The Seven Hunters

Chapter 43 Despair

“There is an ancient tribal proverb I once heard in India. It says that before we can see properly we must first shed our tears to clear the way.”

― Libba Bray

This was easily the most surreal event in Ruby's life.

Here they were walking with Littlefoot's father, a dinosaur who wanted them all dead, under the false pretense of leading him to their friends. However, despite Littlefoot's sorrow, Bron's rage, and Ruby's fear, they were walking peacefully towards the mud pits in the center of the swamp. It was the calm before the storm. The blood red light of the eclipsed moon seemed to herald the turmoil that lay ahead. As their walk led them to an unknown outcome, Ruby took a brief moment to reflect upon what had brought them to this place.

Only a few moments ago they had introduced themselves to Littlefoot's father. His immediate reaction nearly made her resort to their fallback option of evading Bron in the forest, but Littlefoot was able to dissuade Bron from attacking the duo. He told his estranged father that they were not the ones who killed his son, but rather the rest of the pack was the culprits. A simple offer of the lives of the others in place of their own was enough to make Bron agree to the arrangement. It was almost creepy how quickly his suggestion had worked.

Probably because he plans on killing us after he is done with the others. Ruby deduced.

She had not really known Bron all that well, having only met him a few times while she resided in the valley. In fact, she knew Shorty a lot better than she knew Littlefoot's father. She had been introduced by Littlefoot back when Bron had first entered the valley after her and Chomper took up residency. Her introduction to the longneck had seemed to have gone well enough. However, an overheard argument later in the day told a different story. It seemed that Bron had strong disagreements with the residents allowing Chomper and Ruby into the valley.

"What are you thinking?! He is a sharptooth and she is a fast runner! Have you not learned anything?!"

Ruby tensed up at that as she listened from her hiding spot in the bushes. She had been trying to find some snapping shells, only to hear the signs of disagreement from the longnecks. Despite her usual cautiousness, she couldn't fight her curiosity. She had to find out what was going on.

And right now it seemed that they were arguing about her and Chomper.

"Now, Bron... Both Ruby and Chomper have proven themselves to be trustworthy guests of the valley. In fact, Littlefoot helped to raise Chomper when he hatched." Grandpa responded.

"What." Bron was stunned into a flat monotone. What sort of insanity were the grandparents talking about?

"Littlefoot told us the entire tale after he rejoined us in Haven Valley after the swarming leaf gobblers ate the valley's food. Apparently, back when the swimmers were having their last batch of eggs, Ducky saw eggstealers taking an egg from the valley..."

Ruby could only listen to the grandparents' explanation of the events that led to Chomper being hatched and eventually reunited with his parents. It was a story that she had heard before and that she relayed to the valley in the process of getting the residents to agree to let them stay. For poor Bron, however, it was a first.

"Littlefoot... helped to raise a sharptooth?" Bron shook his head. "It doesn't matter how nice he is now... He will grow up one day and be a threat to everyone." He grunted in frustration. "I would expect this idealism from Littlefoot, but both of you should know better..."

"Now listen here, Bron..."

The argument continued, as Ruby could only shake her head in frustration and sadness.

Eventually Bron had agreed to accept Chomper and Ruby. He made it very clear that he would only accept the decision of the valley if the "egg-stealer" and the "baby killer" were forced to leave after a few Cold Times. Otherwise, he threatened, that he would insist on taking Littlefoot out of the valley and joining with his herd. As it was already the plan of the valley to only let them stay for a few Cold Times, both grandparents simply nodded at his proposal. Ruby, however, never really forgave Bron for his harshness concerning her and Chomper, nor his imperious ideas on how to manage Littlefoot's living arrangements. Surely Bron realized that he couldn't simply order Littlefoot to join his herd? He would simply go on an "adventure" and end up back into the valley again. That was because Littlefoot shared his father's stubbornness, but not his closed-mindedness.

