The Eighth Hunter

Chapter 6: The Misfit

Chapter 6: The Misfit

"Some of us aren't meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down [...] until we make our own place in it." - Elizabeth Lowell

Just outside Hanging Rock:

Splash! Shluck. Thud.

Ok, that should be enough... How many did I catch? 5... 10... 15... 19? Meh... I really couldn't resist. They taste pretty good.

Splash! Shluck. Thud.

20. There we go. This should keep me fed for the trip and also provide a nice parting gift for Ponder's family.

Specter took a good look at the pile of dead fish lying on a large leaf, counting them once more.

Coelacanths... Huh! Never thought I'd get the chance to eat them one day. Guess I'm lucky that these are pretty big. I don't want to empty the closest source of food for my Oviraptor friends... Why are Oviraptors even living here? Shouldn't they live around Mongolia? Oh well... What's normal anymore?

Upon mentioning the fastrunner family, Specter quickly turned around, placed his bloody spear on the ground for a second, and wrapped up the leaf with the 20 fish of different sizes. Just as he was about to head back to the cave inside Hanging Rock, he took another quick look at the sky.

Sun's already up for quite some time now. I have to be fast. Let's be pessimistic here for once... Maybe I'll have three more hours.

He let out a heavy sigh at his thoughts.

A whole damn day they said... Even if I keep up my top speed, I'm probably still looking at a four- to six-hour journey. For once, Seeker and Ponder, I hope that you rush your decisions and send Spotter to Hanging Rock first. If he warns the valley of my arrival, he'll take the only chance I have away from me. The element of surprise.

"You caught all these for us?!"

"Why of course! Well... I plan on eating some of them myself but... I could not have asked for better help than yours! You even allowed me to stay here for the time being and listened to my story. Offering all of you a nice breakfast is the least I can do." Specter responded with a smile to Arial's exclamation. The fastrunners had already settled on talking in leaf-eater again and he was fine with that. He would need every single bit of practice he could get with that language in the next few hours. He didn't even want to imagine what one single mistake could potentially cause. One single word that he might falsely translate into an insult, or a threat.

Thinking about it, he noticed that he overestimated himself massively with his ability to quickly understand everything language-related. Humans had a hundred times as many languages, but most of them were related in some way, which would make it possible to understand at least some words that were exactly the same in one's first, second and maybe even third language. This had certainly been the case for Specter when he still was a human. However, sharptooth and leaf-eater were two completely different languages. Every single word was formed out of a different grunt, screech or roar in a different pitch. He knew that his progress was still incredible for any dinosaur, but that would not make the situation any better if he got killed on sight upon reaching the Great Valley or later on, should he fail convincing them of his good intentions.

Maybe I really should have waited longer... No! The longer I stay, the bigger the chance that I grow too accustomed to all this. Can't stop now! I'm almost there...

His contemplative look did not go unnoticed by Detras of course, so the elder fastrunner was quick to interrupt Specter's pondering.

"Oh you shouldn't have! We are called Fast Runners for a reason, and the last thing we need is a Fast Biter providing food for us."

Specter's laugh was evidence enough for Detras that he had the black fastbiter's full attention now, so he quickly continued.

"But in all seriousness, Specter, I would not like seeing you again as a corpse. I take it that you know how the residents of the valley think about sharpteeth?"

Specter's laugh died in an instant and his face took on a grave expression.

"Yes, I know very well what would happen if I would sneak in and someone would spot me. Ponder and Seeker, and especially Path... have been quite... explicit when they told me how they got chased out."

Detras frowned at this. He had to control his emotions. When Ruby first told him about that night, he had been anything but happy for quite a long time. Although some part of him could understand the actions of the valley residents, considering everyone thought that their beloved children had been killed, another part of him still condemned them for that in some way.

"I see... So, how do you plan on approaching?"

"Well... Considering I know how to speak leaf-eater and am aware of most their names and secrets by now... I am in a good position. I will do this the straightforward way. Just ask ahead. Offer them some help maybe? I would do anything to show them my good intents."

"That is wishful thinking, Specter..." Detras responded dryly. He had already thought about that option himself, of course.

Specter let out a light laugh before giving an as dry response.

"You and I are more alike than I ever thought we would be."

The elder fastrunner first looked at Specter in surprise, but soon realized what he meant with that sentence. And Specter was quick to continue.

"I know full well that they would probably like to kill me on sight. They don't know me and owe me nothing... and they're my food, basically. However, I've heard that they owe the pack more than they could ever repay them. Maybe it's finally time to return a favor, if not directly to them. Besides... and that's also the reason I went alone... Well, I'm alone and I would only stay for a single day. They can go ahead and observe me all the time, I've no problem with that. Also, there should be plenty of fish for me to eat. They wouldn't have to fear anything from me. So as long as I offer them my life in exchange, should something go wrong, I should be fine."

Now Detras really had to hold back his anger, and he was not angry at the fastbiter. What Specter proposed reminded him all too well of Ruby's tactic. And he knew how that had worked out for his daughter in the end.

"Then you know that they will take it without hesitation, should they only find you near some younglings. Worse even, all it would take is for one of them to turn on you and tell a lie. You might be able to sense it, but nobody else would... Nobody would stand for you. You know what happened to Path that night. You are walking towards your own demise."

Arial and Orchid shifted uneasily at this part of the conversation, and both of them moved a bit closer to their mother. Pearl as well seemed anything but comfortable. They all knew that Detras was completely right. And so did Specter. However, the fastbiter surprised them all with his reaction.

He smiled widely, flashing all of his razor-sharp teeth.

"Yes, nobody of them has my sense of smell... And that's exactly what I'm looking forward to! I can be very... persuasive, should the situation demand it. And if it works on a two-footer..."

The fastrunners' eyes all widened at that revelation. Of course, they all wondered how exactly Specter had managed to get Thrasher to take him to Hanging Rock without killing him on the way. He had told them that he tricked him, but he did not mention how he did it.

"You... lied to him. But... that doesn't make any sense!" Orchid exclaimed. Everyone knew about the sense of smell of sharpteeth and their ability to distinguish the truth from a lie. There was just no way Specter could have lied to someone like Thrasher in a way that obvious.

"Explaining this would consume all the time I have left to reach the valley. Not gonna happen, I'm sorry. But it's good that we mentioned that piece of excrement again. I'm sure the valley would be glad to know there's one dangerous two-footer less around... Anyway, I should get going now. Take your share of the fish, I'll just eat the rest and then I'll be on my way. I have bothered you long enough."

