-v-

NIGHT 1: NOT SO HIDDEN AMBITIONS

Chapter 1: The Tale of the Tail

Several years ago:

"A scout from Blue Beak's pack made an incursion today, but our sentries stopped him."

Ignis tried to feign interest at the deputy's report. An incursion by Blue Beak's scouts was not an uncommon occurrence as the various hidden runner packs would often test one another's defenses by sending a scout and trying to leave without detection. This action was usually not an act of aggression, however, as this was the manner in which future deputies were trained. An odd sort of rite of passage where the successful hidden runner was then given tasks of more significance. Both she and the deputy knew this, but certain appearances had to be maintained. As a result, her response was automatic.

"Good work! Gather your sentries to my chamber, Argis. I will thank them personally."

Argis stood wide eyed for a moment before realizing his social faux pas and bowing deeply. To have a leader personally thank the lower ranks was rather uncommon. It was something that her father only did sparingly.

But she was not her father.

As the deputy hastily left the leader's chamber, she allowed herself a deep sigh. It had only been three weeks since the death of her father and nearly one week since the return of the survivors to the pack lands. The intervening time had been a period of mourning for those who remained and a struggle to return to some semblance of order. For Ignis it was a blur. Her formal installation as leader, her selection of a new deputy, her call to the pack to stay strong in the face of tremendous losses... It was hard to believe that a mere week had gone by since they had returned. It felt like ages. Only now was the pack returning to anything approaching normal.

The tasks ahead of her seemed daunting as she mentally considered what lay ahead. The deceased had been mourned and the orphans had been already assigned foster parents, which was a great deal off of her mind. However, the minutiae of pack life still remained. She had to consider the feelings of her father's former mates as they had suffered the loss in rank that their benefactor's death would entail. To that end she had carefully made promotions in order to prevent any threats to her leadership. Much of the sentries and deputies were complete novices due to the pack's losses in the valley and she was trying to boost the morale of the new recruits, which would be a very fragile commodity at this time. Then there was the whole issue of Viscond...

"Oh, father... How did you handle it all?"

With a gentleness and reverence that approached that of a religious rite, Ignis placed her hand on the scrape that served as the leader's perch. The scrape would appear as nothing out of the ordinary to any other dinosaur that approached it, but to a hidden runner it was sacred beyond words. It was the closest thing to a seat of power that existed in the pack. It had the scent and the presence of the Great Leader. The scrape obtained its dignity from the persons who had resided on it, not the other way around.

She closed her eyes as she touched the hard rock that made up the scrape. Despite the simplicity of the scrape, it did contain something that she valued beyond words. The cold, rough surface of the rock contained the very imprints of claw marks from times before memory. From before her father's father had even been an egg. But as she caressed the ancient scrape she felt what she had been waiting for. The impression of her father's claw marks. His small contribution to the ancient structure. The only physical thing that remained of him on this world.

Tears began to flow from the hidden runner's eyes. If the others could see her now then her break in emotional control would be part of the pack's gossip for days to come. As a result she struggled to regain control of herself before her subordinate returned. Besides, it would do the sentries no good to see their leader weep.

Regaining some semblance of control, she stroked the impressions again. There were so many present in the ancient rock. Despite only being as deep as a hidden runner's rump, it was the product of generations of gentle scraping by the leaders of old. Even after the first leader had carved out the scrape after nearly a year, each subsequent leader had made his or her mark on its surface. A small carving into the combined history of the pack. A history in stone to go along with the stories they told. Her father had done so when he was first made leader and now it was her turn.

Scrape... Scrape... Scrape...

Ignis closed her eyes as she allowed her claws to scrape at the hard surface of the stone.


"Is this song seriously about a hidden runner scraping a stone?"

Chomp!

"Ow! Dad, Biter bit me!"

Littlefoot sighed and shook his head while the others barely constrained their laughter. Well, everyone but Taunt, who was laughing hysterically. The brown fastbiter had a strong suspicion that his daughter's antics reminded Taunt of himself at that age.

