Chapter 2: Transition
Chapter 2: Transition
"Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want." - Kristin Armstrong
It had been a peaceful night for Specter. As peaceful as one can expect someone to sleep after they got turned into a massive weapon of sheer destruction on two legs overnight. Then again, according to that, where exactly would have been the difference between him and his past self? Sure, he was truly massive in terms of size now, but everything else could just as well be applied onto the casual human being he once was. Only that now, his way seemed to serve a purpose. The purpose of killing others for food. Where was the purpose of killing others for beliefs, whether they might have been political or religious? And although this certainly never was the rule, it happened often enough. He never understood this sick concept of human society but he knew he could allow himself to not care about that.
Not anymore... At least for now. He finished his line of thinking.
He had been awake for quite some time now but decided to rest his senses a little more in the warm embrace of the morning sun and the light breeze, which made his black feathers shift back and forth all over his body. He wished that he could've lazily taken in the warm rays of the sun all day, resting in his spot, not caring about a thing in the world. But he knew that would be a stupid wish to make.
Talking about making the same mistake twice... Time to get up already.
The necessity of him adapting to this new life was obvious, even though all of this still felt like a dream to him. But this was reality now. He would have to adapt and he would have to do it quick. He got changed into an adult Utahraptor. That kind of raptor was already the largest around, but it looked like he would set the new standards now.
He could guess all too well what would be coming.
At least I was an omnivore before. That should make it a bit easier.
He was quite certain of that, actually. He loved the tastes of all different kinds of meat, even though he also really liked animals. So his stance pretty much was to respect every form of life until food was needed from it. However, he was also aware that the only things he had ever killed in his past life were mosquitos and maybe some annoying wasps. And even then he had used tools for that.
His only tool for killing now was his very own body. The razor-sharp claws on his forelimbs, his teeth and, lest one would forget, his two massive sickle claws, so iconic for his new species. Those were his weapons.
Well, so much for theory...
With a gentle but audible grumble, his stomach was making him aware of himself again.
It was almost time.
"How are you holding up?"
He looked up at the brown raptor, who was looking at him with concern in his eyes.
"Quite well I guess, considering all that's happened. Thanks for asking, Seeker." Specter replied honestly.
This was indeed a new experience for both sharpteeth.
"If you want to talk about..." Littlefoot then started again, but he was cut off by the black fastbiter.
"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Now, what's the plan for today?"
Littlefoot let out a deep sigh, but he accepted Specter's rejection of opening himself up to him. He wanted to know more about him and his past, as it all seemed so surreal. The way he talked, the things he knew about the Stone. And he wasn't lying. What he had said made sense and his scents gave Littlefoot enough proof of that. But he was fully aware that this was not an option right now. He would have enough time for those questions after helping his new acquaintance to find himself around in this harsh environment.
"Spotter has found a longneck, not yet fully grown. It probably drifted away from its herd yesterday morning. Seems like an orphan, considering nobody went after it. That will be your target. I would like to start your training with smaller targets but... you're not exactly cut out for that kind of training. Not anymore."
A 'longneck'? Ah, of course. Well, this one's a bit easier. Probably the word for any type of Sauropod.
Specter simply nodded at this but Littlefoot was not finished yet.
"However, considering what you told me... you will need some training in tracking and running first." He mustered the prone fastbiter for a few seconds before continuing. "You may be big, but you're still a fastbiter. You can't take on adult longnecks or threehorns alone head-on like a two-footer could. We rely on speed and agility... Or at least I hope so in your case. You're almost as big as Path."
Specter noticed the doubts in Littlefoot's eyes.
'Fastbiter' must be the word for a raptor... and 'threehorn', well, must be Triceratops. But... a 'two-footer'? And... who is...?
"Path? Well... maybe he could teach me as well?"
Littlefoot was slightly taken aback by this.
"A two-footer training an ankle-biter? Don't be silly..."
The hypocrisy in that statement was so obvious that Littlefoot slapped himself in his mind. After all, that two-footer's parents had trained the pack for quite a while.
"Ankle-biter? I could bite his head off if I wanted to, whatever he is. Or would you assume otherwise?"
Upon saying this, Specter suddenly rose up to his full height, which made Littlefoot gulp noticeably.
The black sharptooth truly was huge for a supposed fastbiter. Standing right in front of Specter, Littlefoot almost looked like a different colored miniature version of him. But it wasn't about his size. It was something about his words. It was the way Specter spoke these last sentences that deeply unnerved the brown fastbiter.
They were cold. Cold as ice. No sign of pride or jest could be found. His words carried nothing. Nervous and surprised, but not wanting to take any unnecessary danger, Littlefoot calmly took a few steps back and let his sense of smell do the work.
He had no idea he played Specter right into his claws.
