The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 49 Calling in favors

“Watson. Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Creeping Man

"We need to have someone tell our parents that we are coming."

Bron stepped up to the challenge. "I can do that."

"I don't think so, dad. They could think that you snapped and well... Doc you're..."

Doc snorted, somewhat amused. "Not trusted?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Exactly."

"A flyer could do it!"

Everyone else seemed to state at the brown flyer. After a moment, Littlefoot asked for clarification.

"What do you have in mind, Spotter?"

The words from the meeting echoed in the flyer's mind as he continued to fly towards his destination. However, this journey was noticeably different. Now he was going to a place that he had never been before.

The Red Coasts.

This was the place where Pterano had told him that he would be present. Even though Petrie knew that the adults wouldn't believe Pterano, he figured that his uncle could still be of some use. Although it took the pack some time to accept that conclusion.

Littlefoot was aghast at the idea. "You can't be serious, Spotter! No one would believe him."

"Yeah! They would probably believe Thud before they would believe him!" Cera joined in Littlefoot's rebuttal.

"That isn't helpful, Stern Claw." Littlefoot cautioned, hoping to get the meeting back on track. "We need to stay focused..."

"Well, I found it humorous..."

"Of course you do, Taunt..." Littlefoot sighed.

Petrie protested at their dismissal. "Me know they not trust uncle! You know that if you listen!"

At Petrie's admonishment, Chomper interrupted the rest of the pack. "What do you have in mind, Spotter?"

"Me tell uncle things only we know. Uncle tell other flyer and other flyer tell valley." Petrie answered in a somewhat irritated voice.

"So let me get this straight." Cera spoke after a pause. "You want to tell Pterano enough stuff so that he could convince our folks that we are still alive."

Petrie nodded.

Cera then continued. "And you want him to tell someone else. Someone who we do not know..." She stressed the last sentence. "...to tell our folks."

"Yes. That the idea." Petrie affirmed.

Cera shook her head. "I don't trust your uncle, Spotter. I don't think any of us do." Littlefoot and Ducky seemed ready to protest, but Cera continued uninterrupted. "But the valley isn't going to trust just some random flyer..."

"But he say stuff only we know!" Petrie interrupted angrily. Cera's distrust of his uncle was making her ignore critical details in Petrie's plan. He was quickly going from irritation to anger.

"There is a precedent for that."

Every head turned at the words which had come from Littlefoot's father. Littlefoot in particular looked perplexed by this latest piece of information.

"You were..." Bron paused for a moment. "...and I suppose still are kids... so you weren't aware of how we adults got information from time to time. Flyers can be useful at sending messages." He took on a slight smile. "In fact, Petrie's mom used to be a messenger flyer back when she was younger."

Petrie's mouth was agape. "My mommy was what?"

Bron chuckled. "A messenger flyer. She told me that little detail back when were looking for all of you. Before I found the bones and thought..." He stopped himself before he reopened an unhappy memory. "So the valley would be aware of messengers."

Dein now used this opportunity to speak, as Chomper finished his translation for his father. "So the flyer lets the valley now you all are alive. But how will you let them know that you are what you are?"

Littlefoot nodded. That was a good question. He was about to speak when another voice spoke up first.

"You could hide and remind them of your secrets from a distance. Then reveal yourselves once they realize that you are you."

At the sudden offering from Breeze, Taunt also added some wisdom of his own. "If your dad is nearby then you could have some protection as well..." For once he was not mocking anyone or having fun teasing others. He seemed to realize that this was a serious topic, as he had only recently regained his father. He was not stopping anyone else from having a similar reconciliation.

Ruby smiled at the offerings from the pack's two newest members. "That sounds like a good idea to me! If we let our parents know we are alive before we meet them, then we might stay alive when we meet them."

Littlefoot smiled at this. "Yes... This sounds like a good idea. But it all relies upon Pterano getting the message out..." He then turned towards the other pack members. Cera still had a deeply untrusting expression on her face, but the others seemed more receptive to the idea. He knew that it was time to resolve the issue.

