The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 44 Acceptance

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Bron lay prone at the shore of the watering hole, which was within visual range of the herd. His entire body ached at the constant shaking that it had endured for the last hour. His emotional turmoil was being replicated as physical turmoil as the signs of grief and pain ran its course. Now that he had openly wept for longer than any other period of his life he felt only one remaining thing.

He felt empty.

He had focused on his son's actions as a sharptooth instead of comforting him with an undoubtedly horrific transformation. He had used his own mate, Littlefoot's mother, as a tool to strike out at his son's deeds. In the heat of the moment Bron thought what he was doing was right. That sharpteeth were evil, vile creatures and that his son should not have adopted that lifestyle. But, Bron now realized, he was lying to himself. Littlefoot now had no choice. He had to either eat or die of starvation. And his words had been so full of pain and anguish...

"You have no idea what I have been through! No bloody idea!"

"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..."

"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."

"It was like my mind was being ripped from me... If I didn't hunt then I would eventually snap and kill someone..."

"I had no choice. We had to do it."

And what had he done? He had run away. He could face off with sharpteeth and stand tall against the biggest dangers, but he could not be courageous around his son.

And he knew why.

"I betrayed him..." Bron weakly condemned himself. "I should have stuck around when he was laid." Instead he had tried to find a more fruitful home, only to find that his mate had been forced to leave weeks before he arrived.

"I should have been there when I found him again." Somewhere deep in his mind he knew that this wasn't true. The herd depended on him and no suitable leader had arisen yet. So when he rediscovered his son, he couldn't really stay in the valley. Not without risking the lives of dozens of other longnecks. Nonetheless, in his emotional state, he blamed himself.

Despite all of the rationalizations that he made up after Littlefoot's "death" and despite the ideals of duty and obligation that he erected as his mantra, he could no longer hide the true reasons for his actions over the last several months. The hatred of Chomper, the need to strike out after his son's killers, the single-minded focus, they were all proxies for his feelings of guilt. He knew that he had failed to be there when Littlefoot needed him, so he had to project another being as the enemy. Chomper, because of the actions that he was accused of, made the perfect scapegoat. Yes, there was a legitimate need to protect the valley from sharpteeth that knew too much, but he knew that was not the real reason why he hunted Chomper down.

He wanted absolution for his failures. But deep inside he knew that would not come. His son was dead, or so he thought, and so were his chances at earning forgiveness. Such was his fate.

When his son finally did prove his identity, he was awestruck and horrified. His entire world had been turned on its head. Not having time to confront his confusing jumble of emotions, he projected his own inadequacies upon his son. His son had not betrayed his mother's legacy, Bron had. What would she think of his reactions now?

Now, Bron had to try to pick up the pieces. He had left without even saying goodbye to his son. He would have to make amends and, for that matter, explain the situation to Shorty.

How in the name of sanity am I going to do that?

He looked over at the herd. From this distance he couldn't see much detail, but he could still see the outlines of the various dinosaurs. The arrogant leader, the mournful mother, the massive longneck that was Doc... He could see them all. He could even see his and Shorty's resting spots. His was empty for the time being, but he knew that he would soon need to fill it. He would need to be well-rested for when he confronted his son again, but he would need to be careful not to wake Shorty when he went back to the herd, his adopted son was a notoriously light sleeper. If he waked up...

Wait... Where is Shorty?

At Shorty's usual resting place there was nothing to be seen, just a depression in the grass where Shorty usually rested. That could only mean that Shorty had decided to leave the safety of the herd at night...

Oh no! Did he follow me?

Ignoring his previous plan of letting the morning come before confronting Littlefoot, Bron began to run in the direction of the clearing where he had last seen him and the pink fastbiter. If Shorty had followed him then that was the most likely place that he would have been. And if he was not then he needed their help if he was going to find Shorty before another sharptooth did.

He just hoped that he wasn't too late and that Littlefoot was still there.

......

Littlefoot couldn't believe his eyes. Just moments after his father had departed from their meeting his adopted brother had decided to make an appearance. Had he been thinking more clearly, he would have realized that Shorty was acting skittish at the sight of his brother. Understandably, as his Littlefoot was now a fastbiter, a killer of leaf-eaters. But in that moment he was riding on a sudden emotional high after the abysmal low of moments past. As a result, he made what was possibly the most ill-advised action that he could have taken. With sudden swiftness, Littlefoot leapt to his feet and lunged at his adopted brother.