It was a confusing mix of scents which radiated from him. Other than the smell of himself of course, there was not the distinctive scent of pride in it he would smell when Cera made one of her boisterous speeches, nor the scent of jest he would smell when Taunt was allowed to make one of his remarks. He also couldn't smell if it was the truth or a lie.
The feelings of the smaller fastbiter had not eluded Specter's senses at all. This was exactly what he wanted. He had spent his time after waking up earlier in the morning quite well.
Earlier that morning:
Alright, let's try this out once more.
He took in a deep breath with the intention to take in as many scents as possible and analyze them.
Ok, how many are there? 20 Utahraptors in total... 8 adults... 4 males, 4 females... 12 younglings... 7 males, 5 females... and 5... uhm... what are those called again? Dimorphodons? Nah, those are way too small! Uhm... Ceradactylus...? Damn it, I forgot! Doesn't matter, speaking like everyone else in this time does is way easier anyway... sometimes... So, what could they be called? Ah, yes! 5 sharptooth flyers... 2 adults... 1 male, 1 female... and 3 younglings... 1 male and 2 females. Yes! That's it. That's their pack.
He had practiced his sense of smell since he woke up and was quickly getting the desired results.
But there must be more to it...
He sniffed around his own body for a while, letting his senses do their work. He began to smile at his discovery.
So that's why he insisted on staying behind me all the way back last night! I can smell emotions and feelings. That means others can, too. What do we have here? Excitement... confusion... loneliness? Nah, I'm not feeling lonely. Well maybe a little, I guess. Wait... What is that?
The smell he now suddenly noticed was different from the others. He had to reach deep into his mind to decipher it.
I'm... lying? I can smell out lies?
He played around with the thought about how all this would be possible but couldn't come to a conclusion. It was just the way it was. But he wanted to try something. Something which could only be thought of by a being which did not belong into this body of his, and into this entire time. Until recently.
Hmm... Interesting. So this is all tied to what I'm feeling... what I'm believing in. But... what if...?
"Sorry. I... wanted to try something. And you happened to be the first one to come by today." Specter finally said, giving Littlefoot an apologetic smile.
For the life of him he could not figure out what the black fastbiter had just done to him, but he didn't like it. At all.
Specter was fully aware of what his little trick would probably cause to someone else with a sense of smell like his. After all, he had tried it out on himself and it felt terribly wrong to him. So he quickly tried to make amends without giving away too much.
"It was a bad joke... in a way. Anyway, I won't do it again. I promise."
The scent of truth again radiated from him and Littlefoot finally loosened up a bit. He gave him an affirmative nod before finally speaking again.
"Alright, but you will explain this to me later. Come on now. I want you to meet the rest of the pack. Path will want to take a good look at you as well." Upon mentioning the two-footer, Littlefoot gave Specter a wide smirk. "I'm sure he will be quite excited to meet the first fastbiter ever who not only almost rivals his size, but also dared to claim he could take him on alone."
Specter rolled his eyes and smiled slightly at that prospect.
Ugh... I really should learn to keep my mouth shut more often.
He gave his big skull a slight knock with his right forelimb before following Littlefoot in the direction of where the rest of the pack would be.
As the two fastbiters walked out into the open, Specter was once again overwhelmed by his sharp senses.
He had already noticed the day before that he could see perfectly in the night. Better than he could have ever imagined.
If my eyes had stayed the same as they were when I was a human, I could've just jumped off a cliff anyway... He thought to himself, as he remembered how he perceived the last night.
He had been able to see everything clearly, so he already knew that his visual perception was now much better than a human's could ever be. Although his head now triangular in shape meant that his eyes were mounted on the sides, which did bring a few disadvantages, too. Most noticeably a decline in his depth perception, albeit he had to admit that his vastly extended field of vision made up for that again. He was still able to see three-dimensionally, but it took a lot of getting used to. He had possessed quite a big nose as a human, true, but the snout of a three meter tall Utahraptor was a little harder for his brain to just blend out.
Last night, he made a small clearing between multiple trees his sleeping area, so that the sun could wake him up as its rays would shine into the clearing and down onto his feathers. When he had first opened his eyes in the morning light, he didn't think too much about his eyesight anymore.
But that would drastically change as he left the trees and stood in awe at what was in front of him.
Vast fields of tall grass and giant forests in the distance, multiple little rivers and all of that mostly embraced by a ring of huge mountains. He had never seen anything like this. And that was true in multiple ways, as he now grew aware of his eyesight again. Of the way he saw things.
The color of the grass seemed different. It wasn't the usual warm, dark green color he was quite accustomed to, but rather had a cold, blueish green color. But it wasn't just the grass that was different. Every color he used to know was now enhanced, improved, split up into multiple other colors. He could even see colors he had never seen before. Colors that he could not come up with a name for.
A memory of his past life flashed up in his mind.