It was that closed-mindedness in Bron that she couldn't stand. She knew that it was formed when he had lost his mate to a sharptooth attack, but that was no excuse in Ruby's mind. After all, Littlefoot had befriended Chomper despite losing his mother to a sharptooth of the same kind. That was a story that he had once confided to her in detail after she had caught him looking thoughtful in a secluded spot in the valley. The fact that he could relay that story to her in a calm demeanor meant that he had confronted the reality of his mother's death for quite some time. If Littlefoot could make peace with what had happened, why couldn't Bron? Ruby suspected that she was missing something. Perhaps Bron still felt guilt of some kind? But why would he feel guilty? Based upon Littlefoot's story, Bron wasn't even there when the sharptooth...

Oh. Ruby finally made the logical deduction. He acts like he is guilty, because he thinks he is guilty. Well, that was another more piece of the puzzle for Ruby to consider.

Now, of course, there was also the matter of their "deaths" to contend with.

The closed-mindedness, guilt, and imperious attitude that Bron had exhibited during her time in the valley had apparently manifested itself into a quest for revenge. His guilt over the death of his mate was now intermingled with the "deaths" of his son and his friends. She remembered something that Chomper's father had once told them during their training.

The most dangerous prey is the one who knows it is doomed. Beware the one who fights without hope.

She did not quite understand what Dein was getting at when he first said that to them, but now she realized the full implications of his lesson. Bron was fully capable and willing to avenge his son and he didn't care if he died in the process. He was now a danger to them all. Either they would have to dissuade him from his mission with the truth, or else they would have to kill him.

There was no other alternative left open to them now.

With some trepidation, she looked towards the brown fastbiter that was walking beside her. Littlefoot was now in a stalking posture as he walked briskly in the direction they had agreed to earlier. His eyes were focused on the path ahead, but they seemed to be preoccupied with much more than their direction. No, she deduced, he was contemplating the conversation ahead and their contingency plan. If they couldn't convince Bron of their identity then they would make sure that he couldn't harm anyone else. That was exactly why they were heading towards the mud pits right now and not to the den. That was where Littlefoot had decided that the conversation... or murder... should take place.

Ruby frowned. She couldn't imagine how Littlefoot must have felt planning out not only his conversation with his father, but also the killing of his own father. And he had wanted to do this completely alone. He wanted all of the risk and responsibility to fall upon his shoulders. Maybe he inherited that from his father too. Ruby deduced. Taking all of the blame for himself. Himself taking all of the blame. Maybe they are more alike than they realize?

As the two fastbiters exchanged a glance, Ruby realized that was exactly what she was afraid of.

......

Littlefoot could see the fear in Ruby's eyes.

He couldn't quite pinpoint whether she was fearful of this situation, Bron's reaction, or Littlefoot's own. He had to admit that he was feeling great trepidation at the prospect of the conversation he would soon have to start. Even if he were to somehow convince his father of his identity, how would Bron react? It was obvious from the amount of time that had gone by, that Littlefoot and the others had not simply been living off of insects for their survival. Not only that, but Bron had seen them try to drag Tippy's body away. No, his father knew that he was a killer. Even in the most optimistic scenario his father would be distraught over that revelation. It was not something that Littlefoot had considered very much in rushing off to his hastily concocted plan, as he had mainly worried about telling Bron his true identity, but now the full implications of what that would entail was finally crashing down upon the former longneck's head.

If only my dad had stayed away... Littlefoot sadly thought to himself. If that would have happened then he and his friends could have continued being sharpteeth away from the notice of their parents. They could continue on without their children, thinking that they had died as innocent leaf-eaters. Likewise, the pack could have gone on being what they had no other choice in being. But that was not to be. Littlefoot's past had made its visitation upon the pack. Now he had to deal with the consequences.

No matter how distasteful they may be.

Littlefoot looked once more at his father. Bron was keeping pace with them and remained about one longneck length apart from them. Bron's expression communicated little more than distaste at the two specimens that lay before him. His expression and that lack of space between them, meant that if this situation went bad then they would have little room for error in escaping from the massive herbivore. Injury to his leg or not, Bron was still a grave threat. He had to make sure that Ruby was ready for what may lay ahead.

