-v-

Chapter 4: A Violet Blooms

As soon as the song turned to the subject of hunting Orchid could feel his pulse quicken. There were far too many memories from his own indentured servitude to Chomper's parents. Too many memories of death screams...

"We could stop for the night if you all wish. I am sure that all of you would like to sleep at some point."

Orchid blinked at the sudden voice. He had not expected Cynnil to address them directly.

"I..." Orchid hesitated. The hidden runners and Mender were offering them a way to stop the song for the night, but as he struggled to remember what he knew about etiquette in such matters something else came to mind.

They know what happened to us... and they're offering us a chance to avoid hearing the hunting song.

Orchid clinched his beak as he considered their options. It was a nice gesture on their part, but the idea did not sit well with him. It contradicted something that his mother had told him long ago with pack songs.

Never let a song go unfinished.

"Perhaps after you finish the chorus of the next song?" his father's words intoned diplomatically, "We would hate to deprive the ancestors of a finished story."

Orchid nodded with a knowing smile. So many rules... how do the fastbiters keep track of it all?

"And then maybe we could finish the rest tomorrow?" Orchid added for good measure to make sure that the guests did not take offense.

"Yeah!" his sister added enthusiastically, "It isn't like I'm going anywhere."

Orchid couldn't help but roll his eyes. You could have omitted that last part, sis!

"That sounds good," Cynnil replied with a smile as she gestured towards her predatory packmate, "I do believe this song is all yours, Mender."

Orchid again turned his expression to the violet fastbiter as she bowed slightly towards her pack leader. It was a very noticeable sign of caution in her movements that was an utter contrast to the good-natured pack leader before her.

"Looks like old habits die hard."

Orchid nodded slightly. Looks like it, sis.

The moment did not last long, however, before Mender stood in front of the others and gestured in an exaggerated manner.

As the swimmers swam and splashed,

In the water's blue depths

Many potential lovers gathered by,

to find the ones who would build their nests

It was here, listening in,

where Seeker and my brother sat in wait

Knowing that in the moments to come,

one of the swimmers would meet its fate


"Are you coming my way?"

The swimmer shuddered at the male's words. This was the latest potential suitor on this unending day. Fighting the urge to roll her eyes she gave him the same answer that she had given the last eight males.

"That depends… how fast can you swim? Are you as slow as the other males?"

The male swimmer took this as an opportunity to make another pass at her.

"Well, sweetie, if you choose me then I will go as slow as you want…"

"What are they saying?"

Littlefoot resisted the urge to groan at Dodger's question. It wasn't his fault that swimmers acted like sex-crazed fiends during their Time of Mating. And it wasn't his fault that they had to listen to the results.

"You honestly don't want to know. Trust me."

"I guess knowing leaf-eater is both a blessing and a curse, then," Dodger said more to himself than to Littlefoot. "Any obvious targets?" he then asked as he looked the brown fastbiter in the eyes.

Littlefoot considered Dodger's words carefully. You can see the targets as well as I. Hmmm... I wonder if you are asking out of deference to me or inexperience at picking targets.

Littlefoot did not say his inner thoughts, but instead nodded at Dodger's question. "You see the male over there? He is quite fixated on mating with any female that passes him by… and he does not seem to be interested in proving his capacity to swim fast…what would you gather from that information, Dodger?" He kept his expression neutral as to neither express condensation or arrogance.

"He's not as fast as the other males, so he'll be easier to catch." Dodger was still curious as to how the hunt would actually work. Four fastbiters was the most he had ever worked alongside, and he'd only been on real hunts with three companions. This could get out of control real fast.

Littlefoot noted the response with a slight smile. "Very good. The first step in planning a hunt like this is to get all of the information that you can. We don't always have a chance to get this close to the prey, but whenever we can we take the opportunity."

As he said this Littlefoot gestured towards the bushes that covered their bodies. They were within a longneck length of the watering hole, and a longneck length further from that stood the love-struck swimmers. Truth be told they wouldn't even have to hide in order to avoid an attack, but they wanted the swimmers to act normally. That way they could get the best information…

Littlefoot looked intently at Dodger. Now while we are here... let's find out a bit more about your pack...

