The Eighth Hunter

Chapter 7: The Merciful Killer

Chapter 7: The Merciful Killer

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." - Abraham Lincoln

Another peaceful night ended for the black fastbiter, just like any other. It was the day ahead of him that would be different. His first, full day in the Great Valley. From this day on, he would have to move around with extreme care or die for one stupid mistake. It was quite ironic, because he felt that this would be exactly the same as in his pack's territory, only now it would be up to his prey to interpret and judge him for his mistakes.

Specter dozily rose to his feet and stretched his legs, before slowly moving towards his cave's entrance. Upon arriving there, he took a deep breath of fresh morning air...

...and was immediately overwhelmed by the many millions of scents. It felt like a slap to his face. Fully awake now, he quickly jumped back a few steps and sat back down again, trying to control his senses. However, it was not anything like when he had arrived in this time after his change three weeks ago. It was more like waking up in a sea of food, he thought to himself while suppressing his instinctual desire to hunt now as best as he could. This was something he had not expected, at least not in this way. He had calculated most of his journey through to the core, but what he seemingly forgot was the simple fact that by living in the Great Valley, he would also be living among the very creatures nature demanded of him to kill without mercy. Day by day.

I guess I knew that but... it's THIS hard to control myself? How the hell did Path survive living here for so long without... snapping?

He let out a sigh as he continued his thoughts.

Why did I never ask him...? Too late now, anyway... Hmm... Maybe it's because I'm getting hungry? Yeah, that will be it!

He smirked. His upcoming actions didn't make him feel bad at all. He was more than looking forward to it, actually.

Let's hunt then!

With that, he jumped up, grabbed his spear and left his cave to find the nearest strip of water.


As Specter was traveling through the valley in a slow sprint, he carried a strange feeling in his guts. He felt watched. But he pushed it aside as soon as possible. He already knew he was being watched. The question was just by whom? He recalled the sight of Volant briefly talking to Petrie before flying off again, and he was quick to draw the obvious conclusion.

Yes... makes sense... They're using the Pteranodons to keep an eye on me. Smart move. I'm just glad they are allowing me to walk around freely. Then again, what choice do they have? I doubt the threehorns would like keeping up with my pace all the time.

He took a quick look at the sky. The sun was barely up yet, so he figured now would be the best time to sate his hunger. He didn't want too many of the residents to see his abilities with his spear and claws just yet, even though he would never apply any of these on them, because just a single overly paranoid thought on their side would be all it would take for him to lose his life, he confirmed to himself again.

A few minutes went by until Specter arrived at his self-declared hunting ground, which was a pretty large pond with several little torrents connecting it to the main river. Two adult swimmers with five small children were already washing themselves or playing in the water.

Specter sighed in annoyance at the sight of the peaceful, happy family.

This won't do... They're scaring away my food!

But the swimmers had a right to use the water, of course. So he put on a friendly face, as friendly as a large fastbiter with a massive pointed stick in his claws could have looked to a bunch of swimmers. He was quite surprised when he noticed that his mood was beyond grumpy, that he actually had to fake his friendliness.

This is like mental torture... What on earth have I gotten myself into?!

He shook his head and walked up to the swimmers, who had not noticed him just yet.

"Good morning! Nice day, isn't it?"

"Good mor..." The female swimmer started to respond happily. However, her sentence got cut short as the whole family had turned around and was now staring into the yellow eyes of the fastbiter. Each of them gasped, their own eyes widened in shock. Some of the children started shaking their heads in disbelief.

"So, uhm... You're doing alright, yeah? How's the water?"

"Mommy! It's him! It's the sharptooth that killed aunt Wary!" One of the little swimmers shouted in anger.

"What?! Who is...?" Specter started but the dawn of realization cut him off at once. Something was seriously wrong here.

Then it hit him like a rock. The children. It was extremely faint, because they were all in the water, but he knew their scents from somewhere. And he also remembered their species.

No! No, this can't be! The bet... The thunder... The five children I let go... Their aunt... I... No! How?! Why me?! What have I done? Fuck!

"Mommy! Daddy! Why are you just standing there?! Do some..."

"Silence!" The female cut her son off harshly. The little swimmer flinched and went silent immediately.

