A brief note about the 'second sniffer' mentioned in this chapter. Many animals (but not humans) have a vomeronasal organ which acts as a second olfactory (smell) organ. Unlike your organs of smell, however, these are more closely tied into to the unconscious and instinctual centers of the brain. They are used to detect pheromones which may then induce changes in an animal's behavior in preparation for mating, including increased aggression.
Chapter 4: No Safe Haven
Ducky settled into the center of the circle with a graceful scraping of the ground. Like many of the others she would not sit during her songs, but would stand freely in order to sway with the rhythm of her words. As Thud had told them when he had taught him of the rituals of their kind:
"Don't remember the song... feel the song. It has to come from deep inside."
Ducky sighed. That memory of the dinosaur who had effectively been the pack's mentor had awakened concerns that she hadn't reflected on in several days. I wonder how Swift and Thud are doing. We haven't heard from them since the Cold Time. She shook her head. He and Swift were a pack to themselves now and more than likely were fine on their own, but the doubts remained.
"So what happened next, mommy?"
Ducky looked down at little Verok. Her son had been named after her mate's fallen brother, one of Calin's victims. Even though Leap had been the one to end his brother's life, it had been Calin pursuit that had made that mercy killing necessary. When they had told the children about how Verok had met his end, it had nearly broken Leap's heart. She still remembered Verok's words.
"It's okay, daddy. Don't cry."
They had never seen their father cry before, nor since. It was something that was seldom talked about in the family. However, since that day Verok appeared to have a more disciplined manner to him. Her son was trying to live up to the memory of his namesake.
She smiled. "Well that is what I am about to sing about, son. Yep, yep, yep!" She beamed as she focused on the rest of her children. "While Spotter was out looking for information but finding trouble, we were simply trying to find any food at all. The ground was parched on the path to the lowlands and not even ground fuzzies were in abundance." She frowned at the memory. "That is where my song begins."
She then rose to her full height and took a deep breath as her children watched her with anticipation. Her singing voice had a beautiful but haunting quality to it that harkened back to something that had been long since lost. But it required ever bit of vocal power that she could muster. It was only with the third deep breath that she began to sway in time with the words... then the words came.
On that day it was warm and blue
that was when I saw a dinosaur that we knew
He was tense and he wore a frown
that was when I knew that danger was around
The green fastbiter tilted her head at her friend. She had first noticed him acting distant and strange when they had woken up that morning and she had finally decided enough was enough and asked him about it during their noon hunt for ground fuzzies. His response was not what she expected, however. He had gestured for her to follow him to a separate area. When they had finally moved out of sight from everyone else she again asked her question.
"What is going on, Path? We are friends, we are, we are! You can talk to me."
Chomper grimaced and answered immediately.
"What do you know about my kind, Haven?"
Ducky tried not to look horrified at that question as the possible ramifications of it ran through her head. Is this what Seeker warned us about? Despite her internal misgivings, however, she managed to keep the fear off of her face.
"Well, your mamma and daddy helped us to hunt... so I know how they do that... You told us about how they met... so I know..."
Chomper shook his head. "No, that isn't what I mean... I mean..." He seemed to concentrate for a moment, but then sighed. "My mommy and daddy are acting weird and I don't know why." He finally admitted. "Seeker and Ponder are acting weird too."
Ducky nodded now, understanding his confusion. "Did you talk to either of them?"
Chomper gestured wildly with his stubby arms. His youthful excitability came through in the tone of his voice. "That's the problem! They won't tell me anything!" Ducky watched with both concern and sympathy as he began to pace. "Both of them told me that my parents are just hungry, but that isn't it!" He shook his head. "Daddy is acting like a jerk and mommy is focused on daddy all of the time. Daddy even roared at the pack this morning."
Ducky nodded. Dein's forceful order to 'wake up and find food' had been made in a tone that allowed for no disagreement. Chomper suspects something, but he cannot know yet. That might set him off. Ducky thought to herself. As much as she detested it, she would have to attempt to deflect the sharptooth's concerns. He is already showing the signs. He is, he is!
"Well..." Ducky began. "Maybe he is just hungry? Sometimes he gets..."
Chomper glared at her with an expression that made her stop cold. "No, not you too." His voice came out in an icy tone that cut her to the very core. "You're my friend! You're my packmate. I thought that packmates were honest with one another."
