The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 4 An auspicious wish

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

To say that Cera was not looking forward to the meeting would be an understatement.

The bellows from her father had ceased as the residents began to move towards the meeting grounds. The children followed behind their parents as the tedious walk continued to the inevitable destination. The calling of such a meeting was not an uncommon development in the valley. However, Cera knew that a meeting meant that the monotonous thundering of footsteps would soon be replaced with the monotonous rambling of the valley's adults.

She was bored already.

To an outside observer she may have seemed incapable of serious introspection, but this would have been a gross misinterpretation of the young threehorn. She had been taught long ago that there was no benefit in showing your uncertainties and insecurities openly to others. Only assertiveness and certainty counted in threehorn society. Acting otherwise was simply unheard of. Nonetheless, she did occasionally go on flights of introspection when she was uncertain about things.

This was certainly one of those times.

With both uncertainty and boredom plaguing her mind, she decided to take the opportunity to look back at her friends and to consider the events of the day.

She looked behind her and immediately saw Ruby and Chomper, who were advancing very closely to their friends. They were noticeably keeping their distance from the some of the adults. Although she had questioned Chomper many times before on account of his ancestry, some part of Cera found it sad that the two felt the need to keep their distance from others. Why do they still not trust him? He has been well behaved for over six seasons. She bowed her head a bit. The hypocrisy of her accusing Chomper of letting his instincts go and criticizing others for doing the same was quite apparent to her. Well, he knew that I was just mad. Right?

She knew better than most dinosaurs about the danger that sharpteeth represented. Her mother and sisters had met their end at the claws of sharpteeth, and she and her friends barely escaped from sharpteeth during their first journey to the valley and on their subsequent adventures. In fact, she had been the most skeptical of the gang after Chomper hatched. His attempt to have my tail as an appetizer didn't help my mood! she thought reminiscently. She had also been skeptical of his motivations during their time on the island and berated Littlefoot for being so open to Chomper's overtures. However, Chomper had shown his ability to keep his drives under control while in the valley, and until that began to slip she would not seriously doubt him.

Cera sighed. She needed think about something else before the confusing jumble of emotions she felt made her any more uncertain. She decided to shift her focus to her other friends.

Littlefoot was the obvious next choice, as he was following close behind his grandparents. His grandparents' thundering steps and hulking forms made them the most conspicuous sight in the huddling of adults. Although she would never admit it to him except in rare moments of weakness, she did consider him her best friend. This was in spite of him being hopelessly idealistic, sickeningly cheerful, and unreasonably open to laughable ideas. He was her opposite in many ways. Okay. she admitted to herself, I suppose that is one of the reasons why he is my best friend.

He had been acting quite weird today, although she couldn't quite put her paw on it. He had said something about not sleeping well, but that did not tell her much. Perhaps his sleep stories are telling him to save the sun again? Or perhaps he had a sleep story about that falling rock? If he did see this coming and didn't tell us then he will get it!

Hmph! I suppose whatever it is will work itself out eventually.

She looked over to Spike and Ducky. Ducky was too innocent for her own good in her opinion. I even had to teach her how to express anger, sheesh! Despite that they had opened up a great rapport between one another. Ducky seemed to be incapable of anything underhanded, which made her one of the most trustworthy dinosaurs that Cera knew. This was a pleasant change from the continuous dominance play that guided the threehorn social order.

Cera then noticed that Spike had fallen back and was eating a nearby bush. Ducky had also noticed this and was ushering him back towards the adults. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder if he is hopeless or whether he has the right idea. I certainly wouldn't mind being off in my own world during with these meetings. She ruminated on the matter for a bit longer. I wonder what goes on in that head of his. Spike, being mute and with a far different thought process than the rest of the gang, was in many ways an enigma. Well I know that he is my friend; I suppose that is enough.

She then noticed that she could not see Petrie. I guess that he and the other flyers have already flown to the meeting grounds. One of the advantages of flying, I suppose. However she would never admit to Petrie that the flyers had an advantage over her.

Cera then decided to look in Chomper's direction once again. The little sharptooth briefly joined her gaze and acknowledged her by giving a slight nod, before going back to an unreadable expression and averting his gaze. His reaction made Cera feel a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She gave an exhausted sigh. I guess I overreacted back there, Cera admitted to herself reluctantly. She would not admit this directly to Chomper, as that would indicate weakness. Weakness caused far more problems than assertiveness was what her father always told her. Nonetheless, she hoped that Chomper didn't take it personally.

She then looked at her father and Tria. Her father was strutting towards the meeting place with the confidence that would be expected of a threehorn of his standing, whereas Tria looked upon him with admiring eyes. Yuk! It makes me want to gag! Cera thought. She had no idea why they were acting this way lately, but she found it annoying. She was also still fuming about watching Tricia all-day tomorrow, although she was not as irate as she was earlier, being more annoyed than anything at this point.

