The Seven Hunters

Chapter 52 Revelations

“What good is a secret if it remains a secret ... Secrets are meant to be discovered...”

― Jocelyn Murray, The Gilded Mirror: Constantinople

Littlefoot groggily opened his eyes.

The bright circle had begun its ascent into the sky and the desolate scene in front of him began to come into focus. An endless expanse of dust and barren land lay in front, with the walls of the Haven Valley barely visible at the horizon. They were a full day out from their destination, but Littlefoot was nearly bursting with anticipation. He knew that one way or another there would be closure after their journey. But would that closure bring peace or torment?

Shaking his head, Littlefoot rose and walked over to the dead longneck. His father, Shorty, Doc, and Stomper were situated nearly a five minute's walk ahead of the sharpteeth, so he knew that he could get a bite to eat without traumatizing anyone further. Besides, there was nothing like a satisfying breakfast to begin the day.

That was when he realized that he was not the only one awake at this hour. Chomper's unmistakable form was hunched over and staring at nothing in particular. He was facing away from the brown fastbiter, so Chomper did not see his best friend arise. Sighing deeply, Littlefoot decided to talk to his friend. Something was obviously troubling him.

"How are you feeling, Path?" Came Littlefoot's unimposing question.

Chomper did not move, but instead sighed at the sudden intrusion. "Well... I've been better."

Taking this as an invitation to continue, Littlefoot walked over to the purple sharptooth and sat upon his haunches. He then took a closer look at Chomper and observed a noticeably downcast appearance. Odd. Littlefoot thought to himself. He seemed in good spirits yesterday. I wonder what happened. With obvious concern, Littlefoot asked the obvious question.

"What's wrong, Path?"

The purple sharptooth did not look at Littlefoot, but instead closed his eyes. "I'm a member of the pack now, Seeker."

Littlefoot blinked at this. "Yes. Of course you are." The confusion was obvious on his face. "You have been part of the pack since we became a pack."

Chomper shook his head and looked at Littlefoot. "No, Seeker. I was part of two packs. Yours and my parents'. Now I am only a member of yours."

Littlefoot still was at a loss as to what the sharptooth was talking about. "Well, Chomper... You are still welcome at your parents' nest. Being a member of the pack hasn't changed that."

Chomper stared at Littlefoot. "Not any more. Now I only belong to the pack."

Littlefoot opened his mouth before closing it again as the full implications of Chomper's words came to him. Now I only belong to the pack. With dawning realization, Littlefoot spoke one more time.

"Path... What exactly happened between you and your parents?"

......

Path... What exactly happened between you and your parents?

It was a simple question, but it did not have a simple answer, Chomper decided. His actions on that day were both rash and logical, sudden yet long time in coming. The confusing jumble of emotions that he felt still hadn't dissipated despite him and his parents coming to terms with his sudden emancipation. The feelings were still too raw.

"Well... It started when they didn't want me to go with you guys..."

"But I have to go with my friends! They need me!" Chomper couldn't understand why his parents were being so obstinate about this. He was a member of a pack. He had to support his packmates! It was his solemn obligation. They couldn't simply ask him to be a coward.

Terri roared in disagreement. "We have nearly lost you too many times! I will not allow you to go into a death trap!"

Chomper shook his head. His parents were being so unreasonable. "It is not a death trap! My friends will be there and the longnecks..."

"...who tried to kill you?" Dein interrupted.

Chomper protested this. "But that was before they knew that I didn't kill my friends! They are helping us now!" Surely they were not so blinded by their fear for him that they couldn't see how much Littlefoot's dad had helped them. He had done so much. Bron wasn't simply going to betray them on a moment's notice.

Terri took a deep breath and answered sternly. "No. I will not permit it."

"I was in a tough spot, Seeker. They didn't want me to go, but yet I had to go."

Littlefoot shook his head. "I didn't know, Path. If it was that much trouble then we could have had you stay..."

"NO!" Chomper yelled, much to Littlefoot's surprise. Both sharpteeth turned to the sleeping pack and were relieved to see that they were still slumbering away. At that point, Chomper continued.

"No, Littlefoot. This is something that I had to do."

"I am a member of a pack! I go where the pack goes!" Chomper was livid. If he did not defend his honor here, then when would he? Any sharptooth that was worth their weight would defend those who he loved. Despite his love for his parents and his knowledge of what they had done for him, he knew that he had to make a stand here. No one was perfect and his parents were no exception. He had to stand by his friends and pack.

"Watch yourself, Path." his father spoke in a cold monotone.

This made Chomper pause for a moment. His father knew where he was going with this. He knew what could be done when honor was claimed. The only justifiable way to break an honor bond was to claim another honor bond. Only honor could bury honor. Chomper had been unsure if he would take it that far, but at that very moment he knew that he would do no less. He would follow his friends to the ends of the Earth if need be. No one, not even his parents, would stand in his way.

"They all have fought with me and Seeker nearly died... What kind of coward would I be if I didn't face this danger with them?! Would I even be worthy of a pack name?" The insinuation was obvious; he was accusing his parents of forcing him to betray his vow of packhood. He was also accusing them of forcing him to be a coward. There was no shame in running away from a fight where you would surely lose, but there was shame in not standing with your allies in their time of need. With that in mind, he finished the claim of right.

