The Seven Hunters

Chapter 48 Decisions

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

The present, five days later after the events of Chapter 47:

"It's time, Taunt."

The orange fastbiter looked up with a slight smile. Cera was standing with a somewhat excided expression on her face. It was obvious that she was impatient to finally decide how to proceed. He had to admit that he agreed. However, he thought to himself, simply agreeing with Cera wouldn't be much fun. With that in mind, he spoke.

"Oh... I don't know, Stern Claw... Don't you think that we should wait and think about it a while?

Cera's face darkened into an expression of pure annoyance, a growl left her throat as she responded to the insufferable carnivore.

"Thinking? We all know that isn't your strong suit, Taunt." Taunt's expression switched to surprise at the well-directed insult that had been sent his way. Her wit must have improved in his absence. "Now follow me or I will make sure that you can't walk at all."

Taunt began to follow the angry fastbiter, but he couldn't suppress his desire to get the last word. "In a bit of a hurry, aren't you?"

Cera snapped back. "Who isn't!?" She stared him down as she continued to walk towards the pack's meeting place. "Seeker is back in action..."

Taunt took this opportunity to interrupt. "Which means that Ponder is back in action..." His implication that Littlefoot and Ruby were rather close was not really a revelation to anyone capable of seeing.

"Yes..." Cera continued while rolling her eyes. "And we need to get moving. Our parents aren't getting any closer. We have to go to them."

Taunt's expression went from a mischievous tint to a softer look. "So you think that it needs to be done, huh?"

Cera didn't even look back. "Yeah..."

The two walked side by side for several moments. The exchange of taunts and counter-taunts had long since been concluded. In this peaceful pause in their usual banter, Taunt softly spoke.

"You know that I was just playing with you, right? I would never keep you from your parents."

Cera looked into Taunt's eyes and sighed. "I know."

Taunt went silent again for several moments. Cera appeared to find this worrying as Taunt was not one to fall into melancholy. After a moment her expression took on an insightful expression. Shortly thereafter, she shared her insight with her friend.

"You're thinking about your dad, aren't you?"

Taunt bowed his head in a morose expression, but he eventually nodded. Upon seeing this Cera continued.

"I guess you aren't the only one who lost a parent only to have him back. Seeker now has his dad... Spotter has Pterano... Ruby has her parents... I just hope that I get to see him again..." She took on one of the saddest expressions that Taunt had ever seen on her face. "I miss him."

Taunt took the opportunity to comfort his friend. "I'm sure that you will." As the two comforted one another for several moments, Cera posed a question for the fastbiter.

"If we do go, you know that we can't let your father come with us."

Taunt nodded. Obviously sending his father, Thud, to go with them to the valley would not go well at all. Despite that knowledge, however, his thoughts turned towards his father. He could still remember when Chomper's parents had determined his fate...

......

Five days earlier:

From a distance, Taunt absentmindedly watched the brown fastbiter sleep.

He was slumbering in a curled up ball, with his neck facing towards his tail. The bandage of leaves was still holding and there was no sign of distress from the stricken predator. However, there were still large gashes on the fastbiter's back and neck. These were not trivial injuries and had they not have been as prompt as they were the situation would have been far more dire.

Beside Littlefoot, Ruby stood watch. Her body was slumped over in an expression of utter exhaustion. Her weary eyes seemed to follow every breath that the small dinosaur took. Taunt immediately felt sorry for the rose colored fastbiter. She had obviously developed feelings for the injured leader and Taunt could sympathize with her plight. The agony of not knowing what would happen to the person that you love. Of them not knowing your true feelings... Of...

Taunt shook his head to clear his own personal thoughts. After a few moments, he resumed his observation.

Overhead, Bron stood like a sentinel in his watch over his son. His massive neck and formidable tail hovered over the scene with well-honed vigilance. A child longneck, Littlefoot's brother as indicated by Cera, was playing with another smaller longneck in the background. The other massive longneck was watching over those younglings, he apparently not wanting to associate with the sharpteeth any more than he was required. Considering how formidable the dinosaur looked with his scar, Taunt could only be thankful at that decision. Chomper's parents were making him nervous enough as it was.