Littlefoot turned his head back towards Ruby and gave a slight nod. At Ruby's curious expression, he softly hissed a question in a high-pitched tone that leaf-eaters could not hear.

"Are you ready for this, Ponder?"

The rose colored fastbiter paused for a moment, but then gave a slight nod. She then hissed back at her partner.

"Yes. Are you?"

Littlefoot shook his head. "No, but it has to be now or never. We are close to the mud pits."

With a slight gesture, he directed Ruby to move behind him, as he turned in order to better face Bron. As the two fastbiters changed configuration, Bron seemed to advance towards them, perhaps suspecting an escape was imminent. But his pace slowed to match theirs again when he was within half a longneck length. They were now in the planned configuration for what would happen next. All that had to happen in order for Littlefoot's plan to begin was for him to start the conversation.

Littlefoot swallowed in a loud gulp. It was time. Looking back towards his father, he began with a seemingly odd question.

"Have you been having any odd sleep stories, Bron?"

......

Bron frowned at the brown fastbiter. He had no idea what the sharptooth was up to, but he did not like it one bit. He was not here to make conversation; he was here to avenge his son. The only reason he was even allowing these vile creatures to escort him was because of their offer to lead them to Chomper and the rest of his minions. He had his doubts as to their sincerity, but he knew that he could easily crush any of them that got in his way. It wasn't like they were full-grown sharpteeth.

Like Chomper's parents.

That last thought made Bron hesitate for a moment. In his rush to avenge his son, he had overlooked a rather obvious complication: what if Chomper's parents were nearby? True, the grandparents both thought that it was likely that Chomper's parents had long since died, hence why they never retrieved their son, but he still had some doubts. However, they had not come to Chomper's aid when he was being chased... So maybe they were out of the way. But the possibility of a fatal complication to his plans did give him pause. Still, he had gone too far to retreat now. He had made his choice and he was determined to follow it to its conclusion.

Putting his confusing jumble of thoughts away for a moment, Bron decided to shut down the inquisitive sharptooth.

"My sleep stories are none of your business, sharptooth." He answered in barely restrained anger. "Just shut up and take me to your leader. That is my only use for you."

The brown fastbiter seemed to hesitate for a moment, as they continued their journey to who knows where. But, after a few moments, the sharptooth decided to speak again.

"I have had some weird sleep stories. Especially about five months ago, in the spring."

Bron sighed. It seemed that this fastbiter couldn't take a hint. Maybe the other pack members were bullying him for being so stupid. Maybe that was why the brown fastbiter wanted them all dead? In any case, Bron did not want to converse with this disgusting creature so he simply tried to ignore his story. Perhaps he would take the silence as a hint.

"In the sleep story, I was a brown longneck." The brown fastbiter began. "A child." He added almost as if it were an afterthought. "I was running away from a fastbiter. He nearly caught up to me, but I survived. I found a cave that seemed to be promising shelter from the brute."

Bron tried to ignore the words of the fastbiter, but they were causing deeply repressed memories to flood back into Bron's consciousness. He had had an odd dream about a week before he entered the valley and found out that Littlefoot had been killed. In fact, now that he thought about it, he had the sleep story around the same time that the other residents said that the children were killed by the sharpteeth. The odd dream seemed to replay in his mind.

Littlefoot ran as fast as his legs would carry him. In this desolate hellscape it appeared that there was no shelter, no hope. As the fastbiter speedily advanced towards the longneck, Bron panicked.

"Run Littlefoot! I will save you!"

Bron placed himself in front of the longneck, but neither Littlefoot nor the fastbiter seemed to notice. Without paying much heed to this development, Bron struck out at the carnivore with his mighty tail.

Only to see the fastbiter run right through his tail. It was as if Bron were a ghost.

Now suitably freaked out, Bron lunged in order to pick up Littlefoot by the scruff of his neck. This too failed as Littlefoot went right through Bron's face. Bron was a spectator in this sleep story, not a participant.