Tria appeared to notice Cera's preoccupied expression and inquired, "Are you alright dear?"

Cera was surprised by the question but, prideful as always, replied, "Huh? I am fine. I am just a little tired."

Tria gave her a disbelieving expression, but simply replied, "Of course dear. But I am here if you ever need to talk."

Cera, taken aback by this response, simply muttered, "Um... thanks."

Cera then looked at the scene around her and realized that they had arrived at the valley's meeting place. The adults were beginning to gather in a semicircle with Littlefoot's grandparents and her father near the most central point of the meeting place. The young flyers had taken upon themselves to perch on the longnecks. However, the adult flyers were nowhere to be seen.

I thought that they were already here, Cera thought, Where are they?

She then noticed movement in the sky at the horizon. There they are. What took them so long? She then watched as Petrie's mother and a few other flyers landed on the meeting grounds.

Littlefoot's grandfather was the first to speak, "It looks like that everyone is here. I guess that we can get the meeting started."

There were murmurs and elevated voices in the assembled crowd, but no one voice rose to prominence. The meeting had lasted for all of a few seconds and already it was out of order.

Cera's father attempted to restore order. "One at a time! One at a time!" Seeing that this wasn't working he resorted to a more forceful approach. "ENOUGH!" Finally the meeting became silent.

Littlefoot's grandfather was actually relieved at the outburst for once. "Thank you," he said to Mr. Threehorn before attempting to bring the meeting back on course.

"As everyone knows a flying rock has crashed into our valley," he began. Murmurs arose from the crowd, but they were more subdued this time around. "Flying rocks are not unheard of, but this is a new experience for us." Murmurs of agreement arose from the crowd.

Mr. Threehorn then spoke, "The flyers were kind enough to examine the rock from the sky. What did you all see?"

Ah! Cera thought, So that is what the adult flyers were up to.

Petrie's mother stepped forward from amongst the four adult flyers.

Littlefoot's grandfather then acknowledged her by name. "Yes, Volant? Were you able to see the rock?"

"Yes, Mr. Longneck. We passed over many fallen trees, but finally we came across a large crevice, almost like an empty stream." Murmurs began to arise from the crowd. "At the end of the crevice there was a small blue stone."

"A blue stone?" excitedly exclaimed one of the hadrosaurs.

"Yes. It shined as if it had a small bright circle within it," Volant replied.

The crowd began to react excitedly at this news. Within seconds, not a single coherent word could be heard on account of the noise.

Cera meanwhile had begun to set on her haunches and look upon the scene with disdain. Eurgh! Will these people ever shut up? Not even Tricia is this bad!

"SILENCE!" Mr. Threehorn called out again, and the crowd fell silent.

Thank goodness, Cera thought.

"I say that it is just a stone. Nothing more, nothing less," Mr. Threehorn began with a dismissive tone, "we were just unlucky enough to have it land in the valley this time."

The volume of the adults picked up again as Littlefoot's grandfather spoke, "I would tend to agree. It may be a unique stone, but it is a stone nonetheless."

Wow, those two are actually agreeing on something. What's next? Are swimmers going to fly? Cera thought sarcastically.

A domehead in the crowd spoke up, "But... Couldn't this be the Stone of Cold Fire?"

The volume of the crowd rose further still.

Mr. Thicknose pondered this, "Well, it does match the description."

The crowd was hysterical now, and even Mr. Threehorn knew that yelling wouldn't resolve that problem.

"Please calm down everyone," Littlefoot's grandfather pleaded, "we have no proof that this is that stone or if the Stone of Cold fire even exists in the first place."

"Yes, what the longneck said," Mr. Threehorn affirmed, "in any case panicking isn't going to solve anything."

"But..." another hadrosaur spoke up, "If it is that stone then it has enormous power."

"It could grant our wishes!" another resident spoke up.

"It would spell doom for us all." said another.

"Utter nonsense!" came Mr. Threehorn's reply, "We are beginning to sound as crazy as Pterano and his friends were."

Over the commotion in the crowd, Cera could hear Petrie protest at the insult towards his uncle.

Sigh. Still defending his uncle even after all that he has done, Cera thought.

The meeting then disintegrated into those who wanted to destroy the stone, those who wanted to use the stone, and those who did not care about the stone. But Cera had heard enough.

She looked over in Littlefoot's direction and saw that he was gesturing at her with his neck. He had snuck off behind his grandparents while they were preoccupied with the meeting. Ah. It seems that we both have the same idea. Well, great minds think alike.

She nodded and then looked at the others. Ruby and Chomper were already heading in the direction that Littlefoot was gesturing, as they had no "parents" in the valley to keep watch over them. Ducky and Spike were oblivious, however, as was Petrie.

