Chapter 28 Raid on the longneck herd
“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.”
― Martin Luther
Nothing else was said for several moments as the members of each pack slowly took in what had happened. Both of their leaders had agreed to a blood vow. The most sacred of alliances. Neither pack could back out of their obligations, barring mutual assent, without losing face in sharptooth society. Their fates were intertwined now.
Finally after several moments, Littlefoot turned to his pack and gestured for them to meet him in the clearing between the two packs. As Littlefoot's pack began to converge on his position, Skytail gestured for his pack to do the same. Before long all of the ten fastbiters and Chomper were congregating around one another and standing around awkwardly. No one seemed to know how to properly begin to socialize with those who shortly before were their rivals.
Finally, however, the bolder members of each pack decided to take action.
Cera looked towards the other pack and immediately fixated upon the orange form of Taunt. This was the same insufferable dinosaur that had insulted and provoked her during her first week of being a sharptooth. This was the same dinosaur who had intentionally rubbed his scent upon her sleeping place. His smirk and smug demeanor were imprinted upon her mind. However, none of that smugness was visible now. Only stunned silence and confusion. Cera found it refreshing to finally see him on the defensive and this gave her the confidence to make the first move.
"So Taunt." She began. "We meet again..."
Taunt was startled at the yellow fastbiter calling him by name and his scent conveyed that surprise. Cera couldn't contain her smile at his change in demeanor. He had made her feel fear at his pack's show of strength a month before and she was greatly appreciative of the change in roles. Now they were the ones in a dominant position.
"Yes." Taunt answered meekly. "It seems that you beat us at our own game."
Spike spoke up at this. "Someone urinated where I slept. I would hardly call that a game!"
Littlefoot sighed, before trying to restrain Spike's anger. He was still enraged by the insult from the other pack. "Spike, they have apologized and we did get our revenge..."
Spike grunted, but then retreated. "I know. I know. But it still angers me..."
"That is understandable." Skytail offered, before continuing. "You have been more than generous with us by offering us an alliance. We will honor your generosity with good deeds of our own..."
Breeze and Vigilant did not say anything, and were instead observing the exchange in silence. It appeared that despite the formal agreement to ally that there was still lingering misgivings between the packs. This was understandable, of course, as deeds confirmed good intentions, not words. Each of them hoped that these misgivings would eventually dissipate.
Spike paused for a moment, before responding. "Very well... Let's eat... Perhaps that will improve our spirits."
Ducky and Chomper both laughed at this.
"Eating always improve your spirits, Spike. Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky affirmed.
Spike grunted in annoyance, but no venom was in his vocalization. He was very aware that Ducky's words were true.
Scarflank then responded to this line of conversation. "Hmm... Sounds like a fastbiter close to my heart." He then continued his thoughts on the matter. "I agree. Let's eat!"
With laughter and polite conversation resuming between the various members, they all began to migrate towards the dead bodies of the longnecks. In a ceremony that would be recognizable to most other sharptooth packs, their new alliance would again be cemented through the partaking of a joint dinner.
The two packs separated into two mixed groups in the process of dining upon the longnecks. Ducky, Spike, Scarflank, and Vigilant met up to eat the female longneck, whereas the others focused upon the male longneck. However, after nearly half an hour of eating a rather familiar sound greeted Littlefoot's ears.
The sound of flapping wings from some distance away.
Littlefoot cursed himself under his breath. He had forgotten about Petrie, as he had told him to avoid being seen in order to keep up the ruse with the other pack. If he had not been able to secure an alliance with the other pack then he might consider keeping up the subterfuge a bit longer, but as it was... He decided to break the silence.
"Come on down, Petrie... I think that you need to be introduced to the others."
Petrie flew down slowly and landed on Littlefoot's right shoulder. Skytail and Vigilant looked somewhat surprised by the newcomer as they had thought that the entire pack had already assembled. Taunt, however, recognized this flyer from his failed attempt to protect their shelter.
"I remember you! You flew around our home before the others came..." Taunt thought aloud.
Petrie said nothing for a moment, but then replied simply. "Yes. That me."
Taunt then placed a single claw under his chin and thought for a moment. There was no scent trail to indicate where the other sharptooth had traveled in order to find their sleeping areas. The others were also not seen in transit. Perhaps that was because the others weren't responsible..."
