The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 45 Betrayal

“For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.”

― Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

The Haven Valley:

Chronos stared intently at the blackened rock that he held in his hand. A rather rough piece of obsidian was gleaming in the mid-afternoon sunlight. This formed an odd combination as the darkest of rocks was now surrounded by the radiance of the bright circle. Chronos reflected that there was probably a deeper meaning there if he could be bothered to think about it. However, that time was not now. He had a mission to complete.

“Are you alright?”

Chronos looked up mutely at the dinosaur who had roused him. Mr. Threehorn... Hmm... Well, better than nothing I suppose. The gruff voice of the elder threehorn did nothing to boost Chronos’s confidence. Mr. Threehorn, or Topps as his family called him, was not the most open-minded of dinosaurs. However, he reminded himself, their goal here was not to convince anyone. Their goal was to plant the seeds of doubt. That was the entire reason that Chronos had been staring at the black rock for the better part of a day. He knew a way in which to broach the subject when the time came and the time for action had finally arrived.

He wasted no time in answering the threehorn.

“Hmm...” Chronos looked at the threehorn in confusion, as if he had just lost his concentration. However, he soon resumed his inspection of the rock as he prepared to speak. “Oh... Yes, I am alright. I was just thinking about a story we heard in the Mysterious Beyond... A story about the Stone of Cold Fire.” He could see the threehorn’s eyes bore into him out of the corner of his vision.

As he stared at the mysterious rainbowface, the threehorn’s expression turned dark at the mention of the stone. That cursed rock was the harbinger of the death of his beloved Cera and the rest of the children. It had even turned black after their deaths! He had heard more than enough of the damn rock.

However... He couldn’t help but wonder what role that stone played in the deaths of the children, if any. It was a curious mystery for all of one day, then a source of discontent and sorrow thereafter. He had actually tried to ram the stone after Cera’s ‘death’, but all he received as a reward was a headache from the unbreakable stone. So, as much as he hated the rock, he was also curious about its purpose and origin. With that in mind he did something uncharacteristic of him.

He showed curiosity.

“What story did you hear?” His voice was gruff, but surprisingly inviting. Topps again stared at the rainbowface, but this time with a slightly tilted head. A sign of invitation.

Chronos blinked at this surprising change of demeanor from the threehorn. He had not been expected an opening that was this welcoming. In fact, he had expected Topps to tell him that he was acting weird and to get out of everyone’s way. Now, however, it seemed that he could actually put his plan into action.

“We were talking to the parents of that fast runner... Ruby. We figured that it was best to tell them what happened to their daughter... They were understandably upset.” A blatant lie, Chronos acknowledged internally, but a useful one. They had heard from Ruby that her parents were alive and accepting of her change, so he didn’t have to worry about being contradicted. As for the guilt that this statement would cause...

Chronos noted with some satisfaction that the threehorn began to look away with an ashamed expression. It was obvious by the change in posture that he felt guilt for not having the valley inform Ruby’s parents about the death of her daughter. The male rainbowface could only deduce that the valley must have been entirely fixated on avenging their children and the fate of Ruby, a newcomer, was overlooked in the process. Not exactly a fair way to treat a guest of the valley.

However, upon reflecting upon his emotions, Chronos felt more than a hint of shame at his actions. Yes, he was doing what he had to do in order to manipulate the dinosaur into accepting a new reality, but he was still reopening a deep psychological wound that no parent should have to suffer in the first place. He didn't have much time to reflect before Topps interrupted.

“We never told them...” Topps affirmed in a weak voice.

Chronos nodded. “We... uh... mentioned that the valley was having a rough time. I am sure that they will understand in time.” Despite his misgivings, Chronos was pleased thus far with how the conversation was going. By having Mr. Threehorn fall into a cycle of guilt, he could better manipulate him into yearning for the possibility that Chronos was going to show him. The possibility that his daughter was alive.

Not wanting the conversation to end on that note, however, Chronos continued. “Her parents told us this story. It seems that it is older than even the tales of the Lone Dinosaur. If they are to be believed, it was originally taught to the fast runners by the first two-footer that ever walked the Earth.”

Topps blinked, having momentarily lost focus of the story. “The first two-footer?”