"I am sure that you are well skilled in hunting. How involved were you with the planning before your pack's hunts?" Littlefoot asked casually, "How did Prowler handle such things?"

"Depends on how soon before the hunt you're talking about. After Tracker gave her report, Prowler would come up with a basic plan that was either chasing the target into an ambush or simply trying to run it down. After that I did damage control and stationed myself at the weakest point in the plan without telling Prowler about it. It would sound too much like criticism." Dodger said the last sentence with more than a hint of bitterness.

"To try to make the plan actually fit the situation I'd give more detailed instructions to Violet and sometimes Tracker. Simply put, there rarely was a real plan. I usually had to make one walking Violet to her starting position. There used to be rather good plans, but that was long ago when Prowler and I got along."

Littlefoot frowned as he examined the male make another attempt at a female. I am addressing a pack leader who apparently doesn't know that he was a pack leader... he will need to start thinking like one.

"It sounds like you were being more of a leader than the leader… have you given thought as to whom you would want as your second? In my pack we switch around whom is the second depending on the prey and who is in the hunting party… but most packs only have one second."

"I'm honestly not sure. Violet doesn't think things all the way through, as you've seen, and Tracker can still tell you exactly how many hunts she's been on. I don't think Prowler ever forgave her for completing his challenge."

Littlefoot nodded. "We have worked with a few other packs back during the last Cold Time… it was one of those 'you allow us to cross your territory, and we will help you bring down prey' things… not to mention they wanted to be on our good side… but anyway, we got to learn about how other packs handled things. You would be amazed how many packs have a leader, a left flanker, a right flanker, and a chaser. The tracker is usually done by one of the others as an extra duty. As you can imagine, that arrangement would not work in my pack. Too many hunters."

"I've got too few. Until Tracker's fully on her feet I'm down to two, myself included." Dodger thought for moment. "For comparison's sake, how would your pack go after an adult threehorn without those sticks?" I'm pretty sure the answer isn't something that makes pestering a two-footer look safe.

Dodger did not notice the momentary flicker in Littlefoot's eyes. "First, you find a person's ruin, their weakness, then you exploit it. For an adult threehorn that would be their children." Despite Littlefoot's dispassionate explanation his eyes conveyed more than a little disgust at the idea. "If you can get one of their children and hurt them then the parent will come running. If you know the path of least resistance to the child, then you can have you packmates line the route and wait… all you need is one good strike to one of the hind legs… then you have all of the time in the world to find attacks of opportunity."

"No wonder that hunt went so badly," Dodger muttered. That disaster nearly killed us all.

Littlefoot kept his eyes on the swimmer, but gestured with his hand for Dodger to feel free to elaborate. He did not realize that Dodger took it as an order more so than a request.

"Last Cold Time Prowler got it into his head to go after the leader of a threehorn herd. That was stupid from the start. We tried an ambush in a ravine... Tracker got hit hard. Prowler was thrown and landed wrong. His tail still doesn't work quite right. Violet led the threehorn on a chase. The rest of the herd followed her if they did anything at all. I wasn't paying much attention at that point.

"Tracker couldn't even stand up. Prowler was yelling at her. Then he kicked her. I saw red and attacked. We nearly killed each other…" Dodger gestured to some scars along his side and one across his chest. "We tried to act like nothing happened, but I didn't think we'd make it to next Cold Time. I guess I was right."

Littlefoot growled slightly at Dodger's story. Prowler sounded like a toxic leader in many ways, though not overtly malicious.

"Well… I guess I will show you how we handle things in this pack so that you can get some other ideas. It is never a bad idea to learn new things." He gestured towards the area where the swimmers were. "From Lookout Hill to the stream what did you notice? Did you notice anything about the terrain?"

Dodger did his best to quickly follow the terrain with his eyes. Despite the casualness of the question some unconscious part of his mind took Littlefoot's question as a test of his abilities.

"It's somewhat open, though there's quite a bit of grass. No sudden movements and we might be able to sneak closer." Dodger was doing his best not to think of the situation from the prey's perspective. He'd been in too many ambushes, though honestly one was too many, involving grass for him not to be wary of it.