He had sometimes teased one of his best friends with the way he perceived colors. They even had their own word for his little 'handicap'. In a way, it was very similar to what Specter was experiencing right now. He couldn't help but laugh at that memory. A faint and noticeably sad laugh.
Wherever you are buddy, I hope you're having fun... knowing that I have become color-stupid as well now...
"Are you alright?" Came the careful question from Littlefoot at Specter's sudden outburst.
"Yeah..." Specter responded, forcing a slight smile onto his face. "Come on, let's get going."
A scent of deep sadness radiated from him. He would very likely not see his friends anytime soon again. He could only hope they were doing fine without him.
"Oh, I see them! I do! I do!"
At the light green fastbiter's words the whole pack stopped doing whatever they had been doing moments before and looked in unison at the two fastbiters which were slowly but steadily closing the distance between them.
"Woah...!" Several of the pack's children exclaimed at the tall black fastbiter's approach.
"And he is supposed to be a fastbiter like us?"
"Hmpf... He doesn't even look that big. I bet mommy could take him on any day!"
"Yeah, you tell them, Ambush!"
"That's enough, kids! Remember, he is our guest for now so I expect you to treat him like one, understand? That goes especially for you, Pouncer."
They didn't have any more time for their bickering as their leader and their guest were now standing just in front of the assembled pack.
"Everyone, this is Specter." Littlefoot spoke.
The predators of the pack all slowly bowed their heads and let out some light growls of welcome. Even Ambush was humbled into politeness at his sight now.
Well... he is a little taller than he looked from back there. The little fastbiter thought to herself.
Specter didn't even have time to think about how to respond when his body did the same gesture practically all by itself. It annoyed him. Not because he didn't like the gesture, but because he didn't know why he did it so intuitive. And because he felt helpless for these few seconds, as his body wouldn't obey him anymore. All of this was still too new for him. But he didn't want his worries to stain his good mood. Despite having sad thoughts about his past, he was just happy to have actually found a pack willing to take in someone like him. The leader seemed to be a nice guy, too, so he deduced that he could call himself really lucky for once in his life.
Littlefoot then proceeded to introduce him to every member he did not encounter on his first night.
"So, this is my dear mate Ponder, this right here is Haven, and this is her brother Finder..."
He felt more than awkward, considering all of them were pretty much staring at him and keeping silent, or maybe they were just acting extremely respectful. Either way, he felt uncomfortable, but he still took great care in remembering all of their scents. After what felt like an eternity, everyone was introduced to one another.
That was when crashing footsteps could be heard in the distance.
"Ah, it looks like Path is coming to greet our newest fuzzball friend."
Specter chuckled at Taunt's antics. Calling him a fuzzball when Taunt was the one who had to look up to him to make eye contact. After a few more moments, the massive purple Tyrannosaurus was in visual range of the pack.
"So, this is the ankle-biter that woke me up from my sleep last night." His booming voice echoed through the clearing as he came closer to the assembled pack.
Specter gulped at his sight.
So this is Path. Two-footer means Tyrannosaurus... Why does this not surprise me?
"I'm sorry. It was... not my intention." He carefully responded. He didn't even want to imagine what would've happened if that guy instead of Littlefoot had found him.
The huge predator was now coming to a hold and stood only a few meters away from Specter as he inspected him with great care. The fastbiter's size didn't elude him, of course. He was glad, actually. Glad that the pack had found someone he wouldn't need to look down upon if they had a conversation.
Specter couldn't mount an instinctual greeting, however. The sharptooth in front of him was not one of his kind so he would have to come up with something by himself. At first he thought about going for a handshake, but after looking at the Tyrannosaurus' short, stubby arms, he quickly dismissed that thought.
He bowed his head instead.
"Pleased to meet you, Path." He finally responded after looking at the two-footer again.
Chomper did the same gesture of a respectful greeting.
"Likewise. I'm glad the pack has found another food-chaser for me."
He let out a throaty laugh which made the children all take a few steps back.
Specter didn't quite understand the context of that, but the implications were quite clear, so he thought about making a snarky remark about the colors of his feathers and what Chomper's statement had to do with it for a second, but quickly dismissed that, too. They wouldn't understand it anyway. He just laughed as well, instead.
Knowing that Chomper would like to know more about the newcomer, as everyone else, Littlefoot decided to take the word again.
"Good! Good! I'm sure we will all get along just fine."
Ruby wasted no time in taking the initiative and asked the obvious question.
"So, what do you plan to do now?"
The question was directed at Specter, but it was Littlefoot who gave the response.
"I will help him find his way around here a bit. Teach him some important stuff. Spotter has found us a young longneck heading right for our territory, so I want to help him get a proper meal as well."
Ruby mustered Specter for a while before giving a dry response.
"I'm sure he can look after himself even without your help, dear. Just look at him! He is a big sharptooth. I don't understand why he would need your help. If he wouldn't be this big, then I would understand why he would need your help but..."