"Well, Swipe, for once your brother is right." He rolled his eyes as his son began to strut in triumph. "You shouldn't interrupt a song until it is sung." He then smiled a knowing smile at the other children. "Besides, there is a lot more to this tale than a scrape... now where was I? Oh yes..."

As Ignis scraped upon rock black,

Memories of time gone by came flowing back...


It was only after she had personally thanked the sentries for their 'heroic' service that she again had a chance to resume her attempt to make her mark on the rocky scrape. However, despite scratching for the better part of the afternoon, her efforts had only earned her the slightest of markings. There was no deep gouge in the rock, only the slightest etching. With a huff, she ended her attempt and resumed sitting on the scrape.

"Ah, so you have started marking already?"

Ignis raised her head in surprise at the sudden voice. The face of an elderly female met hers from the threshold of her chamber. It was a face that she knew well, but had seldom seen since her childhood.

"Grandma?!"

The elder smirked as she chided her leader half-heartedly. "Young one, as you know I am not really your grandmother; and in any case I don't think that 'grandma' is an official title that a great leader should be using."

Ignis put on a smirk at the elder's tone. "As you know, Grandma..." She put great emphasis on the word in order to annoy the elder. "You were 'Grandma' for everyone in the pack who didn't know their own grandparents." Ignis then took on a playful smile. "As for it not being a title, perhaps I should make it one... you always said that I was the rash one."

The elder gave the younger female a stern look that would have horrified anyone else, but Ignis knew that stare. After a few moments the elderly hidden runner couldn't keep up the act anymore and let out a soft chuckle.

"You rascal! I always knew that you had some of your father in you!" She approached a bit closer but stopped at the prescribed distance for those of her rank. "He responded much as you did when he assumed your position."

Your position. The words echoed in Ignis's mind like a harbinger of doom. She was now in the same position as her father, a hidden runner that she admired above all others. Was she up to the task?

"He did?" Ignis asked, ignoring the pangs of doubt.

The elder nodded. "He was in a hurry to get things done, but he was also full of self-doubt... just like you are now." Ignis looked surprised at the elder's observation, but she continued on. "Don't worry, young one, I am sure that the others don't notice. But I have seen it all before and know of such things... it isn't like my moments are spent pining for hunts and males anymore."

Ignis normally would have laughed at the elder's untactful manner, but she was so struck by the older hidden runner's observation that she let that slide without notice. Instead, her mind was fixated on the matter at hand.

"How did he cope?" It troubled Ignis just how pitiful her voice sounded. She had put up a strong front since she had arrived back at the pack, but in front of the hidden runner she called Grandma, she allowed herself to show her true feelings.

Seeing this as an invitation, the elder approached Ignis and embraced her in a quick hug. After a few moments she broke the embrace and whispered a single word into the leader's ear.

"Patience."

Ignis blinked and stared at the elder with a bemused expression. "Huh?"

"Patience, my dear. I told your father then and I am telling you now, that patience is key. Nothing changes overnight. Not the placement of the stars, not the leaves on the trees, and not the gouges in a perch."

Ignis looked at the perch with a dismissive glance. "It isn't the perch that concerns me..."

"You will do fine as pack leader, Ignis. The pack, like you, just needs some time to heal and adapt." Ignis nodded absentmindedly at the elder's encouraging words. Despite their assurance, she still felt utterly lost. "In time you will leave your impression in those you lead and in the perch, just like the leaders that have come before you. You have already made an impression on those who fought at your side, especially the Viscond fellow you have your eyes on..."

Ignis seem to shrink back in embarrassment but said nothing. The elder continued with mirth.

"I would think being a leader is time-consuming enough, but you seem interested in nests and eggs as well..."

Ignis recoiled. "Grandma!"

The elder shrugged. "Now that, dear, isn't fooling anyone. The pack gossip isn't about who your first mate will be; it is about your second..."

The younger female sputtered. She knew of the gossip that transpired when her father was in power and it often focused on rather personal things, but it was quite another thing to be on the receiving end of such gossip. Ignis wanted to strike down the rumor despite its truthfulness, but instead she returned her focus on the elder in the hopes that she would stop her playful taunting.

