Chapter 71 Cataclysm
“Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
― J. Robert Oppenheimer
Pterano stared at the scene in front of him with utter surprise. Was he already too late?
The defenders of the Hidden Canyon entrance appeared to be caught in a trap, as a confusing mass of dinosaurs filled every conceivable place in the narrow ravine. Fastbiters blocked the passageway back into the valley and were facing off with the hidden runners at the front. Meanwhile, two solitary two-footers, whom he immediately recognized as Chomper's parents, were the lone defenders of this critical entrance into the valley. Now with Red Claw and his two new two-footers joining the fray from the other side, the situation looked dire. If the defense were to be broken here...
Pterano shook his head. He could not immediately help out the defenders on the ground and his unscrupulous companions would only have eyes for those whom they blamed for the deaths of their long lost family members.
The sharptooth flyers.
No... He would have to help were he could of some use: the sky. If he could accomplish his task then hopefully the others could handle what the battle had brought them.
"Look! There they are!"
Pterano turned in the direction that Nunti was staring. Over the valley's interior the sky were darkened with flyers of every description. Sharptooth flyers and valley residents were engaged in combat at every altitude. However, it was obvious which side was winning. The valley flyers were difficult to find in the riving mass of talons and teeth. Worse yet, bodies could be seen falling from the skies. The bodies of flyers that he hadn't seen since his exile. The bodies of flyers he would never see again.
Rage built in Pterano as he gave the order to attack.
"There are the monsters that attacked your kin! Slaughter them all!"
No further orders were necessary as the carrion flyers rushed ahead at the throng of enemy flyers. For his part, Pterano was about to join them when he saw something in the ravine below the demanded his attention.
No... Volant? Are you alright?
"Pterano, are you alright?" Nunti's voice called from behind him. "Is that someone that you know?"
He did not answer as he descended in a near vertical dive towards his sister's location, leaving a confused Nunti to try and catch up.
Harthron stared at the unstoppable horde that stood around them. Fastbiters stood in the way of the entrance into the valley and their salvation, whereas Red Claw and his two new companions appeared ready to attack them from the other side. The high walls on either side of the Hidden Canyon completed their envelopment. Despite the fact that they had not yet sustained heavy casualties in this battle, it seemed certain that one thing awaited them:
He sucked in a deep breath as the consequences of this sunk in. He had decided to join with his daughter's crusade as he felt that it was the only way to prevent Red Claw's evil from again causing havoc in hidden runner lands. However, now it appeared that he had led his best trackers and most of his own children to their doom. His reign would come to an end like that of many leaders: at the claws of someone stronger. He only regretted that he had taken his loved ones down with him.
With contemplative eyes he looked towards his daughter. Even now is this moment of tranquility before the coming storm, she stood firm with her fiery eyes staring at her enemies. He had no doubt that she would fight to the bitter end. Not for her pride or even for her duty, but simply because she felt it was the right thing to do. He had become so lost in trying to maintain his power base and keeping the pack's squabbles in check that he had nearly lost sight of that. Even though it now seemed that his daughter had led him to his end, he did not regret regaining that side of himself. If his rule came to an end here then he would face it with courage.
Daughter and father locked eyes for a brief moment as the growls of the fastbiters grew. They knew that this was it. The battle had come. And neither of them planned on facing the end on their knees.
"Let's give them hell, daddy!"
Harthron grinned with determination. "Indeed!" He then made a hand gesture that only the hidden runners understood. "Runners! Guard our allies' flank! Protect your comrades to your sides and don't let anyone through!" He then clasped his hands over the sharpened stick that he had made under the instructions of Thud the day prior. With no hesitation, he grabbed the orange bulb of the toxic plant that he had been keeping for just such a moment like this. It took only a few moments to crush it upon his spear's sharpened tip and to raise his tainted spear into the air. It was time for Calin's pack to taste the orange death. Expressing more bravado than he actually felt he gave one last rallying cry to his pack.
"Hidden runners, stand to your duties!"
A chorus of affirmative roars echoed from the pack as the enemy broke into a charge. The hidden runners held their spears out to create a wall of spiked death as the enemy approached. Harthron could only wait as the onslaught came closer and closer.
Prepare to die, fastbiter scum!
"Okay, everyone! We have to hold these three off..."
Littlefoot shouted his orders with imperiousness as the three massive beasts approached with thunderous footsteps. Trees and branches slammed to the ground as they crashed into them. Red Claw and his two adolescents were indeed horrifying sights to behold. However, Littlefoot's plan of attack was interrupted by his grandmother's stern voice.
"No, Littlefoot! You focus on the fastbiters!"
Littlefoot turned towards his beloved grandparents. In many ways they had been the main parental figures in his life after the moss of his mother. Even the return of Bron had not changed that dynamic. This made their insistence to face the beast without their help all the more difficult to take. He could not allow them to throw their lives away. Three longnecks and several swimmers would be no match for the three seasoned killers that stood in their way.
"Grandma, you need our..."
He did not get far as the voice of Ducky's mother called out.
"We have to do this, children! Help clear a path to the entrance!"
As if to punctuate this situation and to prevent any dissent, Grandpa Longneck spoke as well. His gravelly voice betraying the extent of the damage to his body. As he spoke, it broke Littlefoot's heart.
"We are big enough to slow them down... We have to protect the valley now." He then turned back towards Littlefoot's position, a sad expression on his face that made Littlefoot's skip a beat. It was the expression of a dinosaur who did not expect to survive. "Give the order, Littlefoot. The valley must go on even if we do not."
Littlefoot's voice was lost in his throat at his grandfather's request. So it had come to this. For a long time Littlefoot had believed that he would never see his grandparents again, only to finally be given the opportunity to once again bask in their love. But that now made the probable parting all that much harder to take. Would they ever speak again after this?
A choked sob emanated to Littlefoot's left as he could see Ducky struggling to keep her composure in order to face the battle ahead. If she could do what was necessary then so could he. With great reluctance, Littlefoot gave the order.
"Very well... Gang... Prepare your claws... Let's show Calin what we are made of!"
As the remainder of the pack began to roar in unison as a show of force and crushed the toxic bulbs upon their claws, Littlefoot spared one last look towards his grandparents. As their eyes met on this most dark of days, he gave them the slightest of nods. It was the best that he could do under the circumstances. A gesture that could mean both "good luck" and "goodbye". For all that he knew this could be the last time that they saw one another in the land of the living. It was only when they returned the gesture that he allowed himself to focus on the charging fastbiters who were fast approaching their hidden runner allies. Now was the time to meet force with force.
Pterano landed on the ravine floor with a resounding thud. As he rushed to his sister's side. One of her wings looked horribly torn, whereas her neck was oozing blood from a large gash. She had obviously been in a fight and not on the winning side... It was enough to fill him with guilt and regret. Had his inability to get the carrion flyers in time led to his sister's death? Would the valley now fall due to his failure? It was enough to make him break down as the flyer that he assumed to be dead raised her head.
He raised his head in surprise at his sister's weak voice. She was alive!
"Sister... I have come back and I brought help with me." He responded with extreme gentleness to an extent that even he was not even aware that he was capable. "Are you able to fly? You should go to a healer."
Volant shook her head sadly. "I will go to no healer while the valley fights."
Pterano opened his mouth to speak, but then quickly closed it. If his sister was in this state then it would not be wise to intervene, he knew her well enough to know that her stubbornness was more than a match for even his rhetorical skills. Knowing this he quickly decided to help the carrion flyers with their mission. They would need little help due to their numbers, but he still owed it to the valley to share in their risks. They had sacrificed so much for their home, it was only fitting that he as an exile do his part to support the residents who he had let down so long ago.
"Alright, sis. You stay here and be safe... I will go and help clear the skies..."
His words were short-lived, however, as he looked upon the small form that she held in her wings. It was the body of a familiar sharptooth flyer. A flyer that was silent and still.
Pterano froze as everything seemed to go into slow motion for the flyer. Petrie... No... It can't be...
"My son tried to protect me from Sierra..." His sister spoke softly as she continued to rock the flyer's body back and forth. "Your nephew killed the bastard all by himself..." A sob escaped from her beak as Pterano closed his eyes in anguish. Only one of Nunti's wings alerted the poor flyer to anything going on in the outside world. It was the only small comfort that his protégée could offer him in that terrible moment.
Pterano approached his nephew with an outstretched wing as he looked upon his broken form. There were cuts and abrasions on the small flyer, but no obvious fatal injury. This filled Pterano with no hope, however, as it was obvious that his nephew was gone all the same. There was no breath in his body and no...
In a flash, Pterano placed his ear against Petrie's chest. He could hear Volant begin to question him in her grief as he found what he was looking for.
The slightest of movements.
"He is breathing! Petrie lives!"
Volant looked surprised, but then placed her head against the same place in Petrie's chest. Upon hearing the same weak pulse, a yelp of happiness left her. She had only lost one child on this day. Petrie was not dead yet.
Volant continued to cradle Petrie in her wings, as Pterano tried to get her attention again.
Volant sprung to attention at Pterano's raised voice. Now that her grief was overtaken by hope, she was again aware of the world around here. Pterano quickly spoke again.
"You need to send him to a healer now, sister... Nunti will help you." Nunti began to protest, but Petrie raised a wing which stopped him immediately. "The carrion flyers are more than enough to deal with Red Claw's flyers, Nunti, but my nephew needs your help now."
Volant quickly began to secure Petrie in Nunti's grasp as she looked up towards her brother. Now that she was filled with genuine hope for her son, she turned some of her concern towards her brother.
"Brother, where are you going?"
Pterano took on a grim frown as he looked in the sky. The battle for the skies may already be as good as won with the forces that he brought, but he still had a mission to perform. A very personal mission.
"My nephew killed Sierra. A monster that I helped to create. He paid the price that I should have paid." He looked at the two flyers with a fierce glare that made Nunti stare at him with actual fear. There was no doubt that Pterano was serious about this.
"I will take care of Rinkus myself."
The Hidden Canyon:
Chomper ran with the rest of the pack as the front line came into view. And what a view it was.
