Twilight Valley is a 2006 fanfiction by Jakayrta.

Chapter 1: The Dream

Littlefoot's heart raced as he ran through the desolate canyon. Hard grey walls rose from the rocky ground and the skies overhead were filled with threatening thunderheads. Heavy thudding footsteps followed him as he ran through the seemingly infinite canyon. Fear drove his powerful legs even faster; his own footsteps sounding like mere raindrops against the thunderous footsteps of his pursuer.

Behind Littlefoot was his old nemesis, Sharptooth. But Sharptooth no longer looked like an ordinary sharptooth. Instead, he bore an utterly demonic look. Two blue crystalline blades grew atop his hands. Each blade was tipped with a wickedly sharp point that looked like it could punch through a rock with no effort. His eyes had no pupils but yet they emitted a menacing blue-white glow, like the color of a lightning bolt.

Littlefoot turned a corner, hoping to find a way out of this hellish canyon. But instead he found nothing. Nothing but a sheer grey wall of rock.

Sharptooth rounded the corner and roared at Littlefoot.

Littlefoot, overcome by panic and desperation, tried to run past Sharptooth but Sharptooth merely raised one of his arms and the two walls of the canyon slid together allowing his massive body blocked the entire entrance to the canyon.

Sharptooth crept closer, jaw open for the kill and dripping with saliva.

Littlefoot could do nothing but scream, scream in pure terror as his death crept closer.

All of a sudden, he found himself in his nest at the Great Valley, bathed in the cool, white light of the Night Circle. But the peaceful scene belied how Littlefoot felt. He was breathing heavily and his heart felt like he had run from Saurus Rock to the Thundering Falls Lake, multiple times.

In the decades that passed since he and his friends have discovered the Great Valley, Littlefoot has significantly grown. He had grown much larger and more muscular, though still not yet fully grown. His brown eyes carried the powerful aura of one who was in command, yet they still retained some of the old childhood warmth.

"Another bad dream," he muttered. "But why is it always that one?" Littlefoot's voice too, had changed; he had lost the childish tenor and gained a rich, powerful but yet warm voice.

Littlefoot pondered the question for a moment and decided it was not worth it. He then went back to sleep.

As he drifted off to sleep, he missed the twin streaks of blue light passing overhead and two outlines silhouetted against the moon.

On a lush tropical island out on the Big Water, far from the Great Valley, a sharptooth by the name of Chomper awoke from the same terrifying dream. He looked around his nest, seeing nothing but towering trees and the sleeping forms of his parents nearby. He dismissed the dream as that, nothing more and went back to sleep.

Several hours later as dawn approached, Littlefoot awoke for the second time. To his surprise, Petrie, one of his childhood friends, was standing in front of him.

"What?" Littlefoot said groggily.

"Littlefoot, wake up!" Petrie said. He too, had grown in the decades that had passed, his voice deepened and gained a somewhat richer tone but yet a childish aspect still lurked in his voice.

"What is it?"

"Me hear about something at Two Boulder Pass. Cera say others at Two Boulder Pass," Petrie replied. His distinct childhood speech pattern still remained.

"Well, I guess we better check it out," Littlefoot replied.

He then made his way to Two Boulder Pass. As he did so, he noticed that several other dinosaurs were also en route.

"What could be so important?" he asked aloud. He racked his brain for the last time something had attracted the attention of the entire valley. The Swarming Leaf Gobblers and the time the Thundering Falls had dried up came to mind but he quickly dismissed them as he figured the meeting would be at the Thundering Falls Lake. He continued racking his brain but only came up with one other possibility: the Stone of Cold Fire. He dismissed that almost immediately as he figured it was nothing more than a myth.

"Me no know," Petrie replied. He was flying just above Littlefoot's head.

When he finally arrived at Two Boulder Pass, a rather impatient Cera greeted him.

"Took you long enough," she said testily. Unlike Littlefoot and Petrie, Cera had changed significantly in the decades since they first met. Yes, she grew larger but her two other horns had begun to grow out. They had not reached adult size, but they were still impressive. Her light yellow skin had matured to a deep gold color and her sea green eyes had changed into a vivid malachite with a trace of blue around the edges. The only hint that she was still Cera was her somewhat acerbic personality and her surprisingly deep, yet feminine voice.

"Cera, can't you just ease off, I just got up! And what happened?" Littlefoot replied.

"This is important! And see for yourself, you won't believe it if I told you."

Littlefoot grumbled and with Petrie on his back, he pushed his way through the crowd. Gasps were audible from the gathered dinosaurs.

After several minutes of shoving his way through the crowd, Littlefoot and Petrie were able to spot what the cause of the excitement was.

It was a midsized impact crater. The ground around the impact crater was scorched and hardened rock droplets were spattered around the impact site. The object that had caused the impact was right in the middle of the crater, completely undamaged.

Littlefoot gaped as he beheld the object. "It can't be," he whispered in awe.

Petrie also gazed upon the object. He too had heard tales of the Stone of Cold Fire but he too dismissed them as mere myth. "It the real thing," he whispered, with equal astonishment and awe.

Chapter 2: The Stone of Cold Fire

The object in question was a meteorite about half the size of Littlefoot's head. But unlike other meteorites, which were inevitably pitted and scorched from their high speed plunge through the atmosphere; this meteorite was completely undamaged. In fact, nothing marred its glassy, reflective surface. Even stranger was its color; most meteorites were an unremarkable black, brown or grey but this meteorite was a shade of icy blue like that of glacier ice.

Littlefoot and the surrounding dinosaurs stared out of awe and curiosity of this strange meteorite. Some of the dinosaurs showed clear expressions of astonishment but most just simply stared at the meteorite as if it were nothing more that a harmless curiosity.

Many minutes passed before Littlefoot spoke up. "Guys, I really think that this might be the actual Stone of Cold Fire," he said.

Chattering broke out among the gathered dinosaurs. Many of them could not believe what they had heard. The real Stone of Cold Fire had landed in their valley…which made no sense since everyone knew the Stone of Cold Fire was just a myth. Some of the dinosaurs backed away from the group so they could snicker without offending Littlefoot while some of the less polite snickered within earshot of Littlefoot.

Cera and Ducky pushed their way through the crowd just as Littlefoot had finished speaking

Cera rolled her eyes. "Littlefoot, you're too old to be believing in stories like that," she said.

Ducky nodded as well. She had not changed much aside from growing larger. Her light green skin and sky blue eyes of her childhood remained. "The Stone of Cold Fire is just a story. It is, it is," she said. Her speech had not changed at all. Her voice still had a childish lilt to it and her verbal quirks were still present.

"What's all the fuss about?" Mr. Threehorn demanded, pushing his way through the crowd. Some of the gathered dinosaurs rolled their eyes at him; the decades had done nothing to tone down his arrogance or bluntness.

"Well, Mr. Threehorn, a rather odd sky-rock has landed and it looks just like the mythical Stone of Cold Fire." Grandpa Longneck said.

Mr. Threehorn groaned. "Damn it, we had this occur with Pterano and his two accomplices! The stone was a fake then, it is a fake now and it will always be a fake!" he said.

As soon as he finished speaking, the stone emitted a pulse of blue light, as if it had heard Mr. Threehorn's words. Arcs of blue-white electricity began to dance across its icy surface. Many of the dinosaurs backed away from the crater in fear. Some of the dinosaurs simply bolted.

"Uh, Mr. Threehorn, you may want to reconsider," Littlefoot said with a slight tremor in his voice as he hastily backed away.

Almost as soon as Littlefoot finished speaking, some lightning bolts struck a boulder near him, gouging deep trenches in the hard rock. More lightning bolts issued forth from the crater, bombarding the landscape with searing bolts.

"Scatter!" Grandpa Longneck shouted as he dashed away from the impact site. What he had said was totally unnecessary as many dinosaurs had already fled or taken cover behind rocks when the bolts began issuing forth from the crater.

"No, it can't be the Stone of Cold Fire!" Cera said. Deep down, she knew there could be no other explanation but she hated being wrong. She, Littlefoot, Petrie and Ducky were crouched behind a large rock that shuddered under the constant impact of lightning,

"What else could it be?" Littlefoot shouted over the crackling of the lightning bolts.

"I don't know!"

Petrie was shuddering violently from fear as he remained behind the rock. He wanted to say that it was the Stone of Cold Fire but fear had rendered him mute.

Suddenly the sound of the lightning bolts bombarding the vicinity stopped.

"Is it over?" Littlefoot asked.

Cera peered out from behind the boulder. "It's over," she said.

Littlefoot stuck his head over the boulder and peered around. What he saw astonished him.

The area was completely devastated. Boulders and cliff faces had gouges carved in them from the ferocious lightning storm. Smaller boulders were blasted to rubble. Craters and scorch marks marred the rocky ground. The stench of ozone hung in the air. To Littlefoot's horror, there some dinosaurs - their bodies burned - were killed by the powerful electrical discharges.

Cera, Ducky and Petrie followed Littlefoot out from behind the boulder and onto the ravaged landscape.

"That stone is not a very nice stone. Oh no, no, no!" Ducky said, shaking her head and surveying the destruction.

"You think!" Cera replied. Several dinosaurs were also coming out from behind cover and surveying the damage.

"Everyone head immediately to the Thundering Falls Lake!" Grandpa Longneck's disembodied voice called.

Littlefoot sighed. "No guesses to what this is about," he said.

He then headed off to the Thundering Falls Lake along with the other dinosaurs.

A few minutes later, the group arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake. There, several dinosaurs were gathered, chattering about the strange meteorite.

"Everyone," Grandpa Longneck began.

The dinosaurs gathered ceased chattering and turned their eyes to Grandpa Longneck. The tension in the air was almost palpable.

Grandpa Longneck cleared his throat. "As you have no doubt witness, a sky-rock has just landed in Two Boulder Pass. While I am hesitant to say that it is truly the Stone of Cold Fire, there is no doubt that stone possesses power and dangers that we do not know of. Therefore, everyone must stay away from Two Boulder Pass. Dismissed," he said.

Gasps tore through the crowd. Stay away from Two Boulder Pass? Grandpa Longneck rarely if ever ordered the adults to stay away from anything; let alone one of the more important entrances and exits to the Great Valley!

The crowd dispersed to go about their own business. Littlefoot was pondering exactly what was going on. His brain was charged with thousands of questions. Is that really the Stone of Cold Fire? Will someone try to steal it? Will it pose a threat to the Valley? Littlefoot sighed and headed off to the Feeding Grounds.

When he arrived at the Feeding Grounds, he spotted Ducky, Petrie, Cera, Spike and Ruby playing a game of toss-the-seed. Littlefoot decided to join in. Toss-the-seed was one of his favorite childhood games and it was still one of his favorites. He wondered why Ruby was here but he quickly remembered that a herd of Fast-Runners – Ruby among them - had immigrated to the Great Valley several years before. He mentally kicked himself for forgetting that important fact.

"Heads up!" Ruby shouted, as she tossed the seed to Littlefoot. Ruby was quite a bit taller now and her magenta skin darkened to light ruby color. Her voice had also matured and it gained a slight lyrical quality; not to mention her speech patterns had changed; no longer did she repeat a statement at the end of her sentence.

Littlefoot headbutted the seed to Spike, who sent it flying back at Ducky, who swatted it into the air towards Ruby.

And so the cycle repeated itself, child-like laughter echoing from the group as they rejoiced in an old childhood game.

Eventually, as night fell, the group dispersed and headed to their nests to sleep.

Littlefoot lay in his nest, pondering the day's events. He drifted off to sleep as the Night Circle rose high into the starlit sky.

Chapter 3: Surprise Visitors

As the sun rose over the Great Valley, bathing it in golden light, the dinosaurs began to awaken and go about their daily business.

Littlefoot awoke and headed off to the Feeding Grounds to eat breakfast.

As he munched on some treestars, thoughts ran through his head like the arcs of lightning from the Stone of Cold Fire. His friends were with him as well but he did not feel like striking up a conversation with them. Cera was eating some tree sweets as she watched Dana and Dinah playfully chase each other. She was reminded of how she used to do the same when she was a child. Their light laughter rang out across the Feeding Grounds.

"Dana and Dinah look like they are having fun. They do, they do," Ducky said. She was more focused on watching them play rather than eating her meal of treestars.

Cera sighed. "I love them, but damn, they gave me a lot of trouble when I babysat them," he said.

"Cera! It is not good to swear in front of children! It is not, it is not!"

Cera sighed as she continued eating her meal. Truth be told, she had rather foul mouth, most of it picked up from her father.

Spike made a grumbling noise of disapproval at Cera's swear. He was perfectly capable of speaking but still maintained his decade long vow of silence. The nubs on his tail grew out to four deadly spikes, turning his tail into a formidable weapon. The bony triangular plates on his back were also starting to grow. His dark green skin and brown eyes remained untouched by the years.

The group continued eating their meals in silence.

Suddenly, Ruby ran up to the group. "Chomper's back!" she said. Chomper was a sharptooth who used to live in the Great Valley after Littlefoot's group rescued him as an egg decades before. Eventually, he returned to his island home. Later – driven by curiosity – he decided to explore the Great Valley. He met up with the friendly Fast-Runner, named Ruby and the two decided to live in the Great Valley. But as the years passed, pressure from the Great Valley inhabitants forced Ruby to take Chomper back to his island home, this time permanently.

"Chomper's back?" Littlefoot asked with a note of disbelief. He could barely contain his excitement. He was going to see one of his long-lost friends!

Cera rolled her eyes. "Well, I guess I don't need my tail any more," she said.

"Come on, Cera, that happened over ten cold times ago."

"It still happened! Look, Littlefoot, I know that he's a friend but he can never be one of us."

Littlefoot sighed. "Isn't being a friend of ours almost the same as being one of us?" he asked.

Cera sighed; Littlefoot had outmaneuvered her. "You win, let's go see him," she said.

Ruby waited for Littlefoot to gather his friends and then she led them to the main entrance of the Great Valley.

The main entrance of the Great Valley was marked by a majestic red stone archway. High canyons of red stone stood on both sides of entrance. Some Great Valley dinosaurs patrolled the area to keep out hostiles.

Chomper and his two parents were present, but the three patrolling Spiketails kept the three from advancing any further. Chomper had grown significantly in the decades since they first saw him. His light blue skin had changed into a dark, almost sapphire blue. He had also grown much taller; he was now almost the same height as Ruby but he also appeared to be a bit more muscular. The only things that remained constant were his red eyes and the smile on his face.

The three guards were quite surprised when Littlefoot and his group approached the three sharpteeth and started talking to them; nonetheless, the Spiketails still were wary about the three.

"Chomper, what make you come back and bring your parents with you?" Petrie asked, flitting above everyone's heads.

"Well, Petrie, I just wanted to meet my old friends. Oh, and I kept getting some weird sleep story telling me to go to the Great Valley," Chomper replied. His voice was quite a bit deeper now with a slight growling undertone. But despite the growling undertone, his voice still sounded jovial and friendly.

"Well, Chomper whatever the case, I am glad to see you," Littlefoot said.

Spike nuzzled Chomper affectionately. Chomper petted Spike's head in reply. "Still the same old Spike, eh?" he said with a laugh.

"Well, Chomper…I guess it's nice to see you," Cera said.

"Still the same Cera? The one I remember was a little meaner," Chomper asked.

"Of course it's the same Cera!"

Everyone laughed at Cera's outburst.

"Chomper, I am glad to see you, I am, I am," Ducky said.

"I am glad to see you too, Ducky," Chomper replied.

"More to the point, how do we know that these sharpteeth aren't dangerous!" A Spiketail guard asked.

"If we were dangerous, we wouldn't be talking to Littlefoot and his friends, now would we?" Chomper asked with a smirk.

Littlefoot's friends chortled at Chomper's sarcastic reply. The guard backed off.

"On a side note, Chomper, how did you get here?" Littlefoot asked.

"We just crossed the landbridge," Chomper replied.

"But the landbridge was sunk by an earthshake."

"Actually, it is not sunken at all, it just gets covered and uncovered with the tides."

"Perhaps we should bring this to my grandparent's attention?" Littlefoot said.

"That sound like good idea," Petrie replied.

Littlefoot and two Threehorn guards escorted the family of sharpteeth to the Thundering Falls Lake. Cera, Petrie, Ducky and Spike followed behind them.

Meanwhile, far in the Mysterious Beyond, there rested a valley of sharpteeth. This was known as Claw Valley. Plant eaters of all types lived there as well but they served as nothing more than a food source.

"Why haven't those two bumbling flyers come back yet?" a gold sharptooth demanded. A sharptooth child nearby chased a young Longneck in what seemed like an innocent game of tag. But the game of tag had a deadly conclusion; the young sharptooth caught the young Longneck and engaged it in a wrestling match. The sharptooth easily overcame her opponent and quickly tore out the Longneck's throat, staining the grass red with blood. Soon, other young sharpteeth joined in, tearing at the Longneck's carcass and sending blood and bits of flesh flying through the air.

"Patience," a grey sharptooth said coolly. "We will have the Stone of Cold Fire soon enough."

"It has been nearly four nights!"

"Don't complain about that! We only have a vague idea of its location! It takes time to hunt for anything! So shut your damn mouth and wait!" the gold sharptooth shot back, not bothering to watch his language.

Just outside the stony walls of the Great Valley, two Egg Stealers were standing near a small oasis. A natural spring flowed from the rocky walls, forming a small river where some shrubs and grass grew in the normally arid area.

Both Egg-Stealers looked remarkably alike with light tan bodies, long limbs, long necks and yellow eyes. However, one was noticeably skinnier and shorter than the other.

"I'm hungry. Why can't I eat some of this?" the skinny Egg-Stealer asked, plucking a branch laden with berries off one of the bushes.

"Strut! Drop that branch right now, you leaf-licker!" the other Egg-Stealer ordered, snatching the branch from Strut and grinding it into the grass underfoot.

"But Ozzie, I'm hungry!" Strut – the skinny Egg-Stealer – whined.

"If we can get that blue rock – Stone of Cold Fire I think it was – we can have all the eggs we could ever want," Ozzie – the other Egg-Stealer – replied.

"But I don't like eggs! And that 'Stone of Cold Fire' isn't going to make me feel full!" Strut countered, reaching out to grab another berry laden branch.

Ozzie saw Strut grab the branch and he roughly swatted the branch away.

"We are finding that rock! And I could care less about your appetite!" Ozzie shouted.

He then headed towards narrow pass that led into the outskirts of the Great Valley.

Strut took the opportunity to pluck some berries and eat them. But he let his stomach do the thinking and he was soon stuffing himself on the succulent red berries.

Ozzie was midway through the pass when he noticed that Strut was not with him. He swore under his breath, promising to beat him for this transgression. He returned to the outside oasis and found Strut eating the berries.

"Strut! Spit those berries out now!" he ordered.

"But they're so good. Really sweet and juicy!" he said with a mouthful of the berries. He offered a handful to Ozzie.

Ozzie swung around with a tail whip, striking Strut's hand and sending the berries to the ground. "I will not degrade myself by eating green food! Now spit those berries out!" he replied.


"Strut. Spit. Those. Berries. Out. Now!"

"But, the-"

"Spit them out or I will punch you until you spit them out!"

Strut reluctantly spat out the delicious berries he had been eating. Ozzie then roughly dragged him by the arm through the passage.

Chomper's introduction to the Great Valley was somewhat difficult to say the least. Several times, he had been the target of some very insulting comments and threats. Many of the dinosaurs simply had not even bothered to go to the meeting at the Thundering Falls Lake. Luckily, Ruby, Grandma Longneck, Grandpa Longneck and Littlefoot were able to smooth things over as the meeting progressed.

Unfortunately, the cry of "Sharptooth attack! Great Rock Path!" uttered by one of the flyers who just happened to fly over the Great Rock Path more or less ruined Ruby's efforts at reconciliation. Hostile stares penetrated Chomper and his parents.

Chomper staggered back as he felt the eyes of the Great Valley dinosaurs boring into him. "Please understand that we have nothing to do with this!" he pleaded.

"Liar! Get out of this valley before we make you!" a dark brown Threehorn shouted.

"He's telling the truth! I swear on it!" Littlefoot added.

An angry crowd shouted down Littlefoot. Seething, he was forced to back away.

Grandpa Longneck cleared his throat. "Everyone, we need to deal with the more active threat, that is that sharpteeth at the Great Rock Path," he said.

The dinosaurs looked at each other before they headed to the Great Rock Path.

"Me guess we have to come along too," Petrie said with a sigh. He sort of missed his carefree childhood.

"Yes," Littlefoot said. Part of him wished for his childhood back but another part of him saw this as the first step to becoming the leader of the Great Valley.

Littlefoot and his friends followed the other adults to the Great Rock Path.

"Wait, I'll help too!" Chomper said. He made to follow the group but two Threehorns blocked his path and forced him back.

En route to the Great Rock Path, Littlefoot noticed that Ducky's mother – or Ms. Swimmer as she was known – was carrying a heavy branch to use as a weapon. He also noticed that the vast majority of the dinosaurs were unarmed; it was the rare Fast-Runner that wielded something like a stick or a rock as a weapon.

Petrie's mother, Petrie and some other flyers were flying overhead. They mostly served a support role in when it came time to fight.

The Great Rock Path was a somewhat desolate area near the Feeding Grounds. The area was pocked with rubble piles and the ground was littered with small rocks. Some scraggly bushes grew in the rocky terrain.

The first dinosaurs to arrive were Littlefoot's grandparents and Mr. Threehorn. The sharpteeth – two fast-biters, a dark grey sharptooth and a dark green sharptooth– visibly recoiled upon seeing two Longnecks and a Threehorn. But this display of force was not enough to dissuade them. They wanted food and they did not care who was in their way.

More Great Valley dinosaurs arrived at the scene. They assumed fighting positions, pawed the ground and glared at the sharpteeth, hoping to scare them into fleeing.

In response, the sharpteeth roared and bared their teeth.

Neither side was directly attacking yet but simply attempting to intimidate the other side. The stand off persisted until a fast-biter, losing patience, leapt at Ms. Swimmer.

Ms. Swimmer's heart jumped and almost instinctively, she swung her club, catching the fast-biter square in the head with a sickening thud. The impact actually sent a small spray of blood into the air as the hard wood club connected with the fast-biter's skull. The fast-biter sailed through the air and landed on the ground in a small puddle of blood. That the sharpteeth advanced as soon as Ms. Swimmer killed the fast-biter.

Mr. Threehorn faced off against the green sharptooth. He circled around, looking for an opening so he could charge and cripple his opponent. The sharptooth roared and tried to bite down on his back but he quickly charged forward, dodging the deadly bite. He wheeled around and prepared to charge at the sharptooth's unprotected flank. The sharptooth roared and immediately faced Mr. Threehorn, who quickly aborted his charge to avoid running straight into an attack. In turning to face Mr. Threehorn, the sharptooth opened itself up to an attack by Grandma Longneck. She swung her heavy tail up into the sharptooth's chin, snapping its head back. She followed her tail uppercut with a powerful body blow tail whip. The blow landed with a crack as some of the sharptooth's ribs broke under the heavy blow. The sharptooth staggered and roared, lumbering towards Grandma Longneck with its mouth gaping in anticipation of prey. Mr. Threehorn wasted no time in driving his horns deep into the sharptooth's leg. The sharptooth roared in agony as the horns tore through skin and flesh. Mr. Threehorn kept pushing, ignoring the pain in his head as he ground his horns deeper. Eventually, he was unable to keep it up and he pulled back. His face was covered in the sharptooth's blood and he was panting heavily.

The sharptooth toppled over, roaring in agony until Grandpa Longneck finished it off with a stomp to the head.

Meanwhile, the last fast-biter had tried to flee, only to be caught by a group of Fast-Runners. They cornered the fast-biter against the wall and quickly battered it to death with a combination of fists, feet and sticks.

The final sharptooth roared and approached the group.

"Back off!" Grandpa Longneck roared, swinging his tail at the sharptooth.

The sharptooth dodged the tail whip and continued advancing.

Grandma Longneck then knocked the sharptooth's feet out from under it with a sweeping tail whip.

At that moment, several Swimmers snatched rocks from the ground and started bombarding the sharptooth. The hail of rocks opened small gashes that oozed blood and a particularly large rock knocked out a tooth.

"You may have won this match but there are more!" the sharptooth shouted in Sharptooth. The sharptooth staggered to its feet and headed out of the valley.

"Good riddance you bastard!" a grey Swimmer shouted as he tossed a large rock that just missed the sharptooth.

"Well, let's see if we have any casualties," Grandpa Longneck said.

"Fast-Runner hurt," Petrie said. He was hovering at roughly the same height as Grandpa Longneck's head. Below him, Ruby and Cera were carrying a pink Fast-Runner with a piece of flesh missing from her right arm.

"The Threehorns are unhurt," Mr. Threehorn said, glancing around.

The final toll of the battle: two dead fast-biters, one dead sharptooth, a severely injured Fast-Runner, several Fast-Runners with minor scratches and cuts.

"All right, let's return to the Thundering Falls Lake," Mr. Threehorn said.

The dinosaurs turned around and headed out of the Great Rock Path. As they did so, they failed to notice two flyers perched high above them on a narrow rock overhang.

Chapter 4: Flyer Chase

Ozzie and Strut were wandering through a forest in a remote corner of the Great Valley. The air in the forest was humid and smelled of leaf litter. They both snuck past a guard at the nearby entrance and entered the forest before the guard noticed anything.

"Ozzie! I'm hungry!" Strut whined.

"Shut up! We'll eat when we find that stone!" Ozzie snapped. He was starting to lose his patience – not that he had much – with Strut.

"How do we know where that stone landed?"

"Stop complaining and help me look!" Ozzie's stomach growled. "Erm, I guess we could stop to get something to eat," he said.

"Oh good! There's some good-" Strut began before he was roughly cut off by a blow to head from his brother Ozzie.

"No, we have eggs. And never mention P-L-A-N-T-S again!"

Strut rubbed his head where he hand been struck and followed Ozzie.

The two Egg-Stealers eventually made their way out of the forest and into a sunlit clearing. The clearing was overgrown with tall grass and a river snaked its way through the clearing.

Ozzie sniffed the air. "Eggs. And lots of them. Strut, look for them!" Ozzie ordered. He turned around and noticed that Strut was nowhere to be found. "Strut? Where are you?" He heard rustling and the sounds of someone eating coming from behind a clump of tall grass. He went up to the grass, parted it and found Strut gorging himself on some red berries. "Strut! Spit that out right now!" he shouted.

Strut coughed and swallowed his mouthful of berries. "But Ozzie, I'm hungry!" he replied.

Ozzie snatched the branch of berries and threw them into the river. "Make yourself useful and help find some eggs!" Ozzie ordered.

Strut nodded and got to his feet. He desperately wanted to punch Ozzie but he knew that was an idiotic thing to do as Ozzie was substantially stronger than him and he would end up severely beaten if he struck him.

Ozzie sniffed the air and headed off towards the solitary tree in the clearing. Meanwhile, Strut decided to look at a clump of grass near the river. He pushed a clump of grass aside revealing a nest with a single blue egg in it. He scratched his head; he had never seen a blue egg before. He did a double-take as he took a closer look at the egg; the egg was not an egg at all!

It was actually an egg-sized stone. Strut examined the stone closely. It was smooth and rounded like an egg but the most striking feature was its color: a glacial blue. Out of curiosity, he placed his hand on the stone. To his surprise, the stone was as cold as ice despite being the in open sun. The sensation Strut got when he touched it was like that of touching water from a cold, clear mountain stream. But the weirdest of all was the fact that ripples played across its mirrored surface at his touch.

Strut backed away from the strange rock. His heart was racing. Had he found the rock that he and Ozzie were tasked with finding by the sharpteeth? "Ozzie! I found something!" he shouted.

But Ozzie didn't hear him; he was too busy eating some eggs he found in a nest.

Strut groaned. The one time he wanted Ozzie's attention and he did not get it. "Ozzie! Come here!" Strut shouted again, this time a bit louder.

"What is it Strut?" Ozzie said, spitting some eggshells onto the ground.

"I found that stone!" Strut was literally hopping up and down with excitement.

Ozzie grinned. "Perhaps you're not so useless after all. Show me the stone," he said.

Strut led Ozzie to the "nest" where he had found the stone…and found nothing.

Ozzie's excitement changed to outright anger as he gazed upon the empty spot. He glared venomously at Strut. "What do you mean you found the stone? There is nothing here!" he said icily.

"But I swear…"

"We will continue looking! And we will find that stone!" Ozzie said. His voice carried an icy edge to it.

The two Egg-Stealers headed out from the clearing and continued their search at the outskirts of the Great Valley

Meanwhile, two flyers, one a tall tan colored flyer and the other a short dull red flyer flew over the now deserted Great Rock Pass. They flew high enough as not to be seen by the patrols.

"Where is that damn rock!" the large brown flyer said.

"Eh, that's why we're looking for it," the reddish flyer replied.

"Don't be fresh with me, Rinkus. It is not good for you."

Rinkus – the red flyer – gulped. He knew that Sierra was easily capable of great violence when provoked. And it did not take much to provoke him. "Sierra, why don't just grab a dinosaur and torture them for information?" he asked.

Sierra – the tan flyer – grinned. "I like the way you think, Rinkus. We will continue on our search flights but if that fails, we grab a dinosaur and we torture them," he said.

The two were unaware that another flyer, one who bore an uncanny resemblance to Petrie was watching them from above.

"It's those two again. I cannot allow them to start their shenanigans again," it muttered. The flyer made a sharp turn and veered away from the two and headed towards the Thundering Falls Lake. As the flyer did so, the other two headed in the opposite direction, towards the outskirts of the Great Valley.

The Great Valley dinosaurs were gathered at the Thundering Falls Lake for a "post-mission" debriefing. The chatter of dinosaurs perforated the air until Grandpa Longneck called for silence. Chomper and his parents were conspicuously absent from the area.

"All right, we have no deaths on our side and we have successfully defeated the invading sharpteeth. I have reason to believe that this is an isolated event and stepping up patrols is unneeded. In the meantime, watch your children and eggs carefully. Dismissed!" Grandpa Longneck said.

The dinosaurs scattered to go about their daily business. Littlefoot and his friends headed to the outskirts of the Great Valley where Chomper and his parents were being held.

"Cera, you're still not mad that you didn't get to fight one of the fast-biters are you?" Littlefoot asked.

"Damn, straight I am!" Cera snapped, slamming her right foreleg into the grass.

Littlefoot rolled his eyes. He had gotten used to Cera's combative personality by now. He remembered the times she got into a fight with him – she usually won. "Cera, why exactly are you so…obsessed with fighting?" he asked.

"Well, I could say that I get a rush from it. Remember when we were kids and we did things like go into the Mysterious Beyond? Yeah, we probably could have gotten killed but there was that rush. I get that same rush when I fight."

"Okay," Littlefoot said. He decided that probing deeper into Cera's love of combat was inappropriate.

The group then arrived at the outskirts of the Great Valley. Around them were the towering peaks of the Great Rock Wall. A massive forest with tall trees was near them. There were no other dinosaurs present except for Chomper, who was eating some fish from a small pond.

"Oh hi," Chomper said, as he bit the head off of the fish before swallowing it. The group – save for Ruby – recoiled as he did so. Chomper sheepishly grinned. "Sorry about that," he said, eating the rest of the fish.

"So Chomper, are you planning on staying here?" Ruby asked.

Chomper shrugged. "Why not? I get to see you guys all the time. Besides if I keep getting a sleep story that tells me to come to the Great Valley, I guess I should stay," he said.

"What about your parents?" Littlefoot asked. He was trying very hard not to stare at the fish blood on Chomper's face.

"They'll live just outside the valley."

"What about food?" Petrie asked with a slight note of fear in his voice. As much as he liked Chomper, he knew that Chomper was still a sharptooth and both he and his parents viewed him as potential prey.

"I'll eat the crawlers and fish here. My parents will scavenge or hunt outside the Great Valley."

"So now what?" Cera asked.

"I guess we could play a game," Littlefoot suggested.

"How about a game of ball? It is fun, it is, it is," Ducky said.

"Great choice, Ducky!"

Chomper grinned. "It's been so long I've played that game but I'd love to play again!" he said.

Just as Littlefoot's group left the area, Ozzie and Strut exited the forest.

"You idiot! You nearly got us killed!" Ozzie shouted, grabbing Strut by the throat.

"But it…was…an accident," Strut choked out.

"You went up to a sharptooth and asked them about the Stone of Cold Fire! Not all sharpteeth are with Excidium!"

Meanwhile, as Strut and Ozzie were continuing to argue, Sierra and Rinkus were flying overhead at a medium altitude.

"Not a single piece of that damn stone!" Sierra said. His wings were starting to get tired but he did not dare to land in the valley for fear of getting caught by the ground patrols.

The noise of Ozzie and Strut's argument reached their ears.

Rinkus grinned as he clearly heard the words "Stone of Cold Fire" mentioned. "Oh, so it looks like those Egg-Stealers know where that stone is! Let's go-" he said.

"Too late!" Sierra said, cutting Rinkus off midsentence. He flew higher and prepared to dive down.

"Oh, so you do know what my plan is?" Rinkus asked. He decided to follow Sierra higher into the sky

Ozzie was standing over Strut, who appeared to be rather dazed. The argument had degenerated into a fistfight, which Ozzie easily won. "Now, that you agree that I'm better let's go look for that stone," he said.

Strut shook his head. "Strut, my head hurts! Can't I rest a bit?" he whined, holding a hand to his head.

"Strut! Get up and get moving!"

Strut looked up and noticed a pair of flyers diving towards Ozzie. "Ozzie…Behind you!" he said.

"Behind me? What could-" Ozzie was cut off midsentence as Rinkus and Sierra snatched him from the ground. Strut decided to continue lying on the ground as the two flyers flew off with his brother.

Eventually the two flyers managed to carry Ozzie over to a rather large pile of rubble near the Great Rock Wall. Not surprisingly, they did not struggle too much with his weight.

"All right Egg-Stealer, we know you're looking for the Stone of Cold Fire. So tell us where it is and why are you looking for it!" Sierra roared.

"What's the 'Stone of Cold Fire'?" Ozzie asked. He was silently hoping that his feigned ignorance would persuade the flyers to leave him alone.

"You must think we're really dumb to fall for that. I'm going to ask nicely one more time; where is the Stone of Cold Fire and why are you looking for it!"

Ozzie gulped. "I don't know where the stone is and I thought it would be a nice adventure to go search for it," he said.

Sierra ground his beak together. "You know what? We're wasting our time with you so we'll just drop you," he said, preparing to release his grip on Ozzie.

"No wait! I'll tell you everything! Just don't drop me!" Ozzie pleaded.

Sierra grinned. "All right, that's better. I knew we could work something out," he said in mock-pleasant voice.

Ozzie's stomach churned at Sierra's tone of voice. There was something plain wrong about him. "My brother and I were sent by a sharptooth to find the Stone of Cold Fire. And I think that stone's in a large forest with a clearing inside. The clearing has a single tree and a river," he said.

"What was the sharptooth's name?"

Ozzie gulped again. "I think his name was 'Excidium'," he said.

Sierra chuckled. "What luck, that's the same sharptooth who sent us to find that stone," he said. He felt a sense of satisfaction grow within him. Not only would he find the stone, he would eliminate a competitor and satisfy his bloodlust. "Rinkus!" he shouted. "Let go on my count!"

"What! I told you everything I know!" Ozzie protested.

Sierra laughed coldly. "I never said I would let you live after we got all our information," he said.

Ozzie gulped. He racked his brain trying to think of any thing to say that might stave off his impending death but he came up empty. He sighed as he resigned himself to his fate.

"Sierra, wait! He may be more valuable to us alive!" Rinkus shouted.

"How so?" Sierra asked.

"Maybe we can work together and we can find Stone of Cold Fire faster."

"No! That glory shall be ours! Not given to some damn Egg-Stealer!"

"But Sierra," Rinkus said, "Excidium never said that we can't get help. All we need is to get that stone."

Sierra grinned. "Tell you what Egg-Stealer," he said, "you can help us find that stone and we'll share the glory with you. How does that sound?"

"Yes, that sounds good. Now can you please put me down?" Ozzie said. He silently thanked Rinkus – despite not knowing his name – for his good fortune.

On the ground, Strut saw Ozzie dangling from the claws of two large flyers.

"Now's my chance," he muttered as he staggered to his feet and ran off.

As Strut ran off, Sierra and Rinkus lowered Ozzie to the ground.

"All right, lead us to the clearing, Egg-Stealer," Sierra ordered.

"All right but I would prefer that you use my name," Ozzie said haughtily.

Sierra approached Ozzie menacingly. "Listen you ungrateful bastard, we could have just dropped you on that pile of stones and flew off! I suggest you be more polite!" he hissed.

"Sierra, what's the harm in learning his name?" Rinkus asked.

Sierra clenched his fist in anger. "Fine. Rinkus, go tell him our names," he spat.

"Yes thank you, my name is Ozzie," Ozzie said. He was slightly shaken by Sierra's outburst.

"I'm Rinkus and the other flyer is Sierra," Rinkus said.

"Nice to meet you both, especially you Sierra."

"Enough with this, let's go find that stone. Lead the way, Ozzie," Sierra said.

The two flyers took to the air as Ozzie ran towards the grove where he had first found the Stone of Cold Fire. They were fast enough to easily keep pace with him despite his great running speed.

At the Thundering Falls Lakes, the Valley elders were eating or chatting. A gentle breeze blew through the area.

Suddenly, a large brown flyer swooped down and landed on a rock in front of Grandpa Longneck and Mr. Threehorn.

Mr. Threehorn fumed as he laid eyes on the flyer. "Pterano! You are not allowed in this valley! Be gone!" he thundered. Mr. Threehorn had never liked Pterano but the incident with the Stone of Cold Fire turned his distaste into overt hatred.

"Is that any way to greet an old friend?" Pterano asked pleasantly.

"I am not your friend, you backstabbing bastard! Get out of this valley!"

"Mr. Threehorn, Pterano's exile was reduced to five cold times. He has served his sentence and I think it is only fair to allow him back into the valley," Grandpa Longneck said.

"Thank you, Mr. Longneck," Pterano said. He then turned to Mr. Threehorn. "Pity that hatred destroys any hope of forgiveness," he added.

Mr. Threehorn stomped away from the two.

"Pterano, what brings you to the valley?" Grandpa Longneck asked.

Pterano cleared his throat. "I was merely flying over the Valley to meet with Petrie and-" he said.

"And you, Pterano, will under no circumstances see him!" Ms. Flyer snapped, cutting him off midsentence. "You and those two other flyers are a horrible influence on him!"

"Ms. Flyer, please settle down," Grandpa Longneck said.

"Well, I spotted those same two flyers – Sierra and Rinkus – that I foolishly partnered with so many cold times ago," he said.

A collective gasp ran through the group. They remembered how those two flyers had essentially held the entire valley hostage by kidnapping Ducky and her friends.

"And I overheard them talking about finding some rock," Pterano continued.

"It must be that Stone of Cold Fire," Grandma Longneck said.

"We must stop them at once! We do not know of the harm it may cause if it were to fall into the wrong hands!" Grandpa Longneck said. He then turned to Pterano. "Take to the skies and search for those two at once! Everyone else, fan out and look for that stone!" he ordered.

The dinosaurs dispersed in an orderly, yet quick manner.

In the clearing, Sierra, Rinkus and Ozzie were trying to load the Stone of Cold Fire into a leaf sack, which had been crudely cobbled together from some large leaves and sticky tree sap.

"I told you we should have should have made a carrying-nest!" Rinkus said, struggling to get a grip on the stone.

"Shut up and work faster!" Sierra snapped. He was holding the leaf sack as Rinkus and Ozzie struggled to move the slippery stone into the sack.

After much effort and profanities, the three had loaded the stone into the bag and were preparing to fly off.

Sierra clutched the bag in his talons and flapped his wings. To his surprise, the stone felt unusually light. Indeed, it was like the stone did not even have a weight. He rapidly climbed into the afternoon sky.

"What am I supposed to do?" Ozzie asked.

Rinkus looked at some rocks on the stream. "Grab those rocks. We'll need them to fend off Pterano," he said.

"I can't throw that high."

"You'll ride on my back."

Ozzie scratched his head but nonetheless picked up some rocks and placed them on Rinkus's back. He then pondered when was the last time he saw an Egg-Stealer riding a flyer.

"Ozzie! Get moving!" Rinkus shouted.

Ozzie carefully clambered aboard Rinkus. Rinkus then catapulted himself into the air using his wings and legs. A few short flaps later and he was flying high over the Great Valley. To his surprise, Ozzie was not that heavy.

Soon, they had caught up with Sierra and were flying high above the Great Valley.

Unbeknownst to them, Pterano had seen their every move. He immediately wheeled around and sped towards the Thundering Falls Lake, in the process, he smashed through another flock of flyers.

The flock leader shouted some profanities at him. Pterano beckoned for the flock leader to follow him. The flock leader – surprisingly – did so.

When Pterano arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake, the adults were gathered and sharing their findings. Even Chomper's parents had joined in the search. Chomper, of course, had to translate for them. Pterano's sudden arrival stunned everyone.

"They're... flying off… with the Stone of… Cold Fire," Pterano panted.

"Those bastards must be caught!" Cera said.

"But we do not know how! We do not, we do not," Ducky replied.

"We could either use Great Valley flyers to chase them or try and throw rocks at them from the ground," Chomper's father said in Sharptooth.

The gathered dinosaurs looked in puzzlement at him until Chomper quickly translated.

"It sounds dangerous," Ms. Swimmer said.

"Like we have any other choice," A male Runner replied.

Mr. Threehorn, Grandpa Longneck and Grandma Longneck retreated from the assembled group and began to discuss the matter in private. The gathered dinosaurs chattered nervously as the elders spoke.

A few tense moments passed before they revealed their decision.

"All right, we have made our decision. As we have no other choice, we will follow the suggestion by Chomper's father. Flyers to chase the two and the land-walkers will try and hit them from the ground." Grandpa Longneck announced.

Several of the dinosaurs protested but they were silenced by their compatriots. Pterano and a group of flyers were preparing to take off while a group of land-walkers gathered rocks to throw at the enemy flyers.

"We need one more two-footer!" Pterano shouted.

Coincidentally, another Egg-Stealer ran out of the bushes.

"Well, it looks like we got our two-footer!" Pterano said, chuckling slightly.

"Strut! Get lost!" Hyp's father shouted. He picked up a rock and threatened to fling it at him.

"Wait! I can explain! I don't eat eggs! And I can help you find that stone! My brother took it!" Strut said, backing away from Hyp's father. He cursed his bad luck. First, he was beaten and humiliated by his brother and now his plan for revenge was going to backfire in a very painful way.

"Sure," Mr. Threehorn said sarcastically. His icy stare bored into Strut.

"I'm serious! My brother was riding on one of the flyers! I saw them fly overhead as I ran from the edge of the Great Valley! And they're carrying that stone! And I'll help you find him!" Strut pleaded. He was trying not to return Mr. Threehorn's stare for fear of angering him.

"I don't trust him! I don't care if he eats green-food he's still an Egg-Stealer!"

"Mr. Threehorn, Strut may be our only chance of getting the Stone of Cold Fire back. Besides, we need volunteers to chase them and he's the only suitably sized one," Mr. Thicknose said.

Mr. Threehorn grumbled but gave in.

"So what do I do?" Strut asked.

"You're taking to the skies with us!" a dark grey flyer said. Some rocks and sticks were stacked on his back "Now get on!"

"Just a moment, I need to get something," Strut said. He remembered how Ozzie had taught him to use a hollow reed as a fairly effective blowgun. He decided that he would now get Ozzie back for the times that he used him as a practice target. He looked around for a reed. He spotted one growing from the shallows in the Thundering Falls Lake. He yanked the reed from the soft mud, snapped off the root end and blew to clear it of mud. He then grabbed some leaves and twigs and stacked them onto his flyer.

"What are you doing?" the flyer demanded.

Strut said nothing as he wadded up a leaf, shoved it down the reed and dropped a sharp twig after it. He then climbed on board the flyer.

On Pterano's command, the flyers used their wings and legs to fling themselves into the air.

On the ground, several land-walkers scattered throughout the Valley, each with a supply of rocks.

Ozzie, Rinkus and Sierra were comfortably soaring over the Great Valley. Ozzie was enjoying the cool breezes. He tried very hard not to look down as he was slightly afraid of heights. But even with his fear of heights, flight gave him quite a rush.

Suddenly, he spotted a swarm of flyers behind them. At its head were two flyers carrying vines in their talons. "We've got Great Valley flyers after us!" he said.

"Don't stand there, Ozzie! Get them!" Rinkus shouted back.

Ozzie picked up a stone and threw it at a flyer at the edge of the formation. His target abruptly banked to the right, dodging the stone.

As soon as Ozzie picked up another stone, the flyer carrying Chomper flew above Sierra and Rinkus.

"Ready, Chomper?" the flyer that was carrying him asked.

"Ready." Chomper replied, picking up a stone. Truth be told, he was incredibly nervous about riding a flyer hundreds of feet in the air where a misstep or impact meant certain death. But being a sharptooth, he was very good at hiding his fear.

Chomper threw his rock down at Sierra, but he missed.

"Grey-Wing! Get lower!" Chomper shouted.

Grey-Wing obeyed and lowered his altitude so Chomper could take a better shot. Unfortunately this put them within range of Ozzie's attack.

"Get lost!" Ozzie shouted as he threw a rock at Chomper. Chomper ducked and responded by throwing another rock at Ozzie. Ozzie laughed as the rock went wide. But another rock thrown by Chomper cut his laughter short when it narrowly missed his head. He picked another rock and tossed it at Grey-Wing but Grey-Wing suddenly dropped in altitude, causing the rock to soar overheard

Another flyer, who was carrying Ruby, flew next to Grey-Wing. "Get Sierra! Forget about Rinkus and that Egg-Stealer!" Ruby shouted.

Meanwhile, Strut and his flyer were lagging behind the group, thanks to the weight of the cargo that the flyer was carrying.

"Strut, don't put so much damn stuff on my back! I'm strong but I have limits!" the flyer snapped.

Strut ignored the flyer and brought the blowgun to his mouth.

The two vine carrying flyers at the head of the formation flew apart, turning the vines they grasped in their talons into a snare. They flew straight at Rinkus and Sierra, hoping to entangle them in the vines.

Ozzie took aim and threw a rock that knocked out one of the vine carrying flyers. The other flyer dropped the vine and dove down to catch his friend. Ozzie threw another rock downwards. He watched as the falling projectile cracked the remaining flyer in the head, knocking him out or killing him. The two flyers then plummeted to the earth where they fell into the Thundering Falls Lake. He knew that they were out of the fight as he had seen many dinosaurs die as result of falling from a great height into water.

"Nice work!" Rinkus said. Suddenly, something stung his back. "Ow! What was that?" he asked

Ozzie looked around and spotted Strut on a flyer. Strut was frantically trying to reload the blowgun for another shot. Rage filled his body as he laid eyes on his traitorous brother.

"Strut! You plant-popping, leaf-licking bastard! How dare you help the leaf-eaters!" Ozzie shouted. He seized a large rock and hurled it at Strut. Strut's flyer abruptly flew higher, causing the rock to clip another flyer and causing her to spin out of control. Luckily, she was able to regain control before she crashed into a boulder. He was about to grab another rock, but he realized that he had no more.

"Rinkus, I have no more rocks!" Ozzie said.

"Well get some more!" Rinkus shouted.

"Land first!"

Rinkus said nothing but dove down and flew low and slow over the ground.

Ozzie grinned. He had to admire Rinkus's ingenuity. He grabbed the rocks as they flew by them. Rocks and the sharp twigs fired by Strut's blowgun struck behind and around them as the Great Valley flyers attacked them.

"Got the rocks?" Rinkus asked.

"Got 'em!" Ozzie replied.

Rinkus then flew upwards and Ozzie started throwing the rocks at the flyers. The flyers quickly dodged most of the rocks but a few of the rocks struck them, sending them spiraling to the ground.

Pterano then darted ahead of the other flyers and climbed higher until he was until he was above Sierra. "Sierra! Give up the Stone of Cold Fire!" he shouted.

"No can do, Pterano." Sierra said, grinning evilly. He looked ahead and noticed that he was almost at the border of the Great Valley. Rinkus and Ozzie followed behind, keeping the pursuing flyers at bay. Ozzie then noticed Pterano preparing to dive into Sierra. He grabbed a rock and threw it at Pterano. The rock struck Pterano in the side, stunning him for a moment. He tossed another rock at Pterano's left wing. This rock clipped Pterano, injuring his wing and substantially slowing him down. Sierra and Rinkus then sped past him.

Pterano managed to glide gently to the ground. He landed near the Great Rock Path. There several dinosaurs were gathered with a supply of rocks at the ready. Many of the dinosaurs simply chose to hand the rocks to Great Valley flyers who landed.

"They're heading this way!" Pterano said. He was clutching his injured left wing.

"We can't say we didn't try," Hyp said. He was idly tossing a rock back and forth.

Littlefoot looked at a sapling nearby. Suddenly, a decades old memory resurfaced. He remembered his grandfather bending tall trees down for him so he could more easily get the treestars. He remembered how he tried to imitate his grandfather only to get painfully thrown on his back. He remembered the elation he felt when he managed to get it right and he got the honors of launching the rock that sealed the breach in the Great Rock Wall. Surely, this would enable them to hit the flyers.

"All Longnecks!" Littlefoot shouted. "Bend the saplings over and put rocks on them!"

The Longnecks stared at Littlefoot like he had gone insane.

"Pardon?" a green Longneck asked.

"Just do it, flatheads! He knows what he's doing!" Cera shouted. She was already in a bad mood from Hyp's taunting several minutes before. The dinosaurs questioning her friend's idea and the fact that Sierra and Rinkus were getting away made her even more upset.

The Longnecks, stunned by the ferocity of Cera's words, obeyed. They were too focused on hoping that this last-ditch plan worked to care about Cera's use of the slur "flathead". The Longnecks carefully bent down the saplings as Fast-Runners and Runners placed rocks on the leaves.

As soon as the flyers passed overhead, the Longnecks released their saplings, sending stones of all shapes and sizes flying through the air.

"All right! We got those bastards!" Cera shouted as a large rock slammed into Sierra, sending him into a dive. Surprisingly, he did not let go of the leaf sack.

"Don't get too excited," Littlefoot said as he looked skywards.

Cera looked skywards and to her surprise, Sierra was flying along as if nothing happened. He jaw dropped in shock. "But…But how? That rock should have killed him!" she said.

The other dinosaurs stared at the departing flyers as well. They had been bombarded several times with rocks but they flew off as if nothing had happened. Chatter broke out among the dinosaurs; the atmosphere of determination had suddenly become one of disappointment and fear.

Littlefoot stared into the sky, racking his brain for theories on what happened. He suddenly remembered what the mysterious "Rainbow Faces" told him; the Stone of Cold Fire was rumored to give supernatural strength to those who come in contact with the stone. "Guys," he said, "that stone did something to them. I think it may have made them stronger or something."

"You think it made them stronger? Gee, way to state the obvious!" Mr. Threehorn said gruffly. He was never that polite to begin with and the potential threat posed by the Stone of Cold Fire falling into the hands Sierra and Rinkus made him even more irritable.

Littlefoot said nothing in reply to Mr. Threehorn's harsh reply. He inwardly fumed as he saw his plan fall apart before his eyes.

The other flyers had broken off the chase and landed when Sierra and his group passed over the Longnecks. The bodies of the two dead flyers were retrieved from the Thundering Falls Lake and placed on the shore.

"We failed," Chomper said, hanging his head in shame. His face was reddened from the wind.

"It is not your fault, it is not, it is not," Ducky said, placing a hand on Chomper's shoulder.

Ruby said nothing as she walked towards the Feeding Grounds.

"At least my brother isn't going to be around here anymore," Strut said in a poor attempt at optimism. In truth, he was afraid that his brother might come back for revenge. He flicked some blood away from a gash on his face caused by a rock that Ozzie threw at him. His body had several more scratches but they did not bother them. He placed his blowgun against a boulder and went off to a nearby berry bush to eat. Several of the two-footers examined the blowgun for they had never seen anything like this.

A gold Fast-Runner picked it up and peered through it. "It's a reed but it's not hollow," she said.

"Might be blocked. Blow into it," a light green Swimmer said.

The Fast-Runner bought the reed to her mouth and blew. Unfortunately for the Swimmer, the blowgun was loaded and he was right in its line of fire.

"Watch it!" he shouted, scratching the area underneath his eye where the dart struck him.

"Ah, so it is a weapon?"

"Bring it to Mr. Bigmouth," the green Swimmer said.

The Fast-Runner picked up the blowgun and headed off to Mr. Bigmouth's Grove.

Pterano stared into the sky with an expression of grim determination. He was not going to let Sierra win. "I'm going to chase Sierra! No one else must follow!" Pterano said. He crouched down in preparation for takeoff.

"Uncle Pterano, don't!" Petrie said.

"Pterano! There is a difference between bravery and foolishness! What you are doing is foolish!" Grandpa Longneck said.

Before anyone could stop him, Pterano launched himself into the air and flew out of the valley at a high rate of speed.

"I must catch them!" he said to himself. He stared into the distance. He saw Sierra and Rinkus as specks on the setting sun. He willed himself to fly faster, ignoring the pain in his muscles and injured wing. But it was useless; he soon lost sight of them as the sun san below the horizon.

He wheeled around and headed back to the Great Valley with nothing more than the stars to guide him. He sighed, Grandpa Longneck was right; what he had done was foolish.

As he turned back, he failed to notice a herd of Longnecks sleeping out under the stars.

Chapter 5: Betrayal

The dangers were many in the Mysterious Beyond; marauding plant-eaters, predators and simple misdirection sent many dinosaurs to an early death. Even the weather posed a threat as it did during this cool night far away from the Great Valley.

There was no cool breeze, just a sheet of water pouring from the skies like a great waterfall. Menacing black thunderheads towered in the sky, blotting out the Night Circle. Searing arcs of blue-white lightning rent the skies as thunder boomed like the roar of some great beast. Lightning bolts struck the rocky terrain, carving out craters.

No dinosaur would dare travel through this landscape.

None save for one.

The sole traveler was a sharptooth, blue-green with two red stripes running down his tail. His heart raced as he glanced behind him. There was no sound except for his heavy breathing and the sound of pouring rain. He stopped briefly to collect his thoughts and rest for a moment. Had he saved his brother at the cost of his own life?

The crack of a lightning bolt obliterating a nearby rock forced him to make his decision, lest he be killed by a lightning bolt or the sharpteeth sent after him.

He had heard of a place the sharpteeth referred to as the "Death Lands". All sharpteeth know about this place, supposedly all sharpteeth who have the misfortune of running into the Death Lands are killed…gruesomely.

He sniffed the air; the scent of the sharpteeth after him reached his nostrils. It was either take his chances in the Death Lands or take his chances with the sharpteeth.

Taking a deep breath, he made his decision.

He ran towards the Great Valley.

The Great Valley was blanketed under a moonless night. There were no soaring thunderheads like in the Mysterious Beyond but rain poured from the skies.

All the dinosaurs were asleep save for the few dinosaurs who were patrolling the valley.

As day broke, it revealed a steely overcast sky and a rain soaked landscape. Mud puddles dotted the valley.

Littlefoot and his friends were gathered by the Hot Springs. The ground was far too muddy and slippery for them to play games.

"What we do now?" Petrie asked.

"We can't play ball can we?" Ruby asked.

Littlefoot stepped onto some muddy grass with a squish. "Not unless you want you spend more time sliding around than hitting the ball," he said with a sigh.

Chomper groaned. He was starting to get bored with simple chatting. "Too bad Cera's not here. She'd liven things up," he said. Even though he and Cera had somewhat of a rocky relationship, her acerbic wit tended to disperse boredom.

"But Cera swears too much, she does, she does," Ducky said. Even though she liked Cera a lot, Ducky really did not appreciate Cera's foul mouth.

Littlefoot said nothing as he stared into the bubbling waters of the Hot Springs. He did have to admit that Ducky did have a point, Cera did liven things up but she tended to do so with a rather copious application of profanity and crude humor.

When Hyp and his group arrived, Littlefoot's friends paid them no heed.

"What do you want?" Chomper asked.

"Nothing, just to tell you some Far-Walkers are in the valley and at the Thundering Falls Lake," Hyp said.

Almost immediately, Littlefoot's eyes lit up. "Far-Walkers! That means…Yes, Ali!" he shouted.

Hyp shrugged. "Dunno, who 'Ali' is but seems like she means a lot to you," he said.

"Of course she means a lot! I haven't seen her in so many cold times!"

He then galloped off towards the Thundering Falls Lake with his friends following.

When they arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake, they saw the Far-Walkers. The herd was mostly composed of Longnecks but some other dinosaurs were present as well.

Chomper gulped as he saw the herd of Longnecks. "Erm, I'm going to take my parents and go fishing somewhere," he said nervously. He was somewhat afraid of Far-Walkers ever since the Old One and her herd tried to kill him. Even though that incident happened over a decade ago, he still harbored trauma from it.

"Okay," Littlefoot said.

Chomper led his parents away from the group and towards the lake in a remote section of the Great Valley that they fished in.

Littlefoot scanned the Far-Walker herd for any faces he remembered. His face lit up as he spotted four familiar Longnecks. The last familiar Longneck caused him to groan in disgust.

"Shorty, Ali, dad? You're back!" he said excitedly, running up to the three.

"Littlefoot, my, you're even more handsome that I remember!" Ali said, nuzzling him. Ali's pink highlights had deepened into a beautiful garnet coloration and her voice deepened and gained a rich, clear tenor.

Bron – Littlefoot's father – looked at his son. "Well, Littlefoot, I'd say you're growing up to be a fine, strong Longneck. Why, I might as well make you leader of the herd now!" he said with a chuckle. He was joking though; he knew how important his friends were to him and could never break apart the friendship.

"Thanks, dad," Littlefoot said.

"Hi, Littlefoot," Shorty said, not looking Littlefoot in the eye. Shorty had grown as well. He was slightly taller than Littlefoot and his voice had a rich tenor like that of his adaptive father's voice. His dark grey skin remained the same color.

At this point, Rhett, the third familiar Longneck bounded up to Littlefoot. "Hey, Littlefoot, aren't you going to congratulate the herd's best navigator? I helped the herd get here," he said, his green eyes sparkling.

Littlefoot sighed as he saw through Rhett's lie; even though he matured, Rhett was still a pathological liar with an ego the size of Saurus Rock. He never liked Rhett to begin with but after his lies nearly got Chomper killed, his dislike turned into hatred. "Well, congratulations," he said hollowly.

"Aww. Quit being modest."

"Rhett, you're being annoying," Shorty snapped. Shorty did not like Rhett either but his dislike was not the result of any one incident; it was the result of his sheer obnoxiousness.

"You're just saying that."

Shorty ground his teeth together in rage. Just being near Rhett angered him but Rhett's arrogant behavior pushed him over the edge. He stomped towards him. "Rhett, shut up before I really hurt you," he growled.

Rhett yelped and bolted.

Shorty laughed. "I knew he didn't have the guts to actually fight me!" he said between laughs.

Littlefoot chuckled as well. "Well, how about I introduce you to my friends?" he asked


Shorty and Littlefoot galloped off to where their friends were relaxing. Al dashed after them as well.

Far out into the Mysterious Beyond, two flyers soared over a valley almost like the Great Valley. The land was lush and verdant, but this was not the paradise of leaf-eaters. The waterfall that fed into the main lake came not out of a high open air cliff but from a cave that bore a startling resemblance to a sharptooth's head.

This was Claw Valley, paradise of the sharpteeth.

Sierra circled around and gently landed in front of an enormous male sharptooth, black as midnight, with two forearm blades that appeared to be made of strange crystalline material and a tail that bore four crystalline spikes.

Rinkus and Ozzie – bearing the sack containing the Stone of Cold Fire – landed after Sierra.

"We have that rock!" Sierra crowed, gesturing to Ozzie, who held the leaf sack aloft like a trophy.

"Well done. I never expected you to succeed," the sharptooth said in an icy, almost otherworldly voice. This was Excidium, leader of Claw Valley.

"So what are our next orders?" Ozzie asked. He recoiled from Excidium's slate-grey gaze; there was something supernatural and unsettling about his gaze.

"You will rendezvous with Styracus and his herd under the cover of darkness when they arrive."

As soon as Excidium finished speaking, a small light green sharptooth ran up to the three. "Excidium! Styracus and his herd are en route! Estimated time of arrival, nightfall," he said, his cool blue eyes meeting with Excidium's icy slate gaze.

"Very well. Sierra, Ozzie, Rinkus, you are assigned to guard duty by the main entrance," Excidium said. He smirked, everything was falling in place

The three headed off to the only entrance in the valley that had leaf eaters walking through it – unescorted.

"We are the superior dinosaurs, why must we rely on leaf eaters?" a blue sharptooth spat. She personally thought Excidium's plan was idiotic but she obviously had the sense to not say that to his face.

"The Great Valley's rock wall poses a great obstacle to our forces. There are only a few entrances and those are heavily guarded. If we were to get leaf eaters in, they could open holes in the wall and allow our forces easier access," Excidium said.

Excidium didn't notice another sharptooth crouched behind a shrub eavesdropping on him. This particular sharptooth was a large brown sickle-claw.

"Why can't Excidium be content with Fang Valley?" he muttered. The sickleclaw sighed; he had long grown sick of Excidium's conquests. He knew what he had to do: put a stop to them by any means possible. He took a deep breath. "All right, I know I'm really, really going to regret this but it has to be done," he muttered.

He then got up from his hiding place and bolted out the nearest exit. When he did so, a grey sickleclaw wielding a stone tipped lance stopped him.

"Where are you heading, Deimos?" the sickleclaw demanded.

Deimos – the brown sickleclaw – gulped. He hoped that the sickleclaw had not overheard him and inferred that he planned to betray them. "I'm heading out to hunt," he said.

"You can hunt in the Leaf Eater Grounds."

Deimos's heart beat even faster. He was certain that his cover was blown. "Uh…I want to have some Swimmer and there's a herd nearby," he said.

The guard looked Deimos over suspiciously. He correctly figured out that Deimos was hiding something "Deimos, may I ask you a question?"

"Uh sure?"

"What do have to gain by betraying us?"

Deimos's heart beat even faster. He knew that his cover was definitely blown. "Uh…Uh…I'm not sure where you got that ridiculous idea," he said.

"If you don't mind, can you-" the sickleclaw guard was cut off as Deimos body slammed him, sending him skidding along the ground for several feet and knocking his spear from his grasp.

Deimos bolted out the exit. By the time the guard recovered from the bone crunching blow, Deimos was out of sight. Clutching his side, the guard let loose a series of roars.

Almost immediately, a squad of sickleclaws, all wielding stone tipped or wooden spears assembled.

"Find Deimos and-" the guard coughed several times "kill him!" he ordered.

The pack of sickleclaws headed out into the late afternoon sun.

Several hours later, the sun had begun to set and the skies darken. But the faintest gold, red, orange and purple light was still visible on the horizon. The Great Valley, however, was very dark as the high rock walls that protected the valley against sharpteeth and other threats blocked out the view of the horizon and the moon was veiled behind some dense clouds.

Deimos poked his head out from a bush located in a rather heavily wooded – and patrolled area. He had recently arrived in the valley after journeying for most of the day. For now, he did not see any dinosaurs on patrol in the area. Seizing the opportunity, he bolted from his hiding place and wove through the forest. He hoped that he did not run into a patrol for that would spell certain death for him. After what seemed like hours of journeying, he exited the forest into a desolate plain. He looked around and noticed that there were no patrols at all. He was about to make a nest and fall asleep until he realized that he could be in for a nasty surprise if this area did turn out to have patrols. Deimos scanned the area and found what appeared to be a seldom used trail that was overgrown with saplings and large hidden by several bushes. He bolted across the landscape and through the bushes.

When he did so, he found himself in a rather large cave. He hoped that the patrolling dinosaurs would not head down this seldom used trail.

"Okay, I'm here, now what do I do?" he asked out loud.

"So Deimos, I'm glad you could join us," a voice said.

Deimos's heart leapt into his throat. "Who are you and how do you know my name!" he demanded.

"Deimos, I'm insulted. How could you forget about me and Raptix?"

Deimos scratched his head in thought. Almost immediately, he was able to place names on those voices. "Blue-scale? How did you get here?"

As Deimos's eyes adjusted to the dim light of a nearly burnt out campfire, he was able to make out two sharpteeth. One was clearly male, with blue-green skin and two red stripes running down to his tail – Blue-Scale. Another was a small fast-biter with purple-blue feathers covering his body. The fast-biter was busy trying to relight the fire with some broken twigs and leaves.

"Raptix, don't relight that fire, we don't want to get discovered," Blue-Scale said.

Raptix groaned. He had spent a lot of effort bringing back a firebrand from a large tree that had been struck by lightning and here his effort was for naught. Nevertheless, he complied, burying the smoldering embers under some dirt.

"You were saying?" Deimos asked looking at Blue-Scale.

"Oh, right. I fled Fang Valley," Blue-Scale replied.


"I killed several sickleclaws after they attacked my brother on orders from the leader. My brother was to be punished for his poor performance on a mission," Blue-Scale said. He then took a deep breath. "I only hope my brother is okay."

"So Deimos, why are you here?" Raptix asked.

"I…" Deimos trailed off, unsure if he should say why he had come to the Great Valley. Then again, he was in the presence of a fellow deserter. He took a breath and spoke. "Well, I grew tired of Excidium's relentless expansion and I wanted to stop it by any means possible. Since I learned this was his conquest target, I thought this might be a good place to start. The only problem is that I am a sharptooth in a valley of leaf eaters."

Suddenly, a loud rumble shook the cave.

"Earthshake?" Raptix asked.

Blue-Scale shook his head. "Rockslide more likely. And chances are that it sealed up the opening we came through," he said.

Deimos sighed. Whether he liked it or not, he had to continue with his mission.

Meanwhile, outside the Great Valley's wall, a squad of spear wielding sickleclaws was planning their next move. They had no other allies, for Blue-Scale's pursuers had tracked his scent to the Great Valley but decided that it was not worth pursuing him at the cost of their own lives.

"Deimos's scent leads right into the Death Lands. We cannot go any further," a dark green sickleclaw said.

His sentiment began to be echoed by all the other sickleclaws. The team leader, a black sickleclaw shook his head. "I don't give a damn if this is the Death Lands! We go and find Deimos!" he snarled.

"Are you crazy?"

"You will come with me or Excidium will get wind of this!"

The group of sickleclaws approached their team leader with their spears leveled threateningly at his chest. "You are free to head into the Death Lands on your own but we refuse to come along," the dark green sickleclaw said. He had become the unofficial leader of the mutiny.

"Fine! Head back to Claw Valley if you so desire! I'll capture Deimos and get all the glory!"

The band of mutinous sickleclaws headed back to Claw Valley while the team leader picked up his stone tipped spear. Two of the sickleclaws decided to follow their team leader. "Deimos, I know you're there, come out and maybe I'll make things easier for you," he whispered coldly.

The trio then headed into the Great Valley, caring not about the dangers that lay within but only with the capture or death of Deimos.

At the same time, Styracus and his band of plant eaters had arrived in Claw Valley. They stood in front of Excidium and some of his most trusted sharpteeth.

"So what are our orders?" demanded an enormous Spikefrill. He had clearly been in many fights; his body had a multitude of scars, including a jagged one across his face that gave him a menacing appearance.

Excidium cleared his throat and looked over the massive tan Spikefrill. He would certainly prove to be a valuable asset to them. "Styracus, you and your group are blue team. You are to enter the Great Valley and breach the Great Rock Wall surrounding it. When green team arrives, they will provide cover for you and assist in breaching the Great Rock Wall. When black team arrives you are to assist in combat." Excidium said, addressing the Spike-Frill.

"Consider it done," Styracus said with a grin. He then turned to his herd. "All right, let's prepare our weapons and get ready to head out," he ordered. His body tingled with the excitement of battle.

"Not so fast."

Styracus immediately halted his herd and turned his attention back to Excidium.

Excidium then glanced at a large group of assorted sharpteeth. The sickleclaws and fast-biters carried and assortment of weapons, ranging from simple tree branch clubs and staves to deadly stone tipped lances. And they appeared to be all too ready to use them. Several of the spear armed dinosaurs impatiently tapped the butts of their weapons against the grassy ground. Their leader was a large red sharptooth. "Black team, you are to follow after you have received the go-ahead from blue team. Your only task: kill all everyone who resists," he said.

The sharpteeth nodded in unison as they received Excidium's command. Many of the sharptooth showed the twisted expression of dinosaurs who killed for pleasure, not food.

Excidium then looked at a group of small sharpteeth and flyers. "Red team, head out with black team. Your goal is the same, kill everyone who resists," he ordered. The fly4ers and sharpteeth nodded as they received the order.

Excidium looked at the gathered dinosaurs. "Are there any questions?" he asked.

Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus were mingled in with blue team. The members of Styracus's herd paid no attention to them. "Excidium, where shall Rinkus, Sierra and I be assigned?" Ozzie asked.

"You three will be part of blue team?

"Damn it!" Sierra muttered. "I wanted to be a part of red squadron!"

"Now, now, you'll still get to kill as a member of blue team," Rinkus said. He glanced around at the dinosaurs. He noticed that several members of Styracus's herd carried various weapons, mostly wooden clubs and staves but some wielded all wood spears that they had whittled using sharp rocks or their teeth.

"One final word, do not kill every plant-eater you see. If they surrender, spare them. We must keep some as a growing food source. Also, if you need reinforcements, send a dinosaur back to Claw Valley," Excidium said.

"What's in this for us?" a black Longneck from blue team demanded.

"We will allow you to live in the conquered Great Valley and we will swear never to eat any of you."

"Fine by me," Styracus said. "Our home was destroyed by an earthshake and we need a place to live. I don't care if we get it through negotiations or violence."

"Are there any more questions?" Excidium asked.

Several seconds, then a minute ticked by but the area was silent, except for the steady rhythm of the spear wielding dinosaurs pounding the butts of their weapons against the ground.

"Now that that we've got everything cleared up… Blue team, move out!" Excidium shouted.

Styracus nodded his head in reply and rallied up his herd members. They then headed into the Mysterious Beyond using the same route they entered Claw Valley by.

Sierra and Rinkus flew after them. They flew at a very low level, just above the heads of the longnecks. Ozzie was mingled in the middle of the group.

"So we got any ideas?" Ozzie asked.

"One, kill everyone we see," Sierra replied. He tingled all over with the anticipation of mass slaughter.

"Or we could engage in some kidnapping. We don't need to kill in order to win," Rinkus said.

Sierra rolled his eyes. "What's the fun in that? I want to feel bones breaking underneath my blows," he replied.

"Actually, yes, kidnapping would be effective. We can then use them to exert pressure on the dinosaurs," Ozzie said. He then turned to Sierra with a grin. "If you want to beat any kidnapping victims to a pulp, be my guest. Speaking of which, I've got some 'surprises' for my brother…"

Sierra grinned. "That Big Mouth from so many cold times ago. I'll take great pleasure in torturing her slowly and painfully. Pity, Pterano was there when we last saw her; he always ruins the fun. I would have loved to see her bleed to death after I tossed her off the nearest cliff. And Pterano, yes, I'll take great pleasure in snapping his neck or strangling him, watching him beg for mercy," he said, rubbing his hands together in glee.

