The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 2 The Seven Friends

“It's dreadful what little things lead people to misunderstand each other.”― L.M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest

Much to Littlefoot's relief, he was spared a repeat of the night's dream. Instead he slept until the next morning after a mostly dreamless sleep. The darkness of night matching the inner darkness from his lack of consciousness. As the bright circle lifted in the sky, however, so did the haze of sleep. The darkness of night had yielded to the illumination of the morning. Neither Littlefoot nor the other residents of the valley could have known that a most important day had begun.

Littlefoot opened his eyes and immediately closed them as the bright sunlight assaulted them.

"Time to get up, Littlefoot," his grandmother called to him, "The bright circle is rising."

Littlefoot gave a mighty yawn before laying his forelimbs firmly on the ground ahead of him. Stretching, he slowly arose to his full quadruped stance and struggled to keep his eyes open.

"It is morning already?" Littlefoot inquired in a fatigued manner, "I had just fallen asleep."

"It probably seems like that, young one, because of your sleep story last night," Grandma advised, "The bad sleep story didn't trouble you further, did it, Littlefoot?"

"No, Grandma," Littlefoot replied. "...thank goodness," he then muttered to himself.

"Well then," Grandpa Longneck began, "It is time for breakfast I do believe." He then raised his long neck to a nearby tree and began to shake the highest branches. A torrent of tree stars then began to fall from the sky. His slumber soon forgotten, Littlefoot excitedly approached the downpour of leaves. After the dreams of starvation and misery from the night before, he was more than ready for the first meal of the young day.

Littlefoot then began to devour the tree stars that had fallen. His mouth still full of green food, Littlefoot gave a muffled, "Thanks, Grandpa!" before continuing his frantic meal.

Grandpa Longneck laughed at the display. "Slow down, Littlefoot! I don't think that the tree stars are going to run away!" he half-heartedly chided before continuing his own morning meal with his mate.

At this prompting, Littlefoot slowed down the pace of his meal ever so slightly. Despite his heavy appetite on this morning, Grandpa Longneck had provided a more than sufficient meal for the young sauropod. As a result his hunger was dissipating nearly as quickly as it had arrived.

As his sleepiness lifted and his hunger was being satiated, Littlefoot's mind began to wander as the minds of youngsters so often do. Inevitably, his thoughts turned back to the previous night's sleep story.

How does Chomper actually feel around us? Was one of the most prominent thoughts rolling in the young longneck's mind. He obviously likes meat, but how strong is that hunger? This was something that each member of the gang had confronted in their own minds previously concerning Chomper, and this certainly was not the first time that the thought had entered Littlefoot's mind, but the sleep story had made this particular question stand out very clearly.

This led to the appearance of other questions, most unpleasant questions, which not even Cera in one of her more spiteful moods would dare broach openly. Did Chomper ever hunt before?

Littlefoot knew that Chomper had eaten meat before. Obviously, his parents had provided him with the necessities of his kind while he was under their care on the island. But did Chomper ever kill before? Littlefoot did not know if the answer to the question would make him think differently of Chomper or not, as it was a necessity that Chomper would have to begin hunting one day. However, Littlefoot could not wrap his mind around the full implications of such a reality. How difficult would it be to speak leaf-eater, be friends with leaf-eaters, and then to occasionally kill other leaf-eaters? By accepting Chomper when he hatched and teaching him to be friends with leaf-eaters had they actually cursed him with future agony?

Littlefoot noticed the dark turn that his thoughts had taken and quickly shook his head. He would get nowhere asking questions to himself when only Chomper could actually answer them. He resolved that one day he would need to talk to Chomper about such matters. However doing so would be no easy task.

What am I suppose to say to him? "Hey, Chomper, I have a question. Have you ever killed another longneck like me for food?" I am sure that would go over well. He thought sarcastically. Or perhaps I should tell him: "How did you sleep Chomper? Oh, that's great. I just had a sleep story where you ate me."

Littlefoot looked at the sky and noticed that the bright circle had continued its ascent. He sighed and attempted to clear his mind. He could think about such things later. If he didn't hurry then surely his friends would wonder where he has gone to.

"Thanks for breakfast! I am going to play with my friends," he called to his grandparents.

"Okay, Littlefoot. Have fun and be safe!" came the usual response.