Despite approaching their allies from the back, details could still be seen by the purple sharptooth. Hidden runners stood two lines deep with their spears outstretched towards the advancing fastbiters. Fastbiters could be seen slashing into thin air as the spears impaled them in their places. The visage of green, blue, and black bodies thrashing on the ground could be seen as the deadly neurotoxin of the orange death did its work to those who had been caught by the hidden runners effective defense. Elsewhere, a confusing mix of yelling hidden runners, growling fastbiters, and glistening spears was complemented by blood which was falling like rain onto the battle field in front of them. It was like a personal manifestation of hell and it awaited them all.
Chomper sucked in a few quick breaths as he attempted to keep up with the rest of the pack. They were not running at full speed as the vines restrained them from their full potential, but they were moving at a very rapid pace. It was all that the small Tyrannosaurus could do to keep pace.
"We are coming behind you, Harthron! Prepare to make a hole!"
At Littlefoot's yell, Chomper could see one of the green hidden runners give a nod as he continued to stab at the enemies in front of him. He and the hidden runner to his side appeared to be getting the brunt of the action if the amount of spear movement was any indication. The enemy had clearly identified the leader of the hidden runners and was struggling to kill him at all costs. No organism would survive without its head, and the same went for packs as well.
A hidden runner was suddenly thrown into the air as a fastbiter grabbed the spear in its mouth and hurled its unsuspecting holder into enemy territory. A symphony of hellish sounds then followed. The sounds of grinding teeth on delicate flesh. The gushing of blood and ripping of viscera. High pitched screams of the disemboweled. A sudden cut off as the victim's windpipe was ripped from his still living body. It was horrifying how the sounds of four seconds dragged out in his mind to seem like an eternity. But still, that was not as bad as the scene that awaited his eyes.
As the victorious fastbiter stood where the hidden runner had once been, his comrades turned their attack towards the hated fiend and stabbed him with their sharpened spear. The green fastbiter gave a choked gasp as blood leaped from his mouth. Further stabs ensued until the fastbiter was face down in a puddle of its own blood. However, the hidden runners, in their haste to avenge their friends and remove the breach in their lines, had forgotten a very basic rule of warfare: never overlook what is right in front of you.
The results were inevitable.
The two hidden runners who had attacked the invader of their defensive line were then leaped upon by a sudden surge of fastbiters. As their comrades were ripped to shreds in front of them by the multi-pronged attack, the rear line of the hidden runners began to falter and retreat towards the center of the canyon. The line was being breached.
Chomper shifted his course immediately. It did not take a genius to figure out that they would need to drive the invaders back and that meant that the breach in the line would be their target. Littlefoot's orders a moment later were safely ignored by his friend as his objectives were already clear.
"You back us up, Path!"
Chomper nodded as Thud, Leap, and Swift passed in front of him towards the edge of the canyon. The rest of the fastbiters made two lines a bit further away from the canyon's edge, towards the center of the hidden runner line. Chomper understood his friend's strategy immediately. In order to allow the hidden runners to regroup they would need to press the attack. Sometimes the best defense was a good offense.
Blood pumped through Chomper's body as he ignored the chaffing of the vines against his flesh. The enemy was in sight and the stench of the battle was imprinted on his nose. The smell of blood and death permeated everything. Only time would tell if he and his friends would join those who had already fallen. He could see Thud and his companions tense up and he instantly knew what was coming. As they leaped into the air, Chomper bared his teeth and hurled himself at the mass of fastbiters that appeared in front of him. With the orange death on his claws, he only focused on making contact.
With a sickening thud Chomper crashed into the massive fastbiter in front of him. A bluish-green monster that had entered his young adult days. As body collided with body, Chomper found that he couldn't think of what lay ahead or even what strategy to use. In the heat of battle, instincts simply took over... and Chomper was well prepared by his ancestry for the butcherous job ahead of him.
Claw collided with claw... Tooth grinded against tooth... Body slammed against body... A confusing torrent of sensations greeted his senses as Chomper slashed and bit with all of his might. He could barely feel his enemy's strikes against his body in this moment of frenzy. He could not tell if his armor was working or if he was simply ignoring grievous injuries. In the heat of the moment he simply did not care. So he simply continued to slash until the green bastard fell to the ground in a crimson heap.
Blood ran down the sharptooth's jaw as the taste of meat and sinew filled his mouth. With the fallen fastbiter's chest being shredded like leaves in a hailstorm and the ground being covered a thick blanket of crimson, Chomper looked like the monster that leaf-eaters warned their children about. His appearance made several of the nearby hidden runners hurry back to the frontline in a mix of awe and horror. Despite the fact that he had saved them, in that moment he scared them just as much as their enemies.
Chomper stared at the scene around him for the first time since he started his assault. With battle-crazed eyes he saw much, but understood little. His brain was simply focusing on survival now and any concept more complex than 'ally', 'enemy', or 'kill' were seen as superfluous and immediately dispensed with. Even had he been thinking clearly, however, he would have been challenged to make sense of the confusing jumble of sights and smells in front of him. All that he knew was that his allies were pressing forward into the wall of teeth and claws and that the secondary line was preventing the enemy from outflanking them and attacking from the back.
Just like what that fastbiter was trying to do to Thud right now...
Chomper roared and charged ahead. There was still more killing left to do.
Grandma Longneck rushed to the aide of fallen longneck as she slapped the advancing Tyrannosaurus with her tail. With a thunderous crash the predator crashed to the ground. It appeared that Red Claw's new minions were new to fighting longnecks.
Finally some luck going our way... She thought to herself as she held back from advancing to Bron's aid as the younger longneck slowly rose to his feet. She and her mate were currently faced with the other two-footers and she could not spare any time for Bron at the moment. Her mate was in no condition to fight on his own.
The thunderous roar of the carnivore refocused her attention on the quandary that she now faced. A tyrannosaurus nearly equal in size to Chomper's parents stood before them. Despite obvious malnutrition from the unforgiving Mysterious Beyond, he was ripped with muscle on account of his adolescence. As a team she and her mate could deal with predators like this in past, but Grandpa's injury and the other predators in the vicinity made this a far trickier proposition. As a result she was extremely cautious.
She walked to the side with her tail dragging behind her. Her tail muscles were primed for another strike if the sharptooth dared to approach. For his part, the sharptooth matched her motions. They two followed in a semicircle as Grandpa Longneck joined beside her.
"The old strike and follow technique?"
She nodded at her mate's suggestion. Let's hope this one is as inexperienced as he looks.
With deliberately slow steps she advanced to the left, with her mate taking a position just to her right. All she had to do is wait for the lumbering behemoth lose his patience and attack.
She didn't have to wait long.
The predator charged with disturbing speed on its two massive legs. It was advancing quickly upon the elderly longneck and she did not waste any time to make her move. With all of the strength she could muster she struck out with her tail.
Only to hit thin air.
Fearing what her miss could mean she circled back around to see the predator's location.
Her mate's tail struck the predator in the legs as he could not maneuver around the both of them. However, what followed next surprised them both.
The predator remained on his feet and completed his charge.
Pain emanated from her rump as the massive predator sunk into her flesh with his razor-sharp teeth. Instinctively, she thrashed from side to side to dislodge the attacker, but her tail could not make contact. He was already at the base of her tail so its impacts would do little. A cascade of pressure and misery seemed to radiate up her spine as the predator held on despite her struggles. That was when the pressure suddenly stopped.
A primal roar the likes of which she had never heard echoed across the ravine. This was followed by the sounds of stomping feet and deafening crashes. It was as if a mountain were making war with another mountain. The ground shook and the air cracked with the sounds of discord and fury. Then, with a sudden sickening crack, the pressure went away. Now only the pain remained.
"Dear! Are you alright?"
Grandma Longneck looked in the direction of her mate's voice and paused in stunned silence at the sight that lay before her. Her mate's feet were covered in crimson from their base to his shoulders. The source was easily ascertained at the horribly mangled body of the Tyrannosaurus could be seen on the ground below. Its neck bent at an unnatural angle and the body had the appearance of the ground after being trampled by spiketails. The predator had been pulverized into oblivion. But what stopped her in her tracks was the sight of her flank.
Blood oozed from the horribly torn flesh as muscle hung from the serious wound. The sharptooth had put all that he had into his attack and though it had meant his doom, the consequence for her was equally grave.
"No... No, I don't think I am..." She replied sadly as her mate pushed his equally mangled body against hers in order to give her support. In the orgy of death and violence around them they had a moment of respite, though both of them knew what their respective injuries most likely entailed.
This battle could very well be their last.
"Stay together, everyone!"
Ura retreated backwards towards the longnecks, but she knew that they would find no respite from their troubles there. The sounds of the battle raged behind them. The sound of slapping tails, mangled cries, and angry roars. Whether the elder longnecks were still alive or long since gone was uncertain to her. She had no choice but to focus on the fiend in front of her.
His massive form was the thing of nightmares. A large scar was present by his left eye, which gave that orb a disturbing appearance in the bright sun. Whereas his other eye glowed with the radiance of the morning sun, his other eye, having its nictitating membrane destroyed, stared outwards with the glow of blood. His entire body was ripped with prominent muscle and the scars of battles gone by. The swimmers could not be blamed for retreating from the beast. They were out of their league here.
With thunderous steps that echoed across the ravine, Red Claw advanced with slow deliberate steps. He did not hurry. He did not attempt to hide his intentions. He simply moved forward with deliberate intent. This was enough to make the swimmers begin to panic. Ura was horrified to see her aunt be among the first to attempt a retreat.
Ura's protest was in vain as the swimmer sprinted as fast as she was able towards the side of the ravine. Being hemmed in on all sides a swimmer would naturally retreat towards the path of least resistance, which in this case was the wide gap to Red Claw's right. This proved to be a terrible mistake.
Ura watched helplessly as the beast grabbed her aunt by the neck. In a split instant that seemed to stretch into eternity, the beast crushed the poor swimmer's windpipe with his terrible jaws. A choked gasp was heard as blood splattered the beast and the ground around him. Then, with a horrible twisting motion, the beast ripped the swimmers head from her body. With a sickening sound her headless body fell to the ground and her aunt's head rolled on its side. Her face remained in an expression of utter terror as her body began the spasms that come with death. Her aunt was no more.
Ura's aunt had been her tutor during her youngling days. From her she had learned how to swim from danger, when to retreat, how to treat buzzer stings, and a multitude of other things. But it seemed that knowledge was no match for instincts in her kind. Swimmers were not made for fighting and they were now paying for their carelessness in charging into the Hidden Canyon.
