Prologue: A Young Tyrant
His ears were filled with the buzz of insects as they darted about overhead, coupled with the rustling brush when he crept through the shadows. Slender, three-toed feet gently pressed down into the mud, accompanied by a loud wet squish. That’s when Rex could feel his parents’ angry gaze pierce through him. Stupid mud. It couldn’t be helped now, he thought, as he continued forward, careful to stay on the grass and moss. The pitter pat of rain filled the young creature’s ears as waterfalls tumbled from the forest canopy, splashing muck all over him as he passed by. Rex couldn’t understand why his parents would be so harsh about him making a little noise; there was plenty of it happening all around.
The forest was rich with greens and browns, having soothed the young dinosaur’s spirits for the whole duration of the hunt. It was like he was in an entirely different world. He had grown so accustomed to golden brown prairies and the dryness of it all. This, he thought, was something he could get used to. With a wide grin lining his elongated snout, he shuffled into a bush. From inside the cluster of emerald-colored leaves, Rex shivered as the cool, misty air formed small speckles of dew on his coat of down.
He smiled and closed his eyes, nearly falling asleep when a pair of toothy jaws gently nibbled at his tail. The brush quickly consumed the young tyrannosaur’s tail, trading it for his small head as he peered out. It was his father, towering over him with those stern eyes of his. From the thick fog enveloping the forest, an even larger beast appeared at his side. It was Rex’s mother, who seemed just as firm and commanding as her mate. Despite their toothy mouths, Rex knew they weren’t pleased. His large eyes blinked once and he cocked his head with a squeak.
“Yes Mother? Yes Father?”
“Listen to me, Son; I want you to follow your father. Watch what he does his. Every. Movement. I would show you myself but…well, your father needs the practice himself.” She spoke with a low, feminine voice, one that rumbled Rex to his core. Still, as he inched out from the bush, he nodded meekly.
“Yes Mother.” The larger beast looked to her husband with a demanding stare.
“Don’t let him wander on his own. Not for one second. There are as many dangerous things here as there are in the prairies.” She hissed. The father simply nodded before he and his son watched her walk off. Her long, drawn-out strides didn’t count up very high before the mist enveloped her, and in moments she was out of sight. In a long, lazy show of movement, just like his companion, Rex’s father looked down at him.
“Are you ready, my boy?” He asked in a soft tone. As Rex observed, he gazed at the long, wicked scars lining the left side of his father’s face as they twisted and contorted to his snout with his words. Following a wide grin the young dinosaur nodded. “Very good, now follow me.” His nostrils flared loudly as the tyrannosaur started down a worn path, at a pace Rex found exhausting to keep up with. Trotting along, the young critter found his breath slowly escaping him. Thankfully, the soft down covering his body continued to catch the moisture in the air, trapping cool droplets of water in his feathery coat. As he looked up, he remembered that his father lacked down of any kind, then he took a moment to wonder how he kept cool in this place.
With blink after rapid blink, the eager tyrannosaurus looked all around them, once again admiring this new world. He only wished he could see all of it, as fog ate up most of the forest. Some trees seemed to come from nothingness while others seemed to evaporate altogether, and the mist continued to grow thicker and thicker, it seemed. Normally the strange cloud would frighten him down to his bones, but with a grin he looked up at his father, who scanned the forest diligently both with his eyes and his nose. So long as he was around, Rex thought, he would be safe. No one or thing could take on his dad.
Suddenly a new smell entered the air. The tyrannosaurs flared their nostrils together as they tried to make it out, but with each passing moment, new fragrances and scents surrounded them. They could smell smoke in the distance, but couldn’t hear the roar of a forest fire or feel its intense heat in the air. Pine was perhaps the most overwhelming smell, however, and without a single pine tree in sight.
“I can’t tell one thing from another in this fog. It’d be best if you remained close, Rex.” Sheepishly, the small tyrannosaur nodded as he shuffled under his father’s towering form. “I can’t smell the herd anymore. Did they run off?”