The fastrunners all nodded hesitantly and grabbed their shares of the food Specter had brought them. They all looked at him somewhat uncomfortably, as he just swallowed some smaller ones of the twelve fish that were left as a whole, and soon decided to eat their meal later. To Specter, that display was beyond amusing and he really would have liked to spend a bit more time with the fastrunners, but he was already behind his schedule. After he was finished with his quick meal, he jumped up and placed his spear into his vine-holster again.

The five raptors gathered outside. They all gave Specter their farewells and wished him the best on his journey. The fastbiter bowed his head deeply as a sign of utmost respect before making one final appeal.

"Farewell, everyone. Thanks for everything. I hope... we'll see each other under better circumstances one day. And... I know I shouldn't be asking this of any of you but... If he comes looking for me, then please tell Spotter I wasn't here, you don't even know my name."

The pack's territory:

"Wait! Do you smell that?"

Both fastbiters stopped their movement immediately.

"Yes! That's him! But... there is something wrong with that scent. It's quite old... and... Come on, Stern Claw, we have to be fast!"

It only took Ruby and Cera a few more minutes until they found the origin of the scent they followed. They were standing in a small clearing, quite close to the borders of their territory.

Why did he mark the area here? Hmm... He was not afraid. He was feeling... Oh no!

"Ponder! Come over here, fast!" Cera interrupted Ruby's thoughts.

She was quick to run over to see what Cera had discovered. In her mind, however, she didn't even need to. She already knew what happened to Specter.

"Wood chippings and splinters..." Cera analyzed.

But Ruby was indifferent about it. She just stood there in silence for a few more moments until she finally spoke up.

"The Great Valley..."

Cera looked at her in surprise.


"Specter... he... he is going to the Great Valley. I just know it..."

"So just because there are a few pieces of wood and he felt sad about it... that tells you that he has departed to the Great Valley?" She had to laugh faintly, but she knew that Ruby was not the kind of fastbiter to just make such assumptions for no reason. She sighed before continuing. "What makes you so sure?"

"The markings. It was me who told him about how to leave a message behind for others. And this one right here means 'I'm sorry, but I had to do this'." Cera didn't retort anything this time. Instead, her face took on a more serious expression as she let Ruby continue. "Also... the wood. He has made himself a weapon. I worked on enough pointed sticks to know how it looks like after you are finished, and this is exactly how it looks like!"

All this made sense to Cera but being who she was, she wanted to be completely sure.

"Alright, so his message is 'I had to go' and he made himself a pointed stick. So what? He is a big sharptooth, so he needs a lot of food. He's probably just on a hunt on his own."

Ruby wanted to go further but Cera was first in doing so.

"And besides... He doesn't even know how to get to the Great Valley! I know what you're thinking... He mentioned going to the valley a few times. But remember that Seeker has told all of us to never mention the way there to him. For his own good. And he never even asked about it in the first place..."

"Yes, but... I think he might know the way to Hanging Rock. And from there... he could ask my family for the way to the valley. They don't know about any of this."

"What?! Did you tell him how to get there?"

"No! Of course not! But in my song about my old home I always mention the scenery around, you know that! It's part of my song! How could I have known that...?"

Cera cut Ruby off with a heavy sigh.

"I know... It's not your fault, Ponder. I guess what he told us was true... that 'humans are the smartest creatures ever'." Cera made the quote sound quite sarcastic, but deep inside she accepted it as the truth by now. It just went against her pride to admit it openly.

And there was more to it, as Ruby finished that particular quote.

"Yes, 'and the most dangerous ones'. We need to tell the others, fast!"

Cera could only nod this time. Both fastbiters took a deep breath and raised their heads into the air.

Roar! Screech! Roar!

It was exactly the same call Ruby had used when she found Specter in her Thinking Place. The pack agreed on using the same call again, should anything else related to Specter happen again. This would also grant him a chance of coming back by himself.

But Ruby knew that he would not, and she couldn't really condemn him for that. After everything he had told her face to face about his past life, she understood his desire to find true peace in this time by talking to the rainbowfaces about what he would be allowed to do without destroying his former species' existence. And although he never mentioned it this explicitly, Ruby just knew he was at least thinking about it this way. It was one thing using some kind of trick to alter his scents, but another to hear the deep pain and concern in his deep voice.

But why did you just leave? We could have helped you! You will need it... You cannot throw your life away like that!

She was worried about the residents of the valley first, as she feared that Specter might hurt them. But these thoughts very soon got overwhelmed by her concerns for him. If he actually planned on walking straight into the Great Valley, he would be in grave danger.

But she didn't have time to ponder about that further, as Cera raised her tail and nodded at her. Moments later, both fastbiters were in a full sprint back to the pack's meeting area again.

It took the pack about an hour to get together again. Their territory was huge for the standards of fastbiters. Then again, they had a two-footer with them as well, and Chomper alone was reason enough for any potential rivals to not bother them, even though he wasn't even fully grown.

But it was in moments like these where Littlefoot wished their territory was a bit smaller, for the sake of complete overview.

"Alright, I can already see that nobody here has found a trace of him. But Ponder and Stern Claw, you said you have found his scent?"

Ruby and Cera stepped forward and nodded, but it was Ruby who explained it to her mate.

"Yes. We have found a marking and some wood. He made himself a pointed stick... and his scents say that he went on a journey..."

Littlefoot frowned at this, although the other fastbiters mostly looked at Ruby in confusion. Like Ruby, he knew what must have happened in an instant.

"So he finally went off, huh? I feared it would come to this one day... but I was hoping he would not leave this sudden."

The other fastbiters all looked at him now. Nobody was quite aware of the implications.

"He... went to the Great Valley, didn't he?" It was Spike who spoke up this time, much to the surprise of the others. None of the packmembers ever got fully used to the vast intellect which was hidden behind his quiet demeanor. At least now that he was a fastbiter.

"I fear so." Littlefoot responded. He looked at the ground for a second. He couldn't help but feel a bit angry at himself. He wanted to help Specter, of course, but the pack had children. They couldn't just all leave their territory behind for a journey with such an uncertain outcome. "I just wish he had informed us first. I think we all could have vouched for him... but it's too late for that now. So, any ideas where he might have gone first? If I recall correctly, he shouldn't know the way to..."

"Hanging Rock!" Ruby quickly interrupted him. "We underestimated him. He must have known the way there from my songs..."

"And now he will ask your family about the rest... You're right, we all underestimated him." Littlefoot finished for her.

Silence fell over the pack. This situation was new for all of them. Nobody of them was endangered by Specter's decision, but he belonged to the pack. And fastbiters didn't just give up on a packmember. It was a matter of honor for sharpteeth like them. But none of them quite knew what to do now. They couldn't just all go together and chase after him. Although the evidence to where he wanted to go was clear, he could have actually gone anywhere. It was far too risky to give up on their territory and take their children with them.