Ura suppressed a sob as she saw another swimmer try to make a retreat in the other direction, only to be set upon by one of the other two-footers. A pained cry and screams for help could be heard, but she could not tell if they were from him or another dinosaur in this canyon of death. All that she knew was that she had to get the other swimmers to safety anyway possible.
But was that even a possibility now? Her mind raced as the thundering steps of Red Claw could be heard approaching. That was when she heard something above the sounds of battle.
"Over here, swimmers! Get behind us!"
It was Grandma Longneck! With utmost haste she and the other swimmers ran in the direction of the sauropods, nearly not noticing the dead sharptooth until they stumbled over him. Despite this obstacle, however, the surviving swimmers quickly retreated to behind the massive longnecks as Red Claw's angry roar could be heard in the distance. From her vantage point she could see Bron holding one Tyrannosaurus as bay to their side, but with the roar from Red Claw coming from the only outlet out of the canyon that could only mean one thing.
They were being pinned in. The sharpteeth were going in for the kill.
"To your right, Haven!"
Ducky rolled to her left as the leaping fastbiter landed right where she was a moment before. Quickly righting herself, she dodged a strike at her neck and allowed his bite on her shoulder to proceed.
Time to let the vines work their magic.
As the fastbiter bit down upon her vine-covered shoulder she ignored the pain and struck out at her enemy's neck with her tainted claws.
It is not a good idea to leave your neck exposed. Oh no, no, no! Ducky mocked internally as she saw the first hints of the toxin's work in the stricken fastbiter. Within moments the pressure on her should was gone and the offending predator was writhing in agony on the ground below her feet. That was until a spear embedded itself in the fiend's neck, putting an end to its misery.
"Thank you for the save, Stern Claw!"
She simply gave an affirmative grunt to her friend as she began to engage the fastbiters to her left. Ducky decided to do the same as her immediate threat was dealt with.
Which meant she was just in time to see Spike's predicament.
"Brother! Hang on!"
Spike struggled to protect his throat as the fastbiters descended upon his prone form. As their bodies piled against him he could feel their teeth and claws begin to clash against his vine armor. It was a horrifying experience as he knew full well that the strikes would have been fatal if not for the durable vines. Despite his best efforts, however, he could not right himself with the combined weight of the fastbiters upon him. The slashes and cuts began to accumulate as he struggled through the swiftly building pain. All that he could do to protect his neck from strikes...
But that left his face open to attack.
"Ahhhh!!!" Spike screamed as one of his foes bit down upon skull. He could feel the blood trickle down his face as the fiend bit down with tremendous force. Despite the agony, however, he had enough foresight to wedge his claws into the fiend's jaw, which caused him to weaken his bite somewhat. This was enough to buy him time until his friends arrived.
Shluck! Shluck! Shluck!
Spike could feel the pressure on his body dissipate as his vision began to brighten. The beasts were off of him! He could breath again! He was free!
"Finder, are you alrigh... your face!"
Spike blinked at Cera's exclamation as he touched his face where the enemy had bitten down. A stinging pain greeted his senses and as he pulled the hand away he could see the crimson gleam of blood. They had done quite a number on him, but he was still alive thanks to the vine armor.
"I'm alive." Was Spike's gruff answer as he tried to ignore the taste of blood on his tongue. "Thanks..."
He was interrupted as he dodged an incoming attack from another fastbiter. As he parried another attack, he retreated to where Cera and Ducky were located. They seemed equally overwhelmed by the enemy forces.
"Hang on, guys!"
Spike turned his head slightly, and smiled at what he saw.
It was Littlefoot and Ruby! And it looked like that they brought reinforcements.
Ruby glared at the advancing fastbiters as she raised her sharpened stick in unison with the others. She, Littlefoot, Breeze, and Taunt made a makeshift phalanx formation to their side as the enemy fastbiters wisely kept their distance. By now all of them knew that those sharpened sticks contained more than sharp points. No one wanted to be the first one to attack the formation. No one wanted to be the sacrifice for the glory of Red Claw.
She called out to the others in leaf-eater so that their enemies could not hear.
"You should go behind us! Behind us you should go! We are retreating to where the hidden runners are!"
There were no disagreements with the rest of the pack as they retreated behind their comrades. There was something confusing though, if their friends were here then where were the rest of them? Littlefoot vocalized her concerns before she could even raise them with her dearest friend.
"Thud, Swift, Leap! Retreat! Retreat to the hidden runners!"
She looked upon the scene with concern until a familiar face appeared in the center of the enemy.
It was Thud and he was not alone.
"Awww... Don't want to leave anyone behind... How beautifully pathetic! Is this one your lover or something?"
Thud sneered at the contemptuous fastbiter. He was face to face with the one who had taken his place in Red Claw's pack. The one who had made Leap and Swift's lives a living hell. The one who represented the biggest threat that they had ever faced. With anger rising from deep in his being, he responded.
"I will not permit you to hurt my packmates, you fiend!"
Calin clinched his claws tightly as he prepared for what was to come. He would only get one attempt at this. Only one chance to make it work. He owed it to everyone to do it right.
Thud tilted his head and looked to the distance behind him. He could clearly see the form of his son behind the enemy fastbiters that were now four rows deep between them. All that he could do was to give his son a sad smile. He was not certain that this would work or not, but he owed it to everyone to try.
"Oh, how utterly delightful! Your son is here too! What fun we can have!" Calin sneered. "He can watch as you are dismembered and then me and him can spend quality time together afterwards."
Thud smiled. "Do you know what your biggest flaw is, Calin?"
Calin seemed to stare at the fastbiter with a calculating gaze for a moment, but he did not answer. As he did this his Deputy, Froth, edged closer to the fallen fastbiter in front of him, being mindful of the range of Thud's spear. This was noticed by Thud. They couldn't make a strike on Calin due to his cautiousness, but his deputy was another story... It was time for Thud to give the signal.
"You look down on everyone. But threats can always come from below."
Calin stopped. He appeared to be at a loss at understanding what the fastbiter was rambling about.
Leap rose from his prone position and slashed into Froth's underbelly with his tainted claws before sprinting off in the direction of his pack leader. Seeing that their plan had worked, Thud gave the order to retreat. In the confusion that followed Thud had no doubt that he would succeed in escaping through the confused predators.
Calin stared at Froth's anguished form. The claw marks did not appear to tear too deeply into the skin, but it didn't take much for the poison to do its terrible work. Even if he lived, Calin knew that his most competent deputy was out of commission for this battle.
And his forces had let it happen right under their noses!
With an angry roar he grabbed the pointed stick that Thud had dropped in his retreat and gestured to his fastbiters. If Seeker's forces had chosen to retreat behind the hidden runners then he had only one choice in order to reach them again.
"Charge the hidden runners! Show no mercy!"
"Make a line two runners deep! Those in the back will protect those in front! We cannot fail again!"
Harthron quickly gave orders to his forces as the enemy began to advance again. Despite the bodies of nearly a half dozen fastbiters littering the ground, well over two dozen remained. Worse yet, the orange death was obviously losing its effectiveness as their spears became drenched with the blood of their enemies. They would simply have to rely upon brute force here.
And that was something that they were fast running low on.
He looked at what remained of his once powerful force of fighters. The breakthrough of his lines had directly led to the deaths of well over a dozen of his best packmates. Healers... fighters... mothers... fathers... sons and daughters... all had been felled under the brutal assault of their enemies. Now only two thirds of what used to be remained. He knew that he would be lucky to bring anyone home from this terrible battle.
He looked back towards the enemy lines. Fastbiters... easily three deep in an irregular formation greeted his eyes. They advanced at a slower pace at first but then began to approach faster and faster as they got closer to the defensive line. He had seen this before in the initial attack and gave the appropriate order.
"Pointed sticks up front! Second line, put them in between the front!"
Accordingly, two interlocking rows of spears emanated from the hidden runner line as they braced for the coming onslaught. They were well-prepared for any attack against their line. But they had not planned for what happened next.
Upon his daughter's cry, he looked up to see the most curious sight. A spear was flying through the air in the same manner as a sharptooth flyer would dive upon their prey. And like most prey he was trapped. Trapped by his own defensive line and the spears that extended from either side of him. It seemed that one of the enemy had decided to use their dropped spears against them. In that split moment he knew exactly what his fate would be.
Ancestors... Help my people find their way...
The spear killed him instantly.
Ignis fell to her knees as she cradled the fallen body of her dear father. This vibrant dinosaur that had just moments prior been so full of life now lay dead in a pool of his own blood, the spear having impaled itself through his right eye. This was the dinosaur who had trained her in the ways of life... who had guided her through the trials and tribulations of childhood... who had given her love and affection even when she wasn't appreciative of it... who had been there for her throughout her life... He was gone. Gone forever more.
As the sound of roaring footsteps approached her location she grabbed the spear in her hand and let out a choked sob. Despite the tears falling from her eyes, she gazed upon him with a powerful expression. The expression of a natural-born leader.
"The leader is dead!"
She ignored the panicked and mournful cries of her comrades as she continued to stare into her father's vacant eyes. She had one final conversation to make. Even if it was one way.
"I'm sorry, daddy... I'm so, so sorry..." She choked back a sob as the sounds of thundering footsteps got louder. "I can't bring you back... I can't bring mommy back... I can't bring anyone back..."
The panicked cries of some of the hidden runners continued.
"The great leader is gone! We should retreat!"
Ignis ignored the growing panic as she looked upon her father with compassion. Absentmindedly, she gripped her spear with her other hand. "I couldn't save any of you, but I won't let you be in vain... I promise that I will fight to the bitter end..."
The other hidden runners stared in awe as she rose to her feet and placed her spear beside the others in the defensive line. She had the mannerisms of a Valkyrie as she stared at the advancing enemy, who were mere moments away. Gone were the signs of sadness. Gone were the signs of naiveté. What remained was the cold stare of a dinosaur on a mission. Her voice caused dissention in the ranks to stop in their tracks.
"Stand to your duties! We will hold the line or die trying!"
A crevice in the rock wall of the Hidden Canyon:
"The main attack has begun!"
Logos looked at the small flyer with grave concern. That was the signal. Depending on where the main attack occurred that would affect where the Repressor was finally used one last time.