Littlefoot was then faced with the dilemma of who to find first. The nesting area of Petrie's family was on a high bluff, so Petrie was out of the question. Likewise, the nesting area of the swimmers was the farthest away from where he and his grandparents usually rested, so Spike and Ducky were out. The threehorns were relatively close, but if Mr. Threehorn was in a bad mood...

I will get Ruby and Chomper first, Littlefoot resolved in his mind as he bounded into the grassland that would eventually take him to the Secret Caverns, with Chomper's sniffer we should have no trouble tracking the others down.

Unfortunately for Littlefoot, he did not see the red eyes staring at him from the bushes nearby.

......

Elsewhere in the valley, a family of hadrosaurs was sleeping peacefully in a small clearing beside a gently flowing stream. This was not a normal family of hadrosaurs, however, as it included both a young stegosaurus whom the others considered family and the brave little one who had accepted him so long ago. The gentle swaying of the trees and tranquil flow of the water testified to the serenity of the scene. The abject darkness of the moonless night had subsided into the gradual brightening of dusk, and soon the family would awaken from their slumber to greet the new day.

However, one of the members awoke early on this day.

Spike grunted and slowly opened his eyes. Not even attempting to stifle an emerging yawn, he blinked a few times and took in the scene around him. It was still dusk, he noted. The earliest rays of the emerging sun were beginning to show themselves over the eastern skies. If Spike were able to see color, he would have noted that the greenish hues of the valley's plants were beginning to become visible out of the colorless cloak of the night. As it was, however, he was taking in the bountiful smells of the waking valley. His well-honed sense of smell, second only to Chomper and Ruby, picked up the symphony of plant smells arising from the westerly winds.

"Mmmm... Tree sweets and tree stars," Spike noted out of the confusing tangle of smells.

"Perhaps I should have an early breakfast today? Spike continued, I usually take longer to eat than the others; maybe I can get an early start today?

Spike took a long look back at his family. Ducky appeared to still be sleeping peacefully. Thinking it best not to disturb her, and carefully avoiding waking his brothers and sisters, Spike made his way out of the nest in search of an early morning meal.

......

Littlefoot continued to advance through the lush valley. He was reflecting upon the huge size of the valley and how long it sometimes took for all of the gang to get together after their morning meals. Perhaps we should set up a meeting point for all of us, he thought to himself, although that would probably lead to an argument. Everyone will want it to be close to their own nests. He and the gang had complained about all of the arguing that the adults did on many occasions, but they could be just as argumentative at times. He immediately thought of Cera when he made that last thought. And some of us are more argumentative than others!

Chuckling to himself at that last thought, he turned to follow the stream which would lead him toward the direction of the Secret Caverns. He had seen no sign of Chomper, which was odd as he was usually out searching for breakfast at this time of morning. Surely he has gotten up by now, Littlefoot thought, Otherwise he is going to have to search for buzzers while the rest of us are playing games!

He began to move at a brisk pace as the Secret Caverns came into view. However, that was when something caught his attention.

Crack!

Littlefoot looked around cautiously. "Hello? Is anyone there?" Not seeing anyone, he shook his head and continued on his way.

However, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. That was when the words from the night before reentered his thoughts.

Instincts. Instincts are those feelings that guide us.

Right now my instincts are telling me that I am being followed, Littlefoot thought, Perhaps I should listen to my instincts and see where they take me.

He looked at some of the bushes to his right and couldn't see anything of interest. Likewise there were no interesting smells or sounds in his immediate vicinity. He then began to turn around to examine the bushes on the other side of him.

Roar!

Littlefoot screamed and jumped in the air as he prepared to bolt from the area. How could a sharptooth get into the valley unnoticed? Was his nightmare from the previous night about to come true?

He took a tentative look behind him as he began to run and saw...

"Chomper! That wasn't funny!" Littlefoot exclaimed.

Chomper laughed. "You should have seen the look on your face!"

Littlefoot looked at him disapprovingly. He would have let such a prank slide before, but his recent dream had made him far more apprehensive about such behavior. "I know you were just playing, Chomper, but many of the adults would not," Chomper began to look penitent at Littlefoot's reprimand, "Especially if they heard me screaming afterwards. How would Mr. Threehorn have reacted if he saw this?"

Chomper looked frightened for a moment before looking down at the ground.