"We can try to use Pterano, then use Bron to relay the message if he fails... How does that sound, Stern Claw."

At Littlefoot's vocalization of his idea, Cera sighed. She really did not trust that flyer, but she knew that she was outvoted on this matter. Furthermore, though she would not admit it, she had to admit that this was their best shot at reuniting with their parents. With some reluctance, she nodded her head.

Every head then turned in Petrie's direction, as Littlefoot affirmed the decision of the pack.

"Alright, Spotter. It is in your claws now. You let Pterano know what we have planned and then come back here. We will head to the valley as a group."

Petrie took a bow at the mission that he was given, but he very quickly stopped the gesture when he realized that he was forgetting something.

"But me need to know things only we know."

Littlefoot chuckled as some of the excitable Petrie of the past rose to the surface. With a soft smile, he answered Petrie.

"Of course, Spotter. Of course..." The brown fastbiter seemed to think for a moment before continuing. "Here is something than only me and my grandparents would know..."

Petrie still had the various secrets echoing in his head. The small tidbits of information that would confirm that they were alive and on the way back to the valley. He didn't know how their parents would take the news. Not well. He suspected. However, he was determined to fulfill his part of the equation. He had to find Pterano and hopefully his uncle would do the rest.

With the memories of the meeting now out of his mind, Petrie carefully observed his surroundings. He had travelled for the better part of two days, taking breaks every couple of hours and snatching ground fuzzies that he happened to find with his superior sense of vision. The swampy wetlands of the Land of Shallow waters had given way to the barren wastes that gave the Mysterious Beyond its fearsome reputation. He hadn't seen a forest or body of water for several hours now and he knew that he was on the right track.

"Where the sands blow and the waters flee that is where the Red Coasts be."

Petrie had remembered that saying since he was a hatchling. It was one of those little songs that she would often sing to calm her children when it was time to sleep. He had never known of the significance of the Red Coasts, but he figured that it must have some importance for it to be mentioned in almost reverent tones. Whenever he asked his mother about it he would simply get a non-answer.

"You'll find out when you are older, dear."

Petrie was no fool. He could deduce from both his uncle's words when he said he was going and his mother's non-responses early on in life that whatever happened in the Red Coasts involved many flyers. Thus, Petrie knew that he would probably have his work cut out for him in finding his uncle. For that matter, he might have quite the difficulty in avoiding danger. He highly doubted that many of the other flyer kinds would appreciate a sharptooth flyer interrupting the gathering.

Oh, well. Me cross that path when me get to it. Petrie thought somewhat dejectedly. The desolate scene around him didn't exactly improve his mood. There wasn't much to see except for gorges and valleys with little to no vegetation, the occasional migrating herd, and...

Petrie took a double take. Flyers?

Two flyers appeared to be heading his direction at a rapid pace. Had Petrie found the Red Coasts? Perhaps these two were just leaving the area or perhaps... A horrifying thought then entered Petrie's mind. What if me be in their territory? Realizing that he might be in trouble, Petrie hurriedly shifted his path towards the south in order to evade the newcomers while still heading for his destination.

After a few moments, however, it became apparent that this strategy was not working. His two pursuers shifted their flight paths to match his own. Worse yet, they were exceeding his speed since their larger wings were picking up more of the thermal lift from the ground. He would soon be overtaken if he continued his current strategy. It was with this in mind, that Petrie glanced to his side and took a hard look at the two flyers.

One of them had a grayish-brown coloration with very noticeable burns on one of his wings, whereas the other had a distinctive pink coloration with a small, stout beak. Oh no! Petrie thought to himself. Me know these two! He hastily tried to think of a way to evade his pursuers when one of them spoke up.

"In a hurry are we?"

Petrie cringed at the comment from Rinkus. Now knowing that escape wasn't an option, Petrie decided to go into a glide and land on the rocky cliffs below. It seemed that the only way to get out of this situation would be to talk his way out. After carefully landing on the cliff, he noticed that the other two also landed nearby. Sierra landed with a much less controlled thud, while Rinkus landed much more gracefully. Petrie decided to answer the pink flyer.