"In the cave I found seven different paths. I knew my friends had gone in the other six, but they were all blocked. That was when the other sharpteeth appeared."

Bron was terrified for his son. Chomper, a sharptooth flyer, and four fastbiters appeared from the other paths. Littlefoot now had only one avenue of escape available to him and he ran with all of his might.

"Run, Littlefoot!" Bron encouraged. He had no idea why his son was being confronted with this situation, but he deeply regretted not being able to help. He simply hoped Littlefoot's amazing luck would hold out and that he would escape from this situation as he had escaped from many others.

He watched as his son ran into a somewhat well-lit chamber. Light shined through the ceiling, as there was a hole in the canopy of the cave. There were no other openings which were visible, only a pool of water existed as a distinct feature in this place. In horror, Bron watched as the sharpteeth approached Littlefoot. He could only scream in frustration and fear as Littlefoot crouched down in acceptance of the end that awaited him. It seemed that his luck had finally run out.

"But they didn't hurt me. In fact, they wanted me to look into the pool of water."

Bron watched in curiosity as Littlefoot slowly approached the pool of water. It almost seemed to shine a deep blue. Like a blue star in the pitch black darkness of the cave. Nonetheless, Littlefoot did as the sharpteeth directed and stared at his reflection. Bron was horrified to see what happened next.

Littlefoot's appearance in the reflection was not that of a young longneck, but that of a fastbiter! He had distinct claws on his forelimbs and two piercing yellow eyes. What madness was this?!

Bron then looked up at Littlefoot, only to see that the brown fastbiter that had been chasing his son earlier had now taken his place. His son had become his own worst enemy - a sharptooth.

"That was certainly a weird sleep story." The brown fastbiter finished.

Bron stared at the fastbiters that were in front of him. All of their forward progress was now halted, as he directed his full attention on what the fastbiter had stated. This was too perfect to be coincidence. The sleep story that the brown fastbiter had mentioned was the exact same sleep story that Bron remembered from that night so long ago. Likewise, Bron now realized something else.

The two fastbiters that were now in front of him were two of the sharpteeth in the dream. In fact, the fastbiter that had chased his son and replaced him now stood right in front of Bron. The implications were too unsettling and horrifying for Bron's mind to process them right away. He reacted with a distraught question.

"Who are you?"

The rose colored fastbiter seemed to nod at Bron's question, as if something had just been confirmed to her. She then placed a clawed hand on the brown fastbiter's back in an apparent show of support. With some hesitation, the brown fastbiter continued.

"You once told me, Bron. That the most important test in the Big Longneck Test was the test of judgment. I passed it when I decided not to cross the lava-filled crevice. You remember that, do you not?"

Bron took a step back. "No... No..."

"I wish... that we could have told the valley residents what happened to us, but the stone made us forget leaf-eater. Chomper had to re-teach us the language... But even if we could explain would anyone even listen?"

Bron stared at the brown fastbiter in horrified silence. He couldn't acknowledge the obvious conclusion out of fear that saying it would make it come true. With some trepidation, he gave the brown fastbiter an order.

"Tell me your name, sharptooth."

The brown fastbiter looked into the longneck's eyes. The yellow eyes of the carnivore joined the gaze of their counterparts in the mighty longneck. Despite not knowing sharptooth body language, he could tell that the fastbiter was looking at him with a distinct longing. A longing for recognition and approval. He now knew who stood before him. The stranger's words a few moments later confirmed the reality beyond all doubt.

"It's me, dad."

......

Ruby looked on in anticipation at the massive longneck. Littlefoot had just confirmed his identity for his father, who now had a stunned expression on his face. What Bron would do now would have massive implications for how the entire situation developed. Either he would accept Littlefoot's declaration, or they would have to move into the mud pits and spring their trap upon the longneck.

It all depended on what happened next.

Almost imperceptivity at first, Ruby could see Bron beginning to shake. The shaking soon became much more apparent, almost a cross between a nervous jitter and a seizure. It was obvious that the longneck was holding something back and it would have to give sooner or later.

