Hey guys! Sorry it's been awhile, but I hope you all enjoy this new chapter. It's a little shorter and I'm not quite 100% on how it turned out, but it's to get the ball rolling on the overarching plot I'm trying to incorporate into the story.

Also, this was supposed to be an entry for the 2021 season of the prompt challenge over on GOF for the month of February, but I didn't finish it in time. So, I decided to wait and submit it for the May 2021 prompt: 'Hunting can be a reassuring experience; a reaffirmation that you are on top of the food chain. But, rarely, you can be reminded of your own mortality. For sometimes the hunter can become the hunted.'

And without further ado, here is the next installment! Hope you all like it!

There's Always Something Bigger

A Farwalker herd arrives at the Great Valley, bringing news of the possibility of approaching devastation. Meanwhile, Arya is ambushed at a kill site and comes to the realization that her new way of life could come crumbling down.

It was another beautiful day in the Great Valley. The Bright Circle shone brightly and there was a light breeze keeping it from becoming too warm.

However, a commotion near one of the main entrances of the Valley kept some residents from enjoying the day. A mixed Farwalker herd had arrived and, although it wasn't an unusual occurrence, they were clearly agitated. Many of the herd's members were underweight with some having their bones being noticeably pronounced through their skin and others were sporting recent injuries.

The leader of the herd had asked for an urgent meeting with the Valley's council. So, the members of the council were quickly notified and everyone gathered at the Stone Circle, the designated meeting place, and hushed murmurs echoed amongst those in attendance. To say that the residents of the Great Valley were nervous about the seriousness of the situation would be a huge understatement.

Littlefoot anxiously shuffled his feet in the spot on the edge of the Stone Circle where he and his friends had chosen to listen from. When he had heard about the emergency meeting that was going to be taking place, the young Longneck eagerly talked his friends into going to eavesdrop. They were reluctant to go sit in on some boring meeting, but he had convinced them. Unlike his friends, Littlefoot had always enjoyed listening to the Grown-ups talk about various issues, it made him feel included in the well-being and goings-on of the Great Valley. Even when his ideas for solutions were shot down a majority of the time.

Grandpa Longneck, the unofficial leader of the council, called for attention which halted the whispers of those gathered. "Now, we're all here at the request of Mr. Spike-Frill, the leader of the Farwalker herd that had arrived earlier today." He began. He then turned to the dinosaur in question, a male leaf green and beige Spike-Frill with blue eyes. "If you would be so kind as to explain why you called all of us here?"

The leader wore a troubled look and nodded as he stepped forward to address the crowd. He quickly thanked everyone for agreeing to meet with him so abruptly before going on to explain his reason for the gathering.

The Spike-Frill told them how he and his herd had come from far west of the Great Valley where a drought and a series of other natural disasters killed off much of the green food. The newer, harsher environment proved too difficult for some of them to live and before long, many herds and families lost loved ones due to starvation. So, he and his herd made the difficult decision to leave in search of a safer land. It was risky, many dinosaurs were weakened by hunger and wouldn't be able to defend themselves should they be attacked but the alternative was a slow, agonizing death.

But with the mass exodus of Leafeaters from the area, Sharpteeth weren't far behind. And as they were weakened by lack of food, many members of the herds were felled by the tooth and claw of the predators. So, they desperately searched for a place that would be safe and have plenty of green food. They had heard stories of the Great Valley from other Farwalkers that told of bounty and protection and decided to find sanctuary in the Valley.

"Yeah, you and every other herd that comes through this area!" A voice shouted from somewhere in the crowd. "So, why call a meeting about it?" Many dinosaurs murmured in agreement.

"Because, we weren't the only herd to flee our homeland, nor were we the only ones who'd heard the legends of this wondrous Valley. There were many herds and many . . . Sharpteeth." Mr. Spike-Frill shuddered as if the very word brought back horrid memories. Worried murmurs and gasps echoed throughout the Stone Circle and the Spike-Frill turned to address the Council. "I asked you all here today to warn you of the possibility of the mass arrival of newcomers to your Valley and in turn the increase in number of Sharpteeth in the surrounding Mysterious Beyond."