"I don't know yet how to hunt or fight. Do you want me to starve out here?"
Everyone looked in shock at Specter's revelation.
Right before massive laughter broke out between the pack. Most of the adults kept silent but their children were having a field day. As did Chomper. His shattering laugh almost seemed like it would make the ground tremble.
And who could have blamed them? Before them stood a fully grown sharptooth. And he claimed he wouldn't know a thing about hunting.
Specter could only sigh at this display. He truly was an oddity. An oddity in an already strange world.
The laughter died down immediately, although Chomper was still chuckling slightly for a few more moments.
It was Ruby who demanded that. She was looking with an unreadable expression at Specter before switching to her mate.
"If that is so, then I will go with you." Her next words were directed at Specter again. "And after that I want to hear about your story. About your story I want to hear after that."
Specter didn't want to say anything wrong, as he already felt the urge to make a little, insulting remark about her sing-song way of speaking, so he just nodded twice in affirmation.
"Fine by me. Spotter, you're coming with us as well obviously." Littlefoot then concluded before any more discussions could arise.
"Sure thing, Seeker!"
A few hours later:
Specter was pretty exhausted. Littlefoot had already given him the theoretical lessons of tracking, hunting and killing. How to find the target, how to approach it and how to finish it off without causing too much suffering. It was all they had time for. And since Specter was totally fine with hunting, Littlefoot didn't have too many problems talking about it openly without trying to palliate the act of killing.
But Specter had to learn how to chase his targets as well, so he demanded of him to try and catch him.
And while the tall black fastbiter was moderately fast by now, he was nowhere near as fast as Littlefoot was. Not yet and probably not afterwards. He was just too big and heavy for a fastbiter. Especially in tight turns he had fallen over and crashed into some trees more than once. The same went for the casual jump, after which he had often landed on his face. Still, he was slowly getting used to handling his new body.
As it was getting darker, and the Bright Circle was about to meet the distant horizon, Littlefoot deduced it would be time to start the actual hunt soon.
"Here, take some of these." Littlefoot said and tossed a few of the pointed sticks they had stashed away in Specter's direction. "You know how to use them?"
Specter picked one of the spears up with wide eyes and inspected the crude weapon closely.
They're using spears?! First the 'poison', and now those raptors can use and craft fucking spears?! Wow... This... is definitely something new. I just hope only these guys here know about this. Hmm... Those are very primitive... but useful. They are probably thinking of them as their personal 'wonder weapons'. Funny... they would work so much better if they would add some sharp stones to them and harden them in fire. Or at least harden the sticks themselves in fire a bit...
"Have you thought about...?" He started his response, but interrupted it as soon as he reflected the repercussions this idea might cause.
Am I retarded?! I can't interfere with nature like that! Even if I only tell them... at some point, everyone knows...
"...that... I know a lot about those particular things. So... uhm... yeah... I know how to use these." A forced laugh escaped his maw after that.
"Good, let's go then. We're close."
Littlefoot didn't pay too much heed to Specter's strange behavior.
He's probably just nervous. After all, this is supposedly his first hunt.
He remembered all too well how his first hunt went.
Rhett... I hope you've found peace...
With Rhett, he had lost a friend in that fateful night and almost his life later on, after Ali told the valley that it was he who had killed him. But he dismissed these melancholic thoughts as soon as they came. They had a hunt to attend to. And he would make sure that everything went smooth. It was all planned out.
But for some odd reason, he felt as if he had also missed out on something.
"For the love of... Crusher, would you get a move on? We've been wandering around here for almost two days and there is still no sign of the herd. At this rate we will be sharptooth food by the time the Night Circle will rise!"
"Oh please, spare me your flathead thoughts! You think I'm happy about this? It was your idea to go on a journey around this place. 'Let's look for some sweet bubbles' he said. 'I will make it worth your while' he said." Came the mocking answer from the threehorn. "My dad told me again and again not to play with you and look where I am now!"
"Well at least you will have someone to go back to!" The longneck yelled back at him.
"Do I?! Did you already forget what's happened to my parents all these cold times back?!"
The longneck was stunned into silence. Both of them had lost their parents. The longneck had lost his caretakers very early on in his life, but Crusher was spared of that fate. Although it would still catch up with him later on. He would never forget the horrifying sight of the huge pack of fastbiters raiding the two herds. He would never forget the sight of what he presumed was the leader of this pack. His piercing, cold yellow eyes and his tan hide.
They were alone out here.
They were the only two children of two small herds of longnecks and threehorns who survived the many sharptooth attacks in the past years. The herds were traveling together at this time for safety reasons, but never socialized with one another. Their respective elders always preached to them that longnecks and threehorns must keep to their own. But they never told them why, so the two dinosaurs often snuck away to just be free of all this. At first it was out of necessity, as they didn't have anyone else to play with. But it soon turned into a friendship that was tainted heavily by the segregation both of their kinds suffered from in most parts of the Mysterious Beyond.
