The Seven Hunters

Chapter 22 A Talk Between Fastrunners

“To an old father, nothing is more sweet than a daughter. Boys are more spirited, but their ways are not so tender.”

― Euripides, Suppliant Women

"So where's mommy?" Ruby asked her father as they began to head towards the rock formation that gave Hanging Rock its name. It had taken several moments for the fast runner and the former fast runner to regain their composure.

Detras was overwhelmed and amazed by recent events. His own daughter was not a sharptooth. He, as an omnivore, had never reacted to sharpteeth with the same vitriol as the leaf-eaters. He knew better than most that it was improper to judge anyone for doing what was necessary to survive. He had even taken a life once... No. He resolved. Now is not the time to think about that.

He looked at his daughter. He knew that she had never taken a life before... at least during her fast runner days. Her reactions during her conversation seemed to indicate that they were hiding something, but he was careful not to read too much into that. How will she react to the necessities of her new life? He thought to himself. He could accept her change of fate, but could she? He would definitely have to talk with her. There were facts that she would need to accept sooner rather than later.

"They are in the Hidden Caves." Detras explained. "I saw sharpteeth and... we couldn't be sure of your intentions." He tried to make the admission as gentle as possible.

Ruby looked down in shame for a moment. She tried not to let her father's suspicion hurt her, but how else could she react to her parents looking upon her with fear? Intellectually she knew that her parents had no way to know that the pack of sharpteeth was made up of their daughter and her friends. However, she was struck by the change in her relationship with her father. Back when she had visited her parents before, her father had taken the demeanor of a parent when addressing her. Typically a fast runner would greet another with hands at the ready and unbroken eye contact. This showed both respect to the threat that the other posed, but at the same time did not convey hostility. It was only when fast runners joined to form a pack or a family unit that they dropped this usual demeanor and greeted others in an unguarded manner. This more open demeanor was only dropped when a child grew up and went their own way. In that way it marked the end of innocence and the beginning of adulthood.

Detras was currently using the standard fast runner demeanor with her. This was an improvement from the aggressive stance that he had taken earlier. Was her father now looking upon her as an adult? Or as an outsider? His conversation thus far expressed his unrestrained acceptance of her, but she still couldn't shake her unease at his now more remote tone. She wasn't sure that she was ready to quite accept what being an adult would entail: being on her own and making her own decisions. But isn't that what I have already been doing? She questioned herself. Even as a fast runner in the valley, she was practically on her own in raising Chomper. So why should she feel alienated by her father's change in demeanor? She supposed that her emotions needed to have time to catch up with her intellect.

"Oh." Was the only thing that Ruby could say.

Chomper noted the awkwardness that seemed to have developed between Ruby and her father. Chomper had been used to being looked at with suspicion and fear. He didn't like that, of course, but he had pretty much accepted it as part of his lot in life. However, he supposed, Ruby had not. It must be hard to have your daddy look at you with fear. He observed.

"So... um..." Spike seemed to be searching for the right words as everyone turned to look in his direction. He observed that everyone had turned their attention to him and decided to spit out his words. "You said that you had the same dream that Ruby had?" At Detras's nod, Spike continued. "I wonder... Did any of our parents have the same dream?"

It was a serious question that had many implications. If their parents had experienced the same dream, then perhaps they could eventually find a way to confirm their stories. It had worked on Ruby's father, after all.

"Yeah..." Littlefoot seemed to ponder the idea.

"Maybe we can tell mommy, Spike? Then she would know what happened to us! Yep, yep, yep!"

Cera sighed. She had a sarcastic side to her, but not even she wanted to ruin the pack's new-found hope. However, she figured that it was up to her to make the obvious point.

"But we can't speak to our parents, Ducky." Cera affirmed. "None of us know leaf-eater."

Chomper began to speak, but Cera cut him off.

"And they won't believe you, Chomper." She retorted to the unspoken statement. "We would need to learn leaf-eater before we could have any hope of talking to them."

Littlefoot spoke up then. "Yeah. And we need to find a way to talk to them so that adults don't kill us." He then looked towards Ducky, who had taken on a morose expression. "But we do have hope, Ducky." He affirmed. "One day... One day we will talk to them again."

