Men & Monsters

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Traps Ready to Spring

Death is but an unfortunate inconvenience. That’s what Thorn thought as he and the others watched Eira dig a deep hole in the ground with her hands and gingerly place Messenger’s small form at the bottom of it. Then, with a soft breath, she pushed the pile of dirt over and buried the pterosaur, packing it firmly until little remained of Messenger’s grave to distinguish it from the rest of the clearing. Still, what mattered is that they would know, she thought.

When Eira stood tall, she wiped at her bloody cheek and turned to the others. With their silence ended, the troupe started on the way they had now set themselves on as they descended down the path toward the center of the massive valley. Soon they could hear the sound of rushing water when Swipe jumped. Eager for a good drink, the raptor rushed ahead of the others and happened across a roaring river, long before the others caught up. The dinosaurs smiled as they joined Swipe in their gratuitous drinking.

Eira and Bernard watched for a moment as all four creatures excitedly lapped the water up with their tongues, when the girl dropped to her knees beside them. While Bernard couldn’t resist a drink himself, Eira worked to wash out the deep gashes gained from her confrontation, wincing at the sharp, piercing sting along her cheek. With another scoop of water she cupped in her hands, she looked down and watched as thin ribbons of blood began to twirl down the river.

She thought nothing of it, as instead she became somewhat fixed on the swirling threads, her eyes unable to look away as her blood slowly fanned out and spread into deeper waters. Snapping to, Eira suddenly felt her heart sink. If they didn’t want to attract a predator, she and Bernard would have to act quickly.

Taking a generous drink herself, she wiped her chin dry and stood beside Bernard. Swipe and Thorn joined them, but Rex and Rust clearly needed more water than any of them. Eira turned her sights to the water, watching the water roll endlessly over rocks and churn with overlapping currents with deafening roars. Something slowly caught her eye. A part in the river, like a fish’s dorsal fin, with two streamlines trailing behind it, began to catch her attention. Curious, she thought, that a fish might be swimming so effortlessly against the current, when she blinked.

“Rex! Rust! Get away from the water!” She hollered as she ran toward them. Rust was quick to turn his attention to her, albeit he had a suspicious look about him. Rex, on the other hand, had been too lost in his own thoughts to hear the girl when he saw a silhouette float toward him in the water. Eira stopped once she too saw it.

The tyrannosaurus growled as he brought his head away from the water, droplets splashing from the tips of his teeth and chin. The dorsal fin grew larger and larger as the shadow began to hover closer to the edge of the river. Rex backed away when he locked eyes with a crocodile-faced dinosaur making its way onto land. Everyone, including Rust, was stupefied by the size of this newcomer, as it was larger than all of them. With water spilling down the entirety of his body, Finn narrowed his eyes at Rex’s impressive teeth.

“What brings you to my domain?” Before Rex could answer, someone called on both his and the spinosaur’s attention.

“Finn! It’s you!” Eira cried out as she ran to him. Almost immediately Finn’s firm demeanor changed upon setting his sights on the girl. His eyes widened and a grin lined his snout.

“Eira! My dear, it’s so grand to see you. I was certain that I had seen the last of you when we separated.” His smile faded as he dropped to her level and better studied her. “Y-You’ve been hurt. What happened?” Naturally Finn suspected these dinosaurs to be responsible, but Eira’s smile eased his worries.

“It’s alright. The monster that did this is gone. Finn, I’d like you meet some of my friends.” The young woman took a step back and turned toward each one as she said their names. “This is Sir Bernard. He was the one I told you about earlier, the one who helped me escape the Piermonts. There’s Thorn and Swipe, and this is Rust, and that’s Rex. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Finn. He looked over me when…”

“Finn?” Rex asked as his head perked up. The spinosaurus mimicked the gesture as he stood tall.

“Rex? The very Rex I knew who was just a tiny pup?” The two dinosaurs felt their mouths curl upward before Finn cackled out loud. “Here I thought you had harmed Eira. When I could smell the blood downriver I just knew it was hers. Speaking of which.” He turned to Eira with an inquisitive smirk. “I thought you had made it home.” Eira cleared her throat, thinking back to the other night.

“Well I thought I had, but we were attacked. Everyone here wants to help me protect my home.”

“And investigate other matters.” Thorn added. Finn glanced at the ceratosaur, but it was clear that Eira had his undivided attention.

