The Seven Hunters

By Rhombus

Adventure / Horror

Chapter 7 Realization

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The gang began to move in the direction of the Secret Caverns. What was a moderately lengthy journey in their previous forms had become an epic journey in their new bodies. Just putting one foot in front of the other was quite difficult for those who had never had the experience.

Ducky, having walked on two legs all of her life, attempted to help the others as much as she could.

"One foot and then the other... Good, Cera!" Ducky encouraged.

Cera grunted in frustration at the former swimmer. I know how to do this! Cera thought, it is actually doing it that is the problem! She then reflected morosely, It will take us forever to reach Chomper and Ruby at this rate.

Littlefoot and Spike were having a slightly easier time. Spike had already had assistance from his sister, so he at least could walk without falling on his face. Littlefoot, on the other hand, simply seemed to have better instincts on how to walk on two legs. He walked with noticeably more ease than the other two.

Petrie meanwhile was flying in a hovering position around the group, occasionally perching on tree branches. He considered flying to the Secret Caverns himself but opted to stay with the group. He had been quite overwhelmed with the events of the night and was appreciating the brief respite that their journey was bringing him.

Ducky ceased her encouraging words shortly after their journey began, as there was nothing more that she could do at that point. It was up to the others to get used to walking on two legs. The gang then proceeded to advance silently through the valley, with Petrie providing the occasional warning that they were getting close to an adult and should change their course. Obviously no one wanted to wake the adults now. Before such a mishap would have simply resulted in them getting in trouble, whereas now it would result in their painful demise.

Once they passed up a pair of sleeping domeheads Petrie decided to break the silence.

"Will flying rock fix wish, you think?" Petrie asked uncertainly. He did not want to imagine the consequences should their plan fail to work. He did not want to contemplate being stuck as a sharptooth for the rest of his life.

Cera responded assuredly, "Sure, why not? It granted our wish before, didn't it?"

Ducky then replied, "But what if it does not? I do not want to be a sharptooth. Oh, no, no, no." The possibility of actually killing and eating others was just as alien to Ducky as the possibility of abandoning Spike or her friends. She did not want to envision a life where she would be forced to do such things. It was antithetical to everything that she was.

The others stopped and paused for a moment. The subject was breached which none of them were ready to confront, the possibility of failure. What if they had to resort to living like this? How would they survive? For that matter, where would they go? Obviously such a fate would entail expulsion from the valley. These thoughts were made by all of the dinosaurs in their own way, although none dared to vocalize their deepest fears. They behaved as if saying them would make them a reality.

Littlefoot finally spoke, "We have no choice but to get Chomper and Ruby first." He paused for a moment. "We can't talk to our parents in... our bodies... they will think sharpteeth have invaded."

"Yeah, and they would stomp first and ask questions later," Cera affirmed.

"Yeah..." Littlefoot pondered, "We could try to break the wish after we get Chomper and Ruby." He then licked his lips and paused for a moment. "And if that doesn't work..." He looked defeated at even considering the possibility. "Well... We will figure that out together."

He looked sadly at his friends as they digested his words. They were truly out of options at this point. Either they would find some way to reverse this change, or they would have to accept the unacceptable. They all knew in their own minds that they would find out their fate soon enough.

With their fears now spoken in the open, the gang continued towards their destination in silence.

The long trek to the Secret Caverns gave them all more time for introspection. The silence in the outside made for a stark contrast with the voices of confusion raging inside their heads.

The gang had to stop every few moments for one of their number to get reoriented. Although, Cera, Spike, and Littlefoot were doing better in their bipedal stance, they still were very new on their feet. Ducky tried to be supportive during these regular stops in their journey, but there was only so much she could offer. They simply had to get used to only having two walking legs. In a way they were like newborn babies, just beginning to learn how to walk. Newborn sharpteeth, Ducky's mind corrected. They had the bodies of young sharpteeth but now had to learn from the ground up as a hatchling would. It was not fair on many levels.

In Ducky's mind, she admitted that she was supporting the others not simply out of kindness, but also for her own sanity as well. It gave her something else to worry about than the horrifying situation she found herself in. She could help someone who had trouble walking, but she could not make sense at what had befallen her and her friends.