Chronos nodded. “Yes... Of course you know how these stories can be twisted over time.” Sometimes if you acknowledge a shortcoming, people will think less of it. Chronos noted to himself. And if they think less of it, then it is easier to bring them to your way of thinking!

Topps simply nodded. “True.”

The rainbowface continued, satisfied where this was going. “Please forgive me elder threehorn, but my memory is not perfect." This was not quite true, but he had completely made this story up for this purpose. As a result, he was unsure of his ability to convey it in the same style of a dinosaur storyteller. "However, to the best of my recollection their story went as follows...”

Before our grandfather’s grandfather was laid as an egg... Before the great rock walls rose in the barrens... Before the great schism of the fast runner herds... In the epoch that once was, but is no more... The following tale begins.

Areguin was the first of the fast runners to take a name for himself as all of the intelligent dinosaurs now do. He eventually took seven mates for himself, as it was the custom at the time. His line flourished and prospered until the barrens were eventually filled with his enumerable descendants. They formed numerous herds and this tale begins in one of them.

In the outskirts of the barrens was a small herd of fast runners. All of these unfortunate souls were siblings who had joined together after the deaths of their parents. Of the family of eight, now only four remained. The others having been lost to starvation and fights with the other fast runner herds. There simply wasn’t enough food to go around.

The eldest male of the litter was the leader of the herd, being the strongest of the siblings. The next eldest were two sisters who were protective of the herd, having been mournful of the loss of their other siblings. Teseron was the remaining brother, by far the runt of the litter. It was only by his quick thinking as a thief that he was able to eat enough to survive. Much to his shame, however, two of his siblings had been killed as a result of one of his raids on another herd. He had done his part, but his siblings had been too slow. As a result, he was shunned by the others even though he was permitted to stay. His life was a miserable one.

As summer wore on the vegetation in the barrens became even scarcer and some of the fast runners turned to attack other herds and eating their own kind. Even before sharpteeth, some of the fast runners were becoming like them. Living in this time of misery and death, Teseron couldn’t take much more. In anguish one night, he wandered away from the herd in order to collect his mournful thoughts. He then stared out at the brightest star in the night sky and cried out to the heavens: “Help me Areguin! Have you forsaken us?”

As if to answer the runt’s prayer, a massive blue light appeared in the sky. In luminance was unsurpassed as it hurdled headlong out of the sky. It collided with the ground in front of Teseron. He tumbled end-over-end before regaining his bearings and walking up to the stone. It was a curious thing, smooth and shining blue. It was also cold to the touch. As if a cold fire burned within its core. It was obviously a gift from his departed ancestors. They were taking pity on their languishing descendants. It was then that he heard a small voice call to him from somewhere inside of his own head.

“The living fix their own problems. Speak the problem and the solution, and it shall be done.”

Teseron thought for a moment at the curious words. He knew the problem surely? However, what was the solution? Deciding that he should give it his best attempt, he spoke thus:

“The food is scarce and your people are many, oh great ancestor! More food is needed, great one! Please hear my plea!”

In a sudden lurch, everything seemed to spin. Teseron blacked out and fell to his face.

When he came to, he was amazed to see that the Stone of Cold Fire had taken on a black hue. Its radiance was now gone. Its powers having been used. But something was wrong, he noted. His arms no longer reached his feet, but rather were stubby and his legs were now massive like the trunks of trees. It was then that he heard his ancestor’s voice.

“You now have as much food as you could want. What you catch you shall kill and what you kill shall you eat. The green leaves will taste bitter upon your tongue and your brothers and sisters shall taste sweet. They will not know your language and you shall not know theirs. For the rest of your days you shall chase and slay. They shall curse you with insults, but you shall assault them with ferocity and rampage. From the days you take of theirs, you shall gain days in return. Their deaths shall maintain your life. Such is your fate.”

As Teseron broke down at the horrible fate that had befallen him, the voice finished.

“Life is only sustained through death, young one. That is a hard lesson to learn. Through bringing death to my people you will also strengthen and sustain them. Their numbers shall not get too large and their survivors will create faster and faster runners. As I have founded my people, you will now found your people. Ensure that they know their place in the world as sustainers of life and do not let them forget as my people have done. Farewell, Teseron.”