This new revelation startled everyone at the meeting, both worried and angry exclamations were voiced and suggestions were made on what to do about it. Most didn't want the probable flood of dinosaurs to be allowed to enter the Valley with the reasoning that there wouldn't be enough food to sustain both them and all the residents. Some turned their anger onto Mr. Spike-Frill leader for supposedly bringing the problem to them in the first place. Others focused in the increased number of Sharpteeth and the number of possible break ins that could likely follow as well. All in all, it was the typical meeting in the Great Valley- lots of shouting with little possibility of getting anything done.

Once again, Grandpa Longneck was the one to call for order and thanked Mr. Spike-Frill for the warning and expressed his sympathy for the turmoil he and his herd had went through. Then, he proceeded to sternly remind the other residents that the Great Valley was a welcoming sanctuary for all who needed it. They would just need to be mindful of how much they ate should the amount of Farwalkers to food ratio becomes worrisome. As for the threat of Sharpteeth breaking in, it was suggested that the known entrances should have someone nearby to raise the alarm in case of a sighting.

From their place in the back, the Grown-ups' debates became background noise as Littlefoot turned to his friends and gestured for them to sneak away. He was worried about the news and saw that the others looked worried as well. They walked to a nearby hill overlooking the Stone Circle and the meeting taking place within it to discuss what they had heard.

"I feel bad for those Farwalkers." Littlefoot started. "They had it really rough." He glanced back in the direction of the Stone Circle, his heart aching for the suffering of the herd.

"Yes," Ruby agreed with a nod. Her face also showing distress at their plight. "And being followed by Sharpteeth makes what seems rough even more rough."

"But what about what the Grown-ups said about guarding the entrances?" Cera huffed. "How are we going to sneak in and out of the Mysterious Beyond without them noticing?" Sure, she was sorry for the Farwalkers, but their arrival had brought along some problems.

Ducky suddenly gasped and held her cheeks in dismay. "What about Arya?" She cried. "She's all alone in the Mysterious Beyond! What if Sharpteeth find her canyon? Oh no, no, no!"

"Well," Littlefoot replied thoughtfully. "Arya said that her canyon is pretty confusing unless you know your way around."

"Yeah," Chomper piped up with a small grin. "And she doesn't leave the canyon unless she needs to. Most of her food and water is already there."

Littlefoot nodded and continued. "We should probably wait a few days for all of the excitement to die down before we visit her. That way we won't give away our secret entrance. What does everyone think about it?" The rest nodded in approval of the idea.

"But what if she thinks something's wrong?" Chomper asked in sudden concern. "Like we forgot about her or something?"

Ruby placed a hand on his shoulder and offered him a smile. "What if we gave her a message so that she wouldn't think anything was wrong? She won't think anything is wrong if she got a message."

"Yeah," Littlefoot said, nodding. "That's a good idea Ruby! We just need someone to deliver it . . ."

Petrie looked around, confused and nervous. "W-Why everyone looking at Petrie?"

She really did it this time.

In hindsight, it was only a matter of time before the owner of the kills she stole from would catch her, but she did it all in the name of survival. Scaly Swimmers could only keep her hunger sated for so long until she craved red meat. She just wished she was caught by anyone except the ones who currently held her captive.

They had taken her by surprise when she had decided to follow the scent of a recent kill to a small grove some distance away from her canyon. Hiding in the undergrowth, she checked her surroundings to assess whether it was safe for her to approach before she crept closer to the Swimmer carcass. When she was out in the open, two Fastbiters suddenly exploded from somewhere in the bushes and pounced on her. The young Sharptooth put up quite the fight, landing a few bites and scratches on her attackers, but even though she was nearly their size, they outnumbered her and quickly pinned her.

Arya winced as the claws dug deeper into her back, pushing her firmly into the dirt where it smeared on her face. The Fastbiters above her cackled in sick glee as their leader watched on silently, his massive form nearly blocking out the Bright Circle. She did her best to mask her fear and glared up at him only to be met with his amusement.