He had been so focused on helping tend to Littlefoot that he was elated when he finally regained consciousness, having forgotten momentarily about the hardships that had brought them here. He had already lost his leader, a dinosaur that he considered a brother; he couldn't stand the thought of losing Littlefoot as well. However, now that the joyful reunion had taken place and the tragic news about the rest of his pack had been shared, the reality began to set in again. Littlefoot was still badly injured and it would take him some time to heal. Now it was up to the rest of the pack. Their pack. He reiterated in his mind. To make the necessary decisions on what happened while Littlefoot slowly recovered. Based upon the looks that the two massive sharpteeth were giving them the first issue on the agenda was...

"Thud."

At the roar of Dein, Taunt cringed. Yes, now that Calin's horde and Littlefoot health were attended to, Taunt's father would be the next thing on the agenda. He had made many enemies during his tenure as Red Claw's lackey and Chomper's folks did not seem like the forgiving type.

In fact... Taunt noted to himself as he turned towards the others. It doesn't look like the others want to forgive either.

Cera had a dour expression on her face, which was shared by Spike. They both were staring at Thud with great intensity, as only those who had been personally wronged by another could. Ducky meanwhile seemed to have a more contemplative expression, with Petrie's face being unreadable. As he considered the expressions of the rest of the pack, however, Breeze nudged him and hissed.

"Come on, Taunt! Let's make sure they don't eat your dad!"

Breeze was being tactful as always. However, Taunt was not in the mood to make a witty retort. With some trepidation, Taunt rejoined the circle of dinosaurs as they watched the confrontation unfold.

Dein's voice again echoed in the clearing. "In the past you have chased our son, attacked our allies, and disrespected our territory. Give us one good reason not to kill you where you stand." The voice was not roared, but rather was growled with an odd lack of emotion. For some reason, this horrified Taunt far more than an angry roar would.

A few moments passed. Taunt could see his father look down with an expression of humility. This was an odd expression to see coming from his father who, even when he was an adversary, Taunt thought of as a strong dinosaur. It was unthinkable for him to show submission to anyone, or so Taunt thought. But now, Thud was doing just that.

Silence ensued in the clearing as both of Chomper's parents and the large fastbiter seemed to stare each other down. For a while Taunt feared that his father simply wouldn't respond or would simply flee, but what Thud did when he finally acted surprised the young fastbiter. Thud very slowly sat back on his haunches and laid his head down on the ground. Thud was showing submission to the two massive sharpteeth. He was showing that he had no intention of leaving, or of engaging in violence, but rather was exposing himself for attack. If Chomper's parents wanted him dead then they could very easily kill him. Thud wasn't even putting on a defense.

Dad... What are you doing?!

Terri seemed to consider this development and was the next to speak.

"You offer your life to us, usurper?"

Taunt watched the scene in horror, as his father did not look up before he responded.

"I come with no malice. I only ask that you hear my words. Then I will leave you in peace."

Dein's expression darkened. "Then speak."

Thud now looked up at the two massive sharpteeth as he seemed to consider his words. After a few moments, he softly spoke. "I allied with the wrong dinosaur for the wrong reasons." He licked his lips as deep emotion seemed to swim in his eyes, but otherwise his stoic expression remained unchanged. "My arrogance cost me my brother, my pride, and for a time, my son... Red Claw betrayed me in the same way that I have betrayed the ones that I loved." He took on a morose expression, as his composure broke slightly. "I have no one to blame but myself."

Terri barked a response back. "Indeed you don't. Perhaps you should join your brother? Do you expect mercy from us?"

As both of the sharpteeth began to edge forward with a stalking posture, Taunt broke through the pack and ran to his father. The others did not have time to stop him.

