The sun was just about at its setting point when the Gang and their new friends ended up at their favorite place: the watering hole. As time went on, Ali became less and less shy around the Great Valley children and was now enjoying their company. Now, she was laughing and splashing around in the water with them.
She did seem to have taken a particular shine to Littlefoot. Mostly because he was the same species that she was, so in that sense they were able to connect with each other a bit more than the others. Plus, he friendly and gentle nature made him easy for her to talk to.
Still, she did seem appreciate being with the others. She started to talk to Cera a little more and didn't mind it when Petrie or Ducky wanted to ride on her back.
Now, the female Apatosaurus was laughing running through the water with her new friends.
As for Aylene and Ken, they were sitting on a nearby rock, talking about their own experiences with their Time Stones.
"So your grandfather gave you your Time Stone." Aylene said.
"Yeah," Ken nodded, "It was on my fourteenth birthday last spring."
"Wait, you're fourteen?"
"So am I! My birthday is in the summer."
"That's cool." Ken smiled. "Well, I guess we would be close to the same age if we're in the same grade."
"Yeah, I guess so." Aylene shrugged.
"What about you?" the human boy asked. "How did you get your Time Stone?"
"Oh, my grandma gave it to me." Aylene explained. "It was during one of our visits to her and my grandpa's house. I will admit, it was kind of shocking when I found out about its power."
"I hear ya." Ken replied. "The first time I came here, I had no clue what was going on. I'm just glad I landed in a group of herbivores."
"You and me, both. So, what was your first adventure like?"
"Well, it was interesting to say the least," the boy shrugged. "Ali's herd were just migrating as usual and then, FLASH, I was there."
"That's kind of the same thing with me." Aylene said. "Littlefoot and his family were searching for the Great Valley when I first met them. They invited me to join them."
"That's kind of how it happened for me, too." Ken said. "Some of the members of the herd were generous enough to let me join the group. Since Ali was the only child in the group, I mostly just hung around her as we traveled on. For a while though, she wouldn't talk to me. I think she was just shy."
"But you obviously became friends," the human girl pointed out. "So what happened?"
Ken hesitated for a moment before turning his head and gazing a small waterfall flowing down a rock wall just a few yards opposite of them, as if looking off into the distant past.
"There was a Deinonychus attack one night." Ken said in a low voice. "They tried to single out Ali since she was the youngest. I'm just glad I had my crossbow. I rushed to her side as fast as I could and managed to take out a few. And one of them happened to be the leader of the pack. I knew it was because the moment I shot him down, the others retreated. But, by golly, those things are fast. I was surprised I was able to make it through alive."
"I know where you're coming from." Aylene replied, pulling in her legs close to her body and hugging them. "On my first adventure, my friends and I defeated a giant T-Rex."
At that statement, Ken's eyes widened and looking over at Aylene with a surprised expression. The human girl glanced at him and became concerned about the way he was looking at her.
"What?" she asked.
"This T-Rex," the boy said, "his name wasn't Sharptooth by any chance, was it?"
"Yeah, it was Sharptooth." Aylene answered, suspicious.
"Oh!" Ken slapped his forehead. "Why didn't I see it before?! You guys are the ones who defeated Sharptooth!"
"Wait!" Aylene jolted in shock. "How do you know about that?!"
"Everyone knows about it!" Ken said. "And you defeated him on your first visit?! Whoa!"
"It's not that amazing," the human girl said awkwardly.
"Are you kidding me?! Sharptooth has stalked this land for a long time! I even seen him for myself!"
"Yeah," Ken's voice then lowered to an almost disturbed tone, "it was during my third visit. We saw him take out a large herd of Iguanodons. I'm just glad we were on the other side of a large river."
The boy shuddered at the memory.
"I still have nightmares about it," he clenched.
"I'm…sorry to hear that." Aylene frowned.
"You shouldn't be sorry," Ken looked at the girl, "you and you're friends are the ones who stopped him."
"Yeah," Aylene glanced away, "but now we're on predator's most wanted list."
"Since Sharptooth was the "Walking Terror" of the land, our defeat will be seen as a honor in for the predators," the girl bitterly explained.
For a moment, the two friends said nothing to each other. They had to take a minute to absorb the stories they had just exchanged. Plus, Ken didn't exactly know what to say at Aylene's statement. Mostly because he just didn't know what he could say that would make any difference.
Finally, Aylene let out a deep sigh and looked back at the teenaged boy.
"So, you and Ali came from the Land of Mists?" she asked.
"Yeah," Ken suddenly glanced away at that question.