"Where?!" The panicked shout of her mate echoed in the cave.
The flyer struggled to catch his breath as he tried to answer the rainbowface's question.
"The Hidden Canyon! The defenders are trapped there!"
Logos paled. "What?!"
"We can't use this when they are trapped there! That would kill them all!"
The flyer didn't seem to know what to say. He obviously had not been told about the powers that the rainbowfaces were about to unleash upon the valley. For all that he knew, they were just going to cause a rock slide by messing with some rocks. He had no idea about the terror to come.
Logos looked down. "Flyer... Tell Thicknose to take us to the rock wall as planned..."
Chronos interrupted. "Dear..."
Logos insisted. "We have to do this! Maybe they can escape in time..."
The flyer began to fly off but was stopped by Logos.
The flyer turned and looked at the rainbowface with haggard eyes. He flinched slightly when she looked at his feathers, which were covered in blood.
"Flyer, are you hurt?"
The flyer looked down and shook his head. He silence spoke volumes.
Logos stroked his wing with compassion. "It's from someone that you loved?"
The flyer nodded as it choked back sobs. Its pain was evident.
The rainbowface sucked down a breath as she closed her eyes. She then looked into the flyers eyes with a fierceness that surprised them both.
"I can't promise you much, flyer, but I can promise you this: we will put an end to this madness. You have our word on that."
As the flyer turned one last time to leave, Chronos asked a final question.
"What is your name, flyer?"
It paused only for a moment before speaking.
Then without a further word it departed into the sky.
Chronos tried to ignore the memories of a few moments ago as he attempted to make the trigger mechanism work.
Let's see... if the containment unit is here then the force will need to come from over here...
"How is it coming, dear?"
Chronos looked over at his mate with tired eyes. Despite his knowledge of the Repressor being extremely broad, he had never used one in this way before. This was incredibly hypothetical stuff. It was known that if the containment unit failed then the shockwave would kill ally and enemy alike, but few ever attempted to intentionally detonate one... But yet, here they were.
"I think that I almost have it. Do you have the communicator?"
Logos nodded and handed him the device, which also looked like a black rock. Chronos immediately took it and began to flip through its settings. As he called forth a series of instructions that seemed unintelligible to her a sudden noise echoed in the cave.
Repressor Interface Established.
Chronos explained to her what he was doing. "I am using the communicator to translate the Repressor's computer code so that we can 'communicate' with it."
Logos deadpanned. "So you are using a computer to talk to a computer because you don't understand how to use the computer?"
Chronos nodded. "Pretty much, yeah."
Containment Field Setting Locked. Override?
Chronos commanded the machine with cold efficiency. "Yes, override lock."
Moments passed as the two rainbowfaces stared at the black stone. It was hard to believe the destructive potential of such a small object. It was the stuff of nightmares, but sometimes one had to use terror to fight terror. The only question was: what the price would be for the valley? Would it include the brave defenders in the Hidden Canyon? For the matter, would it include...
Containment Field Override failed.
Chronos sucked down a breath as he placed his head into his hands. So that was it then.
"Dear... does this mean..."
Despite the fact that his mate already suspected what it meant, Chronos confirmed the worst.
"It means... It means that we have to do this the hard way..." He gave her a sad smile. "The valley will go on... but it will not go on for everyone."
As the two rainbowfaces joined hands and embraced one another, Mr. Thicknose stepped into the scene. Totally unaware of what the rainbowfaces were trying to accomplish or the tragic discovery that had just been made.
"Are you two alright?"
The Secret Caverns:
Shorty watched the chamber entrance with wary eyes. So much time had gone by yet no word had reached them about the situation outside. Every instinct in his body told him to run from the Secret Caverns and see what it was like outside, but he quashed that impulse with one thought.
I can't be selfish here. They are fighting and probably dying for the valley. The least that I could do is not give our secret hideout away. Regardless of his commitment to duty, however, the situation still troubled him greatly. Why did it have to come to this? Why couldn't the kids be permitted to be kids?
"The wait is terrible, isn't it?"
Shorty looked beside him at the darkened form of Detras. He had a grim expression on his face that betrayed no emotion. However, Shorty could hear the inner pain. Just as Shorty was concerned about his father, Littlefoot, and Guido, Detras was concerned about his own flesh and blood. His own daughter.
"Yeah..." Shorty whispered, as the sounds of snoring could be heard from where the children had been congregated. Considering how hard it was to get them all to take a nap, he didn't want to undo all of that progress.
Detras sat beside the longneck and gave a few sniffs in the direction of the entrance before settling down. Shorty often wondered what his brother and his friends could smell with their improved snouts but he was afraid to ask. Now he simply hoped that he would have the opportunity to ask anything to them. For all that he knew they could all be dead right now.
"The fear of losing my daughter... is something I have had to deal with for a long time." Detras admitted. "Eventually we decided that if my little girl was going to be brave enough to face the dangers, then we had to be brave enough to accept them as well. But it is so damn hard..."
Despite his agitation Shorty couldn't resist teasing the fast runner. "Such language... what would your children say?"
Detras gave him a teasing look. "I'm not sure... but at least they wouldn't call me an ass... they have that name reserved for you."
Shorty shook his head. "I can thank Ruby for that one..." Despite himself he let out a little laugh. It was the most inappropriate moment for levity in a way, but at the same time it was what they both needed at the moment. They were faced with something that they couldn't fight against and any respite from that was a welcome relief.
Detras chuckled. "Yeah, I guess being called an ass is what I deserved after pranking her and Littlefoot like that. Though I wish the little ones would have gone a few more seasons without learning that particular word."
Shorty nodded. "I hope that we are able to see both of them again."
Detras smiled a sad smile. "Same here, Shorty. Same here."
Shorty rose in surprise. "What the hell is that?!"
The sound of awakening children could be heard as Pearl began rousing them in a hurry.
"Time for us to go, children..."
The screams of the children could now be heard as Pearl rushed them out of the side entrance of the chamber into the evacuation route. It was at this time that Detras grabbed Shorty.
"Go with the children, Shorty... I need to stay here and distract them..."
In response Shorty ran into the front entrance and proceeded to rub himself against the rocks.
Detras hissed. "Shorty, what are you doing?!"
Shorty took on a grim expression. "They want the children, sir. Otherwise they wouldn't have followed our scent in here. If it's children that they want then I will be the perfect decoy..."
Detras ran up to the longneck. "No, Shorty! You need to..."
Both looked back in horror as the snout of a fastbiter came into view. It was soon followed by the head of the raptor. In a split second the glowing eyes of the predator were staring directly on the duo.
Detras breathed in a short gasp as he considered his options in that split moment. In an instant he determined his plan.
The two dinosaurs sprinted through the passageway mere seconds before the fastbiters decided to follow.
The chase was on.
Viscond quickened his pace as Westron followed. The scent of children was getting stronger as they advanced into the mysterious caverns. Until they finally encountered a rather large chamber. A chamber that contained the telltale scents of both children and fastbiters. Scents that were both recent in their origin.
"Did they get them?!"
Viscond looked at his deputy as he considered the evidence. Yes, the smell of children was quite recent, but it seemed to trail off somewhere... He followed the trail and ended up at another entrance.
"There is not fastbiter scent here! The children escaped!" Viscond shouted with great relief.
"Not all of them!"
At his deputy's interjection, he ran to where he was sniffing and took a deep breath. The scent of a young longneck and a fast runner greeted his nose... as well as the stench of the two fiends that they had been chasing all this time. Two dinosaurs were in danger because they had risked their lives in order to defend the children. A noble sacrifice... and one that he would not allow to be carried to its logical conclusion.
"Two of them led the sharpteeth away... We have to help them!"
The skies outside the Great Valley:
Rinkus barely dodged another diving attack by a carrion flyer as he struggled to regain altitude. Things had been going extremely well for his forces. The valley's flyers were in full retreat... the valley's defenses were collapsing... even his unstable friend was out of the picture so he could take all of the glory for himself... but now things had changed. He had no idea why the carrion flyers were attacking or where they had come from, but he was sure that they were outmatched. With little hesitation he gave the call to retreat.
Sharptooth flyers of every description were flying from the valley like a stampede in the air. Carrion flyers were seemingly coming from everywhere to strike at them. There was no shelter... there was no respite. There was only terror. The irony of Red Claw's flyers being on the receiving end of terror was not lost on Rinkus, but that did not make it any easier to take.
Rinkus looked up just in time to see what was about to collide with him.
Both flyers descended into a vertical dive as talon locked with talon and wing batted against wing. As a result, the two flyers were falling like rocks to the ground below.
"Pterano?" Rinkus questioned in a mixture of fear and surprise. The larger flyer's brown face looked down upon him with contempt as the sky and ground alternated being in his field of view due to the uncontrolled spin of their descent.
Pterano gritted his beak. "Remember me, Rinkus?" A terrible pain emanated from his right eye as Pterano impaled it with the tip of his beak. A second and a third strike followed making the eye completely useless. As waves of debilitating pain flowed across his body, Rinkus began to convulse in pain. That was when what remained of his vision was soon filled with the image of a brown talon.
"Ahhh!!! Stop it, I beg you!"
Pterano growled, a horrific sound coming from a flyer. Rinkus could no longer see his former 'ally' and current nemesis, but he could still hear his anger and feel his talons embedded in his flesh. The spinning of the dive seemed to become more violent as they began to flip head over tail in an unseen sky.
"I will do anything that you want!" Rinkus finally begged. He was at the mercy of his enemy and he knew that bravado would get him nowhere. He would have to do what he always did to ensure his survival: say whatever needed to be said. The truth did not matter; the only thing that mattered was the consequences for himself. Nonetheless, with Pterano's fury he fully expected a sharp rebuke or another attack. But he did not expect the response that he received.
"Can you save my nephew, Rinkus?" He could hear the sneer in the flyer's voice as the air whooshed by his ears at a painful volume. They were truly in an uncontrolled dive now. "Can you save Petrie?"
Another bite caused convulsions of pain to overwhelm Rinkus's body. He was desperate now. He would do anything to survive. Anything to continue on.
"If you kill me then you will be no better than I am!" He choked out. "What will your nephew think of you doing that?"