"Yes. Going to Red Coast." Petrie spoke in sharptooth, oddly surprised that these two would also know sharptooth. However, he soon realized that since they were fish-eaters that they would undoubtedly know the sharptooth language as well. Considering his options for a moment, he realized that he would have to be careful and not say 'me' in place of 'I' lest they may suspect his origins. If Petrie knew anything about Sierra and Rinkus, it was that they seemed to care about no one but themselves. So if he were to remind him of Pterano in any way... He shuddered. They might rip him to shreds just for the unpleasant memory.

"The Red Coasts?! Ha!" Sierra commented. "You're a bit small to be looking at tail, aren't ya?"

As Rinkus barely suppressed a chuckle and Sierra laughed in amusement, Petrie's mind was in overdrive. Why would me look at tail what does that... Then he remembered a talk that his mother gave him and the other siblings about where babies came from. When one of the older kids mentioned looking at tail, he had asked his mother what that meant and she responded with a basic discussion on the topic. So that was what all of the flyers were up to. Ohhhhhh... Petrie not interested in that! But Petrie was not a dull flyer and he knew that he had to come up with a reason for his journey. A reason that did not mention Pterano or hint at Petrie's identity. Maybe me better off acting like bad flyer? Better that than weak... His mind made up, he responded to Sierra's comment.

"Looking for food, not tail." Petrie muttered, being careful to avoid the use of 'me'. He was of the same kind as Sierra, but he was unsure how vicious they actually were. Would they openly attack other flyers when they weren't starving? Did they regularly hunt eggs and youngling flyers? What if they were of their same kind? Did they practice cannibalism? He considered Sierra's personality and decided that it would be better to appear too vicious as opposed to not vicious enough. With that in mind, he said his next words in a cold monotone.

"Babies food. Are they not?"

The laughter stopped as Rinkus backed away slightly and looked at the flyer with a disbelieving expression. The words from Petrie obviously unnerved him. It was as if Petrie had crossed a line that even Rinkus would not consider. Despite this reaction, Petrie kept his eyes unblinking and his face in a stern expression. He was not letting his mannerisms give anything away. In that moment he was grateful for his new instincts. Here he was letting them run uncontrolled.

The reaction from Sierra, however, was not quite what he had expected.

"Heh... I think that I like this one." He chuckled slightly. "You think that Red Claw would find this one useful?"

Rinkus seemed to consider this for a moment, before looking at his partner and nodding. Something changed in his eyes as he looked at Petrie again. The constrained malice was gone and no replaced with a somewhat fearful expression. Me scare Rinkus? The thought almost seemed absurd, but Petrie's words had seemed to strike a chord in the pink flyer. It seemed that Rinkus feared that Petrie was another Sierra in the making. He was of the same kind and spoke the same callous words. Petrie was unsure what to make of his performance. Should he be proud of his act of subterfuge or be ashamed that he could be mistaken for a monster? In any case, his thoughts were cut off by Rinkus.

"I think that we have a proposition for you flyer. If you follow us then you will be rewarded, but if you don't..."

Petrie deadpanned. "You kill me."

Rinkus snorted. "Yes! Yes... you understand quite well, don't you?"

As Rinkus began to pace, obviously preparing for his sales pitch, Petrie realized how much he hated this flyer. Everything about him was insincere from the faux affability to his relationship with others. In that moment, Petrie wondered how his uncle could have been so blind to have this duo as his followers for so long. He had just talked with them for a few moments and the danger that they represented was already very clear to him.

"Red Claw has old scores to settle and he is offering a reward to everyone who helps him. As we are not like those leaf-munchers in the valley, their fate is not of much concern to us, is it?"

At this point, however, Sierra's impatience took hold and he interrupted his companion.