As if he were reading Dodger's mind, Littlefoot asked another question, "How do you think the swimmers feel about their location? If a threat were to appear where do you think they would go?"

"Most likely the stream. That's where they're most comfortable. If they decide to leave the area entirely they could probably outswim us," Dodger responded, "Just don't ask Violet to jump in. She hates water she can't stand in." Nearly drowning will do that to you.

Littlefoot nodded. "Exactly. They will head up the stream. It is for that reason that we will need to get between our target and the stream. In order to do that we will have to have a two-way ambush. Based upon the terrain here, which two areas do you think we should use?"

"The plants by the water would make a good hiding spot…" Dodger muttered, trying to think it through. He was used to thinking fast, but there were more components here than he was used to. "I'm not entirely sure if an attack from our current direction if we get close counts as an ambush, but…" And I thought it would be easier with more fastbiters.

"Yes, you are on the right track. We will need to have the fastest of us waiting here and over there and then we will need to charge on either side of the target in order to block his access to the stream…" Littlefoot gestured towards the body of water, which was now abuzz with activity, "...then the chasers can follow him when he runs away from the stream. But tell me Dodger, what part of the hunt am I leaving out?"

"We need a distraction or some other trick," Dodger said.

Littlefoot nodded with a smile. "Exactly! We need something that will make the prey look in the opposite direction of us… something in that general direction." He gestured towards Lookout Hill. "I trust that Tracker is up to the task, but there is a reason that I have sent Violet to be in the chasing group, and not in the ambush group. I trust that you understand." Littlefoot looked somewhat apologetic as he said this.

Dodger couldn't keep himself from scowling. Prowler had often said something similar though far more coarsely. "Understood, sir." There was slight bit of challenge in his eyes.

Littlefoot noted the change and kept his demeanor carefully neutral. Though he did not want to antagonize the other fastbiter, he also did not want to show weakness. "Sometimes it is better to build up confidence before bigger duties are given. This is how Dein taught all of us back when we first changed. She is very fast, but the last day has not exactly been kind to her self-esteem has it? How would she react if she feels that she needs to prove herself?"

Dodger understood what Littlefoot was saying. He'd had similar thoughts in previous hunts. "My apologies, sir." Dodger ducked his head down like his father had taught him to do before the leader. Littlefoot was in control of the situation. Despite being a pack leader now, Dodger knew he was not on equal footing with the other fastbiter.

Littlefoot made a placative gesture with his hand. "No need for an apology, Dodger. It is only natural to be protective of those that we care for." He then smiled at the other fastbiter. "But I think that we have made pretty good progress with our scouting. We now have a strategy… we know the terrain… we know the target… and we know which teams that we are going to use. Do you have any questions?"

"No, sir."

Littlefoot frowned slightly at the formality and made a mental note to see if the behavior continued once the hunt was over. He took great pains to get to know every fastbiter under his command, but he felt like he was missing a piece of the puzzle here. Nonetheless, he decided that could wait for later. They had a hunt to start.

"Alright, Dodger, tell the others what I have decided, tell Petrie to tell Tracker to give the signal when everyone is in position, and tell Ponder to select the two ambush teams. Then rejoin me. The hunt will soon be on!"

"Right away, sir," Dodger said, smiling. He almost forgot the 'sir' at the end, thrilled to be part of something that probably wasn't going to get him killed, but he'd had the concept of respect towards those senior in rank to him pounded into his head for so long it was part of his nature now, especially when acting under orders.

Littlefoot watched as the fastbiter bounded away with enthusiasm. It was then that Littlefoot realized that Dodger's formality was born of respect as opposed to coldness. It was an odd reaction that reminded him vaguely of how threehorns behaved.

Come back soon, Dodger, and you will see firsthand how hunts happen in a big pack!

He then turned back towards the not-so-distant swimmer who was still making his rounds.

"We only live once, darling, why don't you live your life with me?"

"Drop dead, creep!"

Littlefoot smiled and suppressed a chuckle. You took the words right out of my mouth, swimmer!


"Alright, everyone! You heard Dodger's report. If you are not in Ponder's or Stern Claw's groups then you are with me!"