“Forgive me for not being present, Eira. I...I should have been there. Instead, I let your forest deter me from carrying on at your side. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright, Finn. You have nothing to be sorry for.” Eira replied. “Those who could get away did. I have these three to thank for that.” The girl motioned toward Bernard, Thorn, and Swipe, the last being the only one to visibly perk up. “And Giant as well.”

“Giant has been here?” Finn asked ominously.

“Well, he hasn’t traveled with us, but…”

“This isn’t good, Eira. Not at all.” The spinosaurus looked to the others. Initially meaning his words for her, he knew it would benefit everyone not to keep secrets. He returned his attention to her. “Creatures in my domain have grown restless. I know I wasn’t gone for very long. The herbivores know something is about to happen. Like a storm, they can sense such things.”

“Do they not get anxious very often?” Rust asked.

“This is the first time in years. It’s been well-established by those of us in these woods that my domain is a sanctuary for herbivores. They can’t live here en masse; otherwise the carnivores would starve, but rather, this serves to provide a holiday for herds during migration. They’re usually a social bunch, but this feeling, it has everyone spooked, so much so, no one wants to utter a word of it.” Rex looked curiously to Eira, who swallowed the lump in her throat.

“I might have an idea.” She said. Immediately she called Finn’s attention back to her. Brushing a lock of her hair over her ear, she looked back up to the spinosaurus. “It might be Tanner.”

“Hmm. Let us hurry my friends. We haven’t a moment to lose.” Finn announced. After the others had been filled in with the story with Tanner and his knights, the spinosaurus asked everyone if they could swim. Rex and Rust seemed hesitant, Thorn timidly replied, and while Swipe wasn’t sure himself, he was confident he could do it. Eira could swim, but it was Bernard she was worried about, as even he questioned any ability at all to float in his armor. As they exchanged worrisome looks, Finn seemingly sensed their apprehension.

“Come you two. I’ll ferry you across.” He said with a warm smile before lowering to their height. Helping the old man onto the dinosaur’s neck, they gave their thanks just as Eira hopped up behind him. Then, carefully and cautiously, Finn waddled into the rolling waters, trying to keep himself stable and not risk sending one of his passengers falling into the river. As they descended down toward the depths of the water, Eira was fascinated by how even nature could make the likes of the titanic spinosaurus seem small. Finn kept his head as high out of the water as he could, allowing Bernard and Eira to continue to breathe. Still, water rushed past them at their torsos.

The river wasn’t as wide as one might have anticipated, much to Eira’s relief. She and the knight slid off the dinosaur’s neck once he lowered himself to the rocky ground on the other side, when they together turned. Thorn was the only one to swim after them, appearing right behind him when his shook his hide dry. A content grin lined his snout, having found the swim quite refreshing. Rex and Rust, meanwhile, seemed hesitant. With a reassuring nod, the elder nudged the tyrannosaur ahead, who coughed to clear the lump in his throat. Having never needed to swim in his life, the young beast placed a foot in the icy cold waters before looking up. If the others could make it, surely he could as well.

No one had noticed Swipe as he dove into the water, and though his smaller form better allowed himself to stay afloat, it also left him at the mercy of the rolling current. Rex glanced at the raptor, watching his hind legs kick wildly against the strong current, when he waded into the river. Rust was close behind him, when the tyrannosaurus mimicked Swipe’s swimming technique, as he too used his muscular legs to keep his head above the water. A physically-draining act for the dinosaur, he got to the other side breathless, just as Swipe also wallowed onto land, his feathery coat soaked and dripping with water. In a flash of movement the raptor shook his entire form, water droplets splashing on everyone around him until he stood firm, his coat now a puffy mess.

Once Rust had struggled onto land behind Rex, Finn wasn’t about to waste any time as he led the others into the forest. A place Eira had found to be full of life and energy was now still and inert. Where were all the dinosaurs? Even the feathered microraptors overhead seemed to have disappeared.

Finn strode on with a large sense of urgency, having the same gut-wrenching sense that Eira had. As he led the pack of dinosaurs, the others kept their guards up. With his aged body crying out to stop, Bernard took a few more heaved steps before he stumbled to the ground. Initially no one noticed but when Eira turned, she immediately ran to the knight, just as a dark blur took off from the dense forest.