Such is how the two-footers came to walk the Earth.

Topps stood in wide-mouthed silence as the rainbowface finished his tale. There was too much coincidence in what he had just spoken. What if the children had made a wish on the stone as Teseron had done? What if they had been changed? They hadn't found their bodies, although Bron found some longneck bones that he thought was Littlefoot...

Then the sharpteeth that we chased... There was Chomper... A brown one that was colored like Littlefoot... Two green ones colored like Spike and Ducky... A flyer just like how Petrie was a flyer... And one yellow one like... No...

No! It can't be!

"That is a crazy story! It couldn't have happened that way!" Topps protested, not really criticizing the story but rather the possibility that was now floating in his head.

The male rainbowface shrugged. "It is just a story... I am sure that the fast runners have changed it throughout the years."

Topps opened his mouth as if to say something to the rainbowface, but he stopped before he could get a word out. I need to get out of here... I need to think...

Without another word he stormed off.

......

Logos carefully walked over to her male counterpart. It seemed that the seed of doubt had been planted, although she had no idea if it would be enough or not.

"That went well." She stated simply.

Chronos nodded. "He stormed off. You consider that going well?"

His counterpart nodded. "He is the hardheaded one. If he is so upset that he had run off, then he has been touched by the story. The question is: will he mention this to the others?"

Chronos sighed. "I suppose that we will have to see... I am not the best storyteller."

Logos seemed to think for a moment. After a short pause she continued. "Teseron... You named the first sharptooth in your story after our physics instructor at the academy?"

He nodded with a morose expression. "He was the one who told me that I was not cut out to be a physicist. He recommended the officer corps for me. I hated him at the time for it, but he was right."

Logos stared at her counterpart for several moments. She had no idea that he had originally wanted to be a physicist. She had always assumed that exploration was in his blood. But this revelation might explain his maverick-like nature. How much else did she not know about her partner?

"Sometimes we have to lose our way in order to find out where to go." Logos intoned.

Chronos snapped out of his thoughts for a moment. "Who said that?"

She smiled. "The same instructor... I originally wanted to be an engineer..."

......

Outside the Land of Shallow Waters:

To say that Petrie was distraught would be a gross understatement.

The small flyer was focused on the sky in front of him for most of the flight, not allowing for any other sights or sounds to distract him. He ignored the slight stinging in his eyes and instead allowed himself to moan in anguish at the pack's loss. Skytail was dead. He almost couldn't believe it himself. The young fastbiter who had challenged the pack and then capitulated. The rival that had turned into a great ally and friend. He was now no more. Worse yet, Petrie knew that meant that the others were also probably gone. The swift and prideful Breeze, the loyal but silent Scarflank, the attentive and watchful Vigilant... and Taunt.

Yes, Petrie realized, Taunt would be the hardest for the pack to accept. Cera had a unique connection to that fastbiter as he was one of the only dinosaurs she had known who could match wits with her. He was prideful and maddening in his use of wit. He was the sort of dinosaur that Cera would probably consider killing if he wasn't their ally. Actually, now that Petrie thought about it, she probably considered strangling him a few times anyway.

But now they were all gone. Or, at least as far as Petrie could tell, they were all dead. He had only found one body, but that was of their leader. If he had fallen in combat then that must have meant the others were no more as well. Petrie knew that he and the others would not let that happen to Littlefoot without a fight. Consequently, knowing the honor of Skytail's pack, they must have met the same fate as well.

It was with these unhappy thoughts that he flew towards the home of the pack. How was he going to break the news?

It was with that thought that he finally looked down in anguish. The emotions were too raw. In fact, they were so fresh that he found himself seeing hallucinations of some of those that were lost. It almost looked like Breeze and Taunt were running towards the swamp. But why would his hallucination have Thud in it?

Petrie suddenly snapped out of his stupor. It Taunt and Breeze! They alive!

With an almost impossible amount of effort, he flapped his wings as fast as they would move and directed himself straight towards the trio of dinosaurs. His mind was ignoring Thud at the moment as all of his thoughts were on the return of those friends that had he feared were no more. Involuntarily, he gave a joyful screech at his allies.