"You! You were the one who marked our home!" At Taunt's accusation, the other members of the packs looked over to listen to the conversation. All of the members of Littlefoot's pack knew that their trick had now ran its course. They listened with trepidation as the waited to see how that would affect relations between the packs. "But how?"
Petrie looked towards Littlefoot, being unsure if he should say, but upon Littlefoot's nod he decided to answer. "Me grab stick that all of the others marked. Then me mark your home." As Taunt shook his head in disbelief and Skytail stood wide-mouthed at the simplicity of the plan that had tricked him, Petrie added. "Me scare you good."
All of the assembled sharpteeth stood in complete silence. The only sounds which permeated the scene were the croaking of various amphibians and the buzzing of flying buzzers. Everyone was waiting for something to happen.
That was when Skytail laughed.
Taunt was flabbergasted for a moment. How could the leader of his pack be so flippant and jolly about being showed up by such a simple trick? They had made a solemn vow to a pack that they had believed to be superior to them, whereas the pack in question had simply outsmarted them! However, the more that he thought it about the more sense that it made. This pack may be lacking in experience, but they certainly had some intelligence to them. They had tricked a superior foe in order to avoid a battle and their leader had allied his pack with their foe in order to gain an ally. It was brilliant really... Had they had not been tricked then they would have never made such a diplomatic decision. Now that Taunt thought about the situation, it actually was quite humorous.
As Taunt also began to laugh, the others joined in as well. Finally, after several moments Skytail began to speak again. "So you aren't some amazing scent-less rouges that can strike in the middle of the day... You are just a bit too smart for your own good!"
Littlefoot blinked. He was still unsure whether to take the laughter as a sign of levity or mockery. For that reason, he gave a safe answer that betrayed neither smugness nor fear. "We have been told that, yes."
Skytail continued to smile. "Well, a little wisdom is more important than a lot of strength, or so the old songs say... I still think that we have done well to have you as allies."
Littlefoot looked relieved at Skytail's declaration. Skytail then turned towards the flyer.
"We haven't had many dealings with flyers... They tend to keep with their own." Skytail admitted. "How did you meet up with the others, Petrie?"
Petrie paused for a moment before answering. "Um... Well, it be long story..." He cleared his throat and decided to give a description of how he actually met the gang, minus the details that would be hard to explain. "Mommy and siblings fly away and Petrie couldn't fly. That when Littlefoot and Ducky find Petrie!" Skytail looked surprised. Probably because Skytail was wondering why the other two dinosaurs didn't eat the helpless flyer. He didn't realize that they all were herbivores back then... "We find new home together and find others later!" He answered quickly.
Skytail nodded. "Well, it is nice to meet you, Petrie. Having a flyer should prove quite useful to both packs!" Littlefoot nodded at this as Petrie's worth had been proven many times over since their change. "You can see things that we land-walkers cannot."
Littlefoot affirmed this. "Yes, Petrie has done a lot for all of us." But then, realizing that Petrie was probably quite hungry since he had been absent from the feast, he offered a clawed paw and pointed it at the longneck closest to him. "Go ahead and eat, Petrie! After all, you are the main reason that we are all here together. You must be hungry!"
Petrie gave a grateful nod, before digging into the exposed torso of the dismembered longneck. He was more accustomed to eating ground fuzzies, but he had to admit that land-walkers tasted much better. As he head was now covered in viscera, he realized that he was perhaps a bit hungrier than he had originally suspected. He had skipped two of his meals in order to trick the other pack...
As Petrie began to tear into the longneck, Chomper reflected for a moment. They had accomplished quite a lot in one short day. They had responded intelligently to a challenge by a rival pack, they had turned their rivals into allies, and they had even struck fear into the two egg-stealers that had harassed him during his infancy... Wait! The egg-stealers! In the confusion over the challenge and its aftermath, they had totally forgotten to tell the others about that incident. Now that their new allies were also here this would be an opportune time to bring up the issue.
"Um..." Chomper began. "The food has been getting scarcer around here lately. But we did catch up with some interesting acquaintances today..." With those sentences out of his mouth, Chomper looked at Littlefoot. He was going to let Littlefoot try to explain this one to the others. After all, if it had been up to Chomper then they would be eating egg-stealer right now...
Littlefoot looked a bit apprehensive. "Ah... Yeah..." He then looked towards his pack members and began with his explanation. He figured that they would be harder to convince than the other pack. "We met up with those egg-stealers from when Chomper was born..." He didn't even have a chance to finish the sentence.
