Xion the Author: Wow, there's a LOT of ShiraxDiego fics. None of the new writers seem to have taken the jump towards something with more adventure though…
In this chapter, I made a huge epic fail. In the original version I replaced Chapter 5 with chapter 6 (or chapter 4) and I didn't keep any backup. Thus, this chapter is more of an add-in rather than a revision. I also update this to the missing chapter in the original.
Looking back at the previous chapters so far, I seem to have made a terrible mistake. I think I've revealed too early the plot concerning Ryan and Nia *facepalm*. At least how their plot ends won't be anything cliché, so anticipate surprise.
Also, since Peaches' age has been readjusted, so is Roshan's – much realistically. In my other story, Roshan was the age of a young adult, and the amount of years for that to happen would be too unrealistic in contrast to everyone else's age.
Chapter VI. Careful Planning
Scoot was walking around all buffed and his muscle showing. Scratte was ogling at him and her heart beat erratically with each flexing muscle; she was clearly attracted to the male.
Scrat was caught between watching three things at the same time: Scratte, his acorn, and Scoot. He squinted angrily at the buffed up squirrel-rat hybrid. Just who was that person? Although he knew that he and Scratte would never get along no matter what happened, he couldn't help getting jealous in the situation.
Half of him wanted his nut, and his other half wanting to take out his jealousy at Scoot If he sneaked up right now, he could snatch the acorn away with Scratte distracted. But he couldn't help wanting to do something about Scoot, like an innate male characteristic to act on jealousy despite understanding.
But then he thought, why not do both?
And as Scoot walked away and Scratte followed behind, Scrat also stealthily (as much as he could) followed in pursuit while plotting down the perfect plan.
Smoke trails fogged up the air from freshly put out campfires. Looking up, you could distinctly see up to five or six gray lines of smoke coming up from the ground. Any smart woodland creature would know to stay away from the gathering of smoke. To their sharp sensitive noses they could smell skinned-up hides of what could have been an old friend turned into clothing or a piece of tent cloth.
That human settlement was only one of many – and perhaps even the largest. But, if you'd ask any of the burrow-living animals nearby, they'd tell you that this place was relatively safer than anywhere else.
In a large pitched-up tent, centered in the middle of all the other tents, a human child sat outside trying to overhear conversation from inside. The child hat brown hair and his brown eyes looked in the opposite direction as he leaned his ear towards the tent. From what he could hear, it seemed that humans could communicate with each other, although all you'd hear would be grunts and yelps. And yet, the child – no more than ten years of age – listened keenly as if something important was being discussed.
"This is a problem, my brothers," a rough brown haired male discussed as he scratched his bristly chin. A gathering of village elders and close friends sat beside each other. "However, we must address it no matter what."
"It is humiliating; of all the creatures in the world, humans would become the most savage beasts," the shaman lady added in, "To have to kill their own kind…"
"It must be done. I see no other resolution to this." The man who spoke seemed one of high position. The strap of designed cloth that dangled from one end of his shoulder to the other must mean that he was the leader of their pack.
"Even so Runar, it pains me deeply that we cannot settle this peacefully," the shaman replied.
The man beside Runar stood up on his two feet. "These men know no peace. They slaughter animals as if they were mere game – nothing but dirt for our feet to kick and step on. You said it yourself, that if this continued, the balance between mortals and spirits would collapse!"
The shaman lady did not spoke back. Runar stood and placed his hand over the man's shoulder, gesturing him to calm and sit down.
"I wish there were another way. I do not want to resolve this by endangering my own tribe," the tribe leader said.
"I do not think there would be any difficulty for our hunters to fight another man," one of the elders said.
"Indeed! This is not the first we have ever competed with another tribe," another spoke out. The boy outside the tent leaned further to get hear better their conversation. He was very careful in adjusting himself – perhaps it was not his first time eavesdropping.
"This is a different matter," Runar dictated. "Our hunters are trained to hunt – not to kill. We track and capture prey, but never throw a spear at another's face. Even if we were to decide to wipe off the barbaric tribes, I doubt we would not have losses."
"Then its best we plan ahead," the man beside him said. "We must act without thought. We hardly know the capabilities of these barbarians"
"What do you propose, brother?" the leader asked.
"For now, it is best we see how many they are. How they move, how they act – we must study them the same way we do with gazelles and sabers." The man stood up from the cloth mat. "I will scout ahead."
"Alone? That's foolishness!" one of the elders blurted.
"Yes. It is faster, and much quieter. We must not ignore that these men know how to track as much as we do," he answered.
"Nalkul," Runar called out his name. "Are you sure about this?"
