The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 13 Memories of Blood

“When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-runnin', but not to help.” ― Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

"Urgh..." Chomper moaned as the bright circle emerged from behind thick mid-morning clouds.

The brief respite of sleep was soon removed from the little biter as the new day had begun. With the resumption of consciousness also came the return of the memories from the previous night. Chomper realized that today was going to be a truly eventful one. Littlefoot had accepted the necessity of acquiring food at any cost. They would soon have the difficult duty of convincing the others and preparing for a hunt. Hunting dinosaurs was a far different proposition than hunting ground fuzzies or buzzers. Even besides the danger involved, there was also the emotional component. When Chomper had hunted with his parents on the island he was racked with some guilt despite knowing the necessity of his actions. He could only imagine what the others would go through. How much pain had Littlefoot gone through to even have him consider the possibility of hunting his own kind? It seemed that he had been considering his situation for quite some time. It was something that Chomper resolved he would bring back up with the former longneck. However, right now they had a more important matter to attend to.

Chomper slowly rose from his prone position and rubbed his eyes. He needed to wake Littlefoot so that they could get started today. As he looked at the slumbering brown fastbiter, and considered what the gang would soon be going through, Chomper thought back to the first time he hunted with his parents. It was only a few moon cycles after he had learned leaf-eater from Ruby...

......

Many seasons ago:

"Alright son, it is time that you learned how to do this."

Chomper nodded reluctantly, but was uneasy at his father's words. Although his mother was more sympathetic to Chomper's reservations due to Chomper's unique entry into the world, Dein was less than impressed with his son's objections. That way that he saw it Chomper would have to hunt for his food sooner or later, and it would be preferable for him to learn these skills while he was still young. Sentimentality was unbecoming of a sharptooth, in his opinion. His son would simply have to learn the hard facts of life. Chomper simply couldn't live off of buzzers and his parent's kills forever.

Dein sighed at his son's half-hearted response. "Don't be like that, son. It is something that every sharptooth has to do." He paused for a moment to sniff the air. "Ah, swimmer." He muttered to both himself and his mate. "It looks like we have found you a target, Chomper. It smells like a small swimmer. Stay close behind and observe what we do."

Chomper observed as his mother went into a stalking stance, almost bringing her head and tail parallel to the ground. Shortly thereafter, his father did the same. They then slowly edged through the forest as silently and stealthily as two large rexes could. They obviously had their sniffers fixed on the young swimmer. If such a swimmer was a small enough catch for him, then obviously it wasn't worth the effort of his parents. Such a meal would barely be an appetizer for them. No, his parents were trying to find him suitable prey in order to test out his hunting skills. Chomper had deep misgivings about this.

How could I kill a leaf-eater? The little biter asked himself? They have feelings just like us. My friends in the valley even raised me despite being a different kind. He reflected for a moment. How can I now harm others?

He and his parents had several heated arguments about this. At first, his mother was sympathetic to his plight and suggested that he could go a little longer before hunting, provided that he practiced his stalking skills. Chomper excelled at stalking, but he never did kill his quarry. Most of the time the poor leaf-eaters didn't even know he was there. If they did see him and run away, then Chomper would simply let them flee. He couldn't stomach the idea of killing another dinosaur. Even the thought of it would make him think back to his five friends in the valley or to Ruby, the friendly fast runner who taught him the leaf-eater language. This reluctance to kill was a trait that his parents noticed in him and for some reason that concerned them.

Finally, his father had told him in no uncertain terms that he would hunt the next day. "You can't survive off of our catches forever, Chomper. You will have to learn how to kill." He had hoped that his mother would grant him another reprieve on this task, but his hopes were for naught. "Your father is right, Chomper. This is something that you are going to have to learn." Terri was a good mother who could even be accused of coddling her son, but she had to draw the line somewhere. It was better for him to deal with this reality now, then later on when he had no choice in the matter. With both of his parents looking at him with looks that brokered no disagreement, Chomper had reluctantly complied. His parents cared for him deeply, even to the point of invading the valley in order to look for him. He did not want to disappoint them.