"Yeah!" Chomper affirmed. "And I will teach you how to talk to them." Chomper found it ironic that he would now have to teach his friends leaf-eater, as they were the ones who had begun to teach him. He supposed that everything had gone full circle.

After a few moments of processing what had been said, the group continued their journey towards Ruby's family. A comfortable silence had descended upon them and Ruby noted that her father had taken on a more relaxed expression. Perhaps the innocent banter of the group had reminded him of who he really was dealing with. These were not born and raised sharpteeth, but rather leaf-eaters who had suddenly become sharpteeth.

As Ruby confronted these thoughts, her introspection was broken by a sudden call from her father.

"It's alright dear! You can come out now!"

The pack stopped in their tracks in front of a rocky bluff. There was nothing distinct in these rocks to indicate the presence of any caves in the bluff. Ruby was familiar with these bluffs, but the others were not. As a result, they looked on with incredulity while Ruby waited with great anticipation.

Suddenly, the pink head of a fast runner peaked over one of the rocks. So that's where the Hidden Caves are! Chomper thought. He would have never smelled them out if Detras had not led them to the site. Chomper was reminded of a saying that his daddy had always told him. There is nothing trickier or faster than a fast runner. Unless one is injured, it is better not to even bother. He supposed that was good advice. Although, I would never hunt Ruby's family anyway! The small sharptooth affirmed in his mind.

"Who... are these sharpteeth, dear? Pearl, Ruby's mother, asked in concern.

Detras looked at Ruby with an unsure expression. "That... will take some time to explain, dear." That is putting it mildly. He thought to himself. "Why don't you come down with the kids?" He invited.

Pearl gave him an uncertain expression, before hesitantly leading her children down the bluff. Ruby was elated. All of her siblings were still here. None had met their doom since her last visit several seasons ago. This was a legitimate concern for those living in the Mysterious Beyond. Without thinking about it, however, she had a toothy grin on her face. When she looked at her mother, she was greeted with one of the most hurtful glares that she could have imagined. Realizing what had happened, Ruby removed the grin from her face and looked down in a hurt expression. Ruby was unable to see her mother soften her expression and look at the rose-colored fastbiter with a confused expression. Why would a fastbiter care about her thoughts? Over the next few moments, the family finished their journey down from the bluff to where the pack was standing.

Pearl wore an exasperated expression, as she was obviously uncomfortable with having an entire pack of sharpteeth so near to herself and her children. Her children, meanwhile, were hiding behind her legs. They were quite afraid and each was thinking the same thing. What is daddy doing with sharpteeth?

"Okay, dear." Pearl asked in an annoyed fashion. "What is going on? And who are these sharpteeth?"

Detras smiled a nervous smile before responding.

"Well, dear, do you remember that dream about Ruby that we had a few days ago? Uh..."

......

"Mommy! Mommy, wake up!"

Both Ruby and her father were congregated around the female fast runner. Ruby was pleading with her mom to regain consciousness, while the rest of the pack held back away from Ruby and the fast runners. Each had looks of concern on their faces as they saw the scene play out before them. Ruby's siblings, on the other hand had ran from Ruby when she had embraced her mother mid-fall. They were now cowering from behind Detras's feet. They did not quite comprehend what had happened and were terrified beyond belief.

"Ruby?" Her father began. "Ruby!" That finally got Ruby's attention. "Move away from Pearl, will you." He requested firmly.

Ruby was taken aback by the request. "But, mommy isn't alright. If she was alright then she wouldn't have fallen!"

Detras sighed a bit before responding. "She has just fainted, Ruby, you gave her quite a surprise!" At Ruby's guilt-ridden look, he decided to continue. "Don't be sad, Ruby. I am sure that she will be fine. But right now you are scaring your brother and sister. They don't need to see a sharptooth growling over their mother." As he said this he gestured to the two small youngling who were clinging in fear to his legs. "They can't understand you, you know?" He added softly.