“I couldn’t hear them, Father.” The elder beast smirked.
“Well if you are my son, you’ll be glad to know I might have blessed you with select deafness. Something your mother isn’t exactly fond of.” The harmless joking would do little to ease Rex’s worries as he fought to make out his surroundings. Suddenly the trees weren’t so welcoming. Instead they were cold and scheming. He barked loudly, at nothing in particular, but rather, at the situation they were in. Now that they couldn’t find the herd, their dinner was gone. The very thought of going hungry made Rex pout, if for but a moment. That’s when they caught a whiff of a fresh kill. With a rampant growl of his stomach and not a thought through his head, Rex started in the direction when his father snapped at him with his jaws.
“Father! I smell something! Something good. Come on!” With a roll of his good eye, the elder tyrannosaur obliged, following his scrawny child as his nose led him toward the kill. He couldn’t help but smirk, however, as he imagined his son as an adult, fat and experienced, when no other beast could pick a fight with him. But that wouldn’t be for several years, and until then, he was still his helpless little pup, prone to predators just as any other small beast was.
When the smell became intoxicating, all Rex had to do was look up. Slowly his grin dropped when he did not spot the carcass of a tasty meal, but another predator towering over him. Its narrow snout cocked in his direction, and the dirt-ridden acrocanthosaurus grumbled under his breath. He seemed puzzled by the child’s presence, but even with his size, he didn’t appear threatening in any manner. That’s when Rex’s world shook. Planting his feet firmly into the ground, Rex’s father roared until it rattled his son’s knees.
The new dinosaur was almost as large as the adult tyrannosaurus, thanks in part to the bulbous hump of fat lining it from the back of its head down to the tip of its tail. As its impressive claws curled into firm fists, the predator debated on how to respond to the challenge.
“Rex, get behind me.” The father watched his son carefully as the pup darted behind him, when he turned his attention back to the acrocanthosaurus. This new challenger, however, couldn’t keep a fearsome scowl for long before breaking into a crooked grin.
“You’re a father then, eh?” He asked in a gentle tone. It disarmed the two tyrannosaurs almost immediately. “Well, might I offer my congratulations then? Not easy being a father in this part of the woods, what with this fog.” Rex’s father cocked his head for the longest time, taken aback by the carnivore’s friendly gestures, when he took a cautious step forward.
“You will not challenge me? You won’t chase my son?”
“No, no, no.” The dinosaur shook his head. “I couldn’t find the heart to eat something that young, no matter how easy it might be to catch ‘em.” As Rex peered out from behind his father, he met eyes with the new dinosaur just as he winked at him. Composing himself, he faced the larger beast. “My name’s Rust, and I’d like to think I know these parts well. But this blasted fog seems to throw me off every time it appears I’m afraid. I just lost breakfast not a moment ago.”
“I can understand that.” Rex’s father grumbled. “Well Rust, you couldn’t help us with directions then? We…um, well don’t tell my mate this but…sort of lost our way.”
“Where are you heading?”
“I was teaching my son how to hunt. We came here following a herd.”
“Odd. I was following their scent as well, but once this fog settled, it…simply vanished like I said.” Rust took several steps forward until he stood at the scarred T. Rex’s side. “If you so wish, I think it would be wise to travel together out of this. In all honesty these mornings disturb me, and it’s nice to see another who is as lost as I am.” He was given a suspicious stare from the tyrannosaur’s good eye, and the signal translated well for Rust. “Of course, the decision is yours and yours alone.” Pausing in thought for a moment, if only to build on his intimidating demeanor, the tyrant smirked.
“Well my boy, what do you think? Trust him or…?” But when the two dinosaurs looked down, little Rex was gone. His father felt his eyes widen as his heart raced. How could he have lost his own son? And so quickly? Immediately his nostrils flared as he tried to smell for him, but in the fog, he could smell nothing but dew drops. It was eerie for the predator, having always had a true blessing of a nose. Hopelessly he looked from one direction to another, that look of concern ever apparent from his eyes to his snout. Rust, with his heart sinking, cocked his snout upward.