'I thought that you didn't keep up with gossip anymore."

The moment that the elder turned around with a beaming smile, Ignis knew that she had made a tactical mistake.

"Ah, so the rumors are true, eh?"

Ignis crossed her arms but bowed her head in defeat. There was no use in hiding the obvious now.

"I respect him..." Ignis contorted her mouth as if deliberating what to say next. "And more than that... but I have to be careful and so does he." She finally admitted.

The elder nodded with a compassionate expression. "It is good that you are tending to such things, my dear. Politics in the pack can be a rough business, but I think that your choice is safe from challenge. He proved himself in the battle and he is taking the initiative in chasing down that butcher..." Venom hung in her words. "Once he brings you Calin's head I don't think there will be any objections in the pack."

Ignis's eyes went wide. "Calin's head?"

Grandma covered her mouth in fake embarrassment. "Oh dear! Did I blurt out that little secret? Viscond would be so upset with me if he ever found out." The look on her face indicated that she knew she was quite safe in that regard. "A bit morbid for a mating offering, but one the rest of the pack will appreciate."

Ignis nodded, immediately reading between the lines. "He knows the head will give him proof. So none of the other packmates will doubt his story."

Grandma took a little bow at Ignis's statement. "See, great leader, you aren't the only one who has given the matter a lot of thought. Viscond is as bright as you."

Ignis smiled as her eyes bored into the elder runner. "More like we both had the same advisor..."

Grandma feigned ignorance at the implication. "My dear, I have no idea what you are talking about." A smile soon returned to her face, however. "Regardless of who thought of it, you can put your mind at ease. I trust that your chosen one will be returning soon enough." She then took a deep bow in the formal parting to a higher ranked individual. "Farewell, Ignis."

Ignis returned the bow of the elder, as she echoed a formal hidden runner parting. "May your sprints be swift."

As the footsteps of the other hidden runner retreated out of the chamber, Ignis was alone yet again. However, for the first time in several hours, she felt quite at peace. Her leadership was secure and her mate-to-be was securing his own position with the helpful advice of an old wise runner. All that she had to do now was be patient. Without even realizing what she was doing until she had started, she began to claw into the rock of the perch once more.

She could not see the elderly runner begin to smile outside of the cave as the sounds of scratching again echoed from the chamber.

"A fast learner... just like her father."


"This is for my brother you disgusting piece of spiketail dung!"

Viscond stared into the water with an intense expression. As much as he wanted Calin to suffer for what he did to his brother and his pack, to actually hear that suffering was something else entirely. The sounds of excited yelps and ripping flesh greeted his ears even from this distance. At least the screams had mostly died down once they had ripped out his tongue.

Slash!

A disgusting splattering sound erupted into the chaotic symphony of misery. This was immediately followed by something that sounded like a wet gasp and a helpless, shuddering sound. Viscond closed his eyes tightly. His mind was feeling in the gaps well enough without his actually seeing the violence.

These monsters are as dangerous as Calin. Viscond noted. They helped lure him into a trap and then betrayed him. His eyes suddenly went wide as another thought came to him. How do I know they won't betray me? I helped them complete their mission, but do they need me anymore?"

Realizing the possible danger, he decided to again face Calin's killers. If they did turn out to be treacherous then at least he would be able to see the attackers and to respond appropriately. As he turned, however, he immediately regretted that choice.

With a swift movement Viscond averted his eyes to avoid looking at the grisly scene directly, but he had already seen enough. The exposed lungs gave a clear indication of what had caused the shuddering a few moments prior. As he waited for the sharpteeth to finish severing the head and tail from their kill, Viscond remembered how he had encountered them in the first place.

That scent... I would recognize that stench anywhere.

The hidden runner examined the scent carefully for any additional clues, but the amount of time that had passed clouded the details that scent usually left behind. The only thing that he could ascertain was that there were three scents were present on this small impression of a foot in the soft ground. The bitter musk of the hated foe, Calin. An acrid scent that smelled something like fear, but seemed quite out of place considering the fastbiter he was tracking. It was the third scent that made him pause, however. It was a very generalized scent that wasn't as musky as Calin's. It was almost feminine in a way... It was also much recent.