Ducky looked down. Path is right... Friends do not fib one another... She frowned deeply as she could hear the angry breathing from her friend. She knew what she had to do.
"I am ordered not to speak about it yet, Path." The connotation was clear and Chomper's' reaction was immediate. "We will tell you eventually, but that is..."
Chomper seethed. "Seeker ordered you?"
Ducky opened her mouth and let it hang for a moment. "Yes. But Path..."
Chomper did not wait for her to finish, but instead attempted to storm off. Despite her concern for her friend such an act of dismissal made something deep inside her rage. As a result she did something that was very uncharacteristic for her.
Oh, no you do not!
She spring into action and charged forward, quickly getting into position. This was exactly what Littlefoot had warned her about and it seemed that the unhappy duty to contain Chomper had fallen upon her.
"Get out of my way!"
The fastbiter had placed herself between the sharptooth and his desired escape route. Her crest feathers and tail were instinctually flared out in an aggressive display. Ducky was obviously not preparing for a play fight.
"I will not, Path!" She hissed lowly, utterly lost in her anger. "You will listen!"
Chomper glared at her defiantly. He was too lost in his own anger to understand why he was so angry. However, his survival instincts were enough to make him realize the threat posed by an angry raptor, so he made no further moves.
Ducky maintained her position, claws ready. "What are you doing right now, Path?"
Chomper growled as he faced off with his friend. He was slowly stepping to the side as if he were assessing if he could get passed the obstacle in front of him.
"Trying to find Seeker before you got in the way!" He finally spat with as much vitriol as he could muster.
Ducky flared out her arms further as if to appear larger. She did not want Chomper to get any bright ideas about rushing passed her.
"And what do you plan on doing when you find him?" She asked in an eerie calm voice.
Chomper did not answer, but Ducky could see his stance falter a bit. Good, Path... Think! She wasted no time in continuing her work. Now to do what Seeker mentioned... I have to break him out of this...
"Do you plan on doing to him what you did to me?" She asked softly as if she were hurt.
Chomper growled again. Annoyance was clear in his voice. "I haven't done anything to you!"
Ducky breathed. "Oh is that so?" In a quick gesture that Chomper couldn't make out, she reached to touch her side, very carefully and lightly piercing it with her claws. I hope this works... Grimacing, she then presented the blood stained hand to her friend.
Chomper stepped back. A horrified expression was plastered on his face. "What... I... no..."
Ducky frowned. She found this trickery as distasteful as it was painful, but it was necessary. She had to break him out of his previous line of thought before he did actually hurt someone.
Chomper looked away suddenly, his arms quivering anxiously as he realized the full magnitude of what he had done... or rather thought he had done. He had attacked one of his own friends. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why he had done that and why he was so angry. That was when she felt Ducky's blood stained hand on his shoulder.
"Look at me, Path."
With great reluctance Chomper slowly raised his head towards his close friend. Ducky's face was caring, but carried a very clear expression of hurt. An expression that conveyed a sense of betrayal. His reaction was immediate.
"I don't know why I did that!" He hissed out as tears began to streak on his face. "I'm so sorry..."
Ducky shook her head. "It is alright, Path. I know why you attacked me."
Chomper's expression turned to one of shock at that affirmation, as Ducky continued.
"The reason that Seeker has been trying to keep it from you is to stop that from happening." She then smiled despite her injury. "I guess it happened anyway though. It did, it did."
Chomper finally had recovered enough to speak again. "What have you been trying to keep from me?" His voice was raspy and anxious. "What is happening to me? To mommy and daddy? Are we sick?!"
Ducky gave a soft chuckle, a most welcome sound after the terrors of the previous moments. "No, Path. You and your mommy and daddy are not sick." She affirmed. "...but all three of you are not... quite you right now." Seeing that Chomper was going to speak again, she finished. "I think that Seeker should explain this to you, but only if you stay calm." The rebuke in her voice was gentle, but it was enough to make the purple sharptooth look down in shame.
"I will. I would never hurt my friends!" Upon realizing what he had said, however, he soon fell silent again. He had already hurt one friend today. Could he really make that promise? Thankfully, Ducky was there to interrupt his dark thoughts.
"Come on, Path. Seeker will explain all of this to you."
Several miles away:
Nothing! Absolutely nothing! If only those damn fastbiters would do their job...