"You can't ask that of me. You don't have the right."

From that moment on, Chomper knew that he and his parents would be apart. Even though he would always be family and they would come to his aid, he would no longer be welcome at the nest. He had asserted his independence. Now he would have to bear the consequences of his choice.

As Chomper finished his tale, Littlefoot could only look on in silence. He had been ignorant of the struggle that had happened on the day of their parting, but now he knew. His parents had made him choose between them and his friends, and Chomper had chosen his friends. It was enough to make Littlefoot begin to shake.

"My mommy and daddy made up with me, kind of." Chomper added. "That is why we are all on run-down duty... It is their way of letting us know... um... of telling us..."

Littlefoot finished. "That we're useful? That we are welcome?"

Chomper nodded. "Yeah..."

Littlefoot stared at the purple sharptooth. He had put his relationship with his parents on the line just so that he could follow his friends, potentially into battle. Even though the situation had remedied itself in a satisfactory manner, he was still touched by Chomper's dedication and sacrifice. Littlefoot felt as if he did not deserve such good friends as these. With that in mind, Littlefoot embraced his friend and then spoke.

"You're a good friend, Path." He stared intently into the sharptooth's eyes without removing his hands from his shoulders. "A good friend... but you didn't need to risk your family because of us! We would never ask that of you."

Chomper smiled. "I know, Seeker. That is why I did it by myself."

Littlefoot could only fix his friend with a sad smile. "Well... You still have both families, Path. You have us and your parents have not deserted you, even though they may have let you go..." Littlefoot suddenly wiped his eyes as it seemed that he had teared up without noticing until now. Chomper's struggles with his parents had reminded him of his own uncertain reunion that was in the near future. Would it have a happy ending like Chomper's painful emancipation? Or would his moments with his grandparents be one of rejection and dismissal? He knew that in either case he would still have his pack and that he would survive, but like Chomper he wanted to have the peace of mind from not losing his grandparents. He had suffered from enough heartbreak as it was.

"Well come on, Chomper... Let's go eat some breakfast. We have a long day today and we will need our strength." He then took on a cheeky smile. "Besides, this will be one of the few days that we don't have to do run-down duty because of somebody's parents..."

Chomper smiled at Littlefoot's teasing. His friend's attempt to lift his spirits had succeeded. "Don't be mad, Seeker. It would be a good way for you to lose some weight... the longneck corpses has spoiled you."

Littlefoot gave a toothy smile "Why you?!"

When the others woke up several minutes later, they noticed the upbeat mood of Littlefoot and Chomper. As far as they could tell they were ready for the long-awaited reunion to take place.

They all hoped that it would have a happy conclusion.

......

Late evening, outside of the Haven Valley:

Spike stared in awe of the scene in front of him.

In the fading light of the setting bright circle, he could see the high cliff face of the north entrance to the Haven Valley. On its high peaks the gently swaying stalks of plants could be seen gently moving with the wind. Down below, at his level, he could see the soil slowly change from a dry accumulation of sand to a rich collection of top soil in the distance. In a view that would have looked enticing to him as a leaf-eater, the rich greens of trees and bushes could be seen through the entrance. It was as if the narrow crevice were a secret passageway into a totally different world. Somewhere in that other world were their parents... and an uncertain reunion.

“So here we are.”

Littlefoot’s voice echoed from the front as he stopped and took in the view. The other members of the pack soon followed. It seemed that each of them was taking in the moment. Even Taunt, who usually would make a sarcastic remark whenever possible, was curiously silent. He no doubt understood the importance of this meeting for the former leaf-eaters. Each needed a brief moment to prepare themselves emotionally before they decided on how to react. It had been a long journey over the last eight months and it was finally about to reach its conclusion. Here they would be reunited with their parents and try to reconcile their pasts with the current reality. Finally, however, Breeze spoke up.

“I wish you all the best.” She said simply. “I wish that I could see my parents again.” Spike looked down as he could remember her telling him about how her parents died when she was young and Skytail’s parents had taken her in. Although Spike did not know his biological parents, he still had Ducky’s mother... hopefully. That was a luxury that Breeze no longer had. “Don’t take the opportunity for granted.” She finished softly.

Spike took this opportunity to lean slightly against her in a show of support. “We won’t, Breeze. And remember that you still have us.” For his efforts, she returned the gesture as the others looked on. It was time to get started.

......

Littlefoot noted Spike and Breeze’s behavior with some surprise. Those two have gotten rather close... how did I miss that? Now it seemed than another friend had found a potential future companion. Unlike the interactions between Taunt and Cera, which were as volatile and overt as their personalities, Spike and Breeze seemed subdued and calm in their behavior.

Littlefoot smiled slightly. It seemed that Spike had found his complement.

Taking a brief look at Ruby for a moment, Littlefoot further reflected on his inability to see what was right in front of his face. In retrospect, his and Ruby’s behavior had been bordering on the romantic for quite some time, but he hadn’t put the pieces together until Ruby helped care for him during his recovery.