Seeing that her presence was making the situation worse, she moved back to rejoin her pack. She was surprised to suddenly feel a light pressure on her right shoulder. As she looked back, she could see that Littlefoot had placed his paw on her in a show of support. With a supportive nod from the pack leader, she returned her focus to her family.

After a few moments, movement could be seen from Pearl.

"Did... Did that actually happen?" Pearl asked weakly from her prone position.

"Yes, dear." Detras answered softly. "Our Ruby has returned to us a changed dinosaur."

Before Pearl could speak, however, the two siblings couldn't contain their relief at their mother's recovery.

"Mommy! Mommy!"

Detras moved back a bit, before gesturing for Ruby to follow. After a moment she was beside her father, whereas the siblings and her mother were a short distance away. Detras looked Ruby in the eyes and gave her a sardonic smile.

"Ruby?" Detras called out in sharptooth. "Pearl? Children?" He then called out in leaf-eater. At Detras's call, the others looked at him with attentive expressions. The siblings, meanwhile, hid behind their mother. They still had no idea who this fastbiter was, but they knew that she made mommy collapse. Pearl, meanwhile, looked at her daughter with an accepting expression. The initial shock had begun to wear off.

"Perhaps we should tell the children what happened in leaf-eater this time." He muttered in the sharptooth language. "Right now I think they are quite confused."

As both Pearl's and Ruby's nods of understanding, they attempted to explain this to the children in a way that they would understand.

......

I can't believe it! Here is the Great Valley! It is hard to believe that it has already been three years.

Chronos and Logos were walking along the northern pass to the Great Valley. They had stopped at Hanging Rock and the Canyon of Lost Winds in order to search for the Stone of Destiny. However, their search had turned up nothing thus far. They knew for certain, however, in which direction the rock had fallen. This left the Great Valley as the next stop that they needed to examine.

And if Chronos was honest with himself, he would admit that he was curious about how the children were doing as well. They were surprising intelligent for their respective kinds.

"Stop right where you are!"

The gruff voice of a threehorn greeted the duo as they were about to pass into the valley. This is certainly a change from how they greeted us before. Curious. Logos thought to herself. Something must have changed.

"We are stopped." Chronos responded. "What seems to be the problem?" He asked cautiously. He decided against being overly questioning on this threehorn. He detected a sense of something. Extreme agitation. His mind provided. During his original journey to the valley he was not very aware of the minute expressions that permeated dinosaur communication and a as a result he came across as somewhat odd and even confrontational when he came across narrow-mindedness. However, the years that he had spent in the Mysterious Beyond had changed him somewhat. He now knew, for one, when it was time to keep one's mouth shut.

"I will be asking the questions here." The threehorn stated gravely. However, his demeanor did not hint at any aggression. It seemed that Chronos's respectful response did not further antagonized the guard, despite the overt impoliteness that the guard displayed.

"What are your intentions?" The threehorn then asked. His bored manner seemed to indicate that this was a question that he had asked on several occasions before.

Logos tried to repress a chuckle at this. Border security. I never thought that I would see this in such a primitive culture. She thought to herself. Perhaps they are a bit more advanced than we gave them credit for?

"We simply wish to take refuge in the valley. The Mysterious Beyond is a very harsh place." Logos answered. Sometimes the simplest of lies were more effective than more complex ones. Besides, no one would challenge her answer, which was probably the same answer that any other dinosaur would give.

"Hmm... I can't fault you there." The threehorn answered. "Very well, you may enter as soon as I inform Topps."

Ah, so the paranoid threehorn is behind this. How very unsurprising. Chronos thought to himself.

"You will also need to inform us of what you have seen on your journey." The threehorn continued. "The valley will not be caught off guard again."

Chronos and Logos shared a brief knowing glance at one another. This was very interesting indeed.

And now an interrogation... Logos thought to herself. What happened to this place?

......

"Alright children, time for sleep." Pearl called.

"Ah, mom!" The siblings answered almost in unison.

