The Seven Hunters

Chapter 34 Search for the parents

"There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child." ― Henry Ward Beecher

"Sharpteeth!"

"Run!"

"Stay together, everyone! We have to guard the..."

"Fastbiters!"

"Ahhhhh!!!"

"Run dear!"

"Fiona! No!"

"Someone help!"

Pterano awoke in a panic. He breathed heavily in shallow gasps until the bitter, metallic taste of adrenaline left his mouth. It was that dream. That same dream. Ever since his failure to safely lead the dinosaurs that had trusted in him so long ago, he had been haunted with their likeness nearly every time that he slept. At times he could sleep and the bad sleep stories would be held at bay, or at the very least would be short in duration. However, there were times when events would remind him of his failure and the horrific sounds and images would return to him. This was one of those times.

He sat up with his wings curled around him in an almost infantile manner as he attempted to catch his bearings again. As he finally began to regain control over his emotions, and the shaking of his wings and limbs subsided, he could finally focus on what had caused his worst sleep story in recent memory.

Petrie.

Had he really heard what he remembered from the night before? His intellect and memories both told him that he had indeed heard the small sharpbeak identify himself as Petrie and say things that only his nephew would have known. However, his emotions were rebelling at the possibility. It's ludicrous. Pterano mused to himself. Perhaps my exile has finally begun to turn me mad?

Pterano had suffered mentally from his isolation in the Mysterious Beyond. When he had first left the united herd after his failure during the great journey, he had filled his time trying to fulfill his ambitious plans. As long as he could tell himself that he was not at fault, that he was the great leader that he thought he was, then he could keep the guilt at bay. Finally he had found two useful minions, Rinkus and Sierra, who were willing followers in his plan to capture the recently fallen Stone of Cold Fire. He was so blinded by his own sense of grandeur that he did not notice that the two flyers were playing him for a fool. Pterano had an amazing ability to sway other people with his words and mannerisms, but his own arrogance was his downfall. When one played him with flattery he was just as gullible as those who followed him. After the first 'Stone of Cold Fire' turned out to be a useless rock and he was exiled, he was again faced with his inner demons, but now he could no longer distract himself with illusions of greatness. He had to accept his faults and live with the aftermath. As a result, the bad sleep stories were his constant companion in his lonely existence.

Pterano shook himself. I need to find that flyer... Petrie. He allowed himself for a moment to believe that the visitation last night was true and not simply some hallucination produced by his haunted mind. Then I can get to the bottom of this. The flyer then jumped off of the branch with both wings outstretched. He was airborne within seconds.

As he flew past the tall trees which his new herd had called home for some weeks, he allowed his mind to continue to wander. What if his vision from the night before actually happened? What then? His nephew would have been changed beyond all reckoning and be unable to return to this old life. In a way Petrie would be existing in an exile just like Pterano was, albeit one based upon biology as opposed to punishment. It is just a flight of fancy, anyway. Pterano tried to convince himself. It had happened in your own head, Pterano you fool! Leaf-eaters do not change into sharpteeth! Nonetheless, his intellect was telling him something different despite his internal pleading to the contrary.

It was still relatively dark out. The bright circle was just beginning to rise above the horizon and conditions were only now becoming suitable for flight. Nonetheless, Pterano could see well enough to spot the various slumbering dinosaurs on the ground below. He would be able to see the seven sharpteeth if the vision from the night before truly occurred. The only question was: where would a pack of sharpteeth hide in a place like this? It would obviously have to be someplace with a good vantage point over the rest of the area. Sharpteeth were quite keen, Pterano found, at maintaining an elevated position. Likewise, if it was a pack of children then they probably wanted a somewhat camouflaged position in order to avoid larger predators. Such place would be like...

Like that.

Pterano could see a large area of very dense foliage atop a small hill. Such an area would provide cover for the children while they slept and would also provide a spot for Petrie to perch. Lowering his altitude, Pterano decided to fly by the curious formation in order to get a closer look.

The thicket of trees which covered the hill made any sort of detailed observation next to impossible. What the interlocking branches and limbs partially obstructed from view was completely blotted from observation by the green leaves. If only there was something that stood out. Pterano thought morosely. The flyer then began to criticize himself. Perhaps he had only dreamed about the weird sharptooth flyer. You're wasting your time Pterano. You're really beginning to lose it. He considered turning back, but that was when he saw it. A small patch of brown.

It was the flyer. The same flyer from last night.

He was perched, still asleep, on one of the numerous limbs that extended from the confusing tangle of trees. From that perch he could obviously see the land around the 'pack' and alert them to any approaching danger. Or food. He reminded himself. As his friends were predators. Pterano considered waking the small predator, but immediately thought better of it. What if he was simply imagining the conversation from last night? Or what if it were a sleep story? A product of a guilty mind that had finally begun to snap under the relentless pressure. No, he would creep into the thicket, being careful to be above the ground, and investigate the flyer and his companions from the cover of the foliage. The actions of the flyer would confirm his identity. He knew Petrie and he knew how the flyer acted. Only if he were satisfied of his identity would he venture forth and make himself known.

Finding an appropriate spot where he could spy on the sleeping flyer, he waited for him to awake.

......

"Hey beak-face wake up!" Cera's jocular shout emanated from the ground.

"Huh?" Petrie awoke suddenly and immediately propelled himself into the air, causing him to slam into the branch immediately above him with a resounding thud. Groaning slightly at his mishap, he shook his head before responding to his summons. "Me up! Me up!" He wasn't going to let Cera get the better of him, by letting her know that she had spooked the flyer. Luckily for him, Cera could not see his actions from her vantage point. Otherwise she would have undoubtedly had a laugh at his expense.

Cera looked up at where the flyer's voice emanated and smirked. "Sleeping all of the way up there? Surely you don't think that lowly of us." Back when they were herbivores this type of banter would seem mean and petty, but since their change each member of the gang had taken on more vitriol in their responses to one another. This was not hateful. It was as if the amount of insults they could hurl at one another was a testament to their friendship, as the same words from others would result in immediate attack. Being hateful in order to show one's love, it was another sign of the inherent contradictions of a carnivore's existence.

"Me not think that!" Petrie protested. "Me like being high up! Me see more up here."

Cera had to smile at the flyer's innocence in a way. He had misinterpreted her jocular statement as a serious criticism. It was meant to elicit a joking response back. Such was the usual interchange between the fastbiters during their down time.

"Also..." Petrie continued. "If something big and nasty eat you all, then Petrie still safe!"