So here he was observing his parents in preparation for his first actual hunt. Despite his deep misgivings, his mind was working overdrive in observing and thinking about what his parents were doing. They are avoiding the leaves in order to move quietly. I didn't know they could move that quietly. Thus far he had not seen anything different in their technique than what he had used in his "mock hunts" with leaf-eaters. They were simply using them with far more finesse and skill than he thought possible. He then noticed that his mother was signaling to his father. She made her right forelimb get close to her eye and then bobbed her head once. That was immediately followed by his father signaling to his nose and bobbing twice. She nodded and then made a gesture for Chomper to catch up to them. Chomper walked very carefully as he did not want to ruin his parent's work. After a few moments, however, he had arrived at their location.

"Okay Chomper, what did you notice in observing us?" His mother asked.

Chomper pondered for a moment before answering. "Well... Both of you were very quiet." At his mother's nod, he continued. "You were able to see one swimmer and daddy was able to smell two."

"Very good." His father affirmed from behind the duo. "The mother of this swimmer is in the lake to our left." He laughed softly for a moment. "Quite possibly looking for her lost youngling." He paused for a moment before pointing with his forelimb at an opening in the forest canopy. "The youngling, on the other hand, is right in front of us. Take a look."

Chomper allowed himself to be picked up by his father and looked through the forest canopy. A young swimmer was walking slowly in a narrow gorge quite a distance away from the aforementioned lake. The gorge seemed to have a narrow stream in it that traveled from a mountain into the gorge before eventually empting into the lake. It appeared as if there was only one way in or out of the gorge, and it was in plain sight. However, it looked like that the swimmer had trapped herself into a corner, as she was slowly walking back to the gorge's entrance. She obviously would not be able to make it before they could catch her. With a glum passing thought, Chomper noted that the swimmer must have been no older than Ducky.

His mother then spoke to him. "So son, how would you proceed?"

Chomper thought for a moment. They were testing his mind more than his body, he noted, and he didn't want to disappoint them. After a few moments he gave his answer.

"The swimmer is trapped in the gorge, so I would cut off its escape." Chomper began.

"Good. Then what?" His mother asked.

"Stalk it until I can trap it into a corner. Then attack." He responded quickly.

"Good. If you attack headlong, even with the escape route cut off, there is the possibility that it can outmaneuver you. If you attack by surprise, the prey has little chance of escape." His father was the one to speak this time. "It is nice to know that you have been listening to my lessons even though you seem to have refused to use them until now." He looked at his son with an odd mixture of both pride and annoyance. Chomper looked away in embarrassment. "Now is the time, Chomper." At his son's nod, he continued. "We will go after the swimmer's mother, while you go after the youngling." He ordered. "Do not let it escape." The last sentence, although spoken without anger or reproach, brokered no disagreement. Chomper quickly nodded and ran into the grassland that resided between the gorge and the forest, apparently eager set about his task.

He did not hear his parents talk to one another after he stalked off.

"He will try to warn the swimmer, won't he?" His father asked with a sigh. He didn't buy his son's feigned eagerness.

"Undoubtedly." Terri confirmed.

Dein sighed for a moment. "I think one kill will break him of this behavior of his." He stated. "I can take out the adult swimmer easily by myself. It smells weak." He affirmed. "Perhaps you can give Chomper a helpful nudge?"

Terri nodded in agreement, but then spoke softly to her mate. "You realize that this is going to hurt Chomper?"

Dein nodded, before sighing in resignation. "He has to learn sometime."

Terri smiled. "I know, but he has feelings for leaf-eaters because he was hatched by them." She paused for a moment. "Then there is that one longneck that Chomper talks about... He apparently was there when he hatched." He looked at her mate with an amused expression. "Chomper seems to think of him like a brother or something."