They seemed to hear him as they slowed their motion for a moment and Taunt looked up with a relieved expression. He quickly gestured for Petrie to follow them as they continued their headlong sprint towards the swamp. Why they in such a hurry? Petrie thought to himself. He redoubled his efforts and was flying just above the fastbiters within a matter of seconds.

"You alive! Me thought you all dead!" Petrie chirped at the trio of dinosaurs. "Me see Skytail..."

Taunt seemed to look sad at that affirmation, but he did not slow, nor did any of his companions. He seemed to be trying to catch his breath, Petrie noted. But why he in hurry? The flyer asked himself. He was about to ask that question when he heard a shout from Thud. Petrie had nearly forgotten about him.

"If you don't want your friends to end up like that then you need to get help! NOW!"

Petrie had a confusing jumble of thoughts going through his mind right then. Why was Thud helping them? Why were they running towards the pack? Wasn't Thud and Taunt not on good terms? But his mind only allowed him to ask the most pertinent question.

"What wrong?!"

Thud was now gasping for air as well, so Breeze answered. "Other fastbiters... Want to attack you... They got us... We help... But too many..."

Realization began to dawn on Petrie. The pack was soon going to be under attack. He was the fastest of the group and as such he was the only one who could give them a fighting chance. He may not be able to alert the pack in time, but he could get help.

"Me get help! Fight well!"

Taunt and Thud both gave a slight bob of the head in acknowledgement as they continued to run towards what Petrie assumed was the advancing threat. With a shift of his wings and a redirection of his momentum into a band of warm air, Petrie shifted immediately towards the west. He knew exactly who he would get for help. After all, he remembered where they usually hunted.

Me not know who we fight, but Chomper's parents will crush them!

......

The Land of Shallow Waters, by the spiketail herd:

"That is insane, Bron! Have you gone mad?!"

Doc's statement was uncharacteristic for the longneck of few words, but he could not believe the drivel that Bron was now spewing as his great revelation. His son as a sharptooth? It was ludicrous! Doc had seen amazing things on his journeys. He had seen places that seemed to have defied the laws of nature. He had seen dinosaurs that were impossibly tall. He had seen sharpteeth that seemed impossible to defeat. He had seen all manner of joy and despair. But he had never heard of an herbivore changing into a sharptooth.

The brown longneck was undeterred. "It may be insane... but it is the way it is. My son is the only person who could have known those things... Not to mention the sleep story."

Bron seemed more certain and calm than Doc had ever seen him. It was a curious change from the previous day. Something had surely happened, but he was not buying Bron's story. Regaining his composure, he decided to try to reason with the other longneck.

"It would take more than a sleep story to convince me."

The brown longneck nodded. "I don't doubt that, but they know things that only they could know. They know things that even Chomper was never told and that none of them would tell... Littlefoot mentioned the Big Longneck Test." Bron then swallowed. "Shorty even snuck out and greeted Littlefoot on his own while I was... indisposed... If they had wanted to kill him then that would have been the perfect opportunity, but they did nothing of the sort. Littlefoot treated Shorty like family... which is more than I could say about myself." The longneck looked away in shame.

Doc was amazed by this turn of events. He didn't believe the sharptooth story for a moment, but they undoubtedly had poor Bron convinced. The longneck had signs of mental instability before, as his troubled moaning during his sleep stories often indicated, but this latest episode had Doc convinced that Bron had finally snapped. Were he still the 'Lone Dinosaur' he would have probably went on his way and left Bron to his fate... but now he was a father and he saw things differently. He owed it to Bron and his adopted son to get the brown longneck back to reality. He resolved to try once more to do just that.

"This is madness."

Bron frowned slightly at the large longneck's intransience. "My friend... I know when you see them that..." Bron suddenly stopped. "What the..."

Suddenly a massive group of fastbiters emerged from the foliage of the swamp and sprinted across the open field where the spiketails were grazing. The spiketail herd then erupted into a chorus of panicked screams, rumbling feet, and alert calls. Curiously, however, none of the fastbiters seemed to attack. They simply seemed to run past the other dinosaurs, as if they were in their way. As the last one departed towards their unknown destination, Doc spoke in an accusatory tone.

"Were those your 'children'?"

Bron hurriedly shook his head. "No. But they are heading straight for... Oh no! Littlefoot!" Bron then began to sprint in the direction of the departed fastbiters.