"You killed them and you didn't tell us?!" Cera inquired.
Oh crap. Littlefoot thought to himself. This is not going to end well... He looked over to Chomper for a moment, who simply shrugged in response with a slight smirk on his face. Littlefoot had proposed a more diplomatic solution to the egg-stealers, whereas Chomper was still inclined to finish the hunt, albeit with some reservations. As a consequence, Chomper seemed quite content to watch the others berate Littlefoot on his idea. Damn you, Chomper!
Cera noticed the pause and asked. "You let them get away?!"
Littlefoot sighed. "We decided..." Chomper crossed his forelimbs and shook his head. "I decided..." Littlefoot corrected. "That we could get more food if we worked together with them."
"What?!" Cera asked. She was almost too surprised to be enraged. What had that crazy dinosaur gotten them into now? "Who do you plan on allying with next, Littlefoot? Screech and Thud?" She retorted sarcastically. She did not notice Skytail look away uncomfortable or Taunt taking ona morose expression for a moment.
"If we had killed them then they would only feed us for a few days, but if we help them get the longneck eggs then they could feed us for much longer." Littlefoot explained. "One of them is injured and I have their scent. They know that trying to flee will be a fatal mistake."
Cera just stood there stunned and stared at Littlefoot. She didn't even know where to begin. First, their leader had decided to ally the pack with the same dinosaurs that had marked their home. Then, he decides to ally with the egg-stealers who had terrorized them many seasons ago. She then looked in Chomper's direction. He had been the most wronged by those two egg-stealers. Surely he had an opinion about all of this.
"Chomper?" She began. "They tried to eat you as an egg. Why would you agree to this?"
Chomper looked at Cera for a moment. "We will get more food out of this and..." He pondered for a moment, thinking back to the incident itself. "Back then they were just trying to find food. Can we really blame them for that? We have to kill for a living as well."
Cera took a deep breath. She supposed that she couldn't argue with Chomper's logic and if he were willing to put the past aside then she had little argument to not do the same. "Fine! But, don't expect me to be happy about this!"
The other pack was watching this scene play out with a mix of curiosity and amusement. The opposing leader was obeyed, but it seemed that he did permit dissent in the group. This was a rather odd combination, but since he was obeyed it did not convey any weakness to the other pack. Skytail supposed that in order to lead a diverse pack such as Littlefoot's a unique leadership style was probably necessary. Makes me glad that I only have to manage fastbiters! He thought. We are hard enough to manage!
"Cera, I don't suspect they expect you to ever be happy."
Speaking of hard to manage, there was Taunt giving a sarcastic remark to Cera. As Cera took on an aggressive stance and the members of the two packs began to laugh, Skytail knew that Taunt had gotten the desired response.
Cera pointed at the orange fastbiter. "Don't you start, Taunt!"
Deciding to head off a possible retort from Taunt, Skytail then asked. "So... What exactly is the plan?"
Littlefoot smiled, as he gestured for the others to gather around him.
"This is what I had in mind..."
Seven days later - during the New Moon
Strut was walking towards the meeting place where Chomper and the brown fastbiter had instructed them to meet when the moon was no longer visible in the sky. He had been walking slowly in the previous few days, but was now back to full speed. It seemed that his leg was only severely sprained, but no bones were broken. A very fortunate outcome for Strut, as a broken bone in the Mysterious Beyond almost certainly meant death as the injured could not escape from predators.
Ozzy was walking behind his brother as they made their way towards the assigned spot. Normally he would be out ahead of Strut and ranting on and on about what they were about to do. However he was in a much more contemplative mood today. After nearly losing his life the week before, he had begun to reflect upon their situation. They had been wandering for years now after they had been evicted from their herd of egg-stealers. Their parents were on the wrong side of a dominance dispute for the leadership of the herd. In the aftermath of the dispute, Strut and Ozzy had found themselves orphans and abandoned by the herd that had severed as their family for the first ten years of their lives. Ever since that dark day, he had been leading his younger brother through the wilds of the Mysterious Beyond in search of eggs. However, his fixation on that glorious food was another story entirely...
"Do you think that we are close, Ozzy?" Strut asked suddenly, cutting off Ozzy's thoughts. "I don't remember exactly where we were."