It was only at desperate times like these that Crusher allowed himself to show what he knew as a sign of weakness. He let out a loud sigh as he recomposed himself.
"You're right, I'm sorry. Let's just get home, ok Alamo?"
The longneck nodded at this and both went further into the forest. They had survived several attacks of smaller sharpteeth while wandering through the lands. Crusher had been injured slightly after one attack the day before so the two of them had split up for a bit back then.
They would not rest until they found their herd.
Or someone else found them first.
"What about your sniffer?"
Littlefoot pointed at his own nostrils, shaking his head slightly in disbelief at how they were both speaking the same language, yet sometimes couldn't understand one another.
"Oh. Well, you remember what I did this morning, right?"
"Yes...? And I still want an explanation for that, Specter."
"Don't worry, Seeker, you will! Anyway, I have been training my 'sniffer' the whole morning so I should be fine."
Littlefoot could only eye him in slight surprise.
At least I don't need to teach him how to track this longneck as well. The practical lessons for that would consume days. I wonder what he was before his change that this comes so natural to him... He thought to himself.
"Good. Now listen closely. The longneck is alone out there. Spotter is just making another flight but from what seems to be the case, it will be heading right into our claws."
Specter listened closely to Littlefoot's plan. It was not like he couldn't have come up with these conclusions by himself, but it never hurt to hear another input. Besides, Littlefoot has apparently successfully played this little game called 'survival' for several years now so what could go wrong?
"Ok, we will do it like this. Ponder and I will..."
"A little help here maybe?" Crusher asked, standing in front of a large pool of mud.
"Just go along this pathway to the right, it's narrow but you should fit." Alamo replied.
The longneck carefully waded into the deep mud and used his big body and powerful legs to push himself through the pool. He was not fully grown, yet already stood as tall to his back as an adult threehorn. It filled him with pride to be able to say this for himself, but it also annoyed him in some way, as he also wouldn't grow much bigger than that. And his friend Crusher was already beginning to rival him in size, too.
When he finally made it out of the mud, he turned around and gave Crusher a smirk.
"See? It's easy. Come on already you scaredy-egg!"
"What did you just call me?!" Crusher snorted.
Alamo still kept on smiling. He knew exactly what the threehorn would be about to do now. Crusher took a few steps back and charged headlong onto the narrow pathway.
A serious mistake, as rocks slipped away under the threehorn's sudden weight on them.
And while Crusher, too, was quite bulky by now, he was nowhere near able to get through such a mudpool like a longneck could.
"Ahh! Help me!"
"Crusher! Stay calm and don't move!"
"Just do something!"
Alamo scanned his surroundings in panic, but quickly saw something that might help.
"Here, grab these vines!"
He threw a whole bunch of the robust material to his friend, who managed to catch a few of them in his mouth.
"Alright, now pull!" Crusher muttered as loud as he could while trying to keep the vines in his grasp.
It took them several minutes but after a while, Crusher was finally free from this deathtrap. Completely covered in mud, but alive.
"Yuck! Disgusting! I can't walk around like this for the rest of the day."
"We'll go find some water soon. Just relax for a minute, will you? You almost died there."
"Hmpf! I had it all under control until you decided to call me a scaredy-egg!" His voice didn't hide the fact that Crusher was immensely grateful to the longneck. He owed him his life. He sighed and spoke up once more. "Maybe I should take a little rest."
"You being reasonable, Crusher? I thought that I would never see the day." The longneck responded, smiling at the threehorn's antics. He knew that despite his hard frill, he had a soft spot deep inside him. They both had been through too much to deny that. "Anyway, get some rest. I will look for some water in the meantime."
"Alright." Came Crusher's response.
As Alamo walked away, Crusher turned his head towards his friend again.
"...and thanks. Just... be careful out there."
Alamo turned to face him as well. He simply smiled and gave him a nod.
We will get through this. Crusher thought to himself as he laid down under some trees.
Both friends never noticed the sudden appearance of a brown sharptooth flyer high in the sky, who scanned the ground briefly before locking on to his target.
"Alright, got it." Specter affirmed. He didn't like it, however. This whole plan sounded quite risky.
Littlefoot wanted to attack the longneck head-on together with Ruby to either injure or scare it and make it run away. The most likely route of escape would be straight back to where it came from. If that happened it would be Specter's job to use the spears to kill or injure the longneck from the bushes so that it could be finished off easily by all three of them. If the longneck decided to charge at Littlefoot and Ruby it would be dead anyway. There was no possible way it would be able to fight two predators all by itself. Especially considering that the longneck wasn't yet fully grown. To each side of the trap the longneck would be about to walk into, there were huge trees in tight formations. No way to escape for something as slow and wide as a longneck through that either.
