The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 11 An Old Threat Returns

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” ― Herman Wouk

Littlefoot groaned as the first rays of sunlight fell upon his face.

He began to shift from his prone position. Why do I feel so sore and tired? the little fastbiter thought with some confusion, It is almost as if I fell on... Whoa!

He caught himself just as he was about to fall over. He had attempted to get up as a longneck would, placing his weight upon all four limbs at the same time. Of course, such a technique no longer suited his new body. With a sudden realization, he remembered the events of the previous night.

Right, he thought morosely, We are sharpteeth now and we are on the run.

He sighed as the refuge of sleep had just evaporated into the harsh reality that they now faced. They didn't have the luxury of sleeping in anymore. They would have to resume their journey in earnest.

He then carefully used his forelimbs to bring himself into the appropriate position and placed all of his weight onto his hind limbs. It almost disturbed him that he was getting accustomed to his new walking stance. When they were chased by the adults, the entire gang had run on instinct despite previously having great difficulty walking. It seemed that their sudden escape had awakened something within each of the dinosaurs, and they had few walking difficulties thereafter. This opened up several concerned thoughts within the former longneck. What other things could be changing within their uncertain minds? How far would these changes go? If they began to lose themselves to the changes then how would they even know?

He shook his head. Nothing could be done about any of that at the moment. He needed to wake the others so that they could continue their journey. It was far too dangerous to linger in the open.

He went up to Cera first and carefully touched her crest with his forelimb. He was careful to keep his distance because he remembered how she often reacted to sudden awakenings when she was a threehorn.

A sudden swipe of yellowish claws went by where Littlefoot was an instant before.

Yikes! Well, at least that hasn't changed, Littlefoot thought with a sardonic smile.

"What is it?!" she hissed, "I was having a pleasant... Oh."

She stopped as she remembered everything. The silence dragged on for several moments, which concerned Littlefoot. He knew that the former threehorn was very prideful and would hide any weakness, but he wanted to make sure she was alright.

"Cera. Are you alright?" Littlefoot asked softly.

"Are you?" she asked pointedly.

Littlefoot closed his eyes for a moment before again opening them and responding truthfully.

"No," he said with a sigh, "I don't guess any of us are."

She still didn't face him, but she did give a slight nod as she slowly rose from her resting position.

"I am up. Go get the others," she responded gruffly.

Littlefoot was not quite satisfied with her response but hid his misgivings. Cera was loath to show any weakness or uncertainty and it was obvious that their transformation had not changed that. He knew better than to pry when she was not open to it, but he nonetheless had to acknowledge his support.

"Alright. Just remember that we are all together in this."

There was a slight nod from the yellowish fastbiter. Normally Littlefoot would expect a sarcastic retort or an annoyed reply, but her subdued response highlighted to him how much of a toll the situation had taken on the former threehorn. She was as shattered by the situation as any of them, but at least she acknowledged that she had the others. Nonetheless, he was troubled by her reaction.

Sighing, Littlefoot then went over to wake the others. Ruby had awakened with a yelp of surprise, which woke up Chomper and Petrie. This startled response only lasted a few moments, as they soon remembered their predicament and went into what was now a familiar sense of melancholy. This only left Spike and Ducky.

"Don't bother. I am awake," came a gruff response from Spike. Littlefoot stopped for a moment. Even though Spike had finally gotten the ability to talk during the previous night, it still filled him with surprise when the green fastbiter uttered words. He still spoke sparingly, but when he did speak it usually was of some significance.

Well, that just leaves Ducky, Littlefoot thought to himself.

Littlefoot was about to wake Ducky when Spike waved him off with his forelimb; he would attend to this himself. He was somewhat surprised by Spike's insistence, but decided that it was probably for the best. Of all of the gang, Ducky had taken to the changes the hardest. Not that any of them had particularly adapted to the changes well. She was always the sweet, caring one, who was able to find the good within everyone. For her to become a sharptooth was horrifying on so many levels. Yes, Littlefoot thought to himself, Her brother should handle this.

