The Seven Hunters

Chapter 15 Joining of the Pack

“That's just the first part. What others call you, you become. It's a terrible magic that everyone can do — so do it. Call yourself what you wish to become.” ― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Littlefoot looked in horror at the dead longneck.

His eyes, forever opened with the onset of death, seemed to stare at him in an accusatory manner. As if to say to the former longneck "Why?" The attack that Littlefoot had wrought onto Rhett's body was horrific in its brutality, which further added to Littlefoot's inner turmoil. The little longneck's body lay broken on the blood-soaked ground. His back was shattered; with the gaping teeth marks clearing indicated the cause. His viscera lay exposed onto the ground, his abdomen having been ripped open from both sides. It was a truly sickening sight. Rhett's mutilated body would stir no more.

"What have I done?!" Littlefoot wailed into the night.

He had done it. He knew going into the hunt that he might be the one who would have to make the kill. He also realized that regardless of how this hunt went that they would all have to kill now. It was unlikely that they would be able to change back anytime soon. If they were able to change back at all... However, it was just too much. He had just butchered another dinosaur. As if that wasn't enough he had just murdered one of his friends... and one the best friends of Ali. Which must have meant...

Were... Were we chasing Ali too?!

That realization hit him like a pile of boulders. Not only had he killed one of his friends, and one of the friends of Ali, but he had nearly killed Ali. If Chomper had decided to attack Ali instead or if Rhett had been able to run a bit faster... He tried to imagine what Ali was going through right now. She had just seen her best friend get annihilated by a fastbiter and she was nearly killed herself. He thought back to what she went through when his mother died. Yes, he could imagine what she was going through. Part of his mind accused that he was just like the sharptooth that killed his mom, in that he had killed a beloved dinosaur without mercy.

With this final thought he collapsed to the ground and proceeded to weep.

Oh, mother! What have I done?

......

Chomper was running at a steady pace towards where the two sauropods had run.

I hope Littlefoot was able to finish the job. Chomper thought. We need the food!

He felt a bit guilty of having his best friend actually make the kill. He realized that they had no choice in what he had done and that any other member of the gang might have lacked the inner fortitude to do what was necessary. But nonetheless, he hated what he had put his friend through. It was bad enough when Chomper had to make his first kill and he was simply hatched by leaf-eaters. He couldn't imagine what a born and raised leaf-eater would feel after making a kill on his former kind. He realized that Littlefoot might very well descend into despair after the act. However, he resolved that he would be there in order to hold Littlefoot together. He knew that once Littlefoot began to eat in his current state that the rest would come naturally... and once the physical needs of the group were met then he could attend to their mental needs.

As he approached the edge of the forest, he noticed that the trail of blood became noticeable more prominent. I really got Rhett good. Chomper reflected. He felt some guilt at this. True, the arrogant braggart had lied to Ali and reacted cowardly when Chomper had arrived to confront him, but he was still a kid. A kid that still had his whole life in front of him. Now, providing that everything went well, that young life would soon be snuffed out. He hoped that Rhett did not suffer for too long. At the very least, he deserved a quick end.

As he left the canopy of the forest he could hear crying some distance ahead of him. The cries of a fastbiter. He could also smell the scent of blood. Lots of blood.

He immediately quickened his pace. "I am coming, Littlefoot!" The small sharptooth was very concerned. Had Littlefoot been injured? He would never forgive himself if Littlefoot was injured while he was in command. They were all depending on him. How could he let them down?

As he approached the sound of the sobbing, however, it soon became apparent what had happened.

In the grassland, just outside of the forest, the night circle gave enough reflected light in order to illuminate the scene. Chomper could clearly see the decimated body of a young longneck. The young one's back had been shattered with an obscene amount of force. His intestines and viscera were spilled onto the adjacent ground. Looking up, Chomper could see the source of these grievous wounds. It was Littlefoot. His brown scales were covered with the bright red blood to such an extent that there was little difference between his scales and his naturally red crest feathers. The grotesque scene would have frightened any leaf-eater, and actually gave Chomper some pause, but it was the fact that Littlefoot actually did all of this that surprised him the most. Now, this bloodthirsty killer was doing what no outside observer would have expected.