With a heavy heart, Littlefoot looked up at the nearest tree.

"Spotter! I have a favor to ask of you..."

A hearty laugh escaped Petrie's beak.

"Me know what to do, it no problem. Me will check out Hanging Rock and ask fastrunners, maybe Specter still there?"

"Good, thank you. I guess we'll see you again later this day. And should you find him, don't hesitate following him. Who knows? Maybe you could still help him..."

Petrie's expression turned serious immediately, as he gave Littlefoot a firm nod and soared into the sky. The flapping of his wings was the last thing they heard before silence fell over the fastbiters once more. After a few more moments, Littlefoot broke it again.

"Alright, I guess now we can only wait. I will tell Soar and the children that he will be on a mission..."

About two hours later, up in the skies near Hanging Rock:

Me should have fly-ed faster! At this rate, me will never find him...

Petrie has made use of his excellent eyes to continuously scan the ground below him for the whole flight, but he had found nothing. He lowered his altitude when he finally spotted something of interest.


He landed on the ground and inspected the tracks.

Fastbiter tracks... Quite big, yet still from fastbiter. Must be Specter's! But... Oh no!

He quickly took to the air again and landed a few meters further away. The footprints he was eyeing now were far bigger than the others.

Two-footer... Me hope me not too late!

He ascended into the sky again, and this time he multiplied his speed by a considerable margin. Specter meeting a two-footer couldn't have gone well.

And it certainly had not for one of the sharpteeth.

Another few minutes of flying went by and Petrie was now in visual range of Hanging Rock. Nothing else of interest so far. Then, after scanning the ground below him once more, he spotted something. His eyes went wide and he immediately dived down with all the speed he could build up.

He landed in front of a two-footer corpse. It was still fresh, and a crushed rock lay next to it. Only a few pieces of flesh had been ripped out, presumably by carrion flyers. The blood all around it had barely dried, and the sharptooth had a tell-tale wound. Petrie eyed the fatal injury closely. It wasn't like any other he had seen so far and yet it seemed very familiar. The two-footer had a round hole in his throat but the flesh around it looked like it had been ripped from the inside. It also looked like as if someone had twisted the skin around it.

Definitely from pointed stick, but... wound is surely looking strange.

"Looking for someone?"

Petrie jumped on the corpse and extended his talons at that sudden intrusion from behind him. His stance quickly went relaxed again when he saw who it was.

"Mr. Fastrunner!"

Detras could only laugh at the flyer's exaggerated reaction.

"You let your guard down, Spotter. Not a wise move in these lands."

Petrie had to smile slightly but the rest of his face kept the serious expression he had been wearing for most of the day.

"Well, me usually don't get attacked by fastrunners." He paused for a second before continuing. "He? So Specter..."

Detras' sigh interrupted the flyer. He had promised Specter to not tell Petrie about his stay at Hanging Rock, but he couldn't live with telling a lie like that.

"Yes... he was here, and he made quite the entrance. What you are standing on is his handiwork."

Petrie looked at the corpse below his feet once more. His expression grew slightly dark, which Detras noticed immediately.

"Not what you're thinking. The two-footer attacked him... He was lucky that my son was on guard duty last night. Orchid helped him out, but in the end it was Specter who delivered the killing blow."

Petrie's expression softened up again and returned to the more serious look from before. He felt extremely relieved. For a moment there he had thought that Specter went on a rampage. And if he had killed a two-footer in such a fashion, Petrie didn't even want to imagine what would happen if a threehorn angered him, should he make it into the valley. And there was one particular threehorn that just had a habit of angering others with his blunt and careful opinions.

"And now he on way to Great Valley?"

Detras gave him a nod.

"He went off quite some time ago. He feared that you might ruin his chances to enter the valley... So he asked me to not tell you about his appearance here, but I know you just want to help..."

"Yes, that why me here! Pack does not want him to get stomped by angry valley residents."

"And neither do I..." Detras took a quick look in the general direction of where the Great Valley would be. "But you need to be fast to catch him. I have never seen a determination such as his. If he kept up his speed, which I think he did, then he should be very close by now. Good luck, Spotter."

Petrie nodded in affirmation, already extending his wings.

"Thanks, Mr. Fastrunner. Me will go then. And me will make sure to tell you if he made it into valley."

Detras responded with a friendly smile as Petrie took to the air again.

"I just hope you will get there in time..." Detras spoke to himself in leaf-eater while trotting back towards his home.

Two hours later, at Saurus Rock:

"Wow... I never thought something like this ever existed."

Specter stood in awe at the landmark before him. The gigantic pillar of rocks with a huge plateau on top was a sight to behold, although looking at the ring of teeth around Saurus Rock made him shiver slightly.

"Wouldn't want to add my own to that... Jeez, this is actually kinda creepy now that I think about it."

He stopped his monologue and looked at the sky.

Ok, I'm heading south. The valley should be just behind these mountains. Maybe it's time to think about what I will say to them...

He pulled the vine around his body a little bit tighter and adjusted his spear before returning to his sprint. It would be less than an hour now, he deduced. He was about to take one of the biggest steps of his journey, and by now he had a beaming smile on his face. Still, he did not want to let his guard down for a single second, for he knew that the area just around the Great Valley must have been extremely dangerous. It was just simple logic. The Great Valley was supposed to be the biggest shelter for any herbivore in this time, and it was only natural for the carnivores to stay closely around in the hope of catching a few newcomers or the ones who might leave.

However, he had seen far more skeletons of carnivores than herbivores on his trip, which was not exactly the best omen for him. Then again, more dead sharpteeth meant less trouble. It was a matter of perspective in that case, albeit not a pretty one.

But he somehow felt sorry for all the long since dead predators.

Poor bastards... I don't even want to know how many of them starved to death... or turned on their own allies or packmates in their hunger.

It was only natural for him to bear a slight grudge against leaf-eaters, as he was a sharptooth now. What really bothered him was the deep hate between the two kinds. Of course he didn't expect the leaf-eaters to just offer themselves to the sharpteeth without a fight, nor did he expect the sharpteeth to spare the lives of their prey. He was completely fine with an honorable fight to the death. What he wasn't fine with, however, was how the leaf-eaters actually lusted more for sharptooth blood than the sharpteeth lusted for leaf-eater blood. Triceratops herds going out to crush some Tyrannosaurus or raptor eggs for example. There was no denying they were sometimes doing that.

And in his time, the leaf-eaters had very often been depicted as the poor victims, and the sharpteeth as evil, mind- and heartless murderers without honor or regrets. He felt sick even thinking about it. Nature has left them with no other choice.