"Run, dad!"

Thud seemed to freeze at his son's sudden entrance, but both dinosaurs stopped and turned when they heard a small voice come from behind the two sharpteeth.

"Come on, daddy! I think Thud learned his lesson!"

Dein stopped and gave an audible sigh, but Terri gave a noticeable smile. She then spoke after a pause.

"Path has already told us of your change in loyalties, Thud. For that reason we will spare your life."

Taunt backed away as Cera and Spike hastily pulled him back towards the pack despite his stubborn resistance. As he retreated back, his father gave a grateful reply to the two two-footers.

"Thank you for your mercy." He then bowed lowly in an expression of gratitude. He barely had enough time to rise to his original position when Dein gave him a less than polite parting.

"Now leave, Thud. If you enter our territory again, we will not hesitate to kill you."

As the two sharpteeth retreated some distance from the pack, Taunt was left in confusion. What the heck had happened? Why did his father offer his life to the sharpteeth? Why did Chomper seem to know what his parents were planning? His confusion threatening to overwhelm him, Taunt prepared to voice his questions, but then his father spoke.

"You don't understand how two-footers work, do you son?" At his son's perplexed look, Thud gave a slight smile and continued. "If you have a two-footer as a benefactor then you learn a few things. For one thing, son, show humility."

Taunt hesitated. "And the other thing?"

Thud smiled. "Make sure that the two-footer has a reason to keep you around."

Almost on cue, Chomper reappeared from where his parents were congregating and gestured for the Taunt and Thud to join him. After they arrived, he spoke.

"I guess you want to know where my mommy and daddy don't have territory." It was now Chomper's turn to smile. "I hope that you enjoy walking."

......

Back to the present:

"How is your father?"

Upon hearing Cera's voice, Taunt snapped out of his thoughts. It was hard to believe that the events of that day were already nearly a week old. So much had happened in such a short time. Knowing that his friend would not appreciate being ignored, Taunt hurriedly answered Cera's query.

"He was okay the last time I saw him... He has seen no sign of Calin."

Cera snorted. "I should hope not! We gave him quite a beating!" Her pride was on full display. Not just for herself, but also for her brave friends. They all had sacrificed so much during the battle and its aftermath. "If he ever comes back it will be his throat that will be ripped... And I will NOT miss."

Taunt didn't dare tease her on that point. Even he knew that certain subjects were off-limits. With that in mind, he decided to approach the topic from a much safer angle.

"Assuming that Bron doesn't beat you in making the kill. I imagine he wants Calin's blood as much as you do."

Cera nodded. "You have no idea."

Taunt responded without thinking. "Actually, I do."

Both of them stopped as the implications of Taunt's words echoed in the minds of them both. Indeed, Taunt and Breeze both wanted Calin dead as well. He had hurt them all gravely. At least Cera still had her friend. That was more than Taunt could claim. He would never see his three fallen comrades again.

Cera realized her mistake and quickly responded. "I'm sorry... That's not what I meant." She then sighed. "So much has happened in the last few days... I almost don't even know what I am doing anymore. Heck, we have two longnecks in our territory and Chomper's folks aren't eating them." She shook her head. "If you had told me that a few days ago then I would have called you insane."

Taunt smirked. "You would have called me that anyway." Upon hearing Cera chuckle, he continued. "But, how did you convince them not to eat the longnecks anyway?"

Cera rolled her eyes. "That is a long story..."

......

Five days earlier:

Cera watched Thud, Taunt, and Chomper leave for the outskirts of their territory. For the life of her she couldn't figure out what was going on. If they didn't like Thud then why didn't they exile him far outside of their territory? Why simply lead him to the outskirts of their land? And why use Chomper for the task? She was about to walk over to the two sharpteeth and ask her questions, when Spike answered the unanswered questions for her.

"A buffer."

Both Cera and Ducky turned to look at the green fastbiter, but he said nothing more. Feeling impatient, Cera finally demanded an explanation.