Cera humphed at the flyer's response. It seemed that he did get the purpose of her taunt and had made a good retort back. She disliked losing at their word games as she was quite adept at dishing out playful remarks, having been a threehorn prior to her sharptooth days, a species not exactly known for social niceties. It seemed that the others were catching up in verbal sparring skills, however. She grumbled as she walked back towards the others.

After a few moments to catch his bearings, Petrie finally began to fly down to where the others were sitting.

Littlefoot's brown form was sitting next to Ruby, who were in the middle of a conversation about the rainbowfaces. It seemed that they were both somewhat concerned about their wellbeing in this place. It provided many areas for predators to hide... Such as themselves. The others were listening to the conversation in relative silence. Ducky and Spike were whispering to one another about something that Petrie could not discern from his location, whereas Chomper was munching on a leftover ground fuzzy a few paces away from Cera. Upon the flyer's approach Littlefoot directed his attention to him.

"Morning, Petrie. Any sign of your uncle?" The brown fastbiter asked.

Petrie frowned. "No. Me no see him. Maybe he wake up late?" The small flyer did not even consider the possibility that his uncle would not show. After all, he had acknowledged his nephew's identity last night. This was what he had reported back to the entire pack, who had all stayed awake awaiting the flyer to make sure that he was alright. Even Cera had given him encouragement when she saw his overwhelmed expression. She obviously didn't care about Pterano, but she cared for Petrie. That was true regardless of how much she may have hidden it on other occasions.

"Maybe he thought it was a sleep story?" Ducky offered. "Our story must sound really strange!" Spike nodded at his sister deduction. He had to agree that if he had heard such a story immediately prior to sleep, he would think that the entire thing was a sleep story as well.

Cera grumbled, but decided to offer some constructive advice to the flyer. She realized that he was still in emotional turmoil over the recent discovery of his uncle. "Well, maybe if he doesn't show up then you could talk to him again?" Her voice was gruff and annoyed, but the intent was not malicious. "That was he wouldn't think you were a sleep story."

Ruby nodded. "That sounds like a great idea, Cera! If Petrie tells Pterano that he is not a sleep story, then Pterano would know that he was not a sleep story."

While this conversation was going on in the sharptooth language, Pterano was crouched within a tangled web of branches watching the exchange between the sharpteeth.

They match the description exactly. Pterano observed with a mixture of relief and horror. His nephew was really here, but he had been changed beyond all reckoning. He continued to watch the scene in stunned silence.

He watched as the flyer, which he now knew was Petrie, gave a few high-pitched screeches at the fastbiters and sharptooth below. In response the brown fastbiter nodded. So sharpteeth can talk... He was aware that the sharptooth flyers had their own language of sorts, but he was unaware of that ability in sharptooth land-walkers. In fact, it was an ability that he would have laughed at as ludicrous if he weren't seeing evidence of it before his very eyes. His mind raced. The brown one must be the leader then? Littlefoot was his name... Pterano tried to remember Petrie's friends from his journey to the valley over two years prior.

Then the yellow one seemed to strut into the center of the pack and gave a few spaced out grunts and growls. The brown one that Pterano had deduced was Littlefoot then rolled his eyes overtly, while the pink one and purple sharptooth seemed to chuckle. A horrible, haunting sound coming from carnivores. That one must be Cera. Pterano deduced. She never liked me very much. He stated the obvious. Many of the other children may have been skeptical of him or distrustful, but the yellow threehorn had always been the most vindictive about his character. It was haunting to now see her as a sharptooth.

Pterano sighed. He supposed that it was time to make his presence known, as he was now sure that the flyer in this pack was certainly his nephew. He was the same flyer that he had seen the night before. He was most certainly not a hallucination or a sleep story. Taking two steps on the branch he was on, he jumped and began to glide down towards the assembled sharpteeth. The sharpteeth then looked up, with Petrie making an excited screeching sound at his uncle's discovery. Pterano then steered himself to a nearby branch around ten feet above the dinosaurs and landed. He wasn't taking any chances with Petrie's friends.

"Petrie, my boy!" Pterano welcomed his nephew. "I thought it was all a sleep story until I saw you here!"

Petrie flew up to meet Pterano and emitted a few high-pitched squeals and grunts until he heard a call from below.

"You might want to talk in leaf-eater, beak brain!" Much to Pterano's surprise Cera was talking in fluent leaf-eater, although she had an obvious accent. Petrie looked embarrassed at her chiding, as he obviously had forgotten what language he was speaking in the excitement of having his uncle keep his promise. It was nice to see an element of Petrie's personality remain intact despite the horrific changes that he had gone through.

"Me... Me glad to see you uncle." Petrie spoke slowly, obviously in an attempt to calm himself.

"I am glad to see you too, nephew." Pterano embraced the small flyer. "Although I wish it were under better terms."

The two flyers embraced for several moments as the emotions of the instant overwhelmed them. During the previous night, Pterano wasn't sure about what he was actually seeing. He wasn't sure if it was a dream or reality. He was also shocked by the shear amount of information and how outlandish it sounded. Now, however, he knew the truth and was confronted with the full implications of the horrible reality that faced his nephew and his loved ones. It was a truly overpowering situation.

Littlefoot finally spoke. "Well... It's been a long time hasn't it, Pterano?"

Pterano broke his embrace of his nephew and looked down at the brown fastbiter. The dinosaur had an unreadable expression on his face, but Pterano could hear the hint of annoyance in him. Littlefoot still harbored resentment at the dinosaur that had misled them all so long ago. Pterano supposed that he couldn't blame him.

"Yes." Pterano answered simply. He usually was not at a loss for words, as his reputation for fast-talking preceded this meeting, but he found himself speechless in light of their current situation. Finally, however, he found the will to speak again. "How are you children doing?"

"Oh just fine!" Cera spoke in a sarcastic tone. Her sharptooth accent making her retort sound threatening. "We had to kill a few dinosaurs to fill our bellies, be chased by our own families who want us dead, and left alone out here. Nothing that would cause too much trouble."

Pterano looked down, as Littlefoot was muttering something in sharptooth at his companion. He knew that his actions had hurt them all in the past and he knew that their current situation was damaging to them to a far worse degree. He couldn't fault Cera for her vindictiveness at him, but he didn't know how to help her or anyone else.

"I know..." He tried to speak again, which made the others stare at him. "I know what you have been through, based upon what Petrie told me last night." He then looked away for a moment as he didn't want them to see the sadness in his eyes. He had to be strong. "I don't know how I would have handled your situation... I don't know if I could handle it..." He shook his head. "It is too horrible to contemplate. I just wish there was some way that I could help."

Cera remained silent this time, as a purple sharptooth rose to the front. "Well... You can help us find my mommy and daddy."

