The Seven Hunters

Chapter 68 Return to the valley

“Anger is the prelude to courage.”

― Eric Hoffer

The Great Valley:

"Quick, everyone! To your places!"

Whitehorn watched with an odd mix of terror and pride. He felt great pride at how the valley residents were rushing to their defensive positions in an orderly manner. The threehorns were forming a defensive line at the main entranceway, the fast runners were rushing towards the Hidden Caverns to hide the children, and even the towering forms of the longnecks could be seen arriving at the scene in order to assist the threehorns. The numerous drills and preparations seemed to be keeping the panic of the residents at bay.

However, the terror was very real.

He had limited information. All that he had heard was the ominous ear-piercing screech of two alert calls with a long pause between them. The two calls meant that two large sharpteeth had been spotted and the long pause indicated that the outer watch flyers were the ones to spot the threat. The outer watch's call then was relayed to the inner watch and from there to the flyers at the entrances. This meant that they had time before the threat arrived.

As he took his own position at the center of the defensive line, Whitehorn whispered to Topps.

"Let's see what we are dealing with this time."

......

A mile away:

"Wow! I am surprised that we have gotten this close without being noticed."

Ruby looked at Littlefoot with an agreeable expression. Considering that the valley's residents had already fought a battle against Red Claw in the Haven Valley, she had expected for the pack to be greeted by flyers by now. However, none of them had noticed flyers in the sky... except for one. They had been greeted by the screeching call of one flyer nearly an hour ago, but that was the only sign of life in their approach to the valley. It was eerie.

"They should be maintaining a watch! A watch should be maintained!" Ruby exclaimed. "Have they learned nothing about what happened in Brekan's Gulch?"

Ruby's condemnation of the valley's apparent lax preparations was met by an agreeing voice right behind her.

"Hmph! My daddy would have done better than this!" Cera muttered. "This must be Whitehorn's doing."

To no one's surprise this earned a playful tease from Taunt. "Aww... Is someone mad at their daddy's demotion?"

Ruby rolled her eyes at this. Taunt taunting Stern Claw... No surprise there. Ruby was expecting a retort from Cera, but then Littlefoot killed the moment.

"Knock it off, you two!" The rest of the pack looked at Littlefoot with surprise as he explained himself. "I.. have a bad feeling about this... Like we are being watched."

Ruby looked around with concern at that thought. What if they were being watched? Could this be the handiwork of some of Red Claw's minions? That led to other questions...

"How can we be watched without us knowing we are being watched?" Ruby inquired. "We have good sniffers and Path's folks have even better sniffers than us."

As if to illustrate the point the two massive sharpteeth began to sniff the air. Then they did something that Ruby had never noticed them do before. The appeared to lick the air as they reared their heads back. Ruby was about to inquire as to what was going on when Chomper answered the question for them.

"Mommy and daddy are doing the 'mouth sniffing', I have only seen them do that once before." Chomper seemed scared as he considered this development. "They did that the first time that Red Claw threatened us..."

None of the members of the two packs knew that Chomper's parents were using their vomeronasal organ, a primitive sense organ that was entirely instinctual in function. Were they to detect something with that most primitive of senses then they would not smell it consciously, but rather their mood would shift in response to the pheromones of their own kind. That would be their warning that another of their kind was near. The sudden desire to fight.

Without thinking, Ruby began to rear backwards from the massive two-footers. In her concerned state of mind she moved subconsciously until she bumped into Littlefoot. This simply earned her a comforting hand on her shoulder as both fastbiters looked at one another with concern. Could Red Claw have already reached the valley? Were they too late? Like the rest of the pack they waited in anticipation for the two massive dinosaurs to announce their conclusions.

"I feel no different." Dein announced. "Another one of our kind is not near."

Despite herself, Ruby gave an audible sigh of relief. Well at least it isn't Red Claw. She affirmed. But I wonder what it could be? She quickly questioned. Whatever it is hasn't been seen and hasn't been smelled... It must be well-hidden. That was when a thought crossed her mind. What could be hidden better than a hidden runner?

Ruby looked at the numerous indentations in the bluffs around them. They were surrounded on two sides by massive rock walls, was they were in the ravine that led to the main entrance into the valley. If anyone were hiding in those indentations then the wind patterns in the ravine would prevent them from being smelled. That would certainly explain their predicament. Ruby could feel the gaze of Littlefoot and some of the others upon her as they were no doubt wondering what she was looking for, but she paid them no heed as she was busy testing her hunch. That was when she saw what she was looking for.

A brief glimpse of green.

"Oh, hidden runners!" Ruby yelled, which caused both Littlefoot and Ducky to jump slightly. They had not been expecting such an outburst from the rose-colored fastbiter. "You can stop hiding now! Your green feathers show up very well on the brown bluffs!"

There was a moment of silence as the rest of the pack shifted their gaze to where Ruby was looking. Even Chomper's parents shifted slightly causing echoes of their massive footsteps across the ravine. Finally, however, the green head of a hidden runner peaked over one of the bluffs, which led to the forms of dozens of other hidden runners to appear as well. They all had looks of utter fear on their faces. It was obvious that they had been hiding out of a sense of survival and not a position of strength. This was not lost on Littlefoot either, who decided to speak next.

"I am surprised that you have not entered the valley yet. Has Detras and Pearl been delayed?"

As the implications of Littlefoot's question began to sink in Ruby began to panic. What if mommy and daddy weren't able to greet the hidden runners?! Oh no! The horrifying thought that something may have happened to her beloved parents echoed in her mind for a few short moments until one of the hidden runners spoke.

"I know not of this Detras and Pearl... And why are you expecting us?"

Littlefoot and Ruby both looked at the hidden runner with great confusion as they considered what that statement could mean. Surely these were the hidden runners that Petrie spoke of? But in the silence, Dein found a moment to vent his frustration. The result wasn't pretty.

"Those fast runners were the fast runners you were supposed to follow, you numbskulls!"

The hidden runners again hid behind the rocks at the top of the bluffs that served as their shelter. An enraged sharptooth was not a pleasant sight. Their fear had now turned into terror.

"You were supposed to help the Great Valley! That is what the flyer said anyway..."

Ruby looked down at this turn of events. It seemed that the hidden runners were delayed in their journey to the valley and they never met Detras or Pearl, her parents. Were they dead? What about her brother or sister? As she sank to the ground and began to despair, she could feel Littlefoot's arms embrace her. She was nearly inconsolable. Was her entire family gone?

It was at that time that the hidden runner which had spoke then appeared above the rock again. His expression was a mix of shock and recognition. He then spoke with words that sounded far calmer than he looked.

