Chapter 47 Recovery
“Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.”
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
"He's still alive!"
Bron's affirmation seemed to reverberate through the growing crowd as Ruby and Cera both stood and reexamined their fallen leader with apprehensive eyes. He certainly appeared to be dead, with his lack of discernible movement and the noticeable bleeding from his neck. But... But Bron was right! Littlefoot's chest was still rising ever so slowly and the blood was still seeping from the wound at a very slow pace. Littlefoot was still alive, barely.
At that moment something seemed to change in Ruby's eyes. She had ran onto the scene hearing the mournful cries of her companions and saw the fallen body of her dear friend. As a result she had thought that Littlefoot must have sacrificed his life in the heat of battle. But this new revelation made her mournful state of mind immediately take on a more calculating tone. If there was any chance whatsoever for Littlefoot to survive then someone had to take charge. With that thought in mind, she looked at Littlefoot's injuries with a new focus on detail.
Ruby started by looking at his slashed neck.
This was obviously the most grievous injury, the one that every sharptooth tried to avoid. Any attack on the neck could, and often did, result in a prompt death. However, taking a look at Littlefoot's slashed throat, she noted something that filled her with hope. There was no gushing blood from the injury. Instead, a steady stream of blood was seeping out in the same way as a face injury would cause rapid blood loss. This must have meant that the large blood vessels in his neck had been missed by Calin's attack! That meant that the injury was not mortal! Littlefoot could live!
Ruby's eyes took on a hard expression. If Littlefoot could live then she would make sure that he did live. Failure was not an option.
Quickly moving her eyes to his head, she noted the matted blood on his crest feathers. Blood on red feathers... It was no wonder why they had missed that detail. Littlefoot had a head injury. Maybe that is why he fell? The rose-colored fastbiter quickly deduced. I can't fix that, but I can help his neck! Ruby rose quickly and immediately turned her piercing gaze towards Cera and the others. She spoke in leaf-eater so that all present could understand her.
"He is alive, but if we don't hurry then he might not stay alive!" That got everyone's attention. "My daddy told me about the types of wounds I might face and this was one of them... We need some wet treestars to put on his neck! That way we can slow the bleeding!"
Spike immediately sprung into action. "We will get them! Come on, Ducky!"
As both green fastbiters sprinted away from the gathering, Cera posed a question. "What can I do?"
Ruby thought for a moment. "I don't know... My daddy didn't tell me about head injuries..."
It was at this time that Chomper appeared on the scene. "Is he..." His voice was on the edge of panic.
Ruby looked at the purple sharptooth with kind eyes. "No... We are trying to save him... Ducky and Spike are getting something for his throat, but I don't know what to do about his head..." She responded in leaf-eater, although Chomper's question was spoken in sharptooth. As a result she got a response from an unexpected source.
"Keep the head still. If you move him then you might make it worse."
All eyes turned towards the new voice. Several expressions of shock greeted the newcomer as he trekked through the mud, eventually settling near Bron's form.
It was Doc.
Cera finally spoke. "Thanks, uh... Doc. We didn't know you were here."
Doc nodded. "If Littlefoot was willing to risk himself for others then the old Littlefoot that I knew is still in there..." His expression took on an almost mournful quality to it, as if he were remembering someone long gone. He quickly turned back to the subject at hand, however. "The injury to his head will need to be cleaned." He then looked at Ruby and Cera with an unreadable expression. "Keep him safe. You trusted him with your lives now show that he can trust you with his."
At their stunned nods, he turned towards Bron. Bron still was fixated on his fallen son and only seemed to be dimly paying attention to the conversations going on around him. That was probably just as well, Doc reasoned, as Bron had been through more than enough in the last few days. Best that he ignore the details of the current crisis. With that in mind, he gave Bron only a few words.
"You stay with your son, Bron. I will check on our boys..." He then stopped. "Should I tell the spiketails that we are staying here?" The spiketails were ready to move onto the remainder of their migratory route. Doc knew full well that they would not be heartbroken at all if the longnecks decided to stay behind. In fact, the spiketail leader would welcome it.
Upon seeing Bron's weak nod, Doc began to wade through the mud. It was time to gather Stomper and Shorty.