The two adults got out of the water and started moving towards Specter. He was frightened to the core, but it was obviously not directly because of the swimmers. He knew that he could kill both of them within seconds, should they decide to attack him. What he really was frightened of was what would happen if the swimmers would tell everyone about what he had done to one of their family members. Littlefoot's stories, concerning Rhett, Ali and her mother Utu in that matter, only confirmed his fear.

The two adults stopped right in front of him and looked at each other for a moment before switching their attention back to the fastbiter. The female spoke up with a firm voice, but sorrow eyes.

"Why? Why did you kill my sister?"

Specter was out of words. His heart was pumping like he had sprinted for hours and the thoughts in his mind raced back and forth. How would he get out of this one?

It had been easy for him to not care much about his victims when he lived together with only other sharpteeth. Of course, he thought he had a clear mindset on killing, but those were just thoughts in the end. The families of the creatures he had killed since being in this time never had the actual chance to speak to him about how much pain and suffering he had caused them.

Until now.

"Me and my pack... we were hungry and... we found her and your children nearby... I didn't mean to... I... I'm sorry... I didn't know..." At this point, Specter was just looking at the ground and he had to hold back his tears. Some part of his mind was disgusted with him because of that obvious and embarrassing display of weakness, but another part decided to start blaming him. You obnoxious swine! You're a murderer! A cold, disgusting murderer! Look at what you've done! All this because of a stupid bet! You have torn that family apart! Murderer! Murderer!

The female swimmer as well seemed to be caught in deep thoughts, but she did not hesitate long before speaking up again.

"I will never forgive you for this! You took the last sister I had from me! All my siblings are dead because of sharpteeth like you!"

He didn't even remotely know what to answer to that. Instead, he just continued to stare at the ground.

"And she, too, only had me. She has lost all of her children and her mate to your kind!" And it was at this point that her voice suddenly dropped all the anger. "But... you spared my own children's lives... You left me with what I love most. No other sharptooth would have done that. I would not know what to do if I had lost them as well... I don't know why you spared them but... thank you... Did you... at least make it quick for her?"

Specter didn't dare to look up anymore. The battle inside his mind was still going on. Two voices were now screaming at him, one after the other. Weakling! Sharpteeth know no fear! You coward! Murderer! Monster! Die! No! Kill them! They are food! They deserve to die! End it! Do it now! Kill!

Finally, he gave his bitter response. It was one of the most disgusting lies he had ever told in his life.

"Yes... She didn't feel any pain..."

The female swimmer eyed him for another moment, but then offered a silent nod. Her children on the other hand, couldn't find any words. Only at the point at which their parents turned around to them, the silence was broken when their father raised his voice.

"Come now, children. Let's leave him alone. I imagine all of us have gone through enough already..."

None of the children disobeyed their parents and they all followed them back to their nesting area, but not until everyone took another look at the massive fastbiter who seemingly shed painful tears over the death of a swimmer.

When everything around Specter had gone silent again, he came back to his senses. He had held back his emotions the whole time and seriously needed to vent right now. Something inside of him gave in as soon as the awful silence embraced him.

He rammed his spear into the ground and let it all out.

Screech!

His ear-piercing screech cut through the air and caused some flyers in the distance to jump out of their nests, taking to the air in panic.


Unknown location:

Communicator Active. Level Six Encryption. Password Required. Please Authorize.

"Purge."

Acknowledged. Scanning...

A faint laugh could be heard as a flash of light illuminated a single eye for a few seconds.

Scan Complete. Identity Confirmed. Welcome, Commander.

"I still find your humor highly disturbing, dear."

"This is not the time for jokes..."

"Is that so? Well, it would certainly help my understanding if you would finally tell me why we have traveled so far away."

"It's about the Stone of Destiny..."

"Excuse me? The Stone? You know that was eight years ago and it was the last Stone to ever be active on this planet. We got rid of Galek as well. He was powerful, sure, but not quite powerful enough to escape the punishment for his crimes. He received justice, you saw to that. You saved this planet."

"Both of us did, dear. Still... I need to watch the recording again. Something doesn't seem right."

"Please, be reasonable! What could he possibly have done prior to his death? I know all about it. When you last talked to him, his fate was already decided."

"Our fate is never decided until we die... And I could imagine him having done a lot, actually. Give me just a bit of time while I check through this again. I will probably have to make a few calls as well..."