Yet, Specter felt uneasy. The mind of the predator totally agreed with the plan of a far more experienced fastbiter without hesitation. But his human mind told him something different. It felt like he was missing a part of the puzzle.
And Littlefoot's scents told him the same story. A very slight note of uncertainty radiated from him. The brown fastbiter was probably thinking exactly the same.
Why would a young longneck continue wandering alone through these lands unharmed? Petrie had told him numerous times that he had not seen anyone else following their target, nor did he see a herd anywhere near where he had first spotted it.
Littlefoot looked up at the sky.
"That's Spotter. The longneck will be here any moment now."
With that, the three predators moved into their attacking positions.
Oh man... we will never get out of this damn forest if I won't come up with something soon! Alamo yelled at himself inside his mind.
"Wait... That's the way out!"
He charged into the clearing only to find himself between more trees. With an annoyed sigh, he stopped when he was standing in the middle of said clearing.
"Oh that's just great! Well maybe if I head down a bit further I might..." His sentence was cut short, however, as two fastbiters suddenly charged right at him.
He turned straight around and ran with all the speed he could muster.
The hunt was on.
A distant cry met Crusher's ears. He knew exactly whom that voice belonged to.
He immediately jumped up from his resting place and raced towards the source of his friend's desperate cry for help.
Hold on! I won't let you down!
Alamosaurus, huh? Matches me in size, minus his neck, probably just before reaching adulthood. Sorry pal, you won't be reaching it... Specter quickly analyzed.
He raised his spear. It would be only seconds now until he would be able to deliver a crippling blow.
Come on! Closer...closer...closer... NOW!
He leaned back as far as he could before, using his tail as an additional source of power, propelling his body forward again as he let the deadly projectile fly. He didn't even need to hear the longneck's reaction. Moments before the impact, a smirk appeared on his face.
The spear hit the longneck right into his hind leg, tearing through flesh, sinews and muscles and finally breaking apart by the momentum he was still carrying. The sharp splinters inside his leg caused him even more pain. With a loud rumble, he crashed onto the ground. He was done for. He wouldn't be moving anywhere now. This was his end.
"Nice throw, Specter!"
Littlefoot and Ruby were now both in a slow trot towards the hapless longneck. He wouldn't be going anywhere, anyway. No use in wasting their breaths. Besides, Specter had already gravely injured the longneck. They would let him have the honor of striking the killing blow.
It was his hunt, after all.
Nice throw. Longneck not going anywhere now. The flyer thought to himself from high up in the sky.
His excellent sense of vision granted him a look at the injury the longneck was suffering from, even at his current altitude.
Specter a natural! Wait... what...?!
He averted his eyes from the fallen longneck in the direction of the entrance to the clearing. He could see some smaller trees violently falling or being pushed aside.
His eyes grew wide at what he saw running through the thick foliage below him.
Caw! Caw! Caw!
Littlefoot looked up at the sky again, this time in disbelief.
"That's an alarm call..." Ruby hesitantly affirmed.
The prone longneck's body blocked their line of sight at the route he originally came from.
Specter, however, was still at his original position. Littlefoot never told him what their personal scout's calls meant, but he understood now that he didn't need to.
Because a voice from inside of him did.
He took a quick sniff of air, which instantly confirmed his worst suspicions.
In perfect unison with his yell, the male Triceratops broke through the underbrush and eyed the severely injured Alamosaurus.
His eyes were burning with anger. He had lost far too much to sharpteeth in his life. He wouldn't even be here if these vile creatures would've at least left him with one brother or sister. Or his father. Or his mother. But they didn't. He and Alamo were the last kin of their aging herd. And even if he and his friend would die here, he would take these sharptooth bastards with them. He would make sure of that.
Without any further thinking, he charged at the two fastbiters standing in front of his fallen friend.
Out of all the enemies most sharpteeth could pick for a fight, a threehorn certainly was the one that everyone always tried to avoid. Even though this one was not fully grown yet, its sheer mass, paired with its heavily armored frill, three dangerous horns, high agility and angry temper were a recipe for disaster. Maybe not for a two-footer, but surely for only two fastbiters.
"I will kill you!"
Specter couldn't understand the threehorn's words but he knew its intentions. The rage and anger in its voice didn't need an understanding of the words.
He remembered how Littlefoot had briefly told him to stay in cover under all circumstances. Even if something would've gone wrong and the longneck had attacked him and Ruby. He didn't want Specter to get hurt on his first hunt.
But sometimes, even clear orders had to be disobeyed. And nobody expected a threehorn to be with the longneck in the first place.
I have to do something!
Not wasting any second, the massive black fastbiter charged as fast as he could into the clearing as well. But it was too late for him to fend off the inevitable.