"You... are enemies of Red Claw?"

Ruby was too busy sobbing to see what was going on, but she could hear Cera's response.

"Yes! That was the entire reason we recruited you hidden runners in the first place!"

There was another moment of silence before the hidden runner again spoke.

"I... I think that you have us mistaken for Viscond's group... We came to join up with them... We originally stayed behind."

This caught Ruby's attention as she rose to her feet with sudden realization. These hidden runners had never heard of her parents, because this was the wrong group of hidden runners! That meant that her parents might be okay!

Littlefoot smiled at this welcome development and gave Ruby a loving nuzzle. Now invigorated with this pleasant turn in events, he also rose to his feet and addressed the hidden runners.

"Anyone who is willing to fight Red Claw is an ally of mine." He noted that the hidden runners still appeared scared, so he immediately moved to diminish their fears. "You have made the right choice in helping the rest of your kind in fighting for what is right. I understand that we may scare you... Heck... I scare myself sometimes... but we mean you no harm." He then looked at Dein and Terri to gauge their mood before again looking at the hidden runners. "I understand that you probably don't trust us enough to walk with a bunch of strange sharpteeth... but you could do us a big favor by walking ahead of us."

Terri looked down at Littlefoot. "They can?"

This was echoed by Harthron. "We can?"

Littlefoot smiled. "You certainly can. The valley has no idea that Path's parents are coming with us... Maybe you can let them know that we are on our way."

Harthron rubbed his hands for a moment in nervousness before he spoke. "Uh... I am sure that they already do. Several flyers have been flying towards the valley giving obvious alarm calls."

Littlefoot looked surprised. "We only saw one!"

Harthron shrugged. "Well... you are in the ravine, whereas we have a clear view of the sky..."

Littlefoot rubbed his nose in frustration. "Awesome... Whitehorn is going to have my ass for scaring the valley..." He took a deep breath. "Alright... You hidden runners can clarify the situation."

Harthron gave a respectful bow. "And who should I say is approaching?"

Littlefoot bowed back. He would have to use the leaf-eater names so the valley wasn't confused. "You tell them that Littlefoot and his allies are approaching and that Chomper's parents are with us." He then looked closely at the hidden runner who was obviously the leader of this group. "And who are you, sir?"

For his part Harthron seemed to grow a foot as he stood tall and proud. His voice matched his demeanor. "I am Harthron, great leader of the hidden runner packs. It is a pleasure to meet you, Littlefoot. I certainly hope this first alliance between us doesn't turn out to be our last."

Cera couldn't help herself as she whispered to no one in particular. "You can say that again..."

......

The Great Valley:

Ignis sprinted through the underbrush in a panic. It had only been the previous day when they had been briefed on the alert call and what to do when it was bellowed. Accordingly the hidden runners were now situated throughout the Hidden Canyon with claws drenched in the poisonous sap that was commonly called the 'orange death'. It was up to them to delay any attack through the secret entrance. Now it was up to her to tell Whitehorn that they were ready for further orders.

As she broke through the underbrush and into the open valley she could see the preparations of the valley in more detail. Flyers were passing overhead in regular patterns, obviously scanning for any intruders. Meanwhile all of the openings, no matter how small, were being carefully watched by threehorns or domeheads. However, it was the massive forms of the longnecks that told her that she was on the right track. That was obviously where the main entrance was located.

One of the longnecks looked her way as she came into the area, but quickly turned its gaze back towards the defensive line and the main entrance. Ignis didn't waste any time to make herself known.

"We hidden runners are in place, sir!" She didn't realize how exhausted she was until she tried to speak. Her voice was coming through in gasps. "What is the situation?"

Whitehorn did not turn as he addressed her. He obviously had to keep watch as he was the head of the line. "Two large two-footers are on the way, but that is not what has me confused."

Ignis tilted her head at Whitehorn's statement. He seemed very calm for a dinosaur who was confronting the idea of two invading sharpteeth. Why did he think that he could be so nonchalant? She made her confusion known, though not in the most articulate way.

"Huh?"

She could see that Whitehorn took on a slight smile as he addressed her again.

"Did you have any other hidden runners who were planning on joining your group?"

Ignis shook her head, but then realizing that he couldn't see her as he was looking the other way, she quickly responded.

"No."

At that affirmation, the elder male longneck spoke. "Well it seems that they are trying to join anyway. Until a few days ago I had never seen a hidden runner. Now I see an entire ravine of them!"

Ignis paled. Can it be?! Disregarding the protests of the defensive line, she sprinted past the assembled dinosaurs and looked into the ravine that led into the main entrance. She could only stare at what she saw.

Hidden runners. Numerous hidden runners. Furthermore she could faces that she had thought that she would never see again. Her brothers and sisters featured prominently in the line of green. Her uncles and aunts were there as well. But those were not the faces that caused her the most happiness. That honor belonged to a face in the center of the line.

The face of her father.

Without thinking she sprinted headlong into the ravine right at the dinosaur that she feared she would never see again. The elder from which she had the most upsetting of partings. Her only remaining parent. She barely noticed when some of the other hidden runners began to move in front of the great leader, but were immediately waved off. She barely noticed the confused looks of her other family members. She certainly did not notice the fastbiters approaching from behind the hidden runners. No the first thing that she really noticed was the embrace of her father when she finally reached him.

"Dad!"

A rumbling laugh emanated from Harthron. "It is good to see you as well, Ignis!" He pulled her apart for a moment so that he could see her face. "I see that you and your friends have reached the valley... We decided to make the journey as well."

Ignis looked into her father's face with teary eyes. He had an apologetic smile and a haggard look to his face. It was obvious that her father had been through a lot in the last few weeks. It appeared that he had aged years in a matter of days. Suddenly Ignis felt compelled to apologize, but the words did not come easily.

"Daddy..."

Harthron waved her off. "Don't worry about it dear. We both made mistakes, but we both did what we thought was the best for our people. It just took me a bit longer than you to come to the same conclusion." He smiled at her. "That is part of growing up. At some point we have to go our own way..." Something seemed to gleam in his eye as he paused for a moment. "Even though you have chosen your own path, you are still my daughter and everyone else will honor your rights in that regard."

Silence descended upon the hidden runners on that affirmation. To have a leader reinstate a member's right after such an acrimonious rift was almost unheard of, but everyone knew that the leader's words would not be challenged. A solemn declaration of this kind before the group was meant to rehabilitate the member not only in the eyes of the pack, but also in the eyes of the assembled family members. It left Ignis speechless for several moments.

"Daddy... I don't know what to say... But I take back what I said... you know... before..."