The Great Valley:

The crashing of footsteps interrupted Specter's silent meal. He had smelled him for quite some time already but decided to concentrate on his fishing. He quickly swallowed the last of the 15 fish he had caught so far and took a contemplative look at the cloud of blood, seemingly hovering inside the blue water, before turning around to the sight of the slowly approaching, lumbering green longneck.

"The Bright Circle is barely up and you are already running around and hunting? Just what is wrong with you fastbiters?"

Shorty's sarcastic sentence made Specter slightly smile again, but he decided to be a killjoy and be scientific about it. He really wasn't in the mood for jokes anymore.

"It's quite simple. I am warm-blooded and you are cold-blooded."

Shorty looked at him in surprise, thinking that Specter had offended him in a very subtle way, though he didn't understand what he exactly meant by that.

"Me, cold-blooded? Last time I checked I did not have to kill others to live."

Specter sighed and rolled his eyes at Shorty's response. Of course he wouldn't know about things like that, so Specter's response was as dry as his.

"That's not exactly what I meant... Anyway, why are you here?"

Shorty eyed him for a few seconds, his face taking on a stern expression now.

"You should be glad it's me and not Mr. Threehorn! What were you thinking? I know this is hard for you, living right among your 'food'. My brother is a fastbiter as well, after all... But this?! We thought you attacked those swimmers! Volant and Vero told me they almost gave an alarm call! You know what that would have meant for you..."

Hmm... so it is Spotter's mother and brother watching over me. Good to know. Specter thought to himself, ignoring the possibility that the flyers might have saved his life with their decision. With a now at least partially filled stomach he was able to control his emotions much more effectively and he decided that he was not sorry at all for killing the little swimmers' aunt. He even went as far as questioning if letting the children survive had been the right thing to do. He wouldn't even be in this situation if he had just killed them as well, like it would have been normal for a sharptooth, like he had been taught to, he thought to himself.

Screw you, butterfly effect! I won't let crap like this happen again. Next time, no survivors then...

He was fuming inside. Still, he put on an honestly sad face. He was testing his psyche on how far he would really go to ensure his own survival and that of mankind, but that could not cover up his troubled mind.

"Maybe that would have only been fair. I have taken a lot from those swimmers..."

The green longneck grimaced for just a few seconds before his face took on a more neutral expression again.

"I don't care what you did in your past. Just make sure you won't do it again while you're here." Specter gave him a hesitant nod and Shorty continued. "I think it's time for you to show yourself to the others a bit now. By far not everyone knows about you and I can imagine showing them that you're not an enemy in here would do you good as well. So, now that you have rested a bit and... had your 'meal'... would you like a little tour around the valley? Anything special you would like to see? I can't show you the other entrances or our defenses but..."

"Fastbiter Rock." Specter firmly interrupted.

Shorty looked at him extremely surprised, a little bit angry even, but that was not because of the fastbiter himself.

"It's just a dumb old rock! Why would you want to see something like that?"

He had sworn to himself never to look at that stone again. It had taken his brother and his, at least distant, friends away from him. And now Specter demanded of him to show him the very stone which had turned his beloved brother into a killer and thus into his natural adversary, should he ever meet him again outside the valley.

Little did he understand how alike he and Specter were in that regard and although the fastbiter obviously could not read his mind, he did know a little bit about his past from all the pack's stories and could at least imagine his thoughts very well.

"I know. I want to see it because it's the same kind of stone that messed up my life as well. You may think that you have lost your brother to the stone, Shorty, but that's not true. Seeker, Littlefoot, whatever you want to call him, is still out there, still the same caring, brave and intelligent being he always has been, only that he's a fastbiter now. He has to kill to survive. You might not be able to see him again anytime soon but at least you can find peace, knowing that he is fine and alive out there with his mate and their children... I, however, didn't only lose my parents and all my friends to that 'thing'. I lost my whole species. My old kind. I will probably never see again what I once was."

Shorty kept silent for a few moments after hearing that. He wondered how much the fastbiter really knew about the stone and he didn't really understand how Specter's logic about his 'old kind' was supposed to make sense, but that was not the point. Specter had successfully reminded him that separation didn't mean loss, but he still brought back the harsh memories that had haunted Shorty for a long time. The sight of Littlefoot hungrily tearing into the swimmer carcass, gorging himself on its flesh and blood, was something he would never forget, even though that memory lay many cold times in the past.

He let out a deep sigh and raised his voice again.

"I understand... Alright, I will show you where it is then. Just... stick close to me."

