Chapter One: A Mother's Dying Wish
The sun hung low in the sky, half of it suspended over the horizon. Its light painted the open canvas shades of orange and stained the massive, fluffy clouds pink. A warm, late spring breeze danced though the small trees of an oasis. It brought the scent of rain in its wake, as the enormous, fluffy pink clouds loomed closer towards the tiny patch of green within the dry, cracked sandy desert.
The oasis thrived from an underground spring that feed all the plants nutrient rich water. A pool of the same nutrient rich water formed in the middle of the sanctuary. Herds of dinosaurs from all around would stop to rest and feed here after long, tiresome journeys.
On this late spring day, only a small herd of Mussaurus had taken refuge. They had found the oasis a few days ago when their leader had become sick over the past few days and needed a place to rest while she recovered. A few of the primitive long necked dinosaurs were gathered around the thick, waxy leafed bushes. Others were resting in the shade of the few trees, tails casually flicking like content felines.
The ground began to shake with the slow, heavy footsteps of a massive beast. A pair of tan scaled youngling Mussaurus darted away from the leafy tree they were circling in play. They looked back over their shoulders to stop at the sight of another herbivore, albeit, much, much larger than them. The pair of younglings stopped in their tracks to stare up at the massive flatheaded longneck before their mother called to them from the other side of the small lake. They gave one last glace at the mighty, gray-scaled dinosaur before they scamper to their mother.
The newcomer was an adolescent sauropod and a very distant cousin of the smaller, primitive tan scaled Mussaurus. She was one of the larger species of longnecked-dinosaurs, an Apatosaurus. Her scales were gray and she possessed the typical, thick stripe that ran from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her tail and the lighter underbelly, throat, under-length of her tail along with common snout markings of the Apatosaurus. Her back stripe was a darker gray than her main body color, and her underbody and snout markings were a light mocha color.
The adolescent sauropod swung her long neck from side to side, looking for the perfect tree leaves to feast on. Finding one to her liking, she approached it, scaring off another set of darker brown scaled Mussaurus children. She watched them for only a few seconds before raising her head to the highest branch she could reach. The female then began to quickly strip the smaller branches of their dark, juicy leaves. As she chewed, she turned her head away from the tree, teal eyes gazing out towards the many Mussaurus and a pair of Pachycephalosaurus grazing by a nearby flowering bush. All the dinosaurs stared at her strangely, not only because of her massive size, but because of the being she carried on her back.
The Apatosaurus swallowed her mouth full of leaves, turning to the object placed on her back. It was an elderly female human. She lay on her back, resting comfortably on the darker area of the Apatosaurus's gray hide. Her shoulder-length, wiry, thin gray hair was splay around her head and her long, gangly arms were crossed over her stomach as she slept. The elderly woman's wrinkled, spotted skin was pale in complexion and her clothing was faded.
"Angela?" the Apatosaurus whispered, teal eyes watching the elderly woman with worry. "Are you awake?"
"Yes. I'm alive, Hyacinth," a weak, scratchy voice responded as the woman slowly opened her eyes to reveal them to be a dark brown in color. "You're going to have to live with the idea that I am dying and that I will pass away sooner than later. I can't live forever."
"I know," the gray longneck muttered, head dropping. She scuffed the ground with her front foot before turning back to Angela, watching the elderly woman rest peacefully on her back. Hyacinth turned back to the tree, munching on the leaves. They did not taste as good as her first mouthful, having lost her appetite from the few words she exchanged with Angela. After several minutes of slowly chewing leaves, she walked over to the small lake located in the center of the oasis.
Hyacinth stopped at the muddy edge, dipping her head near the cool water, just submerging her jaws. She began to drink her fill before completely immersing her head underwater. From an early age, she had learned that her favorite food was the aquatic plants that grew at the bottom of lakes. Pulling a clump out, Hyacinth raised her head out of the lake, water rolling off her head and neck as she chewed the slimy plant matter.
The Apatosaurus dipped her head into the water once more, pulling another clump of aquatic plant matter out of the bottom of the lake. As she was chewing, she turned back to Angela, droplets of water falling onto the elderly woman. Angela gave a small groan, wiping the water from her face before opening her dark brown eyes to glare up at the longneck. "Hyacinth, please watch where you're eating. It dripped onto me."
"Sorry," the adolescent female muttered, swallowing her food. She brought her head back to Angela, nuzzling the elderly woman only for Angela to push her back. This simple action then caused the elderly woman to go into a fit of coughs. Hyacinth stared down at her, teal eyes swirling with concern. She nuzzle Angela once more, which did not help the human's situation. It was only when the Apatosaurus pulled back for a long moment that Angela was able to get her breath back.