Bron, meanwhile, continued to look at his son. He could focus on little else.
Come on, son! You can pull through this! Wake up!
Littlefoot seemed to be in a peaceful slumber when a feminine voice interrupted his rest.
"Urgh... Not now..." He protested
"Who... are you?" His confused mind inquired as he opened his eyes. "I can't see you."
"Some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart."
Littlefoot blinked. "I don't understand."
A laugh seemed to echo in his mind. "You did once and you will again. Now open your eyes."
Shaking his head, Littlefoot groggily lifted his head and arose from his prone position. The voice was gone, but his questions remained. For one thing, where was he? He could see grass in front of him and a warm breeze in the air, but something told him that he wasn't really supposed to be here.
What had happened? He didn't remember much. He seemed to recall flashes of claws and teeth... Was he in a fight?
He took a look at his body. He was somewhat horrified to see that he was covered in blood. His blood. He had lacerations over much of his body and, if the wetness that he felt from his throat was any indication, he also had an injury to his neck as well. But yet... All of this seemed far away for some reason. As if it didn't really matter. His mind felt like it was in fog and his feet felt very light as if he were floating off the ground. Nothing seemed real. It was a most odd sensation.
Littlefoot decided to look around him to see if he could see anything that would reignite his memory.
He appeared to be beside a river of some sort. The water was flowing at a steady pace and it almost seemed to be on the verge of overflowing its banks. The land around the river looked relatively lush, with tall grass and numerous bushes growing in the immediate vicinity. The bright circle was high in the blue sky and few clouds were to be seen. It seemed like a perfect day in a beautiful land.
The lowlands? I am back in the lowlands? I thought that we left here...
Littlefoot frowned. His memory still wasn't coming back to him. Why was he back here? Where were his friends? He did not feel any pain, but he clearly had signs of being injured. The entire situation was making him more confused by the moment. If only he could remember what happened...
Shaking his head, he absentmindedly looked towards his side and found a rather odd sight.
Bones. Fastbiter bones.
Littlefoot blinked. This was an odd find. However, since he couldn't remember much, he had no idea what to make of this finding. Was it someone that he knew? Was it from a former resident of this place? There were so many questions on his mind but this place wasn't providing any answers. Looking away from the morbid find, he rose to his feet and began to pace away. He wasn't going to find his answers here.
"Looks like you are having a bad day."
Littlefoot stopped and turned back towards the way that he came. The pile of bones that he had been examining were now nowhere to be seen, but a bluish-green fastbiter stood in their place. The newcomer must have walked in front of them... Though it was odd that Littlefoot did not hear him approach.
"Skytail..." Littlefoot acknowledged. His memory was still inconsistent, but he could recognize this dinosaur. He didn't quite remember the last time that he had seen Skytail, but some part of his mind told him that it was quite a while ago.
Skytail smiled. "It seems that you took quite a bump on the head! But you can recognize me. That is a good sign."
Littlefoot frowned in confusion. "What happened though? I don't remember much... I think I was in a fight..."
Skytail nodded. "Don't worry about it, Seeker. I am sure that your memories will return in time. Right now they are not important."
Littlefoot frowned. Seeker? Was that his name? Yes... Yes, he remembered now. He wasn't always a sharptooth was he... A long time ago he was... Something else...
"What do you mean?" Littlefoot inquired. Skytail was simply adding to his confusion.
A laugh escaped the other fastbiter mouth. "You were always so curious! I always liked that about you. You always wanted to learn more even when the answers scared you..." He then smiled at Littlefoot. "Never lose that drive, Seeker. It has saved you countless times and I am sure that it will save you again."
Littlefoot shook his head. He didn't understand what Skytail was going on about. His head still felt fuzzy and he suspected that he was missing something.
Shaking his head, Littlefoot walked slowly towards the bluish-green fastbiter until he sat to his side. For his part, Skytail placed a clawed hand on Littlefoot's shoulder and gestured towards the scenery with his other hand.
"It's beautiful isn't it? But beauty has its costs. Sometimes we have to pay the price for what we value most."
Littlefoot blinked. Skytail was talking in riddles again.
