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Strange New World

By DoddtheDodo All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

Chapter 1: Awakening

The earth is very old, and as with everything of great age, it has changed many times. When these great, global changes occur, the original palette is swiped clean, clearing the way for a new beginning, unhindered by the remnants of the old world. This is why one of the ancients could never live among the new, discovering that the world they were once a part of no longer had any place for them. Such is the tide of time…

Far north in the cold arctic, where freezing temperatures constantly ensured that only the strong and resourceful could survive, change was encroaching. Steadily now, for years, the summers had been growing warmer and warmer, melting more ice, and exposing more ground than it had ever before. One enormous, mighty glacier by the crest of the high mountains was on the verge of destabilizing. For untold millennia, the mountain of ice had held strong and stern in the face of the ever-warming climate, but now it was on its last pillars of strength. Small chunks of ice splintered off from time to time, and meltwater was slowly weakening the foundation from within.

The mountainside gave a deep rumble, and the ice began to shudder as the glacier at last succumbed. Pieces of ice splintered and shattered like glass, as the huge hill of solid water was ripped from its foundations in agonizing slowness. Cracks snaked their way across the glacier, further weakening its grip on the rock face. The stones on the mountainside trembled at the glacier’s might, and then, a searing, sickening crack silenced every sound in the mountains, and with a earth-shaking heave, the glacier tore loose from the mountainside, careening down the mountain and taking other, smaller glaciers with it in a massive avalanche.

The throes and crashing of the ice broke the glacier to pieces, tumbling down the mountain and destroying everything in their path. One massive chunk was knocked loose and careened down the side of the mountain, breaking off chunks of another glacier and falling headlong into the base of an icy river.

The river thrashed as massive pieces of ice fell into the water, sinking briefly before hurtling back to the surface in an explosion of water and foam. The huge chunk of ice from the glacier surfaced, drenched in the freezing water. After the water eventually calmed down, the enormous chunk slowly began moving, dragged onward by the strong current of the river. Slowly, the ice chunk began making its way south, toward warmer temperatures, the river gently carrying it, and what it held within.

Weeks passed as the great block of ice drifted slowly downriver, very slowly melting away as it sailed toward warmer climates. It passed the icy land to the north, the windswept tundra, and the northernmost pine forests, until at last settling by the pebbly shore of a large river delta, coming to rest on the soft sand of the riverbank adjacent to a wide open plain.

By now the ice chunk had melted away significantly, and as more days passed, the beating sun depleted it further, until, an entire four months after breaking free from the glacier, the frozen block melted enough for large shapes to become visible. A further two weeks passed, and by then the ice on one face had become thin enough to crack, the weight of the thing inside pushing the ice away, allowing the long-entombed entity to break free from the ice after ages of being trapped. As the huge, limp form slid free of the ice onto the sandy riverbank, the light revealed it to be an ancient being, from a primeval age long forgotten.

A dinosaur.

The dinosaur lay limp on the ground, no signs of life visible on its body. For millions of years it had been frozen in suspended animation, lying dormant encased in the frigid ice of the northlands. But now, it appeared in all senses dead, having met an icy fate while all the others of its kind were annihilated by the great asteroid so long ago.

Another day passed, and the continued melting of the ice block began to reveal more dinosaurs, frozen in the ice. All of them were of the same species, Albertosaurus sarcophagus. A once fearsome predator of the north, the mighty species was now reduced to a few frozen carcasses. But then again, life has a way of persevering.

As the sun rose on the third day of being freed, a loud, heaving breath rattled from the Albertosaurus’ lungs, followed by a deep, rumbling moan. It was alive.

Slowly, the Albertosaurus opened its long-closed, fiery green eyes, blinking to clear its vision. Groggily, the Tyrannosaur moaned and raised its head, letting out a deep, rumbling yawn. The dinosaur believed that he had just awoken from a typical night of sleep; it had no idea that it had slumbered in the ice for tens of millions of years.

With a rumbling groan, the dinosaur stretched its unsteady legs, before pushing its huge, lithe body up off the muddy ground. This Albertosaurus was a huge, 30 foot long, 2-ton mature male, with bluish-green skin and a coat of fine feathers colored various shades of contrasting yellowish-gold that bled into amber at the hips, a light silver underside, and reticulated stripes and patterns of black marking the length of his body. The Albertosaurus first looked himself over, shaking himself of the moisture that soaked his feathers. It was now that the Albertosaurus looked out at his surroundings.