Violet reluctantly stayed with Spike's group. I've never worked with this many before. Previously she'd only worked with Dodger or Tracker when being a distraction, never both at the same time. That was when she noticed Dodger giving a curt nod to the fastbiter that she quickly identified as Ruby.

"Alright! Dodger, Seeker, and Taunt will be with me! Let's go!"

Violet's mouth opened with agitation before she quickly closed it. It seemed that Dodger was going back to the other pack leader without even talking with her. I've never worked with strangers before…

Suddenly there was a light hiss, and Cera' group swiftly and quietly departed into the forest. With her went Breeze, a small group but large enough to cause panic where panic was desired. That left Ducky, Spike, Chomper, and her in the chaser group. With the addition of Chomper they would be quite conspicuous, but then again their job wasn't to sneak… it was to finish the job.

A job that I will have to do with… them…

Focus! I can't afford to mess this up. A rather worrying thought struck her. I hope Dodger's not mad at me. Or worse trying to distance himself when I mess up… She shook her head to clear it, but it didn't do anything to calm her worries.

"Alright, everyone. We will need to get near the forest's edge, but not alert the swimmers… |On second thought you might want to be a bit further away, Path…"

The giant sharptooth smiled at Spike's words. "Are you saying that I am hard to hide, Finder?"

"My brother is saying that you can't hide. Nope, nope, nope!"

Sneaking? I'm doomed. "Maybe I should sit this one out," Violet muttered to herself.

She didn't realize that everyone was now looking at her with great concern. None more so than a certain green fastbiter. With a quick glance she nonverbally told her brother to let her handle this. Violet's first hint that she had spoken aloud was when Ducky was a mere head's-length from her face.

"Look at me, Violet."

Violet did as instructed, her mind currently too occupied with panic at letting everyone else know what she was thinking to come up with any other response. Dodger's going to kill me.

Ducky looked upon the fastbiter with more than a small amount of pity. True her interactions with the fastbiter had been little more than annoyance over the last day, between trying to free her from trees after running from Chomper… to avoiding being killed by an angry fastbiter… but she could smell the desperation on her. The desperation to prove herself. The desperation to be useful. The desperation to be loved. She clinched her claws out of anger for Prowler. The imprint of his mental torments were visible for all to see.

"You can do this. If we didn't think that you could do this then we wouldn't ask you."

"You guys saw me coming before I even knew I was close to you. How is this any different?" If she were thinking logically, Violet could have answered that for herself. She wished Tracker were with her or here instead of her. She made sneaking look so easy.

"The difference, silly, is that we are fastbiters, and you were going upwind from us… not to mention we had some help in the sky… I don't think the swimmers will have that, do you?" Ducky replied with good humor, "Besides we don't have to sneak… they won't think anything of a few fastbiters a great distance away…"

"Okay. I'll give it a try. I don't think my brother would be too happy if I told him I gave up," Violet said with more confidence than she felt. She wasn't certain, but she was pretty sure failure would be a better result than no attempt at all. One resulted in correction, the other in a lecture that wouldn't end until the Night Circle rose again. Which of those is more embarrassing in front of strangers?

Ducky examined the other fastbiter's face closely, but reluctantly gave her an encouraging nod. The moment was quickly interrupted however by a noise from the sky.

Caw!

Spike looked up towards the hill where Tracker resided. "Alright, everyone, it is time. We need to get in our positions!"

The hunt was about to begin.


Petrie soared over the swimmers like a leaf floating in the air. His eyes scoured the potential victims with clinical efficiency, as he knew that any signals from him would not alert the swimmers to the danger. They would merely see it as the random territorial calls of a flyer.

The love-struck ass still be distracted… Petrie considered that Taunt would have finished his thought with "still be distracted by tail" but Petrie ignored the unwanted commentary; he had a job to do. He seem a bit slow… right foot not good… It was only from the air that one could see his spine arch awkwardly. He was putting more weight on one side.

Petrie nodded in satisfaction. This was the right target. Now he had to examine possible threats.

Three swimmers to right… four to left… rest in water… pack need to get in between him and others… distraction should do that.

Petrie smiled. Now it was up to Tracker.

Caw!