Besides the obvious existential horror of growing sharp teeth and becoming her own worst fears, it was actually the secondary changes that confused Ducky the most. The most glaring change from her perspective was a massive change in size. Before the change she was dwarfed by most of her friends, being close in size with Petrie, but now she was the about the same size as Cera and Littlefoot. This change in perspective gave her a sense of being more powerful, which was comforting to some part of her new mind, but very concerning to her personally. Why do I feel this way? she asked herself, Swimmers do not think that way. Nope, nope, nope! But then her own powers of deduction solved the question for her. But sharpteeth do. The realization made her shudder. She was beginning to think like a carnivore! How could she keep from losing herself?

The other glaring change was her sense of smell. Although the sudden deluge of smells had long ceased, and the resulting headache had begun to subside, her sense of smell still confused her deeply. Before she could only smell other dinosaurs when they were rather close by or if they had done something to make them really stink. But now... She could hardly describe it or put it into words. Within her immediate location she could smell all of her friends. Additionally, she could smell a distinct type of smell that Littlefoot, Spike, and Petrie had, whereas she and Cera had a different scent. I am smelling gender? Ducky thought in a confused manner. Was it even possible to make such distinctions with smell? It boggled her mind.

She also could smell other things for which her limited experience had provided her no context. She noticed that when she had a burst of sadness that she smelled a distinct soft odor, whereas during the few times she frustrated Cera with her encouragement she smelled a very unique bitter odor. I can smell emotions? Ducky asked in her mind. Other smells were harder to identify, however. She could smell hundreds of distinct odors simultaneously. Some were weak, and others were strong. Which ones represented plants? Which were the valley's residents? She lacked the necessary experience to make such judgments.

One of the few smells from outside of the gang that she was able to clearly identify came when they passed by her own nest from a distance. She could smell a unique scent that came in several unique shades. She was able to determine that that must be the odor of her family under her new sniffer. It smelled much different than how it smelled when she was a swimmer. Likewise, she soon deduced that the unique odors must be representing her mother and each of her siblings. My brothers and sisters... Ducky reflected with sadness. She noticed that the smell wasn't unpleasant like many of the plants were, nor neutral like they smelled when she was a swimmer, but they actually smelled rather nice. Very nice, some voice in her mind corrected. Ducky shuddered at that last thought, not wanting to consider the implications.

As Ducky continued to walk with the others, lost in her own thoughts, Spike followed close behind.

Unlike the former swimmer, Spike was fixated on trying to walk and kept his other thoughts to a minimum. He feared that if he didn't continue the journey with a blank mind, then he would be too overwhelmed to function. As it was, he felt too emotionally numb at this point to consider the full implications of what had happened.

However, despite his resolve in focusing on the task at hand, there were several thoughts that broke through the surface of his mind.

One thing that he noticed, or rather, could not help but notice, was that his new body was far too responsive. As a spiketail he was not agile at all and it tended to move in a slow, deliberate pace. This often was noted by his friends during their journeys within the valley and their adventures outside of it. The movement of his body matched the slow pace of his mind in many ways. He was not necessarily less intelligent than the other members of the gang, but his pace of thought was noticeably more deliberate.

This situation had changed dramatically with his change into a fastbiter. Now the slightest will to move on his part would result in him bounding uncontrollably forward. Even his attempts to counteract these forward bounds would be overdone, causing him to fall on his hindquarters several times. His newfound lightness did not help matters any. Although he was a bit pudgy by fastbiter standards, he was in very lean form by spiketail standards. He had no doubt that he could run quite fast indeed if he could ever learn how to control his own body. He reflected with gratitude that he was very lucky to have Ducky assist him after the change.

Although the green fastbiter had begun to fixate on walking again and tried to put his other thoughts to the side, there was another realization that plagued his mind. That was the pace of his thoughts. Before, he could calmly focus on one smell or plant and slowly determine the best way to get the green food. Now, however, his thoughts were prone to becoming a confusing jumble. It was as if his new mind was made to figure out things quickly and to make decisions quickly. It was a very different perspective than what Spike was used to, which was another reason he was trying to fixate on the simple. He could afford to be lost in his thoughts later.