Pterano looked at the small sharptooth with a curious expression. "Forgive me, little one, but which of Petrie's friends are you?"

"I'm Chomper!" The purple sharptooth spoke in a friendly way. It was almost creepy. Pterano almost wished that he had a gruffer, more frightening accent. At least that wouldn't sound so incongruent with the fact he was a sharptooth. "I didn't change like the others, but their mommies and daddies blamed me for their..." The sharptooth paused for a moment. "...deaths."

Pterano was taken aback by this. "You were friends with a sharptooth in the valley!"

Petrie spoke up at this point. "Yes! Chomper friendly sharptooth. He never hurt anyone!" Petrie then paused for a moment. "Um... Except for when we had to... But he never hurt anyone in valley!"

Pterano couldn't believe this. The adults of the valley had actually allowed a sharptooth to live amongst them. How could they have done that after all of the pain that sharpteeth had caused them? He was still haunted by the actions of sharpteeth to this very day...

"Well, we are all sharpteeth now so it isn't important." A dark green fastbiter spoke. It was Spike.

Pterano pondered for a moment. "I guess that I could try to talk to your parents, but..."

"No one will believe you and they will kill you if you enter the valley before your exile is up?" That retort came from Cera, who made quick work of his overture. She was not prepared to trust Pterano in the slightest.

Pterano sighed. "Yeah, that pretty much covers it."

"But..." The pink fastbiter spoke up after looking at Littlefoot for a moment. "If you could help us find Chomper's parents, then they would be found! They could help teach us what we need to know."

"Yeah!" Chomper excitedly affirmed.

Pterano cleared his throat. He was not exactly thrilled with the task of tracking down sharpteeth, but he would do it for his nephew and his friends. "I guess that I could try to find them... um..." He tried to recall the purple sharptooth's name. "Chomper... Can you tell me what your parents look like?"

Chomper was enthusiastic at the flyer's acceptance. "Sure! Mommy is kind of light green and daddy is darker. Both are big!"

Pterano looked uneasy at this. "Yes... I am sure that they are..." He then considered his options. "I have only seen a darker green sharptooth of your kind, Chomper. He is quite a distance from here. I don't know if it is one of your parents or not..." How could he, after all? He had better things to do than catalogue the sharpteeth of the area, like flying away from them, for instance. "But I guess that Petrie and I can go looking for them." Petrie nodded approvingly at his uncle's plan.

"Alright then!" Littlefoot affirmed. "I guess that will work. We all will try to catch some lunch..." Pterano visibly recoiled at that reminder of what kind of dinosaurs he was now dealing with. Something would have to die in order to satisfy the children's hunger. "While you two try to find Chomper's folks. We will catch some food for you, Petrie!"

"Yeah. If I don't eat it all first!" Spike threatened, his reputation for overeating preceding him. He wouldn't do that and deprive Petrie of sustenance, of course, but he had to make the mock threat as a matter of course. His unstoppable hunger had become a running gag in the pack.

"Thanks!" Petrie affirmed. "But also save some for Pt..." He stopped himself when he realized his mistake. As Chomper had often offered his friends buzzers when he forgot that they were not sharpteeth back in the valley, Petrie had momentarily forgotten that his uncle was obviously not a meat-eater. "Uh... Never mind."

Cera and several of the others laughed at this, while Littlefoot still had a somewhat anxious expression. He gave one final statement of encouragement before letting them attend to their task.

"Good luck out there, Petrie."

Petrie nodded, as both he and his uncle took flight away from the pack's shelter. They had a search to attend to. But before they could begin to search for Chomper's parents, Petrie decided that he should check on some old acquaintances first to make sure that they are alright. After all, he hadn't seen the rainbowfaces since his scouting run from the day before.

......

"Just what are you doing, Chronos?"

Logos was staring with surprise at her companion. He had gone missing for a few hours, while she was finishing preparing a makeshift shelter by laying limbs in an interlocking fashion in order to make a lean-to on some large trees. He had now returned with several makeshift spears, literally little more than sharpened sticks, clutched in each hand.

"Well..." He said with a tone that indicated that he was pleased with himself. "I remembered our survival training from the academy..."

Logos interrupted at this point. "Well I should hope so... We have only been using it since we were stranded here." Her words were dripping with sarcasm.

Chronos smiled. "Of course! But this is the first time we have been in a place like this..." He looked around at all of the thick foliage around him. "Running from predators might be rather difficult in this terrain and the Repressor probably only has a few more charges left."

Logos finished his thought. "So you thought it would be a good idea to make some spears." She seemed to ponder this for a few moments. "That actually is a good idea..." She admitted. "However, we need to make sure that the children don't see your handiwork. If we inadvertently show them how to make tools..."

Chronos sighed in amusement at Logos's steadfast dedication to non-interference. Surely she realized that they had already broken that rule beyond all recognition by their previous actions. "Of course..." He simply said and handed Logos one of the large spears.

Logos looked at the spear that was now in her hands. It was about her height from foot to head and roughly one fifth of a hand in width. She turned the weapon over in her hand. She could notice that it was definitely made of swamp wood, as the bark was still present in a most places, but it seemed that the majority at both ends had been scraped away. The point of the spear was razor sharp and the hilt had noticeable grooves carved into it, obviously to aid in providing grip for the spear holder. Considering the number of spears in Chronos's hands, this was quite a bit of work to conduct in a mere two hours. If Logos could access Chronos's records on this planet then she would have sought out his academic assessment from the academy. He must have been quite proficient in his survival training.

"This is quite nice, Chronos." She admitted with a praising tone. "What did you use to sharpen the spear?"

Chronos shrugged. "There was a skeleton of some sharptooth by the stream that we passed, as you may remember." At Logos's nod, he continued. "I scraped these sticks on its teeth in order to sharpen them. I think that it worked quite well."

Logos nodded. "We should probably make more of these... We could make a palisade out of these sticks! That would keep up safe from the smaller sharpteeth."

Chronos seemed to consider this for a moment. "I guess those sticks wouldn't need as much work... We would just have to sharpen the ends is all..." He then thought to himself for a moment. "And what do we do about the larger sharpteeth?"

She considered this for a moment. "Well, we have areas of dense thickets around here. We could use those as emergency shelter if it came down to it... Our main threat will be from sharpteeth that may suddenly sneak up on us. That is when we would need to use our spears." She raised her spear for emphasis.