He was weeping openly in a show of unrestrained grief. Littlefoot had not even noticed Chomper on his approach.

Chomper's expression went from his harsh, stern expression to a look of understanding and sympathy. It seemed that Littlefoot had discovered the identity of his quarry. He didn't expect Littlefoot to forgive himself in the immediate future, but he did hope that he could regain control over himself. He already knew the necessity of their actions, but he needed time to accept them. In the meantime, Chomper would do what he had to do right now.

And that was to simply be there.

"Littlefoot?" Chomper called softly.

The fastbiter looked up from his handiwork and noticed his sharptooth friend looking at him with an understanding expression. His face was not accusing, nor coddling, but rather seemed to convey a simple message.

Now you know what it is like to be a sharptooth.

Indeed he did. Littlefoot took a look at his clawed forelimbs and noted that they were drenched in the same still-warm blood which coated everything else in the vicinity. Slowly looking back down at his handiwork, he noted that he could see his own reflection in the pool of blood which had poured from the hapless longneck's body. The reflection which stared back at him was not one that he would have recognized several days ago. It was the reflection of a sharptooth after a hunt. It was the image of a killer.

Because I am a killer now.

This realization seemed to make something break in the poor fastbiter. He could no longer hang onto his leaf-eater side with the knowledge of what he had just done. If her were to ever go back to his old form, how would he live with himself? He was a sharptooth now, he realized, and there was no going back. Even if they were able to change back, he was unsure if he would take the opportunity. In a way, his mourning was not just for Rhett, but for the death of his own leaf-eater side. The intellectual change had already occurred, now the emotional catharsis had arrived. He cried not in despair, nor in rebellion, but in resignation. He was on the other side of the great circle of life now, and nothing could change that.

Littlefoot began to dry his eyes, ignoring the sting as Rhett's blood made contact to the nictitating membranes of his eyes. He then looked at Chomper with an exhausted expression. Chomper was approaching him slowly, Littlefoot noted. It was at this time that Chomper decided to speak.

"It gets easier." Chomper stated softly as he placed his forelimb upon Littlefoot's shoulder.

Littlefoot thought for a moment before responding. "I'm not sure that I want it to get easier." He admitted truthfully. He looked at the purple sharptooth with a forlorn expression. "What monster will I be when I no longer care?"

It was a question that Chomper had asked himself in the past. However, Chomper had the benefit of years to confront that question whereas Littlefoot only had a few days. Chomper decided to tell the former longneck his resolution to the problem.

"We always need to remember." Chomper affirmed. "If we do that, then we will always care." He then looked at Littlefoot with a contemplative expression. "We can be good sharpteeth, Littlefoot, but we can't be nice sharpteeth. Not anymore." Chomper shook his head with a resigned expression. "I wish it wasn't so."

The two then embraced slightly as Littlefoot began to calm down. He could not change the past so it was useless to despair over it. He recognized that his own instincts were assisting him in pushing his reservations aside, but right now he didn't care. He had no choice at this point, so he might as well make peace with the inevitable.

As the two broke the embrace, they both looked at the dead longneck.

Littlefoot couldn't deny that, despite his lingering horror, the sight before him was incredibly appetizing. There was more than enough tasty meat in front of him to feed the gang twice over. He could almost taste it already... The sweet, yet metallic, blood... The savory muscle... The squishy texture... Now that his misgivings had been pushed aside for the moment, his primal need for meat was coming to the fore. This change was not lost on Chomper. Remembering his etiquette from his mother, Chomper spoke again.

"Go ahead, Littlefoot. It was your kill. You get the first bite."