A sudden sound of rustling grass made Viscond rise to his feet, spear in hand. Within mere seconds his spear tip was within two paces of a fastbiter's face. The same fastbiter that he had just smelled.

"Ah, one of the hidden runners..." The fastbiter growled. "Haven't you had enough revenge?"

Viscond narrowed his eyes. He spoke in a controlled monotone in the sharptooth language.

"Calin's underlings don't concern me." He noted the twitch in the fastbiter's eyes as he said 'underling'. "It is Calin that I am after. I want his head."

Without warning, a male voice answered him.

"That might be a problem."

Viscond shifted to his left and noted with panic that another fastbiter had found him without his knowledge. Not taking any chances, he reared back and prepared to run when the male's voice called out again.

"Don't even try it, runner. We have you surrounded." Upon seeing Viscond tightly grip his spear and enter into a fighting position, the male smiled. "You obviously don't want to go down without a fight. Interesting..."

Viscond snarled. "You should know this already, you fiends! I fought you in the Battle of the Valley and I will fight you right here! Either retreat or die!"

The female seemed unfazed as she began to circle him, a movement which the male cut off with a single wave of his hand.

"Regardless of what my companions want, runner, I am only interested in killing my former leader. Now are you going to make yourself useful in that mission or are you going to die right here in this ravine?"

Viscond seethed. "Why should I trust you?!"

The male shrugged. "You probably shouldn't after all we have done to you... but believe it or not, hidden runner, we have a common enemy. That bastard Calin ordered us to kill your kind..."

Viscond shook his head. "You could have disobeyed... you could have assassinated him..."

The male roared in anger. "And risk having my family killed?!" Viscond stood in silence as the previously calm and collected fastbiter roared in uncontrollable rage. "My brother and sister were part of the pack, runner. They did not know the family relation, but all Calin knew was that they were my allies. If I killed Calin then Redclaw would not only kill us, he would kill those I loved. He already got my older brother; I couldn't afford to lose what was left of my family."

Viscond stood in silence. That was a piece of the puzzle that made everything click in the hidden runner's mind.

"You split up and joined the pack at different times... so that Calin wouldn't force you all to fight to join the pack..."

The fastbiter seemed surprised that the hidden runner would know this, but he nodded in confirmation anyway. Viscond continued without interruption.

"You remind me of the two in Seeker's pack. The two defectors."

The male's face darkened in an odd expression. It was a mixture of sympathy and anger, a very disturbing sight.

"They left in the middle of the night after we left the hidden runner lands... Kerwat, my older brother, considered taking my family and escaping , but I cautioned him against it... The others would be more watchful now for defectors... Maybe if I had listened to him then Kerwat would still be alive."

It was at this point that the female spoke up. "Nonsense, brother! You know that would have just gotten us all killed! We all did what we had to do."

Silence reigned for several moments as the brother and sister stared at one another in contemplative silence. Even the male fastbiter in the bushes, who Viscond could now smell but not see, had taken on a somber scent. Words could lie, but scents seldom did. He realized that this family had been hurt just as much as his by this fiend. It only took him a few seconds to make his decision.

"I will help you." The fastbiters turned their gaze towards him as he continued. "I am a great tracker. Between the four of us that bastard will not stand a chance. I will consider Calin's head settlement for the blood you have shed."

The male nodded slowly and tentatively stepped forward. "As I will consider Calin's head settlement for the blood your kind has shed." This was followed by a deep bow.

As Viscond bowed deeply to confirm the pact, he considered the path that lay ahead. Calin's own packmates were as much victims as Viscond's packmates were. Though he would never forget the terrible deeds of the last two seasons, he felt a fleeting sensation that the great evil that brought those deeds into the world would soon be snuffed out.

Without any further words, Viscond and the fastbiters departed. They had another fastbiter to hunt...

Viscond blinked away the memory as he could see the fastbiter approach. The head that he held between his fully extended jaws confirmed that the deed was done. Viscond's people had been avenged. Kerwat had been avenged. The great terror had finally been snuffed out.