Rinkus and Ozzie backed away from Sierra. Ozzie and Rinkus were capable of being very cruel but Sierra's thirst for cruelty and violence unnerved even them. They continued walking, paying no heed to Sierra's deranged fantasies of torture and slaughter.

Ozzie looked at the herd, barely lit by the light from the stars in the moonless and cloudless skies. He sighed; it was going to be a long night.

Chapter 6: Blue-Scale

Littlefoot and his friends were playing some kind of ball game in the plains near the Bubbling Muds. Chomper's parents were as usual, guarding them.

"Hah! Beat that!" Shorty exclaimed as he weaved around Littlefoot's block and kicked the ball, which was nothing more than a large brown seed pod, between two rocks which served as goal posts.

"Spike! You are supposed to block the ball, you are." Ducky said, from the sidelines.

"That's a point for Littlefoot's team!" the Spike-Tail, who was doing double duty as a bodyguard and a referee, shouted.

Just as Spike tail-whipped the ball back onto the playing field, Nod body slammed Hyp, knocking him off his feet.

"Foul on Nod!" the Spike-Tail shouted, "Hyp, you get one free shot!"

Hyp lined up the ball and was about to kick it into the goal, when a distinct roar told him danger was near.

"Alright kids! The game's over! Into the cave!" The Spike-Tail shouted.

The children ran into the cave, while Chomper's parents and the Spike-Tail guarded the entrance.

"Tell the rest of the adults that there are sharpteeth at the Bubbling Muds." The Spike-Tail said to a blue Fast-Runner.

The Fast-Runner immediately took off after the command was given.

Littlefoot looked past the Spike-Tail and saw three enormous three-fingered sharpteeth.

"I don't like the looks of this." He said.

"Littlefoot, they're grown-ups, they can handle this just fine!" Cera said, with a note of strong irritation in her voice.

"Take a look!" he responded.

"Fine, but they are… in trouble!" she shouted, upon looking out onto the scene.

The scene out on the field was utter chaos; the Spike-Tail guard managed to take out one sharptooth by severely cutting its legs and lower body with his tail which caused it to lose its balance and fall headfirst into a large rock, resulting in the sharptooth's death. But one of the other sharpteeth threw him into a large rock with a vicious headbutt. After the massive impact he slid down the rock, unconscious. Chomper's mother was lying on the ground, bleeding from a severe injury on her back. Chomper's father was alone holding off two sharpteeth about his size.

"I'm going to get help!" Littlefoot said, making his way to the cave exit.

His head was almost out of the cave when Ducky's voice made him turn around.

"Do not go out! It is too dangerous, it is." Ducky said, shaking her head.

"Ducky right. It too dangerous to leave cave." Petrie added.

"I'm not going stand here and watch Chomper lose his mom and dad!" Littlefoot said, exiting the cave.

"Littlefoot…" Cera began, before Hyp cut her off.

"Forget it hatchling, when Littlefoot is set on something, he's not backing down."

"Who are you calling hatchling?" Cera spat.

Littlefoot proceeded to head straight for the Thundering Falls Lake, where there was guaranteed to be a few adults.

Just as Littlefoot dashed out of the forest, he got a feeling that something was wrong, but he just shook it off as being nervous about Chomper losing his parents.

As he ran through a forested area and into a clearing in the forest, he was suddenly ambushed by about eight sharpteeth, four fast-biters and four sickle-claws.

He ran through the forest, dodging and weaving in an attempt to evade the sharpteeth. Several thuds told him that some of them weren't as agile as he was.

Unfortunately, Littlefoot turned into a dead end and he could hear the sharpteeth approaching.

Five sharpteeth now entered the dead end, two sickle-claws and three fast-biters, he tried to run but a sickle-claw blocked his path and kicked him, cutting his side. A fast-biter leapt at him but he pivoted and tail whipped so hard it slumped to the ground.

He screamed in pain when another fast-biter bit his tail.

Deimos, Blue-Scale and Raptix were hiding inside the cave when the screams reached their ears.

"It sounds like someone's in trouble." Deimos said.

"Worse than that, it sounds like a kid is in trouble! I have to help!" Blue-Scale said, leaving the cave.

"Wait, we're coming too!" Raptix and Deimos said in unison.

The three sharpteeth got out of the cave and ran to where the screams were coming from.

When they arrived they found a severely injured Longneck child and an unconscious fast-biter.

"What are you doing?" Blue-Scale shouted, confronting a large, black male sickle-claw, who seemed to be the leader and was poking the Longneck with the large claw on his foot.

"Ah, Blue-Scale, the failed sharptooth. I'm surprised you don't eat green-food." The black sickleclaw said. The other sharpteeth chuckled at his little joke.

"Sorry, Storm-Claw, green food doesn't agree with me." Blue-Scale retorted.

"You'll never be a real sharptooth until you learn to kill." Storm-Claw said, eying the severely injured Littlefoot.

"Real sharptooth? Yeah, real brave of you! Five sharpteeth against one Longneck, not even an adult." Blue-Scale spat.

"You are treading on dangerous ground, Blue-Scale. Do you want to meet Diamondclaw's fate?" Storm-Claw said, looking at Blue-Scale and scraping his claw threateningly.

"You! You're the one who attacked my brother!" Blue-Scale shouted, overcome with rage as he recalled the events. His brother being set upon by Fang Valley's fast-biters and sickle-claws. His killing ordered by Tethys, a high ranking sharptooth of Fang Valley.

"He wasn't a real sharptooth, either. There was no loss." Storm-Claw said, nonchalantly.

"Because he fought the plant eaters fairly? Why should you care how he feeds!" Blue-Scale shouted, seething with rage.

"I don't like false sharpteeth." Storm-Claw said, grinning.

"You're the false sharpteeth! What true sharpteeth murders another one for fun or kills young plant eaters!" Blue-Scale shouted, his muscles tensing with rage.

"If you are a true sharpteeth unlike that sharptooth look-like Diamondclaw, then …." Storm-Claw began, but was sent flying by a vicious elbow bash from Blue-Scale. He crashed into a tree and slid to the ground, unconscious. "Don't you DARE insult my brother!" Blue-Scale shouted.

Deimos took advantage of the distraction that Blue-Scale's attack on Storm-Claw caused. He leapt from the bushes and attacked the remaining sharpteeth with a deadly combination of the claws on his feet, his tail and a large tree branch.

Deimos tail-whipped and clubbed the remaining sickle-claw into unconsciousness and kicked a fast-biter into a tree.

"Blue-Scale there may be more sharpteeth!" Deimos shouted.

"We'll worry about it when they come!" Blue-Scale shouted, grabbing a fast-biter and throwing it into the nearest tree.

Soon, the area was cleared of the enemy sharpteeth.

"Raptix, it's safe to come out now." Deimos said.

Raptix came out of the bushes and went near Littlefoot and listened for a heartbeat.

"Blue-Scale, he's still alive but he's hurt bad." Raptix said.

Suddenly Littlefoot stirred. "Sharp…teeth attack… at… Bubbling Muds.," He gave a harsh breath, "…Friends in… danger." With those words, he collapsed.

"Raptix, Deimos get this Longneck back to our cave. I'll go help his friends." Blue-Scale said, walking out of the forest.

"I can't carry him; he's almost as big as I am." Raptix said.

"I'll carry him." Deimos said, picking Littlefoot up, being careful to avoid injuring him further with the claws on his hands.

"I'll go with Blue-Scale." Raptix said.

"Raptix, you are going with Deimos." Blue-Scale said.

"But…" Raptix began.

"Raptix you are to go with Deimos! No questions about it!" Blue-Scale said, slightly angered by Raptix's refusal. When he saw Raptix looking down at the ground and saw a tear fall, his stern expression softened.

"But Blue-Scale, you… are fighting sharpteeth, you'll… need help." Raptix choked out between soft sobs.

"I know you care about me as a friend Raptix, but your kind fight best in groups. Unless we have other fast-biters you can form a group with, you don't stand a chance against an adult plant-eater, much less a sharptooth. Even a young plant-eater is dangerous for a lone fast-biter." Blue-Scale said gesturing towards the fast-biter on the ground whom Littlefoot killed.

"You can help me by taking care of this Longneck when we get back to the cave." Deimos said.

Deimos, Raptix and Blue-Scale went their separate ways. Blue-Scale headed for what he thought was the Bubbling Muds, only to come out in a rocky plain.

"Oh great!" he said out loud.

He heard a low rumbling and when he turned his head he saw a reddish-brown Spike-Tail and a grey Threehorn poised to attack him.

"Wait!" he shouted as he saw the Spike-Tail wind up with his tail.

"It speaks our language?" the Threehorn said in astonishment.

"Yes, I speak Leaf Eater fluently. But that is not the point, there are sharpteeth at the Bubbling Muds and we found an injured Longneck child in the woods. We chased off the sharpteeth attacking him and two other sharpteeth are taking care of him right now."

"Yeah, you're just going to eat him!" the Spike-Tail shouted, swiping at Blue-Scale with his tail.

Blue-Scale leapt back from the tail-whip and looked around nervously.

"No, please understand, there are plant-eaters in serious danger at the Bubbling Muds and if what the Longneck child told me is true, his friends are in danger. I must help them." Blue-Scale said, almost pleading.

"Fine, we'll trust you for now and give you directions to the Bubbling Muds. But under the condition that my friend and I accompany you." The Threehorn said grudgingly.

"Alright! Just let me go to the Bubbling Muds!" Blue-Scale said.

"The Bubbling Muds are through that forest you came out of. Follow the trail until you get to a fork with a mossy boulder and a bush with purple leaves and blue berries. Take the fork with the mossy boulder and follow the trail; you will end up at the Bubbling Muds." The Spike-Tail said

"Thanks!" Blue-Scale said, heading back into the forest trailed by the Spike-Tail and the Threehorn.

Raptix and Deimos entered the cave they had called home for the past few days. Deimos gently placed Littlefoot onto a pile of leaves and grass that had served as his bed.

"Wow, he's in rough shape." Raptix said, looking at the multitude of gashes and claw marks all stained with dried blood on Littlefoot's body.

"Relax, Raptix, I have a lot of experience in treating injured dinosaurs. It's amazing how many sharpteeth get injured in Claw Valley, if not from training, then from fights, if not from fights, then from accidents." Deimos said, shaking his head.

"What should I do?" Raptix asked.

"For starters, go get some green thorn-leaves and sickle-claw pods. You know the leaves that look like a tree star but have thorns on the side and the seed pods that look like my claw." Deimos said, pointing at the large claw on his foot to emphasize the appearance of a sickle-claw pod.

"Where do I find them?" Raptix asked.

"These bushes normally grow in the forest so just look in the area around our cave and you should find them. Both grow on the same plant, so you should easily find them. The bushes they grow on aren't very tall so you shouldn't have problems reaching them" Deimos replied.

Deimos got up and went to the back of the cave, where he got a flat stone and a round stone. He placed the stones by Littlefoot's side and went to the back of the cave again, where he got a bundle of thick stems that oozed a clear, sticky sap when they were squeezed.

He then busied himself cleaning Littlefoot using the sap from the stems and the stems themselves.

Blue-Scale and the two Great Valley who accompanied him on the other hand were nearing the Bubbling Muds.

"I can smell the battle. I must hurry!" he said to himself as he closed in the Bubbling Muds.

"You'd better just smell the battle!" the Spike-Tail said.

When Blue-Scale and his plant-eater "companions" arrived at the Bubbling Muds, they saw a scene of utter carnage. Both of Chomper's parents were unconscious and the Spike-Tail guard was dead.

"Alright, you and your buddy take a sharptooth and I'll take the other." Blue-Scale said, surveying the situation.

"Hold it! Why should we take orders from a sharptooth?" The Spike-Tail said.

"Listen, do you want to save the children or not?" Blue-Scale asked with a slight hint of indignation in his voice.

"Well… yes." The Spike-Tail said, lamely.

"Good! Now on my signal." Blue-Scale said.

"Alright we got this." The Spike-Tail said to the Threehorn.

"Go!" shouted Blue-Scale.

The Threehorn and the Spike-Tail charged the smaller of the sharpteeth knocking it down. At the same time Blue-Scale slammed his shoulder into the larger sharptooth and winded it.

The children inside the cave looked outside and saw an astonishing sight; a Spike-Tail, a Threehorn and most bizarre of all, a sharptooth whom they did not recognize fighting the two sharpteeth who had taken out Chomper's parents and the Spike-Tail guard.

"Littlefoot bring help?" Petrie asked.

"Looks like he did bring help, but where is he?" Ali asked.

"That's what I'd like to know." Chomper replied.

"Something just doesn't feel right, but I can't place it." Hyp said.

In the meantime, back at the cave where Deimos is treating Littlefoot's injuries. He had gotten most of the blood off of the young Longneck, but in the process he got most of the sap and the blood on his bed.

"Deimos, can you help me?" Raptix called from outside the cave.

"Coming!" Deimos replied, getting up and exiting the cave.

"How many sickle-claw pods and green thorn leaves did you get!" asked Deimos, looking at the large leaf, filled with green thorn leaves and sickle-claw pods, that Raptix was pulling behind him.

"You never said how much." Raptix said in reply.

"Fine. Just bring some of the stuff into the cave." Deimos said.

Deimos grabbed a handful of the thorn leaves and sickle-claw pods and proceeded to grind them into a thick brown slurry using the two stones he retrieved from the back of the cave.

"Ugh! This stuff smells absolutely foul!" Raptix said, sticking his head outside the cave.

"It's good for cuts." Deimos replied, using a stick and a leaf to dab the slurry onto the worst wounds, "Uh, Raptix, can you get me some more leaves, not green thorn but tree stars?"

"Sure." Raptix said; glad to be out of the foul air.

Raptix got out of the cave, grabbed another large leaf and headed into the forest.

"This valley may be my only chance of staying away from Excidium. I need this Longneck to survive so he can convince the adults I'm not dangerous." Deimos said to himself as he was applying the paste to Littlefoot's wounds.

At the Bubbling Muds, Blue-Scale and his companions were finished with the battle. The sharptooth that the Spike-Tail and the Threehorn fought lay next to a large rock formation with a boulder on top of it and Blue-Scale had just pushed his enemy into a tree, rendering the sharptooth unconscious.

Blue-Scale crouched down next to the cave and saw the young dinosaurs crouched in the corner.

"I have an important message. It's about a young Longneck." He said.

Inside the cave, the children were paralyzed with fear.

"A young Longneck?" Cera asked.

"Littlefoot!" blurted out Ali.

"That's his name?" Blue-Scale said.

The children came out of the cave accompanied by the Spike-Tail and the Threehorn.

"It talk?" Petrie asked, staring at Blue-Scale.

"Yes, I speak fluent Leaf Eater, but now's not the time to talk. You must tell the adults that Littlefoot is in our cave. He was ambushed by a pack of sharpteeth led by a sickle-claw named Storm-Claw and suffered very serious injuries. Deimos and Raptix are treating his injuries as we speak." Blue-Scale said.

Gradually, Chomper's father came to and headed for Blue-Scale until he said something to them in Sharptooth. After the words were spoken, he immediately stopped and remained near his mate's inert form.

In the cave, Raptix returned with his cargo of leaves.

"What are these leaves for?" Raptix asked.

"Leaves are used to cover really bad wounds, like this one." Deimos replied, pointing to a deep stab wound on Littlefoot's side, evidently caused by a sickle-claw. "Raptix, could you smear some more sickle-claw paste onto that wound I just showed you?"

Raptix picked up the stick and smeared the paste onto the wound until it was covered in the odiferous paste.

Deimos picked up a leaf and placed it onto the wound that Raptix had just covered in the paste.

"Oh, I think I'm going to be sick." Raptix said, wobbling slightly.

"You'll get used to the odor." Deimos replied.

Suddenly Deimos heard Raptix gagging.

"AUGH! Not in the cave! If you're going to be sick, do it outside!" Deimos shouted, jumping up and literally pushing Raptix outside.

Deimos resumed bandaging the worst of Littlefoot's injuries, ignoring the sound of Raptix vomiting outside the cave.

Soon after Raptix returned he grabbed some treestars and gave them to Deimos.

"Feeling better?" Deimos asked.

"Yeah." Raptix replied.

"Alright then, how about you get me two clubtail fruits? You know, the fruits that look like a yellow and red clubtail tail and smell really spicy." Deimos said.

"On it!" Raptix replied as he leapt out of the cave.

Deimos looked at Littlefoot's injuries and wondered about Excidium and some of the sharpteeth that he has met before.

"The Circle of Life has given all dinosaurs what is needed to survive. What would compel sharpteeth to turn instincts of survival into instincts of evil and malice? What is the reason for conquering places and enslaving the plant-eaters? Are some dinosaurs naturally evil? What causes such corruption?" Deimos said out loud to himself.

Deimos was interrupted from his thoughts by a familiar voice.

"Deimos, I'm back!" Raptix, shouted from outside the cave.

"Come in!" Deimos, said.

Raptix came into the cave holding two of the fruits that Deimos requested of him.

"Alright, get the rocks that I made the sickle-claw paste with." Deimos said.

Raptix obeyed and Deimos ground the fruits into a spicy smelling red paste. He placed the paste onto a leaf and left it by Littlefoot's nose.

"He'll wake up from this." Deimos said.

Meanwhile, Blue-Scale, the Spike-Tail, the Threehorn and the children headed for the Thundering Falls Lake. The adults were preparing to head to the Bubbling Muds after the Fast-Runner broke the news.

"What's the meaning of this!" shouted Mr. Threehorn as he spotted a strange sharptooth with the Spike-Tail and the Threehorn.

"We have an important message for you. The two sharpteeth that attacked at the Bubbling Muds were dispatched." The Spike-Tail said.

"Littlefoot is in our cave, he has been seriously injured and we are treating his injuries. He should be ok in a few days." The sharptooth said.

"Who are you?" asked a male Runner.

"Oh, I never introduced myself; my name is Blue-Scale." The sharptooth said.

"I don't care what your name is, GET OUT OF THIS VALLEY!" shouted Mr. Threehorn.

"Mr. Threehorn, Blue-Scale may be right but…" Grandpa Longneck began

"But what?" Mr. Threehorn cut in

"He's still a sharptooth and we must exercise caution around him." Grandpa Longneck finished, as soon as he was sure that Blue-Scale was out of ear-shot.

"We should go make sure Littlefoot is ok." Chomper said.

"Me scared." Petrie said, shaking.

"Are you going to see if Littlefoot's ok or not? Are you a scaredy egg?" Cera taunted.

Littlefoot's friends snuck away from the group of adults and headed for the forest.

"Where is that cave Blue-Scale's talking about?" Ali asked.

"We've been searching for that cave for forever!" Cera complained.

"Hey, what's this?" Nod asked, pushing a clump of bushes aside and revealing a clearing with a cave.

"I smell Littlefoot's scent! He's in there!" Chomper said.

"Let's go then!" Cera shouted.

The entire group rushed into the cave. There they encountered a brown sickle-claw and a purple-blue fast-biter.

"What have you done with Littlefoot?" Shorty demanded.

"He's currently unconscious." The sickle-claw said. "Did Blue-Scale send you here?"

"Who is Blue-Scale?" asked Ducky.

"Me know no." Petrie said, shaking with fear.

"Petrie, shut up!" Cera hissed

"Did you meet a blue-green sharpteeth with two red stripes down his tail?" the sickle-claw asked.

"Yep, yep, yep." Ducky responded.

"That would be Blue-Scale. My name is Deimos, I helped rescue that Longneck." The sickle-claw said.

"Who's that fast-biter?" Cera demanded

"That is Raptix." Deimos said, gesturing to the purple-blue fast biter.

"Is that Longneck Littlefoot?" Ali asked; concern audible in her voice.

"That's his name?" Deimos asked.

"Yes." Hyp responded.

"I think he's waking up." Raptix said, looking at Littlefoot.

"Excellent Raptix, why don't you show the guests to him." Deimos said

Raptix lead the assembled gang to the back of the cave, where Littlefoot lay on a bed of leaves and grass.

Littlefoot awoke to strong spicy smell in his nostrils. As his vision returned he noticed a pair of amber eyes, a pair of emerald green eyes and a pair of aquamarine eyes. When his vision cleared he was shocked to find that the amber eyes belonged to a sickle-claw and the emerald green eyes belonged to a fast-biter.

"Ahh!" Littlefoot shouted, as he realized that he was looking into the faces of two sharpteeth.

"Easy, you'll be ok." A voice said. When Littlefoot turned his head towards the voice; he noticed that the aquamarine eyes belonged to Ali.

"Littlefoot! You're ok!" Petrie said excitedly, flying up to hug Littlefoot.

"Hold on there, flyer!" Deimos said, "Littlefoot is still severely injured, he needs time to heal."

"Me have name!" Petrie shouted, angry at being referred to as a generic "flyer".

"Sorry, I didn't get your name." Deimos said.

"That's Petrie." Chomper said; gesturing towards Petrie, who was now resting on Spike's back.

"We should hold off the introductions for now and tell the adults that Littlefoot is alive." Raptix said.

"Agreed." Deimos responded.

The group of dinosaurs departed from the cave and headed towards Thundering Falls Lake. When they had arrived Blue-Scale was arguing with Mr. Threehorn.

"Mr. Threehorn, the children are back." Grandpa Longneck said, ending the argument immediately.

There was a background cacophony of shouts and various threats directed at Blue-Scale.

"Strike first and ask questions later!" a Clubtail shouted.

"Yeah! Run him out of this valley!" shouted a Swimmer

"Blue-Scale, I don't know what say, I'm grateful you helped save the children but the other dinosaurs have a point. I'll be blunt with you Blue-Scale; I don't know if the other valley residents will tolerate sharpteeth living in the valley, I'll be fine as long as you don't actively hunt plant-eaters. You may scavenge or hunt fish."

"You have my word, Mr. Longneck." Blue-Scale said.

"Hey! Get the sharpteeth with the children!" a dull brown Runner shouted.

"Hold on!" Blue-Scale shouted.

"Why should we?" demanded the same Runner who pointed out the other sharpteeth.

"Perhaps I can explain", Chomper began, "Deimos is the brown sickle-claw and Raptix is the purple-blue fast-biter. Both helped save Littlefoot."

"Littlefoot is currently resting in our cave; he should be alright in a few risings of the Bright Circle." Deimos said

Both Deimos, Raptix and Blue-Scale left the Thundering Falls Lake and headed back to their cave.

"I don't know what to say. I've said that not all sharpteeth are bad but how do we know that these three sharpteeth aren't up to something?" Ducky's mom said.

A few days had passed and Littlefoot was soon able to leave the cave. Chomper's parents had also made a full recovery.

The children were near the Sheltering Grass when they heard Deimos.

"We've never introduced ourselves." Deimos said

The entire group was apprehensive about introducing themselves so Littlefoot took it upon himself to do so.

"Deimos, this is Cera, Petrie, Ducky, Spike, Chomper and Shorty" he said, pointing with his tail at each in turn.

When the introductions were done, Deimos had a warning to give.

"I must warn you, if you ever meet a Spike-Frill named Styracus, you must be careful around him." Deimos said

"Why?" Cera asked.

"He is going to help Excidium conquer the Great Valley." Deimos said.

"Who's Excidium?" asked Littlefoot.

"He's the toughest sharptooth around. He leads a valley known as Claw Valley and is intent on taking the Great Valley." Deimos said.

"Why?" Cera asked

"I don't know. I think he's insane, that's why I left. I know I'm a sharptooth and I'm in a valley of plant-eaters, but somehow I don't like the concept of forcibly taking land from other dinosaurs who were here rightfully. That's why I've decided to help the Great Valley." Deimos replied.

"What about Blue-Scale?" Shorty asked.

"It's the same thing, except his brother was killed and Excidium's sharpteeth almost killed him." Deimos said.

Soon after the conversation Grandpa Longneck announced the presence of Far-Walkers in the Valley.

Littlefoot and the other dinosaurs with him rushed to the Great Rock Pass to greet the Far-Walkers.

When Littlefoot and dinosaurs with him arrived at the Great Rock Pass, several adults were already present, including Blue-Scale.

The Far-Walkers were a strange lot, composed of all different kinds of dinosaurs, but the leader seemed to be an enormous Spike-Frill with a scar on his face.

"We're looking for a place to stay; our home suffered an earth-shake and is seriously damaged." The Spike-Frill said.

"You're welcome to stay here." Grandma Longneck said.

"Thanks." The Spike-Frill said, "Oh, where are my manners? I never introduced myself. The name's Styracus."

Deimos gasped. "The war has begun." He muttered.

Chapter 7: Styracus

As Styracus and his group walked towards the Berry Patch, the dinosaurs began to talk.

"Something about this Styracus character makes me uncomfortable." A male Spike-Tail said

"Yeah, there's something about him that doesn't seem right. I mean he didn't even react to those two sharpteeth." A female Swimmer said.

The adults dispersed leaving Blue-Scale, Deimos and the children alone. Suddenly Pterano, carrying Strut on his back, landed in front of the group.

"Uncle Pterano!" Shouted Petrie excitedly, "You see Far-Walkers?"

"Yes, Petrie I saw the Far-Walkers." Pterano replied.

"Who are these two?" asked Blue-Scale.

"Woah! Sharpteeth! Strut, get on! We need to alert the valley and ready the squadron!" Pterano shouted upon seeing Deimos, Blue-Scale and Raptix.

"Take it easy, Pterano. I was attacked by a sickle-claw, I almost died but they managed to save my life." Littlefoot said.

"Ok. So they weren't planning to eat you?" Pterano asked, relieved.

"Eat him? What are you trying insinuate?" Blue-Scale shouted, angered by Pterano's remark. "Raptix, Deimos and I have sworn with Mr. Longneck to never eat any plant-eaters in this valley. We will not break that promise." He added.

"Fine." Pterano said, not looking at the three sharpteeth.

"Um, who is that flyer and that Egg-Stealer who's with him?" Deimos asked

"The flyer is squadron leader Pterano and the Egg-Stealer is Strut." Chomper replied, "Pterano, the sickle-claw is Deimos, the fast-biter is Raptix and the sharptooth is Blue-Scale."

"I see the Great Valley has already prepared an air force." Deimos said.

"Yeah." Strut said, his mouth full of leaves.

"Strut! We have flight and target practice with the squadron soon!" Pterano shouted.

"Coming!" Strut replied, grabbing his hollow reed, which he placed on a rock before going off to eat.

Raptix walked in carrying a large frog.

"What is that for?" Cera asked, looking at the frog.

"It's my breakfast." Raptix said.

"Pterano, Strut, if you don't mind, may we come to the practice?" Blue-Scale asked.

"Yeah, just watch your head. There's going to be lots of things flying around." Pterano replied.

"Pterano, are you sure it's good idea for these three sharpteeth to come to the practice? The other fliers could attack them." Strut added.

"We'll alert the other flyers." Pterano said.

"Me want to come too!" Petrie said.

"Sure, all of you can come!" Pterano said.

With that said, the children and the sharpteeth headed to Sheltering Grass.

The group passed through the Sheltering Grass and they arrived at an enormous grassy plain, marked off by tree branches stuck in the ground. A large boulder about the same size as a sharptooth's head was sitting in the middle of the large field surrounded by concentric rings where grass had been removed. There were also several rocks the size of sickle-claws and fast-biters scattered throughout the field. Several low rock piles were stacked in an adjacent field, also marked off by tree branches and smaller than the one with the boulder. Several land-walkers and flyers were in an apparently empty field to the left of the rock field; but this field was even larger than the one with the boulder and there were no rocks or vegetation other than grass present. Again, like the other fields this was marked off, but with piles of reddish dirt instead of sticks. Another field, also delineated with sticks and speckled with many small shrubs was adjacent to the rock field.

"Why practice here?" Petrie asked.

"We needed a wide open space and Mr. Longneck banned us from practicing near Thundering Falls Lake after a little 'incident' involving a Clubtail and a rock." Pterano replied.

"Hmm, very nice," Deimos said, looking over the practice area, "I suppose you got word of Styracus's plot?"

"I don't even know who Styracus is!" Pterano replied.

"We'll let you practice first, then we'll tell you." Blue-Scale said.

"Oh, we also have a few suggestions on how to improve the air force." Raptix said, munching on the large frog he had caught before.

"Raptix! Shut up! They know more about their air force than we do!" Deimos hissed.

"It's ok, Deimos. I'll be happy to hear suggestions after practice." Pterano said.

The group skirted the edge of the large field until they reached one of the far corners of it.

When they arrived at the far corner, the flyers greeted Pterano and the group heartily. Interestingly, they paid no attention to Blue-Scale, Raptix or Deimos.

"Well, Chomper, ready for practice?" Grey-Wing, Chomper's flyer, asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be!" Chomper replied.

"Alright then, go stand by the other land-walkers." Pterano said.

Chomper obeyed Pterano's command and stood by Ruby.

"Whoa! Pterano are you forgetting to tell the visitors about the rules here?" a black flyer said.

"Oh, I forgot! Silly me!" Pterano exclaimed, slapping his forehead.

"Ok, there are some rules that you must follow for your safety. First and the most important is, stay out of the fields that are marked off, especially the air target range and the ground target range. Also, don't throw anything into the fields, especially the landing zone. Also, do not touch ANY rock piles, especially the ones in the storage area. Finally, do not distract the flyers or the other dinosaurs. Oh, watch your heads too, we try our best to make sure the rocks and sticks go where we want them to, but they may bounce off the targets or be blown off course. Got that all?" he said.

"One question." Raptix said.

"Go on." Pterano said.

"Um, yeah, I was wondering what are those areas you mentioned?" Raptix asked

"The large field surrounded by the dirt piles is what we call the 'LZ' or 'landing zone', the field with the boulder is known as the 'air target range', the small field with all those rock piles is the 'storage area'. And the field with all those shrubs is the 'ground target range'. And this whole area is known as the 'airfield'. " Pterano replied.

"Got it!" the group replied.

"Alright then… START WARM UP FLIGHTS!" Pterano shouted before joining the group.

The flyers began to fly around the perimeter of the air target range at a high rate of speed. At the same time, some of the land-walkers were spotted in an adjacent field throwing stones at targets, which were small shrubs. Strut was also present, shooting at a large, hard seed pod with his hollow reed. Other land-walkers could be seen gathering stones and sticks and stacking them in the storage area.

After many loops were made around the air target range, the flyers including Pterano landed at the edge of the target range.

"LAND-WALKERS, FIND YOUR FLYERS!" Pterano shouted. At his command all the land-walkers headed to the landing zone where the flyers were already waiting.

When all the land-walkers and flyers were gathered, Pterano began to brief them.

"Alright, today is just basic ground bombardment practice." Pterano said, "We will first start with hovering bombardment and then move onto to strafing and finally dive-bombing. We will end with an intro on close quarters combat, which we will continue next practice."

While Pterano and the flyers' backs were turned, a brown Runner threw a bunch of triangular seed pods into the landing zone.

"You! Come back here and pick up whatever you threw into the landing zone!" Deimos shouted at the Runner he just spotted. The Runner did not respond but instead began to run off.

"I'm talking to you!" Deimos shouted, giving chase.

"Maybe we should help." Hyp offered.

"I think Deimos can handle himself just fine." Blue-Scale said.

"He's not going to be able to catch a Runner. Besides, who knows what might happen." Cera shot back.

"Alright, I'll stay here and analyze the air force." Blue-Scale said.

With that, Raptix and the children set out to help Deimos.

Deimos chased the Runner through the Sheltering Grass and into a plain. He finally cornered the Runner in a canyon at the edge of the Great Valley, near the Gravel Fields.

"You owe me and especially Pterano and the rest of the flyers an explanation!" Deimos shouted.

"You won't get an explanation out of me!" the Runner defiantly said, grinning.

"Oh, I will!" Deimos said, snapping his foot claws forward and scraping them against the rocky ground in an attempt to intimidate his target.

"That all you can do, bluff?" The Runner said, grinning.

"Those claws aren't just decoration and you happen to be the unlucky bastard who's gonna see what they can do." Deimos retorted.

"Yeah? Go ahead and try!" The Runner shouted

"With pleasure!" Deimos responded, leaping at the Runner with his foot claws fully extended

The Runner adroitly dodged the attack and punched Deimos in the back of the head, knocking him out.

"That was too easy! Alright now to report back to Styracus." he mused. He looked around. "Ok, so maybe I'm kinda lost."

The children along with Raptix had been following Deimos's scent trail.

"His scent seems to continue to the Gravel Fields." Raptix said.

"Let's go then!" Cera shouted.

"Hey! I got the scent of a Runner too!" Raptix said, sniffing the ground.

Everyone looked at Hyp. "I wasn't here." He said.

"It's not Hyp." Raptix said, "It's some unknown Runner."

The group continued, following the scent trail that Raptix was picking up.

The group eventually came to a canyon near the Gravel Fields, where the form of a sickle-claw was spotted.

"Hey who's that sickle-claw?" Cera asked.

Littlefoot approached the sickle-claw and examined it. "Oh no! It's Deimos!" he said, a shocked expression growing over his face.

"This is not good. It is not. It is not. It is not." Ducky said.

"Alright, it is vital we keep our heads." Raptix said.

Just then, Deimos groaned and began to stir.

"Damn. Ow, my head!" Deimos said, as he struggled to rise.

"Deimos! You're ok!" Raptix said.

"I'll be ok in a while, which is more than I can say for that Runner!" Deimos said.

"Ok, take it easy, what happened?" Littlefoot asked.

"I remember seeing a brown Runner throw some kind of seed pod onto the landing zone before the flight practice. Then I remember getting hit in the back of the head and waking up with you all around me." Deimos replied.

The news that some strange seed pods were thrown into the landing zone made Littlefoot recoil in horror.

"Alright, I have a plan." Littlefoot said, "Petrie, Mutt, Shorty and Deimos will go back to the airfield and warn Pterano and the flyers about the seed pods. Cera, Nod, Hyp and the rest of us will try and find that Runner"

"Sounds good!" Deimos said.

The two groups split up, Deimos and his group heading back towards the airfield and Littlefoot and his group searching the vicinity for that Runner.

"I don't see that Runner anywhere." Nod said.

"Don't worry; I can pick up his scent." Raptix said.

Hyp walked over to a tree and snapped off a stout stick.

"What is that for?" Ducky asked

"In case things get nasty." Hyp replied.

"How dangerous can a Runner be?" Ducky asked.

"Never can be too careful." Hyp replied.

Just then a brown blur passed by.

"Hey, that's him!" Cera shouted.

The group gave chase and eventually cornered the Runner in a dead-end canyon.

"Yeah, he's the one." Raptix said, "The scent I picked up just now matches the one I found in the foot prints where Deimos was apparently attacked."

The group blocked off the entrance. Littlefoot, Cera and Spike stacked up some rocks to use in case the Runner tried to flee or attack them.

"Alright, you have some major explaining to do!" Raptix said, advancing towards the Runner.

"What explaining?" the Runner asked

"Hm let's see. The strange seed pods Deimos said you threw onto the landing zone in the airfield, the fact that I picked up your scent where Deimos was attacked and left unconscious and your footprints in that same area." Raptix replied.

"I didn't do a damn thing!" the Runner shouted.

"The fact that I picked up your scent in YOUR footprints where Deimos was attacked says a lot. Now, if you'll please come with us to the airfield." Raptix said.

The Runner began to run towards the entrance, but Raptix saw him.

"I wouldn't do that, it's currently blocked off." Raptix said, gesturing towards Hyp, who was brandishing a heavy stick and the rest of the group, who formed a wall blocking the only way out.

The Runner charged the blockade but was tackled by Cera. Unfortunately for Cera, the Runner got up and kicked her in the side, stunning her and allowing him to try and break through the blockade. Ducky tripped him in an attempt to stop him but all that did was enrage him and cause him to grab Ducky around the neck and attempt to strangle her.

" me! " Ducky choked out. She kicked at her assailant but he simply held on, even though one particularly vicious kick hit him in the legs with enough force to topple a sickle-claw.

Hyp ran up to the Runner and hit him several times in the head with his club. After several powerful blows, the Runner's grip weakened and he dropped Ducky and turned to Hyp.

"So you think…" the Runner began, but before he could finish, he slumped forward, unconscious. Behind him was Spike, who had knocked him out with a well aimed rock.

The group ran towards Ducky, who was just getting on her feet.

"Ducky! Are you ok?" Cera asked, looking at the bruise on Ducky's throat.

"I am fine. I am, I am." Ducky responded.

"What shall we do next?" Nod asked.

"Tie the Runner up. Once we've done that, Nod, Hyp and Ducky will carry him to the adults and the rest of us will go and help check the airfield for strange objects." Littlefoot said, "Hyp, bring that stick you used to subdue the Runner, you may need it again if he breaks free." He added.

Raptix, Nod and Cera headed into a forest near the Gravel Fields to fetch some vines and sticks.

When they returned, the group set about binding the Runner.

Ducky, Raptix and Hyp stood back and admired their handiwork; the enemy Runner wrapped in a cocoon of vines and bound between two large tree branches.

Littlefoot looked at the bound Runner. "Alright, let's move out!" he said.

Ducky and Hyp lifted the Runner onto Nod's back. When they had done so, they departed.

Littlefoot and the rest of the assembled group departed after them and headed to the airfield.

When the group got to the airfield they spotted Pterano and the land-walkers grouped around something in the airfield.

"Sorry. We couldn't get there in time." Deimos said.

"Uh, yeah!" Mutt added.

"What's going on?" Cera asked, pushing her way through the crowd.

"Something happened to Grey-Wing." Chomper replied.

"I can't feel my feet!" Grey-Wing shouted.

Suddenly, a loud scream pierced the air and caused all the heads to turn. Long-Wing fell to the ground clutching his right leg, evidently in severe pain.

"What's going on?" shouted Pterano

"I don't have a damn clue!" shouted a dinosaur who served as the ground crew.

Raptix made his way through the crowd and stopped by Long-Wing.

"There's some kind of brown seed pod in his foot." Raptix said, "I'll have to pull it out or the pain will last a lot longer."

"Go ahead." Long-Wing said between clenched teeth.

Raptix grabbed hold of the seed pod and pulled it out.

"Alright, someone get my sister, everyone else sweep the airfield for foreign objects. Get Long-Wing and Grey-Wing off the airfield." Pterano ordered.

At his command, Petrie and two other flyers took off and headed towards Petrie's nest and two ground crew dinosaurs carried the two injured flyers to the borders of the airfield. The land-walkers began to sweep the airfield for foreign objects.

Raptix and Littlefoot were paired up to sweep the edges of the landing zone.

"What's this?" Littlefoot asked as he saw a brown triangular seed pod on the ground. It was covered in green sludge. "Raptix! I got one!" he shouted

Raptix ran over to where Littlefoot was standing and crushed the seed pod into powder with a rock.

"Maybe we should save one of these seed pods and give it to Mr. Thicknose and see if he can identify it." Chomper said, crushing a seed pod with a rock.

"Great idea. If you want to end up like Long-Wing" Cera said, glancing at Long-Wing, who was evidently still in a lot of pain.

"I'm serious, Cera." Chomper said, a slight frown crossing his face.

"No, that's actually a good idea!" Pterano said, "Now how do we package one of these pods so the carrier doesn't get hurt?"

"How about a leaf bag?" offered Chomper.

"That'll work." Pterano replied. "ALL SWEEPERS, A SEED POD IS NEEDED!" he shouted.

Ruby, upon hearing Pterano's command, walked over to a tree and picked up a sturdy leaf and formed it into a bag. She used a stick to push the seed pod into the bag. She then handed the bag to Pterano who placed it by his side.

Just then a flapping of wings could be heard and Petrie's mom, along with Petrie and the two flyers who accompanied him landed.

"What's the problem?" Petrie's mom asked.

"Something happened to Grey-Wing and Long-Wing." Pterano replied.

"Let me go have a look." Petrie's mom replied.

As Petrie's mom examined Grey-Wing and Long-Wing, a shocked expression ran across her face. "It looks like they have been poisoned. I can't do anything until I know what they've been poisoned with." she said.

A collective gasp ran through the group.

"Ptyrax get this bag to Mr. Thicknose immediately! And be very careful, the seed pod in there seems to be quite dangerous." Pterano ordered, handing the bag containing the seed pod to a large tan flyer.

"Deimos, perhaps you should go with Ptyrax." Pterano said

Ptyrax grabbed the bag with his feet and flew towards the Thundering Falls Lake. Deimos followed him.

Hyp, Nod and Ducky arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake with their captive.

"We have important information." Hyp announced.

The attention of the adults was immediately grasped by this statement.

"What is it?" Ducky's mom asked

Hyp took a deep breath. "Deimos and Ducky were attacked by an unknown brown Runner." He said.

Ducky walked forward, the bruise on her throat quite visible.

The adults gasped as they saw Ducky's injury.

"Did you catch the assailant?" a male Spike-Tail asked

"As a matter of fact we did." Hyp replied, "Nod! Come here!".

Nod walked forward carrying the captive Runner. Ducky and Hyp unloaded their captive and placed him on the ground in front of the adults.

Just then Deimos came running in and Ptyrax descended to a height slightly above Deimos's head.

"Is Mr. Thicknose here?" Ptyrax asked.

"Present." Mr. Thicknose replied, "What do you need me for?"

"We found these strange seed pods with a green coating on them scattered throughout the airfield. Apparently they seem to be poisoned because Long-Wing and Grey-Wing have stepped on them and they got quite ill from it. We need you to identify them and see if you can help the two flyers." Ptyrax replied.

"Do you have one of these seed pods?" Mr. Thicknose asked.

"As a matter of fact, I do." Ptyrax replied, dropping the leaf bag in front of Mr. Thicknose.

"I'll try my best, but I'll need Mr. Bigmouth's help. He's the one who knows all about plants. He's currently examining the plants at the Big Water." Mr. Thicknose said.

"Deimos, do you have anything to say?" Grandpa Longneck said.

"Yes. The same brown Runner who attacked Ducky and me also threw these seed pods into the landing zone at the airfield. I caught him in the act and attempted to chase him and the last thing I remember before blacking out was a blow to the back of my head." Deimos said.

"Excellent. We shall deal with this Runner." Mr. Threehorn said, "You may leave."

A few days later during a lesson on close quarters combat, a grey Runner ran into the airfield.

"Mr. Bigmouth and Mr. Thicknose found out about those pods! Come quickly to the Thundering Falls Lake!" the Runner said.

When Pterano and his flyers arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake, Littlefoot and his friends were already present, along with practically the whole valley. Mr. Bigmouth and Mr. Thicknose garnered the attention of those gathered.

"As we all know, Grey-Wing and Long-Wing were poisoned by some strange seed pods." Mr. Thicknose began, "Mr. Bigmouth, you have their attention."

"The seed pods themselves are not poisonous. But the green slime is not a natural part of the pods. In fact it looks like someone ground up the leaves of the fireshrub and smeared them on the pod. The fireshrub is a strong irritant even when the leaves are undamaged. When it is ground into a paste and the paste enters a wound, the irritant effects are even stronger. Grey-Wing and Long-Wing are experiencing the symptoms of fireshrub poisoning, intense pain then numbness. " Mr. Bigmouth said.

"Is there anything that can be done?" asked Pterano.

"They'll have to wait it out, they should be better in about five risings of the Bright Circle" Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"Could the pods have gotten onto the airfield by accident?" Ptyrax asked.

"Both the fireshrub and these seed pods do not grow near the airfield. In fact, these two plants don't grow near each other." Mr. Bigmouth answered.

"You mean…" Cera began.

"Yes, Cera, someone is trying to cripple the flyers. I don't know if it's malicious or someone pulling a prank." Mr. Bigmouth finished.

"Alright. We must be more careful around the airfield." Pterano said.

"Did we get any info from the Runner?" Blue-Scale asked

"All we got was that he admitted to throwing the pods on the airfield and that he is with Styracus's herd. Also, we decided to hand him over to Styracus and let him do the judging." Mr. Threehorn replied.

"I knew that Styracus character was up to no good!" A male Spike-Tail shouted.

"How do you know he's responsible?" a male Fast-Runner countered.

The children along with Deimos and Raptix left the meeting and headed to the Hot Springs.

"I'll kill that Runner!" shouted Cera.

"Calm down!" Shorty said, "How can you be so certain it was him?"

"Did you even see what that bastard did to Ducky? He nearly killed her!" Cera shouted, "Besides, Raptix confirmed that his scent was found on the seed pods and on the footprints where Ducky was attacked." she added.

Littlefoot lay in his nest after a game of ball at the Hot Springs with his friends. He was surprised at how good Deimos was at the game. He was pondering Deimos's cryptic statement, "The war has begun".

"What does Deimos mean by 'The war has begun.'?" he said out loud to himself.

He looked into the night sky and saw two shadows passing overhead as he drifted off to sleep.

As night fell, Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus landed near the outskirts of the Great Valley.

"Styracus should be getting here soon." Ozzie said, dismounting from Rinkus.

Not soon after had Ozzie made his statement, Styracus and two other dinosaurs, a black Spike-Tail and a large dark green Swimmer arrived.

"Who are you?" asked Styracus, glaring at Rinkus. The cold white light of the Night Circle made Styracus's facial features even harder and more menacing. His hard yellow eyes bored into Rinkus.

"Well… I'm Rinkus and that is Ozzie and Sierra." Rinkus said, gesturing to his two companions.

"Well, it looks like Excidium sent you to help me and I hope you will be some help. By the way, I'm Styracus and my two friends here are Theta, the Swimmer and Hasta, the Spike-Tail." Styracus said.

The group headed to a rocky trail leading to the top of the Great Rock Wall.

Unbeknownst to Styracus and his companions, Strut, a Swimmer and a Runner had just overheard their conversation.

"Should we tell the others?" Strut asked.

"We need more proof. Let's follow them." the Swimmer said.

"It could be dangerous." Strut replied.

"The safety of the valley takes priority over our safety." the Runner said

The three dinosaurs waited until Styracus and his companions were out of sight. They followed Styracus and his group up the rocky path. When they arrived, they saw Styracus, Theta and Hasta attempting to push a boulder over the edge of the cliff.

"Are they trying to open a hole in the Great Rock Wall?" the Swimmer asked, crouched behind a large rock.

"We should tell the others." The Runner said, tiptoeing towards the path from which they had just come.

"Leaving so soon?" an unknown voice said.

The Swimmer and the Runner looked at the direction of the voice and just at that time the clouds moved, allowing the Night Circle's icy light to illuminate the speaker, an Egg-Stealer.

The two dinosaurs bolted for the exit but were struck by two diving shadows.

"Nice work, Sierra and Rinkus." Theta said, walking out from the shadows, clutching a large rock.

The two dinosaurs got up and attempted to flee but Hasta blocked their only way out.

"You have only two ways out, either fight us or jump off the cliffs. And I don't think you'll be able to fight us all and win. So why don't you make things easy and jump off the cliffs? " Sierra said, grinning.

"So what will it be?" Hasta said, lashing his tail threateningly.

"Make your choice quickly." Theta added, tossing his rock from one hand to the other.

"We never like to do things the easy way." the Swimmer said, grabbing two sticks and tossing one to his friend.

"Very well." Theta said, advancing.

The Swimmer rammed Ozzie sending him sprawling. In retaliation, Theta threw his rock at the Swimmer who ducked. Hasta had already thrown the Runner on his back and was ready to crush his head but the Swimmer delivered a vicious tail-whip to Hasta's side.

Hasta heard and felt his own ribs crack from the powerful blow and he staggered enough for his victim to roll out of the way, but moments later he cleared his head enough to deliver a tail-whip that the Runner dodged but not well enough. The blow knocked the Runner into a boulder, leaving him unconscious.

The Swimmer had just knocked Ozzie out with a stick. He then looked at the exit, it was seemingly clear. He was tiring and he needed to alert the valley but he knew that no one could possibly hear him from this area. He bolted for the exit.

The Swimmer was almost at the start of the trail, but he suddenly fell forward. Behind him was Sierra, clutching a rock stained with the Swimmer's blood.

"Nice hit, Sierra." Theta said.

"Thanks." Sierra said.

The injured Swimmer groaned and tried to get up on his feet.

"Damn it! He's still alive." Rinkus shouted.

Theta grabbed hold of the Swimmer's head and twisted until he heard a snap. "Not anymore." he said.

The unconscious Runner groaned and staggered to his feet.

"Don't even try!" shouted Hasta, executing an overhead tail-whip that floored the Runner, "Your turn, Theta." he added.

Theta advanced towards the fallen Runner, clutching a large rock. The Runner attempted to rise but was hit by the large rock that Theta threw. Theta then grabbed the stick that the Runner had dropped and proceeded to beat the Runner with it.

"Care to do the honors?" Theta asked, turning to Sierra and Rinkus.

"Oh yes!" Sierra said, grinning.

Sierra and Rinkus grabbed the Runner and proceeded to fly up until they were high in the air.

"I'll bet you wished you had jumped off the cliffs instead! No matter, you'll get the same treatment!" Sierra taunted.

"Screw you!" the Runner shouted in response.

Rinkus and Sierra just laughed.

"Let's not do the countdown this time." Sierra said, letting go of the Runner. Rinkus followed suit.

The Runner screamed as he plummeted to the ground, a distance that would prove fatal for any dinosaur. He landed with a sickening thud near Strut, who had hid in a small crevice near the path that led to where the Runner and the Swimmer attempted to fight their way to freedom.

"Strut… alert" the Runner coughed up some blood, "the valley." he choked out before he died.

Strut gulped and bolted down the rocky path. Styracus saw him.

"Stop him!" Styracus shouted.

Ozzie, Sierra, Rinkus, Hasta and Theta leapt to their feet and chased Strut. But Strut outran all his pursuers except the two flyers and his brother. He then ran under a low passage that turned right into a clearing, the two flyers didn't see the passage and passed him over. However, Ozzie picked up his brother's scent and turned into the clearing.

"Nowhere to run, Strut!" Ozzie said, grinning. He was armed with the stick he took from the Swimmer whom Theta killed.

"What are you going to do?" Strut asked.

Ozzie chuckled, "I'm going to do what Theta did to that Runner." he said, approaching Strut with his stick raised over his head.

Strut gulped; he saw the brutal beating that the Runner received.

Strut charged Ozzie, who kicked him in the stomach and pushed him down and then pinned him by stepping on his tail. Strut then slashed Ozzie's leg, causing him to step off of his tail and allowing Strut to get back onto his feet.

"You think you can take me, plant-popper?" Ozzie taunted, slashing at Strut's chest with his free claw.

Strut instinctively leapt back; he knew that he was no match for Ozzie in close quarters combat. He looked around for something to use as a weapon, a rock or a stick. He settled on a large rock.

Strut took careful aim and hurled the rock at Ozzie's moonlit form, a cry of pain let him know that he had hit his target. "Looks like that target practice with Pterano helped." he thought. He bolted for the exit while Ozzie was incapacitated. But he ran into a stick that seemingly appeared from nowhere.

"I admit you're tougher than I thought." Ozzie said, getting up, "But you are still no match for me!"

Ozzie swung his stick at Strut, who grabbed it and wrested it away from him.

Ozzie then snapped off a branch from a tree that happened to be near the entrance to the clearing.

"You see, Strut," Ozzie said, brandishing his tree branch, "I always have a few surprises."

Ozzie swung his branch at Strut who blocked with his stick and retaliated with a kick to Ozzie's leg. Ozzie then almost simultaneously slashed at Strut with his free hand and swung his branch at Strut's legs. Strut hit Ozzie's free hand with his branch and jumped over the branch. Strut then jabbed his stick at Ozzie's throat, but Ozzie hit Strut full across the ribs with his branch. Strut staggered from the impact, but he managed to parry an overhead blow from Ozzie's tree branch and counter with a slash that drew blood. Strut took advantage of the momentary shock that his slash caused Ozzie and rendered him unconscious with a blow to the head.

Strut then ran down the trail to where the other dinosaurs were sleeping.

Sierra and Rinkus saw Strut running off.

"Let's catch him and throw him off the nearest cliff." Sierra suggested.

"Why bother, they'll never believe that Egg-Stealer." Rinkus replied, "Besides I sent for a squad of sharpteeth to keep the Great Valley busy while we put more holes in the Great Rock Wall. They should be here soon after the Bright Circle rises."

"We won't have too long to wait then." Sierra said, looking at the sky, just now beginning to show the first hints of dawn.

Chapter 8: Suspicions Aroused

Littlefoot weaved around Nod and kicked the ball, a large brown seed pod, into the goal, a strip of grass marked off by two sticks in the ground.

"Point for Littlefoot's team!" shouted Blue-Scale, who was watching over them as a guard and a referee.

Deimos picked up the ball and kicked it back onto the field, but his foot claws slashed the seed pod open spraying a fragrant clear juice on him.

"Oh joy! Now I smell like rotting berries!" he said, disgustedly.

The whole group gave a hearty laugh. Even Blue-Scale who never seemed to smile, giggled at the sight of a sickleclaw dripping with an odiferous clear liquid.

"Cera, you did that on purpose!" Deimos shouted. Even though he was shouting, a grin was starting to form on his face.

"Alright, let's end it for now, as everyone is laughing too much to continue." Littlefoot said, after he gained control of himself.

Just then, Ptyrax landed on the field. "There's been an incident at the Berry Patch." He said.

"We better go!" Cera shouted.

The whole group rushed from the Bubbling Muds to the Berry Patch. There they saw two Swimmers, a Fast-Runner and a flyer, unconscious on the ground. They were surrounded by ring of adults and Petrie's mom was trying to revive the flyer.

"What the…" Raptix blurted out.

Spike turned and was about to eat a berry hanging from a bush.

"Spike! Do not eat that!" Ducky said.

Deimos grabbed the berry and immediately dropped it, clutching his hand.

"Damn it! My hand is burning! Does your food normally do that!" he shouted.

"No." Littlefoot responded.

"It's not the berry." Raptix said, looking at the berry Deimos had just dropped. The berry was covered in a green slime, not unlike that coating found on the seed pods that were thrown into the airfield a few days ago.

"What is that slime on the berry?" a grey Runner asked.

Raptix sniffed the berry, "It smells like… what was that stuff on those seed pods we found in the airfield?" he said.

"Fireshrub." Ptyrax offered.

"Thanks." Raptix said.

At the mention of fireshrub the dinosaurs began to chatter amongst themselves.

"Who's doing this!" a male Spike-Tail shouted.

The group failed to notice Styracus and the same Runner who assaulted Ducky looking on.

"Hmm. That'll keep 'em busy for a while." The Runner said.

"Nice idea to go and poison their favorite foods." Styracus said, "Now let's go before they catch us!"

Styracus and the Runner left.

"I think we should meet at the Thundering Falls Lake as usual." Grandma Longneck said.

All the dinosaurs present headed to the Thundering Falls Lake.

"Alright the meeting has started." Grandpa Longneck said.

"The first topic is the incident at the Berry Patch" Grandma Longneck said.

Pterano landed in front of Blue-Scale with a look of concern on his face.

"Has anyone seen Strut?" He asked.

"Didn't see him." Hyp replied, "Wasn't he with you?"

"I went to where his nest was; it's empty." Pterano replied.

"We'll go look for him, if that's ok with you." Littlefoot volunteered.

"Yes." Grandpa Longneck said, "I have to admit you and your friends are very brave for taking down that Runner who attacked Deimos. And I'm sure you can handle anything that you encounter. But I'll send Deimos and Raptix with you as reinforcements. And besides there are some things that only two-footers can do."

Littlefoot and his group set off to look for Strut.

"Alright then, onto the next topic," Blue-Scale began, "The breaches in the Great Rock Wall are an easy way for sharpteeth to get in and possibly endanger the kids or ourselves. We have to find a way to guard those breaches."

"How will that be done?" a dull red female Spike-Tail asked.

"There will be a group of land-walkers near each breach and possibly scattered throughout the valley." Blue-Scale said

"I don't think enough land-walkers will volunteer to implement your plan." Hyp's father said.

"Blue-Scale has the right idea, though. I think that we should give priority to the entrances that are closest to the feeding and sleeping grounds. The area between the Great Rock Pass and Two Boulder Pass should also have some squads placed there because that is where the majority of the dinosaurs spend their time. If we have any land-walkers after forming the squads needed for this, we may implement Blue-Scale's plan. " Grandpa Longneck said.

"Wait, we are taking ideas from a SHARPTOOTH! Don't you know they're all teeth and no brains?" shouted Mr. Threehorn, abruptly shattering the relative noontime calm.

Some of the dinosaurs shot dirty looks at Mr. Threehorn, some nodded their heads in agreement and the majority said nothing.

"MR. THREEHORN, YOUR OUTBURST WAS TOTALLY UNCALLED FOR! You owe Blue-Scale an apology. If you do not have anything constructive to say, keep your mouth shut! " shouted Grandpa Longneck, glaring at Mr. Threehorn.

"Uh, thank you Mr. Longneck." Blue-Scale began, "Where was I… oh yes."

Styracus and Theta, crouched behind a pair of shrubs, were eavesdropping on the meeting.

"Do you think they caught on?" Theta asked with concern

"Don't worry about it Theta, they still think the mining of the airfield was a prank gone horribly wrong and they didn't see the connection between this and the mining of the airfield." Styracus whispered.

Littlefoot and his group continued walking towards the outskirts of the Great Valley. They bypassed the airfield since Pterano told them that it was very unlikely that he was there.

"Hey, I smell Strut!" Raptix said, sniffing a footprint.

"Yeah, I got Strut's scent too!" Chomper added, sniffing a footprint ahead of the one that Raptix was sniffing.

"Alright, we follow the scent trail." Littlefoot said.

The group followed the scent trail to thick stand of trees near the Gravel Fields.

"He can't be in there? Can he?" Hyp asked.

"The scent trails don't lie." Raptix replied.

Suddenly, Ducky gave a gasp as she looked upon a rock. There was dried blood on the rock.

"Strut has been hurt. He has, he has." Ducky said, concern audible in her voice

"Take it easy, Ducky. That may not be Strut's blood." Littlefoot said

Raptix sniffed the bloodstain. "I really don't want to say this, but that is Strut's blood. It has his scent."

Nod pushed aside some of the saplings in the stand and spotted Strut lying on the ground.

Deimos ran next to Strut. "Are you ok?" he asked.

"Ow." Strut said weakly.

"What happened?" Littlefoot asked. As he looked over Strut, he saw several deep slashes as well as some bruises on his body.

"Two Great Valley dinosaurs, killed in…" Strut gave a harsh breath, "Great Rock Wall. Entrance by Boulder Path at end of Gravel Fields." He then fell back to the ground, unconscious.

"Nod, take Strut back to the adults." Littlefoot ordered, "The rest of us will go investigate."

Ducky and Deimos carefully lifted Strut onto Nod's back and as soon as Strut was placed on his back, he departed.

The group headed to a rocky trail at the base of the Great Rock Wall.

"This is it?" Ducky asked.

"Yes, now let's move!" Deimos replied.

The group moved up the trail until they came to the entrance to the rock point that enabled one to see out into the Mysterious Beyond. There was nothing really out of the ordinary except for an unusual rock pile near the entrance to the rock point.

"There are no dead dinosaurs here." Hyp said.

"Maybe Strut is imagining things. He could, he could." Ducky replied.

"What is that awful smell!" shouted Cera.

Raptix traced the smell to a pile of rocks, "It smells like something dead, but I don't see a body anywhere." he said

"It's coming from that rock pile!" Chomper said, sniffing the same rock pile that Raptix traced the odor to.

"Don't be ridiculous, Chomper! How could a rock smell like something dead?" Cera said, disbelievingly.

"Maybe not the rock but something under it." Littlefoot offered, pushing one of the rocks off. "Ahh!" he shouted as the rock revealed the face of a dead Runner, "There's a body under this rock!"

The gathered group moved the rocks until the battered body of a Runner was revealed.

"What happened to him?" asked Cera.

"I'm not entirely sure, but it looks he fell off a cliff or got caught under a rock-fall." Littlefoot said.

"If he got caught under a rock-fall, then why isn't this whole path blocked off? No rock-fall is this small." Raptix said.

"The only cliffs I see above us are reachable only by flyers." Littlefoot said.

"I don't think he got caught under a rock-fall." Hyp said, pointing to a bloody stick on the ground.

"You're not telling me someone killed him, are you?" Raptix asked.

"Maybe, Raptix, but we can't be entirely sure." Littlefoot replied.

"We'll leave the body here for now. I'll go search the rock point. Petrie, go alert the adults. The rest of you, guard the body in case some dinosaurs try and take it for what ever reason." Deimos said, heading into the rock point.

Petrie flew off to the Thundering Falls Lake, which by this point now served as the meeting grounds.

"If Strut said two dinosaurs died up here, then why did we see one body?" Shorty asked.

"Maybe we should look around general area. Hyp, Cera, Ducky come with me and we'll…" Littlefoot began but was cut off by a loud thud and a strangled gasp coming from the rock point.

The group rushed into the rock point. They found a very nasty surprise waiting for them.

A heavily built, grey Swimmer had Deimos in a chokehold, in such way that it was impossible for Deimos to bite any part of the Swimmer holding him. Flanking the Swimmer were a dark blue Fast-Runner with a scar across his face and a dark green male Runner. The two dinosaurs flanking the Swimmer both brandished heavy sticks.

"What are you doing!" demanded Shorty.

"Let him go!" shouted Littlefoot.

"You are in no position to demand anything!" the Swimmer retorted.

"Oh yeah? We outnumber you!" Cera spat.

Raptix let out a growl of rage and charged the Swimmer.

"Raptix, no!" Ducky shouted. But it was too late.

Just as Raptix leapt into the air, the Fast-Runner hit Raptix with the stick he was holding. Littlefoot and his friends looked in horror as Raptix sailed through the air and landed at Cera's feet.

Cera nudged Raptix with her horn. "Are you ok?" she asked. Raptix did not respond.

"He is not dead is he?" Ducky asked.

Cera placed her head by Raptix and listened for a heartbeat. "He's still alive." She said.

Ducky gently picked up Raptix's inert form and placed him on Spike's back.

"A group of plant-eaters mourning over a fast-biter, how pathetic." The Runner spat.

"He's my friend and their friend!" shouted Deimos. The Swimmer responded by tightening his chokehold until Deimos was almost unconscious.

"Next time you open your mouth, I'll break your neck!" the Swimmer shouted, twisting Deimos's head until he showed obvious signs of pain.

"That does it!" Cera shouted, charging the Swimmer.

The Swimmer turned so that Deimos's body protected his own body. "Charge and you'll hit your friend." The Swimmer taunted.

Cera stopped her charge and stormed back to Littlefoot. "Bastards!" She muttered

Deimos then tried to slash the Swimmer with his foot claws. The Swimmer shifted his body so all Deimos hit was empty air. "Don't even think about it!" the Swimmer said, tightening his chokehold until Deimos was totally unconscious.

"You bastards!" shouted Shorty, charging the Swimmer.

The two companions of the Swimmer intercepted Shorty's charge and repeatedly beat him about the head and neck with their sticks until he backed down.

"You try something like that again and we kill this sickleclaw!" the Swimmer threatened.

While Littlefoot and his friends closest to the Swimmer and his two companions were arguing, Hyp and Chomper secretly gathered handfuls of sand.

Suddenly and without warning, Hyp and Chomper charged forward and threw their handfuls of sand into their opponents' faces.

The Swimmer and his companions started coughing as they inhaled the irritating particles. Deimos then suddenly revived and took advantage of the Swimmer's incapacitation and plunged his foot claw into the Swimmer's leg, breaking the Swimmer's chokehold. He then elbowed the Swimmer in the stomach, stunning him and then he ran towards the group.

"Let's go!" shouted Littlefoot upon seeing Deimos heading towards them. At his command, the entire group whom he led here ran down the trail.

"Get them, we can't let them tell the valley about those two dinosaurs whom Theta and Hasta killed!" shouted the Swimmer, who was kneeling and clutching his injured leg.

The Fast-Runner and Runner gave chase.

"Why are we running, we can take them! And I though you were unconscious!" Cera said. Despite her words she was still running along with the group.

"Cera, shut up and run!" Deimos shouted, "Our job now is to tell the valley about these rogue plant eaters, not fight them. And I faked being unconscious!"

Out of the corner of his eye Littlefoot saw the Fast-Runner pull his arm back. "Everyone, get down!" he shouted. The dinosaurs crouched down and continued running. No sooner had everyone crouched down, a heavy stick flew through the air, missing Deimos's head by inches.

As they turned around a corner, they saw the valley adults gathered near the entrance to the path.

"If we can just make it to the adults, then we should be fine." Littlefoot said.

"They are catching up!" Nod shouted. He felt something bounce off his armored back. "They're throwing rocks!" he shouted, as two more rocks bounced off of him.

A rock hit Ducky causing her to stumble, but she regained her footing.

"Look! The flyers are here!" shouted Hyp, pointing to the sky.

Ptyrax, Ruby, Pterano and a male, blue Fast-Runner about Ruby's age soon arrived and headed to the rock trail where Littlefoot and his friends were. Ruby and the blue Fast-Runner had their rocks ready in case they were given the order to fire.

Pterano noticed Ducky get hit in the back with a large rock thrown by a Fast-Runner who was chasing them along with a Runner.

"We're going in!" Pterano shouted, veering towards the two dinosaurs. "Ovius, get ready to fire!" he shouted.

Ptyrax followed Pterano. "Ruby, get ready!" he shouted.

As soon as Pterano and Ptyrax got within range of the two dinosaurs, Ruby and Ovius threw their rocks at them.

"Littlefoot. Run! We'll take care of this!" Pterano shouted.

Littlefoot and his group ran towards the trailhead with greater speed than they had ever known in their lives.

"Now what?" the Fast-Runner asked, ducking under a rock that Chomper threw at him.

"Take these flyers out and continue chasing them!" the Runner replied, picking up a rock and hurling it at Pterano, who jerked to the side, dodging the rock.

The two dinosaurs and the two flyers fought. Ruby knocked out the Runner by having Ptyrax fly over the Runner and then she threw several rocks down at the Runner, most of them striking him and rendering him unconscious.

"Knock out my friend, will you!" the Fast-Runner shouted, hurling a rock at Ruby, who ducked and responded by throwing a sharp stick at him.

The Fast-Runner leapt out of the way of the stick. He then grabbed a rock and threw it at Ptyrax, who abruptly dropped in altitude. The Fast-Runner then threw the sharp stick at Ovius who ducked and threw a rock at the Fast-Runner, who leapt to the side, dodging it.

"Time to end this!" the Fast-Runner muttered to himself as he picked up an ordinary stone and a very sharp, flat rock. He threw the ordinary rock at Pterano and then the sharp rock slightly to the left of it.

Pterano dodged the ordinary rock but due to the sun's glare he was unable to dodge the flat rock and it tore through his left wing, opening a gash that forced him to land. He glided to a small plain near the trail.

The Fast-Runner grinned and prepared to throw another rock at Ptyrax when he suddenly fell down, unconscious. Behind him was Ducky's mom, who knocked him out with the tree branch she was holding.

"I've had enough of this nonsense!" she shouted. Another Swimmer helped her carry the unconscious Fast-Runner to the trailhead. Deimos and a Fast-Runner carried the unconscious Runner to the trailhead.

"Now what?" asked Hyp.

"Tie these two up, we'll interrogate them later." Blue-Scale ordered, pointing to the pair of unconscious dinosaurs by the red rock that marked the entrance to the trail. Hyp, Ducky and Mutt ran into the nearby forest and returned with vines and tree branches. In short order, they tied up the two hostile dinosaurs and left them by the trailhead.

"Ms. Flyer and Deimos, tend to Pterano and Raptix immediately!" Grandpa Longneck ordered. Petrie's mom and Deimos ran to the small plain where Pterano and Raptix lay injured.

Meanwhile, Styracus, Theta and Hasta were speaking to a dull green sickleclaw near one of the holes they made in the Great Rock Wall. Another squad of sharpteeth was behind him.

"Alright, green team." The dull green sickleclaw said. He got the attention of all sharpteeth including a grey sickleclaw who appeared to be the leader of the second squad.

"Squad one shall assist in breaching the Great Rock Wall." The green sickleclaw said, pointing to the grey sickleclaw and his squad. "Squad two, that's us, shall start a battle with the plant-eaters to provide cover." The green sickleclaw continued, pointing to his squad.

"Any questions?" the grey sickleclaw asked.

"No." the group responded in unison.

"Alright, then, MOVE out!" the green sickleclaw shouted.

Meanwhile, a blue Runner and a brown flyer were eavesdropping. Suddenly, Theta turned his head and saw the Runner, who was not yet aware that he had been spotted.

"Who's that?" Theta asked.

"It's a spy!" Hasta said.

"Want us to get him and kill him?" Theta asked.

"No, both of you stay here and brief the sickleclaw. I'll catch that spy." Styracus replied, giving chase to the Runner,

The Runner managed to evade Styracus and he eventually made his way to the trailhead where Deimos and Petrie's mom were treating Pterano and Raptix.

"I just saw Styracus, a Swimmer and a Spike-Tail talking to a sickleclaw!" the Runner said.

"You saw WHAT?" shouted Mr. Threehorn so loudly it made everyone stop what they were doing.

Deimos, in shock, dropped the stick that he was using to dab sickle-claw paste on Pterano's wing injury. "I knew Styracus was trouble!" he muttered

Suddenly, a brown flyer landed next to Petrie's mom who was lifting one of Raptix's feathers to place sickle-claw paste on a large cut.

"I also saw the same thing as that Runner!" he said, somewhat out of breath.

Suddenly, Styracus burst out of the forest that the Runner had just emerged from moments ago. "Where is that spy!" he demanded. He caught sight of the Runner. "I'll kill you!" he shouted as soon as he saw the Runner. The Runner stood in place, frozen by fear.

"You will do nothing!" shouted Blue-Scale, placing himself between the Runner and Styracus. Mr. Threehorn and Bron also formed a protective circle around the Runner.

"WHAT IS GOING ON?" shouted Grandpa Longneck. All the dinosaurs present stared at him in shock; they had never seen him so angry.

"That…that… Styracus tried to kill me." The Runner said, between ragged breaths.

Ducky's mother noticed the bruises on Shorty's head and neck area. "What happened to you?" she asked with concern.

"You know how Littlefoot, I and a group of our friends went up that rock trail to look for Strut?" Shorty asked. Ducky's mother nodded her head in response. "Well, Deimos went to the rock point at the end of the trail and three dinosaurs attacked him. A Swimmer had him in a chokehold and as we tried to free him, I was beaten by two other dinosaurs, a Runner and a Fast-Runner. Raptix was also seriously beaten. We eventually escaped because Deimos was eventually able to stab his captor with his claws and Pterano and another flyer helped fend off those two dinosaurs chasing us." Shorty finished.

"Styracus, you have a massive amount of explaining to do." Mr. Threehorn said in a voice that was unusually cool but yet had a threatening tone to it.

"I own no explanation." Styracus said defiantly.

"Explain why you were seen talking to a sickleclaw and why you were chasing one of the dinosaurs. If you don't offer an explanation, you and your herd will be banished from this valley. I'm sure that there are sharpteeth out in the Mysterious Beyond that would love to make a meal of your herd." Mr. Threehorn replied in a cold tone that no one had ever heard him use before.

Theta looked on the scene from behind a large rock. "Oh no. I'd better tell that sickleclaw that Styracus has been found out." He muttered to himself as he walked away towards one of the breaches in the Great Rock Wall.

Meanwhile, Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus were camped out in a cave outside the Great Valley.

"So when do we attack?" Sierra asked.

"We wait until nightfall to enter the valley and assist blue team." Rinkus said between mouthfuls of his meal, which appeared to be some kind of fish.