Tracker couldn't help but look to the skies at hearing Petrie's call. Redirecting her gaze out to the herd she could see the groups starting to get into position. She found Dodger exactly where he was supposed to be. No surprise there. That group's ready.

Looking further out Tracker found Violet and the rest of Spike's group. Violet was looking more than a bit nervous, which meant that she was barely hanging in there… Don't worry, Violet. We've been through far worse than this. She sighed. I'm gonna have to talk with her. She shouldn't be this worried. It's not like we're going after a threehorn. Something's bothering her. Tracker would have outright refused to participate had their target been a threehorn. She'd nearly died from them once; she had no intention of being anywhere near one while helpless.

Just then there was a sudden movement in the group of swimmers. Tracker could see two of the females react with agitation at something unseen.

What was that? Tracker searched for anything that might be agitating the swimmers. What am I not seeing? Please don't panic. Please don't panic...

Splash!

Without warning the two females dived into the water. It seemed that they had enough of the male's advances.

I might have missed the obvious, Tracker thought to herself with a small laugh.

Within moments the herd of swimmers appeared to calm down, with the male looking more than a bit dejected. Despite all of his attempts he had not found success on this day. And the pack was about to make sure that he never did.

Now with the females cleared away from the male, the ambush teams had a clear shot.

Okay. Now's a good a time as any. Tracker roared as loudly as she could, hoping to draw as much attention to herself as possible. And here we go…


"Be careful, children! Don't stray too far from the water!"

Gali watched her children with amusement. They were now one year old and just old enough to play without constant supervision.

With the way the herd has been reacting I am sure there will be more children around soon enough.

She tried to ignore the overtures that she could hear from the desperate male. They were not made to her, of course, but the entire herd could hear his pathetic lines to the other females of his age.

Oh, Nadru, you were always not the swiftest current in the stream, but surely you know that they are not interested! Sighing, she proceeded to go back to the edge of the water while keeping her children in sight. That was when her world erupted into chaos.

Roar!

"Sharpteeth!"

"Everyone, to the water!"

Gali looked up in horror at the sight of fastbiters emerging from the forest like locusts in a swarm. They were heading right towards her children.

"Children, run!"


This is going better than expected, Dodger thought to himself, No one's dead yet. So far he hadn't seen anyone in any real danger, their target excepted, of course. "Stupid question, but now what?" he yelled to no one in particular as the swimmer herd erupted into chaos. Fortunately for them, their target had practically run right into his group.

"Hey, swimmer! How do you like our pickup line!" Littlefoot mocked in sharptooth, knowing that the swimmer would only hear growls and roars. Making him panic was exactly what they wanted at this point. "Slash at his back if he presents an opening. For now just keep him from the water!"

"No problem." Where's everyone else? I hate not knowing what's going on. Dodger was not fond of not knowing certain things, like how quickly his fellow fastbiters could move. Got a bit too used to working with my group doing the exact same thing every time. Got to work on that.

As if on cue, Cera's team arrived.

"Hey, look at me! I'm a sharptooth! Grrr…."

Dodger tried to hold his laugh at Cera's words as the male swimmer promptly broke into a run. All thoughts of going into the water being overridden by his instincts. It would soon be up to the chaser team to bring the swimmer down.

"Shit! Look out, Dodger!"

Dodger looked behind him to see a very angry swimmer bearing down on him. This just isn't my day. Dodger scrambled to get out of the way, eventually resorting to jumping at the last moment to increase his distance.

"Momma! Help!"

Oh, come on! What is this, pick-on-Dodger day? Dodger deliberately put as much distance between himself and anything or anyone that might get him trampled without caring how silly he might look. Running from a baby swimmer did nothing for his dignity.

"We are not after your children, swimmer. We are after him!" Taunt shouted in broken leaf-eater, as Dodger looked on in confusion. Dodger's momentary lapse however was soon interrupted by a hand on his shoulder.

"Let's get going before momma over here gets any ideas!" Cera practically yelled in his face, "Besides who wants the chasers to have all of the fun?"

Dodger didn't bother to reply. He just took off after the fleeing swimmer. Today can't possibly get any worse…

He didn't notice a very confused looking swimmer cradling her five children. It was only now dawning on her who these fastbiters must have been. For years to come her small family would tell about how they were spared by the Seven.