Ruby had to laugh at the response of her brother and sister. Her siblings certainly had grown, both mentally and physically, since her last journey to Hanging Rock. It had been a great experience to play games with them in the water once more. They had been hesitant at first, with their sister now being a dangerous predator, but they had soon adapted to the situation. In many ways children could adapt more readily to change than adults. It was nice to see that they didn't look at her with anything other than kindness and love. It was a counterpoint to how her parents now looked at her.

Ruby noted that her father was still looking at her with the respectful demeanor that a fast runner would show an adult, as opposed to the parental stance she was accustomed to. Her mother seemed to be using something in between a parental and adult stance when addressing her, as if she wasn't sure where Ruby fit anymore. Their expression indicated nothing but love and relief, however, which helped to put her fears and worries behind her.

She then looked at her friends, who had stayed off by themselves while Ruby and her family were reacquainting with one another. It seemed that they were just as unsure what to do in this situation as Ruby's parents were. They had made brief conversation with her parents in sharptooth after they had introduced one another, but then they had politely excused themselves at Littlefoot's insistence. He was still concerned about their control over their instincts which, Ruby had to admit, was a valid question at this point. She was still quite satisfied with their meal of carrion from earlier, but she couldn't really speak for the others. In any case it would probably be too much to ask for her parents to be comfortable with seven sharpteeth hanging around their small children.

"Come along, little ones. You can see Ruby again tomorrow." She answered them.

Ruby's sister was surprised. "She isn't going with us to the nest?"

Ruby was carefully observing the exchange as Ruby's mom paused for a moment. "She... Will probably want to rest with her friends, Berry." She answered warily. "Don't worry. I'm sure that she will be back tomorrow. Tell her bye."

"Bye, Ruby!" At their enthusiastic waving, she waved back.

"See you tomorrow!" She tried to force some enthusiasm into her voice, with only moderate success.

Ruby felt an uncertain emotion arise within her upon saying her goodbyes. She was still welcome in her family's territory, but was no longer welcome in the nest. So that was it. She was an independent adult now. The unclear messages that her parents were sending her were now very clear in their meaning. She tried not to feel sad at the premature coming of this necessary life event, but she couldn't help but feel melancholy at its passing. Her childhood days were now done.

As her mother and siblings walked back towards the nest, she turned back and walked towards the pack with sunken shoulders. She needed some time to think by herself.

Meanwhile, Littlefoot and the others were talking amongst themselves while they waited on Ruby. Sunset had just arrived and they were debating amongst themselves on whether to attempt a hunt nearby or to simply get some sleep.

"I say that we go hunt some ground fuzzies." Spike answered assertively. "After all, Ruby's parents won't want a bunch of hungry sharpteeth in their territory."

Cera snorted. "Well of course you would say that. You eat more than any of us!"

Spike looked at Cera before responding with a sarcastic come-back. "All the more reason to ensure that I am fed, right?"

Littlefoot nearly snorted water out of his nose, as he was drinking from the river at the time. Cera had to chuckle at Spike's response as well.

"Well, I can't argue with you there." Cera affirmed, still chuckling from the previous exchange.

At this point Ruby walked into the clearing where they were congregating. She had a noticeable slump in her posture as she walked by her friends.

"Hey, guys." She greeted them.

"Oh! Hi Ruby!" Ducky responded. "We were waiting for you. We were! We were!"

Littlefoot, however, noted the morose expression on Ruby's face as he was directly facing her. He greeted her with a concerned look.

"Ruby, are you okay?"

Ruby sighed. She wasn't quite sure.

"Um..." She began to answer. "I don't know. If I did know then I would tell you."

The others now looked at her with a mixture of confused and concerned expressions.

"How you don't know if okay? Either you okay or not okay." Petrie questioned.

Ruby decided to simply state her situation. "Mommy and daddy won't allow me in the nest anymore."

Littlefoot was surprised by this. "Why would they do that?"

"You honestly don't know why they won't they let a sharptooth sleep with their young children?" Cera asked sarcastically, but then backtracked when she saw a pointed expression from Littlefoot. "I'm sure it is nothing personal, Ruby." She added quickly.

"But they let you play with them." Chomper replied. "Why won't they let you rest with them?" He did not understand the dichotomy.