"What?" She growled in annoyance.

Spike blinked, but his face remained unreadable. "They want Thud to be a buffer. That way if anyone attacks, they will have some warning."

Cera seemed to nod at this, but Ducky still looked confused. "But why not make him an ally? That is what we did for both of you before..." She looked at Breeze, who was still staring in the direction that Taunt had left. "Before... We had to leave." She finished. Ducky apparently did not want to reopen the recent wounds of the passing of the rest of Breeze's packmates.

Much to the surprise of everyone present, however, Breeze spoke.

"Too much bad blood there, I suppose." Came the feminine voice. "But if they give him a place... Well it is better than he deserves really."

Petrie now spoke up. "But he save you!"

Breeze smiled and gave a slight nod. "Yes, he did. But he hurt a lot of people, Petrie. Some things aren't so easily forgiven."

Ducky nodded. "Or forgotten..."

Everyone then turned towards the green fastbiter at her sudden addition to the conversation. Seeing this, she continued.

"I am glad that you and Taunt are alive. I am, I am! But what do we do now?" The former swimmer shook her head. "Seeker is hurt, his daddy is here, and we have mean fastbiters after us. We do, we do!"

The others seemed to ponder their predicament as silence descended upon the group. After a few moments, however, Cera had an idea.

"I don't know for Seeker, but I do know what we can do for the longnecks." She looked towards Ducky and gave a slight smirk. "Or do you all want to tell Seeker that we lounged around while he slept."

Spike gave a smirk of his own. "Lounging around sounds good to me." The reputation that he had gained when he was a spiketail still had not faded from memory.

Cera gave a slightly annoyed expression at the cheeky fastbiter, but she was undaunted. If she could put up with Taunt's antics then she could handle Spike. "Come along... I have a feeling that we need to talk to Chomper's folks before they decide to have a little snack."

......

"So you explained the situation to them?"

Cera laughed at Taunt's question. "Uh... Not exactly."

......

"You want to make sure that we won't kill the longnecks."

The four dinosaurs stopped in their tracks. They had planned on explaining the situation to the two sharpteeth and appealing to their sense of compassion for Littlefoot's plight, but it seemed that they had already guessed at the group's intentions.

"Yes, Mr. Sharptooth." Spike answered plainly.

"How you know?" Petrie couldn't stop himself from asking.

Terri laughed. "It is obvious, children. Stern Claw was looking at the longnecks for half of the journey over here. I'm amazed you didn't fall over your own feet!" An amused snort left her mouth as Cera looked away in embarrassment. Terri wasted no time in continuing. "The green longneck... He is a comrade of Seeker's father, is he not?"

Cera nodded. "Yes, he is called Doc."

"The sharpteeth call him Whiptail." Dein responded plainly. "And for good reason... Many have felt the blunt end of his tail... and only a few have lived to talk about it."

Spike muttered. "The Lone Dinosaur has quite a reputation..."

"Indeed." Terri interrupted.

Cera seemed to think for a moment. "Will you..."

"We will not harm him, Stern Claw." Dein answered. "As long as he does not harm any of you and he leaves after Seeker has recovered then we will leave him in peace." As he turned to Terri, he whispered. "Besides, his meat wouldn't be worth the effort involved."

At Dein's characteristic snarky comment, the rest of the gang laughed. Although the situation was nearly as awkward as it was unthinkable, it seemed that everything would work out in the end.

......

Back to the present:

"That is the Whip Tail?!" Taunt nearly yelled. "And Seeker's dad is friends with him?"

Cera nodded. "Yep. We also knew Doc back when we were leaf-eaters."

Taunt shook his head. "You never cease to horrify me, Stern Claw."

Cera could only smirk in response. "Ah, that's the nicest thing you told me all day."

Taunt appeared ready to get in another word, when they could hear a rustling of leaves near their location. Only a few seconds later, as the smell of the intruder reached Cera's nose, she could only cringe. Please tell me he didn't hear...