Just then a rustling could be heard from the trees above. Each rainbowface tightly gripped their spears in preparation for a sudden attack. They had underestimated how much paranoia their change in scenery was causing them. They were used to being in areas where they could easily run or seek refuge in larger numbers, but here they were in a thick swamp with little in the way of escape routes. As a result, the instinctual drives of their current species began to override the rationality of their previous forms. After all, in threatening times sometimes it is logical to be the bigger threat.

The rainbowfaces moved side-by-side with their arms reared back, spears in hand, ready to throw at any threat. The effects of adrenaline could be felt in each of them as their minds were racing with the possibility of combat or retreat. It was an unpleasant experience to the two dinosaurs who thought of themselves as being more advanced than their counterparts on this planet. In the heat of the moment, they were subject to the same passions and fears that affected 'real' rainbowfaces. It was humbling in a way.

The rustling continued and got louder as whatever was up there was trying to find a way down through the thick cover. Chronos began to breathe heavily as the unknown threat still refused to show itself. Feeling protective of Logos, he moved slightly in front of her, but on the opposite side of the spear-holding hand, not wanting to be in the way of an attack from his companion. That was when something fell from the canopy.

"Ahh!!!" Screamed Petrie as he misjudged the strength of the branch he was on and it gave way. The fact that vines had tangled around his wings made any maneuvering by the flyer very difficult.

Not clearly seeing what was under the tangle of vines, the two rainbowfaces threw their spears at the intruder and then backed away suddenly in order to grab more spears and continue the assault.

Petrie saw the sharpened sticks flying towards him and immediately took evasive action. He clutched his wings to his chest, which caused him to fall at a faster rate. This was barely enough to evade the two spears, as they sailed past and became impaled in the foliage behind where the flyer had been moments before. Finally extending his wings again, Petrie was able to half-glide, half-fall to the ground below.

"Why you attack Petrie?!" The flyer protested at the two dinosaurs, understandably being upset at being fought against when he was simply checking on their wellbeing.

The two rainbowfaces stood in surprise, the 'threat' that they had panicked over was simply Petrie. How could they have let their fears get the better of them? It seemed that their new home had spooked them more than they had realized. Finally, Logos decided to apologize and explain herself.

"Sorry, child. We only heard noise from above us and we thought something was going to attack us. We didn't mean to threaten you!"

Chronos immediately agreed. "Yeah! Sorry about that."

Petrie shook himself off and took flight again, taking a closer look at the spear from the air. He then settled onto the spear, which he used as a perch for the remainder of the conversation.

"Alright, me guess. Me can't blame you for being scared. You are food." Petrie responded. He was unaware that his comment about them being food did not exactly place the rainbowfaces nerves at ease. It was a sign of how much the flyer had changed since his transformation. "Me making sure that you okay. You all safe?"

Chronos thought for a moment in order to think about how to answer coherently. "Yes, we are safe. More or less." He then looked at his companion who was mouthing and gesturing at him not to mention the spears. "This place has spooked us a bit. There are many places for sharpteeth to hide."

Petrie seemed satisfied by this answer. "Yes, Petrie notice that. My friends like it here! Prey don't have chance!" Despite the fact that the gang had only caught ground fuzzies since their arrival here, Petrie and the others were sure that the extensive cover would come in handy when they went after bigger prey. It would give them a distinct advantage.

Logos sighed. "Yes, I'm sure the prey doesn't." She spoke without enthusiasm, as she was in the category of 'prey'.

Petrie then looked at the spear he was sitting on for a few moments. "Well, me glad you all doing well. Me will tell others." As the rainbowfaces said their thanks to the small flyer, he said one final thing before he flew off. "Pointy stick good idea!" Petrie had an expression as if a brilliant thought had just crossed his mind. "Pointy sticks could help us get bigger food! Thanks rainbowfaces!"

As the flyer flew off to where Pterano was waiting to resume the search, Chronos nudged his companion.

"So much for avoiding cultural contamination, huh?"

Logos looked at Chronos with a cross expression. "Oh! Just help me gather these spears, will you?!"

Chronos smirked slightly and said with a jocular tone and a crisp salute: "Aye, Commander!" which caused Logos to simply shake her head and fume to herself.

Despite their embarrassing faux pas with the flyer and potentially pushing the pack on the road to tool use, Chronos couldn't help but feel slightly pleased with himself. It had been a long time since he finally gotten the last word in.

......

"I take it that your friends are okay?" Pterano asked as soon as his nephew appeared from the canopy of leaves. He was still finding it difficult to accept that the relatively confident sharptooth flyer in front of him was the same flyer who listened to his stories in wondrous attention.

"Me check. They okay." Petrie replied.

Pterano flexed his wings as he prepared to disembark from the branch he was resting upon. Well at least he still has his unique speech pattern. Pterano thought to himself. It definitively is him.

"Who are they anyway?" Pterano asked inquisitively. He had simply heard of these dinosaurs referred to as 'the rainbowfaces' as if there wasn't an entire kind of dinosaur with that designation. Why made these dinosaurs so special? Why did they believe the children's story while others would not?

Petrie landed on the branch beside Pterano and sighed heavily. "It long story..." He was obviously reluctant to go into detail.

Pterano shrugged at this. "Well then, perhaps you can tell me the story as we fly to where I last saw the sharptooth? It will take us awhile to get there anyway."

"Sounds good uncle!"

With a few flaps of their wings, the flyers were once again airborne in search of Chomper's father.

......

"I just don't trust the creep! Sure he loves Petrie, but that didn't stop him from using him, now did it?"

The pack had finished a pretty successful hunt. Every member of the pack had caught at least one ground fuzzy, with Ruby being the 'winner' of the day, catching a grand total of eight. She had not so subtlety pointed out her hunting prowess to both Littlefoot and Cera. The bragging had simply made Littlefoot roll his eyes, but in Cera's case it caused her to go into a foul mood. Pterano was simply the most inviting target on which to vent her anger.

Chomper shrugged. He couldn't get too upset about the topic as he didn't know the flyer. Likewise having a full belly tended to resolve any agitation that the small sharptooth would have felt in any case. As a result, the question was given with a certain laziness and lack of concern.

"What harm could he do?" Chomper really couldn't see the problem. The flyer was exiled and the pack knew full well about his past failings. Likewise, Pterano would never do anything to harm his nephew.

Cera sighed. "I just don't trust him. What good could he do?"

Littlefoot decided to interject at this point. "Well, Cera, he is helping us find Chomper's parents."

Cera then replied in an exasperated tone. "Well what about after that?"

"What about it?" Littlefoot replied. "Even if he can't help us after that, he is still Petrie's uncle." He then looked at the rest of the pack, as if scrutinizing each of them. "If one of our parents knew our story and believed us wouldn't we want to keep them around? Wouldn't it be nice just to have that?" Littlefoot sighed in sadness. "Except for you, Ruby, all of our parents think that we're gone forever. It would be nice just to talk to them again."

