The Seven Hunters

Chapter 5 A Fateful Conversation

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” ― Helen Keller

The children walked back in silence to the meeting place. Each of them was preoccupied with what had just transpired. It was a weird stone, obviously. None of them had seen anything like it. However, it most certainly was not the Stone of Cold Fire as it had neither bestowed any powers upon them, nor cursed them. All in all, it was a rather anticlimactic outcome.

However, each of the gang reacted to this in a different way.

Littlefoot was a little sullen at the lack of a response from the stone. It was true that he had no idea what to expect when they came across the stone. However, when he saw that it did indeed glow blue and seemed to have an odd presence about it, he had hoped that it was something more than a simple falling rock. Either way, he supposed it was an exciting find. How many other dinosaurs could say that they were able to see a flying rock with their own eyes, let alone two? He had seen the previous "Stone of Cold Fire" as well.

Cera, on the other hand, was feeling rather pleased, having had her earlier skepticism confirmed. Just like her father had indicated, it was just another flying rock, nothing more and nothing less. She would have loved to tell the other boneheaded adults about this, but of course that would blow their cover. So she would have to keep her findings to herself. Nonetheless, she was pleased to have the practical, threehorn way of thinking about things confirmed again.

The others were more mixed in their responses. Ruby and Chomper both felt that there was something special about that stone, although neither of them could quite put it into words. It just "felt" special. Petrie still suspected that there was something they were missing about the stone itself. It just like the stories, Petrie thought, there must be something more to this.

Meanwhile Ducky and Spike were breaking the self-imposed silence of the group. Well... Ducky was anyway.

"I wonder if that rock is the Stone of Cold Fire. I do! I do!" she mentioned to Spike, "Maybe it just doesn't want to listen to us. We are kids after all."

Spike could only shrug in response. He had no idea what to make of the stone. It most certainly made him fell "tingly" when he was near it, but he had no context for what that could mean. He simply supposed, like most things he confronted in life, that it would resolve itself one way or another. He always felt that the others worried about trivial things way too much. In Spike's opinion the best way to handle the stone might be to just wait and see what develops.

Littlefoot then spoke, "Shush guys! We are getting near the meeting area. Try to get back to your folks without being noticed!"

The gang scattered and tried to meet up with their folks.

Petrie had the easiest time of it. The adults were again questioning his mother about what she and the flyers had seen. She look exhausted, Petrie noted. He was able to fly on the other side of her without being noticed by her or his siblings. In fact, it looked like most of his siblings had already fallen asleep. Sound like a good idea to me, Petrie thought as he just began to notice his fatigue.

Ducky and Spike also had little trouble lining up behind their mother. One of her brothers noticed her arrival and asked Ducky where they had gone, obviously just noticing their absence. Ducky, feeling uncomfortable with lying, nonetheless gave it her best effort.

"Oh, we just had to relieve ourselves," Ducky lied. "And we couldn't do that in the meeting place. Oh, no, no, no!"

This satisfied the sibling who was obviously tired himself. In any case, it was doubtful that any of her siblings would ever think of Ducky using subterfuge. Ducky gave an inaudible sigh of relief at the fact that their cover wasn't blown.

Chomper and Ruby, having no relatives in the valley, entered the meeting place just as unnoticed as when they had left it.

Cera also had an easy time, as her father was obviously engaged in the meeting and Tria was preoccupied with her father. Tricia, however, woke from her slumber at Cera's approach. "Ss... Sar...ra?" the toddler inquired.

Cera looked at her half-sister with an amused smile. "Shhh... Yes, your sister is here."

Tria then looked at the two siblings and gave them a smile. "I guess this meeting is getting a bit long. Most of the younglings have already gone to sleep."

Cera then noticed that Littlefoot had snuck back between his grandparents. Looks like we all have gotten away with it, She thought with some satisfaction, will the adults ever give this meeting a rest? Sheesh!

It seemed that Mama Swimmer had a similar idea, "Can we call it a day on this meeting? The children are tired."

One of the threehorns muttered sarcastically at that, "Aren't we all?"

This caused the other adults to look up and consider the proposal. Finally Littlefoot's grandmother spoke up.

"I agree. We could discuss this tomorrow."