The wind zipped by as the dive continued. For several seconds, Rinkus thought that he had made some headway with Pterano and was struggling of thinking what else to say when Pterano suddenly spoke directly into his ear.
"My nephew tricked your people into attacking the hidden runners... he killed mother flyers and babies for food... he did every kind of vile, disgusting thing when it was necessary for the wellbeing of those he loved." Pterano sucked in a breath as the air noticeably became thicker. They were approaching the ground now. "Have you ever cared about anyone that much, Rinkus? Anyone other than yourself?"
He had no idea what the flyer was rambling about. Pterano couldn't be the uncle of one of another kind. But at that moment he didn't particularly care about all of that. The ground was approaching, but he could not see it. He could not maneuver. He was completely helpless. Because of this he did something that he sparingly had done in his life.
He told the truth.
"No! I care only for myself... please don't do this!" He realized how pitiful that he sounded, but he didn't care. He would do anything to survive. "Please let me live! Please don't kill me!"
The flyer continued to whimper until Pterano finally gave a response.
"I won't kill you, Rinkus."
Rinkus couldn't believe his ears. Pterano was willing to let him go?
"I will leave you in peace... good luck flying blind!"
Suddenly the pressure was gone. He was free! But which side was up and which side was down? All of the spins had confused him and without eyesight he couldn't make any sense of what was happening. He was utterly helpless. Just like all of the victims that he had killed for his own benefit.
With tremendous effort he forced his eyes open struggled to see anything out of his badly assaulted orbs. Only hazy shapes greeted his vision. Blue and white... brown and gray... Everything seemed to merge together as he rolled uncontrollably. Struggling to extend his wings, the spinning finally stopped and the colors began to stabilize. Thinking quickly, he steered towards the blue sky.
Rinkus seethed internally. Pterano had planned to put him in a situation where he would be killed by his own actions, but Rinkus had outsmarted him. Despite still being unable to perceive what was up and what was down, he had followed his instincts and righted himself. Now he would survive and be able to right this terrible wrong that had been brought against him. He would get his revenge on the bastard that had done this to him. But his thoughts of vengeance were interrupted by a sudden realization.
The sky shouldn't smell like water.
Pterano stared coldly at the lake below as Rinkus crashed head-first into its depths. When the body finally surfaced with its head at an impossible angle, he knew that his work was done.
The last of his nephew's two attackers were dead.
As he stared at the visage of the Great Valley in front of him, he could see the last of the carrion flyers leave its vicinity. They had done what they wanted to do and they had left without further concern. Such were the antics of carrion flyers. They cared for themselves and no one else.
Kind of like the flyer that he had just sent to his doom.
...and kind of like the flyer that he used to be.
Pterano sighed. His own personal demons had helped to cause this entire mess. Rinkus and Sierra used to be his minions before they found new management. Now his own nephew was on the verge of death and the valley itself was under siege. No doubt assisted along by the flyers that had just been killed and maimed in the carrion flyer's assault.
But the valley is not gone yet... A voice called in the flyer's head. You failed your nephew... don't fail to protect what he loves...
Pterano sucked in a breath and raised his wings in a determined gesture. The battle wasn't over yet and he would ensure that he did his part to defend what his nephew valued and stood for. He would prove that he was different from the flyer he had just slain. He would prove it through his deeds.
I will help his friends or die trying.
With a forceful flap of the wings Pterano rose into the air. He had no idea what he would see when he entered the Hidden Canyon, but he did know that he would either leave it victorious or dead.
The Secret Caverns:
"Oh no! We're trapped!"
Detras and Shorty stood at the end of a long tunnel. The brilliant bright circle shined through the opening at the other end of the tunnel, but a large chasm with briskly flowing water greeted them. It was nothing that a fast runner would have trouble navigating and swimming, but it would prove to be too much for a longneck.
"Come, Shorty! We need to find another path!"
As the two began to retreat down the passageway, the sounds of running feet greeted their ears as the terrible forms of two fastbiters sudden appeared out of their only possible exit. They were trapped.
"I'm so sorry, Shorty..." Detras spoke sadly as the two fiends began their final approach towards them. The waters below were not an option for Shorty and Detras refused to leave a young one behind. The only thing that was left to do now was to wait to die.
Shorty took a deep breath. I may be doomed, but Detras is not... A small tear left his eyes as he determined what he was going to do.
"I learned something important from my brother: sometimes sacrifices are necessary."
The eyes of the two dinosaurs locked as Shorty gave the elderly fast runner a sympathetic expression. He knew that Detras would blame himself for what was about to happen, but Shorty would not permit himself to sacrifice himself unnecessarily. No, one of them would have to live in order to tell the tale. With that in mind Shorty finished his speech.
"Tell my brother that I died brave."
Detras realized what the longneck was about to do, but could not react in time. "No, Shorty, don't..."
Shorty didn't give him time to finish as he pushed the fast runner over the edge of the chasm and into the water below. The protests of the fast runner could be heard as he struggled to guide himself down the stream. Detras had achieved safety. At least Ruby and her siblings would not be left without a father.
Shorty closed his eyes and awaited the end. Only know did he allow himself to break down and cry at the fate which had befallen him. His short life was coming to an abrupt end. His only solace was that many others would live because of his sacrifice. But now was the time for him to pay for his bravery...
Shorty turned around in surprise to see that one of the fastbiters had been impaled by a spear. The beast was beginning to jerk and spasm as the terrible toxin began to enter the fiend's system.
Shorty stood in amazement. He might not die here after all.
"Westron, let the stick go! He is trying to throw you!"
The next second seemed to drag on as Viscond's worst fears came to pass.
With a trembling arm, the fastbiter gripped the pointed stick with his clawed hand and jerked back. With the stick still impaled in his thrashing body, Westron was thrown with tremendous force into the cavern ceiling. The poor hidden runner fell with a tremendous crash into the cavern floor below.
"Westron! No!" Viscond screamed as he sprinted towards his ailing friend and deputy. But he was already too late.
With terrible force, the fastbiter struck the prone hidden runner with his powerful feet. With the sound of cracking bone and the sudden thrashing of the remainder of his friend's body, Viscond knew that his friend was dead. Killed by the same fastbiter that he had condemned to oblivion.
Viscond quaked in anguish. His trusted deputy and companion... the same dinosaur who had helped him manage the pack during his one-dinosaur mission against Red Claw... the same dinosaur who gave him an outlet for his thoughts even in the darkest days... his best friend... was no more. A mixture of rage and shame filled him. Rage at the injustice of the world and shame that his friend had to die fighting what he thought of as his battle. Viscond knew that if anyone should have to die for the valley then it should be him, the same one that took the battle to Red Claw in the first place. It was in this dark place that Viscond snapped.
And charged the two fiends.
With uncontrolled rage, the hidden runner struck the ailing fastbiter with his spear with all of the self-control of a threehorn trampling an enemy underfoot. Stab after stab impaled the fallen fastbiter and splattered its blood across the long passageway. He would not merely allow the poison to kill his friend's murderer. No, he was hell-bent on taking that step himself.
Viscond grinned with unbound malice as he watched the fastbiter writhe in agony. He could not bring his beloved friend back but he could put an end to his killer. Unfortunately for him, however, he did not see the other fastbiter apprach...
Viscond regained focus as Shorty's words reached him. With sudden concern he turned in the direction of the longneck's voice.
Only to see the fastbiter already in mid-leap.
Viscond rolled to his right as the predator landed in his original location, but quickly realized his mistake as the stick went rolling off of the precipice of the passageway and into the flowing waters below.
Shorty stared in horrified silence at the plight of the hidden runner. His friend laid dead in a bloody mess on the cavern floor, while the predator proceeded to close the distance on the defenseless dinosaur. Viscond had no weapon and his armor would provide little defense against a full-fledged attack by a vengeful fastbiter. He was as good as dead.
But Shorty now had a way out. While the fastbiter edged closer to the fiend, he was leaving the exit unguarded. Shorty could leave right now and leave Viscond to his fate. No one would blame him for making that choice and no one would even know...
No. Shorty resolved. I have to help!
Shorty looked from side to side for anything that might help the hapless hidden runner. However, all that was present in the narrow passage was the gore of the recently killed, the dead hidden runner's stick, and fallen rocks.
Shorty blinked. The stick! That could work.
Viscond retreated slowly through the darkened passage. There was no escape here. There was no hope. His only options were to either meet his doom at the claws of the massive predator in front of him or to take his chances in the swift currents of the waters below. A swimmer or a fast runner could navigate those, but a hidden runner? It would be suicide. Nonetheless he prepared to launch himself into the dark abyss. A small chance of survival was still better than none...
Dink... Dink... Dink...
Viscond looked in amazement as a sharpened stick, his friend's spear, came flopping his way. But how? Who could have...
"Hey, tooth-for-brains! Forget about your lunch, did ya?!"
Viscond couldn't believe what he was seeing. What was the longneck doing? Why wasn't he making an escape?
"Forget about me?"
The fastbiter turned with an enraged expression. The audacity of a leaf-eater challenging a nearly full-grown fastbiter was too much for the predator could bear as he lamented at this situation.
"I will enjoy gutting you! You pathetic sap-sucker!"
Viscond knew that the longneck could not understand the predator's words, but he certainly could. Since the fastbiter was distracted that meant one thing: he could strike with impunity. He did not let the longneck's bravado go unrewarded.
With as much speed as he could muster Viscond grasped the spear and placed it under his arm. Then with tremendous force he charged headlong towards the fiend's backside.
A tremendous roar emanated from the fastbiter as the spear pierced through his lower abdomen and ripped through his entrails. A sickening splashing sound could be heard as the mortally wounded fastbiter's bowels fell out of his body and onto the rocks below, filling the entire area with the foul stench of blood and excrement. Viscond's strike had not been in vain. The beast had been mortally wounded.
But that did not mean that he was dead yet.
Viscond looked in horror as the dying fastbiter landed upon the green longneck as it thrashed about aimlessly in agonizing pain, sending both Shorty and the dying predator rolling towards the precipice.
"Hang on, kid!" Viscond ran with all of his might towards the troubled longneck as he continued to roll down the uneven ridge towards the abyss below. This child had just saved his life and he would do anything to return the favor. As the fastbiter fell into the water below, Viscond struck out with his hand and reached for the longneck's hind leg...