Harthron shook his head. He was just glad to get this unhappy episode past him. "It's alright, dear. All is forgiven."

Harthron then looked at his other pack members and quickly resumed his more formal demeanor. This change was noticed by Ignis who likewise changed her demeanor to an alert and respectful position. He had to again represent the pack and she had to represent her new pack. She may again be a member of the elect, but she was still technically of a different pack. It was time for her to report to the great leader about the actions of Viscond's pack.

"We are standing guard at one of the valley's entrances, sir." She spoke with more formality than she was accustomed to. "The valley has an alliance with Seeker's pack and we are awaiting their arrival... However, there are two massive two-footers on the way and the valley is on alert."

Harthron smiled and pointed behind him. "You mean like those two-footers?"

Ignis gawked as the two massive sharpteeth began to approach their location from nearly half a mile away. Why in the hell were they staying put? They were under threat!

"Oh no! We have to go, dad..."

Harthron laughed, which caused Ignis to look at him as if he had gone mad. He quickly explained the situation to her.

"Funny thing, Ignis... Those two sharpteeth are members of Seeker's pack..."

Ignis's mouth was agape for several moments as she took in that information. As the fastbiters came into view just in front of the sharpteeth, she quickly realized that Seeker must be among them. However, regardless of how well-loved Seeker may be amongst the valley residents, she knew that the two two-footers would be another story. With a exasperated sigh she explained the scale of the task ahead of Harthron.

"Good luck explaining this to Whitehorn..."

......

Grandpa Longneck stood with unease as the sharpteeth stared at them from the other side of the defensive line. Here they were... Chomper's parents. The only other time that they had been in the valley was not a pleasant experience. They had been on a rampage in order to find their son and the grandparents had gotten into their way. In the end it had all worked out, but it very well could have turned out far worse. The prospect of having full-grown sharpteeth in the valley was not something that the residents had agreed to or even suspected. They knew that Thud and Littlefoot's pack would be joining the fight, but this was unexpected.

"My daddy thanks you for being understanding."

Grandpa frowned. He had no doubt that Chomper was putting the most generous translation to his father's words. This was not a bad strategy as the threehorns were already upset at this development, but it did disturb him that they may never know what exactly Chomper's parents were saying.

"We haven't decided anything yet, Chomper." Whitehorn spoke firmly. "What assurance do we have that your parents will stay on the valley's side?"

To everyone's surprise, Chomper's mother turned and showed her side to the assembled threehorns and longnecks. Bron audibly gasped at the sight and the grandparents shared his sentiments. A very clear gash was visible. Terri then emitted a series of growls and roars as she communicated in the sharptooth language.

"Mommy says that Red Claw nearly killed her. She would not help the beast that did this to her." Chomper then looked at Littlefoot for a moment before speaking again. "And speaking for myself, I will not rest until Red Claw is dead. He tried to kill my friends and my mommy. No one does that and lives."

Grandpa Longneck hesitantly stepped forward towards the sharpteeth, which caused the other dinosaurs to look at them with concerned expressions. After a pause Grandma followed him as well. He didn't stop until he was only one longneck-length away from the predators. It was at that point that he spoke.

"You fought us once. Back when you thought that your son had been kidnapped by egg-stealers or so the children of the valley had told us..." He waited for a moment as Chomper roared a translation. "If you are willing to fight on our side then we longnecks will not protest. It will be far better to be on the same side than against one another." Another pause occurred in order to allow translation as the sharpteeth looked at him with an unreadable expression. "You have helped our grandson and his friends. We are grateful for that, but we cannot speak for the rest of the valley. The other herd leaders will have to decide upon that." Another pause. "Let's see what Whitehorn decides."

Dein growled a response as Grandpa resisted the desire to retreat. A translation soon followed.

"You are brave, longneck. I appreciate that. You smell of fear, but yet you do what you think is best for your people. Rest assured that your people will not be threatened by us." A pause ensued as Chomper roared to his parents and they roared back. "Both of them give you their vow. They will only eat out mutual enemies or the dead while in the valley."

Grandpa Longneck nodded as Grandma looked towards Whitehorn with an inquisitive expression. "Whitehorn?"

The threehorn sighed as he considered the situation. He exchanged words with Topps for a moment that the longnecks couldn't make out, but eventually Whitehorn spoke.

"We would be foolish to refuse the help of two sharpteeth. The valley is facing the prospect of annihilation and that calls for extreme actions." He swallowed hard. "I have no objections to you joining our fight provided that you stay in the Hidden Canyon until the attack begins. I think that is all that I can get the others to agree to."

Chomper emitted a growl as he translated this to his parents. They soon followed their son's translation with growls and roars of their own. A translation soon followed.

"Thank you, threehorn. I take it you want us to be escorted?"

Whitehorn frowned. He no doubt assumed that the sharpteeth found the idea of being escorted as being somewhat humorous. As providing a veneer of being in control when in reality the sharpteeth were simply following them of their own volition. Nonetheless he gave the necessary orders.

"Arvin... Bron... Chomper... escort the sharpteeth to the Hidden Canyon." He knew that Bron had interactions with the sharpteeth in the past and thus it would be wise to have him go with the threehorn escort. Chomper would be needed in order to translate in the event that trouble occurred. "I will try to explain all of this to the other leaders."

Bron couldn't help himself from giving a cheeky response. "Good luck!" His reunion with his son would have to wait until after his escort mission was completed, but he knew that Littlefoot would understand.

The same delay would not apply to the grandparents, however.

"Littlefoot! It has been so long since we last saw you!"

......

Littlefoot smiled at the warm greetings of his grandfather. It had been so long since he had heard that wonderful voice. For a brief moment he felt like a permanent member of the valley again.

"It is nice to see you again, Grandpa!" He then turned slightly to look at his grandmother. "And you, Grandma! It seems that we had to arrive a bit earlier than expected..." It was at that point that he was interrupted.

"Daddy!"

"Cera!"

Littlefoot looked over to see that Cera was nuzzling her father's foot in an affectionate gesture, as Topps returned the gesture in the manner in which it was received. He was far too old to care about looking soft in front of his comrades. After all, he wasn't the leader anymore and he had nothing to prove. Littlefoot smiled at the display.

A sudden nuzzling by his grandmother broke his attention from the display.

"I know you will want to review the defenses, you little leader you..." Littlefoot struggled weakly at his grandmother's gentle teasing. "But for right now you are just our grandson... "

"Aww... Grandma!" Littlefoot protested weakly. This only earned him a nuzzle from his grandfather as he could hear Taunt laugh in the background. No doubt he was finding this affection from the leaf-eaters to be quite hilarious. It was very different from the sharptooth tradition.