Ruby nodded sadly at this. She was thankful that she could still communicate with her parents via Petrie's periodic flights in that direction. It was a luxury that the others did not have anymore.

Cera nodded sadly. "I guess I get that. But I don't have to like the guy."

Littlefoot looked at Cera with an understanding expression. "Don't worry, Cera, I don't like him either. But he is our best hope for finding Chomper's folks." He then looked up at the sky for a moment, as if searching for something. "I just hope that we find them. We have been able to find ground fuzzies and eggs, but we are still new at this." He looked down as if considering his situation.

Spike gestured towards Littlefoot. "We have hunted well enough until now. I am sure that we could get by even if we don't get trained..." His words were confident, but his tone was not.

Littlefoot looked at the green fastbiter for a moment before responding. "What about the next Cold Time, Spike? There will be no eggs, few ground fuzzies, and as for younglings..." He thought for a moment. "If we went more than a few days without a youngling then we would be in bad shape... You all remember how we got before Rhett..."

Ducky shuddered at the memory. "That was terrible. It was. It was."

The others gave affirmative grunts at their leader. No one wanted to revisit those dark times.

Littlefoot sighed. "We have some time to find Chomper's parents, but if we don't..." He then turned his attention to Chomper, who was not relishing considering the possibility that his parents wouldn't be found. "Then we may need to consider our options. We could join up again with Skytail's pack."

Ruby considered this for a moment before responding. "But what if there wasn't enough food to be found? What if we couldn't find enough food?"

Littlefoot nodded at this. Ruby realized why that option would not be a panacea for their problem. "Exactly, Ruby. Skytail would help his pack before helping ours." Then he added absentmindedly. "Just like what we do in their place. We need to become better at hunting larger dinosaurs, because that is what we will need to do one day."

The other ruminated on this idea with uneasy mutterings. Each knew that the words were true and that they would soon have to make the periodic takedown of a youngling into a regular occurrence. Likewise, if not enough younglings could be found, then they may even have to take down juveniles or adults. They had never hunted prey such as that before. Any mishap in such an enterprise could result in death. They had survived up until now, but their continued survival was by no means certain.

Littlefoot continued to look towards the sky. Much rested on the wings of the two flyers. He hoped that they would give them good news soon.

......

"Well... That is certainly some story, Petrie."

Petrie had just finished giving his uncle a truncated version of what the rainbowfaces did. He had remembered his promise to not openly share some of their explanations, however, and as a consequence he left out their explanations of 'sky logs' and 'pain rocks'. He could tell that Pterano was overwhelmed with enough details as it was.

"Yeah. Me think so too." Petrie affirmed. "It even weirder living it."

The two flyers were talking as they flew above the canopy of the swamp below. They had traveled for about half an hour since Petrie's check up on the rainbowfaces, which translated about three hours of walking for a land walker. They were following a long and winding river that Pterano mentioned led to the territory of the green sharptooth. The flyer had seen him chasing a longneck during Pterano's initial entry into the Land of Shallow Waters. Following his herd, however, he continued into the heart of the swamp. As a result his first sighting of the sharptooth was also his last. He never imagined that he would intentionally seek him out.

Pterano looked away from the direction he was flying and instead took a good look at Petrie for a moment. The eyes were the same, but everything else was different. His fuzzy plumage was a much darker brown and he had large talons on each of his two feet. His eyes also had a sterner look to them. The look of a killer. Pterano sighed. He supposed that it was time to ask some pressing questions to the young flyer. He was not comfortable asking them due to his horrific memories of what sharpteeth had done to those he had led, but he knew that he needed to ask them. He had a sinking suspicion that the answers to those questions probably haunted his nephew to a tremendous extent. Pterano knew that they would haunt him if he were in Petrie's place.

"Petrie..." Pterano's voice was soft and apologetic. This was very unlike the confidence that his voice usually projected. The change in tone was noticeable to Petrie, who turned towards his uncle. "You told me that you had to kill before..." Pterano noticed that Petrie filched noticeably at the mention of killing. This was obvious a point of great pain for the flyer. "Do you want to talk about it?" To be honest, Pterano had no idea what to say to his nephew, but he figured that at the very least he could listen to him. He couldn't imagine being forced to kill in order to survive. As prone to self-preservation as he was, Pterano highly suspected that he would starve himself if he were ever forced to make that choice.

Petrie swallowed hard. "Me don't know what to say, uncle." The small flyer then sighed heavily. "Me only kill ground fuzzies until now, but..." He looked away for a moment, averting his eyes from his uncle's. He didn't want to see his disapproval. "Me had to help kill a mama flyer."

Despite his best efforts, Pterano let out an audible gasp that could be heard over the rushing air. My poor, poor nephew...

"Me had to... The pack was starving." Petrie swallowed again, still averting his eyes.

Pterano decided to intervene at this point. "Look at me, Petrie." His voice was soft, but firm.

Petrie reluctantly looked towards his uncle. He knew that he would see disapproval in those eyes. How could he ever be forgiven for taking the life of another flyer? However, when he actually looked at Pterano, he only saw sad eyes meeting his.

"Take your time, Petrie. We still have plenty of time." Pterano was depressed to see that Petrie looked surprised. The poor kid thought that I was going to yell at him. Pterano thought morosely. "You can't leave these things inside, otherwise they can ruin you."

Petrie then looked forward for a moment as they continued their flight. He took a few moments in order to compose himself, then he resumed his retelling of that fateful day. "Me lead pack to flyer and babies. They confuse mama, while I break nest." Pterano's heart was breaking, not only for Petrie, but also for the flyer family. "Babies fell and my friends got them, but mama chase after me." He then looked at Pterano. "Me nearly die, but Ducky saved me."

Pterano blinked. "Ducky? As in the one that I..."

Petrie nodded. "Yeah... She kill mama before mama could kill me."

The flyers were silent for several moments. The only sound was that of rushing air and flapping wings. Each was lost in their own thoughts on account of what had been said. Finally, Pterano broke the silence.

"You're not the only one who has killed, Petrie."

Petrie was taken aback by this. His uncle had killed? Not noting the flyer's reaction, Pterano resumed his confession.

"I may not have been the one to kill them, but I was the one who led them to their deaths." Even as he said this, the images and sounds of that fateful day repeated within his mind. Those dinosaurs had depended on him, but he led them to death. He was the only survivor. The only one who had the ability to fly away. "I let my arrogance... my pride... get the better of me." He then bowed his head and visibly shuddered. "Their voices haunt me to this very day."