"Give it a rest, will ya?!" He then looked at Petrie with a slightly amused expression. It seemed that Sierra was quite pleased to have a flyer in his midst that shared his disdain for restraint and mercy. "Here's the short story: Red Claw wants people dead. If we help kill them then we get some of the meat that's left over. If we don't help then the flyers that do will kill us. Got it?"

Petrie nodded. Sierra obviously thought that Petrie only had motivations for power, just like him. He suspected that it would be wise to further confirm this suspicion in order to protect himself.

"Sounds good, but what next?"

Rinkus seemed perplexed by this question. "What do you mean?"

Petrie snorted. "Why only meat? Me want power." He cringed when he realized that he had let his vocal tick show up in his conversation with the two fiends, but thankfully it seemed that neither noticed this. In fact, Sierra was too busy laughing.

"That's what I like to hear, kid!" He then looked at Rinkus. "See? This kid knows what is important!" He then turned back towards Petrie with an almost crazed expression in his eyes. "Kid, after the valley falls then Red Claw's packs will be feared by all. We can take whatever we want! You want meat? The pack can grab it! You want tail? I'm sure the pack will take a lot of that as well..." Petrie shuddered at the shear lack of empathy in Sierra's words. "If you want power then this is the place..."

The shear horror of Sierra's vision of the future haunted Petrie, although he kept the terror off of his face. It was a world with only one large pack taking what it wanted. Where only the strongest and most ruthless survived. Where the Great Valley was but a memory. Where everyone he loved was dead and where the survivors faced a fate worse than death. Despite, the chilling vision that was laid out for him, Petrie knew that he had to keep them going. He had to find out as much as possible before he attempted an escape. With that in mind, he feigned his agreement and asked another question.

"Sounds good. Who we kill?"

Sierra nodded with a slight smirk on his face, whereas Rinkus spoke again from behind the sociopathic flyer. "The Great Valley. Although they seemed to have moved as of late. Something about leaf gobblers."

Petrie remained expressionless as his mind raced. So the residents of the valley weren't actually in the valley? This certainly changed things! They would have to journey to wherever the residents had travelled. Petrie's next question was obvious.

"Where they go?"

Rinkus answered noncommittally. "Haven Valley. Unfortunately for them it's not a very secure place."

Sierra laughed at this. "Yeah! I can't wait to see the look on that worthless bastard's face when we tell him that we killed everyone that he loved. I want him to suffer before..."

Rinkus interrupted Sierra's tirade, before he went too far. "All right then. I guess that we are ready to go then. We need to find Calin and then meet up with Red Claw..."

Petrie shook his head slightly. "Can't do. On mission."

Both Rinkus and Sierra seemed to pause at this. Sierra was the first to respond. "Well you have a new boss now, so you can forget about whatever mission you're on. What are you doing? Carrying a love message for some lonely flyer."

Petrie smiled inwardly. The two fools had just given him enough information to make them let him go. Better yet, this gave him a perfect opportunity to get more information on what was coming.

"Not for flyer. For Calin."

This caused both of the flyers to stop where they were. The implications of this seemed to dawn on both of them. If Calin were sending out messages that neither they nor Red Claw were privy to then that meant that a conspiracy was afoot. This could mean that their position would be under threat. As those possibilities were spreading worry and discontent in the flyer's heads, Petrie continued.

"But me serve bigger boss. Me tell you what Calin tell me."

Rinkus smiled. "You are a smart one. Did Calin even tell you of his mission?"

Petrie shook his head. It was creepy to him how easily he was lying. "No. He make me messenger flyer. But me have new mission now." As Rinkus gave a pleased smile, Petrie continued. "Calin says that everything go well. Wait to attack until he says. Red Claw doesn't know."

Rinkus looked stunned. This was understandable in that it made it sound like that Calin was trying to take control of Red Claw's army. A most impossible feat for a fastbiter who was just an adolescent. As Rinkus's expression turned dark, Petrie could only assume that the flyer was considering the possibilities. An obvious one would be that Calin might be working for someone else. Someone on the outside. In any case, this spelled trouble. Pleased that his little lie was spreading discontent, Petrie continued.