Suddenly, the same dull green sickleclaw who Theta, Hasta and Styracus were speaking to earlier ran into their encampment.

"Ozzie, Sierra, Rinkus you all must immediately meet up with Theta, Hasta and the rest of blue team." The sickleclaw said.

"What happened?" Ozzie asked.

"The attack plan has gone terribly wrong." The sickleclaw replied.

At those words Sierra, Ozzie and Rinkus left their encampment and headed to one of the openings in the Great Rock Wall. There they met up with the rest of blue team.

"Alright, what has gone wrong?" demanded Sierra.

"Well… Styracus has been found out. And there are only five holes in the Great Rock Wall." Theta stated.

"What? That ruins the whole plan!" Hasta shouted

"I know that! So that means…" Theta replied.

"We'll have to attack sooner." The grey sickleclaw stated, finishing Theta's sentence.

"We only have green team and blue team here. We need red squadron and the other teams." The green sickle claw said.

"Sierra, Rinkus, fly immediately to Claw Valley and tell Excidium that we are going to be attacking early." Hasta ordered.

"Will do." Sierra and Rinkus replied before flapping their wings and taking off.

"Shall we attack?" the dull green sickleclaw asked.

"No. We must wait here until the other teams arrive, then we can attack." The grey sickleclaw responded.

"How long until the other squads arrive?" Ozzie asked.

"It took us one rising of the Bright Circle to get here. I would assume red squadron would arrive here the fastest and black team would be the last to arrive. So I would say in three or four risings of the Bright Circle all the teams should be present." The green sickleclaw said.

"What about Styracus?" Theta asked.

"Hopefully, he'll be able to free himself." The green sickleclaw replied.

"Let's hope this new plan works." Hasta said.

"I hope so too." The grey sickleclaw said. He looked out into the Mysterious Beyond. Sierra and Rinkus had long left their vision range and were far past the horizon. The rocky plains and flat deserts of this region of the Mysterious Beyond glowed with a blood red hue in the setting sun.

"It's now or never." Theta said, looking out into the Mysterious Beyond with the grey sickleclaw.

Chapter 9: The Countdown Begins

The midmorning sun illuminated the features of the Great Valley. In particular, Thundering Falls Lake was especially beautiful, its surface shimmering like the crystals from the Canyon of Shiny Stones. Near the lake the majority of the Great Valley dinosaurs were present, either eating the verdant lakeside foliage or drinking from the cool waters of the Thundering Falls Lake.

Near the lake a smaller group of dinosaurs were gathered separate from the others: a fast-biter, a Longneck, and a flyer.

"So what did we learn?" Raptix asked. In the day that passed since he was beaten, he looked much better. Despite the fact that he couldn't run very far because the attack had broken some of his ribs he was fairly healthy. He also walked with a slight limp caused by the beating.

"Nothing yet." Bron replied.

"We will continue interrogating them after breakfast." The flyer replied.

Suddenly, Deimos and Mr. Threehorn ran into the group. Deimos was obviously in a state of shock and Mr. Threehorn wore an expression that displayed both anger and frustration.

"The Runner and the Fast-Runner, they're…they're…" Deimos stuttered.

"He means to say the Runner and Fast-Runner somehow escaped. And the Swimmer and Spike-Tail who were supposed to be guarding the two are gone." Mr. Threehorn finished, strangely nonchalant.

"What! Alert Squad One!" shouted Bron. At his command the flyer leapt into the air and flew off towards the Great Rock Pass.

"Where's Styracus?" Raptix asked.

"He is being held in a cave in the Gravel Fields and being guarded by Mr. Clubtail and Blue-Scale. I don't think he's dumb enough to take on a Club-Tail and a sharptooth, who both have orders to kill him if he attacks." Bron replied

"Kill him? We need information from him!" Raptix said.

"Raptix, information doesn't do you any good if you are dead!" Deimos said.

"I'm hungry." Raptix replied.

The other dinosaurs gave Raptix strange looks after his non sequitur.

"Well, we didn't finish eating breakfast." Bron said, chuckling.

Meanwhile, at the Great Rock Pass, Squad One, which was composed of Littlefoot, Ducky, Hyp, Cera, Nod, Ali, Mutt and Petrie, was patrolling the area.

Suddenly a brown flyer landed in front of the group.

"I need to speak to the squad leader." The flyer said.

"You mean Littlefoot?" Ducky asked.

"Yes, Littlefoot." the flyer answered, somewhat irritated.

"What do you need?" Littlefoot asked, looking at the flyer.

"Bron says that the two dinosaurs you captured at the previous rising of the Bright Circle have escaped." The flyer said.

"WHAT!" shouted Littlefoot, "We must find them immediately!"

"Where shall we look?" asked Ali.

"Perhaps we should try the interrogation site." offered Hyp.

"I don't think we'll find the two captives there, but we should find some clues. We will go there." Littlefoot responded.

With that said, Squad One headed towards the interrogation site.

After a trek through the Gravel Fields, the squad arrived at a large forest.

"Is this it?" asked Petrie.

"No, the site is inside the forest." Littlefoot said.

The squad then entered the forest and followed a trail to a grassy clearing with several large trees and rocks in it. There were also a multitude of vines draped across various trees. A medium sized river and a small pond were also present

"Alright, team." Littlefoot said, gaining the attention of all who were gathered with him, "Search this area for clues, don't overlook anything!"

Ducky checked the river and the pond, while the rest of the group checked the land.

"That's odd." Hyp muttered to himself as he looked at a pile of vines by a large tree. "They look like a sharptooth bit through them."

After several minutes passed, Littlefoot addressed the group. "Did you all find anything?" he asked.

"Only a pile of vines that look like a sharptooth bit through them. Perhaps, Deimos is responsible?" Hyp said.

"Deimos would not do that. He would not, he would not." Ducky replied

"We will continue." Littlefoot said.

Suddenly, Mutt tripped over a vine and knocked it loose. The entire group turned at the noise and saw that a dead Swimmer, who had vines tied around his neck, had fallen to the ground next to Mutt.

"This is not good." Hyp said, gulping.

Littlefoot examined the dead Swimmer. He gently nudged the Swimmer's head with his left foreleg and heard the sound of bone grinding against bone. "I don't think he was strangled, it looks like someone broke his neck and left him up there." He said.

"I remember the adults saying that there are supposed to be two guards, a Swimmer and a Spike-Tail here." Ali said, "And this dead Swimmer looks exactly like one of the guards."

"Ok, so where's the Spike-Tail?" Cera asked.

Suddenly, Ducky leapt out of the small pond.

"There's…. there's a dead Spike-Tail in the lake and it looks like he died very recently!" she sputtered out, spitting out mouthfuls of water in between breaths.

"Ok, we should tell the adults, that…" Littlefoot began but was interrupted by a loud thud behind him. He turned around and saw Ducky, unconscious near the lake; he could see a large tree branch by Ducky's head. "DUCKY!" he shouted. "Petrie, go to the adults, IMMEDIATELY!" he ordered

Petrie, wordlessly, flew out of the clearing and headed to Thundering Falls Lake.

Suddenly, another stick embedded itself in the ground behind Littlefoot. "It's an ambush! Get Ducky and leave immediately!" he ordered. More sticks and stones began flying through the air. One sharp rock hit Nod in the back, but it bounced off due to his armor.

Nod ran to Ducky and grabbed her tail and dragged her to safety, ignoring the hail of stones.

Hyp ran to Nod and lifted Ducky onto Nod's back.

"We got her!" Hyp shouted.

"Good. Now let's go!" Ali shouted.

The group ran to the exit but found it blocked by a grey Runner.

"Are you here to help?" asked Mutt.

The Runner did not respond but instead moved threateningly towards Mutt.

"Uh, guys, there's a Runner blocking our… ugh!" Mutt began but was cut off by the Runner who kneed him hard in the ribs.

"You got a lot of nerve, pal!" Hyp shouted, tackling the Runner.

Cera ran towards Hyp, who had just been thrown into a tree by his opponent. The opposing Runner ran to Hyp, who staggered to his feet after the impact, and threw a fierce left hook into Hyp's face, dazing him. Just as Hyp saw his opponent draw his fist back for another punch, Hyp managed to clear his head enough to duck a hard straight to his face by the opposing Runner. Hyp then kneed his enemy square in the groin, stunning him.

"Cera, let Hyp take care of this." he said, stepping in front of Cera.

"Damn, I wanted a piece of the action!" Cera grumbled. She looked back and saw that Hyp had just placed his enemy in a chokehold.

The group minus Hyp set off from the interrogation site.

They soon arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake, where Deimos and Mr. Threehorn greeted them with grave expressions. Incongruously, Raptix greeted the group with his tail wagging.

"What are you so happy about? Petrie just told us that two of the guards were killed and our two captives escaped!" Deimos shouted, glaring at Raptix.

Raptix's tail stopped wagging and he wilted under Deimos's harsh glare.

"Deimos, Ducky has been injured and needs help." Ali said.

"Alright, I'll see what I can do." Deimos replied, lifting Ducky from Nod's back and placing her on the ground.

"What did you find?" Mr. Threehorn asked.

"We could not locate the suspects. But we found the bodies of the Spike-Tail and the Swimmer who were supposed to be guarding them. In addition we found a pile of vines by the tree that looked like a sharptooth chewed them." Littlefoot replied.

"Where's Hyp?" asked Deimos.

Just then, Hyp bruised and bloodied, walked into the group.

"Where's that Runner?" Littlefoot asked.

"He threw dirt into my eyes and escaped while I was stunned!" Hyp said, spitting a mouthful of bloody saliva on the ground.

"Deimos, attend to Hyp." Mr. Threehorn said.

Meanwhile, at the Gravel Fields, Mr. Clubtail and Blue-Scale were guarding Styracus. A dark grey Spike-Tail ambled by them, but Mr. Clubtail and Blue-Scale paid no attention to him.

The Spike-Tail eventually passed through a nearby exit into the Mysterious Beyond.

"Should we tell someone?" Blue-Scale asked, glancing at a flyer, who served as a communications system and was perched on a cliff over his head.

"He's probably just lost, not many dinosaurs go to this area." Mr. Clubtail replied.

He soon arrived at Sierra and Ozzie's encampment. Theta, Hasta and Ozzie were present; Sierra and Rinkus were conspicuously absent.

"So, Arcus, what have you found about Styracus?" Hasta asked.

"Well, Styracus appears to be in a cave, but he is guarded by a Club-Tail and a Sharptooth." Arcus replied.

"Shall we lead an attack?" asked Ozzie.

"Not until all the teams arrive." Theta replied.

"But we must…" Ozzie said.

"No! If we attempt to rescue Styracus, we will place the valley on high alert and we stand a very high chance of being captured or killed. In addition, the valley inhabitants may kill Styracus because they may feel that he poses an extreme threat to the valley." Hasta said, cutting Ozzie off.

Just then, Sierra and Rinkus landed in front of them.

"We have just arrived from Claw Valley. All teams are mobilizing. Red squadron is en route. Estimated time of arrival is when the Bright Circle next rises." Rinkus said.

"What about the other teams?" Arcus asked.

"Green, black and yellow teams are on their way. They should arrive in about three or four risings of the Bright Circle. Red squadron will be on standby until all teams have arrived." Sierra replied. "And Excidium has made me a squadron leader along with the current one, Stormwing." He added, grinning.

"Who's the current one, besides you?" asked Ozzie.

"Wait until the Bright Circle next rises; then you'll find out." Sierra replied.

A grey flyer circled over the encampment and veered back towards the Great Valley.

"I saw two Spike-Tails, two flyers, a Swimmer and an Egg-Stealer outside the Great Rock Wall. It's about the same area where Styracus is being held. I also heard something about 'all teams are mobilizing'." Grey-Wing said. He had landed at the Airfield where he had interrupted a lesson on close quarters combat.

At the mention of two flyers, Pterano's expression suddenly darkened. "Oh no! Rinkus and Sierra are here!" he said.

"What shall we do?" a light blue female Fast-Runner asked.

"Shall we engage them?" Long-Wing asked.

"Does Mr. Longneck know about this?" Strut asked.

A general chatter broke out among the gathered flyers and the ground crew.

"QUIET!" shouted Pterano. Everyone gathered became quiet. "We should prepare in case an attack comes, but we should not attack that group. Also, Mr. Longneck must be alerted." He continued.

A dull red flyer leapt into the air and flew towards Thundering Falls Lake.

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Threehorn and Grandpa Longneck convened a meeting at Thundering Falls Lake. All the dinosaurs of the Great Valley were present, except for Blue-Scale and Mr. Clubtail.

"There has been a situation." Mr. Threehorn said.

"What situation?" Ducky's mother asked.

"Sierra, Rinkus, Ozzie and two other dinosaurs were seen outside the Great Valley, near the area where Styracus is being held. We do not know what they are planning, but if Grey-Wing's suspicions are right, we may need to prepare for an attack." Grandpa Longneck said.

"What preparations shall we make?" Petrie's mother asked.

"Perhaps training akin to what my flyers are undergoing?" Pterano offered.

"Out of sheer curiosity, how did you capture Styracus?" Littlefoot asked.

"We found out what he prefers to eat and we 'accidentally' poisoned his food. Who knew that mixing tree sweet juice with crushed rubea berries could knock out an adult Spike-Frill so fast?" Mr. Threehorn said. Mr. Bigmouth shot a dirty glance at Mr. Threehorn "Um, except Mr. Bigmouth." Mr. Threehorn added.

"Uh, back to the topic. So what is the consensus on adapting a training regimen like that of the flyers?" Grandpa Longneck said.

"I think it's a great idea, if we truly are in danger." A female blue Fast-Runner said.

"It's useless; we already know how to fight!" A male grey Threehorn said.

"I agree with that Threehorn." Mr. Threehorn said, "This training will be useless and redundant. I mean, Spike-Tails and Threehorns already know how to fight."

"We have other types of dinosaurs in this valley. And besides, it never hurts to learn to do something better." Grandpa Longneck countered.

"Fine. You win. And only because there is an almost immediate threat." Mr. Threehorn said grudgingly.

"It is settled, everyone who can fight will undergo a training regimen." Grandpa Longneck announced.

"But what will we be trained in?" asked Ducky's mother.

"I'd say that lessons on armed and unarmed close-quarters combat, lessons on Sharptooth, ranged combat and basic first aid should do the trick." Deimos offered.

"What about knowledge of plants?" Raptix asked.

"I'd wager that the plant-eaters know what plants are not edible and I don't think plant knowledge beyond what is needed for basic first aid is really necessary." Deimos said.

"Who's gonna be the instructors?" Cera asked.

"I'll get to that." Grandpa Longneck said. He looked at the gathered group and quickly made his decision.

"Deimos, you shall teach unarmed close quarters combat for the two-footers. Ms. Swimmer, you shall teach armed close quarters combat. Raptix, you will teach sharptooth languages. Mr. Threehorn and I will teach close-quarters combat for the four-footers. Pterano, you shall remain squadron leader of the Great Valley Air Corps and you shall train the flyers and teach ranged combat. Ms. Flyer and Mr. Bigmouth, you both will teach first aid." Grandpa Longneck announced.

"When will this training start? And what's the 'Great Valley Air Corps'? " Ducky asked.

"It will start at the next rising of the Bright Circle. The 'Great Valley Air Corps' is the name that Pterano chose for his group of trained flyers." Grandpa Longneck replied. "Alright, the meeting is over!" he announced

With that, the dinosaurs dispersed, scattering around the valley as the sun set, illuminating the valley in a light golden-red glow.

Littlefoot was gathered with his friends near the Bubbling Muds.

"So the war has begun." Littlefoot said, looking at a pebble on the ground.

"But why Styracus's herd attack us?" Petrie asked.

"I don't know, all that I know is we may have to fight." Cera replied.

Eventually, Littlefoot and his friends dispersed to their families.

Littlefoot and his grandparents were eating dinner in their sleeping areas.

"Hungry?" asked Grandpa Longneck.

Littlefoot pushed his meal of treestars away. "No." he replied.

"Alright, but get ready to go to sleep soon." Grandma Longneck said.

Littlefoot soon fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

As the next day broke, the sun's rays struck a group of flyers in an encampment outside the Great Valley. Red squadron had arrived.

"So shall we attack now?" asked an enormous black flyer. This was Stormwing, one of red squadron's leaders. His sharptooth, a smaller dark green sickleclaw, tapped his foot claws against the ground impatiently.

"Stormwing, I know you are anxious to start, but we can't start until all the teams arrive." Hasta said.

"When are they going to arrive?" the dark green sickleclaw demanded.

"Be patient!" Theta said, with a note of irritation in his voice. He was scanning the horizon for any signs of the other teams.

The training was well underway in the Great Valley. The training grounds occupied most of the plains near the Thundering Falls Lakes.

Littlefoot, Ali, Shorty and several other four-footers were tail-whipping tree stumps. Mr. Clubtail was walking along them and watching the trainees and instructing them.

"Ali, remember to mix up your techniques." Mr. Clubtail said, glancing in Ali's direction, "Shorty, minimize the delay between your attacks!" he said, glancing in Shorty's direction. "Excellent use of the overhead tail whip, Littlefoot!" he said, as he watched Littlefoot execute two swift overhead tail whips, one after the other.

"Kio! Pick up the pace!" Mr. Threehorn shouted at a brown Longneck who was of Shorty's species but older.

While Mr. Clubtail and Mr. Threehorn were training the four-footers, Petrie and his mother joined the Great Valley Air Corps for an endurance flight.

Ducky, Hyp and other two-footers were in another area of the training grounds. In contrast to the four-footers who were undergoing their exercises, the two footers stood in rows facing Deimos

"Alright, gang, before we start any training I will instruct you on the basic tenets of close quarters combat." Deimos said, looking at the gathered group of two-footers. "The most important tenet is, try not to get involved in close quarters combat if possible, fight from range. The second tenet is use whatever is available as a weapon. I don't care if it is a rock, a tree branch, a dead fast-biter or whatever. If you can clobber your opponent with it or throw it at your opponent, use it! And yes, I know I am 'supposed' to be teaching unarmed combat, but these tenets apply to all forms of combat. The third tenet ties in with the second one, unarmed combat should be a last resort. The fourth tenet is NEVER prolong a fight, take the opponent down as fast as you can and get away. The final tenet is fight dirty. This isn't a duel nor is it a time to be fair. Gouge your opponent's eyes, gang up on one opponent, use groin attacks, whatever it takes it defeat your opponent!" "YOU GOT ALL OF THAT!" Deimos shouted at the gathered trainees after he gave his tenets.

"Yes, sir!" came the concerted reply.

"Good!" Deimos shouted, "Alright! Today is basic strikes and grappling. You will be paired up with a partner to practice these techniques, so be sure to choose a partner similar in size and strength to you."

Hyp and Ducky paired up and listened to Deimos for further instructions.

"Ok the first strike is the most basic. The tail whip." Deimos said. "The advantage of the tail whip is that you can cover your back and your sides. And you have longer reach than your arms or legs. Now depending on the length and flexibility of your tail, you may not be able to execute some of the techniques. I still want you to try though. Now to get to the techniques, the first technique is the side tail whip. You can execute this either in a forehand or backhand motion, try to use both as you will keep your enemy guessing. Remember when you execute a side tail whip, you want to throw your weight behind it and follow through, almost as if you were trying cut your enemy in half. This type of tail whip is perfect for tripping your opponent or dazing them for a follow up attack, however it does not have that much knockout power compared to other tail whips. Now practice both the forehand and backhand tail whips with your sparring partner, your partner will be 'fighting back'. I want you to hit hard enough that your partner notices, but not so hard you knock them out."

The dinosaurs obeyed and began to tail whip each other. Deimos walked along the sparring dinosaurs and offered advice.

Hyp easily jumped over Ducky's sweeping backhand tail whip, which was aimed at his legs and countered with a horizontal forehand tail whip that caught Ducky across the ribs, causing her to flinch.

"Hyp, you are focusing too much on the forehand! Ducky, you are showing the enemy that you're preparing to attack!" Deimos shouted over the thuds of tails impacting against flesh and bone.

When the sun set, the Great Valley dinosaurs had finished their training and were dispersed around the Valley. Littlefoot and his friends along with Raptix were present near the Thundering Falls Lake.

"Whew, that was tough. It is, it is, it is." Ducky panted as the sat down on a rock. She had no bruises but her body ached from the blows of her sparring partner.

"Yeah, no kidding." Littlefoot replied.

Outside the Great Valley, near Ozzie's encampment, red squadron was engaging in some target practice.

"Hey guys, I'm going to go foraging." Ozzie said.

"Where?" asked Hasta.

"Inside the Great Valley. I haven't had a meal of eggs in a while." Ozzie replied.

"Wait until it is dark." Theta said.

"But…" Ozzie began.

"I said to wait until it is dark." Theta commanded, cutting Ozzie off. "Rinkus and Sierra, I want you to perform a recon on the Great Valley when the Night Circle rises. If you are spotted, flee or hide. Only attack if you feel your life is threatened. And Ozzie, while you are foraging I want you to assist Rinkus and Sierra in their recon mission."

"Got it!" Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus replied in unison.

"Good!" Theta said. "Now we wait."

As night fell and the Great Valley dinosaurs went to sleep. Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus entered the Great Valley. Ozzie entered through a breach that led him to the Bubbling Muds while Sierra and Rinkus simply flew into the valley.

Ozzie walked through the coldly illuminated valley, the Night Circle's light giving everything a stark and almost ghostly appearance. He looked around for a nest. He looked at a flyer's nest high on a cliff, but decided that risking his life for flyer eggs, even though they were his favorite, was foolish. He then continued through the valley, eventually passing Ducky's nest. He briefly considered kidnapping Ducky but realized that he would need Sierra and Rinkus to airlift her out and they were nowhere in sight. In addition, he saw a heavy tree branch and several large stones stacked on a large rock, all within easy reach of Ducky or her mother. He did not relish the prospect of getting assaulted by two angry Swimmers. He passed over the nest.

Ozzie eventually made his way to a seemingly unoccupied nest. "Yes. Now to treat Sierra, Rinkus and myself to a decent meal." He whispered. He picked out an egg and was about to pick out another before he heard voices. "Oh damn! I didn't know the Great Valley had patrols now." He said softly to himself.

Strut, along with a grey male Swimmer and light green female dinosaur of Nod's species were patrolling the section of the sleeping areas, where Ozzie was.

"I think I heard something." The Swimmer said.

The dinosaurs listened. Soon they heard the sound of footsteps.

"I see the suspect. It looks like an Egg-Stealer." The female dinosaur said.

"I'll get him. Egg-Stealers are very fast; only Fast-Runners, other Egg-Stealers, Runners, flyers and some sharpteeth can catch them." Strut said.

Strut then gave chase to Ozzie who was still clutching his egg. He eventually cornered Ozzie in a clearing.

"Ozzie, give me the egg and nothing will happen." Strut said.

"You'll have to take it from me, leaf-licker!" Ozzie taunted.

Strut briefly looked around for something to use as a weapon but he couldn't find anything. He sighed as he realized he had to take on his brother without any weapons.

Strut then charged Ozzie, who used his free hand to push Strut down. Strut then sprang up onto his feet, and made a grab for the egg, but Ozzie pulled the egg away from Strut and tripped him. He then kicked Strut in the head and ran, but Strut grabbed Ozzie's legs and he fell, dropping the egg in front of him. Strut then got to his feet and made a grab for the egg but Ozzie swung his tail at Strut's legs, tripping him. Strut then fell on the egg, breaking it.

"Strut! You ruined my meal!" Ozzie fumed, standing up.

Suddenly, Ozzie heard the sounds of an approaching patrol. "See ya!" Ozzie said, as he ran away from the clearing.

Strut tried to give chase but, disoriented from Ozzie's kick, he ran straight into the approaching patrol.

"Am I glad to see you!" Strut said, "An Egg-Stealer ran off and he was trying to steal an egg."

"How do you explain the egg that's on your chest?" demanded a female dinosaur.

"Um, I, uh, fell on the egg, while trying to protect it." Strut, stammered out

"Likely story. Ms. Maia, shall we take him into custody?" a blue-green male Fast Runner asked.

"Yes." Ms. Maia replied.

"You are damn lucky we just didn't kill you on the spot." A gold female Spike-Tail hissed.

"No! Wait! I'm actually…." Strut began, but Ms. Maia seized his beak and held it shut, while the Fast-Runner tied Strut's beak shut with vines.

In short order, Ms. Maia and the Fast-Runner also bound Strut's arms.

"Let's go to the Thundering Falls Lake." The Spike-Tail said. She noticed Strut wasn't moving. "I said MOVE!" she shouted, slamming her head into Strut's leg to induce him to start walking.

Meanwhile, Sierra and Rinkus were high above the valley. They just watched the whole scene unfold.

"Shall we rescue Ozzie?" Rinkus said.

"Rinkus, you idiot! That's not Ozzie, that's his brother Strut." Sierra said.

"Ok, never mind. Hey, let's go check out the feeding grounds!" Rinkus replied.

"Good idea!" Sierra said.

The two flyers headed the feeding grounds and landed. They examined the berry shrubs and the food piles that were left out.

Sierra examined a berry bush suspiciously lacking any berries. He stuck his hand into the berry bush and he soon felt an unknown object. He gave the object a tug and found out that it was a heavy stone, perfectly weighted for throwing. He gently shook the bush and more rocks fell out of the bush

"Why are there stones in the berry bush?" Sierra wondered, before tossing the stone he pulled from the bush on a pile of leaves. A loud snap alerted him to something. He then moved over to the leaf pile where he threw his rock and he retrieved a hollow reed, evidently broken in half from the rock.

Sierra looked over at Rinkus, who was checking a berry bush near the leaf pile where the hollow reed was found. Evidently, he had also found something strange; a heavy stick lay next to him. The stick was obviously not from the berry bush. Also Rinkus found several sharp twigs stuck point-first in the ground inside the same bush where he found the stick.

"Rinkus, I think we had better leave!" Sierra said, pointing at the horizon, which showed a faint trace of sunlight.

Rinkus and Sierra then took off and flew out of the valley. At their encampment they were greeted by Ozzie, Arcus, Theta and Hasta.

"Got any food?" Rinkus asked.

"No, I guess it's back to the same old." Ozzie said.

"Yeah." Sierra said, "Come on, let's go catch breakfast at the nearby stream" he said to Rinkus.

"Hold it! Before you go off to eat, what did you find?" Hasta asked.

"Well the Great Valley is definitely preparing for something. They have patrols now." Ozzie replied.

"And Rinkus and I found concealed weapons inside the berry bushes and under food piles." Sierra added.

"Yeah, and I passed by a Swimmer's nest and noticed that a large tree branch and several large rocks were within easy reach of the Swimmer and I mean real easy, two steps and they'd be armed." Ozzie added.

"And further more, Rinkus and I saw what looked like the training ground for the flyers, complete with a target range." Sierra said

"Hmm. So it seems the Great Valley dinosaurs are keen on our plan, but no matter. Excidium's sharpteeth will ensure victory." Hasta said.

Over the horizon, a group of sharpteeth headed for the Great Valley was silhouetted against the rising sun.

"The time is approaching." Theta said, gazing out over the horizon, "Our strength will be tested."

Chapter 10: Tension Mounts

As dawn broke over an encampment near the Great Valley, a group of dinosaurs were gathered around a large sickleclaw with red skin and ruby-red eyes that seemed to glow like molten lava. This was Red-Eye, leader of black team. Near Red-Claw were some sharpteeth who were sparring with each other.

"Alright, from the previous squads we have learned that the Great Valley has unguarded entrances here, here and here." Red-Eye said, pointing to a sketch of the Great Valley he had drawn in the dirt, "We also learned that leader of blue team, Styracus, has been captured and is held here. We must rescue him first, as his herd will provide a substantial boost to our forces." he continued, pointing to a circle on the sketch.

"So how do we rescue him?" a male blue-green fast-biter asked.

"A small group is to rescue him in anyway possible. This means that you may kill the guards or distract them, it does not matter as long as Styracus is freed. In addition this rescue will take place when the Night Circle rises today." Red-Eye replied.

"What next?" a female purple sickleclaw asked.

Red-Eye sighed. "Styracus will meet up with Theta and Hasta and…" He was interrupted by a loud thud as a sickleclaw threw her sparring partner to the ground.

"As I was saying, Styracus, Theta, Hasta and I will meet together in this encampment once Styracus has been freed. We will then attack when the Bright Circle next rises. Styracus's herd has been instructed to attack as soon as I give the signal in Sharptooth." Red-Eye continued.

"Sharptooth? You're giving the signal in Sharptooth? But isn't that…" a male blue fast-biter began, giving Red-Eye a quizzical look.

"I did not ask for your opinion! Is that clear!" Red-Eye shouted, cutting the fast-biter off. The fast-biter's feathers seemed to droop at Red-Eye's reprimand.

"Y…Yes, sir." The fast-biter stammered out.

"Alright, this meeting is finished. I would recommend you spar with green team, but don't hit them too hard." Red-Eye said with a grin.

In the Great Valley, training was also underway. The only dinosaurs that weren't at the Training Grounds were the patrol members and even they had to undergo training after the first group was done.

Near one of the one of the edges of the Training Ground, Mr. Bigmouth was instructing his trainees how to make sickle-claw paste and apply it. Ms. Flyer had already instructed them on how to bandage injuries with leaves.

"The proper sickle-claw pod is one that looks like this," Mr. Bigmouth said, holding up a sickle-claw pod, "It should be firm but yet give if you push it, it should also be a light brown and it should look like a sickleclaw foot claw, curved but not bent back on itself. The improper sickle-claw pod is one that is either straight, dark brown or soft; those are overripe and useless. Another improper sickle-claw pod is one that is hard, green or bent back on itself; those are under ripe and can actually make an injury worse. As for the green thorn leaves, they are found on the same plant. The key identifying feature of these plants is their size; they are very short; no other plant in this valley is the same size. In addition their leaves have thorns on their sides." Mr. Bigmouth lectured.

"Are the leaves useful?" Ruby asked.

"Yes, they are. In fact, they're a vital component of sickle-claw paste. But there are proper leaves to take. The leaves must be green, wilted or dried leaves are totally useless and will ruin a batch of sickle-claw paste if you mix them in. The leaves wilt very quickly, so they must be used quickly." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"So how to we make sickle-claw paste?" a male green Runner asked.

"I'm just there. To make the paste, take two sickle-claw pods, you don't need to peel them, for every four thorn leaves and grind them together between two rocks, until a thick brown paste is formed, it's OK if it's a little gritty but you should not see pieces of the ingredients. In an emergency you may alter the ratio, but it is not recommended as it will weaken the mixture. However, there must ALWAYS be more thorn leaves than pods. Also, while you are grinding the ingredients, the mixture emits a smell that may cause you to feel sick. For obvious reasons, if you must throw up while making this mixture, please do it AWAY from the mixture. You'll get used to the smell eventually." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"What if we don't have two rocks to grind it?" Hyp asked.

"If you have at least one rock, use a stick to grind it. It is more work to get a good mixture that way, but it's better than the alternative. If you don't have a rock, use your hands and two large leaves to grind the mixture, or if you can't find two leaves, just use your hands. It's not recommended you do this, because you'll get a low quality mixture and if you use your hands, it will be hard to apply the paste correctly. But it's better than nothing." Mr. Bigmouth replied, "And now I have the test, next to me are a pile of sickle-claw pods and thorn leaves, you are to pick the correct leaves and pods out of the pile. You will be tested one at a time, the rest of you are to stand at a distance. After all have been tested on this, you will all have to make a batch of sickle-claw paste; I will provide the ingredients and grinding stones." Mr. Bigmouth continued.

Over by the far corner of the Training Grounds, Pterano was training some dinosaurs in ranged combat. The target range consisted of a large field with several rocks placed at a distance from one end of the field. The dinosaurs were arranged in a row distant from the rocks with Pterano pacing in front of them.

"Alright, ranged combat is the recommended style of combat, as you can kill your opponent before they can reach you. There are three weapons that are preferred; throwing sticks, rocks and the hollow reed. However, anything that can be thrown can be used in an emergency. Today, we will train with the throwing stick." Pterano said, holding up a stick with a slight bend at one end. "The main advantages of the throwing stick are that it can travel farther and faster, fly straighter, and can be used in close-quarters combat. The main disadvantages of the throwing stick are that it doesn't hit as hard as a rock, it is easier to dodge or deflect, it is harder to find, you can't carry as much and it's hard to throw them over obstacles." He continued.

The dinosaurs picked up the sticks that were placed by their side and wielded them. Pterano walked among the dinosaurs and critiqued their stance.

"Nice stance, Ducky. Hadros, hold the stick towards one end, not in the middle. Mutt, place the leg on the same side of your throwing arm behind your body." Pterano said. Mutt and Hadros, a Swimmer who could have passed for Ducky's brother save for his storm-cloud grey eyes, corrected the errors that Pterano had pointed out.

"Alright, now we practice throwing. We aim at those targets." Pterano said, gesturing towards the rocks downrange from him. He saw Ovius draw his arm back. "Damn it, Ovius! Wait until I'm out of the target range before you fire!" he shouted, leaping into the air and flying behind the dinosaurs.

"Alright, there are important safety rules I forgot. First rule is until I give the order; no one is to enter the range, under any circumstances. Second rule is if a dinosaur wanders into the range, you are to cease fire immediately. Third rule is you are not to fire any projectile unless I give the go-ahead. Any violation of these rules will result in the offender having to face Mr. Longneck. Are we clear?" Pterano asked from the air.

"Yes, sir." came the concerted reply.

"Good. Commence firing!" Pterano shouted.

At his command, the dinosaurs drew their arms back and hurled their sticks at the targets. The cracks and thuds of sticks striking rocks and the dirt ground split the air.

"Remember, step forward with the foot on the same side as the arm that you are throwing with. Place as much force as you can behind the throw." Pterano instructed.

Suddenly, a light reddish flyer who Pterano recognized as one of the valley messenger flew next to Pterano and said something to him.

"Cease fire!" Pterano shouted, turning towards the dinosaurs below him. The dinosaurs immediately dropped their sticks.

"Not a moment too soon." Mutt said, rubbing his sore right arm.

"Quiet." Pterano scolded, "We have to cut practice short today because Mr. Longneck has convened an emergency meeting."

With that being said, the dinosaurs gathered at the target range headed to the Thundering Falls Lakes.

At the Thundering Falls Lake all the Great Valley Dinosaurs were gathered. Grandpa Longneck alone occupied the position normally occupied by Mr. Threehorn, himself and Blue-Scale.

"What is going on?" Nod asked.

"Me no know." Petrie replied, "Me just come from distance flight."

The dinosaurs chattered nervously. "I hear that an attack is coming soon." A voice came from the crowd. "I heard that someone in this valley is attacking our herd." A Far-Walker said.

"Quiet." Grandpa Longneck said. His booming voice echoed around the dinosaurs and quickly silenced them.

"Apparently, when the Night Circle was last in the sky, Ms. Maia and her patrol caught an Egg-Stealer who had apparently eaten an egg from a nest." He continued.

"Hmph. They probably caught random Egg-Stealer. How exciting." Cera whispered with barely disguised sarcasm.

"Quiet." Littlefoot ordered. Cera immediately became quiet.

Ms. Maia and her patrol, along with Strut with his beak and arms still bound, soon moved next to Grandpa Longneck. When Strut refused to move, the Spike-Tail pushed Strut with her head. After Grandpa Longneck looked at the prisoner, he soon had a shocked expression on his face.

"Ms. Maia, are you sure you caught the right Egg-Stealer? He looks a lot like Strut." Grandpa Longneck asked, turning towards Ms. Maia and away from the crowd.

"There is no question about it. Look, he has evidence of his meal on him." Ms. Maia said, seizing Strut and roughly turning him around so he faced Grandpa Longneck.

Grandpa Longneck looked at Strut and the remains of the egg on Strut's chest.

"Alright, so what do you propose the punishment be?" Grandpa Longneck asked.

"I'd like to break his neck." Ms. Maia said, with a hint of sadistic joy in her voice.

"I'd like to throw him off the Great Rock Wall." The gold Spike-Tail said, her glee barely disguised.

"I say hang him from a tree." The blue-green Fast-Runner said, trying his hardest to conceal a sadistic smile.

Some of the dinosaurs nearest to Grandpa Longneck heard the comments of the three patrol members. Their expression was best described as pure horror and shock.

Grandpa Longneck looked at the expressions of the dinosaurs nearest him. He then turned back to Ms. Maia and her patrol. "We never use death as a punishment except in special cases. And Ms. Maia, if I may be so blunt, the desire for violence that you and your fellow patrol members displayed right now is disgusting and totally unnecessary." Grandpa Longneck scolded, frowning at the patrol.

"He stole and ate an egg!" Ms. Maia seethed, glaring at Strut.

"Calm down, Ms. Maia, anger will not get you anywhere right now." Grandpa Longneck said.

"What do we do then, let him go and have more eggs eaten?" Ms. Maia shouted.

"Ms. Maia, calm down! We will handle this." Grandpa Longneck said.

Ms. Maia and her patrol, fuming, stepped away from the front of the stage.

Grandpa Longneck and Mr. Thicknose then conferred in an area separate from the crowd of dinosaurs. After a moment, they again stood in front of the gathered crowd.

"Strut, you are sentenced to banishment from the Great Valley, for ten cold times." Grandpa Longneck said.

Ms. Maia and her patrol escorted Strut outside of the Great Valley and left him there.

The gathered dinosaurs then dispersed. Some showed relief at Strut's banishment, some showed disappointment.

Littlefoot and his friends headed to the Airfield to meet Pterano, Grey-Wing, Ptyrax and Long-Wing and Raptix. The flyers and the ground crew were chatting about Strut's banishment

"So is Strut guilty?" Ducky asked.

"I don't think Strut would do something like that." Pterano said.

"So wanna sneak him back into the valley?" Raptix suggested.

"And get banished ourselves?" Ptyrax countered.

"Hmm, maybe Strut can live in that cave that Deimos and I lived in when we first came into the valley? It's empty now that Blue-Scale, Deimos and I are more accepted among the valley inhabitants." Raptix offered.

"Is it concealed?" Pterano asked.

"It is very difficult to find. It is in a forest near the Bubbling Muds and the cave is in a clearing that is accessible only through a clearing concealed by a clump of bushes." Raptix answered.

"That will be perfect, now all we need to do is find Strut." Pterano said.

"I think we better get moving; I don't want to think about what would happen if Ozzie or a sharptooth or Styracus's herd found him." Long-Wing said.

Littlefoot, Pterano, Long-Wing, Deimos, Raptix, Ducky, Cera and Hyp left the Great Valley and explored the area just outside the Great Valley. They found Strut near the entrance to the Gravel Fields just as the sun was starting to set.

"Wow, Ms. Maia really did a number on you." Pterano said, pointing to Strut's bruised ribs and arms.

"Mmmf." Strut said.

"Deimos, can you cut the vines on Strut?" Littlefoot asked.

Deimos then used the claws on his hand to cut the vines that bound Strut's arms and beak.

"Ugh! What is wrong with Ms. Maia?" Strut shouted, grabbing the remnant of the vine that bound his beak and throwing it to the side.

"We should get back to the Great Valley." Ducky said, pointing to the sky, the sunlight gradually fading.

The group then entered through the Gravel Fields, taking care to stay away from the cave where Styracus was held.

The group eventually made its way to the cave that Deimos mentioned.

"Strut, I how you feel about missing practice, but you'll have to stay here until we can clean this mess up." Pterano said.

"Why don't you tell us what happened?" said Littlefoot.

"Well, I was doing a patrol when the Night Circle had last risen with a Runner and a dinosaur of Nod's kind. And I encountered Ozzie who had found a nest. I confronted him, he attacked me and I fell on the egg. Then, I ran into Ms. Maia and her patrol. Later, I was brought before Mr. Longneck and sentenced to banishment. Finally, Ms. Maia and her patrol beat me and left me, tied up, outside the Great Valley." Strut said.

"I agree with Mr. Longneck, Ms. Maia's behavior was disgusting, especially how she beat Strut." Pterano added, a frown forming on his face.

"How about we catch Ozzie and make him confess?" suggested Ducky.

"I see where you are going, we wait until Ozzie comes in to the Great Valley to get some eggs to eat, then we take him down and extract a confession out of him." Deimos said.

"How?" asked Ducky.

"I've got to think." Deimos said.

"I've got it!" Littlefoot exclaimed.

"That was fast." Raptix interjected.

"Raptix, quiet." Littlefoot commanded. Raptix obeyed and became silent. "Alright, I'm fairly certain that Ozzie will try and steal eggs from the remotest nest, which happens to be in the Bubbling Muds. What we will do is arm the two-footers with throwing sticks –sticks are more accurate and accuracy is vital in this operation - and hide them in bushes near the nest. When he comes with in range, the two-footers will throw them at Ozzie. Try and aim for the back of the head or the side of the head. Once he is knocked out, take him to a concealed area, wait for him to revive and then we extract the confession from him. Once it is extracted, we take him to Grandpa Longneck and have him repeat the confession." Littlefoot continued.

"So who's coming?" asked Hyp.

"I'm not forcing anyone to come; whoever wants to volunteer is welcome." Littlefoot said.

"I'm coming! I haven't any action in a while." Cera said.

"I'll come." Deimos said.

"Count me in too!" Ducky said, "Ozzie cannot get away with this. Oh no, no, no!"

"Hey! Don't forget about me! I wanna get Ozzie back for what he did to me!" Strut said.

"I'll come as back up." Raptix said, albeit with less enthusiasm as the previous volunteers.

"I don't like it when a member of the Great Valley Air Corps is wronged. I'm coming!" Pterano said

Later, as night fell and the Great Valley was bathed in the cool white light of the Night Circle, Ozzie entered the Great Valley in search for eggs.

"I hope I don't run into any patrols now. I haven't had a good meal of eggs in a while." Ozzie said to himself.

Ozzie wandered through the valley until he came upon a nest located in a clearing in the Bubbling Muds.

Unbeknownst to him, Ducky, Strut and Deimos were hidden behind a large hedge near the nest. Pterano, Raptix, Cera and Littlefoot backed them up, concealed in a small grove near the nest.

"Alright, he's going for the egg." Deimos whispered, watching as Ozzie approached the nest.

Strut hefted his throwing stick and prepared to throw it, but Ducky held his arm back. "Wait until you can get a clear shot." Ducky whispered. She also held a throwing stick. In addition, there was a pile of about twelve throwing sticks between her and Strut.

Their opportunity soon came when Ozzie passed by the shrubs that concealed Strut and Deimos.

Strut and Deimos stuck their heads over the shrub and hurled their sticks at Ozzie, causing him to double over in pain as the two thrown sticks simultaneously struck him in the stomach and groin. He spun around looking for his assailants but only saw shrubs. Another stick caught him in the back, causing him to stumble. Yet another stick embedded itself in front of him.

"Damn it! I knew they were planning something!" he whispered has he dashed away from the nest. He passed Ducky's hiding spot and saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye. But he could not react fast enough; Ducky leapt out of her hiding spot, swung her throwing stick and struck Ozzie in the back of the head, causing him to slump to the ground, unconscious.

Deimos beckoned towards the grove as soon as he heard the thud of Ozzie's body hitting the ground. Littlefoot, Raptix, Pterano and Cera dashed from their hiding place.

"Hee. We got him!" Cera said, grinning.

"Nice swing Ducky." Deimos said; looking at Ozzie's unconscious form and Ducky's throwing stick, which had broken from the powerful blow.

"Alright, now to tie him up. Raptix, Strut, get some vines from that grove." Littlefoot ordered.

Strut and Raptix did as they were told; they entered the grove and soon returned with armfuls of vines.

"Good, now we tie him up." Littlefoot said.

In short order all the two-footers quickly bound Ozzie's arms and his beak.

Deimos placed the unconscious form of Ozzie on Littlefoot's back and the whole party soon departed the site

Meanwhile at the Gravel Fields, Blue-Scale, Mr. Clubtail, a dark blue male Fast-Runner, a green male Threehorn and a flyer who served as one of the valley messengers had resumed their guard duties. They replaced a patrol consisting of a Clubtail, a Threehorn and two Spike-Tails, which guarded Styracus during the day.

"How long do we keep Styracus in here?" asked Mr. Clubtail

"As long as Mr. Longneck says so." Blue-Scale replied.

"Uh, guys I hear something." The Fast-Runner said.

"It might be the wind." The Threehorn said.

"I'll go check it out." Mr. Clubtail said, lumbering away from the group.

"I have a bad feeling about this." Blue-Scale said.

Blue-Scale's premonitions were confirmed when he heard a thud at his feet. He bent down to discover, to his horror, that the thud was the body of a valley messenger. It was obvious the flyer died from a fractured skull. Blue-Scale wondered how dinosaurs could get to the cliff where the messenger usually perched. His answer was found in the form of rocks, some blood stained, scattered near the perch and a trail of fresh blood down the side of the cliff where the flyer's body was scraped by the rocks, as it tumbled down the cliff to its resting place.

Suddenly, a large rock hurtled out of the shrubs, aimed at the Fast-Runner. The Fast-Runner leapt out of the path of the rock with mere seconds to spare. As the clouds parted, the moonlight revealed the attackers, five sickleclaws and three fast-biters.

"Looks like we're in for a fight." The Threehorn said, looking at the attackers.

"Remember, stand your ground." Blue-Scale said, tensing up in anticipation for the fight

The sharpteeth made the first strike, a fast-biter leapt at the Fast-Runner who grabbed it and slammed it to the ground, dazing it.

The Threehorn countered a charging sickleclaw with a charge of his own that left the sickleclaw with a large hole in its chest due to his horns. He threw the mutilated corpse aside and prepared to charge once again.

Blue-Scale busied himself with two sickle-claws, grabbing one and killing it by slamming its head into a rock and tail whipping the other one into a tree, which he then pushed down, crushing two fast-biters and the sickleclaw he threw into the tree.

The Fast-Runner dodged a leaping sickleclaw, grabbed it in a chokehold and snapped its neck. He then threw the dead sickleclaw aside.

The lone sickleclaw had fled and the dazed fast-biter had also fled.

"Where's Mr. Clubtail?" The Threehorn asked.

"More pressing, where's Styracus?" the Fast-Runner asked, looking into the now empty cave.

"Damn it! That attack was a diversion so Styracus could escape!" Blue-Scale said, with a brief flash of anger.

Mr. Clubtail then lumbered back to his post.

"I couldn't find anything that caused that noise." Mr. Clubtail said.

"Too late we found out it was, it was an attack so Styracus could escape." The Fast-Runner said, looking at the ground.

"Send the valley messenger out." Mr. Clubtail commanded.

"You mean this messenger?" The Threehorn asked, gesturing to the dead flyer.

"Well, someone's gonna have to deliver the message." Blue-Scale said.

"I'll go, no offense, but I'm faster than all of you." The Fast-Runner said.

"Ok. The rest of us shall search for Styracus." Blue-Scale said.

The Fast-Runner headed off to the Thundering Falls Lakes, where Grandpa Longneck and some of the dinosaurs slept. The rest of the dinosaurs at the post scattered to search for their fugitive.

Meanwhile, Styracus, the sickleclaw and the fast-biter left through the exit near the Gravel Fields.

"I'd say this was successful." Red-Eye said. Behind him were gathered Theta, Hasta and the commanders of the two divisions of green team, the grey sickleclaw who commanded division one and the dull green sickleclaw who commanded division two.

The sickleclaw spat onto the ground. "Yeah, we managed to rescue Styracus. But we got attacked by a Threehorn, a Fast-Runner and a sharptooth. And this fast-biter and I are the only survivors." He said.

"Shall we attack now?" Stormwing said, clearly getting impatient. He angrily kicked a small stone that narrowly missed Theta.

"No! I don't know what is taking yellow team so damned long. But we need them." Red-Eye said.

"For what!" demanded the dull green sickleclaw.

"Saber, if we don't have yellow team, we run a high risk of the valley dinosaurs fleeing and thus prolonging the war. A prolonged war equals dead sharpteeth, got that?" Red-Eye said, addressing the dull green sickleclaw.

"Where is Ozzie?" Sierra suddenly shouted, "He was supposed to be foraging, not getting lost!"

Rinkus looked around. "You don't suppose Ozzie got caught by the same patrol that guards Styracus?" he asked.

"It's possible." Saber said.

"So do we rescue him?" asked Rinkus.

"Yes, but not now. He is a vital asset; he supplements red squadron along with you and Sierra." Red-Eye said, addressing Rinkus.

Suddenly, a smaller red flyer landed in front of Red-Eye.

"Well what do we have here?" Saber asked.

"I'm here to tell you that yellow team is on their way; they shall be here today at the time when the Bright Circle is at its highest." The flyer said.

"Hmm. Looks like we might get some action today." Stormwing said, grinning.

The rays of the rising sun were soon veiled by a mass of grey storm clouds, giving everything a dark overcast aura. Distant thunder rumbled, adding an aura of menace.

Chapter 11: Ozzie's Interrogation

Ozzie awoke with a splitting headache. He tried to open his beak but found that it was bound together. He then tried to reach up and tear whatever was binding his beak off only to find that his hands were bound as well. As he gradually regained consciousness he realized that the sun had risen and that he was looking into a group of yellow, emerald-green and amber eyes.

"Not so tough are you now?" a voice taunted him. Ozzie looked at the voice and found it came from an amber-eyed sickleclaw.

"Why did you frame me and almost get me killed? Your own brother? For shame!" a voice demanded. Ozzie looked at the voice and found it belonged to a yellow-eyed Egg-Stealer he knew. Strut.

Ozzie mumbled something indistinct and tried to kick Strut in the groin, but Ozzie soon discovered that his legs were also bound.

Ozzie then looked around; the emerald-green eyes belonged to a fast-biter with purple-blue feathers.

Deimos walked over and slashed the vines on Ozzie's beak with his claws.

"Hey bastards! How about you let me go!" Ozzie demanded as soon his the vines fell away from his beak.

"I'd be more cooperative if I were you. We wouldn't want to hurt you." Deimos said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

"You can kiss my tail!"

Deimos responded to Ozzie's insult by "accidentally" gashing Ozzie's leg, drawing blood and causing him to wince. "Rudeness won't get you released sooner. If you tell us what we want, we might release you. If not, we'll just leave you here until you rot. And don't expect us to give you food either." Deimos said, nonchalantly kicking a pebble.

"Do the Great Valley a favor and go kill yourself!" Ozzie shouted.

"Alright, we're leaving." Deimos said.

Strut began to leave with the rest of the group.

"Strut, stay here and watch Ozzie." Deimos said.

The whole group, except for Strut, left Ozzie.

As the group departed, Ozzie sized up the scene. He turned his head as far as he could and found that he was tied to a large tree with vines binding his arms and his legs. He also looked around the setting and realized that he was in a clearing of some sort. He saw a small pond and a medium sized river along with some large trees similar to the type he was tied to. He also saw several piles of rocks – the same size that Sierra had found inside a berry bush and probably for the same use. He also saw several piles of a bluish vine of exactly the type he was tied with. He saw Strut, back turned, sitting on a stump holding one of the rocks and tossing it and catching it.

"Hmm. I wonder if I can bite through these vines." Ozzie muttered to himself.

Ozzie then bent his head down and was able to reach the topmost vine. He then clamped his beak around the vine and bit down as hard as he could. Even so, he was unable to sever the vine.

"Damn." Ozzie swore out loud, "Oh well, try again."

Ozzie then clamped his beak around the topmost vine and began to grind his beak together, using the edges of his beak to slowly but steadily shear the vines. He eventually severed the vine but received a mouthful of acrid tasting white sap in the process.

Ozzie spat out as much of the sap as possible, but he started to feel sick to his stomach.

"Ugh. I can't bite through more of these vines and even if I could I can't reach them. Oh damn, I don't feel too good." He said to himself.

After a few more minutes, Ozzie felt even more nauseous and eventually began to vomit copiously.

When Ozzie was finished, he spat on the ground in front of himself several times.

"I swear, if I get free, I'll kill Strut and that Swimmer! And that bastard of a sickleclaw, I'd like to smash his head in." Ozzie hissed under his breath.

Strut's head turned at Ozzie's threat.

"You know I can hear you. Not that I care because you're not going anywhere." Strut said, yawning.

"Shut up, traitor!" Ozzie shouted.

Strut yawned once more.

The group soon encountered Grandpa Longneck, who was eating his meal of tree-stars.

"Hello. I trust that you have something important to tell me?" Grandpa Longneck said, looking up from his meal.

"Yes, we do." Raptix said, "We captured Ozzie."

"Hmm. So have you gotten any info?" Grandpa Longneck asked.

"Not yet." Deimos said.

"Strut is innocent." Raptix said.

"Well, he may very well be; but Ms. Maia is not one to be trifled with." Grandpa Longneck said.

"Mr. Longneck, Strut appears to have been…" Deimos began

"Uh, we gotta get back to interrogating Ozzie." Raptix said, cutting Deimos off.

The group headed back to the forest where the interrogation site was located.

"I see the vines didn't agree with you, Ozzie." Deimos said, sniffing the air.

"Shut up." Ozzie said, spitting at Deimos. The blob of saliva landed at Deimos's feet.

"We can do this the hard way or the easy way." Deimos said, "The hard way is we beat the info we need out of you. The easy way is confess and we tie you up and leave you outside the Great Rock Wall. What do you want?"

"I'd like you to untie me." Ozzie demanded, glaring at Deimos.

"That is not an option."

"Fine, I won't confess."

"Alright. Strut! Get the fireshrub paste and the tree branch!"

Strut leapt to his feet, fetched a leaf bag containing fireshrub paste and large tree branch which appeared to be studded with points where the smaller twigs were broken off. Both the leaf bag and the tree branch rested in a shaded area formed by a flat rock.

Ozzie gulped as he looked at the tree branch; it was enormous, at least as long and thick as one of his legs.

Deimos grabbed a smaller stick, dipped it into the leaf bag and smeared the fireshrub paste on the branch until the points of the large tree branch were coated in a green slime.

"This is your last chance." Deimos said, brandishing the branch.

"Never!" Ozzie shouted.

"Alright, you asked for it."

Deimos swung the branch at Ozzie's right leg, causing several small cuts. Ozzie screamed in pain as the fireshrub began to burn his wounds. Deimos ignored the sound and swung the branch at Ozzie's other leg, striking the gash he had caused a moment ago.

"Enough?" Deimos asked, leaning on the tree branch.

"Kiss my…" Ozzie began, but was cut off by Strut who hit him in the head with a thrown rock. "Ow! You… Ow!" Ozzie shouted as the rocks bombarded him.

"Strut, wanna take over? I gotta get more fire-shrub. The bag's empty." Deimos said, placing the branch on the ground.

"Sure." Strut replied, dropping two rocks on the ground.

Deimos then left the interrogation site with a large leaf he broke off a shrub just outside the entrance to the site.

"Hey, Strut. Wanna untie me?" Ozzie said.

"Why? So you can save Ms. Maia some work and kill me? Forget it!" Strut shouted.

"No, I like you."

"Liar. You almost got me killed by Ms. Maia!"

"When Excidium's forces arrive and free me. I'll be sure to kill you first."

"I'd like to see you try. Remember what happened in the Great Rock Wall one night when I caught you with Styracus and two other dinosaurs plotting something? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't good for you."

"You are a worthless…' Ozzie began but was cut off by Strut, who promptly kicked him, hard, in the groin.

"I hope you don't need that."

"Go fu…" Ozzie said through teeth clenched with pain. But, before Ozzie could finish, he was cut off by another hard kick from Strut, this time to the ribs.

"Ready to talk now?" Strut sneered.

"You'll have to kill me first." Ozzie boasted.

"That will be fine by me." Deimos said as he walked through the small passage that connected the interrogation site to the rest of the valley. Deimos arrived with a leaf bag. "Raptix, prepare the fireshrub paste." Raptix grabbed the bag and walked over to a flat rock where a round grinding stone and several sticks were placed. He then tipped out the fireshrub leaves from the bag onto the flat rock, picked up the grinding stone and started grinding the leaves into a paste.

Ozzie gulped when he noticed that Raptix's tail was wagging, which meant that he was happy about something and Ozzie was sure it had nothing to do with food and everything to do with fireshrub. His legs still burned from the beating with fireshrub paste smeared branch.

But before Ozzie could say anything, he felt the sharp claws of Deimos's hands on his throat.

"As much as we would like to kill you right here, right now. We want information first." Deimos whispered into Ozzie's ear.

"What info?"

"Oh nothing much, except the answer to this question…why were you in the Great Valley two risings of the Night Circle ago?" Deimos shouted, letting go of Ozzie's neck.

"I wasn't in the Great Valley that time."

"Oh, really? I think Strut begs to differ." Deimos said, "Strut, why don't you deal with Ozzie for a bit?" Deimos stepped away from Ozzie and headed towards Raptix.

"Sure thing, Deimos." Strut replied.

"Raptix! Is the fireshrub paste ready yet?" Deimos asked. As he approached Raptix's work space, he saw a pile of fireshrub paste, several open leaf bags and a leaf bag that was closed.

"Almost." Raptix replied, placing his grinding stone down, "I've got a small bagful."

"That's plenty." Deimos said, "Raptix, why don't you take a break? I see the fireshrub is starting to have its effects on you."

"Thanks. I'm also kinda hungry." Raptix walked out of the interrogation area and wiped away some tears from his emerald-green eyes with a leaf he plucked from a nearby bush.

"Is Raptix crying?" Strut asked

"Nah, it's the fireshrub. It also causes your eyes to water." Deimos said.

Strut then stepped up to Ozzie and gave him a mock quizzical look.

"What do you want?" Ozzie spat.

"You say you weren't the Great Valley but why did I see you? Was the Night Circle playing tricks?"

"You saw some random Egg-Stealer."

"Hmm. How come that Egg-Stealer sounded so much like you? Right down to the 'leaf-licker' insult." Strut said, placing his hand on Ozzie's shoulder.

"Get your hands off me! That damned sickleclaw and his lies! I was not in the Great Valley!" Ozzie shouted, trying to pull away from Strut.

"Ozzie, I'm done playing. If you don't tell me what you what you were doing in the Great Valley two risings of the Night Circle ago, I will personally kill you."

"Heh. You don't have the guts to kill me." Ozzie taunted, grinning despite the burning pain in his legs.

Strut seized a stone knife sitting on a nearby flat rock. The knife was crude; a black glassy rock, a little smaller than Strut's hand, formed into an oblong shape, tapering to a sharp point and with one edge sharpened.

"Don't push your luck." Strut hissed, pressing the sharpened edge into Ozzie's throat.

"Strut, I need the knife you're holding." Deimos called.

Strut went to Deimos and gave the knife to Deimos.

"Hey, Deimos. Where did you get that knife?" Strut asked

"I made it." Deimos replied.

"What's it for?" Strut asked.

"It's for preparing herbs and stuff." Deimos replied, "Now get back to interrogating Ozzie" he added with a note of irritation in his voice.

"Now, are you convinced I'm serious?" Strut asked, glaring at Ozzie.

"You don't have that knife with you." Ozzie said, grinning.

"True, but I have my claws." Strut replied, "And you have already felt how sharp they are. So cooperate or you'll feel the sting of my claws."

Ozzie stuck his tongue out at Strut.

Deimos sighed. He then got up from the rock where he was cutting some kind of blue leafed grass with his knife and walked over to Ozzie with the knife in hand.

"Ozzie, I am tired of your games, tell us what you did in the Great Valley two risings of the Night Circle ago or I hang your sorry carcass from a tree or throw it off a cliff. Now if you cooperate we will do to you what Ms. Maia did to Strut; if you don't cooperate, you die in a very nasty way. Now make your choice." Deimos said, brandishing the knife.

Ozzie gulped. The prospect of hanging from a tree until he died or being thrown off a cliff did not appeal to him at all.

"Fine. I admit to it. I was here in the Great Valley two risings of the Night Circle ago because I was sent for a recon mission along with Sierra and Rinkus. And I also came in to get some eggs to eat." Ozzie said.

"Good. Now who sent you?" Deimos asked.

"Theta and Hasta." Ozzie replied.

"Who are they?"

"The second in commands of Styracus's herd."

"Now about your encounter with Strut…" Deimos asked with a grin.

"He caught me stealing and egg and when he wrested the egg from me, I tripped him then kicked him in the head. He fell on the egg and broke it."

"Ok. So how does that explain Strut's capture?" Deimos asked

"I don't know!"

"Alright, that's all the info we need."

"Ok, so can you untie me now?"

"Not yet." Strut replied, walking up to Ozzie. Strut was twirling a large stick in his right hand.

"Uh. What's with the stick?" Ozzie said nervously, upon catching sight of the stick. The stick was smaller than the one which Deimos beat him with, but Ozzie knew that a beating with this stick would be no less painful.

"If you recall, we made you a deal: confess and we do to you what Ms. Maia did to me." Strut replied. He stopped twirling the stick and instead placed the tip on the ground and leaned on it. "Oh, Deimos 'forgot' to mention that a beating was part of what Ms. Maia did to me." With a quick flick of his wrist, Strut lifted the stick from the ground and brandished it.

Ozzie gulped as he saw a smile on Strut's face. It was a smile of joy; but laced with pure sadism and bloodlust.

Strut swung the stick several times, striking Ozzie in the legs, stomach, ribs, groin and sides. Strut even took a brief break from the beating to deliver two strong punches to Ozzie's face.

Raptix had returned from his brief hunting break a while ago and was relaxing outside the interrogation site. He was sleeping off his lunch of fresh fish when he heard the thuds of someone being beaten and shouts of pain.

"Maybe I should see what's going on," Raptix said to himself, as he shook the fog of drowsiness from his mind.

Raptix entered the interrogation site and remained near the entrance. He was barely able to make out the form of an Egg-Stealer beating another Egg-Stealer.

"Had enough?" Strut taunted. He pointed the tip of the stick at Ozzie's throat.

"No." Ozzie said. He spat out a blob of bloody saliva, which hit Strut square in the chest.

Strut flicked the blob off his chest. "Fine." Strut answered. He then proceeded to brutally kick Ozzie in the groin several times.

"Now have you had enough?" Strut asked

"" Ozzie choked out between tears from the intense pain.

Deimos walked over and slipped a vine around Ozzie's neck, almost like a leash.

"Strut. Cut the vines." Deimos said, handing Strut the stone knife. "Oh, Raptix, I didn't realize you were back." He said, turning around and spotting Raptix by the entrance.

"How are things going?" Raptix asked.

"Great! We got all the info we need. Now all you have to do is relay the message to Mr. Longneck and have him meet Ozzie and us by the Thundering Falls Lake." Deimos said, "Strut! Cut the damn vines! We can't leave Mr. Longneck waiting!" he added, noticing that Strut was staring at Raptix.

Strut obeyed and he easily sliced the vines with the knife. Ozzie immediately tried to run but was restrained by the vine leash around his neck. Strut's uncharacteristically sadistic smile and the fact that he was wielding a knife further dissuaded Ozzie from fleeing.

"Ozzie, why don't you come with us to Mr. Longneck? I'm sure he'll be happy to see you." Deimos said, grinning, "Strut! Tie Ozzie's arms!" he commanded.

Strut seized some of the blue vines and bound Ozzie's arms to his side.

"I'm sure." Ozzie said with a venomous note to his voice.

"Good! Now let's go!" Deimos said, tugging on Ozzie's leash.

Ozzie, Deimos, Strut and Raptix left the interrogation site. Deimos led the procession, pulling Ozzie, who was behind him. Strut followed Ozzie. If the vine leash and Deimos were not enough to dissuade Ozzie from fleeing, Strut pressing the stone knife against his throat was the final "persuasion". Raptix capped off the procession.

As the dinosaurs exited the forest, they did not notice two sets of footprints heading towards the interrogation site. The footprints of a large Swimmer and a Spiketail

As soon as the group headed towards the Gravel Fields and disappeared from view, Theta and Hasta came out from behind two large rocks near the interrogation site.

"Are you sure this it?" Hasta asked.

"This should be it." Theta replied.

"Are you sure? I just heard Ozzie's voice and it sounded like he was being led away somewhere."

"Do you think that Ozzie's the only captive?"


"And remember be extremely careful, there may be traps or even guards." Theta said.

Theta and Hasta then entered the forest and followed the trail that led them to the interrogation site. Theta snapped off a large branch from a tree next to the trail.

"Hmm. I don't see anyone here." Theta said, looking around the interrogation site.

"Keep looking. We'll split up. I'll take one half and you take the other half." Hasta said.

"Hasta, I'll take the water."


Theta then dove into the water, while Hasta walked in a circular pattern around the area.

After a while Theta surfaced for air. "Anything?" Hasta asked. Hasta was looking at a pile of rocks.

"There's only a dead Spike-Tail, but he's not one of ours." Theta said, spitting out a mouthful of water.

"I think we might have stumbled upon a rock storage area. If we get rid of the rocks, we may make it a little harder for the valley to fight back." Hasta said, looking back at the rock pile.

"Sounds good."

Hasta placed his shoulder on a medium sized rock pile which was near the pond and started pushing. He groaned with the exertion, but the pile scarcely moved, only tearing up a small patch of grass.

Theta was on the other side of the small lake; he was using the tree branch he had obtained earlier to lever out a small berry bush. He then grabbed the bush and threw it into the lake.

"Theta! Help me get rid of this rock pile!" Hasta panted out.

Theta walked to over to Hasta and did as he was told, taking rocks from the pile and dropping them into the lake. After Theta removed about sixteen rocks, Hasta pushed the rest of the pile into the lake with a resounding splash.

"Alright, that's one of them." Theta said.

"Yeah, only about nine more to go."

A bright glint from a large flat rock caught Theta's attention. "Hey! What's that?" he asked.

"Go check it out!" Hasta ordered. He placed his shoulder against another rock pile, this one was smaller than the one he and Theta previously disposed of.

Theta headed over to the flat rock and examined it. He found a crude stone knife, similar to the one that Deimos used for cutting plants. He looked around the area and found seven more stone knives lying on various flat rocks.

"Anything?" Hasta asked, pushing the rock pile towards the lake.

"Only these strangely shaped rocks." Out of impulse, Theta picked up one of the stone knives and hurled it at a large tree. The knife soared through the air and embedded itself into the tree trunk.

"Hmm. I'd suggest we take these rocks." Hasta said. He had finished pushing the rock pile into the lake and looked at the knife embedded in the tree trunk.

Theta wrapped six of the knives in leaves and the placed them in a leaf bag. He then tied the leaf bag to himself with a vine. He held one of the knives in his hands.

Suddenly, Theta and Hasta heard voices.

"Damn it!" Hasta whispered.

Theta and Hasta crouched behind two large rock piles. Unfortunately, the rock pile was not large enough to conceal Hasta.

A brown male Runner and a grey male dinosaur of Mutt's kind entered the interrogation site. The Runner and the grey dinosaur approached the rock pile where Hasta was hiding and came face to face with him.

"Hasta?" the Runner said with a note of shock in his voice.

"How do you know my name?" Hasta demanded.

"I used to be a member of Styracus's herd."

"Why are you here?" Hasta looked nervous as one of the Runner's hands was behind his back.

"Please, understand. I bear no ill will but you must die." The Runner said in a flat monotone. He produced a crude spear, no more than a long tree branch with one end sharpened.

"WHAT!" Hasta shouted, recoiling back from the armed Runner.

"You see. We intended to take over Styracus's herd. You and Theta first, then Styracus." The grey dinosaur said in the same monotone as his companion. He was also armed, in his case with a large rock.

By this time Theta had remained crouched behind one of the rock piles and he was listening in. He gently fingered the edge of the stone knife.

"Do not attempt to resist us." The Runner said, advancing on Hasta

Hasta chuckled nervously, "We're not attempting, we are resisting!" Hasta shot back, tail whipping the Runner. The tail whip connected with an audible thud as it struck the Runner across the ribs sending him to the ground and causing the spear to tumble from his hands.

Immediately after Hasta's attack on his companion, the grey dinosaur threw his rock at Hasta and struck him in the head, dazing him momentarily.

"That does it!" Theta fumed. He leapt from behind the rock and charged the grey dinosaur, who helpfully had his back turned to Theta. Before the grey dinosaur could react, Theta had seized him.

"I hope Styracus won't miss you." Those were the last words the dinosaur heard before Theta slashed his throat with the stone knife.

The spurt of blood landing on him and the screaming from the wounded dinosaur shocked Hasta back into awareness.

"I guess those weird rocks were nice to have." Hasta said, looking at the dead dinosaur near him.

Unbeknownst to Hasta the Runner had retrieved his spear and charged towards Hasta with it.

"Hasta! He's charging!" Theta shouted

Hasta leaned his body and barely dodged the charging Runner. The dinosaur was unable to stop himself in time; he had dashed a substantial distance before he could stop.

Before the dinosaur could turn around, Theta threw his stone knife at the Runner and struck him in the back. The stricken Runner gave a gasp of pain and surprise as the knife embedded itself in his back. He then dropped his spear and tumbled forward.

Theta ran to the injured Runner but before he could seize the dropped spear and kill the wounded Runner, he heard a sickening crunch. Theta turned towards the noise and found that Hasta had just crushed the Runner's head with a foot.

"That's just nasty." Theta said disgustedly, looking at the bloody mess that was the Runner's head.

"Strange that you could slash another dinosaur's throat and get his blood on me and yet you complain about me making a mess." Hasta said, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he just brutally killed another dinosaur. He scraped the remains off his foot by pawing the ground. "Seeing that you may not get any more of these rocks anytime soon, you may want to retrieve it."

Theta, fighting back a slight wave of nausea, walked over to the mutilated corpse of the Runner. He nearly vomited as he kneeled down beside the Runner and pulled the knife out of his back. He rinsed off the bloody knife in the stream, wrapped the knife in a leaf and placed it inside the bag where he kept the other knives. He also picked up the spear that the Runner dropped.

"Maybe we should report back to Styracus." Theta offered.

"Yeah. My shoulder hurts from pushing those damn rock piles."

The two dinosaurs left the interrogation site.

Meanwhile, Raptix and Deimos arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake. Ozzie and Strut were just out of view. Grandpa Longneck was there eating some kind of grass. Also accompanying him were two other dinosaurs: A reddish-brown female Fast-Runner and a dull blue male Swimmer.

"Mr. Longneck, we have got some vital info from Ozzie." Deimos said.

"Good. Proceed." Grandpa Longneck replied, looking up from his meal.

"We have found out that Ozzie was responsible for the destruction of the egg that was originally pinned on Strut. We also found out about two dinosaurs, Theta and Hasta. Both of those dinosaurs are second in commands of Styracus's herd. We were unable to determine the appearance of those two."

"I see I was premature in judging Strut."

"How show we punish Ozzie?" Raptix asked.

"That is not for me to decide. That rests with Mr. Threehorn and Mr. Thicknose." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I guess we'll hand him over to you." Deimos said, "Strut! Get Ozzie out here!" he commanded.

Strut then marched Ozzie at knife-point to Grandpa Longneck and the two other dinosaurs.

"Good. You are free to go." Grandpa Longneck said to Deimos, Strut and Raptix.

The Swimmer and the Fast-Runner seized Ozzie and dragged him off. As Ozzie was being dragged off, Deimos, Strut and Raptix left the Thundering Falls Lake area.

"Wonder what Littlefoot and his pals are doing." Deimos said out loud to himself.

"Probably watching the airshow at the Airfield." Raptix said, "Speaking of which…" A grin spread across Raptix's face and his tail started wagging.