While the two siblings took opposing strategies to confront their change, one ignoring their thoughts and the other embracing them, Petrie was left with his own predicament.

Petrie had perched himself on a branch some distance away from the gang in order to scout ahead. He had not experienced the change in smells in the way that the others had, as sharptooth flyers mainly relied on their sense of vision, but he had noticed a distinct change in his thought patterns.

Me have been acting strange, he admitted to himself.

It all started when he was confronted with a horrific nightmare earlier that night. He had been chased by sharpteeth flyers into a cave of some kind and had come face to face with Chomper and a bunch of fastbiters. Now he realized that the fastbiters in his dream were actually his friends, but at the time it was simply a scary story, nothing more. Upon waking, he noticed that he was outside of the rocky perch that made up his family's nesting site. He thought for a moment that perhaps he had sleepwalked like Guido had done in the past, but he had no prior history of doing that. Confused, and having trouble keeping his fatigued eyes open, he decided to take flight in order to rejoin the nest. That was when he had his first realization that something was seriously wrong.

As soon as he pushed off with his legs and flapped his wings once, he had gained tremendous vertical speed, far beyond what he thought that he was capable of. Normally it would take a few steps and several flaps of his wings in order to become airborne, but now one leg thrust and one flap was enough to have him bounding into the air. He nearly crashed after overcorrecting for this unexpected momentum and landed with a heavy thud on the ground below. It was then that he noticed that his wings felt weird and his legs felt noticeably heavier.

His attempt at flying having been aborted, he then attempted to walk to the nearest stream in order to take a good look at himself under the light of the night circle. This resulted in him losing his balance and falling flat on his beak. It was only after he walked on "all fours" using his hind limbs and wings as "feet" that he was able to reach the stream and look at his reflection. It was then that he had discovered that he was one of the "long-beak" sharptooth flyers. His horrified reaction was one that the rest of the gang could relate to. It was almost too absurd and impossible to take seriously, but yet here he was. What was he going to do now?

But his subsequent reaction surprised him. After an initial period of denial and an extended period of mourning, he felt... calm. It was as if his normal frantic train of thought was being supplanted by something else. He then took stock of his current situation and tried to look at his options at that point. Me maybe not only one changed, he thought at the time, Me get others and find out what to do. He soon found Littlefoot after he corrected his flying techniques for his new stature.

Although it was not unheard of for Petrie to take initiative in certain situations, his train of thought after his change was noticeably different than what he was used to exhibiting. It was far more logical, far more detached in its judgment, and far more prone to a proactive response. Oh no! Me think like bad flyer! Petrie concluded. It seemed that far more than his body was affected by the change. This disturbed the young flyer deeply.

A voice from below brought his attention back to the present.

"Okay guys, we are getting close to the cave," Littlefoot declared, "But first we have to get past Mr. Thicknose."

Petrie then paid attention to what was before them all. About a longneck-length in front of the Secret Caverns, Mr. Thicknose was sound asleep. He must have gotten tired after talking to the other adults about the stone and simply decided to rest where he lay instead of trekking all of the way back to his usual place.

This was an unexpected complication.

"Urgh!" Cera grunted in frustration, "I hope that he is a deep sleeper."

"Okay, guys," Littlefoot whispered, "We need to be quiet. Walk slow and try not to stumble."

The five dinosaurs then began their journey around Mr. Thicknose. Petrie went ahead and flew directly to the cave itself, as he lacked the complication of learning how to walk on two legs. That was when he observed how difficult this journey would be. Mr. Thicknose had positioned himself in-between the rock walls on either side of this entrance into the Secret Caverns, effectively blocking off the path. This only left two possible options for the rest of the gang. They could go to the left of Mr. Thicknose and attempt to walk up an incline with many loose rocks. With their unsure footing this would more than likely lead to crashing rocks which would immediately wake up Mr. Thicknose. The only alternative would be to go to the right of Mr. Thicknose, which meant going between his head and the rock wall of the caverns. This was a slightly clearer path, but if he were to wake up during their journey...