Spike arose and gently tapped on the former swimmer.


"Ducky? It is time to get up," he softly spoke to the sleeping fastbiter.

She stirred in her slumber and mumbled a few incomprehensible mutterings before finally saying something coherent.

"Let me sleep some more, Mommy..."

Ducky then stopped and opened her eyes at the realization of what she has just said. The first form that she was able to recognize was the dark green coloration of a fastbiter. Spike, the former hadrosaur registered in her head. So it was all real...

She then turned and saw the others. A lean, brown fastbiter stared at her with a concerned expression. His posture and bearing communicated both leadership and confusion. This made for a rather disturbing mixture. There is Littlefoot, she concluded. She then saw the others. Chomper was a point of continuity, as he was his same old self. Ruby looked almost furtive despite her noticeable rose-colored feathers. Cera was looking at something in the distance, obviously hiding inner agitation despite her cold exterior. Her green eyes couldn't hide the turmoil deep within. Both Petrie and Spike looked at Ducky with apprehensive expressions. They both were obviously worried about her well-being.

"I am up, Spike," she replied softly. Her eyes were moist with unshed tears, although she tried to put on a brave face. Spike was not buying her act and placed a comforting forelimb on the green fastbiter's back. This was the act which caused the entire façade to fade away as Ducky began to softly cry. Spike did not attempt to speak to her, but rather kept his body close to hers. He knew that words were irrelevant at this point as they could not express what they all felt. He would simply be here to comfort his sister. That was the least that he could do.

After a few moments the sobbing died down and the members of the gang were all interrupted by a clearing throat. It was Littlefoot.

"Okay, guys. We need to get going now. We have no idea where Red Claw or our folks are, but I don't want to meet up with any of them," he stated bluntly. He then looked in Ruby's direction. "Where are we supposed to go now?"

Ruby looked up at Littlefoot and responded after a momentary pause. "We need to follow the gorge and go towards the rising Bright Circle until we reach the river. Then we follow the river until it forks," she replied stoically, "If we are quick, we might be able to reach the river by nightfall."

"Then does the river take us to Hanging Rock?" Cera asked impatiently. She did not like the way in which Ruby was describing the journey. She was already sore, tired, and hungry. She did not need to hear that they had an epic journey ahead of them.

Ruby frowned for a moment before responding. "No. If the river led to Hanging Rock then the journey would be much shorter," she replied gravely, "After the river turns away from the rising bright circle then we will need to keep following the gorge until we get there." After a pause she then reluctantly added, "We will need to travel for about seven days."

"Seven days!" Cera and several of the others replied in unison.

"Yes," Ruby replied sadly, "There is no other way now. If there was another way then I would tell you the other way."

Littlefoot sighed but nodded nonetheless. He realized that Ruby's characterization of the journey was no different than what she mentioned the previous night. Only now they had a far better idea of what faced them.

"Well, I guess that we have no choice," Littlefoot affirmed, "Let's head towards the river."

The gang then began to get moving, with Littlefoot and Cera taking the lead and the other five falling back in a steady pace. Their journey to Hanging Rock had resumed.

......

"They killed my daughter!" came the roaring voice of Mr. Threehorn.

The meeting had started only shortly after dawn, and the entire valley was present. Well, almost the entire valley. Tria and Ura were too grief-stricken to participate and instead were appointed by the threehorn to watch the children. Despite the horrific memories of the previous night, they welcomed this solemn duty. They had failed to protect Cera and Ducky, respectively, but perhaps they could protect and comfort the remaining children. Neither of them doubted that would be what their daughters would have wanted them to do.

Also absent were about half of the valley's threehorns and domeheads. Mr. Threehorn had asked for volunteers to guard the valley's entrances and other weaknesses. The response was overwhelming. It seemed that everyone felt some responsibility for the previous night's attack and wanted to do their part to prevent further outrages.