Petrie interrupted at this point. "But that not all your fault! You did what you thought right!"

Pterano interjected abruptly. "Yes it is my fault!" Petrie was startled at his uncle's outburst. Pterano noticed this and answered in a softer voice. "Yes it is my fault. I should have never put my pride over the lives of others." He then looked at Petrie. "You did what you had to do in order to save your friends. It was either that or starvation, right?" At Pterano's question, Petrie simply nodded. "You didn't want to kill that flyer. I can see it in your posture. It still haunts you doesn't it?" Petrie gave another sad nod at his uncle's query. "You put your own feelings aside to help others." Pterano shook his head. "You're a far better flyer than me, Petrie, I put my own feelings over the wellbeing of others."

Petrie sputtered at this. "How can you say that, uncle?" After all, he was the sharptooth. Pterano was still a good leaf-eater. "Me monster!"

"No you are not, Petrie!" Pterano affirmed. "I am! What I did was monstrous and inexcusable." It was now his turn to look away in shame. "My exile has taught me that. I can't hide from my faults anymore."

Petrie looked at his uncle sadly for a few moments. Finally, he decided to speak. "Even if you monster then, you not monster now. A monster never admit they wrong."

Pterano sighed before looking at Petrie again. "I guess you are right, Petrie." He then turned his head in a forward position in order to again monitor his path through the air. "I guess as long as we learn from our mistakes then we won't be defined by them."

The two flyers were still in mid-flight so an embrace was impossible. Knowing this, they simply gave a low nod to the other. Each may have done harsh things in the past, but if they continued to value others then their faults would not overtake them. It had taken Pterano several years to learn that lesson. Petrie had already learned it during the hunt of the flyers.

The tender moment was interrupted, however, by a loud roar to the left of the two flyers.

"There he is!" Pterano called to his nephew.

Petrie looked in the direction that the sound came from and noticed a large tyrannosaurus approaching a group of longnecks. His hide was a dark shade of green. They had found their candidate for Chomper's father. Now the only question was how to ascertain his identity?

"Me have idea, uncle. Me talk to him and ask his name." Petrie thought that this was the most straight-forward idea, as Chomper had mentioned his father's name and exploits on several occasions. If the sharptooth is named Dein and knows about Chomper, then it is his dad. Otherwise, he would be something to avoid.

"Do you think that is a good idea, Petrie?!" Pterano asked in a panic.

Petrie nodded. "Me can fly away, but others can't. Safer for me to ask than them." He thought for a moment, as he saw the sharptooth prepare to charge at the longnecks. "Me wait though. It rude to interrupt hunt."

Pterano shook his head. He hoped that his nephew knew what he was doing.

......

Dein looked in the distance at the expansive longneck herd. There were numerous adults in the mass of dinosaurs, so many that their necks almost looked like an endless thicket of trees within the greenery of the swamp. The area where the dinosaurs were situated appeared to be relatively dry, as the streams were further to the west, and relatively sparsely populated with trees. Undoubtedly this allowed the longnecks to have a better view of the area around them and of any approaching predators. Longnecks may be stupid, but at least they know that much. Dein thought glumly to himself. Surprise won't work for me here.

As if to confirm his thoughts, several of the longnecks turned their gazes in his direction and emitted several warning calls. They weren't panicking, as the paths of carnivores and herbivores often intersected here, but they were putting both him and their cousins on notice. It alerted the other members of the herd that they needed to be mindful of the massive sharptooth approaching from the east and it alerted the sharptooth to the fact that the longnecks were well aware of his arrival. It was a warning for him to not start any attacks, because the herd would be ready.

I won't be dissuaded that easily. He derisively thought. He immediately began to assess the specimens in front of him. Too healthy... He immediately decided that five of them were not suitable for a solo hunt. These were the group of large, young adult males who had made the warning call. They obviously were trying to impress the female longnecks and were among the strongest of the herd. If he could catch one of them during their courtship rituals then that would be an easy kill, but prior to that... Not a good idea unless you are desperate for food.

He then turned his attention to the several groups that permeated throughout the open space. Each was made up of an adult male, one or more females, and several younglings. The adults. He noted. Those are a possibility. However they were not an enticing possibility as the family unit would fight as a team against any threat to their younglings. He may have been far more powerful and cunning than the stupid leaf-eaters, but he was not foolish enough to pick a battle that might turn out to be his last. He would only have a few seconds to make a kill before the rest of the herd would mount a defense. He would have to make those seconds count.

He looked to the periphery of the herd. This is where stragglers and the injured would be found. These longnecks would not have the support of the herd, necessarily, and they might not be part of the herd itself. A weakened longneck without allies would be a very tempting target indeed. But he would have to investigate further.

He began to approach the stream in a haphazard fashion, as if he were simply getting a drink. The herd reacted to this by continuing their defensive postures, but otherwise allowing the sharptooth to pass around the outskirts of the herd. Meanwhile, Dein was examining those very outskirts for a suitable victim.

There!

Dein's attention was suddenly fixated on a large elderly longneck that was situated by the stream. He was well away from the rest of the herd. As such, he was probably a straggler who hung out at the outskirts of the herd for protection in numbers, but who wasn't welcome in the herd itself. The signs were all there. Not only was he on the outskirts of the herd's grazing area, but he also lacked a mate or any younglings in his vicinity.

He took a closer look at his future victim in order to ascertain his faults. He needed to know the adversary's strengths and weaknesses if he was going to ensure victory and prevent serious injury to himself.

He is placing more weight on the right front leg. Obvious injury to rear leg. His mind deduced quickly. This meant that a rear attack would be most suitable. As the elder grazed upon the low hanging leaves of a nearby tree, another thought came to his mind. He isn't going for the tall leaves. Neck injury. He quickly incorporated this new information in order to revise his strategy. He would feign an attack to the dinosaur's front and then...

It will be flawless. Dein smiled to himself as he began his assault.

Roar!

The longneck immediately stopped his meal and raised his neck halfway at the sharptooth's advance. Dein had been correct in his deduction about a neck injury. This would seriously affect the longneck's mobility. As Dein roared again he went into a stalking posture and took deliberate steps at the dinosaur. The longneck was far too large to fit through the thicket of trees behind him, so he would either have to flee to either side or stand in fight. Fighting the sharptooth would play right into Dein's plan, whereas running to either side would invite an attack of opportunity. Either way the elderly longneck was at a serious disadvantage. Finally, when Dein was within a longneck's length away from the prey, the longneck prepared to whip at the threat with his tail. The longneck had chosen to fight.