Thud

As the head rolled to Viscond's feet, he stared in transfixed disgust at the sight. Very little remained that could identify the terrible fiend beside his tell-tale scent. Little skin remained on his face, which seemed to stare at the hidden runner in an expression of permanent terror. His empty eye sockets seemed to seek something that Calin could not find. Calin had been blind to the feelings of his fellow dinosaurs in life; it was only appropriate that he was blinded in death.

"I believe that we have kept our part of the bargain."

Viscond slowly looked up from the gory artifact as he looked into the fastbiter's face. Even from several paces away, the stench of blood and rage was overwhelming. To add to the horrific scene, the sharptooth was drenched in the fallen fastbiter's crimson blood. It was like something out of a nightmare. But Viscond would not be deterred by the horrific vision in front of him.

"So you have." Viscond stated plainly. He watched the fastbiter intently and kept his hands near the spear at his feet.

The fastbiter stared at him with an unreadable expression for several moments, but he did not move any closer. After a rather uncomfortable wait, the fastbiter spoke again.

"What will you do with the bastard's head?"

Viscond was tempted to tell the fastbiter that it wasn't any of his business, but he soon thought better of it. The sharpteeth had not betrayed him and he did not want to give them an excuse to do so. Nonetheless, he was not going to give up information without a fair exchange.

"What do you plan to do with Calin's tail? Are you so eager to see Seeker again after what he did to your packmates?"

The fastbiter smiled, which resulted in a decidingly creepy expression. "You have worked with us for several days, yet you do not trust us... well... my father always said that hidden runners only had two things in their favor: speed and brains." He twisted his mouth in an odd expression. "He didn't say anything about the pointed sticks though."

Crack!

In a swift movement, a fastbiter sprung from the bushes and landed on Viscond's spear, securing it to the ground. Terrified to the point of panic, he turned to run...

Only to see the fastbiter's sister staring right back at him. A growl from his younger brother confirmed to him that he was now surrounded on all sides. He looked to and fro with a panicked expression as he tried desperately to find any route of escape. But on this day his luck had finally ran out. Within moments he could feel the male fastbiter's breath on his shoulder. With rising anguish, he clinched his claws and prepared to fight one last battle. A battle that he knew would end with his death.

"If we were to kill you now then we would be no better than Calin."

Viscond turned ever so slowly in order to look the fastbiter in the eyes. The crimson orbs of the predator greeted his terrified opponent with an ominous glow. In that moment Viscond felt very helpless indeed. His voice radiated no pride as he answered the pack leader.

"Then don't do it."

The fastbiter stared at him for several more moments with an unreadable expression. The only thing that radiated emotion in the fastbiter were his brilliant eyes. The expression of regret in them closely matched the regret within Viscond's own heart. He deeply regretted what he would not have a chance to do now. He would never have a chance to be with Ignis. He would never have a chance to raise a family. He would never have a chance to have his story told by his own progeny...

"They say..." The fastbiter continued as if this were the most normal conversation in the world. "...that right before death you know exactly what it is that you wanted most in life. Many a child will call for their mothers... many a parent will call for their children... many mates will call for the loved ones that they will never see again..."

Viscond was quaking with anger and sadness now. He had no idea why the fastbiters were toying with him, but he would make sure that they paid in the end. He would not go down quietly.

"The leaf-eaters may think that we are heartless beasts, but we know far more about life than they ever will. You learn a lot about life when you see how your victims behave in their final moments. You, for example... you... are no coward. You're planning on attacking us right now. You are just waiting for an opening..."

Viscond took a deep breath as he prepared to make his move. He would strike at the leader as soon as the others pounced in his direction. Then it would all be over... But the carnivore's next words made him pause.

"What is it that you value most, runner? What is it that you most regret losing?"

Ignis... Viscond thought to himself. He would never get to tell her just how he felt...

"The gifts of sharpteeth are odd things, runner. When we kill one but spare another, it is seldom looked kindly by the survivor. We are the choosers of the dead, which also makes us the choosers of the living."

