Hello everyone! By popular demand, I am listing the names of all of the children. Hopefully this will avoid any further confusion.
Littlefoot and Ruby's kids:
Biter (son) [brown body, reddish-brown crest]
Swipe (daughter) [reddish body, almost violet crest]
Cera and Taunt's kids:
Ambush (daughter) [light yellow body, orange crest]
Pouncer (son) [orange, black crest]
Sprint (son) [yellow, orange crest]
Spike and Breeze's kids:
Sniffer (son) [gray with light green crest]
Nibble (son) [light green with darker green crest]
Ducky and Leap's kids:
Fisher (son) [light green, light green crest]
Verok (son) [light green, light green crest] named after Leap's brother
Tranquil (daughter) [dark green, light green crest] named after Ducky's mother's aunt
Dodger (daughter) [light green, light green crest]
Aqua (daughter) [light blue, green crest]
Petrie and Soar's kids:
Valaria (daughter) named after Petrie's fallen sister
As an additional note, it seems that this site has removed most of my formatting by default, which deeply upsets me as it required me to do about 30 minutes of corrective work and the chapter is still a mess by my standards. If you have any difficulties with following this chapter (which is understandable in that this site has removed musical notation and several other things that I have used in the past) then I would recommend going to the GOF topic on my story, which you can find a link to in my profile.
Now with that out of the way, I hope that you enjoy the latest chapter.
NIGHT 2: TAKING WHAT IS YOURS
Chapter 2: Awareness
Ha! I don't think they will see me here!
A pair of small red eyes peeked between the thick foliage of the tree. Despite being nearly ten feet up in the air, not even the eyes were visible from the ground. His orange body and black crest were expertly covered by the thick vines that descended from the monstrous plant like a squid devouring a shark. Only a slight creaking could be heard from where the predator's claws dug into the bark. Otherwise, the silent sentinel left no scent and no sound for his pursuers.
Pounce wanted to win at this game for once.
"Damn it!" Ambush exclaimed. "I think we lost him!"
Cera opened one eye upon hearing her daughter's exclamation. With her yellow body and orange crest, Ambush looked just like a miniature version of her mother. This similarity extended into their personality as well as the only thing that exceeded Ambush's pride was her desire to win at all costs. Nonetheless, she wasn't about to let her daughter talk like that.
"Ambush... What have we told you about language?"
Cera smirked from her vantage point beside a large tree. She could clearly see her daughter go through several emotions. Embarrassment... annoyance... then pride... As soon as she saw the prideful expression, she knew exactly how her daughter was going to react.
"But he cheated!" Came the protest. "He knew that he couldn't outrun us, so the little coward went and hid!"
It was at this point that she could feel her mate stir beside her. It seemed that the post-meal nap had finally met its end due to the raucousness of their children. Had this been any other family then the parents might have had stronger words for their little ones. But this was par the course for Cera's younglings.
And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Well..." As he began to speak, Cera turned her head in order to look at her mate. "Sometimes cowardice is the best plan, Ambush. If I remember correctly, it was you who was on your mother's back when Pounce and Sprint came after you last night."
A muffled "hmrph!" reached her ears and Cera did not need to look over to see her daughter's expression. Having made that face many times in her younger days, it seemed only fitting that she hear its echoes as an adult. Barely suppressing a chuckle, she decided to make this a learning experience for her young ones.
"So, little ones, Pounce got away from you. The question is: what did you do wrong?"
Ambush's response was immediate. "I didn't do anything wrong! I..."
Cera was resolute. "...you took your eyes off of your prey." At that affirmation Ambush averted her eyes and did not meet her mother's gaze. Pride had turned swiftly into shame.
Someone who thinks themselves perfect will never live up to their expectations. Cera thought to herself. Was it Thicknose that said that or was it one of those weird rainbowfaces? She snorted. Either way they had a point.
"Look at me, Ambush." Cera spoke softly. She could see Sprint began to turn his eyes towards his sister as well, which would make her even more reluctant to face her mother. "You look this way too, Sprint." Her son slowly turned in her direction with a concerned look. He was undoubtedly worried that he was in trouble for some reason. Finally, with a pensive sigh, both children were looking in her direction.
Cera gave them a reassuring smile. Now that she had established dominance in the conversation it was time drop the pretense of confrontation. Now listen to the lesson, hatchlings...
"What is the first step to solving a problem?" Cera asked rhetorically.
Silence reigned for several moments before Sprint finally spoke up.
"Um... I guess to know what the problem is?"