"I'm so sorry, Angela. I didn't know you would react like that," Hyacinth apologized, holding herself back from nuzzling the frail woman again.
Angela gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "I'm as fine as I can be at this stage of my life. I expected that to happen one time or another. You're always so use to nuzzling me all the time. But don't worry, I don't want to go back into the cave that Stone Claw wanted me to stay in. It's much better laying on your back and watching my last sunset."
"How do you know it's going to be your last?" Hyacinth asked, panic laced in her voice.
"I just do…" Angela trailed off, turning her head to look up at the Apatosaurus she was riding on. The elderly woman returned her gaze to the sky before glancing at the ground from the corner of her eye. "Hyacinth, can you please placed me on the ground."
"But won't that be uncomfortable?"
"Maybe, but I would I like to be on the ground now. To feel solid earth beneath me when I pass."
"Please stop talking like that. You're scaring me."
Angela did not reply, only giving a small flick of her wrist. Hyacinth let out a small sigh, gently grabbing the elderly woman by the back of her faded blue shirt and lifting her off her back. She placed the elderly woman near the base of a tree before giving her yet another nuzzle, though this time a much lighter one than usual. Looking over Angela to make sure she was comfortable, Hyacinth laid down beside her, tucking her legs beneath her much like a cat.
The gray longneck watched her caretaker for a long moment before asking a question. "C-can you tell me more about Sorrel, your great niece. The one you want me to find."
Angela opened her dark brown eyes at the soft feminine voice of her traveling companion. She gave a small sigh as she stared up at the Apatosaurus. "I guess I can…one last time…but you know everything about her." The elderly woman gave a small shake of her head, dark eyes gazing out to the other dinosaurs and surrounding landscape. "I'm eighty-seven years only and living in this wonderful, yet dangerous world. I'm surprised that I've survived this long." She slowly pushed herself up slightly to look up at Hyacinth. Angela placed a gnarled, livered spotted hand around her neck where a pale, almost glowing blue stone pendent hung from a simple, thin silver chain.
The massive herbivore stared down at the elderly woman, tears already glistening in her teal eyes. "I may know a lot about your great-nice, but I want to hear you talk about her before you… go. I want to hear your voice one last time. How am I supposed to find her? I know you gave her a ring like you necklace, but where will she appear? Help me remember about Sorrel before you go."
"Oh, Hyacinth," Angela sighed, reaching out for the Apatosaurus. "My little blossom. I'm sorry you have to go through this." The elderly woman stroked the pale brown colored snout of the adolescent longneck as the dinosaur's head hovered over Angela. She let her hand fall from the longneck's snout, giving a small sigh as she closed her dark brown eyes. For a long moment, she sat there, against the tree in silence, before opening her eyes again. "Sorrel is twenty-one now. Her birthday was just a month ago. I gave her that ring as a present. Perfect time I say."
"She knows about your travels, right? And where the ring could bring her? It's the same type of stone as the one in your pendent?" Hyacinth asked.
"Yes," Angela breathed, before letting out a small giggle, memories flooding her mind. "Oh, Sorrel was the brightest of my siblings' grandchildren. When she was younger, she absolutely adored dinosaurs of all kinds and listening to my paleontologist adventures. She loved going on the digs I brought the children on. Sorrel would always find something, whether it be a fossilized shell, tooth, claw, bone fragment, or even a footprint. I always thought of her as a granddaughter, since I never had any children of my own. My only regret in this life is that Sorrel and I will never have a chance to explore this magnificent world together. I know she'll love you when you find her."
Angela leaned against the rough bark of the tree trunk, letting out a loud sigh as she closed her eyes once more. "I want you to travel northwards to a cave in the artic lands. You know the one where Shifting Sand lives."
"Okay," Hyacinth muttered as she looked down at the elderly woman. She then turned her teal gaze back to the setting sun. Her tail tip flicked from side to side as she watched it slip behind the horizon. A smile graced the gray Apatosaurus's face as she continued to watch the other, smaller, feeding herbivore, many doing the same as she.
"Angela," Hyacinth started, standing up from the spot she was laying when the sun had fully set. "I think we should get back to the cave. It'll be getting cooler soon. Stone Claw said that even just a little coldness could cause you a lot of trouble."
When the gray longneck did not get a reply, she looked down at the old woman. Angela had not moved since she stopped speaking, but her face displayed a peaceful expression. Hyacinth, panicking, swung her head over to the sleeping woman, giving her a small nudge. When Angela did not move, the Apatosaurus pressed her snout against the elderly woman's chest. She was still warm, but it was clear that she had stopped breathing and there was no sound of her heartbeat.