"What is it that you value most, Littlefoot?"
Littlefoot looked towards Skytail at that question, but he answered immediately. "My friends."
"You would do anything for them?"
The answer wasn't even worth thinking over. "Yes."
"Even die for them?"
Again Littlefoot nodded. "Yes."
Silence filled the scene for several moments as neither dinosaur spoke. For his part, Skytail seemed to be deep in thought.
"I am glad that we talked, Littlefoot." Littlefoot looked at Skytail with an odd expression, as the other sharptooth had now began to use his leaf-eater name again. "I was worried that there were some things that still needed to be said, but she was right after all."
Littlefoot tilted his head in confusion. "She?"
However, Skytail seemed to ignore his query. "I will always be your friend, Littlefoot. Even if you can't see me. I will be there."
Littlefoot was concerned now. "Skytail?"
"Because there are some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart."
Now Littlefoot was deeply terrified. Skytail was nowhere to be seen. Had he run away? If so, then he had traveled far faster than Littlefoot could track him. Now only the tall grass and the again visible skeleton greeted his eyes. It was odd. He hadn't noticed the skeleton at all when Skytail was talking to him, but now it had returned.
"I just have one last thing to ask of you, Littlefoot."
Littlefoot couldn't see Skytail anywhere, but he answered nonetheless. "Sure thing, Skytail. Anything you want."
The voice that answered Littlefoot seemed to come from the very bones themselves. Their bleached white form seemed to glisten in the sunlight as if possessed by some ethereal force.
"Take good care of my pack."
Littlefoot jerked awake.
What... What a strange sleep story. What did all of that mean?
That was when the pain from his head and neck finally registered in his brain. His thoughts of curiosity were instantly interrupted by spasms of pain as he called out in anguish.
His vision blacked out again for a moment as he slowly regained equilibrium. It was as if a boulder had slammed into his head and his entire body had been snapped at by snapping shells. Every single nerve ending cried out in pain and he had to adapt to the sudden reality of agony. After a few moments, however, his vision began to clear.
A moan reached his lips as he slowly opened his eyes to their full width. He didn't see much at first. There was just the hard log below him which seemed redder than he could remember and a pair of yellow lights immediately in front of him. Slowly, however, the realization reached him that those weren't lights, those were eyes. And they were staring right at him.
"Ponder! Stern Claw! Come quick! He awake!"
Littlefoot cringed. The flyer's voice echoed in his head like a thunderbolt. Now the enormous pain in his head rose to unbearable levels. However, things only got worse a few second later.
"Seeker! You're awake!"
"Oh, thank goodness!"
A deep groan now bellowed from the brown fastbiter as he sincerely wishes he was unconscious again. The real world was far too loud and much too painful. What had happened anyway? He seemed to disoriented and fatigued.
"I think that we're hurting him. Maybe we should talk softer so that we don't hurt him?"
Thanks, Ponder. Littlefoot thought sarcastically. That would have been a nice insight to have a few moments ago.
When he heard the thundering footsteps, however, he knew that his momentary peace and tranquility would be over. His father was approaching. Struggling to rise, Littlefoot could feel the clawed hands of his many friends preventing him from falling. Since when was he so weak? What had happened?
Hearing a few soft bellows from a distance, he could tell that Ruby and his father were talking, but he couldn't quite make out the words. Everything still seemed a bit fuzzy. Whatever had happened to him still was affecting his ability to think. However, after a few moments the thundering footsteps resumed. The first sign of his father's presence was an exhale of air that blew his feathers to and fro. The next was a soft question.
"How are you feeling, son?"
Littlefoot was finding it difficult to move, so he decided to sit back on his haunches. He could attempt standing on his own later. He then turned towards his father. Despite Littlefoot's vision fading in and out, as if his eyes weren't focusing well, he could still make out his father well enough. His eyes communicated concern, but his soft smile indicated compassion. With an unsure voice, Littlefoot tried to speak.
"I've... felt... better."
Bron's eyes seemed to take on a more concerned look, but Ruby soon interrupted the obvious panic on Bron's face.