Before him the dinosaur saw a massive plain of grass and rolling hills stretching as far as the eye could see. The theropod was frozen in awe; this place was far different than everything he’d ever known. He breathed in deeply, the multitude of foreign scents hitting his sniffer like a panicked herd of Edmontosaurus; hundreds of indescribable smells rushed into his nostrils, none of them recognizable. The Albertosaurus snorted and shook his head to try and clear these strange scents away, but to no avail. He could smell so much, and he didn’t know what any of it was. Even the air itself smelled alien! The dinosaur looked around in distress, seeing nothing of familiarity to him. Where were the forests? The herds of hadrosaurs? The pterosaurs that filled the skies? A single thought went through his simple mind at this sudden change:

What is this place?

Suddenly, the memories came flooding back to him. His pack! Where was his pack?! Running up past the shore, the Albertosaurus looked and sniffed in a panic to locate his family, but could detect no trace of them. Frenzied, the Albertosaurus raised his head and belted out the pack’s distress call, a low, grating roar. The call carried for miles, but other than disturbing the local fauna it did nothing.

The male Albertosaurus called again and again, but heard no response. He hastily turned back to the riverbank, sniffing the ground for any trace of the others nearby, but still found nothing. But he wouldn’t give up. About to belt out the recon howl once more, the male caught sight of the iceberg out of the corner of his eye. Approaching it out of curiosity, the Albertosaurus sniffed the edges until something familiar caught his nose. He breathed in deeply, to be sure of it. It was his mate! Grunting anxiously, the male ran to the other side of the ice block, his feet splashing in the cold water. He inspected the ice face, until his eyes found the source of his mate’s scent: a feathered hip region, just sticking out of the ice. The male’s nose did not lie; he knew that it was his mate, and she was trapped. Growling furiously, the male Albertosaurus slammed his head against the ice, trying in vain to break his mate free from her tomb. After hours of trying and failing, he looked into the part of the ice that was clear. He could see his beloved mate’s face, her eyes shut, as if in sleep. He looked further, and saw his eldest son frozen beside her! And beside him, his eldest daughter, and the two younger brothers and sister, who were only two years old. His entire pack was trapped in this...this cold, solid, thing, but no matter what he did he couldn’t break them out. Then the male thought; food! The scent of food would surely rouse them!

The male hurried off to hunt, but he saw no herds around. He’d have to go far. The male Albertosaurus quickly took a deep whiff of the river, so he’d remember its scent to return after his hunt. He then set off, heading west over the tundra, determined to find food for his pack to awaken them.

As he traveled across the grassy landscape, the male Albertosaurus watched and smelled for any prey animals in the area, but only the erratic and unfamiliar scents came to him. He couldn’t smell any of the scents he remembered, and could spot no evidence of the vast herds of Edmontosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, or Saurolophus he and his pack had hunted all their lives, not even so much as a trail of footprints. What happened to them? Where had they all gone? The only luck the male Albertosaurus had was picking up a strong, musky scent from nearby, and a trail of strange tracks from creatures he’d never seen before.

Nevertheless, prey was prey, and the Albertosaurus’ family needed meat. Coming up over the ridge, slinking low to conceal himself, the male caught sight of a large herd on the grassland, the likes of which he had never seen before. The animals of the herd were much, much smaller than any prey he’d hunted before, and they looked like big bushes of fur on four skinny legs, with a pair of small, curved horns coming from their heads. Musk oxen. The Albertosaurus had no idea what these strange furballs were, but at least they smelled edible. The male began stalking along the edges of the herd, keeping himself hidden to set up a successful ambush. Granted, this would be much more difficult without his pack to aid him, but he was confident that he could fell one of these small, fuzzy herbivores on his own, and his pack couldn’t help regardless.

Sprinting in small bursts between the hillocks that hid him from the herd, the Albertosaurus slowly edged closer. Normally, he would’ve used the sparse tree cover to hide his form, but there were no trees in sight on this strange region. The male stalked closer, his eyes searching the herd’s ranks, trying to single out a weak individual for an easy catch. However, due to never knowing these peculiar creatures before, the dinosaur couldn’t recognize any particular signs of weakness. All of them looked so ungainly that trying to detect an elder with a limp was utterly pointless.