The man scoffed with confidence. "I am the best tracker in the village. No one else rivals my skill."
"Then so be it. I also know that no one else rivals your confidence," Runar jested. "When do you plan to leave?"
"Perhaps at midnight," Nalkul replied. "I would like to at least tell my wife of my plans before leaving."
"Then so be it," the tribe leader said. "We shall see you off then."
"With your permission, tribe leader," Nalkul said as he walked out of the tent. The outside welcomed him with fresh air and pine-scented breeze. The sunny sky made it seem like his decision was nothing close to reality.
Before taking even a few steps away, something caught his eye near the tent. When it tried to run away, Nalkul rushed up and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. "Roshan!" he yelled. He turned him around to face him and let go of his shirt. "What did I tell you about not eavesdropping?"
"I'm the tribe leader's son! I should at least know what's going on!" he retorted. "My dad won't tell me a thing – and stop acting like him!"
"You are the future leader of this tribe. Very soon, you will take your father's place, and I do not want you to go off treating serious business as childish adventures." Roshan simply pouted at the statement. Nalkul grunted and started walking away.
"H-hey, Uncle!" Roshan called out. "You're leaving tonight, right?"
"There is nothing escaping your ears, is there?" Nalkul commented as Roshan walked alongside him.
"I want to come with!"
Nalkul immediately cut him off. "Absolutely not. It's too dangerous!"
"But you're the best tracker in the village!" the boy said. "If I'll be the tribe leader in the future, don't you think I should learn from the best?"
His uncle rubbed his palm over his forehead and shook his head. Where did he get such an attitude. "
Nalkul let out a deep sigh. "You are my sister's only child. You are all that I have to remember her by, and I do not want to be the cause of any harm that would come to you."
The boy frowned and bowed his head. Nalkul placed his hand over the boy's head and ruffled his hair. "Besides, your father would not approve of it." The older man walked away once again, to the direction of his family's tent. The little boy, so eager to prove himself, could only sigh helplessly.
Barret leapt from one branch to another, jumping from tree to tree. Ellie watched him swing like a miniature Tarzan. At one particular point, a branch broke in half, leaving him dangling by one hand. Thankfully, due to his lightweight form, he pulled himself and acted as if nothing happened.
The next incident occurred with him coming in contact with a seemingly helpless caterpillar. He was about to pick it up when suddenly it lashed back at him with horrendously large fangs. Barret drew back instantly and the 'caterpillar' slithered away like a snake. Wanting to move away, he went back to jumping along.
At every tree, he picked up specimens of bark and leaves while audibly muttering to himself. On landing on a certain branch, he plucked off a leaf and inspected it against the light refracting from the ceiling of ice and rock that covered the world.
"Wha' are you doin', mate?" Buck asked, curious to his little brother's odd behavior.
"Studying the plant life. Many of these are species that no longer exist within our own world and I'd like to discern why," the white weasel replied. He took a small nibble to one particularly large leaf and chewed tediously. "Hmm… I appear to have no symptoms, so this must mean that this is edible. But why-"
"We don't have time to stop just so you could take a theoretical study of everything you see," Ellie said frustratingly.
"Mammoth is right, mate," Buck said. "Ya know we're in kaind of a hurry."
"You're one to talk," Barret retorted. "We passed by two dinosaurs a while ago and you took your sweet time wrangling them and enjoying yourself."
"They were potentially dangerous!" the brown elder weasel retorted back. "They might 'ave chewed you fer lunch if I wouldn't round them up!"
The white weasel dropped the piece of leaf. "I'm just saying that you could've done it a LOT faster and simpler," Barret explained. His peripheral vision caught sight of a small dinosaur right ahead of their trail, loitering mindlessly. "Like this, for example."
Barret leapt off his branch and towards the neighboring trees in direction of the small dinosaur. "Barret, wha' are you doin'!" Buck called out.
"Something a wee bit smart!" he shouted back.
Buck and Ellie let out a deep sigh. "This we gotta see," they both uttered as they followed.
The coelophysis tottered mindlessly around the ground, sniffing for something. Its hollow ear caught a plopping sound dropping nearby. It turned its head, jittering left and right in wonder of what the object that fell was. It approached the object slowly before Barret, standing from above on the branch of a tree, whistled in queue.
The small dinosaur shrieked excitedly at the sight of flesh. It dashed towards him, and with a well time leap Barret snagged an end of a rope and the lasso he dropped moments ago had hoisted the poor dinosaur into dangling in the air.