Doc interrupted, beginning to sprint himself. "Where are you going?"

Bron shouted back. "I can't let them hurt my son! They're obviously on the hunt. You heard their calls."

Doc nodded. Yes he had lived long enough to recognize the fastbiter hunting calls. The clicks and screeches were enough to make adrenaline surge into his system. Those sounds only meant danger. Even if the story Bron was saying was complete madness, he wouldn't let him fight alone. If nothing else the death of the fastbiters would increase the security of his son and the herd that he now found himself in. Resolved to do what he had to do, he spoke with great determination.

"Let me help you." Doc was now running as well.

Bron looked back in his run and quipped. "I thought that you didn't believe me?"

Doc snorted. "I don't. But I am not going to let you fight alone."

Bron gave a simple reply back. "Don't harm my son."

Doc didn't answer back.

......

"Hmm... Petrie should be returning soon..." Littlefoot noted. The flyer had left the previous day in order to search for Skytail's pack and relay his findings on Calin. Now, of course, with the departure of Calin that mission was less important, but Littlefoot was still curious about the whereabouts of their old allies. Perhaps they invited Petrie for a meal? Littlefoot mused. It is the customary way to treat guests...

Cera seemed to note Littlefoot's preoccupation and broke the silence. "What's wrong, Seeker?"

Littlefoot looked up at his old friend. "Huh? Oh, I am just thinking about Petrie. He is taking a while."

Cera nodded. "I am sure Spotter's alright. He is probably eating a large meal with the pack as we speak... Damn lucky flyer..."

Littlefoot snorted. "We don't exactly eat poorly here, you know?" He then smiled. "Is it the other pack's food that you long for... or the company of your little friend?" His voice was teasing, but in a gentle way.

Cera grunted in annoyance. "Don't you even start! Need I remind you of how you have been acting around Ponder?"

Littlefoot glared at Cera. "She was upset and I was comforting her..."

Cera smiled as she knew that she had him. "Oh? So is that what you call it?"

Littlefoot sighed. It seemed that he was getting his just desserts after accusing Cera of being romantic with Taunt. The teasing could go both ways and being a leader did not protect him from the teasing of his packmates. After all, he only liked Ruby as a friend. There was nothing more there... was there?

Seeing Littlefoot lost in thought again, Cera decided to change the subject. There was a difference between playful teasing and being cruel. Even Cera knew that line. She decided to concede a point about Taunt.

"I do miss him though. He was an insufferable ankle-biter, but he was my friend." She acknowledged.

Littlefoot nodded at Cera's admission. "Yeah... I am sure that they are doing fine. But I wish Petrie would report back soon."

Cera nodded. "Me too."

Their conversation was interrupted by Spike. "This is sweet and all, but what do we need to talk about, Seeker?"

Both Littlefoot and Cera shared a brief look of amusement at the green fastbiter's acerbic wit and laughed at his antics. Spike was always fixated on the needs of the present. Even as a leaf-eater he was fixated on food as opposed to social concerns. It was actually somewhat refreshing to see that part of his personality remain. Although as a leaf-eater he couldn't share his caustic observations due to his lack of speech. Littlefoot had to wonder if he was like that all along or if that was something new that came with his transformation. He figured in any case that Spike's mind must have been an interesting place.

"Well, guys, I wanted to talk about what has been happening." Littlefoot offered.

Cera tilted her head. "You mean, besides you trying to get yourself killed by talking to your dad alone?"

Littlefoot sighed. "Yeah..."

Cera then glared at Ruby. "I am still angry with you, Ponder. You should've stopped him."

Ruby blinked. "I did try to stop him, but it didn't stop him."

Cera shook her head. "That is no excuse, were I there I..." She was interrupted by an irate Littlefoot.

"I told her that if she got help then I would go to Bron alone." Littlefoot affirmed. "She figured that I was safer with her help than going alone. How would you have reacted if she had abandoned me, Stern Claw?"

Cera looked stunned at Littlefoot's revelation. "So this was all you then, Seeker?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Yes. It was all my idea."

Ducky then intervened at this point in the conversation. "That was very dangerous, Seeker. It was, it was. You could have been hurt-ed!"