With his insatiable hunger nearly at a breaking point, Littlefoot needed no further prompting to accept Chomper's offer. With a salivating mouth and hunger-crazed eyes, he dug into Rhett's neck with his razor sharp teeth. Finally, the uncontrollable and painful hunger was being fulfilled.

Seeing that Littlefoot was occupied with his dinner, Chomper decided to begin his meal as well. He had always enjoyed partaking of the tender meat of longneck tails... That was when he heard the footsteps of the others.

Looking at the others he noted that they were about ready to snap as well. Even Petrie had a noticeably vacant look in his eyes as his hunger was obviously overpowering his reason. They probably won't even realize that they are eating Rhett. Chomper deduced, noting their apparent mental states. Taking a quick look back at Littlefoot he could hear the crunch as he bit down on a portion of Rhett's skull. I suppose they won't be able to identify him now anyway. Deciding that it was time to invite the others for dinner before they violently invited themselves, Chomper called to the gang.

"Dig in, guys! There is plenty for everyone!"

They needed no further motivation as the entire pack descended upon the longneck corpse like a group of vultures. As the sound of snapping bones, tearing flesh, and chewing jaws echoed into the night, the sounds of everything else were drown out. The pack could not hear the loud cries of Ali as she explained the fate of Rhett to the rest of her herd. However, as they finished their meal quite some time later, they could begin to hear the pained wail of Rhett's mother from a great distance. In the span of one night, the great circle of life had shown its favor upon them and again took from the poor longneck. She was now completely alone.

......

Having eaten their fill, the seven sharpteeth began to regain their senses. They were covered in sinew and gore after their impromptu feast on the fallen longneck. They looked like something out of their bad sleepstories back when they were leaf-eaters, but their former nightmares had become their current reality. Six of the seven had participated in a hunt, either directly or indirectly, and even Petrie had greedily feasted upon the exploits of their kill. They were all implicated in their murderous deed.

Each reacted to this situation in their unique way.

Ruby was taken aback by her actions. She knew that they would have to eat a longneck in order to survive, but she was ashamed that she had done so in an uncontrolled fashion. They had behaved like a pack of out of control beasts. They had literally ripped the longneck limb from limb in their ravenous hunger. Now, little more than bones remained. Ruby speculated about what her mommy and daddy would think. They were right to fear sharpteeth. She reflected. They... we... are dangerous.

Cera, Spike, Ducky, and Petrie, meanwhile, were beginning to congregate around one another and talk in hushed tones. They were each dismayed by their actions, but for some reason they did not feel the soul-crushing apprehension that they felt earlier. Perhaps it was the mental connection that anything that tasted that good couldn't be that bad? Perhaps it was their instincts telling them to get over their past grievances? Or perhaps they simply had no more tears to shed? For whatever reason they seemed to be holding themselves together this time.

Chomper and Littlefoot, meanwhile, were each sitting close to one another.

Littlefoot was thinking about what they should do now. They had just killed another living creature, surely that required some kind of acknowledgement or response? It wouldn't be right to simply say: Great work, guys! Let's try to kill some more tomorrow! The former longneck thought to himself in a flourish of dark humor. It was odd though, whereas before such a passing thought would have put him in a dower mood, now it seemed to actually be a source of actual humor to him. This filled him with some concern and disgust. Surely, he was not finding humor in the death of others? If so, then he was turning into quite the monster indeed.

Littlefoot then looked back towards what remained of Rhett. He still felt a pang of regret and sadness. Well, that's good. He thought. If he still remembered what it was like to be a longneck and still felt regret at the taking of life, then he was not a monster. He was simply a sharptooth trying to get some relief by finding some humor out of a dark and absurd situation. Littlefoot didn't know it, but this was a trait that many sharpteeth had. Having a questionable sense of humor was a far better coping mechanism that lashing out at others. One path led to an unbearable personality like Red Claw. The other led to those like Chomper's dad.