Cera nodded. "Exactly right, Sprint. We can't find answers until we ask questions." She then looked towards Ambush, who now seemed completely over her embarrassment. Just like an experienced hunter, she had forgotten her failure as soon as a new prospect had come along. She had failed in her 'hunting' of Pounce, but perhaps she could redeem herself by solving her mother's riddles. This was exactly the reaction that her mother had anticipated.
"I followed with my eyes, instead of my sniffer." Ambush finally deduced.
Cera nodded. "Correct, dear. Remember what Path always says? When having scent, track and sprint; when having sight, claw and bite. You did it backwards."
Ambush nodded sadly, but then quickly spoke with improved spirits. "Maybe if I can catch his scent again then I can find him... then claw and bite!"
Laughter erupted from behind Cera as the tell-tale sound of Taunt's voice responded to his over-eager daughter.
"I think that we should avoid the claw and bite, dear." A smirk was clearly present on his face as Ambush looked disappointed. "But perhaps if we help you to use your sniffer then Pounce will have a harder time hiding from you next time." Then his face suddenly turned stern. "But no more biting!"
Ambush sighed and bowed her head. "Yes, daddy..."
With a smirk on her face, Cera leaned over to her mate.
"How long do you think that promise will last?"
Taunt snorted. "I'm hoping until at least the end of the night."
Without warning, Cera nipped him on the tail, which caused him to yelp.
Scrape... Scrape... Scrape...
The rose-colored fastbiter stared at her handiwork as she continued to claw at the large sticks. The wood here was not as hard as it was back in the Land of Shallow Waters. The rich soil and temperate climate led to a softer wood that made it far more prone to breaking when used as a weapon. As a result, one had to be more careful in how the deadly tools were prepared.
"Rubbish." Ruby uttered in judgment before quickly throwing one spear to the side. Only the other two had the right structure to be used in their hunts.
Hmmm... It looks like I will need some harder wood... looks like that we will need to...
"Ha! I told you that you couldn't catch me!"
Ruby looked up from her work, to see Cera's children rapidly approach from their mother's nesting area. The cheeky response had come from their son Pounce, but Ruby knew all too well that he would not remain unanswered for very long.
"But we did catch you!"
"Only with momma's help! You couldn't find me otherwise!"
Ruby smiled as the clearly amused forms of the children's parents came into view. Cera was rolling her eyes, while Taunt seemed to be getting ready to intervene if the children started fighting.
"Unh uh! We could!"
"Then why didn't you, oh great hunter?!"
"Why you little..."
Just then Taunt moved in-between the children, which caused Pounce to look over his father's tail and stick his tongue out at his siblings. This earned an obscene gesture from Ambush, while Sprint simply laughed at the entire exchange. Unlike his two siblings, Pounce was far more laid back, but he still retained his father's sense of humor.
Biter's voice called out into the night as he came running into the clearing.
Swipe's voice echoed shortly thereafter. With the entry of Ruby's two children, the dispute between Cera's siblings was quickly forgotten. However, before the siblings could engage in another game, a booming voice echoed into the night.
In an instant the children were frozen in terror as the ground shook with tremendous force. The trees almost seemed to part as the beast's head emerged from between their green foliage. His eyes were as red as blood itself and his voice echoed with the terrible fury of a thunderstorm. As the footsteps became louder, the children's terror turned into action as they sought refuge from behind their respective mothers. That was when the booming laughter started.
"That not nice, Path!" Came a voice from the skies above. "But it funny!"
It was only now that her father and the other parents came into view from behind the violet beast, that Swipe realized what had just transpired.
"Path, you tricked us! You meanie!"
Chomper laughed at the younglings condemnation. "Yep! you should have seen the looks on your faces!" His expression soon took on a more benign look, however. "A little biter just told me that you all were telling some stories tonight."
Littlefoot looked up at the purple sharptooth with an annoyed expression, which caused the remainder of the pack to chuckle to themselves.
"Little biter, huh?" Littlefoot smirked at his companion, who know was over twice his height. "If that is the way that it is going to be then I suppose that we could start calling you by your old leaf-eater name..."
Littlefoot swiftly dodged the mock bite that came his way from Chomper. Despite the supposed attack, however, everyone knew that their banter was in jest. It was then that Taunt finally spoke up.
"Well, when our dear leader is done antagonizing Mr. Purple Ass over there..." This preamble earned him obscene gestured from both dinosaurs and laughs from his children. "I think that we should get started... We have a lot to cover if we are going to tell the kids the entire story about how we retook our territory."
Ruby pondered Taunt's words as her mate settled down beside her. If they were going to sing the song of the reclaiming of their lands then that had to mean...
"You want me to sing the first song?" She asked with surprise. "It is a song that I haven't sung in a long time. If it hadn't been such a long time then I wouldn't mind singing the song."