Littlefoot's grandfather nodded and replied, "Let us adjourn until tomorrow. Perhaps after we have rested and thought about it more we will be closer to an agreement."

Mr. Threehorn then chimed in. "Yes and the stone should remain undisturbed until we have an agreement."

Tria couldn't help but respond to that. "But... I thought that the stone was just a stone. Why do you care if it is disturbed or not?"

Mr. Threehorn was flustered "Well... Uh... It is the principal of the thing. We don't have an agreement yet."

Tria smiled a knowing smile. He just wants to have the last word when they do decide what to do with the stone. Oh, Topsy...

Meanwhile, the meeting had adjourned, and the adults were scattering to their nests. Those with younglings were gathering their young ones, sometimes waking them in the process, in order to put them back into the comfort of their sleeping areas. The gang took this opportunity to say their goodbyes for the night.

"Good night guys! See you in the morning!" came Littlefoot's cheerful call.

This was followed by a chorus of "good night" and "see you later" from the rest of the gang, as they followed their respective parents or grandparents to their nests.

"Wait! Cera?" came the voice of Cera's father.

"Yes, Daddy?" Cera replied.

"What happened to your tail?" he inquired with protective concern.

Chomper stopped right where he was, frozen in fear. Oh no! If she tells him what happened when he is already angry, the thoughts in the young sharptooth's mind raced. Chomper gulped, He might trample me! his panicked thoughts exaggerated.

Cera looked at her tail a moment before finally answering.

"Oh, that," she answered hesitantly, "I caught it on a sharp rock when I was racing my friends. I guess that I should have been more careful."

"Hmph," was Mr. Threehorn's reply, "yes, try to be more careful. It seems I am not the only one who has been annoyed by a rock today. Ha!" he said with some ironic amusement.

After seeing that her father was satisfied with her lie, Cera glanced in Chomper's direction. She saw a look of immense relief on the young sharptooth's expression. She felt a pang of guilt over her earlier actions. She nodded at him in response, and he gave a thankful nod in return. It seemed that the earlier incident between the two was now resolved. There were no hard feelings.

......

Moments later Chomper and Ruby were settling down within their cave in the Secret Caverns when Chomper decided to ask Ruby a question.

"Ruby?" Chomper spoke inquisitively.

"Yes, Chomper?"

"Earlier, you seemed to think that our wish could be granted," Chomper began, "why were you so sure?"

Ruby thought for a moment, "I don't know exactly," she began, "I had heard tales of the stone from my father, which he heard from his father. From his father he heard," she shook her head, "I guess I just hoped that it would work, because it looked like the stone in those stories."

"It's a shame it didn't work," Chomper said gloomily.

Ruby looked at him a moment with a sympathetic expression, "Well, look at it this way Chomper, we are no worse or better off than before; we are still protected by the Great Valley!" she said while twirling around to indicate the expansiveness of the valley.

"We also got to touch a falling rock! A falling rock we got to touch!" she concluded.

Chomper smiled a bit and responded, "Yeah... That was neat! Even if it wasn't a sky stone it would still have been interesting. I have never seen a stone make its own light before."

Ruby nodded, "Neither have I Chomper."

Chomper thought for a moment, "Perhaps we can look at it again tomorrow? We could try again!"

Ruby rolled her eyes and chuckled softly, "Maybe Chomper... Maybe. But right now it is time for sleep."

Chomper yawned at nearly that same moment much to Ruby's amusement.

"Good night, Chomper."

"Good night, Ruby."

The preadolescent oviraptor and the young sharptooth soon began to sleep in their dark but comfortable abode. The thoughts of falling rocks and indignant adults fading under the haze of sleep. However, they were not the only ones with questions on this night. On the other side of the valley, three longnecks were about to have a very important conversation.

......

Littlefoot had just arrived at his sleeping place along with his grandparents. He was quite exhausted after the most eventful day he could remember in a long time. Despite his exhaustion, however, his mind continued to race with the ramifications of what he and his friends had gone through and the mysterious stone. However, more than any of that, he still had lingering questions about Chomper and the misunderstanding between him and Cera. These questions and the repercussions of his dream caused him to be lost in thought.