The barren plains greeted his eyes with the same monotonous background that he had seen for the previous few hours. Nothing but grass and the occasional tree gave the sight any variation. The path to the lowlands was always rather sparsely populated with prey even during plentiful times and it was even worse in the immediate aftermath of the Cold Time. It was quickly looking like that they would have to forego food until they finally arrived at their destination.
Dein let out a frustrated growl at his predicament, which earned a quick response from someone close by.
"Quiet, Dein! It is hard enough finding prey without you announcing us to them!"
Dein looked over at his mate. Terri wore an annoyed expression as well, but appeared to be holding out better than he was at the moment. All that he could feel was rapidly building rage.
"I don't think that we need to announce our presence to them, dear." He muttered sardonically. "If they are too blind to see two sharpteeth in the middle of a field, then they would certainly have been eaten already."
Terri rolled her eyes at him. For some reason this expression of hers, though not unusual because of Dein's usual antics, made something in him grow excited. It was almost like he was falling in love again.
"Well, dear..." Terri began, oblivious to the thoughts of her mate. "Your lack of concentration isn't helping." She looked at the field before them with an annoyed expression. "I had forgotten how much I hated this place. My aunt didn't call it the 'Land of Bones' for nothing. Many sharpteeth met their end here." Her eyes seemed to focus on something far away as she said this.
"Well if one more would have met their end here then we could eat." Dein muttered, which earned an amused shake of the head from his mate. "Let's see if those damn fastbiters have found anything..."
Terri seemed to pause for a moment, which made Dein look at her with an odd expression.
Terri shrugged with her shoulders. "Perhaps we try by the stream, dear... It is the one place that we haven't tried."
Dein looked at her with bemusement. "The stream that is greener than a swimmer and smells worse than a spiketail's backside? Do you honestly think anything would be hanging around that?"
Terri smiled softly. "Only something that would want to be where a sharptooth was not. It isn't like there are any other hiding spots here."
Dein sighed. "Alright, dear." Terri's eyes expressed shock for a slight moment as he gave in without any of his usual taunting. "Let's give it a try."
As the two sharpteeth proceeded to approach the distant green stream, neither of them were aware of the important conversation happening many miles away.
By the ground fuzzy nests:
"So how long do you think that we have?"
Littlefoot considered Taunt's question for several moments as he quickly consumed the ground fuzzy. The crunching of bone and sinew occluded the resulting silence from the pack leader as his eyes seemed to focus on something far away. Taunt had already turned back towards his ground fuzzy nest when Littlefoot finally spoke.
"I'm not sure... I only know what your father told us. Dein will get more and more aggressive as 'that time' approaches."
Taunt snorted. "Yeah... but when is a two-footer not dangerous?" This statement earned him a playful outburst as Littlefoot tossed a ground fuzzy bone at the orange fastbiter. Taunt quickly recovered, however. "I mean... he tried to attack me once, you know? Way before I was even a member of Skytail's pack." He shook his head. "I just didn't realize that Path's kind were that crazy. To go totally mad over a female."
Taunt waited for Littlefoot's reply when something hit him from behind.
"Ow! What the..?"
Taunt was greeted by a smiling dark green fastbiter. It seemed that his father had entered the conversation.
"You will never have a chance to go mad over a female if you continue to neglect your surroundings, son." Thud mocked easily as his son gave a dismissive gesture with his claws. Thud then turned towards his son's leader. "I don't know how much longer we have before he goes completely into the mating frenzy of his kind, but I don't think we want to be around when that happens."
Littlefoot frowned. "I don't think that it would do him any favors to return and find us all missing. They are our allies, after all." He raised a finger for emphasis on that point. "We could leave after we have led them to the lowlands. Then we could do some scouting well ahead of them."
Thud sighed. "I agree that it would go against the alliance, Seeker, but I don't know if we can afford to wait."
"Wait on what?"
The assembled dinosaurs turned to face the new voice in the conversation. Leap had stopped upon asking his question, whereas Swift, Spike, Ruby and Cera approached close behind. It seemed that most of the pack was now in on the conversation.
Littlefoot gestured for the others to be at ease. "We were talking about the situation with Path's folks again."
Cera scoffed. "Gee... Why don't they just make some eggs and be done with it!"
Cera's bluntness made Thud shake his head with amusement.