Only to miss it entirely. The flailing body of the falling longneck paid testament to his failure. The longneck had saved his life, but he could not save his. He would share the same watery grave as the fallen fastbiter. He could only watch as the child descended into the dark waters below.
As the falling child's scream echoed in the cave, the sound of a splash and the thrashing of legs could be heard in the water. Screams were then replaced with panicked cries and gasps for air, which became lighter and lighter as the child was pushed away by the swift current. Then finally there was silence. Viscond was all alone in the empty cavern. No friends, no enemies, and no children could be heard in the darkened tomb.
Only silence remained as his companion.
The Hidden Canyon:
"Leap over them!"
Ignis braced herself against the ground as the sharptooth's body impaled itself on her spear. With two rows of spears, this meant that a fighter in one row could defend against fighters from above or below.
But it also meant that her spear would be out of commission while it was stuck in the dying fiend. With as much strength as she could muster she placed her weight on her front foot and then shifted it swiftly to the back, leveraging as much force as she could muster.
With a swiftness that could only come in the heat of battle, she raised her spear to greet the enemy. The line had to be maintained, no matter the costs. That was when she noticed something interesting.
The enemy was retreating back... and an opening was appearing in front of the defensive line.
Ignis smiled. It seemed like their steadfast defense was working. The enemy had lost so many of the members that they were losing cohesion. In such a circumstance every instinct in her body told her to press the attack... to drive the enemy into Chomper's parents... to end this battle once and for all!
But she hesitated...
Daddy always told me to see under the obvious... what could they be planning?
As she examined the seemingly retreating fastbiters things began to fall into place in the hidden runner's mind. The retreat is orderly so they are not panicking... This revelation led to the next logical insight. So the retreat must be planned... and if the retreat is not made in panic then it is made to increase distance... She nodded as the pieces began to fall into place.
"Ignis? Should be we press the attack? They seem to be retreating..."
Being transfixed by her thoughts, Ignis ignored the deputy. Had she been more aware of his words, she would have realized that he technically was the next-in-command for the battle, whereas she was merely another fighter. The fact that she was being sought after for orders was not lost on everyone else, however, as they paused in wait of her orders.
Her ponderings continued. ...or they could be retreating in order to buy time... but why would they... Her eyes went wide. The dropped pointed sticks... oh crap!
It was at that moment that she noticed that Seeker's pack was pressing the attack once again. Only Spike and Leap's injured forms could be seen behind their lines. As the fastbiters leaped over the defensive line and back into enemy territory, Ignis realized that she was too late to warn them.
"The pointed sticks! They're going to use the pointed sticks!"
Unfortunately, Littlefoot and his companions could not hear the yelling over the roars of the enemy or the moans of the dying.
It took all of their concentration in order for them to navigate around and over the dead and dying. The ground was slick with blood and viscera as the canyon's stream began to flow red with the lifeblood of the fallen. The resulting sight was overwhelming even for a sharptooth and made it difficult to process everything at once. Under the harsh bright circle, living and dead both looked demonic under the blanket of crimson. The cascade of smells made the situation worse, as the blood of dozens intermixed with the smell of death, excrement, fear, anguish, and pain. In the resulting hellscape it was hard to identify friend or foe... living or dead... it all bleed together in a horrific waking nightmare from which only the dead could hope to awaken.
The orders that Littlefoot had given before their renewed assault still echoed in his own mind.
"Okay, Leap and Finder? You stay here..."
Spike protested this. "No, Seeker, I can..."
Littlefoot shook his head. "No disagreements! You both are badly injured. You can help the hidden runners if the line is breached..." He looked over at the others as he continued his speech. "And Swift? Thud? You stay here as well. The hidden runners need all of the help that they can get."
"What are we doing?" Came Cera's impatient response, preventing Thud and Swift from making similar objections to Spike's.
Littlefoot took on a grim expression. "Thud killed his deputy, now we will kill Calin. With him dead the fastbiters should be left confused and vulnerable."
Chomper nodded at this. The little biter was now covered in blood from head to toe, with the nictitating membranes of his eyes giving them a crimson glow. He looked more like a creature that one would see in their nightmares as opposed to a youngling sharptooth.
"What then, Seeker?"
Littlefoot grinned at Chomper's question. It was a horrific sight coming from the bloodied fastbiter. It carried no delight at all.
"Then we have the hidden runners advance. Time to kill them all!"
Littlefoot charged a bit ahead of his packmates. The plan was simple: launch a single brute-force attack on Calin and then flee. The hidden runners could then press the attack and maybe, just maybe, they could open up a path to the entryway. Then they could evacuate into the defenses of the valley. But first they had to find their hated nemesis in this sea of retreating bodies. That was when he smelled it.
Littlefoot turned slightly as he traced the scent of his hated enemy. A lone fastbiter stood in-between two columns of fastbiters, a conspicuous sight in the otherwise disorganized mass. He could not see his true coloration under the layers of blood and grime, but he could assume with some certainty that this was their target. No one else would be organizing the forces in such a direct way. This had to be him.
With renewed motivation Littlefoot sprinted ahead further, unwittingly displacing himself from his allies. He had no idea that he was running faster than they could keep up. His eyes were simply focused on one dinosaur... one kill... with all that the fiend had put him through he wanted to be the one to strike the killing blow...
Littlefoot never saw the spear coming.
Suddenly fastbiters gather one either side of him as another fastbiter forced him to the ground with his spear. In his terrible pain it took a few moments for Littlefoot to realize what had happened. Calin's own voice confirmed his worst fears.
"How does it feel to be on the receiving end of a trick, Seeker?!"
Littlefoot tried to suck down a breath as the pain in his chest became unbearable. He knew that he had been speared, but he did not yet know of the severity. But he could only assume the worst as the sound of fighting erupted around him.
The scream of his beloved Ruby seemed to confirm something in his mind. Looks like this is the end for me... The pain only continued to grow as Calin's grip on the spear did not waver. He was stuck on the ground.
"Your sticks come in quite handy, Seeker! The hidden runners are just about to see that first hand!"
Littlefoot growled despite the pain that this caused in his burning torso. "Do you honestly think...." Littlefoot choked out. "...that Red Claw will keep you alive? He will dispose of you just like he does everyone else."
Calin laughed. A cold, bitter sound. "You don't think that I know this, Seeker? He will kill me once I have done my job, but you know what? I don't care anymore!"
Calin pushed in hard on the spear as Littlefoot choked out a gasp. The pain was overwhelming now and every heartbeat made Littlefoot shiver in pain.
"What does it matter anyway?!" Calin was in a crazed frenzy. "You live and then you die! Only some of us, the strong, get any recognition, power, or influence! That is all that matters!"
Littlefoot coughed as he began to taste something metallic in his mouth.
"In the end no one will remember you, you insolent fool! I will kill and torture everyone you love and when Red Claw finally kills me at least I will now that it is I, Calin, will live on in song as his deputy." Calin had a horrifying look on his face as he looked into Littlefoot's eyes with malicious intent. "But I will have some fun with all of you first! Perhaps starting with the pink one that loves you so much..."
Littlefoot closed his eyes at Calin's threat. As the sounds of battle erupted around him, he had to admit that this was probably the end of his pack.
No... I will not let it end like this...
Something snapped in Littlefoot as he grabbed the spear which was pinning him to the ground with a firmness that seemed impossible for one as injured as him.
"What the hell?!" Calin struggled to keep the impaled fastbiter pinned to the ground, but without success.
I will put an end to this... Littlefoot was not operating on logic now, nor on instinct, he had simply made up his mind.
"This is impossible!" Calin screamed as Littlefoot rose to his two feet shakily and, with power that seemed to come from out of nowhere, began to life the base of the spear.
Your pack will know fear.... Regardless of the risk to himself, he would ensure that his friends got to safety.
"Die! Why won't you die?!" Calin flailed wildly as he refused to drop the spear. As Littlefoot continued to rise onto both feet, both the spear and Calin were raised off of the ground. It was a sight that made the fighting around them stop in horrified silence. It was then that Littlefoot spoke with the assurance of one who knew that he was already dead and who no longer cared.
"You may have killed me, but how many of you will die before I fall?!" Littlefoot roared with a fury that made even the fastbiters advancing on the hidden runners freeze. They seemed to be asking themselves the same thing: how was he still alive?
Red Claw advanced upon the gravely injured longneck with growing bloodlust. They fell too easily. After the young male was out of the way then the elderly female would follow... The elderly male was already as good as dead... Then he would finish off all of the swimmers that remained.
Anticipating the longneck's move, Red Claw moved to the right. His assistant, however, was not as savvy to fighting longnecks as he was.
The sharptooth rolled his eyes at the incompetence of his new minions. The first one had been killed by the elderly male, a rather pathetic end, and the surviving one was now falling for the most basic of techniques. Red Claw knew that he could not lament the incompetence of his underlings in the heat of battle, however, as he prepared himself for the strike that he knew would come.
He didn't have to wait long.
The longneck screamed in pain as Red Claw dodged his tail strike and then bit down on the exposed tail. The cracking of bone confirmed that he had made his mark. Now he would make short work of the longnecks and the rest of the defenders would fall quickly. All he had to do was finish off this healthy one and...
Red Claw closed his eyes as he ducked his head away from the sudden intruder.
A flyer? Damned annoyances...
Red Claw opened one of his eyes only to see the flyer attempt to strike at his eye again. A quick dodge to the left prevented that outcome. A flurry of dodges and missed attempts to bite the flyer failed as he saw what the flyer had attempted to achieve.
The longneck had been given time to retreat.
"Wha... Pterano?! thanks..."
Red Claw could not understand the gibberish that the longnecks were muttering, but he could see that their 'savior' flyer had only bought them time. This he would soon remedy by advancing on his prey. With a quick roar from himself, the other two-footer quickly began to advance beside Red Claw. Now they would finish the job...
As he again approached the longneck, however, he heard the sounds of battle suddenly come to a stop in the distance. A roared threat followed that echoed across the canyon.
"You may have killed me, but how many of you will die before I fall?!"
Red Claw paused.
What in the hell is this?
Ruby stood in amazement at the sight in front of her. Between the heartbreaking scene of her friend being stabbed by the spear and his stunning return to his feet, her mind could not comprehend what was taking place. But even that paled in comparison to what happened next.