This left the remaining adults of the valley to discuss the situation during that morning's meeting. It was one of the gravest meetings that the valley had ever convened. They had evacuated in the past and had even presided over banishments and more grave punishments, but never before had so many been slaughtered since their entry into the valley so long ago. It awakened horrible latent memories in many of those who attended. Mr. Threehorn and the longnecks were but a few who were again haunted by the horrific visions of the past.

"Littlefoot hasn't been found either," Grandpa Longneck noted in extreme sadness, "We can only assume that he met his end with his friends." As he finished this statement, Grandma leaned upon his neck and began to sob heavily. They had not had nearly enough time to come to terms with their loss, but yet here they were deciding upon the valley's defenses.

A clubtail was the next to speak. "We told you all that letting that sharptooth into the valley was a foolish idea. Now look! Six children are dead and the traitor knows many of our weaknesses!" As he spoke these words he glared at the longnecks, flyers, and swimmers who were the most amicable to the idea of letting Chomper into the valley.

Silence filled the meeting place. The clubtail had broached a subject that had simmered under the surface ever since the meeting began. Many of the parents who lost children, Mr. Threehorn exempted, had eventually approved Chomper's entry into the valley six seasons previously. Mentioning this fact not only implied that these adults had jeopardized the safety of the valley, but also were responsible for the deaths of their children. Such a veiled accusation would not be received well.

"Now listen here, Kosh," Grandpa Longneck replied through gritted teeth, "That was a decision made by the entire valley and the entire valley has paid for it." His voice then began to crack. "Do you honestly think that I don't realize that my vote has led my grandson's demise? Do you honestly think that anyone here who voted to let Chomper in isn't torn up over his betrayal?!" His last statement was nearly roared out, which left many of the other adults in shock. Such an outburst would not be unexpected from Mr. Threehorn but was unheard of from Grandpa Longneck.

"Dear..." Grandma Longneck replied weakly. She was tired of arguing and simply wanted some time to mourn Littlefoot. She didn't want to see her mate go from despair into rage. That wouldn't be what Littlefoot would have wanted.

Surprisingly, Mr. Threehorn was the one who took on the responsibility to be the voice of reason.

"We can't change the past," he spoke resignedly, "We have to move on and think about what to do now." He looked away from the other adults for a moment. "That is what Cera would have wanted us to do. That is what all of our children would have wanted." He finished his statement while looking down in grief.

Silence permeated through the meeting place again, as no one dared speak after the heartfelt words of the elder threehorn. Finally, Volant spoke on behalf of the flyers.

"We need to scout outside the valley and make sure the sharpteeth aren't nearby," she stated softly, "We flyers could take care of that."

Mr. Threehorn looked up. Volant had the determined look of a dinosaur who wanted closure. It was the look not of a conscientious flyer, but rather of a vengeful one. She wanted vengeance for Petrie's demise. This was an impulse that he could understand all too well at this point, but it was not one that suited the female flyer.

"And I take it that you want to lead the effort?" he added dryly.

She simply nodded at his question.

"Very well," he spoke gravely, as all of his fatigue and years seemed to exude through his voice, "But remember you have other children, Volant. Petrie wouldn't have wanted you to leave them as orphans."

She didn't respond and simply flew off to gather the other volunteers.

The threehorn sighed and reflected glumly at her predicament and how it reminded him of his own past. He would have let himself fall in his grief if it wasn't for the promise he made to his first mate as she lay dying. He knew this now and realized that she had known him far better than he had known himself. He simply hoped that Volant realized her worth before the same grief, the loss of a child, destroyed her as well. She didn't have a mate to lean on for support, but she did have her children and the memories of the beloved grammar-challenged flyer. Hopefully, that would be enough.

"I guess... We need to discuss the valley's defenses," came the soft voice of Grandpa Longneck.

Mr. Threehorn snapped out of his melancholy and looked at the towering longneck. They couldn't fall into despair, as they had the valley to protect. He cleared his throat as he prepared to make known his views on the matter.