"I can clearly see why my son fancies you." Thud deadpanned. "To answer your question, that wouldn't fix things. A two-footer protecting eggs in a dangerous thing indeed." He then smirked at her. "It would just make things worse, just like letting my son get a word in edge-wise in a conversation."
Littlefoot readied himself for an unhelpful argument between the three fastbiters when Ruby interrupted the conversation.
"Has anyone seen Haven or Path? I tried to find them earlier, but I couldn't find them."
Littlefoot frowned. It was then that he realized that he had not seen them for several hours. This was not uncommon during individual hunts like the ones that they had just finished, but the silence of the others indicated that he was not the only one to not see the two packmates. And considering Path's situation...
"Alright, everyone! We need to find Path and Haven." Littlefoot affirmed authoritatively. No one needed to ask why the sudden urgency was present in Littlefoot's voice. The changes associated with the time of mating would not only affect those Tyrannosauruses of that age... they would affect adolescents within range of them as well.
Several miles away:
"I can't see anything worth eating here, unless you count green sludge!"
Terri stared at her mate. The rage in his voice was unmistakable, but she knew that it was not directed at her. However, that only made her more concerned.
"I am sorry, dear." She chose her words carefully in order to be uncharacteristically submissive. "I should have known better."
Dein turned suddenly and stared at her with wide eyes. She resisted the urge to laugh at his dumbfounded expression as she had to confirm her suspicions.
"It isn't your fault, dear!" Dein offered immediately. "It... it... is just Seeker and his allies! They aren't pulling their weight! We have to do all of the searching, while..."
Terri did not pay attention to the rest of Dein's rant, as she had heard what she needed to hear. She had begun to feel the signs within her. The excessive emotions... the increased appetite... the changes in her sense of smell. However, the changes that she was experiencing were not as dangerous as what had befallen Dein. A female in heat would drive any male into hyper-vigilance. Any dinosaur who he perceived as threatening his mate or their wellbeing would be seen as a threat to be destroyed.
And right now Dein's rage was focused on one source.
"If Seeker would only do what he promised then we would not be going hungry right now."
Terri took in a deep breath. "Dein?"
The large male looked at his mate once more. "Yes?"
"Shut up and listen." The female cautioned. "How do you feel right now?
By the ground fuzzy nests:
"Angry and confused."
Littlefoot nodded at Chomper's answer. It had taken them several minutes to find the two missing packmates and the blood on Ducky's side confirmed his worst fears. Ducky had to resort to shocking Chomper back into his senses. However, the cost of a small scratch was far less than what could have happened. Now Littlefoot and the others were left with the task of explaining the situation to their friend without upsetting him further. It was a delicate operation.
"That is understandable, Path." Littlefoot affirmed. "Your father feels the same way right now. The reason why he is feeling that way is because your mother is... um..."
"She is ready to lay eggs again." Cera blurted out as Littlefoot closed his eyes in exasperation.
Chomper sprung to his feet. "She is?! That's great news! I always wanted brothers and sisters!"
Littlefoot put up a placative hand. "It isn't that simple, Path..."
Chomper blinked. "What do you mean?"
Littlefoot paused as he had trouble finding the right words. Thankfully, Ruby was able to put the situation in a form that the little biter could understand.
"Path, have you ever heard of your kind laying eggs when older children are still around?"
Chomper thought about this for a moment as a contemplative expression came to his face.
Ruby nodded. "There is a reason for that. The reason is because they can't um... do the stuff that makes eggs... until the nest is empty." She ignored the slight snicker from Taunt in the background. "When you left the nest in order to join our pack, your momma became fertile again..."
Chomper had a confused expression. "But how is this a problem? Why am I so angry and paranoid?"
"That is a good question, Path." Thud walked over towards the purple sharptooth as he began his explanation. "How much do you know about your second sniffer?"
"My second sniffer!" Chomper exclaimed as he looked around his body. "Did I grow one somewhere?!"
Thud smiled slightly as the rest of the pack laughed at the small sharptooth's reaction. It was a badly needed moment of levity in an otherwise tense situation.
"No..." Thud offered. "No, this is one that you had all along, but you have never used it before. What it smells you can't 'smell', you can only feel. It makes all of us kind of crazy during the time of mating."
Several miles away:
"It is that time, dear. You know what that means."
Dein stepped backwards with a stunned expression on his face. His mate's words were horrifying in their implications. His antagonism with Seeker... his lack of patience with his good allies... the standoffishness of his son. It all made sense now.