"Well, I guess we can go. Some other dinosaurs are at our post." Deimos said.

The group, minus Ozzie, headed over the Airfield. They were past the Sheltering Grass and en route to the Airfield when a loud, "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING HERE!" and a thud caught Deimos's attention.

"Strut, did you hear that?" Deimos asked. He got no reply. "Strut? Where are you?" he shouted, turning around.

"I'm over..AGH! OW! What the fu…OW!" came Strut's voice from the Sheltering Grass. Several more thuds were heard.

"Please don't tell me it's that bastard Ms. Maia." Raptix said, rolling his eyes.

"It sounds like her. Let's go help Strut before Ms. Maia turns him into bubbling goo." Deimos said.

Deimos and Raptix ran into the Sheltering Grass and found Ms. Maia beating Strut in clearing.

Deimos leapt on Ms. Maia, pulled her off Strut and wrestled her to the ground. Raptix then ran to Strut and assessed his condition.

"Ugh. Ergh. Get off… me!" Ms. Maia grunted, wrestling with Deimos.

"Ms. Maia, please understand, you just assaulted Strut. He's totally innocent." Deimos said. He had just pinned Ms. Maia's arms to her side and pinned her to the ground.

"Why should I believe you!" Ms. Maia shouted.

"We interrogated Ozzie and he admitted to breaking the egg." Deimos said.

Suddenly Pterano, Ruby, Ducky and Littlefoot arrived at the scene.

"What is going on here?" Pterano demanded.

"Ms. Maia attacked Strut." Raptix said.

"Ok, then why is Deimos pinning Ms. Maia to the ground?" Pterano asked.

Deimos released Ms. Maia. "I had to pull Ms. Maia off Strut." he said, rubbing a sore spot on his ribs where Ms. Maia had punched him during the previous struggle.

"Ms. Maia, not liking Strut does not give you permission to kill him." Pterano said sternly.

"Ms. Maia, why do you hate Strut so much?" Littlefoot asked.

"That's not your business flathead." Ms. Maia said icily.

"I'm just real curious; it's not like Strut harmed you or anything. So why do you always seem intent on assaulting or even trying to kill him?" Littlefoot asked. A slight frown crossed his face at Ms. Maia's use of the slur 'flathead'.

"I repeat, that is none of your damned business. You stupid flatheads are always so damned nosy. Why don't you mind your own damned business for once? I swear, flatheads are some of the stupidest dinosaurs I know." Ms. Maia said.

"YOU BASTARD! HOW DARE YOU CALL ME STUPID?" Littlefoot shouted. He then executed a forehand tail whip that struck Ms. Maia in the ribs, sending her to the ground.

All of them present looked at Littlefoot in shock.

"L…Littlefoot, you just hit Ms. Maia." Ruby said.

"Ms. Maia, Littlefoot does not like being called a 'flathead'. He does not." Ducky said.

"Shut up! I don't give a damn what he likes!" Ms. Maia hissed, clutching her ribs.

"Ms. Maia, I'd be willing to treat your injuries." Deimos said. He offered his hand to Ms. Maia in an attempt to assist her in getting to her feet.

"No! You attacked me!" Ms. Maia shouted. She staggered to her feet and headed off through the Sheltering Grass.

"Littlefoot. I'd like you to explain your behavior a few moments ago." Pterano said in an irritated tone. He also crossed his arms and he wore an expression of displeasure on his face.

"I… I don't know why I did it. I was just so…so angry. That word 'flathead', it just brought back memories of how Cera insulted my mother after I lost her. So many cold times ago…" Littlefoot said, sobbing slightly. He looked down and a single tear, followed by a few more, dripped down to the grass.

"Littlefoot, it's alright. Ms. Maia wasn't responsible for your mother's death. I know she was rude to you, but she's like that to everyone." Ruby said, placing her hand on Littlefoot's side.

"Th…Thanks, Ruby." Littlefoot said in between sobs.

Meanwhile, outside the Great Valley, Theta and Hasta arrived at the encampment where Styracus, Sierra and Rinkus greeted them. The sharpteeth squads were a little farther away huddled around Red-Eye.

"I see you didn't rescue Ozzie." Sierra said icily. He kicked a pebble, sending it clattering along the rocky ground.

"He was taken away before we got to the 'interrogation site', but we did manage to dispose of two rock piles in that area." Hasta said.

"Ok. No matter, once we invade, we'll free Ozzie." Styracus said.

"Styracus, we encountered two dinosaurs who attempted to kill Hasta and I. They claimed they were going to kill us first, then kill you." Theta said.

"Hmm. Do you know them and have you dealt with them?" Styracus asked.

"I do not." Theta replied, "But that is irrelevant, Hasta and I already killed them both. And I confiscated this stick from one of them." He then placed the spear by Styracus's feet.

"You're lucky that Runner wasn't able to use the spear effectively." Styracus said.

"That's what this pointed-on-one-end stick is called?" Theta said, picking up the spear.

"Is yellow team arriving anytime soon?" Saber asked.

"Shouldn't be too long." Styracus said.

"Uh, can you identify these?" Theta asked, pulling one of the stone knives from the pouch.

"I think that's a stone knife." Styracus replied, looking at the rock.

"Well, I don't care what they're called as long as they make useful weapons. Theta replied, placing the knife back in its pouch.

Back at the Sheltering Grass, Strut had just regained consciousness. "Ugh, what is wrong with Ms. Maia?" Strut asked, holding his head.

"Ms. Maia is such a bastard." Deimos fumed, "First she beats Strut, then she beats Strut again and finally she insults Littlefoot's kind. She deserved to have a few ribs broken. And I wouldn't give a flying fu…"

"Deimos! I know you hate Ms. Maia but such crude words are totally unnecessary." Pterano scolded, cutting Deimos off midsentence.

Suddenly, Mr. Bigmouth burst into the Airfield. He ran through the Air Target Range causing some of the ground crew dinosaurs, who were clearing the range, to shout at him. "Strut! Come with me!" he said excitedly.

Strut staggered to his feet and followed Mr. Bigmouth to a remote corner of the Great Valley, somewhat near the airfield. They then entered a grove where all kinds of plants grew, except for anything even remotely edible. A small stream ran through the grove and several flat rocks dotted the grassy ground.

"What is this place?" Strut asked. He sniffed the air and detected a scent that was spicy, sweet, putrid and reminiscent of something burning. "What is that smell? And do you have something for my pain?"

"This is where I keep all those medicinal plants. We have sweet-bubble trees, sickleclaw shrubs, rubea shrubs and so much more here. Only Deimos, Mr. Thicknose and myself know about this place. And finally, don't eat anything from here." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"Uh, something's on fire." Strut said, pointing to an orange glow in a circular ring of stones.

"Don't worry. I started that fire so I could prepare herbs and get rid of any extra plant material." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"But, there weren't any storms recently."

"I don't need a storm."


"I'll show you later. For now, I'll just get you the dart poisons."

"'Dart poisons'? " Strut asked.

"Yeah. I figured you'd need a little extra punch in those darts of yours. The ones you made out of sharp twigs are kinda useless except as a distraction. I'm also trying to see if stone darts are possible." Mr. Bigmouth replied. He then headed over to a flat rock where a stone knife and two leaf bags lay.

"What's in those bags?" Strut asked.

"Tree sweet juice mixed with crushed rubea berries, we used it to knock Styracus out so we could capture him. All you do is dip the darts in the paste, load it into the hollow reed and fire. A few shots can knock out a sickleclaw or kill a fast-biter. And don't even so much as scratch yourself with a poisoned dart, you'll get very dizzy or even pass out." Mr. Bigmouth said, "Oh, I'm working on something for pain, it's not ready yet." Mr. Bigmouth added, gesturing to the fire pit.

Strut took the bags and headed towards the exit but before he did, he spotted a cluster of glistening black fruits dangling from a tree. He grabbed the fruit cluster and twisted it off and was about to place it in his mouth.

Mr. Bigmouth walked back to the fire pit where he was heating some rocks. He then grabbed a stick and pushed a large round stone out of the fire and he used a scoop made from a gourd to pick the hot rock up and place it in a calabash containing a mixture of water, some unknown bark and treestars. He then used another stick to stir the mixture and then he realized that it was black instead of purple.

"Strut," Mr. Bigmouth asked, "can you get some … NO DON'T EAT THAT!" he shouted, seeing that Strut had gotten hold of some black berries and was about to eat them. Mr. Bigmouth leapt to his feet and dashed over to Strut and grabbed the berries from his hands and threw them to the ground.

"I was going to eat that!"

"Damn it, Strut! Didn't you hear me before? Do not eat anything from this area! You were about to eat giana berries! Those berries are extremely poisonous; the amount you were going to eat can kill a fast-biter several times over! Now spit out whatever you have in your mouth!"

Strut obeyed Mr. Bigmouth's command and left with the dart poisons before Mr. Bigmouth could yell at him further.

Meanwhile, outside the Great Valley, yellow team had just arrived.

"Red-Eye! How shall we arrange ourselves?" a large gold male sharptooth asked.

"Slasher, you will take your sharpteeth and cover these entrances. Any dinosaur who does not have a red vine tied on to a limb is free for your squad to capture. Do not kill them unless I give the command or unless you or a squad member is in danger of getting killed or seriously injured." Red-Eye replied, pointing to the sketch he made in the dirt.

"Got it!" Slasher replied, "Alright! You heard him! Let's go!" Slasher and his squad left the encampment.

"Now can we start!" Stormwing demanded, "My squad is looking for some real targets now."

"Yes." Styracus replied.

"For Excidium!" Red-Eye shouted, thrusting his clenched fist in the air. "For Excidium!" echoed the other dinosaurs. The gathered two-footers pumped their fists in the air or brandished their assortment of weapons, ranging from tree branches to wooden spears and stone knives. The four-footers either reared or shouted their battle cry. The rumble of thunder mingled with the cheering of the battle-lusted dinosaurs; the sun suddenly dimmed as the clouds moved in and a light rain began to fall.

Chapter 12: The Battle for the Great Valley

"I say kill him." Mr. Threehorn said.

"Mr. Threehorn, we cannot resort to deadly force so readily." Mr. Thicknose countered.

"You want to keep him alive?"

"We can just keep him in a cave and guard him like we did Styracus."

"Yeah, and risk an assault by sharpteeth or Styracus's forces? We were lucky that only sickleclaws and fast-biters attacked and we had a crack team on duty. Even though Blue-Scale, much as I hate to admit it, is a strong fighter, even he cannot deal with multiple sharpteeth." Mr. Threehorn replied, "Besides, Styracus is an important figure, this Egg-Stealer who we captured, thanks to Littlefoot and his squad, is not."

"We'll just leave him tied to tree or something for now." Mr. Thicknose said, nodding to the two dinosaurs who flanked Ozzie.

The two dinosaurs grabbed Ozzie, who was still bound and dragged him off.

Outside the Great Valley, the gathered sharpteeth and their plant-eater allies made some final preparations for the assault.

"Storm-Chaser, you are go!" A thin dark green Fast-Runner shouted, gesturing to a large pitch black flyer. The flyer nodded and flew into the air with a small sickleclaw on his back and a supply of rocks.

"Alert my forces already in the valley!" Styracus ordered.

"At once!" Saber replied. "Styracus's herd! Prepare for the assault!" he shouted in sharptooth.

"This is the last chance to prepare your weapons if you are using any!" Theta shouted. A black male Fast-Runner was sharpening his stone knife as Theta spoke.

Inside the Great Valley, near Mr. Bigmouth's grove, Arcus and a heavily built dark green male Runner heard Saber's signal. "Let's roll!" Arcus said to the Runner. The Runner grabbed two red vines that were hidden inside a shrub; he tied one of the vines to his upper arm and tied the other to Arcus's left foreleg. The Runner also retrieved a wooden spike that was hidden inside another shrub.

Inside the grove, Mr. Bigmouth was preparing some kind of herbal medicine. He was midway through peeling a large grey tuber with a stone knife when Arcus and the Runner burst in.

"May I help you?" Mr. Bigmouth asked, concealing the stone knife behind his back.

"Yes. Give me all your herbal poisons!" the Runner demanded, brandishing the wood spike, "Or my friend here will have a word with you." Arcus pawed the ground menacingly.

"How about, no." Mr. Bigmouth responded.

"Alright then, we'll take them by force. Arcus! Take care of this joker." The Runner ordered.

Arcus charged Mr. Bigmouth, who barely dodged the charge, Arcus's shoulder missing him by inches. The Runner then headed over to a flat rock containing an array of herbal medicines.

Mr. Bigmouth repeated his pattern of dodging and provoking Arcus. He eventually lead Arcus near the fire pit and when he prepared to charge; Mr. Bigmouth seized a calabash of clubtail fruit juice he had been heating moments before and threw it into Arcus's face. Arcus screamed as the hot juice temporarily blinded him.

The Runner turned around to see the source of the screaming and found Arcus in evident pain. "Bastard! You don't fight fair do you?" The Runner said menacingly.

Mr. Bigmouth chuckled. "No." he replied

"Very well, neither do I." The Runner brandished his wooden spike and assumed a fighting stance.

Mr. Bigmouth looked around for a weapon, until he realized he was still holding his stone knife. He hurled the knife at the Runner but his aim was off and it only nicked the Runner's arm.

The Runner then charged Mr. Bigmouth and attempted to stab him with the wood spike. For several tense seconds, Mr. Bigmouth used his arms and tail to try and block the Runner's ferocious assault; he even got in a right jab to the Runner's jaw but the Runner simply shook it off and continued attacking. Mr. Bigmouth was soon able to gain the upper hand when the Runner inadvertently stepped on a sharp rock. He wasted no time in seizing the Runner and wrestling him to the ground. Though Mr. Bigmouth was not the strongest of dinosaurs he was still able to subdue the Runner solely through his size and weight, compared to the Runner.

After Mr. Bigmouth left the Runner writhing in pain, thanks to a well placed knee; he decided to alert the valley that the invasion has begun.

But Mr. Bigmouth's grove was not the only place where Styracus's forces were engaging the Great Valley dinosaurs in battle.

"What is going on here!" a light green female Fast-Runner demanded. She had a dark green female Fast-Runner, wearing a red vine on her upper arm, in a chokehold. The captive Fast-Runner started struggling and the light green Fast-Runner responded by tightening her chokehold until the captive Fast-Runner was still.

Moments before, she and two of her companions were relaxing in the Hot Springs when they were set upon by a Fast-Runner and a dinosaur of Mutt's kind. Both of the attackers had red vines on their arms.

"I don't know. I think it's Styracus's doing!" a dark blue male Swimmer shouted. He leapt out of the way of a tree branch that the dinosaur threw at him. Before the dinosaur could snap off another tree branch to throw, the Swimmer tackled him, placed him in a chokehold and snapped his neck. He then released the dead dinosaur.

"Let's get out of here before other dinosaurs ambush us!" the Fast-Runner shouted. She released her captive who was now either unconscious or dead.

The three dinosaurs ran out of the Bubbling Muds and headed for the Thundering Falls Lake. When they arrived, there was a group of dinosaurs already present. The air was thick with the sound of chatter.

"Quiet." Grandpa Longneck ordered. Immediately the dinosaurs became silent, "As I'm sure you are aware we have been attacked by Styracus's forces. We need to prep…" a flyer landed on his head and said something to him.

"We have an emergency. There are sharpteeth gathered outside the valley and they are mobilizing." Grandpa Longneck said with eerie calm.

The dinosaurs gave a collective gasp.

"We will not stand for this! We will keep this valley! We will not allow these sharpteeth to win! We shall fight!" Mr. Threehorn shouted.

His rousing words had the intended effect; the gathered dinosaurs almost immediately formed into various squads and headed off to engage the invading sharpteeth. Although the dinosaurs did not make much noise, the tension in the air was palpable.

"Squad One, assemble!" Littlefoot shouted. He was at the Thundering Falls Lake with his friends. Ducky, Hyp, Cera, Nod, Ali, Mutt and Petrie immediately rushed to Littlefoot's side. Hyp, Mutt and Ducky were all armed with tree branches.

Squad One headed to the Great Rock Pass. Deimos, Raptix and Strut were already present. Strut had his hollow reed and a leaf pouch of poison darts at the ready. Deimos had three stone tipped spears at his feet and had a fourth in his hand. Strut and Deimos were crouched behind a small boulder. The other dinosaurs were standing near Deimos and Strut.

"Where did you get those?" Ducky asked.

"I'll tell you how to make them later. For now, let's focus on the upcoming battle." Deimos replied.

"I can smell them coming." Raptix said. His suspicions were confirmed when an earsplitting roar was heard coming from the path.

Nine dinosaurs, all wearing red vines: five sickleclaws, two fast-biters and two Fast-Runners entered through the Great Rock Pass. Behind them, even more dinosaurs were visible and some appeared to be armed; they all wore the same red vines. The enemy dinosaurs were about fifteen feet away from the gathered dinosaurs.

As the enemy dinosaurs advanced, Deimos stuck his head over the rock and hurled his stone tipped spear; at the same time Strut stood up and fired a dart. Both projectiles hit home, the spear striking a sickleclaw in the chest and downing it, the dart striking a fast-biter. Strut ducked back down, dodging a rock that a sickleclaw threw at him. He reached inside the pouch and reloaded his hollow reed while Deimos grabbed another spear and hurled it, this one missing and embedding itself in the gravelly ground.

Strut fired another dart striking the same fast-biter he shot moments before; this shot was fatal, the fast-biter slumped to the ground. One of the enemy sickleclaws pulled the spear out of his dead companion and hurled it back at Deimos. Deimos ducked behind the rock and heard the spear shatter as it struck the rock. Two other stone tipped spears flew from the ranks of the enemy dinosaurs; both arced over the rock and grazed Deimos and embedded themselves, point first into the ground.

"Be careful, we now know they are armed!" Littlefoot shouted.

Deimos said nothing, instead pulling out one of the spears stuck in the ground and throwing it into the ranks of the advancing dinosaurs; a cry of pain let him know that he hit a target. Before Deimos could get the other spear, Strut seized it and hurled directly at a sickleclaw's chest. The sickleclaw went down with a spear sticking out of its chest. A Fast-Runner seized the spear that was embedded in the gravelly ground and wielded it. Deimos grabbed another spear and offered it to Hyp, who hurled his tree branch at a Fast-Runner who ducked.

Deimos gave an ear-splitting war cry. He picked up his remaining spear and charged, Squad One following.

Littlefoot and Ali singled out one of the Fast-Runners. They charged the Fast-Runner. The Fast-Runner pulled out a stone knife from a pouch he strapped onto his right leg and slashed Ali across the face, leaving a thin red line. She flinched and before the Fast-Runner could stab her, Littlefoot knocked the Fast-Runner down with a brutal charge that was finished with powerful sweeping tail whip. As the Fast-Runner fell, he dropped his stone knife which the other Fast-Runner accidently kicked out of his reach. The Fast-Runner rolled out of the way as Ali reared and prepared to bring her entire weight on to his head. The Fast-Runner grabbed a heavy rock, staggered to his feet and swung the rock into the nearest target, which happened to be Littlefoot's head. Littlefoot slumped to the ground.

"Nod! Get Littlefoot to safety! Petrie! Get reinforcements!" Ali shouted. The command was barely heard over the din of battle. Nod grabbed Littlefoot's tail and dragged him behind the rock they previously used for cover. Petrie leapt into the air, dodging a tree branch thrown at him. He took off with great speed towards the Thundering Falls Lake.

Raptix leapt onto a sickleclaw and started to viciously bite and claw his opponent. The ferocious attack stained Raptix's feathers with blood and would have been fatal if another sickleclaw hadn't stopped the attack by grabbing Raptix and throwing him to the ground. Raptix rolled out of the way when that same sickleclaw who grabbed him tried to stomp him. Raptix then ran back behind the rock and the severely injured sickleclaw tried to limp out the entrance to the Great Valley but was felled with a well aimed rock thrown by Strut.

Ducky, Hyp and Mutt were simultaneously fighting two other sickleclaws. Ducky simultaneously deflected a sickleclaw's kick with her tree branch and elbowed another sickleclaw in the face. Hyp rammed his spear into a sickleclaw's stomach, the sickleclaw screamed in pain and Hyp tried to pull the spear back out, to no avail. He left the spear in the sickleclaw and pushed it down. After he killed the sickleclaw, he focused on the sickleclaw whom Ducky elbowed. Hyp, Mutt and Ducky simultaneously attacked the other sickleclaw, beating it to the ground and stomping it to death. After a few moments the sickleclaw lay dead and the three dinosaurs were looking for other targets.

Deimos, Strut, Cera and Ali were fighting against a mass of various dinosaurs.

"When…do… reinforcements…arrive?" Cera panted. She slammed her horn into a fast-biter, killing it. She ignored the blood running down her face. She then tripped a Fast-Runner who was armed with a wooden spear and stepped on his throat, killing him. The gurgling of the fatally injured Fast-Runner was barely heard over the clamor of battle.

"I hope it's soon. I don't know how much longer I can hold out." Strut said. He had now switched to using his hollow reed as a quarterstaff. He thrust one end into a Runner's groin and quickly spun the hollow reed around to deliver a fatal blow to the Runner's temple. A sickleclaw grabbed his hollow reed, but Strut delivered a kick to the sickleclaw's knee forcing it to drop the reed. As he prepared to deliver a fatal swing to the sickleclaw's temple, a powerful tail whip from a Fast-Runner snapped the reed in half, the other half falling with a hollow thud. Strut gulped as the sickleclaw approached him. In desperation, he jammed the broken fragment of the reed into the sickleclaw's chest, driving it into the heart. He ran as the sickleclaw he stabbed bled to death, covering the ground in blood.

Even Deimos was starting to grow fatigued. "Come…on. I can…take it!" he panted. Despite his words, he was obviously fatiguing. His attacks with his spear were clumsier than before. He was also covered in slashes and even a few stab wounds; caused either by spears, stone knives or claws. He thrust his spear at a Fast Runner, who dodged the thrust and grabbed the spear. The Fast-Runner gave the spear a tug and it slipped from Deimos's bloody hands. Deimos assumed a fighting stance and targeted a rock-wielding Runner; he knew it was too dangerous to fight the spear-wielding Fast-Runner. Deimos grappled with the Runner but the Runner swung his rock into Deimos's jaw, stunning him. Deimos grabbed a nearby rock and attempted to retaliate but dazed from the blow, he threw the rock in the wrong direction. The Runner swung his rock into Deimos's jaw once more, knocking him to the ground. The Runner grinned and stood over Deimos in preparation for the fatal blow when he suddenly gave a gasp and dropped the rock. Hyp struck the Runner in the chest with a well-thrown stone knife he picked off a dead dinosaur. Deimos took advantage of the distraction and staggered to his feet and fled.

"Where are those damn reinforcements?" Hyp shouted over the din of battle.

Ali saw Deimos and Strut running away. "Retreat!" she shouted. Squad One quickly regrouped and ran from the battle.

As they were fleeing, Petrie landed on Nod's back. "Me get…help." he panted out, "On way." Petrie then collapsed from exhaustion.

As Squad One retreated, they encountered Squad Seven, composed of three medium sized Clubtails, two Fast-Runners armed with stone knives, and three large Spike-Tails. Squad Seven was heading towards the battle at the Great Rock Pass. A contingent of the Great Valley Air Corps was also accompanying Squad Seven.

As Ali looked back, she saw Squad Seven and the contingent immediately engage the invaders.

Over in the Feeding Grounds a battle was also taking place. However, the Great Valley dinosaurs were all armed and only a few enemy plant eaters were fighting with the sharpteeth.

A large green male Fast-Runner and a gold female Spike-Tail were fighting a group of fast-biters. A fast-biter leapt onto the Spike-Tail; the Fast-Runner grabbed it and snapped its neck before it could injure his ally. He then used the fast-biter's carcass to beat another fast-biter to death. He then threw the mutilated fast-biter at another fast-biter, knocking it down. The Spike-Tail had used her spiked tail to deadly effect as the blood running down her spikes showed. She tail whipped a cluster of three fast-biters, knocking two of them down and impaling the third on her spiked tail. She ignored the shrieks of agony that the dying fast-biter gave off and continued battering her enemies with her tail and body.

Another group was also fighting alongside the Spike-Tail and the Fast-Runner. This group, composed of a Runner armed with a hollow reed he used as a staff and a Swimmer armed with a wooden spike, was fighting a group composed of two sickleclaws and an enemy Runner. The Swimmer was grappling with a sickleclaw. With a groan, he pushed his opponent down and aimed a kick right at the sickleclaw's groin. The sickleclaw rolled out of the way, leapt back onto his feet and kicked the Swimmer in the stomach. The Swimmer bent his body to try and dodge the kick but the toe claw of the sickleclaw made a glancing impact, causing the Swimmer to flinch. The sickleclaw took advantage of the brief pause and seized the wooden spike. The Swimmer tried to hold on but the sickleclaw kneed the Swimmer in the stomach, forcing him to let go of the spike. The sickleclaw grinned and raised the spike for the final blow, but the Swimmer quickly grabbed a handful of dirt and hurled it into the sickleclaw's face. The sickleclaw cursed in anger and clutched his right eye, forcing him to drop the wooden spike. The Swimmer seized the spike and buried it into the sickleclaw's throat, killing him. He rushed to help his Runner ally who was fighting off another sickleclaw and an enemy Runner.

The Runner placed one end of his staff into the ground and used it to help support himself as he leapt into the air and used both feet to kick the opposing Runner. The kick connected with an audible thud as it sent the Runner sliding back a few feet. He then lowered himself to the ground, pulled his staff out of the ground and with his staff delivered a swift blow to the sickleclaw's knee, breaking it with an audible crack. He then delivered a powerful two-handed swing to the sickleclaw's temple, killing it. He saw his ally coming over and gestured towards the Runner, who had picked himself up and grabbed a large rock.

The Swimmer charged the Runner, leaping out of the way of the thrown rock. He tackled the Runner but the Runner somehow escaped. The Runner fled and the Swimmer gave chase but the Runner was too fast for him to catch.

The two dinosaurs rushed over to where the Spike-Tail and the Fast-Runner were busy fighting a mass of Fast-Biters. The mass had substantially thinned and there were the dead bodies of the fast-biters surrounding the Spike-Tail and Fast-Runner. In short order, the rest of the fast-biters lay dead.

"There's a fast-biter stuck on your tail." The Fast-Runner said.

"Get it off! I don't want a rotting fast-biter on me!" The Spike-Tail said.

The Runner grabbed the fast-biter. He screamed as the Fast-Biter twitched. "Damn it! It's still alive!"

The Fast-Runner grabbed the fast-biter and pulled it off the spike on the Spike-Tail's tail. He then snapped the fast-biter's neck to make sure it was dead and threw near the other dead fast-biters.

Over by the entrance to Two Boulder Pass, Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Mr. Clubtail and Blue-Scale were holding off some large sharpteeth. One of the large sharpteeth glared at Blue-Scale. He glared back and tail whipped the sharptooth, knocking a few teeth out. He then slammed his shoulder into the sharptooth, stunning it and allowing Mr. Clubtail to shatter its leg with a powerful tail whip. As the sharptooth fell, Blue-Scale stomped on the sharptooth's neck, breaking it with an audible crunch that was heard over the din of battle. Grandpa and Grandma Longneck linked their tails and tripped several sharpteeth by running the linked tails into them. Mr. Clubtail lumbered to the fallen sharpteeth in succession and used his tail club to break whatever body part was the most convenient. After a few intense moments all the sharpteeth lay on the ground, crippled or dead. An ear piercing roar was heard and several large sharpteeth accompanied by a few enemy Threehorns and Longnecks and even a Clubtail appeared in the distance and headed towards them.

"Great, they got through Squad Nine." Mr. Clubtail said.

Blue-Scale said nothing but instead reached over to a small sapling and uprooted it to use as a club.

"Now, we have to fight against some of the toughest dinosaurs." Blue-Scale said.

Suddenly, as if by a freakish coincidence, Chomper's parents, and two other Clubtails ambled up to the gathered group. "I figured you needed some help." Chomper's father said in Sharptooth.

"Do we ever! We have some pretty tough plant-eaters who are going to attack us." Blue-Scale replied in Sharptooth.

Chomper's parents nodded and prepared for the battle.

Outside the Great Valley the carnage going on inside the valley seemed distant. Styracus was talking with Red-Eye.

"Do you think we will be victorious?" Styracus asked.

"We should be." Red-Eye responded, "We have superior forces."

"But remember these dinosaurs are defending their home, they will fight much harder."

"True but we have greater forces."

Hasta suddenly galloped up to Styracus. "Anybody seen Theta?" he asked.

"He should be with you. You are both responsible for coordinating one part of yellow team" Styracus said.

"He said was going to get a snack. Oh damn it! I think he snuck into the valley looking for some action!"

Styracus sighed. "Theta, always seeking thrills and action. I specifically ordered him not to leave you, Hasta. But then again, if he is fighting, he would make a perfect adjunct to a team."

"So what should I do?" Hasta asked.

"Follow the orders I assigned you previously." Styracus responded.

Over in the sleeping grounds, Bron, Ducky's mother and two Clubtails, a Fast-Runner and a Runner fought off a horde of sickleclaws and enemy plant eaters. By this time the skies had darkened and the drizzle that started when the enemy dinosaurs first invaded three hours ago turned into heavy rain.

Ducky's mother, armed with two heavy sticks fought off Theta, who was armed with a stone knife, and a sickleclaw. She parried a short thrust from Theta's knife and used the other stick to deal him a sharp blow on the neck. He flinched but quickly recovered and feinted to the right, then attempted a direct stab at her stomach but the muddy ground offered little traction. He slipped but managed to regain his balance. Theta rolled away from a stomp that was aimed at his stomach and quickly got back onto his feet.

The sickleclaw, who by now was bored, ignored Ducky's mother and joined in the melee that the Runner and the Fast-Runner were in.

Theta again attempted to stab her. She swung one of her sticks, striking Theta's knife hand. He shook his hand in pain and dropped his weapon. She then closed in on Theta and smashed the butt of the stick in her right hand into Theta's right shoulder joint, disabling his arm. She then feints an attack to his face but surprised him with a sweeping tail whip that knocked him to the ground. She quickly ran over and kicked Theta square in the groin, hard.

While Theta was doubled over in complete and utter pain, Ducky's mother focused on a sickleclaw, who seemingly appeared out of the rain. It seized Theta's dropped weapon and charged her. She parried a kick from the sickleclaw with one stick and retaliated with a strong blow to the sickleclaw's weapon arm with the other stick. The crunch of the sickleclaw's arm breaking was clearly audible but was overshadowed by the sickleclaw's scream of pain. The sickleclaw glared at Ducky's mother and charged her. But she was prepared; she jabbed the sickleclaw in the stomach with one stick and caught the sickleclaw's head between the sticks and snapped its neck, using the sticks for leverage.

The Fast-Runner, armed with a stick was riding atop one of the Clubtails. The Clubtail charged into a mass of sickleclaws, trampling some of them underfoot while the Fast-Runner was swinging his stick, beating as many sickleclaws as he could reach.

Over in the airfield, the ground crew and the Great Valley Air Corps were fighting against Stormwing's and Sierra's squadron and a small force of Styracus's plant-eaters.

Long-Wing and Chomper along with Grey-Wing and a smaller blue male Runner were engaged in combat with two of Stormwing's flyers. Chomper threw a rock at one of the enemy flyers but the intense rain made it hard for him to aim and he missed. Suddenly, Chomper heard a loud thump. He turned around and saw that Grey-Wing was missing his dinosaur. Chomper looked down and saw the broken body of the Runner, one hundred feet below him, on one of the targets.

Ptyrax, Ovius and Ruby and Coatal were strafing some of the enemy plant eaters. Chomper took one last look as a large rock thrown by Ruby killed an enemy Fast-Runner. He then turned his gaze to the dark brown flyer who was chasing Grey-Wing. Grey-Wing now had no way to retaliate against the rock throwing sickleclaw on the enemy flyer's back except ramming. He then hovered briefly for a moment and charged at the sickleclaw who ducked and threw a rock at Grey-Wing, who abruptly dropped in altitude and tried to uppercut the flyer, the sickleclaw hissed something and the flyer flew forward, Grey-Wing hitting empty air. The sickleclaw then threw a wood spike at Grey-Wing, tearing a hole in his left wing. He grimaced in pain and glided down to the landing zone. As soon as he landed, three ground crew dinosaurs ran to him and proceeded to treat his injuries despite the pouring rain. Chomper glared at the sickleclaw. A look of pure hatred formed on his face.

"You die now." Chomper hissed as he picked up a rock and gestured to Long-Wing to chase the flyer. Long-Wing obeyed and chased the flyer. The sickleclaw hurled multiple rocks at Long-Wing and Chomper but a combination of Long-Wing's flying skills, his agility and the visibility decreasing effects of the pouring rain let him dodge the rocks. Chomper then threw multiple rocks at the sickleclaw, a few of which struck the sickleclaw, dazing it.

"Now!" Chomper shouted to Long-Wing. Long-Wing then charged the dazed sickleclaw at great speed and knocked it off its flyer. Chomper threw rocks at the enemy flyer to dissuade it from trying to catch the sickleclaw. Long-Wing ignored the sickleclaw's screaming as it fell nearly one hundred feet to its death. He looked down and saw the sickleclaw's body had landed on an enemy Fast-Runner and killed it. He grinned in perverse pleasure.

"Hold on!" Long-Wing said. Chomper obeyed and held on tight as Long-Wing chased down the enemy flyer. In a few short moments he caught up to the flyer and grabbed it, his claws enabling him to keep a firm grip even though both flyers were drenched from the rain.

"Time to die." Long-Wing said in a voice laced with venom. Long-Wing then plummeted into a high speed dive towards the ground. He aimed toward towards a rock and at the last moment released his captive and pulled up from the ground. He heard but did not see the fatal impact of the enemy flyer as it struck the rock. He and Chomper then turned their attention to an enemy flyer and the Runner on its back, who was strafing the ground crew dinosaurs who were treating Grey-Wing. Two of the ground crew dinosaurs grabbed Grey-Wing and moved him under a large tree.

"Leave them alone!" Chomper shouted, as he threw rocks at the pursuing flyers. He looked down at Long-Wing's back. "Long-Wing ! I need to land!"

Long-Wing nodded and landed near the rock storage area. In a few seconds, five Fast-Runners rushed to Long-Wing and loaded several rocks on him. The lead Fast-Runner nodded to Long-Wing and cleared a short runway for him to take off.

Soon after Long-Wing landed, Pterano, who was carrying Hyp's father, landed.

"Mr. Runner, I'll be chasing Sierra. You can't be with me at this time. It's too dangerous." Pterano said.

Hyp's father dismounted, grabbed a large stick and headed over to the tree where Grey-Wing was being treated and where his rescuers were fighting off some sickleclaws.

Pterano then took to the skies and scanned the sky for Sierra. He eventually spotted Sierra hovering near the peaks of the Great Rock Wall. He immediately veered towards Sierra.

Sierra, who was carrying a small sickleclaw, was hovering over a nest. The sickleclaw was bombarding the nest with rocks, destroying many of the eggs and killing some of the hatchlings.

"Hey bastard! Come down and fight!" a voice shouted from the ground. The speaker was unidentifiable thanks to the height Sierra was at.

"He's right, come on and fight." A voice said.

"Who's there?" Sierra shouted, "Show yourself!"

Almost immediately, Pterano charged Sierra from a thick veil of raindrops and knocked the sickleclaw off his back and to its death.

"Pterano!" Sierra spat, turning around to face Pterano. "I should have known."

"So you do remember me?" Pterano said icily.

Sierra chuckled. "Yes."

Pterano and Sierra squared off in the driving rain for several tense moments.

"I see you paired up with the sharpteeth and those evil plant-eaters." Pterano said.

"Yes." Sierra said, icily grinning.

"But you will not win; you will not take this valley!"

"Cocky as ever, eh? Let's see if you fight as good as you talk!"

"Bring it!" Pterano shouted. He then charged Sierra, feinted low and caught him with a slash to the face that drew blood.

Sierra was undeterred; he flew high into the sky, taking advantage of the rain and the clouds. He soon vanished.

"Sierra, you coward! Come back and fight!" Pterano shouted. His shout went unanswered, save for the distant noise of battle, hundreds of feet below him and the sound of rain.

Pterano then flew to one of the high clearings in the Great Rock Wall. Suddenly, a brown streak flew from the clouds and rammed Pterano in the back, driving him to the rocky ground.

"Sierra! I should have known you'd pull that off." Pterano shouted, looking at Sierra.

Sierra said nothing but assumed a fighting stance and squared off against Pterano. Pterano assumed the same stance.

Suddenly and without warning, Pterano charged Sierra and punched him in the jaw. Sierra cursed and retaliated with a knee to the stomach. Pterano doubled over in pain and Sierra grabbed Pterano and kneed him in the face. Pterano managed to reach over and tear a large hole in Sierra's left wing. Sierra screamed and kneed Pterano in the groin. Pterano somehow managed to remain standing despite the amount of pain he was in, he then charged Sierra and clawed him, gashing his stomach. Sierra then grabbed Pterano and slammed him to the ground he then kneeled on top of Pterano and clawed him, causing several gashes, including several to his wings, until Pterano managed to stick one of his clawed fingers into Sierra's eye.

Sierra screamed and released Pterano and clutched his left eye. "You blinded me, you bastard!"

"Come now, I didn't push that hard!" Pterano said.

Sierra then leapt into the air and flew off, his flight somewhat jerky thanks to the large gash in his wing, with Pterano giving chase.

It was not too soon that Pterano lost sight of Sierra. He heard something behind him but it was too late, Sierra snuck behind him and delivered a brutal two-handed hammerfist that forced Pterano into a deadly spin. Sierra then flew off to the small clearing outside the Great Valley that Saber and Red-Eye had designated the landing strip.

Luckily, Pterano was able to regain control of his flight and he glided to a clearing where Mr. Bigmouth and Petrie's mother and some other dinosaurs were treating the Great Valley's injured dinosaurs. Mr. Threehorn and several of the Far-Walker Longnecks guarded the area.

"Nice to see you." Strut said. He was covered in scratches and bruises but was otherwise uninjured.

"Uncle Pterano!" Petrie said excitedly.

"Ms. Flyer! Head over to the fire and get the cleaning juice I prepared! Raptix! Prepare some sickleclaw paste!" Mr. Bigmouth ordered. Unlike before, Mr. Bigmouth was armed; there was a large stick strapped to his back with vines.

Petrie's mother headed over to a crude fireplace made from stacked up rocks sheltering a small fire where several calabashes of a thick clear liquid were boiling. She used a leaf to grab one of the calabashes and used another leaf to protect the liquid from the rain. She also threw some more wood into the fire and headed over to Mr. Bigmouth for further orders.

Raptix, his feathers returned to its normal purple-blue hue thanks to the rain, picked up two small rocks, a flat one and a round one and headed over to his workspace which was sheltered from the rain thanks to some large overhanging leaves. He grabbed the necessary ingredients for the sickleclaw paste and quickly made it. He then handed a leaf bag containing the paste to a light green male Fast-Runner who was inspecting a deep stab wound on a Swimmer.

"When will the sky-water stop?" Raptix asked. He tried to shake himself dry to no avail as within a few short seconds he was drenched again.

Deimos was, for once, not standing. He was sitting down eating some kind of fish that a Swimmer had caught and gave to him. He tried to shut out the groans of pain from the injured dinosaurs. He looked to his right and saw a fatally injured Fast-Runner who had been stabbed multiple times with a stone weapon, either a spear or a knife. The Fast-Runner was barely alive. Deimos sighed; he didn't mind killing so long as it was for a good reason, such as for food or in defense of his new home, the Great Valley.

Over in the Gravel Fields, devoid of dinosaurs save for Saber who was a large dull green male sickleclaw and commander of the division two of green team and a large black Fast-Runner. Both dinosaurs wore red vines around their upper arms.

"This is the place?" the Fast-Runner asked, entering through the breach in the Great Rock Wall.

"According to our scouts, yes." Saber replied, following the Fast-Runner.

"Good, let's get Ozzie and get out of here! I can't wait for some action."

"Remember, we want to be stealthy."

Saber and the Fast-Runner then followed a trail of Egg-Stealer footprints leading to a small cave. The pouring rain obliterated most of the footprints but Saber was able to track them

They soon arrived at a small cave near the Gravel Fields. Two Fast-Runners both armed with wood staffs made from tree branches guarded the cave and a small flyer was at a small cliff on the top of the cave. Saber and his companion were crouched behind a large rock.

"Now." Saber whispered.

The Fast-Runner nodded and removed one of the three stone knives from the leaf pouch he strapped onto his left upper arm. He then stood up and threw the knife at the flyer but he missed and the knife shattered as it hit the rock cliff. The two guards turned in his direction but he ducked behind the rock.

"Damn." he muttered. He pulled a second knife from the holster and threw it again at the flyer, this time he hit. The flyer tumbled to the ground with a stone knife sticking out of its chest. He pulled the final stone knife from its holster and gently ran a finger down its edge.

Saber nodded at his companion. Almost simultaneously Saber and the Fast-Runner leapt from behind the rock and attacked the two guards.

Saber grappled for the staff with one of the guards. He managed to disarm his opponent by grabbing the staff with both hands, pushing his opponent against the cliff and delivering a swift knee to the groin that he quickly followed with an eye gouge. The blinded Fast-Runner screamed in rage and agony and charged Saber. Saber grinned and tripped the Fast-Runner; he then leapt on top of the fallen Fast-Runner and proceeded to repeatedly bite the Fast-Runner about the face and throat. So fierce was the attack that Saber nearly decapitated his opponent.

Saber's companion, on the other hand, crept behind the other guard, seized him and slashed his throat. He then left the dying Fast-Runner in a pool of his own blood and went over to Saber, who was bent over a Fast-Runner carcass.

"Oh damn it! That's nasty!" the Fast-Runner said as he watched Saber consuming the Fast-Runner guard who had nearly been decapitated.

"What?" Saber replied in between mouthfuls of Fast-Runner flesh. "I'm," he swallowed, "making use of a nearby food source. Besides, you just simply slit another dinosaur's throat and leave a good food source to rot."

"Yeah. I really don't eat dinosaur meat." the Fast-Runner replied, trying his hardest not to vomit.

"Well, I'm done." Saber said, wiping his bloody mouth with the back of his hand.

"I'm glad too."

Saber and his companion both walked into the cave and found Ozzie bound to a large stalagmite. He appeared to be unconscious.

"Is he ok?" Saber asked.

"We'll find out soon enough." The Fast-Runner replied. He then gently jabbed Ozzie several times with his stone knife, leaving some bloody imprints on Ozzie's skin.

Ozzie then groaned and opened his eyes. The Fast-Runner then used his stone knife to cut the vines binding Ozzie, who collapsed on the floor.

"Ozzie! Are you all right?" Saber asked.

"Ugh. Where am I? And why am I so hungry" Ozzie asked.

"You are being rescued by two members of the invading force, meaning Claw Valley."

"I don't feel so good."

"Take him outside the Great Valley and see if Styracus or Red-Eye has any dinosaurs who can treat him." Saber said to the Fast-Runner.

The Fast-Runner left the cave and returned a few moments later with one of the staffs that the guards were armed with and handed it to Ozzie. Ozzie gratefully took it and with the assistance of the staff and the Fast-Runner, he staggered to his feet. Soon, both Ozzie and the Fast-Runner disappeared in the rain, heading towards the nearest exit of the Great Valley. By now, dusk was starting to fall and the rain had not let up.

Soon after Ozzie's rescue, Styracus greeted the Fast-Runner.

"Excellent. Take Ozzie over to the airfield and have him treated." Styracus said.

"Styracus! The Great Valley dinosaurs appear to be tiring! Victory may be at hand!" Rinkus said, landing in front of Styracus.

"Good." Styracus, replied, "Storm-Chaser, fly to the previous meeting point and alert the reinforcements."

Storm-Chaser nodded and took off into the pouring rain. In a few moments, he vanished from sight.

Unbeknownst to the two dinosaurs Petrie had overheard them. He flew back to the airfield.

"Me overhear enemy flyer get reinforcements." Petrie said.

"Damn! We'll never be able to take them. We must evacuate." Coatal said.

"I'll bring this matter to Mr. Longneck, Mr. Thicknose and Blue-Scale." Pterano replied, flying off to the Thundering Falls Lake.

As Pterano flew over the Great Valley on his way to the Thundering Falls Lake, he noticed that the enemy dinosaurs appeared to be fleeing. But he knew that it was just a ruse.

He soon arrived at the Thundering Falls Lake. The ground was wet with both rain and blood. Blue-Scale, Grandpa Longneck and Mr. Thicknose were present but all of them sported various battle injuries.

"Mr. Longneck, Petrie reported that the enemies are planning to get reinforcements and invade again." Pterano said.

"I say we fight it out!" Blue-Scale shouted, clenching his fist.

"It is unwise; we do not know how many additional dinosaurs are coming. Even this battle has resulted in many casualties. If we flee we may be able to trick them into thinking that we have been defeated, so that we can eventually take back the Great Valley." Mr. Thicknose offered.

"I'm still up for fighting it out."

"Blue-Scale, Mr. Thicknose is right, we do not know how large the invading force is. If we decide to fight it out, we may suffer many more casualties." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I never thought of it that way. I guess I let my excitement get in the way of my thinking. I guess fleeing for now is the best choice."

"It is settled." Grandpa Longneck said, "Pterano, order the Great Valley Air Corps to alert everyone to flee. We will all meet by Saurus Rock."

Pterano nodded and flew off to the airfield.

"So what's the verdict?" Ovius asked. He was covered in scratches and had a large bruise on his ribs.

"We flee." Pterano said, "All Great Valley flyers! Disperse and tell all the dinosaurs that we are ready to flee! We meet by Saurus Rock."

The Great Valley flyers immediately took to the air.

Mr. Bigmouth was back in his grove preparing some sickleclaw paste when a flyer landed next to him and relayed the message. Mr. Bigmouth nodded, seized two flints that he used for starting fires and placed them in a leaf pouch he strapped to himself. He then threw all the herbs he had prepared into the fire. He also stripped down as many berries and leaves as he could and also threw them in the fire. He finally ran to the nearest exit, which happened to be the closest to Saurus Rock.

Chomper and his flyer were flying over the Great Valley at a low altitude, looking for dinosaurs to alert. Suddenly, as they flew near the Great Rock Wall, two spears flew from the ground and fatally pierced the flyer. Chomper held on as the flyer tumbled to the ground. He landed roughly and attempted to gain his bearings when a hand seized him and held a stone knife to his throat. "Well, it looks like we got a captive." A voice said. Before he could do anything a rough blow to the back of his head knocked him out.

Ducky and a dinosaur of Mutt's kind were patrolling the area near the Bubbling Muds. Both were armed with tree branches. A flyer landed near them and relayed the message to flee. Both Ducky and her ally ran through the nearest exit. Unfortunately, they ran right into a division of yellow team.

"Drop your weapon!" a thin female dark blue Fast-Runner ordered. She had a scar on her face.

"Take it from me!" Ducky's ally challenged, brandishing his tree branch.

The Fast-Runner grinned and snapped her fingers. Two Fast-Runners and a sickleclaw immediately appeared from the rain and attacked the dinosaur.

The dinosaur attempted to strike the sickleclaw but one of the Fast-Runners seized his weapon arm and twisted it, breaking the dinosaur's shoulder.

Ducky winced as she heard her companion's shoulder being broken, then the sounds of the Fast-Runners and the sickleclaw kicking him to death. The dinosaurs who had just finished killing Ducky's companion turned to Ducky.

"Now would you kindly disarm." The Fast-Runner said, grinning sadistically. She drew a stone knife from a pouch on her leg and brandished it.

Ducky sighed and dropped the tree branch. Three sickleclaws and a Swimmer, all carrying vines appeared from the rain. They quickly bound Ducky and the Fast-Runner marched her at knifepoint over to Styracus.

By the time all the Great Valley dinosaurs were alerted, night had fallen and they were gathered at Saurus Rock.

"Are we all present?" Blue-Scale asked.

A chorus of "yes" came up from the crowd.

"Alright, then, move out!" Grandpa Longneck shouted.

The dinosaurs then began their steady march for a new home. Except for Ducky and Chomper. A lone flyer passed overhead, ignored by all.

Rinkus saw the Great Valley dinosaurs fleeing; he then flew back to where Hasta, Styracus and Red-Eye were camped out.

"Styracus! We just found out the Great Valley dinosaurs are fleeing. It looks like they found an unguarded point or points, rather. The ones that Theta's part of yellow team was supposed to be covering." Rinkus said landing in front of Styracus. "And the reinforcements are arriving."

"Theta, you idiot! You let them get away!" Styracus shouted in rage.

"Well, as a consolation prize, we did get to capture some hostages." Hasta said. He looked over to see the unconscious form of Chomper bound to a rock and Ducky, bound and flanked by two large sickleclaws and a Fast-Runner wielding a stone knife.

"This war ain't over. Take those two to Cloud Island." Red-Eye said.

Chapter 13: Exodus

The Great Valley dinosaurs traveled through the Mysterious Beyond. It was now the middle of the night and the carnage of the fierce battle at the Great Valley seemed distant.

The dinosaurs were now gathered at a small oasis with a lake in the middle. They were planning to stay at this area for the night. Deimos was gathered with Littlefoot, his friends and his grandparents. The other dinosaurs had dispersed around the area.

"Where are we going?" Deimos asked.

"There is an area near the Big Water where we can stay until we can regroup. We first learned about it when the swarming leaf gobblers destroyed all the green food in the Great Valley many cold times ago." Grandma Longneck responded.

"How much further?"

"We'll worry about that later, for now let's get some rest."

Suddenly, Ducky's mother ran into the group, obviously distraught. "Anybody see Ducky?"

"I don't think she made it out. And neither did Ms. Maia." Grandpa Longneck said, trying to keep his voice neutral but a note of sadness still penetrated it. At the mention of this Spike started sobbing and Ducky's mother broke down crying.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Ms. Swimmer but she tried to protect the thing she loves the most, the Great Valley. And Ms. Maia, she sacrificed her life to try and hold off Styracus's forces. Both Ducky and Ms. Maia showed great courage and strength." Deimos said, laying a hand on Ms. Swimmer's shoulder. The two eventually embraced in a tight hug. Littlefoot noticed that Deimos was crying as well, but he did not say anything.

"Well, this is a nice scene." Mr. Clubtail said, lumbering up to the group, "Break it up already. We need to get a move on as fast as we can; Styracus and his minions are going to be looking for us."

"Shut up Kosh!" Cera said icily.

Mr. Clubtail glared at Cera and lumbered off. He hated it when the other dinosaurs used his real name.

On the edges of the oasis, Blue-Scale was keeping watch with Bron, when Chomper's parents came up to Blue-Scale. They were obviously concerned.

"Where's Chomper?" Chomper's father asked in Sharptooth.

"I don't know." Blue-Scale responded in Sharptooth. "Bron, have you seen Chomper?" he asked, switching back to Leaf-Eater.

Bron shook his head. "I don't know how to say this, but I'm not sure if Chomper is still alive. I last saw his flyer getting hit with two thrown spears and them gliding down near the exit."

"I'm sorry to say this but your son has been killed." Blue-Scale said in Sharptooth, addressing Chomper's parents.

Both his parents hung their heads and walked off.

"Thanks for the support." Ducky's mother said, letting go of Deimos. She then headed off to her sleeping area.

Deimos then turned to the rest of the group, which now included Strut as he had been awakened by Deimos moving around and Ms. Swimmer's sobbing.

"Ok, I promised to teach you how to make stone weapons before." Deimos said, "Mr. Bigmouth is better at this than I am but he's either sleeping or on a recon mission."

"Ok. So let's get started then." Strut said.

"Ok, the first step is to find the proper tools and material. You'll need rock hammers of various sizes; you don't need to make them just look for the proper sized rocks. You'll also need a small stick. As for materials, the best for knives and spear heads are the smooth black rocks that you find at the Smoking Mountains but any rock that forms sharp edges when you break it will work."

"Me tired." Petrie said, yawning.

"Maybe we should wait until the Bright Circle rises and we are at our next destination." Deimos said.

The dinosaurs then dispersed to their sleeping areas.

Near the entrance to the Great Valley, a grey feathered bird and a large dark green crocodile-like creature were wandering, unknowing of each other's presence.

The crocodile suddenly bumped into something. "Who's there?"

"It's me, Icthy." The bird responded.

"Icthy? Where'd you come from?"

"Oh, I was just flying around looking for food when I saw you, Dil. I'll bet you were sorry when you tail whipped me into who knows where."

"Shut up! I almost died! Damned swimming sharptooth gave me a scar on my back." Dil said with an icy tone in her voice.

"Damn it! Don't go blaming me for all your misfortunes!"

"Ok, fine, we'll work together to get food but I'm not happy about it."

"You think I enjoy your company? You're most obnoxious bastard I've ever met. I'm only here because I can't take anything bigger than a hatchling by myself."

Unfortunately, their bickering attracted the attention of the entrance guards. Three sickleclaws and a spear wielding Fast-Runner charged out and confronted the pair.

"Wait." Dil said, "We're just looking for food."

"Food?" the Fast-Runner asked. He leveled his spear at Dil; its stone tip gleamed in the moonlight.

"Wait. We should see if we can use these two. They will boost our forces." One of the sickleclaws said.

"Forces?" Icthy asked.

"Yes. We took this valley from the original inhabitants. We are one of the many elite forces in this valley. Will you join?" The Fast-Runner said.

"Um. I guess." Icthy looked at Dil. "What about you."

"I guess." Dil responded.

"Good! Help yourself to any of the carcasses you find." The sickleclaw said, "And then report back to me."

Over in the Bubbling Muds, two sickleclaws and a Runner armed with a stone knife were looking for any Great Valley dinosaurs.

One of the sickleclaws heard a rustling noise from a clump of bushes. She nudged the other sickleclaw who turned his head towards the rustling.

"I'll go first." The Runner said.

"No. Cover us." The female sickleclaw said.

The two sickleclaws rushed into the bushes and dragged out Ms. Maia.

"Well, well. What do we have here?" the Runner said.

"No. I…I want…" Ms. Maia began.

"Spit it out!" The Runner brandished his knife.

"I wish to help."

"What!" the female sickleclaw said.

"Yes. My two companions and I have a grudge against Mr. Threehorn and that Egg-Stealer. And I absolutely despise that Longneck who heads the Great Valley dinosaurs. He wouldn't let me 'deal with' that Egg-Stealer; if I had gotten hold of him, I'd have ripped his damn head off." Ms. Maia said. Some more rustling was heard and a Fast-Runner and a Spike-Tail appeared from the surrounding bushes.

"I'll give you all one chance." The Runner said, "Betray us and…" The Runner mimed grabbing a dinosaur and slashing its throat.

"You will not be disappointed." The Spike-Tail said.

"Well, as our first sign of our trust; we'll tell you where the Great Valley dinosaurs fled to." Ms. Maia said.

The female sickleclaw and her companion both grinned. "Do tell." They said, seemingly in unison.

"They fled to an area near the Big Water. We fled there when the swarming leaf-gobblers destroyed the valley's green food many cold times ago. I can't remember the exact place but it's a large meadow, there are no mountains or anything so attacking shouldn't be too hard."

"Good." The male sickleclaw turned to the Runner. "Get Sierra and tell him that the flyers are to be sent on a recon mission to the Big Water. They are to look for signs of the Great Valley dinosaurs. Remember combat is not the main goal of this mission." The Runner nodded and took off.

In the Thundering Falls Lake, Styracus's herd had just finished rounding up some stragglers from the Great Valley dinosaurs, those who had either decided to fight to the death or had been captured whilst trying to flee.

"Red-Eye! We have captured some stragglers." Styracus said.

"Excellent. Place them in the feeding grounds." Red-Eye said, "By the way, how's Theta doing?"

"I'm doing fine." Theta said. The pain from the kick to the groin he received during the fight with Ducky's mother died down to a dull pulsing pain but he easily managed the pain with medicinal herbs. He was still unable to move his right arm. "Next dinosaur who kicks me down there gets their head smashed in."

Styracus's herd then escorted the captives to the feeding grounds.

As his herd left, a thin green sickleclaw ran up to Red-Eye. "We're ready to transport those two to Cloud Island."

"Are they bound or unconscious or both?" Red-Eye asked

"One is unconscious and the other is bound."

"How will you be transporting them?"

"I guess we'll use the swimming sharptooth." The sickleclaw said

"You mean Lio?"


"We need to get these two captives to Cloud Island as fast as we can. Ms. Maia, you and your companions are to escort our two 'guests'. They're over at the feeding grounds. I'll send a messenger with you." Red-Eye said.

"With pleasure." Ms. Maia said. She and her two companions along with a fast-biter who was covered in a combination of gold and green feathers headed over to the feeding grounds. When they arrived they were met with two spear wielding sickleclaws.

"Halt!" one of the sickleclaws said, leveling his spear at Ms. Maia.

"We have been ordered by Red-Eye to take the two captives to Cloud Island." Ms. Maia stated.

"Hmm. I don't recall anything about this."

"Red-Eye has given the orders." The gold fast-biter said.

"I see. Carry on. The two captives are in the back." The sickleclaw said. He raised his spear up and waved Ms. Maia and her group through.

Ms. Maia and her group soon encountered Ducky and Chomper in the back of the feeding grounds. Ducky, with her arms bound, seemingly asleep and Chomper, still unconscious were both being guarded by four staff-wielding sickleclaws. The sickleclaws saw the gold fast biter and allowed Ms. Maia and her group to pass.

Ms. Maia went over to Ducky and kicked her hard in the ribs. "Get up!"

Ducky groaned and Ms. Maia kicked her again.

"Get up!"

Ducky staggered to her feet and looked at Ms. Maia. "Ms. Maia? How could you?"

"None of your damn business! Now move!"

The Fast-Runner grabbed Chomper and placed him on the Spike-Tail's back.

They then reported to Red-Eye, who waved them towards the nearest exit. As they left, Sierra and three other flyers, all without dinosaurs on their backs, took off into the night sky.

"Will they be okay?" Theta asked.

"The Night Circle is bright enough, they will be able to find their way." Styracus said.

Dil and Icthy then reported to Slasher who assigned them to a group made of a sickleclaw and a Swimmer. The group then headed to what was the airfield to patrol the area.

As dawn broke the next day, the Great Valley dinosaurs left the oasis and went on their way.

After several hours of journeying and with the sun setting, the Great Valley dinosaurs arrived at another oasis.

"We'll stop here for now. It should only be one rising of the Bright Circle more until we get to that place." Grandpa Longneck said.

"Shouldn't we keep moving?" Blue-Scale asked.

"No. It's too dangerous to move when the Night Circle is up, sharpteeth are out and we can't see the path."

"I'll take care of the sharpteeth." Blue-Scale clenched his fists.

"No. We will rest and then move when the Bright Circle rises."

As night fell, Ms. Maia, her companions, a gold sickleclaw and the two prisoners arrived at the spot where Lio was to take the two captives to Cloud Island.

Just as the group arrived, Lio, a large black swimming sharptooth, rose from the water.

"Well, it seems like I'm making a trip to Cloud Island." Lio said, eyeing Chomper and Ducky.

"Get on." Ms. Maia hissed.

Ducky shook her head.

"I said get on!" Ms. Maia shouted. She then kicked Ducky. "Get on or you'll never see your friends again!"

Ducky obeyed and climbed onto Lio.

The gold sickleclaw grabbed Chomper and literally threw him on board Lio.

The Spike-Tail made a motion to board Lio but Lio backed away from the shore.

"Hold it! I can't carry that much weight. I have room for one more two-footer." Lio said.

The Spike-Tail backed away from Lio and Lio maneuvered himself back into position so he could be easily boarded.

Ms. Maia then boarded Lio. "Ok, we're off to Cloud Island!" Lio said.

Lio then headed away from the shore. The Fast-Runner, who was one of Ms. Maia's companions, waved goodbye to her.

In an oasis far from the Great Valley the dinosaurs were resting and going about their normal activities.

Littlefoot and his friends were gathered around a small grassy clearing. Deimos and Strut were sitting on some rocks.

"I can't believe Ducky, Chomper and Ms. Maia just died." Cera said. She looked at the ground and softly sobbed. "Chomper, I'm… sorry for telling you… that you will never belong, so many cold times ago."

"Well. To be honest, I'm finding it difficult to mourn for Ms. Maia. That bastard, ugh, damn it! Could you leave me alone for a moment?" Strut said.

"Sure, come on guys." Littlefoot said.

The group then headed for the left most boundaries of the clearing and left Strut sitting on his rock.

As the group settled, Deimos cleared his throat. "Ok, we will work on the making of stone weapons, in this case a stone knife. I'll demonstrate, just watch me. I'll let you practice after my demonstration." Deimos then grabbed a large grey rock and smashed it against another rock. He grinned as the rock split into two sharp-edged fragments.

"Ok, this is a rock that is good. Not as good as the black rocks but it will do, notice the sharp edges." Deimos said, pointing the edges out.

The group nodded.

"Ok, now take a smaller rock." Deimos then grabbed a small round rock. "And gently pound away the extra stone until you get a rough oblong shape that you can comfortably hold."

Deimos then grabbed one of the large fragments and used his smaller rock to pound away the excess rock.

Cera noticed sparks were coming from the rocks and landing on a pile of dry grass, which started smoking "Uh, Deimos. Stop pounding that rock."

"Don't worry, everything is fine." Deimos replied, continuing to chip away at the rock.

"Deimos! That pile of dry grass in front of you is about to catch fire!" Cera shouted.

Deimos dropped the rocks and looked at the smoldering pile of grass. "So that's how Mr. Bigmouth manages to always have a fire burning!"

Strut then walked in.

"Feeling better?" Littlefoot asked.

"Yeah. I just needed some time to myself." Strut replied, "So what's going on now?"

"Just a little lesson on stone weaponry that turned into a lesson on how to make fire." Deimos replied, "Anybody want me to start a small fire so we can see a little better? I can see just fine but I'm not sure if you all can."

"Go ahead, I can't see too well." Hyp said.

"Strut, get some wood."

Strut obeyed Deimos and went off to fetch some wood from the few trees that were in the area. In a few minutes he returned with an armful of twigs and a few larger branches.

Deimos cleared a small patch of ground and gathered up a small pile of dried grass.

"Hyp, Mutt start breaking some twigs." Deimos commanded.

Hyp and Mutt started snapping the twigs into smaller fragments.

Deimos then struck several sparks from the two rocks onto the pile of dried grass. After the pile started smoking, he gently blew on it until a small flame appeared on the pile.

Deimos took some of the twig fragments and placed them onto the pile. He gently blew into the small fire until the twigs caught fire. Hyp and Mutt then put more twigs into it. Soon, the fire's dull orange light lit up the area.

"I hope you know how to make a fire now." Deimos said.

The group nodded.

"Shouldn't Raptix be here?" Ali asked.

"He's asleep. We'll continue on the stone knife making now. Ok, once you have the rough outline of your knife use a stick to further shape it by gently pounding away the extra rock until you have a sharp edge. Ok, now you try. There's plenty of rocks here."

The gathered two-footers searched for rocks. They followed the steps that Deimos showed them. Deimos also offered critique on their technique.

"Ruby, don't hit the rock fragment so hard. You'll break it." Deimos said, walking around and looking at the gathered group. "Mutt, don't strike towards yourself."

After many minutes, the group had finished their stone knives and presented them to Deimos. He looked at them and offered his opinions.

"Hmm. Very nice Hyp. Nice sharp tip but you may want to make the edge sharper." Deimos said, taking Hyp's stone knife and examining it. He then returned it to Hyp.

Ruby offered her stone knife to Deimos. "Nice sharp edge. I dare say yours is almost as good as mine." Deimos handed the knife back to Ruby.

Strut yawned. "I don't know about you but I'm going to sleep."

"Yeah, same here." Deimos said. He extinguished the fire, which by this point had burned down to smoldering coals, by covering it in dirt.

The group then dispersed to their sleeping places. As Deimos arrived at his sleeping place, he noticed that Raptix was awake.

"Why are you up so late?" Raptix asked.

"Giving a lesson on stone weapons and fire." Deimos replied.

"I missed it?"

"You were asleep."

"You bastard! Why didn't you tell me?" Raptix demanded.

Deimos chuckled. "Come here!" He playfully grabbed Raptix.

Raptix responded by nuzzling Deimos and Deimos responded by petting Raptix atop his feathered head.

"Ok, Raptix enough! I've got to sleep." Deimos said.

Raptix then walked over to his own nest which was a short distance from Deimos where he lay down and promptly fell asleep.

Deimos also lay in his nest. "Will we ever see the Great Valley again?" he muttered before falling asleep.

As day broke, the Great Valley dinosaurs left the oasis and continued on their trek.

"Grandpa, do you think we will ever see the Great Valley again?" Littlefoot asked.

"I don't know, we may be able to take it back from Styracus and his group but for now we need to find a new place to live." Grandpa Longneck asked. He noticed the furrowed brow on Littlefoot's face. "Uh, Littlefoot is something wrong?"

"I was just thinking about Ducky, Chomper and Ms. Maia"

"Well, it is only natural that you think about them. They died very recently and I'm sure they are missed by everyone."

"Not Ms. Maia." Littlefoot muttered under his breath.

In the mean time, Lio and his passengers had just arrived near Cloud Island.

Ms. Maia roughly jabbed Ducky in the ribs with her elbow. "Welcome to your new home."

Ducky gasped as she saw Cloud Island. True to its name, it was an enormous island cloaked in a thick veil of clouds. Even though there was lush greenery visible on the island, Ducky still felt a sense of unease.

"Ok. We are preparing to land on Cloud Island." Lio said. He then headed towards a large, white sandy beach, the only thing visible through the thick mists.

Lio soon reached the shallows and the dinosaurs on his back disembarked and waded to shore. Two sickleclaws greeted them

"Wow, this place is misty." Ms. Maia said.

"You have the two captives?" a black female sickleclaw asked. She had seemingly appeared from the mists.

"Yes, I do." Ms. Maia then shoved Ducky to the sickleclaw and grabbed the unconscious Chomper and placed him by Ducky. One sickleclaw grabbed Ducky; the other one picked up Chomper.

"Good. Now follow me. By the way my name's Procella." The black sickleclaw said.

"I can't see too well in this mist." Ms. Maia complained.

"Easily solved." Procella responded. She walked into the mist and after a short time reappeared holding two torches, no more than a heavy tree branch with one end set aflame. She handed one of the torches to Ms. Maia. "Just follow me."

Ms. Maia accepted the torch and waited. The two sickleclaw guards followed Procella and Ms. Maia followed the two guards. The group headed into the misty forest.

After several minutes of walking through the forest, the group found a cave.

The two guards shoved Ducky and Chomper into the cave and took up positions at the cave's entrance.

"I hope you enjoy it here." Procella said with a grin.

She then left Ms. Maia and the two guards alone with Ducky and Chomper.

Ms, Maia exited the cave and returned with several vines. She bound Ducky, who was too frightened to resist, and Chomper who was still unconscious to stalagmites. Ms. Maia then used her torch to light a small pile of tinder and twigs in a small nook inside the cave. She extinguished her torch by pounding it against the ground and wedged the branch between two rocks.

"You know Ducky, I have a secret. I've never liked Longnecks or your kind of Swimmer." Ms. Maia said, advancing on Ducky with her hands clenched into fists.

Ducky gulped as she desperately tried to break free.

After several hours more of journeying, the Great Valley dinosaurs had arrived at their destination. It was raining and night began to fall.

"So this is the place?" Deimos said.

"Yeah. It looks like home until we can retake the Great Valley." Blue-Scale said.

"I hope Styracus and his minions are a thing of the past." Mr. Threehorn said.

"Don't get too cocky." Mr. Clubtail replied.

"Well, we're here. So I'd suggest we explore this area a bit and then we can sleep." Grandpa Longneck said.

As the group spoke, two flyers passed overhead, circled briefly over the group and headed back towards the Great Valley

Chapter 14: The Conquered

"Is he awake?" a cool female voice said.

"He's moving. We can soon proceed with the interrogation." Another female voice, this one warmer but still menacing, replied.

Chomper groaned and opened his eyes. All he could see were hazy shapes. "Ugh. Where am I?" He then tried to move his arms but they were bound.

"So nice to see you Chomper." The warmer voice said.

"Who are you and how do you know my name! And where am I?" Chomper demanded.

"That's unimportant."

Chomper's vision gradually cleared; the hazy shapes revealed themselves to be a black sickleclaw and Ms. Maia and he was inside a large cave. He turned his head and noticed several spears, both wood and stone tipped, laying against the walls. He also noticed that a large tree branch had been set aflame and wedged between two rocks, giving the cave an eerie reddish glow. He also noticed a small fire in a small nook near the entrance.

"Ms. Maia?" he said.

Ms. Maia grinned. "Comfortable?"

"Pretty good, considering that fact that I'm tied to a rock!" Chomper spat.

Ms. Maia chuckled. "So. Have you met our other guest?"

"If you harm Littlefoot, I will rip your damned head off and eat it!"

Ms. Maia grinned and grabbed a wooden spear leaning against the wall. She pressed the spear into Chomper's throat. "Go ahead and try. I'll be more than happy to jam this spear through your neck and watch you slowly die. Now, how about you tell me more about your friends?"

"Go screw yourself." Chomper muttered under his breath. His insult earned him a swift kick to the ribs from Ms. Maia.

"Tsk. Tsk. Such rudeness."

"Ms. Maia!" Procella shouted from the entrance of the cave as she threw more wood onto the small fire.

"Yes." Ms. Maia responded without taking her eyes off Chomper and still keeping the spear level with his throat.

"Do you know anything that will break this Swimmer? I've tried beating her and I'm not getting any results."

"I tried that too. It doesn't work."

"So what does work?" Procella asked, "accidentally" kicking a small pebble which hit Chomper in the face.

"Well, Ducky has multiple siblings including that Spike-Tail. Gah! How can Ms. Swimmer consider that Spike-Tail one of her sons! Um, anyways kill one of her siblings and make her watch it or force her to kill one of her siblings."

"You bastards! I hope when Littlefoot, Deimos and his friends rescue me, they kill you first! And I'll have your fu…" Chomper was then cut off by a kick to the ribs from Ms. Maia.

"Shut up! Your friends can't help you." She then proceeded to kick Chomper several times, even landing a particularly brutal kick to his groin that made even Procella flinch.

After Chomper was crying from the pain, Ms. Maia went back to Procella. "Now, where was I?"

"You were telling me how to break that Swimmer." Procella said.

"Right! Ok, get one of her siblings and kill and eat them in front of her. I doubt she'll ever kill one of her own siblings. In fact, if we place her in that situation she might even attack us."

Procella nodded. "That's a good plan, except we don't have any Swimmers who…"

"Procella, Lio has bought two more captives, a Swimmer who looks like the one you have and a blue Fast-Runner." a dark green sickleclaw with a crescent shaped scar on his face said, interrupting Procella. He was holding a torch of the same design that illuminated the cave.

"Excellent. Interrogate the Fast-Runner and bring the Swimmer here." Procella commanded.

"Will do."

Ms. Maia grinned. "Hmm. That's lucky; we probably have one of her siblings."

The sickleclaw left the cave.

Far from Cloud Island, the midmorning sun shone over the Great Valley. The debris of the fierce battle was still present despite the passage of several days and an intense rain storm.

"So where did they go?" Styracus said.

"We don't know." Hasta replied.