"I'm sorry, Littlefoot. I just wanted to play a prank on you." Chomper looked quite sad at this point. Littlefoot began to regret being so harsh on the little biter. "I didn't mean anything by it," Chomper concluded.

Littlefoot sighed. "I know, Chomper, and I am not mad. But you have to be careful. I don't want you to be hurt over a misunderstanding."

Chomper looked to be in better spirits at this point and actually cracked a small smile, "Thanks, Littlefoot. I guess I have to be more careful."

From a distance, a pair of blue eyes had watched the touching scene. Ruby had left the cave that she and Chomper called home in order to check on the little sharptooth. He was supposed to be under her watch, but he had a tendency to go venturing out before she had an opportunity to rise in the morning. She had finally caught sight of Littlefoot heading towards the caverns when she saw a flash of purple behind a bush. She had rolled her eyes at the scene. Chomper was up to his old tricks again. However, Littlefoot's display lifted her spirits somewhat. It was nice to see that someone else had a watchful eye over her charge even when she was not present to look after him.

The young oviraptor smiled at the display and began to leave the boulder upon which she had been sitting. It was time to greet her friends.

"Hello, my friends! My friends, hello!" she called and looked at Chomper with an unreadable expression, "I have been looking for you everywhere, Chomper. What have you been doing?"

Chomper's face went through an amusing display of emotions before he answered. "Uh... I got some breakfast and then I found, Littlefoot," he finished with a toothy grin.

Ruby gave a knowing smile and said, "I heard a roar, so I knew that you found something." Chomper's face fell at the realization that he had been caught red-handed by his caregiver. "Make sure that you keep Littlefoot's words in mind, Chomper. Remember what happened when we met Rhett? That could have been bad. Bad it could have been."

Chomper nodded and said, "Yes, Ruby."

Ruby looked up from the chastised youngling and asked, "What are we doing today, Littlefoot?"

Littlefoot replied, "I am not sure. You two are the first ones that I have talked to so far. I guess that we should go find the others."

Chomper exclaimed, "I can track them down with my sniffer!" He then spoke boastfully, "Nothing escapes from my sniffer."

Littlefoot laughed at his friend's antics and said, "Sounds good, Chomper. Lead the way."

......

Spike had decided to follow the stream in search of the tree sweets that had caught his attention earlier. Along the way he munched on the shrubs and branches that he came across. By the time that he had crossed half of the distance to the roaring falls the sun had begun to peak across the horizon, giving rise to a magnificent sunrise that illuminated the entire valley.

Upon briefly admiring the sunrise, Spike noticed a slightly pungent scent to his left. Looking in that direction, he noticed the hulking form of Cera's father, who was talking to someone. Spike was accustomed to finding plants using his sniffer, but locating valley residents was a rather new phenomenon for him.

It seems that Chomper's lessons on how to use my sniffer are helping me more than I realized, Spike thought as he suddenly became aware of the annoyed yellow threehorn to his side, I see that Cera is awake already.

It was times like this that Spike wished that he could speak like the others. It was true that Ducky generally understood his motivations, Spike could adequately communicate his emotions, and that he could understand the rest of the gang, but it was annoying to be unable to convey his thoughts in the same manner as the others. Spike supposed that he could communicate his gratefulness to Chomper through some gesture. If Chomper was a leaf-eater then perhaps Spike could offer him some tree sweets to show his appreciation, but of course that was not the sort of thing that Chomper would enjoy...

Spike shook his head. There was no need to think about matters that could not be changed. He decided to proceed onward to the tree sweets that were now clearly in view.

There was a problem, however. Even the lowest tree sweets were far too high for Spike to reach! Perhaps Cera would be kind enough to ram the tree and knock some off for him?

Cera then stormed off from her nesting site without a word. She was obviously upset over something.

On second thought, perhaps these tree sweets will have to wait for another day.

Spike sighed. He then decided to follow Cera from a distance. He knew that their usual fun and games would be starting soon.

......

Several moments later, with Chomper's assistance, the rest of the gang had been tracked down. They had all congregated near the nesting area of the swimmers and were debating what game to play.

"Well now that we are all here what are we going to play?" Cera asked impatiently.

"I vote for Swimmer and Splasher. Yep, yep, yep," Ducky exclaimed.

Spike gave an affirmative grunt and nodded his approval for that game as well.

"Me don't know. We play that yesterday," Petrie pointed out, "Run and Hide instead?"