"Umm... Mr. and Mrs. Longneck..."

The two elderly longnecks shifted their gaze as Littlefoot likewise looked at Ruby. He was a bit grateful that Ruby had given him a respite from the affectionate welcome. His gaze became a bit more concerned however when he noted that she had a somewhat frightened expression. That's right... Littlefoot realized. Ruby is still concerned about her parents. That was when his grandparents took the opportunity to greet Ruby.

"Yes, Ruby? It is nice to see you again as well. We have been talking to your parents a bit over the last few days."

Ruby's expression turned ecstatic. "They're here?! They're safe?!"

Grandpa Longneck laughed. "Yes, Ruby. Your parents and siblings are quite safe. Well... at least as safe as any of us are now."

Grandma Longneck looked at her mate with a gently chiding expression. They didn't really need the reminder of their possible deaths at the claws of Red Claw's minions. She took the opportunity to put the rose-colored fastbiter's concerns to rest.

"How about we take Ruby and her friends to see her parents? I am sure that Ruby would appreciate the reunion."

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "Yes. We will have to get Ruby's folks for the inevitable meeting anyway." He then looked towards Whitehorn who was still standing watch at the main entrance. For his part, Whitehorn seemed surprised to suddenly be brought into the conversation. He spoke after a short pause.

"I have no disagreements with that longnecks. We will keep a few threehorns on watch over here. I will call the meeting after a few moments."

Littlefoot noted that Whitehorn was acting quite gracious and reasonable considering the sheer insanity of the situation. They had just allowed fastbiters into the valley for the second time and two giant sharpteeth into the valley for the first time. The valley had sacrificed its old prejudices out of the necessity of the fight ahead. This deserved a thanks.

"Thank you, Whitehorn. For whatever it is worth, we will be on your side in the meeting."

Littlefoot simply earned a 'hmph' from the threehorn, but it wasn't given with malice. It was simply the noncommittal grunt of a threehorn who did not want to seem sentimental in front of his followers. Littlefoot understood this well and did not press the point.

"All right, guys! Let's go find Ponder's folks! Then we can check up on Path and his parents again..." He then sniffed the air, took on a curious expression, and smirked. "...and Spotter? Quit trying to sneak up on Haven! It's not working."

Ducky looked around in confusion until she saw the tall-tale brown outline of a flyer on the tree canopy above her. Defeated, Petrie flew down and landed next to the green fastbiter.

"Me figure it worth a try. Me curious if she still scare easy."

This earned a laugh from Littlefoot and the others as Ducky made a faux swipe at the retreating flyer. Those two still had playful spirits and their friendship showed in how they pestered one another. Littlefoot took that opportunity to thank the flyer for his efforts.

"It is nice to see you again, Spotter. It is quite a long journey that you traveled."

Petrie shrugged with his wings. "It be long journey, but it also be lot quieter. You fastbiters make everything loud."

Littlefoot shook his head in amusement at Petrie's verbal jab at his species. He then looked forward as he decided to get the conversation back on track. "Well, Spotter, you and my grandparents can refresh us on what has been going on since we were gone. I am sure that is a story in itself."

This earned him an appraisal from Topps, who then examined his daughter as well. Nodding to Whitehorn, he received a nod of approval to leave the defensive line and to accompany his daughter and her friends. Having obtained this approval, he then addressed his daughter with a bemused expression.

"Yes... and then maybe you can tell us why you have sticks and vines all over you."

Littlefoot blinked, but then gently touched the vine armor on his shoulder. Oh yeah... we should probably discuss that sooner than later... the hidden runners will need to make use of that as well... With that in mind he then spoke.

"Well you see, Mr. Threehorn... Your daughter actually had a very good idea several days ago..."

......

The next day:

"So it can't be used again?"

Chronos sighed deeply. The former longneck before him could understand the concept of a 'pain rock' and a 'fire rock' but the concept of antimatter would obviously be a bridge too far. How could he describe the kind of power that they were talking about?

"It... can." Chronos offered tentatively. "It can only be used one more time." He looked at Logos with a somewhat helpless expression. This was not lost on Logos as she quickly joined the conversation.

"The stone is very powerful, Littlefoot. As you have seen..." Logos contorted her face in an odd expression as she considered the best way to explain this. "But there is something in the rock that keeps the power in it. The only way for us to release the power is to break the rock and to break that something..."

Littlefoot interrupted now that he thought that he had an idea of what she was saying. "So you have to break the rock? Crush the rock?"

Chronos nodded. "Exactly. But that is the problem. We can't be there when the rock breaks because we will be caught in the explosion. We are talking about something bigger than a mere rockslide here."

Littlefoot gawked. "A mere rockslide?! Have you ever been caught in one of those?!"

Logos shook her head. "No and you haven't been caught in a rockslide the likes of which we are talking about either. This will be something that the valley has never seen before."

Littlefoot looked down. "When you told the meeting that you could cause a rockslide... we didn't know that you meant something like this. We thought that you meant doing something to... to um..."

Logos finished for him. "...to the rocks?"

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah."

Chronos cleared his throat. "Well, you have seen what the Repressor... um... I mean, pain rock can do. I don't think the other adults would believe us if we mentioned that. But you have a right to know the true power we are talking about. It should only be used as a last resort." He carefully examined Littlefoot's face while the fastbiter considered this.

A confusing tangle of expressions went over Littlefoot's face. This was a lot to take in at once and the consequences were quite horrifying, but he knew that he could not turn down anything that may boost their chances of victory. Soon, however, Littlefoot was struck with a sudden thought.

"What if your plan fails? What if you can't cause the rock to break from a distance?"

Logos had a look of utter horror on her face, while Chronos looked down in contemplation. The looks on the faces of the rainbowfaces said it all. If this failed then they would have to break the rock manually somehow. This would result in the permanent end of their mission on this planet. Chronos and Logos would be no more.

Littlefoot frowned. "If you know the risks then why do you do this? Why don't you leave the valley before it's too late?"

Chronos answered sadly. "Why do you fight?"

Littlefoot looked down. "I owe it to my friends... I owe it to my families... I owe it to the future..." He shook his head. "If I abandoned them in their time of need then what would that make me?"

Logos smiled sadly. "Exactly. That is why we fight."

Littlefoot looked towards Logos with mournful eyes. He didn't want anyone to unnecessarily die in the conflict with Red Claw. Too many have been lost already.

"We may not be able to help you with our claws..." Chronos offered. "...but we can help with our minds. You just try to stay alive out there, Littlefoot. We will take care of things on the rock wall."