"You can still speak. That is good." Ruby's face seemed to make an unpleasant gesture. The same gesture that you would make if you ate something bitter. "I was worried that you would end up how Spike was. That how Spike was you would end up."
Littlefoot did not turn to face Spike, but he made an affirmative grunt. Ruby then continued. "Just don't try to speak too much, Seeker. Your neck got slashed badly. But... but it could've been worse." Littlefoot noted that Ruby's voice had deep sorrow to it as if she had time to contemplate the worse outcomes.
The next voice was Cera's. "We thought that you were dead." Her dour voice communicated much to the former longneck. There was deep pain there, although the yellow fastbiter refused to show it. But for several moments at least, she and the others had contemplated that their close friend was no more. Her voice still showed the signs of her former despair.
He then felt a sudden pressure on his uninjured shoulder as Ruby nuzzled him deeply. He could hear the sounds of heavy breathing that were turning husky. She was crying against his shoulder. She had held back the emotional tide as long as she could. With no hesitation, he returned the gesture as best as he could.
Seeing her two friends have their moment, Cera offered only a few words. "Ruby knew how to treat your injury. Otherwise..." She couldn't even finish the sentence. She then turned away so that no one could see her tears.
Finally after a few moments, Littlefoot rose to his full height and steadied himself. With an apologetic nod, he allowed the others to help him walk off of the log and towards the grass outside of the mud pool. It was only when he again needed a rest and they stopped passed the mud pool's edge that Bron again spoke.
"You took a mighty blow to the head, son. What exactly do you remember?"
Littlefoot nodded. That was the ultimate question, wasn't it? Trying with all of his might, he attempted to recall as many details as he could.
"There was... a battle... right?" His voice was slowly getting better. Now he could say two words before stopping. At Bron's nod, he continued. "I only... remember... a few things." He sucked in a breath and continued. "I remember sharpteeth drowning... in the mud pool..." Those images still haunted him, but not nearly as much as the sounds that went with them. "Then Calin attacked us..." He thought for a moment. "He did this to me, right?"
Cera nodded. "Good you're remembering... Yeah, that bastard slashed you. We nearly thought that he..." She trailed off as her voice became hoarse. Ignoring the concerned grunts of his friends, he took a few quick steps despite his unsteady feet. He embraced Cera much to her surprise. She continued her response at his kind gesture. "My stupidity nearly got you killed!"
Littlefoot's eyes went wide. She blamed herself for all this? He was just doing what any friend would do for another. It had been his oversight to ignore Calin while he bit down upon Zarc. But if that was what it took to save Cera then he would willingly do it all again.
"You didn't do anything wrong... Cera... You were overwhelmed.... We all were." He could feel the other members of the pack begin to join in the impromptu group embrace. At their grunts of agreement, he finished. "We are all in this together... even if that means... that some of us will have to pay the price." Littlefoot was surprised to feel Bron's massive head touch his and that of the other sharpteeth, as he too joined in the embrace. For a few moments, at least, their different species didn't matter. What mattered was that they were all in this together.
After a few moments, the pack broke away for a moment. It was then that Littlefoot could feel just how dizzy and tired that he actually was. It was obvious that his head injury would take some time to heal.
"You should get some rest, son." Bron spoke with some concern. "You're still a bit wobbly."
Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah..." He then yawned as he sat back down. At least this area was relatively secure and he could afford to rest for a while. As he laid his head down to rest, however, he observed what was going on in the clearing in front of him.
The massive form of Doc was slowly walking into the clearing, with Shorty and another longneck on his back. On the other side of the clearing, he could see both of Chomper's parents pacing around nervously as they glared at the green longneck. Following the gaze of Chomper's father, however, he noticed exactly what he was glaring at.
Thud was standing in the open. Right in the middle of their territory. And no one was reacting to it. His mind nearly shut down at the absurdity of having Doc, Thud, Chomper's parents, and his dad in the same area without bloodshed. It was as if the laws of nature had been turned on their head in a mockery of the natural order. His thoughts were understandably chaotic as a result of this situation.
What is Thud doing here? Why is he not attacking us? What... What is going on!?
That was when a voice suddenly broke Littlefoot out of his moment of introspection.