“If I may, as a hopeful friend, suggest an idea. You search this area of the woods here, and I shall search this area. I promise you, I will not stop wandering these woods until I find your son.”
Rex had always grown so bored with his parents’ conversations. They never seemed to get tired of idle banter. One time they lost dinner because the stegosaur complimented his mother on her complexion. He was a growing boy after all, he thought, and he wanted something to eat. With a toothy grin lining his snout, Rex kept his form low, pretending that he was hunting a deadly triceratops, or protecting his mate from a rival T. Rex. Such fantasies passed the time, and sometimes he even caught something. Like a tasty little mammal or a hairy spider. He didn’t care to eat spiders; he just liked to squish them.
His stiff tail wagged back and forth wildly as he crept on toward a dense bush. He imagined his worthy foe on the other end of it, oblivious to his perfect hunting strategy. Rex the Hunter, he thought to himself. Swiftly his mind was filled with dreams of being a force to be reckoned with. He would be great one day, he thought, someone that everyone would talk about. His mind built up a bull triceratops, packed with muscle and the largest in the land, just behind that curtain of brush, and that it was his own true foe. Even if his parents feared them, he knew with a confident smirk, he wouldn’t. One day, as his fantasy played out, he would fight one himself single-handedly and come out on top. That’s when he felt his excitement fit to burst when his legs sprang into action.
With the loud shuffle of vegetation, Rex tore through the brush and on through the other side, barking wildly at his imaginary rival. He snarled and slapped his jaws at it, only opening his eyes once his games were done. He had won, he thought to himself, and was now the greatest predator in the forests. Nothing could challenge him. Not one. He nearly gave out a victorious snarl when he heard the ravenous sound of something eating. Not plants. No herbivore could manage to make such a sickly sound. Once he listened further, he could make out the sound of flesh being torn from bone with a wet pop. All he had to do was turn, and there before him was a creature with a rugged coat of shaggy fur.
Rex blinked, unsure of what to make of the situation. From its flat, moist nose to it cloven feet clawing at the soft soil, the large creature was accompanied by two others like it. Together they ravaged the body of an even more peculiar creature. Rex couldn’t quite make it out, but he could see its long, spindly limbs and some sort of green blanket hugging its whole body. He couldn’t see its face, but that was the least of his worries.
The massive pigs ceased to eat and turned toward the small tyrannosaurus. Wickedly curved tusks protruded from their maws, all of which oozed with drool and blood. The muscular build of the massive daeodon starkly clashed with Rex’s scrawny form, and with a wet snort from the largest Wildeboar, the three pigs began to advance on the dinosaur. He backed away ever so slowly, in the hopes that the boars wouldn’t charge him. Swallowing the heavy lump in his throat, the dinosaur planned to deter the alien creatures as only an herbivore would his parents.
“E-excuse me? I must be lost.” But the Wildeboars didn’t respond. In fact, the words hardly fazed them. Rex cocked his head. “My name’s Rex. What’s yours? Your um…hair looks very nice.” Again, the pigs simply advanced, with the two on the leader’s side fanning out, ready to flank the youngster.
Rex’s heart raced. Perhaps these beasts were mute due to madness and rage. The wild look in their eyes seemed to imply it. Perhaps these hairy beings hated him as a dinosaur. Surely he had made a snack of a hairy animal on numerous occasions, but he never knew they got this big. Nowhere close.