With her heart racing, the Green Folk sensed that ominous presence in the woods beginning to take form as she met eyes with the sinister Rogue. He narrowed his eyes at the two humans as a sinister smirk lined his snout. What was it about them that had everyone so fascinated with them anyway? The thought swiftly passed to the back of her mind when he lunged forward. His toothy grin morphing into a vicious snarl, the dilophosaurus clamped his jaws down on Bernard’s leg. Before the knight had any time to respond, he found himself being dragged helplessly into the brush by an animal more powerful than himself.

Eira immediately cried out for Bernard as she pursued her friend’s attacker. Paying no mind to the branches slapping against her, the Green Folk pushed on. This sudden attack had also called the attention of the others, as Thorn and Swipe took off after her. This left the three giants with mere seconds to respond.

“What was that?” Rex asked as he and Rust approached Finn. The spinosaurus felt his heart race, as he too felt something much larger about to unfold.

“I can’t be sure. I will follow them. Listen you two, there is a clearing up ahead on this path. Go there and we’ll find you here shortly. If anything challenges you, I highly suggest you make full use of your size and strength.” And with that, Finn took off after the faint breaks in the low brush, crashing through it in his massive form. Rex and Rust looked to one another, when the elder beast took the initiative and started ahead.

The narrow dirt path didn’t go on for much longer before the two carnivores found themselves in a very spacious and grand clearing. Again, such a haven for herbivores was now devoid of any signs of life. The stillness in the air kept the two of them hesitant as they slowly encroached on what they felt was another’s territory. They ceased to move, listening only to the pounding in their ears when they glanced at one another. After a series of such glances followed by scans around the forest, something finally stirred from the forest before them.

With a bellowing grunt, Boulder the Ankylosaurus appeared from the woods, his clubbed tail swinging lazily back and forth as he locked eyes with the two carnivores. Though his vision wasn’t the best, he clearly saw the silhouettes of the two theropods, when he slammed his club down on the ground. Sure enough, horned ceratopsians as well as rough and wary-looking duckbills appeared behind him.

“You’re a bit far from home aren’t you, runt?” Boulder growled.

“Hmm. I thought Finn’s domain was one of peace. You hardly sound like an advocate of such.” Rust replied.

“We’ve made ourselves a deal with someone else for protection. Perhaps you don’t have Finn with you, which woulda been perfect, but you two have walked right where we wanted you anyway.” The akylosaur’s bony beak curled up in a dark grin, just as another trumpeting cry came from the carnivore’s other side.

Turning, they met eyes with Blade and Rampage, the two of them eager for a rematch with Rex. The baryonyx had on him his silvery grin as a soft snicker escaped past his snout. Rampage, on the other hand, felt his blood boil with the sight of the tyrannosaurus, just as his frill turned bright red.

“A trap?” Rex thought aloud. “What is this about?” Boulder rolled his head until he heard a decisive pop in his neck when he looked back up.

“It’s nothing personal. Just following orders.” Blade grinned widely.

“Speak for yourself, Stone-head. This is personal.”

Eira ran as fast as she could, hearing the rustling vegetation ahead of her as a sign of her closing in on them. Her hands outstretched before her, she pushed forward and struggled against the dense brush until the noise ahead of her stopped. When a clawed branch latched onto her green attire, Eira voraciously, if awkwardly, fought to take back her cloak from the wicked limb. With one last forceful pull she found herself successful, but not before stumbling into a clearing not far from another roaring river of mountain water, where she landed hard onto her back.

With a moment to recuperate, the Green Folk slowly got back to her feet. When she turned, she immediately spotted Bernard lying on the ground, struggling to get up in his heavy armor. She smiled and ran to him, dropping to her knees as she helped him to sit. He brought a hand up and pulled up his visor.

“Ah thank ya, lass. You’re a lot braver than I would’ve been here.” Eira smiled.

“It’s nothing. Come on, let’s get you…” Suddenly the girl found herself overwhelmed by a reptilian odor. It was so strong and pungent she nearly gagged, when she looked up. In her rush to find Bernard, Eira had failed to notice the small armada of beasts around them. Rogue was the first she noticed, as he looked at her with his signature grin. The smug beast stepped to the side, as if presenting the next being to come forward.

“Eira! So good to see you as always. We were just about to return back to your village. I suppose that will not be in order anymore now will it?” Giant said. Eira cleared her throat, unsure of what to make of the scene around her. Had Giant intentionally kidnapped Bernard? While Hopper and the Carnotaurus Brothers hovered close behind their leader, she could still see the carcasses of numerous duckbills dot the clearing, most of them picked clean but velociraptors and small pterosaurs continued to scavenge what they could.