Arcus ran up to the group. His face was somewhat reddened from Mr. Bigmouth's boiling juice attack. "My squad has been through the grove where I was attacked. It appears to have been used for preparing medicinal plants. But it looks like someone destroyed most of the herbs and tried to burn the grove down."

"Hmm. See if your squad can salvage anything. Some of the other dinosaurs know how to use medicinal plants and they will be of great benefit."

Arcus nodded and galloped back to the grove. Two stick wielding Fast-Runners and a sickleclaw greeted him.

"So Arcus, what are our orders?" one of the Fast-Runners asked.

"Salvage anything we can." Arcus replied.

The three nodded and proceeded to look over the remains of Mr. Bigmouth's grove.

One of the Fast-Runners used his stick to probe the fire pit. As he felt his stick strike a hard object, he knelt down and dug out the object. The object was revealed to be a calabash covered in ash.

"Got anything?" the other Fast-Runner asked. He had unsheathed the stone knife from its pouch on his leg and was using it to cut away some leaves on a shrub so he could search it better.

"Yeah, I got this calabash. How about you?"

"I'm still looking." The other Fast-Runner replied, his head inside the shrub. "Hey! I got something!" He reemerged from the shrub, his stone knife in one hand and a calabash with five stone spear heads in it.

The sickleclaw slashed a vine that led into a tree. He leapt out of the way as a wooden spike crashed down where he was standing moments before.

"Woah. I am… so going to be more careful about which vines I cut," the sickleclaw panted.

"Find anything we can use?" Arcus called.

"Two calabashes and some stone spearheads." One of the Fast-Runners replied.

"Good! See if there are any herbs that are undamaged."

"Will do."

Over in the airfield, Stormwing and his squadron set about cleaning the airfield. Icthy, Dil and Slasher's squad, minus Slasher, were assisting them.

"Ok, you are clear for take off!" a sickleclaw shouted, gesturing to a large flyer airlifting out the carcass of a Great Valley flyer.

The flyer nodded and flew over the Great Rock Wall with his payload.

"Pardon me, Stormwing but why are you having your flyers fly the carcasses out?" A black feathered fast-biter asked.

"We need to keep the airfield clear; if the sharpteeth want we'll airlift the carcasses to the Feeding Grounds."

"I'll speak to Red-Eye." The fast-biter said as he ran off.

"Tell that bastard that we joined you to fight, not to do manual labor!" Dil shouted. She was carrying the mutilated carcasses of four Claw Valley flyers on her back.

"Patience Dil." Icthy said. "And you're heading the wrong way."

Dil corrected her path and headed towards the Great Valley's exit.

Over near the Thundering Falls Lake, some of Styracus's dinosaurs and the sharpteeth were sparring. The sound of sticks clashing with each other, and the dull thuds of dinosaurs hitting the ground or blows landing added to the chaos of the area.

Theta, armed with a stick, had met up with his sparring partner, Slasher who also wielded a stick.

"So how do you want to have this match ruled?" Theta asked.

"Hmm. I guess the usual, no eye gouging, groin hits, biting or claw attacks." Slasher responded.

"Fair enough."

"Ok, this match is between Theta and Slasher. Eye gouging, groin hits, biting and claw attacks are prohibited. Match is decided by countdown or submission. Winner is best out of three." A thin grey female sickleclaw said.

Theta and Slasher squared off in the middle of a small arena. Slasher made the first move, an overhead swipe with his stick that Theta easily parried. Theta then closed in on Slasher and attempted to grab him but he earned himself a stick to the ribs.

Theta grunted as the stick struck home. He saw that Slasher was attempting another swipe with his stick but Theta quickly parried the swipe and tail-whipped Slasher, knocking him to the ground. Theta chuckled and tried to place Slasher in a chokehold but Slasher countered with a kick that pushed Theta away, allowing Slasher to get back onto his feet. He then went back to Hasta and swiped at him with his stick.

Theta parried the stick but he was unable to block or dodge the left hook that Saber threw into his jaw, which dazed him momentarily.

Slasher took advantage of Theta's stunned state and grabbed him in a headlock. But despite the punch he had taken moments before, he was still able to crush Slasher's foot between his own and the ground.

Slasher grimaced and loosened his grip on Theta, allowing him to slam his elbow into Slasher's stomach. Slasher grunted and immediately let go of Theta, who followed up his elbow bash with powerful two handed swing of his stick that that knocked Slasher to the ground.

Theta then pinned Slasher and placed him in a chokehold using the stick to assist him. Slasher punched Theta in the ribs but Theta headbutted Slasher, dazing him. After a few seconds Slasher tapped out. At the signal Theta released his chokehold.

"The winner of this bout is Theta." The sickleclaw said.

"Nice match," Slasher said, getting up from the ground and rubbing his neck, "You're pretty good."

"You're not so bad yourself." Theta replied.

"Ready for round two?"

Theta grinned. "Oh yeah." He then tapped the stick against his other hand in an aggressive gesture and squared off with Slasher.

"Round two will now begin." The grey sickleclaw said.

One of the sickleclaw guards at the Feeding Grounds was chatting with her companion.

"So who else do we send to Cloud Island?" the first sickleclaw said.

The other sickleclaw tapped his foot claws against the ground. "No one for now. The last delivery was a Swimmer and a Fast-Runner. The previous delivery to Cloud Island was a female Swimmer named 'Ducky' or so the traitor said."

"The traitor is named Ms. Maia. She's currently assisting with the interrogation at Cloud Island."

Within earshot of the two guards, a light blue sickleclaw was eating his meal, a carcass of a Runner, when two brown sickleclaws went up to him.

"Rime, you are assigned to clean up the Great Rock Pass." One of the sickleclaws said.

Rime stopped eating, and followed the two sickleclaws. After a short trek, he arrived at the Great Rock Pass where a dull green sickleclaw and a grey Runner were clearing the debris from the battle. The two sickleclaws then left him with the two dinosaurs.

Rime surveyed the surroundings. He sighed as he noticed that there was still a lot of debris from the battle several days ago. A pile of useable stone weapons lay by the Runner's feet and several piles of wood were by the sickleclaw. As he approached the wood piles, he noticed that the wood piles were actually made of various weapons, such as wooden spears and tree branches.

The sickleclaw turned his head towards Rime. "Rime! Get over here and do some work!"

As Rime approached the sickleclaw, he noticed the sickleclaw had several broken spear shafts in his hands.

"Make yourself useful and carry these to one of the wood piles." The sickleclaw ordered, handing the spear shafts to Rime. The sickleclaw then made his way to a far corner of the Great Rock Pass

Rime took the spear shafts and threw them on the wood pile. He then went over a section of the Great Rock Pass that had not yet been cleaned up.

The sickleclaw went back to the wood pile and tossed the remains of a stone tipped spear it. "What are we going to do with this stuff?"

"We'll burn it once we've cleaned up this place up." a grey Runner replied. He threw a blood stained fragment of a hollow reed and a bloodied and broken wood spear on one of the wood piles.

"Burn it with what? There's no fire!"

"We'll wait for a storm."

"We don't need a storm." The Runner countered, "We can start a fire with rocks."

The sickleclaw chuckled derisively. "Be serious."

Rime watched as the two dinosaurs argued. "Now's my chance." He said quietly to himself. He grinned and picked up a sharp rock from the ground and crept behind the Runner, who was standing near the pile of stone weapons.

The Runner turned around but it was too late. Rime seized him and jammed the rock into his neck with as much force as he could muster.

The green sickleclaw, who was placing a tree branch on a wood pile, turned around and saw Rime standing in steadily expanding pool of blood with the Runner at his feet. The Runner's breath grew ragged as he slowly bled to death.

"Damn it! I knew Rime couldn't be trusted with this job!" the sickleclaw shouted. He then tried to strike Rime with the tree branch he was holding but Rime dodged it and closed the distance between himself and the sickleclaw. The sickleclaw tried to kick Rime but he missed and was soon tackled to the ground by Rime.

The two wrestled for a brief moment but Rime's frenzy gave him enough strength to literally stand on the other sickleclaw.

Rime's ice-blue eyes gleamed with hatred as he met the other sickleclaw's amber gaze. "You took my family hostage. You threatened me with death unless I joined. Guess what? It's time for payback." Rime hissed.

The sickleclaw slashed Rime's leg, causing blood to drip onto him, but it seemingly had no effect on Rime.

The last words the sickleclaw heard were: "Die for my family." Immediately after, Rime's deadly foot claws penetrated his throat and fatally injured him. His breath grew ragged as more of his blood flowed onto the rocky ground.

Rime looked at the two dying dinosaurs. He went over to the pile of stone weapons and grabbed a stone knife that fit his hand the best. He then exited the Great Valley and headed into the Mysterious Beyond.

Chapter 15: Black Waters

As the afternoon sun bathed the plain where the Great Valley dinosaurs made their temporary home, Littlefoot and his friends were gathered around a lake. The clear water gleamed in the sun.

"So how long until we can kick those bastards out of the Great Valley?" Cera asked.

"Cera, we just fled from them not too long ago; we need to regroup before we fight." Deimos replied. Most of the injuries that he received from the Battle for the Great Valley had healed without scarring but he had small jagged scar just above his right eye from where an enemy sickleclaw tried to gouge his eye out.

Cera grumbled. "Hmph. The longer we wait, the tougher their forces will be."

Raptix walked up to the group. "Anything to do?" he asked.


Deimos kicked a rock. "We got assigned to night patrol. We have a lot of time." He said, looking at Mr. Thicknose chatting with Mr. Threehorn.

"How about a game of ball?" Ali suggested.

"Sounds good." Littlefoot replied. He looked at the others.

There was a murmur of assent.

Back at the Great Valley, Sierra and Rinkus landed at the Airfield. Red-Eye was present as he was alerted to the intelligence that had been gathered.

Sierra stepped forward. "We have located the Great Valley dinosaurs; they are located in a flat, open plain near the Big Water. Follow the direction where the head of Longneck Mountain points."

Red-Eye grinned. "Excellent. Make preparations for a night raid. Sierra, Ozzie, Rinkus, Stormwing, take two members of black team's Hunter Battalion with you. No more."

Red-Eye then left the group and headed to the Thundering Falls Lake.

Sierra, Ozzie, Rinkus, and Stormwing grouped together.

"So what shall we do?" Stormwing asked.

"Let's land in and kill as many dinosaurs as we can find." Sierra said, "And kill Pterano! That asshole nearly blinded me!"

Rinkus shook his head. "Sierra, we cannot let anger cloud our planning. If Pterano is not an important figure, killing him would serve no purpose."

"Damn it Rinkus! Did you not hear me! That asshole nearly blinded me!" Sierra shouted.

"Sierra, enough!" Stormwing scolded, "Rinkus is right. We must approach this with a clear head."

Ozzie was looking at the sky. "So what do we use, poisons?" He was fiddling with a stone knife that he made.

"Not good enough. What if they don't eat the poisoned food or they are unaffected?" Sierra countered, his voice returned to normal.

"Someone will eat the poisoned food. And we could just poison their water." Ozzie countered.

"Just go for the basics and cut some throats when they're sleeping."

Suddenly, Rinkus threw his hand into the air. "Wait, who said we have to kill on this night raid? We could take some hostages."

Over in the Great Rock Pass, another contingent of dinosaurs, led by Saber, approached ready to clear the field of debris. One of the dinosaurs pointed to two bodies lying in a pool of dried blood in the pass.

"I thought they cleaned up all the carcasses." The Swimmer said.

"They did." A sickleclaw responded.

"Then why's there two carcasses here?"

Saber sighed. "Let's just clean them up."

Saber and the Swimmer went to one of the bodies and prepared to lift it.

The Swimmer gasped as he noticed a large, sharp rock wedged in the Runner's neck. "Uh, this is a problem."

Two sickleclaws were preparing to lift the dead sickleclaw. Suddenly, the sickleclaw at the head noticed a large hole in the dead sickleclaw's neck.

"We need to bring this to Red-Eye. I recognize these two. They're some of the guards from the Feeding Grounds and judging from the smell, they died pretty recently." The sickleclaw at the head said.

The contingent of dinosaurs left the dead dinosaurs in the pass and headed to Thundering Falls Lake. Red-Eye and Styracus were looking over the area.

"Red-Eye!" Saber shouted, "My squad and I have found two dead dinosaurs, a Runner and a sickleclaw. They died recently too. And the worst part is that they are some of the Feeding Grounds guards."

"I'll call a meeting." Red-Eye said. "There has been an emergency! All report to the Feeding Grounds Lake!" he shouted in Sharptooth.

Ozzie opened his mouth to speak when a loud roar was heard through the valley.

"Something's happened." Stormwing said.

"What?" Ozzie asked.

"You don't know Sharptooth?" Stormwing asked.

Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus nodded.

Stormwing sighed. "I'll teach you later. For now head to the Feeding Grounds Lake, an emergency has occurred."

The gathered group headed to the Thundering Falls Lake. When they arrived, Styracus and Red-Eye were gathered at the front on a rock that slightly elevated them above the crowd. The rest of the dinosaurs packed around them.

"Silence." Styracus commanded.

The gathered dinosaurs obeyed and gave their attention to Red-Eye and Styracus.

Red-Eye cleared his throat. "We have a small crisis. Two of the three dinosaurs assigned to clear debris from the Great Rock Pass have been killed. The third dinosaur, who is missing, is the light blue sickleclaw named 'Rime'. He is a captive; if you find him in the valley, kill him."

"What if he's wandered off?" Arcus asked.

"I'll work on plan in that case. We must capture or kill him at any cost. We can't let him join the Great Valley forces." Red-Eye said.

"Squad leaders! Take your respective squads and search the valley." Styracus ordered.

The various dinosaurs dispersed and searched for Rime.

As night fell and the full moon rose, the dinosaurs reported back to Styracus and Red-Eye.

"We have found no sign of him." Theta stated.

Styracus sighed. "Ok then. You are dismissed. Resume your normal schedule."

Over in the ruins of Mr. Bigmouth's grove and working by torchlight and moonlight, Arcus and his squad tried to clean up the grove as best as they could.

"Why are we cleaning this place up?" a sickleclaw demanded. He was hacking away at a charred stump with a large rock that he held in his hand. A crude torch was held in his other hand.

"Hellebore and … Aconite need this…grove. They're… the… ones who… prepare… the herbs." Arcus grunted. He was pushing a fallen and charred tree out of the grove.

"Whatever you say."

The green sickleclaw, who was holding another torch, moved near Arcus.

"So, where did you get that torch?" Arcus asked.

"You can thank Hellebore for it." The sickleclaw responded.


"He discovered how to make fire with two rocks."

Arcus gave the sickleclaw an inquisitive look "Huh?"

"He's the sickleclaw who tried to make a stone spearhead and accidentally set a pile of leaves on fire." The sickleclaw responded.

"Hey! Aconite's done his fair share of innovations too! He taught our herd how to make fire!" Arcus responded, a hint of indignation in his voice.

The sickleclaw shrugged. "I'm not downplaying Aconite's accomplishments; After all, he's the one who pioneered the pain killing herb mixture."

Arcus chuckled. "I guess Aconite and Hellebore work well together."

A thin dark green sickleclaw and a dull red Fast-Runner met them. Both were carrying torches but they burned much brighter than the ones that Arcus and his squad were using.

"So is this place ready?" the Fast-Runner asked.

Arcus looked at the Fast-Runner. "Not yet, Aconite."

The dark green sickleclaw looked at Aconite. "I guess we have to wait another night."

"Hellebore, do you have any patience?" Aconite said.

Hellebore grinned. "Hey! Do you know how long it took for me to discover these bright torches? I had to try almost every single plant and plant mixture I could think of! It took me…"

"Hellebore, we get the point!" Arcus shouted, cutting him off midsentence.

Hellebore shrugged. "Aconite! We need to get back to preparing some more of these bright torches!"

Aconite and Hellebore then left Arcus and his squad.

At the Airfield, which was lit by a few torches, courtesy of Aconite and Hellbore; Sierra, Rinkus, Ozzie, Stormwing and Hunter Battalion were present.

"Dromaeo, Achilles, will you volunteer to be a part of this night raid?" Stormwing said.

Dromaeo, a thin but muscular grey sickleclaw nodded; his companion Achilles, an imposing dark green sickleclaw also nodded.

"Okay, then Dromaeo, you will ride on Rinkus; Achilles you will ride on Sierra and Ozzie will ride on me." Stormwing said, "Got it?"

The dinosaurs all nodded.

Ozzie, Dromaeo and Achilles boarded their respective flyers and they soon took off. Ozzie could see Hunter Battalion waving at them by the torchlight.

Far from the Great Valley, Rime was resting at an oasis. He had killed and eaten a Runner several hours ago. Out of curiosity, he decided to search the area using the moon for light. He spotted what looked like an Egg-Stealer footprint and what appeared to be the remains of a small fire.

Rime then sniffed the footprint. "Hmm. So it seems like an Egg-Stealer was here quite recently. I'll rest here then continue"

Rime then found a small indentation in the ground where he curled up and went to sleep.

Three shadows passed over Rime and headed off into the distance.

After a flight of a few hours, Rinkus, Ozzie, Sierra, Stormwing and the two members of Hunter Battalion landed at the borders of the meadow where the Great Valley dinosaurs were taking refuge. Most of the Great Valley dinosaurs, save for the night patrols, were asleep.

"Dromaeo, Achilles, ready for this?" Stormwing asked, looking at the two sickleclaws. Stormwing carried a small but deadly stone knife strapped to his leg, its blade wrapped in a leaf, forming a crude sheath.

Dromaeo nodded. He licked the claws on his hands. "Ready to kill." He said in an icy tone that unnerved even Sierra. Unlike the others, Dromaeo preferred to fight with his bare hands.

Achilles also nodded. He drew his weapon, a stone knife similar to the one that Stormwing wielded but larger.

Ozzie said nothing but drew a stone blade similar to the one that Achilles wielded from a sheath strapped to his leg. He also had six leaf packets strapped across his chest.

The group then headed into the meadow. On the way they passed by a lone Swimmer guard who was wielding a stone tipped spear. She yawned and continued on her patrol route.

Ozzie grinned and proceeded forward as soon as he noticed the guard's back was turned. But as soon as he took a few steps, he stepped on a branch that broke with a loud snap. The guard turned around and noticed Ozzie.

"Hey! Who are you!" the guard demanded. She ran to Ozzie and brandished her stone tipped spear. She did not notice Achilles and Dromaeo as they were hiding behind two boulders.

Ozzie said nothing but lunged at the guard with his stone knife at the ready. The guard deftly pivoted, avoiding the lunge attack and retaliated by swinging her spear, cutting Ozzie across the chest. Ozzie flinched and the guard followed through with a strong swipe with the butt of her spear that connected with Ozzie's neck and knocked him to the ground and caused him to drop his knife. She then stood over Ozzie and tried to stab him with the spear but Ozzie hastily scooted backwards using his hands, causing her to strike the dirt. She pulled her spear out and prepared to stab Ozzie again but she suddenly dropped her spear and clutched her throat. The moonlight showed the Swimmer's blood running through her fingers and dripping on the ground. She then collapsed on the ground in a pool of her own blood.

Ozzie breathed a sigh of relief as he saw Dromaeo, his claws bloodied, standing behind the dying Swimmer. Ozzie then stood up and retrieved his knife.

Dromaeo chuckled. "I see you needed some help." He licked the blood off his hands.

Achilles looked at the dying Swimmer. "No sense in wasting good meal."

Dromaeo leapt upon the dying Swimmer and began gorging himself.

"Hey! Save some for me!"

Dromaeo obliged by decapitating the Swimmer and handing the head to Achilles. "Enjoy." He said before resuming his meal.

Achilles shrugged and began eating.

Sierra watched with displeasure from a distance; he sighed and approached Dromaeo and Achilles. "Damn it, you two! We're here to kill some dinosaurs! Not gorge ourselves!" he shouted

Achilles swallowed his mouthful of meat and looked at Sierra. "We need to keep our strength up." He then offered a handful of Swimmer meat to Sierra. "Want some?"

Sierra shook his head. "Rinkus and I eat fish."

Dromeao shrugged. "More for us!" He resumed eating the carcass.

After several minutes, Achilles tossed the bloody skull of the Swimmer away. "Well, let's get going shall we?"

Dromaeo swallowed his mouthful of meat and nodded.

Ozzie got back onto his feet and rejoined the group.

They soon penetrated deeper into the meadow, encountering no other guards.

Deimos, Cera, Hyp and Raptix were patrolling the feeding grounds. Hyp was holding a crude torch. Deimos wielded a stone tipped spear.

Deimos yawned. "No action today it seems."

Raptix suddenly froze. "I hear something."

Deimos too froze and listened. "Yeah, it sounds like it's coming from sleeping area one. It could be an intruder; we need to check it out."

Hyp nodded. "We need to hurry; they could be intent to taking hostages."

Deimos and the group then headed to sleeping area one.

In the meantime, Sierra and his group were already at sleeping area one, where five dinosaurs were resting.

"This is too easy." Rinkus whispered as snuck up on a sleeping Runner and slashed his throat.

Dromaeo grabbed a Fast-Runner. The Fast-Runner opened his mouth to scream but Dromaeo snapped his neck before a word could escape.

Achilles slashed a Swimmer's throat and then helped gag a struggling Runner as Stormwing cut the Runner's throat.

Ozzie, who had his stone knife in hand, went over to a nest where a female Swimmer was resting with her eggs. He crept closer to the Swimmer. As he was in position to slash the Swimmer's throat, he tripped over something and fell with a resounding thud, dropping his knife in the process.

The Swimmer leapt to her feet and spotted Ozzie, she also saw Dromaeo and the rest of his crew. "We have an intruder!" she shouted.

Achilles blanched. "Damn it! Dromaeo, Sierra, someone kill her!" he shouted.

Ozzie leapt onto his feet and tried to retrieve his weapon but the Swimmer wisely kicked it out of reach. He tried to get it but the Swimmer tackled him, sending them both to the ground with a resounding thud. The Swimmer threw two fast punches to Ozzie's face, dazing him. Ozzie managed to knee the Swimmer in the groin, forcing her to loosen her grip and freeing his right arm. Ozzie then kneed the Swimmer in the groin repeatedly and slashed her with his free hand forcing her to let go of him. He then crawled to safety and retrieved his knife.

Dromaeo leapt at the Swimmer and bit her on the side, tearing off a piece of flesh. The Swimmer screamed in pain but she still managed to wrestle Dromaeo off of her and throw him to the ground. Dromaeo got back up and tried to grab Swimmer only for the Swimmer to perform an eye gouge on him as he grabbed her.

Dromaeo screamed in pain and clutched his right eye. "You bastard!" he shouted as he staggered away from the battle. But he didn't get far before he was blindsided by the Swimmer, who pinned him to the ground and attempted to snap his neck.

Suddenly, the Swimmer felt something hit her in the back of the head and she soon felt liquid running down her back. Ozzie had picked up an egg and threw it at the Swimmer. The Swimmer threw Dromeao aside and turned around, noticing Ozzie near her nest.

Ozzie grinned, picked up another egg and threw it at the Swimmer, striking her in the chest.

"You asshole! Those were my children! I'll kill you!" the Swimmer shouted, charging Ozzie.

Ozzie said nothing but picked up another egg to throw at the Swimmer; this time he hit her in the face, forcing her to stop and wipe the egg off her face.

"Achilles, now!" Ozzie shouted.

At the signal, Achilles leapt onto the Swimmer's back and slashed the Swimmer's throat with his knife. His foot claws enabled him to maintain a purchase on the Swimmer's back despite the slickness of the egg that Ozzie had thrown at the Swimmer.

"Nice strategy, Ozzie." Achilles said, grinning.

"Thanks." Ozzie replied.

"Say it's a little bright isn't it?" Dromaeo said, noticing an orange glow in the area. His right eye was shut.

"What are you… Oh, damn it." Achilles said, noticing Deimos and his squad were literally a few steps away from them.

Deimos glared at Dromaeo and Achilles. "You have trespassed. Leave or we will use deadly force." He said in an icy, commanding tone. He brandished his spear to emphasize his point.

In the meantime, Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus snuck off, taking advantage of the patrol's fixation on Dromaeo and Achilles.

"Why are leaving them alone?" Sierra asked.

"Stormwing told us on our flight here that if Dromaeo and Achilles encounter patrols; we are to let Stormwing and the two Hunter Battalion members kill the patrols. We are to fly further in and kill some more dinosaurs." Rinkus replied.

"Hmm. Now's our chance to poison their water." Ozzie said, running a finger down one of his leaf packets

"Fighting dirty, huh? That's the way I like it. Let's go!"

Ozzie boarded Sierra and they took off towards the main lake, which they discovered during the recon flight a few days back.

In the meantime, Dromaeo, Stormwing and Achilles were fighting Deimos and his squad.

Deimos blocked a slash from Dromaeo with his spear and retaliated by thrusting his spear forward, which Dromaeo ducked under. Deimos jabbed at Dromaeo, but he dodged it and grabbed the shaft of the spear and tried to pull it away. Deimos pushed back at the same time, catching Dromaeo off balance. Taking advantage of his enemy's temporary imbalance, Deimos kicked Dromaeo's legs from beneath him and then tried to stab him but as Deimos leaned over Dromaeo, he received a brutal kick to the groin from Dromaeo. Deimos dropped his spear and fell to the ground in complete pain.

Dromaeo grinned and prepared to kill Deimos when Raptix leapt on his back and started tearing pieces of his flesh from his back with his teeth and claws. Dromaeo screamed, grabbed Raptix and threw him into a nearby bush.

Dromeao grimaced from his wounds and again attempted to kill Deimos. But Hyp, who had incapacitated Achilles by throwing dirt in his face, drew his own knife and stabbed Dromaeo in the back, burying his knife to the leaf handgrip.

Dromaeo screamed and swiveled around, wrenching the knife out of his back and Hyp's hand. He then turned his attention to Hyp.

Hyp gulped as he got a good look at Dromaeo. The Night Circle's icy light accentuated Dromaeo's bloodstained face, claws and body. Even more terrifying was his seeming invulnerability.

But Dromaeo never got the chance to approach Hyp; Cera gored Dromeao's right leg, destroying some of the tendons and causing him excruciating pain and dropping him to the ground.

Dromaeo's screams were silenced by Cera who went over to his prone form and ground her head into his neck, her horn tearing his neck open and leaving him to die.

Deimos managed to stagger to his feet and he noticed Achilles had snuck behind Hyp and was prepared to stab him. "Hyp! Behind you!" he shouted

Hyp turned around and spotted Achilles, knife raised. Hyp dodged the stab but he could not retaliate effectively as Achilles tried to slash him every time he tried to close the distance to either take him to the ground or hit him.

Cera, who was near the body of Dromaeo, noticed Hyp having some problems with Achilles. She went over and gored Achilles in the leg, dropping him to the ground.

It was then Cera managed to see that Hyp had apparently burned Achilles several times with his torch. It was also apparent that Hyp had managed to break Achilles's left hand.

"You can cooperate with us and give us the info we need and we'll let you live or we can just kill you immediately." Hyp said standing over Achilles with a second stone knife that he drew from a sheath strapped onto his other leg.

Achilles chuckled icily. "After seeing what you did to Dromaeo, you think…" Achilles grimaced and took a deep breath. "I'm going to believe that you won't kill me?"

"We won't kill you. We'll just release you outside the valley. If you don't cooperate, we'll kill you right here."

Achilles laughed as best as he could despite the fact that he was in incredible pain. "I like to deny my enemies the bragging rights of having killed one of Excidium's elite troops." Achilles said. He drew his own stone knife and cut his own throat as soon as he was done with his speech.

Deimos shrugged. "Oh well, we'll get Chomper's parents to clean this mess up." He looked at the sky, beginning to show the first hints of dawn. "And we won't have long to wait." He added

Rinkus, Ozzie and Sierra were flying low over the lake. Ozzie leaned over Sierra's side and he pulled one of the packets strapped to his chest free. He then used his knife to cut open the packet, exposing a moist blood-red powder. He threw the opened packet into the water.

Ozzie and Sierra repeated this pattern until all of Ozzie's packets had been opened and thrown in the lake.

Rinkus noticed Stormwing flying towards them. "Stormwing! Now what?" Rinkus said.

"We're done, Achilles and Dromaeo are dead." Stormwing said.

"What? Weren't they part of the elite Hunter Battalion?" Ozzie asked.

"Yes, but four against two and one of them was a Threehorn."

"Fine. Let's go." Sierra said.

The group then took off and headed towards the Great Valley.

Far away, on Cloud Island the sun rose over a lush tropical island. The mists dissipated somewhat but they still veiled some parts of the island.

Ms. Maia went over to Ducky and gave her the one meal she would receive, a serving of some strange green fern that was just big enough to fill Ducky's hand. But it was better than Chomper; he was fed only the bones left over by the guards.

"Ducky, Procella has something she wants you to see." Ms .Maia said. She kicked the remains of a torch aside as she approached Ducky.

At those words, Procella bought in a male Swimmer who looked almost like a mirror image of Ducky. His hands were bound and he had a detached expression on his face.

Ducky's mouth dropped open. "Saurolo?" she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Ducky?" Saurolo replied. His voice too was barely above a whisper.

"You know this Swimmer." Procella asked. She then turned to Ms. Maia, "Ms. Maia, get the guards here."

"He…He's my brother. He is, he is." Ducky replied, trying her hardest not to cry.

"Well you're in luck; this is the last time you'll se your brother." At those words Procella unsheathed a stone knife from a pouch on her leg and proceeded to stab Saurolo repeatedly. After Saurolo had nearly been gutted, but still alive from the repeated stabbing, Procella began to tear off pieces of flesh from Saurolo and eat them.

Mercifully, Procella decapitated Saurolo before she started dismembering him

Ms. Maia and the guards arrived. The guards joined in on eating Saurolo.

Ducky felt something wet hit her feet with a disgusting wet noise; she looked down to see that it was Saurolo's head. She fainted afterwards. The blood spatters on the wall when the killing started, the excitement Procella showed, the brutal stabbing and now the fact that Saurolo's decapitated head had just struck her in the feet overwhelmed her.

Ms. Maia was watching the bloody feast going on with a distant look on her face. "Procella, will she talk now?"

Procella nodded and wiped off the blood with the back of her hand "Yeah, she's fainted already."

"Good. We can continue the interrogation later."

Over in the area near the Big Water where the Great Valley dinosaurs were staying, the air, normally thick with chatter at this time was strangely quiet.

Most of the dinosaurs were gathered in the central area due to a meeting that has been called by Grandpa Longneck. He along with, Mr. Threehorn, Mr. Thicknose and Mr. Bigmouth were gathered at the front of the crowd. They were on a small hill that elevated them slightly above the rest of the dinosaurs.

"Okay, we have a severe situation. Deimos and his patrol have encountered hostile activity yesterday night. Though they have killed the hostiles, we have reason to believe that the main lake has been poisoned."

Gasps were heard through the crowd.

"Where do we get the water from now?" a grey female Runner asked.

"Get them from the rivers or streams, the running water should wash the poisons into the lake or the Big Water."

"Couldn't they have poisoned the source?"

"According to Mr. Bigmouth, these rivers and streams originate from the ground; water actually flows up from the ground in certain places." Grandpa Longneck said. He then looked at Mr. Bigmouth. "Mr. Bigmouth, care to elaborate on the situation?"

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "Yes. As Mr. Longneck has said our main lake has been poisoned. The poison appears to be powdered blood plant roots and leaves. This poison is quite strong; it causes numbness and inability to move limbs when it is diluted. If it is pure, it can stop breathing. Even the dilute form can kill in certain cases. The only antidote is the Night Flowers. They can even remove the poison in the lake."

"Thank you, Mr. Bigmouth. Return to your normal activities." Grandpa Longneck said.

Ali looked at Littlefoot, Cera, Raptix, Strut and Deimos. "We'll have to get the Night Flowers" she said.

"I'll speak to grandpa about it." Littlefoot said. He then approached Grandpa Longneck. "Grandpa, those Night Flowers, they only grow in the Land of the Mists right?"

"Well, that's what the Old One says. Her herd is from that region, so they know it best. And I'm currently assigning you and Deimos and some other dinosaurs of your choice to retrieve the Night Flowers. If you don't want to, I can assign someone else."

Littlefoot's eyes flashed with determination. "I will go."

"Okay, gather your group and meet me back here."

Littlefoot went to the plain where his friends were chatting. "Okay gang I have some news to give, I was assigned by my grandpa to get the Night Flowers. Now who's with me?"

Ali, Strut, Raptix and Cera stepped up.

"Sorry, I can't go. I'm currently taking care of the poisoning victims." Deimos said.

"Okay, we are ready to head out." Littlefoot said, looking at his gathered group.

The group then headed back to Grandpa Longneck for further orders

"Just like old times." Littlefoot said, looking at Ali.

Chapter 16: Expedition

Grandpa Longneck looked over Littlefoot's team. "I trust that you have chosen your team members with care. Good luck."

"We will not disappoint you, Mr. Longneck." Raptix said

As Littlefoot's group prepared to leave on the expedition, Ptyrax and Coatal landed in front of them. "We have volunteered to join you." Ptyrax said.

"Ptyrax, aren't you a member of the Great Valley Air Corps?" Strut replied

"So are you!"

"I'm not a permanent member. I also play roles in ground combat operations. Mr. Runner, Ovius, Ruby and Solo are the only permanent members I know of. Besides we need air patrols around here."

Ptyrax sighed. "Look, you are going into hostile territory. Aerial support is almost a requirement. I'd recommend you take Coatal, he's stronger than I am and can carry more."

Littlefoot furrowed his brow in thought. "A flyer might prove helpful. Besides, Strut is trained in aerial combat. Might as well put his training to use."

Raptix held a hand to his chin in thought. "It might be better to transport the Night Flowers on flyers as the risk of the flowers being stolen is reduced. And in the rare event we don't make it back alive; the flyers can still carry the flowers back to the meadow."

"Raptix! Don't say that!" Cera scolded.

"You do realize that we may die on this expedition? If you want to back out, say so." Littlefoot replied.

Cera scowled. "I'm no scaredy egg! If any sharpteeth tries to kill me, I'll take some of those bastards with me!"

Ptyrax and Coatal were looking at the group.

"Let us know when you've decided." Coatal said.

"Wait, should we take Spike?" Strut asked.

"Spike's mute and his interpreter Ducky is missing. We can't communicate with him." Strut replied.

"We need some strong four-footers in case we have to enter combat. Besides we can tell him what to do but we can't understand him." Littlefoot replied.

"We've got Cera, you and me. That's three four-footers right there. Adding Spike would just slow us down. " Ali countered.

"An extra four-footer would be invaluable in case we need to remove obstacles or enter combat."

Ali sighed. "Fine. Spike, come here."

Spike's eyes brightened and he walked up to Littlefoot and stood by his side.

"We'll take Coatal too." Littlefoot said.

"At your service." Coatal replied, walking up to Spike and standing next to him.

"Wait, we'll need to take some weapons and supplies." Strut added.

"So what should our load be?" Raptix asked.

"I guess the two-footers should take a few spears and a few stone throwing knives. Strut can use his hollow reed and poison darts. The fire rocks might be useful too. As for herbs we should take some sickleclaw paste." Littlefoot replied.

Raptix nodded. "Unfortunately, I'm too small to use a spear."

Coatal shook his head. "I am not trained in the use of weapons. However, I am trained in unarmed combat."

"Raptix, you can use a smaller knife. Mr. Bigmouth will make one for you." Ali said.

"Sounds good. Now let's go speak to Mr. Bigmouth." Raptix replied.

The group then headed to Mr. Bigmouth, who inside a small grove. He was in the process of starting a fire inside a circular ring of stones. A small river ran through one end of the clearing. An artificially excavated small pool was connected to the river by a small trench. Some shrubs were in the area but they bore no fruit.

"Oh, hello. What do you need?" Mr. Bigmouth asked, striking several sparks from two rocks. The sparks landed on a pile of dried grass and started it smoking. He blew on the pile until it caught fire; when it did, he tossed some twigs onto the fire.

"We need some sickleclaw paste, some poison darts and a stone knife for Raptix." Strut replied.

"Well, Raptix will have to make his own weapon. I can get everything else though." Mr. Bigmouth tossed some more wood onto the fire.

Raptix shrugged, grabbed a glassy black rock, a heavier grey rock and a short stick. He began pounding away the excess rock from his blank.

Mr. Bigmouth went over to a pile of sickleclaw pods and leaves.

"This place looks kinda empty. And what's your current project?" Littlefoot commented.

"Well, the herbs I need grow scattered through the meadow. I requested three dinosaurs whose task is to supply me with the requested herbs. And my current project is trying to make those torches that the patrols use burn brighter. Right now, they're just a tree branch with one end set on fire." Mr. Bigmouth replied, grinding the leaves and pods with a mortar and pestle made from a calabash and a small, vaguely cylindrical rock.

As soon as that was said, a green Spike-Tail with several leaf bags strapped to him with vines entered.

"Mr. Bigmouth, the test plants you requested." The Spike-Tail replied.

Another dinosaur, this one a dark brown Runner with a wavy line of tan across his back entered the grove. He too had a vine draped across his shoulder with several leaf bags attached to it. "Mr. Bigmouth, I also have the rubea berries and tree sweets."

"Excellent. There's flat rock with a bunch of calabashes on it. Place the leaf bags attached to your companion on that rock. Place your plants on the log near the fire."

"Will do." The Runner and his companion walked over to the aforementioned rock. The Runner unsheathed his stone knife, which was strapped to his leg and began cutting the vines that bound the leaf bags to the Spike-Tail. In a few minutes he had placed all the leaf bags on the rock. The Runner then took off his vine sling and tossed it on the aforementioned log.

A blue Fast-Runner then entered. He had a large branch of some black colored wood strapped across his back. He then went over to where the Runner and the Spike-Tail where and placed the branch on the rock with the calabashes.

"Okay, you three are free to do whatever you want." Mr. Bigmouth said, looking at the three.

The three dinosaurs then left the grove.

"I guess those are your herb gatherers?" Littlefoot asked.

"Yep." Mr. Bigmouth replied. He was drying ten wooden darts on a small flat rock near the fire. The darts were covered in a purple-red powder. He then loaded the darts into a cylinder made from a section of hollow reed and having a vine from which it could be hung from the shoulder. Mr. Bigmouth then handed the cylinder to Strut.

Strut accepted the container and slung it over his shoulder. "What poison did you use?"

"Well, I was going to use something extremely strong like powdered blood plant or giana berry juice. But those don't grow here or if they do, my assistants haven't it found them yet. These are rubea berries and treesweet juice darts. There aren't many darts in the container as I don't have the supplies to make any more. Make your shots count."

Strut looked suspiciously at Mr. Bigmouth. "Wait, one of your assistants said he bought in rubea berries and treesweets. And it looks like he bought enough supplies to make quite a few darts."

"Strut, once I coat the darts with the poison, it takes about one night for the poison to dry and stick to the darts. If I don't dry them, the poison will drip off the darts and they will be almost useless."

"So we can wait a few nights." Strut replied.

Suddenly Deimos ran into the grove. "Mr. Bigmouth I have terrible news; Ms. Par, the Swimmer, has just died from the poison. And Ms. Flyer and I have been trying to tend to Hadros, the Swimmer, sadly he's nearly dead from the poison and I don't think he'll survive the night."

Strut's mouth fell open in shock. "Or not."

"Damn straight we can't wait!" Cera shouted. "Grab what we need and let's head out!"

"Good luck." Deimos said.

Raptix had finished making his knife and its associated leaf pouch. He strapped the knife and its pouch to his chest.

Strut grabbed two nearby stone tipped spears and tied them onto Spike. Raptix grabbed some leaf pouches of sickleclaw paste and a leaf pouch containing a few flints. Those bags were also tied onto Spike.

"We should also load Coatal with rocks." Strut said.

"Strut, we can arm Coatal en route. Okay, are we all ready?" Littlefoot asked, looking at Ali, Cera, Spike, Raptix, Strut and Coatal.

"Ready to go." Ali said. The others nodded in assent.

"Let's head out. Ali, you and I should go first as we know the way." Littlefoot said.

"Good luck." Mr. Bigmouth said.

As the group left the grove, one of the bushes rustled.

Mr. Bigmouth paid no heed to it, thinking it was the wind. As he turned his back to the shrubs to open a leaf bag containing one of the test plants, a fast-biter with green feathers darted from the shrub and ran out of the grove.

The fast-biter ran to a large grey rock overgrown with grass and hid himself in the grass.

Lucky this place is so remote. The fast-biter thought.

Littlefoot and his team were gathered at one of the entrances to the meadow. Several dinosaurs were there giving them a sendoff.

"Good luck on your expedition!" Deimos shouted, waving at them.

"May you return home safely." Blue-Scale called.

"You will succeed, just as you have many times before." Grandpa Longneck said.

"Nothing can stop you from accomplishing what you want." Grandma Longneck added.

Littlefoot looked at the dinosaurs. "I will not fail you! We will return with the Night Flowers!"

The dinosaurs cheered and Littlefoot and his companions began their trek to the Land of the Mists.

Over in Claw Valley, a grey flyer landed at Excidium's feet. "Excidium sir! The Great Valley has been conquered!"

Excidium grinned. "Victory at last!"

The other sharpteeth began to cheer. The cheering stopped when another sharptooth, this one a light green male whispered something to Excidium.

Excidium's slate grey eyes flashed. "We should not celebrate so soon as the Great Valley dinosaurs have survived the assault and few were taken prisoner. There is a very high likelihood that they will mount an assault to retake the Great Valley."

"What shall we do?" The grey flyer asked.

"Tell Styracus and his herd along with any forces present to reinforce their patrols and be alert for any hostile activity."

The flyer nodded and flew towards the Great Valley.

At the Great Valley, Sierra, Stormwing, Rinkus and Ozzie landed in front of Styracus and Red-Eye.

"I see Dromaeo and Achilles didn't make it back." Styracus said his voice devoid of emotion.

"They did not. They were apparently confronted and killed by a Great Valley patrol." Stormwing replied, his voice also equally emotionless. "But their sacrifice enabled Ozzie to poison the Great Valley dinosaurs' water supply."

"Nice thinking Ozzie. Fighting fair is only for fools."

"So what is our next mission?" Sierra asked.

"I have sent a spy, he is a green fast biter named Veloc. At nightfall pick him up by the large grey rock overgrown with grass. It's near that large grove with a lake in it. We discovered it during a recon flight." Red-Eye replied.

"Will do."

"What do we do now?" Ozzie asked.

Red-Eye furrowed his brow. "Rinkus, Ozzie and Stormwing you are all on aerial border patrol near the Great Rock Pass. Sierra, you are free to do whatever."

The group then dispersed.

Theta was having a knife throwing competition with Slasher and Saber at the Airfield. They were throwing knives at some trees at the border of a forest.

Theta hurled his stone knife at a tree; the blade struck the target, an orange dot painted on the tree with some kind of plant juice. Theta had already embedded 4 knives into the tree trunk, most of them near the target.

Slasher looked at Theta's tree with dismay. "Damn, he's good." He muttered. Slasher sighed and hurled his own stone knife at his tree. His knife struck the tree a glancing blow and fell to the ground after dangling from the trunk for a few seconds. He had embedded only one knife into the tree.

Saber said nothing as he took aim and hurled his own stone knife at the tree. He missed by a wide margin and the knife flew into the forest. He sighed as he realized that he only had two more knives left and that he had not managed to hit the tree at all.

Theta hurled his last knife into the tree, striking his target. He looked at Slasher and Saber. "So guys, are you done?"

Saber cursed his final knife flew into the forest. "Yeah, I'm done."

Slasher triumphantly thrust his fist into the air as his knife struck the target dead center. "Me too."

"Well let's see how well you did." Theta said.

Theta then walked over to Slasher's tree. "Hmm, it's not much of an improvement but it's still improvement." He pulled out the two knives stuck in the tree and placed them on the ground in front of the tree.

Slasher shrugged. "Ah, there's always next time."

Theta went over to Saber's tree. "Saber, perhaps you should stick to either attacking with thrown rocks or close quarters combat. You didn't get any hits."

"I know. I like fighting at close quarters anyways. Why do we even need to fight at range?" Saber grumbled.

"You should know the answer to that question."

Theta then went over to his own tree and pulled the five knives he embedded in the tree. "Slasher, Saber, it was fun competing with you. I hope you practice because the next time you throw knives your target may be throwing spears or rocks at you."

Slasher and Saber looked at each other as Theta picked up his stone knives and placed them back in his pouch.

"He's good. Where did he learn to do that?" Slasher asked.

"He's been practicing longer than we have." Saber replied.

"It's actually kind of fun doing this."

Saber grinned. "Well, Slasher, you've got a long way to go before you're as good as Theta."

"Thanks Saber. But we're on patrol soon. We have to get some new stone knives from Hellebore and Aconite." Slasher replied

Slasher, Theta and Saber departed the Airfield.

Littlefoot and his group had reached a small oasis with a pond and two trees with treestars growing on them. They were a fair distance from the meadow.

"We'll stop here for now; then we'll continue." Littlefoot said.

"Good idea, we've come pretty far." Coatal said.

The group then dispersed to forage for food.

Raptix caught a large frog by the pond which he promptly devoured and washed down with a mouthful of pond water.

Strut, Coatal, Littlefoot, Cera and Ali were eating treestars that Coatal had pulled down from a tree growing at the oasis.

Rime had finally reached the borders of the meadow. It was late afternoon and the sun shone brightly. Patrols could be seen in the distance.

Maybe I should wait until the Night Circle rises. But if I do that, I have a really good chance of being killed because they'll think I am out to kill some dinosaurs, he thought.

After pondering for a few moments he decided to enter the meadow. He wandered through the outskirts of the meadow. After several minutes of wandering he encountered a patrol.

The patrol leader, a heavily built gold female Spike-Tail and her four accomplices, a Clubtail and three spear wielding Runners cornered Rime.

"You have trespassed. Leave or die." The Spike-Tail said, lashing her tail threateningly.

"Wait, I'm not here to fight; I'm here to flee my captors." Rime said. He tossed his stone knife aside and raised his hands in the air.

"We'll take him. We could use him to try and make some demands of the enemy dinosaurs." The Spike-Tail said.

Two of the Runners flanked Rime and the third held his spear to Rime's back. They then marched him at spear-point to Grandpa Longneck.

"Well, I see you have captured an interloper." Grandma Longneck said.

"Yes. He voluntarily surrendered to us." The Spike-Tail said.

"Interesting, most sharpteeth would fight to the death."

"So shall we kill him?"

Grandma Longneck shook her head. "No. We could use him for negotiation purposes."

The Spike-Tail thought a moment and looked at her fellow patrol members. "Take him to the far reaches of the meadow and tie him up. He will be guarded."

The four dinosaurs guarding Rime nodded and escorted him to the designated location. When they arrived, one of the guards fetched some bluish vines from Mr. Bigmouth's grove and bound Rime's hands and feet and tied him to a sapling.

One of the Runners looked at Rime. "Enjoy your stay. And don't bother trying to bite through the vines. They are very tough and coated them with a strong tasting poison that causes you to throw up. So unless you enjoy emptying your stomach, you'll be smart and sit here."

"Screw you." Rime spat.

The Runner shrugged and assumed a defensive perimeter around Rime. Their spears, black stone tips gleaming in the afternoon sun, dared Rime to make a move.

Far from the meadow or the Great Valley, on Cloud Island, the setting sun silhouetted a purple feathered fast-biter with his hands bound and flanked by two sickleclaws. The fast-biter was being lead to a cliff overlooking the ocean.

The fast-biter gulped as he looked over the cliff. It was drop of at least a hundred feet into foaming waves that beat against the rocky outcroppings of Cloud Island.

One of the sickleclaws tied several rocks onto the fast-biter and looked at him. "Austro, you have been found guilty of willfully killing another fast-biter in an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his patrol duties. Your sentence is death."

"Very well. If I must die so be it. There will be no victors only losers in war." Austro said his voice flat and devoid of emotion.

"Is that is?" the other sickleclaw asked.


The two sickleclaws picked Austro up and threw him off the cliff. His body, weighted down by the rocks, was quickly swallowed by the churning sea.

Over at the cave where Ducky and Chomper were being held, Ducky was bound to a rock. The cave still had some of Saurolo's blood spattering the walls and ground. A flaming tree branch was wedged in a rock crevice, illuminating the area in a fiery red aura.

"Ducky, listen to me. If you tell me all about the Great Valley Air Corps and Mr. Bigmouth's herbs, I'll let you go." Ms. Maia said.

"Why are you doing this?" Ducky demanded.

Ms. Maia punched Ducky in the jaw as a response. "I ask the questions here."

"No you don't! I will not tell you anything!"

Ms. Maia chuckled and grabbed a piece of stout vine that had sharp flakes of rock embedded in it. "I've always wanted to use this thing." She said, gently running a finger along one of the rock flakes.

Ms. Maia then handed the vine to a sickleclaw guard. "Whip her until she starts begging for mercy. I've got to deal with her sharptooth friend."

"Yes." The sickleclaw replied.

The sickleclaw then looked at Ducky. "I've always liked Swimmer, this one is nice and plump. And I'm hungry." he said, baring his serrated teeth.

Ducky started to tremble.

The sickleclaw then swung the whip at Ducky, the rock slivers cutting into her flesh and drawing lines of blood along her skin. Even when Ducky began crying, he continued whipping her, oblivious to the pain he was causing her. Her blood spattered on the walls and floor.

Ms. Maia went over to the back of the cave where Chomper was tied to a stalagmite. Procella was in the midst of tormenting him with Saurolo's mutilated arm.

"Ms. Maia have you gotten anything from the Swimmer yet?" Procella asked.

"No. I'll try starving her. And what about you?" Ms. Maia replied.

"Well, I learned that this sharptooth once lived on a nearby island and that his friends once stayed there. The Great Valley dinosaurs could use that island to attack Cloud Island. It's amazing what starving a captive and then promising food to them will do."

The two dinosaurs ignored the sound of Ducky screaming in pain and the sound of the whip striking her.

"You are all assholes! I hope Deimos finds you and rips out your internal organs! And you Ms. Maia, I hope that you get captured and taken to be sentenced by the Great Valley elders; I'll enjoy seeing your carcass hanging from a tree or lying broken on the outskirts of the Great Valley." Chomper shouted as soon as he heard Ducky's cries of pain.

Chomper then began to hurl every imaginable expletive at the two.

Ms. Maia grabbed a stick and beat Chomper into silence. "Noisy little bastard isn't he? Wonder where he learned all those words?"

Procella chuckled. "Yeah. But we're going to try and turn him to our side, so don't kill him or beat him too severely."

The sickleclaw guard had decided to stop whipping Ducky. He placed his finger on a rivulet of blood running down her side and licked the blood off his finger. "Mmm. Tasty."

Ducky then fainted from a combination of shock and blood loss.

The sickleclaw then turned to Procella. "Treat this Swimmer's injuries. I'll clean this vine off."

With that said, he left the cave carrying the bloody vine with him.

Two sickleclaws then entered the cave. One of them, an icy blue female spoke to Procella. "Procella, the rogue fast-biter Austro has been disposed of. We weighed him down with rocks and threw him off a cliff into the Big Water."

Procella glared at the blue sickleclaw. "Austro was supposed to be burned."

The blue sickleclaw shrugged her shoulders. "Well, we didn't feel like starting a fire."

"Normally I'd be really mad for disobeying my orders but it doesn't matter because he's dead now."

As night fell, Sierra flew to the meadow where the Great Valley dinosaurs were. There were many ground patrols visible by the light of the torches they used.

He narrowly avoided a Great Valley Air Corps patrol by diving into a small grove and relying on the darkness to hide him.

After a few minutes he went to the aforementioned rock and found Veloc hidden in the grass.

"Veloc, I'm here to pick you up. I am Sierra." Sierra said.

"Sierra? Good, Red-Eye has told me of your arrival. Now let's go!" Veloc said.

Veloc then got on Sierra and quickly left the valley, the darkness providing cover. The sound of a patrol could be heard as they left.

Deimos was patrolling the feeding grounds. He yawned as he clutched his spear.

"At least I tried to save Hadros. But you can't save them all. We'll miss you Hadros." Deimos said softly. He yawned again.

He noticed a shrub near him and out of sheer curiosity he grabbed several leaves and put them in his mouth and chewed them. His mouth and tongue began to tingle almost immediately after he started chewing the leaves. After a few minutes, he suddenly felt much less tired and much more alert.

"Hmm. I'll bring this up to Mr. Bigmouth when the Bright Circle rises. Maybe he'll do something with it. Like get rid of its taste, it's disgusting." Deimos said.

He then rolled the blob of chewed-up leaves into a ball and lodged it under his tongue.

Over in the Great Valley, Sierra and Veloc had just landed. Veloc leapt from Sierra and ran over to Styracus. Sierra was standing by Veloc.

"Styracus, I need to speak to Red-Eye." Veloc said, fluffing his feathers, which were matted by the flight.

"He is currently sleeping. I will relay the information to him when the Bright Circle rises." Styracus replied.

"Well, I have learned that the Great Valley dinosaurs have sent some dinosaurs to try and find the antidote to the poison that Ozzie has placed in their water."

"Thank you. You are dismissed. Get some sleep." Styracus ordered.

Sierra and Veloc headed off to their respective nests.

Over in a small grassy clearing far from their home meadow, Littlefoot, Ali, Strut, Raptix, Coatal, Cera and Spike were preparing to sleep.

Spike still had most of the weapons and supplies he was carrying strapped to him. The spears and Strut's hollow reed were removed from his body and leaned against a small rock.

Coatal was in the trees making a nest. "Goodnight you all." He said before he fell asleep.

Strut removed his cylinder of poison darts and placed it near the spears. He found a small hollow and lay down in it. "Goodnight Coatal." He yawned before he too, fell asleep.

Raptix had originally decided to sleep with his weapon but found out that it was not comfortable to sleep with a knife and its holster dangling from his shoulder and draped across his chest. He removed his weapon and placed it near the other weapons. He then returned to his small depression in the grass, where he curled up and fell asleep.

Cera was sleeping next to Spike.

Littlefoot looked at Ali. "You know Ali, when I first met you, I felt this sensation. I didn't know what is but I feel it now."

Ali chuckled. "That's love, Littlefoot." She nuzzled Littlefoot who responded in kind.

Chapter 17: The Journey Continues

"Hey, Littlefoot wake up. We're ready to go."

"Who's that?" Littlefoot replied, still somewhat groggy.

"It's me, Raptix." The voice replied.

"Isn't it a bit early, Raptix?" Littlefoot replied, yawning as he said so.

"Look around. All six of us are ready to leave and you're still sleeping." Raptix replied, gesturing to the group standing next to Coatal's tree.

Littlefoot got to his feet and looked at the group. Spike, Strut, Coatal, Cera and Ali had all their supplies strapped to them and were waiting for him to wake up. The first rays of dawn illuminated them.

"Sleepy aren't you?" Cera said with a note of contempt in her voice.

"No one asked you!" Littlefoot shot back.

"Littlefoot, Cera, now is not the time for fighting." Ali scolded.

"Sorry." They said in unison.

"Good. Let's continue; we've got a long journey ahead of us."

The group then departed the meadow and headed towards their destination.

Several hours later, the midmorning sun illuminated the Great Valley where Veloc was speaking to Red-Eye.

"So, they are trying to find an antidote to the poison?" Red-Eye asked.

"Yes, sir." Veloc replied.

"Hmm. What would that antidote be?"

"I'll bring it up to Hellebore and Aconite."

"Go do that." Red-Eye commanded.

Veloc then went to the grove where Aconite and Hellebore were located. They had moved their workshop to Mr. Bigmouth's grove after Arcus and his squad cleaned it up. Although most of the burned trees had been felled and removed some still remained.

"Hellebore, Aconite Red-Eye has requested that I speak to you about the poison that Ozzie used against the Great Valley dinosaurs."

"Yes, Veloc." Hellebore replied, not looking up from his workspace. He was coating several wooden darts with a sour smelling black slime. Hellebore then turned to Aconite. "Aconite, how is the oil coming?"

"Good." Aconite replied. He got up and pulled a handful of hard brown nuts from a nearby tree. He threw the nuts into a calabash and started grinding them into a paste with a mortar and pestle made from a calabash and a cylindrical rock. A layer of oil formed on top of the paste as he started grinding. He poured the oil into another calabash and continued pressing more oil from the meal. After he had produced an entire calabash full of oil; he scraped the nut meal from the mortar and threw it into the fire, causing it to flare up.

"Good. I have to get the vines to dip into the oil." Hellebore said as he was carrying a flat stone with several fresh poison darts to the fire.

Hellebore then placed the stone near the fire. "Okay, the darts are drying now."

Veloc lashed his tail and started scraping his foot claws against the turf. "Damn it! I've been standing here and you've been ignoring me!"

"Sorry Veloc, we just got caught up in our work. Now as for your question, the poison that Hellebore and I prepared for Ozzie is a powder of blood plant roots and leaves. The poison causes inability to move limbs and can stop breathing. It is very strong. As for the antidote, the only antidote I know of are the Night Flowers; which only grow in the Land of the Mists." Aconite replied.

"Thanks!" Veloc replied. He then returned to Red-Eye who was also accompanied by Styracus.

"Red-Eye, Styracus! I have inferred where some of the dinosaurs are heading. They are heading to the Land of the Mists to try and find the antidote."

"I'll handle this." Styracus said. He then turned to a flyer near him. "Tell Theta and Hasta to get some dinosaurs and head towards the Land of the Mists."

The flyer nodded and flew off to the Airfield. Theta was relaxing at the Airfield; he was watching some of the Claw Valley flyers perform their maneuvers.

"I see you're enjoying the Claw Valley Aerial Assault Team's performance, Theta." The flyer said. He looked up to see a flyer perform a dive straight through a ring of flyers without touching any of them.

"I have to admit that they are good." Theta replied

"Well, they are highly trained. But enough of…" The flyer was interrupted by a series of loud cracks as air-dropped stones struck one of the many target rocks in the air target range.

"Erm, yeah, enough of that; Styracus has requested that you and Hasta form an assault team and intercept the dinosaurs who are trying to find the antidote. The destination: The Land of the Mists. It is not necessary to bring them back alive." the flyer continued, shooting a dirty glare at one of the flyer borne dinosaurs.

"I will form my team immediately." Theta replied.

The flyer took off and headed back to Red-Eye.

Theta then headed over to the Feeding Grounds where Hasta was eating some treestars. Ozzie was lying next to Rinkus and Sierra, who were both lying in the grass.

"Hasta, we're going on a mission. I'll serve as team leader." Theta stated.

Hasta grinned. "Good, I'm getting bored. And Theta, I'll serve as the other team leader."


Ozzie, Sierra and Rinkus immediately leapt to the feet as soon as Theta mentioned the word "mission".

"A mission?" Ozzie queried.

"Yes." Hasta replied.

"What sort? Is air support needed?" Rinkus asked.

"An interception mission. We are to find the dinosaurs responsible for getting the antidote to the poison you placed in the Great Valley dinosaurs' lake and kill said dinosaurs. As to air support, it might be good but we'll only take one flyer. However, we'll take a few Hunter Battalion members and Ozzie, you're coming with us. Sierra, you're coming with us." Theta replied.

"Thanks!" Ozzie replied.

"What about me?" Rinkus asked.

"You'll need to come too; since Sierra will be carrying Ozzie, you'll need to keep an eye out for them."

"Count me in!"

"Okay, now we need the Hunter Battalion members." Theta said.

"Hmm. I wonder if we could also take some of our herd." Hasta said.

"Beg your pardon?"

"Yes, some of our herd. Styracus has a group of highly trained Swimmers and Fast-Runners he has called the Shades. They are the equivalent of Hunter Battalion."

"Good, we'll take two of them."

The group then headed over to the Airfield where the Shades and Hunter Battalion were practicing close quarters combat.

"We need some volunteers for a little journey." Theta said.

Two of the Shades, a dark blue Fast-Runner with slashes of light blue across his back and a female black Swimmer stepped up.

Two sickleclaws of Hunter Battalion, one a solid black and other an icy blue; stood by the others.

"Utah, are you ready?" Hasta asked.

"Yes, my partner Manhattan is ready too." The black sickleclaw said. He was twirling a small stone knife.

The icy blue sickleclaw grinned. "I'm ready. And really Utah, must you always use a stone knife or a spear? A stick is such an elegant weapon."

"Well Manhattan, I like to ensure that I kill my enemies!" Utah said, placing emphasis on the word "kill".

"Well, a stick gives better range and…" Manhattan began.

"Will you two stop arguing about weaponry?" Theta ordered.

"Sorry." Manhattan and Utah said simultaneously.

Umbra, the black Swimmer said nothing. "Well I guess I'm ready."

"There is no guess; it's either you're ready or not." Theta replied.

"In that case. I am ready." Umbra then turned to Fast-Runner. "Are you ready, Nocte?"

"Yes." Nocte replied.

"Good, prepare any weaponry and herbs you will need as this will be a long journey."

Suddenly, Icthy and Dil ambled up to Theta.

"Pardon me, Theta." Icthy said, "Dil and I know where the enemy expedition is heading we are both from that region."

"How do you know my name?" Theta demanded.

"Easy there. Red-Eye and Styracus introduced me to Sierra, Ozzie, Rinkus, Stormwing, Hasta and you, Theta. Oh, I guess I should tell you my name seeing as we are allies now. I am Icthy and the bellydragger is Dil."

Theta held his chin. After a few minutes he spoke. "Tell you what, come with us."

Icthy grinned. "Hmm. We may get to fight soon."

"Finally, I'm tired of this damned manual labor." Dil responded.

"Okay, prepare all weapons and herbs; we will be leaving as soon as the Night Circle rises. Meet by the Great Rock Pass" Hasta said.

The dinosaurs then dispersed and headed to Hellebore and Aconite's grove.

Hellebore was loading some freshly dried poison darts into a cylinder made from a hollow reed when Theta entered.

"Okay Hellebore, Aconite, we need you to prepare herbal medicines and poison darts. Weapons too. They all need to be ready by the time the Night Circle rises."

"Will do." Hellebore replied. He then turned to Aconite. "Get the blood plant ready!"

Aconite said nothing as he uprooted a red leafed plant. He dipped the plant in the stream, holding it under water and scrubbing it with his hands until all the dirt was washed free. He then cut off the plant's leaves and set them aside. He was using a leaf to hold the root as he was peeling it.

As Aconite was peeling the blood plant root, Hellebore was making a spear. He reached inside a calabash filled with spearheads, being careful not to cut himself, and placed one of the spearheads on his rock, which served as a table. He grabbed one of the spear shafts resting against a tree, placed it on the rock, deftly split one end with a stone knife, inserted a spearhead and lashed the spearhead to the shaft using a small piece of vine. The finished spear was then leaned against another tree.

Several miles away, at the meadow where the Great Valley dinosaurs were staying, Deimos was speaking to Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Mr. Thicknose, Blue-Scale and Mr. Threehorn. They were gathered at the feeding grounds. Various dinosaurs were dispersed around the grounds, eating or relaxing.

"I have met with met with one of the outskirts patrols and they have captured a sickleclaw. Actually, I should say that the sickleclaw surrendered." Grandma Longneck said.

Mr. Threehorn snorted derisively. "No sharptooth would surrender willing, especially now that we are at war. And we have no use for him. Hand him off to a patrol and have them hang him from a tree."

"Mr. Threehorn. Even if he is plotting something, as long as we keep him under guard, he's harmless." Mr. Thicknose replied. "And no prisoner is truly useless."

"I'll interrogate him." Deimos offered. He was grinning.

"No, you will not. You are to help treat the poisoned." Grandpa Longneck said. His voice was cold and sharp.

Deimos shrugged. "Okay fine." He then headed off to the main lake

"As I have stated before, we could use him for negotiation purposes." Grandma Longneck said. "They may have a few of our dinosaurs. We will know once Pterano and Ptyrax return from a recon mission."

Rime was still tied to the tree in a remote area of the meadow; he had not been fed for at least a day. He was still being guarded, but the guards he had first encountered were replaced with a new shift.

"So what made you surrender to us?" A blue Fast-Runner asked. She was armed with a heavy stick.

"I am a fugitive from Excidium." Rime replied.

The Fast-Runner furrowed her brow. "I'll see what the council has to say." She then ran off, leaving Rime with three other armed guards.

Several minutes had passed and Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Mr. Thicknose, Blue-Scale and Mr. Threehorn were still arguing over the fate of Rime. The Fast-Runner ran into their midst, immediately stopping the argument.

"What do you have to report?" Blue-Scale asked.

"Our prisoner claimed to be a fugitive from Excidium." The Fast-Runner replied.

Mr. Thicknose grinned. "A traitor huh? Let's see if he'd be willing to join our forces."

"Not so fast." Mr. Threehorn said. "It could just be a trick."

"Mr. Threehorn is right. We cannot be sure of his plans." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I'm sure Excidium would like one of his captives back. So that means we can do a prisoner exchange."

Pterano and Ptyrax landed among the group.

"Ah, Pterano, Ptyrax, have you found anything?" Blue-Scale asked.

Pterano cleared his throat. "Several of our dinosaurs are being held in what was the Feeding Grounds. I recognized a few of them: Rytho, the Crested Swimmer; Ed, the Swimmer and Vio, the Fast-Runner."

"All right then. We will send a small group of flyers and some land-walkers to Styracus and tell him that we wish to do a prisoner exchange." Grandma Longneck said.

"What!" Mr. Threehorn shouted. "Are you serious? That bastard Styracus won't take 'no' for an answer. The only thing he understands is violence and I say we speak to him in terms he can understand!"

"Mr. Threehorn, any attempt where we can get any one of our dinosaurs back without resorting to violence should be tried." Grandma Longneck countered, glaring at Mr. Threehorn.

"Don't look at me like that Longneck!" Mr. Threehorn spat. "You know damn well that we'll have to use violence to free the captives."

"Do you ever see a peaceful solution to anything? First with the Tinysauruses, now this! The solution to everything is the same; apply force and lots of it!" Grandma Longneck shouted.

"Everyone calm down!" Grandpa Longneck shouted. "Arguing like this will get us nowhere."

The two bickering dinosaurs immediately grew silent. Mr. Threehorn coldly glared at Grandma Longneck.

"Okay, what we will do is we will send a small lead group of flyers to tell news of their negotiation. They will be armed. Following them are the negotiators and the prisoner. The lead negotiator will not be armed but guards with the negotiators will be armed." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I will gather some of the Great Valley Air Corps flyers." Pterano said.

"I will accompany the negotiators as a guard." Blue-Scale replied. "I will also gather some more dinosaurs to assist me."

"Okay, then meeting is over." Grandpa Longneck said.

The dinosaurs dispersed. Blue-Scale wandered around the feeding grounds and main lake trying to recruit some dinosaurs for guard duty. Pterano flew back to the airfield to recruit some flyers. Ptyrax flew over to where Rime was being guarded.

Shorty was patrolling the main lake along with Hyp, Mutt and Nod. Hyp was armed only with a heavy stick. Nod was carrying a hollow reed and a pouch of poison darts.

"Why are we doing this again?" Nod complained.

"Damn it, Nod! Will you stop complaining for once?" Hyp shouted.

Shorty sighed. "Nod, we are to guard the main lake to ensure no one drinks from it, swims in it or tries to poison it further."

Deimos soon arrived at the main lake. He ignored Shorty's patrol and headed to the plain near the lake where all the poisoning victims were located.

He went to a comatose Longneck, felt for a pulse and listened for breathing and a heartbeat. He detected nothing. He arranged a group of rocks, which were previously in a crescent formation, into an "x" formation.

He went over to Mr. Bigmouth, who was trying to get a lethargic Swimmer to eat some treestars.

"So how are things going?" Deimos asked.

"No more poisoning victims but we are increasing patrols in the feeding grounds." Mr. Bigmouth replied. He then lowered his voice and leaned into Deimos. "If Littlefoot's group does not get back soon, all the poisoning victims will die. We've already had five of them die from the poison."

"They'll succeed." Deimos said.

Suddenly, Blue-Scale approached Deimos and Mr. Bigmouth. "We are preparing to mount an expedition to the Great Valley to see if we can do a prisoner exchange. We need guards."

"Sorry, I can't fight worth a damn." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

"I'm assisting with medical care for the poisoning victims and guard duty." Deimos replied.

Blue-Scale sighed and approached Shorty's patrol, which was near one of the tributaries leading to the main lake.

"Hey Shorty, Nod, Mutt and Hyp we're going to do an expedition to the Great Valley to see if we can do a prisoner exchange." Blue-Scale said.

"Hmm. Sounds interesting. We'll be glad to help." Shorty said.

Hyp, Mutt and Nod all agreed.

"Good." Blue-Scale said. "Stand by the entrance to the feeding grounds. Once I gather some more dinosaurs and Pterano and Ptyrax get back. We'll head out."

Shorty, Hyp, Mutt and Nod headed to the feeding grounds.

Over in the airfield, Pterano and Ptyrax recruited some other volunteers: Solo, the Runner; Ovius; Ms. Flyer and Dact, who bore a striking resemblance to Pterano, save for some striking slashes of tan across his back.

"Dact, Ms. Flyer, Solo, Ovius, the consensus is that we mount a negotiation for some prisoners back at the Great Valley. I will be accompanying you." Pterano said.

Ptyrax landed near one of the spear wielding Fast-Runners who guarded Rime.

"Untie the prisoner but keep his mouth and hands tied and keep him under guard at all times. We will be heading out of the meadow to the Great Valley." Ptyrax commanded.

One of the Fast-Runners grabbed some blue vines and swiftly bound Rime's hands in front of him and tied his snout shut. Another Fast-Runner untied the vines that bound Rime to the sapling.

Another spear toting Fast-Runner jabbed the butt of his spear in Rime's side to force him to get up.

The whole group then took on a distinct formation; Rime flanked by two spear wielding Fast-Runners with a third spear wielder behind him. The point dinosaur was the female Fast-Runner who had first learned that Rime was a fugitive.

The procession, with Ptyrax flying at low altitude overhead, made their way to the feeding grounds.

There at the feeding grounds, the expeditionary force was gathered, looking more like a conquering army than a conciliatory group.

"Okay, group, move out!" Blue-Scale shouted.

At his command the flyers, carrying their dinosaurs and a supply of rocks and stone throwing knives took to the air and the other dinosaurs followed Blue-Scale out of the meadow.

Littlefoot and his group were stopping at a small oasis for the night. They had journeyed for several hours and they had made significant progress.

Strut built a fire ring out of some nearby rocks and lit a small fire with the flints that the group had bought with the. Strut and Raptix then helped remove their equipment from Spike, who then fell asleep. Afterwards, Strut and Raptix warmed themselves by the fire. Cera and Coatal were keeping watch.

Ali nuzzled Littlefoot. "You know," she began, "many cold times ago, when I said that we'll all meet again sometime. I never expected it to come true like this. I mean we are meeting but it's during a time of war. I mean it's not like we can love each other in a time like this."

Littlefoot chuckled and nuzzled Ali back. "No, love cannot be stopped even by war."

Cera looked at Littlefoot and Ali, illuminated by the firelight and sighed.

"Hey Cera, what's the matter?" Coatal asked, landing by Cera's head.

"Nothing, it's just that I haven't found a mate yet. Littlefoot's already got Ali." Cera replied with a note of sadness in her voice.

"Don't worry. You'll eventually find your mate." Coatal replied.

Suddenly, the ground started shaking and thunderous footsteps could be heard nearby.

"Damn it! It's an earthshake. We need to move now!" Raptix shouted.