"I agree. Here is what we should do..."

......

Volant had been flying for well over half the day and was getting quite exhausted. Her volunteers had all taken several breaks during the scouting run, but she had abstained from any rest. She had to find that treasonous sharptooth and the other sharpteeth that had killed her son. She had to either make sure that they were well away from the valley or otherwise dealt with. She owed it to her other children to protect them from this threat and she owed it to Petrie...

Suddenly, up ahead she found something. It was another flyer! She couldn't quite make out what kind of flyer it was from that distance, but when she looked down she knew all too well what she was faced with. She noticed a thick streak of blowing dust the partially obscured the runners below, but with the gentle blowing of the northern winds she could see the six figures.

It was Chomper and his fastbiters!

She noted with rising anger that the flyer up ahead must be the same one that was in the valley. The same one that struck at and partially blinded the leader of the spiketail herd. And the one who more than likely killed Petrie. Petrie, being a competent flyer, could have escaped from any of the others, but not from the sharptooth flyer. He looked small enough, she observed. She could attempt to take him down, and the sharpteeth below wouldn't be able to do anything about it. If she died in the attempt then at least she would have done so in order to avenge her fallen son. It was a price she would gladly pay.

But then the words of Mr. Threehorn echoed in her head.

"But remember you have other children, Volant. Petrie wouldn't have wanted you to leave them as orphans."

She then realized that she was being selfish. She had nine other children who Petrie had loved dearly as brothers and sisters. He would have been disappointed in her if she sacrificed herself out of revenge. No, she resolved, she would fulfill her duties as a parent and protect those who remained under her charge. She could beg for Petrie's forgiveness when it was her time to enter the Great Beyond, but for now she had others to care for. She knew that Petrie would accept that, even if she could not.

Finally having resolved to tell the others of her findings, Volant let out a mournful cry towards the retreating sharpteeth and turned back towards the other searchers. The sharpteeth were well away from the valley and were moving at a brisk pace to the east. The valley was safe for now.

......

Petrie watched from the air as his mother turned and flew back towards the valley. Her call conveyed so much rage and so much pain that it broke the sharptooth flyer's heart. If only he could talk to her and tell her what really happened. If only they could reverse the changes and go back... But all of those possibilities seemed out of reach now. He simply hoped that she was able to recover from his disappearance. He didn't want her to continue to suffer like she was.

As the small flyer was alone in his thoughts in the sky above, Spike was contemplating the journey ahead and the changes that they all were still adjusting to with varying degrees of success.

The entire gang was now passing through a narrow gorge that supposedly lead to the river that they were now seeking. The river was only the first destination on what promised to be an epic journey if Ruby's recollection was correct. Spike was already finding that he did not enjoy this journey. There was no food in this place, or at least no food that he could now eat... Additionally the arid land and dry air made him desperate with thirst. How were they supposed to survive five days of this?

The only good thing about this journey, Spike reflected, was that it gave him some time to think and get his thoughts in order. The mental task that he had avoided the night before could finally be attended to on this day.

When using his new faculties, he noticed with some concern that his train of thought was entirely different than what it was before. Previously he had been deliberate in his thoughts, and they simply gravitated in a linear fashion. If he smelled a plant that was enticing, for example, then he would simply locate the plant with his sniffer and eat. If his sister was upset, then he would simply go beside her and grunt in a questioning manner. She, without fail, would tell him of her problems and as a result she would feel better or agree to talk to someone else. It wasn't that he was slow, but rather that there was no need to overcomplicate things and argue about irrelevances like the others did. This intellectual distance had made him a unique member of the gang.

Now, however, his thoughts were swift and ruthless in their direction. He found that he was constantly examining the path that they were taking and calculating the best ways to move from place to place. Where would be the best place to go if they had to run from a threat? His mind could easily calculate the best route. Where would be the best place to observe the land and scout ahead? His mind could find an answer to that as well. He found this jumble of thoughts confusing in the extreme. He supposed the intellectual straightforwardness that he had become accustomed to would never return. He would have to adjust to his new self, both physically and mentally.

