Chapter XX: A Wolf's Howl

"That was totally wicked!" cheered Peaches, who was prancing happily along the last bit of their journey home. And as Buck had said, nothing was ever as we expect. Their half-a-day trip turned into a two day festival of dinosaur wrangling, vine swinging, and sloth pranking; all under Buck's supervision of course, minus the latter.

"And you were awesome with that trunk of yours!" shouted Crash, who with his twin brother were both wearing a left eye-patch, contradictory to Buck's who wore on his blinded right eye. Nothing virtually harmful came upon on them in the past few days, and the only harm they ever come across would have to be self-inflicted.

"Yeah!" agreed Eddie. "You caught that dinosaur with that nice backswing!" Like kids at an amusement park, they enjoyed themselves silly with cheers and laughter.

"Let's be happy that no one got hurt," said Manny.

"Come on, dad. Live a little," said Peaches.

"Wait till we get home and she's grounded," whispered Manny to his mate, Ellie. She rolled her eyes smiling at the thought that her daughter was more like her than her father.

"I got hurt," mentioned Sid.

"Well, at least not intentionally," said Ellie.

"Wait, those were intentional?" said Sid as he faced towards the two possums, referring to all the pranks he thought were mere 'accidents'. Thankfully, the pain would easily subside with his three lovable adoring kids, Shelly, Egbert, and Yoko. Though almost as half as large as Manny the three t-rexes were and having a sloth male for a mother, the herd grew fond of the three creatures. They were in fact very friendly, and only Diego would be the one who would notice them eating prey that they caught on their own.

Diego, however, remained almost silent in the entire journey. Still reminiscing his last moments with his son. How proud he grew of him, but also sad that he had gone away. But as the saying goes, every bird has to leave its nest.

"Hey Diego," said Manny, who slowed down just to walk along with Diego at the far end of the group. "You still not feeling any better?"

"Slightly, I guess," said the saber-tooth tiger. "Just… a bit shocked maybe"

"I know how you feel," replied Manny. "I know what its like not to see that special person of yours again". Diego glanced towards him and was reminded of the truth he told to them. Of his family's life taken by hunters. Manny could feel a shaky vibe of negativity in the atmosphere and tried to change the subject. "But its not all bad, you know. You can still make occasional visits" he added.

Diego remained silent. It was only a few moments away before they had finally approached the last stop of their journey before they were finally home.

"I suppose you'd know where your way back from here on out," said Buck.

"You know, with Rudy gone, you could come with us," said Ellie.

"As temptin' as that offer sounds again, even more than last taime, I still have anothah obligation to fulfill down he-ah," said Buck. He looked towards Sid and his children around him, and the sloth knew it was time to let go of them as well. They talked about it in their previous nights, and as reluctant as the three were, they had to go along with Sid's decision in the end.

Sid stood and faced towards the three t-rexes. Egbert licked him in the cheek one last time before he let out his built-up resolve. "Now listen up kids. I know it's gonna be hard for you without a momma, but your all grown up now," he said. "Uncle Buck is going to take care of you from now on. I'll always remember you guys" The three then gave him the biggest and hardest hug they had ever given him, causing him to suffocate for nearly five seconds straight. And yet it was perhaps the most heartfelt hug he had ever been given.

"Don't worry, Sid. I completely understand how you feel this time," said Diego.

"You sure you're up for the job Buck?" asked Manny.

"Lad, I've hoisted up enough dinosaurs to tell you-" Buck's voice began with a confident tone before reaching off into a more nervous tone, "-that I'm not prepared with any parenting stuff"

"I'm sure you'll do fine," said Ellie.

"Hey, maybe Sid could come along when you take visits to Eli," Peaches said to Diego.

"Yeah… about that," muttered Diego. Buck noticed his slight discomfort and immediately cut in.

"Ol' tigah he-ah asked me to close gates to Dinoland for 'im," Buck said.

"What?" the rest of the herd all cried in disbelief.

"It's for the best," said Diego.

"Come on, Diego. Have you really given up on the little guy?" Eddie asked.

"Heh… he's not little anymore," Diego chuckled. He looked back towards the other side of the world where a giant tunnel reached up to the world above. "He's where he has to be. And it's entirely for his own good that I'm not there."

"Why not?" asked Sid. The sloth wondering why he would easily give up on his own child, when Sid would do anything to be with his kids.

"Our way of being a family, a herd with a mixed up assortment of animals bound together for a mysterious reason, won't apply to everyone," said Diego. "Eli included. Sometimes you just have to be with the people you're most similar to. Why look for a home to make yourself belong in when there's already one out there that you naturally belong to?"

"But… Diego…" said Ellie. "He's still your son. Won't you miss him at all?"

Diego paused, tucked his head down in thought, and smiled. "Just as much as everyone" With his resolution complete, the herd respected his decision and went along with it.