And embraced him.

Shorty was frozen in place at Littlefoot's sudden action. A frightened scream never made it out of his mouth, as he soon realized that his brother's actions were not an attack, but an emotional greeting. As if he needed any more indication, his brother's happy sobs were all the confirmation that he needed. He returned Littlefoot's embrace with a light nuzzle to the fastbiter's neck. The two brother's were finally together again.

"I've missed you, Shorty." Came the muffled affirmation from the longneck's shoulder. The accent was strange, but yet there was something in that voice that was clearly Littlefoot's. Littlefoot the fastbiter. Shorty was still trying to wrap his mind around that.

"I've missed you too." The green longneck affirmed. "So has dad." He added.

At that affirmation, Shorty could feel Littlefoot's embrace weaken as he finally resumed an upright position. His eyes were still wet with moisture, Shorty could see, but his expression was suddenly far more controlled. Littlefoot took in a few steadying breaths before he finally spoke.

"Yeah... But he doesn't seem to miss me now." He gave a light, bitter laugh. "Why should he? I'm... I'm what he hates the most."

Shorty looked at the brown fastbiter with a look of both disbelief and pity. Some part of his subconscious also noted that the pink fastbiter was also looking sympathetic at Littlefoot's affirmation. Bron's actions and words had obviously impacted the fastbiter deeply.

"But he doesn't hate you, Littlefoot." Shorty responded quickly. Surely Littlefoot knew this?

Littlefoot sighed. "I know... I guess... But..."

Shorty didn't let him get out another word. "I know Bron, Littlefoot. Heck... I have known him longer than you have..."

Shorty cringed when he saw that his words made Littlefoot look even more distraught. He hadn't meant to make the implication that Bron and Littlefoot had not had much time together, but that truth was out there anyway. For better or worse, Littlefoot had lost his mother and been raised by his grandparents. Bron gave Littlefoot lessons from time to time when he was in the valley, sure, but that was far from a full-time parental relationship. Nonetheless, the relationship between Littlefoot and his long-absent father still deeply touched the sharptooth, and Shorty knew it. He immediately tried to finish his statement.

"What I mean..." Shorty resumed. "Is that I know that he never runs away from an enemy. If he thought you were an enemy then he would have stood and faced you."

Littlefoot blinked. Shorty's words made a lot of sense. But that opened up another question in the brown fastbiter.

"Then why did he run away from me?"

Shorty sighed. He figured that he should be honest here. "I don't know. But I think... I think... That he doesn't know what to do. He has no one that he can fight... No one he can get help from..." Shorty shook his head. "He's afraid, Littlefoot. Our dad is afraid."

Littlefoot looked down. "Of me?"

Shorty shook his head. "Of what you have become... and... I don't know." The green longneck looked away, as if the sight of the two fastbiters horrified him.

This drastic change in demeanor that was not lost on the two sharpteeth who were present. Both Littlefoot and Ruby shared a glance. Ruby gave him a slight nod. Much was communicated in that simple gesture. This was his family, so she would not interfere. But he did have her support.

For that he was grateful.

Littlefoot carefully studied his brother for a brief moment. His face was focused away from the two sharpteeth and his neck was bowed in a position of shame. Is he ashamed of me... No... No, that wasn't it. The body posture was all wrong. The shame he was facing was not from the two sharpteeth, but within himself. Now, Littlefoot understood Shorty's unspoken words.

"He... He's afraid of himself? But... Why? Is he afraid he will snap and kill me..." Shorty immediately interrupted Littlefoot.

"No!" Both fastbiters actually stepped back as the green longneck suddenly returned to a lively state and faced them with an agitated stare. Then, looking stunned at himself, he calmed down again. His focus towards the ground, he clarified the situation for the two dinosaurs. "He's ashamed of himself."

Littlefoot looked utterly confused at this. Ruby, despite her aim of non-interfering, couldn't help but to mouth the obvious question.

"Why?"

Shorty sighed as he pawed the ground, still keeping his face averted. "He... He changed after you left, Littlefoot. We all did." Shorty looked at the sky for a moment, as if he were trying to recollect something. "He wanted nothing but revenge. He wanted Chomper and all of you... or who he thought you were... killed. He was willing to sacrifice everything to do that."