At least I am getting used to my body now, Spike thought abruptly, It seems that running awakened something within me.

It was then that he took a hard look at the gang. Littlefoot, Cera, and Ruby were all ahead of him and were walking at a very fast pace. In fact they were doing more of a fast trot than a walk. Beside himself, Spike noticed that Ducky and Chomper were both keeping up from a distance from the front. Ducky was lost in her mournful thoughts, which explained her slower pace, whereas Chomper actually looked physically exhausted. Spike reflected on the fact that it would be difficult for a young sharptooth to keep up with a pack of fastbiters. He momentarily felt pride at his pack's great speed. Wait, no! He mustn't think as if he was part of a pack! He was still Spike, and they would soon get all of this resolved! He did not actually believe those thoughts, but he had to tell himself that nonetheless. He feared the alternative.

His thoughts were interrupted by a panicked screech in the skies above. It was Petrie!

He is giving an alarm call of some sort, Spike immediately deduced. Wait! Spike thought to himself. How do I know that?

It was then that the entire gang heard an unmistakable sound.

Roar!

They turned in a panic. It was Thud and Screech! If they were around then Red Claw must be close behind. They had to flee while they still had a chance.

"Run!" came Littlefoot's panicked order as the gang ran headlong through the gorge.

Spike burst into action. His large hind limbs sent a river of dust from where he was previously as he barreled forward into the narrow gorge. The introspective thoughts of earlier were completely forgotten as the engrained survival instincts of the fastbiter took over. He was not strong enough to fight off the threat; therefore his only option was to flee. The only question was: flee where? How were they supposed to flee from a predator that was much stronger and faster than they were? Their options were very limited.

Chomper struggled to keep up with his now much faster friends, but he was beginning to fall behind. Sharpteeth of his kind simply were not made for sprinting. They could stalk prey for long distances and sprint for a short period of time, but this chase was simply too much for him. Something would have to give soon.

The dust from the advancing gang was not improving his situation any. He couldn't see what was in front of him through the impermeable blanket of grey, which burned his eyes. All that the little biter could do was follow the dust trail and the sound of thundering footsteps in the hope that he did not lose his way.

Screech!

Chomper took a quick look behind him and immediately wished he hadn't. The two fastbiters were rapidly advancing on him and were edging close to the rock walls of the gorge. They are trying to ambush me! the panicked sharptooth realized. However at that moment the sharptooth noticed something that he would later reflect on for quite some time. Thud had slowed his advance somewhat and seemed to be nodding at something further ahead. What? The little biter thought in his confusion.

Chomper looked ahead, not breaking the rapid pace of his run, and noticed what Thud was pointing at. It was a crevice in the rock wall! It looked narrow enough that the two large fastbiters would not be able to enter it, but perhaps he and his friends could. He knew what he had to do now.

"Guys!" he shouted as loud as he could at the massive cloud of dust in front of him, "Run into the crevice now!"

As Chomper began to head in the direction of the crevice he could see several forms emerge from the pervasive dust. He nearly collapsed when he was brushed along his side by one of the gang who was obviously thinking of running and little else at this point.

"Watch it!" came the exasperated voice of Cera.

Chomper continued his advance as several of the others ran in front of him in their headlong sprint to safety. As he was within several body lengths away from the opening he felt the impact from a fastbiter which had leaped over and landed in front of him. He then felt a nudge from behind him.

"It's alright, Chomper!" came Ruby's voice, which was then followed by Littlefoot's, "Keep running!"

The fact that Ruby and Littlefoot had his back greatly improved the spirit of the exhausted sharptooth, and he speedily entered the safety of the crevice just in time.

"You think that will stop us!" came the mocking voice of Screech, "You have only delayed dinner. Red Claw does not take kindly to those who invade his territory!"

At the mocking tone of their adversary, something snapped within Littlefoot. How dare they imply that his pack was weak with their mockery?