Ruby sat down as she pondered how to explain this to the former leaf-eaters. She was only a year or so older than them, but she had been informed by her parents about how such things were done. A fast runner's life was punctuated by many rituals to symbolize special life events. She supposed that leaf-eater society had fewer of these rituals.

"When a fast runner grows up they are told to leave the nest." She answered matter-of-factly. "When that happens they are expected to find their own way. If they were not old enough then they would not be told to leave the nest."

Cera had a moment of understanding. "So you're an adult now?" At Ruby's nod, she continued. "Then why are you sad? You can do what you want now."

Ruby sighed. "I don't know. I guess that I'm not ready to think about my parents that way."

Littlefoot nodded. "I guess that would be hard. I mean they are your parents..."

Littlefoot trailed off as he and the others turned towards an advancing figure in the distance. It was Ruby's father.

"Ruby?" As she gave her father her undivided attention, he continued. "You and your friends are invited to dinner." He looked up at the sky as he said this. It was now quite dark. It would indeed be a very late dinner. "My apologies for the lateness, but it took a while to get enough fish for all of you." At the talk of fish, all of the pack arose in surprise. They had not expected any sort of dinner to be provided. How long did it take Detras to get so many? As none of the others had fished before, only Ruby had some idea of the answer to that question.

"So that's where you have been! You didn't have to do all this, dad." Ruby reflected that he had been absent while she had reacquainted herself with her siblings. In fact, Littlefoot didn't really have a chance to talk to him about their predicament on account of his absence. He must have been gathering fish for the entire evening!

"Yes, I did. It is the job of the host to provide dinner for their guests." He answered matter-of-factly. "Will you join us for dinner?"

Ruby was taken aback by how formulistic his speech sounded. He was giving the standard offering of food for guests that was given for a respected outsider. She had seen on a few occasions when distant relatives arrived at their territory. It seemed that she was now in the same category. It reinforced what she had already learned.

"We would be honored to join you." She gave the standard acceptance back. "Will you give us a moment?"

Ruby's father smiled. "Of course. We will see you when you are ready."

As he slowly retreated back towards Hanging Rock, the pack began to talk amongst themselves.

"I... See what you mean, Ruby." Cera admitted.

Ruby sighed. "Yeah..."

Littlefoot didn't know what to say. He had no experience in seeing how longneck children were treated after they went through the Time of Great Growing. He supposed that he never really gave it much thought. It would be odd to have your parents suddenly treat you differently. He supposed that Ruby's extended absence from them had prevented a more subtle transition.

"Well, come on! I am hungry." Spike affirmed.

Ducky laughed. "You are always hungry, Spike. You are! You are!"

The others joined in the laughter as they began walking to where the fast runners had situated themselves.

......

I can't believe that they're all dead!

Chronos was utterly lost in his thoughts. He and Logos had just found out what had happened to the children. It seemed that their curiosity and outgoingness had finally caught up with them. He willed himself not to display his grief, as nothing could be done about it at this point. Besides, they still had a mission to complete.

"We are terribly sorry to hear about the valley's loss." Logos affirmed, and this brought Chronos out of his morose thoughts. "But we have not seen the sharpteeth anywhere."

The threehorn simply nodded. "Well it is getting late. I suppose that you can find a resting place for the night." Undoubtedly the threehorn was also ready for his interrogation duty to be over. Even guards had to sleep sometime.

"Thanks." Chronos answered, while trying his best to hide his unhappiness at the situation. "It seems that rock has brought nothing but bad luck."

The threehorn stopped. "Are you referring to the flying sky rock?"

Both Chronos and Logos stopped. "Why, yes. Yes we are." Logos answered quickly. "It seems that we have had nothing but bad luck since that rock fell. I guess it fell someplace close to here." She answered carefully.

"You can say that again!" The threehorn roared. "Ever since it crashed into the valley things have changed for the worst!"

Logos and Chronos exchanged excited glances. It seemed that they had finally found their stone.

......

The pack had begun to lounge around as they were now completely full after their massive meal. Ruby's father had seemingly collected fish of every color and kind imaginable. Ruby was amazed that so many kinds of fish existed in the river. Let alone the fact that her father could catch them all in one evening. It seemed that he was far more skilled at such things than she ever had known.