Redclaw chuckled as Arya squirmed underneath his Fastbiters. At her wordless growl, he leaned down to her level, his own glare meeting hers. "You must be really desperate to try to steal from my kill. I could kill you for that. You know, survival of the fittest, one less mouth to feed. . ." He smirked as she froze and her eyes widening in horror at the idea of death. "But I may have a use for you." He growled menacingly.

". . . What use exactly?" Arya questioned, her voice shaking despite her attempts to strengthen it.

His grin widened and he straightened up, moving towards his kill and bending down to take a bite. "You are friends with the Little Biter who runs with Leafeaters, are you not?" It wasn't really a question, more of an off-handed comment, that filled Arya with dread.

"What? N-No I-"

Screech cut her off with a yelp as he roughly ground her face into the dirt, his sharp claws making more scratches on the back of her head. "Don't bother trying to deny it! We've seen you with them." He hissed.

Arya grit her teeth in pain; her wounds weren't overly large or deep but they stung and oozed blood steadily. Tiny stones dug into her face where it was pressed to the ground, adding to her discomfort. She heard them snort at her suffering.

"Oh, don't worry Young One." Redclaw said, false sympathy dripping from his words. "What I have in mind for the little traitor and the walking feast will not bring harm to them . . . At least not directly."

Although, she was still at the mercy of the two Fastbiters, they had loosened their grip allowing Arya to wiggle into a more comfortable position to where she could raise her head to meet the gold and red gaze of her captor. Redclaw leered down at her with a devious smirk that sent an uncomfortable shiver down her spine.

Arya swallowed against the lump of dread forming in her throat. "What are you going to do?"

"I take it you've noticed more herds than normal around here, correct?" He paused to regard her expectedly with a brow arched. She silently nodded in confirmation and he continued. "And with more herds means more Sharpteeth and more competition. Competition in my territory that I would have to deal with."

As he continued to speak, Arya watched as Redclaw seemed to grow more agitated, starting to pace the clearing and bare his teeth in a snarl. And taken into account his infamy in the Mysterious Beyond, it made for a truly terrifying display. One probably few had witnessed and lived to talk about it. Arya desperately wished she wouldn't be one of those witnesses, but the claws holding her down told her otherwise.

"But you," Redclaw suddenly grinned and leaned in until they were nearly level with each other. "Are going to tell me how to get into Leafeater Valley and tell me what their defenses are."

Arya's eyes widened in shock. Leafeater Valley was what Sharpteeth called the Great Valley because of the sheer amount of Leafeaters living there. Redclaw planned on getting into the Great Valley? The Valley was considered mystical in that it promised a never-ending feast for Sharpteeth, the same way it promised endless green food for Leafeafers. But the Great wall surrounding it made getting into the Valley was next to impossible. few Sharpteeth managed to find a way in and they were promptly run out by the herds that called it home.

"B-But I d-don't- "

"Then find out!" Redclaw roared, making her flinch. "Make your little friends tell you everything you need to know and relay it back to us. Then I will be the first Sharptooth make Leafeater Valley part my territory."

Arya stood straighter in an attempt to appear braver than she felt and glared back at him in defiance "And if I don't?"

"Then we will kill you right here and go after that gang of yours when they come looking for you." He replied, meeting her glare with an unimpressed frown before straightening up to his full height. "However," He continued. "If you tell anyone about our arrangement, your friends will be next on the menu."

His threat made her tense as a shock of fear rushed through her. Arya knew that the gang were fairly experienced with getting rid of or outwitting Sharpteeth, but if they were in the canyon then they would be easily trapped. Then there was the fact that Redclaw even knew about her hiding place to begin with. Who knows just how much they knew about the frequent visits or her lessons in Leafeater? One thing for certain was that she was no longer safe in the canyon as she thought and neither were her friends.

Finally, Arya sighed and looked up at the towering Sharptooth with a compliant expression. ". . . Okay. I'll do it."

The triumphant smile that stretched across his maw at her surrender made Arya wish that she could rip it off his face.

Thanks for reading! I may come back later and edit this chapter like I started doing for some of my earlier chapters. Hopefully, I'll get around to posting the edited versions soon.