Dein grunted in annoyance. "Being hatched by leaf-eaters would mess up anyone." He then spoke with incredulity. "A longneck for a brother, ha! What is your point, dear?"

"My point, oh joyful one." He bristled slightly at her teasing tone. "Is that after I help Chomper make the hard choice, we should help him deal with his feelings." He outright rolled his eyes at this idea. "We may not understand it, but he obviously cares about the food dearly and we should help him with that." She finished with a pleading look at her mate.

Although this discussion was annoying him, Dein was not totally oblivious of what his mate was saying. Chomper would need some counsel on this matter. This, however, did not mean that he had to be happy about Chomper's abnormal behavior.

"Fine, dear. But I think that you should handle it." She smiled at his acquiescence. "I don't have the patience for it."

Terri smiled broadly. Her mate put up a rough exterior, but he had a good heart underneath his well-practiced demeanor. Sometimes he just needed a hand in expressing it. "Alright, dear. I suppose I should supervise Chomper now, and you have dinner to catch. Unless you need help, that is." She added with a slightly teasing voice.

"I can take care of it!" He responded with annoyance at her playful teasing. "Just make sure that our son doesn't play with his food, will ya?"

With a slight huff, Dein went off to hunt the mother swimmer. Considering how much she had riled him up, Terri actually felt somewhat sorry for the swimmer. It most certainly wouldn't stand a chance now.

She then headed off in the direction of the gorge. It was time to see her son in action.

......

Chomper had quickly run to the opening of the gorge, before stopping. The time for stalking had arrived. He had to sneak up on the young swimmer in order to catch it in ambush. A headlong rush could lead to the swimmer escaping. For the moment he put aside his misgivings from earlier and went into a stalking stance. You can do this, Chomper. The young biter told himself. It is just like what you have done in the past. Except, of course, he would actually have to catch and kill his prey this time.

While walking in his stalking stance, he went from boulder to boulder. He made quick rushes from one to the other, before resting for a time and checking his surroundings. Speed was not the main consideration now. Stealth was the main concern.

At one of these stops, he took a deep breath and examined the scents from around him. He could easily pick out the swimmer from the scents blowing in his direction from the interior of the gorge. It was a small female, he could deduce, and it was already injured.

An easy kill. Some part of his mind pointed out. He shook his head at this thought. There was something about that line of thinking that felt so natural, but yet it also seemed like a betrayal of those who helped hatch him. The guilt that he had tried to suppress during much of this journey had returned in force.

He looked out from behind the boulder he was hiding behind and immediately jumped back. It was the swimmer! She was walking in a slow and unsteady manner, as a large gash on her leg indicated a nasty injury. It was obvious to Chomper that this swimmer would not live for very long in her condition. The only question was whether he would be the cause of her demise or if something else would do the job for him. He figured that he was the most humane option.

He walked out from behind the boulder and made no attempt to hide himself.

"Ah! Sharptooth!" The little swimmer called out and immediately turned back in order to flee. Unfortunately for her, the injured leg couldn't handle the strain and she tumbled to the gorge floor. She began to thrash as she tried desperately to get up from her prone condition, but it was clear from Chomper's perspective that she was not going anywhere in a hurry. He slowly advanced towards his prey...

......

Terri watched from the ridge above the gorge as her son advanced towards the young swimmer. Perhaps I won't have to urge him on after all. She noted. He seems to be going in for the kill.

She decided to stay back and calmly observe her son's handiwork.

......

Chomper advanced slowly on the injured swimmer. However, upon looking at the cowering female, an image immediately arose within the little biter's mind. The swimmer reminded him of Ducky, one of the leaf-eater's who had helped him after he hatched. This unwanted thought caused him to question himself. Maybe I could let her get away. He thought uncertainly to himself. I could hide her until her leg got better.

"Don't run away!" He called out to the swimmer.