Littlefoot tried to put on a brave face as he placed his clawed hands onto the shoulders of the two rainbowfaces. "There is a parting that Thud taught me that is common before battle. May your friends stand and your enemies fall." He looked at them with a kindly smile. "I wish that I could offer you more."

Logos smiled. "Thank you, Littlefoot. You have offered the valley hope. You can do one thing for us though."

Littlefoot looked at Logos with an inquisitive expression. "Oh?"

Logos nodded. "You can keep safe out there. A lot of people are depending on you."

......

"Oh there you are! We were looking for you!"

Littlefoot smiled at the sight of his grandmother. He could see the tall forms of his grandfather and dad in the background, while Shorty and Ruby seemed to be riding on Bron's back along with two somewhat concerned young fast runners who were hanging onto Ruby as if they would fall off otherwise.

His grandfather was the next to speak. "Littlefoot! Where were you?"

Littlefoot smiled as he picked up his pace. "I was talking to Logos and Chronos about their plans. They seem to be well."

This caused his grandfather to nod. "Ah, still making preparations, eh?"

Littlefoot smiled as he dodged to prevent a nuzzling. "You know me!" Eventually he relented and allowed a light nuzzle from each grandparent. He then looked up at Bron's back.

"It looks like that you have a full load, dad." Littlefoot smirked with a teasing expression. "Have the fast runners decided to climb the 'mountain'?" As soon as he saw his father roll his eyes, Littlefoot knew that he had struck a nerve.

"Darn it, Littlefoot! I just got them to call us longnecks again!" There was no malice in Bron's words as he spoke with obvious humor. "You do realize that you used to be a 'mountain' as well as far as Orchid and Arial are concerned."

Littlefoot shrugged. "I downsized apparently." While laughing at his own joke he addressed the two fast runners. "You know, guys, if you want to annoy Shorty then you could call him 'Boulder'." He smirked as he knew what would happen next.

"Darn it, Littlefoot!" Shorty bowed his head in annoyance as the two fast runners ran circles around the longneck while shouting "Boulder! Boulder!" in jovial voices. It seemed that their fear of falling off of the large longneck had been forgotten in light of a new way of pestering Shorty.

Littlefoot smiled. Had he still been a longneck then he would be worrying about what Shorty's reprisal would be, but he was not a longneck anymore. Therefore he enjoyed his minor torment of his adopted sibling. That was soon ended by Ruby's parents, however.

"Arial! Orchid! Don't run on the longneck!"

Littlefoot jumped several feet into the air and landed in a defensive stance. His panicked expression immediately caused Shorty and Ruby to laugh uncontrollably. It seemed that Detras and Pearl had unintentionally avenged Shorty's humiliation.

"Where did you come from!?" Littlefoot exclaimed in surprise.

Pearl smiled at the brown fastbiter. "It looks like someone wasn't paying attention."

Littlefoot rolled his eyes as Detras finally answered his question. "We have been practicing our hiding skills as the children will need it. If we were able to hide from you then that is a good sign."

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah, I suppose so." He could see out of the periphery of his vision that Bron had lowered his neck to the ground as Shorty and the fast runners hopped off. Ruby was the last one to descend the neck, obviously being careful to not hurt Bron with her claws. It was a delicate procedure.

"Hmmm..." Littlefoot muttered. "I suppose fastbiters shouldn't climb on longnecks."

Detras placed a hand on Littlefoot's shoulder. "It was our daughter's idea of how to calm her brother and sister down. They demanded a ride 'on the mountain' but they were scared at the same time."

"Did you see that mommy and daddy?"

Littlefoot smiled at the little fast runners as they rushed to their parents. Children were so sweet and innocent at that age.

"Yes, dear. We saw." Pearl affirmed as she patted both of their young children. "Now what do you say to the longneck?"

Both fast runners looked in Bron's direction. "Thanks, Bron!" They then looked at Shorty in unison. "Thanks, Boulder!"

A muffled "urgh!" left Shorty's mouth, although Littlefoot could tell that Shorty wasn't really angry. He could smell that he was in good spirits. That was the kind of detail that he would never have been aware of during his longneck days. That was not the smell that attracted his attention at that moment, however.

He could smell a confusing tangle of scents originating from Ruby's advancing form. A slight hint of exhaustion from caring for her hyper siblings. A distinct scent of happiness from seeing her family again. A whiff of melancholy due to her joy being tempered that she would have to again part from her family eventually. A hint of anticipation, probably due to the fact that...

His thoughts were interrupted when she nuzzled him. The anticipation was obviously from finally having time to see Littlefoot again. He had been busy with preparations for the better part of the last two days.

"That brings back memories, doesn't it?"

At Pearl's question, Detras grunted his affirmation.

"Yeah. Though I waited a bit longer before finding the one."

Both Littlefoot and Ruby recoiled back as they realized that they had just showed affection in front of Ruby's parents. Neither of them had planned on being so open about things, but it had just happened. A distinct scent of embarrassment now inundated Littlefoot's nostrils as he tried to act normal in a feeble attempt to pretend what had occurred had not happened.

"Oh, knock it off you two!" The voice of Bron echoed from some distance away. "You're in love! Why hide it?"

Shorty's voice echoed from Bron's location as well. "Busted!"

Littlefoot and Ruby both looked at one another with apologetic expressions as they turned towards the longnecks. There were no recriminating stares, nor any surprised looks. Everyone seemed to have figured out that their friendship was growing into something more. Were they that transparent?

Deciding he had nothing to lose, Littlefoot simply nuzzled Ruby again and addressed her parents.

"I promise that I will take care of her."

Detras had an unreadable expression, but he spoke without malice. "You already have been taking care of her. And she has been taking care of you. As long as that is true then I have no objections."

Pearl then stepped forward. "It is the custom, Ruby, when a fast runner finds a mate..."

Ruby reared back. "Mom! We are not that! We are still kids!"

Pearl smiled. "Even so, we all know where this is going. Nest and eggs and all of that." Ruby was writhing in embarrassment as Littlefoot cringed under the hysterical laughter of Shorty in the background. Shorty had certainly won this encounter. "When else am I going to get the chance to do this?!" It was obvious that Pearl was enjoying this minor torment of her daughter and her special friend. "It is the tradition, if the child hasn't already left the parent's presence, that they will chase the child and their mate away. It is a way of showing that the child is now an adult."

Littlefoot spoke in a deadpan manner. "You're going to chase us?"

Detras smiled now. "Not only that, but we talked about this with your grandparents several days ago. They would like to participate in the tradition as well."

Littlefoot and Ruby both began to edge away from the assembled dinosaurs. "Um... Wouldn't well wishes be better?"