Littlefoot smiled at Ruby's hesitation. Oh my dear... you are always the last to agree to sing, but one of the best singers...
"You will do fine, dear." Littlefoot spoke softly as he tried to calm his mate's nerves. "The reclaiming of the lands was something that began with a lot of pondering..." He then added his final words with a bit of mirth. "I think that it is a tale best sung by Ponder."
Ruby gave him a glare, but there was no malice in it. "You know that every time that you make that joke, I ponder your demise, don't you dear?"
In response Littlefoot gave a mocking bow at her critique of his sense of humor. "I am named Seeker, am I not? I seek humor, that doesn't mean that I have found it."
Ruby snorted in amusement. "Well... If you don't mind the first song being a bit rough, then I guess that I can get us started." Upon seeing her mate's smile, she couldn't help but smile as well. "Alright, children, gather around! It is time for all of you to hear another story."
Cheers of excitement erupted from the children as they sprinted towards the rose-colored fastbiter. Within moments twelve children were at her feet and several flyers were in the tree above her head. All of them had their desire to play evaporate at the prospect of another story from years ago. The anticipation in their eyes was contagious for everyone around.
Ruby looked around her for a moment, as the adults all proceeded to lounge around outside of the circle that the children had made. Even Chomper had laid down in order to hear the story. It was at that moment that she realized that Chomper was over six years their younger and was only now making that transition from child to adult. It was in times like this that she could still see the innocent excitement of the little biter in the eyes of the massive predator. In that instant she realized that despite all of the changes over the last several years, that they were still the same deep inside. This gave her the confidence to begin her song.
"Alright, children. Let me tell you of a time before you were even eggs. A time before we came to the Land of Two Forests... a time of both great hope and great uncertainty... a time when we decided to retake what was ours... Now how did my song start? Oh yes..."
The land turned green as Spring appeared
But doubts arose as the time of parting drew near
Several years ago:
Bones... only bones remained of the tail of their once hated foe. As Ruby absently admired the bleached white appearance of the pack's morbid trophy, she found her thoughts turning to uncomfortable subjects.
"Look at what remains of you now, Calin." Ruby mocked the collection of white bones. "A few bones... No children will mourn you... nor will any songs sing your name..." She smirked slightly, though no humor was in her voice. "Well... besides our songs. Despite your best efforts, we remain. We remain despite your best efforts."
Despite how petty it seemed, she couldn't help herself. The bastard had tried to take so much from her... her life... the lives of those whom she loved... her dear friend...
"Having a conversation with our old friend?"
Ruby jumped with surprise. She had not heard her close friend approach until after he was right behind her.
"Seeker!" Ruby hissed in surprise.
Littlefoot laughed, which made a deep growling sound echo across Hanging Rock. "It's alright, I will leave you two to your conversation." The smile on his face indicated that he knew very well that his mocking tone would earn him a sharp rebuke. He didn't have to wait long to get the expected response, as he easily dodged Ruby lazy attempt at swiping him with her claws.
"Oh... you're asking for it!" Ruby threatened as her muzzle erupted into a wide smile. Littlefoot returned her smile as he playfully swiped at her face with his claws, which earned him a tackle from the amused fastbiter. Before either of them could engage in any more play fighting, both of them were laughing uncontrollably as they rolled on the ground. Their antics seemed quite suggestive to a certain flyer who happened to be flying into the area.
"Well, well, well... should we be expecting eggs in the summer?"
Both of the fastbiters rose from their prone positions and looked up at the flyer that had made that comment.
Pterano made a wide shrug with his wings as he stood on a tree nearby. His face clearly indicated that he was talking in jest, but his words betrayed no such knowledge.
"It's alright. I can return later when you two are not so occupied..."
Littlefoot glared at the flyer as he shook the dirt off of himself. "Oh, get on with it, Pterano! What news do you bring from the valley?"
Pterano placed a wing to his chest in an expression of pain. "Oh, such words... it is as if no one appreciates me..." He then dropped all pretenses of being insulted by the fastbiter's protest and took on a wide smile. "I actually bring good tidings from Detras and Pearl."
Ruby's mood immediately improved at this news. "What does mommy and daddy say?!"
Pterano grinned. "First of all they send their best wishes to all of you and especially to their daughter." Ruby beamed at this. "Arial and Orchid also send their greetings, but they wish to tell Littlefoot that his brother is a 'meanie'."
Littlefoot laughed at the sudden turn in the message. Pterano was obviously trying to keep from cracking up as well as his formal style of delivering a message didn't really fit the ponderings of little kids. This caused him to ask an obvious question.
"And exactly why do Ruby's siblings think that my brother a 'meanie', Pterano?"