With both hands firmly on where the spear entered his chest, Littlefoot swung his body to the left. In a flailing motion, Calin was slammed headfirst into the rock wall, knocking him unconscious. Leaving Littlefoot, with the spear still stuck in his chest, alone between the amazed fighters. Littlefoot may have been gravely injured.
But he was not dead yet.
"How many sharpteeth have fallen at our claws? How many of your brothers and sisters have we eaten? How many of your sleep stories have we crushed?"
Ruby approached Littlefoot now, who almost appeared to be in a trance. What are you doing, Littlefoot?! Come back to me and let's get out of here! Despite her thoughts, however, Ruby did not speak to him. Some part of her mind told her that Littlefoot had a plan.
And she was right.
"Do you think that we will stop now? Do you even know who we are? Do you Red Claw?!"
It was only know that Ruby saw the full extent of what was happening around here. All fighting had ended at the disturbing sight and even the adults on the other end of the field of battle seemed to be holding back because of the stunning turn of events. That was when Ruby caught a surprising sight of her own.
Red Claw is watching this... Both he and a smaller two-footer appeared to watching with a mix of confusion and bewilderment.
She turned back to Littlefoot and saw that he was giving her a knowing look in his eyes. That caused her to examine his chest.
The pointed stick is barely in... but then how is it... That was when she realized the answer. The vines! The vines have the stick wedged in place! Waves of relief washed over her as her initial impression of his injury had proved unfounded. Littlefoot might still live through this after all! But that was when the other aspect of this revelation came to her. But the enemy doesn't know about any of this! They think he is invincible... The logical consequences of that were not lost on her. If they couldn't win through force then they could win through fear.
And the smell of fear that was now coming from the enemy fastbiters was overwhelming.
Very quickly, Ruby made claw gestures to her injured packmates behind the hidden runner defensive line. It was time for the leaf-eaters to take advantage of the situation.
Little did she know that help was already on the way.
"They are trapped in the Hidden Canyon!"
Whitehorn was haunted as Guido's warning continued to echo in his mind. Their best defenders were probably being slaughtered while the threehorns guarded a peaceful entrance. Keeping the smallest of forces at the other entrance, he and the rest of the threehorns sprinted towards the other entrance.
Hang on, everyone! We are coming!
Red Claw stared at the fastbiter in the distance. So this was Seeker...
"You cannot beat us! You cannot kill us! We have been chosen by the Stone of Cold Fire to destroy you!"
Red Claw sneered at this in a mixture of rage and disgust. He could not believe that his fastbiters were being scared into inaction by another dinosaur's dying words. His response came immediately.
"We shall see, Seeker! I fear no stone!
In his single-minded rage, Red Claw did not notice the longnecks and swimmers quietly evacuating to the other side of the battlefield.
"We shall see, Seeker! I fear no stone!
Littlefoot smiled. He had gotten Red Claw's attention. Now it was time to use his mind game for full effect.
Thanks Calin... you unwittingly gave us the perfect opportunity. Littlefoot took a closer look at what Ruby had noticed earlier: the spear had only made superficial wound and was being wedged in place by the vines. This will hurt, but it will be worth it. Gritting his teeth, Littlefoot again grasped the spear.
And pulled it out.
As the spear fell to the ground with a soft thud, the fastbiters quickly backed away from the blood-soaked fastbiter. Facing away from the retreating fastbiters, Littlefoot could not see the fearful expressions on their faces, nor could he see that several of them had laid down in an act of submission. But the scents of fear and confusion were enough to confirm to him that his ploy was working wonderfully. Now to distract Red Claw for a few more moments...
"Oh, but you should, Red Claw! For we are the chosen... Soon we will finish what we started long ago."
Red Claw's massive form could be seen slowly approaching the insolent fastbiter as swimmers could be seen running passed the hidden runner lines. The evacuation to back within the Great Valley had begun.
"What do you mean?" Came Red Claw's roared response.
Littlefoot smiled as he could see that Red Claw had taken the bait. But where were the longnecks? And what about Thud and the others? He brushed that aside for a moment as he responded to the malicious sharptooth.
"You remember how your son died, do you not? I'm sure the other sharpteeth have mocked you about it. Being killed by leaf-eater children... Do you ever regret raising such a worthless son?"
Gasps of shock erupted from the enemy fastbiters at Littlefoot's pronouncement. None of them would have ever dared to speak to Red Claw like that. The fact that he had willingly done so only added to the impression that there was something unnatural about him and his followers.
"I will enjoy killing you, fastbiter! My son was strong! You are weak and feeble!"
Littlefoot made a dismissive gesture with his clawed hand.
"And the leaf-eater children were smart. Even when he chased them across the Mysterious Beyond they did not give into their fear. We followed the trail and kept moving forward."
Red Claw paused in his advance. "We?"
Littlefoot looked out of the corner of his eye. The swimmers were now where his pack was and being urged forward by Bron, but his grandparents and the injured members of his pack were nowhere to be seen. Where in the hell were they?
Littlefoot sighed and then continued. "Do you ever wonder what happened to those five leaf-eater children?" The rumble of the feet of Chomper's parents could be heard as presumably Bron took over defense of the entrance. "The ones who beat you time and time again?" The towering forms of the two sharpteeth were now casting shadows over him. Littlefoot now knew that he had the forces that he needed. "The ones that other sharptooth treat as legends to scare their children into behaving? The leaf-eaters who killed the strongest of them all?"
Red Claw roared, but said nothing. He was thoroughly enraged now. His two dozen fastbiters were incapacitated due to their fear of these dinosaurs and several of the leaf-eaters had now escaped into safety. Now the fastbiters were heading his direction out of fear of this charlatan. His plan was quickly coming undone.
That's right, Red Claw... move closer... Littlefoot thought to himself. Just get into range...
That was when he saw it. His grandfather had collapsed near where the hidden runner line still stood, Ruby and Cera appeared to be attending to them. They were all in the danger zone...
The voice of Thud suddenly spoke into Littlefoot's ear.
"Seeker, your grandparents..."
Littlefoot did not wait for him to finish. "Get Swift, Leap, Finder, and the others out of here." Littlefoot began to break into a trot. "I have to finish this."
A crevice in the rock wall of the Hidden Canyon:
"Go, Logos! I will... I will take care of this..."
Logos shook in agitation at Chronos's words. Did he honestly expect her to run away while he made the ultimate sacrifice? As far as she was concerned, she had made her choice when she selected him as her mate. They were to be inseparable until the bitter end.
...and just because the bitter end was here that did not mean that she was going to renege on her sacred vow.
"To hell you will! I am staying with you! Now either crush the damn stone or I will!"
"What is going on here?"
Both rainbowfaces stared in shock at the sudden intrusion. It was Mr. Thicknose. Why was he still here?
Chronos spoke first. "You have to leave, sir! We are going to cause the rock slide!"
Logos continued. "Please go! Let us take care of this!"
The dinosaur did not go, however, but continued to walk into the crevice. With each footstep of the massive dinosaur, the walls vibrated. It was as if he couldn't hear them.
Chronos's voice became quite panicked now. "Please go! You have to train the younglings... Let us do this!"
Mr. Thicknose stopped. "You sound like that you don't plan on coming back..."
Logos swallowed. "Please just go..." It was horrific enough that she and her mate would die in this cataclysm; she did not want someone else to die as well. Especially not a kind soul like Mr. Thicknose. She didn't realize that she was crying until Mr. Thicknose spoke again.
"I take it that stone is what will cause the rock slide?"
Chronos and Logos both looked at the stone, before gazing upon the dinosaur with surprise. How could he have made such a deduction?
Mr. Thicknose laughed. A sound that carried little happiness at the moment. "It is obvious... I am not stupid, you know. I don't know what you think about us people from down here... but you can tell the other star people that we are not as stupid as we look."
Logos was agape. "What... how?"
Mr. Thicknose continued. "It was obvious since the day that you arrived. You knew things that no one else would know about... you knew about the Stone of Cold Fire... and your mate told me about the stars... more knowledge than even a flyer would know..." Mr. Thicknose smiled. "I never had children, so I got my joy by teaching others... that is one kind of immortality isn't it..." His face was jovial but his eyes suddenly turned sad. "...it was an honor to finally get the chance to learn from all of you. You made an old dinosaur quite happy."
Chronos protested. "Please... we can't have you do this! It is our..."
Mr. Thicknose interrupted. "Responsibility? Pah! Your responsibility is for your children."
Logos sputtered. "Our what?"
The elderly dinosaur laughed. "I guess star people don't lay eggs then... otherwise you would have noticed what that little bump in your abdomen meant."
Logos stepped back and looked at her abdomen. She had simply assumed that she was getting fat and lazy due to the valley's plentiful food, but... I'm going to be a mother... Chronos hugged her as she fell into his embrace. That changed everything.
Mr. Thicknose smiled at the display. "Now go, both of you... Just tell me how to make this work."
Logos looked up with tear streaked eyes. Tears of both happiness for her family and sadness for the sacrifice that would now have to be made for the valley. Chronos answered for them both.
"You... you... just have to crush it... When Littlefoot gives the signal... We took care of the rest... but... but sir... we can't ask this of you... we just can't!" His next statement was just as helpless as it was sincere. "The valley needs you! It needs a teacher!"
Mr. Thicknose smiled as he gently lowered his nose to both of them. "It already has two of them... Now go!"
In a flurry of movement the rainbowfaces sprinted out of the crevice with as much speed as they could muster. That was when Mr. Thicknose spoke to them one last time.
Both of them stopped and turned at the dinosaur's words.
"Tell Littlefoot not to blame himself."
The rainbowfaces quickly nodded at the elder's final request and then resumed their mad dash away from the rock wall.
They never looked back.
The Hidden Canyon:
"Grandpa? Get up... Please get up..."
His grandfather slowly raised his head, but it only came up slightly from the ground. In a scene that was eerily reminiscent of another tragic scene in his life, his grandfather was struggling to maintain life. His terrible gash to his abdomen appeared to have taken its toll as his beloved elder breathed in gasps. That was when the scent hit Littlefoot.
The scent of illness. His grandfather was gravely ill.
"Littlefoot... You need to leave."