Perfect. Dein thought to himself as the tail began to approach him. What the longneck had not anticipated was that Dein was planning on that sort of defense. The longneck's neck injury and bad leg caused him to focus on the sharptooth's lower extremities and not see the bigger picture. This caused him to misjudge the sharptooth's strategy and as a result the tail was squarely aimed for the sharptooth's legs. Dein then put his plan into action.

Pushing off with his massive legs, Dein leaped and went airborne over the advancing tail of the longneck. The longneck would have raised his neck in surprise if he had retained the ability to do so. The longneck's tail thwack had exposed his hindquarters to the veteran sharptooth. A fatal mistake. Dein then landed upon the longneck's exposed backside with a sickening sound. The sound of ripping flesh and gushing blood could be heard as several tons of pure carnivore tore through the backside of the longneck. The longneck screamed in agony as Dein allowed his own body weight to do the work for him, and he raked his feet down his unfortunate victim's hind quarters. Within a few seconds the tendons, muscle, and sinew that made up the longneck's hind legs were torn asunder and rendered useless. In one superb move the longneck was now helpless. All that was needed was the final blow.

Without wasting any time, Dein quickly advanced to the longneck's front and bit down upon his unprotected neck. With a quick shake of his head, Dein put the longneck out of its misery. Only seconds after it had started, the hunt was over.

Not taking anything for granted, Dein immediately turned towards the rest of the herd. He could see that some of the young adults had begun to move towards the battle, but had now stopped as they saw that it was already over. Knowing that any bravado would accomplish nothing here, the longnecks began to return to their original positions. They would simply have to accept that they had lost another herd member today.

Dein gave a triumphant roar at the retreating longnecks, before beginning to rip into the flesh of his kill. He would eat his fill first and then he would drag the rest for...

"Good hunt! Longneck not have chance!"

Dein looked up in surprise. He had not seen any other sharpteeth in the area. How could a competitor sneak by him?

"Show yourself!" Dein demanded. He was not going to tolerate another sharptooth violating his territory. Perhaps he would have to make two kills today...

"Me up here!"

Dein looked up at where the sound came from and noticed a small sharptooth flyer hovering over Dein's meal. Oh, it is just a sharpbeak! He thought to himself. For a moment I thought I was going senile. Despite his momentary relief, however, Dein would not let any of that show in his interactions with the annoying pest.

"What do you want, flyer?! Planning on taking any pickings for yourself?" It was a common strategy of flyers to take the 'leftovers' of a large kill before other scavengers got to them. It was a winning strategy for sharptooth flyers in that they got the rewards of the hunt without risking anything, but it earned them the disgust of most of the larger sharpteeth. As a result, sharptooth flyers were seen as pests or, at best, useful tools to find leaf-eater herds.

"Uh... Well maybe..." Petrie admitted. He was not against getting free food. "But that not why me here!"

Dein grunted as he took another bite from the longneck's hindquarters. The soothing taste of flesh and blood calmed his nerves and alleviated his hunger, but even so, the flyer was quickly annoying him. In annoyance, he spoke. "Then why are you here meat-stealer? Do you need help hunting that big flyer up there?" Dein was referring to Pterano, who was hovering some distance away. He would obviously not know that Petrie and the Pterano were family. "If so, get lost! You can catch him yourself!"

Petrie was quite flustered. This sharptooth rude! He thought in annoyance. Oh! Me better get to point.

"Me have message for Dein and Terri! Do you know them?"

Dein looked up at the flyer, his expression suddenly serious and cold. The flyer had called them by name so this was an official summons. His annoyance was replaced with concern.

"I am Dein. What is your message, flyer?"

It be Chomper's daddy! Petrie thought in excitement. We finally find them! Petrie cleared his throat, as he thought about how to relay his message. "Me have message from Path." Petrie used Chomper's actual sharptooth name, which caused Dein to open his mouth in shock, dropping the flesh that he had been in the process of chewing. "He be in this swamp and look for you!"

Dein sputtered at this. "My son is here! I told him to stay in the valley where it is safe!" He roared in frustration. Why would his son travel all of this way from the valley? For that matter, how could he make it all of the way over here? There are many full-grown sharpteeth who wouldn't risk the journey.

Petrie reacted to this even though Dein wasn't expecting a response. "Uh... Valley didn't stay safe." That be understatement. Petrie noted internally. "He and Ruby had to leave."

Dein gritted his teeth. Damn it! I wanted him to be safe! I already almost lost Terri... I can't risk losing him. He regained control over himself momentarily. He had to bring this food to his mate. They couldn't afford to have another sharptooth lay claim on their catch while he went searching for Chomper. With only one of the two being well enough to hunt, they were already becoming far too thin... He knew what he had to do.

"Flyer! You will lead him here!" He commanded in an imperious voice. "I will hold you responsible if anything happens!"

Petrie gulped at the sharptooth's command. Dein was obviously very protective of his son. Petrie had no doubt that if he failed in his mission that Dein would make good on his threat.

"Me will!" Petrie thought for a moment. "Me will bring Path and his friends."

Dein looked befuddled by this. "Friends?"

Petrie nodded while hovering. "Yes! His friends help him get here!"

Dein thought about this for a moment. Anyone who could safely bring Chomper all the way over here would be a worthwhile ally for Chomper... He then decided on what to say. "Very well! We will be waiting!"

Without another word, Petrie again entered soaring flight and rode the thermal updrafts in order to gain lift. His wings were exhausted from making him hover for several moments, but he had to communicate effectively with Chomper's dad. After a few moments he reached his uncle.

Pterano had a rather disturbed look on his face. Petrie realized that his uncle couldn't understand any part of the recent conversation and was probably concerned for his nephew's life. Being roared at by a giant sharptooth was often one of the last things that happened to a flyer after all. Petrie decided to brief his uncle on what happened.

"It Chomper's dad! He wants us to bring Chomper!"

Pterano looked somewhat relieved, although the look of concern was still the prominent expression on his face. He was hopeful that Chomper's parents could help out Petrie in his new life, but the reality of what that life now entailed still horrified him. He could almost forget about that detail even when looking at Petrie's new form, but when Petrie was talking with the same kind of sharpteeth that killed his followers so long ago... It was much harder to ignore.

"That's good, Petrie." Pterano began. "But it will nearly take your friends the entire day to get here. Should we wait until..."

"No!" Petrie protested loudly. "Me no want Chomper's dad mad at me! Me no want to be eaten! That no be good!"

Pterano sighed. He supposed that he wouldn't want to upset a sharptooth either.

With no further delay, the two flyers began their journey back to the pack.

......