Pterano barely suppressed a chuckle as he responded. "From what I can gather, it seems that the little ones decided that it would be fun to hide from him when he was supposed to be watching them. This caused Shorty to get into trouble..." A smile erupted from his face. "Shorty had a rather interesting little revenge planned for the young ones though as this was sweet bubble day..."
"Uh oh..." Littlefoot had an idea where this was going.
Pterano nodded. "Exactly. So Shorty 'requested' that he be grounded for the day, but that the younglings be grounded with him. That way they could watch the others eat the sweet bubbles while they could not."
Littlefoot smirked. "I take it that a certain other longneck actually came up with this plan?"
Pterano smirked. "It was Bron's idea and Shorty went along with it, though the younglings blame 'Boulder' for it." He chuckled at Shorty's nickname. "Bron and Ruby's folks eventually gave them all sweet bubbles afterwards."
Ruby smiled. "I am glad to hear my brother and sister are doing well! If they weren't doing well then I wouldn't be glad!" She paused for a moment. "But they really need to learn to not hide from their watchers, because sharpteeth can be anywhere!"
Pterano deadpanned. "Yes, like right under me."
Ruby placed her hands on her hips with an indignant expression. "Oh, you know what I mean!"
Littlefoot soothed her friend's concerns. "I am sure that they will be careful when they leave the valley, Ruby. They just... really like to pester my brother."
Ruby nodded at this, though her concerns still remained.
A cough from above soon made them look up again, however. It appeared that Pterano still had more to report than the usual banter from their loved ones.
"I still have words from Bron and the others to say to the pack... but there is something that both of you should probably hear first."
"Oh?" Both fastbiters asked simultaneously.
Pterano nodded slowly as he seemed to look uncomfortable all of a sudden. "Yes... it is spring now and summer is approaching... The times of nests and eggs is coming soon."
Littlefoot was about to protest Pterano pestering him and Ruby again for their wrestling match from earlier, when he suddenly realized what Pterano was getting at. The time for nests and eggs was soon approaching for the valley... which meant...
"My family has to return to Hanging Rock." Ruby deduced at the same time. "The valley doesn't want egg stealers around when the time comes."
"Exactly." Pterano affirmed. "Not to mention that it wouldn't be safe for them... it would only take one misunderstanding..."
Ruby nodded as she turned towards Littlefoot. This was not unexpected news really, but it did mean that they couldn't put things off for much longer.
"We have to leave my family's home, so that they can have their home back!" Ruby exclaimed.
Littlefoot nodded. "And there isn't as much food for Path's parents anymore..." There was still enough for the pack, but the somewhat agitated looks from Dein and Terri after their recent hunts indicated that they were having more difficulty. Hungry sharpteeth and a vulnerable family did not make for a good combination.
Ruby gave him a sad smile. "...but before we get our home back, we may have to reclaim our home."
Littlefoot's face darkened at that affirmation. Within moments he gave Pterano his orders.
"Pterano, I will assemble the pack so that you can give all of them the news from their folks... but then we have to make some important decisions..."
Pterano looked at the brown fastbiter with a concerned expression. "Should I tell Petrie to get Path's folks?"
Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah. The pack needs to make some really hard decisions. They will all need to be there."
Sigh... I never thought that going back home would make me feel home sick.
Ruby paced around the enormous rock that gave Hanging Rock its name as she pondered her feelings. At that moment all she could feel was a confusing jumble of agitation, fear for the future, and regret that she could no longer stay at her old home. Despite the fact that her family was not present, she still felt great affinity for this place. All of her formative memories as a child had this majestic location as their setting. Leaving Hanging Rock for the Mysterious Beyond felt like a second death in a way. Or would that be a third death? First she had left for the Great Valley in order to watch over Chomper... then she had changed and had to join the pack in the search for Chomper's parents... now here she was once more seeking out her future in the uncertain lands across the horizon.
"I imagine that it must be hard for you."
Ruby looked up at the calm, fatherly voice that greeted her. It would have been impossible for her to imagine assigning the word 'fatherly' to anything related to Thud prior to her change, but now she could clearly hear the wisdom that came from raising a child of his own. Without her ever saying a word to him, he had deduce the cause of her distress.
Ruby simply nodded, which Thud took as an invitation to continue.
"My family traveled a lot when I was young, so I never got attached to any one place. My father always said that home was people, not a place."
Ruby sighed. "I miss my family... I know that we have to be apart and I know that Pterano will allow us to talk, but..." She looked around at the majestic peak and gestured with her hands. "After being here for so many days... it just..."
Thud looked at her without blinking. "Started to sink in?"
Ruby nodded. "Yeah..."