Detras's smile turned a bit more sinister. "Sure... If you can get away from us. If the parents catch the mate-to-be, so the tradition goes, then the pairing is rejected."

Littlefoot gritted his teeth. "What?!"

Detras nodded in the direction of the entrance to the Haven Valley. "I suggest that you get running if you want to be with my daughter."

With no further debate the two fastbiters bolted from the assembled dinosaurs. The chase was on.

......

"I won't bite, Tricia."

Tricia looked at the orange fastbiter with a surprised expression. "Taunt... talk...?"

Cera smiled. "Your leaf-eater is getting better, Tricia! I have been teaching Taunt to speak as well."

Topps snorted dismissively. "Remember what I said about fastbiters, Tricia. They do bite."

Tricia nodded and nuzzled Cera before heading back towards Tria. This elicited a response from the pink threehorn.

"Topsy, do you think that is necessary?"

Topps nodded slowly. "Don't get me wrong, Taunt..." He seemed to pause at his mention of that name. "I know that you wouldn't do anything willingly, but..." He seemed to have trouble in finding the right words. Amazing, however, Taunt finished the thought.

"It's alright, sir. I understand. You don't want your daughter to be lax around my kind."

Topps stared at Taunt with an unreadable expression for several moments, but he finally nodded. "Yeah..." He then sighed as he tried to talk to his daughter. "Cera, have you considered what I said yesterday?"

Cera immediately took on an upset expression. "Daddy, that won't happen! Ponder's folks are watching..."

Topps was confused. "Ponder's folks?"

Cera sighed. "Ruby." She had gotten so accustomed to using their sharptooth names. "Ruby's folks will watch Tricia and the other kids. You won't have to worry about that."

Topps shook his head. "It may happen, dear. I just want to make sure that if something happens to me and Tria and if your pack manages to survive..."

Cera looked down dejectedly. "We will make sure she finds a good home, dad. We will make sure that the survivors are okay."

Only now did Topps relax. It was a promise that some part of him wanted to have before he could move on. He knew full well that they all could die in the cataclysm that lay ahead. But as long as he made every possible effort to make sure that his beloved daughter was cared for then he felt that he had done his duty. If only he could protect his other daughter. She may have had sharp teeth and claws now, but she was still his little girl.

Tria nuzzle her mate. "Now, dear... We don't want to upset Tricia." Topps now looked down to see a confused Tricia looking in his direction.

"Da.. da... cry? Daddy sad?"

Topps immediately straightened himself up. "Of course not! A threehorn does not cry!"

In response to her father's obvious recovery, Tricia began to pace in an almost robotic fashion with her head facing forward and her shoulders ramrod straight in a mock imitation of her father's prideful posture. It was enough to make the assembled dinosaurs laugh at her antics. It was a cute family moment that even made Taunt crack a smile despite the species barrier between him and the threehorns. Their levity was interrupted however by the rumbling of feet.

"What the..." Taunt muttered.

The sight that greeted them was a truly startling one. Ruby and Littlefoot were running headlong towards the other end of the valley, with the longnecks and Ruby's parents in tow. As they passed by the threehorns, no one stopped in order to converse with them. Even after Cera tried to flag them down, there was no response. It was as if they had not heard her. That was when a noticeably winded green longneck stopped to catch his breath and looked in Cera's direction.

"Hey!" He paused as he gasped for air. "Everyone is tormenting Littlefoot and Ruby. Come on and enjoy the fun!"

As the green longneck began to run in the direction that the other dinosaurs had departed, Cera looked at Taunt with a shrug.

"Do you want to torment our glorious leader?"

Taunt smirked. "Do you have to ask?"

As the two fastbiters sprinted towards the Hidden Canyon, Tria looked at Topps with an amused expression. "Ah, so the longnecks are going ahead with their plan."

Topps blinked. "What plan?"

Tria laughed. "Come along, dear." She then placed Tricia on her back. "I want to see how this develops."

......

"The food is learning to protect itself. Something tells me that this may come back to bite us in the end."

Terri rolled her eyes at Dein's concerns. The valley had been nice enough to let them into the Hidden Canyon without a single skirmish or threat. Yet, Dein was concerned that the hidden runners may start using vines and spears all of the time, which would make them very difficult to kill. Dein's priorities... food first, everything else second! She thought in amusement. I suppose that I should answer my mate before he gets any ideas.

"Now, dear... you know that the leaf-eaters are too stupid to remember plans like this. That is the reason why Seeker's pack is only showing this to the hidden runners and fast runners. Those are the least stupid kinds of leaf-eaters."

At this point another voice made itself known. "I am sure that Seeker would love to hear that you think his parents are stupid." Thud smiled at the two massive sharpteeth. He had spoken in jest.

"Not as stupid as fastbiters who constantly antagonize us!" Dein roared in mock anger as he took a threatening bite in Thud's direction. The bite was made lazily and without malice, but Thud still jumped to the side in any case.

"Daddy! Don't eat Taunt's daddy otherwise Stern Claw will never let us hear the end of it!"

Dein sighed. He had forgotten that his son was lounging nearby. He had undoubtedly heard all of the comments about the Great Valley residents being less intelligent than sharpteeth.

Thud shook himself off. "Gee... Thanks Path." He spoke in faux appreciation. However, it was obvious by the tone of his voice that Chomper was just joking as well. At least Chomper's jokes did not involve acting like he was going to kill you. Of course he was still a child; who knew what his sense of humor would be like when he was his parents' size?

Dein reentered the conversation. "I do wonder about those rainbowfaces though. Didn't Spotter say that is who gave him the idea of pointed sticks?"

Terri nodded. "Yes... but I don't think those rainbowfaces are typical though. Taunt called them weirder than a swimmer courting a flyer. In any case, rainbowfaces do not make up the bulk of our diet. As long as the longnecks and threehorns remain the way that they are then I don't think that we will starve."

Dein snorted. "We better not starve. If we do then I will remind you of this mistake every day until we starve to death."

Terri glared at her mate. "Have I ever told you that you were romantic, dear?"

Dein looked confused. "Ummm... No."

Terri smiled. "There is a reason for that."

As the two sharpteeth then began another back and forth of taunts and bickering, Chomper started up a conversation with Thud.

"So, how are your two packmates doing?"

Thud smiled and nodded towards the hidden runners. "They are doing fine. Right now they are helping the hidden runners put on their vines. I am glad that they have something to distract them from the horrors that lie ahead."

Chomper nodded. "Let's see how they are doing. Because I think that my parents will carry on for a while."

Thud snorted. "Their usual family life, huh?"