"Why hello, you two." Seeker chirped out. His voice was much stronger than it had been, but it now had a noticeable hint of mockery in its tone. He had obviously heard the playful banter between the two fastbiters. "It is nice to see you two getting along so nicely." Littlefoot took on a wide smile as Cera looked away in a huff. He had won this round and he didn't have to make any direct insinuations at all.

Not that that would stop Taunt...

"And where is your girl... I mean Ponder." Taunt corrected himself poorly in an attempt to get a rise out of the other fastbiter, but Littlefoot was not taking the bait.

"I am not sure actually." Littlefoot admitted, as if he had not heard the insinuation at all. "I think that she may be talking to Path." As Taunt looked somewhat deflated at having his attempt at mocking Littlefoot fall flat, the brown fastbiter began to think back at the events of the previous few days. In fact, today was the first day that he hadn't seen Ruby since the injury...

......

Four days ago:

"Urgh..."

Littlefoot jerked awake as his dreamless sleep suddenly came to an end. His head felt lighter and the pain in his neck had diminished, but why did everything appear so dark? And what was with the weight on his stomach?

"Oh, you're finally awake!" Ruby's voice answered his question without him having to ask it. "But no one else is awake. It is night, Seeker. You slept through the day."

Littlefoot blinked. He had slept through an entire day!? He must have been more injured than he thought if he required that much rest. But as he attempted to speak, a problem presented itself.

"I sl..." His voice immediately gave out. All that left his mouth was an inarticulate growl. This caused Ruby to look at him with some concern.

"You're voice is still recovering, Seeker. You spoke too much, too quickly yesterday. Too quickly and too much you spoke." She placed both of her forelimbs onto her sides and fixed him with a look that communicated that she would tolerate no excuses. She was determined to protect her dear friend.

Littlefoot was about to protest, but as soon as he opened his mouth he realized that would be pointless. His voice had already given out and it needed time to recover. As Ruby looked at his with a determined look, all he could do was simply nod. Leader or not, Ruby was not putting up with any of his bravado. When it came to his care, she was leader as far as she was concerned.

"Drink this."

Littlefoot was brought back to reality, by Ruby's sudden words. In front of him was a large treestar that seemed to have water in it. Without thinking, he hurriedly guzzled the badly needed liquid. It was only then that he realized how thirsty he truly was. It was like he hadn't drunk anything in ages. As he finished the water, Ruby gave a soft chuckle.

"I guess that I will need to get you more water." She said with some mirth. As Littlefoot struggled to get up and follow her to the stream, she placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "Oh, no you don't! You rest. I can get the water."

Now feeling thoroughly useless, Littlefoot settled down back into his resting position. He had to admit that he was still very tired and his head still ached. Perhaps he would simply rest for a while until Ruby came back...

He was back into the land of dreams as soon as he rested his head on the ground.

......

Three days ago:

"Time to get up, Snoozer!"

Littlefoot stirred. The voice that greeted him on this day was not the soothing, caring voice that had greeted him the night before. In fact it sounded a lot like...

"Cera?" Littlefoot asked groggily.

The yellow fastbiter nodded. "Yep. Your special friend is out helping the others look for ground fuzzies." Littlefoot bristled a bit as the obvious insinuation on Cera's part. "She wanted to stay, but I insisted."

Littlefoot nodded. "She cares a lot." After a pause, Littlefoot continued. "I mean... you all do, but..."

Cera laughed. "We know, Seeker." She then examined him a bit more. "Your voice is sounding better. Ponder said that you couldn't talk last night." She then pawed at the leaves at his neck. "I am going to take a look at your neck, okay?"

Cera's tone was obviously careful. To expose one's neck to another sharptooth, even a friend, was an extreme act of trust. The throat was one of the most vulnerable regions and it could be torn asunder by a single strike. Therefore, Cera was being cautious to make sure that she had Littlefoot's consent before she continued.