The threehorn knew exactly how fastbiters fought. He had seen enough attacks and how they always masterfully avoided the weapons of a threehorn. They were cowards, for all he knew. As he was only seconds away from impaling the brown and rose-colored fastbiters in front of him, he could see them getting ready for an evasive maneuver.
Not this time you bastards!
As the two fastbiters attempted to break away from one another, he knew what counter attack would be coming. But he would have none of it. Instead, he slowed his pace by a mere fractions and changed his running pattern, so that the sharpteeth would miscalculate their defenses.
The two fastbiters had no time to react, which was quite a surprise for Crusher, given that he had expected them to be experienced hunters and fighters. Experienced murderers, that was. It would now become apparent to them that they had underestimated what simple rage can do to a leaf-eater.
Let's just hope this works... I'm counting on you! Littlefoot quickly thought to himself.
Seeing how her mate didn't do anything to evade the attack, Ruby hesitated for too long and was flung away like a pinecone off the threehorn's tail while Littlefoot, who sort of was the reason for this whole miscalculation, was hit by the side of its frill, throwing him into the dirt.
Specter's eyes grew wide at that display. He had expected the adult fastbiters to just easily evade the threehorn's attack, jump onto its back and then rip it apart. But it did not work out anything like that.
Clinching the remaining spear in his claws he scanned the environment, looking for a way to distract the leaf-eater from the prone fastbiters. In the end, he laid eyes on the longneck. A grim look formed on his face. He felt sick at what he was planning on doing, although that plan did not come from the conscious part of his mind.
But he had no choice.
Alamo watched his friend in painful excitement as Crusher had seemingly finished off two adult fastbiters with a single attack. He never noticed the big shadow appear behind him.
Until it was too late.
"Ahh! Crusher! Help!"
Specter used his size to hold onto the longneck's neck like a constrictor and kept his claws dangerously close to the leaf-eater's flesh. One false move could've caused it a deadly injury.
"That's right! Scream for your life! Scream!" He shouted in the leaf-eater's face. Once again, he felt like he was losing control over his body again. Only this time, it was different. He let it happen willingly.
He embraced it.
Even without fully understanding this new world, he knew the longneck wouldn't understand his words and neither would the rampaging threehorn. However, the threehorn would probably understand the longneck's screams. But it seemed like the Triceratops didn't care a single bit about his friend, who was about to die, Specter noted grimly.
Crusher was dismissing everything else, even the screams of Alamo. He had his eyes firmly fixated on the prone brown fastbiter, as he closed the distance to it until he stood right in front of the sharptooth. He slowly raised his front foot.
He would make sure that both, but at the very least one of these fiends paid for their endless crimes with their petty lives.
Specter was quaking in anger that the threehorn would not let off of Littlefoot. He had to do something. Taking a short look at the hostage at his claws, he didn't waste any more time.
He let go of the longneck for a second and with a horrible sound, he ripped through its belly with his sickle claw. The disemboweled longneck's high-pitched scream echoed through the dusk.
"This... is for father!" The threehorn yelled in his anger while having his foot raised to the highest point he could manage.
He was by far not big enough to crush the whole fastbiter under it, that was something which pretty much only adult longnecks could say for themselves, but he would easily be able to squash part of its body and legs with a single stomp.
That was when the horrifying scream reached his ears.
Immediately, he was shocked out of his rampage. All thoughts about his father and mother were gone. Only now he realized that he had completely neglected his friend in his rage. Unlike his parents, Alamo was still alive. He was starting to shake.
And stomped down with all his might.
Specter's face lost all expression.
He had only known Littlefoot for one day, but the brown raptor had agreed on taking him in and teaching him the stuff he needed to know. Specter considered him not only his leader by now. He considered him somewhat a friend. He got to meet his pack and their children. He had been so keen on hearing some of his fascinating stories about his past life before his change in person.
And now he was dead. Crushed by an angry threehorn.
Something snapped inside of him. Something deep inside of him awoke. Something primal.
Following that ear-piercing shriek, he bit down on the longneck's throat, his sharp teeth penetrating and cutting apart its flesh with ease, almost ripping the poor leaf-eater's head off in a violent motion. The tepid blood of a longneck splattered across the whole area.
He was caked from head to toe in the longneck's crimson blood. As the metallic taste in his mouth was being processed by his senses, one final thought crossed his mind.
So this is why they call it bloodlust...
And then everything inside his head went silent.
Crusher slowly turned around, the brown fastbiter's body obstructed by his massive form, while the other one was still out cold.
He was staring at his friend. Alamo was still twitching a little bit, his eyes moving violently in all directions as rivers of blood escaped his body and gurgling sounds emerged from his ripped throat.
Then all was still.
Alamo was no more. His friend was dead.