Ozzy blinked a few times before responding. "You don't remember?" He asked in incredulity. There was no venom in his voice, just surprise at his brother's lack of remembrance.
"Well, I was kind of more worried about running at the time..." Strut answered flatly.
Ozzy had to chuckle at this. "Yeah... I suppose that is as good reason as any..." He then looked around him for a few moments in order to ascertain his location. "Actually, I think that we are almost there..." He ran ahead for several feet, before stopping. "Yes! Up there is where we met... them..." He spoke the last word in a whisper. He was still uncomfortable about running errands for sharpteeth, but that was preferable to the alternative.
The two brothers then began to sit and wait for the sharpteeth to arrive with their instructions.
Ozzy still couldn't believe it, however. The purple sharptooth from his past had come back to haunt them in a very literal sense. Had he known that that much trouble would ensue from one egg, then he would have left it alone. It seemed that their adversary... and now boss... did have a certain kindness to him, however. He had agreed to let him and Strut live after Ozzy offered his life in exchange for his brother's. The sharptooth had risked himself as an infant to save his longneck friend... Perhaps that deep-seated empathy was there from the beginning?
Ozzy shook his head to clear away that tangled web of thoughts that assaulted his mind. In either case, they were here now. They would have to do their job for the purple sharptooth and his frightening boss, the brown fastbiter. Ozzy had no doubt that he would kill them both if they failed. Ozzy had no idea that Littlefoot was actually the one who was their salvation, whereas Chomper had quite the opposite opinion.
Silence permeated the scene for several moments until they were both greeted by an unseen voice.
"It is time, egg-stealers."
The imperious voice roared in a commanding fashion and both egg-stealers jumped up in response. They could not see the source of the voice, as its owner was obviously in the darkness, but they could hear him well enough. The brown fastbiter had returned.
"Al... Alright. How do you want us to do this?" Ozzy asked in fear.
The voice chuckled slightly. A horrifying and improper sound coming from a sharptooth. The brothers began to tremble. "We will make a diversion. You will know when it happens. That is when you will begin taking the eggs." He paused for a moment. "Our flyer will point out to you where to drop off the eggs. Do you understand?"
Ozzy gave a timid nod in response, whereas Strut offered a muffled "yes."
"Good." The voice stated simply. "We will begin soon..."
And then as suddenly as he had arrived, he was gone. Both brothers looked at one another in dismay. This was it. They had no choice but to do as they were told. The brothers then began to run towards the outskirts of the longneck sleeping areas. The tall grass would give them cover as they waited for the sharpteeth to make their move. It was up to them now...
Petrie examined the scene as he flew over the egg-stashing site. They had found a crevice in the ground that was relatively close by the longneck herd in order to hide the eggs. The idea of hiding the eggs at a relatively close site was the invention of Ruby. Petrie remembered her words quite well.
My dad was hurt when I stole the threehorn egg. But he wouldn't have been injured if he had somewhere to hide it. We need to hide the eggs if we don't want to be hurt!
It was getting quite dark, however, and very soon he would be unable to effectively fly or, more importantly, safely land. This was especially true since the night circle was not out to provide illumination. When that happened it would be up to the others to manage the egg-napping expedition. He hoped that the two egg-stealers would appear soon so that he could give them the sign...
Wait! There they are! Petrie could just begin to see the two tan-colored dinosaurs come into view. He gave a slight squawk and dived towards the ground in a precise manner, before again rising into the sky. He repeated this several times so that the egg-stealers would get the point. Finally, after the third dive, he looked back towards the duo.
He could clearly see the lead egg-stealer nodding in his direction.
Good! They finally get point. Petrie dryly thought.
The flyer then flew back in the direction of the pack's home. His part in the day's activity was finished.
Littlefoot peeked above the tall grass and could see that Petrie was flying back towards the pack's hideout. That meant that the egg-stealers were now aware of the egg-stashing site and that they were ready to begin. With a slight smile on his face, he decided that it was time to give the order.
"All right, guys! Let's do this!"