Specter understood the implications perfectly, so he responded with a tone of seriousness he had rarely before in his life responded with.

"Like your shadow."


The Mysterious Beyond:

"Dad! They surrounded us!"

"I won't let them hurt you! Let me handle this and stay with your mother!"

The massive longneck wore a grave expression but gave his mate and his little son she was carrying on her back a reassuring look, as he raised his tail and prepared for the inevitable fight ahead of him. He briefly scanned the enemies all around.

Five... Shouldn't be too hard.

The fastbiters of the smaller kind were still in the process of testing him. They did not attack just yet but rather sized him up, looking for any possible weakness.

The longneck, however, was unfazed by that display. Their constant sneering, screeching and roaring did not unnerve him at all. He had fought far too many sharpteeth in his life to be impressed or even faintly scared by them. To him, the fight was already won.

"Feelin' lucky, fastbiter scum?!" He yelled at them, moving closer towards the predators.

Their screeching grew louder for just a second. One of them decided to attack. A serious mistake of the fastbiter, as it would come apparent to that sharptooth very soon.

The longneck swiftly moved one step back and smacked the sharptooth full force with his tail to the neck.

Crack!

One cracking sound followed another and the fastbiter landed on the ground.

Thud.

The fastbiter was dead in an instant.

Four... Stupid sharpteeth!

The remaining fastbiters quickly extended the distance between them and their prey, but the longneck immediately closed it again, his tail raised again for another deadly blow.

"Yeah, run you cowards!"

He had never taken any form of joy in these confrontations but the rush of adrenaline through his body had certain effects. He couldn't help but feel great. However, he had no idea that he was playing the fastbiters right into their claws with his frenzy.

Someone else needed to remind him of that.

"Dad!"

"Ahh!"

He swung his head around in an instant, but it was too late. The fastbiter pack had originally consisted of seven predators, as he only noticed now, and the remaining two had gone around to attack his mate and son.

His face froze as the horrifying sound of ripping flesh greeted his ears. The two fastbiters behind him had leaped at his mate and cut a massive wound into one of her hind legs.

"No!"

Not thinking any further, he lashed out with his tail and smacked another two of the fastbiters in front of him in different directions, before running towards his gravely injured mate. The fastbiters seemed to communicate with another series of screeches before scattering. They had already delivered a crippling blow.

Now they would just have to wait.


The Great Valley:

"Ok, here we are. This is Fastbiter Rock." Shorty noted with a sad undertone in his voice.

None of the dinosaurs had talked much on their little walk, but Specter still was immensely grateful to Shorty for giving him an opportunity to safely travel through the valley. The news of him getting rid of Thrasher and saving Malka had spread quickly and most residents now looked at him mostly in surprise and respect, rather than hate and disgust.

Specter knew that being here made Shorty extremely uncomfortable and the same went for himself, really. He wanted to spare at least the longneck the reopening of the wounds of his past.

"Thanks for taking me along, Shorty. Would you mind giving me some alone time?"

"I thought you would never ask..." He answered with obvious relief in his voice. "I will stay close by, to be sure. Just call if you need something, ok?"

Specter gave him a sure nod as response. He waited until Shorty was out of sight again before fixating the stone with his eyes. It was lying in the middle of a crater, which was filled with water. Under normal circumstances he would have found this to be a beautiful sight, but right now he had none of those feelings. Instead, he felt severe aggression building up inside him.

I hope you're happy now, you fucking stone! All these lives I had to take... everything I've lost... I never asked for this! You made me do this you piece of shit!

At this point, he was boiling with rage. He didn't even know where it came from because all that the stone in front of him was, was a stone. Just a piece of rock. It didn't have feelings or emotions. Even if he desperately wanted to, he could never perform revenge on it. A stone just like this had beaten him in a game he never had a chance of winning, and it turned his feelings upside down.

He was so deeply caught in his mind that he didn't even notice the scent of a female swimmer closing in. When he finally grew aware of it, the swimmer was already standing a few steps behind him.

What's her name again? Ura... Yeah, that's it...

"Specter, isn't it?"

He didn't respond to that. He just kept staring at the stone in silence.

"I just wanted to... thank you... for saving Malka from those... fastbiters."

Being the loving mother she was, she wanted to give him a sign of comfort. A sign that not all leaf-eaters hated him for what he was. A sign that he wasn't alone, even in the Great Valley. So she placed her hand on his back but immediately recoiled from him again as Specter let out a deep, angry growl.