Seeing as he needed this done quickly, the Albertosaurus decided to go with the technique usually reserved for young bachelors without packs: charging the herd head-on and hoping to catch at least one in the panic. This tactic did not warrant much strategy, but just as well it had a much lower success rate than a joint hunt. Nevertheless, he went for it.

With a grunt, the Albertosaurus sprung out of hiding and bellowed at the top of his lungs, startling the herd into a crying panic. The musk oxen broke into a stampede, and the Albertosaurus charged hot on their tails, growling and snapping his jaws threateningly. The carnivore then charged into the herd, breaking its ranks and throwing the herbivores into a wild panic, splitting off every which way to get away from the monstrous, alien predator. The Albertosaurus snapped his jaws at every musk ox he spotted, but they managed to evade his attacks and charged ahead, as the dinosaur began to fall behind. These creatures were much faster than prey he was used to hunting, and ran for much longer.

Taking in huge breaths, the Albertosaurus pushed himself to keep up with the herd, but in his determination he missed the sudden dip in the ground the musk oxen cleared easily. He suddenly lost his grip on the ground and felt his legs swing out from under him, before crashing to the ground and rolling onto his side in a shower of dirt.

Moaning in ache from the fall, the Albertosaurus pushed himself up on his small but strong arms, shaking the dust out of his feathers. The musk ox herd had passed him and were rapidly fleeing over the plain, the last stragglers galloping past him to keep up. He didn’t bother snapping at them.

The male Albertosaurus snorted dejectedly. He’d failed the hunt, which was always something to be ashamed of in predator society. He used to be the prime hunter of the summer valleys, bringing down Hypacrosaurus and Regaliceratops alike with ease. In all fairness, his pack had always been there with him, but evidently the dinosaur couldn’t even pick off a small, furry wimp of a herbivore in this unfamiliar land. What was he to do?

Groaning in defeat, the Albertosaurus began to push himself up, when an agonized bray came from his flank. He looked back to see one of the musk oxen, pinned under his hip. He must’ve fallen on it by pure luck when he tripped. The Albertosaurus quickly rolled onto his stomach, pushing against the ground with his muscular hind legs and rising back to a stance. The musk ox moaned in pain, its ribcage crushed by the dinosaur’s weight and the impact of his body, too wounded to run away. Mercifully, the Albertosaurus clamped his jaws onto the dying mammal’s head and swiftly crushed its skull, killing it in just seconds. It was cruel to leave mortally injured prey alive to suffer, and so they were often killed as quickly as possible to minimize their agony. 

With a grunt, the Albertosaurus lifted the woolly carcass in his jaws, and began jogging back the way he’d come with it, retracing his own scent path back to the river; his own was the only scent he recognized in this strange land.

Upon his return to the riverbank, the male Albertosaurus dropped the musk ox carcass by the melting block of ice and grunted to his mate, offering her the meat. But again she did not respond. The male growled, nudging the corpse toward her pleadingly, but still she and the young didn’t move from their icy prison. The male felt his own stomach longing for food, but still he offered the fresh meat to his petrified pack. They still did not move.

Groaning in defeat, the male reluctantly sunk his blade-like teeth into the carcass and tore off a small chunk from its flank, eating it himself. The male snorted in disgust as the dirty hair filled his mouth, spitting out a saliva-coated furball. The meat tasted stale and fatty, with an oily aftertaste on his tongue, but he swallowed it down nonetheless. Noticing how late it was getting, the male Albertosaurus nudged the woolly carcass toward his family once again, before settling down on the pebbly bank to sleep for the night, resting his head against the ice block that held his family within.

As the male slept, the ice steadily kept melting, all through the night. The weakening ice chunk slowly began to retreat, exposing the flank and head of the female Albertosaurus, and one of the feet of the eldest son. And when the faint rays of sun shined down the next morning, the ice gave and the female slid out onto the sand.

Upon awakening, the male Albertosaurus first yawned and blinked his eyes. Then he saw his mate, laying on the shore beside him.