"If message not relayed then Calin know. Should..."

Rinkus interrupted with a wave of his wing. "No... You complete your mission. Otherwise Calin will know that something is amiss. We will tell Red Claw."

Petrie tried to hide his satisfaction at this development. His gambit had paid off well. Whether these flyers really wanted to tell Red Claw or if they wanted in on Calin's plot, they knew that their upcoming task would depend on having the message reach its destination unobstructed. If they killed or forced Petrie to go with them then Calin's plan would be ruined, or so they would think, and an alliance with him would be out of the question. Likewise, if they chose to tell Red Claw, then he would be displeased that they intercepted his messenger and effectively let Calin know that his plot was discovered. Petrie had made a plan with only one outcome and the two flyers had played into it perfectly.

Rinkus then looked up at the flyer. "I think that he will be pleased with your loyalties, young one. After you complete your mission join us by the Haven Valley. I am sure the pack will have a place for you."

Petrie couldn't believe his luck. It was working! He had not only averted potentially being killed off by the two flyers, but he had also gathered important information and saw to it that Calin's life was made a living hell in the process. Now they were even letting him go in order to complete his mission. This would have been a feat that he could not have imagined back when he was a leaf-eater, but his change in species had changed everything. He had now posed as a monster in order to stop a monster.

With a slight flourish, Petrie took a deep bow as a show of subservience to Red Claw's pack. This gesture was acknowledged with a slight nod from Rinkus and a indifferent snort from Sierra. As Petrie tried to take off, however, Rinkus asked one last question.

"Before you go, flyer... what is your name?"

With a slight smile on his face, Petrie lied one last time.

"Sandstorm."

......

Back in the Land of Shallow Waters:

"Ponder, can I talk to you a moment?"

The rose colored fastbiter rose to her feet when she heard Littlefoot's words. She was quite startled. She was in her new 'thinking place' and was not expecting to be bothered. However, Littlefoot's presence was not unwelcome under these circumstances, so Ruby waved him over. She had moped around for long enough.

"Sure, Seeker. What do you want to talk about?" Her voice was not full of much enthusiasm.

"I was wondering if you might want to tell me that." Littlefoot responded plainly. "You seemed quite out of it during the meeting."

Ruby sighed. This was not something that she particularly wanted to talk about, but she knew that she couldn't keep her feelings bound up inside. The issue would have to be raised at some point.

"It was something that Chomper and I were talking about..." She trailed off for a moment as she collected her thoughts. "Seeker... Path feels guilty."

This blind sighted Littlefoot as he obviously had no idea why Chomper would feel that way. "Path feels guilty? Why?"

Ruby sighed. This was not going to be an easy thing to talk about for either of them. Truth be told, this was something that Littlefoot should talk to Chomper about directly. But Chomper had spoken to her for a reason. With that in mind, she continued.

"He feels guilty because he thinks that he hasn't done enough to keep us... well... us."

Littlefoot looked at Ruby with a perplexed expression. "I don't get it."

Ruby nodded. "He thinks that he helped us forget our old lives and become full sharpteeth. That we became full sharpteeth when we forgot our old lives." She shook her head. "I told him that was not how it was, but he still thinks that is the way it is."

Littlefoot opened his mouth as if he was going to speak, but then he closed it. Finally after a few moments, he responded. "How can he blame himself for that? We all kind of put the past behind us and tried to be what we are." He looked at Ruby with a somewhat concerned expression. "Why does he blame himself?"

Ruby shook her head. "He thinks that since he was the only one of us that was always a sharptooth, that he should have helped us keep the leaf-eater side of us." She pressed her mouth together at an angle that indicated frustration. "He thinks that he was selfish in accepting our change so easily."

Littlefoot began to pace. "Why does he think that?!" He then laughed slightly in a humorless laugh. "I mean... we have been sharpteeth for several night circle cycles! Why is he suddenly feeling guilty now?"