Upon seeing his glance, Ruby gave him a slight smile and looked away slightly. She was almost as bad at hiding the deep friendship between them as he was. Not that they were fooling any of the pack anyway.

The others were like brothers and sisters to him, a very close bond, but Ruby was something else entirely he realized. When did that change take place? He was left wondering. But for whatever reason, it seemed that their change in species had allowed friendships to blossom into something more. Another small blessing in what the leaf-eaters would consider a horrific curse.

The leaf-eaters...

His mind then returned to the matter at hand. It was now time to reunite with their folks. However, they had no idea if the flyer had relayed their message or not. For that matter, they didn’t know how the valley received the news. Were they accepting or disbelieving? The best way in which to proceed would depend on what had transpired in the last few days. But that would require...

“Dad?”

Bron looked over at his son. “Yes, Littlefoot?”

“I think it might be a good idea for you and Doc to enter the valley and to let them know that we are here. You can send Shorty out of the valley to warn us how the adults took the news.”

Bron nodded. “That sounds like a good idea.” He then looked at Shorty. “Shorty?”

Shorty nodded. “Sounds good to me! I can let them know.”

Doc then interrupted. “I will stay out of the way, I suppose. Don’t think my word would help convince anybody.”

Littlefoot then gave a word of praise to the massive longneck. “You have helped us out a lot, Doc. Don’t let the adults distrust upset you.”

Doc chuckled a little at Littlefoot’s kind words. “You just worry about not getting stomped on by your folks.” At that reminder that the parents may not believe their story, Littlefoot paled. “Good luck to all of you.” Doc finished.

A chorus of thanks echoed from the pack. With that the longnecks turned towards the entranceway.

“Dad?” Littlefoot called.

“Yes, son?” He answered back.

“We will talk later.” Littlefoot affirmed.

Bron smiled back. “Of course, son. Don’t worry. I am sure that this will all be fine in the end.”

Littlefoot nodded. I hope so...

As the longnecks disappeared into the entranceway, Littlefoot knew that the time of waiting had come to an end. One way or another, they were going to be face-to-face with their parents and grandparents in the near future. It was all in the hands of fate now.

......

Grandpa Longneck felt as if he were in a trance.

He had been as ready as the others to give the flyer a piece of his mind, but the reactions of the other parents to his supposed stories from the children changed the mood of the meeting entirely. It was after Ducky's mother had been convinced of her children's survival that he spoke to him and Grandma.

"Uh..." The flyer seemed to look around. "Which of you are the grandparents of..."

"We are." Grandma responded immediately. Her quest for vengeance and anger over the flyer's fantastic tale had now turned into a resurgence of hope. It was clear from the sound of her voice.

The flyer nodded for a moment. He was obviously nervous and upset after nearly being pummeled by the other flyers. He was trying to say his message in a hurry.

"Littlefoot says that before the two sharpteeth entered the valley, he asked you two about babies."

Grandma gasped, while Grandpa thought back. Yes... Yes he could recall such a conversation. Littlefoot was just asking an innocent question about how to take care of babies, but they had initially thought that he was asking about something else.

"The reason that he was asking about that was because of Chomper. He was unsure how to raise him and he thought that he would have to act as a parent. That was until his parents came to the valley."

There was murmuring across the valley. Neither of the grandparents had told anyone else about that incident, besides the other parents of the gang of five. In fact, Littlefoot had only provided the full facts to them after they escaped from the island where Chomper's parents had been staying. After he had told them about Chomper's origin and him saving the gang, they were tempted to be upset with their grandson, but the joy of a reunion that they thought would never come overrode their anger. They simply told Littlefoot that the gang could have gotten a lot of people killed had Chomper's parents succeeded in their attacks and they weren't simply looking for their son. They were lucky that Chomper had managed to find his parents and the valley was left in peace.

Now, however, the full truth was out. The eyes of the other adults were fixed on the parents of the missing children. This was a deciding moment, Grandpa knew, because a confirmation of the story from him would settle two things. First, it would establish without a doubt to the valley that the children were alive. But it would also confirm that the parents of the five children had hidden a secret from the other adults. A secret that they had kept in order to protect their children from distrust and possible punishment from the valley. To care for a sharptooth and to entice adult sharptooth into the valley as a consequence... For any other dinosaur such actions would likely lead to exile, but they had covered it up. If he now confirmed the story then the days of him and Topps holding sway over the valley would be over. However, his grandson meant far more than any of that. His status. His reputation. Family meant so much more. With tears beginning to seep from his eyes, he spoke to the valley.

"Only Littlefoot would have known that."

Gasps of surprise and a few grunts of anger arose from the other adults as it had now been confirmed that the parents had hidden the endangerment of the valley from them. Undoubtedly, they all would lose their positions of authority in the furor that was coming, but none of that mattered to him. With an almost inaudible voice over the shouts, cries, and general confusion, he spoke three simple words.

"My grandson lives."

Even two days after the message, he was still flabbergasted over what had transpired. In his mind he simply repeated the same idea in his head. Littlefoot is alive... Littlefoot is alive... But no matter how many times he thought of the words, it seemed unreal. For far too long he had accepted his grandson's death. It was just another failure in his life to add to the death of his daughter. The loss of Littlefoot had affected Grandma especially hard, but she now seemed better acclimated to the possibility that he was still alive. He, however, seemed to be operating in a daze. How could the situation get any more surreal?