That was when Bron let out an ear-piercing screech into the night sky.

Both Ruby and Littlefoot then bolted into the forest

......

After running for several seconds, Littlefoot heard something that made him pause.

"Littlefoot!"

It was the grief-stricken cry of his father. Littlefoot then realized that Bron had not screamed as a prelude to an attack, but rather in grief over his son's fate. Felling a bit guilty over his knee-jerk reaction, Littlefoot stopped his forward momentum.

He and Ruby were now in a secluded area full of mud pits, which existed in the swamp. This was where, had Bron decided to charge at them they had planned to lure him into charging into a mud pit. They already had their path planned out which would allow them to avoid sinking in the mud, but the path was far too small for the massive longneck. They would have been successful at trapping his father in the mud had it come to that... and then Chomper's parents could attend to the rest.

Feeling great relief that his initial interpretation of Bron's actions were wrong, Littlefoot took a deep breath. As he heard Bron bellow out his name again, Littlefoot decided to answer his father.

"I am here, dad."

Littlefoot could hear the rumbling get closer, until finally his father appeared from the trees. His father's face was masked by tears and his expression was one of disbelief and grief. The longneck's body was hunched over in an expression of utter exhaustion and his neck seemed to hang lower than usual. Gone was the self-assured leader of a herd. Gone was the revenge-seeking herbivore. Now all that remained was a dinosaur who seemed to have been destroyed by what fate had sent his way. The events of the last several months had taken their toll. Now that the anger had departed from Bron's features, Littlefoot could see that.

Littlefoot could relate to his emotional state. He was a grief-stricken emotional wreck at the moment as well. He could only carry his normal posture with extreme difficulty. Every fiber of his body wanted to collapse on the ground in exhaustion, but his current situation would not permit that. No, it was time to have a badly needed conversation.

"How could this happen?" Bron moaned as he approached Littlefoot slowly.

Littlefoot could feel Ruby place a hand on his shoulder, but he grasped it and shook his head. No, he was not afraid of his father. Not anymore. He did not know how this would end, but he knew that murder was out of question for either side. Now Bron simply wanted to know why and how this happened. Littlefoot feared that he could not provide a satisfactory answer.

Bron then raised his large foot slightly, which caused Ruby to retreat back. Littlefoot simply touched Bron's massive foot with his much smaller clawed appendage. Littlefoot could hear Bron's breathing become much more rapid and unsteady. He decided to answer his question before Bron became any more distressed than he already was.

"We decided to make a wish on the stone. And it did this to us."

......

Shorty stared at the scene before him in mute horror. He had decided to follow Bron in order to see what his father figure was doing when he suddenly left the herd. He was surprised to see the sharpteeth make a deal with the massive longneck, but nothing could prepare him for the revelations that came next.

Littlefoot's a sharptooth... A sharptooth... A sharptooth...

The thoughts bounced around in the little longneck's head, but they didn't seem to really sink in. How could he accept such an impossible thing? His brother had been killed... or so he had believed... and now he was a sharptooth. Despite his amazement at the situation, he couldn't bring himself to speak or make his presence known. His mouth refused to vocalize and his feet refused to move. He was forced by his own body to watch the scene before him.

"But how... This sort of thing just doesn't happen!"

Shorty could see Littlefoot look down for a moment, before answering.

"We... uh... We made a wish on the stone... We wished to be strong enough to defeat Red Claw." Shorty could see Littlefoot look almost apologetic, as Bron's expression darkened. Littlefoot quickly continued. "I guess that it took us literally."

Bron's reaction was almost immediate.

"So... All of this happened... BECAUSE OF A STUPID WISH!"

Shorty cringed. It was understandable that Bron would be angry and frustrated over the foolishness of Littlefoot and his friends, but surely now was not the time for such a reaction? However, the entire valley had been worried and grief-stricken for months, Bron had given up his herd to his second-in-command, and Littlefoot's life as a longneck was over. In a way it was perfectly understandable for Bron to be filled with rage. All of that pain and loss... all because Littlefoot and his friends couldn't do as they were told.

