Chapter One: Two Years Later
The valley was full of life. It was two years now since Aladar and Neera had led the herd to the valley. Slowly life was returning to the places that lay outside of the valley, but they still bore the effects of the meter that had struck the earth so long ago. Aladar was snoozing on the banks of the valley's lake, his children playfully scampering around. Finally one of them stumbled over Aladar's foreleg. Aladar awoke to see his son Brutus about seven inches from his face. "Hey little guy," greeted Aladar, he slowly got up, shaking his limbs to make sure he was fully awake. Neera and him had named one of their children Brutus in respect to Bruton, who had sacrificed himself to protect Aladar, Baylene, and Eema from a carnotaur (Carnivorous dinosaur such as a T-Rex but slightly different). They had been very lucky to have seven of their nine eggs hatch, since it was predicted to be very few that would hatch after the tiring of Neera's body from the relentless herding by her brother Kron. Neera walked down the hill side towards the group, little female iguanodons with her. Aladar had spent the day at the lake with his and Neera's male children, while Neera and their female children spent the day in the valley's forests. "Hey," greeted Aladar as Neera affectionately rubbed her head against his.
"Hey yourself," replied Neera. The two watched as their children playfully ran around the beach, playing their game of chase-and-catch. "They really like that game," commented Neera.
"They got their compassionate side from their mother," said Aladar.
"Well I think they got their wild side from their father," said Neera as her and Aladar rested their heads together, enjoying the moment. But moments at some point must be moments no more, and this came to be true as Aladar and Neera had to get their children home. They had made a home in a grove of trees by the lake, Aladar having grown up on an island with many trees found it comfortable, and Neera had no problems with it. Baylene, Eema, and Url all lived close by, having grown a close friendship to the kind and selfless Aladar during their years under the harsh and survival-of-the-fittest fascist Kron; Neera's brother who had died after a carnotaur attack. Kron could not even be called sadistic, for if he saw a weak dinosaur in pain, he would not gain pleasure from the sight, but be disgusted by the show of weakness. Baylene and her friend Eema were always enthusiastic to tell stories of the old days to Aladar and Neera's children; and the children were always happy to listen. They liked to play with Url, Eema's pet, who was always happy to have someone to play with.
"And so the brave iguanodon, your father, saved the herd from dying when he taught us how to bring the underground water to the surface. You see, we thought the lake had all dried up, but Aladar realized the water was beneath the sand. Except Kron would not allow it, he didn't want anyone to drink from the water before he did, not out of precaution, but out of black-hearted thoughts that only those who were strong enough to survive should be allowed a chance to live," said Baylene to the group in front of her.
"She really likes to tell stories about what you did," commented Neera to Aladar. The two stood off to the side as Baylene and Eema told their children stories.
"I always liked the stories that had you in them," Aladar replied.
"Nobody likes a suck-up," said Neera smiling, "Except for me," she added as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"And how many suck-ups have you liked?" asked Aladar sneakily.
"Only one, you." She replied, "But that's all I need."
"Hey, no one likes a suck-up," said Aladar, Neera laughed.
"Hey," Neera said as she turned back to Baylene's story, "I haven't heard this story before."
"The strong-willed iguanodon worked vigorously to escape the cave in, not out of fear, but out of determination. To save his beloved from the destructive grip of the herd leader Kron. The iguanodon was your father, and the female, your mother," spoke Baylene, still telling stories to the children.
"You fought Kron because of me?" whispered Neera, turning to his mate, Aladar saw that she had tears in her eyes. She nuzzled her against his neck.
"Of course I did. I met the one girl I wanted to spend my whole life with, find out that she likes me too, and then have her forced from me by her cruel brother? Neera, Kron was endangering the herd through his actions. I couldn't stand the thought of your body out in the desert, dead because of him. I wasn't going to let him harm you in any way," Aladar replied, Neera gazed lovingly into his eyes.
