Fulfilling her request, Bernard also handed Eira a short sword to tie around her belt. His farewells were kept relatively brief as he watched everyone off. The girl strapped the bow over her shoulder with the quiver of heavy arrows dangling past her other hip. She waved the knight errant off as the small troupe marched away, her trust placed solely on Bernard keeping his word to her. Of course she felt nothing to worry about with him. It had to be the plethora of soldiers and knights she didn’t trust.
Alas, she thought with a sigh of defeat, she had no real power in this place. It helped that Rex had her seated at the base of his neck, acting as a steed the likes of which Eira could never have imagined. Though nothing quite like the flight she experienced in Giant’s grip, she remained tense knowing that she was at the mercy of Rex’s direction.
The city was anything but serene. Bodies of civilians, soldiers, and dinosaurs littered the streets. Crying constantly filled the air as they looked about, watching helplessly as the survivors dealt with the fallout of the attack. One grisly scene after another seared itself into Eira’s mind. She was certain that the images of carnage and terror would never leave her.
“Scum! The whole lot of ya! I’ll kill all of you!” One hardened civilian snarled as he started toward the small gang of dinosaurs with a sickle in hand. A soldier happened to be watching the team off, and stopped him just in time.
“No. That beast there fought the dragon. Let them go.” The man scowled at the soldier, but sure enough, he backed away and went about helping the others. The soldier turned, nodded to Eira, and saluted the dinosaurs as they passed by.
The march was relatively silent. Even Swipe neglected to speak as they walked briskly along. It still didn’t seem fast enough, but once they walked on through the city gates, they could hear remnants of Giant’s army in the distance. That was a good sign, Eira thought, as the dragon was unlikely to recuperate until everyone left in his army was in attendance. Rex and the others made up for their distance by picking up their speed to a light trot. When the bouncing came to be too much, Eira simply laid down on the tyrannosaurus, hugging the back of his neck closely as they continued their trek. It would be many hours until they returned to the forest, and more still until her Green Folk brethren followed. With any hope, she thought, everything would be safe by then.
Taurus snorted in relief when he managed to catch up to Giant’s scent. There, he found his leader planted firmly near the edge of the forest, to a place where mountain water billowed over rocks toward the Piermont Kingdom’s green fields. The dragon had his head submerged in the icy cold depths, trying desperately to dislodge Rex’s teeth from his neck. When he sensed their presence, Giant pulled his head from the water, his head drenched when he turned. Sure enough, the majority of his men who had survived the city assault returned, though Taurus was the only true face he recognized.
“That little brat dug in deep. It’s sure to grow infected now.” Giant growled as smoke spilled from his mouth. The water dripping from his maw and snout hissed as it now turned to steam.
“I wouldn’t wish that fate on you, Giant. None of us would.” Taurus said.
“What of our numbers? Any stranglers behind you?”
“We suffered rather heavy losses, I’m afraid.”
“Then it’s back to where we were isn’t it? To recruitment?” Giant seemed saddened by the news, when he looked off into the distance.
“If I may, Giant, I’m not sure if we can afford that same amount of time and effort as we had before the attack. I...forgive me, I thought we were winning.”
“We had conquered the land until that little brat went berserk.”
“Why not set fire to him?”
“He had me when I was down. When I least expected it. A coward’s attack. I will show him. I’ll show all of those insects.”
“Sir, these beasts are tired. They need food and rest.”
“They will rest when I command it of them!” Giant boomed. It was enough to shake all of the dinosaurs present, almost enough to have some of them question their allegiance and his leadership. “No. We will return with more forces. Stronger than ever. We will run over Rex and his little team with a reckoning never before seen! I will be damned if I break the oath made to you, my most loyal subjects.”
“Uh, yes sir…” How Taurus wished to ask Giant why their superior numbers fell to such a small troupe of dinosaurs. Then again, he could only picture Blade’s skeleton in his mind when it came to insubordination. The thought made him shudder.