Chomper shrugged. "What was it that my daddy said? A family that fights together, stays together."

"Ha!" Thud chuckled. "I think that your father misunderstood that saying. It means that a family that fights an enemy together, stays together. Not that a family should bicker all of the time."

Chomper smiled. "Yeah... He probably got that wrong, but you have to remember that this is the same dinosaur who didn't know how to make a bridge!"

"Hey!"

Upon hearing the protest from Dein and laughter from Terri, Thud and Chomper both quickened their pace towards the hidden runners. It seemed that pestering Chomper's father was a pastime that both of them shared.

When they finally arrived at the assembly of hidden runners they found that Ducky and the others had the situation well under control.

......

The other four fastbiters watched Ducky with curiosity as she helped Viscond place his vines on his body. It was a curious exercise for the fastbiters to help a species that was known for hiding and it was certainly

"No, you need to put it around like.... That is it. It is, it is!" Ducky beamed with praise. "Now your vines will stay on!"

Viscond looked at his attire with curiosity. Having something pressed against his flesh was a new experience for him and the other hidden runners. It was simultaneously uncomfortable, but yet it gave him a sense of protection. Cera's demonstration of how a vine could take many claw strikes had convinced even the most strident skeptics. There was no question that these vines worked.

"Thank you, Haven! You have given all of us hope for the battle to come!"

Ducky waved off his praise. "Allies stick together. Yep, yep, yep!"

Harthron examined the vines for several moments. After a few moments of silence he seemed to be pleased with what he saw. "Do you think that the vines we got yesterday will be ready for us to use in time?"

At this point, Spike spoke up. "They would probably be ready now, but they might be a bit tough to bend around your bodies. We found that they had to be soaked in water for a while. That made them workable."

Swift nodded. "The good thing is that we found more than enough of the vines near the Roaring Falls. If we only had what we brought from the Land of Shallow Waters..." She didn't finish her statement. It was obvious that if they had not acquired enough vines then the hidden runners would have to choose who got protection and who did not. Thankfully that unfortunate eventuality did not come to pass.

Ignis walked up to her father at this point. As a member of the elect again, she was permitted to have such liberty as to approach her father without permission, though she did so in a respectful manner. Her time on her own, short as it was, had taught her the difficulty of making tough choices and bearing the heavy burden of responsibility. Though she did not regret her decision to defy her father back in his territory, she had tempered her youthful idealism with respect for the burdens of leadership. This was not lost on any hidden runner in the area.

"This is brilliant!" Ignis affirmed. "We would have died by the dozen without these."

Breeze looked at Ignis with a grim expression. "We might die by the dozen, but now we will have a chance to kill them by the dozen. We will have to be ready to kill and be killed in the days ahead."

Spike whispered. "Breeze..."

Breeze sighed. "I am sure that we will do well." She affirmed. "But we will need to be prepared for what may come."

Spike nodded at Breeze's change in tone. She had a lot of hatred for Calin and his pack, but now was not the time for dwelling on self-sacrifice and death. Now was the time to boost morale. Her words were true, but they had to be said in a optimistic tone.

Harthron smiled. "Very true, Breeze. But I need to make sure that I am correct in my understanding of your plan. You will leave us to distract the fastbiters if they enter this canyon and Ignis..." He looked at his daughter. "...and Viscond will lead the teams that protect the children and attack the invaders if they enter the valley itself. Is that correct?"

Ducky smiled. "That is right. Yep, yep, yep!"

Spike nodded. "That way we protect the valley inside and out."

"And take the battle to our enemy." Leap affirmed.

Viscond took the opportunity to try to move in his vines. After a few moments of moving around in place he looked at Ignis with a playful expression.

"Well I guess that we need to practice our fighting skills in these vines..." He smiled at Ignis mischievously. "In would only be proper to nominate a member of my pack to practice with, so how about you, Ignis?"

Ignis looked at Viscond intensely. "I hope that I don't embarrass you in front of the pack and my father, Viscond."

Harthron tried to hold back a laugh as some of the other pack members did the same. Such a playful challenge in his pack would be a stunning breach of protocol, but for a lesser pack things were more loose and informal. Harthron noted that this probably suited Ignis quite well as she was quite the free spirit. He would enjoy watching this.

Westron looked at Harthron, as if he were asking for permission. With a nod of his head Harthron gave his consent and Westron went in-between the two combatants.

"Alright. Keep it clean and..." His eyes bulged wide. "...what is that!"

Harthron stared at Westron with a confused expression before shifting his gaze towards where he was looking. Three fastbiters, that he recognized as members of the friendly pack, rushed out of the entrance into the Hidden Canyon, which was then followed by the fast runner family and several longnecks. Had the friendly pack betrayed them and the leaf-eaters were chasing them out? What was going on? He was about to intervene and ask what was going on when he heard something he did not expect.

Laughter.

......

"Ha ha ha! You should have seen the look on your faces!"

Harthron walked over to the scene and noticed that it was the green longneck that had spoken.

Littlefoot looked at his adopted brother with an exasperated expression. "This isn't funny, Shorty! If I hadn't made it here then me and Ruby would not have her parents' consent! If that would have happened then..."

"...Then you would have disobeyed them? It isn't like you haven't done that in the past!" Shorty added with some humor as he resumed laughing at the annoyed expressions of his adopted brother and his love interest. Littlefoot was about to interject when a loud outburst interrupted his train of thought.

More laughter echoed across the canyon. This time it was from the longnecks.

"We are sorry, grandson. But we had to have a bit of fun at your expense."

Littlefoot looked at them with disbelief. "What... what are you talking about?!"

Ruby finally caught her breath. "Yeah... I have no idea what is going on!"

"What is going on, Ruby, is a tradition but not the one that we said." Detras spoke softly. "You see... there is no tradition for fast runners to chase their children's proposed mates."

Ruby and Littlefoot both rose from their resting position in a mixture of anger and confusion. "What?!"

Pearl smiled softly. "The tradition is for the parents to prank the mates-to-be." Both Littlefoot and her daughter looked at her with anger, but that quickly dissipated when the next words left her mouth. "When the parents prank the two that then it signifies their consent to the match."

Both looked stunned at the fast runners. This was followed by a look at the longnecks. All of the adults now had apologetic expressions as if they feared that they had pushed it too far. That was when Littlefoot looked at Shorty and Cera, who were now a longneck-length in front of his father. Both wore non-mischievous smiles. It seemed that they now realized the depth of the love between their two friends. The chase and the supposed consequences of not being fast enough had nearly reduced them into tears. Now relief dominated his emotions. Ruby beat him in responding first, however.

"Thank you, mom... dad... but you are both asses!"