"If Red Claw wants us for dinner then let the fool try and catch us!" Littlefoot said in defiance, as Chomper and Ruby looked on in horror, "He must be even stupider than you to choose you two as his help!"

"Littlefoot!" Chomper said in a muffled hiss. It would not do them any favors to motivate the fastbiters to chase them down. What was Littlefoot doing?

"You can't even catch a few younglings! What does that say about you?" Littlefoot finished his statement with mockery.

"Argh!" Screech screamed at the insolence of the young fastbiter, "I will enjoy killing you, runt!"

The entire assembled gang then could hear the sound of running feet as the two predators were obviously trying to find another entrance into the crevice.

"What are you doing?!" Cera exclaimed at Littlefoot. He is acting like a threehorn on an ego trip, The yellow fastbiter thought to herself. It wasn't as if she didn't share his sentiments. She most certainly did. But this behavior was very unlike Littlefoot and that concerned her. "This isn't going to help us any."

"Littlefoot?" Chomper questioned the former longneck.

"Why?!" Littlefoot muttered, "Because he insulted us! How dare he?!" He hissed out that last few words.

Littlefoot may not have been openly declared to be the leader of the gang, but he was accepted as such by the others nonetheless. In their many adventures, his opinion or words had swayed the views of the group on several occasions. Now, as a sharptooth, the mantle of leadership entailed a different meaning. He could not let others insult and belittle his pack! A sharptooth not only relied upon his strength and wits to assert dominance, but also his reputation. A good bluff could be just as useful, and much less dangerous, than a frontal charge; and a reputation could be ruined far easier than it could be built. Littlefoot was unaware of these considerations in sharptooth life but his instincts nonetheless cried out their disapproval at being insulted. He simply had to act, and he did so.

Chomper looked at the brown fastbiter with a little more understanding. When his parents had confronted other sharpteeth in the Mysterious Beyond, his father had often acted with extreme arrogance and vulgarity to everyone but his allies. Well, sometimes even to the allies as well. Chomper figured that was his way of asserting his strength over others. His father had told him on many occasions that Chomper didn't have to care about what anyone else thought about him, so long as they didn't think of him as weak. If you are viewed as weak, his father had told him, then you will be open to challenges. If you were open to challenges, then you probably wouldn't live that long. Eventually some upstart would bring you down. For this reason, a reputation of being powerful was almost as important as being powerful. This made Littlefoot's reaction much more relatable to the young sharptooth.

"Well..." Chomper began, "We can't outrun them so we need to get them to lose our trail."

"Well, that is a nice thought, Chomper, but how do we do that?" Cera asked in an agitated voice.

"We leave the cave and run downwind! If we go downwind then they can't smell us. Obviously, if they can't smell us then they would follow us downwind," Ruby proposed.

"That would take us back towards the valley, though," Spike noted, "Red Claw is probably in that direction."

Ruby felt dejected that her plan would not work. They had to think of something! Otherwise, they would soon be eating Littlefoot's words, or rather, someone would soon be eating them.

"Water! I smell water. Yep, yep, yep!" the former swimmer called out in happiness. Even though this body was not made for the water like she was in her previous form, she still felt great affinity for the water. The fact that she and the rest of the gang were also incredibly thirsty also played a role in her reaction.

Spike sniffed the air. "Yes! I smell it. It is deeper in this cave."

"Water, that's it!" Chomper jumped up and down in glee. "Water will help us lose those sharpteeth!"

The others looked at Chomper with an unsure expression for a few moments until Cera finally spoke up.

"How exactly is water going to help us?" Cera asked, "Are you trying to make sure that they have a drink to go along with their meal?"

Chomper rolled his eyes before responding. My father would find Cera's wit amusing, he reflected, "Come on, guys! I will show you!"

The gang then ran through the small cave that they found themselves in and advanced until they could see light up ahead.

"There is the exit!" Littlefoot cried as the others advanced to the opening.