The swimmer stumbled a short distance, before falling again. Her leg injury severely hampered her ability to move. However, the sudden voice did not help her concentration either. did the sharptooth actually speak?

"You can speak?" The swimmer asked in surprise.

"Sure! My name is Chomper. What's yours?" He responded in his usual innocent manner.

"Um... I am Arlan." The swimmer spoke, still confused and frightened by her predicament. "Are you going to kill me?"

Chomper paused for a moment. Was he? He still wasn't sure what to do at this point. Part of his mind told him that he needed to learn to hunt and that he owed it to his parents to make a kill. However, some other part of him found that this was wrong. He was conflicted in what to do.

"I just chased on instinct. It is what we do." Chomper dodged the question. He was uncertain if the swimmer actually had a chance on that injured leg of hers. If she did, then he would try to save her and just tell his parents that she got away. Otherwise, he would make it quick.

The swimmer looked at the little biter with a mixture of relief and concern. She knew that she would have little chance if the sharptooth attacked her, so she decided to listen to him. What did she have to lose at this point?

"Follow me and I will take us out of the gorge." Chomper suggested. "We have to hurry. My mommy and daddy are here." At the swimmer's gasp, Chomper continued. "I don't think you want to meet them."

The little biter then gently grasped the swimmer's forelimb and helped her off of the hard ground. With an appreciative nod the swimmer followed the sharptooth towards the gorge entrance.

......

Terri sighed. I figured that this would happen. She thought to herself. I guess that Chomper needs some motivation.

As she was about to roar and alert her son of her presence, she heard a loud roar followed by an alert call.

Roar!

Caw... Caw... Urk.

Well there goes the mother. She thought with satisfaction. Time to help my son with the last loose end.

Roar!

......

The swimmer heard the commotion from a distance and recognized the roar of a sharptooth followed by the panicked call of her mother.

"Mommy! I am coming!" Arlan yelled in despair, as she attempted to limp faster with limited success.

It was not lost on Chomper that the swimmer's call was cut off suddenly. My parents have done their part. Chomper thought. It is up to me now, isn't it?

Roar!

Chomper looked up and noticed that his mother was looking at him from the ledge of the gorge. He had an audience now. An audience that expected him to succeed. He would not be able to hide Arlan now.

He looked in front of him and took a closer look at the swimmer. They had just traveled to within visual range of the entrance into the gorge after a particularly slow trek, which attested to the crippling injury that the swimmer had. He could smell the blood dripping from the wound and now noted that it had a tinge of infection. How did I not notice that? Chomper asked himself. It appeared that his sentimentality and nostalgia for his past friends had blinded him to the realities of the present. If she were to live, the best that this swimmer could now hope for is to suffer from a painful infection as an orphan and to live the remainder of her short life crippled. It was obvious what the humane choice was.

"Oh no! There is another one!" Arlan exclaimed before looking at Chomper with fearful eyes. "What do we do now?"

Chomper didn't reply, but instead walked up to the young swimmer.

"Chomper?" The swimmer asked.

Chomper stopped just in front of the swimmer before looking upon her with an apologetic expression.

"Arlan. I am so sorry. I really am."

With a sudden flurry of movement, Chomper leapt upon the hapless swimmer and struck at her throat with his powerful jaws. After only a few seconds of struggle, it was over. At least he had given her a quick end.

As he stepped away from the now dead swimmer, he looked upon his bloody handiwork. Confirming visually what he had just done, he then looked upon his blood-soaked red forelimbs. For the first time in his short life he had killed another dinosaur. A line had been crossed that he could not return from. A part of him mourned the innocence that he had lost.

He then embraced the corpse of the fallen swimmer and began to weep.

......

After an indeterminate amount of time, Chomper heard the thundering footsteps of an approaching sharptooth.

"It isn't easy, is it son?" His mother's voice softly asked.