Littlefoot paused for a moment, before nodding. He could then feel a slight sting as the leaves were removed from his neck wound. Cera's breath made a curious sensation against his exposed neck as she examined it thoroughly. After a few moments, Cera spoke.

"I think that we can leave the treestars off now, Seeker. The swelling is down and I smell no infection." Cera had noticeable relief in her voice as she said those words. She was obviously more concerned than she let on.

Littlefoot nodded. "I guess that is why it is easier for me to talk now." Upon saying it, however, Littlefoot realized that is was a stupidly obvious comment to make. Cera picked up on this as well.

"Are you sure that blow to your head didn't cause some damage?" The curl to the side of her mouth indicated that she was joking. From anyone else that insult would be considered downright mean, but coming from Cera it was just a playful jest. Littlefoot responded in kind.

"If that is the case, then let's hope I don't get hit in the head a few more times. Because then I would only be as smart as Taunt."

Cera laughed wildly at Littlefoot's excellent jab at the orange fastbiter. Most couples, and Littlefoot did think of Cera and Taunt as a couple at this point, would recoil at having another insult their partner. Cera and Taunt, on the other hand, seemed to take those events as an opportunity to learn new insults to throw at one another. It was the sort of behavior that would only make sense for Cera and Taunt.

Finally finishing laughing, Cera spoke again. "Okay... You're not that bad yet. But surely you're smart enough to know you haven't eaten in two days." As if on cue, Littlefoot's belly growled in anticipation of food. Cera laughed and gave Littlefoot a smirk. "Come along then, let's see what the others have come up with."

Littlefoot spoke softly with gratitude. "I can't thank you all enough for hunting in my place."

Cera snorted. "We are just doing what you would do in our place." Littlefoot looked down at this. That may have been true, but he still felt wrong for relying on the charity of others. "Now come along, the food isn't getting any fresher."

As the two fastbiters walked slowly towards the heart of Dein and Terri's territory, they did not see the eyes of Bron follow them. His expression was unreadable, but his eyes communicated one thing.

He would need to talk to his son soon.

......

"Oh, Seeker! You are back! You are, you are!"

At Ducky's excited affirmation, the other members of the pack also congregated around the brown fastbiter. They all knew that he had been quite out of it for the last several days and they were pleased to see him walking around unassisted and talking freely. There questions, however, threatened to overwhelm the fastbiter.

"Your neck looks better! How does it feel?"

"You talk better now? Petrie was worried."

"Do you feel well enough to eat?"

"Back off, everyone!" Ruby finally came to his aid. "He may be able to talk, but he can't talk to everyone at once." The rose colored fastbiter affirmed. After everyone gave the brown fastbiter some space, Ruby whispered in his ear. "I am glad to see that you are doing better. Seeing you doing better makes me glad."

Littlefoot smiled. "Thanks, Ponder." He then looked at the others. "I still feel a little weak, but I think that I can manage. But I wanted to thank you all for, well, everything. I wouldn't be alive right now if it wasn't for all of you." Everyone took on happy expressions at that affirmation. Littlefoot was beginning to sound like his old self. However, wishing to prevent an overly emotional outpouring from his friends, he decided to preempt such an occurrence. "Stern Claw told me that all of you were hunting in my place. Did you guys catch anything?"

Taunt was the first to respond. "Did we? Ha! Breeze and I had to school you hatchlings on how to hunt!"

Cera rolled her eyes, as Spike retorted. "We would have caught her eventually. You just wanted to show off."

Taunt gave an innocent shrug. "Who? Me?"

No one else was buying the act, let alone Littlefoot. "Alright, Taunt. What did you all catch for us?"

With a flourish, Breeze and Taunt stepped aside and a corpse became visible. The corpse of a small swimmer. Littlefoot didn't quite realize how hungry he was until the prey became visible to him. Now he was salivating uncontrollably.