Manny looked towards him and said, "I'm sure he'll grow up to be fine wolf,"

After they're entire role of a menagerie, a one-eyed weasel stepped in to center stage. "Well, it's about taime you all head off then," Buck said. Crash and Eddie once again clamped towards his leg, their eye-patches being removed in the process.

"We'll miss you Buck," they said in unison.

Buck tried desperately to try and shake them off, but found the attempt futile. "Geez, if your gonna miss me so much why won't ya just stay," Buck muttered softly, but unfortunately loud enough for the two possums to hear.

"Really? Can we stay?" asked the two, and Buck tried even more vigorously to shake them off of his leg. The two let go and Buck kicked high into the air and made him land on his rump. The two possums were then suddenly picked up by a giant trunk into mid-air.

"Oooooh no. You guys are staying with me," said Ellie.

"We'll make visits. We promise!" Crash replied.

"And how will you do that when the tunnel gets closed?" she said in a rhetoric tone.

"Can I stay too?" asked Peaches earnestly.

"Err… mammoth? Say somethin'" whispered Buck.

"No one is going to stay here," Manny declared. "End of story. Let'go"

"Awwww…" the three moaned as their life of adventure had seemingly ended. Though with such youth still within them, perhaps its not yet of their adventuring.

The one-eyed weasel chuckled. "It was fun seeing you all again, but at least now I have a piece to remembah you by" he said as three dinosaurs leaped up on him and piled unto him. "Three, in fact," Buck said while his new adopted children were playing with him.

Buck watched them with Tim and the three dinosaurs as they went into the cave and disappeared into the cold darkness. And almost immediately as they had entered, a loud rumbling occurred at that end of the cave that had sealed the way back completely. They began to feel the atmosphere slowly becoming less temperate until finally emerging into the nostalgic frosty air they all came to know and love.

"We're home!" bellowed Sid, his high shrill voice reaching out to nearby chirping birds' ear tunnels and caused to fall on sight.

Crash and Eddie slid down from Ellie's tusks and soared in mid-air, landing on soft crunchy snow. "Oh snow, how I miss throwing you at unsuspecting people" Crash said as he gathered a pile close to his face as if hugging it while Eddie lied on his back making a snow angel.

Peaches joined in with the two, and her sudden appearance almost made the possums think that they were about to be squished. It was almost like this all those years ago. When she had just recently been born into the world of dinosaurs, and greeted upon the winter wonderland they called the Ice Age.

She giggled as she rested only almost an inch away from the possums, causing them to let out a sigh of relief. A large shadow appeared in front of her closed eyes however, and she opened them to find a mammoth, apparently just as her size and age. He had a darker tone of fur, almost similar to Manny's, had more developed tusks than her's, which were by now half-developed to a flat round edge, and he had long head hair that covered his eyes almost entirely and went down further around an inch below them. The two possums spotted him as well, and watched the two converse as if long lost friends that had finally seen each other again after so many years.

"Heya!" he greeted. Peaches got up in surprise.

"…Hey… there," Peaches replied, still in astonishment.

"Wow…" the boy said. "I never thought there'd be other mammoths like me!"

Peaches began to brighten up and snap out of her surprised trance "Me neither!"

"I'm Oliver," he said. "What's your name?"

"Peaches," she replied.

"Wha- where?" he asked nervously.

"Oh no, my name is Peaches" she clarified.

"Oh, sorry. It's just that I'm really allergic to Peaches," Suddenly they're whole entire meant-to-be atmosphere collapsed into a void of-

"Oh," she said. A void of a simple 'oh'. "That was a major buzzkill", she thought. "Well… I may not be as lucky as Eli, but I'll be just as happy knowing I'm not going to be the last mammoth on earth"

"Why hello there," greeted Ellie who had noticed the new arrival of another mammoth. "I'm Ellie, and this is Manny. We're Peaches' parents"

Oliver smiled at the two until his face come across Manny's. Manny had the look of a tiger watching his prey, repeating in his mind the very words, "Stay away from my daughter"

"Hello there!" greeted a voice coming from the snowy woods in front of them. Out came two more mammoths, and judging from their appearance Peaches thought that they were Oliver's parents.

"I see you've met our son here," a female mammoth said. "I hope he hasn't caused any trouble"

"Oh, not at all," replied Ellie.

The female mammoth nodded in relief. "My name is Dorothy, and this is my husband Greg"

"Pleasure to meet you," her husband said. He had a longer set of head hair than Oliver and had an even darker color of fur. Oliver had inherited some of his father's distinguishing traits, but he had however a lighter color of fur than him and a darker color from his mother, sort of like a combination.

"You know, you don't seem pretty surprised to be talking to other mammoths," Manny said.

"Oh, we used to live where there were plenty of us, but unfortunately an avalanche came in and destroyed and killed most of us. The rest of us who survived scrambled off into separate places, us included," Dorothy said.