Aylene noticed his action suddenly became hesitant. She had so many questions about where Ken and Ali had come from, but at the same time, she didn't want to accidently cross some line that she wasn't suppose to.
"Um," she bit her lip, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but…what was it like before?"
"It was a lot like this place." Ken replied, almost bitterly. "But that's in the past. Now it's just a soggy swampland invested with monstrous gators."
"Gators?" Aylene swallowed hard.
"I'm sorry," Ken clenched his fists, "but I don't want to talk about it. Let's just drop the subject, okay?"
"Sure," the girl sheepishly nodded, "if you say so. What would you like to talk about?"
Eventually, the time had come for the group to head back to their respective nesting places. While Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike headed back to their families, Littlefoot, Aylene, Ali, and Ken walked back together toward Littlefoot's nesting place.
"Thanks for showing us around." Ali smiled. "You and your friends are really fun."
"Well, I'm glad you had fun." Littlefoot replied. "Maybe we can play again tomorrow."
"That sounds like fun," the female longneck said.
"Hey," Ken suddenly pointed, "look!"
Everyone turned in the direction the human boy was pointing and saw the herd of Apatosauruses that had just arrived all crowded around something. Curious as to what was happening, the group of four hastily made their way towards it and began to weave their way through the maze of large, sauropod feet. Already, they knew something was amiss since they could hear the adults muttering nervously among themselves.
When Littlefoot stepped out into the center of the circle, he got a horrible shock.
Grandpa Longneck was lying down on his side, breathing heavily and not moving a muscle. Standing beside him was Grandma Longneck, looking worried and crestfallen.
The little longneck immediately ran over to his grandparents. Aylene gasped in horror when she saw the situation and immediately rushed over to her friend.
"Grandma!" Littlefoot exclaimed. "What's going on?! What's wrong with Grandpa?!"
"You're grandpa is very ill, Littlefoot," the large female elder replied in a voice that tried to conceal her sadness.
"Ill?!" the young Apatosaurus looked up desperately at his grandmother. "But he'll get better, won't he?!"
"I don't know, Littlefoot," Grandma Longneck replied. "Some dinosaurs do and…some don't."
Tears began to well up in Littlefoot's eyes when he heard the news. He fought hard to hold them back, but the reality of what he was seeing in front of him made it almost impossible to do.
Suddenly, from behind him, the Old One approached the family.
"I've seen this sickness many times in my life," she calmly said. "No dinosaur ever recovers from it unless…"
The matriarch of the Apatosaurus herd hesitated.
"Unless what?!" Aylene asked, fearful for the fate of her best friend's grandfather.
"Unless they eat the golden petals of the Night Flower."
"The Night Flower?"
At the mention of this flower, the rest of the migrating herd began to mutter among themselves again. However, the tones of their voices were mixed with both hope and fear. They seemed to be hopeful about this flower's curing properties, but something didn't feel right when the hints of distress made themselves present.
"Sick dinosaurs eat them and are cured," the Old One continued to explain, "if they eat them in time."
"Grandma!" Littlefoot's voice spiked with hope. "We have to get the Night Flower for Grandpa!"
"Old One," Grandma Longneck eagerly asked, "where can I find the Night Flower?"
The matriarch didn't reply right away. Instead, she turned her head to the northeast and gazed at it for a moment. She then turned back to Grandma Longneck and said in a low voice:
"In the land we came from: the Land of Mists."
There was a simultaneous gasp from both Grandma Longneck and the migrating herd.
"The Land of Mists." Aylene's eyes narrowed.
"Cousins," the grey female Apatosaurus addressed the others, "who will take me to the Night Flower?"
The moment the request was spoken, the rest entire herd backed away fearfully; each of them saying that they were not going back to the Land of Mists, and saying that it was foolhardy to even attempt going there.
"The land has changed too much," the Old One warned. "Longnecks are not welcome there."
"But what about my Grandpa?!" Littlefoot tearfully shouted.
"We can't just do nothing!" Aylene strong protested to the matriarch. "We have to do something! If we all work together then we can…!"
Before Aylene could finish, the Old One lowered her head to the human girl's level and stared at her with hard eyes.
"It is too dangerous!" she forcefully said.
Aylene opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She eventually dropped her gaze, unable to bear looking into that longneck's stern face.
When the Old One saw Aylene's defeated expression, her face softened significantly. Then without speaking another word, she turned away and led her herd back to their resting ground.
Ali, concerned for her new friends, was about to run over to them when Ken stepped forward to block her path.