The others wasted no time in complying with Littlefoot's order. The planning of the diversion had involved every member of the pack and each had contributed their own ideas and suggestions. They had even done a surveillance mission as a group, a first for them as they usually split into smaller groups, and investigated the habits of the herd. That was an oddly communal and relaxing experience for them all. Almost like how they felt as leaf-eaters when they played the sky puffy game... except with far more gruesome consequences. During their surveillance mission they had identified a narrow crevice that would serve quite well as a hiding spot for the stolen eggs, as it was only a few moments away from where the herd slept. They had covered it with twigs and dried grass in preparation for its use by the egg-stealers. After several hours they had also clearly identified the weak points of the herd and the optimal places to strike. They had determined everything except for...
"Attack the leader or the children?"
That question was from Cera. They had not really formalized a specific target in the attack, but rather had only narrowed it down to two possibilities: the Old One or the children. Either one would be sure to rouse the herd and distract attention away from the eggs for a few moments. It all depended on where each target was in the herd. They needed to strike away from the nesting sites, so that the herd members would congregate away from the eggs.
Littlefoot rose again. The large form of the Old One was clearly visible very near where the egg-stealers were supposed to be congregated. That would not do. They would need to strike at the children, who would be closer to the center of the herd.
As soon as the words left his mouth, Littlefoot paled at the implications of what he had said. Just a month ago, he had been forced to kill Rhett in order to feed himself and his pack. At that time the decision to kill had nearly broken him and the others, and the reality of eating the flesh of another dinosaur had changed them beyond recognition. Now he was effortlessly giving orders to the rest of the pack to attack children, including his friend Ali, in order to secure eggs for the pack and their allies. True, he did not plan on completing the attack as it was a diversion, but the implications were eerily similar. He and the rest of the pack had become the sort of thing that they had feared as leaf-eaters. Brutal killers who would even kill children in order to meet their needs.
He shook his head. Lamenting what could not be changed would not fill their bellies, nor would it keep them safe. They had to kill now in order to survive. If the leaf-eaters were stupid enough to let their guard down when the attack came then they deserved what they got... With a hardened resolve, he commenced the attack in an overt and loud fashion. They had to attract as much attention as possible.
Screams emanated from the children who were congregated in the center of the herd. Ali was not anywhere to be seen, Littlefoot noted. Perhaps she was sleeping by her mother instead of with the other children of the herd? In either case, their attack had evoked the desired response. The adults rose up in a flurry of activity and the children proceeded to run towards them. The pack was well away from the children who were congregated in the center of the herd, but rather close to the adults who were congregated in the periphery. They had to get out of here before they got trampled.
"Run around the herd! Keep your distance from the adults!" Littlefoot yelled.
The pack did as they were told, as several of the adults gave chase. With many of the adults forming a circle around the children and several others chasing the pack around the periphery of the herd, the egg-stealers had a prime chance to make their move.
It was up to them now...
"Twelve... Thirteen..." Ozzy intoned as he and his brother dropped their cargo into the crevice set aside for that purpose. The pack's diversion was working wonderfully. They had stolen all seven eggs from one nest and six from another. Their mothers had apparently left to protect their other children in the communal crèche. In protecting their firstborns they had unknowingly sacrificed their unborn.
"Let's get some more, Strut! We are doing well today!" Ozzy bragged in a triumphant fashion. They had never had this much luck when they searched for eggs as a pair. Perhaps working with sharpteeth wasn't that bad...
"But what if they see us, Ozzy? Surely we have enough?" Strut meekly asked. He was glad to see his brother so happy. However, he feared that their luck could come to an end. The hiding spot for the eggs was large enough to secure eggs and hide them from prying eyes, but they would not be effective at hiding dinosaurs. If they were caught in the open then they wouldn't stand much of a chance.
"Two more, Strut!" His brother encouraged. "Then we can call it a day!"
Strut sighed, but deferred to his brother's wishes. "Ah... Okay, Ozzy."
Strut supposed that his brother may have a point with his fanatical drive to catch eggs this time. They simply had to get enough to feed the pack, however large that may be. Strut gulped at that thought. Hopefully their catch would be enough. Otherwise they might be on the menu in the place of the missing eggs...
"Hurry up, Strut!" Ozzy hissed silently. "We need to hurry before the longneck's notice us!"
Strut snapped out of his thoughts. He had to focus on what he was doing.
"Right, Ozzy!" He answered.
Ozzy nodded. "Let's go!"
The pack was running as fast as they could away from the longneck who was trailing them. He was not nearly as fast as the sharpteeth, but he was quickly tiring them out. Fastbiters were made for speed, but not endurance. And when the situation of Chomper was factored into the equation. Well...
