore from his fight with Hoist and from the sobbing. The boy did his very best to calm down from everything and begin thinking about his situation when he heard a silent creaking voice behind him. Petrie turned around immediately and cried at the newcomer.

“Who are you? If you plan to hurt Petrie… Glide? What you doing here?” He asked in surprise, his expression voicing his displeasure at her arrival. He remembered more than well the betrayal and sorrow her actions and words brought him the last time they met. If she thought she was so much better than him, then she might just as well get lost and join those who were worthy of her attention!

Glide frowned slightly at Petrie’s somewhat hostile greeting as even now, she wasn’t willing to apologize to him in any way. In the bottom of her mind, she understood why Petrie distrusted her but in the end, that mattered little. All that mattered now was to at least try to mend fences with the flyer who had proved to more than she had previously thought.

“I saw what happened between you and Hoist and… I can only imagine what they said to you afterwards. All that I wat you to know is that… you did the right thing. Hoist deserved everything you threw at him.” She said, her face revealing the awkwardness that the girl felt inside her. That wasn’t the smoothest way to state her business but hopefully it would do. Petrie gasped in slight surprise, astonished by Glide’s almost friendly words. However, in the matter of seconds, another thought rose to his mind.

“Well, thanks, me guess. But if you saw it all, then why didn’t you help me?! We could have stopped Hoist before Petrie had to do what me did!” He asked in slight anger, the image of Glide standing by as Hoist attacked the memory of his uncle rose to Petrie’s mind and it hardly made him appreciate Glide’s presence any more. Glide glanced at a hopper struggling to forge its way through the ground covered by the ground sparkles before returning to look at Petrie.

“I owe you nothing, Petrie, and I would be lying if I said I still accept your lies to me before. In addition, I wanted to see if you would stand up to what is dear to you and… well, you did. But believe me when I say that I’m truly sorry for your uncle. He… he was a good flyer.” Glide offered as slight breeze blew past the two young flyers. The two locked glances slightly as Petrie realized he couldn’t contain his emotions at the mention of Pterano. He still wasn’t sure of Glide’s intentions and he hated showing this kind of weakness before her but it simply couldn’t be helped.

“Petrie still can’t believe it really happen! It all just so very, very wrong…” Petrie said as his head fell slightly towards the ground before he again looked at Glide and continued. “None of this should ever happen! But… but me guess… thank you for your words, Glide.” He said, trying to ignore the fact that his uncle’s remains lied only a minute’s flight to his right. The girl looked at Petrie understandingly, remembering why she had liked him earlier. His courage and willingness to listen to others were shared only by a handful of other flyers she had met and above all, there was still not a trace of malice within the boy. She crossed her arms and spoke to Petrie in a silent voice.

“Of course, Petrie. You did a service for all of us by standing up to Hoist. But… did they tell what’ll happen to you now? Not anything good, I’m sure of that.” She said, worrying about what she’d hear. At least Petrie hadn’t been killed or banished yet so that was a good sign. Petrie waited for a slight moment to calm down before giving his answer.

“L… Lenel said he allow Petrie to return home if me help some other flyers get them the approval to enter the Valley. Me don’t know why he want that and Petrie not care. Me just want to return home.” He said, weeping slightly as the symbolism of those words once again flashed in his mind. Glide took a brief gasp, narrowing her eyes momentarily. After a moment, she asked in slight worry.

“So… you’re leaving us for good?” She asked, the sorrow in her voice surprising even the flyer herself. After hearing of Ortin’s departure and Brownbeak’s antics, she had hoped that she could at least salvage her fledgling friendship with Petrie. But apparently the fate had different ideas… She raised her gaze again as Petrie answered.

“That right… Petrie hope me never have to live a life like this again.” He affirmed, wiping the moisture from his eyes. He felt he was ready to take this step as he owed as much to all those dear to him. Glide turned away for a brief moment, looking at the wall of grey covering the entire wide skies. They were so like her feelings in this gloomy moment: nothing was wrong per se but neither was there anything better to be seen in the horizon. However, if that was the case, she might as well do what she had come to speak to Petrie for. She looked at the boy appreciatingly as she spoke to him again.

“Well, I hope all the best for you, Petrie. But… before you go, I’d like you to know that I’ve forgiven you for what happened a few days ago.” She said, casting a slight smile at Petrie. He answered to her gaze with confusion at first as he tried to realize what she meant with her words. However, it didn’t take long until their true meaning pierced Petrie’s mournful mind. If Glide truly wished to part as a friend… then he had no choice but to return this surprising gesture. His beak formed the most careful of smiles as he returned Glide’s friendly look. Everything seemed to stop between the two flyers as Petrie spoke in a soft voice.

“Glide… so does Petrie. Me absolutely hated what happened back then but… it in the past now. It cannot be helped anymore. It’s great to see you again, Glide.” He said as a loud call came from the other flyers, apparently signaling some kind of a call for the flyers to start to prepare for departure. Glide sighed as she realized that she’d have to soon but it didn’t prevent her from finishing this conversation with the male.

“Thank you for that, Petrie. You are one of the nicest flyers I’ve met in my life and I’ll be happy to call you a… a friend.” She said, a distinct hint of melancholy apparent in her eyes. Her words awakened many ghosts from his past within the boy which he couldn’t entirely hide from the other flyer but it most likely seemed like a fleeting, unimportant memory. Petrie’s voice wavered as he answered, the emotions running raw and fresh in his mind.

“Me will too. We don’t need to be near at all for that and even if we’ll live apart, we will still be friends if we only meet after many, many Cold Times. Me learned that from me other friends.” He said glumly but his words were immediately followed by another cry from the assembled flyers. Glide frowned at the voice but she knew better than to linger for much longer. She lowered her head and nodded briefly at Petrie.

“You’re right about that. Well, Farewell, Petrie. Maybe we’ll meet one day again.” She said as she prepared to take off into the fields below her. Petrie narrowed his eyes as he suddenly realized this was likely the last time he’d ever meet Glide. Even after their breakup those few days ago, the boy realized he had missed Glide and to be forced to part after this brief reconciliation… it was much harder than he had thought at first. But if that was the case, he had no reason to leave a bad image of himself to the only real friend he had made during these long days among the herd. He took a warm if bittersweet smile and moved closer to Glide and spoke to her in a surprisingly firm voice for the young flyer.
“Me know we will, Glide. But even if we don’t… it was great to get to know you. Petrie hope you have a good life.” He said as he saw a flicker of melancholy within Glide’s eyes. The two shared one last glance before the girl gave an approving smile and spread her wings. The boy looked as Glide’s form grew ever more distant, feeling a small flicker of warmth within his heart. This wasn’t Petrie’s first goodbye but it was one of the harder ones as he had shared the amount of sorrow and happiness with only a handful of other dinosaurs. Petrie took a brief sigh and turned around to prepare for his future instead of dwelling in his past.

All those memories flashed before Petrie’s eyes in mere seconds, the surprise and happiness of Glide’s overtures still resonating within the flyer’s heart even through Northwind’s arrogant words. That brief discussion had wiped at least part of his bitterness away but the rest of his mental healing would only be achieved by the passing of many, many weeks, when he could finally bid this cursed Cold Time a not-so-fond farewell. The boy received a surprised look from Northwind as he didn’t seem to be offended in any way by his words.

“It is, Glide’s dad. But Petrie not so sure she meant everything she might have told you.” He said oddly as again glanced before him, seeing that the Smoking Mountains had grown that much closer. And among them was a sight that, as so much had on this day of great upheavals, brought him both a wave of nostalgia as well deep pain. The Threehorn Peak, one of the most distinguishable summits of the Smoking Mountains, the final scene of his adventure to his and his friends’ search for the Stone of Cold Fire. A major chunk of it had been torn off by the explosion that had destroyed the Stone but the memories of all those he had shared that adventure with, among them his uncle… Petrie sniffed slightly as he tore his gaze away from the Peak and focused his attention to the sight before him: the familiar sight of the walls of the Great Valley.

A slight thud could be heard as the yellow-colored flyer landed on a small platform overlooking the area around the Roaring Falls. She frowned as she looked at the highly submerged plains, most of the trees growing in them still buried by the water even though the flooding receded a bit every day. Still, that didn’t change the damage it had already done. Etta was a carefree and far from serious soul but even she was highly discouraged by that sight or anything else that happened lately. She brought her hand to her forehead and shook it slightly, hoping things would get better again but she knew wishing changed little. She prepared to take off when she suddenly heard a voice down below her.

“You know as well as any of us that we don’t have no time to waste, barkbrain! Help us clear this mess up or get lost!” She turned to look at the speaker who was one of the domeheads. Her tone didn’t surprise Etta greatly even if it did little to appreciate this situation any more. She looked at the other dinosaur in slight chagrin before she answered.

“Of course, of course, there ain’t no reason to get all that worked up, mam! I’ll get there soon enough!” She cried as she rose to her wings, knowing she was completely right. Every day the lowering waters revealed more possible food to salvage as well as potential dangers that had to be noticed before they noticed anyone in the Valley first. The flyer took a brief sigh as he prepared to depart to the skies once again to help the rest of the Valley-dwellers survive another day of growing distrust and hardship. However, just before she leaped down from the cliff, her eyes caught the sight of something which stole her attention immediately.

Two flyers she had never seen before were just flying over the Valley’s walls and they were already starting to lose some altitude, signaling they were going to land shortly. This caused a slight frown within Etta as she didn’t need any further action to spend time but she knew well that nobody was to be let inside the Valley’s walls before it’d be found that they were unlikely to cause trouble. Etta snorted briefly before she took off to see what the newcomers were up to.

A deep sigh of excitement escaped from Petrie’s mouth as the sight of the Great Valley’s rolling hills and rivers appeared ever so slowly over the range of mountains which had seemed to never grow closer. His excitement was nearly overflowing as he knew he’d meet his family again soon and maybe… maybe he would hear about his friends as well. So much depended on what would happen in the coming minutes. However, the first thing Petrie noticed made his heart jump into his throat.

Most of the Valley was horribly battered, the trees torn from the ground while masses of water had turned parts of his old home into a lake. The areas around the Roaring Falls and Sinking Sands were completely gone and the rest of the Valley was just…horribly damaged. However, the herds of dinosaurs still dotted the land which gave Petrie some relief from the initial shock. He was soon forced snapped out of his thoughts by Kero whose words was that of surprise rather than shock.

“Well, look at that… I guess the Valley’s not as safe as they say after all. Petrie, what should we do now? Who should we speak to in order to tell our business?” He asked, slowing his flight as a mark to the two others. His words indeed caused slight hesitation to the boy as he tried to gather his thoughts again. After all, this was just the reason Lenel had sent him along with the two flyers and his last task before he’d be free once and for all. He began to investigate the lands below him, searching for signs of Littlefoot’s grandparents or Cera’s father but at least at first gaze, they were nowhere to be seen. Well, it mattered little. He turned to Kero and spoke to him in a happy and optimistic voice.

“Let us find some grownups and they know where the leaders of our most important herds, the Circle, are! We just have to…” Petrie started before he was suddenly interrupted by another voice that seemed to emanate from some distant past, as if he had last heard it in some other life.

“Stop right there and tell whoever you fellas are and what… Is it you, Petrie?” The newcomer’s voice turned into one of utter surprise immediately as he saw the small flyer with the two outsiders. Etta had been sure that Petrie would never return to the Valley after she had heard of the little ones’ disaster after that horrible day so long ago… She was more than elated to see him but that still didn’t relieve her of her duty to question his companions. Petrie immediately turned to her and wasted no time answering to the yellow female.

“Etta! Petrie is so happy to meet you again! Me have so much to ask you but before anything else, tell me how me family has been doing!” He asked in utter excitement, more than relieved to see an old, friendly face after everything that had happened. He couldn’t wait one more second to see them but as soon as Etta heard the question, her face fell completely and along with it, Petrie’s excitement. She seemed to hesitate terribly about her answer but even through her efforts to always lighten the mood around her, she had never been one to hide or sugarcoat anything from those who asked her something important. After a few seconds, she finally managed to form a few words, her voice deep and glum over what she was about to say.

“Petrie, hon, I’m afraid they ain’t here anymore. Follow old Etta and I’ll explain everything if you do the same. I… I also have to call the others as they haven’t… exactly forgotten what happened with Chomper and the ol’ clubtail… In any case, wait for a while as I get the others to decide what do with you three.” She said as she turned awkwardly around to lead the others to a safe spot. However, this gesture was lost to Petrie who froze still as he heard Etta’s words. His family wasn’t here anymore? What in earth did she mean? Certainly… certainly she couldn’t mean that…

“But even if they not here, please tell me if they’re… they’re still…” Petrie started to what Etta merely sighed as an answer as she headed towards the ground, followed by the three other flyers. She frowned slightly but turned quickly to Petrie and cried to him in a loud voice.

“The last I saw them they were all just well and fine, Petrie. But other than that… I do not know.” She said as her feet touched the wet, green ground. She looked at the three briefly and spoke, clearly in deep thought.

“Wait here for a brief while I’ll go get the others. I won’t take long.” She nearly muttered, a startling change from her usual mood. None of this was lost to Petrie who couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that not even Etta could guarantee the coming meeting would go as he would have wanted. Petrie’s head dropped as he spoke.

“Alright… we will wait here, quieter than quiet. But… be right back, Etta.” He whispered as the female cast a brief smile at him before taking to the wide skies. It had been only a few minutes since he had returned home and already, none seemed to go distantly how he had hoped. He had seen that the Valley was largely ruined and his family was gone for some reason. The familiar sight of the wide reaches of the Sheltering Grass didn’t seem to register in the flyer’s mind as he simply stared forward, his heart feeling as if it was being gripped by some unknown force. For now, it seemed like his mother and siblings were alive but… but the hell had happened in the Valley since his departure? Countless horrifying questions circled within Petrie’s mind as he heard a somewhat relieved comment from Kero.

“Well… even if the news weren’t the best for you, Petrie, at least we still are in a rather good situation. At least we haven’t been chased away just yet. Remember that if you manage to speak us out of this interrogation, you’re free to go.” He said, willing to offer some relief to the boy. His gesture was motivated more by common manners than actual sympathy. He didn’t know nearly anything of the younger flyer and to be honest, he didn’t care to know. He was just means to an end that would soon disappear from his life for good. Kero’s confident smile was shattered soon as Northwind answered to his comment.

“That’s a big if as you know! I cannot fathom why Lenel put any faith into him. That flyer didn’t seem too happy to see us in the first place and there’s a very good chance we’ll be sent away before we can even get a chance to tell why we are here!” Northwind snorted, glancing at the wide range of mountains around him, unimpressed by the sight. Kero took a slight smile and looked teasingly at his companion, walking closer to him.

“I’d keep my beak shut about these things if I were you, Northwind. I doubt Lenel would want to hear such whining from one he offered a position as his deputy.” He said, earning an annoyed  stare from his companion. He turned to face his companion and spoke in a slow, angered voice to him.

“All that matters to him is our success, Kero, and I doubt revealing secrets about your equals will get you too far either in his eyes!” Northwind said, slowly shrugging the fledgling fight away. Petrie didn’t even listen to the duo’s words, his mind entirely focused on what would happen when Etta returned. The boy would have wanted nothing more than to go question anyone in the Valley about what had happened but Even Petrie knew that Chomper’s farewell here still weighed on him too. He crossed his arms over his chest, staring into the horizon with a look that bordered between hope and utter fear.

“He said what?! Get back there and tell that bastard to vanish from the Valley for good, wingbrain! I will have no further argument about those who murdered my child and my mate!” The clubtail cried at Etta, only barely able to resist stomping on her in utter outrage. He had happily thought that he’d never again have to hear of the flyer but here he was, apparently thinking he could just return here and think everything was just fine, just like the other brat! Etta glanced in worry at her other companions, trying to ask them for at least some support in the face of the clubtail’s rage before answering to him in a regretting tone.

“I know all that happened… but it ain’t Petrie’s fault! That nasty sharptooth is nowhere to be seen and it’d only be fair…” She started, before the clubtail cut her short and cried in utter rage.

“The only thing that would be fair to my mate would be to crush any friends of that murderous monster! They brought Chomper back into the Valley! They made you others believe in his damned lies with their poisonous words! It was because of them that…” He raged before the two other dinosaurs present finally got enough of the clubtail’s raging. Ura was just about to speak but Mr. Threehorn beat her to it. The three were the first three dinosaurs Etta had thought of calling, the swimmer and the threehorn because of their still-respected status and the clubtail… well, in order not to make things any worse.

“Get a hold of yourself, clubtail! I can see why you’re angry about this but she speaks the truth, it wasn’t Petrie’s fault. We have to at least see what he and these two other flyers have to say.” He said in a voice so very uncharacteristic for the threehorn. If there was one thing he wasn’t exactly known for was his defense of the dinosaurs he had locked horns so many times in the past, among them the flyers. However, the reason for his sudden benevolence wasn’t a secret to the clubtail who immediately turned to him with a look that bordered between a mocking and enraged one.

“Bah! The only reason you’re saying is that you wish to hear something from your daughter as we all know, threehorn! But who knows, maybe he will lie directly to you to try to earn your trust and bring another disaster upon us all! After all, he already managed to do that once as we very well remember!” He said as he moved to directly confront the threehorn as he had never really forgiven the weakness he had shown when he had approved of Ruby and Chomper’s return into the Valley and neither would he ever win his respect back. The other male, however, was far from pleased by his counterpart’s words and he lowered his crest towards him as he growled to the clubtail in clear rage.

“Don’t even start, you dumb, fat good-for-nothing! I did what I thought was right and nothing you…” He started but he was cut short by Ura who moved between the two and spoke to the threehorn in a stern voice.

“Step back now, Topps! We know what has happened to Tria but that’s no reason to start a fight with everyone you see! And Mr. Clubtail, get a hold of yourself! There’s nothing wrong with willing to hear what Petrie has to say as well as who these new companions of his actually are. And besides, I also want to hear about what happened to my little Ducky if he only knows something about and that’s something you cannot deny us! We’ve learned nothing of her and Spike but the survival of two of his friends means my sweet daughter can still be alive! And I won’t let you prevent me from finding her again!” She cried, crossing her arms, allowing a bit of moisture appear in her eyes as she again started to think about her lost child.

The clubtail gritted his teeth in rage as he decided to do as he was told. He knew he had little hopes of winning this argument as deep within, even he could feel the same pain they did but only in his case, he knew his mate would never return to him. He would have wanted to attack his companions to wipe away at least a part of his pain but decided against it. If these idiots wanted to again listen to that cursed sharptooth’s friends, so be it, but at least he remained to make sure they’d never hurt anyone again. He sighed slightly as he turned at Etta and asked her in a low voice.

“Have it your way for now, weaklings! But those other flyers you mentioned were with him… do you happen to know who they are?” He asked in a surprisingly calm fashion which took the yellow female with slight surprise. However, she didn’t waste any time answering as she wanted this issue to be dealt with as soon as possible.

“I’ve never seen them in my life… but then again, there are many others who I haven’t either. But they had many, many scars and wounds so I guess they haven’t led the most peaceful of lives.” She said as she brought her fingers to her chin, causing a slight snort from the clubtail. However, the threehorn wasn’t about to let the other male stand between him and the one who could tell him of any news from his daughter.

“Well, we’ll see it right away if they can be trusted. Lead the way to them, Etta, if this moron allows it!” He said, earning a murderous glare from the clubtail but he decided against escalating a situation he knew he couldn’t win. The flyer frowned slightly as she thought of how the meeting would turn out but again, if she and the others went to meet Petrie without telling the clubtail, there would very likely be blood later on. She spread her wings and then spoke to her companions in a voice which resembled more her normal tone.

“Well, then follow me! They ain’t far from here!” She said as she heard the steps of the larger dinosaurs behind her, fearing how things would turn out. She knew that one way or another the meeting would end in violence or tears but that couldn’t be helped at this point. She only feared she wouldn’t regret her part in whatever would be today’s aftermath.

Silent thuds could be on the soft ground as the small, green-colored dinosaur moved among the high grass and the countless paddles of water dotting the battered landscape. He hated the feeling of his feet sinking into the mud up to his knees but right now, trying to fly through the cold, windy heights appealed even less to him. Guido was spending another day in his favorite sleeping place in a small cave on the hills near the Sheltering Grass and attempting to shrug off away the increasing chilliness of the season. That was, until he saw something that caught his attention immediately. At first, he didn’t give much thought to Etta confronting a few unknown flyers but after a short while, he recognized a voice that he had ever expected to hear again.

Ever since Petrie’s and his friends’ departure, the green-colored boy had been very lonely and most of the other children in the Valley seemed to even avoid him in a way that saddened him without an end. Yes, he knew most had thought of him as kind of a weirdo but… at least Petrie and the others had accepted him as he was and he had hoped the others would do. However, it had proven to be wishful thinking and after these countless, lonely days, seeing that his closest friend was alive was something that nearly made him jump with joy. He couldn’t wait to meet him again and hear what all had happened ever since his departure.

Guido prepared to finally pull away the last pieces of vegetation between Petrie and himself when he heard something that made him stop still. It was the angered, outraged voice of Mr. Clubtail and it immediately wiped his good mood away.

“Well, you barkbrains better explain right away what you want from our Valley and especially why you’ve brought this… this killer back into the Valley! Speak or you’ll regret ever coming here!” He called, causing Guido to cover slightly. He hated arguments and he certainly didn’t want get into a fight with the clubtail and whoever companions he had with him. Guido kicked a small rock in annoyance but decided to wait a small while before making his appearance, hoping he would be able to skip this discussion once and for all.

The clubtail’s angered voice didn’t cause one muscle to twitch in Kero’s face as he raged at the three flyers. Inside, he frowned deeply at this brash and undiplomatic entrance from the larger dinosaur but his reference to Petrie hardly deepened his trust towards the boy. However, he had no choice but to confront the clubtail, the threehorn, the swimmer and the yellow flyer so no matter what, he couldn’t lose his calm now. He grimly looked at Northwind, telling him clearly to shut up as Kero knew more than well that he had a far better chance to get on good terms with the Valley-dwellers. He bowed deeply before the clubtail and in a firm, friendly voice answered the question.

“Respected elders of the Valley, we come on behalf of our great herd’s leader Lenel and we wish no harm to you or your home. All we ask is for a permission to stay for two days and to seek knowledge from the flyers of this Valley as well as your help with one… inconvenience that has truck us.” He said simply, his face confirming he told nothing but the truth. Northwind nodded to his words briefly, causing a slight frown from the clubtail.

“Then you made a mistake bringing that brat he…” He started before being interrupted by Topps who was far too worried and fearful about to Cera to let him finish. Petrie was deeply disturbed by the amount of desperation within the threehorn’s eyes as he had never seen him looking this miserable.

“We’ll get to that later, clubtail! But Petrie, please tell me, have you heard of Cera since… since the sand cloud happened?” He asked, the emotions locked in his mind yearning to be freed. However, before he could speak, Ura walked to the threehorn’s side and spoke in the very same tone to the flyer.

“And… how about Ducky and Spike? Have you seen any of them either? Please say you have!” She said pleadingly, causing Petrie’s face to fall instantly. The boy felt his words get stuck within his throat as he wanted so very badly lie to the two to save them all the obvious sorrow that his answer would cause. However, only now did he realize the sobs that were fighting their way into his mind. Now that he thought of it, he had never told of his friends’ fates to anyone, not even to his uncle. Only now did Petrie realize that he had kept all of his grief to himself or this time, locked deep within himself to a degree that it hurt now to even touch the surface of those memories. He could already see that the other dinosaurs could tell that the flyer had nothing good to tell them but nonetheless, Petrie knew it was his charge to tell them what he knew, for the sake of his friends and for the sake of their parents. However, it wasn’t until after he had started when he realized something that cut his words short very quickly.

“No… Petrie cannot say that. Ducky’s momma… I haven’t seen Ducky or Spike since… Uhh, did you just say you know of the sand cloud?” The flyer asked with teary eyes, his heart jumping greatly as his brain registered that one detail in the threehorn’s words. He had completely bypassed it himself when he had heard it but now, that comment’s significance rose fully to his mind. Ura and Topps both frowned slightly at each other before the swimmer finally gave her answer to the boy.

“Petrie… you aren’t the first of your friends to return to the Valley. In fact… Littlefoot came here a bit over a week ago.” Ura said, looking as Petrie’s eyes widened immediately. Petrie’s gaze became glassed immediately and he could hear his breaths wheeze in shock as he stared right at Ura. Had… had he actually heard… what he thought? Surely… certainly that couldn’t be true! Littlefoot was dead as a stone along with the rest of his friends! He had to be! But yet… if what Ura told him were true… It was only with great efforts that Petrie managed to calm himself down enough that he could ask in a wheezing voice.

“Is it true? Please tell Petrie you not lying! Where Littlefoot now? Petrie has to go meet him!” The flyer cried, his body fighting the urge to leap into the air or run away from the Sheltering Grass, anything that would help him reunite with his dear friend after all this time. However, he forced himself to calm down and listen what the two dinosaurs had to say. There was some hint in their eyes which made him nervous beyond words but he tried to keep his hopes up for now. It was the threehorn this time that answered the flyer’s question.

“She speaks the truth. The longneck came here, telling us everything about what happened to you kids since… since your so-called friends revealed their true selves. None of us will ever be able to pay our mistake back to the clubtail but we decided to overlook it with the longneck for a time. He, too, claimed that all others, including my daughter, had died in the Sand Cloud but… here you are, Petrie. As for your last question… he headed back into the Mysterious Beyond a few days later to… to search for his grandparents.” He ended in a firmer note, wondering how he ended up talking like an understanding friend to Petrie but his life had already been turned upside down ever since the loss of his daughter and mate. He couldn’t hide his sorrow and countless days of mourning he had gone through but he wasn’t going let that soften him further in the eyes of the Valley.

One hit after another, Petrie felt his conscious thoughts being battered into oblivion. First he was told that Littlefoot was alive but then he had gone away, only to doom any hopes of a joyful reunion into mere wishful thinking. And even more, what had happened to Littlefoot’s grandparents? In fact… what had happened overall since his departure? There were so many questions he wanted an answer for he didn’t know where to begin in the midst of all that swirled through his mind right now.

“His grandparents? Where they go? Petrie has to know!” The flyer asked carefully, swallowing as he spoke those fearful words. However, any hopes of a friendly answer disappeared the moment the clubtail stomped his foot into the ground and cried in a clearly enraged voice. No hint of compassion could be seen in his eyes as he spoke to the hapless boy.

“Can’t you seriously guess why they’re gone, barkbrain? Could it be for saving that monster’s hide after he killed one of us in cold blood? Do you think many of us could ever forgive that? Well… admittedly some could…” The clubtail glanced in anger at his companions before continuing. “… but even afterwards, they continued to advocate for searching for your sorry hides, something they eventually got accepted. However, we had no idea to which direction you had gone and we found no trace of any of you. In the end, the longnecks couldn’t stand knowing Littlefoot’s fate and they took off before we returned to the Valley and we haven’t seen them since. And it was good for those bastards as they would have never survived the storms which struck us shortly afterwards. Everything has been far better since the disappearance of those arrogant, sharptooth-loving bastards!”
He cried, the hate more than apparent in his voice. Petrie frowned slightly while unconsciously relishing a beam of warmth against his back. He was only beginning to go through what he had just heard before his ears heard something which delivered another, nearly physical blow to his mind.

“And before you ask what I meant earlier, Petrie, your family decided to get away from here by their own choice. It had a lot to do with the storms the ol’ clubtail mentioned and your mother seemed to decide she and her family would get a better life elsewhere but where… I simply cannot say. I’m sorry for that, Petrie but the Valley has had its share of problems even without the sky water.” Etta spoke, putting her fingers against each other, the flyer being clearly nervous about this whole meeting. Petrie looked at her in sadness, lamenting that his return to the Valley certainly didn’t go the way he would have wanted. The only good news was Littlefoot’s survival, a fact that stirred further hope within the boy’s mind. He took deep breaths as he started to calm down but before he could speak, he heard Northwind speak. The older dinosaur had slowly grown frustrated by the seemingly never-ending exchange of news and he wanted to get into the main issue itself.

“Now that we have gotten over all of that, we would appreciate an answer to our proposition. As we said, we wish no harm to anyone here and we’d be on our way by the time the Bright Circle rises the day after tomorrow.” He offered, earning a slightly annoyed look from Kero who realized the relative insensitivity of his companion’s words but knew he had no chance but to hope it wouldn’t undermine their chances of success. Topps narrowed his eyes as he moved closer to Northwind who kept his calm even before the large threehorn even if he knew he could crush him with one charge. He knew that courage was the best way to impress a stranger and he didn’t twitch one muscle as the other male stopped just before him. The sorrow and relative cordiality he had shown earlier disappeared as he addressed the tall, relatively-dark colored dinosaur.

“As for you, I’ve had enough of lying flyers to last for many more Cold Times! It was Petrie’s very uncle who last betrayed our trust and know that I am not going to make the same mistake again. If it were only up to me, you would be on your way right now!” The threehorn cried, not nearly in a mood to argue with a flyer who had clearly led a highly violent life judging by the numerous scars that dotted his body. The smaller dinosaur frowned at the mention of Pterano as he hadn’t even been told Petrie’s uncle was known here. He would have wanted to keep a rant to Lenel right now for telling him so little but he knew he couldn’t let out any implications he knew anything about Petrie’s uncle if he was this hated in the Valley. But that didn’t change too much right now as his goal was still unchanged. Northwind took one, careful step back before he spoke again to the other dinosaur.

“I regret your distrust towards us but to prove to you that we have no ill intentions, I tell you that we only seek knowledge about one flyer, knowledge which has been spread over the world during the many, many seasons since his days finally set beyond the horizon. We would also like to give a warning to you about one other group of flyers who would harm your precious Valley. But even then, Lenel feared that we might have a hard time winning your trust and that is exactly why we brought Petrie with us. We’ve heard he has helped you many times in the past” He said, surprising even himself with the amount of calmness he managed to retain in his voice. Topps frowned at the flyer’s words, his words reminding the larger dinosaur too much of the explanations Pterano used to give him those few Cold Times back and his trust towards the flyer certainly wasn’t increased. He was just about to give his answer when Ura spoke to Petrie in a softer voice.

“Well, Petrie, I hope you have a good explanation for bringing these two here. I bet you have a longer story behind you but that can wait at least a moment. But for now, I want to know who these two are and who is this Lenel?” She asked, causing Petrie to swallow slightly before preparing to answer. However, he was briefly interrupted by Etta whose face had turned into a highly thoughtful one.

“I think I might have just heard of him one time. Ain’t he this one herd leader who tried to scramble for some future with a small herd? I heard of him from one flyer who was one of the only survivors with a fight with his herd… why did you meet with him, Petrie?” Etta asked with concern, that tale not exactly raising her confidence at Petrie’s companions. She could see that the same was true for all the three other grownups she had brought with her but she could only hope Petrie could speak himself out of this mess.

The young flyer was about to start explaining when he suddenly realized something. It was clear that speaking of his uncle would hardly improve his standing here if Cera’s father and probably the clubtail seemed to still despise him greatly. Especially the fact that they had mentioned Pterano as a reason for their distrust towards Kero and Northwind made Petrie cringe big time as he would have wanted to do nothing more but to tell everything about his uncle’s great deeds during the past weeks.

Yet, the boy didn’t forget for a second that his first and foremost job was to secure his companions’ entry into the Valley and if everything went well afterwards, then maybe, he could tell what had really happened to him. Petrie sighed and cocked his head as he spoke to the three grownups with a heavy voice.

“Well… Petrie maybe explain things more thoroughly later but here it goes… Me was badly injured in the sand cloud and Petrie tried to find any of me friends but soon, sharptooth flyers found me and me would not be here right now… if it weren’t for one flyer named Ortin who drove them away and invited me to the herd until… until things in the Valley would get easier.” Petrie unconsciously cowered as he saw the clubtail snort heavily at his words. Kero realized the younger male’s lie at this point and inside, he was far from happy with how Petrie was handling this meeting but he knew he couldn’t react to his story in any way or his lie would be exposed. Petrie swallowed deeply before he continued.

“A lot happened within the herd ever since me arrived there and some… some things were not good ones. What me guess matters is that some of our leaders betrayed us and attacked us when they had the chance. Petrie had just began to settle in when it all happened… Some of the other flyers attacked the rest and Lenel was the only leader who kept us all together. You right, Etta, of his past but these days he leads the whole herd of a whole mass of flyers!

But after that fight… there happened an accident which ended badly for Petrie and… and me thought it would be time to return home. Lenel himself offered me a chance to return if me tell you who he is and who these two are! Well, this flyer is named Northwind and he the daddy of the best friend I made in the herd! He can be trusted and he also one of the closest deputies to Lenel these days!” Petrie forced his voice to sound friendly even if inside he had certain misgivings about the older flyer. Still, he doubted he would hurt the Valley in any way so he decided it would alright to change the fact a bit concerning him. Northwind crossed his arms and nodded slightly, trying to look as friendly as he could. Petrie then turned at the other flyer and continued in a similar manner.

“And he be called Kero. He a follower of one of the leaders who attacked us but he decided to do what best for all and he joined Lenel to save the lives of his friends! I promise you can trust that neither of them have anything in mind that could in any way hurt you or the Valley! Me promise they here only to ask the things they mentioned earlier. Me… me not have right to ask this what happened last time but… please believe Petrie now. Let them and Lenel get to know the Valley and they might even be our friends one day!” Petrie spoke, trying to look as sincere as he simply could. He hated that he was forced to cast aside his uncle and Chomper in his speech but that was a price he was willing to pay if that would help him move forward with his life.

The reaction to his heartfelt pleas was that of confusion and uncertainty. None of the four wanted to attack Petrie’s tale headlong but neither did they want to embrace it completely. There were a few seconds of silence before the threehorn broke it with a brief whisper to the clubtail near him.

“Whoever would be stupid enough to want to be friends with such a group of violent, manipulative flyers…” He whispered to Ura who quickly cast an annoyed look at the threehorn who frowned in return. He didn’t like this situation one bit but still, he decided against escalating the situation with the swimmer. Instead, Etta glanced at the other dinosaurs and cleared her throat before turning at Petrie again.

“Could you wait a moment, Petrie? We’d like to discuss this for a while.” Etta spoke to Petrie who nodded to the older flyer after a short while. He knew this was the best he could expect at this point. Topps seemed to mumble something between his teeth before turning around to disappear into the Sheltering Grass. Petrie took a deep breath as he began waiting for the inevitable decision from the four grownups. There was something in their tone that worried Petrie but he decided to ignore it for now. For the first time since meeting Etta, he had a short moment to reflect his situation. He had learned so very much during these past few minutes that it seemed to completely overwhelm him with the implications.

Littlefoot was alive but he, his grandparents as well as Petrie’s own family were no more in the Valley which meant… whatever it meant, really. Most of all, Petrie couldn’t even begin to understand why in earth his family would just leave like this. His mother knew very well that none of Petrie’s siblings wanted to leave the Valley so why would she do such a thing? Would his family be alright wherever they had gone? Petrie frowned in worry as the horrific pictures of all that could go wrong flashed before his eyes. Why, just why couldn’t they have stayed here? Petrie knew the answer was likely to be a complex one but he knew it would have to wait for a while more, at least until he’d learn just what the four grownups would decided concerning him and his companions.

Still, Petrie felt extremely miserable right now. He had hoped his times of fear and peril to be at last over and while he could stay in the Valley, a distinct worry pierced the boy’s heart as he looked at the majestic strings of mountains around him: that the safety and happiness he had hoped to find in the Valley still lingered outside this most wondrous of places. He’d have to find his family and know that they’re alright and he’d have to let Littlefoot know he was alright. But he couldn’t possibly do that alone… but what else could he do? Petrie seemed to have petrified in place following the four dinosaurs’ momentary departure and he was only awakened from his mental slumber by Kero’s voice.

“Well, they certainly didn’t give us an easy time, Petrie. But at least you did your part well enough.” He said, trying to sound as neutral as he simply could. He knew that it was more than likely that someone was still observing the three flyers’ actions to decide their trustworthiness. He knew just how difficult that situation was as a complete silence or wrong kinds of words would be interpreted as highly suspicious. Northwind knew this as well as and he forced himself to keep his thoughts of Petrie’s actions to himself. He merely snorted slightly and spoke to the younger flyer with a slight chagrin.

“I didn’t expect them to be this suspicious of us. But then again, it’s good we weren’t sent away immediately. It seems Lenel was right about our chances to make a good impression. After all, we are here to benefit both our parties.” He said as he frowned slightly. He wasn’t as ready to please their hosts but he made sure that none of his words would offend anyone who could be listening. Petrie didn’t seem to even note Northwind’s words at first as he continued to stare forward before he finally answered to his companions without turning to look at them.

“Still, everything is completely wrong! When Petrie last left the Valley, they were not this fearful of others! Me guess me friends were a part of it but… this not the Valley Petrie knows!” He said, just wondering what Littlefoot’s grandparents’ absence had meant to the Valley. Without their guidance, the Valley was likely to do something stupid and it seemed like all of the grownups acted far differently than Petrie had learned to know them.

Etta was far less carefree and more serious, Topps seemed to be heavily burdened and saddened by something, Ducky’s mother was far more silent and hostile while the clubtail… Petrie sighed as he thought about him. Deep within, the boy knew his tragedy was in part his fault even if he would never accuse Chomper of defending his dearest and oldest friend from the frenzied attack of a charging clubtail but… neither could he accuse her either. It was all a sickening mess and one that he knew he’d never get over one and one that would never be forgiven to him and neither should it be. Petrie continued to stand in his place as Northwind answered again.

“Well, I can only guess what these kinds of rising waters have caused out here. But the Valley will recover in time, Petrie.” He said simply, it being the only thing he could with even a relative friendliness. Petrie merely sighed after which neither of the other flyer wished to comment anything nor did they particularly even want to. All they wanted was to get all of this and eventually learn to redeem their places on Lenel’s side.

The minutes passed on ever so slowly with the storm inside Petrie only growing stronger by the second. He noticed none of the countless voices of life around him and he no longer even paid heed to the unusually beautiful weather for the season. The new waters around the Roaring Falls glimmered in the Bright Circle’s light, painting half of the Valley in its bright colors. A warm wind blew through the still-green meadows, hills and forests of the Valley, weaving all its residents to its sweet shroud. To anyone who was just passing by, it would have seemed like the very picture of paradise but to Petrie and the residents of the Valley, it was just a brief stop in their attempts to regain the peace they had lost ever since the Warm Time had moved onto the eternal past.