"Dear!"

Grandpa looked up to see his mate yelling in an excited fashion. He had not seen such a reaction from her since she was much younger, but she was practically bouncing with excitement. Well, as much bouncing that could be expected from a massive sauropod... It was a sight that snapped him out of his trance.

"Yes, dear?" He asked warily. He noted that Ducky's mother, Ura, was with her along with Volant. Topps was heading towards the entrance to the valley in the background and two large forms could be seen approaching him.

Grandma ran up to him, noticeably out of breath. "Bron is back!"

Grandpa looked stunned. "He is?! Why... he isn't expected until the next Cold Time."

Volant called to them at this time. "I was going to greet him, but I wanted to tell you first. I wonder if he heard the news?"

Ura now spoke up. "I'm sure he did! Otherwise why would he be returning? After all he went down there to..." She couldn't finish the sentence. "I still don't believe Threehorn's story. That couldn't happen to my babies!"

Grandpa took this opportunity to be the voice of calm. "Now... now... We will find out soon enough." He didn't want to admit that he was as terrified of the possibility as she was. "Now let's go greet Bron."

......

Ali's life had seemed to be a never-ending parade of tragedy and sorrow over the last year. It had taken a terrible toll on the female longneck as her eyes now had the far away stare of one who had seen too much in life. First, she had lost Rhett to a horrible attack by a dinosaur that she thought she could trust.

Chomper.

She still had not recovered from the feeling of betrayal and utter hopelessness that caused. In a way, she had not only lost one friend, but two. Rhett had been taken from her by the veil of death, whereas the Chomper that she had grown to know from the valley was no more. Only a killing machine remained. Perhaps that was all there ever was...

Then came the catastrophic attack on the herd's eggs. The future of the herd lay in its ability to produce new younglings. However, in one darkened night Chomper and his evil band of fastbiters had struck again. Distracting the adults while egg stealers raided the nests. There would be no new dotting mothers in the herd, or protective fathers. All of the herd's joys and hopes seemed to evaporate in one night. It was no wonder that the Old One died soon thereafter. She probably died of a broken heart. Her mother's killing of another herd member and mortal wounding of another was simply a symptom of what the sharpteeth had done. They had destroyed the fabric of the herd and now it was all coming apart. She had felt no particular loss in leaving the herd. For Ali, there was nothing of value left in the herd anymore. Her only remaining friends were found in the Great Valley.

Or so she had thought.

Upon entering the Haven Valley, both she and her mother were surprised to see the Great Valley dinosaurs. Ali had burst with excitement. Perhaps Littlefoot was here! That was, however, when she had heard the terrible news.

"Thank you for the warm welcome and for telling the others to let me be... It was terrible in the herd and I had no choice... I..."

"It's alright, Utu." Grandma Longneck affirmed. "You have been through so much..."

Utu nodded. "Still, you have my thanks. It is nice to finally go somewhere where Ali can finally have a safe upbringing. She has lost so much..." Upon seeing her face, Utu smiled a little. She could already tell what Ali was waiting for as she was shifting around excitedly. Her happy but impatient state was something she had not seen since Rhett died. She decided to not keep Ali waiting.

"It seems that Ali wants to play..." It was then Utu noticed that Littlefoot was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he was with friends. "Can she go play with Littlefoot for a while?"

Grandpa Longneck took in a deep, shuddering breath, as Grandma Longneck froze. Neither of them said a word for a moment, but Utu realized what must have happened. It was with a heavy heart, that she realized that Ali was about to be heartbroken again.

"Littlefoot... Littlefoot was killed by sharpteeth."

That was when Ali screamed.

Ali couldn't remember much after that. She raged and attacked the ground in her disgust and sorrow. Upon hearing that Chomper had been responsible, she fell into uncontrollable sobs. Everyone that she loved was gone. Everyone except her mother. And Chomper was the fiend responsible. Her feelings which had for so long associated Chomper with anger over the death of Rhett now turned towards outright hatred. He had taken everything from her! If she lived to adulthood she would see to it that she would take everything from him. An odd numbness had set in on the longneck. The thoughts of revenge and hatred left her feeling empty and dead inside, but that was preferable to the despair. At least the emptiness didn't hurt.

But then Mr. Thicknose had shattered her newfound equilibrium.

"A flyer came by and gave us news that only they would know. I didn't want to believe it at first... but..." Mr. Thicknose was speaking in a hurried fashion. This was most unlike the scholarly dinosaur. This was not lost on Utu, who wanted him to get back on track.

"What?" She demanded.

Mr. Thicknose seemed to shift for a moment and licked his lips, as if her were searching for a gentle way to say what he was going to say.

"The children are alive."

Ali was still trying to process this news. They were all alive! That meant that Chomper had not killed his friends... but that also meant something else as well. The parents had chase Chomper from the valley. Was that what forced him to start hunting? To start stealing eggs? With a sickening sense of realization, she realized that her former herd's problems all stemmed from a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that led to Chomper's exile. This did not in any way alleviate her hatred of the purple sharptooth, nor did it bring Rhett or the unborn younglings back, but it did give her some context for what had happened.