“Giant…?” She whimpered before looking back up. For the first time, she was beginning to reconsider Thorn’s suspicions. “What is going on?”

“Why, expansion my dear,” Giant replied coolly. “How can you lead an army without the means to support it?”

“Wh-why did you take him?”

“Well, I told Rogue here to take you, albeit in a less savage manner than he did your friend. But I suppose this will suffice.” The giganotosaurus gave an annoyed glance at Rogue before looking back down at Eira. This didn’t work to remove the dilophosaur’s sinister grin, as he would rather congratulate himself on killing two birds with one stone. “I wanted you to see the great things we are about to accomplish. Those wicked men who attacked your home will get what’s coming to them. That much is certain. I simply felt that you might feel inclined to watch. Justice at its finest, yes? Side-by-side, the two of us?” With all sorts of emotions running through her mind, Eira was anything but thankful for Giant’s intent; sincere though it seemed in his ever-so-precise wording.

“I have other friends as well, Giant. They can help us.”

“No, I don’t believe so.,” He replied ominously. “I would rather believe they’d impede our progress.” Just as he said that, Thorn and Swipe appeared from the brush behind Eira. Thorn quickly felt his heart race at the sight of the various dinosaurs. A trap! Hopper in particular felt his blood boil with their arrival.

“Sir, I do believe we’ve found Rust’s two minions.” He said in a cool tone.

“Oh? These were the two who so effortlessly slipped past you? These two who helped us at Eira’s village?” Giant asked. Hopper, a bit disheartened, only nodded to his leader’s condescending tone. The giganotosaurus took a moment to inspect the two beasts, when he felt the corners of his mouth curl upward until he began to chuckle.

“What are you hacking at?” Thorn snapped.

“Forgive me. I was laughing more at Hopper than at yourself. After all, I should think one of my more accomplished followers would manage to catch the likes of you. Still, you have my thanks and support for helping Eira out so much in her journeys.” The ceratosaur’s throat rumbled as a deep growl bellowed from it, while Swipe inched toward Eira and Bernard.

“Ya alright, you two?” He asked softly. Eira nodded, and the knight tried his best to mimic the gesture. Normally the raptor would have went on, but even he could sense the direness of their situation.

“Giant!” Came a booming voice. Shaking nearly every beast save for Giant to the core, they watched on in awe as Finn broke through the dense forest line, his eyes locked with the giganotosaur’s. Adrenaline coursing his veins, the spinosaur was not about to pay mind to the painful sting wracking his extended spinal column as a hanging branch whipped backward into it. As usual, Giant kept his cool persona, his tips of his claws clicking against another.

“Finn, so good to see you again. I take it these two and yourself were escorting Eira and her friend about?”

“We were. Quite well until the little urchin there took Bernard from us.”

“Ah, so this is Bernard is it?” Giant smiled widely when he looked down at the two humans. “Eira has told me of your kindness sir, and I can only thank you for your deeds myself.”

“Enough of that,” Finn hissed. That’s when his eyes pushed away from Giant to the carcasses around the clearing, and the raptors ravenously tearing chunks of meat from them. His heart sank, and his tone grew dull. “I suppose this is your doing? This senseless massacre?”

“It’s for a good cause, I assure you,” Giant replied.

“You know my domain is off limits to the likes of you.”

“Of course I do. You see, I’m in a different business now. One that includes expansion.”

“If you had your way there’d be nothing to eat for anyone else.”

“Finn, you speak to me like I’m the enemy. I needn’t remind you that I am not.”

“If you kill those seeking sanctuary, then you are my enemy. No matter what filled up our past.” Never one to excite conflict before or entertain similar thoughts, Finn felt new to this feeling. His heart felt aflame no less with what he had seen thus far.

“Come now Finn, let bygones be bygones. The death of these few individuals will fuel a great conquest, a victory; one that will assure Eira here her peoples’ safety for years to come.”

“You speak of grand things Giant, but I cannot trust you anymore. I’m sorry. Please, leave my lands and we will not speak further of this atrocity.” The spinosaurus spoke with a calm, firm tone, but he felt his stomach sink when Giant returned his seriousness with a smirk.

“I don’t think that will be happening, old friend.”

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