The child had been abandoned.
She supposed it was her own fault. She couldn't handle the life of a Dinotopian. She couldn't handle the way people spoke to each other. Even the way they greeted each other; 'Breathe Deep," "Seek Peace". Ugh, it was nauseating. She'd never been cut out for that life.
Her parents had worried about her. They had worried what she would be like when she grew up, grew older. She was only ten years old now, and she couldn't follow the codes of Dinotopia. She was constantly questioning. Why was it wrong to eat meat? Why were the carnivores forced away from the city? To keep the others safe? How did that help the carnivores? What made them different from everyone else?
Even the other Dinotopians acknowledged that the carnivores were not inherently evil; just hungry. Living their own lifestyle. Living their own way. So why were they shunned? Why were they banned from Dinotopia? The child had never understood those things, had never understood what made them so different from all of the other dinosaurs. Of course she understood the safety issues, but not really how that fit in with Dinotopian law.
These questions got her strange looks from the other children in the to learn the Saurian languages. The dinosaurs were the one with all of the 'humility', why couldn't they learn English? How could dinosaurs and humans claim to live in the same lifestyle, how could they even try and go for the same existence? They were such creatures of opposites.
Then she'd started throwing the word 'scaly' around, and things had gotten much worse for her. She was shunned from all circles. Dirty looks went her way more often than not. She refused school. But then she'd started demanding to know why they had to back down. Perhaps it was not the right thing to do, perhaps she was wrong. But now that they had told her so, now that they had argued with her, she couldn't help but become defensive, couldn't help but say that they were the wrong ones. Dinosaurs and humans could not live together. It was not possible.
Not possible for you, perhaps, her mother had said, very coldly. And if you can't change that attitude, then you will never be a true Dinotopian.
She'd decided not to wait that long. As she'd heard her mother crying to her father, saying that she never thought her child would survive in this world, that she'd never belong in Dinotopia, she'd decided that they were right. They were all right.
It was time to leave.
Some would say that she abandoned Dinotopia. But she would say that Dinotopia had abandoned her. She had packed as much food and water as her ten-year-old body could carry, thrown on a sweatshirt, then raced on in the dead of night.
Of course, Dinotopia-particularly the more civilized areas of the country- was a very large place. But she knew where the boundaries were; the places where she would lose the protection of the sunstones and be out on her own at last. She'd been warned against going near them many times in her life, had skirted along their edge for a thrill while the other children called her back. She was supposed to respect carnivore territory; it was the only reason that peace remained.
But she had learned that carnivores reacted two ways around the barriers; either they would avoid them entirely, or reinforce them strictly, with severe consequences. She'd rarely skirt the edge when she actually saw the carnivores there; only on the days when she felt truly reckless.
On the day she ran, however, she only paused at the boundaries for a second. It would lead her out of home forever, take her away from Dinotopia for good. She would be free of them, free of their sweet lies. But once out there, she could no longer be protected. She could die out there. The carnivores could be out there in their thousands.
To hell with it, she'd thought. At least carnivores are honest about what they are.
And she'd run across.
She was lucky; it was one of those times when they were avoiding the barriers. She dashed away from Dinotopia just as she heard the loud, screeching calls of the pterodactyls; the flyers had been let loose.
She found shelter as soon as she could, climbing and hiding among trees. Here she would be safe. Here no one could catch her; not the carnivores, not the flying squadrons. She had an uncle in those squadrons, she reflected as she watched them soaring ahead in the darkening sky. 'Fly high,' he'd always say. Never 'Seek peace', like everyone else. No, it was always 'fly high'. He said it was a flyer thing; just their particular greeting. That had always lead her to wonder what those Of the Sea would say.
It was unfortunate that she'd never found out, but of little consequence now.
She spent the night in the tree, eating a sparse dinner and watching the pin wheeling dinosaurs in the black-blue night sky, blotting out the stars.