"They must go. They won't be safe with us... with me."
He stared into the murky green water of the stream with a faraway expression. If the time of mating was approaching for him and his mate then they needed to put it off as long as possible in order to allow them to approach the Land of Shallow Waters. Terri would need plentiful food and a good nesting site and that would not be found in the lowlands. However, for every day that they put off this biological imperative, they both would become even more aggressive and dangerous. The fact that he now knew this did not change that fact. There were certain instincts that could not be reasoned away. He was so lost in his thoughts, that his mate's words barely registered in his head.
"I will talk to the pack, dear. I will let them know that they must leave... then we will go to the lowlands together."
By the ground fuzzy nests:
"You are telling me that my second sniffer is making me mad at daddy?"
Thud nodded. It finally seemed like Chomper was understanding the situation.
"Yes, Path. Some part of you knows that your daddy is going to be dangerous soon."
"My instincts..." Chomper muttered softly.
Thud was about to respond when he felt a clawed hand on his shoulder. The assertive voice of Littlefoot soon greeted his ears.
"That's right, Path. And you should listen to your instincts."
Chomper's face then changed ever so subtlety. The calm understanding was replaced with a festering anger. Thud realized their mistake as soon as Chomper opened his mouth.
"Why should I listen to my instincts?!" The sudden anger made the rest of the pack jump back, but Littlefoot and Thud did not stir in response to their friend's agitation. They were like statues facing off with an angry observer. "Why should I give in to them? Isn't that what daddy is going?"
Littlefoot breathed in softly before he responded to the sharptooth's question. "Yes, but unlike other instincts this is not one that you can fight, Path. Not unless you want to hurt those you love or end up hurting yourself."
In an instant the purple sharptooth seemed deflated. His head sagged towards the ground in a morose expression. He now realized that this was a fight that he couldn't win.
"Path?" Littlefoot spoke softly. When the sharptooth did not stir, he spoke again.
Chomper slowly looked up at Littlefoot. Despite the look of nervous agitation in Chomper's face, he could see the unshed tears in his eyes. It was obvious that even though the pack might be able to get away with inaction for several more days, Chomper could not. He was being affected far too strongly by the instincts of his species. The pack would have to evacuate from Chomper's parents or risk an outcome that everyone would regret.
Littlefoot smiled grimly. "Before I changed, Chomper, my grandfather told me something very important. Something that is very important here..." He then recalled that conversation that had happened right after a particularly harsh sleep story.
"Oh, Littlefoot!" Grandpa began, "Sometimes our sleep stories mean nothing in particular. But sometimes they tell us what our instincts want us to know."
"Instincts?" Littlefoot asked inquisitively. "What are those?"
"Instincts tell us what we must do. Instincts tell us when we must save the bright circle. Instincts tell us who we love and how to love them. Instincts tell us what is dangerous to us. That is what instincts are." Grandpa stated, "Do you understand Littlefoot?"
"I think so. Instincts are those feelings that guide us." Littlefoot concluded and he looked for confirmation at his grandfather.
Grandpa nodded at Littlefoot's understanding. "Even I have scary sleep stories from time to time. They help to remind us of what we should be afraid of. Sometimes even the eldest of us need a helpful reminder."
Littlefoot smiled at the memory. "So tell me, Path... As the leader of this pack, what should I do?" He then pointed a single finger at the sharptooth's chest. "What do your instincts tell you?"
Chomper looked up at this close friend. His choice was obvious.
Several hours later:
Terri sniffed the ground with great trepidation. She had instructed Dein to stay back and allow her to speak to her son about the coming danger, but he was nowhere to be found. She was certain that Dein's protective instincts would not permit him to stay behind for long and the last thing that she wanted was to possibly be forced to get between her mate and their allies.
She couldn't deny that her own instincts were getting the better of her, but she at least had the benefit of having time. The males would have a burst of instinctual protectiveness that would ebb out once the eggs were hatched, but females would have a more gradual rise and fall, which would not be completed until long after their hatching. Despite the current advantage that being female gave her, however, she could still feel the rising tension in her. The insistent need to have her mate close by. The need for protection and safety. The need to be safe from rivals.