It was much later in the day when Dein finally was able to finish dragging his quarry to the heart of his territory. It was much harder to do this with only dinosaur doing the carrying, but it was up to him now. Ever since Terri had gotten sick again he had to be the breadwinner. Her survival depended upon it. He would simply drop off the corpse and then look for his mate, who was probably either sleeping or drinking water or...

Terri! No!

In the clearing where he had left her was the static form of Terri, lying motionless on the ground. He had left for a few hours in order to catch some food, surely she couldn't be gone! It couldn't end like this! In a panic and full of rising grief, he sprinted towards his fallen mate.

"Terri!"

The body stirred. Oh thank goodness! Dein was nearly to the point of breaking down. For several moments he had thought that she was gone. The love of his life extinguished for good. It was unbearable.

"Huh?" The weak reply came from the prone sharptooth. She was still lying on her side and her head rested upon the ground. Her breathing was shallow but steady. "Is it time to get up, dear?"

Dein looked sadly upon his mate's face. Back when she was in better health the two would often exchange playful insults and taunts to one another. Their vitriol and dark humor was a show of how much they loved one another. If anyone else had talked to him the way that his mate did, then he would rip out their throat. But when she did it... He felt at home. Now, however, neither was unwilling to make such verbal jabs at one another. Neither had the strength for it anymore and, although neither said it, none of them wanted their final words to one another to be anything vitriolic. Now was not the time for that. Dein suspected that that time would never arrive again.

"Yes." He replied in a soft grumble. "The bright circle is about to fall."

Terri looked surprised before slowly using her minuscule forelimbs to right herself and rise upon her two massive hind legs. "I slept through the entire day?" She asked in confusion. At Dein's nod, she continued. "I... do feel a little better."

Dein had to repress an angry roar. He was not angry at her, far from it, but he was furious at their situation. He was angry at the lingering sickness that threatened to take her in the land of the parted. He was angry at his inability to provide enough food for both of them. Finally, he was angry at the one dinosaur that started this entire mess...

However he knew that would not solve anything, so he restrained himself. Softly he growled a response to her.

"That is good." He paused for a moment. "Do you feel well enough to eat?"

Terri laughed at that. It was a jocular laugh that suddenly turned into a ragged cough. It was a lingering symptom of the breathing sickness that had afflicted her ever since the attack. She finally recovered enough from her momentary fit to respond. "Of course I am well enough to eat! The day that I am not will be the day I die!" It was meant to be a bravado-filled statement, but each secretly feared that it may prove to be accurate soon enough. Terri was looking dangerously thin, with both the difficulty of hunting alone and the stress of the illness taking its toll on her body. Dein quickly redirected the conversation, before his emotions overwhelmed him.

"It is longneck, dear... and... I need to talk to you when you have had your fill."

Terri looked up at this. "You didn't do something stupid, did you?" Her expression was one of supreme coldness that would have scared anyone else, but her eyes gave away that she was simply having some fun with him. Dein had to smile at this. If she was feeling well enough to joke than that was a good sign.

"Not anything more than I usually do... But it can wait until after you eat." He knew full well that if he told her about Chomper than the meal would be forgotten about and she would insist on finding him personally. He didn't want her to threaten her recovery and he knew that Chomper wouldn't want that either. Chomper... What are we going to tell Chomper? He thought morosely.

Terri noticed the change in expression, but decided not to press the matter. She began to dig into the back of the longneck as she tried to eat her fill. It was the most substantial meal they had in several days. She soon forgot about the delayed conversation as her hunger was being resolved by the badly needed meal. Dein knew that the fact that Chomper was here would greatly concern her. He wanted to make sure that her spirits were lifted and her hunger resolved before he delivered the news.

......

"Chomper is here?!" Terri shouted. She was just as surprised by this development as Dein. "What happened?!"

Dein sighed. A thunderous sound coming from a sharptooth of his size. "I do not know. A flyer stopped me after the hunt and said that he had a message for me." He paused for a moment in order to allow for one of Terri's coughing fits to pass before continuing. "He said that he was going to bring Chomper and his friends."

"Why didn't you follow him to Chomper, Dein? It is dangerous out there!" Terri demanded.

Dein took on a grim expression. He knew that this was coming. "If his friends have led him this far from the valley, then he is in good shape. We haven't smelled or seen Red Claw since..." He paused for a moment. "And if I would have left then you would have gone another day without food!"

Terri interjected. "I know. But you should have helped Chomper..." She coughed again, a bit more violently than the last bout. "I think... I think we both know how this is going to end."

Dein paled upon realizing what Terri was getting at. "No! Don't say that dear!" He then moved closer in order to allow her body to rest upon his. "You will pull through this! We have pulled through worse..."

Terri gave a toothless smile at Dein. It was an expression of sadness and recognition, not happiness. "You're a terrible liar, you know?" Dein took on a morose expression in response to her retort. "I have only gotten worse... And you have had to hunt in my place..."

Dein gulped as he took on a pleading look. "I'm sorry... I should do better... I will hunt more..."

"Hush, dear." Came the growled interruption. It was given in kindness, despite the fact that it would have sounded menacing to any leaf-eater. "It isn't you. One sharptooth can only do so much." She then paused for a moment, as she noticed that her mate was making an odd noise. He was sobbing! But he was trying very hard to hide his emotional outburst. She leaned against him to show support. This was a gesture that was reciprocated by her mate. "At least Chomper will be here." Terri noted. "I can talk to him again before it's too late..."

"Dear..." Dein responded sadly. He couldn't think of anything else to say in order to cheer up, or for that matter, save his mate. For one of the first times in his life, he felt just as helpless and alone as the leaf-eaters that he killed on a regular basis. It was a humbling experience.

Their moment of intimacy was soon interrupted, however.

"Me find them!" Came an excited response from the air. It was the flyer!

Dein looked at his mate, who was attempting to rise to her full height. "Are you sure that you're up to this, dear?" She was still shaky on her feet, a testament to what the sickness had done to her.

Terri looked at her mate and gave a toothy smile. Her lungs burned and it hurt to breathe, but she repressed any expression of discomfort. "I'm not dead yet! Let's go see our son."

As the two sharpteeth rose from their positions and began to walk towards the sound of the flyer's voice, they could see a band of sharpteeth approaching in the distance. Five young fastbiters were joined in a broken line, each staring at the two massive sharpteeth, whereas a single purple sharptooth walked in front of them. It was a face that they had thought they may never see again, but yet here he was after over a year in a strange land. They had no idea what their son had been through in the intervening year, nor did he have any idea of their trials and tribulations, but each knew that none of that mattered now.

The family was soon to be reunited.

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