His preoccupied expression did not escape the notice of his grandparents.

"Are you alright, Littlefoot?" spoke his grandmother, "You appear lost in thought."

"Huh?" Littlefoot replied, "Sorry. I was just thinking."

His grandfather chuckled, "Yes young one, we noticed. Do you want to tell us about it? Is it about the stone?"

Littlefoot shook his head and replied with an immediate, "No," but then he thought better of it, "well... Not really."

His grandparents looked on and awaited his response.

Littlefoot licked his lips for a moment and collected his thoughts. He then looked up at his grandfather and began. "There was a misunderstanding between Cera and Chomper today." He continued after a hesitation, "...and I don't know how I should feel about it."

"Well, little one, perhaps you should tell us about the misunderstanding first," his grandmother responded.

"We were playing Runner and Hider..." he began as his grandfather nodded for him to continue, "and Chomper was the chaser," he licked his lips again, obviously nervous in retelling the tale, "Chomper found Cera and began chasing her, but he accidently scratched her," his grandparents exchanged worried glances which Littlefoot noticed, "It was an accident," Littlefoot insisted, "they both jumped and... they kind of crashed."

"Cera was mad," Littlefoot admitted.

"I am not surprised," his grandmother responded.

"But it turned out okay," he thought with some concern, "but what if this happened between him and an adult? It isn't fair that one mistake could force him to leave the valley."

He refrained from finishing that sentence with ...or worse.

His grandfather sighed deeply. It seemed that Littlefoot had finally asked the question that had haunted them for the last six seasons and had frightened his during his previous sleep story. How could he break the harsh reality to his grandson without causing undue distress?

He looked at Littlefoot for a moment. He had inquisitive eyes and an innocent heart. It was amazing how someone who had seen so much hardship and despair in his short life could still have the cheerful demeanor that Littlefoot exhibited. Littlefoot's grandfather then steeled himself and frowned in determination. If the cold realities of the great circle of life have not yet crushed Littlefoot under its weight, then he was strong enough to hear the truth about Chomper. He owed it to his grandson to tell him the complete truth.

"The concern of us adults is reasonable, Littlefoot," Grandpa Longneck responded carefully, "he is a sharptooth and even a youngling can prove to be dangerous and unpredictable."

"But Chomper has always been friendly!" Littlefoot protested.

His grandfather sighed. "Do you remember when we let Chomper and Ruby enter the valley?" Upon seeing Littlefoot's affirmative nod, he continued. "You children were not permitted to attend that meeting. The vote was very close and we nearly sent them away." Littlefoot was noticeably stunned by this information. "In fact, I was one of those who originally voted against him."

Littlefoot was frozen in shocked silence. He had told his grandfather about Chomper's saving of Littlefoot on multiple occasions and about their time on the island. Why would he vote 'no'?

"We believed you children and all of your stories matched. The fact that a young sharptooth could speak leaf-eater confirmed the stories as well. But we were unconvinced that it was a risk worth taking," Grandpa continued, "however, we finally decided that by letting them into the valley that perhaps they could learn how to unite the herds outside of the valley against Red Claw. Ruby was quite persuasive on that point and it was the one that swayed us."

"Ruby was able to convince the valley on something?" Littlefoot remarked in awe.

"Yes, she is quite a persuasive young dinosaur that has a strong view about what is right and wrong." Grandpa then gave his grandson a wry smile. "Which reminds me of someone else that I know." Littlefoot looked away embarrassed. "I changed my vote, but many of the others would agree on only one condition. If either of the two betrayed the valley's trust - whether by stealing an egg or by hunting another - they would both be killed." Littlefoot's mouth went agape. "Ruby agreed to this readily before I could talk the meeting out of it. She agreed that she and Chomper would share the same fate. It is only when they were willing to make that pledge that the others agreed to let them in."

"That... That's horrible!" Littlefoot choked out.

His grandfather nodded but continued. "Even if they would not have agreed to that, Littlefoot, death is probably what would happen if they ever did betray our trust. Remember what happened when Chomper pretended to chase Rhett and Ali?" Littlefoot nodded his head, remembering how Chomper was nearly killed by the Old One's herd. "Most adults would trample them and ask questions later regardless of what any meeting decided."