Thud didn't say a word for several moments as he picked up a rock and gave it a cursory sniff. This struck Ruby as odd, but she said nothing until the fastbiter handed her the ordinary looking stone.
"What do you smell when you sniff this stone?"
Ruby gave him a bemused expression, but accepted the rock nonetheless. With a deep breath she scrutinized the scents with great attention to detail, which made her report all the more underwhelming.
"Well... I smell your scent on the rock... you are somewhat tired and concerned..." She twisted her mouth as her report continued. "I smell a slight hint of ground fuzzy... but that scent is at least a day old..." She then gave him a helpless expression. "I am sorry, Thud... I smell nothing interesting on this rock. This rock has nothing that smells interesting."
Thud nodded. "Exactly."
Ruby was utterly confused now. "Huh?"
Thud continued as if the lesson was the most obvious in the world. "A rock is just a rock and a land is just a land; it is people that give a place its worth. As long as you remember your parents and honor them with your actions, what does it matter that they are right next to you or days away?" Ruby looked down to ponder this as he finished. "It is this place that made you feel so lonely... but remember that your memories will never leave you and neither will your packmates."
Ruby sighed as she gave Thud a gentle nuzzle. The gesture conveyed the affection that a child would have for a beloved uncle. In a way that is what Thud was now. An older fastbiter who had showed them all the ways of their new kind. On this day, it seemed that he had to teach a lesson that Ruby had already learned long ago, but she still had to be reminded.
"Thanks, Thud... I knew all of this but I guess..."
Thud waved her off. "It is alright, Ponder. Sometimes we all just need to be reminded of what is really important." He then looked above her head, before putting on a slight smile. "Like avoiding my son's playful banter for example..."
In a swift movement, both fastbiters stepped back from one another and took on stern expressions. Neither of them wanted to be accused of affectionate relations by the master of insult himself. After all, Taunt needed little help in coming up with new banter to amuse and annoy his fellow packmates. He would have material for weeks to come if he had caught his father and his best friend's companion locked in an embrace.
As the thunderous footsteps of Dein and Terri began to echo across the bluffs and Taunt's playful banter began to enter into earshot, Ruby asked the elder fastbiter one final question.
"Do you think that we should find a new land or reclaim what was once ours?"
Thud shrugged. "We should most certainly find a new land that could support us. There are many lands which can support two packs of fastbiters. With the loss of Redclaw there are many places available in the Mysterious Beyond... but never underestimate the pride of a two-footer, Ponder."
Ruby nodded. "Dein and Terri will not give up the Land of Shallow Waters without a fight... and allies stick together."
Thud nodded. "The meeting's decision has already been made, Ponder, but I think that we are the only two who are aware of that fact." He looked down at her with a sad smile. "Nonetheless, let's join in this charade... as Brekan the Cruel once said: even if you can't stop the war, you might be able to pick the battles."
Thud did not realize how important those words would be in the moments that were to follow.
"What does that mean, momma?"
Ruby paused as Spike's son, Nibble, asked Breeze his question. He was greeted by a swift "shush!" from his brother, Sniffer. However, before Spike or Breeze could intervene, Ruby responded with a smile.
"You will just have to wait and see, kids." Despite the interruption she was thrilled with their interest.
"I am sure that mommy and daddy whooped however was in their land!" Biter affirmed with pride. "After killing Calin, who could scare them?"
Seeker coughed from the side, as he cautioned his son. "Any battle can be dangerous, Biter. In fact if you ever go into a battle comfortable then that surely means that defeat lies ahead."
Cera echoed this sentiment. "Battles for territory are not like play fights. In play fights the loser usually doesn't die."
As Biter sighed after having his prideful boast swept aside, his sister decided to ask the obvious question.
"So what did happen, momma?"
Ruby smiled. What the kids lacked in patience they certainly made up for in interest. She decided to waste no time in getting back to her song, lest the questions continue.
"That is what I am about to sing to you. The meeting was very tense...now how did that verse go? Oh yes..."
As friend and ally argued and mused
It appeared that consensus was going to be refused
"I don't care who stands against us! They will fall!"
Thud closed his eyes at the verbal onslaught from the enraged sharptooth. Dein's response to the idea of seeking out a new territory was predictable, but no less depressing. It was once thing to leave the Mysterious Island which never had plentiful food, but it was quite another for him to think about leaving a place for which he had sacrificed so much.
"Redclaw couldn't take our land from us and I will be damned if anyone else will!"
Ah, so there it is... Thud thought to himself. Back when Terri was injured by Redclaw... He will not yield now.