Chomper noted the change in tone of his friends with some relief. It seemed that they were beginning to adapt to their new lot in life with remarkable speed. No doubt this was due to their sudden resolution of hunger. Now that they had experienced the hunger madness they would do anything to avoid that again. Chomper had no doubt that they would not need much prompting to kill the next time that the situation warranted it.

Nonetheless a curious atmosphere seemed to be settling over the group. They were in a similar situation that an outsider faced when integrating with a totally new herd. Very often they would discard their old ways in favor of the customs of the herd they found themselves in. This was especially noted in those herds that welcomed them with open arms. Many times these new recruits to a herd would become even more dedicated to their new companions than the original members actually were. In the case of the gang, they were slowly becoming ready to accept the new life that had befallen them, but were unsure how to do so.

Chomper realized, with some amusement, that he would have to be the one to tell them of the finer points of sharptooth life. This was very ironic to him, as many in the Mysterious Beyond considered him an outlier of sorts. A sharptooth who allied with leaf-eaters, a stranger to his own kind. Now he would have to teach the others how to carry themselves in their new lives. He was uncertain of his suitability as a teacher, but he resolved to do his best nonetheless. He owed it to all of them.

With a tap on Littlefoot's shoulder, he whispered into his ear. "I think that it's your pack again. The hunt is over."

Littlefoot nodded to the purple sharptooth, before embracing him in a tight hug. He knew full well that they all would have starved or attacked one another if it wasn't for Chomper's assistance. They owed him much.

Littlefoot then cleared his throat in order to get the attention of the others.

"So... um..." He began. Man, I am not good at this. He reflected for a moment. "We are no longer hungry." He looked at all of the others as he said this. "But it came at a high cost." He said as he looked at Rhett's corpse.

Nods and affirmative grunts bellowed from the gang. Cera, however, decided to speak.

"It... didn't suffer too much did it?" Though she would not admit it, her lingering guilt over her actions were clear for all to see. She wanted to think that the poor thing at least had a quick end.

Littlefoot simply gave Cera look that made her expression turn more solemn. It was not clear to the assembled dinosaurs that their first hunt was a rather brutal one.

"Chomper got his leg... and I finished Rhett off." Littlefoot confirmed

The others immediately rose at that proclamation and responded in shocked tones.

"Rhett?" Ruby questioned.

"Oh, no, no, no!" Ducky lamented.

Cera took a few moments to catch her bearing before she responded. "Is that true?" She then paused for a moment as the full realization set in. "Did we... eat Rhett?"

Littlefoot simply nodded.

Ducky and Spike took on solemn expressions, while Cera and Ruby were still shocked by the revelation. Petrie, meanwhile, had an unreadable expression. Chomper observed their responses in silence.

Littlefoot then continued. "I think the other longneck that we were chasing was Ali."

This did not cause as much of a response from the others, as many of them had already deduced that information. Each of them were now trying to wrap their minds around the fact that they had killed a dinosaur that they considered a friend, and had chased another that they considered a very good friend. How could they ever go back now? They were left to confront the same horrible truths that Littlefoot had been processing many moments before.

"Are we bad sharpteeth now?" Ducky asked softly. Although the former hadrosaur was not crying, Chomper knew that she was on the cusp of losing control. Regardless of whether she was a leaf-eater or sharptooth, Ducky was still the loving soul that she always was. That was what made this fundamental truth very hard for the green fastbiter to take.

"No, Ducky." Chomper began. "We are just sharpteeth and sometimes we have to kill."

Ducky looked deeply at Chomper for a few moments. With her new fastbiter eyes, Chomper noted that it almost appeared as if she were staring straight into his soul. The luminescent green orbs appeared to lay everything bear. After a few moments she averted her eyes slightly and nodded. This was what she was now and she had no choice but to accept the inevitable.

Ruby looked at the bloody remains of Rhett with a contemplative expression. Her clawed paw reaching her chin in a ponderous expression. Finally, she spoke.