"At some point, whether it is because of a lack of food or for his own safety, Chomper will have to leave the valley, and sometime after that he will have to hunt. He will be your adversary then, Littlefoot." His grandfather concluded with a sad expression.

"B... But, he wouldn't betray his friends!" Littlefoot exclaimed, "Even if he had to leave and... do that... he wouldn't hurt his friends."

"Littlefoot," his grandfather spoke softly, "you should know better than most that sharpteeth are unpredictable when they are hungry. Remember your mother?" Littlefoot began to look down at this point. "Chomper may not betray you willingly, but if he became hungry enough then he would become a threat."

His grandmother then spoke, "It is all part of the great circle of life Littlefoot. Chomper must one day be on the opposite side of it," she looked down at him sympathetically and gave him a comforting nuzzle, "you do understand little one, don't you?"

Littlefoot looked up and reluctantly said, "Yes. I understand." He swallowed hard. "But it isn't fair! We... We taught him how to be friends with leaf-eaters; how will he feel when he has to..." he couldn't even bring himself to finish that sentence.

"I hope he doesn't grow to hate us for that," Littlefoot concluded. Tears were now flowing from the longneck's eyes.

"Oh, little one," his grandmother spoke, "I am sure he will not blame you for that. It is better to have someone for a time than to have never had them." She began to choke up, "Your mother... When your mother was lost I felt as if part of me had died as well. But I would not have traded any of the moments that I had with her," she looked intently at him. "I am sure that Chomper will be of the same opinion when it is his time to go."

Littlefoot's grandfather then looked into the sky for a moment before speaking, "There's a difference between sadness and despair, Littlefoot."

Littlefoot looked up and gave an inquisitive look. His grandfather, having seen his look, decided to explain, "If he leaves while he still can, then he will still be on the good side of his friends," he smiled as he looked at Littlefoot. "That would be far better than him being forced to leave... or worse... if he lost control."

"Chomper may not want to harm you even when he grows up, but it would be best for him to be at a distance so that he isn't faced with that choice to begin with. It would not be safe for you and it would not be fair to him," he concluded.

His grandmother then spoke, "But I am sure that Chomper still has several seasons left in the valley before he has to leave." she then looked at Littlefoot with a sympathetic look, "So don't be troubled young one. Just know that it must happen one day."

Littlefoot had dried his tears on his flank and was looking noticeably better, "Thanks Grandma, Grandpa. I guess... I guess I always knew some of this, but..."

"It is hard to think about?" his grandmother finished.

Littlefoot nodded in response.

"It is always better to confront a truth, Littlefoot, than to ignore it. Even if the truth hurts," his grandfather replied, "did you have any other questions? It is getting late."

Littlefoot yawned, being more than ready to enter the world of dreams. "Just one more... What is going to happen to the stone?"

His grandfather responded by chuckling. "I have no idea what the valley will decide. I have heard more than enough about that stone today."

"And don't forget, darling, that you get to hear about it again during tomorrow's meeting, Grandma longneck teased.

He groaned. "Don't remind me!"

The three longnecks then laughed at his predicament. They were all eager for release after the difficult conversation that they had finished just moments before. The world of sleep now seemed welcoming to them all.

"Good night, Littlefoot," both of his grandparents spoke almost simultaneously.

"Good night," Littlefoot replied.

The three longnecks soon fell under the welcoming blanket of sleep.

......

The stone of destiny continued to glow red as the residents of the valley went off to sleep. An eerie tint of crimson covered the destruction around its crash site. The sounds of insects and snoring dinosaurs were the only sounds to complement the scene.

Suddenly, the crimson glow of the mysterious stone began to fade. The darkness of the night began to intrude into the crash site and the surrounding destruction. To a poetic dinosaur, it would have appeared as if that night sky was attempting to retake the stone that it had so recently lost.

At that moment, however, something changed within the stone.

A sudden pulse of white light emanated from within its dark and mysterious depths, which would have blinded any observer who would have witnessed the amazing event. The destruction around the stone lit up as if it were illuminated by bright sunlight. This pulse was followed by another, and then another. Six pulses in total arose from the ancient stone.

Then the stone faded to black, never to glow again.


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