"Thank you, Detras!" Littlefoot affirmed. "We haven't eaten like that since..." Upon realizing that they hadn't stuffed themselves like that since they had killed another dinosaur, he decided not to finish that thought fully. "Well, not since a long time ago." He finished.

"Yes, we are very grateful. We are! We are!" Ducky affirmed.

The others muttered their thanks as well, but Detras took it all in stride.

"No need to thank me." He protested. "It is the least I could do for our guests." He then looked at Ruby "...And our daughter."

Pearl decided to step in at this point. "It has been nice to see you all." She stopped for a moment before deciding on how to word her next question. "But what are all of you going to do now? Based upon what you told us, you can't go back to the valley anytime soon."

Littlefoot nodded at this. "That is true. We were actually wondering if you could help us with that..." He trailed off for a moment as he saw that the two fast runners had taken on uncertain expressions. "We know how to get food, but we still have trouble..." He sighed. "We had a lot of trouble when we were getting here. The lands were bare."

Detras stared at Littlefoot for a moment before turning his attention to Ruby. He could read his daughter, regardless of her changed form. He needed a truthful answer to the question that he had in his mind.

Ruby shifted uncomfortably as she was subjected to her father's scrutiny.

"So... You have killed before?"

His question seemed to echo across the pack. Ruby had avoided mentioning their hunt in her explanation to her father. However, it seemed that he had found out her secret. Now it was time to admit her bloody deed.

"Yes, daddy." She looked down as she said this. She couldn't bear to see her father's disapproval.

"Ruby, look at me." She heard her father's words, but was reluctant to follow his command. After a moment she looked up at her father.

Detras looked upon her with a compassionate expression. This perplexed her. Why wasn't daddy angry with her? Why wasn't he disappointed? She could barely bear with her own actions, so why did he have such a muted response.

"Tell me what happened." He said softly. "It obviously hurts you still. Don't keep the hurt deep inside."

Ruby then began to tell her parents everything. She told them about the unstoppable hunger, the growing rage, and the advancing discontent. She told them of the plan that was developed and how they stalked their quarry. She almost broke down when she admitted her role in chasing the longneck to his eventual doom. After it was all said she fell silent and closed her eyes. She awaited her father's rebuke.

She was surprised to feel pressure around her neck.

She opened her eyes. Both of her parents were hugging her tightly. Both of her parents were crying as they embraced their fastbiter daughter. In her relief at their accepting response, Ruby began to cry as well. The family embraced for several moments.

The pack looked at one another uneasily at this display. They were uncertain how to react at this intimate moment between the fast runners and Ruby. They were simply glad that they had reacted with such acceptance.

After a few moments, her parents broke away from Ruby. Each took some time to regain their composure. Ruby was the first to speak.

"You're not mad at me?" Ruby asked in surprise.

Detras responded. "Why would we be, Ruby? You did what you had to do." He shook his head for a moment. "It is never easy to kill and you have punished yourself more than enough." He looked away guiltily. "You experienced true hunger once before, when you stole that egg..." Ruby nodded as he recalled that memory. "And I had to go through something similar when I was younger as well."

Ruby looked surprised as Detras seemed to recall a long-forgotten memory.

"Dear..." Pearl began, as Detras waved her off.

"No, dear. I suppose that I should tell her that tale." He affirmed sadly. "She isn't the only killer in the family."

Several gasps emanated from the pack at this affirmation. Ruby's dad was a killer too?

Detras sighed. "After I left my parents nest I was poorly prepared for independent life." At Ruby's surprised expression, he decided to explain. "Part of the reason that I tried to teach you all that I know, Ruby, is because my parents didn't educate me well at all." He shook his head. "I nearly starved in the month after I left."

Ruby was transfixed by this story. Her father had never told her about his childhood. In fact, anytime the subject came up he would quickly change the subject. She supposed that she now knew why.