It felt like an eternity to the distressed flyer before he finally saw the grass move again before him, a sight which caused his heart to again begin beating in his chest in an almost violent manner. So very much depended on the next few minutes. However, Petrie was slightly relieved when he saw that no looks of anger or malice could be seen on Etta, Topps or Ura’s faces while the clubtail seemed mostly bitter. He didn’t know what to make of their expressions just yet but something deep within his mind brought hope to his mind. Kero stepped to Petrie’s side and answered with a worried voice.

“Please, tell us what you’ve decided. Too much is at stake for any needless delays.” He said, hoping to up the ante at least a bit to get over this annoying situation. He received a brief frown from the clubtail but it was shortly wiped away by Ura who looked at Kero with slight displeasure but her voice was surprisingly neutral as she spoke.

“I hope you don’t understand this wrong but to be honest, none of us could truly trust in your or your friend’s words. Some of us would have wanted to send you away but even these days, that’s not how the Valley does things. We don’t know this Lenel well enough and judging by Etta’s words alone, we cannot make any real decisions concerning his trustworthiness and because of that, we will grant you the benefit of doubt this one time because of Petrie’s words. You can stay in the Valley those two days you mentioned but know that if anything suspicious happens, you will regret ever coming here.” She said, making sure she meant every word she said. Petrie could only wonder how very badly Ducky’s loss had affected her mother as she seemed so very different from the swimmer Petrie had learned to know. Kero was about to answer before the threehorn moved towards Petrie and growled to him in anger.

“As for you, Petrie, we guess we cannot force you away either. You, Cera and your friends were of great help so many times to us all to simply overlook it all. However, Mr. Clubtail is right to demand that you show us you wish to have nothing to do with Chomper or his memory anymore.” He said, causing Petrie’s brows to fall and his beak rise in shock as he heard those words. To have nothing to do with even Chomper’s memory anymore? What in earth did he mean? The mere sound of those words horrified Petrie and he squeaked sadly as he answered.

“Wh… what you mean? How can Petrie do that?” He asked, hoping he wouldn’t anything too outrageous. Topps sighed before he continued, glad he didn’t have to ask this very thing from Cera.

“There is nothing we can do to change the past but you have to admit to us all that it was a horrible mistake to allow either of those murderers into the Valley in the first place and that we should have just made sure neither of those bastards will never hurt another dinosaur ever again and that you did a horrible crime ever getting to know them! And if in the future we’ll ever have a similar problem, we expect you to know what you will have to do.” He said, causing Petrie to take two steps back in complete shock. How could he ask him to renounce his entire friendship with Chomper and Ruby? He… he couldn’t do that to his dear, departed friends whom he had grown to love as his family! He snapped immediately back at the older dinosaur in anger.

“You… you cannot force Petrie to do that! They don’t deserve…” He started before he felt a great flicker of pain in his back and the very next second, he found himself rolling into the ground before he was finally stopped by a large rock. Petrie felt his head hitting it rather violently, causing him to almost black out. In his shock, he heard a loud cry penetrate the air.

“What do ya think you’re doing, clubtail? This ain’t what we decided, as ya well know!” Etta cried to the larger dinosaur who looked at the small flyer in utter rage. It was only a flicker of a second before he answered to the yellow female even if there was a weak hint of acceptance of inevitability within his voice.

“What does it even matter? He already defended that cursed sharptooth and he made it clear he doesn’t even realize what all went wrong for both him and his friends! I told you I want to hear not one complaint” He cried as he saw Petrie rising back to a sitting position, still recovering from the hit. Etta prepared to confront the clubtail even further before they both were cut short by Topps who approached the duo quickly.

“Back down, Etta! We also decided that he’s not going to get away from this if he continues defending Chomper and Ruby!” He said before turning to Petrie, his expression darkening greatly. He spoke slowly, making things as clear as possible to the flyer.

“Well, Petrie? It is all up to you. Denounce those two forever and you are free to stay at least a while in the Valley. We will give you this one chance which is far more than you’d actually deserve after all you did!” He said, finally returning Petrie to his senses. The flyer shuddered before the threehorn’s gaze, trying to come up with something to say. He could see the asking glances of Etta and Ura as well as the encouraging looks Northwind and Kero gave him. The answer should be so very easy to give but… the memories of exploring of the Cave of Many Voices and the preparations for Ruby’s starday returned to his mind, the scenes as lively as the day he had actually lived them. All the times of fun and loyalty he had shared with those two… could he actually attack the only thing that remained of them, the beautiful memories which still lingered everywhere within his mind?

The thought of his choices made Petrie weep inside. He couldn’t betray his companions or the Valley now and only make his life all the more miserable. He could see very well why the grownups demanded what they did but it didn’t make his feeling any better. The guilt and sorrow still lingering within the flyer made any decision more than difficult as he imagined the shocked looks of his friends if any of them were here to witness his next words. However, Petrie felt slightly easier when he knew that wasn’t the case and in a way, it was his duty to Lenel to get himself out of this mess and neither would Ruby and Chomper want him to make himself any worse because of them. The words seemed to flow out of Petrie’s beak as he finally gave his regretful, heavy-hearted answer.

“Petrie not want to have anything to do with what happen on that day. Even if me tried to speak sense to Chomper, he never listen and in that way, he prove to me that he never was Petrie’s friend! Me… me guess it all taught Petrie that me can never trust sharpteeth or fastrunners again. You right in making sure Petrie gets these things said because… I couldn’t have said them otherwise.” The boy finished, on the verge of tears after the words which made him feel sick beyond as he could only guess how saddened and offended Ruby and Chomper must be at him somewhere out there… far, far away in the Great Beyond. The flyer hardly heard what Topps said as he turned around, seemingly satisfied with Petrie’s answer. He then spoke to the other dinosaurs in a voice which resembled more like his common one more than anything he had said thus far.

“Well, that was that. Or do you still have something more to, clubtail?” He growled as he looked at the other male while revealing his teeth in an attempt to intimidate him. The threehorn wanted to finally get over this issue and in truth, he was getting annoyed by the clubtail’s antics. The latter returned Topps’ gesture and for a moment, it seemed like the two were about to start a real fight. However, after a moment, the clubtail snorted heavily and turned around while snapping at the threehorn in clear anger.

“This meeting was a disaster for us all, threehorn. And most of all to you, murderer.” He glanced at Petrie in utter rage before he disappeared into the sheltering grass without another word. The six other dinosaurs were left in utter silence to look after the clubtail. His words had been a disappointment for everyone present and his last threat caused shivers creep down Petrie’s spine. Something in his words haunted him greatly as he could see that the larger dinosaur hadn’t been joking when he made his threat. For a while, he even thought of simply escaping from the Valley once and for all but his fearful thoughts were interrupted by a careful question from Kero.

“Well, is it settled?” He said simply, knowing the substance of the question was more than clear for everyone present. Ura sighed as she shook his head before she turned at the flyer, her expression still holding some resentment but she was too mentally exhausted to try to prolong this meeting any longer. She let her eyelids fall slightly as she spoke to the flyers.

“On our part, it is. You may stay here for two days and ask the things you want but after that, you will have to leave. And as we said, we advise you against betraying our trust while in here.” She said, earning a wide smile from the male. He nodded to the swimmer slightly as he gave his answer.

“You have our thanks for the trust you’ve shown towards us. We’ll make sure we are worth it.” He said as he saw Topps turning away in slight chagrin which dampened his enthusiasm somewhat but he cast that notion aside immediately. Ura then turned to Petrie in a slightly more relaxed manner.

“As for you, you can stay here for some time. We cannot speak for everyone as you will not be easily forgiven as Mr. Clubtail just showed us. You may yet have to leave but at least you have our trust.” She said as Petrie gave a saddened but understanding look at her. He knew just bad his situation what but for now, he knew he couldn’t ask for more from the three grownups. Northwind then walked to Petrie’s side and spoke to him in an almost appreciating voice.

“Thank you for your help, Petrie. We appreciate your efforts for our and our herd’s sake. We hope you all the best in the future.” He said while Kero joined the other flyers to address Petrie for this very last time.

“It’s good to see Lenel wasn’t completely mistaken. In any case, your part is done. Goodbye, Petrie.” He said, his voice more than relieved by their success. Petrie turned to them slowly, looking at them for a few seconds before answering. It was saddening to know this would be his last contact with Lenel’s herd in his life but at least he was now safe from any further conflicts or hardships that life would have brought upon him. He looked at the two flyers wearily as he spoke.

“Thank you for showing Petrie the way here. Me also wish things go better in the herd from now on.” He said as he noticed the two older males nod to him before taking off. Petrie looked after them for a few seconds, wondering if he had done the right choice after all. However, his short moment of reflection was soon ended as Etta approached him and spoke to him carefully.

“I’m sure you wish to rest and look around yourself a bit, it was a long flight after all. But if ya ever need something, I’ll be happy to help. But it’s good to have you back out here.” She said to Petrie who nodded at her approvingly. He took a brief smile at the yellow flyer as he looked Ura and Topps leave the scene.

“Thanks, Etta. Petrie might have more things to ask but for now, everything fine.” He said, earning a few moments of silence from the older dinosaur. However, she soon nodded at Petrie and spoke to him before rising to her wings.

“Suit yourself, Petrie! Just be careful of the new waters and sinking grounds!” She cried before she, too, disappeared into the skies of the Great Valley. Seeing her leave made Petrie feel as if a large boulder had just been removed from the top of his heart. There might be a lot that could still go wrong for him but at least, he was home and his fate was again his own. He’d relish these days in the Valley but sooner or later, he’d have to find his family and Littlefoot. But for now, Petrie was where he wanted to be. He prepared to head for his family’s last nest to refresh some beloved memories when he suddenly saw movement within the tall grass to his right. He immediately turned to that direction and squeaked in a fearful voice.

“Wh… who goes there?” He began to back down as the movement grew ever more profound, realizing how badly his heart beat in his chest. However, his fears were soon cast away as he saw a familiar green form jump in front of him, speaking happily.

“I… I still hope you remember Guido and not run away when you see me! But uhh, it’s good to see that meeting went even that well, isn’t it?”

Petrie’s homecoming didn’t provide him with the final solace he had been looking for but he found one piece of knowledge that is worth more than nearly anything in this world for him. The flyer’s journey will soon take another kind of turn but hardly one most would suspect… This chapter was one watershed moment in this story and I truly hope you found that this installment did justice to the many developments in it. As always, I eagerly wait for your thoughts about this chapter!


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #87 on: October 31, 2018, 02:17:55 AM »
The beginning of the chapter pulls no punches in depicting the sheer desolation of Petrie’s emotions.  As far as he knows his friends are dead, his bridges to his new “home” are now burned beyond repair, and he is being led back to his former home by two flyers who absolutely despise him.  To him it is worse that experiencing the end of the world; now his must experience the aftermath of the destruction of all that he has known. 

The passage from Glide does explain some of Petrie’s ability to keep his wits about him despite the catastrophic situation he finds himself in, but it also shows, I think, a irreversible change in the young flyer.  What we are seeing now is a more hardened Petrie though his exterior might not show it.

And then the first bombshell hits.  Etta, normally a very welcoming sort, greets the three flyers by informing them that the valley will have to decide what to do with them and that the valley has not forgotten about Chomper.  Worse yet, Petrie’s family is no longer in the valley.  To say that this is not the welcome that Petrie hoped for is quite the understatement.

And then small bits of information begin to trickle out from the dialogue... something has happened to Tria.  The clubtails seem to harbor a grudge against the entire gang... and wait the others have heard of the dust cloud and then wham – this line:

“Petrie… you aren’t the first of your friends to return to the Valley. In fact… Littlefoot came here a bit over a week ago.”

And then the wham moments keep on coming.  They seem to think that the rest of Petrie’s “so-called friends” showed their true selves (obviously interpreting whatever happened in a negative light towards them) and both of Littlefoot’s Grandparents went into the Mysterious Beyond to search for their grandson… only to have Littlefoot now search for them in return.  The rest of the meeting, and the fact that the emboldened clubtail had enough authority to demand that Petrie basically denounce Chomper, which he then did to protect the right of his two companions to enter the valley, only shows how much the valley has changed since the tragedy.  It is now a much more distrustful place and old bonds have been frayed beyond repair.  It is obvious to me that Petrie will not long to stay in this place – the valley of his memories is already long gone.  And with the loneliness and despair Guido has felt in his absence, I wonder if Petrie might be about to finally get another companion in his long, desperate journey.

This is truly a great and thought-provoking chapter.  Now that we know at least another of the gang has survived, and with the Grandparents missing and Tria possibly dead, the dynamics of the story has changed.  I look forward to seeing how this complex drama plays out in the chapters ahead.  :)

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #88 on: November 08, 2018, 03:03:47 PM »
Confrontation on the Desolate Rise

A slight look of sadness rose to Ruby’s face as she looked at the other omnivore, not expecting to hear the words he said this soon. She struggled for a few seconds before she finally managed to finally gather enough of her composure to speak to the boy.

“You… you know you don’t have to do this, Yarel, do this you don’t have to! My parents promised you may stay here for far longer!” She said in a low voice, looking at the wide plains the cliff she and Yarel were standing on overlooked. The sky water had ended a good while ago and as the temperature began to fall again, the endless fields started to glimmer bright white which nearly blinded the fastrunner before she returned to look at Yarel. The male’s face held a similar amount of melancholy as he prepared to speak.

“I know, Ruby, but there’s no reason for us to stay as a burden to your family any longer. It… it would be better if we were on our way.” He said vaguely even if the implications weren’t lost on Ruby. Yarel’s regret immediately revealed his true thoughts and it didn’t take long for her to see what the other omnivore was really thinking.

“This is about Greentail, isn’t it?” She said simply, not finding much more to say about the issue. Apparently the two siblings had discussed their future while she and her family were fighting against the longbeaks. Ruby was still shaken by how close she had come to actually losing her sister for good. Her heart still beat in pain as she thought what would have happened if things had went even a bit differently… but it was no use dwelling in the past for now. All that mattered was that those horrible things never came to pass. She was completely drawn back into the present as she saw Yarel nod glumly, his completely unmoving body revealing that this decision had not been his.

“It is, Ruby. At this point, it is clear she has recovered as well as she ever will and she wants to face the world as it, not living as the burden of all those around her. Even if I fear for what’s to come… I understand her.” He said, his expression revealing all the worries and fears that now swirled within his mind. Ruby felt sick beyond words as she thought about what would come next for the two siblings out there. She still felt responsible for all that had happened but… what was done was done. She had absolutely no right to question the thinclaws’ decision and she took a step closer to Yarel before answering.

“In a way, I do too. But in any case, it was great to meet the two of you. I hope we will meet again someday. When are you planning to leave?” She asked while cocking her head in slight sorrow. She hadn’t wanted to say goodbye just yet but sometimes, things won’t go the way one had planned. Yarel frowned slightly before answering to the girl.

“Tomorrow morning. We will head towards the great lake and find some place where we can try to survive. At least, it cannot be any worse than our old forest.” He said, trying to give a slight smile which nonetheless failed rather pitifully. Ruby nodded briefly before beginning her answer to the thinclaw.

“Alright. I can go check on you every once in a while. I’m sure you’ll be fin…” She said before her eyes caught the sight of something which caused her to stop her sentence before finishing it. In the glimmering white fields could be seen a lonely figure whose blue plumage marked a clear contrast against the pale face of the world. Ruby’s expression seemed to change from one extreme to another as she realized that her earlier concerns about her father’s wellbeing has been misplaced. Here he was alive and that could only mean he had good news to tell! Ruby quickly turned back to Yarel before turning to head to meet his father.

“That’s daddy! He’s coming back and that means he didn’t die from Chomper’s parents’ claws! And in that case, he must have managed to find out something interesting! Come on, Yarel!” She said, still remembering to keep her tone respectful to the thinclaw. Yarel frowned as he looked at Detras’ form and turned tiredly at Ruby.

“I’d rather not. Just tell me if he tells anything of value, okay?” He asked, willing to spend this day in ease and to prepare for what was to come. Ruby looked a bit disappointed by the answer but after a few seconds, she nodded and sprinted away.

Deep gasps escaped Detras’ mouth as he forced his leg to take another step in the deep cover of the ground sparkles, the journey to the sharpteeth and then back having exhausted him greatly. But that wasn’t nearly the first thing in his mind as the sight of the Desolate Rise appeared ever more imposing before him. The symphony of physical fatigue and extreme mental anguish were his only companions as he was drawing ever closer to finish this journey of misery and horror. Soon, he’d have to face his family but he wondered whether he had the heart to do so.

More than once during his journey back to the Rise, Detras had thought that simply ending his miserable journey in this world could be preferable to… to killing her own daughter but even worse, the other option wasn’t even worth considering. He couldn’t leave his beloved mate tend to Arial and Orchid alone and his two other children didn’t deserve to grow up without a father. But neither did the fastrunner know if he could look at his children in their eyes ever again. Whatever happened, he’d…

In a flicker of a second, Detras felt his legs lose their hold on the slippery ground and he fell into the ground, striking his jaw into the earth covered by the hard water, making his head ache even more. He was somewhat surprised to see that he was close to entering one of the passes leading into the Rise as he had been too preoccupied with his fears to pay his surroundings any attention. As he forced himself back to his feet, he suddenly heard a distant cry from one familiar fastrunner.

“Daddy! You’re back! We already missed you so much!” Orchid cried as he and Arial, followed by Ruby and Pearl, ran towards the older male. Detras felt like anything but smiling right now but he knew he couldn’t reveal what really happened to his three children and to do that, he would have to hide his true emotions as well. He took a deep breath to calm down and put on a slightly forced but surprisingly believable smile. He looked in happiness as Orchid and Arial ran towards him and heartily embraced them too as Ruby and Pearl stood a bit further. His voice was heavy but it could be fully attributed to his obvious fatigue.

“So did I! So did I. I wouldn’t have let those two keep me away from all of you!” He said as he released the two younger omnivores of his embrace, giving his mate and Ruby also approving nods. His composure nearly fell as he saw Ruby’s cheerful face looking expectantly upon him but he managed to prevent that. It was Pearl who next spoke, noticing the obvious proof Detras had of meeting the two predators.

“Well, what happened out there? Are you badly hurt?” She asked as she looked at the deep wounds in the male’s thighs which were slowly starting to turn into scars. Detras seemed to twitch as he hadn’t paid them much attention since he had parted with Dein and Terri. Yet, neither did he regard them to be of any interest in grand scheme of things and decided that there was no reason to prolong his “news” any longer.

“I’m completely fine, dear. I had already forgotten those scars myself. I received them as I was nearly caught by those two but they weren’t just enough to prevent me from escaping from them. As for my quest, I think I found a way to prevent them from threatening us ever again.” He forced the widest of smiles on his face for a second which immediately brought joy to the two younger children. Ruby, however, frowned slightly as she was old and experienced to see that not all was alright with her father’s antics. They seemed rather… forced and she couldn’t exactly see the joy in the way he moved his body overall. The girl had absolutely no reason to distrust her father but still… there was something in his antics she disliked. She took a slightly more careful tone as she answered to the male, not willing to consider the threat from Chomper’s parents finished just yet. She stepped forward slowly as she spoke.

“That’s great to hear, daddy, great to hear it is! But what is this way you’re speaking of?” She asked, hiding her own concerns masterfully. She tried to look as cheerful and trusting as one would expect from her in this situation. However, her question wasn’t well regarded in her father’s mind. “Killing you and presenting your dead body to Dein and Terri.” He thought in never-ending self-loathing, almost giving the truthful answer in an attempt to escape his own guilt but he knew that wasn’t an option. Instead, he continued to speak in the same tone as earlier.

“I found that their injuries are even worse than they seemed, Ruby, and it’d take at least until the dawn of the Warm Time until they can pose a threat to us. But even better, I found traces of other fastrunners around here who would mostly likely want to get rid of any wounded sharpteeth as well. I believe they’ll be of help in the near future.” Detras said, trying his very best to calm down to deliver his message as believably as possible. His voice could show a few signs of hesitation but this time, not even Ruby could notice them. Following her mate’s words, Pearl joined the discussion if only to keep her appearances up. She knew more than well that none of her mate’s words were true at this point but if she stayed completely silent, somebody would certainly notice it soon enough.

“That’s marvelous news, Detras! Where do you think these other fastrunners are?” She asked, presenting a simple but obvious question. Detras nearly rolled his eyes at her mate’s obviously faked question but managed to prevent it just in time. He sighed briefly before giving his answer to the female, buying himself a brief moment to come up with a believable lie.

“Most likely a day’s journey north from here. Though it could be more if there comes more of these ground sparkles…” He said, while taking a better stance when his right leg started to slip slightly downhill. After his brief answer, Arial turned to look at her father and asked him in clear curiosity.

“Then shouldn’t we go look for them immediately? Every minute that goes by, the bad sharpteeth will get better!” She asked in clear worry, the sight of Dein and Terri’s murderous glances still causing her to shudder in fear. To that question, Detras would have let out a genuine laughter as the depth of Arial’s baseless concern was even heartening for the older fastrunner if the situation weren’t so very grave. In response, he bowed to the girl’s level and spoke to her calmly, putting his hands against his knees.

“They won’t recover that quickly, Arial. But you’re right in that we don’t have time to linger. I and your mother will start our search for them tomorrow, won’t we dear?” He asked in fake curiosity from his mate and to his horror, it started to seem like Pearl would blow the duo’s cover completely. It was becoming increasingly clear what the male would tell her soon as if he had actually succeeded in killing the two predators, he would have said so already. And that could only mean one thing… Pearl started to unknowingly take deeper and deeper breaths and it wasn’t long until she started to hyperventilate in shock.  All the eyes turned to the female who finally realized the unwanted attention as she struggled to stay on her feet. Orchid looked at his mother in horror, squeaking to her in concern.

“What’s wrong, mommy? Please tell that you’re alright!” He said as Pearl started to slowly calm down. The older fastrunner put all her willpower in calming down her nerves as her focus on her surroundings started to slowly return. Ruby moved to Orchid’s side and spoke to her mother in a similar tone than her brother.

“What happened? Can you breathe? Please answer, mommy!” Ruby cried but what happened next was something that disturbed her without an end. As she tried to calm down, Pearl turned to her oldest daughter but her expression was one Ruby would never forget. Her mother looked at her with a look that bordered something between utter regret and fear, something that the older female would give to someone who had committed something horrifying… or to one who was in grave danger. Ruby took a few unconscious steps backwards before Pearl finally managed to give a coherent answer to her children.

“I… I’m fine. It was probably just this cold wind that made my breathing so difficult. It’s nothing to worry about. And, Detras, I’m ready to leave tomorrow.” She tried to look as normal as possible but even then, she wasn’t fooling Ruby. It was clear to the latter that everything certainly wasn’t fine with her mother. She could also see a clearly regretting look on her father’s face. What the hell was going on? What were her parents hiding from her this urgently? Was… was there something important she didn’t know? The girl couldn’t say for sure but something about this entire situation made her blood run cold. Yet, Arial and Orchid didn’t seem too bothered and Arial even broke the short silence with an almost happy voice.

“Let’s hope so, mommy, because then all our concerns would be over! Daddy, we did as you told us! The longbeaks are long gone from these lands! All of us did a great job with them!” She exclaimed in pride, earning an eager nod from Orchid. Detras’s eyes widened somewhat as he had completely forgotten the longbeaks but now that his daughter brought it up, that as good news at least. He smiled at Arial as he answered.

“Well done, all of you. That’s one major problem dealt with! I look forward to hearing all about it sometime late but for now…”

“Behind you, daddy! What is that?” The aging male was suddenly interrupted by Ruby’s awed voice and despite the interruption, he didn’t waste a moment before turning around. If there was some other cursed sharptooth threatening his family, he’d make sure they’d regret it before…

However, what he saw made his jaw drop further than what he could remember in a long time. The northwestern sky was quickly being painted in red, blue and green in a way he had never seen before. The colors seemed to be dancing with each other, fighting for prominence in the wide, pale sky. It was still a bit dark, though, as it often was on Cold Times but that only reinforced the astonishing sight. Even Detras could find no words about it. He had heard stories about such things before but none of them seemed to match the majesty… or even the imposing feeling of this sight. He could only look in wonder before Ruby suddenly spoke again.

“Look at that… Daddy, what are they?” She voiced each of the three younger fastrunners’ question as the colors seemed to only grow more profound. Detras frowned slightly as he attempted to remember just what he had been told about this phenomenon long ago… and that only made his uncertainty grow. However, he decided there was no reason not to tell what he had heard when he was but a child himself. His voice was low and thoughtful as he spoke again.

“I’m not sure, Ruby. I’ve never seen things like this before but if I remember right, I think my grandfather mentioned me of hearing about dancing colors filling the sky from farwalkers. But… he mentioned that such things could only be seen far, far in the north, further away than any of us could ever go. And judging by his words, they should have covered the entire skies but… but this seems as if it’s coming from some clear location. In any case, that’s some sight, certainly…” He said as he turned to look at the horizon below the colors. It seemed like they really were originating from spot somewhere far away which certainly made the fastrunner more than a little confused. He looked at them for a few more seconds… before they suddenly disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared.

Ruby had made similar observations and she was even more confused than her father. If even the Farwalkers hadn’t been able to tell what those colors were, they had to be a great mystery. And if they originated from one point only, it should be possible to simply find that place. Except that it wasn’t possible now that they had vanished for good. She sighed slightly before she spoke to the rest of her family.

“It was a great sight while it lasted. Well, at least it seemed like we were lucky to see it in the first place.” She said shrugging slightly. She looked in amusement at the excitement of her siblings who seemed to still be struggling to calm down from the amazing sight. After a few seconds, Orchid spoke in a loud voice, not able to believe what he just saw.

“Didn’t your grandpa know anything more of them, dad? Surely he must have heard more about those colors!” He said, causing Detras to sneer happily. He slowly turned to look at his son, answering to him softly.

“He heard that brief tale when he was about your age and I heard it from him when I was barely any older. But believe me when I say that I don’t remember anything more myself.” He said with a slight smile, remembering the happy days of his own youth. His mind was already drowned in his past when Arial then continued the interrogation her brother had started.

“You never told us anything bout your grandpa, daddy, except that the Rise used to be his home once. We’d like to hear more about him!” She said in excitement, always eager to hear more about the world as well as about her own family. Detras seemed a bit taken aback by the question and he nearly declined his younger daughter’s request. Even if the colors had briefly took his attention, he still wasn’t nearly on the mood to tell any tales on this day. All of his thoughts were focused on what was to come but… it was exactly those thoughts that caused him to start hesitating.

With sorrowful thoughts, he suddenly recalled his request from Dein and Terri. To be able to spend one last day with Ruby and have a chance to give his family one, last chance to be together. Even if it would be a real struggle to keep his composure up, he couldn’t deny Arial and Orchid this final evening with their sister and besides, he was ready to make Ruby’s last day as happy as he simply could. He nearly choked at those most horrifying thoughts but Detras knew he owed that much to all of his family. After a short while, he breathed deep and spoke to the other fastrunners in a seemingly happy voice.

“Why not? There are far too many things he told me to recite all of them to you but I guess I can tell one or two of them. But before that, let’s head for home. We’ll be safer in there.” He said, shuddering slightly as he felt the wind rise in the surrounding plains. Arial and Orchid seemed somewhat impatient but they, too, understood their father’s point. Orchid cocked his head slightly as he cried to the rest of his family.

“Well then, come on! Let’s not waste any time!”

After the short trek, Ruby ruffled her plumage before sitting into the stony floor of the deep cave. The temperature was still unpleasantly cold but at least the walls of sheltered her and her family from the wind. As she slowly calmed down, she noticed just how similar this place was to the Hanging Rock. The cave was almost exactly as narrow and from both of them opened imposing views over the surrounding lands.

An inescapable wave of nostalgia washed over her as she looked at her siblings and parents sit down in a circle. If she had been Arial and Orchid’s age and they that much younger, she could have been excused for believing she had returned to those past seasons in the Hanging Rock, spending her sheltered and rather carefree childhood. The cold seemed to disappear from her mind as she forced her earlier fears about her parents’ behavior from her mind, now only concentrating on relishing this moment with her family. Her father received Ruby’s undivided attention as he finally started to speak, the shade of the cave creating an even atmosphere for the incoming story.

“So, what is it you want to know?” He asked simply, willing to hear if there were any clear subjects his children would want to hear about. The dueling sentiments within his mind made his efforts to stay calm extremely difficult but he attempted to think of this situation as a pleasant while with his family even if he knew those kinds of thoughts were impossible to maintain in the long run. Still, he’d do his best to give the three young fastrunners the best time he simply could. Orchid seemed eager to answer but to his slight chagrin, Arial was the first one who opened her mouth after her father finished.

“You never told us really anything about your daddy’s daddy so you probably know him better than we. So you may decide what you wish to tell us!” She cried in excitement,
causing Detras’ eyes to widen somewhat as he turned to look at ceiling, deep in thought. What in earth could he tell about his grandfather that could be of any interest to his children? Looking at Orchid’s demanding face, he felt out of ideas first before he finally remembered one little story that could interest his family. He then took a somewhat happy face as his mind drifted to times long gone by.

“Very well. I think I might have something in mind. But please understand that my memory might be a bit hazy as I was hardly your age before my grandfather, whose real name was Swiftsprint headed into the Great Beyond. But I still remember how much he loved to tell me stories of his youth when he and a small group of other fastrunners fought to outwit all the sharpteeth they met. It sounded so very interesting to me and every time, he mentioned how deeply he missed this place. He had lived out here all his life, fighting for his lot in life, or so he had told.

But what I’m going to tell you isn’t going to concern those sharpteeth. Rather, it is a tale of how he and his companions safeguarded their own safety and how dangerous life was back then even if Swiftsprint and the others did their very best to protect each other. However, this story was very special for him as it was on that distant day when he found his mate, my grandmother. Now, it all started on one very early Warm Time’s day…

The air was still somewhat cool even if the land was slowly starting to regain its green cover. First of the flowers were fighting to begin blooming under the returning rays of the Bright Circle, a sight that was more than capable of rousing a young fastrunner’s spirit without an end. Swiftsprint smiled in expectation as he felt his feet touch moss and grass instead of the cursed ground sparkles which had been his and the other omnivores for a time which had once seemed like an eternity. Now, however, things seemed as sweet as the wide, glimmering lake in front of him. The waters went on as far as he could see and even if he had lived his entire life on these plains, he hadn’t yet learned where the other shore of the massive lake actually lied. And today, he didn’t even care.

“Greetings, Swiftsprint! Have anything we should know?” One other fastrunner cried not far from him, causing him to grin slightly as his legs sank into the waters, followed by a quick strike from his claws which immediately penetrated a small scaly swimmer in the water. The young omnivore looked at the animal’s struggles die out before he turned to look at the other, yellowish fastrunner slowly.

“Nope! The last days have passed without any sharptooth making an appearance anywhere! There is no imminent danger in sight from anywhere!” He exclaimed as he swallowed his prey in one, single bite. He shuddered slightly from the still-chilly water as he waded deeper into the lake, more than determined to sate his hunger for the rest of the day when he had the chance. He looked into the distance, seeing almost a dozen halfteeth here and there with similar plans. He was just about to start another effort to catch his prey when he suddenly heard another voice not far behind him.

“At least to most, it seems. It’s just a shame not all of us are that lucky.” A feminine voice said behind him in an annoyed, even angered voice. Swiftsprint immediately frowned slightly at those words, turning to look at the newcomer in slight surprise. His thoughts were further complicated as he saw her drag a carcass of a domehead with her. He waited for a few seconds before speaking to the female.

“What do you mean by that, Redcrest? And why do you have that domehead with you?” He asked, not hiding his surprise and uncertainty about the other fastrunner’s motives. She stopped after a few seconds and finally left the dead domehead lie in the ground before answering to the dumbstruck male.

“Well, maybe you are safe around here but not all of us as content simply staying around here all their lives! The thing is, however, that I wasn’t. I tried to explore a bit further to the south to see if the would be anything of interest for us out there. I did found another lake, true but… that was when one sharptooth found me.” She said in an annoyed look, her reaction surprising the surrounding omnivores rather severely. Going exploring on her own? That was one thing she would have to be thankful for actually surviving such a folly! There were many pitying, even condemning looks before one of the gathered dinosaurs cried to the female in a sneer.

“And what happened then? You somehow escaped from the beast’s belly?” The thinclaw cried, causing Redcrest’s face fall even further. In response, she snorted deeply before she continued to speak to the other dinosaurs.

“That would have been a story worth telling, wouldn’t it? In fact, the sharptooth nearly got me but he, too, knew he might get a better deal by sparing than simply having me for a lunch. In return, he demanded a bigger meal he couldn’t catch himself like… one of the giantjaws of this lake! Now, who’s with me?” She announced, causing some of her audience’s faces to turn to fright and some to deeper mockery. To think someone would come to actually hope to catch the swimmer who only a select few had even claimed to see! Redcrest frowned slightly before she heard the first answer to her comment.

“If that was your deal, then prepare to pay for it with your life! Promising to catch something that may not exist isn’t a way to ensure you live to see your old days!” Another of the fastrunners cried, causing some of them to turn around and leave the poor fool to face her fate alone. If that was her chance to escape certain death, she was as good as a goner.

“Why would they say that? You’ve always told us to respect our family and friends in any way we can!” Arial snapped in clear uncertainty. It just didn’t make any sense to her. Orchid frowned slightly at that too but Detras’ expression didn’t communicate any surprise at that question. Instead, he turned to look directly at Arial to satisfy her curiosity.

“Indeed I have and you must never forget that lesson. However, judging from Swiftsprint’s words, those were very different times around Desolate Rise. There was just enough
food for our kind and wandering leafeaters but the speed with which we caught them discouraged the sharpteeth from approaching this place. And in that environment, the fastrunners had absolutely no reason to form clear herds or even packs and that is exactly the reason nobody was prepared to help Redcrest. The others weren’t prepared to exchange their own security because of some other’s mistake.” He said, astonished how well he remembered this story he had heard so very long ago. He was somewhat surprised to hear Ruby speak next who looked at her siblings with a somewhat amused look.

“That’s something we also should remember. There might be things to be gained by helping others but our kind doesn’t live long with stupid risk, live long we won’t! Finding the balance between them is very difficult, though.” She ended with a thoughtful tone. Her father nodded at her briefly before continuing to speak.

“That’s right and that’s something my grandfather had to decide as well. Anyway…”

Swiftsprint looked around himself in clear hesitation. Redcrest’s tale had been a surprising one and deep down, he was somewhat impressed by the courage she had shown in her efforts to widen her world even at the risk she had taken. Still, he wasn’t exactly excited to help her just yet. After a while, he asked her carefully.

“Are you serious? I mean… the giantjaws might be just a story! None of us has ever seen one of them!” Swiftsprint spread his hands in an asking fashion, willing to hear everything the other fastrunner had to say. He wasn’t in a hurry today and if she had something of interest to propose him, there was no reason to turn the offer down. Redcrest snorted at the male before answering, eying at the departing omnivores in annoyance.

“Even if they aren’t really real, I’m sure that cursed sharptooth can accept even a bit smaller swimmer. You know, as I said, I need all the help I can get. Are you willing to assist me?” She asked impatiently, willing to get this thing over with. Swiftsprint scratched his head slightly, wondering how to answer to the female. After a moment, he asked the only question most of his kind would ask.

“And what’s that up for me? Large scaly swimmers are often more dangerous than most of us would think.” He said simply, willing to hear all of the female’s proposition. Redcrest sighed audible at the question before she finally answered to the light-blue fastrunner.

“Of course, I will repay this debt to you in some way in the future. I wouldn’t ever ask anyone to do anything for me for nothing. But now, Swiftsprint, are you with me or shall I proceed without you?” She asked, starting to drag the dead domehead closer to the shore, clearly expecting an imminent answer. The rather short male stared at the other omnivore, knowing she was an honest if reckless dinosaur. The two had met each other many times in the past but they were little more than mere acquittances. At first, Swiftsprint was close to declining his counterpart’s idea but soon after, another thought rose to his mind.

Did he have any real reason to pass this opportunity to earn a friend and have some kind of help in the future in case he ran into a dangerous situation. He had been told to look after himself most of all but in his heart, he felt like this was a risk worth taking. He was still wondering when Redcrest called again.

“You better snap out of it if you wish to help! If not, get out of my way!” She cried, clearly anxious about what was to happen soon. Swiftpsrint twitched noticeably as he turned to look at the female again.

“Very well. I doubt I have too much to lose anyway. What have you planned to do?” He asked, causing Redcrest to stop and turn back to look at the other fastrunner, finally revealing a look that resembled something like a smile. She then walked towards the blue omnivore and spoke to him in a much friendlier voice.

“You have my gratitude, Swiftsprint. Now, about my idea…

Slight shudders could be seen all around Swiftsprint’s body as he looked at his companion wade ever deeper into the water. She was pulling the dead domehead with her as a bait and she would open the poor dinosaur’s neck arteries when she thought it was the best time to lure the beast of the depths from its slumber. The male stood nearby, leaning against a long-dead tree which would with any luck hit the beast when it finally showed itself. The water grew deeper very quickly beyond the shore so it could come very close to the surface and thus, to the range of the falling tree.

Even if she had put on a tough look when she had addressed the rest of the omnivores, it was now clear to everyone following the scene that Redcrest was beyond horrified by what she was doing. As she looked at the quickly darkening waters, she could only imagine about a suddenly-appearing set of teeth that would tear her body to pieces before she could even twitch her arms. She nearly jumped as a tiny scaly swimmer jumped near her and for a moment, she thought of simply giving up but… she knew well that wasn’t an option either.

The memory of her meeting with the massive sharptooth still bothered her greatly and she had no doubts about his ability to track her down and end her life with one, brutal move. As she thought of that meeting, she knew she had but one way to proceed, She put her claws against her hapless victim’s throat and quickly, opened the veins still containing some of the dead dinosaur’s lifeblood. The fastrunner stared with a haunted look as the water around her started to turn red, slowly engulfing her in a circle of crimson. Her heart skipped a beat or two as she looked towards the depths, waiting for the inevitable. None of the other fastrunners looking at the scene seemed to take a breath as they looked at the scene in complete silence.