The teary-eyed sharptooth looked up at his mother and nodded.

"I am sorry, Chomper. But even though leaf-eaters may have hatched you, they are still your food." She continued as she picked up the little biter with her forelimbs. "It would have been easier on you if you didn't know what they were saying." At that moment Terri was inwardly cursing that young fast runner. Knowing what leaf-eaters were saying would be a good advantage in hunts, but it was also mental torture for a kind soul such as Chomper. It would have been infinitely more merciful for him to simply view leaf-eaters as food, as his kind generally did. Instead he was being tortured by a fate that he couldn't change.

"Does it get any easier, mommy?" Chomper asked her as she nuzzled him.

A good question. She reflected. Most sharpteeth did not feel any remorse at the idea of eating leaf-eaters. Why would they? But when sharpteeth are forced to kill family or allies then they often enough will feel guilt, even when such actions were necessary. It was not something that she could relate to personally, but she did remember the words of her father when he told her of the time he had to eat others of their kind in order to survive. "Time can heal all wounds, so long as you survive long enough."

"Yes, Chomper. Yes it does." She answered softly. As she noticed the little biter dry his eyes, she smiled at him. "Don't worry little one, I will tell your father that you meant to kill that swimmer all along." She then continued as the young biter uttered a relieved sigh. "Now dry your eyes and get ready to walk. Your dad will be expecting us. It's dinner time."

After she sat Chomper on the ground and picked up Chomper's first kill with her forelimbs, the two began to journey to the site of Dein's kill. A part of Chomper's innocence had died that day, but something else was born.

Several seasons later, when Chomper traveled to the valley, he made a vow to keep that newly-awakened killing instinct under tight control. He resolved then that he would not break that promise until it was time for him to finally fully embrace his sharptooth side. There would be no more painful conflict between his tender beginnings and his inevitable future. When it was time for him to accept his fate, he would simply sit aside the part of him that could no longer be. When that day came he would wish his friends goodbye, leave the valley, and accept his fate. It was the only way.

......

Back to the Present:

Chomper blinked a few times as his thoughts returned to the present. His friends would soon be going through the same struggle and agony that he had gone through seasons ago. The only thing that he could do is be there when they waivered or broke under the strain of what they were doing. He at the very least could do that.

Chomper stepped up to Littlefoot and carefully shook the fastbiter with his forelimb.

"Littlefoot?"

A groan emitted from the fastbiter as he slowly rose from his prone position. With a massive stretch and yawn Littlefoot finally rose to his full height. He blinked a few times before responding to Chomper.

"It's morning already?"

Chomper nodded. "Yeah. The others aren't up yet." The little biter paused for a moment before stating what was on his mind. "Are you ready for this Littlefoot?"

Littlefoot paused for a moment. "No. No, I'm not." He sighed. "But... We are getting worse, Chomper. We have to do something. If we don't hunt something else then we might..."

At Littlefoot's pause Chomper finished for him. "...Turn on one another."

Littlefoot nodded. "We have no choice." He then looked in the direction where Petrie said the herd was the day before. "We have to do this."

Chomper looked at Littlefoot in a state of awe as a hardened look appeared upon Littlefoot's face. It seems that the harsh resolve of the pack leader was beginning to manifest within him. Chomper wondered for a moment whether this change was caused by their current difficulty or was actually a gradual change that he hadn't really noticed until now. Either way, it was a very noticeable change. Chomper would have to bring this to Littlefoot's attention after the hard work of the day was done. He had to make sure that their attempt at keeping themselves under control did not in itself lead Littlefoot to lose himself. They had to hunt now, that was true. But he did not want to see his old friend lose his kind and caring personality in order take hard but necessary actions.

Littlefoot then talked to Chomper in a motivated voice. "Let's wake the others. It is time."

Chomper nodded as they set out about the work of waking the others. Then they would try to convince them of the necessity of the hunt.

......

"What?!"