The eyes of the leader seemed to stare into his very soul as he could see the fastbiter start to retreat back.

"I do not know who you thought of when you thought that your end was near, but I know that look... I know that it was someone dear and close to you..."

Viscond tilted his head in confusion. When you thought that your end was near? Does that mean...

"Take it from someone who would give anything to embrace his brother once more..." As he said this he made a waving motion with his claws. "Do not hesitate in telling your loved one how you feel... life is precious and short... do not waste it."

Swoosh

Viscond turned as the two fastbiters that were behind him disappeared into the bushes. They had left him as quickly and mysteriously as they had ambushed him.

"The gifts of sharpteeth are often not understood. But you helped me avenge my brother on this day. Therefore, from one chooser of the dead to another, please accept this gift."

Viscond turned back towards the fastbiter with a questioning gaze.

Only to see a barren field. There was no trace of the pack. It was as if they had just vanished into thin air.


The children had awed expression on their face as Littlefoot continued to recount the tale in song. Gone were the looks of boredom from the beginning of the song. From behind him, Ruby watched the scene with a pleased smile. Littlefoot's grandfather had been a storyteller back in the valley. She had no doubt that wherever that longneck's spirit now was, he was looking upon this scene with great pleasure. In the stillness of the night, the well-toned voice of the fastbiter continued to sing.

As Ignis slept in her chamber cold

Viscond returned with a demeanor quite bold...

Viscond walked across the threshold of the hidden runner's territory with little of the respectful hesitancy that was normally expected upon entry. There were certain times when such pleasantries were not required. Completing a mission on behalf of the leader was one of those times.

And when you want to impress your detractors into silence is the other. Viscond noted to himself as a confident smirk appeared on his face. He did not know why the fastbiters had threatened him and then let him go, but it had left quite an impression on him. Life was too short for half measures. He had taken risks to drive Calin away after the attack on his brother's pack and now he resolved to take risks now in order to claim what was his.

"Stop intruder!"

Viscond stared at the form in front of him. A clearly nervous hidden runner stood in the darkness with his spear clearly shaking in his hands. This was one of the new recruits, he quickly realized. One of the newly promoted pack members who now had to fill in for those who had died in the great battle. He could not tell if the shaking of the novice was from fear of the perceived threat or from a heightened desire to prove himself. Either way, Viscond did not want to cause the lad any more distress.

"Relax, sentry. It is Viscond."

The hidden runner tightened his grip on the spear for a moment, which made Viscond fear that the sentry was about to attack, but then the young male pointed his spear to the ground.

"Oh... I'm sorry, sir... I..."

Viscond waved him off.

"Don't worry about it, Twig." He noted the look of shock as he mentioned the sentry by name. "A good sentry is a cautious sentry. Your father would have been proud."

Twig lowered his head in remembrance of his father who had died in the terrible battle. Ever since he had left on that fateful day, Twig had to grow up overnight. He was the one who now had to protect the pack. It was up to him to carry on his father's legacy...

Twig's thoughts were interrupted when Viscond put a hand on the young runner's right shoulder.

"I also know that your father would appreciate seeing this."

Twig stood mouth agape at the blood-stained head that Viscond held.

"Is that..."

"It is."

Twig's face darkened for a moment, before taking on a strange contemplative look. It was an expression that would be more appropriate on a hardened veteran than an insecure novice.

"I will escort you to the leader's chamber."

Viscond shook his head. "Thanks, Twig... but that is not..."

Twig silenced him with a wave of the hand.

"Sir, you are a deputy of the pack and the slayer of that butcherous bastard. What would my father have said if I let you enter the pack unprotected? A consort of the leader deserves better."

Viscond blinked. "I am not the leader's consort..."

Twig snorted at Viscond's hesitation. "Well you obviously intend to be, sir." It was at this point that Viscond realized that his motivations would have been plain for anyone to see. To stroll on into the pack's territory with a severed head in the direction of the leader's chambers in the middle of the night was more than a bit suggestive.

"Very well then, Twig. Lead on."