Seconds passed slowly and the blood around the female seemed to quickly begin to dissipate. Redcrest was slowly starting to breath more easily, starting to think that everything was well, that nothing was on its way. Her mind started to already drift to the question about what she would tell the sharptooth or what she could catch instead to placate his wrath. She was just about to turn around towards the shore when she suddenly heard a massive crunch just before her. Before she had the time to see just what had happened, she saw the massive jaws crush the domehead’s body to a thousand tiny bits. She cried in fear as she jumped slightly backwards.

“Swiftsprint, do it now! I’ll keep it still!”

“Do… do you mean there are such monsters in that lake right now?” Orchid asked while swallowing deeply. He had never before seen such a big water and he had never even thought that such massive creatures could lurk that close to his home. He looked at the lake’s direction in apparent fear, looking rather miserable all of a sudden. Detras smiled slightly before he answered to his son.

“Well, it might be possible that grandfather might have exaggerated a bit but even then, I don’t see any reason why there wouldn’t be such creatures down there. But I doubt they’ll be of any danger to us if we don’t bring dead domeheads into the water.” He smiled while looking at his children cover in clear fear. Pearl looked at them in sympathy before comforting them in a warm voice.

“And to make sure, don’t go swim out there if you have any kinds of wounds. Some of the bigger scaly swimmers tend to smell its prey’s blood if it’s released into the water. At least that’s what many fastrunners from the shores of the Big Water told us.” The aging female said with a wide smile. Her words seemed to calm the children down somewhat but she was suddenly taken aback by a haunted, distant look from Ruby. It seemed like her mind to some distant past but her thoughts weren’t a mystery to her family for too long.

“My friends once told they had met such a massive scaly swimmer or as they called it, a swimming sharptooth. They said it happened when they were trying to escape Chomper’s island long before he was forced to come live with us. They said that beast was one of the most dreadful and brutal sharpteeth they had ever met and that they would all have been slaughtered hadn’t they still been so very close to the shore. The whole story of how they came to know Chomper was one that always interested me greatly.” She said, clearly saddened. She sat still in deep thought for a few seconds before her mother moved to her side and put her hand on her back, attempting to comfort her daughter even if that made her feel even more enraged towards herself.

“Now, calm down, Ruby. It’ll get better with time.” She said, knowing there was nothing more she could say at this point. Ruby cast a melancholic look at her mother before nodding solemnly. Detras looked at Ruby in deep regret but decided to go on with his tale.

“As I was saying, that was one of the most horrifying moments in my grandparents’ lives. What followed was something neither of them had prepared for…

A look of horror rose to Swiftsprint’s face as he looked at the massive back of the swimming sharptooth rise to the surface and the female’s horrified attempts to attack the predators. The bluish omnivore wasted no time starting to pull the dead tree down, knowing that he had the strength required to pull its dead branches from the ground and send the long-withered tree towards the swimmer. He looked in relief as he looked at it fall ever more clearly towards the lake and after a few seconds, he saw the branch starting to fall towards the two belligerents ever so slowly. He cried at the other halftooth with an urgent voice as he started to run towards her.

“Look out! It’s coming!”

The male’s voice hardly reached Redcrest’s ears as she attempted to lure the swimmer closer to the shore. She felt sick beyond words as she looked at the remains of the domehead’s viscera float all around her, the rest of the late dinosaur already devoured by the massive beast. The fastrunner could barely dodge the predator’s attack but she knew she had no choice at this point. Either she’d beat this opponent or she’d fall by the other sharptooth’s hand. However, as she noticed a shadow fall over her, she finally noticed that her companion had been successful. In the last possible moment, she jumped off from the falling tree’s way, allowing it to hit the swimmer with its full power. A loud screech could be heard as the predator’s head was hit by the massive branch which furthermore caused its head to hit the bottom of the shallow shore.

With great efforts, the swimming sharptooth attempted to turn around and escape deeper into the water but Redcrest was just in time to prevent it. She quickly grabbed a large stone from the bottom and hit it with all her power at the sharptooth’s water leg, knowing that would complicate the beast’s efforts to escape greatly. And indeed, its battle to save itself grew only more violent by the second as its attempts to move its water leg only resulted in massive pain. Swiftsprint could see this as well as he, too, rushed into the water to help the female and he grabbed another stone and hit it right at the creature’s head. Another roar escaped the hapless predator’s mouth as another heavy blow landed in its skull, realizing it had no choice but to flee at any cost. The swimmer’s entire body tensed as it prepared for a dash to safety but Redcrest knew she’d have to prevent it by any means necessary.

With a brutality she had seldom seen from even a sharptooth, the fastrunner tore into the sharptooth’s side, determined to do all she could to ensure it met its end here and now. However, that determination would have likely turned into hesitation if she knew just what would happen soon enough.

With a powerful pull, the swimmer forced its body to a quick dash, even that forced pull caused many more wounds to appear into its belly as it scraped against the many sharp rocks of the bottom. Yet, even now, Redcrest wasn’t about to give up and she grabbed to the beast with all her efforts, causing more and more damage to it by the second. However, when she was pulled under the surface, her courage turned into utter horror. Her claws had been stuck inside the creature and she couldn’t pull herself free.

The fastrunner’s eyes widened in fear as she saw the surface grow ever more distant. Now, she realized she had failed but at least she could still try to save herself. She brought her legs against the monstrous creature and with herculean efforts, she finally managed to tear her way away from the creature’s innards. She looked as the sharptooth disappeared into the depths, before she turned around to head to the surface. However, after a few more seconds, she realized the full magnitude of her failure. No matter what she did, her struggles grew weaker and her vision fainter as she reached towards the light so very close to her… before her arm fell back towards her limp body.

That sight had shocked Swiftsprint without an end as he looked at the ripples emanating from the point the swimmer had disappeared into. He was left to stare wide-eyed at the spot his companion had disappeared into, not truly willing to believe what had just happened. To think this was the end for Redcrest… to be dragged into those haunting depths… no, that couldn’t be true! She could still be alive and if so, he had to make sure she would stay that way! Completely overlooking any threats to himself, the omnivore jumped deeper into the water.

The cold water made every part of his body shiver horrible as the frigid touch seemed to invade his very heart. However, that couldn’t be helped as he looked at the deep blue waters around himself. Time was running out if he wanted to safe the other fastrunner. Where in earth could she be…

The male twitched as he suddenly saw a dark form a bit below him which seemed to be floating around, with no obvious movements to be seen. Swiftsprint’s eyes widened as he realized it was a fastrunner and that there were no obvious injuries in her body. With any luck, he might still be able to save her. The bluish omnivore wasted no time in grabbing the female’s hand and immediately heading back for the surface. However, as he did so, he finally realized that might be easier said than done.

The unconscious fastrunner weighed immensely and Swiftsprint felt his strength grow closer to failing. For a fleeting moment, he thought of simply saving himself as his own breath was also growing short. Yet, he new he couldn’t do that as Redcrest’s very life was hanging in the balance. Swiftsprint narrowed his eyes and concentrated all of his remaining strength into one, final push… The fastrunner felt his lungs ache and pulse sickeningly in his chest as every last bit of his body cried for air. The male did his all to ignore his own pain one second at a time… until he suddenly felt the cool breeze of wind touch his snout after which he took a deep gasp as he attempted to regain control over his body.
He quickly swam towards the shore and he nearly collapsed on top of his belly as he put Redcrest beside him. Every muscle within his body ached as his lungs took every last breath it simply could. Yet, he didn’t forget his companion and he immediately moved to look at the seemingly lifeless female. A look of concern rose to his eyes as he moved towards her and put his hands on her chest.

“This isn’t the end for you, Redcrest! I know it!” He said as he pushed her for a few times, slowly starting to lose hopes that he had any chance to save her anymore. He was just give up and accept reality… until his gloomy thoughts were interrupted by a massive barrage of water from Redcrest’s mouth. She started to twitch likely as she rolled to her side to vomit more of the water away from her innards. Swiftsprint moved to her side to help her calm down as her gasps started to ease slightly.

“Are you alright? Answer me!” He demanded, greatly relieved by that development. He hadn’t met Redcrest many times before but during those times he had grown to respect, even like, the slightly taller fastrunner. The crimson-colored female looked at Swiftsprint with a haunted look, noticing the tool the rescue had taken on her companion. After a few more seconds, she finally answered the obvious question.

“I… I think so, damnit! That… that bastard nearly got me!” She said as she put a hand on her aching head, trying to end the pain as quickly as possible. If Swiftsprint felt miserable, Redcrest felt like a thousand thorns were penetrating her body while having being battered by a threehorn. Still, she knew she would make it now that she was on dry land. Bit by bit, her memories of her encounter started to return to her mind which made her shudder in fear. The male rose with shaky feet to an upright position as he nodded to the brighter-colored fastrunner.

“I’m sorry that the giantjaw managed to escape. There was nothing either of us…” He began when he suddenly heard some odd noise come from the lake. It was a soft, gurgling ground and as he turned to see at its direction, his eyes turned as wide as he simply could open them. The lifeless form of the once-mighty predator slowly appeared back to the surface not far from the shore. The male’s widened as he stared at the sight, never expecting such a thing to happen. He gasped audibly before turning to look at Redcrest again.
The two looked at each other for a short while before exchanging heartfelt smiles. Their efforts had not been naught after all.

“What? Didn’t you just say that the giantjaw escaped?” Arial asked in slight puzzlement. Ruby couldn’t completely hide her amusement even if the earlier melancholy still lingered over her.

“Well, daddy told it was badly wounded so I’d guess that it died shortly after it disappeared from Redcrest’s sight. It seemed like she hurt the swimmer big time.” She said while turning at his father who nodded to her briefly. He waited for a few seconds before giving his answer.

“That is most likely what happened, Ruby. However, that was the first time when those two realized just how well they worked together and as Redcrest promised, she would help Swiftsprint again in the future when he needed help in return. Bit by bit, they grew inseparable and they would eventually become mated to each other. My grandfather told me of many of the things they went through in these lands.” He said, looking as the hues of darkness started to overcome the short day of the Cold Time. He was glad that he had managed to finish his story believably without any major breakups in his composure. However, Ruby was not completely satisfied just yet, a fact that nearly caused a sigh erupt from the older fastrunner.

“But… if he really liked this place so much and he even had a mate here, why in earth did he move away from here towards Hanging Rock? It doesn’t make sense, make sense it doesn’t.” She said, willing to hear this final part of the tale as a way to wrap up her father’s grandfather’s story in a satisfying way. Despite his initial chagrin, Detras was actually happy to hear such a question.

“Well, I’m sure he never wanted to take such a step but he was left with no choice. You see, only a few seasons after the events I just described, this land began to change. The Warm Times grew dryer and hotter which killed most of the green food here, forcing many of our kind to search for other lands that could sustain them. So did Swiftsprint and Redcrest even if neither of them wanted to do it. To be honest, I never was sure if things had gotten better here since those days but I was willing to take a chance considering Red Claw’s threat.

Anyway, that journey took a great toll on both of them but even greater for Redcrest. The two stopped to a place rather near the Valley when it was time for her to lay her eggs but… the lack of food and spreading illnesses got her shortly afterwards. I would have wanted to meet my grandmother too but I never got that chance or neither did my own parents.” He said rather glumly as he thought about his own mother and father who had been caught by the sharpteeth not long after Ruby’s birth. The happiness he remembered at seeing their first grandchild had heartened him greatly but sadly, the fate had robbed the opportunity to see her grow or Orchid and Arial enter the world.

A short moment of respect and slight melancholy passed as a cold gust entered the cave, making each of the fastrunners shiver noticeably. Orchid especially seemed to be suffering from the cold but that didn’t stop him from voicing his gratitude to his father.

“That was quite a tale, dad! It was great to learn more about our family even if those things happened long ago! Thanks for telling us what you know!” He said with a smile, followed by other, similar comments from the rest of his family. A genuine smile rose to Detras’ face as he slowly rose to his feet, knowing this gathering was over. He nodded to the others, speaking in a rather low voice.

“Of course, Orchid. I owe it as much to Swiftsprint to relay his memory to my children as I do to you to provide a pleasant evening in the middle of all that has happened. In fact, I should be thanking you for giving an old fastrunner like me a chance to speak about my younger days.” He smiled half-jokingly, slowly turning around to face the darkening night and the dark shadows of the hills surrounding the Rise, knowing that the time for happy chatter and time for his family to spend time together had passed. Now, the hell would have to begin. Only with great efforts did he managed to keep his composure together as he nodded towards his mate.

“Pearl, there are things I think we should discuss concerning you and the longbeaks and how we should proceed from now on. Children, I bet you are tired after everything that happened today. We’ll return a bit later so be at ease.” He said, waving the aging female to follow him. His face was stoic and Ruby noticed how very quickly his mood dropped after he had finished the story. However, she decided to cast aside those thoughts for now and she only nodded at the two grownups in understanding.

“Alright but don’t linger too long out there! It could be a cold night.” She said simply, welcoming the thought of a well-earned rest as did both of her siblings. Pearl’s face fell slightly as she heard her daughter’s words but with great efforts, she manage to keep calm as she answered.

“We won’t, Ruby. We’ll see all of you tomorrow morning at the very latest.” She said before the two adult omnivores headed down the stone ramp leading to the top of the central hill of the Desolate Rise, leaving the three children alone.

Minutes after minutes passed but for some reason, he simply didn’t manage to get to sleep. Every time he got close, some sharp stone hit his back or another frigid gust nearly froze him alive. He looked his two sisters, deeply jealous of their ability to seize this ability to rest without any problems whereas he was left awoke to curse at every moment that seemed to make his efforts to sleep all the more desperate as more time passed. If this continued, he’d be dead-tired tomorrow and the whole day would be ruined. However, with deep curses, the boy realized that he simply couldn’t enter the world of sleep stories right now.

With an annoyed look, he rose to a sitting position and glanced at his siblings. He had always hated being the last one to fall to sleep but sometimes, it simply couldn’t be helped. Orchid cringed deeply as he rose to his feet and headed towards the opening to the cave. A short walk to calm his nerves even in the cold night was better than to simply lie here in ever-worsening despair. He cringed slightly as he remembered his misadventure last Cold Time when he nearly fell victim to the harsh winds of the Cold Time when he had tried to help his family with the warming fuzz. That journey had turned into a nightmare after which Orchid had learned to fear the raw power of the season. Now, however, he felt that his situation was annoying enough to brave the night for a short walk.

The boy cringed slightly as he felt his foot start to slip forward but with great efforts, Orchid managed to stay on his feet. However, afterwards he turned to look at the many lesser lights of the sky, thinking about everything that had happened today. From his confrontation with the longbeaks to the good news from his father and the sky colors as well as the story… yes, today had been a great day despite the brief moments of danger with the sharpteeth.

Tonight, it seemed like all of the problems that had loomed in the horizon this morning were dealt with. Both of the sharptooth threats had disappeared but the colors still lingered with the fastrunner’s mind. Even if Detras had claimed to know about them, it still seemed to him like they had emanated from some single place, a detail which made him wonder… he shared his sister’s curiosity about the world and in the bottom of his stomach, clear interest started to form concerning that phenomenon. However, now the sky was completely black save for the Night Circle and the endless spots of small lights which made Orchid smile slightly.

After a minute at looking around himself, Orchid finally moved on. Even if he hated the cold and the slippery hard water under the ground sparkles, he still loved the way the world of the Cold Time looked. The glimmering white cover of the land sending its reflection into the dark sky was a magical sight which filled him with joy even if the winds were slowly starting to get under his plumage and besides, the darkness made it very easy to get lost in these hills even if he knew the paths and corridors through the many parts of this area as well as he knew them on Hanging Rock. It wouldn’t be long before the cold would really get to his bones but still, Orchid thought of going on just a little further.
He listened as his feet sank into the white cover of the earth one step after another, the cold wind slowly making him feel a bit sleepy than earlier. Certainly, he could soon…

“…you promised me, Detras! You promised to do everything in your power so we could avoid this!” A horrified, close to a panicked voice suddenly reached Orchid’s ears from his left side, behind another hill which made the sound almost too quiet for the boy to hear but he could without a mistake make out that it belonged to his mother. What had happened? Why was she so upset? Orchid could feel his heart start beating harder in his chest as he headed towards his mother but before he made his presence known, he could hear his father answer the female’s hysteric words.

“And I promise you I did! I attacked them as I told and I nearly got Terri before Dein came to her help! I risked my life more than once and I will not hear you claiming I didn’t give my all!” Detras cried, making Orchid cover deeply into the ground. But… his father had only gone to spy at Chomper’s parents, right? Why in earth was his father suddenly saying he had fought them? What… what was going on?

“Then your “best” was worth nothing! Did you even think your failure would affect us others? Do you have any idea how much it hurts Orchid and Ar…”

“Do you have any idea how much that trash hurts me? Pearl, we already decided we’d do this! Dein gave us until tomorrow to do this or we’ll all be killed before long!” Orchid covered even deeper behind the stone he was hiding behind. Now he was really growing worried. Had his parents really lied about everything to him and his siblings? Why? They had shared everything, both good and bad, with their children before so why was this situation any different? Even worse, the boy had never seen his parents this upset about anything. They had fought before, true, but never before had they been this livid and scared of anything before. His thoughts grew only darker when he heard his mother speak again.

“We did speak of this before but I ask you again, Detras, are you really, truly ready to do this?! ARE YOU?!” She cried as loudly as she could which only caused the hateful look on Detras’ face grew more profound. He took a few seconds to consider his answer and it was much more constrained than the female’s.

“If I have to do it to protect the rest of you, I am. But believe me when I say, I would end my own life rather than to be forced to kill Ruby. And I know you’d do the same.” He said, offering his hand as a gesture of acceptance to his mate. However, they were those words that finally brought Orchid’s world crashing down. His parents were… planning to kill Ruby? B… but why? H… how could they even… The boy simply stared at the stone before him, his mind unable to process what he had just heard. Everything felt just… empty. Dream… no, nightmare-like. He breathed deeply as he heard his mother speak again.

“I certainly would, Detras! I care about all of you more than you can even imagine! But I’m not sure my heart was in my words when I agreed to your proposal. I… I was there to watch her hatch, witnessing her first smile… how could I agree to that? Yet… I know that’s something we have to do.” At this point, tears started to fall from Orchid’s eyes as he leaned against the rock, his desperate breaths slowly growing deeper but also less frequent. His parents talking about murdering his beloved sister behind her back without a good reason…

“It certainly is, Pearl. Either we will have two children or we’ll have none. The pain will go away in time. I promise, my love.” He said, as he wrapped his hands around his mate who sobbed inconsolably against his shoulder. Both of them would have wanted to collapse to the ground and simply decide against moving on. Bur Detras knew he was bound to his family with far more bonds than he could ever imagine and Pearl knew she’d do anything to grow old with her beloved mate and beautiful twins. The two consoled each other with their touch than they ever could with words, giving each other just enough courage to move on.

Orchid’s entire world seemed to start crumbling all around him. All he could see was the dark surface of the rock as his mind raced in his outrage and despair. What could he do? Who could he turn to? His parents had just done something he’d never forgive them. How could they even imagine of killing Ruby “in order to save the others”. What the hell? Slowly, Orchid grew more fearful than sorrowful as he started to think of the implications. How long would it take for the two to begin sacrificing their other children for some supposed greater good? At this point, no wisdoms his parents had told him were in his mind, only the utter emptiness of betrayal and disbelief. There was only one thing to do: the boy turned around and headed into the night while his parents slowly broke their embrace. Pearl sniffed heavily before turning back at her mate.

“H… how shall we do this? We cannot let Orchid and Arial learn the truth… it would break their hearts.” She said with a wavering voice, looking at a twinkling lesser light of the sky far over her. Any trace of beauty in this horror story helped in preventing her complete mental collapse. Detras moved on her side before turning her gaze back towards him. He whispered in a silent voice, not having to underline his own resignation and sorrow.

“Of course we cannot. There’s only one way to do it: to ask her to come with us and… hope she will understand everything before… before it happens. We’ll have tell Arial and Orchid that it was a sharptooth that got her. That’s all that we can do.” He said, choking heavily as he thought about what was to happen. He was in ease with his actions with Dein and Terri earlier as he did absolutely everything in his power to avoid this debacle. But… sometimes he wasn’t given a choice. Pearl looked at him for a short while before nodding at him briefly. She clearly struggled to speak but after a while, she finally managed to form some kind of answer.

“It is, dear. Let’s do it now. If… if I have to wait for any longer, I don’t know what I’ll do. This nightmare has to end.” She said before earning a brief nod from the male. He knew that nothing he would say would change anything so he decided to simply imply his agreement without words. There was no turning back now. Both of the fastrunners knew that they were doing this for the sake of their family and in the end, only their ancestors and the Night Circle would decide if they did the right thing or not.

Deep breaths of fear escaped from Orchid’s mouth as he forced himself back to his feet after another slippery spot of hard water below the ground sparkles. No coherent thoughts swirled in his mind, only primal feelings of horror and hopelessness. He had absolutely no idea what he’d have to do after this night but for now, he would have to warn Ruby at all costs. He looked in expectation as the mouth of the cave grew closer to him and after a few seconds, he panted in gratefulness as he felt the frigid wind stop around himself. But those feelings were now only fit to be cast aside as the form of his older sister came to his sight. Right now, he was grateful that Arial was a heavy sleeper as he didn’t want anyone else get involved in this mess, at least not yet. He ran quickly to Ruby’s side and pulled her arm in order to catch her attention.

“Ruby, please, wake up now! WAKE UP!” He said as he pulled her harder, knowing time was off the essence. Slowly, the girl’s eyes opened as the cover of sleep started to drift from her mind. She turned immediately to Orchid whose horrified gaze woke her up immediately.

“What’s wrong, Orchid? Why did you wake me up?” She asked, growing increasingly worried as she looked at her brother’s fearful face. What had happened? At first she thought he must have had a bad sleep story but… her brother had never been this disturbed before. She rose to her feet to face the younger fastrunner, willing to get into the bottom of this immediately. However, the answer she received was beyond her worst dreams. Orchid kept his voice silent but his tone was hysteric and each gesture he let out only deepened his sense of mental distress.

“Mommy… daddy… THEY’VE GONE MAD! THEY’RE GOING TO KILL YOU!” He nearly cried, tears falling down his cheeks. He looked at his sister nearly pleadingly, starting to sob inconsolably as Ruby looked at him in concern and puzzlement. What? What had he just said? Certainly, he must be only confused by something that happened in his dreams. She took a more comforting voice and tried to put her hand on Orchid’s shoulder.

“Calm down, Orchid. You must have only seen it in your sleep stories. You know mommy and dad…” She started but the boy immediately wiped her hand away from his shoulders and looked at his sister with teary eyes. She wasted no time giving her his answer which, if anything, sounded even more desperate than before.

“I heard it with my own ears, Ruby! You have to believe me! I… I was having a hard time sleeping and… and then I went out to talk and… they were there! I heard it all! Please, listen to me!” He pleaded, burying his head in Ruby’s chest as the girl put her hands around him, looking before her in utter shock. Certainly, Orchid must have been mistaken. There was no way either of her parents would even consider such a thing. Even thinking such a thing was ridiculous but even then… she could see how very distressed her brother
was. Chills crept down her spine as she tried to calm down and think clearly. After a moment, she whispered to Orchid in a silent voice.

“Where did you see this all, Orchid? Tell me everything.” She said, slowly turning to look at her brother who showed no signs of calming down. After a small moment, he wailed his answer as he his cries grew more severe.

“There’s no time! They’re coming for you! I heard them only say they’re willing to kill you in order to protect the rest of us!” He cried, making Ruby’s eyes widen in realization. So that was it. Had Chomper’s parents actually agreed to let the rest of her family to be safe if she was dead along with Chomper? Now, it all made so much more sense… her father’s odd quest to look for the sharpteeth, her parents’ odd behavior earlier today… Tears appeared to Ruby’s eyes too as she understood what it was all about, even if she had never expected her parents to go that far. After many seconds of staring into the dark night, she pulled Orchid further away from her and knelt to his height, putting both of her hands on his shoulders. Her voice wavered greatly as she spoke but her gaze was unhinged by the obvious swirl of emotions within her mind.

“Orchid, listen to me. Thank you for telling me all of this but if what you tell me is true, I have no choice but to agree with mommy and daddy. All of this mess is my fault and if I have to pay for it, then all is as it has to be. I’ve wronged far too many dinosaurs in my days and I’m more than ready to at least make some of them right. There were times I didn’t expect to make it even far enough to meet you again.” She said, the swelling whirlpool of emotions making her hands shake. She meant every word she said even if she hated herself without an end for saying them. To think this night would be her last… it was completely unbelievable and something Ruby’s taxed mind couldn’t even start to process properly. However, it wasn’t long before Orchid snapped back at her, his eyes wide shock and disappointment.

“You cannot be serious, Ruby! You cannot just throw your life away like that! Don’t you remember all the times we’ve had together? Don’t you see any reason to go on? Also, I don’t know much about them but I’m sure your old friends in the Valley also would want you to go on!” He said, taking a few steps back in clear fear and disbelief, not wanting to believe his ears. To think Ruby had just said what she had… it hurt him almost as deeply as his parents’ words. Had everybody just gone crazy? His parents had suddenly an urge to kill one of their children and Ruby being completely fine with it?

The older fastrunner was about to answer when the full impact of Orchid’s words hit her. The sense of responsibility still swirled within her and the omnivore knew without a doubt that giving her life was a worthy price to pay for ensuring those of her siblings’. However, she couldn’t deny the other part of her mind. Indeed, she had absolutely no wish to make this sacrifice as she still had so very much to see in this world. She had found her family again and made two friends on the way and proven her mastery of the wisdoms of the fastrunner in her confrontations with the sharpteeth. Even more, she was the last one to carry on the memories of her friends from the Valley… those precious memories of bygone, better days…

And to claim that she wasn’t heartened by Orchid’s concern towards her would have been a big, fat lie. In fact, she had seldom felt this happy by the gestures someone else had shown towards her as the caring was more than apparent in his face. Ruby brought her hand to her head and shook it slightly, trying to fight her rising headache. She was just about to answer when she suddenly heard something that made her blood run cold. A footstep not far from the cave’s opening. She immediately moved closer to Orchid and spoke to him urgently.

“Pretend to be sleeping, Orchid! I don’t want them to know that I know!” She said, smiling as Orchid immediately as he was told and she immediately followed suit. Orchid had provided her with a chance to navigate through this situation and prepare for what was to come. But about its outcome, the young fastrunner couldn’t say.

“Stay silent, dear. We mustn’t wake Arial or Orchid.” Detras said with a heavy heart as the forms of his three children opened before him. He could see nothing out of the ordinary in that scene as both Orchid and Ruby had moved to the same sleeping spots as earlier. To his eyes, it seemed like everything was a it was supposed to be… at least for a few moments. Detras narrowed his eyes as he moved towards Ruby before tapping her shoulder very much in the same way as his son had only a few minutes earlier. He spoke to her soothingly, enabling Ruby to end her little act. She tried to sound drowsy as she looked at her father, yawning as she opened her mouth.

“What is it daddy? Can this not wait until the morning?” Ruby felt terrible for even being forced into this situation as she still couldn’t believe she was in the situation she now found herself in. Pearl moved to her mate’s side, speaking stoically to Ruby. Neither of the two looked anywhere near natural but they hoped their daughter would still trust them enough.

“It cannot, Ruby. It’s something that simply has to be done now or things will get worse for all of us. Come now.” She waved before turning away, walking as if her legs had lost the ability to bend at all. At this point, Ruby knew everything her brother had told her was true. Something was severely bothering her parents and why else would they be attempting to lure her somewhere where she’d be safe from her siblings’ gazes? Still, Ruby knew she couldn’t reveal she knew anything about this as it would immediately tie Orchid into this mess… and no matter what, he had already given Ruby a major advantage by telling her of the threat. But with any luck, she might be able to speak herself out of this nightmare.

“Oh… alright. But let’s not go too far as the wind is cold out there.” She said, trying to also sound as natural as she could but her efforts, too, brought little success. Her parents turned to move outside into the darkness. Ruby followed them shortly but she took great care to always have an easy escape route… if that was what she’d decide soon enough. The three fastrunners walked to the small plain in the middle of the Rise before the grave silence was broken. The first speaker was Pearl whose former sorrow slowly turned into a mix of sickened self-hate and sorrow.

“Ruby, dear… we asked you here because… well, we did not tell you everything about Chomper’s parents.” She said with a sigh, making Ruby’s heart sink immediately. Here it was. In a matter of seconds, her own parents would tell her they’d kill her themselves. That thought was something she still couldn’t process as she looked at her parents. Detras sighed
in disgust as he looked at Ruby in apology.

“Everything I told you about my journey… all of it was a lie. I never thought I’d find any real ways to get anyone to help us against two sharpteeth! No, I went to meet Dein and Terri themselves. And… I found a way to save our family from their vengeance.” He spat out in clear disgust, knowing Ruby would have deserved better than this. The aging male was somewhat taken aback when he saw that not one muscle twitched within his daughter’s face. Ruby looked at him for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and finally giving her answer.

“By making up for Chomper’s death by… making me follow him, is that it?” She asked in a voice that was barely audible. She was truly growing fearful at this point as the conflicting feelings inside her grew ever more divided. She barely noticed as her mother gasped in surprise at her daughter’s answer as she was too deep within her own thoughts. However, as the older female started to speak, Ruby raised her gaze at Pearl.

“H… how did you guess?” She asked, not willing to believe Ruby had expected this from her parents. To think she and her mate had brought such doubts to their daughter’s mind… she suddenly felt even more guilty than what she had previously expected. Ruby’s gaze turned into the ground momentarily before she turned to look at the older omnivores in turns. She cringed deeply when she saw her parents’ bothered faces but she saw no reason not to answer Pearl’s question.

“Mommy… from the very moment you woke me up, I could sense something was horribly wrong. I could see no real reason for you to call me here and when daddy told me about what he was really after… there were no other possibilities than this.” She said while crossing her arms, fear grabbing her entire arms as she looked almost pleadingly at her parents. Guilt and hope swirled within her as she thought about what to do: no matter her choice, she’d bring even more pain and sadness to those she loved, as if her previous record on that front wasn’t enough. After a moment, Detras shook his head and tried to approach Ruby but the younger halftooth took as many steps back as her father took forward. Then, he stopped still as she finally addressed Ruby with tears in his eyes.

“Ruby… believe us when we say neither of us wish any ill for you. It just is the only way we can turn the sharpteeth away for good. Please, we cannot ask you to accept it but at least understand why…” He started but before he could finish, Ruby snapped back at him, her eyes growing moist too as she prepared answer to any moves from her parents.

“Understand why I have to die in order to save you from a threat we’ve dealt with before? Mommy, daddy… I know why you agreed to do this and I remember very well when you told me that a Pack, or family’s, safety was the most important thing. And if it came to that, I would give my life to save Arial and Orchid but… we don’t have to go that far! I know you thought that such an idea was a bad one but I ordered one of the longbeaks to get the word to Stealth! With any luck, he will help us against those two! But no matter what, my brother and sister don’t deserve this… I can only imagine how badly what you are planning to do would hurt them.” Ruby said, praying her parents would listen to her. She had made a terrible gambit calling Stealth here but he was the only one who could even hope to stand against Chomper’s parents. However, it was clear that neither of her parents were exactly excited about her words.

“You… you did what? Didn’t I tell you one sailback cannot help us? If anything, he…” Pearl suddenly stopped as she realized the implications of what Ruby’s move would be. If Dein and Terri learned they’d have to fight another sharpteeth because of the fastrunners… Detras seemed even more enraged by Ruby’s words and he started to slowly walk towards Ruby, paying great attention to the duo’s surroundings.

“… he will ruin any hopes we had of buying a hard-fought peace for our family! Ruby, there is a reason we prohibited such a folly and you would have done well to listen to us! Stealth will only make things all the worse for all of us!” He said as he looked at Ruby approaching a wall at the southern end of the Desolate Rise’s central plateau. A horrified look appeared to Ruby’s eyes as she looked at her father whose apologetic look had suddenly turned into an angered one. Ruby stuttered in despair as she answered to her parents.

“B… but I know he can take those two out! I hunted besides him! Please, listen to me, you don’t have to do…” She started before she stepped on a pile of lose rocks which sent her falling into the ground and before she could even rise to her feet, she could see her parents cut her ways of escape from this trap. She had allowed this moment of fear rid her of her earlier care which had plunged her into this nightmare. This seemed something out of her worst sleep stories as she looked at the broken and hateful looks on her parents’ faces. After a short while, Pearl finally gave her answer.

“I’m so sorry, Ruby, but it is too late for that now. I just hope you can find it in yourself to forgive us.” She said, preparing to do the last thing she had ever wanted. The picture of her mother’s claw was reflected in her eyes against the night sky, signaling to Ruby that the time for her decision had come. For a fleeting moment, she thought of simply resigning and giving her family the best chance to move on. It was the right thing to do on so many ways… and it would also make her pain and guilt fade away once and for all.

However, some small voice deep insider her prevented her from completely giving up just yet. The distant, primal call that resided within every living being cried out in the girl’s mind not to throw her life away like this. Besides that, the horrified look in Orchid’s eyes at the thought of losing his sister like this still returned to her mind. That small moment still lingered within Ruby, reminding her of the love she still shared with her siblings. Even if her death would only help them in their own lives, something within Orchid’s words still prevented Ruby from resigning like this. The Circle of Life had began and a fastrunner should try to follow it until he or she could do that no longer. As her mother was only one arm’s length away from her, Ruby’s expression changed completely as she covered against the wall.

“I won’t let you do this, mommy and daddy. There are still other ways out of this crisis in addition to this. Back off!” She suddenly cried but her call didn’t seem to register in her parents’ faces in any way. If anything, their faces grew more anguished but also more resolute. Detras wasted no time trying to tie his daughter against the wall but at the very same moment as he touched her, she hit back at him, causing a bleeding wound to his chest. Pearl frowned deeply as she looked at her mate who gasped slightly at Ruby’s attack.

“Ruby, I warn you, don’t make this any…” He said in a pleading voice but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. Ruby merely took a more confrontational stance even if she hated attacking her own father like this but in the end, it was he who had asked for it. She spoke in a low voice, signaling she meant every word she said.

“Not until you step back, daddy!” She cried, causing Detras and Pearl to exchange one, morbid glance with each other. After a brief moment, both of them attacked towards Ruby, attempting to pin her against the soft ground. The younger fastrunner was completely taken aback by this assault and she was completely stunned by her parents’ deed. She was taken down almost immediately and panic started to grow within Ruby as her head hit the cold earth. She could hardly move as she heard Pearl’s sobbing and inconsolable voice
whisper to her.

“Farewell, Ruby. We will never forget you.” She said as he prepared to strike at Ruby’s neck, ending her struggles once and for all. Ruby’s eyes opened wide in panic and only a few moments before her mother was prepared to hit her, Ruby managed to kick the older female with her left leg, scratching three deep wounds into her leg. Pearl cried in pain and before realizing what she was doing, she had let Ruby free of her grasp.

Detras cursed at this as the younger fastrunner tried to escape past her mother but he wasn’t about to let her off the hook. As Ruby struggled to rise to her full length, the male grabbed her leg, causing her to fall again and he tied the girl against the ground with his leg. That hit caused all the air in Ruby’s lungs to be flushed out and for a few seconds, she thought this was it. However, she suddenly realized that below her was a thicker than usual cover of ground sparkles and with a defiant push, again freed herself from the horrifying fate and at the same time, tripping her father.

Pearl, however, saw an opening as Ruby tried to again rise to her feet. She suddenly grabbed her daughter’s hand and hit her back again and managed to force her back against the wall to the fastrunners’ right. Ruby cringed as she tried to turn around but her mother’s grip grew tighter by the second. She could feel her mother shudder in sadness but that apparently had little effect to her ability to make things ever more dangerous to her daughter. After she forced Ruby head lower towards the ground, she suddenly raised her leg and scratched many deep wounds into Ruby’s belly before hitting her forehead against the wall, knowing this her chance to end it all.

Those hits made every part of Ruby’s body hurt terribly even if her consciousness seemed to grow dim for a brief moment. Even if she had hoped it were otherwise, she was beginning to fear she couldn’t escape from this trap anymore. She looked her mother’s raised claws getting reflected against the cold stone by the light of the Night Circle, that sight causing her struggles to only grow more desperate. Suddenly, she realized she had only one chance to get away from this nightmare.

Concentrating each and every bit of her strength into her legs, she suddenly jumped against the wall and then bounced back at her mother, revealing her claws, hoping this effort to give her the opening she needed. At first, she was more than happy by her success a the scream of pain that followed as both of the females fell into the ground. However, as she finally returned to her feet, she saw something that made her heart skip a beat.

Her mother was lying in the ground, holding her left eye with both of her hands, her cries penetrating the Cold Time’s night. At first Ruby was puzzled by what had happened but soon enough, she could see the fruits of her hit. A long wound could be seen stretching from both sides of the eye, the streams of blood and the white contents of the sphere mixing as they flowed down the hapless fastrunner’s cheeks. In this moment, a wave of doubt flushed over Ruby as she saw the fastrunner who had cared and tended for her for her entire childhood cry like a horrified hatchling because of her actions. That sight only told her how very, very wrong all of this really was and the sight of Pearl’s ruined eye nearly made her collapse to her knees. Her mood was hardly improved as Detras cried loudly as he knelt to her mate’s side.

“Are you alright, dear? Let me take a look…” He said, seemingly forgetting all about Ruby as he prepared to tend for his mate. The male knew just how much that decision could hurt him and his loved ones in the weeks to come but he simply couldn’t watch his beloved mate suffering like this. They had seen so much together and he couldn’t simply do anything else but to try to help Pearl in her hour of need. Still, he couldn’t help but twitch in horror as he watched Pearl lower her hand from her eyes, allowing Detras to see

The entire surface of the eye was sliced open and its contents were still spilling out, the rest of the eye quickly turning completely white. He felt severe nausea as he looked at the sight realized that there was no way to save the eye’s sight anymore.

This fact wasn’t lost on Ruby either and she could feel terrible guilt rise within her. To think this was her fault… All the happy memories of them together flashed before her eyes, most of all her last starday with them… She had always regarded that as her life’s happiest days and she could still remember how she felt as she looked at her parents’ caring and loving faces… Ruby shook her head in disbelief, tears dropping into the white ground before she finally answered to her parents.