"That's not an earthshake, we've just made a Longneck really mad!" Strut shouted, pointing to the figure of a female Longneck silhouetted by the fire's red glow, mere feet from the group.

"What are you doing here?" the Longneck demanded, glaring at Strut.

"Please, Ms. Longneck, we mean you no harm. We are merely passing through on our way to the Land of the Mists." Littlefoot said, stepping in front of Strut.

The female Longneck looked at Littlefoot and sniffed him. She then wrinkled her forehead. "You smell familiar. And that Threehorn, I recognize her."

Cera was visibly nervous. "Um, Ms. Longneck, I think I might have met you on the way to the Big Water."

The Longneck furrowed her brow. "Now that you mention it, I might have seen you while were escorting some kind of fish like Swimmer back to the Big Water during that great sky-water."

Littlefoot's eyes suddenly flashed. "Wait, you're Ms. Mama?"

The Longneck chuckled kindly. "Please, call me Coda. Calling me Ms. Mama when you're not kids any more is a little weird. I'll be happy to accompany you on your journey to the Land of the Mists as a guide. But I would like to hear why you are out here."

Littlefoot blushed then yawned. "Thanks Coda. We'll all introduce ourselves when the Bright Circle rises."

Strut let the fire burn to coals and he fell asleep, leaning against Spike. Ali and Littlefoot fell asleep next to each other. Coatal was sleeping in a nest he had made in a nearby tree. Cera was sleeping next to Spike.

Coda was still awake and looking over the sleeping expeditionary force. She sighed. The kids that she encountered many cold times ago had matured into capable adults.

Chapter 18: Negotiations

Theta and his squad were camped out at an oasis in the Mysterious Beyond. They had journeyed for at least one day straight and night had fallen. The full moon rose high above the verdant oasis in the midst of a rocky plain. The night sky was cool, crisp and permeated with the scent of burning wood.

Near the edge of the lake, Theta sighed as he poked a small campfire with a stick. The fire threw some red sparks into the night sky in response.

"Manhattan!" Theta shouted.

Manhattan immediately ran to Theta's side. "What is it you require, sir?"

"Do all the sharpteeth have enough food? I know that we have a Bigmouth's carcass but I'm not sure that's enough."

Manhattan grinned. "Theta, I must correct you. It was you, Nocte and Umbra who killed that wandering Bigmouth. The sharpteeth just found him." He then laughed, revealing a mouthful of serrated teeth. "Oh, the look on that Bigmouth's face was incomparable. He did not expect you to shove a spear through his chest or Nocte to smash his head in with a rock or Umbra to start pounding on him with a huge stick." Manhattan at this point was almost crying with laughter.

"Manhattan! Control yourself!" Theta scolded. "I asked 'how is our food supply?'. I did not ask 'who killed that Bigmouth?'!"

Manhattan immediately stopped laughing. "Erm, sorry. The leaf eaters have enough; I have spoken to Hasta and he has said the treestar trees and berry shrubs are enough for the leaf eaters. As for the sharpteeth; the Bigmouth carcass is almost completely eaten. Though there are crawlers, lizards, frogs and fish in plenty, it is not practical to feed all the sharpteeth in that manner. Though I do admit that I prefer fish over meat."

"Hasta and I will take some of the Shades and Hunter Battalion to search for some food." Theta said. "By the way, where are Saber, Nocte and Ozzie?"

"Hasta is asleep and Saber, Nocte and Ozzie are currently on a hunting expedition."

Theta shrugged. "Since there's nothing else for me to do; I guess I'll join them."

"Theta, may I offer a suggestion?" Manhattan said.

"Go on."

"Thank you. You should stay here as they are coming back."

Manhattan's words proved true as Saber and Nocte returned to the camp each dragging the carcass of a large Swimmer behind them. Both the carcasses were marked with deep stab wounds and enormous gashes all over. Nocte's carcass had what appeared to be a spear shaft stuck in the chest.

"Hey, nice going!" Theta said.

Saber grinned. "Thanks, it was pretty tough though. I haven't seen many dinosaurs who use weapons." "Erm, aside from us and the Great Valley dinosaurs." He quickly added.

"Well, where's Ozzie?" Utah, who had just arrived, asked.

"Right here!" Came a voice from behind Manhattan.

Manhattan, Theta, Saber and Nocte all turned around and saw Ozzie, covered in dirt and blood, dragging a carcass of a Runner behind him.

"Congratulations on your first kill, Ozzie!" Manhattan said, applauding.

"Thanks." Ozzie said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to clean up."

Ozzie then headed into the lake to wash himself off.

After a few minutes, Ozzie arrived back at the site, which was now covered in blood, body parts and internal organs as the sharpteeth began eating. The rest of the sharpteeth were drawn by Utah's call.

Saber decapitated the Runner and tossed the head to Ozzie. "Hey Ozzie! Catch! It's the best part!"

Ozzie caught the head, which spattered blood on his arms and hands.

"No thanks, I don't eat this." Ozzie replied, tossing the head back to Saber.

Saber caught the head and started taking bites out of it. "Suit yourself."

Utah had already eaten all the flesh off a Swimmer's leg, leaving the bone. He grabbed a large rock and smashed the bone with a resounding crack. He placed the rock down and began sucking the marrow from the bones.

Umbra, who was stoking the campfire, flinched at the sound and Utah looked at her.

"That sound make you uncomfortable?" Utah asked. His tone was not mocking but somewhat sympathetic.

"Yeah just a little bit." Umbra responded, tossing some twigs into the fire.

"You know Umbra, I find it strange how during the battle against the Great Valley dinosaurs you managed use your stone knife and stab a Great Valley sentry so viciously that his guts were literally in a pile at his feet and yet the sound of me smashing bone makes you uncomfortable." Utah then smashed another Swimmer bone and began sucking the marrow from it.

Umbra grimaced at the sound of Utah smashing bones. "It's just that sound; it grosses me out."

Utah grinned. "And leaving a dinosaur's internal organs on the ground in a bloody heap doesn't gross you out?"

Umbra shook her head.

Nocte and Theta were eating some treestars and berries around the campfire.

"So, Ozzie, what do you eat?" Manhattan asked. He and Ozzie were sitting next to each other on a rock to the right of the campfire. They were looking over the oasis's lake. The stars and moon reflected off the clear waters.

"I eat eggs." Ozzie replied.

Sierra and Rinkus landed in front of them.

"Ozzie, you forgot this." Sierra said, handing Ozzie a leaf bag.

"Oh, the eggs. Thanks Sierra!" Ozzie replied, taking the bag. He then gently tipped the contents on the grass.

Inside the bag were seven Runner eggs.

Ozzie gave one to Sierra and one to Rinkus. He then turned to the rest of the dinosaurs. "Eggs?"

Manhattan, Nocte, Saber, Utah and Theta all shook their heads.

Ozzie shrugged and began eating the eggs.

"Hey, Ozzie, how'd you kill that Runner? I mean, not to be rude or anything, but you don't have any natural weapons." Manhattan asked between bites of the Runner's leg.

Ozzie chuckled. "I beat her to death with a nearby rock."

"Nice improvisation."

Icthy and Dil were also eating. They were on the left side of the campfire along with Utah.

"I never knew a leaf eater could kill like a sharptooth." Icthy said, looking at Nocte, Umbra and Theta, who were still gathered around the campfire.

Utah swallowed his mouthful of Runner flesh. "Give a leaf eater a weapon and he becomes as dangerous as a sharptooth."

After a few minutes, Umbra headed off to her nest to sleep and Saber took her place around the campfire.

Saber was stoking the fire, which had mostly burned down to coals. He had a large tree branch at his feet and a sharp rock near it. He placed the tree branch over the rock and used another rock to drive the tree branch into the rock point in an attempt to split the tree branch. The rock became wedged in the tree branch and would not come out, no matter how much effort Saber exerted.

Theta threw his uneaten berries into the fire. He noticed Saber trying to pull out the rock from the tree branch. "Woah there, Saber, I think you may have made a new weapon."

Saber grinned. "Thanks. I was just trying to split a tree branch." He then resorted to using his hands to scoop away dirt around the rock. Eventually he managed to free the rock and he pulled out the stick and looked at the mass. The rock that Saber was using to split the wood was revealed to be a black, vaguely pyramid shaped rock about the size of Saber's fist.

He then took a few practice swings with it. "This is nice. It'll do more damage than a tree branch or a stick." As he finished speaking, the head of the stone war hammer fell off, narrowly missing his foot.

"Um, Saber, you may want to reinforce that with vines or try and wedge the rock deeper in." Theta said.

"So what shall we call this weapon?" Saber asked.

"I'm going to call it an enhanced club." Theta replied.

"Well, since it's similar to what Hellebore and Aconite call a 'hammer'; we'll probably call it that. But since we're using it as a weapon, we'll add the word 'war' to it."

Theta shrugged. "Well that works. I'm going to sleep. You can show off your war hammer the next time we set up camp."

Theta then headed off to his nest.

"I have to admit, this Ozzie character is a quite a good hunter." Dil said, tearing off bloody chunks of Swimmer and devouring it.

"'Good hunter' my carcass! He only got the Runner and her eggs. That's not enough!" Icthy shouted. He swallowed his beakful of Swimmer flesh as soon as he was done speaking.

"Icthy, you are a greedy bastard, you know that? Ozzie's an Egg-Stealer; he doesn't have the hunting capabilities of a sharptooth. Although I don't agree with his method of beating her to death with a rock; he should have used his bare hands."

"Then you don't agree with how Nocte and Umbra got our first meal, that Swimmer that Theta and Manhattan were talking about? It sounded like Umbra stabbed him with her spear and Nocte beat him to death with a large rock." Icthy shot back.

"But…" Dil began.

"Face it, you lost the argument."

"Just shut up." Dil spat.

Saber yawned. "Dil, Icthy. We're all on the same side here." He yawned again. "I don't know about you, but I'm going to sleep. Oh, when you're done eating, put out that fire."

Saber then went over to a depression in the ground that he lined with grass and fell asleep in it.

Manhattan had finished eating his Runner leg. He threw the bone into the fire. "Good night Ozzie. I'm going to sleep." Manhattan said. He then went over to his nest and fell asleep.

One by one, the rest of the dinosaurs fell asleep until Ozzie was the only one left awake.

Ozzie looked over the lake and yawned. "I should go to sleep too." He grabbed a calabash from the supply area, which was located near the sleeping area and marked off by a line of pebbles, and filled it with water from the lake. Ozzie poured the water over the campfire, dousing it. He returned the calabash to the supply area.

Ozzie looked at the supply area out of curiosity; he could see his hollow reed and the container of poison darts, Theta's pouch of stone throwing knives, Manhattan's fighting stick and Utah's leaf pouches of herbal medicines.

After a few moments gazing at the supply area, Ozzie retired to his nest, which was near a tree where Sierra and Rinkus were sleeping. "We'll find you. You will never undo our work." He muttered before he fell asleep.

Several hours later, at midmorning Theta and his squad packed their weaponry and equipment and continued on their journey into the Land of the Mists

En route to the Great Valley, the negotiations group was gathered at an oasis. There were some trees and edible plants but the main lake was very small and the other lakes were nothing more than muddy pits.

Blue-Scale, Solo, Dact, Ptyrax, Pterano, Ms. Flyer and Ovius were near the main lake.

"Ptyrax, Dact, Solo, Ms. Flyer and Ovius, you all will come along with me and fly to the entrance of the Great Valley. Carry some weaponry." Pterano said.

Ovius and Solo went over to the area where they had kept their stone throwing knives and rocks and after a few minutes they had several rocks and throwing knives piled up on near Ptyrax, Ms. Flyer and Pterano. They then loaded them on the three flyers and boarded them. Only Pterano had no dinosaur with him. One of the Fast-Runner guards boarded Pterano.

"Flight Group One, clear for take off!" Blue-Scale shouted.

Pterano, Ptyrax, Ms. Swimmer and their dinosaurs flew into the air

Hyp, Nod, Mutt and Shorty were guarding Rime along with the spear wielding Fast-Runners.

"So when do we move?" Nod asked.

"As soon as Pterano and Ptyrax return." Shorty replied.

Over by the borders of the Great Valley, Pterano, Ptyrax, Ms. Flyer and Dact touched down and their dinosaurs dismounted.

Ovius, Solo and Dact headed towards an entrance to the Great Valley, this one was the Great Rock Pass. They were soon confronted by a black Swimmer armed with a stone tipped spear. "Halt! You are trespassing on our territory! Leave or I will use deadly force!" he said, pointing the spear's stone head towards Ovius.

"We are not here to fight. We are here for a prisoner exchange." Solo said.

The Swimmer guard held his chin in thought. "I will speak to Red-Eye." He then returned to the valley and two other guards, one a green striped sickleclaw and the other a dusty red Runner greeted the group. The sickleclaw was unarmed but the Runner wielded a heavy club whittled from a stout tree branch.

The Swimmer met Red-Eye and Styracus by the Feeding Grounds. Several captive dinosaurs were seen in a corner of the Feeding Grounds.

"Red-Eye! Some Great Valley dinosaurs want a prisoner exchange." The Swimmer said.

"Hmm. Meet them outside. Styracus will be accompanying you. I will be leading a hunting expedition with some sharpteeth" Red-Eye said.

The Swimmer headed to the Feeding Ground's holding area where he grabbed Rytho and marched him to the Great Rock Pass at spear-point.

Styracus headed to the Great Rock Pass where he saw Ovius, Solo and Dact.

"Greetings." Styracus said.

"We are here for a prisoner exchange." Solo said.

"Show the prisoner."

"I will retrieve him for you." Dact said. He then flew away and headed back to where Rime was being guarded. He touched down on Nod's back.

"Hyp, Nod, Mutt, Shorty we need you to bring our prisoner to the negotiators." Dact said.

Hyp grabbed a stone tipped spear that was tied onto Nod and jabbed Rime with the butt of his spear to induce him to start walking.

Rime, who was still bound and flanked by Mutt and Shorty, followed Nod. Hyp was behind Rime.

After several minutes they arrived at the Mysterious Beyond side of the Great Rock Pass.

Dact landed. "We have our prisoner." He then turned to the group guarding Rime. "Present him please."

Nod moved out of the way as Hyp shoved Rime to Styracus. The black Swimmer had arrived with Rytho who was bound.

Styracus looked over Rime and spat on the ground. "Keep your prisoner! We don't want him back! And we're not giving your prisoners back either!"

"What? Styracus! You promised a prisoner exchange!" Solo shouted.

Styracus remained calm despite Solo's outburst. "I had presumed you had captured one of our sharpteeth. This prisoner you have is 'Rime' and he was our prisoner!"

"If he's yours why don't you want him back?" Hyp asked.

Styracus chuckled. "That bastard's useless to us! He won't fight or do anything! He won't even help make herbs or weaponry."

Shorty sighed. "Come on guys. We're going nowhere with this."

The group then left Styracus and the Swimmer and headed back to where the rest of the group was located.

When the two groups met, Blue-Scale greeted them. "I see you didn't have any success."

Hyp sighed. "I have a feeling that we're going to have to forcibly rescue Rytho, Ed and Vio. Possibly undertake a covert ops mission."

"Well, we have a new ally. And his name is 'Rime'." Ms. Flyer said.

Mutt went over to Rime and used his stone knife to cut the vines binding Rime's snout. However, Mutt left Rime's hands bound.

"I told you I was trying to flee from them." Rime said. "And can you free my hands?"

"Not until we get back home." Nod said.

Rime sighed. "You know, it seems like everyone is against me."

Ms. Flyer landed next to Rime. "Not everyone. And I am sorry but we can't untie you right now; we're currently fighting a war."

Rime sighed. "The war… It caused the death of my…" Rime half stifled a sob but recomposed himself. "…parents."

"Pardon?" Blue-Scale asked.

Rime took a deep breath. "I was part of a herd of sickleclaws who wandered the Mysterious Beyond just looking for food. We were approached by another herd of sickleclaws. One of them asked, no, demanded 'that we join their campaign'. I looked him in the eye and refused. The rest of the group then… I don't want to talk about it." Rime then broke down sobbing.

Ms. Flyer attempted to console Rime. After several minutes, Rime was able to speak but his voice was still shaky.

Shorty looked at Rime. "Rime, we are offering you an option; you can join us and help us defeat these sharpteeth."

Rime sniffled. "…You'll accept me?"

Shorty nodded.

"Thank you…" I…" Rime gulped. "I will do my best. I will fight, for my family."

"We'll do introductions later, Rime." Blue-Scale said. "We've got to get back to the Big Water Meadows."

"Did you just come up with that name now?" Hyp asked.

Blue-Scale shook his head. "Credit that to Mr. Longneck. It's not official; it's just a nickname we use."

"Well, it should be official."

The group then headed off in the direction to the Big Water Meadows. The harsh rocky terrain seemed to glow with the late afternoon sun.

As night fell and the stars and moon shone over the Mysterious Beyond-Land of the Mists border, Littlefoot and his team were setting up camp for the night. They were inside an enormous coniferous forest.

"So how much further?" Raptix asked stoking a small campfire with pine needles and some twigs.

"I've never been this way before." Ali replied.

"We shouldn't be that far. We will have to travel through a cave." Coda replied.

Strut was in the process of removing Spike's vine pack harness. All the leaf pouches of herbs, flints and the weaponry was placed near a large tree. As Strut finished removing the pack harness, Spike licked him.

"Spike!" Strut said, chuckling and flinching from Spike's display of affection.

Littlefoot looked at Spike and sighed. "You know, that brings back memories of Ducky and Spike." He gazed over at Spike, in the several years that passed since they found Chomper and encountered Strut, Spike had matured significantly. His tail spikes and back plates grew out as well. Though Littlefoot knew full well that the back plates were useless as armor, they still looked imposing.

"You know Littlefoot, that bravery you showed when you encountered Ozzie and I in the Mysterious Beyond so many cold times ago still persists." Strut said, gazing into the fire.

"Thanks Strut. I have to admit, you deciding to join us was a little unusual." Littlefoot replied.

"Well, I wanted to stay away from my brother."

Raptix suddenly spoke up. "We should do a short recon of the area to ensure there are not hostiles."

"I'll go." Strut said. He got up and grabbed a stone tipped spear from the storage area.

Raptix also went over to the storage area and retrieved his stone knife and its sheath.

"I'll come with you." Raptix said.

"Good enough." Strut replied. He lit a small tree branch as a torch and handed it to Raptix who accepted it.

"Are you sure we need that?" Raptix asked, "The Night Circle is high up."

"The Night Circle's light doesn't light up forests, especially one as large as this one, very well."

Strut and Raptix then headed off into the forest. The reddish light from Raptix's torch was soon swallowed by the darkness. The few watery beams of light from the Night Circle did little to illuminate the forest.

"Don't take too long!" Coda called out.

"We won't!" Strut's disembodied voice replied.

Ali and Littlefoot gazed at each other. Without warning, Ali kissed Littlefoot on the cheek.

Littlefoot's blush was barely hidden by the light of the campfire. He nuzzled Ali and gently kissed her back.

"Wow. That was…I don't know how to say it." Littlefoot said.

Ali giggled. "You're a great leader but love isn't a strong point."

Littlefoot blushed deeper. "Yeah I guess."

Coda was keeping watch for the scouting group.

Strut and Raptix were a fair distance away from their encampment when they stumbled upon another dinosaur encampment, this one was abandoned.

Raptix sniffed one of the abandoned nests. "I think who ever slept here left only last night."

Strut was probing what seemed to be the remains of a fire. "Apparently, they also use fire. But I'm not sure if they started it like we do, with the rocks or if they were just lucky and a sky-spark set something on fire and they used it that way."

Raptix found a large piece of wood with a deep groove in it and a stick that was slightly charred at one end. "Strut, I think they made the fire. But they use a different technique. "

"Well, bring it back to camp." Strut replied.

Raptix tucked the large piece of wood under his right arm and used his free hand to carry the torch, which was almost burned out.

Strut picked up the stick with his free hand.

The group then headed back to the camp; there they were greeted by Littlefoot and Coda. Ali, Spike and Cera were already asleep and the campfire had burned down to coals.

"So what have you found?" Littlefoot asked.

Strut and Raptix placed their artifacts by the campfire. Raptix threw some pine needles into the campfire and blew on the coals until the pine needles burst into flame. He then threw some more wood into fire.

"We found an encampment that was recently used. We don't know if they are hostile or not." Strut said. "And we found what seems to have been a tool for making fire."

Littlefoot nodded. "We'll test the tool when the Bright Circle rises. We'll sleep once the fire burns down."

Littlefoot, Raptix and Strut all fell asleep as soon as the fire was reduced to smoldering coals. Coda was the last to fall asleep.

Over in the Great Valley, the Night Circle's cool white light bathed the valley and stars shone above. The reddish lights of fires or torches carried by patrols speckled the valley.

In the Feeding Grounds, Rytho, Ed and Vio were seemingly asleep. Two sickleclaws and a lone Crested Swimmer guarded the three captives. The three guards were unarmed.

Rytho awoke and went over to where Ed and Vio were sleeping. He shook both of them awake.

"Damn it! What are you doing Rytho!" Ed hissed.

"We're getting out." Rytho replied.

"We've got guards here and they took away rocks, tree branches, basically everything that can be used as a weapon."

"Not everything." Rytho replied. "Your body. And I made something." Rytho ducked into a small patch of grass and retrieved a garrote he had made by braiding several pieces of the grass to form a rope.

"Nice." Vio said.

Rytho then dropped his voice to a whisper. "Okay. Gather anything that you can use as a weapon."

Vio and Ed nodded and fanned out in the Feeding Grounds. After a few minutes, Vio returned with a bone that one of the sharpteeth in their meal.

Ed was unable to find anything but he relied on his bare hands.

"I'll strangle the Crested Swimmer. You two get the sickleclaws. Ready?" Rytho whispered.

Ed and Vio nodded in response.


The three then crouched behind some shrubs near the three guards. Rytho crept behind the Crested Swimmer, looped the garrote around his neck and pulled.

The Crested Swimmer began to gasp as he slowly died. The wheezing and gasping of the dying Crested Swimmer attracted the attention of the two sickleclaws.

One of them turned around to see Rytho strangling the Crested Swimmer and he tried to move forward but Vio grabbed the sickleclaw, gagged him with his hand and stabbed him in the side of the neck with his bone shard. He ignored the blood spurting from the deep puncture wound. He threw the bloody bone shard and the dying sickleclaw aside.

The other sickleclaw tried to run away but Ed grabbed him in a chokehold and waited for him to lose consciousness. As the sickleclaw gradually became unconscious and stopped struggling, Ed snapped his neck and threw his body aside.

"Good now let's go!" Rytho said.

The others nodded and ran towards the nearest exit only to be confronted by Styracus and some Fast-Runners and sickleclaws wielding stone tipped spears and hollow reeds.

"Well, I congratulate you on your fearlessness." Styracus said. "But it is all for naught."

"I though everyone was asleep!" Ed said.

Styracus chuckled. "Not everyone, we have patrols all the time at the exits of the valley."

"If you are going to kill us, do it! We'll go down fighting!" Rytho shouted.

"Death is too good for you! Fire when ready!" Styracus shouted.

The dinosaurs armed with the hollow reeds fired a nearly invisible volley of poison darts. Rytho, Ed and Vio tried to run as Styracus shouted his command but the poison darts struck them.

Rytho pulled out a dart stuck in the back of his shoulder. He started wobbling as the poison took effect. "What the… Rubea…" He could say no more before he collapsed unconscious.

The other two dinosaurs collapsed as well.

"Excellent! Tie them up! We're taking them to Cloud Island!" Styracus commanded.

The dinosaurs then fetched some vines and bound the three unconscious dinosaurs. After a few minutes they were bound and carried out of the valley towards the Big Water.

Chapter 19: A New Ally

The negotiation group had arrived back at the Big Water Meadows. It was midmorning and the sun shone bright over the briny deep of the Big Water and the green fields of the Big Water Meadows.

"So, I see negotiations didn't go well?" Grandma Longneck said, looking at Rime.

Blue-Scale sighed. "They didn't. However, the prisoner named 'Rime' wishes to join us."

Mr. Threehorn's jaw dropped. "Hold it! Did you just say that this sickleclaw wants to be an ally?"

Blue-Scale nodded.

Rime then stepped forward. "I can only offer gratitude for not killing me as soon as I came here. Please accept me as an ally." He then kneeled down and displayed his hands in a suppliant gesture.

Grandpa Longneck looked over Rime. "I see no danger in allowing him to stay."

Mr. Threehorn snorted. "He could be a spy for all we know!"

"Rime, could you please stay here while we discuss this matter in private?" Mr. Thicknose said.

Rime nodded.

Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Blue-Scale, Mr. Threehorn and Mr. Thicknose headed deeper into the meadow, leaving Rime with Hyp, Nod, Mutt and Shorty. There, the elders encountered Deimos eating a fish.

"So what's the situation?" Deimos asked.

"The prisoner exchange failed." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I assume we have our prisoner here."

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "He's named 'Rime'. He's got quite an interesting life story."

Deimos scratched his neck. "Hmm. Perhaps we can use this prisoner as an adjunct to our forces."

"Deimos, is the fact that you are a sickleclaw and this 'Rime' is a sickleclaw clouding your judgement? Are you not looking at the possibility that he might be a spy?" Mr. Threehorn said.

Deimos glared at Mr. Threehorn. "Mr. Threehorn, if I may say so, you are an ignorant bastard."

"What did you call me?" Mr. Threehorn said his voice low and threatening.

Deimos glared back at Mr. Threehorn. "You heard me; you are an ignorant bastard."

Mr. Threehorn lowered his head. "Why you…"

"Deimos, Mr. Threehorn! Stop this immediately!" Bron shouted, getting in between the two.

Deimos and Mr. Threehorn headed off in opposite directions.

"Deimos! Come back here!" Mr. Thicknose ordered.

Deimos returned back to Mr. Thicknose.

"Deimos, Rime will be part of our forces; he will be assigned to you. Monitor him." Mr. Thicknose ordered.

Deimos nodded and returned to where Rime was being held. "Okay, Rime, I am assigned to guard you."

Rime sighed and the trace of a tear started forming in the corner of his eye.. "Figures, no one trusts me."

"Rime, I am to guard you from Excidium's forces."

Rime's expression brightened. "Well, that's different."

"Don't get too excited Rime, everyone here has a job to perform. Your duty is to accompany me as a guard for Mr. Bigmouth's grove." Deimos replied.

"But I don't have any combat related skills." Rime complained.

"You have claws and teeth. That will do until we have time for a formal close quarters combat lesson."

Rime and Deimos then headed off to Mr. Bigmouth's grove. When they arrived, Mr. Bigmouth was in the process of using flints to light a fire.

"Hello Deimos." Mr. Bigmouth said striking several sparks from a piece of flint. The sparks landed on a piece of dried grass he was using as tinder, which started smoking. After a few sparks and a puff of air, the tinder caught fire and Mr. Bigmouth tossed some twigs into the fire.

"Hello, Mr. Bigmouth. Any news on your latest project?" Deimos replied.

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "Yep, I made those 'bright torches'. Those hard brown berries did the trick; all you had to do was stick them in a hollow reed or tie a bunch around a stick and light the whole thing. It lights easily and burns really bright.

Rime was looking at a small hollow reed filled with darts. He pulled one of the darts out and examined it. The tip was covered with flecks of a purplish red material.

"Rime! Put that dart down!" Deimos shouted.

Rime dropped the dart in shock, narrowly missing his foot. "Woah, you scared me!"

Deimos gingerly picked up the dart and its container and handed them to Mr. Bigmouth. "What type of dart poison did you use?"

Mr. Bigmouth examined the tip of the dart and container which bore two green triangles, one inside another and painted on with plant juices. "Rime is very lucky this dart didn't hit his foot. It's made of blood plant leaf juice mixed with tree sweet juice that's been left to sit around for a few nights."

Rime gulped. "What would have happened if the dart hit my foot?"

"It could have killed you." Mr. Bigmouth replied simply.

"That one dart?"

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "Yep. In fact, this dart is designed to be extremely poisonous to sharpteeth."

Deimos then turned to Rime. "Rime, Mr. Bigmouth's grove contains many poisonous plants and possibly even rocks. Do not eat anything from his grove. Do not touch anything unless you know what it is."

"Got it!" Rime replied.

"Good!" Deimos and Rime left the grove and assumed defensive positions at entrance.

Over in Claw Valley, Excidium was looking at the Stone of Cold Fire. It was resting on a small rock pedestal. Even though the weather in that area was overcast with a stony grey sky, the stone seemed to burn with a cool blue light.

"So what is this weird stone for?" a red two fingered sharptooth asked.

"The stone supposedly grants strange powers to those who touch it." Excidium replied. He then turned to the sharptooth. "Touch it."

The stone then emitted a brilliant blue-white flash, like a lightning bolt. A faint blue light then shone from inside the stone, pulsing in a steady rhythm like a heartbeat. It seemed that stone itself heard the conversation

The red sharptooth gulped and approached the stone, which emitted two dim pulses of cool blue light in response. "This doesn't seem safe."

Excidium looked coldly at the sharptooth. "Do it."

The red sharptooth took a deep breath and placed his hand on the stone. Immediately, he felt his entire body become cold. He looked down at his body and found that lightning was running over his entire body but he felt no pain. After several minutes, a bolt of blue light shot from the stone into the overcast skies. The red sharptooth removed his hand from the stone.

"I don't feel any stronger." The red sharptooth replied.

"Wait." Excidium replied.

As Excidium finished speaking, the bolt of blue light crashed down on the red sharptooth and formed a pillar of blue light. Strangely enough, the red sharptooth was lifted somewhat into the air, with arms outspread.

The other Claw Valley dinosaurs had now noticed the sight and were gathering to watch.

"Damn. That's some rock." A voice said from the crowd.

After a few minutes, the pillar of light faded and the red sharptooth was lowered to the ground. Before their eyes, the red sharptooth began to change. He grew larger and somewhat more muscular. His claws changed to a clear crystalline material and grew wickedly sharp and slightly curved. His eyes changed from amber to a fiery, pupil less blue-white.

The red sharptooth looked at his crystalline claws. Out of curiosity, he slashed at a nearby boulder. He grinned as his new crystalline claws left two deep gouges in the boulder without any effort.

Excidium grinned. "I see you like your new form."

The red sharptooth grinned. "Yes." His voice too had changed; there was an unearthly echoic quality to his voice.

"Should we all start transforming?" a voice from the crowd asked.

"No. We will use the stone to its full power later. For now, we will use brute strength and Styracus's forces." Excidium said.

The crowd dispersed and resumed their normal duties of guarding and training.

Excidium then looked at the stone and sighed. "Flamewing and Stoneclaw would love this stone; pity that they've been dead for so many cold times."

The Stone of Cold Fire emitted a pulsing blue light, like a heartbeat, as Excidium spoke. A single cool blue beam of light shot into the midmorning sky and vanished.

Over in the Mysterious Beyond-Land of the Mists border, Littlefoot and his group were gathered by a fork in the road. They were in a clearing deep inside a deciduous forest and the air was heavy with the scent of leaf litter. The sun shone brightly over the group.

"So this is where we enter the Land of the Mists?" Raptix asked.

"The first time Ali and I went there, we passed through a cave that had a waterfall." Littlefoot replied. "I think we went to the right fork."

Coda shook her head. "You were very lucky not to have been killed."

Littlefoot tilted his head. "Huh?" He asked.

"That way leads near a lake known as the 'Breathing Lake'. Every so often, it gives a great breath that kills everything nearby except plants."

Ali gulped. "Well, we did pass by a lot of skeletons and they were near this giant lake. The plants were green and healthy. Was that the 'Breathing Lake'?"

Coda nodded. "Yes. We must never approach within sight of it. If we do, we may all be killed when it breathes."

"We can outrun it, right?" Strut asked, fear audible in his voice.

Coda shook her head. "No. Though the breath supposedly does not move very fast; it is invisible and can strike and kill with almost no warning."

"We'll go left then." Littlefoot said.

The group assented and headed down the left pathway. After a journey of a few hours they arrived at the towering entrance to a cave. The area around the cave was a clearing surrounded by deciduous trees.

"Hmm. It looks like it's big enough for Coda." Strut said.

Littlefoot took a deep breath. "Well, here we go."

"So you are all engaged in a war with sharpteeth?" Coda asked all of a sudden.

Strut nodded. "Sadly, yes. Unfortunately, these sharpteeth are organized."

"I see. Though most dinosaurs in the Land of the Mists are scattered marauders; there are some who gather in herds. Spike-Thumbs, Spike-Frills and Egg-Stealers are the ones I've met."

"So could we get some help from them?" Raptix asked.

Coda shook her head. "I would not approach them or their territory. My friend, a Spike-Tail named Kent, made that mistake."

"What happened?" Coatal asked. He was riding on Coda's back.

"He was looking for food and he accidentally entered the territory of a group of Spike-Thumbs. One of them shouted at him to leave. Obviously, he didn't take the order seriously. After he ignored the Spike-Thumb, these sticks with pointy rocks at the end and these sharp black rocks flew out of the surrounding shrubs. He was hit by them and injured. And from what I heard, the Spike-Thumbs then ran out of the bushes and attacked him. He was killed in the attack."

"I feel so sorry for your loss, Coda." Ali said.

Coda sighed. "I really hate to say this but it was actually his fault. He should have listened to the Spike-Thumb who told him to leave the territory. But I still miss him. But enough of my sob story."

"Those 'pointed sticks' are what we call 'spears' and those 'sharp black rocks' are what we know as 'stone knives'." Strut said, unsheathing the stone knife strapped to his leg.

Coda looked at the stone knife. "Wow. I never knew there were other dinosaurs who could make these."

Strut sheathed his stone knife. "There are a lot of dinosaurs out there."

"We'll talk later when we have time." Littlefoot said.

"Agreed." Raptix replied.

The group looked at the cave. The entrance was dark and a stale odor emanated from it.

"Shall we bring some torches?" Cera asked.

"Definitely." Littlefoot replied. "And has everyone eaten?"

The group nodded.

"Strut, Raptix, light a fire." Ali ordered.

Raptix and Strut cleared a small patch of grass and stacked up some nearby rocks to make a fire ring. Strut then gathered some dried grass to use as tinder. Raptix was gathering pine needles and twigs.

After Strut had piled up the dried grass, he retrieved two flints from a leaf pouch that was carried by Spike. He then struck several sparks into the pile of dry grass, which began smoldering. Strut started blowing on the glowing embers until a flame appeared.

"Raptix! More fuel!" Strut commanded.

Raptix obeyed Strut's command and threw some pine needles into the fire. The fire flared up and as it did, Raptix continued feeding it with twigs and pine needles. Strut got up, placed the flints back into the pouch that was carried by Spike and went looking for more wood.

After several minutes, he returned with an armful of branches and twigs. He threw the twigs into the fire, which caused it to burn higher. Strut placed the branches around the fire.

"Shouldn't we take some fuel and some extra torches?" Coatal asked.

"Good idea." Raptix said. He took one of the spare leaf pouches dangling from Spike's vine pack harness and filled the pouch with dried grass. He tied it back onto Spike and retrieved another spare leaf pouch and filled that with pine needles. Another leaf pouch was taken from Spike and filled with twigs. Both pouches were tied onto Spike. He looked at the heavy branches by the fire. "Shouldn't we peel the branches so they form a bunch of curls?"

"What will that do?" Cera asked.

"I've heard it makes things easier to light but I'm not sure. I'll try it." Raptix then unsheathed the stone knife strapped across his chest and went over to one of the branches by the fire. He started scraping at one of the branches. After a several minutes of scraping, he had transformed the top of all of the branches into a mass of wood curls.

Strut was stoking the fire in preparation to ignite one of the torches when he reached to get more twigs. When he did so, he noticed Raptix's handiwork.

"Raptix! What did you to the torches!" Strut demanded.

"I heard that makes them light easier; try it!" Raptix replied.

Strut swore and grabbed one of the branches and held it in the fire. To his surprise, the branch ignited almost instantly. He then turned to Raptix. "Nice work."

"We've got the fuel; all we need are the torches." Raptix said.

Coatal flew off Coda's back and headed into the treetops. After a few minutes two large sticks were clutched in his talons. He then dropped them near Littlefoot and Ali. He was about to tie them onto Spike when Littlefoot spoke up.

"Coatal, tie them on me. Spike's carrying a lot."

Coatal grabbed a piece of vine from Spike's back and looped it around Littlefoot's body, forming a crude pack harness. He then fastened the sticks to Littlefoot.

"Wait, scrape the sticks so they form curls; they become easier to light!" Strut commanded.

Raptix pulled the torches from Littlefoot's pack harness and repeated the procedure on them. After a few minutes, the sticks were reattached to Littlefoot.

"Coatal, we'll need more at least one more torch." Littlefoot said.

Coatal flew into the treetops once more and returned with a large stick which he handed off to Raptix, who scraped it, then tied it onto Littlefoot. Coatal then returned to Coda's back. Coda was looking at the fire. "I've never seen any dinosaurs who use fire; most are afraid of it." She said.

"Well, once the fear of fire is conquered; it becomes a very useful tool. You can use it to prepare herbs, light up areas and as a weapon." Strut replied. He lit both of the torches by placing them in the fire. He took one for himself and handed a much smaller one to Raptix.

Coatal then extinguished the fire by covering it in dirt.

"Where does this lead to?" Cera asked.

"I don't know." Littlefoot replied.

"This is one of the routes that I used to travel between the Mysterious Beyond and the Land of the Mists." Coda said.

"I hope we don't run into hostiles." Cera said.

"Unlikely, it doesn't smell like anything has been here recently." Raptix replied.


"Ready to go?" Strut asked.

"Well, we can only go forward." Littlefoot said.

The group then entered the cave. Strut and Raptix were at the front. The fiery light from their torches did little to dispel the musty odor and the inky blackness of the cave.

Many miles away on a tropical island, Lio was carrying Rytho, Ed and Vio along with a sickleclaw guard to Cloud Island.

Rytho groaned as he awakened from his poison induced sleep. "Ugh, where am I?" As his vision cleared he noticed that it was sunny out and he was in the middle of the ocean. He looked around and noticed that he and his companion's arms were bound with vines.

Ed and Vio gradually stirred from their slumber.

"Where are we?" Ed asked.

"I think we're in the middle of the Big Water." Rytho replied.

"Correct you are." The sickleclaw guard said. "Now sit back and enjoy the trip." She then looked out into the distance. "Lio! How far are we?"

"We are close to Cloud Island." Lio, who was carrying Ed, Rytho, Vio and the sickleclaw guard replied.

"What is this 'Cloud Island'?" Rytho demanded.

"You'll find out when we arrive." The guard replied.

Rytho suppressed the urge to knock the guard overboard.

After several minutes passed, Cloud Island gradually came into view. An enormous mountain, barely visible through the thick fog loomed over the lush and fog shrouded tropical island.

As they approached the island, a thick fogbank began to roll in, reducing visibility and dimming the sun.

"I'd assume this is Cloud Island?" Ed said flatly. He was trying to see through the thick fogbank.

"I'd assume so." Rytho replied.

"Hey, look over there! I see torches!" Vio shouted from behind Rytho.

Rytho turned around and stared hard into the fog. In the distance he could see specks of red light. "Hey we are approaching!"

Lio headed towards the torches in the distance. As they approached, Procella, Ms. Maia and a green Fast-Runner came into sight. Each of them carried torches that burned with a bright flame.

Lio approached the sandbar and his passengers got off and waded towards the dinosaurs.

"Ms. Maia? What are you doing here?" Rytho asked.

Ms. Maia grinned. "Well, nice to see you Rytho. I hope you and your friends enjoy your stay."

Ed glared at Procella. "What did you bastards do to Ms. Maia!" he demanded.

Procella chuckled. "Nothing, she joined us voluntarily."

Ed spat at Ms. Maia. "You'll pay for this. Mr. Threehorn will have your head!"

Ms. Maia chuckled, a cold sound that sent shivers down Procella's spine. "I'd like to see him try. Or for that matter, I'd like to see you try to get off Cloud Island. Come along." She then headed into a mist shrouded trail.

The sickleclaw guard pushed Rytho, who started following Ms. Maia. Ed and Vio followed Rytho. Procella and the sickleclaw guard followed behind the three prisoners.

"This place creeps me out." Ed muttered. The group was now inside a misty forest. The air was heavy with fog and the scent of rain and leaf litter.

"Yeah me too." Vio said.

"I'm not that afraid." Rytho said. Despite his words, his voice had a slight trembling quality to it.

Over in a cave at the end of the trail that Rytho and Procella were heading towards, Ducky and Chomper were being interrogated.

The cave was guarded by two spear wielding sickleclaws outside and two more sickleclaws served as the interior guards. Inside the cave, two bright torches wedged between some rocks and a small fire in the middle of the cave provided light. Chomper and Ducky were confined to the back of the cave. Though Ducky was still bound to a stalagmite, Chomper was allowed to roam somewhat freely, but he was still kept away from Ducky and he was bound to a rock at night.

Chomper had gained some weight since his imprisonment on Cloud Island and he was fairly healthy. Ducky on the other hand, had lost a considerable amount of weight. Her green skin was marred by red and black specks of blood.

"Chomper, so why did you ally yourself with the Great Valley dinosaurs?" a grey sickleclaw asked.

"Well, it was a Longneck who saved me when I was an egg. Without them I wouldn't be here." Chomper replied.

"So you thought it would be right to ally yourself with them?"

Chomper nodded.

The sickleclaw laughed, not coldly like Procella but kindly, as if he were talking to a friend. "So you eat green food?"

Chomper shook his head. "No. I ate crawlers, fish and scavenged."

The sickleclaw grinned. "I'm sure you miss the taste of Swimmer meat?"

Chomper gulped. "N…n…no." he stuttered.

"Ah you can't hide it." The sickleclaw said, grinning. "All sharpteeth love Swimmer."

"What are you going to do?" Chomper asked.

"Well, I have a Swimmer right here. And she's all yours." The sickleclaw replied, gesturing to Ducky.

"No! You bastards! I will not eat Ducky!" Chomper shouted. His stomach growled as he said so.

"Looks like your stomach disagrees."

"No! I will not!"

"It seems like you do."

Chomper's hunger finally overtook him and he lunged at Ducky.

Ducky screamed as Chomper leapt at her and tried to bite her. She twisted her head to one side, dodging Chomper's bite. "Chomper! It is me, Ducky!"

"So hungry. Must eat Swimmer!" Chomper said. His eyes now contained a savage glint to them as he eyed the emaciated Ducky.

"Chomper! It is me, Ducky. I helped save you, many cold times ago! Would you eat your rescuer?" Ducky pleaded. Tears were now streaming down her bloodied face.

The spell over Chomper finally broke. "Ducky…I'm so sorry." He then went up to Ducky and hugged her. "I'm…I'm so sorry." Tears began streaming down Chomper's face as Ducky nuzzled him, her blood and tears mingling with his.

The grey sickleclaw watched from a distance. A small tear formed at the corner of his eye before he flicked it away. He turned around and walked towards the entrance of the cave.

Outside the cave, Procella, Ms. Maia, Ed, Vio and Rytho were continuing on their journey.

"That sounded eerily like Ducky and Chomper." Vio said.

"I'm sure they're not here." Rytho said.

Ms. Maia laughed. "We'll escort your to your cave then you'll see if they're here or not."

After a few more minutes, Ed, Vio and Rytho were forced into a small cave where a green sickleclaw and a gold sickleclaw, both armed with spears guarded them.

"Well, I guess this is how we end our life." Vio said.

"We will not give up that easily!" Rytho replied. He looked at the sickleclaws and noticed that their backs were turned. "I have an idea."

Far from Cloud Island, Littlefoot and his friends were now deep inside the cave. The light from Strut and Raptix's torches provided the only source of light inside the cave, aside from small patches of luminescent moss that glowed with an eerie cold, blue-green light.

"This place is really scary." Coatal said, flying just above Coda's head.

"Well, we've got weaponry and several strong fighters." Cera replied.

"I see light!" Strut shouted, pointing to a small spot of light down at the end of the corridor.

"You are heading in the right direction." Coda said. "You are near the exit of the cave."

The dinosaurs cheered and continued heading towards the light. Strut was the first to reach the light. His mouth fell open as he gazed upon the cavern. "Damn. That's amazing."

Raptix was next. He too gazed in wonder at the cavern. "Wow."

Littlefoot and the rest of the group entered the cavern. They too gazed in amazement.

What appeared before their eyes was what could only be described as a stone cathedral. Openings in the upper part and roof of the cave admitted light that illuminated various geological formations. A waterfall flowed from a large sinkhole in the roof of the cave into a lake which diverged into multiple small rivers that flowed out through the various passages in the cavern.

"Well, I guess we should rest here." Ali said.

"Yeah, let's set up camp." Coda said.

Strut, Raptix and Coatal helped remove the equipment from Spike and Ali. The equipment was placed against a stalagmite. Strut and Raptix then sat down on a pile of rocks near the lake.

"Guys, I'm going to fly around the cave and out of that hole to see where we are." Coatal said.

"Good." Strut replied. "Be careful."

Coatal nodded and took off. He flew out through the sinkhole.

Ali, Littlefoor, Cera and Coda were drinking from the lake.

"That's some great water." Littlefoot said.

"Yeah, I needed it." Cera said. She then turned to Strut and Raptix. "The water's great! Come get a drink!"

"Well I am thirsty." Strut said. He then got up and drank from the lake. Raptix followed suit.

"We'll need to use the second set of torches" Strut said.

"Well, let's get to it." Raptix said.

Suddenly a loud and harsh voice echoed through the cave. "What are you doing in my cave!" it demanded.

Raptix gulped. "Who…who's there?"

Strut seized a spear from the supplies. "Show yourselves!" he demanded.

"What are you doing in my cave!" the voice thundered.

"Wait, I know that voice!" Littlefoot said.

Chapter 20: Arrival

"You know this voice who's threatening us?" Coda asked.

Littlefoot nodded. "Yes. Hey Archie! Everything's fine! It's Littlefoot!"

"Littlefoot? The same Littlefoot from so many cold times ago?" the voice asked.

"Yes. Come out Archie!"

As Littlefoot spoke, Archie, an enormous turtle-like creature with a grey-green shell appeared from behind one of the columns.

"Littlefoot, it's nice to see you!" Archie said.

"Who is this weirdo?" Cera asked with a sour tone in her voice.

"Cera! Be nice!" Ali scolded. He then turned to Archie. "Archie, we are just passing through, we mean no harm. I am Ali."

"Well, Ali, where are you headed?" Archie asked.

"The Land of the Mists."

Archie smiled. "Follow the passage with the big river. You'll hear the roar of water when you enter it. When you exit you should see an immense waterfall."

"Thank you." Ali said.

Archie then winked at Littlefoot. "It's amazing what a few cold times will do. I barely recognize you now. You're growing up to be a fine leader."

"Thanks." Littlefoot replied.

Coatal flew in through the sinkhole in the roof of the cave. "Guys, we are near the Land of the Mists." He then turned to Archie. "Pardon me, but who are you?"

"He's someone Littlefoot and I encountered in that cave past the breathing lake." Ali said.

"So what's he doing here?"

"I guess he migrated here."

"Correct." Archie said, "The two caves are connected by rivers. I've been since that rockslide closed off part of the old cave."

"You mean the one where I had to help save Littlefoot?" Cera asked,

Archie nodded.

"Sorry for not introducing myself, but the name is Coatal." Coatal said.

Strut was sitting on a pile of rocks. "So, Archie do you have any advice for us?"

"You will pass through the territory of a herd of Spikethumbs on your way to the Land of the Mists. Their leader is a light green Spikethumb named Iquan. If you encounter him or are captured by one of the Spikethumbs, Iquan will ask you a riddle. You must answer it correctly to pass. If you fail, one of you will have to fight him in close-quarters combat. If you win, you may pass; if you lose you will be forced off their territory and you must wait one cold time before you can try again."

"Well, we are armed." Raptix said, showing the stone knife and its scabbard on his chest.

"You have to fight him with your bare hands. And the goal is not to kill him; doing that is just asking for trouble. These Spikethumbs have a reputation as fierce warriors. In fact, I have seen them use weapons like you do." Archie said.

"What is the goal?"

Archie sighed. "Your goal is to pin him to the ground for a count."

Strut shrugged. "Well, that was taught to us in Deimos's close quarters combat lessons except with an additional step: either strangling or breaking your opponent's neck. And how do you know this?"

Archie chuckled. "Well, I've been around the Mysterious Beyond for many, many cold times."

"Guys, we'd better start moving, the Bright Circle is getting low." Coatal said, looking through the sinkhole.

"All rested?" Coda asked.

The group nodded. Strut had already lit a fire and had the torches lit.

"Hey, put that fire out!" Archie demanded, spotting the small campfire Strut had lit. Archie then approached Strut.

"Damn it! No need to be so rude!" Strut spat.

"Archie, it's all right. He knows what he's doing with the fire." Littlefoot said.

Archie grumbled and left Strut alone. His expression softened somewhat at Littlefoot's words. "So why are you in a rush to get to the Land of the Mists?"

"We are to obtain the Night Flowers and return to our herd with them." Raptix said.

"Wait, 'our herd'? You're a fast-biter with a group of leaf-eaters, something isn't right." Archie said. He then turned to Raptix. "I'm watching you."

"There is no need to be so suspicious. I am Raptix, an ally to these leaf-eaters." Raptix responded.

"Hmm. I can't say if I trust you."

"Archie, Raptix is our ally and our personal friend." Littlefoot said.

"Guys, we need to hurry!" Coatal said.

"Sorry. Well Archie, we have to leave. Coatal's getting impatient." Littlefoot said.

"See you around Littlefoot!" Archie said.

Littlefoot and his group exited the cave through the aforementioned passage. When they exited the cave, an amazing sight greeted their eyes: they were at the top of a waterfall, looking down upon the Land of the Mists. The setting sun's fiery gold rays gave the water an otherworldly golden glow. Even the mists that covered the treetops and plains of the Land of the Mists took on an ethereal gold glow.

"It's gorgeous." Ali said.

"Yeah, too bad we don't have time to enjoy it." Strut said.

The group then headed down a narrow trail down into the misty forest. After journeying into a clearing surrounded by tall grass they decided to rest, it was now night and the moon was high up.

"Are we there yet?" Strut asked.

Raptix surveyed the area and noticed a patch of meadow with an unusual gold glow. He then pointed to the patch. "That must be it!"

Littlefoot and Ali turned their heads towards where Raptix was pointing. "Yes! Great job Raptix!"

The group then headed towards the glowing patch of meadow.

Unbeknownst to the group, a dark green Spikethumb had been watching the group near the glowing patch of meadow. He then ran off into a nearby forest as soon as he spotted the group approaching the meadow. After several minutes, he had arrived inside a large forest clearing where other members of his herd were camped out.

One of the Spikethumbs was using a fire plow to try and start a fire while two others had just returned to the encampment with some food. Yet another Spikethumb was placing the finishing touches on her stone tipped spear.

"So Guan, what have you to report?" a large light green Spikethumb asked.

"Iquan, there are some unknown dinosaurs in the nearby clearing and they heading to the Glow Flower Meadows." Guan replied.

Iquan frowned and turned to his herd. "Okay guys, we've got ourselves a situation; some unknown dinosaurs are heading to the Gold Flowers Meadows. We need to stop them. Let's move out!"

Some of the Spikethumbs armed themselves with spears and sticks. Others armed themselves with their signature weapon: a vine sling and stones. Still others stayed behind to guard the encampment.

Iquan and Guan lead the small group of Spikethumbs out of the encampment to confront the intruders.

Littlefoot and his group were almost at the meadow when Iquan's voice boomed out. "Halt! You are trespassing on our territory!"

Raptix gulped nervously. Coatal looked around but saw nothing. Coda looked around and saw some Spikethumbs hiding behind some rocks.

"We know you are there! Come out and speak to us face to face!" Coda demanded.

Iquan, along with two of his herd members, then stepped out and confronted Littlefoot. "You trespass on our territory. Leave or prepare to face us."

"There's only three of you!" Cera spat.

"Oh yeah?" Iquan said tauntingly. He then made a series of clicks.

One of the Spikethumbs, who was hiding behind some rocks a short distance away and upon hearing the clicks, picked a round rock from his leaf pouch, placed it in his sling and sent the stone hurtling towards Cera.

"That's it?" Cera asked. Suddenly, Cera was pelted with some rock shards seemingly out of nowhere. "What was that?" she asked. Her voice had lost the arrogant quality it had before.

Iquan chuckled. "That was a rock."

Raptix looked around and found a round rock near a larger rock. Both rocks were cracked and there were cracks in the larger rock radiating from a medium sized indentation on the rock's face. He picked up the smaller rock and examined it. "It looks like this rock was thrown. But I've never seen any dinosaurs who can throw rocks with enough force to crack another rock."

"We're trying to get an antidote for a poison that was placed in our water source." Littlefoot said.

Iquan frowned. "And what do the glow flowers have to do with this?"

Littlefoot turned to Coda. "What are glow flowers?"

"I believe he's referring to those plants glowing over there." Coda replied, gesturing to the glowing patch of meadow.

Littlefoot then turned to Iquan. "Those glow flowers are the only antidote to the poison in our water source. If we don't get it, all of the herds will die."

Iquan nodded. "I see. Though you are outsiders, we will help those in need; we will allow you to take some of the glow flowers, if you can answer one of my riddles or defeat me in hand to hand combat."

Littlefoot gulped. Iquan was very muscular and looked to be capable of causing serious injury with his spiked thumbs. "Okay, I choose to take the riddle."

Iquan nodded and his two guards stepped back. "Okay. Now, only you may answer this riddle."

Littlefoot nodded and his companions stepped back.

Iquan cleared his throat. "I am everywhere, all dinosaurs need me. I am found where the highest flyers are, to the edges of the Mysterious Beyond and beyond. I am found over the deep of the Big Water. The one place I am not found is the one place I am not needed. What am I?"

Littlefoot wrinkled his brow in thought. After a few minutes he spoke: "Air."

Iquan grinned. "Correct. You may pass."

"Good going Littlefoot!" Strut said.

"Not bad, for a Longneck." Cera said with a smile.

Raptix and Coda glared at her.

"Well done Littlefoot. You truly have earned the right to lead this expedition." Coda said.

Littlefoot and his companions proceeded to the glowing spot where the golden flowers greeted them.

"Okay, we need to get going to take as much as we can hold." Littlefoot said.

Strut and Raptix unsheathed their stone knives and began cutting as many of the golden flowers as they could reach.

Several miles away, Hasta and Theta were having a heated argument with a dark brown Egg-Stealer. They were inside the encampment of a herd of Egg-Stealers. A group of spear wielding Egg-Stealers surrounded a group of small trees. One Egg-Stealer was stoking one of the campfires in the encampment. Another Egg-Stealer threw the remains of her meal, a few eggshells into another campfire.

"We did not trespass on your territory intentionally!" Hasta shouted.

"That is irrelevant. Your friends have trespassed and for that they must pay the penalty: death." The Egg-Stealer said.

"Listen Egg-Stealer, if you kill our allies, we can make your life absolutely horrible. We will return to this encampment and slaughter every one of you if you harm one of them." Theta spat.

"The name is Altus and I'd prefer you use it." The Egg-Stealer spat. "And you have no right to be making demands. Since we are going to be carrying out the punishment, I'd suggest you leave before we add you and your other friends to the three we already have."

Theta and Hasta then stalked off from Altus and headed to their own encampment set several meters away. When they arrived, they noticed that there were signs of battle near the edges of their encampment. Theta picked up a spear that one of the combatants had dropped.

As Theta and Hasta entered their encampment, they were greeted by Rinkus.

"So negotiations go well?" Rinkus asked.

Hasta sighed. "No. Ozzie, Sierra and Manhattan are going to be killed soon."

"So what happened here?" Theta asked. He showed Rinkus the spear.

Rinkus shrugged. "One of those Egg-Stealers tried to kidnap me. Luckily, Utah was there to help me." Rinkus then chuckled, revealing that some of his teeth were stained with blood. "Let's just say our attacker isn't even recognizable as an Egg-Stealer anymore."

"Good enough."

Theta and Hasta proceeded further into the encampment where Nocte was in the process of lighting a campfire and Saber was in the process of making a stone war hammer.

"All right, everyone! We need to save the three." Theta said.

Nocte stopped trying to light the campfire and stepped forward. "I will join."

Saber, who had finished making his war hammer, also stepped forward.

"I'll come." Rinkus said.

"If there's possibility of combat, we'll come." Dil said. Icthy also stepped up.

Umbra and Utah decided to guard the camp.

Saber, Nocte, Theta and Rinkus armed themselves – Saber with his stone war hammer, Nocte with a stone tipped lance, Rinkus with a stone knife and Theta with a stolen stone tipped spear - and headed towards Altus's encampment.

Meanwhile as Saber, Nocte, Theta and Rinkus headed to Altus's encampment, Ozzie, Sierra and Manhattan, all of them were in a clearing deep inside the encampment, were enjoying what they thought were their last moments alive. They were all tied to separate saplings with several sturdy vines. Opposite the condemned, only a few feet away, several of Altus's herd were gathering and stacking up large stones.

"Well. I guess this is the end." Ozzie said

"I thought I'd die by stones while fighting the Great Valley dinosaurs. Not while tied to a damned tree!" Sierra said.

"Theta and Hasta will never leave us alone!" Manhattan said.

Suddenly a female tan Egg-Stealer, who served as the executioner, turned to them and spoke. "Any last words?"

"Yes. Screw you!" Sierra spat.

"You'll never defeat us!" Manhattan shouted.

"This isn't the last of us!" Ozzie shouted.

The Egg-Stealer grinned. "Okay then…" Suddenly, an Egg-Stealer ran into the group.

"Forget about the prisoners! Their friends have invaded the encampment!" The new Egg-Stealer said.

The executioner swore. "New orders! Grab a weapon and head to the front of the encampment!"

The Egg-Stealers, most of them arming themselves with the rocks they had intended to use on the condemned, then left the clearing.

As the last Egg-Stealer left, Rinkus dropped from a tree with his knife out.

"Rinkus?" Ozzie asked.

"Quiet." Rinkus hissed.

Rinkus then cut Ozzie, Sierra and Manhattan loose in that order.

"Okay! We're free. Let's go and kill these bastards!" Sierra said.

Ozzie and Sierra immediately grabbed the rocks that their executioners were going to use on them.

"Hey Manhattan, aren't you going to take a weapon?" Sierra asked.

Manhattan shook his head. "I hate using rocks except for throwing. Even my bare hands are better than using a rock in close quarters combat."

"Whatever. Let's go!"

The front of the camp was in utter disarray as Theta's squad swept upon the resting Egg-Stealers. Theta, Hasta, Saber, Nocte and Rinkus were all fighting the Egg-Stealers

The bodies of a few Egg-Stealers lay on the ground.

Sierra joined into the battle, jumping onto an Egg-Stealer and battering him with the rock in his right hand until the Egg-Stealer lay on the ground. Sierra finished off the Egg-Stealer by swinging his rock downwards into the Egg-Stealer's head, crushing his skull and sending droplets of blood flying. He then spotted Rinkus who leapt on an Egg-Stealer and slashed his throat before he knew what hit him.

"Rinkus! Let's try the drop!" Sierra shouted, ducking under a rock thrown by one of the Egg-Stealers.

Rinkus sheathed his knife and nodded.

"Hey! It's the prisoner!" one Egg-Stealer shouted upon seeing Sierra. She had a spear and was preparing to throw it at Hasta who had just crushed another Egg-Stealer's head into a red smear underfoot. She had cocked her arm back but she dropped her spear in shock as Sierra and Rinkus grabbed her and started lifting her into the sky.

"You bastards! Put me down!" The Egg-Stealer shouted.

Sierra laughed. "We'll put you down…in a few moments."

Sierra and Rinkus continued flying upwards until they were at least a hundred feet off the ground.

"Okay, we'll put you down…now!" Rinkus said, letting go of the Egg-Stealer. Sierra followed suit.

The Egg-Stealer continued cursing at Sierra and Rinkus until she struck the ground. "Why…" was all she could say before she died.

"That was…fun." Rinkus said.

Sierra grinned. "Let's do it again!"

They then swooped down into the battlefield. The Night Circle was still high up, showing the carnage of the battle in the encampment.

Manhattan grappled with a knife wielding Egg-Stealer. He had received a few deep slashes to his stomach but he eventually grabbed hold of the Egg-Stealer's weapon arm. Before the Egg-Stealer knew what was happening, Manhattan broke the Egg-Stealer's weapon arm.

The Egg-Stealer screamed in pain and dropped his knife as his right arm was broken but he could not be heard over the sound of the battle.

Manhattan kicked the knife away and grappled with the Egg-Stealer. After a few moments, Manhattan was able to clamp his jaws around the Egg-Stealer's neck.

The Egg-Stealer's face bore an expression of shock before Manhattan clamped his jaws shut, beheading the hapless Egg-Stealer.

Manhattan was then struck by a rock thrown by another Egg-Stealer. He picked up the nearest thing he could reach: the Egg-Stealer's bloody head and tossed it at his attacker. "Eat that!" he shouted. He got another rock thrown at him in response. This rock he ducked under.

"Get 'em, Dil!" Icthy shouted, pointing at a rock wielding Egg-Stealer who was prepared to throw it at Theta.

Icthy flew up to the Egg-Stealer and pecked him about the face.

"Damn it! Leave me alone!" the Egg-Stealer shouted, swiping at Icthy.

Icthy then pecked at the Egg-Stealer again, distracting him from Dil. When he spotted Dil, it was too late; she swung her tail at his legs, breaking both his legs with one blow. The Egg-Stealer collapsed and found himself facing Dil.

"Enjoyed that?" Dil asked.

The crippled Egg-Stealer tried to scoot away from Dil but it was no use. Dil quickly caught him and literally ripped him apart.

Another Egg-Stealer tried to stab Theta from behind but Saber ran up to him and broke his spine with a powerful swing from his stone war hammer. As the Egg-Stealer fell, Saber split his head open with his war hammer.

Ozzie chased down a fleeing Egg-Stealer and beat her to death with his rock. He then returned to the battleground looking for more targets.

"I think we've killed most of them!" Theta shouted.

"They'll fight to the end." Hasta said, charging down a fleeing Egg-Stealer and trampling him underfoot. "They won't stop until they die." As Hasta said the word "die" he brought his right foreleg down on the severely injured Egg-Stealer's head, crushing it into an unrecognizable red paste.

Theta was fighting a rock wielding female Egg-Stealer. He quickly knocked the Egg-Stealer down and stabbed her through the heart with his spear. He pulled his spear out, letting his victim bleed to death. Theta heard Nocte call for help. He turned around and saw Nocte double teamed by two spear wielding Egg-Stealers. He ran to assist him but before he could get there, Nocte was run through by one of the Egg-Stealers.

"Consider this our revenge!" the Egg-Stealer said, pulling his bloody spear out of Nocte's stomach.

Nocte dropped his spear and covered the deep wound in his stomach with his hands; his blood seeped through his fingers, dripping on the ground in black droplets.

"You…will…not…live…to…" Nocte gasped. He then vomited up some blood and collapsed to the ground, fatally injured.

Theta glared at the two Egg-Stealers. "You have made the last mistake of your life." He hissed.

"You're next!" the other Egg-Stealer said.

Hasta, Ozzie, Saber and Manhattan attacked the Egg-Stealers along with Theta. Sierra and Rinkus had crept behind some nearby bushes.

One of the Egg-Stealers swiftly parried a spear thrust from Theta and then a blow from Saber's war hammer. The other Egg-Stealer was trying to fend off Hasta's deadly spiked tail and Ozzie's rock. He tried to use his spear to parry Hasta's tail whip but the tail whip snapped the spear in half. The Egg-Stealer gulped and ran but Ozzie chased him down, pinned him to the ground and beat him to death with his rock.

Theta parried a spear thrust from the Egg-Stealer and retaliated with a swift forehand tail whip that broke several of the Egg-Stealer's ribs. The Egg-Stealer grunted from the blow but did not let up. He jabbed at Theta, who did not dodge in time and received a shallow stab wound. Theta swore and jabbed at the Egg-Stealer. The Egg-Stealer parried the spear thrust. At the same time, Sierra and Rinkus burst out of the nearby bushes and grabbed him. They then flew up into the air with their victim.

"What the! Put me down!" the Egg-Stealer shouted. He jabbed at Sierra with the spear in his right hand. The spear tore a hole in Sierra's right wing.

"Damn it! I'm hit!" Sierra shouted. Another spear thrust tore another hole in his wing.

"Drop him then!" Rinku shouted.

Sierra and Rinkus did just that, dropping the Egg-Stealer from hundreds of feet in the air. The unfortunate Egg-Stealer also landed in a tree, effectively impaling himself on a branch. The shrieking of the severely injured Egg-Stealer resonated around the encampment.

Sierra and Rinkus landed in front of the group.

"Okay now that we've done that now what?" Sierra asked.

"Ransack the encampment and see what they've got." Theta replied.

"Theta, you've been stabbed." Ozzie said, looking at Theta's chest wound.

"It's fine, we'll ransack the camp then we'll deal with injuries."

"You heard Theta! Move!" Hasta ordered

The group split up and began to search the encampment.

Theta and Manhattan went into a passage that led into another clearing. There they encountered Altus who was bearing a long lance armed with a stone tip.

"Hello, asshole. We meet again." Theta said mockingly.

Altus's eyes filled with hatred as he looked past Theta and saw the main section of the encampment strewn with the bodies of his herd members, adults and children, male and female. He then turned his grey eyes, hard as pieces of flint, to Manhattan and Theta. "You slaughtered my herd! You are nothing but monsters. You do not deserve to live."

With that said, Altus immediately attacked Theta and Manhattan. Theta barely had time to parry a ferocious spear thrust. He retaliated with a swipe that left a long slash on Altus's chest. Altus jabbed his spear at Theta again, this thrust was not fully deflected and left another shallow stab wound in Theta's stomach.

Theta swore and used his tail to trip Altus. As Altus fell to the ground and lay on his back, he tried to stab Theta in the groin with his spear. Theta leapt out of the way, allowing Altus to try and get back on his feet. Theta jabbed at Altus who leapt out of the way and moved back a few steps. He kicked dirt into Theta's face to try and slow him down but to no avail. Unfortunately, he stumbled right into Manhattan, who bit Altus's weapon arm.

Altus screamed in pain as part of his arm was torn off by Manhattan's teeth, He dropped his weapon, which Theta kicked aside.

"Well you put up a good fight Altus, I congratulate you. But," Theta then tripped Altus and put his foot on Altus's chest and placed the tip of his spear on Altus's throat. "I can't let you live." With that said, Theta plunged the spear into Altus's neck. Altus gave one last groan of pain as he died.

"Theta! We've searched the whole camp! We're ready to head out." Hasta called.

Theta and Manhattan searched the clearing where they fought Altus but found nothing save Altus's spear, which they took. They then met in the main clearing and regrouped briefly before they headed back to their own encampment.

Several miles away in the meadow of the Night Flowers, Littlefoot's group had harvested the Night Flowers that they needed.

"Thank you." Littlefoot said.

Iquan nodded solemnly. "May your journey home be safe."

With those words having been spoken, Littlefoot and his group headed on the route that would lead them back to the cave..

Far from Littlefoot, Iquan or Theta, on Cloud Island, Rytho, Ed and Vio were asleep in their cave. The Night Circle's watery light bathed everything in a cool white light.

Rytho awoke and woke up his two companions.

"Damn it, Rytho do you always do this?" Ed hissed.

Vio glared at Rytho but did not say anything.

"Quiet." Rytho said, gesturing to the two spear wielding sickleclaw guards outside the cave.

Ed became quiet and listened. "What's the plan?" he whispered.

"We take them out and we look for Ducky."

"Sounds good."

Rytho looked at the two guards and noticed that one faced the interior of the cave and the other faced opposite him. He sighed softly. "One's watching." He whispered.

Ed and Vio looked at each other. "Let's see if we can distract them."

Rytho listened and thought. "I like that idea. Ed, you and I will hide behind these rocks." He gestured to some boulders that were just large enough to conceal them. "Vio, you distract them."

Vio nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

"Ed, Vio, ready?" Rytho asked.

Ed and Vio nodded.

Ed and Rytho hid themselves behind the aforementioned rocks while Vio walked up to the sickleclaw.

"Get back into the cave!" the first sickleclaw ordered, brandishing his spear.

"I was wondering, did you take position of Cloud Island guard because you can't fight? Or did you take it because you enjoy torturing prisoners?"

The sickleclaw spat at Vio. "You have until the count of five before I rip you apart. One… two…three…four…five!"

Vio stood his ground until "five". At "five" he ran further into the cave.

The sickleclaw chased Vio but as he passed by the rock that concealed Ed; he was grabbed and placed in a chokehold.

"You…" the sickleclaw tried to say.

"Shut it!" Ed hissed as he strangled the sickleclaw.

When the sickleclaw stopped moving Ed placed his body aside and waited for the other sickleclaw to investigate.

Sure enough, after a few seconds the other sickleclaw went into the cave and passed by Rytho who grabbed him and repeatedly slammed him headfirst into the boulder until he lay dead.

Ed looked at the dead sickleclaw in a slowly growing pool of blood and the bloody streaks on the boulder. "Well, it works."

Rytho nodded. "We need to get rid of the bodies. I'll take one. Ed you take the other. Vio you stand guard."

Rytho and Ed then grabbed the bodies of the sickleclaws and dragged them out of the cave. They were on a mountain trail and the moon illuminated the rest of Cloud Island, including the forest several hundred feet below them. However, the fog gave everything a hazy look.

"Well, here goes!" Ed said as he pushed the dead sickleclaw off the cliff.

Rytho did the same. They both watched the bodies of the sickleclaws fall to the leafy ground below. "Okay, let's grab the spears."

Ed and Vio went back into the cave and retrieved the spears from the dead guards. They then joined Rytho and headed down the mountain trail.

After journeying for several minutes, they encountered a cave that was lit by a fire from the interior. Two unarmed sickleclaw guards, one facing inwards and one facing outwards guarded the entrance.

Rytho looked at Vio and Ed. "You know what to do."

Ed and Vio nodded.

Vio ran by the guards, only one of whom gave chase.

Ed and Rytho then attacked the other guard. The guard tried to run but was felled by Rytho's well thrown spear. Ed then ran up to the sickleclaw and stepped on his enemy's throat, killing him. He saw a shape moving towards him and he readied his spear.

"Ed. It's Vio." The shape said. The shape then became visible as it moved closer to Ed and it revealed itself to be Vio.

"Nice work! Where's the other guard?" Ed asked.

"I pushed him off a cliff. I sometimes wonder how dumb these guards are." Vio replied.

Rytho in the meantime had removed his spear from the dead sickleclaw and pushed the sickleclaw's body off the mountain trail. "Well, we're ready to head in."

Rytho and his two companions then headed into the cave. What they saw shocked and horrified them.

"Guys! It's Ducky and Chomper!" Rytho whispered.

"Let's get them out of here." Ed said.

Vio went into the cave and found a sharp rock, which he used to cut Ducky and Chomper free. Ed ran over and helped Ducky to the ground. Vio gently tapped Chomper. "Hey Chomper, You okay?"

Chomper groaned. "Ugh. Damn sleep stories!" He did a double take as he noticed that he was looking at someone he knew. "Vio? What…how?"

"I'll explain later. But, yes, I am Vio." Vio replied.

Chomper grinned. "You're…rescuing us?"

Vio nodded.