Well this is going about as well as expected. Chomper thought to himself. At least only Cera is reacting violently to the idea.

Ruby, Petrie, and Chomper had agreed to the hunting idea, whereas Ducky and Spike were conflicted on the issue. Spike was sure of its merits, but unsure that he could participate. Ducky was horrified by the idea, but was even more horrified at what was happening to the group. They had started to lose control over their emotions and begin to snap at one another. She was in a situation where the right choice was obvious but also abhorrent.

“But I do not want to be a killer! Oh, no, no, no!” Ducky exclaimed.

“But what choice do we have?” Spike asked. “If we don’t do this then we might turn on one another.” He looked at Cera when he made that statement, the irony of him making that observation having not escaped his notice.

He finally relented on his prior objections. “I will do whatever the group decides.”

Ducky was overwhelmed by this turn of events. Intellectually, she understood the severity of their situation and the fact that they had limited options. Emotionally, however, she was horrified beyond all reckoning. She was always the gentle soul in the group that was able to find the goodness in everyone. How could she then become a calculating killer? She was unable to make any decisions in her current conflicted mental state, so she decided to let the group decide. Like her brother, she would abide by the group’s consensus.

Meanwhile, the debate continued.

"We have to do this, we have no choice!" Ruby exclaimed. "If we had any other choice, then that choice I would choose." She wasn't happy with the situation, but she realized its necessity. Just like when she stole the egg when she was young, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Although she understood her distress, she was quickly tiring of Cera's antics.

"So you have decided to join in, huh?" Cera asked mockingly. "Did Chomper tell you nice stories about how tasty longnecks are?"

"Cera..." Spike may not have been on good terms with Cera at the moment, on account of their fight the day before, but even he knew that she was pushing this way too far. Ruby looked irate and Littlefoot didn't look much better.

Cera was livid and did not hear Spike's cautionary words. In fact, in her current state, she would have brushed them aside anyway. The last aspect of their leaf-eater sides were being pushed aside with Littlefoot's call to hunt. She was not going to let this go. With that in mind, she turned towards Littlefoot and played her last trump card.

"What would your mother have thought?"

Cera's words descended upon the group like a pile of boulders. Complete silence permeated the scene as the two fastbiters simply stared at one another. Cera with an accusing expression and Littlefoot with an unreadable expression.

Crap. Spike thought morosely to himself. This is not going to end well.

Ducky, who had been quietly listening during the entire debate, took a quick look in Ruby and Spike's direction. With a few quick nods, the trio began to move towards the front of the group. They were convinced that they would soon have a fight to break up.

Littlefoot calmly began to walk up to Cera. His demeanor exhibited no malice or aggression. In fact, Cera could not determine anything about Littlefoot's mood from his current actions. She couldn't tell if he was trying to deescalate the situation or to end it. Whether he was full of calm serenity or calm fury. This unknown variable frightened her and as a result she began to move into a defensive position.

"Guys..." Chomper cautioned. He could see the trio move up to the front and Littlefoot walking towards Cera. We can't start fighting! Not now! He too began to rush towards the front of the group.

Littlefoot continued his approach to Cera, but made no offensive gestures. As the trio of Ducky, Spike, and Ruby walked up to within a few paces of the two, Littlefoot walked up to meet Cera face-to-face.

The two stared one another down for a few moments. Each looked at the other with cold, unblinking eyes. It was a battle of wills, Chomper deduced, as neither wanted to be the one who gave the first sign of weakness. He settled near the trio of fastbiters in order to break up the confrontation in the event that it turned violent. None of them could deny that the hunger madness was beginning to take hold now. He had never seen any of his friends act like this as leaf-eaters. It was a jarring change.

Petrie had settled onto Ducky's back. He was horrified at the sudden change in his two friends. What is happening? The flyer asked himself. Why they act this way?

"Guys..." Petrie began. "Me no like this! You two act like bad sharpteeth!"