His eyes moved on to the tall fastbiter, which he almost perfectly matched in size, standing next to the gutted corpse. The sharptooth's black fuzz was covered in blood. The blood of the only friend he ever had. Each eyed at one another for several seconds before Crusher started another charge.
He had found his new target.
Specter was watching calmly as the threehorn came running at him with tremendous speed, his brain calculating the distance between them. His primal instincts had assumed control. He felt no fear anymore. He felt no anger anymore. He felt no sadness anymore. He felt nothing. He only knew one thing.
He would kill that threehorn.
With a swift movement, he picked up his spear, which he had dropped earlier to hold on to the longneck, from the ground. He clinched the weapon in his claws. It would be only seconds now.
Triceratops, maybe ten tons, three meters tall, almost fully grown, 60 meters away, going at around 30 kph... The thoughts raced with the speed of light inside his head.
He closed his eyes. The rumbling of the ground his only perception now.
50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5...
It was only after the threehorn was merely those five meters away from him that his eyes sprang open again.
With an unexpected movement for the threehorn, Specter slammed the bottom of his spear into the ground and jumped out of the way.
It was too late for Crusher to react. He desperately tried to brake, but couldn't stop his momentum anymore.
The spear from below impaled itself into his delicate throat. The weapon ripped right through his windpipe.
The world around him began to spin as he tried to gasp for air to no avail. Ghastly sounds emerged from his throat in his final fight with death. His movement slowed down and suddenly came to a hold as he collapsed to the ground, face to face with his dead friend.
I'm... so... sorry... Alamo...
His last thoughts slipped away from his mind before only stillness remained. The world around him turned black. He had lost this final battle.
The threehorn was dead.
Still breathing heavily, Specter took one last look at the threehorn to confirm its death before heading towards his crushed leader. His heart was already pumping in a frequency that would have made him simply drop to the ground as a human.
How would he explain this to the pack? They will probably kill him for that. He acted too late. He could've done more. It was his fault. His heart started beating even harder.
He sprinted towards the place where Littlefoot must have been, faster than he had ever sprinted in his life, more than twice as fast than a normal human could have ever sprinted. At the sight that greeted him, the world around him seemed to stop for a second.
The brown fastbiter was unharmed. He was unconscious, but alive. There was a large crater right next to his feet. Specter's tactic had worked. He had to sit down for a few moments.
"Ugh... What happened?"
Two pairs of eyes greeted him before Littlefoot was suddenly embraced by his mate.
"Oh thank goodness you're alive! The threehorn attacked us. He hit both of us! I thought you were..." Ruby couldn't continue as she started crying at Littlefoot's shoulder.
"Where is he?" He immediately asked.
"He save you, Seeker! He distracted threehorn and kill it." Came Petrie's voice from right next to him. He was still in shock about what happened. How could it have possibly escaped his sharp eyes that the longneck had a threehorn with it? "This all my fault! Me should have..."
"This is nobody's fault, Spotter!" Littlefoot interrupted him. "We all make mistakes. Did you see the mud on the threehorn's body? I bet you that was why you couldn't see it on your last spotting flight. Bad coincidence... Now, where is he?"
Petrie hesitantly gestured towards the two leaf-eater corpses.
His sight was still a little bit hazy but Littlefoot could see Specter standing there, unmoving. He was facing towards the bodies. His black feathers tainted with their blood.
"Excuse me for a bit, will you?"
Ruby unwillingly let go of her mate. After a few moments finally, she and Petrie gave Littlefoot an understanding nod.
He stood up and slowly walked towards the large predator. He was limping slightly and his chest was still burning in pain. The hit he took from the threehorn luckily didn't leave him with major injuries but it was an important reminder.
An important reminder that next time, he probably wouldn't get away that easily with his boldness.
Seemingly unaware of him, Specter stood in front of the two corpses in silence for a little more before moving forward a bit. He lowered his body and carefully used the backside of his claws to close their eyelids. He didn't want to see the expressions of pain, horror and death in their empty oculi anymore.
Littlefoot couldn't bring out a single word. He had never seen a display like this. It made him a little bit sad that he didn't know how to comfort Specter. Even more so, it made him sad that he had forced him to do this.
As if he had read his mind, it was Specter who started talking.
"It is something we did to our dead... you know, where I'm from. A final show of respect, so that they can have their rest. Their eternal sleep."
Littlefoot was deeply moved by this gesture, but still couldn't respond.
"I guess... now we should eat them before they start to spoil, huh?" Specter said, and a slight laugh left his bloodstained mouth.
Littlefoot looked at him stunned for another few moments but quickly regained his composure.
"Yeah... we probably should. Specter... you... killed not only your target but also the threehorn and thus saved not only me but probably Ponder as well. You risked your life for us. I don't know how to thank you for this. The killer gets the first bite. You deserve it."
He smiled at Specter who only nodded and turned towards the fallen leaf-eaters again.
Rest in peace, you two.