Those discussions have always enraged him. Humans claiming that every human was a born herbivore, despite the clear fact that humans were omnivores and had been hunters for thousands of years. How much he hated this stupid hypocrisy, he couldn't even begin to describe. They needed at least some meat to get all the important vitamins and nutrients.

I might be a killer, but I'm not a murderer!

To him, there was a big difference between those two, even though the outcome would be pretty much the same. To him, a killer was someone who took another life out of the sole purpose to sustain himself, whereas a murderer took another life because he enjoyed doing it. But he knew the leaf-eaters wouldn't think about it like he did. To them, he was a stupid, cold, heartless killer and murderer alike. They wouldn't differentiate there. To them, he was a creature that stole their eggs and killed the old and weak. A creature, gorging itself on their flesh and blood. A creature that took joy in their deaths. A creature, only capable of bringing death and sorrow. A creature without the right to live on the same earth.

But could he really disagree? Could he object? Could he deny these accusations? Could he stand before his mother, should he ever see her again, and justify all this? Or was he just biased by his own existence as a sharptooth? Did he already lose his empathy in the past weeks as a predator?

He had to sigh heavily at these thoughts. In the pack's territory, he had been one of the 'Choosers of the Dead'. He had picked his prey together with his pack and killed it to feast on its flesh together with them. However, he would soon be stepping into the leaf-eater fortress that was the Great Valley. He would be in their dominion then. They would be the Choosers of His Death. His future would be decided by them.

He was so deeply caught in his cogitations that he didn't even notice he had traveled for at least another half an hour and was now standing in front of a massive bluff. He started laughing.

I'm there... I'm finally there!

He was just about to make a decision on what to do now when a distant scream reached his ears.

Ahh! Help me!

He was shaken out of his thoughts in an instant, as this distant cry in leaf-eater reached his ears. He started sniffing in the scream's direction.

A Saurolophus youngling? Multiple other leaf-eaters... and... two raptors!

Forgetting about everything else around him, he started another sprint. One of the fastest he has ever done in his life.

"Help me! Please!"

"Hold on, Malka! We will think of something! Just... don't move!"

The little swimmer was trapped inside a small crevice in the massive cliff. She had no way of escaping, the two fastbiters right outside made sure of that, and her friends couldn't help her from way up the wall. It wasn't like they could've done something anyway against adult fastbiters.

A rock, which Malka had been standing on earlier, had broken off right under her feet and she slit down the cliff together with it. She survived the slide unharmed, but as luck would have it, the two fastbiters had observed the children for some time already and were only waiting for something like that to happen. They were hoping for an easy snack now.

"Would you get that sap-sucker pest out of there already, Falce?!"

"The little shit is too far inside! I can't reach her! Instead of complaining all the damn time, Morso, maybe YOU would like to..."


Falce's sentence got cut short as a large pointed stick drilled through his side, piercing both of his lungs and splattering blood on his brother, tainting his already dark red skin. He couldn't even scream. He tried to gasp for air multiple times to no avail, until he just fell onto the ground with a thud.

The scenery was wrapped into complete silence. It seemed like everyone had stopped breathing. Morso stared in shock and disbelief at his dead brother before looking in the direction of where that weapon must have come from. He looked directly into the eyes of a tall black sharptooth who stood only a few meters away from him now.

"You will step away from that swimmer now, or you will end just like your brother." The black fastbiter spoke with a voice cold as ice.

Specter displayed a menacing stance. He rose to his full height while extending his clawed forelimbs and raising his feathered tail to look even larger. He already prepared himself for another fight. He had killed that fastbiter's brother and didn't expect to get away with that.

But he would be proven wrong.

Morso took another look at the corpse in front of his feet. He was starting to shake, right before letting out a high-pitched screech. Having done that, he turned straight around and sprinted off towards the distance.

And here I thought raptors fought with honor and were fiercely loyal. Specter thought to himself with disgusted sarcasm.

He inhaled a few deep breaths before moving towards the dead fastbiter. He stepped on the corpse with one of his feet and, following a sickening sound, ripped out his spear from the body and placed it into his holster again.

He sniffed the air another few times.

Ok, the swimmer is still alive. Her friends are up there somewhere... A female Triceratops and two... Those must be Gallimimuses, male and female. Are those rainbowfaces? Well, at least it looks like they all belong to the valley.

None of the children above moved a muscle. They could not even begin to comprehend what had just happened. They were even more shocked when the black fastbiter suddenly started speaking in leaf-eater.

"Alright, you can come out now. The two wimps are gone, one of them forever."

They were all petrified. None of them even thought about showing themselves to the sharptooth. Specter's senses were overwhelmed with their scents of fear so he tried to concentrate on the little swimmer in the crevice. He bowed his head down and spoke up again.

"Malka, isn't it? Don't worry, I won't hurt you or any of your friends. I promise."

The little swimmer was out of words or thoughts. But for some reason, she wasn't as scared of this fastbiter. He had saved her life, if only for another moment. It could have been a trick to lure her out, but he was talking in her language. And there was only one single pack of fastbiters she knew of, who could do that.

"Don't listen to that fastbiter! Stay inside!" Came an angry and fearful voice from above.

Specter looked up in an instant and for only a split second, he was able to make out the form of a pink threehorn. He started smiling a little bit.

"Cera would be proud of you, Tricia. Never trust a sharptooth. But right now, it looks like you don't have any other choice, do you?"

He could not see the three children above staring at each other in disbelief, so he just looked back at the crevice and was pleasantly surprised to see the little swimmer standing outside already. Her scents of fear were still extremely strong, but that was only normal for the situation she was in right now, Specter thought to himself.

"You are... not going to... kill me?" Malka's voice was still shaky but she managed to retain her posture.

"No. I would never kill a child. Especially not when that child belongs to the valley and is the sister of two of my packmates."

He smiled at her slightly, while trying to not show too many of his deadly teeth.

"You... know Ducky... and Spike?"

"Indeed I do, along with the rest of the pack. Who do you think taught me your language?"

Suddenly, another voice spoke from above. In fluent sharptooth.

"Alright, what exactly do you want from us?"

Specter looked up to the sight of Tricia and the two Gallimimus younglings. It was the male who asked that question.

That beak... So a rainbowface is a Gallimimus. Hmm, they are a pretty common species, as far as I know...

"What are your names and those of your parents?" Specter asked firmly, in sharptooth as well. He wanted to be completely sure that he would be meeting the right 'star people'.

The siblings looked at each other for a second before the female now gave her response.

"I am Axiom and this is my brother Datum. Our parents are Chronos and Logos. But why would you want to know this?"

Specter couldn't hold back his beaming smile any longer, which made the children all look at him with great discomfort. But he didn't even care anymore.