"Littlefoot..." Chomper sucked in a breath. He was clearly exhausted. "I think it's time..."
Littlefoot looked back quickly and saw that Chomper was exhausted. It was time to bring the mission to a close.
"Right." Littlefoot affirmed. "We will lead him away, Chomper. You run back home."
With that Littlefoot gave a downward gesture with his forelimbs and the pack slowed somewhat. This gave Chomper the opportunity to outrun the pack in his trek home. The longneck then refocused his attention on the remaining members of the pack who, were from his perspective, threatening the children of the herd. The fastbiters could easily outrun him, however.
"Now we finish!" Littlefoot declared. This meant that they all had set instructions to follow now that they had planned during the days before this hunt. "Ruby? Cera?" Littlefoot checked to make sure that they were ready.
"Right!" They both declared nearly simultaneously.
With a sudden flurry of speed, both fastbiters broke away from the pack at great velocity. They were running in the fastest sprint they could muster. Their mission was to recall the egg-stealers while the rest of the pack ran at a slower speed so as not to alert the longneck following them to the existence of the egg-stealers. If the egg-stealers were discovered then the entire plan could backfire.
Suddenly a panicked scream emanated from up ahead.
"Egg-stealers! They are stealing the eggs!"
"Oh crap!" Littlefoot yelled. He could see Cera and Ruby make exasperated head gestures in front of him. No doubt they were having the same thought that he was. He now had two choices. He could abandon the egg-stealers to their fate and simply reclaim the eggs from the hiding spot later... Or he could help out his minions. A momentary battle raged in the mind of the former longneck. He knew full well that he owed the egg-stealers nothing because the demands that he had placed upon them were simply reparations for the wrongs that they had committed against him and Chomper so long ago, but despite that he couldn't shake his sense of personal responsibility. He had made an agreement with them and they had honored their side of the bargain. It did not matter to Littlefoot that they were coerced into honoring the arrangement, the fact that an agreement was made was sufficient to make him feel ethically responsible. He would help the egg-stealers, but he would not endanger the rest of his pack in the process.
"Everyone go home!" He gave the evacuation order. At his call all of the members of the pack, including Cera and Ruby, turned towards home and sprinted.
He would do this alone.
"Run!" Strut yelled, as the two egg-stealers fled from the advancing herd.
It had all started with a misstep from Ozzy. He had grabbed another egg, but then tripped over a twig in his haste. The sound of the falling orb cracking on the rocky soil was enough to alert the nearby longnecks. It seemed that they had pushed their luck too far and now they were about to pay for their mistake.
"Get them!" A large male longneck yelled. That was Brako, the same hot-headed longneck that had chased Littlefoot during his scouting run on the herd over a month before. Now, however, his forceful attack was entirely justified. He had identified the true threat to the herd while many of the others were still fixated upon the diversion. Many of the other herd members, including the mothers with eggs, were now sprinting towards the hapless duo. They were quickly gaining on them.
"They're too fast!" Ozzy screamed. "Where can we hide?!"
That was when they heard the sound of crashing grass immediately beside them. It was the brown fastbiter!
"Follow me and hurry!" Littlefoot screamed.
The two egg-stealers wasted no time in following their would-be savior into the unknown depths of the tall grass. This provided them with some cover, but not much, as the tall longnecks could still see the trail that they made in the vegetation. The longnecks were still gaining on them. It would be over very soon...
Suddenly the sound of growls and roars rose from some distance away.
"Sharpteeth! Guard the children!" Littlefoot heard the Old One bellow from far away. Brako, who was leading the group chasing the trio, stopped giving chase for a moment as he was uncertain what to do. Should he continue to chase these egg-stealers or help confront the sharpteeth?
The angry mothers were not so conflicted, however. They were still in a rage at losing their precious unborn children. Children who would more than likely never even have a chance to hatch now. "Keep after the egg-stealers!" One of them yelled. "My babies!" Another lamented at her lost eggs. At their prompting, he resumed his chase...
Littlefoot recognized those roars. It was from Skytail's pack! They were not supposed to be part of tonight's mission, although Littlefoot had alerted them of it in advance. They must have honored their alliance when they discovered that their counterparts were in trouble. Littlefoot smiled. Skytail was as good as his word. It seemed that he had chosen well in making this pack allied with his.