“Call your new lieutenants.” The dragon commanded when he returned his attention to the water. Taurus bowed his head to his leader before turning. Carried by his long, slender legs, the carnotaurus inspected the tired army as he walked forward.
What he saw haunted him, if only for a moment. Dinosaurs who had managed to make it back with them licked their wounds in defeat. Large duck-billed herbivores soon returned with mouthfuls of a special plant, that smaller dinosaurs applied to injuries after chewing on them. Many of them winced at the strange concoction spread over their cuts and gashes, but even the small carnivores assured them that it would help greatly. Some of the herbivores and feathery raptors cuddled up to one another, keeping warm as it seemed it would rain soon. Taurus couldn’t say if he had seen so much caring in quite some time. At least not in his time beneath Giant’s command. He shook his head. No, he couldn’t call into question Giant’s role as leader.
“Louis? Louis are you still with us?” Taurus asked. Sure enough, the accented raptor darted from the large pool of raptor bodies and reported before the larger beast.
“Oui oui, sir! Reporting for dooty.”
“I’m naming you first lieutenant. Do you have any recommendations of your comrades to promote.”
“Noo sir. Zey are tired. I cannot zink of one who vants zis position. Besides myself. Ha ho!”
“Very well. Thank you lieutenant,” Taurus turned toward the larger herbivores. “Are there any takers for a promotion? You will be rewarded handsomely upon our victory. All we ask of you is to help lead.” But there was not one taker to Taurus’s offer, as they looked back at him with tired and disenchanted eyes. They returned to tending to one another, when Taurus stamped his foot down. “Giant commands it! Someone step up!” Still none listened to the carnotaurus, and he suddenly had a very bad feeling about morale within the ranks. He looked back to his leader, who had returned to washing his wounds out, when he felt his heart race.
They weren’t going to win, he realized. Giant was mentally falling apart before his eyes. The draconian, savage beast within was consuming him, as he was a far cry from the suave and cool commander that he had met in his youth. Now reckless and borderline mad, Taurus looked at the dragon for the longest time, then, with a deadpan expression, he lowered his head. With a deep, heavy sigh, he gave a solemn farewell under his breath to his beloved leader and started down a path away from the army. He did not speak to any of the dinosaurs, and before long, he was gone, returning to the forests from whence he and his brother came, only this time he was alone.
Giant could seemingly sense this abandonment as he pulled his head from the water and turned.
“Where’s Taurus?” He asked, a hint of apprehension in his tone.
“He valked off sir.” Louis reported.
“Oui. I figured he must have to do as ve all must do from time to time, if you know vhat I mean.” Nearby, a brutish styracosaurus loudly expunged his bowels, calling forth an offending scent that had Louis’s eyes water. “At least zee secund bozz has zome manners.” With a near uncharacteristic sigh of relief, he smirked at the raptor and turned to his army.
“Do we have everyone here? Have they all returned?”
“Most of them. We lost a few on the way I’m afraid to say.” Said a timid chasmosaurus that needed her friends to coax her into speaking.
“This army has seen better times…” Giant hummed as he inspected the tired troupe. He turned back to the chasmosaur, a wide smile on his snout. “How would you like a position as lieutenant?” Before she could reply, however, a dense cloud of brush exploded before the dragon, consuming him. Rex gave a bellowing cry when he tackled the dragon head-on.
Chaos soon filled Giant’s ragtag army when the rest of Rex’s friends appeared. As most had lost the will to fight, it quickly dawned on the newcomers that this was simply a matter of chasing them away. For being dwarfed in numbers, they found an overwhelming sense of pleasure in doing so. Even Thorn and Crash found themselves snickering whilst herding the the dragon’s soldiers away. Swipe cackled and Rampage guffawed. Finally Eira appeared from behind the tyrannosaur, mindful not to be caught between the two as they wrestled against one another. With her bow and arrow at the ready, she looked up at the others chasing the army off, when she smirked. Weapon at the ready, she fired a single arrow.