As she pivoted away from her two guardians, Cera gestured with her head in Littlefoot's direction. Ducky noticed this and directed Spike's attention away from the bush he was eating. They then began to walk towards Littlefoot. Cera shook her head and looked at Petrie, which redirected Ducky's attention. He was still incensed at the insult towards his uncle and was focused on glaring at Mr. Threehorn. Ducky then snuck behind Petrie, who was on the other side of his mother from his siblings, and grabbed him in a tight hug. Real subtle Ducky, Cera thought sardonically. Luckily, however, the adults were again questioning Petrie's mom on the stone so she did not notice Petrie's sudden abduction.

Safely away from where their parents were looking, the children then advanced quietly through the underbrush. Regardless of the opinions of their parents on the matter, they had a stone to find.

......

Despite the gang's desire to seek out the stone, Ducky was quite concerned.

What if the stone is cursed like the swimmer said? Will that make us curesed-ed too?

Spike noticed his sister's concerned face and made an inquisitive grunt.

"Hmm? Oh, I am okay, Spike. I am, I am! I am just worried about the stone," she replied, "Some of the adults make it sound very scary!"

"Oh, Mr. Thicknose and those others don't know what they are talking about," Cera replied disdainfully, "It is just a stone, like my dad said."

"My grandpa said the same thing, but I am not sure," Littlefoot replied with an apprehensive look on his face.

"Well, we are not going to figure out anything arguing about it," Cera replied, "Let's see it for ourselves."

The others nodded, although Ducky did so reluctantly.

Petrie meanwhile was perched upon Littlefoot's head and was preoccupied by his thoughts. What if this be stone that uncle wanted? Would that make stone good or bad? Me don't want bad things to happen.

He was also upset over how Mr. Threehorn treated his uncle. Uncle Pterano not bad, he just make mistakes. Just because he wrong about some things does not mean he wrong about Stone of Cold Fire. His thoughts continued along these lines. Hmrph! Why does Mr. Threehorn have to be so mean?

In his distraction, he did not hear the young longneck call his name.

"Petrie!" Petrie heard suddenly.

"Huh? You talk to Petrie?" Petrie questioned.

"Yeah, I called your name four times!" Littlefoot replied.

"Me sorry. Me thinking," Petrie responded honestly.

"Well, I was wondering if you could look ahead," Littlefoot continued, "That way we could go the right direction. We want to get there and be back before our folks notice we are gone."

"But... What if more rocks fall while Petrie in sky?" Petrie questioned.

"Then you will be no worse off than us." Littlefoot responded.

Gee, that not very reassuring, Petrie thought petulantly.

Petrie sighed, "Okay, me do it." He then looked at Littlefoot, "Me should look soon before bright circle sets."

Petrie then took off from his perch and began to gain altitude. Soon he rose above the canopy of the forest they were passing through and could see the remainder of the valley in its beautiful glory. Whenever he had erratic thoughts, which was quite often in Petrie's case, he found that a flight through the valley was enough to help him think. This time was no exception.

Well, if stone cursed then valley is probably cursed anyway, Petrie thought with a shudder, But if it not cursed, then we simply make good wish before somebody make bad wish. Petrie continued this line of thought to its logical conclusion. And if it just be a rock then it just be a rock. Now that he thought of it this way, the possibilities did not seem so daunting.

"What do you see Petrie?" he heard Littlefoot yell from far below.

Oh, me forgot that me searching. Petrie then looked around him and easily saw what they were looking for. There was a large rift where the falling rock had impacted the ground at an angle. It was about as long as two full-gown longnecks, and all of the trees had fallen within several longneck lengths in all directions. In the middle of the final crater, the azure stone shone like the setting bright circle. Petrie now knew the way.

"It is over this way!" Petrie called, "If you turn left at big boulder, you find it!"

With the directions to the stone finally determined, the gang continued their journey.

......

Chomper noticed the smell of charred wood and ash before he saw anything out of the ordinary.

"I can smell it guys!" he said excitedly.

Ruby and Spike began to smell the same thing after they had advanced a short distance.

What sort of thing could cause this much damage? Ruby thought, All I can smell is burning. A rock would have to travel very far to cause this much destruction! Her train of thought continued unabated, Perhaps this is why my daddy called these star rocks from time to time? Perhaps they travel with the stars?

They then passed through the forest and gaped at what they saw. There was nothing but fallen trees all around them. All of the trees and bushes had been scorched, and all of the grass had been turned to ash. If anyone had been here when the stone hit...

"Wow," was all Littlefoot could say to the sight that lay before him.

They stood there silently for a few moments before Littlefoot once again continued the trek towards the crater. The others then began to follow closely behind. Although none of them would admit it to the others, they all were beginning to have doubts about what they were doing.