Spike nodded. "Yes, that was very risky. Did we not have a chat before about taking risks? We are a pack, are we not?"

"We help one another, but we can't do that if you go alone!" Chomper affirmed.

Littlefoot cringed at that memory. The rest of the pack had erupted at him and criticized his saving of the egg-stealers back in the lowlands. True he had taken that action to fulfill what he considered to be his obligations to Ozzy and Strut, considering that the pack was effectively using them, but he had taken an unnecessary risk. He had been so exhausted and the pack was so upset that he had actually offered to give up leadership. They had made a strong point about him going alone when he had an entire pack to back him up. Now here he was making the same mistake. In trying to protect the rest of the pack by going alone, he had instead insulted the pack. Now that his mind was no longer clouded with the confused emotions revolving around his father, he could clearly see the error that he had made. Now he had to atone for that.

"I screwed up, guys." Littlefoot began.

Cera interrupted. "You can say that again!"

"I was so upset about my father and I didn't want to have to kill him... He didn't deserve that... And... And..." Littlefoot attempted to start again.

"We know, Seeker." It was now Ruby's turn to interrupt.

"Huh?" Littlefoot was now confused.

Cera looked at Ruby for a moment, before giving her a nod of encouragement. It seemed that the two fastbiters were now on the same page. Cera seemed to be deferring to her pink counterpart in order to make the point more diplomatically than she could.

"We know." Ruby repeated. "I think any of us would do the same if it were our parents. If it were our parents then we would do the same. But we care for you, Seeker! You need to rely on us!"

Chomper nodded at his former caregiver's affirmation. "Yeah! We're your friends and friends stick together!"

Ducky and Spike grunted in acknowledgement as well. It seemed that everyone was in agreement.

Littlefoot nodded. "Alright, guys. Thanks... I guess that I just needed a reminder."

Cera nodded. "The reminder better hold this time, because next time I'm getting out the claws."

Ruby looked at Cera with a faux accusatory glare. "Are you threatening the leader, Cera?"

Cera glared back, not realizing the mirth in Ruby's expression. "What if I am?"

Ruby smiled. "Then you can count me in. If he screws up again then we all can beat some sense into him."

Now realizing that Ruby was just trying to take some humor at Littlefoot's expense, Cera had to laugh. As she did so the remainder of the pack began to chuckle as well. Well, everyone but Littlefoot, who was now lost in thought.

After all of this time I finally get them to agree on something... and it's on the fact that I'm an idiot. Well at least this day couldn't get any worse.

"My stupidity... um... wasn't exactly what I called this meeting about though."

At Littlefoot's interruption, the five heads of his companions turned around. He now had their attention despite the fact that were still stifling chuckles at his expense. Finally, Ducky took the bait.

"Then why are we here?"

Littlefoot sighed. "We need to decide what to do now. My dad knows about us... Pterano knows about us... Ruby's parents know about us..." He looked at the others as he could see realization dawn upon them. "We can't hide what we are now, can we?"

Spike frowned at Littlefoot's words. "I have been thinking about this since... well... since last night." He paused for a moment as if he were collecting his thoughts. "I thought that it would have been easier to just... be what we are, you know? But after my friend... After Tippy..." He looked away for a moment and Ducky rushed over to comfort him, but he soon recovered and continued his thoughts. "But after him... I don't know. I just don't know anymore."

Looking sadly as Spike's near-breakdown, Cera said her piece. "I know what you are saying, Seeker. I guess we stopped thinking about telling our parents after we killed. Maybe it was best for them to think that we were dead? But now... But now..." She sighed. "You told us Littlefoot that your dad knew of your sleep story... just like Ruby's parents and Pterano. That means our parents must have had the same sleep story. But why would they?"

Ruby stared at Cera and completed her thought. "Maybe the Stone of Cold Fire wanted our parents to know what happened."

Spike gave a disgusted snort. "It sure could have been more direct about it!"

Littlefoot nodded. "It seems like it didn't do anything directly." Now seeing that the rest of the pack was sharing his thoughts, he continued. "I guess that the time might have come then... Time to let the valley know what has happened."

Ruby nodded at this. "Yes, but how are we..." She then focused on something behind Littlefoot. "Uh oh."