She shook her head. If she didn't find her son soon then it would be too late and the pack might meet her in a less rational state. The last thing that she wanted was for her and Chomper to part ways in anger. He deserved better than that. They all deserved better than that. If only they had left some indication of where they went...
That was when she found it. Footprints.
The tell-tale imprints of raptor claws covered the moist ground by the ground fuzzy nests and seemed to follow the path to the lowlands. With their path established she scanned the horizon for any sign of her son or his allies.
"Well we are over the hill now, so we should be outside of where they can see."
Littlefoot was quite pleased with their performance, despite the feeling of betrayal the entire episode made him feel. His pack had skillfully evacuated danger with the precision of a well-trained pack. Skytail and Bron would have both been impressed with their performance.
Roar! Roar! Roar! Stomp!
He froze. The sound of Terri's roar could only mean that their absence had been discovered.
Roar! Roar! Roar! Stomp!
Littlefoot could see Chomper turn in the direction of his mother's voice. Afraid that Chomper would give away their location, he edged closer to his friend, but was waved off with a dismissive wave.
"Mother wants to know if I am safe." Chomper spoke softly as he turned towards his friend. "Three roars and a stomp that was her old code to check on me when I was a baby. To see if I needed help when she couldn't risk giving away my location." His eyes were almost pleading. "Shall I answer?"
Littlefoot closed his eyes. Against his better judgment, he nodded.
"Goodbye, mommy and daddy. Farewell."
Terri stared in the direction of her son's voice for several moments. It was distant and nearly imperceptible due to the resulting echo, but it was obvious in its meaning. Her son and his friends had already seen the danger and taken their leave. It was several moments later that she finally worked up the emotional energy to answer her son's call.
"Happy hunting, son. Be safe."
She was unaware of how long she stood there afterwards. It could have been minutes or hours. The only thing that she was aware of is that by the time she realized that her mate was beside her it was already dark. For the first time in many months she and her son were looking at the same blanket of stars, without any assurance that they would meet again.
"Did you find our son?" Dein asked softly. Upon her nod, he responded. "Is he safe?"
Terri smiled sadly. "With his friends, he is as safe as any of us."
As her mate began to nuzzle her in an affectionate manner, she realized that neither of them had the will to put off the inevitable for any longer. For better or worse she would enter her former home with her hopes for the future already forming within her belly. Before she allowed herself to give into the demands of nature, however, she spared her son one final thought.
We named you Path for a reason, son. Now follow your own path and don't look back.
Sorry for the delay in posting the next chapter, everyone. I have been incredibly busy with work and I have also been transferring things to my new DeviantArt page, which has been eating up some of my writing time. By the way, if any of you would like to contribute to the Seven Hunters Fan Art project, a donation pool can be found on my personal DeviantArt page and any artwork or fan-derived stories can be sent to the Seven Hunters Fan Group that I have created.
Links to both my personal DeviantArt and the Seven Hunters Fan Group can be found on my profile page. I would certainly welcome all of my readers as members and I would welcome any artistic or written contributions that you would like to offer. Provided that due credit is given to this story and the work is not pornographic in nature, I welcome derivative works of the Seven Hunters and this sequel.
gordhanx: Yep, we haven't met Petrie's mate in the last story, so that encounter will be elaborated upon later in this story. As for Terri being in heat... yeah... we have just seen some of the complications resulting from that in this chapter. This will be elaborated upon in the next few chapters.
bryan mccloud: Very good questions and as you might have guessed, I am not giving the answers just yet. d-; However, I can tell you that some of the answers to those questions will be given in future chapters.
The Mirthful Menace: Glad to have you reading this story! I hope that you enjoy the latest installment.
RichardTerminator: Yep, she is in heat and this has led to the fracturing of the alliance. Now the question is: will the pack help out the two T Rexes from a distance or will they strike off on their own? One possibility leads to the breaking of a promise, whereas the other leads to danger. We will soon see the pack's choice in the next few chapters.
FlyingButter: Yep. Observation is certainly important for a predator. What may culminate in a few seconds of chasing and violence, actually involves many hours of laying in wait and watching. Hence why the hunters want to share that important lesson with their children now.
More Dakka: Yeah, I have noticed that this site has been having some issues with its notification system. Hopefully, they fix it soon.
Viridis Lord of Ice: Thanks for the kind words!
Thanks for the reviews, everyone! As always I welcome your feedback and constructive criticism. I hope that you all enjoy the latest installment!