“Sacrebleu!” Louis cried out as he continued to run away, an arrow now lodged in his rear end. Eira giggled to herself before turning to face the two titans as their brawl continued. Rex’s initial strike found his jaws shutting around Giant’s long neck once again, but without as good a grip as he had before, he was easily dislodged when the dragon bucked him off.
“This ends now, Giant. No more running.” Rex snarled when he snapped at him again. Giant stood tall and pushed the tyrant back with a swift backhand from his wing before collecting himself.
“I wonder how high it’ll take for me to drop and kill you.” This only worked to anger the tyrannosaurus, who charged forward with a devastating headbutt. Striking his chest again, Giant felt his heart race as his bruised ribs cracked, and Bernard’s wound stung with an incredible fire. When Rex tried again, Giant slapped him with his wing, then with the other, before he slapped both sides of his head with his wings. Dizzy and disoriented, the tyrant stumbled back and tried his hardest to sharpen his senses. Everything was fuzzy and when he did manage to regain his vision and balance, the dragon before him was gone.
“Where...what the…?” Rex thought aloud when he looked all over. His heart raced as he could hear Giant slithering through the shadows. Just when he felt his presence creep up on him from behind, the dragon hissed and pounced at Rex’s unprotected side. Wings flapping wildly and talons clasped deep into Rex’s hide, Giant hoped to carry the youngster up off the ground and drop him. Fearing this fate, Rex snapped wildly at his attacker, but Giant had positioned himself that he was impossible to get with his jaws.
“How would you like to see your parents again? Or Rust? How about Finn?” Giant cackled when his wings carried him into the air above his opponents.
“No!” Eira cried as she pulled an arrow from its quiver at her side and pulled back on the bow. The first arrow lodged itself in Giant’s shoulder, but he could not feel it through his thick skin. That’s when Eira directed her attention and arrows toward the large black gash in his chest. If she could just get one single arrow in that wound, it might just deter him. Most of the arrows missed, some worse than others, to Eira’s embarrassment, but when one arrow finally landed in the center of the gash, Giant let Rex go with a surprised whelp. Unable to contain herself, the Green Folk exclaimed in excitement.
Pain from that one little bolt made its way to each of Giant’s extremities and back. His talons dislodged from the tyrannosaurus, the dragon fell hard onto his back. A plume of smoke escaped past his snout when he got back onto all fours in a panicked frenzy. How was he going to dislodge it? His mind raced in a manner that he couldn’t set his attention on any one idea, something quiet alien to him. Was this what madness was like? So consumed was he, that the physical world around him seemed to be the least of his concern.
Having never left the ground, Rex took this moment to seize upon the dragons’s vulnerability. Finally Giant looked up, slit-like pupils dilating as his focus returned. It proved moments too late, however just as the tyrannosaurus took his left arm in his jaws and clamped down. Hard. The dragon gave a bloodcurdling scream as he felt his arm snap in two. Then, with his unbroken arm, Giant batted the tyrant away, and belched out a small fireball to deter him further.
“I will not die here today,” Giant bellowed.
“Rust said something to that effect too.” Rex growled before charging forward. The two colossal giants traded devastating blows, with Rex snapping his jaws and using his head as a club while Giant made use of his good wing, jaws, and whip-like tail to fend the bloodthirsty tyrannosaurus off. As they fought, they also conversed, usually initiated by Giant’s hand, and typically met with a single reply by Rex.
“You could have been great in my army, Rex. My heir possibly.”
“I’m not interested. Why can’t you get that?”
“It appears you’re serious. Then only one of us will walk away today.”
“Oh, were you not taking this seriously?”
“Not until my arm got broken...” Those watching the battle couldn’t get over the rather mundane conversing between the two beasts, but just as night and day, Giant suddenly turned very savage in his assault. First he whipped his tail around and cracked it on the tip of Rex’s snout, startling him, before flapping his good wing to bring him up just above Rex’s eye level. Then, without notice, he delivered a powerful kick to Rex’s jaw. This sent the youngster stumbling back, his vision fuzzy and he himself unsure of what exactly had just happened.