Ruby looked up at Littlefoot with a grim expression. "How is Shorty doing?"

Littlefoot looked at Ruby with a confused expression, before finally getting what she was indicating. "Oh... So when Shorty saw all of us eat the swimmer..."

Ruby nodded. "Exactly."

Littlefoot took a deep breath. "Why didn't he talk to me?"

Ruby looked down. "I think that Path thought that I could make his confused thoughts make sense. If I could do that then he wouldn't be so confused." She shook her head. "But I think that you should talk to him, Seeker."

Littlefoot nodded. "I agree. He needs to realize that Shorty wasn't his fault. We all made the choice to become what we had to become and if he was glad to have sharptooth friends then..." He then shrugged. "Then at least something good came from all of this."

Littlefoot then approached Ruby and placed his clawed hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Ruby looked up at Littlefoot and gave him a slight smile. "I think so. I am just so tired. We have a lot to do in the next few days. In the next few days we have a lot to do."

Littlefoot smiled at this. "Yeah... Yeah we do." He then looked outside of the small crevice in the ground and could see his father and Doc in the distance. It seemed that they were training Shorty in some kind of tail technique. Much to his amusement, Stomper seemed to be following along as well and crashing to the ground most of the time. It reminded him of himself to some extent. Back when he was a longneck. Before...

He was brought out of his thoughts by a nuzzle from Ruby. "You go talk to Path. Waiting here isn't going to make Spotter get back any quicker."

Littlefoot couldn't argue with that logic. With each of them walking out side by side, they began their journey to track down the purple sharptooth. It seemed that Shorty wasn't the only dinosaur due for a heart-to-heart conversation.

......

The Red Coast:

Here me am. The Red Coast.

The sight of the coast was not something that Petrie could describe in a few words. As he flew out of a gorge he suddenly found himself flying out into the Big Water. To his side, he could then see the massive cliffs teaming with flyers of every kind and description. The sand on the beach below seemed to glow with an almost blood-colored ambiance. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the Red Coasts that Pterano had described to him. But the terrain was only half of what stunned the young flyer.

Flyers were everywhere.

There were flyers of Petrie's old kind, of his new kind, of Rinkus's kind, and of kinds he had never seen before. Each seemed to congregate in large groups near the red sands, whereas a few flyers appeared to be fighting near the cliffs. This struck Petrie as strange so he carefully flew closer to where his old kind was congregating in order to see what was going on.

As he approached, Petrie could immediately deduce that these were females near the red sands and that males were squabbling over the cliffs. His eyes immediately focused on one male in an attempt to make sense out of what was happening.

The male in question has a large brown body which was bristling with muscle. It was obvious that he was a formidable flyer that could easily fight even the strongest of competitors, but yet he didn't seem to be engaging the other males in combat. Instead, he simply puffed out his chest and present his head crest in a flamboyant gesture. As he did this a series of screeches was sent in the direction of the other male. After a few moments the display stopped and another male did the same at the first male. It would have looked comical in the eyes of Petrie if the two males weren't obviously deadly serious about the matter.

Soon growing bored of the antics of the testosterone-laden males, he turned his eyes on some of the other cliffs and immediately wished that he hadn't.

Me didn't need to see that!

Petrie was now quite aware of why the flyers had congregated at this site. This was the time for breeding for his old kind and the males of sufficient age had come here in order to compete for the cliffs where the females would eventually congregate. Based upon how the flyers were acting, Petrie noted, it seemed that a few males were getting most of the females. Is that why me never see daddy? Petrie asked himself. He knew that some flyers in the valley had males which helped protect the nest, but most of the others did not. Was this why that was? Petrie had the feeling of unwanted enlightenment where the sights he was now seeing both informed him of a fact of life, but also repulsed him in some way. Was that because his new kind didn't do things in this way? Or was it because he couldn't imagine picking a mate on the basis of crest color and then letting them leave you to care for a child yourself? His confused thoughts were interrupted by a voice from behind him.