However, it also opened up as many questions as it answered.

Why had Littlefoot and the others left the valley when Chomper fled? Did they go with the other sharpteeth as part of an adventure? If so, why? Did they know anything about what Chomper and his friends had done? Why had they not told their parents where they were or that they were safe? The question went on and on. Poor Ali was feeling as if her despair were being replaced with uncertainty. She had no idea what to believe anymore.

It was the burden of having to deal with these thoughts that brought her to the watering hole. She had to try to regain her bearings and return to some sense of normalcy. In the cool water she hoped that she could do just that, but a sudden commotion from behind her caught her attention.

"Bron! Have you heard the news?!" Ura spoke excitedly. Ali could barely see her, but her voice boomed across the valley.

Realizing that the appearance of Bron might mean that Littlefoot and the others would follow, Ali sprung out of the water and sprinted towards the clearing. She had to hear the news for herself.

"I have." Came Bron's satisfied voice from some distance away. As she ran towards the clearing she could see more and more of the adults. The forms of the Grandparents, Bron, and Ura were clearly visible. In the background, both Topps and Tria could be seen advancing on the scene. A flyer that Ali couldn't immediately identify was also circling overhead. When she spoke, however, Ali recognized Volant immediately.

"Did the same flyer come and talk to you?"

Now that she was within a longneck length from the gathering, she could clearly see Bron shake his head.

"No. I talked to the children myself." Gasps escaped from this listening, as Ura let out a happy screech. "The flyer was sent to help you all prepare." Bron licked his lips in nervousness, an odd expression coming from him. "They are outside."

Ali couldn't hear anything that she could understand in the sudden uproar of voices. All of the parents gathered seemed to want to ask their own questions of the longneck. Tria seemed almost beside herself with emotion, as Mr. Threehorn tried to comfort her and calm a confused Tricia as well. However, after a moment, Ali could hear Bron say something that made everyone go silent.

"Littlefoot... and the others... have changed."

Ali looked perplexed by this announcement as she eavesdropped on the parents behind a bush. In what way had they changed? What exactly was Bron getting at?

Topps looked down for a moment and took a deep breath. "Was it the stone?"

All of the parents seemed to understand what the threehorn was getting at but Ali had no clue. What stone? What are they all talking about? Her thoughts were interrupted by a nod of Bron's head.

"Yes." He took another deep breath. "Littlefoot told me that they all made a wish on the stone."

Ali was now utterly perplexed by this. They had made a wish and it had changed them somehow... But what did that exactly mean? And why did the parents seem to know what Bron was going to say?

"They wished... to become powerful enough to defeat Red Claw."

Well in order to beat Red Claw they would have to be a lot stronger, faster, or smarter... Ali pondered.

"And it granted their wish after they had a sleep story and sleepwalked... I had a similar sleep story... did all of you?"

As the other adults nodded at Bron's question. He continued.

"Well... As you know... Our children were running from sharpteeth and eventually became trapped. Then they saw their own bodies and when they looked into the water... they saw their new bodies."

Ura began to sob, while Volant looked up in a look of disbelief. Only Grandma Longneck had the fortitude to ask the inevitable question. "So the sharpteeth that we chased from the valley... The sharpteeth that we thought killed them... Those were actually them?"

From Ali's perspective everything seemed to stop. The sounds of the flyers and buzzers, the gentle flowing of the streams, the rustling of the leaves all were pushed to the background in light of what the parents were suggesting. If that were true then everything she thought she knew... Everything that she had valued... would be called into question. The very idea seemed against the laws of nature and reason. The shear cruelty of this. The shear madness. It was impossible.

With Bron's next words, Ali's world came crashing down.

"Yes. Our children are sharpteeth now."

......

With wary eyes Mr. Clubtail watched the dinosaurs depart through the valley entrance.

He had always respected Grandpa Longneck and Topps ever since they had worked together to lead the residents to the Great Valley so long ago. The residents officially voted on all of the major decisions, but in truth these three dinosaurs helped to calm and guide the herds to their destination. Even though the threehorn and the longnecks often disagreed, often viciously, they had never failed to eventually lead them through any hardships that they may have encountered. From sharptooth attacks, fires, water shortages, and even leaf gobblers, their leadership was vital to their survival.

Now, however, the news of their cover up had caught the other residents by surprise and the old order had been left in disarray. He could understand the impulse to not discuss how the children had raised a sharptooth in the valley so long before Chomper and Ruby had been officially allowed in. The acknowledgement of the children's actions may have lead to their banishment despite the calming words of the parents. However, the fact that they had kept the entire incident a secret enraged most of the residents. Even as the parents were undoubtedly leaving to see their children, hushed discussions were already taking place. Discussions that would have been unthinkable days ago.

No official decisions had been made, but he knew as well as the others that the two dinosaurs would no longer wield the same influence that they had before. Even if the talk of nominating new herd leaders came to naught, he knew that things had changed forever.

Then there was the matter of the children.