He had made it. He had reached his destination and by saving the little swimmer, he would even have some sort of welcome present.

"Because I will need to talk to them. You see, the Stone of Cold Fire that changed some of the valley's children was not the last of its kind..."

Datum and Axiom looked at each other in shock, but soon switched their attention back to the fastbiter and gave him an understanding nod. The two rainbowfaces and Tricia muttered some words to each other before Datum spoke up, in leaf-eater again.

"I guess we will tell the adults to expect you then... I just hope you will keep your word."

Specter's smile died down in an instant and his face took on a serious expression.

"There is too much at stake for me. I would rather kill myself than going back on my promise."

The children could only nod at this. They exchanged looks with Malka down below once more before heading back into the valley.

Specter now looked at the little swimmer again, lowered his body to the ground and gestured at his back.

"Climb up. You will need to show me the way and I would like to get there as quickly as possible."

Malka first stared at him in confusion but she soon moved towards him, climbed up his tail and sat on his back. Specter rose to his full height again and lowered his head in preparation for the upcoming sprint.

He couldn't help but flex his neck around to face her with a toothy grin one more time.

"You should feel honored! You are the first leaf-eater ever to ride on a sharptooth, after all. Just hold on to my feathers. You know why I'm called a 'fastbiter', don't you?"

"What are...?"

Malka didn't have time to finish her question as Specter sprinted off with tremendous speed.

"Ok, head to the right now. That's the way to the main entrance."

Specter had already slowed down his pace and was now moving at walking speed, which was still fast for most leaf-eater standards. He didn't look at Malka as he nodded. He wanted to inquire a bit further about the upcoming situation.

"Any idea on what I will have to expect? How many guards? And of which kind? Threehorns, spiketails, clubtails?"

"Well... we usually have two threehorns guarding this entrance. But... with that mean sharptooth wandering around..."

Now Specter was all ears.

"You know his name?"

"The adults never told us. But I overheard a few of them talking about someone like 'Drasher', 'Rasher' or 'Gasher'..."

"You mean Thrasher?"

Malka looked at him in surprise, although he couldn't see it.

"Yes! That must be him!" Her expression grew insecure then. "How did you know? Did you meet him?"

"Yeah I... 'met' him. Let's just say he won't be bothering anyone any longer."

Malka somehow felt relieved, but couldn't suppress an audible gulp. She didn't exactly want to know the details of that confrontation, as the implications on what Specter had done to Thrasher were pretty clear. She knew the two-footer was dead, another life taken by the sharptooth she was sitting on right now. It was only natural for her as a leaf-eater to be afraid of him, but she pushed these emotions aside for the time being. If it had not been for him, she would have been dead by now at the latest.

Looks like you didn't need help after all. Hmm... Me should probably still stick around.

Petrie had been observing Specter for quite some time now, ever since he saw him kill that one fastbiter, which, being honest with himself, filled him with a lot of concern. That was one of his own kind Specter had just killed, after all. And he hadn't even done it to eat it.

But Petrie dismissed this for now. He would more than happily trade a fastbiter he didn't even know for a Great Valley child. Especially a child of the gang that was so much like the one he belonged to long ago.

And me still belong to it! He affirmed to himself with a smile.

He had kept a safe distance between the valley and Specter, so that he would alert neither him nor the residents. His eyes allowed him to watch over the black fastbiter even from this distance anyway. He had to smile at the sight of Specter carrying the little swimmer on his back.

Valley residents will be in for surprise... But me have to stay alert! It been quite some time since me last visited them. Who knows what changed?

He took to the air again and flew towards a better vantage point on the valley entrance.

"She what?!"

"Daddy, please stay calm! I'm telling you, she's fine!"

The elder threehorn was beside himself.

"Fine?! A sharptooth took her, and you're telling me she's fine?!"

"He will come to the main entrance to bring Malka back! You can see it for yourself then!"

"Damn right I will!" He snorted. "And you will go to her mother and explain how all of this could have happened."

Tricia looked at the ground for a second but gave her father a nod in the end before she ran off towards where the swimmers would be.

The elder threehorn took a deep breath. It had been such a peaceful day for a change. Until now.

"How did that even happen? That cliff looked anything but safe. What were you children doing up there?"

Malka looked down at the black and golden feathers on his back.

"Axiom and Datum wanted to show us something... They said they 'planted' sweet bubbles on the top of the cliff. No idea what that means..."

Specter had to smile at that. So those adult rainbowfaces knew indeed more than the casual dinosaur, and their children were already following them in their footsteps.

"But Tricia claimed she knew a shortcut and well... you know the rest."

"What about the rest of your friends? If I recall correctly, I didn't see a longneck, a flyer or another threehorn."

"Sauria, Flip and Charger? Their... parents already had them occupied for today so they couldn't play. Wait... how do you know them?"

"From stories. Long stories. I guess they can consider themselves lucky that..." He cut himself off at the scent of four threehorns. The entrance was close.

Malka looked at him in surprise.

"What's wrong?"

"Do exactly as I tell you from now on. Otherwise, these might be the last steps I'm walking in my life."

"Ugh... Remind me again of why we are doing this, Toro?"

"Because we're told to. And besides, we're making sure the valley stays safe. It's your first time on guard duty and you are already complaining? Get used to it!"

The other threehorn let out an annoyed sigh.

"But this is so boring! Can't at least something happen for...?"


The four threehorns jumped up immediately and formed a line.

"Alright, there you have your action, Penta! Remember what I have told all of you! Lower your horns! Don't show any fear! Sharpteeth are cowards!" Toro exclaimed to his squad.

He was the oldest of them but still barely an adult. However, he had a lot of experience, given that he had spent most of his life in the Mysterious Beyond. And yet he was afraid, just like the three other threehorns. That black fastbiter approaching them looked more than frightening, the pointed stick it was carrying on its flank and the little fact that it was as almost as tall as an adult threehorn didn't really subtract that, and it was coming closer with every second.

"Stop right there, sharptooth!" Toro finally yelled at the fastbiter. He knew it would not understand him, but that didn't really matter to him right now.

To his surprise, however, the sharptooth seemingly obeyed his order and stopped immediately. The four threehorns just looked at each other uneasily for a moment as the fastbiter eyed every single one of them with deadly precision. It was sizing them up.

But then their eyes went wide in shock, as the sharptooth laid down on the ground and seemed to mutter some words. Moments later, a little swimmer jumped off its back and stood right beside the still prone fastbiter.

"Malka?! Is that you? What is going on here?!"

"Stand down!"

The stern voice from behind them made the guards almost jump, but they obeyed the elder threehorn and let him pass through their line.