"C'mon Ali," he said, slightly pushing her away. "It's getting late."
"But Ken," Ali protested, "isn't there anyway we can help?"
Ken hesitated for a second. He glanced back at Aylene, who was trying to comfort Littlefoot. He then looked away with a crestfallen look.
"I'm sorry," the boy replied. "There's nothing we can do."
"Ali, I know what you're thinking and you might as well forget it. I'm not risking your life or their lives. We can't go back to that place and you know that. I'm sorry, but we just can't."
Ali hung her head low as the two friends walked back to their herd. Ken just looked down at his feet, silently apologizing to his friends.
The young longneck turned around when he heard his grandfather weakly speak to him.
"Yes, grandpa!" he ran towards the old Apatosaurus.
"Littlefoot," Grandpa Longneck said in a shallow voice, "I want you to promise, that if anything happens to me…"
"But Grandpa," Littlefoot desperately replied, "nothing is going to happen! I'm going to take care of you!"
"You're still very young," the elder sadly continued. "And Grandma isn't as strong as she once was. If our Valley does change, I won't be here to protect you. Our cousins are strong, and the Old One is wise."
"Well, I don't think she's so smart." Littlefoot bitterly replied.
"Littlefoot," Grandpa Longneck looked at his grandson with weak eyes, "promise me that you and Grandma will go with them if the time comes."
"But Grandpa," Littlefoot's eyes filled with tears, "you're going to get better!"
Tired and weak, Grandpa Longneck closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Finally, Littlefoot let his tears fall. His heart wrenched so hard in his chest that it hurt. First he lost his mother, and now he was going to lose his grandfather.
Seeing her friend heartbroken again, Aylene let her own tears fall. This was almost like the night when Littlefoot's mother died after she saved them from Sharptooth. She never wanted to see her long-necked friend hurt the same way again. But now…history was repeating itself.
"It's time to sleep, little ones." Grandma Longneck gently said.
"But I want to help you watch Grandpa!" Littlefoot tearfully replied.
"You can help me by getting some rest."
"But there has to be more we can do!" Aylene spoke up.
"Littlefoot, Aylene," the female elder sadly replied, "we must all except what the great circle of life hands us."
"No!" the human girl clenched.
"Please try to understand," Grandma Longneck shook her head and led them away from the male elder Apatosaurus, "there's nothing we can do. And try not to worry. The great circle of life brings us many good things, too. Sometimes…when we least expecting."
Despite the words efforts to be encouraging, that only brought more pain to the young ones. That only meant there wasn't anything they could do. All they could do was helplessly watch nature take its course.
Even after Littlefoot settled down to rest with Aylene leaning against his side, and even after his grandmother went back over to look over her husband and the sun had set behind the mountains, the pain of losing family kept hitting the young longneck in the face and stomach. He tried to get himself to fall asleep, but it was futile. Instead, he just continued to shed tears.
Aylene hugged herself tightly. She hated seeing her friend hurt like this. And to make it worse, it was going to be prolonged until Grandpa Longneck…
The human let out a heavy sigh and shut her eyes tightly, realizing that she was once again helpless to do anything about this.
Or was she?
There was still that Night Flower. If that was their only hope, and there was still time…
A sudden will of determination seemed to burst inside of Aylene like a firework. She clenched her fists and got up from her spot.
Feeling his friend move away, Littlefoot looked over and saw Aylene strapping her quiver around her waist and throwing her gym bag onto her back.
"Aylene," he said, "what are you doing?"
"I'm going to find the Night Flower," the girl replied, grabbing her bow. "If it's our only chance to save your grandfather, then I'm going to take it."
"But Aylene," Littlefoot stood up, "you heard what the Old One said: the Land of Mists is dangerous."
"And I heard you say that you didn't think she was so smart." Aylene raised an eyebrow.
Littlefoot's voice failed the moment his human friend said that.
"Besides," Aylene continued, "even if the Land of Mists is dangerous, that hasn't stopped us in the past. And if there's one thing this world has taught me, it's that we all have the power to change our fate. And if there's a chance to save Grandpa Longneck's fate, then I'm going to take it. Now, are you with me?"
Upon hearing such a rallying speech, Littlefoot's eyes narrowed into a strong determination and he walked over to his friend.
"Always," he said.
"Excellent," the human girl nodded. "Now c'mon. If we're going to go to this place, we're going to need help from someone who knows the territory, as well as the path that takes us there."
Without another moment of hesitation, Aylene leapt onto Littlefoot's back and the longneck quickly and silently ran off into the night.