Littlefoot nodded, but still did not understand. "That sounds heroic, Shorty. Why does he feel ashamed over that?"

Shorty shook his head. "After he found your body... um... what he thought was your body, he made some changes."

Shorty finally refocused his gaze on Littlefoot. His eyes communicated fatigue and dread. The sort of dread that a person feels when they are about to share unpleasant news. Even with that revelation, however, Littlefoot did not expect what he heard next.

"He assigned a new herd leader and left the herd."

Littlefoot was agape. "What?!"

Shorty nodded. "He felt that he betrayed you... That he let you down... He was... Well, he wasn't quite Bron anymore." Shorty looked down again. "When we got word that you were all here... He volunteered to avenge you and your friends." Shorty licked his lips. "I wanted to go to. I wanted nothing more than to see the sharpteeth die horribly..." Shorty finally sat down, as if a massive weight stood on his shoulders. "I guess that makes me no better than them."

Littlefoot now had a far different expression on his face, one of pity. The roles seemed to have been reversed. "Shorty... Dad..." Littlefoot was so floored by these revelations that he wished he could address them both, even though one of them wasn't present. "I wouldn't want you to live in anger or to die avenging me..." Littlefoot shook his head. "I would want you to live on. To live happily..." Now it was Littlefoot's turn to sigh. "Part of the reason that we didn't come back and let everyone know what happened was that we thought everyone would be better off if they thought we were dead..."

Shorty looked appalled as Littlefoot continued.

"We thought... I thought that it would be better that you all thought that I died as a brave leaf-eater, rather than know that I am a killer now. I thought that would break your hearts..."

Littlefoot then looked at Shorty. It seemed that both the pack and the adults had made horrible decisions. And, as Littlefoot knew, the first step in fixing a mistake was admitting a mistake.

Littlefoot gave a weak laugh. "I guess... I guess we all kind of messed up, huh?"

Shorty couldn't help but laugh slightly as well. Now that the truth was out there, never mind how horrible it was, it felt like the weight of the world was off of their shoulders. As a result, both brothers expressed some humor at their plight now that the full scope of their folly was exposed. Shorty offered his own analysis.

"I guess stupidity kind of runs in the family, huh?"

As both brothers laughed at the absurdity of the situation, Ruby could only look on. She had yet to find anything humorous in their depressing situation, but at least Littlefoot appeared to be in better spirits. She decided that she would wait for them to finish and then she would address a question of her own.

That was until she heard a commotion downwind of her.

"So that's where you two were. Decided to have some kissing time to yourselves?" It was Cera. "You had us all worried, you know. We thought that Littlefoot might try something stupid like talk to..."

Cera then saw Shorty. Comprehension then dawned on the yellow fastbiter. Littlefoot must have tried to talk to Bron alone.

She sniffed the air. There were the clear smells of Ruby and Littlefoot, which were as distinct and unique to her as a dinosaur's face. There were also the scents of two longnecks. A juvenile, obviously coming from Shorty, and the scent of an adult male longneck that had left a few moments prior. It was confirmed then. Littlefoot had talked to Bron and he did not consult her or anyone else... Except Ruby.

An odd mixture of relief and rage began to flash on the fastbiter's face. If he had been successful then the pack was safe, but the risk that Littlefoot had taken was unwise in the extreme. Likewise, she was disappointed with Ruby. She should have known better than to allow him to pull this stunt. Before converting her language to leaf-eater, Cera said one final thing to Littlefoot in sharptooth.

"Littlefoot, your father may not have killed you, but I might. What were you thinking?" As Littlefoot began to speak, she waved him off. "Later... We will discuss this later." She then glared at Ruby. "All three of us." Her tone conveyed no leniency. She had ranted at him when he risked himself for the egg-stealers back in the lowlands and she would do so again here. He was not a pack of one; he was the leader of the pack. They did things together. She would remind her leader of this fact even if she had to beat it into him.

A moment later, screeches and hisses of delight emanated from the bushes, as the remainder of the fastbiters arrived on the scene. Cera and Littlefoot both waved at the others to approach slowly, as Shorty nearly bolted at their merriment. They had to be reminded that merriment coming from a sharptooth was not considered a pleasant sound by herbivores, and for good reason. After they quieted down and slowed their forward progress, Shorty quickly calmed. Realizing who these dinosaurs must be, he fixed them with a warm smile. Littlefoot began the introductions.