"I let one escape... They both deserved to die. Only weaklings attack children."

Ura was seriously shocked by his aggressive reaction. His words, cold as ice, made a shiver run down her back. Taking a quick look at Fastbiter Rock, she decided to leave Specter alone for now. Malka had already told her about what Axiom and Datum said the fastbiter mentioned, and she immediately realized Specter must have a history with the Stone of Cold Fire himself. She would have liked to know about his relation to it, but she also didn't want to agitate a fastbiter like him with her questions, so she quickly went off again. She would get another chance to talk to him under better conditions, she deduced.

Only after her scents grew faint, Specter took a deep breath of composure.

What are you doing, you damn idiot?! At this rate, I'm gonna be dead by the end of this day! I need to control my...

His mental self-punishment got cut short, however, as his sensitive ears picked up distant commotion in direction of the valley's main entrance.

New arrivals? Nah, can't be. Why would they make such a fuss? Something must have happened...

He sniffed the air a few times. He wanted to filter out a scent that didn't fit all the others around. He was standing downwind, so it didn't take him long to find what would confirm his worst suspicions.

Blood...

He turned around, took a few steps forward and sniffed another few times. But there was no doubt. The smell of blood was something so deeply imprinted in a carnivore's mind that a mistake on his side was impossible.

"Something wrong?"

Specter seemed to not even notice the loud and sudden appearance of Shorty, who was looking at him with concerned eyes. For everything the longneck knew, the fastbiter's stance and behavior could only mean one thing. He was picking up a scent and prepared for a hunt.

"What are you...?"

He couldn't finish his sentence as Specter sprinted off into the underbrush, with such speed that Shorty lost sight of him in mere seconds.

"Hey! Wait! Where are you going?! Oh, crap..."


Unknown location:

"Ah, Commander Logos. It is [happy time] to see you again!" The metallic voice of the communicator translated a series of warbles into leaf-eater.

"Pause!"

Acknowledged.

The image of an insect-like alien species, hovering inside the dark caves, stopped moving at her command. An annoyed expression started forming on the female's face.

"Didn't you want to have the communicator recalibrated long ago already?"

"I did indeed. But since we hardly ever use it in the first place..." She responded to her mate's assessment. None of them had used the high-tech device very often, as they always had to leave the valley for some time if they did. They couldn't allow any of the residents to see the communicator, of course. Her face took on a more contemplative look as she continued. "I think it's finally time."

Logos switched her attention back to the perfectly ball-shaped black rock on the ground.

"Initiate recalibration sequence."

Affirmative, Commander. Initiating Communication Telemetry. Updating Language Files. Recalibrating Translation Data. Please Wait...


The Great Valley:

"By the Bright Circle! What happened to you?!"

The brown longneck was first to break away from the cluster of dinosaurs that had formed around the new arrivals. At first, he had thought that his good friend has returned to stay for a while in the valley, but his feelings of joy were soon crushed when he saw that the gigantic gray Diplodocus had his flank and tail dripping with blood and was supporting his mate, who had a nasty wound on her hind leg.

"Fastbiters." The other longneck almost spat that word out. He knew that the sharpteeth had inflicted an injury on his mate that would mean her certain end, should she not receive treatment soon. He certainly was not a dinosaur of many words, but he wanted to let his friend know a bit more. "I'm fine, Bron. Two of them went around and attacked Dara... They followed us for quite some time. We barely made it."

Bron grimaced. Now he knew why the family was here but there was one big problem.

"Doc... I fear the rainbowfaces are not here right now..."

Doc as well contorted his face for just a moment. He knew exactly what that meant. The rainbowfaces were the only dinosaurs he knew of who could have possibly saved his mate's life. But now, it seemed like all hope was lost. Even if he could prevent her wound from getting an infection, she would never be able to walk normally again. The cut was just too big.

"D... Dad...?"

He flexed his neck around to look at his son, whom he was carrying on his back now. The little longneck's eyes were wide open in fear.

"What's wrong, Stomper?"

"Sh... Sh... Sharptooth..."

Doc immediately swung his head around to see what his son was looking at, his face taking on an expression of multiple emotions, most dominantly anger, as he now, too, noticed the large black fastbiter standing between all the other residents.