Shorty could see Littlefoot look down to the ground. He looked chastised, but more than that he looked as if he held all of the guilt upon his shoulders. His answer was nearly inaudible.

"Yes."

Bron shuddered as he took in a deep breath. Shorty dreaded what may be coming.

But his reaction was calmer than the green longneck expected. Far calmer.

"Do you have any idea, Littlefoot? Do you have any idea..." Bron shook his head, as Littlefoot looked up at the massive longneck. Shorty could not see his expression from this angle. "Do you know how long we all searched for you... and for the others? How many tears we have shed? How much pain..." Bron began to break down again. "Son... why couldn't you have listened to your grandparents?"

Littlefoot looked down, but he said nothing.

Bron then bowed his head to where the fastbiter was and gave him a light nudge. "I went searching for you when I came to the valley... The others warned me against doing it, but I went anyway... I crossed barren lands and rivers... And in a field between two forests I found longneck bones... I thought that they were yours, Littlefoot." Bron's voice broke. "I have been hunting for your ‘killers’ ever since."

Littlefoot looked at his father with a horrified expression. His mouth hung agape as he processed that information. Elsewhere, Shorty could hear the pink fastbiter begin to weep about a longneck's length from the father and son. She was obviously moved by the display and shamed by the pain that they have caused.

"And you didn't know that we were the 'killers'... Dad..." Littlefoot began. "I'm sorry."

Bron nodded. "So am I...."

Shorty stared at the two dinosaurs from his hiding spot behind a bush and began to debate making his presence known. He knew that he would be in trouble, but he hardly cared about that. Not anymore. That was his brother out there.

However, as he was placing his foot on the other side of the bush, he heard a question that made him stop cold.

"Littlefoot, you are a sharptooth now... You have not just been feeding on buzzers..." Littlefoot noticeably closed his eyes at that deduction. It appeared that Littlefoot knew what was coming. "Son, you have killed."

This was something that Shorty had not considered, but obviously Littlefoot would have had to survive somehow out here. If plants were no longer available to him...

"Yes, dad. I have killed."

Bron immediately looked away and turned his back from his son. It was as if Littlefoot's face suddenly filled the longneck with shame and regret. Littlefoot quickly noted this change in demeanor and hunched over in an exhausted posture. Ruby quickly came to his side and placed a comforting hand on his back, but it seemed to have no effect. The truth was out and now the both of them would have to deal with Bron's response.

As Shorty looked over at the brown longneck, he realized that the response was forthcoming.

"Tippy... How could you do that to Tippy?!"

Shorty felt the tears roll down his eyes. That was a question that he had as well. How could Littlefoot do that? To betray one of Spike's old friends... It was horrific in the extreme.

Littlefoot blinked. "We didn't hurt Tippy..."

Bron gave a bitter laugh. "Don't lie to me son! I saw you all drag his body away!"

Littlefoot gave a grunt of annoyance. "We found his body. Somebody else killed him first. We decided to eat what was left." Bron looked sick at that revelation. "If we can eat without killing, dad, then we do so. But sometimes we don't have a choice."

Shorty felt some relief at Littlefoot's words. At least they had not been the ones to kill Tippy. The death of the little spiketail had made Shorty mourn greatly as he had few friends in the herd. At least now he could rest assured that the instrument of his death wasn't his own adopted brother. However, with dawning horror, Shorty realized that Bron was not having the same relieved reaction.

Bron began to shake at his son's words. Shorty could see his face take on a flushed appearance. Bron was more upset than he could ever remember his adopted father being. Looking back at Littlefoot, he could see much the same expression. Both of them were angry and tired. Shorty knew something was about to give.

He was tragically correct.

"You know how your mother died, Littlefoot. Have you forgotten her? How can you..." His voice became shaky. "Of all people do that?!" Bron then worked himself up into a frenzy as he continued to look away. "Your mother and I raised you better than that!"