Murmurs of agreement followed from the gang. It seemed that a consensus had formed on what game to play. Littlefoot groaned silently to himself as memories of what happened in his sleep story came flooding into his mind.

Chomper grew quite excited at this idea. "Yes! Can I start as the chaser?"

"Sure, why not?" Cera affirmed without enthusiasm. She then looked at Littlefoot who seemed to be off in his own world. He was staring in her direction, but he appeared to be staring at nothing. "What is your problem, Littlefoot?"

Littlefoot snapped out of his thoughts. "Huh? Oh, I just had trouble sleeping last night. Sorry about that."

Littlefoot then joined the others in scattering and finding their own hiding spaces.

Ruby sought out a nearby bush to hide behind. She figured that this would give her a chance to run away in the event that Chomper found her. Cera decided to hide between two trees that were surrounded by high grass. Petrie had the same idea, but instead hid within a hollow in one of the trees. Spike hid in an area of high grass, whereas Ducky hid in a depression by the stream.

Meanwhile, Littlefoot was having some difficulty finding a suitable hiding place. He was being haunted by memories of the sleep story where he had no success finding an effective hiding place.

Should I hide behind those boulders or find somewhere else?

"Alright, here I come!" Chomper exclaimed.

Seeing how he was out of time, Littlefoot threw himself behind a fallen log that resided in a nearby forest. He hoped that this hiding spot would have more success than what he experienced in his sleep story.

After shouting out his warning to the six hiders, Chomper opened his eyes.

Chomper absolutely loved this game. In fact, he preferred it to all of the other games that the gang played. If he were to have thought about it, however, he would have had to admit that he greatly preferred being the "chaser" to being the "hider" in the game. The hiding portion was so utterly dull, in his opinion. It was simply a period of time to wait until you could be the chaser again.

Closing his eyes again for a moment, Chomper took in a deep breath. In the process, he took in an impossibly complex symphony of smells. If any of the gang had asked him to describe it at that moment, he would have been at a loss in how to put it into words. The leaf-eater language simply did not have the vocabulary to describe the olfactory beauty that sharpteeth experienced every day.

At the very moment he took in that breath, he smelled the individual scents of every single member of the gang. Some scents were lighter, others stronger, but he could have come back to that very spot hours later and still have been able to identify that the gang had been present there earlier in the day. He could smell the swimmer family some distance away. He could identify each of Ducky's brothers and sisters by age, sex, and emotional state. They were all currently happy, which was not a surprise. He could also smell a multitude of other scents that he had no context for, such as that Mr. Thicknose had a stomach ailment, that the sweet bubbles from a nearby tree were about to become overripe, and the threehorns were about to enter mating season. He could even smell his own scent and the hint of excitement and anticipation that it currently conveyed.

But none of that was relevant right now, because he had a game to play.

He took in a second breath and narrowed his focus to the six odors that represented the gang.

The scents of Littlefoot, Cera, and Ruby were quite strong, whereas the scents of the others were much weaker. He took in another breath and was able to determine that both Littlefoot and Cera were upwind. Looks like I am going for Cera and Littlefoot this time. He thought to himself. Chomper noticed that Ruby had gotten quite good about moving downwind of his sniffer. I guess she had to be cautious in the Mysterious Beyond, He concluded, fast runners can't exactly rely on the protection of a herd, after all.

He began to trot in the general direction that the scents were emanating from. Ah, it is great to be hunting again, he thought to himself before immediately chiding himself for the thought, this is only a game. I am not hunting. These are my friends. It disturbed him sometimes how his instincts contradicted his intent. He wondered how the others would feel if they knew how his mind worked. He then pushed those thoughts out of his mind. Nothing could be done about it, and, besides, it was only his actions that mattered. He could easily control his instincts just like he had done in the past.

As he got closer to the two hiders he began to pick up nuances of their scent that he had neglected to notice earlier. Cera had a hint of irritation in her odor. Perhaps she is upset over something? A disagreement with her father, perhaps? Littlefoot, on the other hand, had a rather unusual scent about him. Confusion? Apprehension? Surely my prank didn't scare him that much! Chomper thought to himself, Perhaps I should talk to him later?

He was getting quite close now and accordingly began to rely more on visual cues. Okay Chomper, do we see anything out of the ordinary? He carefully looked over the scene that lay ahead of him.