"What is the meaning of this?! Why is a sharptooth in here?!"

Nobody seemed to bother too much when the fastbiter broke through the lines and started moving slowly towards Dara. Doc raised his blood-smeared tail in an instant, preparing himself for another attack.

When Bron spoke up again, however, he almost fainted.

"We didn't get acquainted yet but... he's not dangerous. Apparently, he will stay here until the rainbowfaces return. And... if I recall correctly, he knows a bit about healing as well."

It was the first time in his life that he was truly out of words, Doc noticed. Even though he never talked much he always knew what to say, should he be forced to. But right now, he didn't.

Specter only stopped his movement when he stood right next to the female longneck's hind leg. He eyed her injury with utmost precision and sniffed at it few times.

So the big one is the 'Whiptail', Doc... and this must be his mate. What was her name again? Dara, I think... Hmm... Not good... No infection yet but... she has lost way too much blood and a wound like this will never heal by itself... She needs a miracle.

His face grew dark. Not only were his senses on overdrive at the smell of her flesh and blood, to the point where he wished he would be allowed to rip her apart and eat her, but there was also another conflict raging inside of him. There was a way to help her, to end her suffering, but he refused to do it right now. This was something he had decided three weeks ago already.

The shaky voice of Doc interrupted his thoughts, however.

"Can... you help her?"

He looked up at him and their eyes met. He could see great amounts of anger and distrust, but just as much pain and despair. It was the look of a being that has lost too much already and was about to lose another being it loved with all its heart. Specter decided he just could not do nothing in that situation. Still, he would be forced to impose certain conditions. To him, this would be the only possible way.

"I can. Take her to the caverns and wait outside, I have to prepare something first."

Audible signs of relief could be heard all around. Nobody had expected something like this. For all the bystanders knew, at least the ones that had been there when he made his speech in front of the Council, he could have just as well lied about knowing how to heal others.

The obvious look of distrust in Doc's eyes did not change, but he still gave the fastbiter a firm nod and gestured for Dara to walk a few more steps again. Specter retorted with a nod of his own before turning around and sprinting full-speed towards his shelter.


Unknown location:

"Ah, Commander Logos. It is good to see you again!"

Finally! Logos thought to herself after hearing the correct translation of that sentence at last.

She continued to listen closely to the recording, but most parts stayed exactly like she remembered them with the outdated translation.

"Fast-forward."

Acknowledged.

At the affirmation from the device, the hovering image speeded up multiple times, emitting the warbles in a way higher pitch now.

"Pause. Normal speed. Play."

Acknowledged.

"I... doubt I will ever see the stars again, Commander. You have made sure of that."

Following this sentence, the hovering image disappeared and the communicator suddenly emitted a series of high-pitched beeping sounds.

Warning! Phonetical Anomaly Detected. Accurate Translation Was Not Possible. Please Advise.

The two rainbowfaces looked at each other in confusion.

"Clarify." Logos demanded.

Scan Shows Multiple Possible Translation Errors. Sentence Is Subject To Interpretation. Best Solution Has Been Chosen Automatically.

"How many others are there?"

Logos grew more and more uneasy at these revelations. She knew that the language of her old kind was extremely complex and she also knew that her former superior, Galek, had been a master with words. It became common knowledge after his death that he had established his power with lies and deceit. He had his cronies in every department and although almost all of them were caught, a few loyalists must have escaped. Or even worse. Some of them might have carried on with their dirty work unnoticed.

Commander, Please Spec...

"How. Many. Are. There?!" Logos now demanded with an aggressive tone. She could have never believed something like this would ever happen.

Scanning... One, Commander.

Her face went dark.

"Show me."

Affirmative. Playing Sequence.

The image of the alien creature was hovering once again inside the cave. Only this time, both rainbowfaces were standing right next to each other and listened with maximum attention to the metallic voice of the communicator.

"Burn... Both you and earth shall burn for this, Commander. Cold fire shall rain upon you."

Silence fell over the two rainbowfaces, both now staring at each other in shock. Following a nervous gulp, Chronos then spoke up.

"Logos? I think we might have a problem..."


The Great Valley:

Specter rose back on his feet as soon as his nose picked up the oncoming scents. Right next to him lay a pile of leaves, still soaked with water, and a few plants similar to those he had heard about having curing effects in his old life. He picked up one of them and eyed it for a little while.