Silence reigned for several moments after the sharptooth's tirade. Not even Terri spoke as she considered her mate's reaction. It was clear to everyone involved that the idea of vacating the Land of Shallow Waters was out of the question. Either they would help Dein and Terri reclaim their land after they left Hanging Rock, or they would have to vacate their alliance. After so much shared hardship and pain in the Battle of the Valley, no one contemplated that step.
Littlefoot was the one to finally break the silence.
"Very well. We will retake the Land of Shallow Waters." At this affirmation Dein noticeably became less tense, but Littlefoot still looked quite concerned. Thud noted the look of concentration on his face. He was now witnessing 'Seeker the diplomat' more than 'Seeker the pack leader'. Littlefoot knew as well as Thud did that he could not win through dominance in a battle of wills with a dinosaur many times his size. Here he had to use words.
"However..." Thud noted that Ruby edged closer to her companion as Littlefoot prepared to shift the conversation. Dein's eyes glared at him like daggers. "We need to determine the best way to prepare."
"The best way to prepare?!" Dein countered. "You enter the lands and call out your challenge! Let the challengers fall where they stand!"
"But dad!" Chomper protested at this. "Where would that have gotten us in the valley? We would all be dead!"
Dein seemed to consider this for a moment as his prideful rant was stopped before it could again reach full steam.
"Well..." Dein began. "That was many sharpteeth, son... a challenge for territory won't be like that."
It was at this point that Thud noticed Terri edge closer to her mate. Now that Chomper had caused him to shift his line of reasoning, she was no doubt now moving in to drive home the point. A mate always knows when to make their move. Thud noted with some amusement. Which is good because none of us can make that move!
"But we don't know that, dear." Terri spoke softly. "I think that Seeker is just wondering how we make sure that our challenge to any newcomers gets the job done..."
Littlefoot wasted no time in using Terri's opening.
"Yes. Certainly. Absolutely."
Thud had to resist laughing at Littlefoot's nervous affirmation at that moment. He doubted that he could have lasted as long under Dein's scrutiny as Littlefoot had and still remained composed. He certainly did not last as long when Redclaw had made demands upon him back when he and the beast were allies. He had simply obeyed. His recollections of his own cowardice, however, was soon interrupted by the rest of Littlefoot's statement.
"...we need to know who is in the lands and what their intentions are. Some may stay and fight, but most will probably leave if it comes to that."
Before he realized what he was doing, Thud said something that his father had once told him. "Sometimes if you take on the strongest then the weaker ones will flee... but if you go after the weaker ones first then the stronger ones can strike you when you are injured."
This caused an immediate response from Dein. "The weaklings run from the giant's fall, but the giants run towards the weakling's cry."
Cera spoke next. "Bash the biggest in the face, so that the others know their place." Upon seeing everyone stare at her with bemused expressions, with Taunt's stare bordering on amusement, she decided to clarify. "Umm... It was a threehorn saying... it means the same thing."
It was at this point that Taunt decided to spare his friend any further embarrassment. "So we need to attack the biggest bastard over there so the others know that we are the boss. Got it. But how do we go about that?" His question seemed to make something revert in Dein's eyes, which made Thud sigh. He knew where this was going. "What if the big sharptooth in the area already has allies? What if a one-on-one fight is not possible?"
"You see!?" Dein exclaimed. "This is why I said that we should just do it the traditional way! The better sharptooth wins and gets the land!"
Despite his best efforts, Littlefoot couldn't keep his mouth shut this time. "Yes... and the loser dies."
The meeting then descended into a confusing mix of arguments and exclamations. Ducky and Spike were both trying to suggest the advantages of going to another land for their territory, which would more than likely be free of significant challenges. Meanwhile, Littlefoot and Cera were both arguing for the virtues of making raids into the territory until a better picture of the situation could develop. Even Leap and Swift seemed to be getting involved in the conversation as they proposed leading the biggest inhabitant into a trap with one of them being the bait. However, in the chaotic symphony of voices, no one was really hearing any other. Littlefoot was quite adept at keeping his own pack organized, as was Thud with his, but with two unbound two-footers in the conversation there was really no one to take control of the meeting. The result was chaos.
Thud sighed. Had he been aware of how the Great Valley meetings typically went then he might have found some amusement with this turn of events, but as it was it only made him feel depressed. He owed Chomper's parents a lot, but he feared that their current line of thinking would either lead to a breakup of the alliance or a potentially fatal battle. He was at a total loss. He had no idea what words could possible lead to a consensus in the fracturing meeting. That was when something caught his eye.
Ruby appeared to be muttering to herself when, suddenly, Thud could see Petrie behind her. The two were obviously discussing something that was quite engaging as neither paid much attention to the arguments around them. He was about to put this curious development aside for a moment in order to round up his packmates, when Ruby did something that made him pause.