Giant didn’t stop there either. He charged and tackled the tyrannosaurus so that they both crashed into the thick trunk of a nearby tree. The tree nearly buckled against their weight as its limbs shook violently, but it stood its ground when Rex bucked the dragon away and put some distance back between them.
As eyes, both beast and Eira’s, couldn’t pull themselves away from the fight, they realized that the pain wracking his body was only driving Giant further into his madness. He began to scream and howl at Rex, never giving him the almost noble opportunity of exchanging blows as he had before. Instead, he battered, kicked, and bit at the tyrannosaur wherever he could, and his coordination was traded for simple brutality.
Soon Rex found himself battered and bloody, and despite Eira firing arrows at the serpentine fiend, they did nothing to deter Giant. She watched on helplessly, crying for him to stop as he batted Rex to one side, then another. The young dinosaur was clearly dizzy, and he teetered in one direction when the injured drake struck him again. With little to offer but a defeated moan, Rex maintained enough strength to keep from falling outright, but rather, lowered safely to the ground before his legs finally gave out.
“Giant, please...y-you win now. I will yield.” His voice was but a whimper now as the dragon continued to strike him on the ground. Then, Giant opened his long maw and clamped down on the tyrannosaur, shaking his head back and forth violently before throwing him back down to the ground. Rex was no longer the triumphant and lively dinosaur he was while arriving in pursuit, but a bloody pulp. He wasn’t even strong to enough to grunt and growl in pain.
“Oh no, it’s too late for that. Far too late. I win, this much is certain. You’ve taken my army, my pride, my arm! No...no I shall take even more from you.” Standing tall, Giant took a massive breath, extending the arrows his his chest forward as he did so. Fire was broiling in his chest, and as he opened his mouth, its orange glow shimmered from the back of his throat. In the distance he and Rex could hear Eira crying for him to stop, pleading with him. She seemingly fell on deaf ears, but Giant did indeed hesitate. The wild look in his eye ceased, if for but a single moment. He blinked, lost in thought as Giant, the old Giant, occupied the dragon’s corrupted mind.
Slowly getting back to his feet, Rex stumbled once, but knew this was his last chance of helping the others. Lunging forward with all of the strength left in him and his thick skull low, the tyrannosaurus felt his head make solid contact against Giant’s chest. Eira’s arrows were pushed deep into the dragons body, and this final headbutt all but shattered Giant’s rib cage.
Eyes going wide, Giant coughed loudly as he tried his hardest to exhale. A small plume of fire escaped past his snout, billowing into the sky before a swift breeze snuffed it out. He collapsed to the ground, coughing and gasping for air as he watched his life flash before his eyes.
From his father to Finn, his defeat by Blade and his claws brushing with victory afterward, all of his memories came racing back to him, some of them worse than others. Disappointment seemed to be the overwhelming sensation throughout most of the flashing images, but there were moments of heartwarming happiness, brief though they seemed. The corner of his his mouth curled upward ever so slowly at those thoughts. The carelessness of childhood; oh how he missed it. The laughs he once shared with Finn while they played without their parents hovering over them, be it racing one another or hiding while the other sought them out. Tears welled in Giant’s eyes as he looked to the heavens and begged Finn to forgive him, but no words came out. Only desperate gasps.
Whereas the memories of childhood worked to break his strained heart, there was always the Green Folk; Eira. The girl who rejuvenated his spirits, who inspired him to strive for goals his father never could have imagined. Eira Aune, the girl who changed everything he thought about the world, and opened his mind to many more. Innocent, pure, and meek, she was everything Giant envied. What a simple life, he thought. Unfortunately not all are blessed with such. Brief though their time together was, Giant was certain that Eira was something truly special, and bound for great things.