As the boars circled around him, Rex felt his defensive instincts kick in. Unable to run away, he found his feet planted firmly into the ground instead. A low growl rumbled deep in his throat, hopeful that it would deter them. Then he gave a swift bark, and snapped his jaws at them. Unfortunately for him, it did not convince them otherwise. Instead, the leading Wildeboar, with the numerous scars lining its snout and face, raised its hunchbacked form and gave a hellish squeal. Bloody ooze flew from its maw, when its soulless eyes narrowed. The two pigs at Rex’s sides swiftly charged. Theirs jaws opened and snapped at the child, when the leader went forward as well.
Lowering its head, the Wildeboar crashed into the tyrannosaur, forcing a winded yet desperate cry for help from his chest. Its tusks tore at his hide when it squealed at its companions. Wriggling his body back and forth, Rex squirmed away from his attacker, shivering at the feel of fur against his bare chest. It was really an unpleasant sensation, and something quite surreal. His jaws chattered out of fear when his eyes darted from one dark set of eyes to another. As if savoring the hunt, the Wildeboars backed away and circled around the youngster once more.
Hopeless without his parents hovering over him, Rex wanted to run. He didn’t care where to, but anywhere but this place. He wanted to find his mother, his father, and see what they’d do to these vicious beasts. Slowly a sense of empowerment came over him the more he thought of them. His eyes narrowed and his chest expanded as he imagined himself as a mighty adult. He forced himself to think of his father, even going so far as to close one eye. No longer was he the frail youngster in his mind as he was the muscle-packed carnivore his parents were.
Following a wide grin, Rex stomped on the ground twice. His throat rumbled with the onset of a growl. Again, the Wildeboar were not intimidated by the soft snarl, but instead closed in on him again. Rex felt his heart race, not out of fear, but determination. His chest expanded and contracted swiftly before his toothy maw opened wide and he bellowed out the best roar he could muster. Unfortunately for him, the beasts only blinked at one another with his feeble attempt to scare them.
It was time to get serious, Rex thought. They charged at him together, snapping and biting their jaws at him, when the dinosaur barked back. Lowering his head, he lunged forward and felt his head crash into hard muscle and bristly hair. But the power in his skinny legs and underdeveloped jaws weren’t enough for him to strike his tormentor very hard. Together they backed off and circled around for another swift strike.
Suddenly pain wracked his body when wicked tusks tore at his hide. Crying out in a high-pitched howl, Rex darted his head back and forth hoping to latch his jaws onto a fat chunk of Wildeboar. But the pigs, keeping their bodies low to the ground, dodged his attacks with surprising speed. While the child was busy with them, however, the lead boar locked its eyes onto the youngster’s exposed neck. Drool oozed from its twisted snout when it jumped forward.
Rex turned, his eyes growing wide just in time to meet the Wildeboar’s. His heart skipped a beat as he felt its hot breath against his skin. He quickly anticipated a slimy mouth snapping shut around his neck when he shut his eyes tight. In a split-second, however, the forest around them stood silent, if for but a moment.
A storm of brush and leaves filled the air as a true monster crashed through a wall of vegetation. A heart-pounding roar came with its arrival just before it clamped its toothy maw down on the lead pig. The once proud and fearsome Wildeboar gave a terrified and painful scream as Rust shook it violently from its muscle-packed neck. It wasn’t enough to kill it, however, as it fought against him for some time. From the daeodon’s size, Rex found it amazing that he could bring the pig down so effortlessly. The dinosaur soon tossed it back down, a bloody and mangled creature which whined for its life.
When the lead Wildeboar’s companions took off, they didn’t dare look back as Rust stamped down on the pig’s hind leg before it too could escape. It gave another blood-curdling cry as the acrocanthosaurus hovered over it. Rust looked to the young tyrannosaur with a most concerned gaze.
“Are you alright little one?” Rex could only nod, ever so relieved by his arrival. The much larger dinosaur then smiled warmly. “Very good. I’ll get you back to your father, and more importantly, out of this wicked fog. But before we head off...” His grin widened and his eyes fell back to the pig. The Wildeboar’s hateful gaze turned to the tyrannosaur pup, this time offering something much different.
“Are you ready for your first kill?”