Littlefoot quaked in anger. It seemed that the mention of his mother made something snap in the former longneck. Shorty began to feel fearful when he saw the expression in Littlefoot's eyes. Bron had gone too far.

"You didn't raise me at all!"

Everything seemed to stop in the clearing once that affirmation was made. No insects could be heard, nor could a breeze or the waves of the river. Silence descended upon the scene. Only the echo of the brown fastbiter's accusation could be heard.

"You have no idea what I have been through! No bloody idea!" Littlefoot began pacing now and Shorty could see the concerned look on the pink fastbiter's face. It looked as if she feared that he was about to push Bron too far.

She might be right. Shorty sadly thought.

"We were chased by our own families... We couldn't find any shelter, no food, no allies, nothing! Then... After we had been chased by Screech and Thud... We began to go hungry..." Littlefoot's eyes took on a glazed look as he began to recount the memory. The look of horror was clearly visible from Shorty's perspective. "It was horrible, dad. The most horrible thing you can imagine... We began to snap at one another... I began to dream horrific dreams... We could only think of food... of meat." He sucked in a breath. "It was like my mind was being ripped from me... If I didn't hunt then I would eventually snap and kill someone..." He looked towards his father with mournful eyes, but the longneck was still looking in the opposing direction. "I had no choice. We had to do it."

......

Bron quaked. He still looked away as Littlefoot's words greeted his ears, but he couldn't really perceive them. For far too long, Bron had hated sharpteeth. All sharpteeth. He had lost his uncle, several siblings, and his mate to their insatiable need for flesh. He considered them nothing but threats. The only good sharptooth was a dead one. After facing so much pain at their claws, so much loss, he couldn't process having his own son join their ranks. To willingly kill and eat flesh. To exact the same pain on other dinosaurs that he had felt earlier in life. It was the antithesis of everything that he stood for. He couldn't imagine making peace with such a monstrous outcome, but he also couldn't imagine harming his son. He was now faced with having two unshakable propositions that he had held in life being challenged: that sharpteeth were evil and that his family was everything. This, coupled with his grief over the change and guilt over not being there for his son, was simply too much for the longneck. He had never run away from an adversary before in his life. It was antithetical to everything that he believed in. But when faced with the horrific implications of what lay before him, he did something that he had never done before.

He fled.

He had to get away and sort this out in his mind. Only then could he confront his son. Only then...

......

"Dad! Dad..."

Littlefoot began to weep again as the massive longneck fled without another word. It seemed that Littlefoot had succeeded in preventing the destruction of the pack, but he had lost a battle as well. His father did not appear to accept Littlefoot for what he now was. It seemed that he would now be fatherless once more. He did not truly realize how much he had missed his father until he found him once more, but now the emotional wounds were again fresh and raw. His grief could not be contained.

He could feel the arms of another fastbiter wrap around him. Ruby. He couldn't really process the words of comfort and encouragement that she was saying, but her mere presence seemed to help ground him. After a few minutes that seemed like hours, he could finally begin to become aware of what she was saying.

"He'll be back, Seeker. He needs to think. Thinking is what he needs."

Littlefoot tried to dry his eyes. "He hates me."

Ruby gave the brown fastbiter a concerned expression. "No, Seeker. You're dad doesn't hate you. If he hated you then he wouldn't be your dad. He didn't try to attack you, did he?"

Littlefoot nodded. That was true, his father did not react violently. He had simply ran away. In much the same way that Littlefoot had ran away from Bron when he was first confronted with the truth that he had a father. A father that had been absent for most of his life. Perhaps Bron was simply trying to understand a hard truth as well. If so, then he couldn't get discouraged. Perhaps he should give Bron some time and then confront him again? That was what Bron did after Littlefoot had...

Crack!

Littlefoot's thoughts were interrupted when he heard a loud crack from the bushes behind him. Both him and Ruby turned to the sudden sound and were transfixed at the dinosaur that stood in front of them. This was a face that Littlefoot thought he would never see again. Looking terrified, yet hopeful, the small green longneck hesitantly greeted his adopted brother.

"Littlefoot?"


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