"Oh dear," Aladar and Neera heard Baylene say.
"Baylene what is it now?" asked Eema.
"Getting up seems to be the problem," replied the elderly brachiosaur.
"An old lady's age does get to her at some point," said Eema. Baylene just huffed at that.
"A lady never speaks about her age," said Baylene.
"Come on guys, off to bed," said Aladar as he nudged the little ones outside, they ran off towards the tree. Aladar saw Zini swing down from a branch in the tree, the little dinosaur's tried to catch him. "Don't give your uncle too much of a hard time," Aladar called to his children.
"Ah!" screeched Zini in mock-surprise. "They got me!" Aladar and Neera looked back to see that indeed they had; Zini had fallen and was surrounded by the little iguanodons.
"Stop monkeying around Zini," said Neera with a smile.
"Hey!" called Zini from his position, "if it wasn't for me you wouldn't be with big-boy over there!"
"If I recall, it was your fault she called me a 'jerkasaurus'," said Aladar.
The new day dawned bright and early for Aladar and Neera, who were currently sitting under the trees overlooking the lake and watching two fliers who were making a morning flight around the rim of the valley. They knew the two fliers well. Virsal and Pterra were kind-hearted and very accepting of any and all things. Virsal and Pterra were both wise but not too old. "Hello down there!" called a voice from above, looking up they saw it was Virsal coming in to land.
"Morning Virsal," called Aladar and Neera to the flyer as he landed near them.
"You need something?" asked Aladar.
"No, I just wanted to tell you that Dalg and his group of friends have been getting together a lot more than they usually do, it seems to me that they're holding meetings of some sort," replied the flyer. Aladar remembered the first day he had met Dalg.
Aladar was resting by the lake, his thoughts mainly trying to find a way to tell Neera that he wanted to be her mate. She had attacked her own brother, her last family member, to save Aladar from his attack. She had went, side by side with Aladar supporting him because of his wounds, into what everyone had thought was inevitable death when she and Aladar had roared at a carnotaur to fend it off. But then again, Aladar had never been with his own kind for very long, were those signs of love or friendship? He was so deep in thought that he had no idea that someone was approaching until they dropped a flower in front of him. "What's this for?" asked Aladar, still groggy from being abruptly cut off from his thoughts. "Do I eat it?"
"It's a lemur thing, Plio told me its how a girl says yes," said Neera.
"Yes to what?"
"Look," said Neera, beginning to turn away with her head drooping slightly, "I can understand if you're not interested."
"Wait…you're saying yes to me?" asked Aladar as he finally found realization. He attempted to quickly get up to stop her from leaving and getting the wrong idea, this was a bad move since he still had wounds from his battle with Kron. Aladar never managed to totally get up before giving out a cry of pain and collapsing. Neera quickly moved to his side, supporting him before he could fall.
"Yes," whispered Neera.
"Hey herd leader!" called out a voice which had more than a hint of mocking in it. Both heads turned to the arrival of an iguanodon about the same age as Aladar and Neera.
"You need something? Is there a problem?" asked Aladar.
"Yeah, you're taking that stunning beauty without fighting for her," said the male. Neera glared at him when he said "stunning beauty" because it sounded like the male thought that he could just take her like a piece of food. "Forgive me leader, where are my manners, I'm Dalg, and you're not the only one with an eye for a good-looking mate," Dalg sneered the word leader. Before Aladar could reply, Neera stepped in.
"He's the herd leader Dalg, he gets first pick of the females without a fight, and I've already told you, it's not going to happen between us, so get lost, go find Sarla or someone," said Neera, anger and hate dripping into her voice.
"Neer, Neer, Neer," said Dalg as if answering a stupid question, trying to unsettle Aladar with what he thought was a smartly created nickname for Neera. "That's were you're wrong, the herd leader can be challenged by anyone."