When she woke the next morning, it was a bright, dry day. The pterodactyls had, for the most part, dissipated. One or two streaked across the sky every so often, but that was not enough to keep her stuck in the tree. The others must have gone back to report, or gone forwards to keep searching. They would never find her. She couldn't allow it to happen.
She traveled for a few days like this, gathering food and water from nearby rivers and vegetation. The flyers, though a nuisance for the first few days, became easier to avoid as time went on, as fewer and fewer were let out to search. She was just one lost child, after all; they had other duties to perform. Besides that, she was in carnivore territory; it was unlikely that she was even alive.
After a while of walking, she crossed a small stream-which she used to replenish her always dwindling water supply- and into an environment that was not quite as lush as what she'd been seeing; and indeed, what she was used to. It was here, after the first half day, that she encountered her first carnivore.
She had not come unprepared for this eventuality; she carried one of her mother's kitchen knives. She'd wished for something better, but all Dinotopians were without weaponry. It was
She pulled this blade, clunky and heavy in her small hand, out of her belt as the creature eyed her silently. The carnivore in question was a raptor; perhaps one of the most deadly of them all. T-Rexes always seemed to get the glory; but these were the ones that kept the child up at night.
It seemed as surprised to see her as she was to see it; she was, after all, standing upwind of it. It hadn't had a chance to smell her, and given the fact that it had just emerged from the group of trees on the other end of the desert-like clearing she was standing in. It tilted its head to the side, watching her curiously. She knew what it was thinking; she was alone, barely armed, and a youngling. All predators went for the young or crippled; they had less of a chance to fight back. She stood little to no chance against it; and no predator in Dinotopia would pass up a chance for a kill. After all, the sunstones kept them from hunting the other living creatures in Dinotopia; they had to make their selections from the creatures that were stupid enough to stray across the boundaries.
But it did not yet attack. The knife in her hand definitely gave it pause; while it didn't threaten the raptor very much, it was certainly rare to see a Dinotopian with a weapon. In fact, it was nigh impossible.
It made an odd noise in the back of its throat, an echoing and almost strangely mechanical sound; some kind of call, perhaps? Though she was surprised to find that it sounded very much like the Saurian equivalent of the words 'Breathe Deep'; albeit heavily accented. She said nothing, as, in all likelihood, this was not what it was saying. It was probably calling to its pack to let them know lunch was on.
The pack. That got her thinking; the raptor was alone. That was a rarity in and of itself. A scout, perhaps? Most all raptors hunted in packs, so it was highly unlikely that it was, indeed, on a 'hunt'. Maybe on a water run? Off to get a drink by itself? Perhaps she was so lucky that it was a loner, an outcast like herself, so she wouldn't have to worry about other raptors searching for it if it never showed up?
No. Carnivores didn't care for their own kind, not like that. They wouldn't bat an eye if one of their own went missing. But the point still stood that it was alone; if she could get it in the eyes, she stood a chance.
It made the sound again; two echoing, mechanical blasts in the back of its throat. Her impression that it was saying 'Breathe Deep' heightened. That phrase had so often been repeated- in English and in Saurian- that she felt she would recognize it anywhere.
She decided to try something; forming the Saurian words very carefully, painfully aware that her accent did not match the raptor's, she answered tentatively, "Seek Peace?"
The raptor snorted, an almost disgusted sound, and pulled its lips back from its sharp teeth. It charged immediately; she let out an embarrassing squeak of fear and tried to dodge to the side as it plowed towards her. It did not work; the raptor was too quick, moving its head to the side so that its muzzle knocked into her back, throwing her to the ground. She barely had time to roll herself onto her back before its clawed foot rested on her stomach. The largest clawed toe, the one they normally used to slash into their prey, gleamed dark and black, ready to drive itself into her. She got there first, slashing her knife at its ankle. The creature hissed, but did not release her; the claw went downwards, opening a small but deep cut. She screamed and drove the knife into the creature's foot; it made a startled, high-pitched keening and fell back, clawing at its foot with its smaller arms and other foot.