"He didn't deserve that." Ruby observed with a morose expression. She hadn't known the two longnecks well, as she had only met them once, however she knew that they were good dinosaurs. They had killed an innocent on this night.

Chomper looked at his former caregiver for a moment, before answering with a sad truth. "They never do. But nothing can be done about it." He then shook his head. "We have to eat."

An anxious silence permeated throughout the gang as each tried to reconcile themselves with their actions that night. Each knew that they couldn't have hoped for a better outcome, but that did not make the truth of their actions any easier to take. The silence lasted for several moments as no one wanted to break the quiet.

Finally, Littlefoot decided to break the intractable silence.

"So um..." Littlefoot began again, seemingly at a loss at what to do. What did a pack do after it killed someone? It wasn't a question that he pondered as a longneck for very obvious reasons. For that reason he directed his next statement at Chomper. "What do sharpteeth do after they... you know... hunt?"

Chomper nodded at Littlefoot's question and answered carefully. "Well... We could go to sleep. We still have a long journey ahead of us."

Cera interjected at this. "Just like that... we go to sleep?" She was surprised at the callousness of the proposed action. How could they brutally rip someone apart and just go to sleep as if they were tired after an evening meal... Oh right. She reflected darkly. We did just have a meal didn't we?

Chomper nodded, before continuing. "But when new pack members join a pack they are initiated first."

Ruby inquired at this. "Initiated? What do you mean, Chomper?" Despite the horrific implications of what they had just gone through, she had to admit that she was curious about how sharpteeth behaved. She was always hungry for new information and this often got her into trouble during her younger days in the Mysterious Beyond. But she just couldn't help herself. She was a curious girl at heart and, much like Littlefoot, would strike off on her own in order to find out about the world around her. With her stint as Chomper's caregiver she had tampered her impulses with the responsibility expected of a young dinosaur of her age, but she still had that adventurous streak in her. She supposed that she always would.

Chomper pondered for a moment about how he would explain this.

"In... uh... sharptooth life you don't have just one name." He stopped for a moment. How in the heck was he supposed to explain this to former leaf-eaters? He began to pace as he began dictating to the gang

"You have the name that you are hatched with." He resumed his speech. "Like Littlefoot." He said as he walked by the former longneck. "Or Cera." He said as he passed the yellowish fastbiter. "But then you have your pack name."

Ruby was perplexed by this. "Why do we need a pack name, Chomper?" She inquired. "If I am already Ruby then why do I need to be called something else? I would not want to be called something else unless I was something else."

Chomper knew that question would arise, so he addressed it the best that he could. "A pack name is like an earned name. It says something about you."

As the others gave him blank stares, he decided to explain.

"For example, my true name is Path." The others were surprised by this. "Oh come on, guys! You don't think my mommy and daddy actually called me Chomper did you?" As they nodded, he continued. "That would be like calling Littlefoot 'Longneck' or calling Cera 'Tree Rammer' or calling Spike um... never mind. It's just not a good sharptooth name." He decided to get his train of thought back on track.

"After my first hunt, my daddy gave me my pack name. We hunted together so we three were a pack on that day." He explained. "I was named Path because I am a land path (bridge) between leaf-eaters and sharpteeth." He then continued. "I was hatched by you guys... But I am a sharptooth, that's why I got my name."

"So pack members get a name based on what they are like?" Littlefoot asked.

Chomper nodded at his understanding. "Yes, Littlefoot. I guess we could still call one another by our old names, but we also need to have pack names when we see other sharpteeth."

Cera interjected. "Hmph! Well I think that this idea is stupid. My name is perfectly fine."

Chomper rolled his eyes, but then took on a more serious expression. "Cera, would you have done what you did as a leaf-eater?"

"What? Of course not!" She responded as if the idea were absurd.

"Then should you still have that name? You are not the same dinosaur are you?" Chomper replied.