The white weasel landed on the ground and tied the other end of the rope around the tree as the others went up to him. He wore a proud grin as he walked the trail ahead of the others. "And that's, ho w you do it," Barret boasted, clapping the dust off his hands. "With careful timing and precision."
"Bwuh," Buck immediately retorted. "Oh come on! A reptile dat tainy, with a mind hardly any different than this mammoth's brothers? Hardly any challenge!"
Barret rolled his eyes before turning around. "Look, all I'm trying to point out is that we don't need to be "eager" in jumping in to things. There's a good plan for everything."
"Pssh, but where's the fun?" his brother debated. "Where's the excitement? The adrenaline rush?"
"You're missing the point-!"
"Guys!" Ellie cut in to their argument, causing a total silence in which they could only hear was the coelophysis struggling to get off his entrapment. The coelophysis was made to stop when Ellie trumpeted in an frustrated tantrum. "We don't have the time to be talking about this! If you guys want to bicker like little children, you can do it in your own time. Because while we're here talking to each other about this, my family is in danger of giant dinosaurs and every other mammal-eating creatures!"
Buck and Barret gave each other an angered look before facing opposite ways. "Fine! If you wanna do it your way, then get eaten for all I care!" Barret argued.
"Faine! I've done this for over ten years, mate! You've NO idea how many time I've almost been eaten – and that doesn't count the times I was nearly digested!" The two walked with the large mammoth between them. Ellie shook her head troublesomely.
"Is this their way for making up lost time?" Ellie told to herself. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let all her frustration out in one single breath. But by the time she opened her eyes, Buck immediately shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Stop!" he cried. Ellie halted in mid-stride as she opened her eyes to reveal a large rushing of dinosaurs passing in front of them, running mindlessly in a state of panic. The trees surrounding the trail were crushed down in a series of hooves and stomping.
"What's going on?" Barret inquired worriedly.
"Stampede. It's happenin' everywhere," the one-eyed weasel explained. "Must be cuz' of the 'arthquake. They're all terrified and confused. We're lucky they ain't walking this way."
They watched the continuous series of four-legged dinosaurs rushing in front of them. After a few more seconds, they finally clear up as they leave a trail of prints and dust clouds. In the last set of dinosaurs behind the stampede, it reveals to them that they were not only running straight ahead, but have also diverted to the fork in front of them. And behind them, they also leave embedded prints of hooves in the mud and dirt.
"Well, there ends our trail," Buck said depressingly as his tracking expertise could not help them in this kind of incident.
"What should we do now?" Ellie asked frantically.
"Relax now mammoth, no need to panic," the weasel said. "Just calm down. These two trails eventually meet up into one. Although – there might be some complications…"
"What complications?" the mammoth demanded to know.
"Well…" Buck picked up a stick and began drawing on the mud. "The left path would take us to the Labyrinth of Doom." In visualization, it showed a large labyrinth covered entirely in a thick fog. A distinct hiss echoes as something dark slithers by at the entrance. "Some folks would worry more about finding the way through the maze – others would worry about not getting eaten."
"Then, we have the one to the right that would take us to the Marsh of Demise." In visualization, it showed a dark barren place with an eerie setting of hollow dead trees with a green mist dispersed through the land. "Now the smell and the atmosphere are absolutely horrid! But then again, you'd better take notice on where you're stepping on instead…"
Ellie stood worriedly. "Was this supposed to calm me down, or make me more frightened by what my family might just encounter?"
"Wasn't really trying to do either, but if you leave it to someone else, we might pick a wrong choice," Buck said.
Barret, taking offense on whom that "someone else" in particular Buck was pertaining to, stepped up into the scene. "Oh? Gee, what would you choose then?" he asked.
"I'd take the right trail," the one-eyed weasel answered. "It's the shortest route, so if we ever end up taking the wrong path, we might at least be able to catch up with the others by going back to the other. Wouldn't you agree, weasel with 'the plan'?"
The white weasel grimaced at him with an irritated face. "Why yes, it think it's the best choice too. Let's go then."
"Then let's go," Buck replied irately.
The two weasel walked on ahead as Ellie was still not in good terms with their decision. "H-hey! Guys, stop! Wait!" But the two were too preoccupied with arguing with each other that she couldn't catch their attention. Not wanting to stay away from their trusted guide, the mammoth could only follow.
"Please be safe…"
"Ryan… you know we shouldn't be seeing each other. If my dad saw us together-"
"Relax! He's not gonna find out– "
"That's what worries me the most. What if he does?"
"Come on, we only see each other so often. Besides, he won't notice you missing for an hour or so…"
"Just for today, trust me. You won't regret it Nia…"
"What? Did you say something?" Diego asked Ryan, who was staring blankly at the mesmerizing white snow they were stepping on.