As the two hidden runners proceeded into the pack's territory, neither of them paid much attention to the various packmates that had been awakened by the commotion. Amongst them was a certain elderly female who wore a knowing smile.

Patience is a virtue, but so is boldness.

"Great Leader!"

Ignis rose from her slumber in a near-panic. For her to be summoned in the middle of the night, it must be an emergency of some kind. Quickly flexing her legs she ran to the threshold of the chamber.

"What is the prob... oh."

Viscond stood at the threshold of the chamber as the sentry gave them both a quick bow and then retreated. Now it was just them in the chamber, though the sounds of mutterings outside seemed to indicate that much of the pack had risen from their slumber.

"My dear leader... I have accomplished my mission..."

Ignis smiled slightly as she struggled to control the relief that she felt. She would let him finish his ritual before she intervened.

"Calin is dead. Our people are avenged..."

Viscond stepped forward, his legs obviously shaking with nervousness as he picked up the macabre gift with both hands and raised it towards her. It was obvious that he was finding it difficult to find the proper words.

Ignis smiled more broadly now. My poor Viscond... brave enough to harass Calin's pack... brave enough to seek out battle in a mysterious land... brave enough to take in the great leader's daughter after she has defied him... but yet speaking to me causes him distress... That was when it came to her. Viscond was prepared to die during those battles. He had been prepared to send others to die. But he was not prepared to be told 'no' by the runner that he loved.

She frowned for a moment, which made Viscond nearly stop what he was doing. The head was still being held in front of him in the manner that a potential mate would present an offering of a hunt as proof of their worthiness, but his eyes now communicated fear. He feared for her answer. Luckily for him, his fear was unnecessary.

"Did your mother not tell you how to complete the ritual?" She asked coyly.

Viscond swallowed as Ignis placed her hands on the head of the fiend. He found himself wondering how could Ignis be so calm at this time? He was a nervous wreck.

"Repeat after me..." Ignis smiled as she could see the male tremble now. "Do you accept my gift and my offer?"

Viscond swallowed as he struggled to choke out the words. "Do you accept my offer and my gift?"

Ignis smiled as he bungled the words in his nervousness. "Close enough." As she secured the head away from Viscond's possession and threw it unceremoniously to the side of the chamber, the sound of the head rolling away could be heard. It was the only thing that broke the silence until she whispered into his ear.

"The answer is yes, by the way."

As the two retired to another area of the cave, neither of them paid any attention to the scrape that had occupied Ignis's attention for many nights. If they had, then they would have noticed a new marking that had been made into the rock.


For as Ignis had learned in nights tense

A leader's perch was a heavy burden

But as she found solace in patience

A lover's boldness made her salvation certain

As Littlefoot concluded the song, he looked down at the assembled children. Their eyes were bursting with excitement at the brown fastbiter's story. Though the romantic overtones would be lost on the little ones until they were older, the moral of the story would certainly make an impact.

"As Ignis found out on that day, both patience and boldness are necessary. If you are bold and lack patience then you will make rash decisions, but if you are patient but lack boldness then you will succeed at nothing." He smiled at the children as they began to nod at his words. "Part of growing up is finding out when to be which."

"See?" Biter suddenly exclaimed. "Daddy is telling you to be more patient, sis!"

Littlefoot rolled his eyes as Swipe rose to her feet and prepared to pummel her brother.

"Oh yeah? Well daddy is telling you to not be so bold! How did biting daddy's tail end up for you?"

Ruby then stepped in between the children. "No more fighting tonight, kids!" She chided them gently. "Daddy was talking to you both."

This caused Biter to smirk. "I know momma, but I was just kidding with sis."

This causes Taunt to speak up. "Beware, Biter. He who pokes buzzer nests often gets trouble... though that never stopped me in the past."

"Trust us. We notice." Petrie muttered from above, which earned a few chuckles from the assembled dinosaurs. However, after a few moments silenced reigned again. That was, until one of Spike and Breeze's children began to yawn.

At this point Cera rose to her feet. "Well, children. I think that it is time for all of you to go to bed. You have all had a busy day."