The brown fastbiter turned at the sound of his grandmother's voice. It sounded even rougher than usual as Littlefoot finally saw her injuries as well. A terrible injury to her flank. The smell of blood of viscera. But she lacked the smell of death, she could still escape.
"Grandma, you need to leave. Follow the others..."
His grandmother shook her head. "No, Littlefoot. It is my time."
Littlefoot's eyes filled with tears. "No! You're not dead yet. You still have a chance!"
Littlefoot turned to gaze upon his grandfather's face. Despite the immense pain that he must have been feeling, his grandfather still had a smile on his face. It was the kind of smile that one wore as an apology.
"I have lived a long life, Littlefoot... go back to the valley and put an end to this."
It was only now that Littlefoot became aware of the others around him. Ruby and Cera were poised like sentinels at his side, not wanting to interrupt the moment, whereas Ducky, Taunt, and Breeze could be seen gesturing for the hidden runners to go back towards the entrance. His friends were with him, but they were also putting themselves into grave danger.
"I will, Grandpa..." As tears poured from his eyes he then turned towards his other grandparent. His beloved grandmother who had been like a second mother to him. He now knew that he could not convince her to abandon her place at her mate's side. This was his goodbye to them both. "Grandma... say..." His voice broke with emotion. "Say hello to mother for me."
Both longnecks then nuzzled their grandson in a final embrace. So this was goodbye.
"Block their way, you idiots! He isn't invincible! Would an invincible dinosaur cry?"
Littlefoot turned in horrified surprise. Calin was back and he had several of his fastbiters with him. Once again their path back into the valley was blocked.
"Nice try, Seeker! But we will finish the job now!"
Littlefoot made no expression with his face as he spoke directly to the hated fiend.
"Hmmm... It was worth a try." Hearing thundering footsteps advance, he could see Red Claw and his minion fast approaching.
They were trapped.
Littlefoot could see the small, purple form of Chomper at the entrance as his two parents followed him in an attempt to bring him back in. He could not risk another one of his friends being trapped in this deathtrap.
No... He would end this now.
"Stay back, Path!" Littlefoot cautioned.
"But, Seeker!" Chomper protested in anguish as his parents blocked their son's path.
Littlefoot gave him a sad smile. "Take care of the others, will ya?"
"Aww... Isn't that sweet!" Calin mocked. "Saying your goodbyes? How the mighty have fallen!"
Ignoring Calin's taunt, Littlefoot looked towards his fellow companions in these tense moments.
Cera and Taunt were huddled together in a gesture of affection. They both knew that these could be their final moments. Neither of them would go out without a fight, but they knew what the outcome would be. Despite his stoicism, Thud looked from the entranceway with grief showing in his eyes. Would he lose his son in the moments ahead?
Ducky and Breeze, on the other hand, both looked towards the entryway with sad expressions. Spike's injured form could be seen there with tears in his eyes. He could very well lose a sister and a friend in the moments ahead. But their predicament deprived them of a proper goodbye. Their departure would be from a distance. Their final words forever being left unsaid.
Finally, there was Ruby. His beloved friend. His own grandparents had signaled their consent to their union, but now it appeared that their time together would end along with his grandparents. They both exchanged a nuzzle as the sound of Red Claw's footsteps became louder and louder. They would face the end together.
Littlefoot reluctantly broke the embrace as he faced his grandfather. He had a smile on his face, which greatly confused the poor fastbiter. How could he look happy at a time like this?
"Littlefoot, I have an idea."
Red Claw stopped in front of the insolent fastbiter. His longneck allies remained severely injured and even his packmates had resorted to hiding behind their massive bodies. It was pathetic in the extreme.
But why was the fastbiter still facing him with a cocky expression? The roar that he got from the brown fastbiter was most certainly not the words of a beaten dinosaur.
"Red Claw. It is against my better judgment, but if you and your sharpteeth leave now then I will let you leave in peace."
Red Claw stood in silence. The fastbiter would allow him to leave in peace? Really?
An arrogant laugh echoed across the canyon as the massive sharptooth was flabbergasted by the fastbiter's arrogance.
"You must have no sense, you arrogant piece of sap-sucker excrement!" He roared in rage. "You insult my dead son, you kill my followers, and then you have the gall to threaten me! Being killed by me would be too easy for you..."
"I will take care of it, sir!" Calin's rage-filled voice greeted Red Claw's ears.
Red Claw chuckled. "Yes, I am sure that you could... But I am not quite done yet..." He then turned his attention back to the hated brown fastbiter. "What do you know of those sap-sucking bastards?" Red Claw was enraged just talking about them, but if he could get information on where they were from this fastbiter then he would tolerate his antics. He would be dead soon enough.
The brown fastbiter smiled. "They are quite close. About as close as the rock was which killed your son."
"How do you know that?!" Red Claw's expression was a mixture of shock and rage. The other sharpteeth simply assumed that the legendary leaf-eater children had tricked his son into falling into a watering hole. Red Claw, however, had inspected the site where his son had died. A rock was found by his son's bloated body. Only a dinosaur who had explored the site of his death would have found out that knowledge. Or...
The hated fastbiter smirked. "Ah, so you figured it out! Lovely! The Stone of Cold Fire granted our wish in a rather interesting way... I suppose that we killed enough sharpteeth to finally earn the right to become sharpteeth."
Red Claw advanced forward in his rage. In his single-minded focus on the instruments of his son's destruction, he did not notice the horrified expressions on the faces of the fastbiters. The idea of herbivores becoming carnivores was unnatural and horrifying. If the Stone of Cold Fire could do this then what else could it do?
"We wished for the power to defeat you."
Red Claw laughed in a manic fashion as he squared off with the elderly female longneck. Now he would have the chance to kill those who had killed his son. Then... then... he could finish his assault on the valley.
"It looks like your wish wasn't granted after all, Seeker!" Red Claw mocked. "You will still die and your valley will die with you! Once a sap-sucker, always a sap-sucker!" He moved closer. "Any final words?"
Littlefoot looked back towards his comrades with an expression of pride. A great wrong was about to be righted. Even if they may not live to see the outcome... they all knew that their deaths would not be in vain.
The valley would live on.
"Final words? Yes, I have a few..." He looked at the sharptooth with an arrogant expression. "We are the Seven Hunters and today we fulfill our destiny!"
Littlefoot sucked down a deep breath. Now it was time.
"Rainbowfaces, do it now!"
"Alright, there they are!"
Whitehorn looked up at Topps's exclamation. The hidden canyon was full of fastbiters and sharpteeth, with two lone longnecks being visible in the chaos. Mr. and Mrs. Longneck. His mind deduced. I hope that we are in time, but why are the others holding back? The longnecks need help! Thankfully we are here now!
Whitehorn looked at the assembled threehorns. "Alright, everyone! Let's charge them! We have to save them!"
Without further word, the threehorns charged into the canyon. They had no idea the destruction that was soon to follow.
"Rainbowfaces, do it now!"
So it has come.
Mr. Thicknose looked down at the small black stone. It was such a small thing. Black as obsidian and as reflective as water. But yet it supposedly contained enough energy to rain death upon the valley's enemies. It was not something that the dinosaur could understand and now he knew that he never would get a chance.
So many questions... but no more time for answers...
He closed his eyes at his inner admission. He had prided himself on gaining knowledge throughout his life and sharing his mental wealth with others, but those times had come to an end. All of his memories... all of his knowledge... would soon be consumed by the same thing that eventually consumes all living things. But he did take one comfort in one thing.
The valley will go on... and so will my students... His mind immediately turned to his 'students' of sorts, the rainbowfaces. He had not taught them much in the way of intellectual knowledge, but he had showed them how to be proper dinosaurs. He now knew that they would carry on his legacy. As long as the valley had teachers like them then it would be well protected for ages to come. That made it easier to make the sacrifice that he knew that he had to make.
Self-sacrifice... that was a lesson that he never gave the children. But he supposed that it was one that they never needed.
Mr. Thicknose smiled as he raised his front legs up high for the lethal act.
"One final lesson to give..."
"What are they doing?!" Littlefoot gaped from behind his grandfather as he saw the threehorns approach with horrifying speed. "They have to get out of here now!"
Red Claw grinned. "Ah! The more the merrier! Fastbiters prepare to..."
He never got the chance to finish his words.
Light. Blinding and radiant light suddenly enveloped them all in its brilliant glow. It was as if the bright circle had come to earth in order to greet its residents. All of the dinosaurs looked away as the sudden radiance as their skin was scorched by the apocalyptic glow. Then came the noise.
A roar emanated from the ground as if every cave and opening were screaming in anguish. A horrific and deafening sound that caused the mountains and valleys to shake alike in a seizure of cataclysmic force. As the land was caught in the earthshakes to end all earthshakes, it felt as if the rocks themselves were going to be sheared apart.
Which is exactly what happened.
Dust appeared over the rock wall as if some black cloud were bellowing from some unseen crevice in the bowels of the earth. This was only the prelude of what was to come as the terrible underground shockwave shattered everything before it. In a terrible instant the rock wall itself appeared to bellow out like an inflated balloon, only before erupting into a terrible torrent of chaos. It was as if the rocks themselves had turned into gas and were blowing down into the canyon as fog rolls over hills.
The terrible black cloud of rock and dust rolled over trees and bushes as the land began to lurch from side to side in a convulsion of destruction. The snapping of trees, the ripping of ground, and the crushing of bodies were all silenced under the deafening roar of the unstoppable cascade of death. Red Claw and his minions scampered aimlessly in a pitiful attempt to escape their fate.
But there was no escape from what had been unleashed.
In these final moments Littlefoot hugged Ruby in a show of support against what awaited them. That was when another body pressing against his alerted him to his surroundings.
Ducky, Breeze, Cera, and Taunt had all pressed against him as they too awaited the final act of this terrible battle. Likewise the faces of both of his terribly injured grandparents greeted his. Though their bodies formed a barrier between them and the onslaught to come, their faces were fixed solely on their beloved grandson. Though none of those present could hear anything over the approaching avalanche of doom, they could see one another. With a simple and heartfelt exchange of nods, the dear friends exchanged their final messages.
We did it, guys... See you all on the other side.
By the entranceway to the valley, the residents were helpless to watch as the unstoppable maelstrom of death enveloped both enemy and ally alike. Then and only then did silence finally reign again in the devastated canyon.
The battle for the Great Valley was over.