"It is an odd sight, isn't it?"

Petrie turned his head to stare at his uncle. Pterano was not showing any of the aggression that the other males were, nor was he competing for the cliffs. It was an interesting difference between himself and some of the other males.

"Why they pick daddies like that?" Petrie asked in an innocent way that only a youngling could. It was an interesting dichotomy that he could be ruthless in some aspects of life, but so helpless in others.

Pterano shrugged with his wings. "I don't know, Petrie. That is the way that instincts make most of us. Either we show strength and fitness through the ritual or we show it someway else. Many of us males never court a female."

Petrie nodded. "Not even you?"

Pterano laughed slightly. "No... There was a female once... but I am sure that she paired off with someone else by now." Pterano's expression was neutral, but his eyes seemed somewhat sad. Petrie decided not to press the issue.

Very quickly, Petrie looked around and embraced his uncle. "Me glad to see you, uncle! Me have lots to tell you!"

Pterano laughed at his nephew's exuberance, but quickly pushed away. "I'm sure that you do, Petrie. But we can't talk where others might see us." He then looked around for a moment. "You act like I am chasing you off and we will talk in that crevice over there once we are out of sight from everyone." He pointed with his wing at a nearby crevice in an abandoned cliff face.

With a curt nod, Petrie flew off and immediately heard his uncle's angry screeches right behind him. Once their show fight was over they would get straight to business.

......

Back in the Land of Shallow Waters:

"Path?"

Chomper nearly jumped at the voice of his friend. He had been here looking at the stream for the better part of the evening. He was still haunted by the questions that roamed in his mind. Could he have done things differently? Was it wrong that part of him was glad that his friends were now sharpteeth? What happened now? He was so lost in his thoughts, that Littlefoot took his lack of a response as Chomper not hearing him and he repeated himself.

"Path? Are you okay?"

Chomper shook his head and turned to face Littlefoot. "I don't know. I have been thinking about things..."

Littlefoot nodded and gave his friend a smile, before settling in and sitting next to Chomper. They were now both facing the stream and watching its steady flow towards the nearby lake.

Littlefoot broke the silence after a few moments. "Ponder told me about some of that, Path, and I will tell you what I told her. None of this is your fault."

Chomper sighed. "You say that... But you are different now. You're not the same Littlefoot who was there when I hatched." He shook his head in exasperation. "Everyone is different and I did nothing to stop it."

Littlefoot nearly sputtered as he responded to Chomper. "What could you have possibly done, Chomper?!" He was so stunned by this that he reverted to using Chomper's leaf-eater name. "We are what we are now. We eat meat. We kill things. We growl, hiss, and have claws. Why should you feel guilty about it?"

Chomper shook his head. "It's not that! It's how you think!"

Littlefoot blinked at this and demanded an explanation. "What do you mean, Path?"

Chomper licked his lips. "We used to feel so guilty about what we did. When Haven killed her first dinosaur she cried for a long time. Even Stern Claw was pretty messed up..."

Littlefoot nodded. Yes, he remembered the aftermath of that hunt quite well.

Chomper continued. "Now we kill things all of the time! We have ripped out the throats of baby longnecks, tricked threehorn younglings into ambushes, chased down swimmers..." He then looked at Littlefoot. "Do you still feel the way that you did when you started killing?"

Littlefoot looked stunned by this question, but after some contemplation he gave a truthful answer.

"No."

Chomper fixed his gaze on Littlefoot. "You see! You're no longer who you were and I let you change... I should have done something more. I should have..."

"Stop." Littlefoot's voice brokered no disagreement as Chomper listened intently to his friend's words. "We changed because we had to change. Do you think that we can live by constantly feeling for the things that we kill? No. That won't work. Something had to give, Path, and we had to become what we are..." Littlefoot then looked down in defeat. "We are sharpteeth now and we think like sharpteeth."

Chomper seemed to almost be in tears now as Littlefoot continued his discussion.