Ever so slowly, the elder threehorn closed the distance on the fastbiter until he was standing face to face with it. He looked at the pointed stick on its side for a second, which made him relax a bit, before speaking up.

"My daughter has already informed me of your arrival. I'm glad to see that you have kept your word. What is your name?"

"Yeah right, as if sharpteeth had na..." Penta couldn't finish his murmuring as Toro rammed him in the flank with his frill.

"Shut up you idiot!"

The fastbiter seemed to be amused by that display.

Battle injuries, dark colors, an attitude, respected and even slightly feared by his own kind... Yep... That's the one she warned me about. It's nice to see you too, Topsy. Specter thought to himself with an inner smile. His one broken horn made the elder threehorn really look like a battle-scarred warrior. Which he was, of course.

"Promise me that nobody of you will attack me without reason, first."

The guards' mouths fell agape but Topps remained calm.

"I promise."


The black fastbiter muttered another few words to the little swimmer, to which she nodded. Following that, she climbed on his back again and he rose back to his full height. Topps could only tilt his head slightly at that display.

"My name is Specter, and I wish to talk to Chronos and Logos. The rainbowfaces."

"Why don't you let Malka go first and then we will see further? Taking a hostage won't exactly help us trust you."

Specter had to laugh slightly.

"I wouldn't exactly call her a hostage when Malka agrees to stay with me willingly for a bit longer. I just need some kind of... uhm..."

He was searching for the right word in leaf-eater, but he seemed to have forgotten it. This was quite the déjà vu for him. Breeze had once told him about a very similar incident with her own use of the leaf-eater language but he just could not remember what it was.

"Assurance." Came a voice from above.

"Huh... I wondered when you would finally show yourself, Spotter."

The flyer landed beside Specter, much to the surprise of Topps. The other threehorns were indifferent about his appearance though. They were out of words for quite some time now.

"Some kind of assurance, yes. I promised your children already not to harm any of you, but I would like to be sure that you keep your part of the promise as well." Specter then finished.

Topps eyed him for another few seconds before he gave him a nod.

"Fine. However, I fear the rainbowfaces are not here right now." He noticed Specter's shocked expression before quickly extending his sentence. "They went out for some 'urgent research', whatever they meant by that... Anyway, we expect them to return by tomorrow, or the day after, at the latest."

Specter looked at the ground. This was an unexpected turn of events, but he wouldn't just give up yet. He had only one chance now. His ultima ratio.

"In that case, I hope you wouldn't mind if I stayed here for now."

Now even Topps was out of words for a moment. This situation was getting crazier by the second.

"You're joking, right? A full grown fastbiter, staying in the valley for a few days?! Are you out of your mind?!"

Specter gave him an apologetic look at first. He then moved forward a bit until he stood right in front of the huge threehorn and presented his now vulnerable neck to him.

"Should I do anything wrong, you have the right to kill me where I stand. I... could make myself useful! I can smell diseases, other sharpteeth, and I know a bit about healing. Please, just give me a chance!"

Topps was taken aback by this but he hid his emotions. He could not allow himself to show his feelings in front of the guards. What kind of threehorn would he be, if he would let a fastbiter surprise him?

"You're serious, aren't you?"

Specter gave him a nod.

"Dead serious."

A few moments of silence reigned over the assembled dinosaurs.

Malka shifted uneasily on Specter's back. She had heard a bit about the gestures of sharpteeth from her mother, who knew those things from Ducky and Spike, but she had never seen a display such as this with her own eyes. It made a shiver run down her back.

And Topps as well had his mind on overdrive. He knew the look in Specter's piercing yellow eyes. It was almost exactly the same look Cera had given him all these cold times ago. A demanding look of acceptance, of resolve... and truth.

He let out a loud sigh.

"Alright... But you will need to speak in front of the Council and they will have to accept you as well. This is not my choice. Petrie, can you vouch for him?"

"Yes." The flyer responded firmly.

"Good, then you're coming with us as well. Maybe we can make one exception for... Specter here, but there is no way we can allow two meat-eaters to stay. I'm afraid you will have to leave after..."

"It ok, Mr. Threehorn." Petrie interrupted him. "Me just here to make sure you don't stomp him on sight."

Topps gave the flyer an understanding nod and turned around to the guards.

"Toro! Penta! You're escorting our 'guests'. Vaga! Rega! You will continue your watch."

The threehorn guards looked at each other for a second but none of them wanted to annoy the elder threehorn so they all stood at attention and replied in unison.

"Yes, Sir!"

Specter was overwhelmed with the sight that greeted his eyes.

So that's the Great Valley... It's... wow...

He could not even begin to describe the beauty of this place. Embraced by massive mountains, this was truly a leaf-eater's paradise. Vast grasslands with uncountable amounts of trees and smaller foliage lay before him. The thundering sound of the waterfalls in the distance could be heard even from where he was walking right now, and the multiple rivers all across the land looked like the veins of Mother Nature herself.

And there was life everywhere. He could see leaf-eaters of all different kinds and sizes. The massive forms of the longnecks in the distance, their necks reaching high into the treetops. The many threehorns, minding their own business or grazing in the sunlight. The uncountable masses swimmers, playing in the strips of water. And the flyers, hovering high in the skies. There were many other dinosaurs in smaller amounts he could name, and even more he had not even heard of.

"Welcome to Great Valley, Specter. It beautiful, is it not?" Petrie whispered from the perch on Specter's spacious back. He was talking in sharptooth again, so he didn't want anyone to think that the two of them were forging a plan with malicious intents. Especially considering that Malka, who was also still on the big fastbiter's back, felt very uncomfortable with the big sharptooth flyer right next to her. She was keeping a safe distance and clinged around Specter's neck.

"Agreed." Specter whispered back. He didn't want to talk any longer in sharptooth either, and being honest with himself, he was lacking the words right now to describe the place anyway.

After a few more minutes of walking, however, he got shaken back into reality again.

The first residents had noticed the two 'guests'. They didn't mind Petrie too much, Specter on the other hand had their full attention. Their eyes were filled with surprise and bits of fear, but even more so with hate, disdain and disgust. If looks could have killed, Specter thought to himself, then he would have been killed ten times over by now.

So this is what it must feel like... To be hated... to be not wanted... to be loathed.

As a human, he had thought about becoming a soldier at some point in his life. Someone who fought for his country. Someone who would give his life for a just cause. He quickly realized back then already that he had looked at it the wrong way. There was no such thing as a just cause in war. But it was only now that he truly understood how a soldier must have felt like in another country, a country in which he would have been an outlaw to the locals.

However, he wasn't feeling ashamed, nor did he have any regrets about killing all those leaf-eaters and sharpteeth since his arrival in this time three weeks ago. He had to confirm to himself again that he had no other choice. It had been either them or him.