Doesn't smell toxic... Its sap looks like some sort of a gel/wax mix... might be helpful... but you never know.

Of course, the minimal knowledge he had with plants would be only really relevant so many millions of years in the future that he wasn't sure if the plants were even the same kind he remembered seeing, so he wanted to only use them in a case of emergency. Poisoning Dara would have been the last thing he needed right now, he deduced.

When the massive forms of the approaching longnecks were in visual range, Specter turned around to his cave and took a careful sniff. He was able to pick up a very slight note of an, at least to him, extremely pungent scent.

It's still faint. Good. None of them should be able to smell it...

It took the leaf-eaters another few minutes until they finally arrived at the caverns. Dara was supported on one side by Doc, who still had Stomper on his back, and Bron on the other.

"Good, you're here. Lay her down and help me with these treestars. We have to clean the wound before I can do anything."

Doc still didn't like this at all but he complied with the fastbiter's orders. He had no other options anyway. It was either trusting a fastbiter he didn't even know or letting his mate die. The choice was rather easy in that case.

Dara winced in anguish as Specter pressed the wet leaves on the nasty gash but she managed to remain focused. Still, he was losing hope by the second. Cleaning the wound was painful enough for her already, but what he planned on doing to close it would be a hundred times as painful. He had serious doubts she would survive that in her current state.

It's time...

He turned around to the other longnecks, took a deep breath and raised his voice.

"Alright. Leave us alone now. I will handle the rest."

To say the others were taken aback by this would have been an insult to their emotions.

"What?! You think I will let her alone with you?! You disgusting...!" Doc started but Specter cut him off at once.

"Yes, you will! Either that or she dies. And it won't be my fault then... Your choice."

It pained him to treat the longneck like this but he had to do it. He was so close to reaching his goal, he didn't want to mess everything up now. He ignored Doc's angry murmurings and looked at Bron.

"And you... You will take Volant and Vero with you. Nobody else will stay here besides me and her, understand?"

Bron had mostly stayed calm when Specter demanded of them to leave, at first. He knew they still had the flyers watching over the fastbiter.

But now his face fell. With them gone, too, they would have no assurance that Specter wouldn't just kill Dara and run off. He just wanted ask how he even knew about his observers when a new voice spoke up.

"Please... just listen to him... Do it for me."

Doc bowed his head down close to hers.

"Never! I won't let you alone with this sharptooth! Not in your state and not..."

Dara laughed faintly, expectorating a few times. Doc wanted to prevent her from consuming her remaining energy in that way but she was determined to defy him in this matter.

"Think... about it... for just... one moment. If he... really wanted to... kill me... why would... he agree... to help me?"

Doc didn't know what to answer to that. He knew she was right in some way but he refused to accept her logic as his. Still, he did not want to object her wish. It could have been her last, after all. He raised his head again and looked back at the fastbiter.

"If you hurt her..."

The aggression in his voice didn't need any interpretation. It was a clear death threat.

Specter, however, was unimpressed. His life was already on the line by just being here, and they could have just as easily kicked him out of the valley for not helping a dinosaur in need. Besides that, he had made a promise to help the residents. He would never go back on a promise, he confirmed to himself.

But as much as he wanted to promise Doc that Dara would recover, he just couldn't do it. It would have likely been a lie. And although he had no problems with lying when necessary, he felt like it was not in this case. Not when the lives of others were on the line.

"I can't promise anything. You will just have to trust me on this." He responded drily.

Bron noticed the growing tension between those two, so he decided to finally leave the fastbiter to his work. Every second wasted with arguing lessened the chances of Dara's survival. He let out a series of bellows into the sky and a few moments later, two flyers descended from above. They both looked at Bron in confusion, to which he just gave them a nod and gestured for them to follow him. He would have enough time to explain this rejection of clear orders later.

"Doc! Come on now."

Hearing Bron's voice finally made Doc grow aware of himself again. Hesitantly, he turned around and followed his friend away from the caverns.

Even after he had lost sight of them, Specter waited another few minutes to make sure they were truly gone. Only now, he walked up to Dara's injury again.

Ok... the wound is clean but... Argh... I just hope this works.

"Tell me... the truth. Will I... survive this?"

Her broken voice shook him out of his thoughts. He moved over to her head and gave her a slight smile.