Littlefoot's change in demeanor was not lost on anyone. With a slight chuckle, Ruby offered a suggestion. "Perhaps we can break from tradition a bit. Seeker? Would you like the first bite?"

She didn't have to ask.

As Littlefoot and the rest of the pack tore into the succulent hadrosaur, they didn't notice the small green longneck cowering in the distance. With quaking feet he emerged from the tree that was serving as his cover and he ran off.

......

"Shorty? What's wrong?"

Littlefoot had finally emerged from his meal in order to greet his father and brother. However, the sight that greeted him was not quite what he expected.

Shorty was looking at him with an expression of fear as he noticeably kept close to Bron's legs. It was not the fear of moral danger, Littlefoot noted, he knew what that smelt like. No, rather it smelt like a confused kind of fear. A fear of the unknown. It was not something that he had ever smelt on Shorty before. Without thinking, he approached Shorty with a concerned expression.

"Stop, son."

Littlefoot stopped suddenly as his father voice rang out. The words were not hostile or angry, but they were spoken firmly.

"What is going on, dad?" Littlefoot asked in his confusion. "Are you all okay?"

Bron seemed to stare his son down for a few moments before sighing. He obviously was not looking forward to the conversation ahead, but for what reason Littlefoot could not ascertain. That was until Bron spoke.

"Son, I was hoping to talk to you before something like this happened." Bron seemed to ruminate for a few moments before he finally spoke again. "The swimmer that your friends killed... Shorty saw it."

Littlefoot's face took on a stunned expression at this news. He couldn't expect Shorty to understand what he was doing on an emotional level, as that was something that only another sharptooth would understand. But he would have to communicate to his poor brother. Shorty must have thought that he was a monster right now.

"I'm sorry that you had to see that, brother." Littlefoot softly spoke. "I'm sure that it was not a pleasant thing to see."

Shorty nearly broke down. "I heard her scream, Littlefoot! I heard her cry!" He then stormed forward a short distance and screamed at his brother. "How can you do that?! How can you eat knowing that you killed someone just like you?"

Littlefoot looked down. "We do it because we have no choice, Shorty. You were accepting of this earlier, but it is harder to see it, isn't it?" At Shorty's sad nod, Littlefoot continued. "It is even harder to live it. It took us a long time to accept our fate and I'm still not sure that I'm still fully there." Littlefoot took a tentative step forward, to which Shorty did not respond. "I don't ask you to accept it, Shorty. I only ask that you understand. I am sorry that you had to see that."

As soon as he had said those words, Shorty turned and began to walk away from Littlefoot. This deeply concerned the brown fastbiter and he protested. "Shorty, wait!"

Bron took this moment to speak again. "Give him time, Littlefoot. He has been through a lot."

Littlefoot looked up at his father and responded with a quivering voice. "I never wanted him to see that side of me! Now he will never look at me the same way."

"No, no he won't." Bron agreed. "He saw you as simply his brother with claws before... Now he sees you as you are. Now he sees you as a sharptooth."

Littlefoot slashed at the ground in anger. "It's not fair!" He was now breathing heavily as his emotions were now getting uncontrolled. "Why did this have to happen? Why does misery follow me anywhere I go?"

A new voice entered the conversation. "Because you are a sharptooth." Doc's voice echoed in between the two dinosaurs. "You can spread little else but misery."

Bron paled and responded immediately. "Doc, that's unfair!"

Doc shrugged and continued without interruption. "You are a killer, Littlefoot, and killers kill. It is what you are."

"But I don't want them to see that!" Littlefoot protested. "I want them to think of me as I was... as..."

Bron nodded and extended his neck to his son. "It's too late for that now, son. We know what you are." As the two nuzzled, he continued. "The question is: what do you do now?"

Littlefoot kept his eyes closed as he answered. "We need to tell the valley what happened to us. They deserve to know. And then... And then we will need to stay far away. I don't want to risk hurting somebody that I love or having them think of me as a..."