At the same time Ducky awoke with a pained groan. "This is a sleep story. It is, it is."

Ed gently rubbed Ducky's neck, about the only area that was not covered in dried blood. "No. It is real. You no longer have to endure this."

Ducky sobbed softly. "Thank you."

Rytho was looking around. "We've got to move."

Ed looked at Ducky. "Can you walk?"

Ducky nodded as she stood up but her steps were shaky. "I'll try."

"I'll help." He then placed Ducky's arm over his shoulder and with his assistance, Ducky was able to walk out of the cave to where Rytho, Chomper, Ed and Vio were waiting.

"Let's move out!" Rytho said.

The group nodded and headed down the rocky trail with Rytho in the lead and Vio at the end.

After a few hours, thanks to having to stop often so Ed and Ducky could rest, they made it to the trailhead at the base of the mountain.

"Where to now? I don't think we can actually get off this island." Vio said.

"The forest." Rytho said. "Any objections?"

The group shook their heads.

"The forest it is." Rytho said. The group then entered the misty forest. As they walked into the forest, they vanished into the mists.

Above them, the first fiery golden rays of dawn could be seen on the horizon.

Chapter 21: Departure

Littlefoot wandered through the Great Valley. All he could see were the bodies of the Great Valley dinosaurs strewn about. The entire valley was wreathed in an eerie and icy mist and a pale sun shone overhead in a stone-grey sky.

"Grandma? Grandpa? Cera? Ducky? Ali? Spike? Petrie? Deimos? Raptix? Where are you?" Littlefoot shouted.

He got no reply save for the echoes of his voice and the chill whistling of the wind. He bent his head as tears began to flow from his eyes.

"Damn it! Where is everyone! Answer me!" Littlefoot shouted, his voice racked with sobs.

This time he did get an answer: "Littlefoot, the Longneck who felled the unstoppable. I am back." A mysterious voice said. The voice was as cold as the mists that surrounded him and had a preternatural wispy quality.

Littlefoot gulped. "Who…who's there?"

"I am…your worst foe." The voice said.

"Who?" Littlefoot was now trembling with fear and cold.

"I am the Sharptooth."

Littlefoot gulped. "N…no. No. No! He's dead…I…I saw him. He…he died in a lake in the Mysterious Beyond."

"No. I am the Sharptooth and I am back." The mists then parted to reveal a colossal midnight black sharptooth with eyes that emitted a bright blue-white glow. The sharptooth had one other feature that set him apart from others: two thin crystalline blades projected from the bottom of his forearms.

The sharptooth then approached him, arm blades gleaming in the pale sun.

"Damn it! Get away from me!" Littlefoot shouted. He tail whipped a large rock at the sharptooth but he easily sliced the boulder in two with his arm blades, the halves falling aside with a mighty crash.

"Hmph. A poor try for the Longneck who once took down the mightiest sharptooth of all." The sharptooth spat.

Littlefoot swung his tail at the sharptooth in response. The sharptooth grinned and parried Littlefoot's tail with one of his arm blades.

Littlefoot screamed as the arm blade sheared off a large part of his tail. The severed end fell with a wet squish.

"A useless move." The sharptooth said.

Littlefoot then charged the sharptooth despite the intense pain he was in. The sharptooth slashed at Littlefoot's leg with his arm blade, cutting off Littlefoot's left foreleg at the knee.

"N…No! What are you?" Littlefoot demanded in between ragged breaths and tears.

"That is not important." The sharptooth responded, severing Littlefoot's right foreleg with a quick slash.

Littlefoot then toppled over in a pool of blood and the sharptooth crossed his arm blades into an "x" formation with Littlefoot's head between the two blades.

Littlefoot gulped as the sharptooth slowly bought his blades together, cutting into his neck. He screamed as the blade cut deeper and blood began to ooze from the slash.

Then suddenly, Littlefoot found himself inside the stone cathedral where they first met Archie. All his friends were present and all were awake.

"Littlefoot? What happened?" Raptix asked.

"Um what?" Littlefoot asked. "Am I bleeding?"

"You're not bleeding. But you were talking in your sleep and you were moving around a lot too."

"Erm. I had a really scary sleep story where I met this weird sharptooth with crystals growing out of his arms and they were so sharp they cut stone. He…" Littlefoot shivered. "Killed me."

"It's a sleep story; it can't hurt you." Ali said nuzzling Littlefoot.

"Yeah. It's probably nothing."

Coatal just landed inside the cave. "The Bright Circle is rising; we need to move."

Strut, Raptix and Coatal broke camp and the group then exited the cave.

Far from the stone cathedral of the Mysterious Beyond; the golden rays of the late afternoon sun shone over the dense fogs of Cloud Island.

On Cloud Island's mountain, the pale light illuminated some dinosaurs near a cave.

Ms. Maia, Procella and some other dinosaurs were gathered around the cave.

"What do you mean you arrived when the Bright circle rose and you found the guards were missing?" Procella demanded.

"Exactly what I mean; when my partner and I arrived to replace the guards of the Swimmer and sharptooth taken from the Great Valley, we found that the cave was unguarded and the prisoners missing. They must have escaped." The golden sickleclaw replied flatly.

Ms. Maia walked up to the sickleclaw, grabbed him in a chokehold and pushed him near the cliff. He was so close to the cliff that some pebbles were knocked loose and fell several hundred feet through the thin mists into the forest below.

The sickleclaw struggled briefly before Ms. Maia's stone-hard grip threatened to break his wrist.

"Don't give me that, 'they must have escaped' junk. You know damn well that they were bound to rocks! You were just careless! And I should throw you off this cliff for that!" Ms. Maia hissed.

"Ms. Maia! Focus your anger on the prisoners not the guards! Killing the guard will not help!" Procella commanded.

Ms. Maia dragged the guard back from the edge and literally tossed him to his partner, a light green male sickleclaw who caught him and gently helped him get back to his feet.

"Why did we let this one here? She's evil and outright crazy!" a green and gold sickleclaw said.

His companion, a female green and blue sickleclaw nodded. "She threw a fast-biter off a cliff for failing to get information out of a prisoner. A search party, with me as the leader, found his body in a tree, impaled through the chest on a large branch. And the worst part was… he was found alive and he had been alive for a few nights. We couldn't do anything for him and he was in so much pain that Procella snapped his neck." She shuddered at the memory.


Procella sighed as she listened to the two sickleclaws. "Could you not bring that incident up?"

"Sorry." The green and blue sickleclaw said.

"It's okay. We'll continue searching."

In the meantime, Chomper, Vio, Ed, Rytho and a weak, emaciated Ducky had travelled deep into the forest. The mists that veiled the forests had thinned with the rising of the sun and the forest was rich with a mélange of odors: leaf litter, dirt, rain and vegetation.

"Well, I guess we're good. This island's so big they'll never find us." Vio said. Both he and Ed were supporting Ducky.

"Don't get too cocky." Rytho replied.

"I'm getting dizzy." Ducky began.

"It's okay, we're almost there."

"I need to…" Ducky then collapsed to the ground, nearly taking Vio down with her. They put their weapons down quickly before Vio and Ed gently turned her onto her back.

"Ducky! Are you okay?" Vio called out as he crouched down next to her.

"I'm not going to make it," she whispered. She was terribly pale and gaunt. Vio rested a hand on her forehead.

"You'll make it, Ducky. We're gonna get out of here. Ed! Rytho! Find some green food quickly!"

Ed and Rytho, who had also crouched next to Ducky, jumped up and went to find the most succulent green food they could find. Chomper came up to Vio and Ducky.

"Will she be all right?" Chomper asked out of concern for his friend. Vio nodded.

"Yeah, as long as we get some food in her soon. Bastards! I can't believe they did this to you, Ducky. They'll pay with their lives for sure!" said Vio.

Upon hearing that, Ducky thought about her brother, Saurolo, who had been murdered in cold blood. She suddenly began to cry harshly.

"Ducky, what's the matter?" Vio asked. Ducky said nothing for a few moments before she began.

"My…my brother…Saurolo. He…was killed. He was…he was." she sobbed.

"What?" Vio gasped.

"Yes," Ducky choked. "They could not get me to talk, so they killed him…right in front of me. He… was gutted then decapitated. This is mostly his blood on me." She was crying harder by that point.

"Shh," Chomper soothed as he rested a hand on Ducky's shoulder. "Don't cry so hard, Ducky. You haven't much strength."

"Let her grieve," Vio said compassionately. "Don't worry, Ducky. We'll get those damn bastards for this. Your brother's death will be avenged." Just then, Ed and Rytho returned with an abundance of succulent green food.

"Look what we've brought, Ducky," Rytho said. He and Ed then noticed Ducky's harsh crying, along with Vio and Chomper comforting her.

"What's wrong?" Ed asked.

"Her brother was killed right in front of her in those assholes' attempts to get her to talk. That's why she's bloody," Vio explained.

"Aw, we're sorry, Ducky. We'll get 'em back, but for now, try to eat something," Rytho soothed.

"I don't know if I can. Poor Saurolo," Ducky sniffled.

"C'mon, Ducky. This is life or death," Ed said. Ducky looked even more pitiful than before. He and Rytho brought the food over and sat down next to Ducky.

"Here, let me help you," Vio soothed as he carefully lifted Ducky to a sitting position and held her. He could care less if she was bloody or not. She needed support more than ever, and he knew she was on the brink of death. Ducky tried to lift her hand to pick up some green food but to no avail.

"I can't do it," she whispered. "I'm done for."

"Oh, no you're not. Stop thinking like that. Ed, give me some of that green food," Vio ordered. Ed did as told.

"C'mon, Ducky. This green food is very luscious. You'll enjoy it," said Vio just before he fed Ducky a mouthful of green food. She slowly chewed before it went down.

"That is good, it is, it is. Can I have some more?" she asked weakly.

"As much as you can eat, Ducky," Vio soothed as Ed gave him more green food. It took a while, but Ducky managed to eat most of the green food. Vio, Ed, Rytho and Chomper all smiled in a pleased fashion.

"Feel better?" Vio asked as he gently rubbed Ducky's abdomen.

"Food wise," Ducky replied, this time with more strength in her voice. "But I could use a bath right now."

"Hey, Ed and I found a stream nearby when we were getting green food," said Rytho.

"Outstanding. Help me get her up," Vio ordered. Ed and Rytho did as told. Once Vio managed to walk Ducky over to the stream and help her sit down in the water, she began to scrub herself off. As she did that, Saurolo's blood and her own blood drifted down the stream. She began to cry again. She had been very close to her brother, and even blamed herself for his murder. She loved him, along with her other siblings, very much. Her heart wrenched as she thought of him. "I'm sorry, Saurolo. Please forgive me," she sniffled as she finished bathing. Meanwhile, a short distance downstream, the others were silent as they frequently glanced over at Ducky.

"I feel so bad for her," said Rytho.

"I know."

"This is a sad time for her, but she's tough. She'll get over this quickly," added Ed.

"No, Ed," replied Chomper. "I've known Ducky since we were very young. She's the most sensitive dinosaur I have ever known, and family means so much to her. It will take her many cold times to get over her brother's death. We have to be strong for her." Chomper looked over at Ducky again and noticed she was trying to get up but was having difficulty.

"Hey, she's done. Let's go help her," Chomper said as he began to walk over to Ducky. The others followed. Ducky looked up as they came over to her. As they helped her up, they noticed she was crying again.

"It's okay, Ducky," Chomper whispered as he embraced her. She returned the gesture. The others could not help but notice the markings she had received as a result of being tortured.

"Those bastards are really asking for an ass kicking!" growled Rytho, smashing his right fist into his left hand.

"Count me in!" agreed Ed.

Chomper growled under his breath. "I don't like killing but this time I'll make an exception."

"There is a time for everything and now's not the time for vengeance. Let's allow her to rest up," Vio said. They then walked Ducky a few feet away from the stream before lowering her down.

"Sleep well, Ducky. We'll keep watch," Chomper soothed just before he nuzzled Ducky's head.

"Yeah, we will," Vio added, gently rubbing Ducky's back. "If those bastards come anywhere near you, we'll take care of them."

"Thank you," Ducky whispered.

"Don't worry, Ducky," Rytho said as he gave Ducky's hand a light squeeze.

"Be not afraid, for we'll protect you," Ed added as he patted Ducky's shoulder.

"Thanks again, guys," Ducky whispered nearly inaudibly as she fell asleep.

"You're quite welcome," Vio said. "C'mon, guys. Hold your weapons and keep your eyes peeled." As they sat, their backs turned to Ducky as they kept her surrounded, could not help but glance at her now and then. The thought of what those evil monsters had put her through only made their hunger for vengeance intensify.

Rytho looked over at the sleeping form of Ducky. His heart wrenched as various emotions churned inside: anger, hatred, sadness and grief. He sighed and turned to the other members of the group. "When I helped Ducky into the stream; I noticed that a lot of her injuries were untreated. We need to get her some herbs."

"We're on a hostile island." Chomper said.

"We'll have to steal some herbs from the enemy. Ed, you come with me and see if we can find an encampment. Don't take any spears." Rytho replied.

Ed's mouth dropped. "No weapons?"

Rytho nodded. "Yes. We'll need something smaller like a knife or a vine." His eyes fell on a vine dangling from a tree. He gently tugged it and it fell to the ground. He then bit the vine in half and handed one half to Ed.

"Ready?" Rytho asked, slinging the vine over his shoulder.

Ed nodded. "Let's go!"

Ed and Rytho headed off into the forest, the mists soon swallowed them.

"Be safe." Chomper whispered.

After several minutes of journeying through the mists, Ed and Rytho spotted the light of a campfire. They hid behind some convenient trees.

"Nice." Rytho whispered.

Ed and Rytho then crept closer to the campfire and noticed that there was a sickleclaw and a fast-biter. The sickleclaw looked at Rytho but didn't notice him.

"I'll go first." Rytho whispered. Ed nodded in response.

"Go!" Rytho whispered as the sickleclaw turned his back to them.

Rytho and Ed burst into the encampment, much to the surprise of the two dinosaurs.

The sickleclaw tried to run but Rytho immediately looped the vine around his neck and pulled tightly. The sickleclaw struggled and kicked at Rytho at an attempted to get free but Rytho pulled the vine even tighter. Eventually the sickleclaw stopped struggling and Rytho tossed the dead sickleclaw aside.

Ed grabbed the fast-biter and strangled him with the vine. As soon as the fast-biter died, he wedged the body inside a stump.

"Nice work." Rytho said. "Now, let's start searching."

Ed nodded and looked inside another hollow stump. He retrieved several leaf packets. He opened one and sniffed it. "This is sickleclaw paste."

"Good." Rytho then looked near the campfire and found several darts on a stone slab. "Hey Ed! I found some darts but they're not treated yet."

"Don't bother. Unless we can find a hollow reed and some poison, they're useless." Ed replied.

Rytho shrugged and almost tossed the darts into the campfire until he spotted a reed leaning against a tree. "And we found one." He then grabbed the reed.

Ed in the mean time looked inside a tree hollow and found a leaf packet of a revolting smelling orange paste. "What is this stuff?" Ed asked, making a face as the fumes struck his nose.

Rytho sniffed it and also grimaced in response. "I think this is It's made from orangis fruit peel and the juice from the leaves of the penthium tree."

"So what's it for?" Ed asked.

Rytho wrinkled his brow in thought. "According to Mr. Bigmouth, it can be used in small doses as a truth juice or as a dart poison that can quickly knock out targets or kill them, depending on how many times you shoot your target."

"That'll work." Ed then took the sickleclaw paste and the penthium.

"We're done here." Rytho said.

Ed and Rytho then returned to where Ducky was still sleeping.

"So find anything?" Vio asked.

Ed and Rytho placed their goods by Vio's feet.

"Sickleclaw paste, dart poison made from orangis fruit peel and the juice from the leaves of the penthium tree, some darts and a hollow reed." Rytho replied.

Chomper looked at the hollow reed. "I am fairly proficient with this weapon. May I take it?"

Rytho nodded. "Sure, we need some way to attack targets at range. But be careful; we don't have many darts and we only have one packet of the dart poison."

Chomper nodded and picked up the reed.

Rytho and Ed picked up their spears. "Well, I guess we wait until Ducky wakes up." Ed said.

Rytho nodded. "Yes. The sickleclaw paste should help Ducky's wounds heal but there is nothing we can do for her memories of this place. Not even the juice of the penthium tree will help."

As the sun also set in the Land of the Mists, the Claw Valley search squad was setting up camp in an open clearing inside a forest. A small river dividing the clearing in half

Ozzie, Sierra, Utah and Umbra were removing their equipment from Theta.

As Theta built a fire ring and piled tinder in it; Manhattan struck several sparks from flint into it. After several sparks landed in the tinder pile, the smoke began to appear.

"I've got this." Manhattan said. Theta nodded and stepped back from the fire ring.

Manhattan blew on the smoldering tinder until it burst into flame; he then tossed broken pieces of twigs into the fire and watched as it flared up.

"We need to hunt." Saber said. His stone war hammer was with the other weapons.

"I'll go." Theta said. He grabbed his pouch of stone throwing knives. He then turned to the gathered dinosaurs. "Who wants to join me on a hunting trip?"

Utah, Sierra and Umbra, who by now had finished removing the equipment from Hasta, stepped up.

Theta grinned. "All right then. Grab your weapons and go!"

Umbra grabbed a stone tipped lance, Sierra grabbed a stone knife and Utah grabbed Saber's war hammer.

"Utah! Put my war hammer back!" Saber shouted.

Utah put the hammer back and grabbed a large tree branch that was lying near the pile of weapons.

The group then met back with Theta and headed off into the forest.

"Well, our mission is totally screwed. We didn't find them." Hasta said.

"Don't be such a pessimist." Rinkus replied, "We'll find them and then we'll kill them,"

Sierra had caught a fish from the river and was eating it. Next to him, Ozzie tied was swinging a vine with a rock tied to the end of it over his head.

Sierra then looked at Ozzie. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to replicate a weapon we found in Altus's encampment. Sadly, it was destroyed in the battle." Ozzie replied.

"What was that weapon?"

"It looked like something used to throw a rock farther and harder."

Sierra chuckled. "Altus might have been a total asshole but at least he's useful for something."

Ozzie then stood up and whirled the vine around his head. He let go of the vine after several revolutions and watched as the rock flew through the air and out of sight, narrowly missing Hasta in the process.

"Damn it! Watch what you're doing!" Hasta shouted. He was relaxing by the fire.

"Sorry!" Ozzie replied.

Sierra slapped his forehead. "Sorry. Not that great. Yes, the rock flew further but it takes too long to tie the vines to the rocks."

"So we could prepare them like we do poison darts."

"Yes but we need something that can throw rocks harder and farther in battle and can be used more than once."

Ozzie got up and grabbed several pieces of vine and braided them together, forming a crude sling. He then showed it to Sierra.

"Well, will this do?" he asked.

"Try it." Sierra replied.

Ozzie placed a rock in the middle of the sling, where the two vines formed a small pouch. He whirled the sling over his head and sent a rock flying into a tree. The rock knocked off a large tree branch as it struck.

"Nice." Sierra said. "What shall we call it?"

Ozzie thought a moment. "I have heard Altus's dinosaurs call it 'sling'. And that's what we'll call it."

"Sounds good."

Just then the hunting party returned with no carcasses. Saber greeted the group at the front of the encampment.

"Get anything?" Saber asked.

Theta shook his head. "No. But we found our targets. They have set up camp a short distance away."

"So what do we do?" Utah asked.

"Simple. Kill them." Theta replied. He then turned to the group. "Okay everyone, we've found the targets and we're going to kill them."

As Theta was speaking, Ozzie looked at his sling. "I guess now is good time to test my sling."

Sierra grinned. "Yes, now let's go!"

Ozzie and Sierra then headed over to the entrance where Theta was standing.

The dinosaurs rushed to arm themselves grabbed their weapons. Some of them grabbed torches as well.

After several minutes, the dinosaurs were armed and they headed out, with Theta as the leader. Only Hasta remained behind to guard the encampment.

Several hundred meters away, Littlefoot's group has set up camp inside a similar clearing, except there were two rivers flowing into a small pond in the middle. A small campfire that had been lit by Strut was on the shores of the pond.

Coda, Strut, Cera, Spike and Coatal were resting near the leftmost river.

Ali and Littlefoot were warming themselves by the campfire. At the same time they were gazing into each other's eyes.

"Littlefoot, did I ever tell you that your eyes are beautiful?" Ali said.

Littlefoot giggled. "Yes. But your eyes are like the cool waters of the Thundering Falls…" He spotted a pair of emerald green eyes on the other side of the campfire. "Raptix! Give us some privacy!" he shouted.

"Yeah! Don't you have someone else, like Cera to bother?" Ali shouted.

Raptix quickly scurried away from the campfire to where the others were.

"So what did you find out?" Cera asked.

Raptix grinned. "It looks like Ali and Littlefoot love each other."

"They'll make a fine couple." Coda said.

Cera giggled. "Yep. I knew that. Ever since I first saw Ali and Littlefoot; I could see them as a couple."

Strut was intently listening to the whole conversation. "It's kind of shocking, it's like this war brings everyone closer together. Flatteeth, sharpteeth and even Egg-Stealers, all joined together to defeat one common enemy."

"And to conquer." Raptix added darkly.

"Well, we should get rested." Coda said.

Just as Coda spoke, a stone hurtled out of seemingly nowhere, narrowly missing Strut.

"Scatter!" Coda shouted.

Littlefoot and Ali ran up to the group. "What happened?" Ali asked.

"We're under attack! Prepare for defense!" Coatal said.

Meanwhile outside the clearing, Theta's squad rallied to attack.

"Ozzie, use your poison darts to attack from a distance. Once you run out of darts, use your sling. Manhattan, protect Ozzie. The rest of you will join me in attacking."

The gathered dinosaurs nodded.

"Okay then. Charge!" Theta shouted. He and the rest of the group, except Ozzie and Manhattan, charged into the clearing.

Inside the clearing, the group had fallen into formation. Strut was airborne on Coatal's back.

The sounds of shouting could be heard.

"They're here!" Strut shouted, spotting the torches that Theta's group carried.

"Prepare for battle!" Littlefoot bellowed. His powerful voice resonated around the encampment.

Chapter 22: Battle in the Beyond

Strut flew to the edges of the meadow and to his horror he spotted several dinosaurs, most of them armed or bearing torches. The red light of the torches stood out against the darkened earth.

"Coatal! I see Ozzie!" Strut said. Unfortunately, Ozzie spotted Coatal and launched a stone at them from his sling.

Coatal quickly did a barrel roll, dodging the projectile. Strut screamed and held on tightly.

"Coatal, was that needed?" Strut panted.

"Well, it was either that or take a rock to the face." Coatal replied.

"Right, let's arm ourselves!" Coatal and Strut headed back to their campsite landed near their weapons cache and Strut grabbed his hollow reed and poison darts. They soon took to the air.

Raptix grabbed his stone knife and drew it from its sheath. "It's do or die."

"Protect the flowers!" Littlefoot shouted.

Coda, Cera and Spike moved into defensive positions around the pile of Night Flowers.

As soon as Coda, Spike and Cera moved into defensive positions, Theta's squad closed in brandishing their weapons.

"Damn it! We should have bought some more two footers!" Raptix shouted.

"Why?" Cera asked.

"Why do you think?" A sling stone narrowly missed his head and dug itself into the ground behind him.

Strut carefully opened the canister of poison darts and loaded his blowgun. "Coatal! Fly low!"

Coatal nodded and flew lower over the enemy dinosaurs. As soon as Strut got a clear shot at Utah, he fired a dart that struck the ground near Utah. Strut reloaded and fired off another dart, this time striking Utah in the shoulder.

"Ow!" Utah exclaimed as the dart struck him. He pulled out the dart and sniffed it. "They've poisoned the darts! But I'm still standing!" He then turned to Coatal's sky borne form, illuminated by the light of his torch. "It'll take more than these weak poison darts!" he shouted.

"Damn it! It takes like five darts to kill one sickleclaw." Strut hissed. "And I only have," He looked inside the canister that was slung over his shoulder. "eight more darts." He reloaded his hollow reed and fired at Utah, striking him in the face. Utah pulled out the dart and tossed it on the ground.

Suddenly, Sierra and Rinkus dove from the sky and started attacking Coatal and Strut with their talons and claws.

"Damn it! That was a dirty trick!" Strut shouted, swiping at Sierra with his hollow reed. Rinkus slashed at Strut's body, leaving some scratches on his chest, and aimed a slash at Strut's face, which he blocked with his arm, leaving him with a few minor scratches.

Sierra abruptly dropped in altitude, dodging the swipe. "Yeah? And tying Ozzie to a tree and kicking him in the groin several times isn't?" he taunted.

"That's different!" Strut shouted. He was too distracted to notice the Rinkus had flown out of sight. Strut soon felt a tug on his shoulder and he turned around and noticed Rinkus in the process of trying to steal his poison darts.

"Let go of my poison darts!" Strut shouted. He swiped at Rinkus with his hollow reed but Sierra grabbed it and tried to pull it away from him. Strut pushed the reed back and Sierra lost his grip on the reed.

In the meantime, Rinkus bit through the vine holding the canister to Strut's shoulders and flew off with the canister in his talons before Strut could react. Sierra tried to bite Strut but he dodged the bite. Strut retaliated by swiping at Sierra's left wing with his hollow reed.

A quick bank by Sierra saved him from having his wing broken in two but the reed clipped him on the shoulder. He flinched as the blow landed. He tried to grab the reed with his talons but Strut clawed him across the face, leaving two deep slashes that dripped blood. Sierra spat at Strut and flew off, landing near the edges of the battlefield.

Coda, Cera and Spike were mostly safe from the battle. Coda was hit with a few stray sling stones but she was too large for them to have much effect.

On the edge of the battle, Ozzie was sending sling stone after sling stone at the combatants, being careful not to hit any of his own teammates.

"Ozzie! Use the darts!" Manhattan shouted. He was bearing a torch in his left hand and his fighting stick was in his right hand.

"I can't really get a clear shot." Ozzie replied.

"Try anyways!" Manhattan snapped.

Ozzie swore, opened his canister of darts and loaded his hollow reed which was laying by his feet. He took aim at Coda and fired but she turned her head to say something to Littlefoot and the dart missed her.

Rinkus gently set down the pilfered darts next to Ozzie and tapped him on the shoulder. "Ozzie, I have some new darts."

Ozzie's shot went wide thanks to Rinkus's distraction.

"Rinkus, stop distracting me! I've already used up two darts!" he hissed.

"Sorry." Rinkus then leapt into the air and flew to Umbra, who had lit a fire near the edges of the battlefield.

"Umbra, why did you find it necessary to light a fire during a battle?" Rinkus asked.

"Well, we'll need a supply of torches." Umbra replied.

"Okay but we also need fighters!"

Umbra said nothing but placed a burning long stick next to his feet. "Try and drop this on their flowers." She then grabbed some twigs and fed the fire with them. She then placed two more sticks near but not in the fire.

Rinkus shook his head. "Listen, I am not carrying a flaming stick in my talons."

Umbra sighed. "It's not going to hurt you. The stick's long enough that you won't get burned."

"All right." Rinkus said, "But if I get burned, you're getting it."

"Rinkus, pick up the damn torch!" Umbra shouted.

Rinkus did so and flew off towards the group that was defending the Night Flowers with the firebrand in his talons.

At the same time Theta arrived next to Umbra and he tossed the burned out remains of his torch into the campfire. "Umbra! I need another torch!"

Umbra thrust one of the sticks into the campfire, after a few moments, it ignited and she handed it to Theta who then rushed back into the battlefield.

A short distance away from Umbra, Ozzie loaded and prepared to fire another dart at Spike. Suddenly the dart missed Spike by a large margin as Coatal grazed the hollow reed with his body, throwing off Ozzie's aim.

Manhattan swiped at Coatal with his fighting stick but quick upward swipe of Strut's reed caught Manhattan under the chin, knocking him back and staggering him. In that time, Coatal seized the dart canisters and flew upwards.

"Give my darts back!" Ozzie shouted, grabbing the vine of one of the canisters.

Coatal flapped even harder to try and break Ozzie's grip while Strut jabbed at Ozzie with his reed. Even though Strut landed a direct hit on Ozzie's stomach, he didn't let go. Eventually the vine snapped and the canister overturned, spilling its contents of bloodplant laced darts on the ground.

Ozzie growled and swiped at Coatal who was ascending into the sky. The reed struck Coatal's talons causing him to drop the canister. The canister fell down and hit Ozzie in the head, luckily for him he was not hit by any of the poison darts.

Coatal flew low to the ground and Strut scooped up some sling stones that were laying around. Coatal then flew up into the air and Strut started tossing the stones at the enemy forces. As he flew in the air, he noticed the shapes of Swimmers out the outside of the battlefield.

One stone was aimed at Hasta but the stone struck a branch and was deflected. Another stone was dodged by Saber. Yet another stone struck Umbra's campfire, showering her in hot ashes. She grabbed a stick that was alight at one end and hurled it at Coatal.

"They're using fire against us!" Coatal gasped, quickly flying upwards to avoid the burning projectile.

Umbra threw another lit torch at Coatal, who banked to avoid the projectile.

"Strut! Do something about that bastard throwing flaming sticks at me!" Coatal shouted.

Strut nodded and picked up his last rock, a smooth egg shaped grey projectile. He took aim at Umbra and threw the rock at her. Umbra tried to jump out of the way but the rock struck her in the leg, knocking her down. She tried to stand but she swore as she found out that her leg was broken. She crawled behind a tree.

Coatal and Strut then flew around the perimeter of the battlefield searching for enemies, suddenly a stone flew right at Strut's head. Strut suddenly dropped down, causing Coatal to grunt as Strut slammed his body into Coatal's back.

"Strut! Can you not do that? You nearly broke my back!" Coatal shouted.

"Sorry, it's just that a rock nearly hit me." Strut replied.

"Well, there are the rock throwers." Coatal indicated with the tilt of his head to the right.

Strut looked to the right and noticed several Swimmers, who were apparently armed with sticks and what appeared to be vine slings. "Great, we flew into an ambush." He ducked, this time being careful to avoid hurting Coatal, as a rock flew overhead.

A dark brown female Swimmer with a tan crescent mark on her face pointed to Coatal and two Swimmers armed with slings launched a few rocks at Coatal.

Coatal's quick bank to the right let him dodge a sling stone but the Swimmers had anticipated this and he banked into the path of another sling stone that flew into his chest, breaking several ribs with an audible cracking noise.

"Coatal! Are you okay?" Strut asked.

"Busted a few ribs, but I can still fight." Coatal replied.

"We need to rearm."

Coatal nodded and flew down towards the enemy slingers. He noticed that the slingers were indiscriminately attacking the combatants, aiming equally at Claw Valley and Great Valley dinosaurs. He saw Hasta run down and trample one of the slingers and Theta stab another slinger to death.

Coatal landed behind some bushes near a lone slinger. The slinger was so busy looking for targets to hit that he didn't notice the rustling as Coatal landed.

Strut removed his stone knife from its pouch on his leg. He crept closer to the slinger, who remained oblivious.

Suddenly, Strut burst from the bushes, gagged the slinger with his free hand and slit his throat. Strut ignored the blood running down his hand. He pushed the critically injured Swimmer down, bent down and began to pick up the rocks he used for ammunition.

Coatal looked on from a safe distance. He noticed that the severely injured slinger had somehow gotten to his feet and grabbed his backup weapon, a heavy stick studded with sharp flakes of rock. "Strut!" he shouted.

Strut turned around and noticed the slinger heading towards him. He started throwing the rocks that he picked up at the Slinger, several of the rocks found their mark amid the sound of bone breaking under the hail of rocks. Strut threw his last rock at the slinger's head, breaking his nose with an audible crunching sound. The Swimmer wobbled and eventually fell to the ground with a great crash. Strut ran up to the Swimmer and cut his throat again. This time, Strut cut so deeply that the Swimmer's head was attached to his neck only by a small piece of flesh. Strut picked up some of the rocks, now stained red with the Swimmer's blood and headed back to Coatal.

"Ouch." Coatal said, looking at the slowly spreading pool of blood around the dead Swimmer.

Strut, with his arms full of rocks, boarded Coatal. Some more slingers had arrived and started attacking Coatal and Strut with their slings. Strut retaliated with a bombardment of rocks that forced the slingers to keep their heads down. Before the slingers could recover, Coatal flew out of range.

As Coatal passed over the battlefield, he began to roll sharply to one side.

Strut lay down on Coatal and held on tightly. "Coatal! What's wrong?"

"My ribs! I'll have to land." Coatal responded. He gently glided down near the three defenders. Strut quickly dismounted Coatal and headed over to Spike where he retrieved his spear and some packets of sickleclaw paste. He ran back to where Coatal was resting and began treating his wounds.

At the same time, Ozzie and Manhattan were fighting with two slingers. Both of the slingers were armed with their backup weapons, a stick laced with sharp flakes of rock.

Manhattan parried a blow from one of the slingers causing their weapons to lock. He spat into the slinger's eyes, causing him to withdraw. He then backed off and waited for the slinger to make his move. The slinger charged him and Manhattan pivoted and tripped the slinger. He then stood over him and bought his stick down onto the slinger's head. The slinger swiftly parried with his weapon and punched Manhattan in the groin. Manhattan grimaced as the painful blow landed. The slinger took advantage of the distraction and knocked Manhattan's legs out from under him with a swift tail whip. The slinger got back onto his feet and Manhattan swept his tail at the slinger's legs but he missed. The slinger went over to Manhattan's prone form and ground his weapon hand under his foot. Manhattan screamed in agony as his hand was crushed under the Swimmer's weight. He let loose with a volley of the foulest profanities he knew in both Leaf-Eater and Sharptooth and slashed the Swimmer's leg with his free hand. The deep slashes didn't seem to affect the slinger at all and he said nothing but simply spat in Manhattan's face and stomped on his groin, leaving Manhattan doubled over in complete agony.

Before the slinger could attack Ozzie, he felt a sharp pain in his back.

"Sorry about that, but I hate groin attacks." Theta said, pulling his stone knife from the Swimmer's back. The slinger turned around but Theta stabbed him once more in the back. The Swimmer coughed up some blood and rushed Theta with his weapon.

Theta tried to leap out of the way of the club but lost his footing and the club grazed his side, the rock flakes lightly cutting him.

The Swimmer leered at the fallen form of Theta and prepared to crush his skull with the club. He kicked Theta in the groin and Theta responded by stabbing his attacker in the groin. Theta paid no heed to the blood dripping on him or the screaming of the Swimmer he had stabbed. He pulled out the knife, staggered to his feet and stabbed the Swimmer in the stomach twice. The Swimmer doubled over in pain and Theta seized his opponent's head and slashed his throat, sending a spurt of blood that struck Ozzie.

"Ozzie! Use this!" Theta shouted, seizing the club from the dead Swimmer and tossing it to Ozzie, who caught it. He then sat down near a rock; the adrenaline induced pain relief was wearing off. "I promised that I'd kill any dinosaur who attacks my groin. But damn it! They always do!" Theta hissed

Ozzie immediately went on the offensive, attacking the surprised slinger. The slinger was briefly caught off guard by the change in tactics but she quickly recovered. She swiftly parried Ozzie's attack and punched him in the jaw, briefly dazing him. Ozzie quickly moved his head out of the way of a powerful downward swing and he slashed the Swimmer's chest. The Swimmer ignored the slashes and swung at Ozzie again. He swiftly parried the attack and swung his club at her, she deflected the blow to her ribs but she received a few cuts to the legs. Ozzie swung his club at her legs but the Swimmer leapt backwards and Ozzie nearly lost his balance. The Swimmer took advantage of that fact and raised her club for the fatal blow but Ozzie barely managed to avoid it. Ozzie then avoided a sweeping tail whip and he struck the Swimmer in the right knee, breaking it. The Swimmer fell to one knee and swiped at Ozzie's legs with her club. Ozzie leapt over the attack and bought the club down on her weapon arm, breaking it as well. The Swimmer screamed in pain and dropped her weapon. Ozzie then lined up the Swimmer's head and his weapon and swung his club into her head with both hands. The powerful impact completely caved in the right side of the Swimmer's head. She collapsed, with blood pouring from her nose and the massive injury on her head. Ozzie shrugged and headed over to Manhattan.

"Hey, Manhattan! You okay?" Ozzie asked.

"Damn it, Strut! Does it…look like…I'm okay?" Manhattan hissed through teeth clenched with pain. "I…need…a…break and Aconite's painkilling herb mix."

Ozzie nodded and went over to Theta. "You okay?" he asked.

Theta nodded.

Meanwhile, Raptix darted around the battlefield, taking advantage of his incredible agility. He dodged a blow from Utah's tree branch and slashed his legs. Utah kicked at Raptix, who easily dodged the blow. Raptix then stabbed Utah in the right foot, embedding his knife deep into Utah's foot. Utah screamed in agony as the stone knife penetrated his flesh.

"You sneaky bastard!" Utah shouted. He tried to chase Raptix but the severe injury and Raptix's agility hindered him.

Raptix grinned. "Thank you." He said. Raptix then ran back to where Coda, Spike and Cera where guarding the flowers and where Strut was. In the meantime, Utah hobbled away to where Manhattan and Ozzie were located.

"Hey, Cera do we have any more stone knives?" he asked.

Cera frowned. "How should I know? You're the only one here who fights with a knife!"

"Cera, I didn't ask for a wisecrack! Just answer the damn question!" Raptix shouted.

"Geez, no need to be so rude! But as to your question, I think you had one of the only knives we have. Strut has a knife but I'm not sure if he's willing to part with it."

"Sorry Raptix, but I only have two spears as weapons, one for throwing and one for close combat. I like to have a back up weapon so I'm defenseless when I lose both spears." Strut said, tearing open a packet of sickleclaw paste and dabbing it on a large gash on Coatal's chest. A sling stone narrowly missed his head. "You've got to be kidding me!"

Raptix nodded. "Okay, bare handed fighting it is." He muttered.

Raptix turned around and spotted Dil sneaking behind Spike. "Spike! Behind…"

But Raptix's words died on his lips as a stone hurtled from the trees and struck Dil square in the head, dazing her. Another stone clipped Icthy, evoking a stream of profanity from him. They backed off.

"That was…odd." Raptix said. Suddenly, another stone flew from the edges and grazed him. Raptix quickly darted behind Coda.

"Coda! Who's throwing the stones!" Cera asked. "Ow!" she exclaimed as a stone struck her in the side.

Spike ducked down and moaned as he was struck around the body by several sling stones.

Coda stood up and looked around but as she did so several stones from the edges of the encampment struck her around the neck and head. She flinched slightly but continued looking around.

She crouched back down and spoke. Another stone flew overhead. "The trees are too tall to get a good look. But I can see shapes that look vaguely like Swimmers."

"Are you telling me those bastards got Mysterious Beyond dinosaurs to fight for them?" Littlefoot shouted. He was a short distance away from Coda and the rest of the group defending the Night Flowers. He swatted Saber with his tail, sending him flying back several feet. Saber dropped prone, avoiding a sling stone aimed at him.

"I am not sure!" Coda shouted over the din of battle.

"These dinosaurs are not allied with the Claw Valleyers. When I was flying at the edge of battle the battlefield, I saw one of the Claw Valley dinosaurs stab one of those Swimmers to death."

Littlefoot sighed. "Great, now we've got two enemies. How are we…urgh!" Littlefoot grunted as he was struck in the side by a sling stone.

"Littlefoot! We can take the flowers and run while the two opposing sides kill each other!" Ali said.

A grin spread across Littlefoot's face. "I like that idea. Raptix, Strut, start loading the flowers onto Spike!" he commanded

Raptix picked a bunch of the Night Flowers, grabbed a leaf packet and placed the flowers in the packet, which he then tied to Spike. Strut did the same.

At the same time, Rinkus was flying above the group defending the Night Flower with his firebrand clutched in his talons. The heat from the fire singed his legs but he tried his best to ignore it. "Okay, it's now or never." he said. As he prepared to drop the firebrand, Raptix happened to look towards the sky.

"Guys! There's a flyer with a torch above us!" Raptix shouted.

Coda swatted at Rinkus but she missed as Rinkus barrel rolled to the left.

"Kiss your flowers goodbye!" Rinkus shouted, circling over the flowers.

"Coda, I've got an idea how I can get him." Raptix said.

"Go on." Coda replied.

"Right, I'll climb on your head and try and leap onto him. Then, I'll attack him. Of course, you, Spike, Cera, Ali and Littlefoot have to try and knock the burning torch away if he drops it."

Coda's eyes widened. "Raptix! Are you trying to kill yourself!"

"We have no other choice."

Coda nodded and placed her tail on the ground. Raptix leapt onto her tail and scrambled onto her back, then her head. Raptix sighed as he looked at Rinkus's circling form. Eventually, after several passes, Raptix was able to leap from Coda's head onto Rinkus's back.

"Get off me!" Rinkus shouted.

"Not until you land and drop that torch!" Raptix shouted back.

"Okay then…" Rinkus then let go of the firebrand almost directly above the pile of flowers.

"Littlefoot! The torch!" Raptix shouted. He held on as Rinkus banked sharply to the left to try and dislodge him.

Littlefoot looked up towards the sky at his name being shouted above him. He barely had time to react and swat away the torch, blazing like a meteor as it plummeted through the night air. The torch flew several feet away and landed by the remains of the campfire.

"You bastard! You planned that all along!" Raptix shouted. He then clawed a large hole in Rinkus's left wing.

"So you want to play rough?" Rinkus taunted.

"No more games!" Raptix then slashed Rinkus's back.

Rinkus cursed and performed a high speed bank to the right.

Raptix held onto Rinkus's back, digging his claws into his back. "This is tougher than I thought." Raptix muttered. He slashed a hole in Rinkus's right wing

Rinkus then did a barrel roll. Raptix nearly lost his grip but he held on by his left hand. As the roll ended, Raptix was able to get both his hands on Rinkus's back.

"You are more persistent that most." Rinkus replied. He then dove towards the ground and then pulled upwards sharply, trying to throw Raptix off.

Raptix grunted as Rinkus's aerobatics slammed him repeatedly into Rinkus's body.

On the ground, Sierra was looking at Rinkus's unusual behavior from behind a rock. "Rinkus, what are you doing!"

"There's some bastard of a dinosaur on my back and I can't get him off!" Rinkus shouted back, doing another barrel roll.

"I'm coming." Sierra said, leaping into the air. In a few seconds he reached Rinkus and spotted Raptix on his back.

Sierra then flew above Rinkus and seized Raptix in his talons and pulled him off Rinkus.

"Guess what, little pest?" Sierra taunted.

"What? I've already know that you were a coward. Always using sneak attacks." Raptix replied.

"Don't get too high and mighty, fast-biter. I've seen you and your allies fight dirty too. Oh, well it doesn't matter because you're going to be a pile of meat and feathers soon." As Sierra was speaking, he was climbing higher into the night sky.

Raptix gulped as he saw the ground receding. "Damn it! I'm afraid of heights!"

"I don't really care. Farewell!" At those words, he dove down at a high speed with Raptix clutched in his talons.

Raptix closed his eyes as he felt the rush of air through his feathers.

"Hey, there's flyer diving down at a high speed and… damn it! He's got Raptix!" Littlefoot shouted.

Strut picked up a spear and hurled it at Sierra, punching a hole through his left wing. A sling stone knocked Raptix from Sierra's grasp and he plummeted to earth. Strut then resumed packing the last of the flowers onto Spike.

Raptix struck the ground rather roughly, luckily for him he landed in some tall grass.

Littlefoot and Cera ran over to Raptix's landing spot. Cera gently nudged Raptix with her horn.

"Raptix, you okay." Cera asked.

Raptix opened his eyes and grinned. "Not bad considering I almost died."

A frown crossed Cera's face but vanished with a sigh. "I'm glad you're okay, but I also have to ask, what were trying to do?"

Raptix sighed. "Well, I wasn't sure how we could get that torch away from the flyer. So I thought jumping off Coda and onto the flyer then attacking him would hopefully cause him to fly away or drop the torch away from the flowers."

Littlefoot frowned. "Well, it didn't work. That bastard dropped the torch right on the flower pile, had I not been able to swat it away we would have lost the majority of the flowers. Next time, I do not want you pulling outrageous stunts like that." He said with a note of anger in his voice.

Raptix nodded. "Sorry."

Strut's voice came from the encampment. "We've got everything packed ready!"

Littlefoot, Cera and Raptix ran back to the encampment. Behind them, the slingers, now wielding sticks instead of vine slings began to close in.

"Go, go, go!" Littlefoot shouted.

At his command, Coda, carrying Coatal; Cera, Raptix, Strut, Ali and Spike began to follow Littlefoot down a narrow dirt path into the forest.

However, they encountered one of the enemy slingers, a pale green Swimmer who looked rather ghostly in the moonlight and who was armed with a stick laced with stone flakes, further down the trail.

"Trespassers must pay the penalty. You will not leave he…" He was cut off by Strut who rammed his stone tipped lance clean through the Swimmer. The thrust was so powerful that the spearhead actually came out the back of the Swimmer. The Swimmer doubled over and vomited blood from the assault.

"Nice going!" Cera said, "That bastard had it coming to him."

"No talking! We need to move!" Littlefoot said.

With that said, Littlefoot and his group quickly disappeared into the dark forest trail. A slinger leapt from the bushes in an attempt to ambush them but Coda quickly tail whipped him into a tree, causing a large branch to fall and kill him. Up in the sky, the horizon began to show the first hints of dawn.

Over on Cloud Island, Chomper, Rytho, Vio and Ducky had set up a small encampment on a sandy beach. Dawn was breaking and it was reflecting over the waves. Ducky and Rytho were awake and sitting on a large piece of driftwood, while Chomper and Vio were asleep. Their supplies and weapons rested near the piece of driftwood that Ducky and Rytho sat on. Other pieces of driftwood littered the beach and several shells could be seen on the sand as well. A gentle rain fell on the beach as well.

Ducky's wounds had healed significantly but the muddy color of the sickleclaw paste marred her light green skin. Miraculously, most of the wounds healed with minimal scarring. She sniffled slightly as she looked over the ocean.

Ed then arrived at the encampment with his arms full of berries and leaves. He gently shook Vio and Chomper awake. "It's time to eat."

Ducky and Rytho got up and began eating. Vio and Ed also joined in while Chomper scoured the beach for shellfish.

As soon as Ducky had finished her meal, she started sobbing softly.

Rytho put his arm on her shoulder. "Hey Ducky, what's wrong?" he asked.

Ducky took a deep breath. "I…I just thought of eating that orange paste you found for the darts. I did, I did. I… thought that it would be the only way I could see Saurolo again and the only way I can get rid of what I saw."

"Ducky, we love you. Please don't do anything you'll regret. We're in this together. Would Saurolo want you to do this?" Rytho said softly. He held Ducky's hands in his own hands and pulled her into a gentle embrace.

Ducky gulped. "No. He would not." She sobbed softly. "Saurolo, wherever you are, I'll be strong for you." She whispered. She continued embracing Rytho.

Chomper, Ed and Vio had also finished their meals. They grabbed their weapons and circled Ducky and Rytho, forming a protective barrier.

A single tear fell from Chomper's eyes. "Be strong, Ducky. Never surrender." He whispered.

"Never surrender." Rytho whispered in reply.

"Never surrender." Vio added softly.

"Never surrender." Ed added.

"I'll never surrender." Ducky said softly.

The quiet sounds of the waves lapping at the shore and the rain contrasted with the fiery red and orange light of the sunrise piercing through the clouds and the burning determination inside the hearts of the five dinosaurs.

Chapter 23: Warriors of Cloud Island

The midday sun shone over a dirt clearing surrounded by meadow somewhere in the Mysterious Beyond. In the clearing, two sickleclaws, one a light blue and the other a dark brown were fighting with wooden staves. They were surrounded by herd of various plant eaters.

The brown sickleclaw beckoned with his free hand. The blue one nodded and swiped at the brown sickleclaw with his staff. The brown one easily parried the blow and quickly twisted his staff and swept upwards, catching his opponent under the chin. Before the blue sickleclaw could react, the brown sickleclaw knocked him off his feet with sweeping blow from his staff.

The crowd cheered. Suddenly a loud voice boomed from the crowd: "Deimos! Report to Mr. Threehorn immediately!"

Deimos nodded and helped Rime to his feet. "Sorry to cut our sparring session short."

"Not a problem." Rime replied. He and Deimos leaned their staves against a nearby rock.

"I have to admit Deimos that was one of your shortest bouts." Pterano said.

Deimos grinned. "Well, I got interrupted. So who will spar with me next?"

"Ms. Swimmer has expressed an interest in a rematch."

Deimos groaned. "Ms. Swimmer is one of, if not the best stick and staff fighter among the Great Valley dinosaurs. I lost to her twice."

Pterano chuckled. "But you are one of the best unarmed combatants."

Deimos grinned. "Thanks."

"Deimos! Get your carcass over to Mr. Threehorn now!" the same voice from before bellowed.

"Catch you later Pterano!" Deimos said, running off.

The crowd gathered around the dirt arena began to disperse but stopped when Ovius agreed to grapple with Ruby. The cheers reached Rime's ears as he was watching Ovius and Ruby square off.

In a few minutes, Deimos had arrived by the main lake where Mr. Threehorn, Blue-Scale, Mr. Thicknose and Grandma Longneck greeted him. They were neutral in their expressions, except for Mr. Thicknose who was frowning.

"What do you want from me?" Deimos asked.

"Ah yes, Mr. Threehorn would like to speak to you about the sickleclaw known as 'Rime'." Grandma Longneck said. She then turned to Mr. Threehorn. "Mr. Threehorn,"

Mr. Threehorn cleared his throat and glared at Deimos. "Deimos, I have heard that you've been teaching this 'Rime' character some skills in weapons use."

"Yes, I have." Deimos replied

"Deimos, what you are doing is very dangerous; we don't know anything about Rime. He could be sickleclaw waiting to eat some of us or worse, he could be a Claw Valley spy or assassin."

Deimos shook his head. "Claw Valley dinosaurs are trained in weapons use as illustrated by Battle of the Great Valley. Rime seems to have never used a weapon before, not even a stick or a stone. And besides, we can surely overpower and kill him if he does pose a threat."

Mr. Threehorn frowned. "He could be faking it. Yes, we can overpower and kill him but not everyone is like you; they don't always have a weapon with them at all times. Casualties will be sustained before we can overpower him."

"If Rime is indeed an assassin, how come he hasn't killed anyone? The Night Circle has changed its shape since he's arrived."

"Yet." Mr. Threehorn added. "I'll bet he's biding his time."

"I'll keep an eye on him." Deimos said. "Speaking of which, what is my current assignment?"

"Take Rime to the edge of this meadow, nearest the feeding grounds. You are on patrol until night falls. And you are not to teach Rime any combat skills. If it is found out that you disobeyed me, you will be sentenced to death." Mr. Threehorn said.

"I understand." Deimos replied.

As Deimos was leaving, Grandma Longneck spoke. "Mr. Threehorn, I do believe death is a bit of an extreme punishment. Deimos has been with us for many cycles of the Night Circle and he saved Littlefoot's life. Besides, if Rime is an assassin, Deimos would also be at risk. Remember, the Claw Valley dinosaurs see Deimos as a traitor, not a hero."

"As biased as this sounds, Mr. Threehorn has a point. Rime could pose an extreme danger to us. Teaching him combat skills would only worsen that danger. I do hate to see Deimos, who is a very valuable ally killed for his actions but if his actions put the entire herd at risk, we have no choice." Mr. Thicknose replied.

"Deimos is my friend and though I don't trust Rime, I am sure Deimos would never willingly endanger us." Blue-Scale said. He then sighed. "But if he does betray us, you…you may kill him."

Back at the crude dirt arena, Ovius was attempting to pin Ruby. Dust flew into the air as the two grappled. The dinosaurs surrounding them cheered. Hyp was serving as the referee.

"Rime, come with me." Deimos ordered.

Rime was busy watching Ovius and Ruby grapple. At this point, Ruby had slipped out from underneath Ovius and was now trying to wrestle him to the ground. He turned at Deimos's voice. "Oh sorry. What do you want?"

"I got a new assignment. You're coming with me and heading to the meadow's edge for patrol duty." Deimos said.

"We're not guarding Mr. Bigmouth's grove?" Rime asked.

Deimos nodded. "Sorry Rime, but you've been banned from being around the 'important parts' of the meadow."

"Important parts?"

"Yes. Some parts of the meadow are classed as restricted."

Rime held a hand to his chin. "Like what parts?"

"Mr. Bigmouth's grove and the airfield are the two main ones. There's some more but I'm not going to tell you."

"But…then those areas are unguarded… You'll…" Rime stammered.

"Rime, there are guards at those areas. We don't have to worry. Though, I do worry about Mr. Bigmouth. He can't fight worth a damn, though I do give him credit for fighting creatively." Deimos then went over to a large rock that had several stone tipped and wood spears along with several wooden staves leaning against it. He retrieved a stone tipped spear.

Rime chuckled. "You mean fighting dirty?" He picked up a wooden lance.

Deimos nodded. "Yep. I remember him throwing boiling juice at one of his attackers. Quite an effective attack, if I do say so." He then saw Rime balancing one of the wood spears. "Rime put that back!" Deimos's voice now had a much sharper quality to it.

Rime did as he was told but cowered slightly. "Erm, why can't I have a weapon?"

"The truth is that the elders don't trust you. And though I do trust you, I have to obey their rules. In short, you're not allowed to carry a weapon." Deimos said.

Rime and Deimos then headed off to their patrol destination.

Over in the dirt arena, Ruby had just pinned Ovius and placed him in a chokehold. After a few seconds he tapped out and she released him.

"The winner is Ruby!" Hyp shouted.

The gathered dinosaurs cheered. Ovius and Ruby shook hands.

"Nice work!" Ovius said.

"Thanks! I'm actually surprised you beat me twice." Ruby replied.

"I'm surprised you won!"

Ruby blushed slightly at the complement. "Well, let's go wash up and eat."

Ovius nodded his agreement and they headed off to a nearby river to wash off the massive amounts of dust that had caked on their bodies from the bout.

The other dinosaurs dispersed and began to talk amongst themselves.

"I think this rule about not entry into the main lake is stupid. I mean the water looks perfectly safe. And I'm tired of having to drink from those tiny 'safe rivers'." A gold Spiketail said

His friend, an amber Threehorn sighed. "Look, that lake is contaminated with bloodplant. I've seen what bloodplant poisoning does, if you are poisoned by it, you will die a painful death. That rule is there to protect us."

"Fine. I hope Littlefoot's expedition gets back with the Night Flowers soon or else there's going to be open rebellion. There have been at least five cases of Deimos and some of the other guards catching dinosaurs trying to drink or swim in the main lake. And just last night, Hyp and his patrol had to step in to prevent a massive brawl from breaking out over one of those safe rivers. And from what I heard it had the potential to get really ugly as some of the dinosaurs were armed."

The Threehorn's jaw dropped. "Great, war within and war outside."

The two then headed off to the airfield to watch a performance by the Great Valley Air Corps.

However, Mr. Bigmouth was not to enjoy any performances by the Great Valley Air Corps anytime soon. Over in his grove, he was being berated by Grandpa Longneck.

"Mr. Bigmouth, I have received word that weapons and herbs are being and I quote 'lost' from your grove. I can understand if this occurs a few times but having 'losing' weapons or herbs just smacks of irresponsibility." Grandpa Longneck said sternly.

"I swear that I haven't lost them. Are you sure that some other dinosaurs haven't been stealing or borrowing them from me?" Mr. Bigmouth protested.

"Mr. Bigmouth, no patrols or dinosaurs have found those items. I want these items replaced. If you fail to replace those items, which include a stone knife, two packets of rubea dart poison and a packet of sickleclaw paste, you will be banned from attending any Great Valley Air Corps shows and your grove will be turned over to someone who is more responsible."


Grandpa Longneck silenced him with a cold look. "Am I clear?"

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "Yes, sir."

As Grandpa Longneck left the grove, a wiry leaf-green fast-biter darted out from behind a tree while Mr. Bigmouth's back was turned and stole a calabash filled with stone spear heads. The fast-biter then darted out of the grove and tossed the entire calabash into a nearby river. He grinned as the sharp stone points sank into the shallow river, adding to the small arsenal that he had tossed into the river. His grin quickly changed into an expression of horror as he realized that the calabash floated and that the river led into the grove from which he had come from.

Mr. Bigmouth turned around and went to the flat rock, which served as his workbench. He frowned as he noticed that his calabash of stone spearheads was missing. "Okay, I know that I didn't lose a calabash full of spearheads. Mr. Thicknose is just being a short sighted idiot, someone is stealing my stuff! Oh well, I'll bring it up later, for now, I'll just replace my supplies."

As he finished speaking, he got up and retrieved a light grey rock from a pile of similar rocks. He used another rock to break off a large fragment. He then used a small stick to shape the rock fragment by breaking off small pieces. After several minutes, he had a stone knife ready to be used, which was the placed against a tree. As he scooped up the rock fragments in preparation to dispose of them in the river, he noticed the calabash floating downstream. He fished the calabash out of the river and frowned as he looked at it.

"Wait a second, this is the calabash that held my spear points!" he muttered. "Someone's been stealing my stuff and I intend to find that bastard and punish them."

As he spoke, he grabbed the recently made stone knife and then left his grove.

Over in the Mysterious Beyond, the Claw Valley expedition was recovering from their loss. They were in the process of setting camp inside a deciduous forest. The noon sun barely penetrated the dense canopy.

"I told you this mission was a failure!" Ozzie shouted. He was covered in a multitude of deep slashes covered in the muddy color of sickleclaw paste.

"Fortunately, Hasta was able to convince Theta to retreat." Saber said. He was wearing an improvised sling fashioned from vines to support his left arm, broken by a sling stone. He too had a number of cuts and bruises on his body.

"Well, admittedly I did almost kill that annoying Fast-biter who had leapt onto Rinkus's back and was literally ripping up his wings and back." Sierra said. The holes in his wings were stained with the mud colored sickleclaw paste.

"Almost being the key word!" Rinkus spat. He too was covered in sickleclaw paste. "And if it weren't for those damned slingers, we would have been able to kill at least one of them or destroy the flowers! But we insert those slingers and what happens? Umbra, Manhattan and Utah die and everyone else is injured!"

Theta turned to Rinkus. "Rinkus, focus less on the slingers and focus more on the Great Valley dinosaurs. It's very unlikely we'll ever see those slingers again."

"Easy for you to say! You killed one of those slingers!" Rinkus spat.

Theta grinned. "I actually killed two. One with my knife and the other with his own weapon."

"Way to rub it in."

"Rinkus, Theta! Shut up! I don't care who got more kills. The important thing is we head back to Claw Valley and speak to Styracus." Hasta said. "And we need to set up camp so we can replenish our supplies. Get to it!"

Theta immediately stopped his argument with Rinkus. He cleared his throat and spoke: "Okay group, I need to set up the assignments. Rinkus and Sierra remove the supplies from Hasta and organize them. Ozzie, Dil, Icthy, clear debris from our campsite. I'll light a fire and Saber will gather fuel."

The dinosaurs present nodded and immediately got to work setting up camp. Ozzie grabbed a large branch and began to drag it out of the campsite. He then deposited the log near the edge of the campsite. Rinkus and Sierra flew to Hasta and began removing the supplies and organizing them. Theta used his last remaining stone knife to rip out a large patch of grass so he could use it as a fire ring. He then got up and looked around for some rocks to construct his fire ring. Saber was walking around the edges of the camp, doing double duty by clearing debris and gathering firewood.

"So now what?" Dil asked.

"Weren't you listening?" Icthy shot back.

"Erm, yes." Dil said lamely.

"No you weren't."

This exchange went on for several minutes; by the time the argument had stopped, Theta had built his fire ring and all of Hasta's equipment, including the vine pack harness had been removed and stacked up by a tree.

Ozzie had finished clearing the debris away and he went up to Dil. "Thanks for arguing and leaving me to do all the work." He said acidly.

"We didn't hear Theta." Icthy said.

"Sure." Ozzie replied, rolling his eyes.

"Saber! Get your carcass moving! I need some firewood!" Theta shouted. "Despite the fact I can't get this damn fire started!" Several sparks flew from the flint only to fail to ignite on the dead leaves he used as tinder.

Saber deposited the firewood he had obtained, mostly small twigs. "Sorry, that's all I can carry with one arm."

"Saber, I just dragged out a large branch from the campsite. Perhaps we can use that." Ozzie said.

"Good idea! Saber! Go chop up that branch Ozzie's talking about. Ozzie! Get me some tinder!" Theta ordered

Saber went over to the supply area and grabbed his stone war hammer. Ozzie began to search the entire encampment for tinder.

Ozzie picked up a handful of dead leaves only to find out that they were damp. He sighed and tossed the leaves aside. He then looked overhead and spotted a branch with several dead leaves on it. He sighed as he noticed that the branch was too high for him to reach. He went to get his vine sling.

In the meantime, Saber was using his war hammer to break off the smaller branches. He left his hammer by the branch and used his good arm to carry the branches to the fire pit. He deposited the branches near Theta.

"Thanks, but I need tinder!" Theta replied. He had given up trying to light the fire and the flints were placed back in his leaf pouch.

Saber nodded and returned to the fallen branch. He picked up his hammer and tried break the branch into smaller pieces.

Ozzie grabbed a small rock and used his sling to launch it at the branch. His first shot missed; he quickly grabbed another rock and launched it at the branch. This one struck the branch and cracked it almost in two. After a few minutes, the branch fell to the ground. Ozzie picked the branch up and handed it to Theta.

Theta then cleared the fire pit of the ineffective leaves and grabbed some of the dead leaves from the branch. He crumbled the leaves into a coarse powder, retrieved the flints and struck several sparks into the leaves, which started smoldering and eventually burst into flame. He fed the fire with the twigs that Saber had obtained. In short order, a crackling fire was established in the fire pit. Rinkus and Sierra immediately settled by the fire.

Saber had finished breaking up the large branch and he deposited the pieces of wood near the fire. Theta took one of the pieces of wood and tossed it into the fire.

Dil looked at the fire. "Erm, Theta, why do we need to light a fire every time we set up camp?"

"The fire is what establishes an area as a campsite. In addition, it provides us with a way to get rid of anything we don't want and it is vital to preparing many poisons and medicines." Theta replied.

"And as Umbra showed, it can also be used as a pretty nasty weapon." Icthy added.

"So what's our next assignment?" Saber asked, sitting by the fire.

"Well, as I have previously said, we are running critically low on supplies and weapons." Hasta replied.

"I would recommend a recon mission first." Theta added. "We do not know what this area holds."

"Good idea." Hasta then cleared his throat. "Dil, Icthy, and Ozzie, you will search for water. Saber, Rinkus, Sierra you will search for food and raw materials."

The dinosaurs then nodded and split up into their exploration groups, leaving Hasta and Theta to guard the encampment.

"One thing I'm surprised about is weapon use among dinosaurs. I thought we were unique in weapon use." Hasta said.

"We're not; in fact I dare say that weapon use among Mysterious Beyond inhabitants is the rule, not the exception." Theta replied.

"Remember, even a rock or a stick can be considered a weapon. However, I yet have to meet dinosaurs who use only sticks or rocks as weapons, not in addition to spears, slings or stone knives. Also, I noticed that poison darts are only used by us and the Great Valley dinosaurs. I guess we don't have to worry about poison darts when we're not near the Great Valley dinosaurs."

Theta shook his head. "That is a very dangerous way to think, Hasta. We have not met all the groups of Mysterious Beyond inhabitants. There are probably dinosaurs out there who do use poison darts. Remember, that they may have other weapons that we do not have, conversely, we may have weapons they don't. Witness the stone laced clubs that those Swimmers used against us."

Hasta nodded. "Okay so now what? We can't chase them back to their meadow; that's just asking for trouble.

"We'll have to report back to Styracus and Red-Eye." Theta replied.

Further away, Littlefoot and his group were also in the process of setting up camp inside the deciduous forest. Their campsite was divided by a small river and the dinosaurs had already unpacked their supplies.

"So what now?" Strut asked, placing his hollow reed by a tree.

"Well, I guess treating any injuries incurred would be a good idea." Cera said. A large bruise was visible on her side from where a sling stone had struck her.

"We'll need supplies. Most of our sickleclaw paste has been used." Coatal said.

"So I guess we need to make more." Ali replied.

"And we need to replenish our weapons." Raptix added. "The only weapon we have is Strut's knife."

"Erm, we should look at this thing I got off one of those dead Swimmers." Strut said. He went over to the supplies and retrieved a vine sling, which he then placed near Littlefoot.

Littlefoot looked at the sling. "What exactly is this?"

"I believe it is some sort of weapon. I've seen those Swimmers use it to launch rocks and those rocks are apparently more powerful. Normally at combat flight level, thrown rocks cannot hit us. However, rocks launched from these things flew past us." Strut picked up the sling. "I'm going to go practice with it." With that said, he picked up a few nearby rocks and headed to the borders of the encampment in preparation to test the sling.

"Strut! Get back here!" Littlefoot ordered.

Strut immediately loped back to Littlefoot. "Erm, yes?"

"Strut, this is a temporary camp. Right now, our priorities are to set up camp, replace our missing materials and rest. Testing out a new weapon can wait until we get back to the meadow." Littlefoot admonished.

"Sorry." Strut said.

"Right now, you can help by starting a fire…" Littlefoot sniffed the air. "Hey do you smell smoke?"

Raptix sniffed the air as well. "Yeah, something's burning."

"It is best we move. It could be a forest fire." Coda said.

"I'll check it out." Coatal said, flying through the canopy. He burst through the leafy layers and looked around. The skies were a clear blue and the midday sun shone brightly over the verdant green of the forest. A large lake could be seen in the middle of the forest. A thin wisp of smoke could be seen coming near the lake. He then returned to the encampment.

"There's no need to move. It's not a forest fire but a campfire." Coatal said, landing on a tree branch.

"Good. We now have some time to rest." Raptix said. His stomach growled. "Hmm. I'm going to go see if there's anything I can eat." With that said he left the encampment.

"See if you can find us some raw materials too!" Ali shouted.

"Will do!" Raptix's disembodied voice replied.

Littlefoot then turned to Coda. "Coda, I don't know how to phrase this but… I humbly ask that you join us in our fight against Claw Valley." He then bowed his head.

Coda shook her head. "I am sorry Littlefoot, but I cannot join as a fighter." She said solemnly. "Though I sympathize with your cause; I cannot bring myself to leave the Mysterious Beyond."

"I understand." Littlefoot replied, raising his head.

"However, I will be willing to guide you through the Mysterious Beyond and Land of the Mists anytime you are present. Look for me in the same place you first met me." Coda added.

"Thank you." Littlefoot replied.

Several hours later on Cloud Island, night was fast approaching. Ducky, Rytho, Chomper, Ed and Vio had set up camp on the beach. Three large pieces of driftwood had been arranged around an indentation in the ground. The group's weapons and supplies were resting against another piece of driftwood. A light rain fell over the beach, contrasting with the Night Circle's cool white light.

Ducky sniffled slightly as she looked over the ocean. She was sitting on one of the pieces of driftwood.

"Is something wrong?" Chomper asked.

"I… I miss the Great Valley." Ducky replied, sniffling.

Chomper gently squeezed Ducky's hand. "So do I. But remember, never surrender."

"I know." Ducky closed her eyes and some tears mingled with the rain and fell to the sand.

Vio was sitting on the other piece of driftwood. He stared out into the ocean, oblivious to seemingly everything around him.

Just then, Rytho and Ed arrived from the forest behind the beach. Rytho was dragging a leaf behind himself. The leaf was filled with succulent fruits of all shapes and colors as well as several juicy looking leaves. Ed was carrying a stone knife and two flints, in addition to several vines draped over his shoulder.

"I see you got supplies and food." Vio said, turning around.

"Yep. We can now basically live like we were in the Great Valley." Rytho replied.

"A Great Valley where pretty much everyone is trying to kill us." Vio deadpanned.

Everyone chuckled at this display of black humor, even Ducky.

"Well, we need to start a fire; I'm getting cold." Chomper replied.

Ed put his recent acquisitions near the other supplies and went over to the indentation. "We'll need firewood and tinder that can still burn even if wet."

Rytho put the food laden leaf next to one of the pieces of driftwood facing the indentation. "I'll gather firewood."

"I will help. I will, I will." Ducky said.

"Good." With that said, Ducky and Rytho headed into the forest. The leaves sheltered them from the light rain.

"I will get the tinder." Ducky said.

Rytho nodded and broke off a large leaf to use as an improvised sled. He then started gathering up any sticks and twigs he could find and placing them on the sled.

Ducky looked for dry leaves to no avail. She turned her eyes towards a tree with large green, oily looking leaves. "Hmm. Could this be the oilplant that Mr. Bigmouth uses to start fires?" she muttered. She grabbed a leaf and noticed that it left an oily sheen on her hands. "It is the oil plant. It is, it is." She said.

"Hey Ducky, you got the tinder?" Rytho asked, tossing a piece of tree bark onto his leaf sled.

"Yep, yep, yep." It is the oilplant." Ducky said.

"Great! We'll be able to start a fire now!" Rytho said.

Ducky then grabbed a handful of the oily leaves and placed them on the sled. Rytho and Ducky then returned to the campsite with their load of firewood and tinder.

"Got anything?" Ed asked.

"Supplies for the fire." Rytho replied.

"Good." Ed then examined the handful of leaves. "Oilplant?"

Ducky nodded.

"Perfect." Ed said. He went over to the supply area, picked up the two flints and returned to the indentation in the sand. He then grabbed about four oilplant leaves and started tearing them into small pieces, which he deposited in the indentation. The oil released from the shredded leaves soaked into the sand. Ed then struck several sparks into the pile of shredded oilplant leaves. Even though the tinder was wet from the rain, it burst into an intensely hot flame.

Ducky fed the fire with the pieces of wood on Rytho's crude sled. The wood easily caught fire and soon the night air was filled with the scent of burning wood.

Chomper's stomach growled. "I guess we should eat."

Rytho, Ed, Vio and Ducky nodded.

Chomper went over to a small cache of various shellfish he had stockpiled by the water. He retrieved two large clams and a large whelk and sat on one of the pieces of driftwood facing the fire. The other dinosaurs were sitting on the pieces of driftwood that were free and they were eating their own meals.

Vio was eating a large red pineapple-like fruit. Every so often he spat a few seeds into the fire. Ducky was eating the leaves that Rytho had harvested and Rytho was using the stone knife to split a large orange watermelon-like fruit into pieces. He eventually succeeded and handed a piece each to Vio, Ed and Ducky.

"So how do you like the food on Cloud Island?" Rytho asked between bites of his fruit. It was his second slice.

"It is good, it is, it is." Ducky said. She then bit into the rind. "Ugh. It is not good, it is not, it is not." She said, making a face as a foul combination of bitter and sour assaulted her tastebuds. She then threw the rind into the fire.

Vio chuckled. "Not all fruits are wholly edible." He too tossed the remains of his meal, a rind from the watermelon-like fruit and the leafy top from the pineapple-like fruit, into the fire.

Ed tossed the remains of his meal, four rinds of the watermelon-like fruit and two large white seeds, into the fire.

Chomper also tossed the remains of his meal into the fire.

"So we're all done right?" Rytho asked.

The group nodded.

"Okay, what we are going to do is we are going on a supply raid. There is a storage encampment nearby. Take what we need and destroy the rest. Any questions?"

The group shook their heads and grabbed their weapons. Wordlessly, they headed into the forest with Rytho in the lead.