"That's Spike. That's Ducky. That's..." He was then interrupted by Shorty.

"Cera." He then looked at Littlefoot. "Right? You all have similar colors."

Littlefoot smiled and nodded. But then the remaining land walker in the group appeared from the bushes.

Chomper.

Shorty sucked down a breath as the purple sharptooth fixed him with an amazed expression. This was the very sharptooth that he had hated for months. This was the sharptooth that he thought was a monster, a traitor, and a fiend. This was the sharptooth that he thought had killed his brother and close friends. But now he could see him for what he really was... A child. Just a child like himself who was trying to do the best that he could in a cruel world. In their rage, both Shorty and Bron wanted the sharpteeth dead for their actions, but were they any better? Sharpteeth killed because they were hungry, but the longnecks were prepared to kill for the sake of vendetta. In that moment, Shorty wondered if that made him more monstrous than any sharptooth. Shaking his head at that thought, he addressed the purple sharptooth.

"Hey, Chomper." His voice was soft and apologetic. "It's been a long time hasn't it?"

At that affirmation it seemed that the lid on conversation lifted and everyone began to converse with the visibly overwhelmed green longneck. There was so much to discuss and catch up on. With the exceptions of their sharpteeth and claws, it was as if nothing had changed in the group of old friends. Shorty's heart leapt at the return of a world that he had feared was lost forever. But yet his friends remained, albeit changed.

On that night Shorty did something that he nearly hadn't done since Littlefoot's "death".

He smiled.

......

It took several moments for the conversations to settle down, as everyone wanted to speak to the green longneck. Finally another dinosaur that they had known them in their old lives had returned and they could reminisce about the old times and see how their old friend was doing.

Eventually, though, one of them asked a question that had to be asked.

"So, uh..." It was Spike. "How are our parents?"

The conversations ended in a hushed silence. Everyone knew the probable answer to that question, but no one looked forward to having the answer confirmed.

Shorty sighed. He had just had this conversation with Littlefoot, he was not looking forward to a repeat. "Well... They are about as well as you expect..." The silence remained as Shorty looked up at Spike and the others. "Everyone was upset and several wanted revenge, but Bron eventually volunteered for the job. We left with the spiketail herd as soon as we heard you all were in the Land of Shallow Waters."

The jubilant reunion had now taken on a much more somber tone as everyone was reminded of how their departure must have affected their families. Shorty was not finished, however.

"Mr. Threehorn improved defenses. Everyone was scared that the sharpteeth... that you guys... would invade the valley."

Ducky looked perplexed by that insinuation and asked an obvious question. "Why would we do that? We are kids. We are, we are."

Spike didn't look up as he seemed to have immediately deduced the answer. "We know the ways in." The heads of everyone present turned towards the dark green fastbiter. "We could lead... bigger sharpteeth in."

Shorty nodded. "Yeah... They were really scared of that. Especially Petrie's mom. She flew patrols everyday just to make sure that you all weren't sneaking up on the valley..." He then looked around. "Um... Where is Petrie?" When no one answered him immediately, he continued. "Surely, he didn't..."

Cera didn't let him finish. "No, he's okay. That flyer is too annoying for anything to eat him." Upon seeing that she had earned Littlefoot's annoyed scowl, she gave him a slight satisfied smile continued. "He is scouting for us right now. We had a rather unpleasant guest and he is trying to learn more about him from our allies."

Shorty's eyes went wide. "Your allies?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah... There were some fastbiters in the lowlands that are our friends."

Shorty's eyes darkened for a moment. "Those were your allies! They tried killing us!" His eyes bored directly into Littlefoot's.

As he stared into the depths of Shorty's eyes, he could see horror and sadness there. He had to admit that this was a perfectly understandable reaction on the part of his brother. It was true that Skytail and the others would kill for food and Shorty certainly constituted suitable food for a sharptooth. However, he couldn't blame his brother for reacting angry to the revelation. He was now on the other end of the circle of life. They each had different roles to play and it was hard to be sympathetic to the predators when you were on the menu. Littlefoot was about to speak, when Ruby interjected.

"Well, it may have been somebody else. Somebody else it may have been." At Shorty's disbelieving scowl, she continued. "There are other fastbiters. What did they look like?"