“I’m sorry, mommy and daddy. I’m so very sorry for everything. I hope you will make it through the Cold Time. I really do.” She said before she turned around and sprinted into the night, knowing there was no turning back anymore. She choked horribly as she thought about what had happened but it simply couldn’t be helped. But once again, her family was in real danger of being forced to pay for her mistakes, something that had happened so many times already. As she headed into the frigid wastes all alone, one thought alone formed in her mind.

Farewell, Arial and Orchid. How very much I would have liked to stay with you. Just… forgive me if you only can. And Yarel and Greentail… hopefully we’ll meet again one day.

In the cold wind of the night, she thought she heard a voice that resembled that of her father’s but that mattered little. All that mattered now was that she would be able to save herself from this fate and try to find some new purpose in this world. It wasn’t long until the young fastrunner disappeared into the long night of the Cold Time, turning her back to her family and to the place she had been ready to call her home.

After the horrifying encounter with her parents, Ruby is once again alone in the world and for the first time, she has absolutely no one to turn to. Where will her path lead after this most horrifying of nights? With this chapter, we’ve passed 300k words which is truly an astonishing number! In fact, when I started writing this fic, that was the absolute word cap I thought this story would ever reach. Well, my plans have apparently changed since then. In any case, go ahead and share your thoughts of this chapter!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 03:19:16 PM by Sovereign »


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #89 on: November 15, 2018, 09:32:20 PM »
( @Sovereign Please note that I accidentally posted an incomplete draft version of my review on and that site unfortunately does not permit the editing of reviews once posted - so this is the complete review that I intended to send out with this chapter)

Wow!  Where is one to begin with this chapter?  Though we, the readers, know what terrible bargain Detras has made with the sharpteeth the rest of the fastrunner family is unaware of the horror to come.  Only Pearl's momentarily loss of control gives away the terribleness of the situation, and perhaps it is this that subconsciously makes Orchid rise early and listen in on the fateful conversation.  Ruby's attempt to point out another way forward, and her eventual need to strike out and to save herself, are both played well considering the circumstances.

This chapter certain opens up several questions for me in what we are going to see in the near-future.  With Orchid knowing the truth of what his parents tried to do, and presumably seeing the damage done to his mother from the attempt, I wonder what he will do from this point on.  It would be difficult to carry on in a family unit if you knew that attempted filicide had been committed regardless of the motivations. Additionally for the parents this puts them in a hard spot.  I think that they must flee at this point as Dein and Terri's offer of clemency for their family has now been rejected by events.  With the events of this chapter both Ruby and Petrie are now untied to their old families in many ways and must make their own way in this confusing and dark world.  I have a feeling that this is a major pivot for the story in many ways.  Now the two children, Ruby and Petrie, must truly go separate ways in the hopes of restoring a bit of peace and sanity to the world they inhabit.

Though it is on that note that I hope you will forgive me if I comment a bit on the general tone of the story.  Because there is one aspect of the last several chapters that I do think might turn off some readers.  Though what I am about to say is entirely my subjective opinion, I would be surprised if some others would not share it to some extent.  So I hope you will not be offended with the following observations.

I think it is very important when writing a dark narrative, which this tale certainly does, to also make sure that there are moments of levity and hope in the overarching narrative.  This balance has been done for much of this story, but I do feel that the darkness of the narrative does overwhelm the plot quite often in the more recent chapters.  In the last several chapters, for example, Pterano has died, Petrie has been disowned by the flyer pack, we have learned that the valley has turned distrustful of others and paranoid, we have learned that something must have happened to Tria, we have learned that Littlefoot's grandparents have basically left the valley in despair and that Littlefoot went after them, we have seen Ruby's father make a deal to kill his own daughter so that the rest of his family can live, and now we have seen the destruction of his plan and Ruby's departure from her loved ones.  That is a lot to take in and to absorb emotionally.  The plot that has been presented thus far is logical and follows a clear narrative (while still having unexpected twists and turns), but it does create an emotional chasm from which many readers might wish to escape by putting the story down.  Or, to put it another way, I think the plot pacing is fine, as is the characterizations of the characters, but I have concerns about the emotional pacing of the story over the last five chapters or so. 

That being said, this chapter certainly sets Ruby up for an interesting journey into the unknown.  Now, like Petrie, her old life lays in ruins behind her and she must make her own way into the world.  Only time will tell what she makes of this new life.  As before, I look forward to finding out.  :)
« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 01:39:38 AM by rhombus »

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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #90 on: November 29, 2018, 03:13:04 PM »
An Old Course

”…and that is how me managed to return to the Valley, Guido. It wasn’t easy but… here we are.” Petrie said as he took a deep sigh while turning his gaze at the new glimmering lake below himself, marveling at the sight from the cliff he and Guido had decided to set while they’d exchange news from the events of the past weeks. The sight of the Valley was still a glorious one and the thought that one day not in the too distant future the waters would recede and the sanctuary of the leaf eaters could return to what it once was heartened him slightly. Guido glanced at Petrie quickly before he chuckled slightly.

“You know, Petrie, I thought I had a hard time lately but I think I’ll just forget that. I’m so sorry for your uncle. I would have wanted to meet him some time.” Guido said he saw a distant glimmer in Petrie’s face which had turned into a somewhat dreamy one. The green-colored boy thought Petrie would be devastated after such a journey but instead, the flyer seemed relaxed, even hopeful for reasons he had some inkling about. After a few seconds, Petrie finally turned to Guido and spoke in a rather high-pitched voice.

“Petrie will miss uncle Pterano as long as me live but neither would he want me to mourn about him all the time. And me had some friends to help me through it all so it wasn’t all gloomy. But what about you? Why you have bad times here?” He asked out of mere politeness as his real thoughts were fixed with his family and Littlefoot. The boy still worried about the former but the news about Littlefoot’s survival breathed new hope, one whose like Petrie couldn’t remember feeling ever before. Somewhere out there, one of his beloved friends still lived and one way or another, Petrie would find him again. The flyer felt slightly guilty for ignoring Guido like this but this was one piece of news he had prayed for for weeks. Guido understood this too but he still answered to his closest friend.

“Oh well, it wasn’t anything major. I was only lonely because the others still think I’m far too weird and odd for them and well, you know, the things that happened here didn’t exactly help either. I felt miserable more than once but hey, I survived through those times too and it’s hard to believe things will get worse from this point. Except when the Cold Time finally hits the Valley.” The glider said with a slight smirk but really, he believed in his own words. The feeling of immediate fighting had passed and the Valley was already recovering. Besides, Petrie had also made it which made Guido more than a bit relieved. Petrie looked at him for a moment while taking a breath as the Bright Circle warmed his beak.

“That should happen soon as it is already in full swing elsewhere. And me sorry you felt that way without me and the others but trust in Petrie, me too would want to return things to what they were only a few cycles of the Night Circle ago. But… me like to ask, do you know anything about where me family went? Cera’s dad and the others didn’t tell me anything about it.” Petrie said, struggling to calm down and trust in his mother’s judgement. All their life, she had taken care of his siblings and even now, Petrie couldn’t believe she’d do anything brash like simply heading into the Mysterious Beyond without knowing anything where she was heading towards. However, Guido’s shaking of his head hardly raised hopes within the flyer’s mind.

“Nope. I spoke very little with them after you were gone and even if I had, I doubt your mom would have told me if she didn’t tell it to anyone other here. She just seemed to want to get away from here as quickly as possible.” Guido said as he looked at the fuming of the Smoking Mountains far, far in the distance. He still loved this place but this wasn’t the first time he wished he had more friends, or even a family, to share it with. That was still his dream and the temporary loss of all his friends only underlined his need to do that. Petrie frowned at his answer, one detail bothering him greatly.

“Do you really say nobody has any idea which way me family went? Not one dinosaur in the whole Valley?” He frowned, not able to believe absolutely no one had any idea of their destination. However, Guido merely shrugged as he answered.

“Not at far as I know, Petrie! Believe me, I’d tell you if I only knew anything about it! If there’s anyone who could have an inkling, ask the other flyers! They could at least have some kind of guess where they went!” He exclaimed, causing Petrie to sigh and raise his eyes to the bright sky, hoping he had simply heard another answer to this one question. Apparently his mother was even angrier at the Valley than Guido seemed to imply. To think that she’d take her whole family to the unknown to simply escape whatever had happened… Petrie shook those thoughts away and he then turned back at the other boy, willing to shed some light to another issue that bothered him.

“Well, me guess me could ask them later. But, Guido, nobody really told Petrie anything about Littlefoot! How was he when he came here? What had happened to him? Wh… where did he think his grandparents had gone?” Petrie asked urgently, frowning as he looked at his friend who sighed deeply. It was clear Guido wasn’t too happy with those memories but on the other hand, neither did they seem to bother him greatly either. Still, it was odd for Petrie to see his old friend this serious.

“Oh, Petrie… Littlefoot seemed to be doing even worse than you did. He was completely famished and he looked like he had wandered those wastes forever! He was nearly unconscious by his lack of water but at least he became better once he spent some time in the Valley. But, as you can guess, that didn’t make him feel any… um, better, as long as he thought you and the others were no longer in this world. But seeing you here, I wonder if some others of your friends might still be alive?” Guido proposed suddenly, willing to say something that would make his friend feel better.

He was slightly disappointed as he saw no major change in Petrie’s expression. On the outside, Petrie seemed to be and in reality was overwhelmed by his still-lingering mental and physical fatigue but inside, Guido’s words made a bigger impact. Littlefoot’s survival hardly meant the others had made it too but… what if Guido was right? What if all of the others had actually survived the… no, he simply couldn’t believe it after this time. Wishful thinking would get him nowhere and if those hopes would get crushed, things would only look darker than if that ray of hope had never been there. He simply pushed that thought aside as he answered to the glider.

“Me sorry for not being here back then but Petrie… well, it no matter. But what Littlefoot do while he was here?” Petrie said, trying to calm his nerves after everything that had happened today. He simply wanted to hear what Guido knew to form the best possible picture of the state of affairs. Guido rose to stand, regretting his reunion with Petrie being this serious. Still, he understood Petrie more than well and he smiled at him slightly as he answered.

“Aside from recovering and trying to gather his thoughts, not exactly too much. Things were even worse for him than they were for you as Mr. Clubtail tried to prevent his return even more than yours. I guess he saw Littlefoot more responsible for everything than you and that… fight left its mark on him. I, Etta and even Thicknose tried to cheer him during those long days but nothing of it seemed to help him at that point.

It was sad to see him seem so down during those days but he made it very clear he wanted at least some closure by finding you others or his grandparents. We tried to make him see reason but… one night he was simply gone. He didn’t say a word to anyone nor did he imply in any way this would be his time to begin his search. It just happened. I’m sorry, Petrie, but that’s all I know.” Guido said to his friend whose gaze again seemed to look into the infinite distance. His friend had never acted this way before but on the other hand, so much had happened since they last met that would explain his changed behavior.

Petrie, on the other hand, tried to make something coherent out of everything he had heard. He tried to ignore all the pain he had caused to the longneck with his mere absence from the Valley in his hour of need. He’d help no one by blaming himself for something he didn’t know was even happening. However, the flyer tried to make some sense of where Littlefoot could be by now. If he had tried to head after his grandparents, then he could have most likely went to the same direction he and his friends had went originally: to the same desert where they had met the fateful Sand Cloud. But it had been many, many days since Littlefoot’s departure and if he had found his grandparents, they would be back by now. But if that wasn’t the case…

“Uhh, are you alright, Petrie? Can you hear me?” The green glider asked with some concern as he looked at Petrie who finally woke up from his thoughts with his friend’s help. His eyes widened immediately as he twitched back to this world, turning to look at Guido.

“Wh… yep, me alright. Petrie… just thought about everything you said. Me just concerned about me family and Littlefoot… I’d really like to know where they are now.” He said, seemingly relaxing from his earlier thoughtful composure. He felt his head starting to slightly ache from all the things it had been put through today but that didn’t change the fact that today had in many ways went far better than the boy had dared to hope for. His earlier despair was turning into a mix of concern and hope, something which was a major improvement from his earlier mood. Guido frowned slightly as he could quite easily read everything that went within Petrie’s mind.

“Of course you do, Petrie. That’s what friends are for, right? I would have wanted to know it too but finding him now would be far too difficult.” He said somewhat glumly, also hoping Littlefoot was here. Petrie, however, took a distant smile to his face as he thought about his friend’s words. He had seldom wanted to brag about his gift to his friends but this time, he had a good reason for it.

“Maybe to you but a flyer can cover far greater distances within a day than you can imagine. Petrie is sure that many flyers have at least seen his grandparents and where they are, Littlefoot will be sooner or later. Petrie sure about it.” He said, taking an even sentimental look to his face. Guido, on the other hand, didn’t mind his friend’s slight jeer in any way as he understood completely what Petrie meant. However, his implications unnerved Guido somewhat as Petrie’s sounded too confident for his liking. He stuttered slightly as he spoke to his friend.

“Does that mean… that you’re planning to…” He asked questioningly, causing a slight laugh come from Petrie’s beak. He was somewhat amused by Guido’s concerns even if he understood his point of view too. His face suddenly shed the earlier concerns ad he looked more relaxed than he had in weeks as he gave his answer.

“Not if me won’t get any ideas where either me family or Littlefoot went! Even a flyer cannot search the whole world alone. Me will ask the others later but for now, me am just happy to be here again. Petrie don’t believe there any place more beautiful than the Valley anywhere in the Mysterious Beyond.” He said, looking at the trees of the Valley swaying in the winds by the small rivers dotting the green hills of the famed land, only now realizing how wondrous this place was compared to the lands around it. Guido nodded at his friend before turning his own gaze too to the lands around him, willing to share this peaceful moment with Petrie. Even if the other dinosaurs around them had trouble seeing the good things around them, none of them were lost to Petrie who only now seemed to awaken to this obvious reality after the past weeks. Even after everything he had went through, this was still his home. Guido answered after a long wait to his friend, sounding slightly unsure as he spoke.

“I didn’t expect so either. I wish I remembered where I came from, though. It’s just so weird that I have no memories about that place.” He said, regretting how very little he had actually seen that he still remembered. It was as if his life had began only a few Cold Times ago but what in earth had there been before? He frowned as he thought about that fact when Petrie answered.

“Me can’t say, Guido, but me would help if there was anything me could do. But Guido, things won’t get any better if me just stay here waiting for something. Maybe Etta knows something about where me family could have gone.” He said, knowing that Etta had also been a Farwalker once and with any luck, she would have ideas on possible places his family could have decided to flee the Valley’s problems to. Guido nodded to his friend briefly, understanding his sentiment perfectly. He had expected nothing else from the flyer and he wasted no time answering his comment.

“I hope so too. In fact, if anyone can help you with that problem, it must be her. Good luck, Petrie!” He said, immediately realizing that inside, Petrie had already made up his mind. His mind was already fixed on finding his family and friend and no force on this world would prevent him from doing just that. Petrie nodded to the glider and then exclaimed to him happily.

“See you later, Guido, and thanks for your help!” He said as he jumped over the cliff, entering another gust of wind to take him towards the Sinking Sand where he had last seen Etta head towards. Guido smiled after his friend, slowly starting to wonder about his own decision for the future. But for now, he was only happy to see Petrie safe and sound and that was all the green-colored boy had wanted in the past weeks. After a few moments, he, too, spread his wings and in a matter of seconds, he was gone.

The earlier meeting’s true impact had started to dawn on the yellow flyer only after it had ended and it hardly improved her mood any.  Mr. Clubtail had been difficult to stand ever since the loss of his mate but the way he had treated Littlefoot and Petrie made her see red. Even if they had decided to befriend Chomper, it wasn’t because of either of them that the tragedy had come to pass. Deep inside, she couldn’t even bring herself to truly blame Chomper for it because she knew more than well why he had done what he had but that was one thing she knew she’d have to keep to herself.

An annoyed thud escaped from Etta’s beak as she dropped a pile of branches into a growing pile of them near the walls of the Valley, taking some solace from the fact that the trash that had once nearly coated the Valley was growing sparse. Soon, the work of the past weeks would be complete and with any hope, things would start to return to normal afterwards. She panted a few seconds as she looked around herself, noting how the other flyers, the domeheads and the swimmers helped in exploring the new lakes and in cleaning up their common home. Maybe there was still something to hope for from the Valley’s future.

However, her gaze fell slightly as she saw Mr. Threehorn in the distance, not able to help but feel sorry for the aging male. Lately, he had only tried to do what was good for the Valley but all he had got from it was distrust from the domeheads, the hollowhorns and even his mate who had been beyond devastated by the loss of her stepdaughter. And to make things even worse, the massive storm and the waters flooding into the Valley had then taken Tria with them.

Yes, the threehorn’s life had been one big strategy in the past cycles of the Night Circle but the way he had carried his burden was something that made Etta’s respect for him to grow immensely. Under his earlier rough composure had been a kind and strong dinosaur who now had finally been revealed to those around him. Of course, that didn’t make his situation any easier but at least it proved that the threehorn’s character wasn’t quite as bad as many had seemed to believe.

Etta cast one last glance at the threehorn, thanking him for his help earlier in her mind. However, the last pieces of trash wouldn’t clean themselves and that was a good distraction anyway from the enraged thoughts the clubtail had brought on her. She was just about to take off when he heard a familiar voice behind her.

“Hi, Etta! Does Petrie come at a bad time?” Etta’s eyes widened as she turned to look at the other flyer who landed on a small stone behind her. The female’s face was a highly surprised one and she stuttered slightly as she answered.

“Wh… my, not at all! I just thought that ol’ clubtail would have made you avoid all of us for a short while.” She said as she relaxed at seeing the boy’s rather happy face. Petrie’s expression only turned to a slightly more amused one as he heard the older flyer’s answer.

“Nope, me just happy me got rid of him that easily. And after all, Petrie heard something much more better so me don’t care what Mr. Clubtail says!” He exclaimed, all thoughts of guilt about Chomper’s guilt gone as she spoke to the other flyer. Etta’s earlier surprise softened further, happy to see that the other dinosaur had recovered far faster than she had expected. She then sighed slightly as she answered to the comment whose obviousness wasn’t lost on the yellow female.

“That’s right, I, too, was gladdened to see Littlefoot here earlier. You know, things were far too tough here without any of you. I’m so sorry what happened to the others, Petrie, but at least we now know two of you survived and two’s better than none, as a cousin of mine would say! I just wish there was more to help you though.” She spread her hands in order to reinforce her sense of helplessness. She regretted Littlefoot’s departure but she understood his motives as well as anyone. Petrie’s look was unfazed by that answer and he answered immediately to Etta’s comment.

“So does Petrie but still, that is why me came to see you! Littlefoot went after his grandparents and that mean they going at least the same way. Me know Littlefoot will find them at some point and two longnecks won’t stay hidden from a flyer for long!” He started, causing Etta’s frowns to drop a bit. She expected nothing less from the boy but his optimism was still seriously misplaced as far as she was concerned. She voiced her doubts without much pause.

“That might be, Petrie, but you cannot expect to find them…” She started but Petrie cut her short. Her answer was expected of course and the younger flyer had already prepared to answer it.

“Petrie doesn’t! But with any luck, me can find both me family and Littlefoot at the same time! Me know momma wouldn’t have left just anywhere with me brothers and sisters. She went someplace she knew with them and with any luck, some flyer there has seen Littlefoot or his grandparents!” He said, trying to find the balance between genuine hope and empty optimism in this difficult situation. Etta frowned somewhat, not really sure what Petrie was saying. She was hardly happy with the boy’s apparent wish to leave the Valley again but in the end, who was she to prevent him? And in the end, it was even her duty to help him find his loved ones again.

“That may be what are you really after, Petrie?” She said, willing to get to the bottom of all this. Petrie’s smile finally fell and he took a more serious look, knowing that now came the part he had come here for.

“Etta, you lived for a long time in the Mysterious Beyond and that mean you must know a lot of places there that help a flyer survive in those wastes! Petrie want to know, do you have any idea where me could find me family or at least someone who most likely has seen them lately?” He asked, praying within his mind he would receive a real answer. In fact, Petrie had already seen a few such places himself in his weeks of adventure but they had only been a few examples. Etta had lived decades out there so she must know much more about the Mysterious Beyond. However, his hopes were somewhat dashed as Etta brought her hand to her chin, thinking of the answer. It took many seconds before she finally opened her beak.

“It’s impossible for me to say where your mother would have headed towards, hon. Mysterious Beyond is far, far wider than you can even know. However, I wonder, from which direction did you come to the Valley from? That might just give me some hints about the places she knows and well… what she doesn’t.” Etta said, knowing full well that Volant hadn’t left the Valley many times since the family’s arrival there, meaning she must have learned of her direction before her arrival into the Valley.

Petrie was slightly taken aback as he thought about that question. He hadn’t paid that fact any thought and in many ways, his memories from his journey into the Valley were starting to grow distant and slowly vanishing from his mind. However, after a moment, he turned his eyes towards the cliff he remembered witnessing the Valley for the very first time with his friends so very long ago… After a moment, he found enough confidence to give his answer.

“M… me believe we came from the northeast here. Petrie not sure but me think it was that way.” He said simply, hoping beyond hope Etta could give him some answer. However, it was at that same moment that he realized that that was largely the same direction where he had also returned to the Valley today. His mind grew a bit anxious as Etta finally gave her answer.

“Hmm… there ain’t many places anywhere nearby in that direction. There are a few mountain peaks and one oasis I could think of but I cannot say which one of those your mother would think off. But of one thing I’m sure: she wouldn’t get too far with her children. I know her and she wouldn’t risk your brothers and sisters for any reason. But if you really want to know a place I think you could find some rumors about her, a large mountain called Streli’s Hills could be worth a look. Many flyers gather there in this season and I’m sure some of them have seen your momma or Littlefoot. That’s all I can tell you, Petrie.” Etta said, frowning at her own advice as she knew such a journey could prove to be difficult for a young flyer like Petrie but she could see that Petrie was willing to go through whatever came his way. Yet, she was surprised by the change in the boy’s eyes.

Streli’s Hills? Was this a joke? Why was he forced to head there just when he had managed to depart from his uncle’s herd for good? How could he show his face out there again after what he had done to Hoist? Inside, Petrie felt he could never take this step but… he had received the answer he had come here for. Would he be willing to pass this chance of reuniting with his family or friend because of what had happened to that cursed bully? The flyer felt a sting of guilt about what he had done to the other boy but in this situation, he knew Hoist had asked for it himself. He took a deep breath to wash away his shock at these news before he gave his answer to the female.

“O… okay. Petrie will think about everything you said, Etta. Thanks a lot for telling me everything you know!” He said, the earlier hopefulness returning into his face. He still knew that his idea was a long shot but that was all he had anymore. Etta then returned his happy look and bowed to the boy’s level and took a warm if serious look.

“Petrie, I’d want you to understand one thing before you go. The thing is, I’m sure you’re momma wouldn’t want ol’ Etta to help you go look for her in the Mysterious Beyond. In fact, I’ve got a tiny feeling she’d be livid at me. But I know ya need help and that’s the reason I answered your question. But please, promise me you’ll stay safe. I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself because of me, no matter your motivations. I know I cannot stop you but could you do this one thing for another flyer?” She asked, praying she wasn’t sending Petrie to his death by opening her beak. Petrie felt extremely bothered by Etta’s look as he saw clearly her concern. He knew he couldn’t promise anything now but there was no reason to deny Etta her plead. Petrie looked at her and spoke in a meek voice.

“Petrie promise to stay safe. Me wouldn’t want anything to happen before I find them. Me try to prepare as best as me can and Petrie will leave only tomorrow” He said, meaning each of those words. He regretted that his reunion with Etta wouldn’t last longer as he really liked the older flyer but his journey wasn’t done yet. Etta took a breath in an apparent effort to calm down before giving her answer to the boy.

“Now that’s the kind of courage a brother of mine would have loved to see. Very well, Petrie. I’d appreciate if I met you one more time before ya leave but if we don’t… good luck on your search!” She said, returning the smile on her face. Petrie nodded to her as he spread his wings to rise into the air.

“Thanks a lot, Etta! Petrie will try to say goodbye tomorrow!” He said as he rose higher into the sky, leaving the female to look at his departing form with narrowed eyes. The yellow flyer shuddered slightly as a cool gust surrounded her and shook her head. Ever since she had met Littlefoot and his friends, she had been amazed by their resilience and bravery but their bond with each other was still something she could hardly comprehend. To think a flyer of Petrie’s age had survived being a member of a flyer herd, managed to get into good enough terms with its leader to be able to leave it only to prepare to head back into the unknown just to find his family and friend… incredible. Etta’s serious look slowly turned into a smile and then to a slight chuckle as she continued her original work.

“My, my, now there’s the kind of kids that aren’t even found in my own family. With that kind of attitude, something tells me Petrie will find what he’s looking for…” She said with a relieved laugh as she took up another pile of branches from the ground.

Petrie didn’t even want to think how many times his head had felt as if it were about to blow up today. Again, fate had turned his plans upside down and this time, Petrie was extremely unsettled by those implications. Even if Streli’s Hills would have many more flyers aside from Lenel’s herd, the pale flyer had sent him away simply in order to get rid of the one who had caused so much trouble for his fragile position at the head of the herd. Petrie could only imagine how unlikely it would be for Kero and Northwind to speak on his behalf to Lenel, considering the depth of their distaste for him.

Once again, Petrie gazed around himself, trying to catch a sight of his former companions but to his chagrin, he still couldn’t see a sign of them anywhere. Sure, the Valley was far wider than even his eye could reach but the boy had still hoped to catch a sight about what the duo were up to. Petrie had no real reason to distrust them but he still felt slightly uncomfortable with his part in getting them into the Valley. If something happened, he would be in major part responsible for it. However, that wasn’t the first thing in his mind. Not now, at least.

The flyer felt as his wings grew heavier with each flap, a testament to the massive flight he had undertaken today as well to everything that had happened. It was a completely unbelievable thought that it had only been this same morning that he had still thought his uncle to be alive. It felt like that horrifying revelation had happened a lifetime ago to some other dinosaur… so very much had happened that his mind could hardly even begin to process it. Petrie looked at the setting Bright Circle with certain gratefulness, looking as its edge touched the highest of the peaks surrounding the Great Valley.

But even more, Petrie’s mind was fixed on a sight that grew ever closer to him. The familiar crevice in the mountainside made the boy twitch immediately, the array of emotions washing over him completely. The nest he had spent so many peaceful nights opened before him, its entrance welcoming him like the familiar home it was. A relieved sigh escaped from Petrie’s beak as his feet touched the rocky floor of the cliff, thankful to be able to spend this night in this place that meant so very much to him. This moment of peace could have been even more complete in his old nest but this place had already received an eternal place in Petrie’s heart.

Slowly, he turned around to look at the landscape below, frowning as he saw that the new lake had covered the land below him completely. Yet, the flyer didn’t let it bother him as he looked at the green hills below it which bathed in the glory of the soft twilight. Looking at that sight, he could almost hear his mother speaking to him behind him as she had done so very, very many times before. A tear of nostalgia and longing felt from Petrie’s eye as his mind formed one thought that overcame all others in the boy’s taxed head.

Momma… brothers and sisters… Petrie promise me will find all of you soon enough. Me already…

“…and then those morons bothered me for nearly an hour for details about a stupid children’s story! I know the flyers who live in the Beyond are weird but that beats them all!” Petrie’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted as he heard a flyer who passed the cliff higher in the sky rant to his companion. At first, Petrie frowned at what he meant but within a matter of seconds, he realized what he was talking about. He smiled slightly as he heard the answer.

“You don’t say? I’ve met dozens of them and they get odder by the day! Who could seriously believe there’s anything interesting about Olres’ story?” He said as the two passed the boy below them who they didn’t even know had heard those words. Petrie waited for any continuation but the two had already flown far too far for him to hear anything. Petrie frowned as he thought about the last sentence, the name of Olres again surfacing. He had first heard it from his uncle and later from Lenel concerning his family but… why in earth would Kero and Northwind ask about it in the Valley?

It was far from the first concern in Petrie’s mind but he couldn’t help but wonder what was going on. According to his uncle, Olres had been Lenel’s legendary ancestor who had made his family the one it was these days. But… it had been only a story, right? His uncle had never shown any inkling that he believed a word of those tales himself but… it seemed like Lenel did and Kero and Northwind were here because of his orders. Something told Petrie that there was something more to this than he knew but slowly and surely, weariness crept into his limbs. He glanced at the piles of grass that his family had apparently left behind in the nest, slowly walking towards them.

The flyer sighed as he felt the soft grass touch his back as he curled on them. Even now, he could imagine his siblings sleeping beside him as they had done so many times before and that he’d wake up to another day of play with his friends. Inside, he knew that wasn’t true but this place brought a sense of tranquility and peace into his mind he hadn’t sensed in ages. Just before he fell asleep, he knew that he’d find his family again… one day.

Northwind frowned slightly as he watched at the light of the coming dawn gleaming from behind the horizon. It had only been one night since his and Kero’s arrival into the Valley but here he was, just waiting to leave it again. The denizens of this wondrous land had been surprisingly generous to share whatever they knew, especially the old, threehorn-resembling creature who still stood near him and his companion. This “Mr. Thicknose” had been instrumental in relaying everything the Valley knew about Olres’ story and indeed, there was much Lenel would be more than interested to hear. Now, there was only one last thing to do before they could return to the herd… and in Northwind’s case, finally take his place as one of Lenel’s official deputies. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a comment from Thicknose which drew him away from his hopeful dreams.

“There they are coming. I told you it wouldn’t take that long to gather everyone here.” He said somewhat melancholically as he had quite enjoyed his guests’ curiosity. it wasn’t often that anyone would spend hours on end asking for anything he knew, especially from such an interesting issue. He had learned to love the flyer legends which he had heard ever since he had been a hatchling and even now, he still remembered everything about them.

Kero’s expression was unchanged as the sight of the threehorn and the swimmer appeared from behind a nearby hill, not really able to say he had yearned to meet them again this quickly. Almost immediately, he noticed that the clubtail was nowhere to be seen, though. Well, that was only a good thing as Kero had grown to despise him the very first time they had met. Mr. Threehorn narrowed his eyes as he saw the two flyers again, not wasting time in opening the conversation.

“What is it again? You already wasted our time yesterday and I won’t let two flyers cause any more tr…” He started but almost immediately, Kero cleared his throat before he completely interrupted the larger dinosaur.

“No, we wouldn’t want to cause any more trouble, threehorn. In fact, we are happy to announce that we have found out everything we came here to look for.” He said, glancing at Northwind to nod in agreement. However, that comment didn’t end the bewilderment of Ura, Mr. Threehorn or Etta as they knew more than well that simply telling this wouldn’t require calling the three most respected dinosaurs of the Valley this early in the morning. It was the swimmer who brought her hands to her hips just before she answered.

“Then, why did you call us here? We gave you a few days to stay but nobody forces you to be here that long!” She said, slightly suspicious of the two. Yesterday’s meeting had left a really bad taste in her mouth even if she knew it wasn’t the fault of the flyers. Still, she wasn’t excited of yet another meeting as there had been precious few pleasant ones lately. Even more, there seemed to be something in the smaller dinosaurs’ expressions she simply didn’t like. Northwind took a brief sigh before he gave his answer, knowing now came another difficult part of his mission and one that the denizens of the Valley would hardly approve of.

“Of course, that is the deal we made and we are more than grateful that you saw your part of it through. We’ll be on our way shortly but before that, we have another request we’d like to ask…” He asked, immediately seeing the swimmer’s eyes widen in suspicion. He knew that bringing another demand up like this would hardly sit well with the denizens of the Valley but this was the other thing Lenel had asked them to do. The threehorn immediately hit his right front leg into the ground and growled in anger.

“You have no right to ask anything more from us, flyers! You should be more than grateful we ever let you into the Valley in the first place!” He cried, his voice bellowing through the fields of the Valley, all the way towards one particular cliff on one cliff not too far away…

The sudden sound immediately woke Petrie up from the most peaceful sleep in a long, long while. He could have lingered in the realm of sleep stories for much longer but Mr. Threehorn’s sudden cry cut this slumber short. He immediately turned to look at the direction of the sound, seeing the large male far in the distance. The boy couldn’t quite make sense of his words but the urgency in his voice meant that it wasn’t something the threehorn was quite fond of. In a matter of seconds, Petrie was completely awake, all the memories of the last day returning to his mind. However, now he was only interested to learn what was going on with the grownups and without further thinking, headed towards the gathering.

The larger dinosaur’s answer hardly was what Kero had hoped for. Sure, he hadn’t expected a wholehearted agreement but to see him respond with such anger hardly was a good sign. He looked briefly at Northwind in order to command him to stay silent as he prepared to answer to the threehorn.

“Indeed we are. We never expected you to act as generously as you did and we are eternally grateful for allowing us into your home for this time. However, I believe that my proposition will be of benefit to everyone here.” He said, causing the threehorn to roll his eyes in annoyance. It was clear he was preparing to silence the smaller dinosaur completely when Mr. Thicknose cut him short in a kinder voice.

“If it were only up to me, I would listen with interest what they have to say. I can see they hold no ill will towards any of us and I’m willing to believe they really want to help us.”
He said, knowing full well that their interest in his knowledge made his comment biased at best but even otherwise, he couldn’t see how their proposition could make things any worse. The threehorn frowned and he already started his answer before deciding against finishing it.

“As if presenting more and more requests every day makes them want to h… Arrgh, just go on with it then!” He growled, annoyed by being in this kind of situation again. He had been played before by the suspected friends of his own daughter and he wouldn’t make that same mistake again. The only reason he was even given a second chance as one of the leaders of the Valley was the departure of Volant and Littlefoot’s grandparents, thus making him one of the few ones who could even be thought of being worthy of the position. Kero took a deep breath, knowing full well that much depended on how he would present his next words. He took the most confident voice he could and started to speak.

“I thank you for your time. I know that you in this Valley think you are safe from all the things that are going on in the lands around you and I’m not questioning your ability defend yourselves for a moment. However, there are dangers out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d one day find their way into this Valley and in case of that day, I want to give all of you a warning. There are flyers that will want to harm you get their way and you must never give them a chance to enter this Valley. I…” He was suddenly cut short by Ura who was far from amused with his words. It was at this point that Petrie finally landed close to the swimmer but he stayed behind a large boulder in order to hide his presence from the grownups. For now, he simply wanted to learn what was going on and if his guess was correct, there would be something of interest for him to hear. Ura’s angered voice made his face fall a bit but on the other hand, he had heard enough yelling lately.

“That’s enough, flyer! I know you might think we are too stupid to realize that you’re only trying to draw us into some stupid herd fight of yours but I’ll just say it now, that’s not going to happen!” She cried, taking a few menacing steps towards the smaller dinosaur. Kero frozen slightly but he didn’t take one step back, knowing he couldn’t show one sign of weakness if he wanted to preserve even a slight chance of success. It was at this point that Etta intervened into the discussion.

“That’s damn right! I know full well what kind of things you and the other flyers have in mind and I’ve had enough of it!” She cried, remembering the many fights she had witnessed between her own kind during her years. She had most often been a solitary dinosaur and thus avoided most of those battles but she had met countless survivors of such fights, many of whom died shortly after. Not even during its first days had the Valley sank that low into the maws of violence. Kero cast a quick, pleading look at the female before he answered.

“Of course, of course. Both of us can see your point of view but I promise, we have no will to bring our struggle into this place. However, we’d like you to acknowledge that we were all attacked by one of our own and dozens of us died because of one flyer’s betrayal! That flyer was known as Peak and he had the respect of many of our herd. And before that, one other herd also attacked our herd, also dealing a severe blow to our numbers.” He ended, trying to create some sort of sympathy in his audience.

Petrie listened to the discussion with great interest, nodding slightly as he heard the mention of Deron’s attack as he had to agree with the flyers about his threat to every dinosaur in this world. Personally, he would have wanted to see the Valley accept the duo’s proposition but he had already done enough and he had absolutely no will to get involved in another risky bet that could see him exiled from the Valley forever.

Moreover, a new plan started to form within the boy’s mind as he followed the gathering. He had been sent away from the herd and besides, he had no reason to even try to make his return known to anyone among them. What if he simply followed Kero and Northwind to his destination while hiding his presence from them completely? If he used the wind and the Bright Circle to his advantage, he could almost certainly ensure that the duo wouldn’t see or smell him! That way, he could hopefully finish his task at Streli’s Hills and be on his way before he’d be noticed! Even better, he could earn a chance to meet Glide one more time. However, he didn’t notice another form near him.

The green-colored boy looked with a puzzled look as he noticed Petrie leaning against a rock, apparently eavesdropping at the meeting between the grownups. He could tell what possible was behind Petrie’s interest in his companions as he, too, had heard of how much the flyers of the Mysterious Beyond actually knew. But before that, he had a few more words to exchange with the flyer before whatever would happen next came to pass. Guido flew towards the other boy but stopped quite short of actually getting to his side. Instead, he called to him in a silent voice.

“Psst, Petrie! Come here!” He said, shortly catching Petrie’s attention. The flyer looked at him in surprise, not really knowing whether or not do as he was told at first. On one hand, wanted to hear what the grownups would decide but on the other, he was also interested in hearing what his friend would have to say. He seemed to hesitate for a short while before finally deciding to join Guido. He owed the glider at least that much. He took off from the ground but kept close to the ground in order not to raise any unwanted attention. He landed beside Guido on one low foothill which preceded the sharper rise up the mountains near them. Petrie’s voice was extremely curious as he spoke.

“What is it, Guido? Me was trying to listen what me old companions and the grownups decide!” He said, believing their words carry information of great importance to him. Guido frowned slightly as he looked at the other male, crossing his fingers nervously as he looked at the older dinosaurs briefly, attempting to gather enough courage to say what he wanted to say. He had never been one to make any requests to anyone, especially ones of any importance, but he disliked the thought of once again being left alone in the Valley. Finally, he managed to voice his request to his friend who narrowed his eyes slightly as he listened to what the other dinosaur had to say.

“Uhh… Petrie, the thing is that… whatever it is. Anyway, you remember when I said I absolutely hated staying here alone when nobody wanted to even speak to me while you were gone. I can see you’re going again so… I’d like to come with you!” The green-colored boy finally managed to say, causing Petrie’s face to fall slightly again. He was beyond surprised by Guido’s words, especially as he would never have thought anyone would want to join him in his journey voluntarily. Inside, he would have welcomed his friend’s presence wholeheartedly but he knew there was more than one problem in his idea. His face took a nervous turn as he moved closer to Guido, looking at him almost pleadingly.