Oh shut up Petrie! Cera thought to herself. I am showing this stubborn upstart who is boss! But then as the seconds rolled by, she actually examined her thoughts in more detail. Wait. Am I acting like a sharptooth? That can't be! She focused all of her attention to what she was seeing once again and the same unblinking, harsh eyes stared back at her. She couldn't recognize the version of Littlefoot that stood in front of her. Did she look like he did right now? If so, then what did that say about her? Even without hunting I am losing myself. She concluded. Is there no hope? She thought mournfully.

Cera took one step back and looked down, averting her eyes slightly. She didn't realize it, and probably would not have done it if she did realize it, but she had just made a gesture of submission. She was the first to back down.

Littlefoot blinked, before nodding once. His expression softened ever so slightly. The others noticed this and visibly relaxed. Although they couldn't say quite why, they knew that the worst had passed.

Littlefoot took the opportunity to speak. "That was out of line, Cera." His voice was soft. Disturbingly soft. "Do you honestly think that I haven't asked myself that question?" He began pacing back and forth. "It's bad enough that I have to fight my instincts..." He began while looking away. "But I never thought that I would have to fight... My own friends!" The last three words were roared out in suppressed rage. Chomper cringed. How much had Littlefoot been holding back?

Cera looked up at Littlefoot with a mixture of anger and fear. She understood his rage at her question, but certainly he should understand her reluctance to hunt.

"It isn't fair!" She roared. "If we don't hunt then we lose control. But if we do hunt, then what is the point of keeping control?" She began to pace as well, as suppressed tears fell down her face. "I don't want to be a killer." She said sadly as she looked off into the distance. Cera was finally coming to terms with what Littlefoot had just dealt with the night before. Although Littlefoot was still angry at this point, he understood that he couldn't hold her outburst against her. She had just experienced a death. Not the death of a loved one or a friend, but rather the death of a hope. The hope that they could avoid what being a sharptooth entailed. Now only the horrible realization of what they must do remained.

Littlefoot's expression softened as he saw his close friend break down in despair. He approached cautiously, with his head bowed down in a gesture of truce. He then looked at her with a soft expression before speaking.

"I don't want to kill either, Cera." He shook his head. "And I don't know what it means. All I know is that we will get through it together." The two sat side by side for a moment, each coming to terms with their emotions.

Chomper looked sadly at the scene in front of him when suddenly he heard a sob to his right. He looked in that direction to see Spike and Ducky comforting one another, whereas Petrie and Ruby looked on with unreadable expressions. He walked up to Ruby and placed his forelimb onto hers and gave her a sad smile. They were all in this together, as Littlefoot had said. Now they had to come to terms with the fateful decision that they had made.

"Petrie." Littlefoot called suddenly.

Petrie flew over to the brown fastbiter and looked upon him with an inquisitive expression. "We need to find that herd." He stated assertively. "Can you help lead us to it? You're the only one with a flyer's view." He stated the obvious.

"Me can look." Petrie affirmed.

At this Littlefoot nodded his head at the little flyer and cleared his throat. Now is the time. Littlefoot thought to himself. We need to hurry if we are going to catch up with the herd today.

"Well, guys." He began. "We should get going." He then looked at the others. "We have to do this. I wish we had some other choice, but... we don't. Not anymore." He affirmed. He then looked in the direction that the herd was during the previous night before again speaking. "Chomper?"

Chomper looked up and responded cautiously. "Yes, Littlefoot?"

Littlefoot sighed. "None of us have ever hunted... others... before." He paused for a moment. "Could you give us lessons while we walk to the herd? We will need any help that we can get."

Chomper nodded before responding. "Of course, Littlefoot."

With few words being exchanged, the gang began to head off towards the longneck herd. The difficult decision had been made. Now the most difficult part was ahead. Each of the gang walked on in apprehension at the task that awaited them. Nothing would ever be the same again.


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