To his back and to his left lay a multitude of trees, but, since none of those had the tell-tale scent of his two targets, he put those out of his immediate focus. In front of him lay several large trees and grass that rose to around half of his height. To his right lay a stream with a few conspicuous boulders scattered around its edges.

He took a closer look at the grass. It seemed to be flowing with the wind and did not exhibit anything out of the ordinary.

Wait a moment.

Chomper did a double-take and noticed that several of the blades of grass had moved suddenly against the direction of the wind. Taking another breath, he was able to determine whose scent was stronger in that direction.

Hello, Cera!

Chomper made a toothy grin. The chase was about to begin.

......

They are being so unfair! Cera thought to herself as she lay in her hiding place, I can't believe that I have to watch Tricia all day tomorrow. Why couldn't they watch her for at least half of the day?

Cera had long since made peace with the fact that Tria was her step-mother and that she had to watch her half-sister on occasion as she was the elder sister. But the recent behavior of Tria and her father really put her off. They had never asked her to watch her for an entire day before. That would leave her with no time for her friends!

Both of them are acting like they have just met, but they have been together for two Cold Times! she thought to herself, What is up with those two?

She then reflected on the fact that she had not really been focused on the game or any of her friends' discussions today. I guess that I shouldn't take it out on my friends, but it just makes me so mad!

Cera sighed.

How could this day get any worse?

Roar!

......

Cera ran out of the grass and straight into the forested area that was behind Chomper.

Chomper was surprised by her unorthodox escape method and dove after Cera as she approached to his side. However, he just missed touching her leg.

Darn, Chomper thought, this has not started well.

Cera did not gain much of a lead on Chomper, however, as he immediately got up on his two strong hind legs and began to chase after the yellow threehorn. He was not too terribly discouraged by this turn of events. Leaf-eaters were so predictable when they tried to run away.

Cera barreled through the forest, only changing her course when necessary to avoid colliding with a tree.

This is what I get for not paying attention! she fumed to herself.

She looked behind her and found no sign of Chomper. Good! I lost him. However, while she did this she was not looking where she was going. Consequently, she did not see the fallen log in front of her.

The sudden crash into his hiding spot sent Littlefoot into a panic. What was that?

"Ah!" Cera screamed as she tumbled to the ground.

Cera slowly shook herself off and began to rise from her prone position, when she heard the sound of moving feet.

Darn it! Cera thought. She placed most of her weight on her back limbs and prepared to leap over the log and continue her escape. However, Chomper had other ideas.

Oh no you don't! Chomper thought. He then leaped in order to tag Cera and make her the chaser. As the threehorn began to leap above the log and the little sharptooth began to fly through the air, each misjudged their jumps. As a result, Chomper's forelimb made contact with Cera's tail right before he came crashing into the ground where her body used to be.

"Ow!" Cera exclaimed, "What do you think that you are doing, sharptooth?!"

Chomper was slow to get up. The crash into the ground had knocked the air out of him. He slowly shook himself off and began to rise to his full height.

"Huh?" Chomper asked.

"You scratched my tail with your claws!" Cera raged, "Have you forgotten that you're playing a game and not getting dinner?!"

Chomper looked horrified at the small amount of blood on Cera's tail. "It was an accident, I swear!" The little biter affirmed, "I... uh... missed... That is all."

"A likely story," Cera said dismissively.

Littlefoot, upon realizing what had happened, had left his hiding spot.

"Cera, you know Chomper did it by accident!" Littlefoot began.

"Cera! Lunchtime," the booming voice of Mr. Threehorn echoed through the valley. Cera took the opportunity to turn heel and walk away without saying another word.

But it was an accident... Chomper thought to himself. First, his attempt at playing a joke earlier had backfired. Now, his attempt at playing a game had lead to accusations of misconduct. At this point he was even beginning to question his own motivations. Am I losing control over myself?

"Chomper, Cera is just mad about the scratch," Littlefoot spoke reassuringly, "it was just an accident; don't feel too bad."

At this point in time, Ruby began to walk through the forest. She was entirely unaware of what had just transpired.

"Chomper, it is time to eat! The time to eat it is! We can start playing again later," Ruby called.

Chomper began to leave the forest in order to search for food. A glum, downtrodden expression rested upon his face.

He passed Ruby without a word, leaving a very confused fast runner and a concerned longneck in his wake.


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