The sight that greeted them surprised them all.

They were in another gorge, this one being far wider than the one that they had escaped from, and there was a shallow river flowing between its two rock walls. Was this the river that they were supposed to follow?

"That is it!" Ruby exclaimed, "I guess the crevice brought us to the river early. Now we can follow it until it forks."

Littlefoot looked at her questioningly. "You didn't know this was here, Ruby?"

"No," she responded, "I only knew of the path that we are on. If I knew about this path, then we would have taken this path. This path we would have taken."

"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I am thirsty," Cera replied, and proceeded to drink from the newly found source of water.

"Yuck!" The water tasted rancid. Upon further inspection Cera found that the water had an almost translucent green coloration and was distinctly slimy. Gah! Even the water is bad here!

"What is wrong with the water?" Littlefoot asked Cera, with concern evident in his voice.

"Like I would know!" Cera retorted, "It is just bad water!"

"We need to get moving, guys!" Chomper exclaimed.

As if on cue, a concerned voice called out from above. It was Petrie!

"They have found a way in! They gonna find you!" Petrie warned.

"Where are they?" Ruby asked.

"Very close. They enter from hole in rock wall!" he answered, "They be that way!" As he said this he signaled with his beak towards the horizon. They were no more than a few minutes run from the gang! Neither group had seen the other, with Petrie being the obvious exception, but they would no doubt do so in the near future.

"Chomper, what was your idea?" Ruby asked with extreme concern.

"Quick, guys! Run into the river!" Chomper commanded and began to wade into the river.

"I hope that you know what you are doing," Cera muttered before likewise jumping into the water.

Seeing that everyone was now in the river, Petrie excluded, Chomper told them the rest of his plan.

"Run along the shallow part of the river and follow me," the little biter commanded.

The entire gang ran through the shallows, following Chomper's lead. None of them knew what the little biter had in mind, but each hoped that his plan would be successful.

......

"Where are those runts?!" Screech screamed in annoyance.

He knew that Chomper and those fastbiters had entered this gorge. Their scent was overpowering. They had to have been here within the last few moments, but now there was no sign of them. Surely they couldn't have run that fast? Hiding was out of the question with his well-trained sniffer. If they were still here then he would find them eventually.

He attempted again to capture their scent. His nostrils captured a multitude of smells, but he focused upon the signature of young fastbiter. There was no new information there. Just the same wavering smell of a recent romp through the sand. Wait! He sniffed the air again. There they are! He could smell a whiff of fastbiter odor from several minutes away. He looked in the direction of the odor and smirked at what he saw. There was a flyer circling in the air quite a distance above the ground. It seems that the flyer was not smart enough to hide the whereabouts of his friends. Lucky for us, Screech thought to himself.

With a sharp nod to Thud, he ran in the direction of the wavering odor. They both would eat well today.

......

A pair of eyes watched from behind a rock that was embedded in the shallows of the river. The owner of the eyes began to smirk as he saw the two fastbiters sprint away in the opposite direction. He was quite glad that his plan had worked.

"They bought it!" Chomper whispered to the others.

The others arose from behind their hiding places. Cera had a smirk on her face, whereas both Littlefoot and Ruby displayed prideful smiles as they looked in Chomper's direction. Spike and Ducky, however, still did not quite understand what had transpired.

"What happened?" Ducky inquired, "How did we trick them?"

Chomper turned and smirked at the green fastbiter. "We ran into the water which removed our smell trail," he stated matter-of-factly, "And Ruby came up with the other idea."

Ruby picked up where he left off. "I rubbed on that water plant," Ruby stated, "That put my smell on it so that they could smell it. Obviously, since my smell was on it they would chase it." Ruby continued with an amused smirk appearing on her face, "And since Petrie is carrying it they are chasing him. Him they are chasing!"

Littlefoot added, "He dropped the plant upwind, so he should be back here at any time." He said that sentence while looking at the skies. "Then we will continue to Hanging Rock."