This realization stunned Cera and the others into silence. They weren't the same dinosaurs anymore were they? Did this mean that they simply had to move on and try to be someone else? It was a horrifying possibility.

Chomper continued. "When a kid is ready to hunt they are beginning to grow up. That is what my mommy told me. We can no longer act like babies; instead we have to act older."

"Kind of like the Great Longneck Test?" Littlefoot interjected.

"Um... Yeah." Chomper replied.

Silence fell on the dinosaurs for a second time in the last few moments.

Cera sighed. "Fine. Give us new names, but don't expect me to ever use mine." She said in an indignant tone.

Chomper nodded "Of course! My mommy and daddy still called me Chomper even after my special naming day." He paused for a moment. "But if another sharptooth called me that then I would probably bite them."

The others laughed at Chomper's statement. It seemed that even if you gave him a more dignified name, you couldn't take the chomp out of Chomper. The only question now was what were they going to be named? How would they demand that other sharpteeth refer to them as? Chomper still needed to explain the ritual to them.

"How do we do this?" Spike asked inquisitively. He was skeptical of the relevance of this "initiation" but it obviously meant a lot to sharpteeth. Since they were sharpteeth now it only made sense that they should follow along.

"Well when my mommy and daddy renamed me, they said that the leader of the hunt did the naming." Chomper thought for a moment. "In my case it was my parents that were the 'leaders', but I think with fastbiters it is different..." He paused for a moment. "I guess that I could do the naming. After all, you all named me!" He reminded them.

At the unsure shrugs of some of the gang and the reluctant nods of a few others, Chomper gestured with his small forelimbs. "Okay everyone! Get in a circle."

As the gang began to form a semicircle around Chomper, each was taking the renaming with varying degrees of acceptance.

Littlefoot did not much mind, as he had been told that "Littlefoot" was actually his father's nickname. Ever since he had been told that, he realized that he too would be expected to take a more appropriate name when he got older. Sometimes he even mused that he might be called Mr. Longneck by some of the residents when he grew older, more responsible, and more boring... But of course that isn't going to happen now. He thought mournfully.

Cera too realized that sometimes adults when by different names when they were older. Her father was a prime example, having been named Topsy by his mother. As he grew older and tried to gain respect he had dropped his old name and demanded to be called Topps. Very few dinosaurs, except Tria, would dare call him Topsy now. However, Cera had always liked her name and had no intention of losing it. Even if it no longer fit her anymore... Nonetheless she would humor Chomper. They would have to have more appropriate names when encountering other sharpteeth anyway. Although she was ignorant of sharptooth society, she was quite sure that the names such as "Ducky" and "Littlefoot" wouldn't exactly make their competitors quake in fear.

Where did that last thought come from? Cera mused.

As the gang settled into their places, Chomper stepped into the middle of the circle. He was not an expert at this. Heck, he was just a child himself. However, he had gone through this ritual before which was more than what his friends had encountered. Despite his youth and inexperience, he would try to do this ritual justice. This was the gang's ceremonial entry into sharptooth life, a most solemn occasion. After this they would truly be one pack.

He began to walk along the inside of the circle and called out their names one by one.

"Littlefoot."

At the mention of his name the brown fastbiter rose to his full height. His crimson crest and limb feathers gleamed under the light of the night circle. Although he did not quite understand this strange ritual, something in his instincts seemed to tell him that it was time to be at attention. The ritual had begun.

"Cera."

The yellowish fastbiter rose with an unsure expression on her face. Despite her misgivings about getting a new name, she had to admit that she was somewhat excited about what was coming. She wondered where that emotion was coming from...

"Ruby."

The rose-colored fastbiter stood up at the mention of her name. Fast runner society had its fair share of rituals, far more than what the leaf-eaters had. From the ceremonial bath prior to one's star day, to the great test of speed, they had many ways to mark the passage of time and the coming of new life stages. She supposed that this was another one of those stages for her to acknowledge. To her knowledge, no one had ever turned into a sharptooth before, but nonetheless she and her friends had. She resolved to mark the occasion and try to deal with her new lot in life to the best of her abilities. It wasn't like she had much of a choice now.