Rex hovered over the dragon as he continued to writhe and wrestle on the ground, before slowly succumbing. Then, only once Giant had stopped moving, the tyrannosaurus cocked his head. After such an ordeal, he imagined throwing his head back and roaring in triumph, as he imagined one of his parents might have, but he did not. He simply sighed in relief. The tip of his snout did tip upward, as the young dinosaur closed his eyes.
The breeze felt entirely foreign to him now, yet so soothing at the same time. One might suppose he wouldn’t recognize it the same way ever again. Something softly brushed past his leg, when he looked down. It was the Green Folk. They said nothing, but Eira mouthed the words ’Thank you’ as frightened tears had seemingly welled-up in her eyes. She wiped them away, but Rex shook his head weakly, before bowing in deep respect for the girl. A smiled lined her lips when she gave him a heartfelt pat and swallowed her sadness.
With a deep breath, Eira apprehensively approached Giant just as her friends around her did. It was over, she realized. It was all over. For a moment, however, it didn’t seem that it would be. Giant’s dragon form melted away like grains of sand, sinking into the soft soil and the fearsome dragon slowly shrank back down into his original, dinosaur body. Bloody and battered, Giant was still alive, it seemed, when he slowly opened his eyes and looked to the girl. He was still fighting desperately for a full breath of air. The Green Folk walked more briskly toward him, just in time to hear him speak just above a whisper.
“Eira...my dear…dear Eira…” She said nothing to the monster as she looked back at him with a cold stare. “You can never forgive me for what I’ve done to you...I don’t expect it...just know this...you...you were a shining beacon in my life...the last...real joy I had ever felt in this cold world. Thank you...thank you and those behind you...for releasing me…” Then, with one final breath, he sighed. “Goodbye...my friend…” When Giant closed his eyes, his last sight was that of Eira Aune, a treasure in his mind. Then, and only then, was Giant, simply Giant, gone.
Walking slowly up to the dinosaur, Eira gently placed a hand on his snout, when she swallowed the lump in her throat. She was marked with an unexplainable sadness, half-hoping he’d flair his nostrils, startle her, and laugh just as he did once. Sure he had been a complete monster in his actions, but part of her wanted to remember the Giant she had first met: kind, suave, and sophisticated. The one who had stayed with her that night outside her village, the one who complimented her and made her feel special like none before had done so.
Despite the acts he had committed against her, Eira knew that Giant’s words were true. The way he lit up when he saw her, coupled with the genuine smile he gave her as opposed to the calculating one offered to others, both helped her realize that he did, indeed, love her in a manner he wasn’t quite used to. She gave a gentle pat to his snout, glad to see that he didn’t have to suffer anymore. It was one final goodbye to that dinosaur, or better yet, that idea, of what she had called her good friend.
“Rest now. Friend.” When she turned, she was met with the many eyes of her dinosaur friends and allies.
“What now?” Crash asked. “What do we do now?” Rex slowly stepped over Giant’s thick tail and took to Eira’s side.
“It’s difficult to say. I don’t imagine things will be the way they were for a long time now.” A moment of silence fell over the dinosaurs. Eira looked around to those who had done so much to help her, from Swipe, whose trademark grin was gone, to Thorn, who kept his head down low. Even Rampage and Crash could be considered her friends now, despite their previously sour encounters. She finished her gaze on Rex, who was slow to realize her eyes were on him. He met her gaze with his, and gave a toothy grin, crooked though it was as many of his teeth had been dislodged in the skirmish. They’d grow back, he thought. They always did.
“You’ll be a hero, Rex. What saddens me is how few will know.”
“Not one word of that is true, Eira.” She was surprised by his forceful tone. “Of course, he did start of this. But if not for Thorn and Swipe, where would we be?” The raptor’s smile finally came back, albeit softly. “By having all of us meet, who knows to what extent they’ve saved us. Crash and Rampage, as it does pain me to admit, you’ve benefited as well. Have you not?” Crash felt her heart ping for a moment, but she swallowed her pride for once.
“Yes. I guess. The closest thing to a father I ever had is gone, sure, but it was Blade who killed him. Not you.”