"Huh? Oh- uh, no it's nothing." Ryan said, who was suddenly pondering about the word that had just popped right into his head.
After a concerned look, Diego turned his head forward. Their surroundings were the ever desolate Half Peak, a gathering of tall rocks arching and bent towards a center. Haunting memories reverberated in his head. Diego could not shake it off. The cold chilling wind, the frosty snow – everything seemed like a reminder of the worst things he had in life.
But were things really that bad?
He had to admit, he wasn't exactly "suffering" back in the days. There was hardly anything to complain about. They hunted as a group, tracking down game in secrecy as they launched themselves on prey whenever they needed. There was the occasional fighting for a bigger piece of meat, but either way, he was fed most of the time and rarely starved.
Now, he had to hunt on his own. Some days he'd get lucky, some days he wouldn't. But the pain of a single night of starvation was hardly noticeable. But with the company of friends and family, surrounding a nice cozy campfire centered around them, made the cold nights slightly much bearable.
Maybe if it hadn't come to it – if it hadn't come to Manny and Sid's lives being endangered, he might not have turned his back on the pack. If he got the baby first, he might not have needed to make the biggest change of his life. He might still be with his pack, traveling around, hunting and scavenging.
But, then again, there it was. It happened. No point regretting it.
At the sight of Half Peak, he could almost see the ghost of his old pack leader, haunting the very place of his death. The icicles that impaled him on the ground – the gentle chiming that broke into knives that pierced into him – it seemed like a lucky break. Remembering the death of his pack leader, he could closely remember that he had also neared his own that very day.
But he survived. What made him strive to live began with one simply thought.
"I want to say goodbye to Pinky…"
And, with a cringing amount of pain, he struggled through it. Stepping through the chilly blistering winds, he faced through it all. And, with a moment almost too soon, he gave the child one last "where's the baby."
Half Peak was now behind them. Diego didn't even bother looking back. No point latching on to ghosts of the past. You'll turn into one soon enough anyways. Right now, you're alive, so mingle with the living instead.
Diego turned his attention to Manny. The mammoth was also in a bit of turmoil. "Hey, buddy," he called out. "You okay there?"
"Y-yeah, yeah I am," Manny replied. "Just… thinking about what we went through before and all…"
"Me too, but... we've got bigger things to worry about." Diego raised a cheerful smile. Manny could see he was in amicable terms with everything.
"Right, yeah," Manny muttered, before showing a lighter attitude. "Hey, Diego?"
"What is it, bud?" the sabertooth asked.
"Thanks," Manny said.
Diego raised an eyebrow in wonder. "What for?"
"Just… thanks." The mammoth said, not wanting to add anything else. Diego had a clear idea of what he was thanking for anyways.
The wolf behind the pair looked out to the horizon. A few more steps and they would reach a meeting of two glaciers facing each other with pointed tips. It must be what they call Glacier Pass. The large wall of rock gradually became smaller – becoming noticeably three-fourths the size when they first saw it form in front of them.
The gang looked at each other. Manny and Diego had never been there – nor would they ever.
Human settlements would be everywhere, and that was just all that they knew about. Even birds wouldn't migrate and fly into here. They had no other idea what they might come up against by the time they would pass through it.
But it came to a point where they were now standing on the other side of what seemed like an entrance to another world – something akin to what they've seen in the world of the dinosaurs. Slightly bucking up and preparing themselves, they passed through with a brave front.
"No matter what it takes…" Manny muttered to himself. As he stared at the long ice corridor, he could not help having odd nostalgic visions.
However, with one large hoof forward, they knew that their journey had just begun.
Peaches looked behind her, alerted by the sudden sound of rumbling. Upon noticing the sudden wave of rampaging dinosaurs, she yelled out instantly at the top of her voice. "Guys, watch out!"
The others are alerted immediately and they jump to the side of the trail and watch the stampede pass by as they hide within the thick bushes. While the others blindly watched the cascade of different dinosaurs rushing in to the scene, Peaches took note of the way ahead. Far off in the distance was what looked like an entrance made of two strange rock formations. Surrounding it was a thick white fog, obstructing any view of what's inside.
Peaches narrowed her eyes to check carefully and was proven right. The stampede of dinosaurs – despite the panic they were in – was careful to avoid rushing into the thickly fogged entrance and they ran away in different random directions.
When the rampaging stampede had finally subsided, Crash and Eddie popped out into the open to make sure the coast was clear. "What was that about?" Eddie mentioned.