She winked at him and whispered something in his general direction.
This caught Thud by surprise and he had no idea what she had said. However, when she whispered again, he could catch the words that she mouthed out.
He barely had any time to consider this when she walked into the middle of the clearing.
"Can I have everyone's attention?"
The sound of roaring voices and growling protests greeted Thud's ears as it was obvious that no one could hear what the fastbiter had said. Thud decided to rectify this situation.
The sounds died down as everyone stared in Thud's direction. Dein appeared ready to react unkindly to Thud's interruption when Ruby finally decided to speak.
"Thank you! I had an idea." Ruby walked between Taunt and Littlefoot as if she were unaware that they had been involved in a heating argument mere moments before. "A great dinosaur once said something about situations such as this: 'even if you can't stop the war, you might be able to pick the battles.'"
This reference to one of his childhood heroes stopped Dein in his tracks. "Brekan the Cruel..."
Ruby nodded. "Yes. He was right, of course... if you know that a war must be fought then it is best to pick your battles. If we know who we are up against then we will have a better chance against our enemies. A better chance against our enemies we will have."
Thud stepped forward. It seems that Ponder has learned diplomacy from Seeker... He paused. No... She told me that she was originally sent to the valley to build support against Redclaw... they must have learned from one another... He looked again at Ruby's companion, the now bemused Littlefoot. One leads from the front and the other leads from behind... A sudden realization then hit him. Speaking of leading, I think it is time for me to help.
"Yes... If Spotter can spot our enemies then that will give us a better idea of what we are dealing with." Thud offered tentatively. As soon as he saw the thankful nod from Ruby, he knew that he had played his role well.
Dein sighed. "Fine. That sounds reasonable enough." He then looked straight at the flyer, which from Thud's point of view almost looked similar to a fastbiter looking at a fly. "Spotter, you tell us what we are dealing with and meet us back at the lowlands."
Now it was Littlefoot's turn to be confused. "The lowlands?"
Dein growled. "Yes, the lowlands. We move out tomorrow."
With that he promptly stormed off, which resulted in Terri giving the fastbiters an apologetic nod. The lack of adequate food had obviously not done Dein's mood any favors and the packs were the recipients of his wrath on this day. It was only when the two-footers were out of earshot that the banter between the packs continued.
"Goodness. I thought Dein was going to eat you for a moment, Seeker!" Taunt joked.
Littlefoot gave Taunt a deadpan stare. "...and yet you didn't try to save me?"
At this point Thud saw his son shrug. "I am sure that if he would have eaten you that I could have avenged you bravely! ...by quickly biting his ankle and then running off."
Thud rolled his eyes as he bumped into his son in a playful way. "I am sure that your leader finds your commitment overwhelming, son." Upon not responding to his son's cheeky smile, which Thud was sure that his son was making, he addressed Ruby. "That was some diplomatic maneuvering there, Ponder. I am impressed."
Littlefoot nodded. "Yes, you did great, Ponder! When the meeting went out of control again, I thought that it was as good as over."
Ruby sighed. "I may have fought Dein's ego, but it is the enemies that I am afraid of. I fear that they will require more than words."
It was at this point that Ducky spoke up. "But what if the enemy is stronger than us and Dein still wants to fight? That scares me, it does, it does!"
Chomper grunted resolutely. "I will not abandon my mommy and daddy!"
Thud watched as Littlefoot looked in Chomper's direction with a sad smile. The smaller sharptooth seemed to become more uncertain at his friend's glance.
"What if they fight and lose, Path? What if it turns out that the pack is better off on its own?"
Chomper opened his mouth before closing it in an uncertain gesture. Finally he spoke in a small voice.
"I will follow the pack, Seeker. I made that choice long ago... but please don't just abandon them!"
Littlefoot raised a hand and nodded in a placative manner.
"Don't worry, Path. I am sure that this won't come to that... but it will one day. A pack stays together, but alliances shift."
Ruby stared at Littlefoot with an unsure expression. "Seeker? What is on your mind?"
But Littlefoot did not appear to hear her as he began to give orders to Petrie and the others. Petrie would soon have to scout their old territory and the others would need to relocate to the lowlands to build up their strength. Only then would their reclaiming of the Land of Shallow Waters become a possibility. The look that Ruby gave Littlefoot when he was finished though communicated volumes to the fastbiter leader. It was then with a heavy sigh that he waved off the others and gestured for Thud and Ruby to approach him, which they did with growing trepidation.
"We need to talk."
"And that is the Song of Awareness."