Though not everyone in the herd would be so lucky...


Violet kept pace with the swimmer in front of her. Her legs were burning. She wouldn't have it any other way. This was what she was good at. The other fastbiters in the chaser group were still with her, unsurprisingly. I wonder if I can get Haven to race me when we're both rested? What am I thinking? FOCUS! She put on a burst of speed to try to close the gap.

The swimmer's pace began to slow as he struggled outside of his element. He was a swimmer, not a fast runner, and he could feel his legs begin to give out. The excited roars and yelps behind him were like an omen of impending doom. There were no other swimmers here with him.

He was completely alone.

Almost there, almost there… Violet was close to her target. She saw him stumble slightly. That was all the opening she needed. She leapt, claws sinking into the swimmer's side. Yes! She roared in triumph.

"Ahhhhh!"

The swimmer shuddered violently as the fastbiter hung on to its shredded hide. His thoughts turned feral as the sensation of his life blood gushing from his body reached his perception. He began to run even faster as if a hidden reserve of energy arose within him. It was the second wind that came before death. The flame that came before the burn out.

Violet did her best to stay on and not fall off. It wasn't working. Every attempt to dig in deeper just destroyed what hold she had, and she was rapidly running out of undamaged hide. Reluctantly she jumped off and managed to land in a controlled tumble she'd seen Dodger do once, but never had the chance to practice herself.

Okay, nothing's broken, Violet thought to herself as she got back up, now feeling somewhat sore. Not a good landing, though. Ouch. She hurried to catch up with the mortally wounded swimmer.

Suddenly a bark arose from behind Violet as the sound of running feet and a rush of air erupted over her body. That was when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Are you alright?" Cera asked with an exhausted voice.

"I've been through worse," Violet said. Much worse. "Dodger didn't see that, did he?"

Cera nodded quickly as she looked ahead and gave an 'all clear' gesture. "He saw enough to be concerned. You handled that well, though." She kept her focus on the chase in front of her. "...and here comes the finish…"

Violet couldn't help but sigh as she saw the rest of the pack rush in for the kill. I'm never going to make a kill, am I? Too slow. Too clumsy. And I probably scared Dodger to death for nothing. Again.

Well ahead of the two fastbiters, the rest of the pack had caught up to the stricken prey. With a fury that seemed to come from nowhere Taunt leapt upon the swimmer's back and dug into the helpless herbivore's throat causing a torrent of blood to erupt on his face and body. This was the only signal that the others needed as they also leapt upon the swimmer's back and began to tear into the delicate flesh like maggots on carrion. Within mere moments a roar emanated from Littlefoot and the others detached themselves from the now stationary and wavering swimmer. When he did finally fall he never rose again.

The hunt was over.

"Congratulations on the kill, Violet!" Cera patted the other fastbiter on the back, which caused a yelp of surprise to erupt from her. "We could have let him bleed out, but then he could have died somewhere difficult to get to. That is why we usually 'help' the prey along."

"Wait, what?" Violet asked, extremely confused. This didn't make any sense. She'd been nowhere near the prey when it died. "I didn't do anything except almost break my neck."

Cera looked over the fastbiter as roars of victory emanated from the pack. "Even if we had done nothing, Violet, the swimmer was dead. He couldn't have survived a blow like that. This is your kill." It was then that a passing thought came to Cera, "What does this bring your kill count to? I bet in a small pack like yours that you have had your fair share."

Violet looked extremely embarrassed and glanced away. "Including this one? Um... one," she practically whispered.

Cera froze and blinked. "Really?" She tried not to make her voice sound too reproachful, but her surprise was evident to Violet. "I mean… this is really your first kill?"

"I know I'm clumsy. You don't have to rub it in," Violet grumbled. Her embarrassment was rapidly turning to anger, but giving in to that anger wouldn't do her any good.

Cera didn't say a word as she looked towards the celebrating pack. Dodger was roaring happily with the others and was unaware of the situation with his packmate. The spontaneity of his reaction, as if it was his first time celebrating so freely, caught her by surprise. This made something click inside Cera's mind.