"But mom... we are not..." The female's protest was cut short as she yawned deeply. Littlefoot smiled. Cera's daughter had just excellently illustrated Cera's point.

"You see, kids." Taunt was now taking the opportunity to speak. "Your mother is right for once." He dodged the inevitable swipe from Cera as the kids giggled at their parent's antics. "We can listen to new songs tomorrow."

"Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky exclaimed. "Young hunters need plenty of sleep. We can do this tomorrow. Say goodnight to everyone, children."

Within moments, each of the parents had safely tucked their younglings into their nests. The sound of restful snores greeted the night as the warm summer air hung over them all like a comforting blanket. However, two sharpteeth yet remained awake on this night.


"Not sleeping yet? That is odd for you."

Taunt looked over at his mate with an amused expression.

"Hmm... hoping to attack me while I am asleep and defenseless?"

This cased Cera to put on a cheeky smile.

"Nah, it is more amusing to attack you when you are awake. You scream like a leaf-eater youngling."

This earned an obscene gesture from Taunt, as Cera stuck out her tongue in response.

"You're such a bad influence on our children." Cera mocked. This earned her a playful swipe, which soon descended into a play fight that caused them to tumble head over heels until they crashed into a nearby tree. Luckily for them, however, only a snore from one of their children greeted their ears, which soon dissipated into restful sleep. Neither of them wanted to explain to their children why mommy and daddy were play-fighting after their friends Biter and Swipe had gotten in trouble for the same thing. With that scare dealt with, however, both of them curled up next to one another and began to nuzzle one another affectionately. It was only then that Taunt decided to say what was on his mind.

"I was thinking about telling the children about when we took back the territory."

Cera looked at him with a serious expression. Her face was calm, but her eyes were clearly concerned.

"That... story gets quite dark later on..." Cera noted. "It is one thing to hear about the enemies that we have struck down. It is quite another to hear about what nearly drove us all apart."

Taunt placed his hand on her shoulder. "I know... but the sooner that they hear that part of the story then the sooner they can hear about what kept us all together."

Cera smiled. "What would our kids think if they knew that you were such a softie at heart?"

Taunt rolled his eyes and ignored his mate's putdown. "Alright then, it is agreed. We will sing the tales that led to our children." He smiled as he placed his head in the nape of her neck. "Where do you think we should begin, dear?"

Cera yawned as sleep threatened to overtake her. Before it did, however, she thought of a fine starting point.

"I think that when we left Hanging Rock would be a good start. I am sure that Ruby wants a turn to sing..."


Sorry for the delay, everyone. The new semester has started up and I have been quite busy teaching and preparing for classes. I can promise that I will post a new chapter at least every two weeks from here on out, though I will try to post more often then that.

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have Favorited and followed this story. I hope that you enjoy the future installments.

JJP007: Indeed. I am glad to be writing again. Hopefully I can keep to a somewhat regular schedule.

More Dakka: Your wait is over at least for this chapter. As I mentioned, I will try to post regularly from here on out.

LittlefootxCera: Thank you for the kind words concerning my previous story. I am glad that you enjoyed it. With regards to the gang going to the time of humans, to be honest that isn't an really idea that appeals to me. I prefer to explore the struggles of the gang within their own setting (even if some things are changed, like their diet) as I find the limitations of that setting to actually help me creatively. I am considering writing some separate stand-alone fics that are canon compatible later on, however. Though it will be odd writing the gang as leaf-eaters after having writing them as sharpteeth for so long.

Kyuubi99: Indeed they did. C-; We will eventually see how the children came about (excluding the mature bits) later on in the story.

FlyingButter: Thanks. As for the valley residents, we may see more of them later on during one of the pack's songs. More importantly we will see what Logos and Chronos's kids are up to...

RichardTerminator: Indeed. I hope that you enjoy the latest chapter.

Viridis Lord of Ice: I'm glad that you enjoy the addition of the children. As for Ducky's and Petrie's respective families, we will see more of each of the respective families a bit later on. In fact the next chapter will focus on Cera and Taunt's kids and their family life, before going into Ruby's part of the next song.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone! I hope that you enjoy the latest installment. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.