Littlefoot and the remainder of the pack immediately turned to look at what had alerted Ruby when they came across the obvious source of her distress. Littlefoot's voice barely contained his rage.

"Calin?!"

......

Dein roared in approval at the successful expedition. He and his mate had found a hadrosaur that appeared to have been taken down by fastbiters based upon the wounds. Curiously, however, they seemed to have left most of the corpse. Neither of the sharpteeth was hesitant about taking advantage of a free meal. In fact, for sharpteeth of their size, much of their food intake came from carrion. Whether it came from abandoned catches or from intimidating the smaller predators, it was always easier and safer to get dead meat as opposed to a fresh kill.

Dein gestured to his mate to take the first bite as she was the one to find the dead hadrosaur. Both of them seemed to linger on the sight in front of them however. It was extremely odd for a very fresh such as this to simply be left behind. Especially by a fastbiter pack. If they had been chased by a larger sharptooth then that carnivore would have taken the meat, but it was still here. So the fastbiters must have been in a hurry. Curious... Dein pondered.

"Dein! Terri!" Came a frantic voice from above. Terri looked away from the corpse and immediately took note of Petrie's form. He must have been back from Seeker's errand. Terri deduced. But why is he panicked?

"What is wrong, Spotter?" She asked in a booming voice.

Petrie took a shaky breath and collapsed on the ground. Terri could see that he had obviously been flying at full speed for some time. Something serious must have happened.

Petrie then shouted despite his exhaustion. "Invasion! Fastbiters! They after pack..."

Terri didn't let Petrie finish but instead gave a quick glance at Dein who shared her look of distress. "Chomper!" She breathed.

Without any further word, the two sharpteeth bounded back towards home with all of the speed that their massive bodies could muster. Terri resolved in her mind that no matter who the intruders were, she would teach them a lesson that they would never forget.

Nobody invades my territory! Hang on, son!

......

"So there you have it! Either you agree to join us... and the strongest of you dispose the rest." Calin gestured with a dismissive gesture towards Chomper and Ducky. It was obvious who he thought would die in his 'tryouts' for the pack. "...or we will reluctantly have to eliminate you." Calin smiled a beaming smile as he stared at Littlefoot. Littlefoot, for his part, glared at Calin with utter hatred. It was obvious that the extent of Calin's depravity horrified him. "How do you like 'my' challenge, Seeker?"

Littlefoot seethed as he considered his current situation. They had been ambushed and were now surrounded by at least eight fastbiters, meaning that they were hopelessly outnumbered. They had no backup as Chomper's parents were hunting in the southern swamps and they couldn't have Petrie get help as he still hadn't returned from his mission. It looked like that their luck may had finally run out. He knew that he had to come up with some kind of plan and quickly. That might make the difference between a few deaths and the end of the entire pack.

Because he knew that they were not going to get out of this unscathed.

He glanced out of the corner of his eye at the sharpteeth who were now standing back to back at his sides. These were his packmates. His friends. His only companions throughout enumerable adventures. They now formed a circle facing outward at the enemies who had surrounded them, with their tails facing the center. He had to acknowledge that some of the fastbiters at his sides would soon no longer be in the land of the living. It was a horrifying thought. He swallowed hard while not changing his expression of rage. He had to act now. Being careful to speak in leaf-eater so as not to alert the enemy, he whispered to the others.

"We are surrounded. Let's charge at the blue one." Littlefoot stared at what looked like the weakest of the adversaries. "If we can break out of the circle, then we can have a chance." He couldn't look back at his companions without taking his focus off of the enemy horde surrounding him, but he could still acknowledge his dear friends one last time. He then took a shuddering breath and intentionally brushed his tail against the other five dinosaurs. This was a gesture that the others reciprocated, so that the tails of the pack were touching in a gesture of unity.

"See you all on the other side."

Littlefoot's words gave no clarification as to if he meant when they broke through the enemy line or when they passed into the world of the parted. Truth be told, he didn't know which he meant either. All that he knew was that he and his intrepid band of friends were about to fight against impossible odds. He steeled himself for what was about to occur.

Calin took that moment to gloat one final time. "What? Don't have anything to say?"

Seeker sneered. "Charge!"


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