"Angela?" Hyacinth whispered, tears welling up in her large teal eyes. She gave a small sniff, nuzzling the elderly woman. She knew this moment was to come sooner or later and she had tried preparing herself for it, but it was still hard to bare. With tears rolling down her cheeks, the adolescent longneck gave her guardian one last nuzzle. "Good bye, Mother." As she said this, the wind rustled, as if taking the elderly woman's soul to the heavens above.
Just then, the other herbivores that had not yet left for sleep began to scream in terror as they fled from their resting or feeding spots. Hyacinth did not see any threat in front of her so, with a small sniff, she craned her neck to look behind herself. A female Utahraptor with a thick coat of pinfeathers the color of sand stood calmly behind her. To any of the herbivores that had stood their ground, they were surprised to see that the adolescent longneck had not reacted at all to the sickleclaw.
"Hyacinth," came a low scratchy, yet feminine voice from the raptor.
The Apatosaurus said nothing, only turning away from the carnivore to nuzzle Angela again. The raptor had found Angela and Hyacinth a week or so ago, having heard the news that the elderly woman would not be able to make it to her pack far away north. Angela had wanted to return there for her last visit in the living world since that was where the portal was in which her great-niece would be able to enter this world. Even if she would have died before Sorrel came to the dinosaur dimension, she would have been buried there. Sadly, that was not happening now.
The raptor took a step forward, giving a small hiss as she brandished her clawed hands and the long, brown decorative feathers on the back of her arms. Her darker, decorative, feather tipped tail stood high in the air as she bent down lower to the ground, readying to jump. Bright blue eyes filled with annoyance, she gave another hiss before lunging herself onto the Apatosaurus's back. Her lethal toe claws still dug into Hyacinth's flesh, but the sandy-feathered Utahraptor did not bite down like most would. Hyacinth gave herself a various shake, dislodging the raptor. The predator fell to the grassy ground with a small thud, but the gray herbivore did not bother finishing the job of crushing her.
"Hyacinth," hissed the raptor as she stood back up on her feet. "Stop your mourning. You need to bury her now and get on your journey. What if I was a pack scout? You could have been killed. Angela wouldn't like that."
"Shut up, Shifting Sand," the adolescent mumbled under her breath before giving a sniff as more tears rolled down her snout.
Shifting Sand give a sigh before stepping forward, this time standing in front of the gray Apatosaurus. "You need to bury her… You wouldn't want other predators to eat her body, would you?"
Hyacinth gave a small sigh at the feathered sickleclaw. She looked over at the other herbivores, most having already ran away from the sight of Shifting Sand, though, a few stood their ground, slack jawed at what they were hearing. A carnivore speaking leaf-eater. The large raptor paid no mind to them only leading Hyacinth to a dense grove of flowering trees while the massive sauropod picked Angela up by the back of her faded shirt.
When the strange pair arrive at the middle of the grove, Hyacinth placed her caretaker on the ground. She began to dig a shallow grave with her forefoot. When she was satisfied with the depth, she picked Angela up once more and placed her in the grave. She then pushed the dirt she had dug up over it. When she turned around, she saw Shifting Sand standing at the edge of the clearing. The raptor held a large rock in her clawed hands with a few others already gathered at her feet.
"Here," the Utahraptor said, thrusting the rock towards Hyacinth. "So other carnivores don't dig up her grave."
The younger female gave a small nod, striding over to the pile of rocks Shifting Sand had gathered and pushing them over to the newly dug grave. The Utahraptor helped Hyacinth placed the large stones over Angela's grave before she looked up at the longneck. "I have another mission to go on so I can't lead you to my pack, but I still need to take those journals of Angela's. My pack will keep them safe with other dimension traveling humans' items. And remember what she wanted you to do."
Hyacinth nodded, a tear rolling down her cheek as she nuzzle the elderly woman's resting place one last time. "I have to find the cave Sorrel will appear in when she comes here. I just hope that she doesn't arrive while I'm traveling."
Shifting Sand gave a small snort. "She just might. But don't worry. I'm sure they'll have a scout to guard her since the cave is at the very edge of our territory. I suggest you eat and drink as much as you can. The journey is long, tiring and very, very cold." As the Utahraptor turned away from the grieving Apatosaurus, she looked back over her shoulder. "I'm also sorry for attacking you; I needed a way to get most of those other leaf eaters away. The less that know I can speak their language the better."
"Thank you, Shifting Sand," Hyacinth growled in the carnivore language, surprising the smaller, feathered dinosaur. The sandy predator gave the younger female a small nod of welcome before jogging out of the grove of flowering trees, leaving the longneck to mourn for the rest of the night.