“Guido… Petrie is more than happy to hear that and me really would like to have you there with me but… me don’t think it a good idea.” He said merely, hoping that the other boy would see the reason for it himself. Guido, however, took a more surprised, even hurt look as he asked the obvious question.

“And why is that? After all, you know I can fly too and I promise I wouldn’t be a burden! You know it as well as I do!” He said, willing to see that Petrie at least gave his plead some weight. The flyer sighed deeply, hating that he had to turn a dear friend away like this but if he couldn’t see the problem, then Petrie would have to help him understand.

“It isn’t like that, Guido. It’s just that… there’ll be many flyers out there who too might find you odd or at least as one who shouldn’t be there. And, me hope you understand, me know you can fly but… you are best in gliding. Petrie know you can fly too but it a long, long flight to Streli’s Hills and Petrie also know you couldn’t keep up with me and me want to find me family as soon as me can.  Hopefully you understand.” He said while putting his hand on Guido’s shoulder. The latter would have wanted to object to his friend’s words but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Deep, deep inside, he knew that Petrie was right. He could go as a flyer in the Valley but on long flights, he grew tired faster as his body wasn’t quite as suited to flying as Petrie’s. He stuttered slightly as he struggled to speak to the other dinosaur.

“Y… you know but… I think you are right. It isn’t up to me to even try flying for hours on end. After all, I’m not a flyer. Not really. I’m nothing really.” He said, not able to hide his disappointment quite as well as he had hoped. For a moment, he had hoped that Petrie had a chance to accept his request but there he was again, despite knowing his friend’s reasoning. Petrie, on the other hand, hated seeing Guido’s reaction and he wasted no time giving his answer.

“That not the issue at all. Believe me or not, Petrie wouldn’t have taken Littlefoot either on a journey like this. This is something Petrie must do by himself. But please… there’s one thing me would like to ask of you.” He said, catching the other dinosaur’s attention immediately. A brief look of hope rose to Guido’s face as he turned at his friend, eager to hear what he still had to say.

“Wh… what is it? Ask anything, Petrie, and I’ll promise to do my best to see it through!” The glider said as he looked at the flyer. Petrie smelled at the fresh wind which flew past him before answering his friend. He hoped that his words would ease the situation a bit further.

“Me would like to ask you to keep your eyes and ears open for any news about me friends. It possible that Littlefoot return here while Petrie is gone and if that will happen, I’d appreciate if you tried to get the word to me somehow. I’ll try to leave some message of where I am wherever Petrie will go. Could you do this for Petrie?” He asked, the irony of it all rising to his mind. Littlefoot was missing because he went looking for his grandparents wo in turn left to look for him. The flyer had no will to continue making that maze any more complicated than it had to be. Guido looked at Petrie for a while before he finally nodded.

“I… I think I can do that. I’m sure some of the flyers will be happy to tell you if we find out anything new out here. Be at ease, Petrie, I’ll make sure of it.” The green-colored boy said as Petrie answered him with a wide smile. He then turned to look back at the meeting, the chagrin of missing a small while of it already leaving his mind.

“I’d advise you to cut it right now, flyer! We don’t know neither this Peak or Deron so we have absolutely no reason to believe anything you say! The Valley will stay away from your petty rivalries and that’s final!” Mr. Threehorn said as he looked towards the smaller dinosaur. He wasn’t amused in the least by his antics and he was heartened that at least in this issue, the other elders of the Valley seemed to be on his side.

Northwind, however, was hardly amused by the direction the discussion was going. These cursed morons apparently didn’t believe anything they were told and even the yellow flyer, who had heard of Peak, apparently wanted to take any sides in this discussion. In any case, the hopes of having the Valley deny any help to Lenel’s enemies were growing thin, a thought which hardly sat well with either one of the flyers. Both of them had despised the Valley all their lives and this visit there hardly made them any friendlier towards its dinosaurs. He glanced at Kero briefly, seemingly in agreement with him on the need to resort to their final option.

“Very well. While your point of view might be understandable from a certain perspective, you must also understand that these kinds of issues have two sides and to us, your help is paramount. So that you know, Lenel will soon lead the mightiest of herds this world has seen in ages and if you want to preserve your way of life on that day, we must demand you to accept our proposition. Now.” He said, his posture suddenly turning into a confrontational one. The information he and Kero had received here could indeed prove vital to Lenel’s dreams of returning the Golden Age of the Flyers into the being so he meant every word he spoke. Even now, these weaklings didn’t deserve to inhabit this most wondrous land but he had to give them the final chance to save themselves in the face of the developments which would come next. However, as he predicted, his words only made the other dinosaurs more agitated.

“That’s enough! Don’t you have any sense of shame? Here we let you in and indeed as you wanted but here you are, demanding us to draw ourselves into your problems! I’ve had enough of such things in my day and damn right, we won’t be scared by threats that are drawn right from some story we tell to our hatchlings!” Etta joined, crossing her arms while allowing Ura continue from where she let off.

“Indeed! Petrie’s uncle already wanted to make us believe that flyers used to rule the world. None of us believed it for a second and neither are we going to believe that Lenel has anything more threatening than Pterano’s stone! And even if he had, we don’t take kindly to some threats like that! So I’d advise you to take it back immediately!” The swimmer cried, causing Northwind’s face fall even further than before.

Petrie, on the other hand, couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable by his former companions’ actions as even now, it seemed like they’d leave the Valley as its enemies. Whether
anyone would remember his part in bringing them in, the boy couldn’t say but he was still more than a bit disappointed by the duo’s actions. He heard Guido speak to him briefly.

“This doesn’t seem to end all that well, Petrie. Did you know they really were like this?” The glider asked, causing Petrie to give a brief snort to his friend. He wasn’t completely happy with the question but on the other hand, it was an understandable one.

“Me knew they weren’t all that nice, Guido. But after all, me never had the chance to really think about it as they were Petrie’s only chance to return home. But this certainly is rather sa…” He started before he suddenly heard the world shuddering near him, followed by a bellowing voice to his right.

“But in the end, it is again your fault those weaklings let them in, isn’t it Petrie?” The flyer felt more than a little sick hearing that voice and he slowly turned to look at the speaker, gulping as he saw the form of Mr. Clubtail approaching him slowly. Petrie tried to calm himself down, remembering full well the larger dinosaur’s last threat. He had to keep his mind from panicking because he had to keep his thoughts together in order to make his escape if he absolutely had to.

“Uhh… Hi, Mr clubtail! Yes, Petrie very sorry about that but… as me said, Petrie never had a choice!” He said, taking a few steps back as he saw the massive dinosaur approach him slowly but surely. He felt his heart beating in his chest as he saw very well the hate in the clubtail’s eyes. Even worse, Petrie wasn’t sure if he could rise into the air quickly enough to avoid getting rammed by the larger male. The clubtail’s face then moved into a more neutral one as he prepared to speak.

“You never had a choice… It’s incredible that you speak to me of choices that my child nor my mate never had! To think you were again ready to deceive us for your own benefit…” He grinned joylessly as he walked closer to the flyer who feverishly tried to find something near him that could help him escape from this monstrous situation. He then stuttered a brief answer to the clubtail, knowing full well that he had absolutely no way of placating him anymore. He nodded at Guido to signal him to leave, this dangerous situation surprisingly making him less scared than he had thought. There was something positive in going through dangers like this one every day, it seemed.

“Petrie say it before and me say it again: me am sorry for everything me did to you and the Valley but that not mean me will simply let you do this!” He cried, finally jumping to his wings, not seeing any value in prolonging this encounter any longer than was absolutely necessary. What followed was the exact scenario he had expected, the clubtail starting his charge towards the flyer. And before long, the boy’s fears were confirmed: he wouldn’t rise high enough before the clubtail’s brute force would crush his frail body into pieces.

“I have no way of even trying to know if you two really thought these kinds of threats would work against us but let me make a few things clear for both of you. First, here in the Valley, we do not care what’s going on among any single herds. Second, we expect all who live here and those who stay here for even a short time to respect others and to tell the truth whenever necessary. And third, we certainly don’t accept threats or hostile remarks on anyone around here! I see you have absolutely no interest in any of these things and because of that, I think we all agree that your time here in the Valley will end this moment!” The threehorn looked at the other dinosaurs around him, who nodded to him in agreement. Only looks of outrage could be seen at the two flyers and even Etta showed no signs of remorse about the decision. She, more than anyone, knew what was at stake and she would be only relieved to see the duo gone.

However, the duo indeed didn’t feel anything but disappointment at their decision. Kero brought his hand to his face for a few moments before finally looking straight at the threehorn. He couldn’t say whether Lenel had seriously expected the Valley to be willing to cooperate with his herd but at least from his own perspective, this effort had been doomed from the very beginning. The flyer narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice noticeably as he answered.

“Very well, threehorn. We will do as you say but before this will all be over, I hope you’ll remember this day when you turned Lenel’s offer of friendship down. Come, Northwind. There’s nothing more to us here.” Kero said as he looked at the other dinosaurs’ expression which were growing more hostile by the second. The two males then rose into the air and headed towards the skies, more than relieved to be able to put this place behind them.

Etta looked at them with weary eyes, wondering whether Lenel really was as powerful these days as the two claimed. She knew he was an ambitious flyer but she had never expected him to be this ruthless. Whatever was going on, she had a feeling this wasn’t the last time she’d hear of his herd. And if she were completely honest with herself, some small part of her was starting to wonder if declining their offer had been the best way to move forward.

The sight of the massive dinosaur charging right towards him nearly broke Petrie’s concentration completely and it was only with great efforts he managed to stay as the master of his own actions. The flyer knew that the rather narrow cliff wasn’t the best place for the clubtail to move and it was only a mere moments when the larger dinosaur could try to get rid of him. However, it was apparent that the larger dinosaur wouldn’t let those moments pass and Petrie could smell the murderous clubtail’s breath in his back. He couldn’t be any more than the smaller dinosaur’s own length behind the flyer and it was in this moment that Petrie knew he had run out of time. If he tried heading upwards, the clubtail would certainly catch him.

If he couldn’t go upwards, though, that left Petrie with only one direction. He took a brief sigh in order to calm himself down as he knew just how very dangerous his plan really was. The clubtail was closing down around him, hoping to crush him against the ground with his mere weight. Petrie suddenly turned his flight towards the ground before somersaulting only a mere inches above the still-green ground of the Great Valley. The clubtail noticed his changed course but wasted no time adapting his own strange to that of Petrie’s.

“Oh no, you don’t! This will be the end for you!” He said as he threw himself towards the left where he was sure Petrie was heading towards. The boy’s eyes widened in rage as he felt one of the massive male’s legs touch his wing, attempting tie it against the ground. Time was running and Petrie realized there was only chance for him to live through this. With all his might, he flew towards the clubtail’s leg, aiming his beak’s sharpest part against the soft flesh. The larger dinosaur cried immediately as he felt the hit against his ground and to his annoyance, he heard another cry immediately afterwards.

“Mr. Clubtail, what in earth are you doing? Why didn’t you come…” Ura called at the male, immediately noticing his presence after the end of the meeting. However, she stopped her sentence when she suddenly saw a tiny form of a flyer struggling to escape from him. It didn’t take a lot of time for her to realize what was going on. The threehorn noticed the very same thing as the swimmer and he immediately cried at the clubtail in outrage.

“Stop that immediately, clubtail! We agreed to let him stay in peace and you don’t have a damn right to even try anything against him!” He cried as he headed towards the scene. Inside, he wasn’t surprised by this kind of action from him but even until now, he had hoped that he could restrain himself from this kind of action.

The momentary confusion caused to his chaser by the cries wasn’t lost to Petrie who realized his chance had gone. However, that moment was far quicker over than he had prayed for even if the clubtail had lost the sharpest edge had had against the flyer. He realized that Petrie had managed to get a short distance between the two and he noticed that he had only one chance left anymore to end this here and now. The three horn and the swimmer could go to hell as far as he was concerned as long as he could crush one of those who had ruined his entire family. With a quick move, he jumped after Petrie, hoping the flyer couldn’t escape from his final attack.

However, at that same exact moment, Petrie noticed something which caught his attention immediately. The forms of Kero and Northwind were slowly moving over the mountains and they’d soon disappear behind the horizon, after which Petrie knew he’d never catch them again. as he felt the clubtail fall down upon him, he suddenly took a grip of a nearby stone and by mustering all his strength on his effort, he threw himself out of the clubtail’s shadow, panting in horror as he saw the larger dinosaur collapse into the ground.

The emotion of the moment suddenly overwhelmed him as he finally flew too high for the clubtail to ever reach him again, looking at Guido’s joyful face. Apparently the other adults blamed the clubtail for what had happened and as much as he wanted to give everyone the proper farewell, he knew that the two flyers were quickly getting out of his sight and without them, finding Streli’s Hills could take forever. In other words, this was another goodbye to the Valley. He choked back his emotions as he called to Guido.

“Me have to go after Kero and Northwind if me want to find me family anytime soon! Guido, please remember what Petrie said and tell the grownups everything that had happened!” He cried as he headed after the two flyers, his thoughts a complete mess. He heard Guido’s cry behind him, followed by the clubtail’s bellow.

“I will, Petrie! But please, make sure to stay safe! We’ll meet again soon!” The green-colored boy cried sentimentally, regretting that this moment of parting had come this soon. The clubtail hit his tail in the ground as he looked at the flyer.

“I’ll make sure that your next return will be your last, murderer! Me or the others will never…” He started but soon, he was cut short as the other adults surrounded him, Mr. Threehorn the first one of them to speak.

“I feared we couldn’t trust you anymore, clubtail. It seems we have a whole lot to discuss…” He said but everything that came afterwards was lost to Petrie. The boy’s eyes were fixed on the spot where the two flyers had disappeared. If only he could just find them again before it would be too late… His eyes were the very definition of worry as he looked at ever wider parts of the blue floor of the world appear from behind the mountains, followed by other peaks far in the distance. But where in earth were Northwind and Kero…

A wide smile appeared on Petrie’s face as he caught the sight of them again and they were heading at the same direction they had come from. Petrie took a relieved sigh as he thanked his luck that he hadn’t lost them for good. Immediately, he headed lower towards the ground to prevent the duo from spotting him even if they suspected followers. The struggle with the clubtail suddenly felt like distant past: the relief Guido had made him feel still persisted and Petrie made a promise to himself to one day meet his old friend again. For now, however, what mattered were the two flyers before him and the answers they’d possibly lead him towards.

And with these developments, Petrie is forced to follow his former companions to the place he had already chased for so long. Will the flight to Streli’s Hills give him the answers he’s looking for or will this journey leave Petrie with more questions than before? After this chapter, I’ll finish Under the Scarlet Banner for good and probably write my next prompt response so the next chapter won’t likely be out before late December or early January. In any case, I hope you liked this chapter and see you later!


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #91 on: November 29, 2018, 06:11:28 PM »
So, Petrie ends up leaving the valley sooner than I expected. I didn't think it would happen until maybe two chapters later, but this will be quite a risky journey he'll be taking just to find his beloved family. I can sense that he's become more determined than ever to find a better future, and with each chapter his bravery has grown to the point of going on a solo quest to find those who love him.

This chapter has once again proven that you have a real strength in maintaining a level of uncertainty. So many questions are being asked and almost none of them have been given even the simplest answer. As I was reading this chapter, I really felt as if I were looking for answers in the same way Petrie was, and even with so little answers there may still be that tiniest glimmer of hope of a good future, should he survive the long journey ahead.

Take as much time as you need with the next chapter. After all, the holidays are coming up, and this should be the time of the year to lay low and reminiscence on the year that's gone past us.
Suddenly, I've written so many fanfics that I can't possibly list them all! :P


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #92 on: December 04, 2018, 10:17:08 AM »
The events of this chapter have confirmed that the Petrie that entered the valley is now much removed from the flyer that originally left the valley.  Now faced with the departure of his family to lands unknown and the abrupt departure of Littlefoot he immediately determines that he must find out where they have gone and try to seek them out.  Though Mr Clubtail's interruption of the meeting, and the abrupt departure of the two flyers, provides the circumstances for his premature departure.

I think what I liked the most about this chapter were the interactions between Guido and Petrie.  Not only were the words exchanged between them heartfelt and born of a long absence (especially in terms of events) but they had an interesting unevenness to them that seemed authentic to me.  In many ways the conversation between them reminded me of times in my life where I talked to an old friend but either I or them could not fully relate to the experiences that the other was mentioning.  In many ways, well literally in fact, Petrie has basically been through war.  He cannot truly relate the experiences of those to Guido at a direct level, but Guido does his best to relate and understand his friend.  And though Guido is not tagging along on this journey I think he has done quite a lot to help Petrie find his bearings and to decide on what to do.  At that moment Petrie needed a friend and someone who could listen, and Guido provided that.

This was another great chapter and one which clarified many points that were uncertain previously.  I look forward to seeing how Petrie's journey and attempt at non-detection by his former allies turns up in the end.  :)

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #93 on: January 14, 2019, 02:55:36 PM »
Reunion with a Long-Lost Friend

The cold air wheezed within the fastrunner’s lungs as she forced her way through the white plains, only one thought lingering within her mind. She had to go further, as far as she could from the looming mountain behind her. She could hardly even think of her current situation: she tried to block the events of the last hour from her mind as best as she could. The memory of her brother’s warning, her father’s attack and her mother’s ruined eye lingered within the back of her mind, only serving to deepen her misery and will to go ever on.

It was a struggle to even take another step through the ever-growing drifts of the ground sparkles which made it difficult for her to even raise her legs from the frigid ground. Yet, her mind commanded her not to give up as deep down, she feared she hadn’t seen her parents for the very last time. Ruby frowned deeply as she tried to push the encounter away from her mind’s eye… only to fail miserably. Suddenly, her fight with her parents appeared as real as the moment it had happened in front of her, causing a few more tears fall into the soft, white ground. This was a scene far worse than any she had even had sleep stories of during her life.

Second after second passed and the distance between the omnivore and the Desolate Rise grew, even if extremely slowly. Ruby was already exhausted by her wicked escape but she couldn’t stop just yet. Not before that cursed place was far behind her, too far for her parents to…


She suddenly cried as she felt the earth give in under her, plunging her downward into whatever place waited under the seemingly perfect cover of the world. The girl let a brief cry of pain as she felt her back hit the ground, soon to be followed by the rest of her body. She gasped for a few times as she looked at the looming night sky far over her, now able to be seen only from the narrow hole over her. Of course something like this had to happen on a night like this when absolutely everything went just as badly as they simply could! Luckily, the hole was at the end of a gently sloping tunnel and Ruby wasted no time attempting to climb out of it until in order to continue her journey.
However, it was only then that she realized just how folly that idea really was. Only now did she realize just how frozen she was after being beaten by the raging night wind for such a long time. She had absolutely no other place to go now so she might as well try to hide here at least for today. Her parents would never fin… Suddenly, Ruby collapsed against the wall as the thought of her parents crossed her mind.  Her hands turned into fists as she started to sob against the cold wall of stone, asking the night wind a silent question.

“Why… why did they do it? Why did it have to go like this? How could they?” She asked weakly even if she knew the answer already deep down. They could because it was the only way to protect their family from her mistakes, from her quest to lead Chomper’s parents to her siblings! The fastrunner’s defiant words were completely at odds with her resigned mind as she realized the full implications of what had happened. She had forever handicapped her mother by blinding one of her eyes, she had brought the rage of Chomper’s parents upon her entire family and in doing so, probably doomed them all!

Yes, Detras and Pearl were resourceful and cunning fastrunners and if everything went as best as they simply could, there was a tiny chance they could evade the sharpteeth for at least some time. But the thing that hurt her most was the realization that she couldn’t even go back to them. Even if she could forgive her parents from what they had done, she couldn’t face them after hurting her mother so and it was likely her parents would never forgive her from all of the curses she had brought with her. Ruby shuddered as she thought that she’d never meet her parents again but the thought that even after all that had happened, her brother and sister would be forced to grow up without their older sister. She was all alone, with no friends, no family, no home… and no place to go!

That was too much take at once. The once-cheerful and courageous dinosaur slowly collapsed against the wall, starting to cry inconsolably, not finding anything to even try to strive for. Alone she would never live through the Cold Time and it wasn’t even far-fetched she’d freeze to death not in the so distant future. Now she had truly lost everything and unlike during her earlier moment of despair, she didn’t have one dinosaur in the whole world who loved or even missed her. Slowly, the memory of her loss was replaced by despairing realization… until she heard something that made her blood run cold even without the chill of the Cold Time’s night.

Don’t let it end like this, Ruby… please…

The fastrunner’s eyes flashed open immediately as she recognized that voice. It was one she had dreamt of hearing for far longer than she even cared to remember anymore and for a short time, she even thought she had heard only a passing breath of the frigid breeze, howling over the lifeless plains of the Mysterious Beyond. However, it wasn’t long before she could feel even this night growing colder and her cave’s surroundings starting to get clouded by some strange looking mist. The fastrunner felt her heart starting to beat faster because of her rising fear but she soon felt like it was getting drown under her curiosity and hope. If… if she had really heard what she thought… The girl shook her head, trying to clear her mind as she quickly started to crawl towards the cave’s opening, not willing to even start to think about what she’d find.

The first thing that met her outside was the increasingly violent wind that battered her plumage with all its power. Ruby closed her eyes at first before starting to look around herself, her spirits failing at first as she only saw the air painted white by the flying ground sparkles. The fastrunner sighed silently, already starting to believe her imagination had managed to trick her in her moment of weakness. However, just as she tried to fall down back into the tunnel, she heard the cold and wheezing but still familiar speaking to her again.

Don’t go! I… I just want to tell just how sorry I am.

The voice called to her again and this time, Ruby knew she truly heard what she thought. Her chest swelled in suspense and happiness even if her mind called her to be beyond horrified by what was transpiring. Still, she called to the wind again, hoping to receive some, any kind of answer.

“Chomper? Is that really you? Tell me where you are!” She knew just how puny her question was as she knew more than well her old friend was long gone. However, a look of astonishment was painted across her face as she saw the storm starting to subside around her, only to be replaced by a more gentle, calmer cloud that seemed to reflect the glory of the lesser lights of the wide night sky. That light seemed to gleam straight at Ruby as she heard the voice speaking to her. As she heard it, a form that one could recognize as a silhouette of a young sharptooth appeared to the sky.

“It is me, Ruby. I’m so sorry about what has happened. I never thought I’d see myself causing you so much harm. I’m so very sorry.” The voice said as the light seemed to fade slightly. Ruby looked at the sky puffy, cocking her head as she thought about what was happening. This simply wasn’t possible! Not once had her parents said this kind of thing was possible… only Littlefoot had ever dared to claim he had spoke with someone who was dead but… here she was. A longing smile rose to her face as realized that he hadn’t been wrong and if this really was Chomper… But what did he mean? What was he trying to say? The girl gulped before answering.

“So am I, Chomper. It was all my fault, my fault it was. If I had done anything better, you… you wouldn’t be…” She fought to finish the sentence but before she could, she was interrupted by her friend’s voice again. She still couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge Chomper’s fate as it simply was something she wanted to accept. Her frown deepened as she heard the young sharptooth’s answer to her words.

“You’re wrong. Ruby, you must not say that to yourself! If I had followed you during the Sand Cloud as you told me to, I could still stay with you! But I wanted to help the others and in doing so, I got separated from you and… well, I don’t want to say it. But if I had listened to you, my mommy and daddy would still be your friends and your family would still be together. All because of me…” The voice seemed to crack terribly as if it were starting to cry and the raging storm seemed to penetrate the bubble around Ruby, again opening her to the raging winds. Yet, the fastrunner ignored that completely as she looked at the starry sky, thinking of the words she had just heard.

She had tried to push that memory from her mind but it was true she had told Chomper to follow her, an order he had quite literally pushed aside. Ruby felled a sickening feeling in her stomach as that thought crossed her mind. Indeed, if Chomper had listened to her instead of his heart, Greentail, Chomper’s parents, her mother… all of them would be fine right now and tonight’s fiasco would never have come to pass. However, the fastrunner let out a sad sigh as he prepared to answer, knowing she had but one answer to give. One single tear rose to her eye as she looked at the night sky above her.

“I know, Chomper. But even then, you were under my supervision and it was my duty to keep you safe and I failed. I failed. It is I who must take responsibility for this all. I should have given my last breath to prevent the fastbiters from taking you.” She said, not finding anything else to say. She could spend the entire night apologizing to her fallen friend but inside, she knew that would be for nothing. Her mind simply circled around her own guilt and the presence of her passed friend only made it worse. However, what she heard next made her gaze rise again.

“That’s just what daddy would have said… Ruby, I don’t know if it’s important or not but it wasn’t the fastrunners that got me.” He said simply, his form twitching slightly, as if that memory was a painful one for the boy. Ruby cocked her head, a pile of questions rising into her mind.

“What do you mean? Did you escape from the Sand Cloud? Chomper, please tell me what happened!” She said pleadingly, her face turning into a mask of haunted curiosity, dreading if what she’d hear next would only make her feel worse than before. There was a brief pause in the conversation as Chomper seemingly struggled to think of the answer. His voice was faraway and haunted as he finally spoke.

“Yes, I escaped from the Sand Cloud and somehow, I managed to shake the fastbiters from my heels. I already thought I was safe and afterwards, I tried to look for you guys… until I quickly saw a shadow behind me and a quick hit that took me out. I don’t know how I was so badly surprised but…” He merely answered, tears falling down his face. At those words, Ruby’s eyes flashed open. That explained one thing about the tale Chomper’s parents had told her on the night of Greentail’s injury. Chomper’s body had been barely damaged apart from his cut throat, not a piece of him eaten by the fastbiters. Ruby realized she was gasping for air as she asked the obvious question.

“You… you don’t have any idea who it was?” She nearly vomited the words, the amount of emotions again starting to overwhelm her. Chomper merely shook his head sadly, not finding anything else to say. Ruby briefly looked behind her before trying to make some sense of what she had heard. Someone had killed Chomper for some reason other than eating him but… but why? Why would anyone do something like that to her dear friend? Even if the fastrunner tried to think of it from any perspective she could come up with, she couldn’t find an answer to this question. Everything that had followed the young carnivore’s demise had been a never-ending cycle of pain and misery and there was no one who could have possibly have benefited from it. She stood still for a long time, trying to calm herself down before answering to her friend again.

“I’m terribly sorry that all of this happened, Chomper. I just wish we were back at the Valley, together with everyone.” She said, this one chance to speak with Chomper again only deepening her longing for the life she had lost. Her face dropped to the ground, only the falling of the ground sparkles and the all-encompassing darkness filling her sight. The passed dinosaur’s face fell simultaneously with her friend’s and his voice was even more inconsolable as the fastrunner’s.

“So do I, Ruby. So do I. If we got only one chance to explore the Secret Caverns or play Swimmer and Splasher again… But that is impossible.” He said, clearly waiting to tear up. Ruby nearly joined him in his display of despair but inside, one spark arose that enabled her to shake herself awake from this surreal situation. She suddenly turned to look at the sharptooth-resembling sky puffy and cried in a pleading voice.

“I know, no matter how I wished it weren’t so. But, Chomper, please tell me why you wanted to speak with me now! Tell me what is it that you wanted to tell me!” Ruby spread her hands and looked miserably at her friend’s silhouette. There was a short pause in the discussion as the sharptooth’s pondering expression seemed to become one with the many stars of the brilliant night. When he finally answered, his voice was unsure, even fearful.

“I… I’m not sure. I don’t even know how this is possible! I… I guess it was because I’m concerned about you, now more than ever.” He said slowly and in a hesitant tone. Ruby cocked her head, not really understanding just yet what Chomper meant.

“Concerned… about me? W… why? I’m fine unlike so many others who have met me! It is those you should think about!” She said, completely oblivious to what she would receive as an answer. Ruby started to again shudder with cold but her friend’s answer shook that feeling far away from her mind.

“Ruby, you know what I mean. You were my closest friend of all who was always there for me. Of course I want what’s best for you and even if everything has went as badly as they could for you lately, it isn’t your fault! You cannot blame yourself for any of it!” He said in a loud voice, trying to get through Ruby’s guilt but to his surprise and disappointment, that didn’t seem to work the way he had hoped. The fastrunner’s voice was even frustrated as she answered.

“I already told you it was, Chomper! You weren’t there when I invited Yarel and Greentail because of my loneliness, when I only made things worse with your parents or when I ruined my own mommy’s eye! Now I am left with nothing because of my own mistakes and I do have the right to blame myself for it so you may keep your words to yourself!” She even shouted as she spoke, causing Chomper to twitch noticeably. The fastrunner immediately noticed that she had gone too far but her inner self-hate had suddenly just erupted after Chomper’s kind words. She immediately gasped and tried to stutter an apology.

“I… I mean that… Sorry for th…” She began but before she could het further with her answer, Chomper cut her short in a sadder voice than ever before.

“No, it is alright, Ruby. I understand that it might hard for you to believe. But before I’ll go, I want to tell you one more thing.” He said, causing Ruby to look at him in expectation. She had no idea what she’d hear but she’d listen to it with all her heart. The sharptooth’s voice was a strange and distant one, unlike anything Ruby had heard from him in life.

“Ruby, I hope you listen to what I’m about to say. You are in a terrible situation but I know that if there’s someone who can get away from it, it is you. I cannot say what you can do now but all I know is that you must keep moving on. I always knew you had something great coming in your future and it seemed like you’d also have more adventures before yourself. Regardless of whose fault all of this has truly been, you must not simply resign to whatever fate that is coming your way. For my sake, promise to keep going, Ruby.” He said pleadingly, looking as if he was narrowing his eyes in order to get Ruby do this one, final favor. However, the fastrunner was far from convinced by the young sharptooth’s words and she made her sentiment more than known as she answered.

“But I’m all alone! I have no place to go or no one to go with me! That is not the kind of life I want, the kind of life I want it is not! Every time before, I tried to help someone else but now, I’m alone in trying to find something to live for!” She said in a silent voice, sniffing one tear as she tried to prevent herself from falling into sadness again. She was more than happy for being able to speak with Chomper one more time but she knew more than well that they couldn’t stay together. Not anymore. The answer she received, however, caught her by surprise.

“Still, you have to go on. And besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have to forward alone. Farewell, Ruby. I couldn’t say it the last time but thank you for your care and all the happy times we went together. I’m more than happy I could call you my best friend.” The sharptooth said as the sky puffy suddenly started to break apart and the pile of clouds around the fastrunner disappear into the night. Ruby was more than alarmed by this but she knew more than well that this blessed chance to speak with her friend was over. She quickly looked at Chomper’s disappearing form, regretting everything she hadn’t had the chance to ask him. She merely cried after that sight and cried her last words.

“Goodbye, Chomper! Know that I will never, ever forget you and thank you so very much for giving me this one chance to speak with you. We’ll meet again one day.” She said as the sky puffy collapsed altogether, the shining of the lesser lights returning to that of their natural glow. It wasn’t long before the full violence of the wind again hit the fastrunner whose breaths grew faster. She fell to her knees into the ground, her eyes glimmering with shock and disbelief.

Had she actually spoken with Chomper? Had she actually managed to meet her long gone friend? But such a thing was impossible! It… it simply couldn’t be! Yet… that memory was still clear in her kind and she still heard his voice ringing in her ears. It simply wasn’t possible but… she had seen it with her own eyes. She didn’t even realize that her mouth turned into a smile, the realization of what had happened starting to slowly register within her mind. There was no way around it: Chomper had been here. There really was much to learn from this wondrous world and it seemed like one of these wonders had just been revealed to her. A brief breath left her mouth as she looked at the endless, black sky.

“Thank you, Chomper. Thank you so much.”

But even then, his words made Ruby more than just puzzled. She wanted to do as he had told her so very, very much but still, that conversation hadn’t really changed her situation in the least. She was still alone and despised, with no home or family. Yes, Chomper had said her situation wasn’t as grim as she thought but… what did he knew of such things? Even he couldn’t possibly change everything with his mere words.

No, her situation was still more than horrible but even then, she was heartened that Chomper still believed in her. For whatever it was worth, she at least still had his respect and love even if she had feared she had lost it so very long ago. The girl felt a shiver creep up her spine as another gust battered her side. Yes, she would try to do something tomorrow but for now, she only needed to get some r…

“Ruuubyyy! Are you out there?” She suddenly heard a sound that seemed to emanate from some other world. It was beyond silent, drowned by the wailing wind. Ruby nearly shrugged that aside as some kind of trick of her overstretched mind but… that was what she had nearly done to Chomper. With a curious but worried look, she turned towards the sound but decided against leaving her cave in case her ears were tricking her just yet.

However, another fearful thought rose into the fastrunner’s mind. She couldn’t recognize the voice through the wind’s howling and indeed, the best guess was that it would belong to her father… or even to her mother. Ruby had absolutely no desire to meet either of them, no matter whether they were coming to finish the job or to apologize to her. No matter what, she’d never look at them as her parents again and because of that, Ruby decided to make sure the newcomers weren’t those who had wronged her so very much.

The girl cringed deeply as she heard the calls growing closer and closer. She swallowed as she looked into the impenetrable curtain of white, deciding to make her move. She gulped as she jumped into the ground, knowing she’d have to leave as clear footsteps as deep as possible if she ever wanted to find her way back before they would be forever buried under the storm.

One step at a time, Ruby headed into the raging wasteland, listening to the cries that still rung throughout the lonely, dark plains. Soon, she started to finally make sense of the voices… and she was completely astonished by what she heard. These weren’t the voices of a grownup, they were the voices of children! And if that were true…

She nearly forgot to make the footsteps as the implications came crashing down upon her. It was Arial and Orchid who were looking for her! The girl’s heart swelled with concern and happiness as she headed towards the sounds with the best speed she could muster. It wasn’t long before she started recognizing some vague forms in the storm and she called to them with her loudest cry, much of the emotions barred inside her getting released as she saw her siblings again.

“Orchid! Arial! It is so good to see you, so good to see you it is! What are you doing here? Aww, I’m not that scary, am I?” She even chuckled as she saw her siblings nearly jump to the air in surprise. It wasn’t long before the girl saw two other forms appear before her, making her eyes widen further. Yarel and Greentail soon appeared before her as well but before she got the chance to speak, Orchid’s shocked voice spoke to her.

“Don’t scare us like that again, Ruby! How are you? Did mommy and daddy hurt you badly?” He asked, trying to catch his breath from the surprise. However, the older sibling received no chance to answer before Arial suddenly ran in front of her, a deep shock and disbelief radiating from her eyes.

“Please tell me this is just Orchid’s sick joke, Ruby! I wouldn’t have wanted to leave but Orchid told they’d kill us next if we stayed!” She exclaimed in shock, earning a hurt look from Orchid.

“I said so because it’s true! Don’t again try to paint me as…” He started but before he could finish, Yarel cut the younger omnivore short.

“Cut it already, you two! Give her the time to speak! We also wish to hear what she has to say!” He snapped, silencing the two children with a murderous glare. It was clear he was deeply torn and even infuriated by this sudden call for another adventure and the very least he wanted was some kind of explanation. Ruby was more than happy by his comments and she cleared her throat as she looked at Arial’s horrified expression. Her own melancholy returned as she thought about everything that had happened but her earlier conversation still dominated her thoughts. The girl waited a few seconds before speaking.

“Thank you, Yarel. Arial, I know it’s difficult to believe. I didn’t myself at first, but it is true. Mommy and daddy attacked me and tried to take me down. That’s all there is to it.” She said, willing to give some time for her sister to accept this horrifying truth. Arial’s eyes widened in shock and she took a few steps back as her breaths intensified.

“B… but why? Why would they do anything like that?” She asked, stopping only when Orchid took her by the hand to calm her down. Ruby looked at her with an apologizing look as she started to speak, not seeing any reason to leave anything out of the story. Neither of her parents deserved any sugarcoating of their actions nor did Arial deserve to be told lies.

“They thought that by killing me, Chomper’s parents would stop coming after you. You see, if both of our families lost one member, mommy and daddy thought they would leave you in peace. At first I thought they were right but… I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sacrifice myself for your sake.” She said, her face turning darker by the second. Again, she started to wonder if she had done the right thing or not but at the very least, she could tell her not to worry about the eternal past. She looked at Greentail as the latter spoke to her, her voice seeming to grow steadier a bit every day.

“If you had done that after everything we went through… know that I would never have forgiven you for that! I knew our kinds do many bad things but this… maybe it’s good that we haven’t had our parents for many seasons, Yarel.” She said in a silent voice, her face growing glum as she thought of what Ruby had gone through. Ruby nodded at her in silent agreement before she looked at the four omnivores in puzzlement.

“You may be right. But… why did you come here? There’s nothing for you to gain by following me! I’m… I’m just lost and I don’t even know what I should do!” She said, trying to find some reason why her companions had wanted to seek her out. She was surprised as she heard a disgusted spat from Orchid. The boy looked at her in anger, his expression not hiding any of his inner fury and outrage.

“Did you really expect us to stay with mommy and daddy after everything that happened? I can never look them in the same way again and who knows how long it would be until they realized killing us would also help somebody! We know you don’t know where to go now but at least you are still Ruby and at least you haven’t tried to kill any of us!” He spoke with a spirited voice, looking at his older sister in clear approval. Arial nodded at her brother’s statement readily, realizing now that Orchid had been right all along. At first, Ruby thought of trying to make see her siblings see the error of their ways but inside, Ruby had to admit she could hardly stay with anyone who tried to kill either her precious brother or sister either. She gave them a wide smile before turning at the thinclaws.

“Thank you both. I just hope we’ll make it through everything together. But how about you, Yarel and Greentail? You could have just went to live on your own and never meet my parents again! And now that I think of it, how are you here? Did Orchid alert you as well?” The fastrunner asked with a puzzled look, only now wondering that one detail. Yarel crossed his arms slightly, cursing the seemingly never-easing wind as he answered.

“In fact, we were woken by the sounds of your fight and… and we saw how it ended. It wasn’t long before those two headed after you and… and we wanted to get to the bottom of this. We could immediately see this was something we simply had to know.” He said simply, wondering inside if his and his sister’s presence was really even wanted among the three siblings. Still, he felt the chill creep into his limbs as he thought of everything that had transpired on this sickening night. Ruby nodded at him briefly before starting to think of her and her companions’ situation. She couldn’t deny that she was extremely happy about the appearance of her siblings and friends. Inside her, Chomper’s words rang in her mind.

And besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have to forward alone.

Had he known of this all along? Ruby didn’t even know of what to believe but she smiled as she thought about Chomper’s encouragement to her in the most difficult time of her life. However, she was far from confident on how to move on from this night. Even if she didn’t want to leave any of the four, she didn’t want to lead them either. She had already lead them enough and every time, she only led them to ever worse situations. She frowned as she turned away from them in order to sort her thoughts before speaking again.

“Alright. You can’t know how much your presence here means to me but… you cannot follow me! I am hated by so many and even now, Chomper’s parents yearn for my blood, for my blood they yearn! I have nothing to offer you and only so very much to take! I… I don’t want to think what would happen if all of you came with me again.” She said with fearful eyes, all of the horrors that might follow in the future flashing in front of her eyes. However, it was Arial who gave the first answer. She exchanged glances between her brother before speaking.

“But where else would we go to? Ruby, you are our sister and we can never again stay with mommy and daddy after what they’ve done. You know that you are our only chance now. Please, don’t turn us away.” She said pleadingly, causing Ruby’s expression to turn considerably starker. She knew her sister was right but that didn’t change your own point. She was trying to form some kind of coherent answer as Greentail spoke to her suddenly.

“And if you three go together, that is our best bet as well. Of course, that is only if you still allow us to follow. I promise I won’t be a burden on you.” She said even if everyone present knew that was a pure lie. At first, the fastrunner gasped in shock at those words but before she realized, her mind had turned against the other dinosaurs’ proposition completely. Her voice was a mix of fear and anger as she finally managed to form some kind of answer.

“But… please, don’t be stupid! You all have safe and good lives around here! Orchid and Arial, I know you think what mommy and daddy did is wrong, and it is, but I promise you, they would not hurt you! They hurt me only because I did wrong and you’d be much safer with them! They would still take good care of you and I know they’d love to have you around for mommy’s recovery! And Yarel and Greentail, you already said you’d forge yourself a new life around the lake! You could have a silent life out there and I’m sure you’d do well! None of you have to come with me! All of you have a place to stay where you will be just fine! If you follow me, you’ll throw all of that away! What can we do about Chomper’s parents or mommy and daddy? Wh… Where would we try to go t…” Ruby cried, not really able to decide what to want or believe. She didn’t really want to chase her companions away but the words came as if by themselves without any thinking. However, before she managed to finish her rant, she was suddenly blinded by a new flash of light that nearly made her world turn white.

Gasps escaped from the mouths of the fastrunners as they saw the very same dancing lights in the sky that had also been there the very past day. Ruby frowned deeply as she watched at them, not knowing what to think. First she had met Chomper and now these mysterious colors returned again… what in the world was happening? Suddenly everything seemed so very strange and nothing made any sense. Again, they seemed to be rising from the very same direction as before and again, their source seemed to be one small spot far, far in the distance. This time, they started to fade far faster than the first time but they again left a deep impression on the first group. It wasn’t long before Arial’s voice broke the silence.

“I… it was that again. But… why?” She asked merely, knowing each one of her companions were thinking the exact same thing. Ruby shrugged as an answer, not finding anything to say. She had never seen anything like this before but now they had appeared twice within a day. After a short while, she finally managed to form some coherent words.

“That’s something we don’t know, Arial. But I do know that something is happening, something we don’t know yet.” She whispered, not able to tear her thoughts away from the fact that both these lights and Chomper had appeared on the very same day. However, Orchid’s next words hit her like a falling tree.

“Then we can try to find out what! That’s at least much better than staying here or returning to mommy and daddy!” The boy cried, immediately gathering the other omnivores’ eyes towards him. Ruby was the first one to speak.

“Absolutely not, Orchid! We are not going to chase some lights in the middle of a Cold Time with two sharpteeth on our heels!” She cried, her expression taking a frustrated turn as Orchid’s even smug look deepened. The younger sibling snapped his answer without further thinking.

“So it’s better just to stay here, stalked by those same sharpteeth who’ll learn the environment faster than we can? Only to be either attacked or chased after our own parents?” He said, his face suddenly looking dead serious. At first, Ruby thought of trying to shout him silent but it wasn’t long until she realized how very little she had to say that would go even close to countering Orchid’s proposition. She took a deep breath before she finally managed to form an answer.

“B… but we cannot! What if there’s nothing to find? I mean, we’d be heading out there without any real direction? Certainly you others can’t agree with him?” She asked, trying to sort out her own thoughts. However, her puzzlement only deepened as the two thinclaws exchanged glances, Greentail able to read her brother’s feelings from the little vision she had left. She knew that journey would be a difficult one for her but she was slowly growing more optimistic about her walking. She would follow Yarel as long as she simply could and as long as she could take another breath, she wouldn’t resign to her fate. Never mind that spending the rest of her life trying to avoid taking another step would be a death sentence for her kind. She looked at Ruby and spoke carefully.

“As he said, we have little choice. We can’t stay here and we have nowhere to go. Many tales have told of lights like these and who knows, maybe we’ll find something worth telling ourselves. Truth be told, this wasn’t a very good place to stay anyway.” She spoke, not able to hide her inner interest in this most mysterious of phenomena. There seemed to be one single place from where all of the lights had come and it would be a thing worth investigating. Arial continued from the thinclaw’s comments.

“And the farther we are from mommy and daddy, the better off we all are! If you others are willing to go, so am I!” She exclaimed in a confident voice, not seeing any better way of moving forward. None of Ruby’s companions seemed to have many misgivings about that idea and deep inside, the fastrunner couldn’t help but feel her natural curiosity rise within her. Her initial misgivings about that quest started to die out as she finally accepted the arguments of her siblings and her friends. And if she would actually discover something worthwhile, it simply wouldn’t pay to stay here, only struggling to survive without dreams or hopes about a better tomorrow. She finally gave her companions a brief smile as she finally gave her answer.

“I guess there’s no harm in it. I see there’s no changing your minds anyway. We may leave tomorrow but first, we have to spend the night safe from this wind! Come, I know just the place where we can rest before leaving tomorrow morning!” She said in clear relief, knowing that any purpose, no matter how vague or far-fetched, would help her in moving on. Just like Chomper had said, she’d have to keep moving on. She wasn’t quite ready to reveal her encounter with him to her companions just yet but perhaps one day, she’d find enough courage to do so. For now, she merely looked at the starry night sky and a quick thought flashed through her mind as she thought about everything that had happened.

It seems you were right after all, Chomper. Thank you for everything, my friend.

The fastrunner felt like his heart was doing its all in an effort to escape from his chest, the sensation of its beating only overwhelmed by the horrible sorrow that filled every part of his mind. Everything seemed like some kind of a horrific joke to Detras who did his best not to completely give in to his inner struggles. The male tried to force his way back towards his nest to search for more of the remaining leaves of the Warm Time to stop the bleeding of her mate’s eye.

He couldn’t even start to think whether it was his encounter with Ruby, his failure to protect his two other children from Dein and Terri’s vengeance or the injury and mental breakdown of his mate that hurt him the most. This was the very worst situation that could happen and even the light blue fastrunner, who so very often wanted to see himself as a voice of reason and courage within his family, felt his tears flow down his cheeks. He couldn’t block the memories of Ruby’s childhood from his mind, all the images of those happy days getting slowly mixed up with her looks of terror, hurt and betrayal that had appeared on her face the second he had tried to send her into the Great Beyond far before her time.

The fastrunner was forced to lean against the wall of stone to his right in a desperate effort to avoid collapsing to the ground. None of this was supposed to happen! If Ruby had kept Chomper safe, if he had succeeded in getting rid of the two sharpteeth or even if he had managed to end Ruby’s life… at least some of the pain within his heart would be swept away. Now, however, he had sent Ruby to a lonely, slow death and he had nothing to show for it! Detras cursed himself for thinking like this but he still knew he’d have to keep his family safe, no matter what. And for now, it was her mate who needed her help first. He forced himself back to his feet and resumed his advance towards his nest, determined to prevent as much pain to his beloved mate as he simply could.

As Detras finally reached the mouth of the cave he called his home, he would have wanted to think he’d also see Ruby lying there with her brother and sister, knowing full well how much they loved each other. Yet, he knew that simply wasn’t possible and he exhaled in sadness, knowing that it simply would never again happen. However, as he ventured deeper into the tunnel, he suddenly stopped dead in his track and looked before himself in horror.

Not only was Ruby missing but Orchid and Arial as well!

The pile of ground sparkles under the female’s head was already filled with gaping holes formed by her warm tears and drops of blood but that was of no interest to the female. Even her remaining eye couldn’t see anything through her endless sobbing, only the searing, sickening pain from her ruined eye competing with her regret. She deserved everything that had happened to her! She had finally revealed what she had been all along: a selfish monster who was always prepared to kill any of her children without any remorse. Pearl’s hands turned into fists as she looked at the ground, not seeing any way to escape this horrifying reality.

How could she have done this? She had never even dared to think of this in the past and when her mate had proposed this to her, she had just accepted it like a brainless idiot! And because of her decision, her precious child had been attacked by those who she was supposed to be able to trust the most in this world! By her own parents… Pearl saw within her mind’s eyes as she and her mate tore Ruby apart, both of them smiling for a job well done. Neither of them were even distantly thinking of the implications, only that they had “completed their duty”! What utter rubbish! Pearl knew she had had one duty, to protect her children and she had failed beyond miserably!

Her entire head twitched as she brought her hand to her ruined eye, feeling as the terrifying agony seemed to radiate to every single part of her body. Even if she knew just how much losing an eye meant to any dinosaur, she couldn’t help but feel something good in it. At the very least, she had been punished for her sick mistake and she would carry this mark of shame and the reminder of her worst moment for all eternity. It suited her kind of disgrace more than well! Pearl was just about to press the damaged orb even more in order to force herself to divert her thoughts away from her guilt and more into her physical pain when she heard a pained voice behind her.

“Turn around, dear. Let us stop the bleeding.” Detras said as she looked at his mate’s back, fearing about the discussion that was before him. He waited for a few seconds before Pearl finally gave her answer to him.

“Take them away, Detras. I don’t want any help anyone can give me.” She said, not even turning to look at her mate as she spoke. The male, however, wasn’t about to accept that answer and he knelt on the female’s side as he gave his answer.

“Don’t be silly, my love. Now, I know this will hurt but please, stay still.” He said as he raised some of the leaves around Pearl’s eye and started to use some partially solidified sap to make them stay at least for a while. He was slightly annoyed as Pearl didn’t make his job any easier as she should know that this situation wasn’t any easier for him! Yet, he simply couldn’t watch his mate in this condition. He was nearly finished until the female finally spoke to him.

“We deserved all of this. We are monsters who don’t deserve to raise even one child ever again. I even wish Ruby would have injured me even more.” She said, not seeming to pay any heed to her mate’s aid. Detras frowned deeply, his own feathers also completely wet from his own tears. He fought hard to keep his composure together as he gave his answer. He already dreaded having to tell Pearl the whole terrible truth this close to her in her already frail mental state but Pearl didn’t deserve to be lied to, not today.

“I know, dear. But it only gets worse. Both Arial and Orchid are gone.” He said simply, not able to say anything more himself. He made sure to finish covering Pearl’s injuries without speaking those words as he knew exactly what the reaction would be. He hadn’t taken those news in any more easily. Pearl’s good eye flashed open immediately as she turned at the male with a horrified look in her eyes.

“What? That… cannot be true! Please me that isn’t true!” She cried at Detras who gave only a sad look at her as an answer. Pearl’s breathing intensified immediately as she started to think about those implications. Her precious babies… along with Ruby… all of them gone… She suddenly spoke to her mate, her eye glanced towards the horizon with a look of fear and horror.

“T… they must have gone after, Ruby! But what if they don’t find her in that storm? They… they may be freezing out there or they can be found by a sharptooth! Oh orchid and Arial… why did you go…” She stuttered as she did her best to calm in this moment of shock. Detras looked at her in agreement as he gave his answer to her grief-stricken mate, nodding as he spoke.

“You’re completely correct, Pearl. I’m afraid one of them saw what happened and did what was to be expected. And I cannot say I blame. Just forgive me for what I’ve done. I thought what I did was right but… I just ruined everything!” The name said as his composure slowly started to break. Pearl looked at him with a clearly apologetic look but she was in no position to even try to console him. She merely looked at him as she whispered her answer.

“I should have known far better than to do what you said, Detras. All our lives, you have made only the right decisions but… now you were wrong. We both were in so many ways.” She said as she looked at her mate who hesitated between completely giving up to his inner despair and retaining at least a modicum of self-control. Tears started to again fall down his cheeks as he spoke.

“No matter what we’ll do, they’ll never again see us the same way. Nor will I ever forgive myself. I’m… I’m just very sorry it was you and Ruby who had to pay.” He said, struggling to find anything to say. Pearl fought to catch a breath in order to even have a hope of calming down. Shen then turned at her mate and whispered to him, knowing just how miserable her own words were but she also knew that they haunted her mind in this delicate hour.

“I deserved it, Detras. Every singly damn bit of it. I wouldn’t have blamed her even if she had torn away my other eye as well. I… I just wish I knew what to do now. We aren’t her family anymore, dear. Not after what we did. You realize what that means?” She asked, her mind falling into an ever-deepening cycle of self-loathing. She knew she had no right to ever ask for forgiveness from anyone but neither could she live without her children.

Detras sighed deeply as he suddenly hit his head against the nearby wall of rock. Yes, he knew just how bad things really were and he feared he didn’t have the heart to meet his daughter ever again. He even toyed with the idea of simply waiting for Dein and Terri’s reaction and face their vengeance the way an honorable fastrunner should. However, there was also one competing thought within his mind, one that her mate had overlooked in her pain. Detras took a deep breath as he spoke again, knowing that his idea would only cause more misery and pain to everyone but he simply saw no better way of moving forward.

“I know how you feel, dear, but we simply cannot let them go. I could pray from the Bright Circle and the lesser lights that Ruby could survive out there but we simply cannot let Orchid and Arial go.” He said, cringing deeply. He had no idea how his idea would turn out but as he thought of his children shivering in the cold, hungry and freezing… A fearful disgust rose within him. However, he was soon interrupted by the female whose answer surprised Detras greatly.

“We have no choice, dear. At least we can hope they’ll be safe. We have no choice but to let them go. I have no heart to face them anymore.” She said, deep in her thoughts but she was suddenly taken aback by her mate’s angered voice. Detras was in little better mood than the female but he still wasn’t ready to completely resign to his fate.

“Just listen to yourself! Whether or not we deserve it, we still are their parents and we simply cannot stay here while they head into who knows where and very possibly getting killed in the process! We have to at least make sure they’re alright! That’s the least we can do even if they’ll never forgive us for what we did!” The male raged, causing Pearl to fall deeper into her thoughts. She had trusted Detras before with disastrous results but this time, some tiny voice deep within her told her that he was right. And she couldn’t deny that she’d gladly take any chance to help her precious children. Whereas last time she had tried to take Ruby’s life, this time she’d try to save that of her siblings. After a short while of silence, she gave her answer.

“I guess you are right. Orchid and Arial will never make it out there without our help. I still fear that Dein and Terri will want to have Ruby’s head… and ours as well now. We failed to fulfill our part of the agreement, after all.” She said, frowning as she looked at the endless plains surrounding the Desolate Rise, thinking of everything that would follow soon enough. However, her words didn’t have the impact she had expected on the male. Instead, Detras rose to his full height and narrowed his eyes as he spoke.

“Let them come. It is high time we take a stand against those bastards like a true fastrunner would. They will never again tell us who deserves to live or die.” He said, cursing the moment he had proposed that deal to the sharpteeth. From now on, he would spare no effort or danger to keep all his family safe, no matter what. Inside, he knew that could be a short path but he would not compromise with them anymore. Pearl nodded at him in approval, glad to see this change within her mate. Both of the fastrunners knew that this day had already changed everything in their lives but before the end, they’d do their all to make things better for their children, no matter the cost.

“Ruby, I’m freezing. I simply hate the Cold Time!” Arial said as she walked after her sister, the weather starting to get under her feathers slowly but surely. In the five days since her and her companions’ departure from the Desolate Rise, there hadn’t fallen anymore of the frozen sky stars but the weather had only grown more freezing in its stead. Ruby knew that her sister was starting to suffer from it but still, there was nothing she or anyone else could do about it. Her voice suited her frustration as she snapped back at her.

“I know, Arial! You don’t have to tell me about it all the time. You should at least be happy that these woods block most of the wind! If we still were at those wastes, then it would get real cold! So try to be silent and follow us!” She said as she looked at Arial’s expression. Inside, she was rather concerned about her but this was something Arial would simply have to get over. That was one of the reasons she had asked her to accompany her and Yarel on this early morning’s forage for some, any food in this thick forest they had reached the previous evening. She couldn’t wait until tomorrow when this morning’s journey would be up to the other half of her small group of companions as there was no reason for all of them to be bothered every day. Ruby was woken from her thoughts as Yarel snapped at the younger female in a slightly annoyed voice.

“Besides, you agreed to come along with us! The Cold Time isn’t any easier for us others but our kinds are better suited for this than many others! So be a proper halftooth and get a hold of yourself!” He said, echoing Ruby’s sentiment. He shivered himself and he knew it had to be even worse for a younger child but still, he wasn’t in a mood to listen to her whining right now. However, Arial wasn’t about to as she was told, instead asking another question that immediately earned a collective sigh from both of her companions.

“But what can we even hope to find here? We’ve found no green food anywhere! It’s all hopeless!” She cried before Yarel suddenly looked back at her and spoke in an even sterner voice than before.

“And it gets all the more hopeless if you don’t stay silent! We all know food is scarce but we have no choice but to find some somewhere! At least on the Desolate Rise you would have had food but too bad that it is too late for you to return there!” He snapped, finally causing Arial to realize her own pitifulness. Ruby frowned at her companion’s last words but didn’t want to add anything to them. She was happy that Yarel had forgiven her earlier disregard for Greentail and now, he was an invaluable help moving forward. Without him, things…

Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by a new smell and she raised her head higher to sniff the air. She turned to look at her left into the thick woods, the pale light of the Cold Time’s morning hardly even making its way through the trees. Arial stopped beside her sister before cocking her head and asking the older fastrunner the obvious question.

“What is it, Ruby? Is something wrong?” She asked, immediately fearing for the worst. Sharpteeth were a mortal danger even in this season and at first, Ruby seemed more than a little concerned about whatever she smelled. After a few seconds, she looked at the other girl and spoke with a whisper.

“Just follow me and try to make as little noise as possible! Quickly, now!” She said as Yarel nodded at her in approval, apparently also smelling whatever Ruby had smelled, his hopeful look calming Arial down as well. Ruby cringed at the sound of her legs sinking into the ground sparkles as that sound alone broke the near-completely tranquility of the woods but it simply couldn’t be helped now. She simply prayed this quest wouldn’t have a tragic ending.

A minute after minute passed as the trio advanced slowly, each sound of the wind or movement of a ground fuzzy alerting them for a possible fight or escape. However, Ruby was increasingly courage that the smell of the swimmer seemed to be drawing closer as a lengthy chase was something she wanted to avoid. Finally, the smell was strong enough that she raised her hand, ordering them to stop immediately. The swimmer had to be very near and the trio simply couldn’t alert it to their presence. The wind was blowing from a very favorable direction so sounds were the only thing that could ever reveal their location to their possible prey. All of the fastrunners wanted to avoid hunting but if they had to do it, a swimmer was one of their safest bets. Ruby sighed as she took another step and glanced to the small clearing before her… her smile widening immediately. She called to her companions immediately in a more normal voice.

“It’s alright! The swimmer is long dead! We found ourselves a free meal!” She cried with a wide smile, looking at the cheers of her two companions. This would be the first good meal any of them had had since their departure from the Desolate Rise and they would have to be savored each and every time. Arial was the first to head towards the swimmer, chuckling as she spoke.

“Well done, Ruby! Thank you for guiding us here! B… but why did the swimmer die? Was it sick?” She asked in deep worry, looking at Ruby with a torn expression. She knew that eating a sick dinosaur was more often than not dangerous and that her kind had to make sure that its cause of death hadn’t been some horrifying illness. However, it was Yarel who answered to her after sniffing the dead swimmer for a few times first.

“It’s okay, Arial. There’s no trace of any kind of sickness in him. He most likely died because of the cold as there are not any kind of injuries within him. It’s safe.” He said to Arial whose hesitating look lingered for a few more seconds before she moved to Yarel’s side, starting eat the swimmer’s abdomen thankfully. That moment was suddenly cut short as Yarel suddenly looked at Ruby and asked her with a thoughtful look.

“Say, Ruby, isn’t this the same swimmer we met just before we finally found the Rise? I thought there was something familiar in him the moment I saw him.” He said while he looked at his meal with a slightly apologetic gaze. Ruby’s eyes widened as he realized that Yarel had been correct but in the end, that mattered little to the girl. He had helped her and her companions, true, but they had met only once. Her voice was an unmoved one as she answered.

“I believe you’re correct, Yarel. Still, he’s the only meal we have here and it’s fitting he’d help us again, now isn’t it?” She asked with a slight smirk, trying to find some humor in this another day of searching and shivering. The girl was just about to join her companions in eating the swimmer… as she suddenly smelled something else that made her stand still. She suddenly interrupted the two other omnivores again as she turned around.

“Wait a little longer. There’s another swimmer here and that means whatever it means. Follow me.” She said, knowing that there was either a threat or more food nearby. Immediately, her two companions realized these implications as well and crouched towards the ground immediately. Ruby could tell that the other dinosaur couldn’t be far away and also that it had to be younger than she had first anticipated. And there was something familiar within that scent… no, that couldn’t be possible. It just couldn’t. She threw away her thoughts and tried to concentrate on the task before her… while her doubts still lingered within her.

The fastrunner did her best to touch as few of the small, dead bushes around her as little as possible even if she was completely concentrated on the shady woods before herself. Her mind whirled terribly as she thought about what she’d find here. And soon enough, she saw a small, unmoving form before her and on that moment, only a single yelp escaped the fastrunner’s mouth.

“Ducky? Can that really be you?”

And yep, I believe this is one revelation many have waited for a long time. It seems another member of the Gang has been found but in what kind of condition? And does she know anything about the rest of the main characters? This chapter again contained many scenes that changed the course of the story and I decided to give my some reprieve from the gloom of the last chapters. I hope you liked it and see you in the next installment!


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #94 on: January 16, 2019, 02:33:34 AM »
Whoa.  This chapter was certainly a chapter of revelations, which came one after another like hail hitting on a roof.  Like hail hitting on a roof, however, the revelations took on a distinct rhythm and did not feel disjointed in the overall narrative.  Let me consider them one at a time.

First we have Ruby's vision.  Though Ruby herself briefly doubted what she had seen, the appearance of Chomper to reassure his friend is a touching scene that appears to have given the fastrunner just the nudge that she needed in order to accept what happened later.  The replication of a cloud (as in Littlefoot's vision) to appear to Ruby is also a nice touch and a callback of sorts to the original film.  It shows that the friendship between her and her charge was retained even in death, which is understandably a weight off of her shoulders right when she needed that reassurance.

And then we have the arrival of Arial, Orchid, and Ruby's other companions.  The flight of the fastrunners from their parent's shelter is understandable considering the circumstances, as despite the reasoning staying with parents after they tried to take such an action would be an extremely difficult pill to swallow.  Ruby's protests and eventual acceptance is also nicely done.  Chomper's warning and reassurance did just enough to ensure that she did not push away her new companions.

And speaking of potential companions... now it appears that we have Ducky.  Though I cannot say what struggles she has been through I can only imagine that she, like the others, has been through her fair share of turmoil.  I can only hope that with two of the gang back together (Ducky and Ruby) and two trying to find one another again (Petrie and Littlefoot) that soon the surviving members can find themselves together.  As I suspect it is only together that they will be able to face the mystery that awaits them.

Nicely done, once again!  :)

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


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #95 on: January 24, 2019, 03:05:08 PM »
Another Dead End?

After days of seemingly never-ending gloom, the barrage of sky puffies started to slowly disintegrate, allowing the frail rays of the Bright Circle cast their light upon the large mountain range. It wasn’t enough to warm any of the dinosaurs taking refuge in the Streli’s Hills but even a small sighting of light was enough to lift the spirits of many after a flight they had already thought would never end. The light was a perfect companion to the relative relief after the many battles that had taken the lives of many of their friends and relatives. However, that temporary brightness was completely lost on one flyer who looked at his deputies with a stern look. Deep frowns could be seen on his face as he spoke.

“I cannot overstate how intolerable all of this is! It has been a week since we got rid of that bastard Peak and already some are blaming me of all our losses in saving us from his and Nira’s blight! And even worse, some have gotten the idea that it was me who ordered Deron’s attack on us! Why, may I ask?” He said, his already pale face only losing more of its color as he did his best to avoid suffering a total meltdown. He had been more than happy with himself when he had managed to finish that journey of death and pain and hearing accusations towards him from his followers wasn’t something he was going to tolerate.

Lenel knew that there was likely much bitterness towards him among Peak and Nira’s former herds but he had hoped that this newfound sense of safety would drown at least most of the criticism among them. Slight voices of dissent could be expected but the intensity with which certain rumors seemed to spread these days was something that concerned the male greatly. He had hoped that there could be another explanation for this but his doubts had slowly transformed into real suspicion: there was someone working against him in this pitiful range of mountains. The highest-ranking flyer’s mood was hardly boosted when he heard Taria’s answer.

“Excuse me, Lenel, but I believe some are only confused by the loss of their leaders. Such rumors should die out in time one the others realize just how ridiculous such claims truly are.” She said somewhat nervously, knowing full well the depth of Lenel’s anger. He had made clear he wanted the situation calmed down as soon as possible but things were taking a turn for the worse. If those rumors were accepted by most of the herd, Lenel’s position could be in peril far sooner than any had expected. Sireia looked at the other female and snapped back at her in slight annoyance.

“You should know better than to propose something like that, Taria. You know very well we must act before lies corrupt the minds of our herd. We cannot wait.” She said, earning a look of apology from the deputy. A brief moment of silence followed but it was soon broken by the fourth participant in this meeting. Haste’s voice was an unreadable one as she looked at the slopes below the four flyers, filled with their followers as well as other herds.

“That we cannot, Sireia. Lenel is right: we cannot count the possibility of our foes seizing this chance to plot against us. After all, things got worse soon after we arrived to the Hills.” Her face turned even darker as she spoke, implying she was more than serious about her allegations. Lenel frowned deeply as he heard those words, the female’s presence slowly starting to worry him. Something within her had started to raise suspicions within the male, not least because of the way she had ended up as his deputy. Deep down, the pale flyer even questioned her loyalty but even then, he couldn’t take rash decisions. She had done nothing worthy of his condemnation and even worse, she was an indispensable ally in upholding his authority within the herd. Lenel hid his thoughts masterfully as he answered the other flyer.

“It indeed is regretful there are so many other herds around here, Haste. I believe we’re both thinking of the same possibility.” He asked, willing to hear if he indeed could read the slightly shorter dinosaur’s line of thinking. Even if he had certain reservations against Nira’s sister, he still wanted to believe his true foes were further away from him than that. It was even probable that Haste hadn’t moved a finger against him but until he was sure of it, he’d follow her moves closely. Haste’s face was unmoved as she answered.

“If you believe that our old foes might take this chance to attack us using the other herds, we indeed are. It was regretful that Peak managed to flee from that fight. If I were him, I wouldn’t rest until I had my revenge.” She said, looking at the majestic, white mountains that seemed to rise closer to the skies than any other place she had ever laid her eyes upon. Streli’s Hills were higher than even hundreds of longnecks piled upon each other, a place worthy of honoring the great hero by bearing his name. Yes, it was a majestic place but it mattered little to the female. Lenel frowned deeply as he walked closer to Haste to observe the sight, thinking of her words. His voice was beyond thoughtful as he answered.

“Yes, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Peak even if his sight must be terribly weakened. However, we have no proof he is in any way involved in these rumors and in fact, we don’t know if he is even anywhere near us.” He merely said, not willing to make it seem like he was blaming his deputy for anything. He wanted to keep all his cards to himself in case anything regretful should happen. Haste was about to answer when Taria spoke to her leader.

“Of course you are right but she might have a point. We don’t know if any of the other herds’ leaders are Peak’s allies or friends. There is a clear chance that we might overlook a major threat if we ignore the chance that someone here is plotting against us.” She said, knowing that was one thing she could help her leader with. Lenel glanced at her in interest, weighing her words deeply. He then sighed as he looked at the pale form of the Bright Circle.

“I tend to agree, Taria. We have to get a closer look at the other leaders before we can start to make further arrangements for our coexistence here until the Warm Time arrives again. However, all three of you, remember to keep your eyes open. Whether it is Peak, Deron or someone else, someone here is attempting to sabotage our work in our herd. Trying to find out who is our foremost task. Remember that.” He said, his face tensing up as he gave that order.  Haste and Taria nodded to him immediately and they took off without further words. Lenel looked after them for a while before turning at Sireia and speaking to his mate in a low voice.

“Especially keep an eye on Haste, my love. I fear she may not have told us everything about her ambitions.” He said but almost before he had finished his words, Sireia took a more serious look than before. The rather heavily-built female looked her mate in the eyes and crossed her arms as she spoke.

“I’ve noticed the very same thing. Her efforts to show her loyalty to us at every turn is something I don’t like in the least.” She said, surprising Lenel with her words. The male knew her mate was a clever flyer and it were times like these that made her more than happy she was here with him. He finally let out a slight smile as he spoke to the light-tan dinosaur.

“And here I even thought whether or not I should tell you about it. Apparently I was wrong to even consider such things.” He said as he looked into the horizon, investigating the mighty river that flowed far, far in the distance through a frozen bog. His smile deepened as he heard Sireia’s answer to his words.

“Of course you should tell me about everything! That’s what we have done ever since we first met.” She said even if there was no hint of blame in her voice. Lenel then turned at the female and his voice turned to his more normal one slowly but surely.

“I’m grateful that you remind me of that once in a while.” He said simply, earning a slight chuckle from Sireia. She was just about to answer when he heard a loud yelp behind him.

“Lenel, your presence is needed elsewhere! Kero and Northwind have returned and they say they have news that will interest you greatly!” The courier said, his voice signaling that he knew just how important this issue was for Lenel. The pale flyer exchanged glances with Sireia, his heart jumping as he heard those words. He had waited eagerly for their return and with any chance, today could turn out to be one of the greatest days of his life. He answered to the courier immediately.

“Waste no time and show us the way!”

There had been more than a few times when Petrie thought like he simply couldn’t flap his wings anymore during the last day of flying. His wings felt heavier than rocks and his breathing seemed to sound more forced by the second. There had even been a few occasions when the boy felt like his gaze was turning black from his fatigue but still, he knew had to keep going forward. If he lost the sight of his former companions, he knew he’d never be able to find them again, greatly diminishing his chances of ever finding Littlefoot or his family again. But even then, trying to keep up with the two larger flyers while doing his best to hide his presence from them was something that was far more difficult than he had initially expected.

Yet, day after day passed and he never let the thought of why he had embarked on this story slip away from his mind. His determination alone enabled him to fly faster than ever before and to ignore his fatigue and exhaustion, all of those struggles only driving him towards a happy ending for this Cold Time of misery and tragedy. He would live to see its end and he would find Littlefoot, no matter what.

When the sight of the mighty mountains finally appeared before Petrie, he nearly fainted from relief. These hills sticking up from the never-ending steppe had to be the fabled Streli’s Hills, the place he had been looking for so long that Petrie felt like it had happened in some distant, other life. This was the place uncle Pterano had spoken of so very often, the place he had so badly wanted to reach with his nephew. A wave of melancholy swept over Petrie at those memories but in the end, he was too tired to really mourn about the relative happiness he had lost not so long ago.

Almost immediately after he had spotted his destination, he finally lowered his altitude and took a course different from that of his companions. He couldn’t care less about what Kero and Northwind would do from now on, all he cared was to find those so very precious to him. And the best way was to take a brief look whether there were any signs of his precious family among the gathered flyers. After the boy made sure the two older males wouldn’t be able to recognize him, Petrie rose far higher into the sky and headed upwards, gasping as he saw just how very high the mighty mountains went.

His eyes widened slightly as the wall of stone never seemed to end no matter how high he went. The walls of the Great Valley were nothing compared to Streli’s Hills but eventually, Petrie managed to reach the point where more and more flyers started to appear behind him. The boy looked in slight shock at the sheer number of his kind out here but even then, he remembered that there were supposed to be many herds gathered around this season. But no matter how hard he tried to look, there was no sign of his family. But even then, he knew that finding them like that would have been a miracle but it was more than likely that someone here would be able to help him. It wasn’t long before he started to see familiar faces on the higher slopes of the mountains. It seemed like practically everyone who had lived through the great battle against Peak’s followers had survived the rest of the flight here. A promising sign for their future cooperation, Petrie figured.

However, that still didn’t solve his problem. He needed to find at least someone who could help him without making his presence known to any potentially hostile flyers that might still blame him for what he did to Hoist. Now, where to begin… Petrie’s eyes widened as he saw the only friend he had made talk with the boy he could now recognize as Brownbeak far in the distance. Maybe, just maybe, she could help him with his search?

And even if she couldn’t, Petrie was more than excited to exchange a word or two with the other flyer even if he knew the duo’s reunion would be short-lived. He took a deep breath as he headed towards her, hoping to receive at least some help from Glide in evaluating whether the new herds were trustworthy or whether they should be avoided. But no matter what, this would be a great opportunity to shake off the worst fears of his journey and to meet the friend again he had already thought he’d never see again.

“How many times do I have to tell you that it would be beyond foolish to try to try to find the highest peak of these mountains, Brownbeak? It’s already cold enough here as it is!” She said as she put her hands on her hips, not exactly excited about the male’s answer. She was more than annoyed by this conversation as the more days passed, the more she started to realize the two flyers didn’t seem to have anything in common anymore. Brownbeak also frowned at her answer before he gave his answer.

“Come on, Glide! We simply cannot stay in our nests the entire Cold Time! Besides, this is a place of legend! We have the opportunity to find out its secrets and we simply cannot sit still until we head off again!” He said pleadingly, also growing slightly annoyed with the other flyer’s antics. He was beyond captivated by the majesty of these mountains and he wanted to see whether they truly continued all the way into the skies. Besides, it had been told that Streli had flown higher than even the lesser lights themselves in this place and thus bought the flyers the gift to rule the skies forever. He simply had to explore this amazing place while he had the chance. Glide, however, didn’t seem to budge from her stance in the least.

“Even that is better than to freeze out there or get attacked by some sharptooth flyer! Brownbeak, I know this is a famed place but we have to remember who we are! Just look out there! The mountains get only higher all the time in that direction and we would get too far away from our herd and you know what that would mean.” She said, looking at the sloping hillsides which blocked the views to the north completely. Brownbeak snorted deeply at those words, understanding her point completely but that did little for him to drop his proposition.

“When did you become such a scaredy-egg, Glide? I remember when you were even braver than I was!” He said, hoping to get through to Glide even now. However, the girl’s face turned only harder as she answered.

“Ever since over half of our herd was slaughtered practically before our eyes! It would be foolish to think bad things can’t happen and I have no will to join all those bloody, mutilated corpses that littered the ground. Or would you wish to join your teacher, Brownbeak?” She asked in a voice that was even harsher than she had intended but it seemed to get the point through. Brownbeak seemed to be readying for another argument but then his face fell. Indeed, Blackclaw’s loss still haunted him greatly and inside, he realized he owned it also to him to avoid taking completely foolish risks. His voice was almost resigned as he answered.

“You are right, Glide. I just wished we didn’t have to live that way.” He said merely, annoyed that he had been forced to resign like that. Glide’s face softened slightly as she prepared to answer but before she had the chance for that, she was interrupted by a voice she had already started to miss.

“Uhh… Is it okay for Petrie to interrupt?” He said in a rather happy voice, immediately widening Glide’s eyes completely. It had been over a week since the two had last met but it seemed to have happened many cycles of the Night Circle ago. She immediately turned around and spoke to the boy in utter surprise.

“Why, it is! But why… How are you here?” She asked, stuttering deeply. She had already considered him as good as dead to her by now but here he was again. She smiled widely as Petrie landed beside her, Brownbeak smiling slightly at this interruption. Petrie panted for a few seconds before he finally managed to catch his breath.

“Hi again, Glide. It true that Petrie should be home right now but… me plans changed all of a sudden.” He said simply, deciding against stealing all the attention from Glide’s possible news. Yet, it was Brownbeak who answered first and his voice was somewhat cold as he spoke.

“I saw you already many times but we’ve never really spoken. So, wasn’t even your Valley good enough for you? Or did you finally realize just how pitiful that place really is?” He asked with a slight sneer, more than disgusted by Petrie’s old home. Petrie’s face fell slightly at that question but before he got the chance to defend himself, Glide turned at Brownbeak and spoke in a nearly threatening voice.

“Shut up, Brownbeak! He beat Hoist which makes him better than most of those pathetic fools within our herd! Including both of us.” She said almost threateningly, causing Brownbeak’s initial bravado to die down. Petrie looked at the duo with a slightly confused look but he was happy that Glide hadn’t changed her opinion of him during these days they hadn’t met each other. He waited for a short moment before answering to Brownbeak.

“Thanks, Glide. And Brownbeak… Petrie not sure what to say. Certainly, the Valley has changed since Petrie last saw it… and not for the better. But that not the real reason me here today.” He said, earning a questioning look from the other boy. Brownbeak decided against giving any kind of answer to Petrie’s words and it was Glide who spoke next.

“At least our herd has avoided any further attacks since you were away, Petrie. I’ve seen many are unhappy with Lenel but still, few are ready for another battle. And daddy has been away for a good while now so that’s also good.” She said, more than happy that her life seemed to slowly be turning to be safer after those weeks of fear and violence. Petrie nodded at her slowly before speaking to the girl with a slightly apologizing voice.

“Uhh… in fact, your daddy was sent to help me return to the Valley. So now that Petrie back, your daddy be too.” He said as he crossed his hands behind his back, smiling at Glide awkwardly. The latter’s face fell immediately as she heard those words and she sighed deeply.

“Simply great, Petrie. Well, I guess I’ll hear of him soon enough anyway. Not that I was in any hurry for any of that.” She said wearily as Brownbeak gave her a slightly mocking look. Petrie then cleared his throat as he wanted to ease the atmosphere between the three flyers. He figured this would be the best time to tell why exactly he was here.