Littlefoot nodded slightly. Ruby was using a good strategy. Make Shorty consider other possibilities in order to lessen his feelings of betrayal and anger. At the same time, maybe they could learn more about Skytail's situation as Shorty recounted their appearance.

Shorty shifted his gaze downward for a moment, as if he were recalling a horrific memory. Which, Littlefoot deduced, he most certainly was. "There were so many of them... so many... At least two dozen."

Littlefoot, Ruby, and Cera shared glances. That was far more than a normal pack. What was going on in the lowlands?

"Several of them went after me and Tippy..." Shorty tried to control his face in order to hide his fear, but he failed miserably. "My dad couldn't hold them off... Then finally Doc came and crushed the a few of them. They ran off after that." Shorty nodded. "Thank goodness sharpteeth are cowards."

Shorty immediately thought about what he had said and looked back up at the sharpteeth who were listening to his tale. "Um... what I mean is..."

Littlefoot cut him off. "It's alright."

Some prejudices, like hatred of sharpteeth, seemed to almost be embedded into the instincts of herbivores. Littlefoot decided that it was probably for the best. It was only natural to feel contempt for those who wished you harm and sharpteeth were, for better or worse, the biggest threat that longnecks faced. More importantly, however, Shorty's words had confirmed something to the brown fastbiter. The pack that Shorty described was most certainly not Skytail's pack. Something must have happened.

"That... doesn't sound like our allies, Shorty." Littlefoot then looked back to the others. "I hope that they are alright."

Ducky swallowed hard. "And Petrie too! We sent him out there all alone!"

Littlefoot swallowed. "I think Petrie will be okay, Ducky. He can fly, after all." Although in truth he was somewhat concerned. They had often taken him for granted. He was a valuable scout and friend, but he was somewhat vulnerable if he was forced to the ground. He hoped that his latest orders weren't the ones that would doom his close friend. Despite his misgivings, however, he kept his face neutral. He needed to keep Ducky calm. Becoming agitated at what they couldn't change would not help anyone.

Shorty looked down. "I am sorry about earlier, but... You guys eat dinosaurs now. You can't expect me to forget that."

Cera nodded. "We know, Shorty. That is why... I guess we never tried to tell our folks... Maybe it's better that way."

Littlefoot looked over at the yellow fastbiter. "That's what Shorty and I were talking about earlier. I think that was a mistake. We need to let them know." Littlefoot sighed and looked at the rest of the pack. He then spoke in sharptooth. "We have a lot to talk about, guys. We will need to have a meeting tomorrow."

Cera grunted. "Yeah... plus we need to talk about you being an idiot and going out here on your own!" She then paused for a moment. "How did that conversation go anyway?"

Littlefoot sighed. "Not well... He ran off and he didn't seem too happy about..." He cut himself off when he heard a distant rumbling.

The rumbling of footsteps.

The footsteps of a running sauropod.

Littlefoot looked at Shorty. "It sounds like dad knows that you are gone."

Shorty sighed. "Ah crap!"

The six sharpteeth and green longneck all gathered into a tight formation, with Shorty at the front. No one seemed to know what to expect in the second encounter with Bron. Littlefoot waited in anticipation for several moments with the others. Finally, however, the footsteps got louder and the rumbling got stronger until the trees and bushes were pushed aside. The long neck of a brown sauropod emerged from the foliage and immediately focused on the two brothers. The brown fastbiter and the green longneck, now separated in their kinds but united in family. The reaction of the longneck was not what Littlefoot had expected however.

Bron gave a relieved sigh.

"You had me worried sick, Shorty... did you follow me?"

Shorty gave a curt nod. "I heard everything."

Bron's face softened. Littlefoot was expecting a strong rebuke for Shorty sneaking off like he did, but yet no rebuke was forthcoming. Instead, Bron seemed to actually look apologetic at his adopted son for hearing what he had heard. Then Bron turned his head and looked in Littlefoot's direction. What he then saw was not what he expected.

Sadness and regret.

Littlefoot shifted uncomfortably under Bron's gaze. He had no idea how to approach his father, considering how their previous meeting had gone. He was pleased that there was no anger or hatred on his parent's face, but he didn't know what Bron was expressing regret over. Was it over how he reacted? Or was it over Littlefoot's existence? Bron had made it quite clear to the former longneck that he was a disgrace to his mother's memory and Littlefoot was not going to let that go anytime soon. There was just too much raw emotion there; too much anguish. He would let Bron make the first move.