Bellowing in joy the male hurriedly stood and nudged his mate, but she didn’t respond. In haste, the male turned back to the musk ox carcass, which now had a flock of ravens picking at it. The male roared, frightening the black birds away, and dragged the still-edible meat to his mate’s nose so she would smell it. The male waited anxiously for well over an hour, but still his mate would not get up. He nudged her several times, but she never moved in response.

Any other would think her dead, but not her mate. He snorted; she could not be dead! He could smell the life in her, and he instinctively knew that she wasn’t gone. But she was motionless. When nudging her wouldn’t work, the male resolved, then, to wait. He would stay by her until she awoke, and in the meantime perhaps he could get to know this strange land they found themselves in. After eating the rest of what he could from the musk ox(it would be of no use to his mate rotted, and he had no idea when she would awaken), grunting in disgust at the taste of its hair in his mouth, the male Albertosaurus stalked off toward the river to take drink.

The male snarled: even the water tasted alien! But there was nothing he could do to change it, and so he did with what he was given. As the Albertosaurus drank, his sharp eyes caught a glimpse of something shiny in the current. He watched intently, and through the water he saw a glint of silver scales. Fish, salmon, swimming in a huge school upriver. Now, tyrannosaurs like himself were not usually ones to eat fish, as their broad jaws and short necks made them ill-suited to the task. But, knowing that fish didn’t have unsavory coats of hair, the dinosaur relented.

Slowly stepping into the shallows, the Albertosaurus positioned his snout just above the water. In an moment, he plunged his open jaws into the water and snapped, missing the salmon by a mile. Groaning in annoyance, the male then saw a small, lanky bird descending into the shallows on the other side of the river, wading into the water on its long spindly legs. The Albertosaurus watched as it gracefully positioned its head over the water, curving its long neck into an S shape. Several moments passed, the bird watching the water in complete stillness. Then, in seconds, the bird launched its head into the water, pulling a large, thrashing fish out in his beak triumphantly.

As the bird flew off with its catch, the Albertosaurus noticed several other wader birds following the same technique. If it worked for them, maybe it could for himself. Leaning out over the water, the Albertosaurus focused his gaze on the salmons’ movement. He was still and silent until the moment when a fish was poised just inches from his jaws, and launched his head into the water, managing to actually snatch several fish in his big mouth, despite aiming for just one.

Growling in pride at his success, the Albertosaurus proceeded to gulp down the small fish whole, cringing slightly at the slimy sensation that accompanied them going down. Satisfied, the male then walked back toward his unconscious mate, noticing that the ice had become very thin in some places, and that the spine and hips of his eldest son and daughter were now exposed. The male sniffed the melting ice, and began licking it with his large tongue, trying to wear it down enough for his son to break free. He eventually licked his tongue raw, and grunting at the little effect it had had, he sat down beside his still mate to await her waking, eventually falling into sleep himself.

Another whole day passed, and still the female Albertosaurus did not wake. Her mate stayed faithfully beside her, unwilling to leave her or his still-entombed family. As the days passed, the ice slowly melted away more, and soon enough the male was able to break away the ice holding his son, who slid free beside his mother. Again, the male nudged and called out to his flesh-and-blood, desperate to awaken him. But still, no response.

When the sun set on the sixth day after melting free from the ice, a soft growl uttered from the female’s muzzle. Hearing her, the male turned his head from the horizon to see her moving. The male called out in relief and hurried over to her, licking her snout joyously. His mate opened her shining eyes, meekly lifting her head with a deep rumble. The female shook her head to alleviate her weariness, before slowly pushing herself off the ground and nuzzling her mate. In contrast to her mate, she had grayish-blue skin and a gray underside, with a coat of silver feathers and reticulated stripes along her spine and sides(as a female, she naturally had drabber coloration than her mate).

As the two mates lovingly embraced, a tumultuous cracking arose from the ice block. The two Albertosaurus turned to see another body breaking free from the ice, their oldest daughter, who fell on her side beside her brother. The female grunted anxiously, nudging her children to awake them, but just as the male had tried they made no movement. The Albertosaurus parents smelled their children thoroughly, sensing that they were still alive and that they would awaken in time. The male and female then turned to the block of ice that still contained their three youngest, the emergence of their older siblings having exposed most of their bodies. The male walked up to the ice and began licking it, gradually rubbing away the ice layer with his rough tongue. In a moment, his mate joined him, ignoring her sharp hunger to help her children

After another two days, the mother and father Albertosaurus at last were able to get their youngest sons and daughter free from their icy prison, and all their young were now laying on the sand. To keep themselves fed, the father had been practicing his fishing technique he observed from the wading birds. However, the fish had begun depleting in numbers, and the male feared they would have to leave this place soon.