The entire valley had mourned the loss of the children and had participated in the efforts to bring their 'killers' to justice. But the revelation that the children were alive shook the other adults to the core. Why would the children leave suddenly and then never come back? What if Topps' story was true? What if the children had turned into the sharpteeth that they had chased out of the valley? Mr. Clubtail had no doubt that a prompt expulsion from the valley would be the response from the other adults if that story were true and the children returned. Regardless of good intentions, the residents were unwilling to make any further concessions to any sharptooth. Not after everything that had happened. In fact, many of the adults were already musing that if the children had been changed then it was probably punishment for allowing a sharptooth into the valley in the first place. If the children were cursed for their deeds, then let them be cursed somewhere else. None of them had dared say this to the faces of the parents, but he knew that it would only be a matter of time before a reckoning occurred.

Sighing, Mr. Clubtail turned away from the entrance and slowly walked back towards his sleeping area. Night had already begun to fall upon the Haven Valley and shadows began to grow across the rich landscape. The growing darkness seemed to suit the mood of many in the valley. There was indeed joy in the fact that the children were alive, but trepidation at the possible implications. He decided that he would keep his thoughts to himself. As far as he knew, he was the only one who had seen the parents sneak out. He would not ruin the privacy of their reunion for the sake of his own curiosity or the sake of sharing gossip with the other residents. He would let them have this moment that had been so long in coming.

As Mr. Clubtail quickly fell into a peaceful slumber, two rainbowfaces watched the entrance with great concentration. Each was leaning against the other slightly, as their eyes glowed in the darkness. Silence permeated the scene as each seemed to soak in the importance of the moment. After a few moments, however, the soft snoring of his female companion told Chronos that she had finally fallen asleep. Before he too fell into a slumber, Chronos spoke into the night.

"Good luck, children."

......

The green longneck sprinted through the underbrush in the unrelenting darkness, heading to a destination that was unseen by him. His heavy breathing and the thundering of his feet could be heard for some distance around. He was obviously so fixated on his mission that he was paying attention to little else. As a consequence, he did not seem to notice the pair of eyes following his movements.

......

Ali watched Shorty sprint through the underbrush with some trepidation. She had never met Shorty, but she knew who he was through Littlefoot’s stories. He had mentioned that Shorty was his adopted brother and that although the two had their difficulties in the past, they had reconciled and Bron formally adopted Shorty. Of course, that was before everything... Before the children leaving... Before their ‘change’...

Ali still couldn’t believe her ears. Was Bron insane? Where the other parents mad as well? Leaf-eaters simply didn’t change into sharpteeth. Such a thing doesn’t happen! But Ali couldn’t deny that all of the signs pointed in that direction. The sharpteeth had convinced Bron of their legitimacy and they obviously knew things that only the children would know. But if it were true...

It can’t be true! It didn’t happen!

Ali sprinted off behind Shorty, being careful not to be noticed. This was not difficult as he seemed to be entirely fixated on running to an as yet unknown destination. Maybe he is going to meet the sharpteeth? She had thought earlier. I want to see these imposters for myself! So now here she was running away from the valley in order to chase a longneck she didn’t really know; and all of this was to obtain closure that she feared she would never obtain. Because never mind how much she struggled against the idea, the thought still remained.

What if they are those sharpteeth?

If the words of Bron were true then her world would be turned upside down. It would mean that Littlefoot and the others would have to eat meat... would have to kill. They would have become no better than Chomper. Chomper... The very name now filled Ali with rage. He had taken everything from her. Her friend... Her herd’s security... Her childhood... She would never forgive him. He and his companions were the embodiment of evil to her. Seven sharpteeth that spread nothing but misery.

Seven sharpteeth...

Seven friends...

Seven...

No...

No!

Ali’s mind was in a daze now that the full implications of that association came to her. What if those sharpteeth that attacked her... that killed Rhett... that attacked the herd... what if they were them? What if they were the killers? It was a possibility that she didn’t want to confront. If that were true...

If that were true then she would be truly alone.

In front of her, she could see Shorty begin to slow and look around. She took this as a cue to quickly hide behind some bushes. She had to get to the bottom of this and see the fiends for themselves. Were they really the gang? Were they the same seven sharpteeth that attacked her and Rhett? There were so many questions and only one way that she was going to find an answer.

“Littlefoot?”

Shorty’s voice rang out across the empty clearing causing Ali to flinch. It seemed that Shorty was indeed trying to find Littlefoot. But why would he attempt to do so before the parents got here? She didn’t quite understand his reasoning. However, that was when a haunting voice shattered her contemplation.

“I’m here, Shorty.”

The voice was deep and raspy, but it had a distinct quality to it. A cadence that she had only heard in one other voice. It was as if Littlefoot’s voice were being forced through a sharptooth’s throat. It was a horrifying sound and it caused Ali to shake in apprehension. It can’t be!

Shorty seemed to bounce up and down despite his fatigue. It was a curious sight from Ali’s perspective. Who in their right mind would act joyful when being addressed by a sharptooth?

“Well then show yourself, will ya?” Shorty teased. “The sneaking around thing gives me the creeps!”