"I am still me though." Littlefoot affirmed. "When I think about it, I remember what it's like to be chased by predators. I remember the terror. I remember the fear. That is what prevents me from making our hunts worse than they have to be. We kill when we need to and we make it as quick as possible." Littlefoot looked down at the purple sharptooth and gave him a slight nuzzle. "And if I have changed then so have you."

Chomper didn't understand. "What do you mean?"

Littlefoot laughed. "Before we changed, Chomper, you were the friendly sharptooth that we all knew. Yes, you had hunted before, but you had no desire to do so again. But now look at you!" Littlefoot pointed at Chomper as he gave that command. "You have successfully trained an entire pack how to hunt. You have earned the respect of another pack and helped to fight off an enemy pack. And you have become a very competent hunter and packmate." Littlefoot then stated directly into Chomper's eyes. "Are you still the same dinosaur that you were, Path?"

Chomper could only shake his head.

"We have all changed, Path. Some of us more than others. But as long as we remember what we were and who we love then we are still here."

Chomper wiped his eyes. "Thanks, Seeker."

"No problem, buddy." Littlefoot affirmed. "What brought this on anyway?"

Chomper gave a slight sigh. "I guess it's the longnecks. They see how much we have changed, but yet they are the same. I just kind of wonder, you know? And then there is Shorty..."

Littlefoot nodded. "I will talk to Shorty again. Don't worry about that." He then sighed. "He will need some time to accept what we are now. It is one thing to know we are hunters, but it is something else to see it."

The two sharpteeth watched the sunset as the swift stream flowed in front of them. They couldn't stop the flow of time or the changes that it caused, but they could remember where it had taken them. The only question now was: where was it going to take them next?

......

The Red Coast:

"They're planning what?!"

Pterano's voice echoed through the crevice as his nephew conveyed the unwelcome information. His minions were back and they were going after the valley. They may not have been able to hurt him directly, but they would see to it that he suffered nonetheless.

Petrie nodded at his uncle's anger. "And adults not in valley. They in Haven Valley. Leaf gobblers eat all food!"

Pterano began to pace as Petrie relayed the rest of the information. The pack was planning on reuniting with their parents. They had secrets to let them know that it was truly them. And of course the most important part.

"They won't believe you, uncle. So me need someone else to be messenger."

Pterano nodded at this last detail. He was disgraced in the valley and they wouldn't believe a word that he said. He would have to relay the information to someone that he could trust. Someone for whom the valley wouldn't be distrustful.

He knew just the flyer for the job.

"I will see to it that the message is delivered, Petrie. Do you know how messengers relay messages?" At Petrie's confused shake of his head, Pterano smiled. "They repeat the words three times and then the other messenger will do the same to make sure that the message is still accurate. Can you do that for me?"

After the message was repeated three times by each flyer, Pterano rose to his full height and put a wing over Petrie's shoulder.

"Even though you are not fully grown, Petrie, you have grown into a fine flyer. Very few flyers could have done what you have done today. Very few would have even considered it. The fact that you were able to survive and tell me your tale gives the Great Valley a chance. Regardless of how this goes, always remember that, Petrie."

As the two flyers embraced, Pterano spoke softly into Petrie's ear. "I have to go now, Petrie. You have to get back to your pack and I need to relay the message, but there is one message that I want you to relay to Littlefoot. It is something that needs to be said..."

As Pterano whispered into Petrie's ear, his eyes closed and he nodded. "I'm sure that he knows, uncle."

Pterano smiled. "I know, but it needed to be said." He then placed all of his weight on his limbs in preparation for flight. "We have to go now, Petrie. But I hope to see you soon." With a pause he gave the customary parting from one adult flyer to another. "May the winds keep you aloft."

Petrie nodded. "Same to you, uncle."

As Petrie took flight once more, he realized that the day was nearly over, but he resolved to not rest until he arrived at the pack's location. Much was resting on his shoulders in addition to the burden on Pterano. Despite all of the unknowns, however, there was one thing for which he was absolutely certain.

He would not fail.


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