We are here now, and we might as well finish what we have started, Littlefoot thought with some trepidation. Although he had to admit that it was one of the most intimidating sights that he had ever seen.

They gradually advanced through the apocalyptic hellscape. The sounds of cracking ground and shifting ash greeted them throughout the brief journey. Finally, they saw the rim of the crater itself and began to climb towards it. Each of them made it to the rim and looked down...

"That must be Stone of Cold Fire!" Petrie exclaimed.

The others were thinking the same thing at that moment.

What lay before them was a crater that seemed as large and as deep as an adult threehorn. The ground still felt warm to the touch, and the walls of the crater were blackened. In the center of the crater lay a large rock which was about the size of a small tree. The rock was nearly a perfect sphere with the bluest blue coloration that the gang had ever seen. Its azure hue made everything around it appear to be blue. It illuminated the entire scene in luminescence, despite the fact that the bright circle had just set in the twilight sky.

"I think that you might be right, Petrie!" Littlefoot exclaimed, "Let's take a closer look."

The gang then climbed down to the bottom of the crater and looked upon the azure stone. From this distance the light it emanated was almost blinding. The dinosaurs had to squint their eyes and look obliquely at the stone in order to not hurt their eyes.

Cera looked at Littlefoot and said in awe, "What do we do now? Do we touch it and make a wish like Pterano tried, or do we leave it alone?"

"Perhaps we should leave it. Leave it perhaps we should!" Ruby exclaimed, "It is not like any stone I have ever seen."

"But if the adults destroy it then we lose our chance to use it for good," Littlefoot replied.

Petrie nodded, "Me could make good wish."

Cera responded untrustingly, "We have seen what you flyers would wish for. Perhaps it is time for a threehorn to make the wish."

Littlefoot decided to stop this conversation before it got out of hand. "We all could agree upon a wish and then make it."

Ruby nodded and said, "But which wish shall we make? We should be careful!"

They all thought for a moment.

"My uncle wanted power in order to do good," Petrie mentioned, "We could wish for that."

"But power often makes people bad," Ruby stated, "My daddy mentioned how power can be dangerous."

Ducky nodded and mentioned, "Yes, Petrie. Remember what the flyers did to me when they wanted power? It wasn't nice. Oh, no, no, no!"

Petrie bowed his head, but he couldn't argue with their logic.

"Perhaps we could wish for all of the sharpteeth to go away?" Cera mentioned in an untactful manner.

"Hey!" Chomper protested.

"We all have a place in the circle of life, Cera," Littlefoot responded, "Even though we don't like what that brings sometimes."

"Hmph!" Was Cera's reply, but she did not rebut Littlefoot's statement.

"Well..." Chomper said as he was in thought, "We all agree Red Claw is bad, right? Then let's ask the stone to get rid of him."

Ruby thought for a moment. "That is a good idea Chomper!" She was ecstatic that perhaps her mission of uniting the herds against Red Claw would be unnecessary if they could simply wish him away.

Littlefoot pondered this for a moment. "But... Pterano only wished for the power to do things, not for the things themselves. Maybe the stone only grants the power to make things happen? Perhaps we need to wish for the power to get rid of Red Claw?"

The others nodded their agreement.

"Alright then. Let's all touch the stone and make the wish," Littlefoot commanded.

The seven forelimbs of the various dinosaurs then touched the azure stone, and each could feel a power coursing through them. Ruby noticed that it was the same feeling that her feathers had gotten when she was once too close to a sky fire. It added a very disconcerting feeling to an already disconcerting situation.

"Okay, everyone," Littlefoot affirmed.

How did this go? What did Pterano say again when he was trying to use the other stone? Littlefoot thought to himself.

"Oh great Stone of Cold Fire, it is we..." He looked at the gang and thought for a moment, "the seven..." He then continued, "Oh great stone, we ask you to give us your gifts so that we can rid the world of Red Claw!"

The entire gang repeated Littlefoot's words in their minds and closed their eyes.

Moments passed.

And nothing happened.

"Perhaps you say it wrong?" Petrie questioned.

"Or perhaps it is just a stupid rock!" Cera exclaimed.

"Perhaps it will grant the wish later. Perhaps later the wish will be granted!" Ruby suggested.

"Well... I for one do not want to be yelled at for running off," Cera replied, "We should get back to our parents."

Littlefoot sighed, "Yeah..." He then looked at the rest of the gang with a dejected look. "If only it would have worked."

As the gang began their trek back to the meeting place, Littlefoot took a final look at the stone. It was beautiful and mysterious, but perhaps that was all that it was. He then turned back and followed the others back to the meeting.

None of them were present to see the stone begin to glow red.


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