"How did you two think of that?" Cera had directed her question at Chomper and Ruby. Although she attempted, poorly, to hide her feelings on the matter, she was quite impressed with what she had just seen. Sure, they had tricked sharpteeth in the past, but this was above and beyond many of their previous tricks they had played on hapless sharpteeth. She was quite curious how these two had come up with the idea.

"Well, sharpteeth will follow smell, so you need to make sure they will follow the right smell in the wrong way," Ruby spoke in her usual sing-song manner, "My daddy used a similar trick several times in the Mysterious Beyond in order to lead sharpteeth away from the nest. If you make them go the wrong way, then you don't need to run away. But if you have to run away, then the sharpteeth aren't going the wrong way!"

Chomper then began with his explanation. "Well... My mommy and daddy would hide their smell so that they wouldn't scare the food. They showed it to me when we did a joint hunt one day." Realizing what he had just said, he attempted rephrased his statement. "Uh... I mean..."

"We get it," Cera stated dryly.

Littlefoot then fixed the small sharptooth with a contemplative look. If he were honest with himself at that moment, then he would admit that he already knew the answer to the question in his head. However, he had to broach the subject.

"So..." Littlefoot began uncertainly, "So you have hunted and killed before? Not just eating what your parents have killed and not just eating insects... But you have killed other dinosaurs?"

There. The question was finally out in the open. Littlefoot supposed that the answer didn't matter anymore. However, it would explain so much about Chomper's temperament and self-control. He always knew that the little biter had to restrain himself while he was in the valley, but how far did that go? How could one go from killing others to befriending those of the same kind? Even though the answer to this one question was in itself irrelevant to how Littlefoot viewed Chomper, its implications that followed from it would be quite important indeed. Littlefoot reflected that his conversation with Chomper couldn't wait much longer.

Chomper sighed. "Yes, Littlefoot. That is how we survived on the island," Chomper reluctantly replied, "I... had to hunt."

There. I admitted it, Chomper thought to himself, I can't expect them to understand, but I hope they aren't mad at me. I had no choice! The poor sharptooth had kept much hidden from his friends. Answers were sometimes wise to hide, especially if the questions they answer were never explicitly asked. Chomper didn't fully realize the toll this subterfuge had taken until he finally broke his silence on one of those taboo questions. Now he felt mentally exhausted.

Even though most of them had already guessed the truth, this knowledge would have frightened or horrified the gang back when they were still herbivores. At the very least, it would have caused many of their number to never look at Chomper the same way again. But, whether it was due to the overwhelming events of the previous day or the changes to their personality, it did not have the same impact now. In fact, as the other members of the gang processed his answer, only Littlefoot responded verbally.

"I guess that we already knew that," Littlefoot admitted. He paused for a moment and then continued, "It came in handy today. We would be dinner right now if it wasn't for you and Ruby." He then gave both of them an appreciative smile.

Cera gave an affirmative grunt which Spike repeated. Ducky, who was still stunned by their escape and Chomper's admission, remained silent in an unreadable expression. Before anyone else could respond further, they were interrupted by Petrie.

"They run off. We must run now!" he called to the others.

Littlefoot nodded. "You're right, Petrie. We need to get moving again."

He then looked at the path ahead before responding.

"Okay, everyone! Run in the shallows of the river to hide our smell. We need to follow the river until it forks."

Without further discussion the gang followed Littlefoot's directive and began to speedily continue their journey. They had lost a significant amount of time running and hiding from their pursuers. They needed to get back on track.

A few moments into their resumed journey, however, Chomper felt a slight tapping on his back.

"Huh?" Chomper muttered. He looked up to see Ruby looking down at him with a prideful smile.

"You did good back there, Chomper," the rose colored fastbiter affirmed.

Chomper smiled and responded back, "So did you."

With mutual nods to one another, the two sharpteeth rejoined the others and continued their journey to Hanging Rock. They were not sure what the following days would bring, but they knew that they would face it together.


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