He scanned his surroundings.

Wait... is that...?

He had noticed the adult swimmer's scent for quite some time, but it was only now that he recognized it out of the million other scents in the valley. He flexed his neck around to look at Malka again and compared the two scents quickly.

Yep, that's her mother.

"I think it's time for you to walk on your own again. I'm sure your mother would not want to see you sitting on the back of a fastbiter just yet. Or ever, for that matter." He stopped for a second to let her slide down his legs. "Watch the claws!"

He gave her a slight smile and, as she was standing safely on the ground again, gestured towards the adult swimmer. Standing with her were multiple other swimmer children, two threehorns, two rainbowfaces, a longneck and a flyer.

"Your friends are already waiting for you. Thanks for playing along, Malka. I should be fine from now on."

She gave him a concerned, but also relieved nod and ran towards her friends and family. Upon seeing how she was happily embraced by all of them, Specter looked forward again. The guards were slowing their pace. It seemed like they would arrive at the meeting place soon.

He could hear the crashing of footsteps.

"Mr. Threehorn? What is going on? What is Petrie doing here?" Only now, the gigantic green Brachiosaurus noticed that Petrie was perching on something. A huge fastbiter was standing between the two threehorn guards. "And... why did you bring a fastbiter here?!"

Topps was quick to elaborate.

"Relax, Shorty! This fastbiter apparently belongs to your brother's pack."

Shorty's expression went slightly more neutral again when he saw Specter's pointed stick, but he still gave the threehorn an asking look.

"He wishes to speak in front of the Council. It looks like we will have another sharptooth living here for a few days."

Shorty rolled his eyes at Topps' sarcasm.

"Well that's just great! I'll let the others know..."

"What is the meaning of this?!"

"Yeah! What is this sharptooth doing here?!"

"Are you out of...?!"


The stomp following Topps' demand made the majority of the assembled dinosaurs go quiet very fast. Only some inaudible mutterings could now be heard among them.

"This fastbiter right here calls himself Specter. He has come a long way to reach the valley and he even saved one of our children on his way..."

The mutterings grew louder for a few seconds before the crowd went completely silent.

"And he wants to speak in front of everyone here right now. So I demand of all of you to let him speak."

Angry and confused murmurings arose again, but they died down in an instant as soon as Topps gestured for Specter to step forward.

This was his moment now. The moment of truth. The moment he had been preparing himself for since weeks.

"Uhm... thanks Mr. Threehorn."

He eyed the crowd for a few seconds. Their looks made him cringe slightly. He was anything but happy with this situation but he had already expected something like this. He could see Petrie standing next to a large female flyer and she had one of her wings placed on him.

That must be his mother, uhm... Volant, I think he told me was her name. So no help from him or her, it seems. I'm alone in this.

He took a deep breath before raising his voice again.

"So yeah... the reason I have come here is because I need to talk to the rainbowfaces. It is something... personal. However, Mr. Threehorn has already informed me that they are apparently not here for the next days, so... I would like to... stay here until..."

He couldn't even finish his sentence as massive turmoil broke out among the crowd. Everyone was just wildly shouting and gesticulating. Specter knew that shouting back at them would only cause the crowd to eventually go violent on him, so he decided to do what he would have done as a human.

He sat down, lowered his head and closed his eyes, as he waited for the angry mob to calm down again. It didn't take long until the first individuals started throwing their insults and accusations at him.

"So you can kill our children?!"

"How stupid do you think we are?!"

"You disgusting fastbiter!"

"Go back where you came from!"

But Specter was actually happy to hear that because it meant the crowd was in the process of forming a universal opinion, which meant for him that he basically had to convince only a few of them, rather than every single one.

Silence and basic group dynamics... Works every time. He thought to himself, still refusing to react until the crowd would become silent again. He didn't have to wait long.

Only at the point at which he started hearing his own heartbeat, he slowly stood up again.

"Listen, I would only stay for a few days. After that, you will most likely never hear from me again. I already promised some of your children that I will not touch any of you. I will catch myself some fish from the waters, that's it. I could stay in the caverns, far away from any of you. You probably won't even see me in the valley. I could even help you, if you would let me. Yes, I'm a sharptooth, but that means I can smell diseases or injuries..." Nobody made a sound this time, so, after letting out a sigh, Specter finished his plea. "All I'm asking for is a chance. One single chance. You have the right to kill me on the spot, should I harm any of you. I won't even fight back then... My life won't be worth anything anyway... You owe me nothing, and I don't ask any of you to trust me... but I'm begging you to put aside our differences for me. Just this once. If you don't want to believe the words of a sharptooth like me, then at least remember those that were flatteeth once. The pack of fastbiters that risked their lives to defeat Red Claw. The Seven Hunters who saved the Great Valley... That's all."

He bowed his head shortly before stepping back from his 'podium'. Topps took his place on the rock.

"Alright, you heard him. So, what will it be? Who is for him staying here until the rainbowfaces return?"

Life came back to the crowd and movement erupted, as some of the dinosaurs raised their hands or tails. But the majority didn't react at all.

"And who is against him staying here?"

Again, another few raised their hands or tails, but the rest kept indecisive.

Man... this is even worse than human democracy... Specter thought to himself while observing the crowd.

"It's either 'yes' or 'no'. Is that so difficult?" Topps snorted in annoyance. "Now I ask you again. Who is AGAINST him staying here? Anyone who does not vote counts as a 'yes'."

This time, a lot more of the assembled dinosaurs voted. Specter gulped when he saw the amounts of hands and tails that were raised now. It looked grim for him.

"Looks like we're tied." Topps noted after he finished counting the votes.

Specter's face fell completely. In that case, someone would probably change his opinion and vote against him. But Topps wasn't finished just yet.

"And I vote yes. It's decided then! He will be allowed to stay here until he can settle his business with the rainbowfaces..."

Specter wanted to jump for joy. He had completely forgotten that the threehorn had a vote as well. But Topps' continuation made these happy emotions disappear as quickly as they came.

"However, should he cause the valley any harm whatsoever, may it be something as marginal as injuring someone, then he shall be killed on the spot. There shall be no mercy for him, just like he demanded."

The crowd seemed pleased enough with this. There were still a few more discussions amongst them, but they soon died down as well and everyone scattered again.

Specter kept staring into the distance for a little longer. It was only now that he truly grasped that his plea had been a death wish as well, should he not tread with utmost care for the next days. And that was not easy when he was the only sharptooth among hundreds of leaf-eaters.

Detras' words echoed inside his head.