She scrambled to her feet, now weaponless as finally, the raptor managed to pull the blade out with its teeth. It shook its head as it released the weapon, throwing it aside into the dirt. It turned its glittering black eyes back to her. There was blood welling up on her shirt, and she was dizzy from fright, but she did not run. Running would do nothing for her but turn her back to her enemy, and cause her to bleed out faster.
She readied herself; for what, she didn't know. Another attack? She couldn't defend herself. She had no knife now. No weapon. She should've been smarter, should've grabbed a second one before she ran from home. But now she was going to die, alone, with nothing to stop it from happening.
But she wasn't going to die without a fight.
The raptor watched her; again it made that sound. "Breathe Deep." The Saurian words sounded so intensely clear, even with the accent. It couldn't be coincidence. It couldn't be.
"Fly high," She tried, scrambling her brains for what else it could want her to answer. Again, the raptor snorted in disgust. It came towards her at a more leisurely pace this time, step by casual step, until its reptilian face was inches away from hers. She held her ground as best she could, but the creature seemed to almost laugh at her as, almost playfully, it nudged her in the chest with its head. The blow was hard enough to knock her to the ground again; she landed in the dirt, all the air rushing out of her lungs.
It leaned over her, not bothering to place the claw on her this time. Its glittering black eyes locked on her own. It was moving so slowly; raptors were known for their speed, weren't they? Not their sadistic cruelty towards their prey. This wasn't sadism. This was something else, she was sure.
But whether the raptor was sadistic or not, it was still going to kill her. She curled her tiny hand into a fist and slammed it straight into the raptor's nose; the creature took a step back and snorted a third time, all of the air rushing out of it as it looked at her in surprise. It studied her for a moment, and she curled her hand back for another strike.
It didn't give her that chance; it took a few steps backwards, so that it was no longer standing above her. She pulled herself back to her feet. Its black eyes stayed on her this time, unmoving, unrelenting.
"Breathe Deep," It said again. And this time, she studied it as hard as it was studying her. What would a carnivore reply to that greeting? Not 'Fly high'. Certainly not 'Seek Peace'. She searched herself for the answer for a long moment, then turned to those black eyes.
The answer lay deep within herself; and deep within the raptor. She only needed to look. And, after a long, silent search, she found her answer.
With an accent as heavy as the raptor's, she answered in Saurian, "Hunt Well."
The raptor seemed almost relieved by her response. It slowly lowered its head, almost in a bow, then turned away from her, walking with agile footsteps over to where her knife had been thrown. It nudged the blade towards her with its long toe-claw, and she scooped it off the grass, wondering what it was planning to do next. It locked eyes with her for a moment, then turned away, sounding out an order in Saurian: "Follow."
It was probably a stupid thing to do, to follow a raptor that had just tried to kill you. It would probably laugh about it with its buddies later; if raptors had buddies, and if they could laugh. Hey, you remember that kid? The one that was stupid enough to follow you back home, so you could kill it there and not have to drag its carcass the whole way? Wasn't that a riot?
But she had felt something. She had felt something with this raptor, she was sure of it. A connection that went deeper then anything she'd ever had back in the heart of Dinotopia, back in Waterfall City or any of the other 'civilized' places. And, really, if the raptor wanted to kill her, there was nothing she could do to stop it anyway.
She followed. She had to run to keep up with its swift pace, but she had soon caught up to it, running by its side while it walked with a grace she'd never seen before. A kind of lean grace, as opposed to slow and careful. It turned to her.
"Name?" it seemed to ask; her Saurian was not perfect, so it could've been asking for a recipe for cheese for all she knew. But that was certainly what it sounded like.
She tried very hard to think back to her basic classes, to remember how to say what she wanted to. After a moment, she realized she couldn't remember how to say, "My name is," and decided it would be much easier to simply answer, "I have none." It certainly sounded better in the raptor's accent, so this was what she replied.
It glanced at her, and did not question it. She followed the raptor away, far away from her old life, far away from what was safe.
And, though she did not know it yet, she followed it into a future filled with danger. A different life. And everything she was looking for.