The parents laughed in relief that their daughter wasn't too mad at them. They did not immediately notice the two small fast runners who covered their mouths with their hands, being stunned that their older sister had said a curse word. Later on they would learn that today was a special day and that although they could call Shorty a 'boulder' they could not call him an 'ass'. Even if he did something that was worthy of that name. But that is a different story.

"I... thank you all..." Littlefoot choked out. "But I am curious what crap Topps is going to put you and Taunt through, Stern Claw..." He gave her a weak smile.

Cera stepped forward as the longnecks approached. "Well, the important thing is that Taunt lives through it, whatever it is..."

Taunt looked at Cera with some concern. He had just seen the leaf-eaters put Littlefoot and Ruby through hell... what would they put him through? Her next few words confirmed to him that she was joking, however.

"...and if he doesn't live through it then I can find a more polite one. That shouldn't be too hard."

Hearing this, Taunt raised his large sickle claw in an obscene gesture. This earned a continuation of Cera's speech on that point.

"See what I mean? Such disrespect and..."

Caw!

Everything froze. The playful banter and romance was immediately forgotten as the alarm call chilled them all to the bone. Had they heard what they thought they did? Had the inevitable finally arrived?

Caw!

Littlefoot took on a grim expression and joined his hand with Ruby's. "Everyone! Get to your assigned positions! And..." He looked at his father and grandparents with a sad, yet prideful expression. Their expressions matched his.

"...good luck, everyone!"

......

"It is Red Claw!" Petrie stated with obvious fear. "He near split in ravine."

Whitehorn sighed deeply. Because of the flyers they had some notice, but not an extraordinary amount. The splitting of the ravine was not very far away. Feeling tired beyond his years, he asked the obvious question to Petrie.

"How long do we have?"

Volant looked uneasy. "Optimistically?"

Whitehorn shook his head. "No. Give me the worst-case scenario. We need to prepare for the worst."

Volant looked back in the direction of the ravine where Red Claw was approaching. From the direction he was traveling it looked as if a direct attack on the main entrance was in the works, but looks could be deceiving. The pack could split up and attack at the other entrances as well. They would have no idea until the attack finally happened.

"They may be here late in the morning if they travel through the night. In the early evening if they sleep first."

Whitehorn looked down. The time for preparation was over. The battle was here. The only thing to be done now was to assume their positions and await the coming battle. He didn't turn his head to look at the flyer or the threehorns who he knew were currently staring at him. He simply gave the inevitable order.

"It is time. Tell the longnecks to close the entrances and the night sentries to watch the entrances." They would ensure that only the main entrances remained, which were too large to completely block with boulders. "When they attack our attackers must meet rocks."

He took as deep breath as he heard the commotion going on behind him. The orders would now be relayed to all of the watch points throughout the valley that the attack was less than a day away. After that it would be time for one final meeting. Not to discuss what was going to happen tomorrow, but to prepare the residents for what had to be done. What everyone knew would occur. Everyone would know, whether they wanted to admit it or not, that some of their friends, family members, and even themselves might be killed in the day ahead. It was one thing to know this intellectually and another to accept it emotionally. To make everyone ready to fight and die would be a herculean undertaking for any dinosaur. Though he had confidence in himself for the task ahead, he knew there were two dinosaurs who would be vital for the morale of the valley. With that in mind he gave his final order before departing.

"Tell Topps and Grandpa Longneck to meet me at the meeting place."

......

That night:

Red Claw stared at the ravine in front of him with a manic expression. After so many years of failure. So many years of half measures. So many years of incompetent underlings. The time had finally come. He would have his revenge. His long-dead son would finally be avenged.

I wasted too much time waiting for those damn children to run out of luck... too many years nibbling outside of the valley... too many years with those two useless fastbiters... I should have done this long ago.

Red Claw sucked in a deep breath. It had been a long time since he had felt anything other than rage or contempt and the sudden rush of melancholy was something that he had kept under control for so long. But now it was time to fulfill his obligation. His son's untimely demise would be avenged and Red Claw would ensure that his own name would live through the ages as a curse. He would not let the leaf-eaters forget his name. His legacy would leave a long shadow through the ages.

He wanted everyone else to feel his pain. They would know his anguish.

There was just one more thing to do before his final slumber before the battle. A tradition that even Red Claw wouldn't forsake: the declaration of intent. A final proclamation of perceived grievances and wrongs. A statement that would be carried by his followers into future generations. Brekan had left his indelible imprint on the world; now it was Red Claw's turn. With a terrible roar that echoed across the miles, he bellowed what he hoped was the valley's epitaph into the cold night.

"Hear me cursed valley! Hear me roar!"

His horrific roar awakened any dinosaurs who had fallen asleep in the pack. He scared his own followers as much as he scared the valley. He was like a living ghost who haunted those who had not yet died. A specter of death who yet lived.

"Tomorrow I will have my revenge against those who have wronged me! Tomorrow the killers of my son will meet their own grisly end! Tomorrow I will share my pain with all who stand in my way! Tomorrow Wrath will be avenged!"

His intent was clear for all who could hear. If he was victorious and his victory ascended into the stuff of legend then Wrath's son would live on. If he failed then the memory of his son would die with him.

"Look upon your children tonight, for tomorrow I will crush them underfoot. Look upon your mates tonight, for tomorrow I will feast upon their entrails! Look upon your valley tonight, for tomorrow I will defile all that you hold dear! Reflect upon your lives, for tomorrow I put an end to all of your futures!"

......

"What is that, Littlefoot?"

Littlefoot looked in the direction of Red Claw's terrible threat and closed his eyes. When he again opened them he joined eyes with the rest of his pack. Each of them knew that stakes. Each of them knew the dangers. But each of them decided of their own free will to stand with their packmates. Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Spike, Petrie, Ruby, Chomper, Taunt, Breeze, Thud, Leap, Swift, Terri, Dein, Detras, Pearl, and the enumerable allies who had gathered onto their side... All of them decided to stand against the inevitable. To right the terrible wrong before the tyrant could exact his revenge. With a calm voice he answered Grandpa's question.

"They are Red Claw's last words, because we will make sure that his cruelty ends here!"

As the cheers and shouts of the valley residents echoed across the valley walls, Littlefoot wondered if he had not just spoken some of his final words. As the residents prepared to sleep before the coming maelstrom of death, each of them knew that their time of peace and harmony had come to an end. In the next morning the bright circle would rise over a peaceful valley, but it would set upon blood-soaked ground and countless dead. It would be up to them whether their inevitable casualties would ensure their future or be in vain.

The battle for the Great Valley was about to begin.


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