"Petrie."

Petrie rose to his full height... Or at least as far as his new body would allow. Although he felt much more maneuverable in the air, he found that he could only walk and stand in a quadruped posture in his new form, using his wings as a second pair of "legs". That was why he spent a lot more time in the air ever since the change. With regards to the ritual, he took a pragmatic view of the proceedings. He was no longer a leaf-eater flyer and he would have to take on a name better suited for his kind. It was unlikely that he would ever see his loved ones again, he reflected, so it was probably best for him to put that part of his life behind him. He had a new life now and he had to accept that. Although his new mind was willing to readily accept this momentous change, his emotions were not ready to throw his old life away. This split in his outlook caused great anxiety in the young flyer. This ritual would not change that.

"Spike."

The green fastbiter stood as the others had done in the previous few moments. As a spiketail he never really understood the importance of rituals. To him such social graces, including the gang's incessant talking, were superficial things that took away from the things that truly mattered. He did not need to talk to his friends in order to know their feelings. All he had to do was observe. The transformation had not changed that second point, he was still very observant. However, he noticed that the things he had once considered "superficial" actually meant a lot more in his mind now that he was a sharptooth. Although he couldn't have known it at the time, Spike was now more focused on the pack dynamics that permeated sharptooth society. Such social graces were now part of his existence and he had to adapt to them. With such mental and physical changes having already beset him, Spike did not mind one additional change. He supposed that a new name could signify his transition into the new sharptooth Spike. However, he resolved that he, and he alone, would determine what being a sharptooth meant to him. But nonetheless, the change had been made. Now it was simply time to acknowledge it.

"Ducky."

Ducky was the last to rise. She was still in a bit of a daze from her participation in the feast. She was a killer now and she did not know how to reconcile that with her gentle nature. True, she did not actually make the kill, but her help had made the entire enterprise possible. She was certain that even if she could have changed back into her old form, that her mother wouldn't be able to recognize her. The mental anguish was simply too much. She had seen and done too much. In a way she hoped that this renaming would allow them to put some of their misgivings behind them. She had no choice but to live as a sharptooth now, perhaps she should adopt the name of a sharptooth. Despite her hopes, however, she still realized that a huge chasm existed between her old life and her new one. She was unsure if she would ever be able to bridge the two.

With all of the gang now called upon by their old name, Chomper decided to proceed with the ritual. Now let's see... How did my daddy do this? Giving his best effort, he tried to repeat the words that his father had spoken several seasons ago.

"You were all children with children's names, but today you have put away your childish things..." He began with an imperious voice that surprised the others. Chomper may have been repeating what he had learned long ago, but he sounded like a sharptooth that was years older and wiser. Ruby reflected that perhaps this ritual was more instinct than learned. However, before she had too much time to ponder, Chomper continued.

"Today you have killed. You have taken the life of another to maintain your own. Today you have become true sharpteeth."

Chomper then took on a softer expression. The ritualistic part of the initiation had been completed, now it was time for the naming part. Thankfully, this was a bit more informal. At least it was in his case...

"Okay, guys. Now we have to choose your names." Chomper seemed to ponder for a moment, before walking up to Littlefoot.

Littlefoot had an unsure expression on his face. Chomper was immediately reminded of how he found Littlefoot the night before. He had been trying to talk to his long-dead mother in an attempt to find some guidance in what to do. He was also the de facto leader of the group, only relinquishing control when it was obvious that they needed an experienced hunter to lead the first hunt. He was the embodiment of the unsure leader. He knew exactly what to name Littlefoot.

"Littlefoot, you are kind of lost without your old self. I will call you 'Seeker'. As you are seeking what it means to be a good sharptooth."