"But he has the choice to say no to the offer," responded Neera harshly. A crowd was beginning to gather near them. Neera recognized Dalg's friends Sarla and Gurm in the front. "Aladar, you're a young herd leader, new, raised by things that fit under your foot, untaught, unready, unprepared…You should learn what happens when you get challenged by another hmm?"
"I say no Dalg," said Aladar with a firm and strong voice, "Neera doesn't want to be your mate, she wants to be mine, even better Dalg (now he was beginning to play with Dalg, trying to dissuade him), just before you got here, Neera asked me to be her mate, I wanted to be her mate but never knew if she felt the same until a few minutes ago," Aladar was now walking around Dalg, spinning off the previous moments like a story. "So if it's so obvious that Neera and I are happily planning to be mates, and that she doesn't want to be yours, than does it really make that much sense to challenge me for her? And look at this crowd Dalg! They've heard what I just said; they know the truth, so even if you get Neera as your mate they'd know you're lying whenever you begin boasting about how you got such a great catch!" Zini and Yar were watching from the lakeside tree grove.
I've never seen Aladar like this before, Thought Yar.
Zini was thinking: Wow, I guess it shows you that you just don't mess with Aladar's girl.
"Neera, look at us, me and Aladar, I'm more used to the herding and stuff like that, don't you want a male that can protect you?" Asked Dalg.
"Dalg, he challenged Kron-..." Began Neera.
"Only out of stupidity," scoffed Dalg.
"…-while you were cowering near the front trying to make yourself look important." Neera continued through Dalg's comments. "And don't think I don't know how to choose a mate for myself. If you remember, Kron was planning to have me mate with Bruton to create what he called perfect leader material." The crowd along with Aladar were shocked, they had had no idea that Kron had had such intentions for his second in command Bruton and his third in command Neera. "Well I found the perfect leader material, and I would have no other mate. Get lost Dalg!"
The three chatted for a few more minutes before Virsal took off into the air. Haedron approached the pair. "Morning leader Aladar, lady Neera," greeted Haedron.
"Hey," chuckled Neera, "I'm not a lady yet, keep that for Baylene."
"I heard that," came the voice of the elderly female from behind them, her head lowering in front of Neera to face her.
"They're over there Baylene," said Aladar, pointing towards the sleeping kids. Today Aladar and Neera had to organize and plan the herding towards the herd's old grounds, so Baylene and Eema were taking care of the kids that day.
"Oh I couldn't possibly," said Baylene as she lowered her head to look at the children. As she breathed out, the thought to be sleeping Rusty smiled; Rusty always smiled when someone was close enough, that was how one could tell if he was sleeping or not, it wasn't because he chose to smile, it just happened involuntarily.
"Come here Rusty," called Aladar, the little iguanodon bounced up and ran to his father with a smile on his face.
"But what about the other ones? They look so adorable sleeping, it would be a shame to wake them," said Baylene.
"They're not asleep," whispered Aladar with the smile on his face growing to a grin now. "Hey Zini!" called Aladar. Zini walked out onto a thick branch jutting out of the tree wiping the sleep from his eyes.
"Yo bro," said the golden-furred lemur, still half asleep.
"Come here, I want to show you something," said Aladar, Zini too sleepy to process the tell-tale grin on his adopted brother's face. They could hear Zini muttering comments about his dream and the abrupt waking but couldn't understand what he was saying because he was to far away. When Zini walked by the group of little iguanodons, a tail whipped out as if automatic and knocked Zini's feet out from under him. With a cry of "Ahh!" the lemur was buried under a heap of his nephews and nieces. "They're awake," said Aladar to Baylene. "So what's the plan for today?" Asked Aladar as he turned back to Haedron.
"The families on the eastern half of the valley are awake and the other half are waking up. We should be prepared by the afternoon. If we…," Haedron trailed off and looked past Aladar.
"Is anything wrong?" chuckled Aladar, beginning to turn around himself. "oh no…"