The sound of laughter echoed from the bushes, as Ali could hear rustling as the sharpteeth broke through them. As they all came into the open, Ali’s heart sank. The rose and yellow fastbiters that had chased them into the clearing... the brown fastbiter that had killed Rhett... Then two of the fastbiters that attacked her herd during the egg theft... It was them. It was the killers.

They were the killers all along.

“How did it go?” Littlefoot spoke with obvious concern.

Ali’s mind went numb. The very sharptooth that had struck Rhett down was speaking in Littlefoot’s voice. The monster! How could he?! How could he betray us like that!

Shorty smiled. “They already know what you are and that you’re alive. I guess that you have the rainbowfaces to thank about that.”

At this the sharpteeth took on looks of noticeable surprise. Cera in particular took on a contemplative expression as Taunt muttered a questions of some kind, which Ali could not understand of course. There was general growling and muttering amongst the seven as they digested this news. Finally, however, Ducky spoke.

“I am glad that they came through for us. I am, I am!” The tell-tale pattern of Ducky’s speech caused something in the longneck to break. It was definitely them. There was no doubt now.

“They saved us a lot of trouble.” Littlefoot agreed.

Shorty was still full of activity, however, as he had not finished what he had to say. “Your parents are coming.” He paused for a moment. “Are you guys ready for this?”

The pack was silent for several moments as if they were contemplating the question. However, when the answer came, it was unanimous.

“I am more than ready to see mom.” Spike intoned.

“I am too. Yep, yep, yep!”

“I’m ready, but I hope that dad is alright.” Cera admitted.

Petrie sighed. “Me hope mama not too mad. Me what me is now.”

Littlefoot was the last to answer. “We have put this off for too long. They at least deserve to know what happened to us.”

Shorty smiled. “Well, that is good. Because I think that I hear them now.”

Sure enough, Ali could hear the sound of heavy footsteps echo from the valley entrance. The adults were obviously several minutes away, but they would be there soon enough. To be reunited with their children. The murderers... The egg-stealers... The sharpteeth...

Ali had enough of it all. Her dear friends from so long ago had betrayed her and her family. They had taken her feeling of security and innocence. Worst of all, they had taken her best friend in a flurry of violence and rage. The damage that they had done could never be repaired. Their crimes would never be forgiven. If the adults were willing to forgive them... to accept them... then they were just as depraved in her eyes. She would not allow this miscarriage of justice to take place. She would not allow the unforgivable to be forgiven. With a thundering heart and shuddering breath, she knew what she had to do.

In a head-long sprint, she hurled herself back in the direction of the Haven Valley. She would warn her mother about what was taking place. She would tell the other adults about what these savages had done to her and everyone she loved. She would see to it that the valley knew exactly how dangerous and untrustworthy they were.

If they decided to enter the valley then she would see to it that they got the homecoming they deserved.

......

“What was that?” Shorty questioned.

Littlefoot shook his head. “I’m not sure. Did we spook someone?”

“If we did then they must have not been too bright! We have been talking for a while in the open.”

Breeze nodded at this. “Should we chase whatever it was?”

“No. I’m sure it’s not a threat. Whatever it is.” Cera affirmed. She seemed quite preoccupied with the upcoming reunion.

“Yeah, but it might be tasty!” Taunt replied, clearly not getting Cera’s mood.

Cera grunted. “If you don’t want me to take a bite out of you...”

Taunt backed away with a placative gesture, but still smiling at the yellow fastbiter. He seemed to know when to stop before he got over his head. As it was, everyone could hear the approaching footsteps and knew that their time was short. It was time to focus on the emotional ordeal that would soon await them.

Littlefoot sighed. “I guess that it’s time. Thanks, Shorty.”

Shorty smiled. “No problem, bro. I will tell them where you all are.”

As Shorty left they were all left with their thoughts. All they could do now was wait.

......

Grandma Longneck felt as if she were carrying the weight of the world upon her shoulders. For so long she had raged at Chomper and hated those sharpteeth that had taken Littlefoot from her. But now that the true cause of their disappearance had been discovered, a gaping emptiness was left in her heart. What terrors had her grandson had to endure? What suffering?

And she had been an instrument of his suffering.

Despite the fact that they couldn’t have known better, the guilt was almost too much to bear. They had threatened their own children with death. They had sent out others to find and destroy them. They had even dishonored their memory by effectively turning the old valley into a well-protected camp. And for what? Out of misguided fear and a desire for vengeance. In a way she could not feel any ill will towards the children, even if they had killed. They had simply done what they had to do to survive. By her reckoning, the actions of her and the other adults were far worse.

She felt a pressure on her neck and looked towards her right. Her mate had detected her agitation and tried to give her support in his own way. Now their necks were touching in a gesture of affection.

She had to smile despite her downcast mood. She reciprocated the gesture and then turned her neck forward again.

Glancing to her left, she could see the others. They were all in equal states of shock and mental exhaustion. Ura looked overwhelmed and was being helped along by Tria, who seemed to use the act of assistance to distract her from her own thoughts. Topps, for his part, was looking like an aged elder. In the past year he had seen more tragedy and surprises than a dinosaur should see in a lifetime. His eyes had a stare to them that only the traumatized would know. Then there was Volant, who was situated on her back. Her expression was completely blank and unreadable. The longneck had no idea what the flyer was thinking. Bron was to the extreme left of the group and he seemed to be looking at something in the distance.