"My dad and I have had a reconciliation of sorts."
Littlefoot's eyes went wide as he turned towards the voice. It was Taunt and Breeze! How long had they been standing there trying to avoid the rest of the pack? What were they doing here? The questions began to pour into Littlefoot's brain like a river into the ocean. It was not surprise that his initial response was not the most articulate.
"Taunt! Breeze!" Even though he was whispering, the excitement carried in his voice. "It has been so long!"
Both fastbiters smiled as they approached.
"I am glad that you are alright, Seeker." Breeze offered. She seemed to have a deeply apprehensive look on her face, as if she were remembering something unpleasant. "I'm... glad that you're alright." She repeated herself. Littlefoot noted that she was obviously upset if she were losing track of her thoughts like that. That was when he heard Taunt speak.
"It is glad to see you again, Seeker. We brought some more treestars for your neck. It looks like they need to be replaced."
Littlefoot nodded and then allowed the orange fastbiter to remove his dried bandage of treestars and replace it with a new set of wet leaves. He noted that the old treestars did not have much blood on them, so the injury must have already mended quite nicely. Taunt's methodical work showed some odd characteristics though. He seemed to pause and go pale when he saw Littlefoot's exposed injury and Breeze had to nudge him to continue. Littlefoot also could observe the moisture in Taunt's eyes as he replaced the leaves. He looked downright mournful.
Littlefoot's mind was now working in overdrive as the worst of the mental fog from his concussion was beginning to dissipate. Breeze and Taunt were both acting mournful and apprehensive around Littlefoot. Furthermore it wasn't the type of reaction that one would expect from being afraid of a friend's death. No... This was more of a reaction to a memory. A reaction to something that they had seen before. Something that still haunted them.
He took another look at these two friends from the other pack. There were only two of them. Where were the rest of the group? Where was Skytail? Surely he wouldn't send out his packmates alone through the barren lands? That was when Littlefoot remembered the words from his sleep story.
Take good care of my pack.
Littlefoot's expression grew grim. But that was just a sleep story! It wasn't real! Was it? With trepidation, Littlefoot knew that there was only one way to answer the question. And that was to ask it.
"Taunt? Where is the rest of the pack?"
Taunt's face fell as Breeze looked away to hide her tears. With a shaky voice, Taunt confirmed Littlefoot's worst fears.
"We are all that remains."
As gasps arose from the assembled sharpteeth, Littlefoot immediately sat back on his haunches and gestured for Taunt to sit down beside him. The poor fastbiter appeared to be on the verge of collapse himself. Despite his grief over the loss of his three friends from the other pack, Littlefoot's first concern was the wellbeing of the two friends that remained. With compassionate eyes he looked at Taunt and motioned for him to continue. He seemed to pause, but he resumed when he had some encouragement from a familiar source. Cera had sat down on the other side of Taunt and placed her hand on his shoulder. She also was allowing Breeze to lean against her for support. Cera was not known for being the most compassionate of dinosaurs but this was different and everyone knew it. Three of their friends were dead and everyone wanted to know why.
"It all started when Calin ambushed us..."
Outside of the lowlands:
"Well... That is an interesting piece of information." Red Claw roared at the sharptooth flyer. "The sap-suckers are out of their shelter and right where we can take them!"
The pink flyer seemed hesitant to say anything more, lest he antagonize the massive sharptooth. His ability to speak both sharptooth and leaf-eater was not special among flyers of his type, which ate fish. But usually his kind did not openly associate with the land-walking sharpteeth. However, if there was one thing that he was good it, it was surviving. He had found a prime opportunity and he had taken it. If that opportunity included destroying what that bastard Pterano loved then that was all the better...
"Is there anything else that you would like me to do, sir?" The flyer asked softly. Red Claw did not like weakness, but he did appreciate usefulness and the flyer knew that he was safe as long as he remained useful to his new employer.
Red Claw paused for a moment. "Nothing can happen until the fastbiters return." He answered simply. "But when they do we will make our move on the valley dinosaurs."
The flyer paled for a moment. "Our move?" For a moment he forgot who he was talking to. "Do you think that we can take them all on?"