“Me sorry, Glide. But as for Petrie, we three reached the Valley and me guess your daddy and Kero succeeded in whatever they were doing. But Petrie wasn’t. Me wanted to find me friends and family in the Valley but all of them were gone from there long ago. There was nothing for Petrie there anymore.” He said, hoping he’d learn something, anything of worth, from Glide and her friend. Brownbeak frowned deeply as he walked closer to Petrie and spoke to him.

“Gone? Gone where exactly?” He asked in a far more inquisitive manner than Petrie would have liked. He took a step back and gave the other boy a look of displeasure as he answered.

“That exactly the question Petrie would like to know! One of the flyers in the Valley told Petrie that this place a good place to search for any clues as there are many flyers here during Cold Times! She said there a real chance that someone would know me momma, brothers and sisters!” He said, causing both Glide and Brownbeak glance at each other in slight surprise. It was true there were many herds out here but still, it was a desperate thought that even one of these flyers would be able to help. Still, Glide asked Petrie the obvious question in case his answer would miraculously bring anything to her mind.

“What’s her name, Petrie?” She asked simply, looking at him with a concerned look. Petrie’s eyes widened for a while as he very rarely even thought that his mother had an actual name as he had never called her with it or mentioned it to anyone else. Yet, it wasn’t until a few seconds later when he heard the obvious words leave his mouth.

“Her name Volant. She light blue and she must be with me brothers and sisters.” He said even stoically, causing Glide to frown in response. She hadn’t expected to be of any help to her friend but she still wanted to ask in case some kind of miracle would have happened. She then looked at Petrie and answered to him with an apologetic voice.

“I doubt I’ve seen her anywhere out here. And Petrie… I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for you to go speak to each and every flyer around here about her. Not only would it take forever but lonely flyers often tend to avoid large herds because… they could get into trouble easily.” She answered, knowing just how accepting most herds were towards outsiders. However, her words did little to sate the boy’s yearning for a happy reunion.

“Then what you think, Glide? Is there another way you’d search for me family?” He said in a starker voice, sounding even ruder than he had originally meant to. He immediately noticed his slight mistake which caused Glide’s mood clearly but still, she didn’t show much of it in her answer.

“I don’t know, Petrie. It’s just that… here in the Mysterious Beyond it is often difficult to find someone if you have no idea where they went or if they don’t want to be found.” She said with a glum voice, realizing how very depressing her words must have sounded to Petrie. The male prepared to snap back at his friend when he suddenly noticed a menacing shadow rise behind her. He jumped around in fear and prepared to face whoever the newcomer was. However, he was surprised to see that it was an ancient,, deep gray flyer whose eyes seemed rather dim but they still saw more than clearly. But in many other ways, this dinosaur reminded him of old Swooper back in the Valley. He suddenly realized that he should have greeted him back there but those thoughts were quickly pushed to the fringes of her mind as the old flyer spoke.

“You are completely right, young lady. But both of you should know that there is always a way to reunite with a loved one, no matter how far away they are.” He said in a squeaky voice. Petrie took a few steps back, not really trusting the other dinosaur after his surprising entrance. He stuttered slightly as he spoke to the ancient flyer.

“Oh… Okay. B… but before we speak about that, wh… who are you? And why you sneak at Petrie like that?” He asked, slightly calming down as he saw the old male stand still, looking at him with an investigating gaze. He waited for a long before finally giving his answer.

“Some have long ago known me as Brightrise but most seem to remember me just as the Elder of Streli’s Hills. I am the only flyer who lives here and as you may guess, I have heard many things during my life here. And I couldn’t avoid hearing your tale, young one.” He said, looking deep into Petrie’s eyes. The boy gulped deeply as he prepared to answer, not able to quite decide what the older flyer was going after.

“Alright... But what does that have to do with Petrie?” He asked, looking at the older male with a slightly suspicious look. Glide and Brownbeak looked at Brightrise with an equal amount of confusion but decided to stay silent for now. The old flyer, however, didn’t seem to react to their concerns in any way. Instead, he took a faraway gaze and looked far into the horizon as he spoke.

“I’m surprised none of you have heard of me. After all, many seek me out when they want to find help with something only a select few know. In fact, I’d say I’ve given advice to more dinosaurs than you’ll ever meet during your life.” He said, causing Petrie’s mind to be even more suspicious of the old male. He didn’t like in the least about the way he had made his entrance and Petrie would have at least wanted to receive clear, direct answers. This time it was Glide who spoke to Brightrise with an even annoyed voice.

“But you didn’t answer our question! What is it that you want?” She said, causing the older flyer to look at her with an odd look. He refrained from walking towards her but it was clear the next words were directed right at her.

“Your father is one of the brightest flyers I’ve met in my entire life, Glide. Trying to find out the other’s motives is often a winning strategy in many situations and you have clearly inherited that suspicion. Most excellent. But as for why I’m here, I want to give you one hint. One hint that will help you even find someone from the endless wastes of our world.”
He said as he turned at Petrie as he finished. Glide’s eyes widened as he knew her name, not really expecting that her father was this well known around here. She knew that many
flyers respected him greatly but that hardly raised her opinion about him. Brightrise then bowed at Petrie and spoke to him without allowing him a chance to cut him short.

“As for you, I don’t know what disaster has forced you and your friends away from the Valley but what I know is that our world is too wide for you to simply search for them without any directions. You will spend your seasons wandering alone and even then, you will find nothing of worth. Luckily, I believe a certain flyer’s legacy may help you in your search. I trust even flyers in the Valley have heard about Olres?” He asked, crossing his hands behind his back as he cocked his head at Petrie. Petrie frowned deeply as he looked at the other flyer, his curiosity finally rising. He looked at the older flyer and his voice was rather stern as he answered, looking the ancient flyer in his eyes.

“Olres… Petrie has heard that name many times by now but me has already cast it aside as me haven’t really cared about him! But you bring it up again. Why?” He asked, finally willing to get some insight into this name that surfaced again and again among the other flyers. His thoughts were even further complicated as he heard Brownbeak speak to the older flyer shortly.

“You can’t be serious! That is just a story! You cannot even think of claiming that any of it really happened, do you?” He asked from Brightrise who in turn glanced at the boy with a condescending look.

“I hope you aren’t claiming to know more than me, are you?” He simply asked, causing Brownbeak to merely snort as an answer. Petrie, however, wasn’t amused by those words and he demanded again.

“What you two talking about? Please, tell Petrie what you know!” He said, willing to hear any ideas on how to find his long-lost family and Littlefoot. Brightrise slowly turned back at Petrie and waited for a moment before answering. When he did, his voice was deeper and even overly dramatic for the boy.

“I never thought that I’d meet a flyer who knew nothing of him. In any case, Olres was the most celebrated of the great flyers of old, one whose memory we hold the most dear these days. He is also the one who turned Lenel’s family into the mighty, respected line he represents today. Yet, it is one particular thing within Olres’ tale that has interested many flyers during the seasons that I’ve been here and I’d be surprised if there hadn’t been far more in the ages past. But to give you the idea of this most important of stories, you have to hear at least the rough version of what happened the day our kind faced its greatest danger ever.” He said, causing Petrie’s interest rise even further. It really seemed like this was a tale he should have heard a long time ago and if this old flyer thought it could help him in some way, then what was the harm in allowing him to say what he had to say?

“Okay, Petrie listen.” He said simply, causing the older flyer to smile slightly as he cleared this throat. Glide and Brownbeak also moved a bit closer as they also wanted to know if this dinosaur knew something they hadn’t been told earlier. The flyer’s old but sharp eyes shifted from one of his listeners to the other as he started to speak.

“Now, where should I begin? Oh, that’s right. As you most likely have already heard before, in the old, distant times they were the flyers who ruled this entire world. That doesn’t mean there weren’t other kinds out there but they were far smaller and weaker than the kinds we see today. Only we were able to work together and share the lands between ourselves in peace and in many ways, that was a paradise for our kind. That era of mighty flyers, of great stories and never-ending peace lasted thousands upon thousands of cycles of the Bright Circle, far longer than even I can truly understand.”

Petrie listened to the tale with interest but he couldn’t help but notice just how very closely this beginning resembled to the tales uncle Pterano had told him when he was but a helpless hatchling. He had always loved his stories and he would have wanted to hear this from his uncle’s beak. The boy remembered that he had actually promised to tell him of all the great flyers of the past in time, a thought that nearly tore Petrie’s thoughts away from Brightrise’s words. He then asked a brief question that had always lingered within his mind.

“Petrie has heard all that but why things changed? Why aren’t things like that anymore?” He asked, yearning for a paradise like the one the older flyer had just described. All thoughts of his friends were suddenly swept away as he thought of that kind of world where he could for once find safety and comfort. The grey dinosaur looked at Petrie for a moment before he continued.

“Indeed, many of us ask the same thing. However, we simply have to acknowledge that sometimes things change, regardless of whether we want it or not. In this case, during those times, the other kinds grew stronger and more intelligent over time, something our ancestors noticed as well. At first, they thought that things could be allowed to develop without them having to do anything. After all, their situation was still one that none of them believed could ever be threatened. But as sad as it is, that wasn’t to be.

In addition to them growing in intelligence, their numbers also started to grow far faster than before. We, the flyers, were in many ways left behind by these escalating developments and before long, the landwalkers started to work together against us and one land after another, we were pushed back. We simply couldn’t stand against the landwalkers’ numbers.” He said with a bitter voice, shivering as a colder gust suddenly swept beside the four flyers. He again took a brief pause as he caught his breath. Glide crossed her arms, somewhat disappointed that the tale had been practically the same she had already heard earlier.

Petrie, on the other hand, was slightly taken aback by the tale thus far. Of course, there had to have happened something terrible that had caused the flyers to lose their position so very long ago but to hear things like that about the landwalkers… Petrie remembered very well how badly the herds had despised each other during their journey into the Valley but things like these had mostly been wiped away from his mind in the Valley. But if the other flyer’s words were true, there were far worse things that had happened in the past than even the recent massacre inside his very own herd. He gulped as Brightrise continued to speak.

“Even worse, as some herds started to lose their homes to the landwalkers, they were forced to flee to the lands of the other flyers’, resulting in ever-growing discord and fighting inside our own kind. The newcomers would have wanted to share the lands again but there was hardly food for everyone even before their arrival. As a result, the flyers started to fight with one another, only weakening all of our kind in return. Those were truly sickening and horrifying times.” The old flyer said as he shook his head in clear disgust. However, it was at that point that Petrie finally interrupted the other flyer and asked carefully.

“P… Petrie never knew anything about that. Me just happy that happened a long time ago. B… but what this have to do with Olres and Petrie?” He asked, not really seeing the point of Brightrise’s story just yet. To him, it sounded lie a bad dream that could never come to pass in the world he knew. The old flyer narrowed his eyes as he looked at Petrie, not really approving of the younger flyer’s interruptions.

“That is something you’ll hear soon enough if stay silent for a bit longer! Now where was I… Oh, yes. After the flyers had been driven from most of the world and most of us had fallen in different battles, we tried to take one final stand against the landwalkers. The battle went on for days but in the end, we were all scattered to the winds, only a handful of flyers living through that disaster. That one battle was the culmination of all our mistakes and in that moment, everything seemed lost… but that was also the moment when Olres’ tale truly began.

He was but a young member of one of the remaining herds, not respected by even most of his own companions. Olres himself was terribly wounded in the battle but unlike so many of the other flyers, he retained one thing most of the others had thrown away so readily: the hope there could still be a future for the flyers. However, even his faith was broken momentarily by the enormous loss of life in the aftermath of that battle. Especially after he tried to rally the rest of his herd and after being expelled from it for good.” Brightrise took a brief pause to catch his wheezing breath.

Petrie looked at him oddly, not really having expected the story to be such a dark one. It was rather surprising his uncle hadn’t told him of this story as it seemed to be an important one for the ancient dinosaur. Petrie felt a sting deep inside him as he thought about everything that had happened in those distant days and he couldn’t help but feel for Olres’ struggles in that day. Petrie could relate to the feeling that the entire world he had loved was collapsing around him but in Olres’ case, that reality was even more concrete than it was for him. He would have wanted to ask another question from the older dinosaur but decided against it as Brightrise seemed to really dislike any interruptions to his story.

“The last any of his friends saw of him was him heading back into the battlefield to search for the remains of his companions as he hoped to at least find some solace in seeing them one last time. However, this is where this tale becomes extremely weird. Three days and nights passed and most had thought Olres had most likely met his end, alone and forgotten. However, he returned soon and he was nearly beyond recognition. Not because of his appearance had changed but because he radiated courage and decisiveness.” He said, causing Glide to again join the conversation. She knew all that Brightrise had already told but this was one point where she wanted some clarification if at all possible.

“Yes, I know all that but I’ve never really heard any explanation what happened that day.” She merely said, looking at the male in clear interest. The latter looked at the girl with an unreadable expression but he didn’t wait until he gave his answer.

“I’ve heard few know about that. However, I am more than willing to share what I know if you could just wait a little longer. I see your friend still wants to hear the ending to the tale.” He said, seeing as Petrie nodded in interest. This really sounded like some of the stories he had heard in the Valley and he could already tell what was coming.

“Indeed, Olres sought out here his old herd and even if he had already been exiled, it seemed like nobody really seemed to care about it. That mighty flyer immediately showed he was the right leader to lead them in that ghastly situation. Even more astonishingly, he then united the last herds together and even after endless Cold Times of fighting, he managed to unite the flyers again into one herd again.

The landwalkers were already preparing to finish off the last of us but Olres rallied our kind together and in another massive battle, he managed to secure the flyers one last sanctuary. It is said that Olres himself stood his ground against a dozen threehorns, longnecks and many others, beating all of them. But most importantly, it was his inspiration that urged the others on and despite most of his companions having already resigned to the thought that the day of the flyers was over. But that isn’t even the end to it all.” He said as he looked at Petrie’s excited expression. The boy couldn’t help but admire this last kind that had saved so very much. A bit by bit, he was starting to understand just why Olres’ name was that deeply revered by some many. Still, he didn’t want to interrupt Brightrise as he really wanted to know what came after the miraculous victory.

“The landwalkers were completely outraged by their defeat and they wanted to immediately try to wipe us out again. Olres, however, could have tried to capitalize on his victory but he knew that the glory days of our kind could never again be restored. Too much had been lost already but Olres, unlike many others of leaders, knew that most of the other kinds were reasonable in their hearts and he then called to each of them to one, great meeting. It was on that day that Olres struck a deal with the landwalkers that they’d allow us, the flyers, to retain our mastery over the skies and the high places of the world if we simply wouldn’t bother them ever again. We still had what we loved the most and ever since that day, our kind has been safe from those who would wish us harm. All thanks to that one flyer.” Brightrise finished as he crossed his arms, looking towards the skies with a warm, faraway look. Petrie was completely silent for a moment, not really able to decide what to think. Most of the time, he had believed these tales because he had wanted to but this seemed different. Something deep within him seemed to whisper him that these events were more than one old flyer’s banter. Petrie didn’t even realize that he was panting slightly as he spoke.

“That really quite a story! B… but me still have so many questions! Why did the landwalkers act so bad? When did this happen and where? What happened to Olres that one night?” He asked, thoughts overflowing his mind. He was beyond astonished by what he had heard and he could already tell why exactly Olres was this deeply revered. Brightrise chuckled slightly as he looked at the young boy’s genuine curiosity but he coughed deeply before he answered.

“Now, these are the questions that most wonder all their lives. What you just heard is one of the most complete versions of Olres’ deeds anywhere even if I still know some herds somewhere still hold different pieces of knowledge. But I’d still guess that the landwalkers were envious of the flyers’ glory in our old days and they merely wanted their piece of what their lives in this world could offer them. As for when this happened, it must be hundreds, thousands or even more Cold Times since those distant days, praise the Bright Circle.” He said slowly, this conversation clearly starting to tire him slowly. However, he still was determined to finish his point before sending the younger flyers on their way.

“As for what happened to Olres, no one can say. But whatever it was, it was something no flyer can dream of. To think that he changed from a meek, weak flyer to what he’d become is an unthinkable change to most and I cannot even begin to imagine what caused it. However, what I do know is that something amazing must have taken place as after that night, everything Olres did turned into a success and he got the gift that his own deeds brought him all the luck he ever needed in his mission, And if I had to guess, I’m sure that change didn’t happen by itself.” He said with a strange smile, causing immediately a new question from Glide.

“What do you mean? What do you possibly mean that “it didn’t happen by itself”?” She asked, frowning deeply at those words. This was exactly one thing that she had wanted to learn for a long time but she hadn’t even heard this much before. Brightrise looked at her for a long time before he finally gave his answer.

“That is something Olres never revealed to any flyer during his entire life. It is a mystery many have wanted to find out during the seasons but none have succeeded. However, I am more than sure that whatever happened isn’t something we can even hope to explain. But what I do know is that there was something in that place, some force we don’t understand. And I see no reason why it wouldn’t be there today. After all, this world is full of stories that are filled with the kind of wonders that should be impossible. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you, young ones.” He said, a longing look lingering within his eyes.

Petrie, however, was left more than torn by those words. So, he had one old flyer’s word that all of this had happened but it took him a short while before he finally realized what the old male’s point really was. His voice was uncharastetically sarcastic as he answered to Brightrise.

“So, let Petrie get this straight. You say that all of this old story really happened and that this thing, that you don’t even know anything of, might also help Petrie find me family and friends? That me would try to get to the bottom of this simply for me own problems?” He asked, not really realizing just how much he sounded with Cera as he spoke. Any of his old friends would have noticed the change within the once-naïve flyer but now, Petrie didn’t want to embark on another adventure without knowing things would be all good afterwards. However, his thoughts were interrupted as he felt Glide hit his back with a quick blow and whisper to him angrily.

“Come on, Petrie, show some respect! Whatever you do, don’t anger those wiser than us!” She said, surprised by the largely uncovered sarcasm that dipped from the boy’s voice. However, Brightrise took a wide smile as he waved Glide to relax.

“It’s alright, it’s alright. As for you, Petrie was it, you may decide to listen to what I told you or you may not. However, I just ask you to remember that it would be a miracle if you found your lost family and friends by yourself, alive at least. Miracles can happen but I have learned in my life that there is no reason to leave things to chance if you can avoid it. Finding out Olres’ secret will also be a struggle but I can see that you might just be up for it.” He answered, leaving Petrie to look extremely conflicted. All the thoughts about Olres’ fame and wisdom were lost on him completely and he would never chase anything in search of them and he voiced his doubts immediately. He took a deep breath before he answered.

“Petrie not want to be any flyer of legend! Me just want to be Petrie and find me family and friends again!” He said miserably, causing Glide’s eyes to widen at this answer. The older flyer bowed at him and spoke briefly to the boy.

“Now, that is something many other flyers could learn from. Do what you want, Petrie. Just listen to what your heart has to say.” He simply said as he rose to his wings, leaving the three flyers behind him. Petrie was about to speak again but before he managed to form one words, the older flyer was gone. He looked into the ground, thinking of everything he had heard. Silence reigned for a long time before Glide’s slightly concerned voice alerted Petrie into the present again.

“Petrie… are you alright?” She asked, causing Petrie to twitch noticeably. He then looked at Glide and spoke in an absentminded voice.

“Oh… Petrie well enough. Me… me just need some time alone. See you later Glide and Brownbeak.” He said before he headed into the skies, leaving a concerned and rather annoyed flyer behind him. Petrie didn’t notice it just but there was also a third pair of eyes looking behind him keenly.

A slight cringe rose to Petrie’s beak as he kicked a small rock with all his might. Not only was his physical fatigue starting to overwhelm him but Brightrise’s words haunted his mind. Bit by bit, the memory of Pterano’s endless trust in unexplainable powers rose to his mind and inside, he had come to terms that his uncle’s actions back then were very close to the definition of foolishness. The Stone of Cold Fire had been a lie from the beginning so why would this be any different? Would such a place at the center of such a story really help him find his family and Littlefoot?

He had come to these mountains to search for any hints of them but only now did Petrie realize just how foolish his quest was. It had been wishful thinking his mother would come to this exact place and it was true, it wasn’t worth it to ask each of the hundreds of flyers here whether they had seen a light-blue flyer with her children. Petrie knew she hadn’t had any old friends outside the Valley so any sightings anyone here would have of her would be vague or extremely brief ones. But even then, he’d have to keep on trying, for their and his own sake.

A deep sigh of longing escaped the flyer’s beak as he sat down on the nearby cliff, looking at the other flyers far below him. He had flown here for days only to see his journey face another major challenge. But even then, trying to rely on an age-old story would only be the confirmation to his despair and in many ways, Petrie had grown to loathe his former naivety. If he hadn’t trusted anything he was told, he would have taken a stronger chance during his last journey with his friends and especially during his final conversation with his dear uncle. The old Petrie had wanted good but even then, his old trust had never yielded any positive outcome. In this way, the boy would have wanted nothing more than to wave Brightrise’s words away as some kind of lie he tried to tell him for some reason.

Yet… another fact fought for its place within the boy’s mind. He knew that Northwind and Kero had tried to find out some details about Olres’ story in the Valley, most likely for Lenel. Of course, Lenel was told to be related to Olres so that might just explain his interest in that age-old story. Yet… even then, the light-colored flyer hardly seemed like someone who would waste time chasing some stories, even if they happened to some distant ancestor of his. Petrie shook his head, wondering whether Lenel knew something he didn’t but even then, he wasn’t ready to put much weight to whatever Lenel was planning.

With slow, forced movements, the boy rose back to his feet and started to walk around the small mountain path, feeling as his heart beat in his chest, longing for any ideas on how to move on from this moment where everything seemed to be falling upon him. There was a chance for him to reunite with those he cared about but what was the right, the most promising path to take? How could he possibly…

“Olres’ story truly is one that seems to speak directly to most flyers. However, I know there are many other things in your mind as well.” Petrie turned to look at the source of those words, frowning as he saw a rather young, short and weak-looking flyer land beside him. He seemed rather familiar to the boy but he couldn’t quite tell when he had seen this particular dinosaur. His voice was wary, even hostile as he answered.

“Yes, Petrie has already enough in me mind and me have nothing to tell you at this point. Just leave Petrie be, whoever you are.” He said, hoping the other male would simply take the hint and let him be. Just yet, he couldn’t tell what was coming in this discussion but the next words caught his undivided attention.

“Of course I could but I’m still quite sure you’re interested in hearing what happened to your uncle, now aren’t you, Petrie?” He asked, knowing that Petrie wouldn’t try to send him away anymore. Indeed, the boy looked at the other flyer with an increasingly annoyed look, not in the least sure why so many seemed to take interest in him on this day.

“Uncle Pterano died fighting beside Lenel in order to prevent any further fighting within the herd. That’s all there is to it. He died doing what he thought was right but… but he still died.” Petrie said as his face fell, hating to think what could have happened if only a few things had happened differently. He looked at the young male with sad eyes as he gave his answer.

“That he did. However, the tale Lenel and the others told you isn’t quite true. If we are completely honest, that entire battle could have been avoided if Lenel could have just kept his lust for power in check. It wasn’t Peak or Nira who betrayed Nimble’s memory. It was Lenel.” He said with a heavy voice, causing Petrie’s face to take a highly suspicious look to it. He would have been lying if he had said he cared greatly at this point of the problems between the herd leaders even if he had a small idea what the other flyer was getting at.

“And what does that have to do with Petrie? Are you saying me uncle betrayed the herd?” He asked with a clear snort, not really liking the thought of where the other flyers was getting at. The older male was taken aback by Petrie’s dismissal of those words completely but even then, it was likely that a virtual outsider wouldn’t really care about such things. Even then, he didn’t allow his momentary astonishment delay his answer.

“I am not. Your uncle was Lenel’s deputy but he wasn’t told the entire truth. I hate to tell it to you but your uncle was a pawn and really, he didn’t even want to start the fight. But he didn’t really have a choice: everyone else present joined Lenel’s plan readily and your uncle would have paid a heavy price for disagreeing with Lenel like that.” He said, allowing Petrie to think of his words for a moment. The boy looked at him oddly and it was many seconds before he finally spoke again. This time his voice wavered as he spoke.

“You… you mean uncle Pterano was forced to join the fight that didn’t have to happen? B… but it was Peak’s fault Nimble was killed! He… he had to be dealt with!” He asked in confusion, not willing to accept all of the implication of the other flyer’s story quite yet. However, the older male’s face didn’t even twitch at the younger flyer’s words.

“That’s what Lenel want us to believe but the truth is, Peak and Nira thought that after Nimble’s death, it was no longer profitable to stay in this herd as Nimble was the only one the three other flyers really listened. That should have been that but no, that was not acceptable to Lenel. He decided that it was only up to him to decide whether the other herds had the right to leave his or not. He launched the attack to destroy all of his competition and to bring all others under his thrall.” He said slowly, clearly making sure none of his words were lost on Petrie. However, the boy wasn’t exactly content with the answer and he put his hands on his hops as he answered. He wasn’t about to listen some unknown flyer insult his uncle’s memory, not after everything he had done for those around him.

“Tell Petrie one reason why me should believe anything you say! Me uncle say Lenel a good flyer and if you think me believe you rather than him, you are terribly mistaken! Pterano did what he thought was for the best and if he thought Lenel was the one who could leave you the best, Petrie must trust in him!” He cried, annoyed that he had to even argue about this. Inside, he was more than bitter towards the herd for robbing Pterano away from him but in the end, he had done all of it willingly. No matter how Petrie wished he could have made Pterano to give up the fight, all the boy had left was to believe he had sacrificed himself for a noble cause, a thought that this insufferable flyer was trying to prove wrong. However, the latter wasted no time giving his answer.

“Whether or not you believe me or not, that matters little. However, I will say that I, too, have long served a flyer who I trust fully and that flyer has seen all that I told with their own eyes! So in the end, you will learn the truth and I wish you did so sooner or later. Your uncle died fighting for a treacherous murderer and that is the whole, sad truth.” He said, causing Petrie’s mind to grow ever more agitated. The boy suddenly stepped forward and snapped at the older flyer with a voice that seethed with outrage.

“Go away and stop telling lies about uncle Pterano! He deserve better than this after everything that has happened!” He cried, looking at the older flyer with livid eyes. However, the other male was mostly just amused by the child’s antics and he slowly bowed towards Petrie, speaking in a more silent voice.

“If you want more proof, I have one small detail about Olres’ story you might be interested in. You see, Lenel sent Kero and Northwind into the Valley because he had heard that they might have some idea about the location of where Olres’ near-rebirth happened. They found the answer and in turn, my leader knows it as well.” He said with a slight smirk, turning Petrie’s rage into confusion and hesitation. He still didn’t know what to think and truth be told, he wasn’t interested in asking this insufferable flyer to tell him anything. However, before he could really even think of it, he heard the obvious words slip from his beak.

“Then where was it? And if the Valley always knew of it, then why haven’t they sought it out?” He asked, surprising even himself with the excitement within his voice. The dark-grey male bowed even closer to Petrie and lowered his voice even further, as if to make sure no one else could hear him even if there was no one else anywhere to be seen.

“Only few flyers know the full implications of what can be found in that land. It seems like the Valley sees it only as a legend and have no interest in finding out the truth. As for where it is located, it is somewhere far to our east and north, at least many weeks’ flight away from here. That place is known as the Land of Dancing Streams these days.” He said, causing Petrie to frown deeply as he heard those words. He had never heard of such a place and hearing those words, only one more question rose to his mind.

“Why you telling Petrie all this? Why do everyone want to tell Petrie these stories?” He asked, finally thinking of voicing his overall suspicion of the other male’s motives. Petrie expected the other flyer to give some kind of vague answer that would only raise other questions but instead, the answer was a direct one even if it still worried Petrie somewhat. The older male smirked at the boy briefly as he prepared to take off.

“I and my leader only want as many as possible to see the error of Lenel’s ways and possibly even thinking of one day standing up to his vile plans. That is all there is to it.” He said as he jumped into the air but before he could even flap his wings for the first time, a loud voice pierced the air. It was a voice that was too familiar for Petrie by now. A call of alarm, most often used when one member of the herd was under attack. The young flyer’s face fell as the next words escaped his beak.

“Oh no, not again! Can things ever go the way Petrie would want to?”

This chapter was quite heavy on conversations but I addressed many things here that needed to be shed light on. Again, Petrie finds the walls close on his previously planned way forward but Brightrise’s tale and the anonymous flyer’s appearance gave him even more to think about. But as the ending shows, there is still more events to come before Petrie will even get a chance to start searching for his family and Littlefoot. There will be one more chapter coming before my next short story and I hope you have a great time until then!
« Last Edit: July 08, 2019, 04:50:44 AM by Sovereign »


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #96 on: January 31, 2019, 03:16:00 PM »
Now this was a chapter that, though mainly lacking in action besides the end, I suspect will have great influence on what happens next.  The similarities of Petrie's own story in some respects and that of the ancient tale that he is told is too noticeable to be ignored, as is the interesting fixation of both the elder and the unknown flyer on Petrie.  It leads to a situation where there are multiple threads happening at once: the conflict between the flyer herds; Petrie's search for his friends; Ruby's journey; and a legacy that seems to be Petrie's to play a part in.  How these threads come together will be interesting to behold, as will seeing what revelations they bring.

Overall this was a good chapter.  The use of a more sedate chapter after one with a lot of action and revelations is generally a good strategy in stories such as this where keeping a cohesive tone can be difficult.  I think you have succeeded in that with this offering 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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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #97 on: February 02, 2019, 02:53:22 PM »
The Sailback Makes His Move

The sight of the small, pitiful form in front of her seemed to freeze Ruby completely. This… this simply couldn’t be possible! Ducky had died a long time ago and there was no way she could be here, right in front of her! But yet, here she was, no matter how badly Ruby tried to convince herself otherwise. However, it wasn’t long before she realized something that made her heart skip another beat. There was absolutely no reaction to her words from the swimmer. She lied still, her eyes closed tightly, as if she were sleeping. Ruby swallowed with a terrible fear in her heart as she ran towards her friend, praying with all her might that she wasn’t too late.

She knelt beside the swimmer and immediately put her hand in front of her mouth, hoping to feel some, any breath that would confirm that the worst hadn’t yet come to pass. A second after second passed and Ruby was already closing her eyes in resignation… until she suddenly felt a slight breath leaving the smaller dinosaur’s mouth. Ruby immediately opened her eyes and also realized she could feel a small but constant heartbeat in her throat. After she noticed those small signs, she raised her old friend’s head and spoke to her in a concerned and urgent voice.

“Ducky, can you hear me? If you can, please tell me so I can know whether you can hear me! Ducky, please!” She spoke pleadingly as Yarel and Arial stood behind her, deciding to allow their friend handle this situation as she saw fit. At first, the fastrunner gave no signs of realizing her friend’s presence but Ruby wasn’t going to give up after finding her dear friend after all this time.

“Just wake up! I know you’re still alive! Just give me any sign!” She pleaded, knowing just how very easy it was to freeze to death but she had to keep her hopes up. She looked at the swimmer for a few more moments before she finally heard a few, confusing words escape her lips.

“B… but… I thought you couldn’t go on anymore… Swiftsplash. Ducky was supposed to go on… all alone, yep, yep, yep.” She said, not opening her eyes as she spoke. Ruby was more than confused by those words but they at least gave her some hope. She quickly turned at her friends and cried to them urgently.

“Yarel, help me keep her warm! Arial, go alert the others! They must know we aren’t coming back to our last sleeping place anymore!” She cried as she moved to lie just next to her friend, looking as her companions did as they were told. Ducky was nearly squeezed between the omnivores but at least their bodies generated some warmth that could help her recover from her horrifying condition. It wasn’t long before Yarel asked Ruby carefully.

“Ruby, is this one of your old friends you mentioned earlier?” He asked, not really knowing what to think. If it were up to him, he would have probably just eaten the tiny dinosaur but he could already see that it was out of question this time. Ruby glanced at the male sadly before she whispered back at him.

“She is. She is one of those who I spent those happy seasons in the Great Valley with. She is one of the best dinosaurs I’ve ever known and… I just wish she’ll be alright! Ducky, please get better.” She whispered at the swimmer, not really expecting an answer from the tiny, shuddering form. However, after a few seconds, she spoke again in a silent voice.

“It is funny… it is as if I can hear Ruby’s voice. And if that is true… then maybe I will see Spike again soon enough! Maybe this is not so bad after all…” She said, making Ruby’s eyes go wider than in a long, long time. She then looked at Ducky again and spoke in a louder, clearer voice than before.

“It is me, Ducky! I really am here and so are you! Please, look at me!” She asked as she suddenly saw the other girl start twitching slowly. It seemed that the two managed to give her the little warmth she needed to get over her near-freezing. This time, her voice was a little less stuttering as she answered to the fastrunner’s words.

“Ruby? B… but you are d… dead…” She said as she opened her eyes slowly but the first sight that greeted her was one that made her jump back even in her weak condition. The sight of Yarel’s face painted red by gore and blood was a sight no leaf eater would ever have wanted to see and his proximity to the swimmer only worsened the latter’s reaction. Seeing her friend’s fright, Ruby cast a quick glance at Yarel and spoke to Ducky again.

“It’s alright, Ducky. Yarel is a friend even if… if he looks the way he looks.” She said awkwardly even if she was more than overjoyed to see Ducky’s reflexes working at least somewhat normally. The swimmer shuddered from both cold and horror as Yarel turned to look away from the swimmer and hiding his bloody face from the swimmer. Ducky looked at the male omnivore for a few seconds in horror before the other obvious thing returned to her mind. The voice she had heard earlier… Ruby’s voice… was it really her? Slowly, she turned her head at the fastrunner and she spoke carefully, her sight still vague after her near-freezing.

“Ruby… it really is you! It really is! I’m so glad to see you’re not dead after all, I am!” She exclaimed as she tried to walk closer to Ruby but her legs still not quite obey to her. Slowly, Ruby turned to towards Ducky and spoke to her, her own joy dipping from her every word.

“It’s me, Ducky. I never thought we’d meet again but here we are! It’s great to see you again.” She said as she hugged the swimmer deeply, nearly choking back her tears at this reunion. First, she had had the chance to speak with Chomper and now, Ducky was here alive! The thought that even one of her friends had survived the carnage on that day so very long ago… that at least one would understand her completely… the fastrunner hoped this moment would never pass.

Ducky, on the other hand, still felt numbness lingering within every part of her body but that was slowly pushed away from her mind by the warmth that was radiating from this reunion. She had already resigned to the thought that her own journey had come to the end, alone and forgotten in this cold forest. Not only had she managed to avoid that fate but she suddenly found herself alongside one of her dearest friends. The swimmer’s eyes were moist as she looked right at Ruby and asked her with a wavering voice.

“Thank you so very much for saving me, Ruby! B… but… who is that… uhh, fastrunner? And where were you all this time? Where did you disappear that day?” She asked, only now the implications of Ruby’s absence returning to her mind. If the two had found each other earlier, so much sorrow and struggle could have been avoided. Ruby didn’t answer immediately, instead willing to relish this moment for a while longer. However, she eventually disengaged from the embrace and looked Ducky in her eyes as she spoke.

“He’s not a fastrunner, Ducky. His name is Yarel and he’s a thinclaw… though, I’m not surprised you couldn’t tell the difference. But before I tell what happened to me, please, tell me if you know anything about the others. Especially, where is Spike?” She asked, knowing that Ducky wouldn’t leave her adopted brother behind without unquestionable evidence about… well, it didn’t matter. However, Ruby’s heart dropped immediately as she saw tears starting to swell within Ducky’s eyes and her throat starting to choke in sorrow. Ducky looked at her in a devastated look and her tears started to drop into the ground even before she started to speak.

“S… Spiky’s gone! I found him after the Sand Cloud and we continued together but…he didn’t survive for long. Oh, poor, poor Spike…” She said, the pain only growing within the girl. Ruby frowned as she heard her own fears being realized but even then, she wasn’t as devastated as she had expected as she had already accepted the passing of all her friends. She was saddened by the confirmation of this fact but she had already received more on this day than she had ever wanted to hope for. Still, she wanted to hear just what had happened but before that, she knew still owed Ducky her own news as well, even if she knew it would only hurt her more. Her voice was a weak one as she spoke to the swimmer.

“I’m so very sorry, Ducky. I, on the other hand, know only about Chomper. He… is no longer with us either.” She said, deciding to leave telling of her last conversation with him for some later time. Ducky merely nodded as she heard those words, her sentiment echoing that of Ruby. Neither had she ever expected to find even Ruby but that didn’t drown the final confirmation of another friend’s death within Ducky. She spoke in a beaten voice as she finally managed to form her next words.

“Goodbye, Chomper. I will miss you forever, I will. This is horrible, Ruby! Why did the others have to die?! Why do we have to be the only ones who are still here? All of this is so very wrong, it is!” She suddenly cried, not willing to accept anything about her situation. There was no dinosaur apart from her who would wish that things would be well again, even if that one particular day still haunted her thoughts. Ruby suddenly knelt before Ducky and put her hands on her shoulders and spoke silently.

“Indeed it is. But we still have to move on. One special friend of ours told it to us himself. Now, I’d like to know what has happened to you since we last saw each other. I’m sure we have a lot of catching up to do, lots of catching up we have! I’ll tell you my story afterwards.” She spoke, frowning as she again noticed how very violently Ducky shuddered in the cold wind but she could do nothing more for her now. Ducky looked at the fastrunner with teary voice and she started to tremble even more as wiped away her tears and started to speak.

“Alright, Ruby. There’s not anything else we can do, nope, nope. In any case, we did our best to stay together with Spike in the Sand Cloud and it was only through pure luck we manageded to lose the fastbiters. I am not quite sure why but… but they went after Littlefoot instead of us. I never saw him again and… and I fear they got him.” He said with sad eyes, not willing to believe her own voice. Ruby nodded at her solemnly as she waited for continuation for the story. Yarel listened to the swimmer’s words but decided to leave them talk in peace for a while longer. Ducky swallowed heavily before she continued to speak.

“Afterwards, we tried to search for you and the others but we couldn’t find any of you. I think we found Chomper’s footsteps but the Sand Cloud wiped them away before we could find him, it did. There was not much for us to afterwards but to search for the Valley… but that storm had also hidden any signs we had of the way home! We know the grownups would have been mad at us but I wanted to believe they would welcome us back… if we ever found our way back there.” She said with a broken voice, At this point, Ruby interrupted her, just thinking of the situation Ducky had found herself in.