"Way to go, guys!" Littlefoot whispered under his breath. They may have just given them the chance that they needed in order to escape. The longnecks were still hot on their tails, but the distance between them had widened. Perhaps just enough to reach the safety of the pack's cave. That was if the two egg-stealers could keep up...
"Hurry up!" Littlefoot yelled. "We're almost there!"
"Perhaps we should go get him! Otherwise something else might get him!"
Ruby and the others were huddled in their cave as Littlefoot had directed. They had run all the way to the cave itself before realizing that their leader was not with them. They had begun to suspect that he may have returned for the egg-stealers, although they were split on whether they should violate his orders and search for him or not. This resulted in the argument that they were having right now.
"But he told us to go home. He did. He did." Ducky replied.
"We know that he is faster than the egg-stealers." Spike mentioned. "Even if they get crushed, Littlefoot can escape."
"But we have to help him!" Chomper yelled. With the possibility of Littlefoot being injured, his mannerisms returned to that of an over-excitable child. He couldn't bear the possibility of something happening to Littlefoot.
"I am sure that he will be fine, Chomper." Cera replied. "But perhaps Petrie should fly? Maybe you could see something?"
Petrie shook his head. "It too dark. Me will not see anything."
Ruby placed her paw on her chin in a ponderous expression. "Well maybe we could..."
She then paused as she and the others could hear the sounds of... something... outside. As they were in a cave, the sound lacked the clarity that it would have in an open environment. Only the low-pitched sounds from the outside reverberated through the ground into the cave. It made a very distinct sound.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
"Oh, I don't like-ed the sound of that!" Ducky lamented. She didn't know what that was but she knew that it probably wasn't good.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
"I agree. It doesn't sound... OOF!!!"
Ruby's words were cut off as suddenly a brown fastbiter landed right on top of her. It was Littlefoot! Perhaps she shouldn't have sat so close to the cave's narrow entrance?
"Where did he go? Ahhh!!!"
The two egg-stealers then fell through the opening and landed on the two dinosaurs. Rolling off of them, they eventually came to rest beside a rather familiar purple sharptooth. There was silence for a moment until the entire earth seemed to shake.
The entire cave began to lurch violently as some of the loose rocks on its low ceiling began to crumble and fall. The small rocks and dust on the ground of the cave also began to rise and fall with the sudden movement. Initially the dinosaurs thought it was an earthshake, something that they had experienced little of since they had left the valley, but a new sound made it very clear that it was not an earthshake causing the violent movement.
It was the anguished mothers of the captured eggs. They could not enter the cave where the pack had taken refuge, nor could they probably see its exact entrance. But nonetheless, they were taking out their grief and anger on the ground where they saw their tormentors fall. Their children were gone and there was nothing that they could do about it. After a few moments, they could hear some more commotion outside of the cave.
"If you wouldn't have stopped, we could have got them!"
"I am terribly sorry... But the children..."
It seemed that the mothers had turned their aggression onto something else. The pack then heard the sounds of loud footsteps running, which seemed to get weaker and weaker as their creators fled from the scene.
After a few moments of silence, Littlefoot looked up at the members of the pack. Spike, Ducky, and Cera looked surprised, whereas Ruby looked outright angry, with both of her forelimbs clinched against her sides. Chomper, meanwhile, had an expression of poorly restrained irritation. Littlefoot could almost predict Chomper's thoughts at this very moment. First you save them even though I told you we should eat them... and now you risk your life to save them? He would definitely have to talk to Chomper a bit more later.
Ozzy then spoke, looking up at the irritated purple sharptooth. "I never thought I would be happy to see your face!" He then laid his head down, obviously trying to regain his bearings after his desperate flight from danger and violent crash. It was probably for the best that he did not see Chomper's facial expression after Ozzy spoke those words...
Littlefoot then smiled, deciding that he should probably be the one to break the silence. After all, he was going to hear the pack's complaints and disagreements anyway...
"So... That could have gone better!" Littlefoot affirmed.
Most of the others groaned in response. They had achieved their objectives, but at great risk to themselves. It went without saying that if they had many more incidents like the one of that night, then their lifespans would be rather short. They needed to make adjustments in their strategy if they were to survive.
There was also the matter of Littlefoot's actions as of late...
With the leader's response providing tacit approval for discussion amongst the pack, a yellow fastbiter came forward to speak her peace on the subject.
"Let me tell you what I think..."