"And while we were on our search for another place home, Oliver came into our lives," Greg added.

"Well do we have a story for you," said Ellie.

"Why won't you stay here? We've got plenty of space for everyone," said Sid, who appeared from one corner all of a sudden.

"Oh, why how do you do there. I'm assuming he's a family friend of yours?" asked Dorothy.

"Actually, we're sort of like a herd," mentioned Diego who suddenly came into the background. The sudden appearance of a saber-tooth appalled the three.

"Don't worry," said Crash. "Diego's been a house cat for almost our entirely life now. He won't bother anyone," Diego took his paw and knocked it on his head.

"You should be more worried about Sid though" Eddie said before whispering loudly to them from a meter away, "Talk about poor hygiene,"

"I heard that," Sid mentioned.

Their guard went down slowly, and the atmosphere came to relax and the tension went away. "Well… I supposed we can live with that," said Greg, though the herd were unsure what they were referring to whether it was Sid's hygiene or the presence of a predator among them.

"I'm not gonna keep making problems like this am I?" asked Diego.

"You should've been aware of that from the start, pal," Manny joked. "From the very start"

Diego smiled. Peaches then came up to Oliver. "So, do you… want to go sight seeing? You are planning to stay here after all"

"Sure, why not?" Oliver replied, and the two headed off in another direction. Manny wanted to follow them when Ellie stopped him right on time.

"Ellie, isn't she grounded?" Manny said in an attempt to stop her daughter from growing up too fast.

"She can be grounded some other time, honey," and with that, their daughter seemed to have found a similar kind of joy that the two of them once experienced all those years ago. How nostalgic it was to watch them as they walked away in the distance. Ellie then turned towards Oliver's parents. "Now, about that story"

As the mammoths went off to share some amusing and embarrassing stories where their child was involved in, Diego and Sid were left behind to wonder what could've been.

"I wonder if I should've just stayed with my kids," Sid said sympathetically as he rested himself leaning unto Diego. This time, the saber-tooth didn't mind and let him. "What about you? Would you do it to? For Eli?"

Diego looked back and grinned. "If I were him, I would've done the same thing"

"You really are alike you know that," the sloth said.

Diego smiled and almost laughed, "I guess we are"

Night approached on their first day of home. Well, home again at least. Diego watched the moon emanate like an ominous lantern. It glowed brightly, and in his eyes, somehow Diego knew that Eli was looking at it right now. Like a giant mirror he could see him anytime he wanted to. All that they had been through and this was the result. Things were working out quite well for everyone, and Diego felt a sudden loneliness that he had almost forgotten all those years back. To think that he would actually miss having a loud, sleep-tumbling wolf sleep right next to him. Though as bad as it was, it was for the best. Diego perked his ears up as a gush of wind brought in a hidden message from far away.

In the dead of the night, you could almost hear a howl loudly as it echoed across the vast world. Some say that a howl symbolized a wolf's loneliness, but when a multitude of it were to happen, it would in fact signal that the wolf was not alone. That howl would reach every corner of the globe from one mountain to another in an endless echo, and even below in a world where the sky had a ceiling made of ice and land full of lava. A certain weasel, who was also hearing the loud howling, noticed a strange bird, one that lived probably in the world above, holding a peculiar feather that seemed to have its own light. It shimmered mesmerizingly as the osprey soared its wings in the heavens. It must be very valuable, the weasel thought, but as the bird closed in to a nearby pool of lava, he dropped the feather right into the heart of its burning rage. Something so valuable disappeared in the blink of an eye. If it were that easy to be lost, was it so valuable to begin with? The weasel had to wonder, but his sights were somewhere else what he thought was more valuable. Three little dinosaurs.

And of course. Because it was in the beholder himself who judged value among everything, To Diego, his son will forever be in his heart.

The silhouette of two wolves formed around a large white moon. Clouds of pearl clasped around edge of the horizon where from the plateau they could see.

"I've never actually howled before," said a white wolf who sat beside one with amorous brown fur. "Not even when I was still at my old pack, and in the herd"

"Well, just go along with how you feel," she said, patting her left paw on his chest. He smiled. And there they howled together in the night before facing each other, and embracing each other's warmth. Home again. Home at last.


Xion the Author: Finished! Did I end it nicely? I hope I did. Lol I made such a fuss with new OC at last chapter just so Peaches wouldn't have too much of a bitter sweet ending. And yes today is my birthday (but my family celebrated it last Saturday since today was a school day, and also the second day of my exams). I'm glad everything went off smoothly and I was able to finish this story at last. And now I have another story in the works, and I could already see that bit by bit I'm improving my own skills. Its great, you know.

Eli: And since I didn't make much of an appearance in this chapter, here I am tell you that you are all such amazing readers. It's exciting to see the hits go up every now and then. Next stories he'll make he'll try not to rush and instead go slow with the detailing.

Xion the Author: Yup! And lastly:

God bless!