"Then you know that they will take it without hesitation, should they only find you near some younglings. Worse even, all it would take is for one of them to turn on you and tell a lie. You might be able to sense it, but nobody else would... Nobody would stand for you. You know what happened to Path that night. You are walking towards your own demise."

But the calm voice of Topps shook him out of his thoughts.

"Be careful from now on, will you? You did not make this easy for yourself, but I admire your determination."

Specter turned to face the threehorn.

"Why did you help me? How did you know I wasn't lying earlier? You shouldn't be able to smell it."

Topps laughed faintly.

"No matter if leaf-eater or sharptooth... Your eyes are reflecting your heart."

"Did you... just go sentimental on me?" Specter asked with a wide smirk on his face.

"Maybe I will, should I have to kill you!" Topps snorted in his usual tone again. "Now get lost already! Petrie can show you the way to the caverns before he leaves."

Specter had to laugh as well now.

"Oh by the way, Cera sends her regards. And she was right about you. Hard frill, soft core."

He had to dodge the angry swing of said frill after that, but Specter was more than happy at this point. His life was hanging by a thread, but that didn't change the fact that he had jumped over the most difficult obstacle so far. He would be allowed to stay in the valley for now, and he already swore to himself not to squander this chance. Then again, he would be dead anyway if he did.

He moved over to Petrie and his mother, who were still waiting at the same spot. Volant looked up at the approaching fastbiter, exchanged a few more words with her son, embraced him in her wings shortly, and took to the air again.

"What's wrong? Did I scare her away?" Specter asked with a hint of sarcastic sulkiness.

"She has to go back to children. She told me she will have enough time to talk to you anyway over next day."

"I suppose... So, Topps said you could show me the caverns where Ponder and Path lived once?"

"Oh, yes sure! Follow me."

It took them some time to reach the caverns. They really were quite some distance away from all the other residents but Specter was very happy about that. The farther he stayed away from everyone, the better for his own life expectancy. Some solitude would probably do him good as well.

"There we are! It not the biggest place, but you will probably fit in."

Specter eyed the entrance, shifting uneasily once more.

"We'll see..."

In the end, he didn't have to try too hard to squeeze himself inside. The entrance was actually bigger than the one to Hanging Rock. He scanned the inside for a while. It was quite dark and awfully silent, but other than that it was perfect. He would at least have his tranquility in here. He sat back on his haunches and immediately felt the exhaustion taking over his body. Physical and psychological exhaustion alike.

Petrie noticed this of course and wanted to quickly say goodbye.

"Me see you like it. Good! Me will head back to Hanging Rock then and tell fastrunners you're fine, and pack after that. They can't wait to have you back!"

Specter looked at him with sorrow eyes.

"Spotter, I... probably will not see any of you again..."

"What you mean? Me can lead you back..." Petrie already started, nowhere near able to understand why the fastbiter had suddenly said that.

Specter's sad sigh interrupted the flyer.

I've already told Ponder a lot about that... Maybe it's time to let Spotter know as well. That way I only have to explain it once more...

"Spotter... why do you think I've come all this way? And why do you think I wanted to do this alone? You're smart. You can't be thinking it's just so I can talk a bit to Chronos and Logos."

"Well... You said it about former kind of yours, so me guess you afraid that other sharpteeth steal ideas and endanger your old kind."

Specter flashed a sad smile. Behind Petrie's speech impediment lay a logical and calculating mind that was able to think out of the box as well from time to time.

"You know, I have already laid this out to Ponder... Maybe you should ask her. It's just that... I'm a massive danger right now... to my old kind."

"You don't have to hunt old kind if you don't want to..."

Now Specter had to laugh slightly. If only it would have been that simple.

"My old kind has yet to exist, Spotter. And I will take their existence away from them sooner or later, if I'm to stay with the pack."

Petrie looked at him in confusion.

"Me don't really understand... If old kind not exist yet, how can you endanger them?"

"You will understand in time, Spotter. For now, return to the pack and let them know I'm safe, then talk to Ponder. She will explain this to you."

Petrie shrugged.

"Me still don't really get it but... Sure thing! Good luck, Specter! See you later!"

"Farewell, Spotter."

Specter's eyes followed the flyer as he ascended into the sky again. He noticed that his vision blurred slightly. He quickly wiped his wet eyes with the backside of his forelimbs before curling himself up into a ball.

Farewell, everybody...

The thoughts slipped away from his mind as he fell into an exhausted sleep.

When he woke up again it was already dark outside.

Ugh... great... Waking up just so I can go back to sleep again.

He stretched his legs and walked up and down for a bit inside his cave. He still felt slightly tired, but that would not be enough to make him find sleep again anytime. There was just too much on his mind.

Hmm... Reading is not an option anymore... and if somebody sees me running around outside I will probably be in trouble as well... Oh I know!

It had been a long time since he had last sung a song. The last time was the first and only time he had done so in the sharptooth language. Or, to be more precise, in this new life of his.

Hmm... Maybe I could try to sing a song from my time? Let's see if the intonations still work...

He played around with singing in sharptooth for a few minutes. He found that it matched the singing pattern of human songs quite well, and it would also grant him to explore the possibilities of that language when it came to vocals of songs he actually knew.

Hmm... Raptors had... have... extremely advanced resonating chambers... So I actually should be able to sing quite well... for this time at least. Now, which song?

He thought about his current feelings and about his future, but nothing seemed to fit. Then he recalled images of the sharptooth skeletons he had seen on the way to the valley in his mind again, and he fell back into deep thoughts about them. His situation really wasn't any better than that of the dead predators had probably been. Sure, he was safe for now, but still, he knew that one mistake could end his life in a matter of seconds. And he could call himself lucky if the leaf-eaters would make his death a quick one.

Death was surrounding him.

Yes, he figured, he would have a conversation with death. A Chooser of the Dead would talk to none other than the one who claimed his victims' souls. Because at some point, the Chooser of the Dead would be chosen himself.

He raised his voice.

O, Death

O, Death

Won't you spare me over till another year?

What is this that I can't see?

With ice cold hands taking hold of me

Well I am death, none can excel

I'll open the door to heaven or hell

O, Death

O, Death

Won't you spare me over till another year?

I'll fix your feet til you can't walk

I'll lock your jaw til you can't talk

I'll close your eyes so you can't see

This very hour, come and go with me

O, Death

O, Death

Won't you spare me over till another year?

O, Death, how you're treating me

You've closed my eyes so I can't see

O, Death, please consider my age

Please don't take me at this stage

O, Death

O, Death

Won't you spare me over till another year?

The last words of his song echoed through the caverns until there was silence. He took a deep breath and curled himself up again. For some reason, he felt free. Free from all the burdens that lay upon him, at least for now.

And with a free mind, he found sleep again rather quickly.

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