“They’re over here!” Called Shorty.

Bron’s response was immediate. “Thanks, son!”

She picked up the pace. She would finally be able to see her grandson after all this time. There was so much that she wanted to say. So many emotions she wanted to express. It was overwhelming. With a crash, all of the parents entered into the clearing and stopped in their tracks.

In front of them were eight pairs of yellow eyes. Their silhouettes could not be seen clearly from this distance, but their appearance still made everyone pause in trepidation. Silence reigned in the area for several moments as each group seemed unsure how to handle the situation. It was the most surreal experience Grandma Longneck could remember in her long life. It was then that she heard a voice that she thought she would never hear again.

“It’s so nice to see you again, Grandma and Grandpa!”

Grandma Longneck sucked in a breath that she hadn’t known that she was holding. The voice had changed, but it still had something... something that was uniquely Littlefoot’s. The sharptooth accent instantly confirmed everything. This was her grandson now. Littlefoot the fastbiter. She knew what she had to do.

She entered into a fast trot, which took the others by surprise. Grandpa yelled a panicked “Dear!” and some of the other sharpteeth scattered as they saw her charge at Littlefoot. She could also feel a weight depart from her back as Volant flew off. None of that mattered now because Littlefoot was in her sights.

......

For his part, Taunt was paralyzed by fear. Was this it? Was this how it ended? Had Littlefoot’s grandmother decided that she didn’t want a sharptooth for a grandson? He could hear some of the others scatter into the underbrush as the other parents began to shout at the grandmother, but yet she continued to advance.

Closer...

Come on, Littlefoot! Run! What aren’t you running?!

Closer...

He closed his eyes as he could see the massive sauropod close in on his leader. This was it...

“Grandma, that tickles!”

Taunt rose from his position in utter confusion at the nonsensical turn of events. What?!

The brown fastbiter who had challenged Calin and lived to talk about it was now being nuzzled by a massive sauropod and squealing like a lost child. His only respite was when the elder male grunted something at her and then promptly nuzzled Littlefoot for himself.

Taking a look around, he could see the others coming out of the foliage and being welcomed with equal pandemonium. What Taunt assumed was Ducky’s mother had just picked her up to nuzzle her and accidently gotten scratched in the process. This only delayed her a moment, as she picked her up more carefully the next time and promptly resumed where she left off. Then it was Spike’s turn...

He looked towards the leaf-eater flyer and wondered why she was keeping to herself, but quickly realized his mistake. Petrie was nearly completely enveloped in her massive wings and was being carried to and fro as she rocked back in forth in utter rapture. He debated for a moment rescuing the poor flyer before he suffocated in her grasp, but he soon thought the better of it.

Then there was Cera, his good friend. More than friends. He corrected in his mind. Cera was being enthusiastically nuzzled by the female threehorn, while her father kept back. That was what she was afraid of. Taunt noted. They had talked for many hours about her hopes and fears about the upcoming reunion. She had been afraid of her father not accepting her new role. Her new fate. She had told him that her father had seen far too much death and suffering at the claws of sharpteeth to ever forgive them. Well, at least she still has her stepmother...

That was when he saw something that made him freeze.

Her father nudged Tria away from Cera for a moment and looked the yellow fastbiter straight in the eye. Neither of them moved as each stood ramrod straight with expressionless faces. Neither blinked. Neither moved. Despite all of the joy and ecstasy around them, they seemed to be stuck in a challenge of some kind. Tria seemed deeply concerned, but did not interfere. Despite the risk to himself, Taunt considered seeing if Cera needed aid...

But that was when the threehorn grunted something unintelligible at the yellow fastbiter.

To Taunt’s surprise, Cera smiled and grunted something equally indecipherable back.

As parent and child suddenly broke into tears and nuzzled one another, Taunt was left in utter confusion. What just happened?

“He said...” Taunt nearly jumped at Chomper’s unexpected appearance. “...that only my daughter could be that stubborn.” Chomper then smiled and gave a little laugh. “Then she said: 'only my father could be that much of an ass.'”

As Chomper laughed in a mixture of joy and relief, Taunt could not help but do the same. His beloved friends had finally acquired the reunion that they had desired for so long. They had lost their old bodies and innocence, but they had not lost themselves. For this one night at least, they could still be the same children that they were before the change.

Taunt’s happy thoughts were soon interrupted, however, by a sudden sigh from Chomper.

“I guess that we need to mention Red Claw.”

Taunt looked at the sharptooth in disbelief for a moment, not wanting to ruin the happy reunion. But, he had to admit, Chomper was correct. They had to warn the valley before Red Claw could make his attack. Giving Chomper a quick nod, he watched as the small sharptooth left his side and slowly approached Littlefoot and his grandparents. At that moment, Taunt thought back to the remark that Cera’s dad had made earlier:

“Only my daughter could be that stubborn.”

Taunt smiled. Indeed she is. As long as we are as stubborn as she is then I know we are in good shape. He speared himself one final look at the longnecks who had now just noticed Chomper’s slow approach.

We are too stubborn to die.


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