As Sid walked out of the bush, he turned his head around to see Peaches slightly disturbed. "Peaches?" the sloth asked. "Are you okay?"
"Huh…? Oh, yeah yeah I'm fine Uncle Sid," she answered. Her attention remained unfazed at the white foggy entrance. When she began to walk out the bush and ahead of them, they all soon noticed it as well.
"Woah," said Sid, the twins, and Peaches as they saw the path in front covered with a thick white fog. The temperature was slightly lower – not so compared back home but was distinctly different from this world's temperate climate. Sid suddenly turned back when the twins grabbed his tail and pulled him back. As lucky as they still were not turning into dinner for any dinosaur just yet, Sid had no plans of turning into one.
"Maybe we should head back," Sid said. "It feels slightly… ominous…"
Peaches nodded in agreement. "It really feels kinda dangerous… I don't like it either."
Crash and Eddie, their usual stupor acting up, suddenly brought out a brave front. "We won't find Buck if we go back now." Crash told them.
"Yeah! Besides, we could use some of the adventure that this place has to offer!" Eddie joined in.
"You really think we should go through this place?" asked Sid.
The possum brothers simply raised a confident grin. "We're here to look for Buck remember? Don't be a scaredy cat!" said Crash. "Think of it like a white out."
"Just follow our lead Peaches and you'll be fine," Eddie said as they moved in they maintained their gutsy spirit. But Sid knew them enough to notice the slight difference in the swinging of their tails. Usually, they'd care-freely sway it around, but it looked tense despite the look on their faces. Knowing them, they were just as scared as he was.
"Okay everyone; grab hold of your buddy…" Sid said as he hurriedly went up ahead of them instead and led the charge. Peaches was already holding onto his short tail and followed after. Crash and Eddie, with their expressions hidden behind the other two, finally let loose their slight fear and grabbed hold of Peaches' tail.
As the thick fog covered the way almost entirely, they blindly walked ahead without knowing of the terrifying creature that lurked within…
The trail around them suddenly becomes a gathering of large amounts of plantain. Ellie pressed her hoof down to feel the ground become more moist and soft. The large trail soon became narrow path between trees and bushes. Buck led forward and cut down plants in front of them.
As they traversed through, a distinctly thin green smog was covering around them.
"Ugh, what's with that foul smell?" Barret blurted.
"Ssh!" Buck immediately hushed. "I almost forgot – we gotta keep quiet while we walk through he'ah"
"What – why?" Ellie whispered, toning down her voice.
"We don't wanna wake the things tha' 're snoozin' right now," Buck explained. "They could hardly care if an 'arthquake 'appened. They'd still be asleep. They'd only wake up tah eat."
"You mention this now? I don't think I'm one for being quiet," Ellie mentioned as she raised her right hoof.
"We'll be fine, trust me," Barret assured. "Just – try to keep your ankles light."
"What ankles?" Buck added in as a joke. Ellie grunted before they finally started to move into the thick of the marsh.
The small ponds ahead of them were dark-colored and bubbling with a foul smell – enough to make you wonder what made this place so appealing to the dinosaurs who resided here. The dirt they walked on seemed desolate and barren, and the plant life other than thriving fungi and giant spores were all but decrepit.
"You should stay on your toes too, little bro. Who knows when you'd just randomly trip."
The white weasel immediately flushed red in embarrassment. "D-don't bring that up! I'm not a kid anymore!"
Ellie quickly shushed him down. Thankfully, nothing seemed to be alerted. "Really?" Buck taunted. "I don't really see how you're all grown up. You're just the same ol' snotty lil' weasel who couldn't go to the woods all alone by himself."
Again, Barret was filled with embarrassment. But, due to the circumstances, he decided to ignore him the best he could. He didn't want to risk having to accidentally raise his voice. If not for the situation, he'd pick up the best retort he had against him.
When his little brother didn't make any reply, Buck scoffed. "That'll teach 'im", he grimaced in his head. A cold space still gapped between them. Ellie couldn't cut in as she was too busy trying not to make noise herself. The rigid atmosphere – excluding the fact that there were other things breathing around them – made Ellie finally worry about their own welfare besides her daughter's first.
All she could do now was trust in Buck.
Xion the Author: I seem to be replacing a drastic amount of content – much further than I thought which seems to be taking up my time. Many of the scenes including Barret will drastically change to fit his personality. I only mean to rewrite them into better grammatical quality (but I still make typos here and there).
I also want to make Peaches have a better personality than the cute innocent type I portrayed in the original version. I want to reflect more her character as what has been shown in the Christmas special and in Ice Age 4.