Doc offered. "A killer?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah."

Bron rose to his full height again and look behind him at Shorty's sullen form. He was sitting by the stream and looking in the opposite direction. Obviously he wanted to hide his tears from everyone.

"I will talk to Shorty, son. But you will have to do the hard part." Bron sighed. "Some part of me will always see you as my son, but some of the others may not be so accepting. I know Shorty will recover in time. But I fear for your safety if you decide to head to the valley."

Littlefoot looked up. "I think that I might have a plan for that."

Bron looked down at his son. "Oh?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah... I will talk to the pack tomorrow. Then we should have a meeting the next day. We have waited long enough."

The brown fastbiter then turned and looked at his adopted brother, who was still sitting by the stream in a despondent state. Bron noticed this and comforted his son.

"I will take care of it, Littlefoot. You just need to worry about your pack now."

Hearing this, Littlefoot nodded and began to walk out of the clearing, his reunion not going as well as he had hoped. Before he reentered the forest, however, he looked towards Doc. The massive longneck simply fixed him with an unreadable expression as Stomper slept some distance away. Considering Doc's mannerisms during the entire conversation, Littlefoot decided to ask a question that had been on his mind for some time.

"After we reunite with our folks and then leave the valley, we will be enemies won't we, Doc?"

The longneck shook his head. "We will be adversaries. Being enemies implies hate."

Littlefoot sighed. "We would never do anything intentionally... But I guess it would be best for us to stay apart."

Doc simply nodded.

"Best of luck to you, Doc." Littlefoot said softly.

"Same to you, Littlefoot." Doc answered back, as the brown fastbiter retreated out of sight.

No acrimonious thoughts existed between the two dinosaurs, but each accepted that there would be a permanent chasm between them. Bron may always look at Littlefoot as a son, but Doc had no such sentiments. He knew that Littlefoot was still himself, but yet he also knew that he was also a sharptooth. Eventually this saga would have to end with the changed children keeping their distance from the leaf-eaters that they loved. Nature would allow no other resolution.

He simply hoped that the eventual reunion would go well for everyone involved.

......

Back to the present:

As Littlefoot approached the clearing where the others were gathering, he snapped back into reality. The day had finally arrived.

Everyone had agreed that they should try to reunite with their families, so at least they would know of their fate. However many questions remained. How were they going to tell their parents without getting killed in the process? How were they going to convince the valley not to kill them once their identities were known? What would be the best path to take?

As these thoughts were circling in the fastbiter's head, he looked at those who had gathered.

His pack, now totaling seven, stood in a semi-orderly line. Wait. Where are Ruby and Chomper?

As if on cue, the two tardy dinosaurs appeared from behind the pack and took their usual place. Ruby had a contemplative expression on her face, whereas Chomper looked somewhat troubled. The others seemed concerned about their appearance, but not dared to pry into their business. So I was correct about those two being in a conversation. I will need to talk to them later.

Turning his attention to the background, he could see Bron and Doc both take positions behind the pack. They were obviously trying to keep their distance from Chomper's parents, who were also present for the meeting. With a somewhat sad thought, Littlefoot realized that Shorty was on Bron's back and was still looking at the pack with cautious eyes. For some reason, Littlefoot suspected that Shorty's new outlook on his brother would not change. They had reconciled and explained their feelings, but the sight of Littlefoot being a predator was a turning point. Perhaps it was for the best that Shorty came to the realization of what the pack now was, but Littlefoot still wished that it could have come about a different way.

Finally, Littlefoot looked to his side and could see the massive forms of Chomper's parents. Considering their son was going to be involved in this venture, they wanted to be fully informed. Obviously any decision would need to obtain their approval.

Taking a deep breath, Littlefoot walked into the middle of the clearing. It was now time to make some hard decisions.

"Alright, everyone!" He began. "We have all agreed that it is time to reunite with our folks. The only question is this: how are we going to do that?"


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