"I came across a flyer nest during my terrible journey... And I devoured the helpless younglings in order to satisfy my hunger." He looked up sadly. "I still remember the grief-stricken shrieks of the mother after I fled from the scene."

He then placed a forelimb on Ruby's shoulder. "Fast runners are half-teeth, Ruby, we eat both meat and plant. And sometimes that means that we have to do things that we are not proud of." At Ruby's nod, he continued. "Now that you are a sharptooth, you know this better than most. I can't blame you for being what you must be. Nobody can."

Ruby gave a small smile to her father. "Thanks, daddy."

Detras then looked up at Littlefoot once again. "I am sorry but all of you can't stay here." He looked back at Ruby, who simply nodded in resignation. She had already deduced that would have to be the case. "There isn't enough food here to satisfy a pack of sharpteeth. And I have your brother and sister to think about, Ruby. I have to keep them safe."

Ruby gave her father a knowing, yet sad, smile. "I understand."

"However, I can help you. Have any of you heard about the lowlands?" At the confused expressions of the others, he decided to elaborate on his plan. "There is plenty of food for both sharpteeth and leaf-eaters in the lowlands, but it is far more dangerous for wayward leaf-eaters unless you are in a large herd. Of course, since you are all 'the danger' now."

Littlefoot was interested in this possibility. "Can you tell us where the lowlands are? It sounds like a nice place."

Detras smiled at the former longneck. "Indeed I can. You see... if you turn north at the black pillars..."

......

"I can't believe it!"

Logos had exclaimed her surprise at seeing the Stone of Destiny with her own eyes. The stone was a perfect sphere, about as wide as a small tree is long and black as the night itself. She had always dreamed of this moment since she was a youngling. To see one of the Stones of Destiny with her very eyes... It was impossible for her to describe her emotions at this point.

Chronos, meanwhile, had collapsed to the ground in wonderment. Here was one of the stones that went by many names throughout the galaxy. Some called them the 'Stones of Destiny'. Others called them the 'Scourge of the Ancients'. And others still, the 'gift of the elders'. This stone that had been allocated to this star system, however, was simply referred to as the Stone of Cold Fire by the residents of this planet. If only they knew of its true power. Thankfully, however, its black coloration indicated that it had long since lost its powers. That was a great relief. The danger to the planet had long since past.

"I suppose that it is a special rock." The two rainbowfaces had shuddered at the response as they had forgotten the presence of their companion. Mr. Thicknose had led them to the rock upon their expression of interest in the curious relic. "In fact, you seem to be the only two that care about the rock anymore. Ever since the children..."

Chronos turned his attention away from the stone and looked at the sad elder. "We are sorry for your loss. I... actually met the children that were lost. They were very intelligent younglings."

Mr. Thicknose sighed. "Yes... Yes they were. The days seem lifeless now without children to teach." He shook his head sadly. "I never would have suspected Chomper... He seemed like a nice kid..." He trailed off in his despair, as the two rainbowfaces looked on sadly.

"We are sorry to have bothered you." Logos began. "You have something more important to be concerned about than a rock." She didn't believe her own words, however, as she knew the true nature of the stone.

"It's alright. I suppose that I needed to focus my mind on other things for awhile." He sighed. "We can't change the past, after all."

The large dinosaur then began to walk away from the duo as it was now quite late. He would try to sleep and hope that he was not again haunted by the dreams of those who he could no longer teach. Sometimes a dream that reminds you of what you have lost can be more haunting than the worst nightmare, because the loss will continue to haunt you even after the dream ends.

As he walked away, however, Mr. Thicknose said one last thing to the rainbowfaces.

"There is one thing I never figured out about that stone, though."

Chronos paused for a moment. He had redirected his attention onto the stone. "What is that?"

"When it first fell, its bright blue glow lit up this side of the valley. But after the children were killed it turned black." He shook his head sadly. "It's as if the stone itself mourns for the children."

As the footsteps from the lumbering dinosaur trailed off, the two rainbowfaces looked at one another in horrified silence. The stone has originally glowed like just the old stories had said, but then changed to black? And this had happened only after the children went missing? They both knew that this could only mean one thing.

The children had activated the stone.


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