Bron closed his eyes for a moment before reopening them and gazing at the sky. Littlefoot watched as his father looked at the night circle, which had now returned to its original hue; the eclipse having ended some time before. He almost jumped when he heard his father speak.

"I guess that we all are under the same sky, aren't we? It doesn't change even if we do." Bron sighed deeply in an expression of regret. "Son, I wronged you..."

Littlefoot was taken aback by his father's words. Why was he suddenly changing his opinion? Was Littlefoot not still the carnivore that he was an hour ago? He continued to listen in stunned silence.

"I was madder at myself than I was at you... You have no choice, do you?"

At Littlefoot's slight shake of the head, Bron continued.

"I was so angry... so vengeful... I thought of nothing else... So when I finally found you... I... I didn't know what to do." Tears were flowing again from the massive longneck's eyes. "I still don't, really... My son is a sharptooth! It isn't something that I can accept but I have no choice."

Littlefoot then broke from the formation that he and the others had made and began to approach his father. He stepped forward with uncertain steps towards an uncertain resolution, but wasn't that what they had been doing this entire time? They were simply hapless kids who had been forced into an astonishing situation and had no choice but to accept their new circumstances. Likewise, his father now had been forced into accepting the fact that his very own son had been converted into the thing he most hated, a sharptooth. His father screwed up in his initial meeting with his changed son. But didn't Littlefoot and his friends screw up for most of their initial week as sharpteeth? Had they not resisted their new natures until they were forced to accept the inevitable? Yes, Littlefoot decided, he would be willing to forgive his father. But getting Bron to forgive himself would be a far harder proposition.

Unaware of the mental resolution in Littlefoot's head, Bron continued. "I'm sorry, son. I don't know what to do."

Littlefoot stopped and look at his father with an unreadable expression. Calmly, he gestured for the longneck to get near him, which Bron very slowly did. As the massive longneck lowered his head towards Littlefoot, the fastbiter said two little sentences.

"I don't know either, dad. But let's figure it out together."

As father and son then nuzzled tearfully, the others looked on. None of them had dry eyes at the emotional display that they now were witnessing. It was a sight that most of them never thought that they would see. Visible relief could be seen on all of their faces as they took in the sight. Their uncertainties about the future remained, but there was now at least one thing that they could be certain about.

Bron would be part of it.

......

The next morning in the Barren Lands:

The tan fastbiter seemed to loiter for a moment, as if he suspected that someone was watching him. He looked over to the rocky outcroppings to his left and stared at them for a while. He sniffed the air, but did not appear to smell anything out of the ordinary. He then took two steps towards the outcropping when a voice caused him to stop.

"Ah, Calin! I take it you are ready for this?" The voice had a tinge of mockery to it, despite the superficial friendliness.

Calin turned and smiled back. "Why, of course! I do hope you are ready for this, Goron." Calin's smiled with a toothy grin. His teeth seemed to look like little knives, as his expression conveyed only thinly-veiled contempt.

With no other words being exchanged between the rivals, they began a slow journey with the rest of the raiding party towards their destination. They did not see the eyes peeking over the rocky outcropping.

......

They had caught Calin's scent several days ago as they were heading towards the Land of Shallow Waters and they had been following the fiend's stench ever since. Now, finally, they had caught sight of the fastbiter and could see the size of the raiding party that he had acquired. It seemed that an assault on Littlefoot's pack was imminent.

"It's Calin, alright. He seems to be heading towards our friends." Taunt's voice was controlled, but deep emotions were right underneath the surface. A mixture of hatred for Calin and fear for his friends. He may have fled at his leader's urging during his pack's last stand, but he resolved not to run this time. He would fight or die. He would not let his friends and allies fight alone.

Thud nodded at his son's affirmation. "Then we will need to catch up with them first. Are you ready to run, son? Breeze?"

Breeze grunted. "I am always ready!"

Taunt gave a cocky smile. "We are fastbiters, are we not?"

Thud smiled at his son and his friend. "Well then... Let us leave the wind in our wake!"

At the age-old affirmation of fastbiter speed, all three fastbiters sprinted into the clearing and took a straight course towards the Land of Shallow Waters. When their friends faced the oncoming threat, they would have reinforcements.

They just hoped that it would prove to be enough.


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