Ruby looked down at the kids and nearly broke down laughing as Biter's mouth hung agape and Swipe had her head tilted in an angle that communicated confusion. It was Ambush who broke the silence, however.
"And then what happened?!"
Ruby smiled at Cera's daughter as she addressed her with fake nonchalantness.
"Well... you will have to wait for the next song to find out..." She then looked upwards at Petrie and gave him a wink. "Speaking of which... it is getting dark... perhaps we should have Spotter sing his song tomorrow..."
The result was instantaneous.
"I'm not even tired!"
"You can't start a story and not finish it!"
"Don't be a meanie!"
Ruby laughed slightly at the protests of the children, but the other adults did not hold back. It was obvious that they were not going to sleep as soon as the Bright Circle disappeared across the horizon. They were sharpteeth after all; creatures of the night. However, her little joke had made her point.
"Oh... alright." Ruby responded with thinly concealed amusement. "But I trust that everyone will give Spotter their undivided attention?" The little ones nodded at Ruby's question that was not really a question. Since laying her eggs she had become the master at manipulating her younglings. Such were the duties of parenthood.
Speaking of duties... Ruby thought to herself. It's time to let the little ones know the moral of the song.
"A little bit of awareness can prevent much hardship, children." Ruby intoned as the younglings looked up with transfixed eyes. "On that day Thud knew my concerns and comforted me, as he was aware of what the others were not. On that day I used Thud's lesson to calm Dein, as I was aware of what he would respect even in his angriest moments. And on that day, Seeker proved to me that he was aware of something that had eluded us all." She scanned the crowd of younglings as she concluded her speech. "But I do believe that is something that Spotter is going to tell all of you about."
She paused for a moment as she walked away. "But before he comes down here, promise me that there will be no biting the flyers, children!" Upon hearing snorts of laughter, Ruby clarified. "I am mainly talking about you, Biter..."
"Aw... mom! They knew that we were just playing!"
Ruby chuckled to herself. "Maybe so... but not tonight, Biter. A song is not the proper time... besides, Spotter will be in range to peck you this time!" This earned her laughter from the tree above. After hearing him huff for a moment, she finally got an affirmative grunt from her son, which she knew was as good as she was going to get. It was only then that she walked out of the clearing and settled in beside her mate.
"See? I told you that you were a great singer."
Ruby snorted and gave Littlefoot a playful nip.
"Yeah... yeah..." Ruby admitted. "I just hope that the children listen to our lessons... we had to learn some of them the hard way."
Littlefoot smiled. "We learned them the hard way so that our kids didn't have to."
Both of them looked at their children as Petrie and his mate slowly glided down to the clearing. A few seconds later, they were joined by their children which landed behind the two adult flyers. Now the entire progeny of the pack was assembled together. It was only then that Ruby had a realization.
This is the first time the little biters have ever heard a flyer's song! This should be interesting.
She had no idea how correct she was.
Thanks for all of the feedback and helpful criticism, everyone!
RichardTerminator: Interesting observation about Chomper and Littlefoot. This is something that will be elaborated upon in more detail as the story goes along. As for Cera and Taunt... yep, they are mates and their children are about how you would expect. C-;
LittlefootxCera: Thanks for the kind words. I have little to add besides what I mentioned in my PM to you, but I hope that you enjoy the latest chapter. It is a bit different from the Seven Hunters due to its episodic nature, but I hope that my reader's still enjoy it.
More Dakka: I am glad to see that you are following the story. I hope that you enjoy the latest installment.
gordhanx: It is nice to see you again! I am glad that you enjoyed the Ignis/Viscond romance. What I found hilarious about the entire situation is that practically everyone else in their pack had come to the conclusion that they were future mates, but that those two were still playing it safe. Luckily 'Grandma' was there in order to push the two into the right direction. I hope that you enjoy the latest chapter.
bryan mccloud: That is an interesting idea and eventually everyone will get to tell their story. Although Night one only lasted one chapter, night two will last for four or five chapters; so we will get a chance to see the reactions of most of our characters to their new struggle. As for Chomper, he only made a small entry into this chapter but he will be playing a bigger role later on.
Viridis Lord of Ice: Thank you for the kind words. Your guess about Leap was indeed correct, though we will have to wait and see how that romance developed. As for your other comments, I must thank you for raising those points. I also got a few PMs about the names of the characters so I have provided a full list at the top of this chapter in order to avoid further confusion. Additionally, I have used more opening descriptions to indicate when we are back to the present and when we are in the story. I hope that this helps to improve everyone's reading experience.
Thanks for the comments, everyone and I hope that you all enjoy the latest chapter. I will try to have the next chapter posted sometime next week if my work schedule permits me to do so. Until next time, have a nice week!