Red Claw glared at the flyer as if it was a petty annoyance, but then he answered. "We are not strong enough to take the valley, but we can raid it. A weakened valley will be easier to take once we are ready." He growled in annoyance. "In any case, flyer, that is not your concern." As the flyer raised his wings in an apologetic gesture and backed away Red Claw continued. "There is one thing that you can do in the meantime."
The flyer nodded, happy to no longer be fixed with the carnivore's glare. "Anything, sir."
Red Claw did not look up. "Get your friend from up north. The one that was burned. We will need all of the flyers we can get for the upcoming raid." He paused for a moment before looking up at the flyer. "And Rinkus?"
"Yes, sir?' The pink flyer answered hesitantly.
Red Claw fixed him with a toothy grin. "I expect you to be here when it comes time for the raid. Otherwise our other flyer allies will have a new target instead of the valley."
Rinkus gulped. "Understood, sir!"
As the flyer flew off without another word, Red Claw laughed into the open air. Things were certainly beginning to look up. Very soon now the residents of the valley would have a small taste of his wrath. If he were to get a successful raid on the valley, then new recruits would fall into his lap. Success breeds success. The upcoming raid would be very important for his eventual plans of taking the valley and securing his revenge.
And the more residents the raid killed, the better.
Back to the Land of Shallow Waters:
"And then we ran here as fast as we could. We didn't want Calin to do to you what he did to us... But we were too late..." Taunt broke down into tears as he again glanced at Littlefoot's injuries. There was not a single dry eye from amongst the assembled sharpteeth and even Bron, despite not understanding the conversation, seemed to be mournful as well. The entire pack was ensnared in a catharsis of grief.
"But you weren't too late, guys!" Chomper protested. "Seeker is still alive!"
"But he could have died!" Taunt roared. "And if he had then it would have been my fault!"
"No Taunt." Cera's voice protested. "It's not your fault. None of it is your fault. You're as much of a victim as the rest of us."
As both Taunt and Breeze wept, Ruby walked over and placed a comforting hand on Breeze's shoulder and Littlefoot decided to speak again.
"Look at me, Taunt." Taunt reluctantly looked towards the brown fastbiter as he spoke is a raspy whisper. His mournful gaze was a far cry from the humorous prankster they were used to. "I am only alive right now because of my friends. If you wouldn't have helped get treestars to clean my wound... If Ruby didn't tell them what to do... If they didn't help me fight... Then I would be gone right now." He paused for a moment as his throat was hurting. "You are not responsible for my injuries, Taunt, and you are not responsible for Skytail's death." Taunt was now inconsolable again at the mention of his dear friend. "He died so that you and Breeze might live. I know that it is hard, but you have to find a way to do that."
Taunt nodded. "I know... I'm being selfish right now."
Ducky shook her head and joined the conversation. "No, no, no! You are being sad. We all are being sad. That is not selfish."
Spike grunted his agreement. "I can't imagine what I would have done if Seeker had died and I can't imagine what you are going through right now. I am sad for the loss of our friends, but you knew them far longer than us." He paused as he was beginning to choke up as well. "I am so sorry."
Breeze spoke through her sobs. "I just don't know what to do. Our pack is gone."
Littlefoot responded immediately. "You still have us."
Taunt looked up in shock. "We couldn't ask that of you, Seeker. We were just hoping that you..."
Littlefoot finished. "Would offer you protection for a while?" At Taunt's nod, Littlefoot continued. "You are family. Our pack is your pack. We have fought the same enemy and have loved the same people. We couldn't ask for better packmates."
Breeze rose unsteadily. "Th... Thank you."
Littlefoot shook his head. "There is no need to thank me or anyone else. The decision is unanimous, is it not?" There was silence as no objections were raised. "I may not be..." Littlefoot paused as his voice nearly gave out. He would have to make this quick as he was quickly overtaxing his injured body. "I am not Skytail and I never will be. But I can tell you this: as long as I am around there will always be a place for you in this pack."
As the group of nine dinosaurs joined in a group embrace, Thud looked on with hopeful eyes. At least his son's fate was joined with his beloved friends. Now the only question was what would happen to Thud?