“I’m so sorry for it all, Ducky. I tried to also find you but it seems that place was far bigger than we thought. I never even tried to find the Valley, you know why, but at the very least I got help from… well, you’ll hear about it soon.” She said as she thought of Stealth, remembering that sickening hunt with him as clearly as yesterday. Ducky looked at the omnivore oddly but decided to refrain from asking about her words for now.

“I thought we could find our way back using the Bright Circle as our guide as we know where it rises and it falls but… before the Sand Cloud disappeared and the night ended, we were far from the spot we thought we really were, in other words, we were lost, we were.” Ducky said sadly, taking deep breaths to calm down. After a few seconds, she continued to speak.

“But things got only worse from there. W… we always went the wrong way and we had no green food, no water, not anything… and of course, it hit Spike even more than it did me. Even on those days, he let me ride him… even if he was close to starving. Oh, Spike… but still, we found a few leaves here and there, just enough to keep us alive. At least until this cursed Cold Time fell upon us!” She cried as looked at the ground sparkles bitterly. This damned season had taken everything from her and she knew it would still take forever before the Warm Time returned again.

Ruby, on the other hand, looked at the swimmer in silence. Her story was one that made her even sadder than she had initially expected. Inside, Ruby cringed as she knew that she would have been able to find her way back into the Valley even that situation but regrettably, Ducky wasn’t a fastrunner. Inside, she couldn’t help but think just why sharpteeth always went after a swimmer instead of a fastrunner but still, she knew better than to voice her thoughts. For now, she could do nothing but to think of the nightmare the swimmer had just gone through.

“When the first of the ground sparkles fell, my brother was already weaker than he had ever been. He could hardly walk and the ground sparkles hid even the last green food from us. We tried to move forward and pray that we could find a way back into the Valley but I now know that we were only going further away from it. Those wereded the worst days I have ever seen and… and it wasn’t long before it happened.” Her voice fell as she prepared to tell about the darkest day in her entire life but she had to take a few moments to prepare mentally to relive it again. A never-ending pain and horror glimmered within the swimmer’s eyes as her mind returned to that one particular evening…

Each step was the result of a herculean effort and Ducky knew this couldn’t go on for much longer. Her eyes tried to see before herself through the falling darkness and falling sky stars but she could hardly see further than her own snout. However, that mattered little to the swimmer whose entire body seemed to be on the verge of giving up. Every part of her cried for food, for rest and for warmth. However, it wasn’t her own pain that bothered her the most, it was that of her beloved brother.

Even in the darkness, Ducky could see that Spike was in far worse spirits than she were. He could hardly even raise his body from the ground, his moves resembling more like crouching than walking. Ducky lamented everything that was happening but it simply couldn’t be helped anymore. She knew that finding any sheltered place was their only hope of surviving and there simply was no time for rest. And the swimmer was thus far rather content with the distance they were covering. That is, until Ducky finally heard a loud thud to his left. Her heart skipped a beat as she turned to look at him, only seeing his dark silhouette lying in the ground. The swimmer quickly ran towards him and cried to her in horror.
“Spike! Are you alright? Please tell me you are alright!” She cried as she prayed for any reaction from the spiketail. It wasn’t long before he opened his eyes and let out a weak grunt. Ducky’s horror eased for a short moment but she still knew the situation. She walked in front of him and spoke softly.

“Spike… I know it is hard but we still have to go a bit further today. We have to find shelter and green food!” She said desperately, seeing the look of despair and hunger within her brother’s eyes. It was clear that he knew that her words were true but his strength was completely spent. Inside, Spike loved his sister without an end and he wanted to do as she told more than anything. He nodded at her and tried to force himself back to his feet… only to find they failed him immediately. He fell back into the ground, cringing as he realized that he simply couldn’t stand anymore. Ducky’s eyes widened in horror as he saw this and she spoke to him again in an even more pleading voice than before.

“You have to get up! Night is coming and things will only get colder and scarier and…” She started to stutter in horror as she thought about the situation. She simply couldn’t watch at her brother who was lying helplessly before her, his body unable to take another step. It was a ghastly sight for the girl and one that she had only seen in her worst sleep stories. Her breathing grew more tortured as Spike suddenly gave her a quick lick and a reassuring smile. However, that gesture hardly made Ducky feel any easier.

“Please don’t say that, Spike! We will reach the Valley again and on that day, we will probably find our friends again! I know they are waiting for us already, they are.” She tried to force a smile to her face that seemed to make the spiketail more hopeful as well. However, that didn’t last long and suddenly a massive shiver shot through Spike’s body and he locked eyes with Ducky as he cringed from the cold, even if it no longer reached his consciousness as badly as before. Even Spike knew what that had to mean. Ducky ignored the frigid wind as she hugged Spike’s face and started to speak slowly, tears starting to fall down her face.

“You cannot leave me alone, you just cannot! Spike, I helped you hatch and we’ve been siblings all our lives! I need you still! Please, Spike, please, don’t go!” She pleaded with inconsolable shudders as she felt herself practically collapse on top of her brother. Spike’s sight was slowly starting to fade but he managed to give Ducky one last push, one last nuzzle which both of them hoped would last forever. Ducky looked at him with teary eyes as she tried to stutter some kind of answer.

“Thank you so much Spike. It really matters a lot to me.” She said but immediately after she finished, she felt a deep breath leave Spike’s mouth, a breath that seemed to make his body relax completely. The swimmer stared at his eyes, hoping to see any movement within him but there was nothing to be seen. Ducky then dropped her head against Spike’s and started to weep silently. Her brother and her dearest friend was gone forever, leaving her alone into this sickening gloom. His birth, the only time he had called her name and her reconciliation with him after his departure with the other spiketails… all of it slowly flashed before Ducky’s eyes as the white shroud of the Cold Time slowly hid the scene under its soft embrace.

It wasn’t until Ducky had finished her story that Ruby noticed the tears falling down her own cheeks. Not only had she heard how one of her friends had journeyed into the Great Beyond but to think that Ducky had truly been there, seeing her own adopted brother die before her eyes… it was just an unbearable thought for the fastrunner. She couldn’t even begin to think what she’d do if she were forced to see either Orchid or Arial die without her being able to do anything to help them. Her voice was a sickened and shocked one as she spoke to the swimmer.

“I’m so very sorry, Ducky. I… I don’t know what to say as anything I can say cannot explain what I think! A… at least you had time to say your goodbyes. I’m sure Spike was happy to have that final moment with you.” She said, hoping that Ducky wouldn’t be offended by her words for some reason. Ducky, however, looked at her sadly and nodded, thinking of the countless hours she had dwelled in her own sickening thoughts. She then took a deep breath as she answered to Ruby.

“I know that. But… it was just so very wrong. I never understood how Littlefoot just felt about his mommy but… now I think I do now. And it’s a worse feeling than anything I could have imagined! Oh, poor, poor Spike…” She said as felt the ghosts of that day rise within her mind. Ruby shifted her weight between her legs, feeling more than uncomfortable as indeed, she had never been through such horrors herself. She cleared her throat as he tried to get over this situation and she asked Ducky carefully.

“B… but what happened then? How did you survive that night?” She asked, wondering for a moment whether she’d receive any kind of answer at all from the grief-stricken swimmer. Ducky slowly raised her gaze again but instead of looking at Ruby, she stared into the infinite distance as she spoke.

“I remained by Spike’s side that whole night, praying she’d return to me somehow. I would have joined him if the next day hadn’t been a much warmer one. If Spike had survived that one night… I do not want to think of it, I don’t. The next day had already risen when I finally moved on even if I do not know what I was looking for anymore. Without Spike, everything seemed so very, very meaningless. But it got colder on the evening and I already thought I’d join Spike soon enough. I would have frozen also if… if I wouldn’t have been found wandering all alone.” The swimmer spoke, taking a deep breath as she spoke. She took only a short breather but Ruby still interrupted her with a quick question.

“Found by Swiftspash, perhaps?” She asked, cocking her head. Ducky blinked at her in surprise as she answered.

“Why, yes but… but how do you know him?” She asked, completely surprised by Ruby’s words. The fastrunner nodded glumly as she answered, able to already guess where the rest of Ducky’s story was going.

“You spoke his name when I tried to wake you up. And… and I have a feeling we already found him. He fell on a clearing not far to our right, didn’t he?” The omnivore asked, causing Ducky to take a deep regretting look and a glum nod.

“He saved me and helped me forward when I thought everything was lost. He even found me food and shelter but as always, things went all wrong after that. Chomper’s mommy and daddy were moving nearby and we had to leave his home because we could already see something had made them very, very mad. And after that, Swiftsplash got very sick… but he did get through it all. But his recovery took all his strength and we could no longer find any food and… and then it happened. He… he saved me and helped me and was good to me and I… I couldn’t do anything for him. I could do nothing to help anyone!” Ducky cried as she thought about everything that had happened. Her life had been one, big horrifying sleep story after her departure from the Valley and in this moment, not even Ruby’s presence seemed to her situation.

The fastrunner, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms as she looked at the crying swimmer. She couldn’t help but feel bad for her as she thought about everything she had told. She could very well relate to her struggles and she would never have wished such a disaster on the usually so cheerful swimmer. However, the thought that it had been due to the appearance of Dein and Terri that Swiftsplash was gone now… just one more victim to the events she had launched so very long ago. She lowered her voice and looked at Ducky as she finally answered to her.

“Life has been so very unfair to you, Ducky. I cannot imagine how you felt when Spike and Swiftsplash passed away. None of this should have ever happened. But I and my companions have also been through so very much, Ducky, and none of it will be easy for me to tell. But I promised it to you and I always keep my promises so here it goes…”
Ruby told everything that had happened ever since their separation in the Sand Cloud, about her encounter with Stealth and the thinclaws as well as her eventual reunion with her family and everything that followed. The fastrunner could see Ducky’s expression turn into that of shock and outrage when she told about what happened the last time she had met her parents. The swimmer’s voice trembled as she spoke.

“H… how could they? Why would they ever do such a thing, Ruby! My mommy would never even think of killing me or my siblings!” She cried, even thinking about such a thing making her more than horrified. Ruby sighed as she crossed her eyes, her mind still more than shocked by what had happened but she had already had had the time to think about it. However, she knew she could never explain it in terms that a swimmer such as Ducky could understand it. These questions of payback and murders were things that she had heard only her kind and some sharpteeth go through and she knew already that even thinking about it was barbaric to a leafeater.

“I know, Ducky. I know. I don’t like it myself but sometimes fastrunners can do such agreements if they think it helps their entire families even if it doesn’t always help at all, like this time. I know you never thought such a thing was possible but among my kind, it is. But that doesn’t help me forgive either my mommy or my daddy.” She said, a look of bitterness lingering within her eyes. Ducky looked at her with a puzzled look and her voice more than sickened as she listened to the omnivore. To think she had met them and seen them not too different from her own mother, as loving parents who had missed Ruby greatly. However, Ducky’s mind grew darker as she remembered how very much her friend had worried for her family’s wellbeing after the Flying Rocks of Many Nights and this was how they repaid her concern? The thought made her all the more sickened as she answered

“No, I don’t understand, Ruby. But I am happy you made it through that, I am! It must have been terr…” She started but before she got further, she heard a new voice interrupt the duo’s conversation.

“Are you okay, Ruby? Is everything alright?” The young male voice called and a slight smile rose to Ruby’s face. She quickly turned to look at Orchid and yelped to her in a happy

“I certainly am, Orchid! More than alright as I found someone I had missed terribly! You may already remember her but say hello to Ducky!” She cried as she helped the swimmer to her feet, making sure that the wind wouldn’t directly blow at her. The swimmer looked more than a little awkward as she looked at the omnivores around her, her trust towards them slightly diminished by Ruby’s words about the traditions of their kind. However, she was still happy to have any company and she remembered Ruby’s siblings more than well.

“Hello, Ruby’s brother and sister! It has been a long time since we last met, yep, yep, yep!” She cried as Orchid and Arial approached her happily. Arial stopped right in front of her and spoke to her with a wide smile.

“Hey again, Ducky! Our last meeting was a short one but it’s still nice to see you! Ruby has always spoken only good about you!” She said as Orchid also gave his greetings.

“That’s right! It’s great to see you again!” He cried as he looked at the swimmer, noticing how very cold she was. However, she hid her pain admirable but it was clear that she would be in great, great trouble even after this temporary salvation. Yarel nodded at Greentail, the girl giving him the permission to speak for both of them as her speech was still more than a little blurred.

“Greetings from us also, Ducky. I’m sorry that our first impression wasn’t… the best but I’m still happy to meet you.” He said, hoping his snout was a bit cleaner now. He had tried to clean it against the ground sparkles but it was still clearly redder than usual. Orchid had also done the same but Arial had helped him on the way. Ducky cringed as she looked at him but forced herself to hide her disgust as she looked at the thinclaws.

“H… hi! I hear you’ve been good friends to Ruby and Ruby’s friends are also my friends! Your names were Yarel and Greentail, were they not?” She asked curiously even though Ruby had mentioned them in her tale. Greentail cleared her throat as she answered, not willing to be left out of these greetings completely.

“You are right. I…. I’m also pleased to meet you, Ducky. I just wish it were under better circumstances.” She said, more than conscious about how she sounded like. Indeed, Ducky looked at her in clear concern as could hardly even understand her words. Ruby had told her of her injury but to see the once-healthy omnivore like this… it made the swimmer feel even worse than before. She sighed silently as she looked at the omnivore before speaking at her.

“So do I. I’m sorry for what happened to you, I am.” She said with sad eyes, causing Greentail to frown slightly as she cursed inside, knowing just what the swimmer was thinking. She snorted before doing her best to keep her words as clear as possible even if she still failed miserably.

“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it and I don’t need a swimmer’s pity!” She snapped, causing both Ducky and Ruby look at her in shock. Ruby cleared her throat before deciding to cut this conversation short before the two would end in seriously bad terms.

“In any case, Ducky, we are trying to find the source of those strange lights that appeared almost a week ago. We want to believe there’s something worth finding out there.” She said, looking as Ducky’s eyes widened at her words. It was clear that the swimmer knew what she was talking about and she soon spoke in a cheerful voice.

“Oh, you mean those things that looked like sky colors? We saw them too with Swiftsplash but we didn’t think there was anything too interesting about them.” She said, cringing internally as she thought that the real reason she and her companion had ignored them was the horrible situation they had been in. Ruby noticed her friend’s hesitation but decided against asking for its cause. Instead, she answered as if she had noticed nothing odd in the smaller dinosaur’s mood.

“Well… neither did we at first but I told you what happened at the Rise… and after that, we thought that there was nothing else for us to do, really. So, Ducky, are you willing to come with us even if I think you really don’t have any other place to go, really. I can’t take you to the Valley either as... I wouldn’t be welcomed in there.” She spoke sadly, regretting she couldn’t help Ducky in that regard. She wouldn’t have minded returning to her former home but she knew just what its denizens would do when they saw her.

Ducky was just about to defend her friend when she realized just what she meant. This time, no matter how much she would have wanted to believe so, there was no way the Valley could forgive Ruby’s mistake. And without Spike and the others, did she even have a place to return to in the Great Valley? Certainly, she would want to hear if they knew of the others but… but without Spike, she had no urgent need to get there now and not that Ruby was here, she didn’t want to leave her. Not that she was in a condition to do so even if she would have wanted to. Ducky knew she owed her life to the fastrunner after she had saved her from freezing here, lost and alone. After a short moment, she finally answered the omnivore.

“After I lost Spike, I never even thought of finding the Valley again. One day, I will want to see it again but for now, I am ready to go on another adventure with you Ruby, yep, yep, yep! And also with you others!” She exclaimed happily, causing cries of cheer to emanate from the younger children. Ruby nodded at the swimmer in deep approval as she answered to her, the girl’s heart swelling from joy.

“Then let’s get on the move! We still have a long way to go! Ducky, you may ride me until you feel a bit better!” She waved at her companions, not even wanting to think just how lucky she was to have been granted the chance to reunited with the swimmer. She could only hope her luck wouldn’t fail her in the days to come.

“Pearl, look! I think we are slowly closing the distance between us and the children!” Detras exclaimed as he looked at the footsteps that were slowly growing clearer and easier to follow. He panted in exhaustion, the hours of running among the ground sparkles tiring even the most resourceful of fastrunners. However, his words didn’t resonate all that well with Pearl as her tone clearly implicated.

“But they must still be nearly an hour before us! Yes, we are catching them but… but we cannot tell in what kind of danger they are right now! We have to try to quicken our pace before anything bad happens! You should be worried about their safety most of all, Detras.” She said as she narrowed her eyes, causing Detras to take a step forward and taking a more confrontational stance.

“And I certainly am, dear. But I am not going to listen to your accusations all the time! Yes, this is my fault but it is also yours! And for now, they seem to be doing better than we had anticipated! And in order to refresh your memories, it wasn’t I who nearly lost their mind when we didn’t find the kids’ footprints immediately near the Rise!” He said, not on the mood to listen to Pearl’s whining right now. Inside, he knew he was merely trying to hide his own hurt about this hell but he wasn’t willing to show it just yet. However, his words hardly made Pearl any less agitated and she shot back at him immediately.

“And for a good reason! The footprints were already nearly gone by the time we found them! A few more minutes and the children would have been gone for good! Are you really too dumb to realize that?” She asked with an enraged voice, finally causing Detras’ face to fall completely. The male’s bravado disappeared and his answer was barely a whisper.

“I know, dear. I… it’s just that I miss them so very much. I only now realized how much it meant to see Ruby again and Orchid and Arial… I’d give anything just to see them again. I don’t even know what I can tell them… except that I’m so very sorry.” He said, looking at his mate with a beaten expression. Pearl’s expression softened as well, fighting to keep
her own emotions at bay.

“Neither do I. But you said we have to make sure they’re safe. That’s all that matters right now.” She said, not able to ignore how very often it seemed like her and her mate’s roles had changed lately. Each of them needed some encouragement from the other and each time, they had been there to encourage each other forward. She smiled slightly as she realized that fact, more than happy to share this journey with her beloved mate. Detras looked at her for a few seconds before he nodded at her, knowing she was right. He then calmed himself down with a deep breath and spoke to the female in a more normal voice for him.

“Right. It shouldn’t be too long before we’ll catch them anyway. Hopefully it’ll be before the evening.” He said, looking at the still-bright skies. Pearl looked at him approvingly and followed him into the thickening woods, both of them praying deeply that this journey would have a happy ending.

The swimmer’s stomach felt sicker than it had in ages as she thought about the sight she had been forced to witness earlier. Or rather, she would have been if she hadn’t decided to stay away from that monstrous scene. Ducky looked at Ruby in worry as she took a tighter grip of her neck feathers in order to avoid falling from her back. She had tried to tell
the fastrunner and her friends to leave Swiftsplash’s remains in peace but the omnivores simply wouldn’t pay her pleads any heed.

Even Ruby wouldn’t listen to her despite telling her how much the older swimmer had helped her in her time of need. They merely had seen him as a source of food rather than a kind, warmhearted dinosaur he had been. Inside, Ducky knew that food was scarce and that Ruby’s kind was also able to eat meat… but to see Ruby so readily feast on her helper made her sad, worried and sick at the same time. This time the halfteeth had done their best to clean their snouts but the mere thought of what had transpired made horrified.
Minutes passed on slowly without any words between the six dinosaurs. Ducky didn’t mind it, though, as she still tried to recover from her near-freezing. Every last part of her limbs hurt and ached in a way she had never felt before but something told her that it was a good sign after what had happened. The girl knew she would have not been able to walk forward alone and she was more than grateful to Ruby for allowing her to ride her, even if her back was far narrower and more swaying than Spike’s had been. After a long while had passed, she asked carefully.

“So uhh… do any of you have any idea about where we are going? You mentioned the colors but do any of you have any idea what they really are?” She asked, willing to break the ice somewhat after the sickening scene earlier. Yarel wasn’t completely happy with the swimmer after her earlier complaining but his voice was somewhat calm as he spoke.

“We’ve heard there have been sightings of them before but never before in these lands. And something seemed to be even more strange about them than the tales have told as they seemed to float above one distant land. Though, it is also weird we haven’t seen them after that one day.” He said with a slight frown, starting to really wonder if this journey had been a mistake after all. Orchid glanced at the swimmer and spoke to her while spreading his hands slowly.

“I’m sorry but that’s all we know! But I’m sure we’ll find something great!” He said in clear excitement. Ducky looked at him rather oddly and scratched the corner of her eye as she thought what to answer. She wasn’t completely happy with the answer but that seemed to be the best she could get right now. Her voice was a rather low one as she answered.

“Let us hope so. It would be nice that something great happened after all that we’ve gone through! Though finding you, Ruby, was a good start!” Ducky added as an afterthought, remembering that she couldn’t claim things to be just as bad as she had implied. Ruby quickly turned at her rider and giggled slightly as she answered.

“I know you meant that from the beginning as if you hadn’t meant that, I would be really sad and you don’t want me to get sad, now do you, Ducky?” She asked in mock shock, causing Ducky to laugh at her reaction as she tried to calm down as well as she could. She was just about to answer as Arial suddenly cried at her companions.

“What is that? Is… is that another cliff?” She asked, starting to run forward. Ruby looked at her sister’s reaction in astonishment, immediately crying after her.

“Come back, Arial! We cannot know if it’s safe out here!” She cried, her stressed mind almost expecting to see a sharptooth jump from behind any of the surrounding trees and swallow Arial whole but it wasn’t long before Arial stopped and turned back at the older fastrunner and called to her happily.

“It’s not dangerous, silly! All of you have to see this!” At this point, each of the five dinosaurs’ curiosities rose immediately and almost subconsciously, Ruby’s pace quickened somewhat. Ducky cringed as she felt her balance seating to get more uncomfortable by the second. Ruby nearly yelped in pain as the swimmer tore at her neck feathers but she decided against saying anything to her. All her attention was fixated on the sight that was ever so slowly opening before her.

At first, she saw some distant mountains starting to appear over the cliff Arial had mentioned. It was as if the forest was suddenly cut in half by some mighty force, giving way to a wide, slightly forested plain far below the overlooking plateau. Ruby swallowed as she looked below her, immediately taking a few steps back as she realized just how terrifying the drop was. Only afterwards did she look at the sight before her more closely.

At first, the sight seemed rather unremarkable as before her lied only more plains and wasteland as eye could see even if it seemed more fertile than the steppe surrounding the Rise. The ground sparkles glimmered everywhere and the wind that was no longer blocked by the trees made her shiver deeply. However, her entire attention was fixated to a spot, far, far away that could only barely be seen over the horizon. It was the edge of a land where two rivers seemed to be heading towards through the seemingly endless wastes. However, what really caught Ruby’s eye was a circle of sky sire and falling water that seemed to surround that entire place. Her voice was filled with awe as she whispered silently.

“That seems like it could be our destination. At least it seems mysterious enough for me.” She said with a slight smile. It would still take many days for her and her friends to reach it but at least it seemed like their destination could be in sight. However, Yarel’s voice was far from convinced just yet.

“I’m not quite sure, Ruby. It is in the right direction but one storm doesn’t mean anything. For all we know, our goal might be far, far further away.” He said while putting his hands on hips as he glanced at the female. Ruby took a slightly more thoughtful look as she looked at him, thinking about his words.
“Well… you might be right. But as you said, it is at least in the right direction so in any case, we’re going there.” She said before she heard Ducky speak again. The swimmer looked at the sight closely, her voice slightly worried as she spoke.

“Hmm… that seems a lot like the Land of Mists with all that falling sky water! I just hope there are no bellydraggers out there!” She said, hoping that she’d never again have to meet their kind again as long as she lived. Ruby looked at her briefly, having heard of her friend’s journey to look for the legendary Night Flower but she hadn’t been with them back then so she couldn’t say for sure what had happened back then.

“Well, at least I’m sure there can be nothing worse than what we’ve already gon…” She spoke before an alarmed call alerted her completely.

“Sharptooth! Into the ground, now!” Yarel cried and immediately the small group did as they were told, only Ruby making sure that Ducky wouldn’t fall into the ground because of her. The six dinosaurs lied still for a few seconds before Orchid finally asked the other boy in an alarmed voice.

“Where? Where is it?” He asked in fear, dreading another encounter with those villains. Yarel slowly raised his hand from the ground and pointed to a spot in the plain behind them.

“There. It even has some fastbiters and halfteeth with it. This is really bad.” He spoke, knowing just how dangerous these kinds of carnivores were, always trying to bring new dinosaurs under their thrall. At first, Ruby was about to double down on that alarmed reaction when she finally took a closer look at the predator. At first, she was about to cast him off as another power-hungry beast but after a moment, her eyes widened in surprise. A heavy burden dropped from her heart even if she knew she and her friends weren’t out of the woods by a long shot.

“Hmm… That is not just any sharptooth, Yarel! That is Stealth!” She said briefly, causing the thinclaw to cast an odd look at her. Greentail turned to look at her direction as she asked the fastrunner.

“You know him? Why?” She asked in astonishment, knowing just how difficult it was to approach a sharptooth without becoming their meal, at least without making some kind of name for yourself that would reach the predator’s ear first. Ruby gulped deeply as she looked at the sailback, looking as she seemed to actually be approaching her and her companions’ position, wondering if he had actually received her call for help. If that were the case… Ruby tried to force the most optimistic thoughts from her mind as she prepared to answer the other girl’s question.

“He surprised me soon after I got separated from Ducky and the others. He… he had the chance to kill me but he instead gave me a chance to help him on one hunt of his. As a reward, he offered me and my family an alliance with him.” She said happily, already hoping that she could finally cast the threat of Chomper’s parents away from her and her family’s backs forever with the sailback’s help. Arial frowned as she heard those words and she turned at Ruby with a bothered look.

“You mentioned it to mommy and daddy… but why would he want to help us? Chomper’s parents are dangerous and Stealth could very well die while facing them!” She asked, her concerns immediately followed by a remark from Yarel.

“And besides, none of that makes any sense! I hope you won’t take offense, Ruby, but a sharptooth simply doesn’t offer alliance to a fastrunner our age! I mean, there’s close to nothing we can do to help them! There must be something to his offer that you didn’t notice!” He said with a confused face, causing Ruby to reconsider her first meeting with the sharptooth.

Now that Yarel had mentioned it, the initial hesitation she had felt with the sailback returned to her mind. Yes, all of it had been more than weird but on that day, she had simply wanted to take an help that would help her get over that nightmarish day. But indeed, why would Stealth want to ally with her or her family? It seemed he already had more than enough allies and it was also curious he had just allowed her to leave like that. In fact, she hadn’t learned anything about the sharpteeth or his motives which should have raised her doubts right away. She had already asked for his help but now, her worries started to grow. Yet, there was too much to gain from joining Stealth that she was rather reluctant to simply pass that chance. Also, betraying her promise would earn her another enemy, something she simply wanted to avoid to the best of her ability. She waited for a few moments before she finally answered to Yarel’s comment.

“You might really be right, Yarel. But I still think we should take a look at how he reacts to our presence. But we have to make sure we will see him before he sees us, just in case.” The pink fastrunner said as she turned around, knowing it would be a long hike if she and her friends wanted to reach Stealth today. Her companions looked at the girl in clear
worry but nobody found a reason to object to her proposition. They headed after her one by one, hoping this wouldn’t turn out to be a mistake.

“It’s getting too dark to even see the trees around us! I hate to say it but I fear we won’t find the children before tomorrow.” Pearl said as she felt another branch hit her head in the dark woods. Detras looked at her glumly, knowing full well that the loss of her eye did her no favors out here but he also had to admit that it was really becoming a chore for him to try to avoid falling due to hard water and the fallen branches. He cringed deeply before he looked at his mate.

“I have to agree, Pearl. I had already hoped we’d find them today but it is true that we could walk right past them and not even see a sign of them. We have no choice but to spend our night here, no matter how much I hate to do so.” He said, looking suspiciously at the looming shadows everywhere around him. This was one of the most dangerous situations for a fastrunner, surrounded by complete darkness in a landscape he didn’t know in the least. As far as he knew, there could be sharpteeth stalking him everywhere in this dark forest.

“So do I. This place really gives me creeps but we have to stay at an alert all the time and hope the kids are alright as well. And that they have a safer sleeping spot than we do.” She said glumly as she sat down on a nearby stone. Detras did the same while looking to his right, seeing only a few silhouettes of the trees in the lifeless woods. This night was going to be colder than most he could remember but at least the wind seemed to be dying down. He sighed deeply and put a hand under his chin as he took a faraway gaze, his mind’s eye looking at the years that were past him.

“Why did it have to turn into this nightmare? I would never have thought it all would end like this when I looked into Orchid and Arial’s faces for the first time. Not after they seemed to start playing with each other before they had really even left their eggs. I’ll never remember Ruby’s surprise and joy as she saw her siblings enter the world that full of happiness and hope. More times than I can remember, I wondered if she managed to teach those two more than we ever could.” He said deep in thought. He thought at the endless lessons he had given his children, from the mastery of their sniffers into trying to plan the best way forward in any kind of environment. Pearl looked at him in slight annoyance and she snapped at her mate slightly.

“Don’t start blaming yourself again! You know we have taught them all they needed to be able to survive out here for this long! In fact, none of the other fastrunner children we’ve met knew half as much as Orchid, Arial and especially Ruby do!” She snapped at her mate who looked at the female glumly. His expression didn’t twitch in the least as he answered her mate.

“Yet, we failed them in the lesson we needed to tell them the most. Our kind sometimes has to make hard decisions, yes, but we are not sharpteeth. We must not kill one of our own like this, especially not our own child! At least Ruby will show the little ones the compassion we completely threw aside. That’s what matters right now. That someone will show them the way forward that we couldn’t.” He said, thinking of his own words. All was not lost yet and Detras knew, more than most, that a halfooth’s life was a series of harsh lessons, ones that could easily save his or her life later on. And indeed, he was one that would never ignore one of those lessons when it was presented right in front of him. Pearl looked at him wearily as she brought her hand to her forehead and shook it slightly.

“As I said earlier, I will not forget that as long as I live. My eye will make sure of that. But if the children will find it in themselves to forgive their old mother, I’ll gladly accept this injury.” She said, wondering just how terrible she looked like. Detras looked at her sadly, the collapsed, white remains of the eye and the deep scar around it making him pity the female deeply. When he thought of the young, beautiful fastrunner he had met so very long ago and he couldn’t help but regret this injury on her already-aging mate. Yet, he knew her more than well and if she could bear her punishment with pride, so could he carry his guilt.

“I certainly hope they will forgive you and I won’t hide that it was all my idea. No more lies. No more hiding anything from the children, ever again.” He said while looking at the ground sadly. Pearl looked at him in compassion as she spoke to him in a softer voice.

“Of course not, dear. They deserve much better. But whatever the children decide when we find them, I will make it clear that I only want them to be safe. I just dread what will happen if they demand us to leave forever. We just can’t do that for their sake.” She spoke, causing Detras to look into the darkness in clear worry. Ruby was almost old enough to survive alone but Orchid and Arial still needed guidance in their lives. But to force them to forgive their parents that had wronged them so very, very badly made the male cringe terribly.

“I just pray it won’t come into that. But we still have to fulfill our dut… Did you hear that, Pearl?”  He suddenly rose to his feet as he turned to look behind himself, staring into the darkness. The female walked to his side and whispered to him silently.

“What is it, dear? What did you hear?” She asked as she stepped besides her mate, ready to fight if need be. Detras, however, didn’t answer, his entire attention concentrated at the dark woods before him. He could swear he had heard footsteps somewhere and right now, he cursed that the wind hid any smell from that direction. In this moment, the only thing he could do was to try to listen if he had heard wrong or if there was something threatening sneaking up upon him and his mate…

Seconds passed and the male slowly started to relax, almost ready to believe that he had heard wrong. However, it was on that exact moment that his worst fears were confirmed. A branch snapped in half not far from him, followed by urgent footsteps. And immediately, he could tell that the source of those footsteps was a dinosaur slightly larger than him… completely fitting to a fastbiter! He turned at his mate in horror and cried at her.

“Let’s get out of here, now! They’re coming!” He cried, immediately turning around in order to flee into the dark forest, hoping that the foremost gift of his kind would save him and his mate once again. He cursed at the ground sparkles for hindering their escape but in the end, he knew it hindered his chasers’ advance as well. Pearl had also heard those sounds and she knew just as much as her mate the danger they were in.

If it had been difficult to see the trees while walking, now it was completely impossible. The two omnivores collided with trees once in a while but each time, they knew they had to move on. Slowly, they started to believe they were creating more and more distance between themselves and the sharpteeth but they were still far too close. But still, the two were starting to hope that they would make it through this… until two pairs of gleaming eyes suddenly appeared from the darkness, looking at them in utter malaise. Pearl stopped immediately upon seeing them, knowing that the situation had just taken a turn for the worse. She immediately cried at her mate as she headed to the left, hoping that it would offer the two a new chance of escaping this nightmare.

“Detras, follow me! There might still be a way to escape out here!” She yelled, trying to run just as fast as her legs could carry her. The male wasted no time doing as he was told, knowing that everything was on the line in this unexpected encounter. He was completely astonished by the fact that the sharpteeth had succeeded in creating this kind of ambush without either or his mate ever even suspecting anything was wrong. But who could blame them, after all there seldom were many packs of fastbiters stalking nearly lifeless forests in the middle of a Cold Time!

But even this brief hope of salvation turned into a dead end before long. Three new sharpteeth jumped from a nearby cliff right in front of the omnivores, blocking another escape route completely. The two again tried to turn around, only to see the other carnivores approaching them with their teeth revealed, clearly ready to end this chase once and for all. The fastrunners realized that they were completely surrounded, slowly retreating against the nearby wall of stone, knowing this was the end. However, Detras wasn’t ready to give
up just yet.

“Well, if you want us, then come and get us! I will not let any cursed fastbiters hurt my mate without giving my all!” He cried, inside knowing that any kind of resistance was futile in the end. He felt the horrifying realization creeping into his heart as he whispered to her beloved mate sadly.

“Well, it has been my joy and honor to spend this time with you, Pearl. We’ll see each other again the Great Beyond.” He whispered, knowing there was no escape. Every second, the sharpteeth drew closer and the circle around the omnivores was tightening quickly. Pearl quickly gave her mate a brief nuzzle as she spoke to him in a soft voice.

“We will, my love. I just hope the children were spared from this fate.” She whispered, preparing to give her last breath fighting a losing battle. However, just as she was about to attack, the carnivores seemed to stop in their tracks, as if the weather had frozen them in place. The two halfteeth looked at the scene in confusion before they heard a louder thud after another drawing closer to them. The two turned to look at their direction fearfully, knowing that whatever was coming would hardly make their situation any better.

Soon enough, a larger shadow appeared from within the woods, his steps rather quick and urgent as he made his way towards that scene of horror and confusion. Detras looked in growing despair as the sharptooth, most likely a sailback, approached him and his mate and finally stopped right in front of them, slowly taking a look of approval and confidence.

“It is as my scouts reported. How nice it is to finally meet Dein and Terri’s most loyal servants face to face.” He said, revealing his teeth in a triumphant and threatening way as the omnivores looked at him in confusion. Pearl soon stepped forward and spoke carefully.

“W… what’s your name and what do you want of us?” She asked carefully, something within the predator’s gaze worrying her more than if he had merely been here to finish the two omnivores off. The sharptooth took an intrigued look as he answered.

“I’m surprised you don’t know me as your daughter called me simply to save you from your former allies! In any case, I am Stealth and I have been more than interested in this meeting for a long, long time. Though, I’m afraid you won’t share that sentiment for long, you murderous bastards!” He spoke, letting out a silent growl as the two omnivores started to shiver slightly under the sharptooth’s gaze, dreading how this encounter would eventually end.

Stealth has finally made his return to this story but not in a way Ruby or anyone else would have wished for. With Spike’s demise confirmed and her parents at the sharptooth’s mercy, things have again taken a turn for the worse for the fastrunner and her companions. Now, it’s time for me to do the February prompt so see you again when it'll be released!


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #98 on: February 03, 2019, 11:13:50 AM »
So, Ducky's alive. Well, to be honest, I'm very happy about that, but what she had to go through to end up where she is now was very saddening to read, particularly Spike's demise (which I accurately predicted beforehand). I was afraid that Spike would end up dead if Ducky was found all alone and someone like Spike would not be able to survive by himself. I must confess ... I knew he'd be gone. For once, I correctly predicted something, not that I'm happy about it because of its heartbreaking nature.

So now, with four of the Gang confirmed to have survived, it seems to me that more and more adventures are awaiting them for all the wrong reasons. With Ducky and Ruby traveling to some unknown place, and Petrie going to great lengths to find his family and Littlefoot, each and every turn they make is only leading them into more danger. Both of the last two chapters ended with such tense cliffhangers that there is still so much more to be answered, and yet still so much more that our heroes have yet to encounter.

You're really using the tensity factor very well here. These last couple of chapters have only fueled Petrie and Ruby into what may eventually become of them. Whatever happens next in either Petrie or Ruby's story, I haven't the faintest idea, but keep up the good work. :)
Suddenly, I've written so many fanfics that I can't possibly list them all! :P


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Re: Separate Ways
« Reply #99 on: February 04, 2019, 12:54:25 AM »
The reunion with Ducky as expected has come with a very bittersweet caveat in the death of Spike.  Not only did Ducky lose a brother with his loss, but also a final connection of sorts with the Great Valley.  Worse yet she lost him in the worst way possible, seeing him slowly fade due to the ravages of their journey and the lack of sufficient food.  It was quite heartbreaking to hear Ducky being glad for being "dead" so that she could see the others only to slowly realize that she was not dead.  It was then that she realized that the reunion with her lost brother would come later, perhaps much later.

But now with the arrival of Stealth comes much uncertainty.  It is true that Ruby helped him once and that she trusts him to some extent, but can she convince her friends of the same?  And, regardless of if she can, will this be of any help to Ruby's parents who a re trailing behind?  Or will they be yet another pair of casualties in this Cold Time of horrors?

This was another strong chapter that added another one of the gang into the ongoing journeys, and confirmed that another member had moved on to his final journey.  I look forward to seeing when and how Ruby's group and Petrie's journey intersect.  And, along with them, if Ruby's parents will survive long enough to be part of that reunion...

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