“And he’s gone now too," the triceratops added.
“One of the few good things to come of this.” The herbivore gave a strangely dark smirk as she spoke and looked to her oldest companion. “I’ve at least got you.”
“My mate’s been avenged. Finally.” Eira found it discouraging to hear Thorn speak so softly, when he looked up at the others. His good eye now glistened with confidence. “I can move on.” Swipe’s smile widened, though it still wasn't quite his typical goofy one.
“I lost me pack before all this. But then I met all ya fellas! The best ones I ever did meet.”
“And Rust…” Rex sighed, but just as Thorn had, he raised his head up high, and took a deep, satisfied breath. “Too many sacrifices were made in these past few days, that much is true, but we’re stronger now. We’ve been made stronger by all of this. Together.” What he said was true, Eira realized as she tried to picture what the timid, scared side of her would have done in the face of these events had she not experienced so much beforehand. She’d likely be cowering in the servant quarters back at the Piermont Castle, without so much as an ally to her name.
“So what now, mates?” Swipe asked.
“I suppose we go back to our old lives,” Thorn replied. The deinonychus seemed saddened by that idea, as his rebuilt grin faded. Thorn rolled his eye and sighed with mock seriousness. “Of course, if you want to tag along with me for a while longer, I suppose I’d allow it.”
“Ah, you mean it?” Swipe spoke enthusiastically as he hopped toward the ceratosaurus. Thorn immediately regretted his statement.
“I’ll have to think about it.”
“And I guess it’s just us now, huh Rampage?” Crash said solemnly. The triceratops simply nodded, ever the quiet type that he was. Eira smiled warmly at them, but when she looked up at Rex, she could see the sadness hanging on his shoulders as his head had dipped slightly. When he met eyes with her again, however, he found her grin too contagious to sulk. She slung her bow over her shoulder and walked over to him, gently placing a hand on his leg once again. Without speaking a word, Rex and Eira felt that they fully understand what the other was thinking.
“You don’t have to go your own ways right now. Come back with me. I can’t imagine a life without seeing my friends ever again.”
“Friends? You think we’re...friends?” Swipe asked. Eira turned to him, almost offended by his surprise.
“But of course. You...you all are the greatest friends I’ve ever had. Better than most I have back home. Bernard will return with the people of the East Village soon, and we will rebuild their homes together. It’d be nice to have some friendly faces like all of yours around.” Swipe smiled warmly at her words when he turned to the others.
“Whaddya fellas say?” Thorn smirked at Eira, nodding deeply as he felt his heart warm. Crash scoffed at the idea.
“Sorry, but I think we can go our own way.”
“I dunno. I kinda like that idea. It sounds nice. She seems awfully nice. He’s nice, and he is too. Well, he gave me a bad headache once, but he’s nice too.” Rampage said as he gave a crooked grin and pointed his one good horn to each of his new teammates. Pouting, Crash went back on her word, and agreed to return with Eira. When the Green Folk looked up at Rex, her hand still on his leg, she found his smile grow only slightly.
“I have little else to go home for right now. My cousin can manage my lands a little longer. I would be honored Eira. When I do go back, I will visit whenever I can, and you are always welcome in my homeland.” With it settled, Eira felt fit to laugh aloud. How she couldn’t wait to return to her family, to introduce them to this new, magnificent world, and tell them and everyone else of the adventures they all ad together. Through the sacrifices and kindness of others she still stood, taller than she ever had.
These worlds didn’t have to be in conflict, she thought, but instead, something beautiful could blossom from the knowledge that these realms could live in harmony. Surrounded by these alien creatures, never in her life did Eira see herself meeting such wonderful beings. Likewise, they thought the same of her. Without this one human being, none of them would have formed such an unlikely alliance as they had. Eira looked to a nearby tree, where she spied the Green Folk trademark handprint carved into its bark. With a wide smile and another pat to Rex’s leg, the young woman felt her heart race with excitement.
Eira Aune was finally going home.