"If you survived staying with him for all those cold times, you will survive staying with a fastbiter for a little while." She couldn't help but faintly smile herself after hearing that. Specter's smile quickly disappeared, however, as he continued. "This will hurt... a lot. You have to stay awake, you understand? Don't close your eyes."

She gave him a sure nod but her scents of fear and blood were overwhelming to Specter, the urge to just kill her was coming back in full force. It was like nature was trying its utmost to prevent him from doing what he was planning on doing. But if there was one thing humans were unparalleled at, he deduced, it was defying nature. He decided to finally get over with this, so he turned around and ran inside his cave.

It should be ready now... Good thing I left my spear here this morning. Let's just hope this works.

He stopped in front of the source of the pungent scent he had checked for earlier. The scent of fumes, of burning. The scent of fire. Preparing all of this had taken him almost half an hour, searching for suitable materials to attach to his weapon and lighting the fire excluded. Luckily, the longnecks were so slow that he could afford to be careful about his preparations.

He picked up the spear and eyed the now dark red glowing stone, which he had connected to it earlier.

Yes... must be hot enough now. Time to put this out...

He kicked another pile of soaked leaves into the fire pit. The sizzling sounds gave him enough proof that the fire was now out so he swiftly moved back to his 'patient'. He was hiding most of his spear behind his body as he moved in on the prone longneck.

"Ok, everything's set. You ready for this?"

Dara only responded with a weak grumble. She was in a seriously bad shape by now.

Shit... this is not looking good. Her vital signs are fading...

He let out a heavy sigh and spoke the next words in sharptooth again as he raised his spear.

"Forgive me for this..."


"This a thing now? Letting sharpteeth into the valley like that?" Doc still had serious problems with the situation. There was no way he could have relaxed now, when his heavily injured mate was alone with a fastbiter. "How can you trust him like that?"

"I don't 'trust' him, Doc." Bron pointed out. "But there must be a good reason why he's here. You know not all of them are..."

"That sharptooth is not Littlefoot!" Doc exclaimed in his anger. "I don't know how he learned our language and to be honest, I don't care, but he is not anything like your son was!"

Bron laughed slightly.

"Actually, I believe he is. It's the only reason I have voted for him to be allowed to stay. I know, this might seem..."

A female scream, full of pain and suffering, interrupted him.

"Dara! No!"

Doc immediately jumped up and ran with all his speed towards the cry. So did Bron after picking up Stomper and putting him on his back, but despite his smaller size he had big problems keeping up with him.


The scent of burnt flesh. That was everything the fastbiter noticed right now. It was a scent beyond disgusting to his new self. But he was actually happy to smell it right now because it silenced his instincts and he could think clearly without having to fear that he might attack the prone longneck at any second, should he give in to his desires for just a single moment.

His work wasn't finished just yet, however. The wound was completely closed but it still looked ghastly and so he decided to apply the sap of one of the plants on it after all, though he used the backside of his forelimb to do it. He had to twist his arm around to an unnatural position, but better that than scratching the barely healed injury open again, he thought to himself.

Specter would have really liked to take a nice bath in the warm mud pools right now but the loud rumbling and crashing of footsteps indicated only one thing. A massive, gray and angry thing.

Just great... How do I deserve all this?

"YOU!"

He had already expected something like this so he was quick to jump multiple steps back. Fighting someone like Doc alone would have been certain death for many predators, and Specter only had a few weeks of experience as a fastbiter. Dara was still unconscious so the only hope he had was that Doc would notice the healed cut.

Fortunately for him, the massive longneck did. He as well could smell the scent of burnt flesh, although it was much fainter to him. His eyes widened when he saw how little of the injury was left on Dara's hind leg. For all he knew, not even the rainbowfaces could have treated such a wound to this extent.

"She must not move around too much for the next days and she will need a lot of water but other than that... she will be alright."

A few moments of silence passed and none of them dared to move a muscle. Time seemed to pause right now. Bron and Stomper had reached the scene as well, but both of them could only join the awkwardness of this situation.

Only when the signs of life came back to Dara and she slowly rose back on her feet, the flow of time seemed to continue. It cost her great amounts of energy but with determined movement, she started moving towards the fastbiter.

"Dear..." Doc started, but Dara ignored him for now.

She bowed down her head and nuzzled the black fuzzball dearly, a gesture which he retorted with a soft purring sound. For the first time in this still young day, he felt truly relaxed.

"You're welcome."

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