Petrie looked back at the gang and noticed that Cera had the same idea. She had moved to the front of the gang and had begun to move to the right of Mr. Thicknose. This was a risky move, but it probably was their best option. If only there was a way to protect his friends in the event that he woke up...

A ha! Me got it! Petrie thought to himself. He then flew out of the cave to put his plan into action.

......

Why did I ever agree to do this? Cera thought to herself. She had begun to walk to the right of the sleeping dinosaur, being careful not to disturb the rocks that lay all around. One small stumble could awake the slumbering dinosaur and alert the whole valley to their predicament.

She looked behind her a moment. She could see that Littlefoot was keeping pace with her, but Spike was having difficulty. Ducky was at hand to help him keep his balance, but with the uneven terrain and loose rocks it was a difficult trek for all involved.

With a concerted effort, she resumed her advance towards the cave. From this distance, the sounds of the massive dinosaur were nearly deafening with her new ears. She could hear his almost roar-like snoring, followed by an almost whiney follow-through as he exhaled each breath. It would have been endearing in a way, except their survival probably depended on him staying asleep. It took much of her concentration just to phase out the jarring sounds and overwhelming smells that she encountered at this distance.

She began to put her weight on one of the stones in front of her when she heard it.

Creak.....!

"Oh come on!" she hissed silently to herself. She quickly looked around. Mr. Thicknose had begun to stir in his sleep and move his mouth. Oh no! We are doomed, Cera thought despairingly as the other members of the gang were frozen in horror.

Mr. Thicknose yawned and then spoke without opening his eyes, "...No, no. That is a trait of flyers, not domehea..."

The snoring then resumed as if it had never ended.

Cera allowed herself a small sigh of relief, releasing a breath that she had no idea that she had been holding. Looking back, she could see that the others had similar relieved looks upon their faces. She signaled with her head towards the other loose stone. Hopefully this one would be more stable, because they would have to step on at least one in order to bypass Mr. Thicknose's head.

Creak....

A light creaking noise emanated as the stone shifted under her weight, but it was far lighter than her attempt on the other stone. She looked at Mr. Thicknose and noticed no change in his demeanor. Thank goodness. She carefully placed the weight of her other foot on the stone before gently pivoting off of the stone. She looked at the cave in front of her; she was home free. Now it was just a matter of getting the others across.

She looked back towards the others and signaled with her forelimb.

Littlefoot decided to take the initiative and was the next to attempt the crossing. He tentatively placed his forelimbs on the stone and leapt upon the center of the stone in one swift movement.

Thud.

Only a light thud could be heard in the valley, as Littlefoot had placed his weight evenly on the center of the stone. Grinning at his success, Littlefoot jumped off the stone and advanced inside of the cave where Cera was waiting. Only two more to go...

"Do you think that Spike can make it?" Cera whispered to Littlefoot.

"I hope so," was his only reply.

The two looked on with worried expressions as they waited for the others to attempt the crossing.

Ducky patted Spike on the back and let him be the next to attempt the crossing. Spike was petrified at his predicament. He could barely walk on his two limbs, and now he had to balance himself on a loose stone? He was not confident in his chances.

He looked at the stone with trepidation, sucked down a deep breath, and took a leap of faith.

Tap. Tap.

In an unplanned acrobatic move Spike jumped on the stone while placing all of his weight on his sickle claws and forelimbs. Fortunately these moves, which were made mainly out of instinct on his part, allowed him to land perfectly on the center of the stone and thus not disturb it. Unfortunately, however, this also propelled him off of the stone and directly into Littlefoot.

Thud. Urgh...

Spike and Littlefoot were now tangled in what looked like a pile up of scales and feathers. Cera had a passing thought in that moment that the scene would be hilarious if the stakes weren't so high.

Making an apologetic nod with his head, Spike removed himself from Littlefoot's body. Littlefoot then dusted himself off and gave Spike an encouraging grin, At least he made it across. Littlefoot thought.

Ducky suppressed an urge to jump with joy at Spike's triumph. Now she just had to go across, and the gang would be safely in Chomper's cave. She felt a pang of happiness for the first time since their terrible transformation. She was so preoccupied with his success that she failed to notice the smaller stone in front of her.

Crash!