"Perhaps this is the first time anyone has actually given you a chance to succeed?"

Seeing slights where there were none, Violet put in an unnecessary defense of her brother. "Dodger gave me plenty of chances. We actually lost some prey because he let me try. Eventually I got tired of making his life harder because he said he messed up when Prowler demanded to know what happened." She didn't mention that there weren't that many chances in the first place because Prowler usually got the kill himself. If Dodger were in a position to try, then that meant Prowler missed and was already mad.

"Then tell me, Violet, why is Dodger celebrating like a youngling who caught his first ground fuzzy?" Cera inquired.

"Because my sister did something amazing," Dodger said, having walked up without the other two noticing. He noticed Violet's confused look. "What, you didn't know?" I'm the worst brother, ever.

Violet just shook her head. She didn't trust herself to speak.

"That kill is yours, Violet. Even if Seeker specifically said it didn't count, you landed the critical hit. I'm your pack leader…" and your brother "...and I say you get credit for it. Just don't scare me like that again."

"I…" It finally dawned on Violet just exactly what she had done. According to her pack's traditions, she was still considered a child, and thus unassignable for any major responsibilities, until she made her first kill. Most made their first kill well before they became part of their own pack. She'd never gotten the chance to try before being separated from most of her family. If Dodger says I got the kill, then that means… "I did it. I really did it." Forgetting where she was for the moment, she practically crashed into her brother, embracing him.

"I always knew you could do it," Dodger whispered, returning the embrace.

"Wait 'till I tell Tracker," Violet said excitedly, "Wait, Tracker…"

"I'll get her," Dodger said, putting himself between Violet and Tracker's location, "You earned this. Might as well enjoy it." With that, he turned and ran towards his friend's position. You've more than earned this, little sister.

Cera smiled as the fastbiter seemed to grow in maturity before her eyes. It was amazing what knowing your own worth could do to a person.

"Come along, Violet, the rest of the pack will want to congratulate you as well." Cera smiled as she saw that the other fastbiter was hesitating. "Don't worry! You can wait to have the first bite until Tracker gets here."


Ducky looked upon the scene in the distance with a contemplative expression. She would have been utterly unaware of the significance of recent events, just seeing it as Violet regaining her confidence, were it not for something that Dodger whispered to Littlefoot moments before.

"I'm so proud of her! This is her first kill!"

"Wait! Her what?"

"Her first kill! She never had the chance before."

The celebration of the rest of the pack continued behind her, but she was left transfixed watching the two embracing fastbiters in front of her. She was only now considered an adult. Like them, after their transformation to sharpteeth, her graduation to adulthood was one long delayed. No wonder why she was so unsure of herself. No wonder why she gravitated from taking great risks to retreating into herself. It all made sense.

I will have to talk to her about being a full pack member. She probably knows what that means, but it is another to finally be one. It is, it is!

As Cera and Violet began to walk towards the rest of the pack Ducky gave Littlefoot a knowing look.

"I will talk to her later. Seeker, you focus on Dodger."

Littlefoot looked a bit surprised but did not argue. "You plan on giving her the talk?"

Ducky snorted. "Someone has to do it, and there are certain things that her a male would probably leave out."

Littlefoot smiled sardonically. "There are some things that you have to hear from a stern voice."

Ducky looked over at the fastbiter. "Are you teasing me, Seeker?"

Littlefoot deadpanned, "Nope, nope, nope!"

As the pack leader leapt to avoid Ducky's playful swipe, she returned to her previous vigil over the advancing fastbiters, but she held her tongue. The talk could wait for later. Right now they had a feast to attend to.


And now, much to the surprise of Seeker's pack, Violet is now an adult. With that designation comes responsibilities and knowledge that normally would only be bestowed by another adult... and it seems Ducky has taken it upon herself to perform that duty. The question now is: where does Violet go from here?

Thanks for the reviews, everyone! I am happy to see that readers are still enjoying this series even though it is in its third installment. (: And a special thank you to gordhanx for the review. I was uncertain how the last chapter would play out as it was made up of many 'songs within songs' as it were, but I am glad to see that you liked the final result. I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts on the latest installment.

Until next time, have a wonderful weekend.

~Rhombus