Littlefoot seemed to ponder this for a moment, before nodding. Obviously he could not disagree with the logic of Chomper's choice. He was undoubtedly seeking the answers, just like he had done as a leaf-eater, but now with renewed vigor. At least he still had his friends to help him. With them he knew that he would eventually find the answers to his questions.

Chomper then walked up to Cera. She couldn't resist the chance to get a word in.

"This silly ritual changes nothing. We are sharpteeth either way." Cera observed.

Chomper smiled. "You shall be called 'Stern Claw'. You are cold in your outlook, but you are not wrong."

Cera seemed to digest this information, but she raised no objections. She was always the pragmatic one who raised unwanted truths despite popular resistance. She nodded. Yes, the name does fit me, doesn't it? She reflected.

Chomper then walked up to Ducky. He decided to ask her a question before he named her.

"What do you think about your change, Ducky?"

Ducky looked upon Chomper with a sad expression and seemed to think for a bit before answering. "I don't know. Oh, no, no, no! I don't want to hurt, I only want to help."

Chomper pondered for a moment before making his choice. "You shall be called 'Haven'. You would rather be a refuge for others, rather than their killer."

Ducky had no objections to her name, as it matched her perfectly. She gave a slight nod and stepped back from the circle.

He then walked up to Petrie. Petrie looked up to him with an unreadable expression. It was obvious that the flyer was uncomfortable on the ground, as the desire for great heights that was found in all sharpteeth was magnified in his case. Thinking about his attributes as a flyer, Chomper wasted no time to pick his name.

"You shall be 'Spotter', as you are good at spotting things from the air."

Petrie gave a nod, just as the others had done and joined Ducky outside of the circle.

Chomper then walked up to Spike. Spike's eyes seemed to stare into Chomper's very soul. It was obvious from his work as a scout during their hunt on that day, that Spike was extremely observant. He was already observant as a leaf-eater, despite his much weaker senses of smell and hearing, but this trait of his was magnified with the transformation. He also could see emotional turmoil in others, such as Ducky, before any of the others took notice. He knew exactly what to call him.

"You shall be 'Finder', as you are a good scout. You see what others do not."

At Spike's nod, Chomper went up to the last person left in the circle. Ruby had been waiting silently with a contemplative expression on her face. She was obviously observing and thinking about this ritual with the same introspection that she confronted with everything else. Chomper admitted to himself that Ruby was an excellent choice as his caregiver. Her calm, reflective nature was a perfect foil for his excitable, proactive personality.

"You look like you are thinking." Chomper noted.

Ruby responded after a moment. "I don't know what to think anymore."

Chomper nodded. "You shall be called 'Ponder', as you are trying to find your thoughts once more."

As Ruby nodded her acceptance of her name, the ritual drew to a close.

Chomper looked at everyone for a moment. They all had an appearance of uncertainty intermixed with acceptance, a rather interesting combination. They were obviously still adapting to their changed lot in life. He hoped that their new names helped them to put the past behind them. It was rather clear to the young sharptooth that they were never changing back. The sooner that the others accepted this, the better off they would be. He wished it wasn't so, but with only one exception in his life, wishing didn't change anything.

"Well, that's it! You all have your sharptooth names."

Littlefoot looked up at the purple sharptooth and decided to tease him now that he knew Chomper's real name.

"Alright Path, I suppose what I truly seek now is sleep."

The others laughed at this, whereas Chomper looked taken aback for a moment. But, after seeing the mirth from the other members of the gang, he too joined in the laughter. They had acquired new bodies, new instincts, and new names, but yet they were all still here. Where it truly mattered, his friends had not changed.

It was that final thought that followed Chomper into his dreams that night. Tomorrow, they would have to continue their journey to Hanging Rock and deal with whatever unknowns that came their way. But, for this night at least, they were all at peace. They could not know what the morrow would bring, but they all knew that they would face it together.


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