When the red light of the sun signaled the dawn of another new day, the Albertosaurus mates lay asleep beside one another. As there were several of them now, the father will be called Crom, and his mate will be called Alberta.

Crom was the first to awaken, and he nuzzled his mate before looking to their children, who breathed in and out slowly and softly. Crom stood up and walked over to them, nuzzling his son on the muzzle, trying yet again to revive him. This time, however, Crom heard a soft rumbling from his son in response, and looked up to see the adolescent open his fiery eyes.

Crom called to his mate, awakening her as their son, named Buck, rolled onto his stomach. The young dinosaur’s mother and father nuzzled their son eagerly, and despite his confusion Buck happily nuzzled back. Crom and Alberta stepped aside as Buck carefully stood up, wobbling onto his feet slightly. Like his father, Buck sported vibrant blue-turquoise skin and a covering of dark gold plumage with some amber flecks, turning into yellow down his hips and tail, a grayish-blue underside and various dappled patterns of dark brown along his hide. Buck had his mother’s eyes, a fiery red-orange instead of his father’s vibrant green.

After a series of nuzzles and relieved moans shared with his parents, Buck got a look at the strange landscape surrounding them. He grunted to his father in confusion, but Crom had no answer. Then, another snort was heard, and the three Albertosaurus turned to see the others just beginning to stir. Crom, Alberta, and Buck had their eyes glued as Echo, Buck’s older sister, shook herself awake. Crom grunted to his daughter and nuzzled her, and she groaned happily in response. Echo shared similar coloration to her mother, only she was more brownish-gray and had Crom’s emerald eyes. A series of high-pitched squeaks and hoots sounded from beside her, and the older Albertosaurus looked down to see the three juveniles squirming awake. Alberta rumbled and nuzzled them with her snout, waking them up. The three little ones were a pair of brothers and one sister, all of them covered in brownish-gray plumage from head to tail, with grayish skin. The three of them were named Scout, Ash, and Aurora.

The three juveniles squirmed awake at their mother’s touch, waking up beside their older sister, who nuzzled them happily. Crom grunted, nudging the youngsters with his snout as they got to their shaking feet beside the much larger Echo. Scout, Ash and Aurora hardly reached their big sister’s knees, and their legs were thinner and their snouts were pointed instead of muscular and blunt. They had not yet reached the rapid growth phase that all dinosaurs went through upon reaching adolescence.

Echo and Buck nuzzled their younger siblings, the young ones chirping gleefully. Each Albertosaurus took several moments to nuzzle one-another in relief, uttering high-pitched rumbling sounds in their throats, somewhat akin to the purr of a feline.

After the reunion, the young turned to the landscape before them, cooing in awe at the rising sun over the plains. Just like Crom had, the Albertosaurus took in all the alien scents that assaulted their noses, grunting and growling in confusion. Crom and Alberta nuzzled their nervous brood, assuring them that everything was alright. Crom grunted, and the pack turned to look back at the ice block.

The Albertosaurus family had no way of knowing that it was the glacier that had brought them here, nor that it was the very ark that saved them from a horrible fate. The dinosaurs looked at the melted and splintered ice block wistfully, unable to comprehend its significance in their fate, yet still feeling some kind of silent longing.

Crom snorted, getting the others’ attention. As alpha of the pack, he was meant to lead them as long as he was still strong. Now that they were all freed from their icy prison, they had no purpose in staying. Crom uttered a deep, rumbling roar, calling his mate and children to follow as he strode off toward the rising sun. Alberta snorted, coaxing her children to follow as she strode after her mate. Without pausing, Echo followed beside her mother, Buck striding after her, Scout, Aurora and Ash scampering alongside their elder siblings.

As the dinosaurs headed on their way, they saw herds of strange creatures moving along the horizon, and smelled strange scents on the breeze. They were from an age long passed, relics from a primeval era, but they had survived, and they would do the same here, wherever, or whenever, they were.

They would find a way to survive, in this strange new world.

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