Ducky crumbled to the ground in a flurry of panicked movement, as the other three could only watch in horror. Ducky had broken her fall with her forelimbs, but that failed to dampen the sound of the impact.

"Huh? Who goes there?" Mr. Thicknose spoke as he began to rise from his prone position.

Ducky trembled with fear. Would this be the end of them?

Ducky heard a groan from Mr. Thicknose as he rose to his full height. He was squinting his eyes, obviously just recovering from his sleep story.

Thud... Thud...

"Hmmmm..." Mr. Thicknose uttered as he turned to look at something in the opposite direction.

Ducky had no idea what had caught his attention, but she did not want to waste the opportunity. She ran as fast as she could at the stones and leapt over them with a loud crash, tumbling forward into the cave.

Thud... Thud... Thud...

Mr. Thicknose groaned and looked at where the sounds had come from.

"Must be a small rock slide... That's what I get for sleeping by the caverns..." he mumbled to himself. Looking back to the opening of the cave, he noticed nothing out of the ordinary. He could have sworn that he had seen something over there a few moments ago. "Must be seeing things..." he uttered before slowly walking off in the direction of his normal sleeping place.

The four fastbiters, meanwhile, were huddled in the cave.

"Is he gone?" Ducky asked in a frightened voice.

"I think so," Littlefoot replied breathlessly, "Thank goodness for that rockslide! It kept Mr. Thicknose distracted."

"I wonder what caused the rockslide. That was too close." she uttered with some relief.

The four then heard the sound of flapping wings as Petrie appeared at the cave opening. "Me was worried about you," Petrie remarked, "Me was not sure that dropping rocks work."

"That was you?!" Cera and Littlefoot asked simultaneously.

"Yes, it me." Petrie replied.

This caused Ducky to leap from her spot and nearly crush Petrie in an embrace. "Oh! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"You... crushing... me..." Petrie protested weakly.

The other three began to laugh in relief. They had made it to the caverns after all.

......

The five then began to walk through the cave in search of Chomper and Ruby. Suddenly they heard exasperated yelling from the other side of the cave.

"How could this happen! This is impossible, Chomper! How can an impossible like this happen?"

The five looked at one another. Well that's Ruby, Littlefoot thought. He then began to advance towards the entrance of the chamber where they heard the voices. After some hesitation the others followed.

"It will be okay, Ruby." There was Chomper's voice. "Being a sharptooth isn't that bad."

So she has changed as well, Littlefoot thought mournfully, I guess we are all in this together now.

"But, this is impossible, Chomper! Dinosaurs just don't change kinds," the fastbiter said in a somewhat hysterical voice. Ruby was always among the calmest of the gang. The fact that she was close to the point of panic caused something to sink in Littlefoot's stomach.

That was when Petrie broke the silence.

"Tonight they do."

The gang then walked into the chamber. They could see a surprised Chomper and a stunned fastbiter stare back at them. Littlefoot noted that Ruby had changed into the same kind as himself and the other fastbiters. She had a rose coloration with violet feathers on her crest and limbs. Her mouth was agape as if she was a baby flyer waiting to be fed. Her confusion then changed to terror.

"Who... Are you?" Ruby asked in a fearful voice.

"It is us. It is. It is." Ducky said in a soft voice.

Ruby and Chomper both stepped back as if they had been struck. Ruby had a horrified look as the realization of what must have happened began to set in. Chomper meanwhile stared at Ducky with a look of incomprehension.

"Ducky! How?" Chomper questioned in a disbelieving voice.

"The stone," Cera said with a toneless voice.

Ruby then covered her mouth with her forelimbs and looked at the gang. Had their wish done all of this? It was unimaginable.

Littlefoot looked at the stunned expressions from his sharptooth friend and the former oviraptor. They would get nowhere if they continued to focus on what had already happened. They had to decide on what to do next.

He sighed deeply. "We need to talk."

Ruby and Chomper sat where they were as the other five began to gather around them. Silently, the seven dinosaurs then gathered in a circle in the center of the chamber and sat upon their haunches.

But it seemed that no one wanted to be the one to break the newly found silence that hung over them like a cloud. The ominous silence closely matched the mood of the seven sharpteeth. What was supposed to happen now?


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