In a few minutes, they reached their destination, a small encampment at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. Two lone sickleclaws guarded the only entrance to the encampment.

Chomper, who was crouched behind a shrub, poked his head over and spotted the two guards. He quickly ducked back down and grabbed his hollow reed which already had a penthium laced poison dart in it. He took aim and fired the dart, striking his target in the chest. The sickleclaw pulled the dart out but he soon slumped to the ground thanks to the poison. The other sickleclaw looked around for the assailants but found only trees. Suddenly, Vio darted out from the bushes, grabbed the sickleclaw and slammed his fist into the back of his opponent's head. The powerful blow killed the sickleclaw.

"Come on in." Vio said.

Rytho, Chomper, Ducky and Ed darted into the camp. Rytho and Ed tossed the dead sickleclaws off the cliff.

Ducky examined the camp, it was very bare. A small fire had been burning some time ago but it was nothing more than a pile of ashes now. Several stone tipped spears and a canister made from a section of hollow reed leaned against a tree. In addition, several leaf packets and several spearheads were lying by the weapons. Six darts were drying on a stone slab near the fire. Several black rocks, their glossy surfaces reflecting the moonlight lay near the weapons. To top it off, the partially eaten carcass of a Fast-Runner lay near the cliff edge.

"Ew." Vio said, looking at the dead Fast-Runner.

Ed went up to the carcass and tossed it off the cliff. "Okay, let's start pillaging this place!"

The group nodded and dispersed around the camp.

Rytho broke off a large leaf from a nearby shrub to use as a crude sled. Ed was standing guard. The weapons of the others were resting by his feet.

Ducky grabbed one of the spears and slammed it into a nearby tree. As the spear head dug itself into the wood, she snapped off the shaft, leaving only a useless piece of wood.

"A little angry there, eh?" Vio jested,. He opened the canister and found it empty. He placed it on Rytho's sled.

"I was just imagining that tree was Ms. Maia. I was, I was." Ducky replied. She picked up another spear and tossed it off the cliff.

Rytho placed the darts inside the canister and placed the stone slab on the sled.

Vio gingerly wrapped the spearheads inside a leaf and placed the packet on the sled.

Chomper tossed yet another spear off the cliff. Soon after, Ducky threw what seemed to be a stick laced with flakes of rock off the cliff.

After Rytho and Vio had placed their plunder on the leaf sled, they set to work examining the leaf packets.

"Hmm. Fireshrub dart poison." Rytho said, opening one of the packets. He placed it by his feet and continued opening the other packets.

Vio opened one of the packets and sniffed it. "Blech. Spoiled sickleclaw paste." He then turned around and hurled the packet off the cliff.

"We've got to get moving!" Ed said.

Rytho placed his plunder, three packets of various dart poisons, on the sled.

Vio placed his plunder, two packets of a pain killing herbal mixture, on the sled as well.

"Ducky, Chomper, you ready?" Rytho asked.

"Yep, yep, yep." Ducky replied, tossing a spear off the cliff.

"That's the last of the weaponry." Chomper replied, tossing the last spear off the cliff.

The group then headed out of the encampment and returned to their beachfront campsite. The campfire was nearly extinguished courtesy of the rain.

"Well, that was a nice haul." Rytho said, placing the stones in the area where they kept their supplies. Ed and Ducky helped move the other supplies. Vio picked up the stone slab and placed it by the campfire.

"Well, I guess we can sleep now." Ed said, placing the packets of dart poison and the leaf sled itself near the other supplies.

Suddenly a stone tipped javelin flew through the air, narrowly missing Ducky. The dull orange light of torches could be seen from the forest.

Ed growled and grabbed his spear. Vio, Rytho and Chomper also readied their weapons. Chomper quickly darted behind a large rock with his poison darts and hollow reed.

"Ducky, stay close." Rytho said.

"I do not feel strong enough to fight. I do not, I do not."

"Don't worry. We'll protect you. And eventually you will regain your strength." Rytho gently squeezed Ducky's hand.

As Ed, Rytho and Vio formed a protective barrier around Ducky, four sickleclaws, two bearing stone tipped lances and two bearing torches filed in.

"Hello, Ducky and Chomper. A pleasure to see you. I see you've made some new friends." A familiar and cruel voice said.

Ducky looked past Ed's body and discovered to her horror that the speaker was Ms. Maia. She gulped and involuntarily began to shake, the fact that Ms. Maia was carrying a stone tipped lance and the fact that she had come with 4 armed dinosaurs meant that Ms. Maia was intent on killing Ed, Vio, Rytho, Chomper and herself.

Ms. Maia grinned evilly as she spotted Ducky shivering with fear behind Rytho. She quickly flicked her spear into a ready position. "Move in and kill them!"

"Defensive positions!" Rytho shouted.

Chapter 24: Battle on the Beach

As Ms. Maia's force moved in, Rytho and his fellow dinosaurs readied their spears and prepared to meet them.

Ducky stood behind the three dinosaurs. She looked around for a weapon until she realized that the supply area was too far for her to reach without attracting the attention of the enemy combatants.

"Ducky, stay close." Rytho said.

"How did you find this encampment?" Ed demanded.

Ms. Maia grinned. "Did you really think we were so stupid that wouldn't notice your tracks leading to one of our encampments you completely destroyed and back to this beach?"

"The cliff encampment?" Rytho asked.

"Nope, the one before that."

Rytho racked his brain. "Oh, you mean the forest one where we got those fire rocks and…" Rytho gulped as he realized that he gave too much information. "Oh damn."

"So why are you here? To taunt and scold us?" Ed spat.

Ms. Maia chuckled. "Well Ed, I see you haven't changed. But more to the point; we are here to take Ducky and Chomper. Hand them over and we will not harm you."

"You want us to surrender Ducky and Chomper to possibly greatest asshole in our or should I say, was, in our valley?" Rytho replied, putting emphasis on the "was".

"That is correct. Now are you going to hand them over?"

"You want them? Fight us!" Vio shouted.

"Very well. Advance!" Ms. Maia shouted. She, along with her four sickleclaw allies marched in.

Chomper stuck his head up from behind the rock and fired a dart, striking one of the torch bearing sickleclaws in the chest.

The sickleclaw pulled out the dart and sniffed it. "Penthium, why you…" but before he could finish his sentence, he collapsed to the ground, unconscious and his breathing shallow.

The last torch bearing sickleclaw hurled his torch over one of the rocks that was on the shore. He then snapped his foot claws forward and assumed a fighting stance.

Chomper, who was concealed behind the rock which the torch was thrown over, swore as the torch landed squarely on his pile of darts and the packets of poison, ruining if not completely incinerating them. He grasped his hollow reed and quickly wielded it like a quarterstaff. He then rushed out from behind the rock.

At the same time Rytho, Vio and Ed were trying to prevent the three sickleclaws from reaching Ducky, who was simply staring at the battle.

By this time, the rain had increased to an intense downpour and jagged arcs of blue-white lightning slashed across the night sky. Thunder rumbled as the dinosaurs fought.

Ms. Maia circled around the combatants and grabbed Ducky.

"Rytho! Help…" Ducky began before Ms. Maia gagged her with a free hand. One of the sickleclaws used his spear to flick sand into Vio's eyes, temporarily blinding him. He then ran over to Ducky and held his spear to her side.

Rytho, who had thrust his spear through the unarmed sickleclaw, pulled his bloodied spear out. Ducky's cry forced him to turn around. To his horror, he spotted Ms. Maia with Ducky in a chokehold and a sickleclaw holding a spear to her side. "Ducky!"

A bolt of lightning illuminated Ms. Maia's face, a hideous smile on it. "You lose. And now you get to watch Ducky's internal organs ripped out." She then gently lay Ducky, now unconscious from the chokehold, down on the wet sand. The sickleclaw, who was with Ms. Maia, placed his spear down and bent over Ducky's body.

Ed, who was fighting with the other sickleclaw was too engrossed in his fight to noticed. He swiftly parried a spear thrust and jabbed forward. The sickleclaw sidestepped the thrust but Ed quickly tripped him with a sweeping tail whip. Ed decided to torment the sickleclaw by gently prodding him with the spear and leering at him. However, this tactic backfired when the sickleclaw bit off the spearhead. Ed cursed and tossed the useless shaft away.

"You will die for this." Ed hissed.

"No, your companion will die." The sickleclaw responded.

"Don't test me."

"Turn around."

Ed turned around. A flash of lightning illuminated Ducky's prone form and a sickleclaw bent over her. He also spotted the shadowy outline of Ms. Maia and another mysterious figure creeping up behind the sickleclaw. He then turned back to the sickleclaw. "You didn't." Ed hissed.

The sickleclaw grinned. "Find out yourself."

Ed literally hoisted the sickleclaw off the sand with his left hand and glared at him. "You tell me if she is alive or I hurt you, badly."

The sickleclaw stared back into Ed's deep brown eyes, burning with pure rage and hatred. "Try me."

Ed grinned. "With pleasure." He then slammed his right fist over and over into the sickleclaw's stomach. The sickleclaw vomited blood from the series of ferocious blows but he was still grinning. Ed then tossed the battered sickleclaw to the sand and put his foot on his back. "You don't deserve to live."

"Fine. Kill me. Does that make you any better than Ms. Maia?" The sickleclaw said, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.

"It does."

The sickleclaw vomited up some more blood. "How?"

Ed looked at the sickleclaw. "I kill to right a wrong. Ms. Maia kills for entertainment. But this discussion will not prolong your life," Ed then ground his foot harder into the sickleclaw's back.

The sickleclaw gasped as he was slowly crushed under Ed's foot. "Wait…I've got…something to…tell you."

Ed spat at the sickleclaw. "You'll die nevertheless but tell me." He then slightly lessened the pressure on the sickleclaw.

"I hope she's as delicious as her brother." The sickleclaw then grinned.

Ed's expression turned from anger to horror back to pure rage. "You asshole!" Ed shouted. In a fit of rage, he turned the sickleclaw over and gouged out both his eyes. The sickleclaw screamed in utter agony for almost a minute before Ed broke his spine with a well placed stomp.

Vio who had managed to clear his vision, turned around at the screaming and saw, illuminated by a bolt of lightning, Ed gouging out a sickleclaw's eyes. "Eesh. I hope no one ever gets on Ed's bad side."

Chomper was behind the sickleclaw bent over Ducky's prone form. He gripped his hollow reed as he waited for the right time to strike.

"Behind…" Ms. Maia began as a lightning bolt illuminated Chomper's form.

The sickleclaw turned around only to receive a powerful blow from the hollow reed that broke his nose. He tried to grab his spear but another blow to the back of his head killed him.

Ms. Maia growled and grabbed her spear. A bolt of lightning illuminated both Chomper and Ms. Maia.

"Chomper." Ms. Maia growled, holding her spear at the ready.

"Ms. Maia." Chomper echoed, holding his staff ready.

In the meantime, Rytho and Ed had dragged Ducky's unconscious form away from the two combatants.

"I would give you credit for being brave enough to fight us." Chomper replied. "But no, you had to…" Chomper then jumped back to avoid being skewered by Ms Maia

Ms. Maia jabbed her spear at Chomper. "Shut up! I am not interested in hearing a damn morality lecture!" She then jabbed ferociously at Chomper.

Chomper batted aside the spear thrusts with his staff. He then retaliated with a sweeping attack that Ms. Maia swiftly parried.

"Ms. Maia, your allies are dead." Chomper said, ducking under a swing from Ms. Maia's spear.

"Don't try your dirty tricks." Ms. Maia spat, parrying an overhand blow from Chomper's staff.

"Look around."

Ms. Maia did so and she saw that all her sickleclaw allies were dead and Rytho and Ed glared venomously at her with their spears pointed right at her.

"Leave and we will spare you." Rytho said, his voice dripping with hatred.

"You bastard. I never thought you could…" she was cut off by Chomper who swung his staff into her head with as much force as possible. She staggered from the powerful blow but remained conscious. "Ergh. So you are not averse to fighting dirty? Neither am I. But I'll see you all later." She then got up and ran into the forest, her steps shaky.

Chomper put his hollow reed down and sighed. "Well, now what?"

"Treat any injuries incurred?" Ed replied with a note of anger in his voice. He was holding one of his hands over a shallow stab wound in his side.

Vio, in the meantime, was cleaning up the encampment. He collected the usable weapons and placed them by the supply area and tossed the broken spear shafts and the torches in the fire pit. He also covered the bloody sand as best he could with clean sand.

Rytho had finally revived Ducky. She sat up and held her head. "What happened to me?"

He then knelt down and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Ducky, I'm sorry. I should have been watching you more closely." A single tear dripped from his eyes.

"Do not be so hard on yourself, Rytho." Ducky replied. "What does matter is that I am okay."

"I know… It's just that I couldn't forgive myself if you got captured again."

Chomper went over to Ed. "Ed, we do have herbs but no darts or poisons."

Ed nodded. "Okay, get the sickleclaw paste and the pain killing herb mix."

Chomper nodded and grabbed the leaf packets. He opened the packet of sickleclaw paste and gently dabbed on Ed's stab wound. Ed then took the remaining packet of the pain killing herb mix, opened it and scooped the bitter paste out and swallowed it. He then tossed the empty leaf aside. Chomper then went over to his oceanfront cache of shellfish and retrieved two large clams and a large whelk.

By this time, lightning still arced overhead but the storm showed signs of abating. The rain turned from an intense downpour into a somewhat milder shower. The moon was high up, though the thunderheads obscured its light.

"Eating already?" Vio asked. He was sitting on the sand near the fire pit.

Chomper shrugged. "It's a habit; I tend to eat if I get nervous."

Vio's stomach growled. "Maybe I should have a snack." He then got up and went over to the leaf sled bearing their food. He retrieved a large round fruit and returned to his position by the fire pit. He squeezed the fruit and realized that he had gotten what was known as the 'stone fruit'. He smashed the fruit against one of the rocks surrounding the fire pit, cracking the fruit's hard rind. He hit it a few more times against the rock until the fruit was split in two. "Stone fruit anyone?"

Chomper, who was eating the whelk, nodded. "I'll try it." He said, swallowing his mouthful of whelk.

Vio obligingly scooped out a bit of the stone fruit's soft pulp and handed it to Chomper.

Chomper looked at the pulp. Though he could tell it was very soft and juicy he couldn't tell what color it was. He put it in his mouth and chewed slowly.

"Like it?" Vio asked, eating a large handful of the pulp.

Chomper's mouth puckered and he spat out the pulp into the fire pit. "It's so damn sour!"

Vio chuckled and gently clapped Chomper on the back. "Even plant eaters say that."

Chomper then got to work opening the clam. He looked at the clams. "Hey, do you think we can use the clam shells as containers?"

Rytho, who was eating a banana like fruit, peel and all, looked at Chomper and the clam shells. "Good idea! I would have never thought of that."

Chomper looked at the clam shells. "Oh, this is going to be hard."

"Why?" Rytho asked.

"I usually smash the clams with a rock then eat the insides."

"Perhaps we can throw them in the fire?"

Chomper frowned. "And waste the clam meat!"

Rytho shrugged. "You could eat the clam after we take them out of the fire."


"Hey give it try." Rytho replied. He then winked at Chomper. "After all, you tried our food."

"Start a fire when massive amounts of sky water are falling? Yeah right." Ed said sarcastically.

"Well, we could try making what Mr. Bigmouth called a covered fire." Vio added, tossing the remains of his meal into the fire pit.

"Covered fire?" Chomper asked.

Vio nodded. "Yep, what Mr. Bigmouth did was he stacked up some rocks to cover the fire."

Chomper held a hand to his chin in thought. "Well, it's worth a try."

"All we need are some flat rocks."

"Well, I guess we should get to work." Chomper replied. He then got up and scoured the beach for rocks. Vio and Rytho were searching the forest's edge. Ducky, who by now had recovered, was helping Chomper search the beach.

"I have found one!" Ducky exclaimed.

Chomper ran over to Ducky and felt around until he struck the rock. Using his claws, he easily dug out the rock slab. It was rather large and Chomper had some difficulty lifting it. He resorted to dragging the slab to the fire pit. He then returned to scouring the beach for rocks.

After several minutes, the group returned to the fire pit. Ducky was carrying a smaller stone slab tucked under her arm; Rytho was carrying two large rocks; Vio was carrying another small stone slab and Chomper was also carrying two large rocks. These rocks were then placed near the fire pit.

"Okay, we've got our supplies. Now to start building this covered fire." Rytho stated.

Vio nodded and grabbed the four large rocks opposite the fire pit. He arranged the rocks so that two rocks were on each side of the fire pit. He then gently lowered the slab on top of the rocks.

"That's it?" Chomper asked.

"Yes." Rytho said. "Now, let's start that fire."

Vio looked at the fire pit. "Not yet." He then started digging a trench leading from the fire pit. "More rocks!" he commanded.

Ed and Rytho headed to the forest border to search for more rocks. In a few minutes, they returned and placed four rocks by Vio's feet.

Vio placed the four large rocks around the trench, two on each side. He then grabbed one of the small stone slabs and balanced it on top of the rocks

Rytho gave Vio an odd look. "What are you doing?"

Vio grinned. "Making an improvement."

Rytho looked at Vio's handiwork. "How's this an improvement?"

Chomper was examining the modified fire pit. "It looks like Vio made a channel for smoke to escape and if water does get in; it will land in that trench and it won't put out the fire."

Rytho grinned. "Nice thinking!"

"Thank you. I'm not done though." Vio replied. He then widened the opening leading to the fire pit and stuck his hand into the fire pit and started digging.

"What was that about?"

"I made the pit deeper. We can now start a fire."

Rytho frowned as he looked at the opening. "You do realize that Ed and I can't get our hands in there?"

Vio nodded. "I've taken that into consideration. Start a fire outside that tunnel and use a stick to push it inside. You can then use that same tunnel to add more fuel, including things you want to burn. We can also prepare herbs and poisons using the hot rock on top"

"Erm, Vio, isn't having to start a fire outside the tunnel defeating the purpose of this covered fire? Personally, I think Mr. Bigmouth's version was better, you can start a fire inside the rock chamber, it's easier to add fuel and it's easier to prepare herbs and stuff." Chomper asked.

Vio shook his head. "Nope, the tunnel and slab shield the fire from the sky water. Start the fire and push it into the pit." He then turned to Chomper. "And yes, I am aware that Mr. Bigmouth's version has advantages but it takes a lot more rocks to make. We don't have time to search for so many rocks. There's no place like the Gravel Fields here. Besides, if there's no sky water, we can simply take off the cover and we have a normal fire pit."

"Yeah, but won't the cover get hot?"

Vio nodded. "Yes, but we can use a stick to lift it off."

Rytho sighed. "All right guys! Quit talking and let's see if Vio's crazy fire pit actually works!" He then grabbed the flints and a handful of oil plant leaves, which he placed aside. Vio got up and grabbed some twigs that he covered with a leaf to keep them dry.

Rytho shredded the oil plant and placed it just inside the tunnel. The rock slab shielded the tinder from the rain. Vio then placed the twigs against the oil plant leaves. Rytho then struck several sparks onto the oil plant which blazed into a hot fire and set fire to the twigs.

Ducky handed Rytho his spear, which he used to push the fire into the pit.

Chomper crouched down and looked into the hole; there he could see the fire already starting to weaken. "Guys, we'll need more fuel."

Vio and Ducky got to their feet and headed into the forest to search for firewood.

"Well, I guess this fire pit actually works." Chomper said.

"Leave it to Vio to come up with crazy ideas that actually work." Rytho said with a chuckle.

"Like what?"

"Well, we escaped from our cave because Vio taunted the guards and they ran after him, right into the cave where Ed and I could kill them. Later, he killed one of the guards outside your cave by letting himself be chased. He then apparently lost the guard and pushed him off a cliff." Rytho replied. He then got up and grabbed the last of the firewood which he pushed down the hole with his spear. He gently blew into the hole until the fire blazed up again.

"Well, there's not much light from this fire. And it's a little hard to warm up from this fire." Chomper said, moving closer to rock slab.

"Well, the rock hasn't heated up yet." Rytho replied.

"Well, I guess the low light is a good thing; they can't see us as well."

"Unfortunately, we can't see too well either; the Night Circle is blocked by clouds."

By this time, Ducky and Vio had returned with armfuls of firewood. They put the wood near the weapons and supplies and quickly covered them with large leaves in an attempt to keep the wood dry. They took some pieces of wood to help fuel the fire.

Vio handed Rytho a short stick. "This will work better than your spear."

Ducky placed several twigs along with a piece of tree bark near the fire.

Rytho took the twigs and quickly shoved them into the fire with the stick Vio had given him. He broke the piece of tree bark into pieces and also pushed them down the tunnel into the fire pit. Chomper then put his hand on the rock.

"Guys, the rock's warming up!" Chomper said.

"Good." Rytho replied.

"You know, instead of throwing those clams into the fire, we could just get the shells from the beach." Vio said.

"That is a good idea." Ducky said.

"I take it you're feeling better?" Rytho asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Yep, yep, yep." She then nuzzled Rytho who returned the gesture.

"Well, let's start gathering." Vio said.

Chomper yawned. "I don't know about you but I'm tired." He then went over to a depression in the sand and fell asleep in it.

Rytho looked at Vio. "Vio, it's really late. We're going to be undertaking another operation when the Bright Circle rises. We also need to find water; the Big Water on the beach isn't drinkable." He then went over to his own nest, lined with leaves and grass and fell asleep in it. Ducky and then Ed went off to their respective nests and fell asleep.

"But the…" Vio protested.

"Vio! Go to sleep!" Rytho commanded.

Vio sighed and went over to his own nest to sleep.

As Ms. Maia made her way back to her encampment, which was on a rocky plain at the edge of a deciduous forest, she was greeted by Procella and three other sickleclaws as well as a two rogue Great Valley dinosaurs, a Swimmer and a Runner.

The Runner was stoking the campfire when Ms. Maia came in. "So did you kill them?"

"No." Ms. Maia replied. "They…" She wobbled slightly and nearly fell into the campfire but the Swimmer and Procella helped her sit down on a flat stone

"Thank you." Ms. Maia said. "As I was saying, I got Ducky and one of my allies was ready to gut her but that damned sharptooth tricked me and hit me in the head with a hollow reed. And the escaped prisoners apparently teamed up with those two and they formed an entire encampment. And further more, I think they stole some of our supplies, including the poison darts."

The Runner handed Ms. Maia a leaf packet of the pain killing herb mixture. She opened it and swallowed the foul tasting paste. She then tossed the leaf packet into the fire and ate a handful of an orange grape-like fruit that was sitting in a calabash near her.

"We'll wipe them out." Procella said, her voice cold and sharp. "But let's get some sleep now."

After she spoke, Procella and the other dinosaurs returned to their nests at the edge of the forest and fell asleep.

A few hours later, at the beachfront encampment, the storm had moved out over the sea and the clouds had lifted but a dense veil of fog was left behind. At the same time, the sun was starting to rise and the golden rays of the rising sun began to pierce the dense fog that gave Cloud Island its name. The waves gently lapped the shore and the ocean itself seemed to glow like liquid gold in the morning light.

Chapter 25: Return to the Meadow

It was an overcast morning in the Mysterious Beyond. Cool grey clouds drifted overhead as the dinosaurs below went about their daily routine.

Over by the main lake, Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Blue-Scale, Mr. Thicknose and Mr. Threehorn had just finished arbitrating several disputes.

"This is absolutely ridiculous! We've never had to arbitrate so many arguments. Ever since we've been here, we've arbitrated about ten." Mr. Threehorn shouted.

"I agree. "Grandma Longneck added. "Even when the Thundering Falls dried up there weren't this many disputes."

Grandpa Longneck shook his head. "I was afraid of this. With such conflicts occurring it is only a matter of time before fights break out."

As he spoke Ptyrax landed on his head. "Mr. Longneck, a fight seems to be starting in the feeding grounds."

Grandpa Longneck swore under his breath. Every looked at him in shock; it was the first time anyone had heard him swear.

"Ptyrax! Get Deimos's patrol as well as Hyp and his patrol!" Grandma Longneck ordered.

Ptyrax leapt into the air and flew as fast as he could to the airfield. There, the Great Valley Air Corps were on standby, with most of the members simply lounging around. Several guards were also relaxing, including Deimos.

"Patrols of Deimos and Hyp! Move out the Feeding Grounds!" Ptyrax bellowed.

Pterano sighed. "I knew this would happen." He muttered.

Ptyrax looked at him. "Knew what sir?"

"That a large scale fight would eventually break out." Pterano then sighed. "It's dinosaur nature; take away food or water and fights will break out. I have a feeling that those Claw Valley bastards who poisoned our lake weren't trying to kill us; they were trying to get us to kill each other."

Ptyrax's jaws dropped. "I…" He was unable to get out another word before Hyp's voice caught his attention.

"Hey, Ptyrax! You gonna talk or are you gonna help?" Hyp asked.

Ptyrax turned around and noticed that all the aforementioned patrol members were armed and prepared to move out. The group numbered to about fifteen dinosaurs.

"Let's move out!" Ptyrax shouted.

The dinosaurs, most of them armed with staves and sticks but a few spears were used as well, headed towards the feeding grounds with Ptyrax in the lead.

"Why do I have a feeling that I dealt with something like this already?" Nod asked.

"That's because last night we barely averted a massive brawl by the main lake." Hyp replied. He was armed with a quarterstaff.

Ms. Swimmer had her trademark dual sticks out and she had a dark expression on her face. "I don't know what is causing this but the poisoned lake may be stressing everyone out. I can only hope that Littlefoot's expedition arrives home soon, the last thing we need is another all out war."

The group had arrived at the Feeding Grounds. The sounds of shouting and various profanities could be heard.

"Too late." Deimos commented, gesturing with his staff.

Ms. Swimmer, Hyp, Nod, Mutt, Shorty, Deimos, Ptyrax and the group of assorted dinosaurs who were also patrol members stared in astonished horror.

"Oh damn." Ptyrax said, staring at the unfolding spectacle.

In front of their eyes was a full scale melee. Many dinosaurs, mostly Fast-Runners and Runners were fighting. Even worse, most of the combatants appeared to be armed.

Hyp was the first to snap out of the trance. "Okay, move in and try and restore order!"

Deimos cleared his throat. "Please cease your fighting immediately! This is an order! We will use force!" he shouted in Sharptooth. To leaf-eater ears it sounded like a series of deafening roars but many of them knew enough Sharptooth to understand his message.

One of the combatants, a black Runner armed with a heavy stick, turned to Deimos. "Tell the other side to give us back our stash of tree sweets!" he shouted.

"Will do." Deimos replied.

The black Runner nodded only to turn around and swing his stick into a nearby Fast-Runner's jaw, breaking it with a sickening crunch.

At the same time the Fast-Runner's jaw was being broken, Deimos was speaking to Ms. Swimmer.

"Ms. Swimmer, we'll need to find the other side and try negotiations before someone dies." Deimos said.

Ms. Swimmer nodded and together, they carefully waded through the mob. Luckily, the combatants seemed more focused on attacking each other, although Ms. Swimmer and Deimos had to parry some attacks from the dinosaurs as they tried to find the other dinosaurs.

"This is too chaotic!" Ms. Swimmer shouted, "I can't tell who's who!"

Deimos sighed. "Great, let's back off and rethink."

Deimos and Ms. Swimmer forced their way back out of the mob.

"So did you manage to do anything?" Shorty asked.

Deimos shook his head. "I was afraid it would come down to this… We're going to have to use force." He then turned to Ptyrax. "Ptyrax, alert Mr. Longneck about this brawl and tell him of our decision to use force. Also tell him that fifteen of us isn't enough; there's at least forty fighters."

Ptyrax then flew back as fast as possible to the main lake. He landed on Grandpa Longneck's head. "Mr. Longneck, I have terrible news, the impending fight I told you about earlier has become a full scale brawl. Deimos has made the decision to forcibly stop the fight. Unfortunately, he will need extra dinosaurs."

Grandpa Longneck sighed. "All right. He can have his extra dinosaurs. Ptyrax, fly to the airfield and get all available land-walkers there. Do not take away border and sleeping area patrols."

"Deimos has asked permission to recruit Rime."

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "Deimos may recruit Rime, but he is to be paired with another one of our dinosaurs. And this time he may use a weapon but only a stick or a staff."

Ptyrax nodded and flew off. As he flew towards the airfield, the leaders began to talk amongst themselves.

"Mr. Longneck, is it wise we trust a mostly unknown sickleclaw with a weapon?" Mr. Thicknose asked.

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "I trust Deimos's declaration that Rime has no skills in weapons use. Besides, his claws and teeth can do more damage. With a stick, he's holding it so he can't use his hand claws. And remember that he will be entering right in the middle of a huge fight; if he tries to eat someone, chances are that combatants will put aside their fight for a moment to stop him."

Mr. Thicknose nodded. "I agree. Immediate threats will take precedence over more 'trivial' matters such as food."

Mr. Threehorn snorted and spoke: "I have to agree with your reasoning, Mr. Longneck. Much as I don't want to admit it." He then suddenly grinned, something that was rarely seen. "Besides, if he helps break up the fight, good. If he gets beaten to death by the fighters, so what? It's not like anyone here's going to miss him."

Ptyrax landed by the airfield. "Deimos needs more volunteers."

Five other dinosaurs, all of them Fast-Runners who were lounging on the grass, grabbed their sticks and stood up.

"Where's Rime?" Ptyrax asked.

"Over by the feeding grounds." One of the Fast-Runners replied.

"Great! He's probably already joined up with Deimos."

Over by the feeding grounds, the gathered dinosaurs had already waded into the group and were attempting to disperse them.

"Is this a common thing?" Rime grunted, ducking a swipe from a stick.

Deimos shook his head and tripped one of the Fast-Runners with his staff. "No."

Ms. Swimmer caught a Runner's stick between her dual sticks. She then quickly disarmed him and caught him a chokehold. She then dragged him out to the edges of the battle where, Hyp, Mutt and Ptyrax bound him with vines. There were a few other dinosaurs who had been subdued sitting near them. The three spear wielding Swimmers guarded them.

Shorty body slammed an armed Runner, sending his stone knife flying. Before he could rise, an allied Swimmer grabbed him in a chokehold and dragged him off for processing.

Rime grabbed a Runner's stick as it was swung at his head. The Runner tried to pull the stick back but Rime quickly punched his opponent in the stomach winding her and forcing her to drop the stick, which he then snatched up. A blow to the back of his head knocked him down and he barely avoided getting stepped on. He quickly got back to his feet, only to receive a stick to the head. He shook it off and proceeded to try and subdue one of the combatants, only to fail when he grabbed a Runner and another Runner clubbed him over the head. Rime fell and a Fast-Runner struck him in the back. Soon, the group around him began beating him with fists, feet and sticks. Rime desperately tried to fend off the blows with his stick and his hands but there were simply too many attackers.

Deimos, who disarmed a Fast-Runner, saw the beating and he quickly grabbed Rime and dragged him by the tail through the mob. Even as Deimos was dragging Rime through the mob, they continued beating him. Even Deimos received several blows to the head and body but he simply ignored the blows.

As soon as Deimos made it to the edge, two Fast-Runner reinforcements arrived and waded into the melee. Deimos then placed the now unconscious and bloodied Rime near the prisoners.

"What happened to him?" Mutt asked.

"He's been beaten badly." Deimos replied

Ms. Swimmer then reemerged from the melee dragging a battered Runner, who she handed off Hyp and Mutt for processing. She then waded back into the melee.

A bit farther from the melee, a fast-biter, deep blue with iridescent purple splashes at the edge of his feathers, grinned deviously as he watched the Great Valley dinosaurs batter each other. He was crouched behind a log, inside the log was a pile of tree sweets that he had pilfered.

Out in the Mysterious Beyond, Littlefoot and his expedition group were resting at a small oasis. The area surrounding them was harsh and rocky though the oasis was verdant and lush with plant life.

Strut was lying down near the lake. His vine pack harness had not been removed.

Ali and Littlefoot were simply resting near the lake as Cera, Raptix, Strut and Coatal were.

Strut took a gulp of water from the small lake. "Well, I'm kind of hungry."

Coatal flew into the air and headed into the small grove. In a few moments, he flew back clutching a branch laden with small red berries. He then dropped the branch near Strut who started picking off the berries and shoving them into his mouth. "I guess we should eat before continuing."

"We should." Littlefoot said. His stomach let loose a deep growl as he spoke.

"I agree." Ali added. She chuckled slightly at the growling of Littlefoot's stomach.

Spike nodded in agreement.

"Well, I guess we form a foraging party?" Cera asked.

Littlefoot nodded.

Raptix went over to the lake and waited for fish to approach. A large lizard darted by him but he grabbed before it could evade him and he quickly devoured it. A fish swam by and he quickly snatched it and tossed it on the shore.

The leaf-eaters, save for Spike entered the grove. The grove was rather small but it was just large enough to fit all the dinosaurs comfortably. The trees were somewhat shorter than the two Longnecks, though they towered over everyone else.

Coatal was plucking berry branches from a tall tree while Strut was picking almond like nuts from a shrub. Littlefoot and Ali were snapping off branches laden with succulent leaves and dropping them on the ground.

After a several minutes, they had harvested enough food for everyone.

Strut was dragging a leaf sled filled with the nuts and the fallen branches and Coatal was barely able to fly thanks to all the berry branches he was carrying. They then deposited their food near the small lake, where Raptix greeted them with a small pile of fish as well as a decapitated lizard in a small pool of blood.

"Good hunting, I see?" Raptix said, looking at what Coatal and Strut were carrying.

Ali chuckled. "We're not hunting. We're foraging."

"Sorry, my Leaf-Eater, though good is not perfect." Raptix replied.

"Well, your Leaf-Eater is better than my Sharptooth." Ali replied/

Spike looked at the decapitated lizard and closed his eyes and began to shiver.

Littlefoot looked at Spike. "Raptix, could you move that headless crawler? Spike doesn't like it." Littlefood asked.

"Sorry." Raptix replied, picking up the lizard and eating it.

Spike shivered even harder as the scent of blood and the sound of Raptix crunching the lizard's bones reached his ears.

"Raptix! Stop scaring Spike!" Cera shouted.

"Cera! Be nice to Raptix! He needs to eat like we do!" Littlefoot scolded.

Raptix swallowed his mouthful of lizard and he went up to Spike and tried to console him but the scent of blood on Raptix's feathers made him even more nervous.

Littlefoot went over to Spike and gently nuzzled him. "Raptix, please leave us alone." He whispered.

Raptix nodded and went away from the two.

After a few moments, Spike opened his eyes and affectionately licked Littlefoot.

"Well, let's eat!" Strut said.

Cera ate some of the nuts that Strut had harvested only to spit them back out. "How do you eat these things! They're like eating a rock!" She then helped herself to one of the fallen branches.

Strut said nothing but searched around for a large cylindrical rock and a flat rock. He soon found what he was looking for inside the cool waters of the lake.

He placed the dripping wet rocks near the pile of nuts and tossed a handful of the nuts onto the rock. He then carefully rolled the cylindrical rock over the nuts, cracking the shells into small pieces. He then continued grinding the nuts until the glossy white kernels could be seen amid the tan dust of the shells. He grabbed a kernel and tossed it into his mouth. "Mm. They're just right."

Cera looked at the grindstone and the white kernels that remained. She tentatively ate one of the kernels. "Hey, these are good! What are these?"

"It's rockseed." Strut replied.

"How did you know how to prepare them?" Cera asked.

"I've lived in the Mysterious Beyond for many cold times. I always had to find my own

food as I never liked Ozzie's food."

"Mind if I try these seeds?" Coatal asked, as he took a handful of the processed seeds.

"Erm…sure." Strut replied, trying to hide his anger.

Coatal put one of the seeds, chewed it a bit and promptly spat it out. "Gross." He then continued eating the berries and leaves.

Opposite Cera and Strut, Spike was gorging himself on the berries and leaves.

"You know Ali, there's one thing that really scares me." Littlefoot said, between bites of the leaves.

"What?" Ali replied, swallowing her mouthful of berries.

"It's just that this war's been going on for so long… I mean the Night Circle has changed its shape at least twice since Styracus came into our valley. What if this war lasts so long that our kids end up having to fight in it?"

Ali blushed slightly. "So, you're in love with me? Is that why you bought up your kids?"

"Erm, yes… I mean no! I mean…. Damn." Littlefoot stammered out.

Ali grinned. "It's okay. But don't worry; this war will be long over when we have our kids."

They then exchanged a brief kiss before they continued eating their meal. By this time it was just a little past noon and the intense sun beat down on the rocky plains.

Over in the Great Valley, Theta and Hasta lead their group, or what was left of it through the Great Rock Pass.

They then arrived in front of Styracus and Red-Eye.

"So I take it you failed?" Red-Eye asked, looking over the battered members of the expedition.

"Well what does it look like!" Theta shouted.

"Calm down." Styracus said. "We have crafted backup plan in the unlikely event you failed." He then turned to Red-Eye. "Red-Eye."

Red-Eye cleared his throat. "Well, I have sent several fast-biters to sabotage anything in the Great Valley they could: food, supplies, herbs, weapons and even eggs."

"What's the purpose?" Hasta asked.

"Simple. If we do it right, we can make the Great Valley dinosaurs blame each other for the sabotage. And if we're lucky, we can get them to fight each other."

Saber grinned. "Simple, but ingenious! A pity I don't get to see the dinosaurs kill each other."

"Forget watching, I actually want to kill some of them!" Theta shouted.

"Now, now Theta, you'll get your chance. I'm assigning you, Hasta, Slasher and Saber to a hunting party when the Night Circle falls. Kill all you want then. Our sharpteeth could use the food." Red-Eye said.

Over in Mr. Bigmouth's grove, Hellebore and Aconite were preparing some herbal medications.

"Hellebore, are you done with the blackwood scrapings yet?" Aconite asked. He was monitoring a calabash filled with a thick orange liquid that he was boiling using a heated stone.

Hellebore turned around and in the process accidentally knocked a calabash full of bloodroot slices into the fire. The fire immediately gave off irritating smoke that caused their eyes to water.

"You idiot! I needed those!" Aconite shouted.

"Look, I'll prepare the next batch of bloodroot." Hellebore said.

"The calabash was also lost!"

"I'll make a new one!"

Aconite coughed. "Let's get out of here! The smoke's really bothering me."

Hellebore nodded and the two bolted out of the grove. Slasher happened to notice them and he chuckled to himself. "Hmm. They must have made a bad batch of herbs."

Back at the meadow, Deimos and his group had managed to disperse the entire mob of dinosaurs. The feeding grounds were spattered with blood. Teeth as well as various weapons lay on the ground. Mr. Clubtail, Mr. Threehorn, Chomper's parents and Bron had taken the fighters away to be interrogated. A few bodies on the fighters lay on the ground.

"This is completely ridiculous!" Hyp said, dragging a Runner with his head completely caved in to a small edge of the feeding grounds.

"I never want to see a fight like this again." Ms. Swimmer said. She was dragging two dead Runners, both had been stabbed so severely that their intestines were dragging on the ground.

"Eww." Mutt said, shuddering at the sight of the two eviscerated Runners. He was dragging a dead Fast-Runner who had this throat slashed.

A Swimmer dragging a carcass of a Runner riddled with stab wounds rolled her eyes at Mutt's squeamishness.

Several hours later, when it was around dusk, the group had finished cleaning up the feeding grounds. The weapons were piled up in preparation to be burned and the bodies were stacked up.

"Ptyrax, tell Blue-Scale that we have some bodies to dispose of." Shorty said.

Ptyrax nodded and flew towards the main lake. There he landed on Blue-Scale's head.

"We have cleaned the battleground. There have been several deaths and we need the bodies disposed of." Ptyrax said. He then leapt off Blue-Scale's head onto a nearby tree. He turned his head and he noticed Bron and the others interrogating the fighters by torchlight.

Blue-Scale nodded and headed over to the feeding grounds where Deimos, Chomper's parents and Rime were already eating the dead.

Some of the plant eaters turned away but most didn't seem to pay attention. After all, most had killed other dinosaurs during the Battle of the Great Valley.

Deimos had finished eating a Runner carcass. Hyp scooped up the bones and placed them by the stack of weapons. He arranged the sticks so they surrounded the bones. Mutt and the two Swimmers followed his lead.

"Hyp, what are you doing?" Deimos asked.

"Making sure that the bones will burn."

Blue-Scale had arrived and also began eating. He tore a Fast-Runner's carcass in two and began eating it.

After a few minutes, the carcasses had been devoured and the bones had been placed in the impromptu pyre.

"Well, now to start a fire." Deimos said.

"Bright torches anyone?" Hyp replied.

"I'll get a few from Mr. Bigmouth. And I'll see if he's been slacking off." Ms. Swimmer said.

"Get some herbs too!" Shorty shouted. He had a large bruise forming on his side from where a Fast-Runner had clubbed him.

"I never thought we'd get attacked by our own dinosaurs!" Hyp said. His left eye was starting to swell from a punch to the eye he had received in the brawl. His nose was also caked with dried blood.

Ms. Swimmer had now arrived at Mr. Bigmouth's grove. She looked around and noticed that a campfire was blazing away at the stone fire pit. Several deadly looking stone tipped lances rested against the trees and several calabashes of what she assumed were dart poisons or herbal medications were sitting on a flat rock. Mr. Bigmouth himself was sitting in front of another flat rock. Aside from the crackling of the fire, the only other sound that was heard was the rhythmic, almost musical sound of Mr. Bigmouth hammering out a stone weapon from a simple rock

"Mr. Bigmouth." Ms. Swimmer said.

Mr. Bigmouth, who was in the process of using a heavy stick to carefully knock the flakes off a stone spearhead, giving it its deadly edge, accidentally struck the spearhead in the wrong spot and shattered it.

"Damn it!" he cursed. He carefully brushed the sharp rock fragments to the side.

"Mr. Bigmouth." Ms. Swimmer repeated with a note of irritation in her voice.

Mr. Bigmouth then turned around. "Ah, yes. What can I do for you?"

"Well, first I need several bright torches, one lit and the rest unlit. I also need some herbs, just the basic painkilling herb mix and the clear herb juice."

Mr. Bigmouth pointed to a multitude of tree branches stuck in the ground. The end that was visible was wrapped in several vines. An oily sheen on the vines was just visible by the firelight. "Help yourself." He said.

"Thank you. But another thing, I need to see if you've been keeping up with your manufacturing." Ms. Swimmer said.

"Go right ahead." Mr. Bigmouth replied.

Ms. Swimmer nodded and started looking at all calabashes and rocks around the area. She did a double take as she noticed a calabash that was empty only two nights ago was filled to the brim with spearheads.

"Mr. Bigmouth, how did you fill an entire calabash with spearheads in only two nights?" Ms. Swimmer asked in astonishment.

Mr. Bigmouth chuckled. "I didn't make them. I found them just outside my grove in a river. But that's not all I found; I also found what amounts to several nights work of stone weapons."

"How'd they get there?"

Mr. Bigmouth shrugged. "I don't know and I'm trying to find out. I'm starting to think it's a dinosaur who's doing this."

"I hope you find out." Ms. Swimmer then headed to the area where the bright torches were kept. She tucked several of them under her arm and ignited another one, which she held in her left hand, using Mr. Bigmouth's campfire.

She then left the grove, the intense light from the torch fading as she headed towards the feeding grounds.

When she had arrived back at the feeding grounds, night had fallen and the moon was starting to rise. She then stuck the lit torch into the ground and handed the torches to everyone else.

Hyp lit his torch off the one in the ground and he walked past the dinosaurs, who were standing in a straight line, lighting their torches in turn. He then went up to the makeshift pyre.

Ms. Swimmer picked up the torch from the ground and stood in front of the improvised pyre as well. She took a deep breath. "May this horrific mistake in judgment never occur again. May peace continue to reign among the Great Valleyians." She said solemly. She then thrust her torch into the pyre. Hyp did the same. At the same time, Deimos, Mutt and the two Swimmers present threw their torches onto the pyre. The torches left a burning trail of red and orange sparks as they arced through the air and landed on the top of the pyre. Soon the pyre burst into flames.

The dinosaurs became silent as the flames consumed the pyre and the bones of the dead. After many minutes, the roaring flames of the pyre had died down into somewhat smaller fire.

"Erm, not to be disrespectful but I'm curious as to why we went through all that trouble." Deimos asked. He then made a face of embarrassment. "To be honest, I didn't have damn clue to what I was doing when I threw that torch."

"It's a modified version of our customs. Normally, when a dinosaur dies, we move the body to one of the Great Wall outcroppings that face the Mysterious Beyond. After we say words of thanks and respect, the closest surviving family pushes the body off the outcropping." Hyp said. He then grinned and clapped Deimos on the back. "And you did fine!"

Deimos nodded. "Since there are no cliffs here, you burn the bodies instead?"

Hyp shook his head. "Just the bones. After battles, we let you, Blue-Scale and Raptix eat the body to the bones. We then take the bones and place them inside a fire."

"Ah, so it's a way of showing respect. I understand now."

Hyp nodded. "It's okay, we can all learn from each other. I'm still learning some words in Sharptooth and you're still learning about our customs."

Suddenly, Ptyrax and Pterano landed by the pyre. "Everyone! Littlefoot's expedition is back!"

Deimos beamed. "I knew it!"

"Let's go and greet them!" Hyp shouted.

The group then headed to the front of the meadow. The pyre was still burning as they headed towards the front of the meadow.

The group arrived to quite a sight: most of the Great Valley dinosaurs had formed a line, between which Littlefoot and his group walked through. Many two-footers were present as well, most if not all of them were holding bright torches, lighting up the group. Several flyers of the Great Valley Air Corps preformed flybys as well. Several of the dinosaurs were cheering as well.

However, one dinosaur was notably absent from the celebration: Mr. Bigmouth.

Chapter 26: Revelation

A chill wind whistled through the cold moonlit plains and forests of Claw Valley. Most of the dinosaurs were asleep, save for the guards. The dull red light of torches marked where the guards were located and their patrol routes.

Twin beams of blue-white light dove down into the valley into the area known as the Bonelands. This desolate rocky plain on the outskirts of Claw Valley served as the burial grounds for Claw Valley's greatest heroes. The twin beams crashed into two skeletons: one of an enormous flyer and the other of a massive sickleclaw. Though the bones were bleached and pale thanks to a combination of the moonlight and years of weathering, they still retained a threatening aura about them.

As the beams struck the skeletons, they began to rise. Organs, muscle and skin returned to them in eerie rhythmic flashes of cold blue light. Soon the two stood as they did in life, imposing and merciless but cloaked in a white aura that obscured their features.

Soon the aura shattered in a blinding flash, revealing the two resurrected heroes.

The sickleclaw was first to move. His body, as black as the icy night that surrounded him, tensed as he tested all his muscles, muscles that had not moved for decades. A grin spread across his hard edged face, revealing a row of dagger-like teeth. He turned his blue eyes, as pale as the moonlight that bathed him and his companion, towards the interior of Claw Valley. He then headed towards the interior of the valley, his heavy footsteps echoing in the desolate plain.

The flyer was next to move. He leapt into the air and flew towards the interior of the valley. His wings bore jagged red and orange markings that resembled flames, in the moonlight it appeared that his wings were ablaze. His eyes, a hypnotic but unsettling topaz, sparkled with an unnatural glow.

Far from Claw Valley, over in the Big Water Meadows, all the dinosaurs of the Great Valley were gathered by the shores of the main lake. The lake's shore sparkled with moonlight and the light from the many torches carried by the two-footers.

"And now, the purification of the lake." Grandpa Longneck boomed.

The gathered dinosaurs cheered in response.

Two torch bearing Swimmers parted to reveal a stone slab with a cylindrical grindstone and a pile of the Night Flowers but no one else.

The crowd gasped.

"Where's Mr. Bigmouth!" a Runner shouted.

"He's supposed to be here for the ceremony!" a Swimmer added.

"He's supposed to prepare the antidote!" A Threehorn shouted.

Littlefoot went up to Grandpa Longneck. "Grandpa, perhaps I should take Deimos, Strut and maybe some others to search for him?"

"Well, Mr. Bigmouth is the only one who knows how to make the antidote. Or does anyone else know?" Grandpa Longneck said.

Strut nudged Deimos with his elbow. "Do you know?"

Deimos shrugged. "Nope."

Littlefoot sighed. "Guess we'd better start searching. Deimos, you take a group and search the airfield. I'll check the grove."

Deimos nodded and gathered Ms. Swimmer, Pterano, Hyp's father and Mutt. He then left the group and headed towards the airfield.

"Cera, Hyp, Ruby, Petrie, come with me." Littlefoot said.

The aforementioned dinosaurs stood by Littlefoot's side as they were called. Ruby and Hyp were carrying the torches they had obtained for the ceremony.

"Okay, group move out!" Littlefoot ordered.

Littlefoot and his group then headed deeper into the meadow towards Mr. Bigmouth's grove.

After a few minutes, the group arrived at the grove. It was deserted looking and the two bright torches that marked the entrance to the grove were mostly extinguished.

"Me no like this place." Petrie said.

"Now that you mention it, something's not right." Hyp said. He quickly relit the two torches on the ground, providing some much needed illumination.

"Well, let's enter." Littlefoot said. As he spoke the group burst into the grove. As the intense torchlight danced across the grove, it revealed that the grove was deserted but in good condition. Several calabashes of herbs and poisons as well as stone weapons in various states of completion lay on assorted flat rocks and logs. The campfire in the middle was reduced to smoldering coals but it was still hot.

"Hmm. Looks like Mr. Bigmouth left in a hurry." Cera said, looking at the half completed spearhead on a flat stone.

"It would seem that way." Ruby added, noticing that several spears that had been resting against a tree had been knocked over. "But now the question is what made Mr. Bigmouth leave in such a rush?"

"This!" Hyp suddenly shouted, forcing everyone to turn in his direction. He shone the torch over several clawed footprints that lead out of the grove.

"Fast-biter footprints." Littlefoot said, examining them.

"But why Raptix here? He no work on weapons." Petrie asked.

Ruby picked up some feathers that were lying next to the footprints. She held them up near her torch. The feathers were a very dark green, almost emerald in color. "These are not Raptix's feathers. His feathers are a blue-purple color. And these are dark green."

"So that means…" Hyp began.

Littlefoot nodded. "Some other fast-biter has been here. And we must assume that the fast-biter was intent on doing harm." He looked at the calabashes of herbal medicines. "And that means we must assume that the medications have been poisoned."

Ruby and Petrie started gathering up the calabashes of herbal medications and stacking them near the fire ring. At the same time, Hyp stuck his bright torch in the soft earth near the fire ring and started building a campfire in the fire ring. He then thrust his bright torch into the tinder pile, igniting the entire wood pile in a matter of moments.

"The fire's ready." Hyp said.

Ruby nodded and grabbed the first calabash, filled with a sticky clear liquid. She slowly poured the liquid over the fire. The fire hissed and crackled as the liquid struck the burning logs. She then tossed the empty calabash into the fire.

Petrie followed suit with his calabash. As he threw the empty calabash into the fire, Mr. Bigmouth walked into the grove. He was carrying the battered carcass of a fast-biter by the tail in his right hand.

"Oh, hi Mr. Bigmouth." Petrie said. "Uh, why you have dead fast-biter?"

Mr. Bigmouth, who was covered in gashes, including a few that narrowly missed his eyes, merely sighed. One hand was behind his back.

"Mr. Bigmouth, what happened? You weren't at the ceremony when our expedition arrived." Littlefoot asked. "And I would like to know why you're carrying a dead fast-biter."

"I was chasing a suspected thief. It's the same one who I suspected of taking all the knives and spearheads and throwing them in the river. "

"Where the thief?" Petrie asked.

"I'm holding him." Mr. Bigmouth then tossed the carcass on the ground. As he did so, he spotted Hyp pouring a calabash of herbal medicine into the campfire. "Hyp! What are you doing!" he demanded.

Hyp, in shock, dropped the calabash into the campfire. The liquid in the calabash flashed into steam and spattered some hot embers on him. "We…"

"We had found dark green feathers in your grove. Since Raptix has purple-blue feathers we assumed that a hostile fast biter has poisoned the herbs." Ruby cut in.

"There is no need. I have already destroyed all suspect materials. Now stop burning my herbs." Mr. Bigmouth ordered.

Hyp and Petrie put their calabashes back on the flat rock.

Mr. Bigmouth then got a calabash filled with a red viscous liquid and carried it over to the artificial pond, where a bright torch had been stuck in the ground by Ruby earlier. Mr. Bigmouth then dipped his fingers into the liquid and smeared it on the gashes on his face and body. When he was done, several lines of dark red marked his body and face, looking almost like war paint.

"You scary looking. What that you put on?" Petrie said, looking at Mr. Bigmouth.

"Enhanced sickleclaw paste. It doesn't smell as bad and it's a contact painkiller." Mr. Bigmouth replied. At the same time Ruby was examining Mr. Bigmouth, much to his chagrin. "Well, you do seem rather intimidating. Is there anyway we can use this to our advantage?" she asked.

"Other than scaring the enemies to death by painting ourselves like this, screaming like sharpteeth on the hunt, and charging at the same time?" Cera replied.

"You know, Cera, you have a good idea." Littlefoot said.


"Littlefoot is right. By scaring the enemies we gain an advantage. And we should use any advantage no matter how small it may be." Ruby said.

"Okay, since everything is in order, we need to go back to the main lake." Littlefoot said.

"Agreed." Ali added.

The group then began their journey back to the main lake.

At the same time, Deimos and his group were looking at the area around the airfield. It was quiet and the area was mostly deserted. The only light came from the bright torches that the two footers carried.

"Well, Mr. Bigmouth's not here so…Woah!" Deimos said, tripping over something and falling flat on his face. He got back onto his feet and picked up the torch, which had rolled to a stop a few inches away. He then looked at what he tripped over; it was the prone form of a blue Fast-Runner. "Hey, it's Ovius!"

"Ovius?" Mutt asked. He then tapped Ovius. "Hey Ovius! Wake up! You're going to miss the ceremony." He got no response. "Ovius?"

"Perhaps Ovius should not have overindulged in old treesweet juice." Pterano added.

Deimos gently turned Ovius over and felt for a pulse and listened for breathing. He got nothing. "It's not old treesweet juice that did this" He then pointed to a vine shaped bruise on his neck.

"Oh my. He was strangled?" Hyp's father asked.

Deimos nodded.

"There's more!" Ms. Swimmer said, gesturing with her torch to two bodies slumped over near a rock.

The group quickly headed over to the two bodies, both lay in a pool of dried blood.

Mutt examined the first body, this one was of a flyer. When Mutt illuminated the body, he noticed that it was headless and when he moved his torch he noticed the skull of the flyer staring at him from a rock. Mutt dropped his torch in shock and fainted.

Deimos went up to the decapitated flyer and examined it as well as the skull. "I'm sorry to say but this flyer is Dact. And he seems to have been killed about a night ago."

Ms. Swimmer looked at the other body, this one was of a Runner. "Hey, this dead Runner looks a lot like Solo."

Pterano examined the Runner, whose throat was slashed. "It is Solo." He then sighed. "Okay, it seems we have a killer inside this valley. I will bring this issue up with the elders."

Pterano then took flight back to the main lake.

"Well, I guess there's only one thing we can do." Ms. Swimmer said. "Deimos. Conduct the rites."

Deimos stuck his torch in the ground and began eating the two carcasses. At the same time, Ms. Swimmer gathered up some firewood to make a small pyre.

As soon as Deimos was finished he reverently placed the bones in the pyre and lit it with his torch. As the flames consumed the bones, he solemnly bowed his head as did Ms. Swimmer.

At the same time, Mutt regained consciousness and staggered over to Ms. Swimmer and Deimos.

"Hey, what's going…" Mutt began, before Ms. Swimmer silenced him. Mutt too bowed his head.

After a few more minutes, the pyre was reduced to ashes and the group left the airfield and headed back to the main lake.

Over at the main lake, Mr. Bigmouth's arrival was greeted with much fanfare. All of the dinosaurs watched in awe as he ground the Night Flowers into a softly glowing golden paste and packed them into leaf packets. As soon as he was done, he stood back up and raised his arms to the sky. At his signal, the flyers and dinosaurs of the Great Valley Air Corps grabbed the packets and flew over the lake.

"And now for the purification of the lake!" Grandpa Longneck boomed.

At his words, the dinosaurs tore open the leaf packets and tossed them in the water. Where the packets struck the water, a glowing golden patch appeared on the water for a brief moment. As the dinosaurs exhausted their supply of the paste, they picked up more of the packets and repeated the process.

When the process was finished after many minutes, Mr. Bigmouth went over to the lake's shore, knelt down and took a drink. "It is finished. The lake is safe!"

The gathered dinosaurs cheered, a thunderous sound that echoed around the meadow. In addition, some of the torch bearing dinosaurs started impromptu fire dances near the shoreline.

Littlefoot, Strut, Raptix, Cera, Mr. Bigmouth and Coatal were almost mobbed by the group of grateful dinosaurs.

Pterano, from his perch on Grandpa Longneck's head, sighed.

"Is something wrong?" Ptyrax asked, flying up to Pterano's level.

"Indeed there is. I am not sure if I should spoil the festive mood with my group's grim discovery." Pterano replied.

"It's going to come out sooner or later. Better now." Ptyrax replied.

Pterano sighed then whispered into Grandpa Longneck's ear. "Mr. Longneck, Deimos's group, which I was part of, have found the bodies of Dact, Solo and Ovius in the airfield. They appear to have been killed by an unknown dinosaur."

Grandpa Longneck's eyes went wide for a moment then he cleared his throat and spoke. "Everyone, I regret to dampen the festive mood but Pterano has alerted me to the fact that Ovius, Dact and Solo have been found dead in the airfield. We suspect that an unknown dinosaur is behind their deaths. Rest assured that we will catch and punish the perpetrators. In the meantime, stay together and always have someone on guard when you sleep. In the meantime, we will increase patrols around the sleeping areas and feeding grounds."

The gathered dinosaurs began talking amongst themselves and some of them dispersed to sleep. Still others remained, mesmerized by the impromptu fire dances.

The six fire dancers, who were performing for Coatal, Cera, Littlefoot, Spike, Ruby, Strut, Littlefoot, Ali and Raptix, immediately ceased their performance and handed their torches to those who could carry them, when Grandpa Longneck's announcement was made.

"Let's move out! To the feeding grounds!" Littlefoot ordered. His voice was barely heard over the frenzied shouting of the remaining fire dancers.

Coatal, Cera, Spike, Ruby, Strut, Ali and Raptix followed Littlefoot to the feeding grounds.

Rime, who with Deimos, was watching Ms. Swimmer and a Fast-Runner rapidly twirl torches, leaving a trail of embers behind them, was too entranced by the fire dancers to hear the announcement. Either that or the frenzied shouting of the two fire dancers drowned out the announcement.

Deimos, however, immediately listened to Grandpa Longneck's announcement. He then tapped Rime on the shoulder. "Rime, I've got an idea, if you help us catch the killers, the elders may trust you."

"Erm. Yeah… That sounds like a good idea." Rime replied, staring at the two fire dancers.

"Rime! This is serious!" Deimos replied.

Rime immediately snapped to attention. "Sorry. It's just that I've never seen this before."

Deimos sighed, "Neither have I but this is more important." He then went up to the two fire dancers, who seemed to be intoxicated by their frenzied shouting and whirling, and tapped them on the shoulders. "Guys, we need to start looking for some killers."

The two dancers immediately stopped and followed Deimos towards the edges of the crowd. Rime did so as well.

"Where to now?" Rime asked.

"We head to the sleeping areas." Deimos asked.

"Wait, isn't that a restricted area?" the Fast-Runner dancer asked.

"It is but I don't give damn right now. Let's move out!"

Deimos and his group then headed for the sleeping areas. At the same time, the remaining fire dancers came down from their frenzy and dispersed as did the other dinosaurs. Only Blue-Scale, Mr. Threehorn, Mr. Thicknose, Grandpa Longneck and Grandma Longneck remained.

Littlefoot's group had now arrived at the feeding grounds. The area there was calm. The torches that were stuck in the ground had mostly burned out by now.

"We start looking for the killers now. We split into groups of two. Each group needs a two-footer who can hold a torch." Littlefoot said.

Coatal paired up with Cera, Spike and Ruby paired up, Raptix and Ali paired up and finally, Strut and Littlefoot paired up. The groups then dispersed around the feeding grounds.

Strut and Littlefoot were standing near two treesweet trees. Suddenly, one of the bushes rustled and a shadowy figure burst out of the bushes and tried to run for it.

Strut noticed the figure and gave chase. After a few short moments, Strut caught the figure and was holding it by the tail. It was a small light green fast-biter. He then returned to Littlefoot.

Littlefoot was looking around the other bushes for evidence when Strut tapped him. "Littlefoot, I found a fast-biter who tried to run. I assume that this is not an ally."

"Damn straight." Littlefoot replied. "Tie him up and we'll transport him to the elders."

Strut stuck his torch in the ground and pinned the fast-biter to the ground, as he was doing so, he noticed that a small stone knife was in a sheath hanging from the fast-biter's neck. He then removed the knife and placed it aside.

"Littlefoot, vines…" Strut began. Suddenly, the fast-biter bit Strut in the hand. "Argh!" He immediately let go of the fast-biter, who leapt to his feet and tried to run.

Strut then seized a large rock with his good hand and threw it at the running fast-biter. He struck the fast-biter in the head. The fast-biter tumbled to the ground, dead.

In the meantime, the other groups were cleaning up the poisoned food they had found.

Raptix sniffed a small apple-like fruit. He then tossed it in a pile where several other contaminated fruits were placed. "Who does this?" he asked.

"Some bastards who are too afraid to fight us face to face." Coatal replied, tossing some poisoned sweet bubbles into the same pile.

Ali and Littlefoot were both pulling two leaf sleds that were piled high with treestars.

"This is so wrong. Poisoning our food?" Littlefoot said between gritted teeth, as he was holding onto the sled with his mouth.

Ali and Littlefoot deposited their sleds near the pile of contaminated fruits.

"That's all of them." Strut said, "Now, to properly dispose of them."

"You mean burn them?" Raptix asked. He then turned to Strut. "Mind if I look at that knife?"

Strut nodded and handed the knife to Raptix who sniffed it several times.

"Well, luckily we've got some firewood nearby." Coatal replied.

"Strut, Coatal, gather firewood. In the meantime, Ali, find the dead fast-biter and burn his body." Littlefoot ordered. He was then approached by Raptix who tapped him on the side.

"Littlefoot, the knife that the fast-biter was carrying has Ovius's blood on it." Raptix said, holding up the small but deadly knife.

Strut and Coatal were picking up the numerous sticks and twigs that lay around the feeding grounds. After several minutes, they had gathered enough to make a rather pile. Raptix and Coatal thrust their nearly burned out torches into the pile, igniting it.

Strut and Ruby were tossing the poisoned food into the fire as fast as they could. In the meantime, Ali returned, pushing the dead fast-biter towards the two with her feet. Without a moment's hesitation, Ruby seized the fast-biter carcass and tossed it into the fire.

After many minutes, the contaminated food had been destroyed and the fire had burned down to smoldering coals, which Ruby and Strut buried under dirt.

"Well, I hope Deimos and his group found his assignment as easy as ours." Coatal said.

Littlefoot and his group then headed back to the main lake.

However, such was not the case as Deimos's group had found themselves in the middle of a fast-biter ambush.

"You didn't have the foresight to take a spear or a few?" a Fast-Runner shouted. He batted aside a fast-biter with his torch, which was now merely a heavy stick. Another fast-biter tried to bite him, but he caught its mouth on the torch. He then grabbed it and snapped its neck.

Ms. Swimmer said nothing but kicked a fast-biter and lit another one on fire with her torch.

Deimos grabbed a fast-biter who leapt at him and literally tore its head off; he tossed the two pieces of the fast-biter at another fast-biter. Yet another fast-biter bit his ankle, opening a wound that bled rather profusely. He tried to ignore the wound but the pain was proving to be a serious impediment.

Rime beat another fast-biter to death with his burned out torch. "Do you think your fast-biter friend bought these guys here?"

"You will not speak of Raptix that way!" Deimos shouted. He was now down on one knee, being unable to stand on his injured leg. He slashed at a fast-biter who approached him, allowing Ms. Swimmer to set the fast-biter on fire.

"Damn, I was just proposing an idea!" Rime countered. He kicked the last fast-biter and snapped his foot down, tearing its throat open.

As soon as the last fast-biter was dead, Ms. Swimmer and Rime gently picked Deimos up. He was grimacing and the wound on his ankle steadily dripped blood.

"We'll need to get him to Mr. Bigmouth's grove." Ms. Swimmer said.

Ms. Swimmer and Rime literally carried Deimos to Mr. Bigmouth's grove. The Fast-Runner followed them.

When they arrived at the grove, they were met by Mr. Bigmouth, who was stoking the campfire.

Ms. Swimmer and Rime gently set Deimos down on the ground. Ms. Swimmer and Rime tossed their burned out torches in the campfire.

Mr. Bigmouth nodded at the Fast-Runner and got to work cleaning the wound with a calabash full of a warm clear sap.

"Report this incident to Mr. Longneck. And vouch for Rime." Deimos ordered. He flinched as Mr. Bigmouth then smeared the enhanced sickleclaw paste on the deep wound and began wrapping it in a leaf dressing.

Ms. Swimmer nodded and left the clearing with Rime and the Fast-Runner. After a few minutes, they arrived at the main lake. There, Littlefoot had finished reporting what he had found in the feeding grounds and was preparing to head back to the sleeping areas along with the rest of his squad.

"Ms. Swimmer, has Deimos found anything of importance?" Blue-Scale asked.

Ms. Swimmer nodded. "He has. We were ambushed by several fast-biters in the sleeping areas. Unfortunately, Deimos was seriously injured in the process. In addition, Rime helped us kill the intruders."

"Hmm. Perhaps we can trust Rime after all." Grandma Longneck said.

"Thank you for giving the chance to prove myself." Rime said, bowing his head.

"You're welcome." Mr. Threehorn said, though a note of anger and sarcasm was audible in his voice.

"Since we've cleaned everything up; everyone get some sleep." Grandpa Longneck said.

As he spoke, the dinosaurs present began to disperse and head back to their nests.

Ali sighed as she walked towards the sleeping areas with Coatal, Cera, Spike, Ruby, Raptix, Strut and Littlefoot. "If only Chomper and Ducky were still alive. They would have loved the fire dances."

"If only." Littlefoot echoed. "The Night Circle's changed its shape at least twice since we lost them and I still miss them." A few tears dripped down his face.

Rime, who had overheard Ali talking, ran up to her from the back of the group. "Pardon me, but I could not overhear you mentioning Ducky."

Ali looked suspiciously at Rime. "Who are you?"

"I am Rime and the newest member of Deimos's squad." Rime replied.

"Yeah nice to meet you. I'm Ali, now how do you know about those her?"

"Simple, I was held as a prisoner in the Great Valley. I overheard two guards talking about a delivery of Ducky to a location known as Cloud Island."

Littlefoot stopped as soon as Ducky's name was mentioned. "So Ducky is still alive?" he muttered. He then yawned. "But we'll talk more when the Bright Circle rises."

After several minutes, the group had dispersed and the dinosaurs went to their individual nests.

As Littlefoot lay in his nest, he listened to the steady rhythmic breathing of Ali and drank in the cool moonlit night. "Ducky, wherever you are, we will find you and we will rescue you. Stay strong." He whispered before he drifted off into sleep.

Chapter 27: When things all fall together

It was a cool afternoon in the Big Water Meadows. The skies, instead of being their usual light blue color, were a stony grey. Dark clouds in the sky heralded rain and the watery sunlight did little to disperse the overall gloom.

Near the main lake, the elders were discussing last night's incidents and the response to them.

"I have to admit, our response to last night's incidents was absolutely shameful." Mr. Thicknose said.

"I have to agree. Though Deimos and Littlefoot showed initiative in acting on the threat, none of the other dinosaurs did so." Blue-Scale added.

"We have quite a bit of the dinosaurs on the council. Bron, Raptix, Ms. Swimmer, Littlefoot, Cera are just a few of the council members. But we haven't held council meetings much because they take too long to get to a decision and time is something we don't have." Mr. Threehorn said.

"Perhaps we can create a plan where some dinosaurs are in exclusive control of a certain element? Kind of like how Pterano is in exclusive control of the Great Valley Air Corps, answering only to us." Grandpa Longneck asked.

"That sounds like a logical idea." Mr. Thicknose replied. "The only problem is that we need a name to differentiate it from the Circle of Elders and the Valley Council."

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "All in favor? As for the name, I propose that we call it the Warriors' Council."

"In favor." Mr. Threehorn said.

"In favor." Grandma Longneck added.

"In favor." Blue-Scale said.

"That makes the vote unanimous. It shall be called the Warrior's Council. We shall immediately begin with assigning duties." Grandpa Longneck said.

"I nominate Mr. Threehorn to be Overseer of Combat and Defense." Mr. Thicknose said.

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "Any other nominations?"

"I nominate Blue-Scale." Grandma Longneck said.

"Any others?" Grandpa Longneck said, looking around the group. All the others shook their heads. "All right then, we will now move onto the position of Overseer of Weapons and Herbs."

"For this position, I nominate Mr. Thicknose." Blue-Scale said.

"Any other nominations?" Grandpa Longneck asked. Again, all shook their heads.

"All right." Grandpa Longneck then turned to Mr. Thicknose. "Mr. Thicknose, do you accept the position of Overseer of Weapons and Herbs?"

Mr. Thicknose bowed his head. "I do."

Grandpa Longneck then cleared his throat. "Next position is Head of the Great Valley Herd. Any nominations?"

"Mr. Longneck." Blue-Scale said.

"Any others?"

All the other dinosaurs shook their heads.

"Well, then I accept the position of Head of the Great Valley Herd. Next position is Co-Head of the Great Valley Herd. Any nominations?" Grandpa Longneck said.

"Mrs. Longneck." Mr. Thicknose said.

"Any others?"

All the other dinosaurs shook their heads.

"Mrs. Longneck, do you accept the position of Co-Head of the Great Valley Herd?" Grandpa Longneck asked.

"I accept." Grandma Longneck replied.

Grandpa Longneck cleared his throat. "The last position is Internal Arbitrator. He or she mediates disputes between our dinosaurs."

"I nominate Ms. Swimmer." Mr. Thicknose said.

"Ms. Swimmer is not part of the Circle of Elders. She cannot hold that position." Mr. Threehorn countered.

"Mr. Threehorn, I never stated that the dinosaur had to be part of the Circle of Elders, they just had to be a council member." Grandpa Longneck replied.

Mr. Threehorn grumbled but said nothing.

"Any other nominations?"

"I nominate Bron." Blue-Scale said.

"I will tell these two that they have been nominated for positions on the Warriors' Council." Mr. Threehorn said. He then headed off to the feeding grounds.

"Well, then I guess there is nothing more to say here. Blue-Scale, you free to relax while the rest of us vote on the position of Overseer of Combat and Defense." Grandpa Longneck.

Blue-Scale nodded and headed off to airfield, as soon he was out of sight, the gathered elders began to discuss who to choose for the Overseer of Combat and Defense.

After a few minutes, the group came to a verdict.

"The final results for Overseer of Combat and Defense are: Blue-Scale, two in favor of and one against. Mr. Threehorn, one in favor of and two against. The winner is Blue-Scale."

As soon as the announcement was made, Mr. Threehorn and Blue-Scale returned.

"Ms. Swimmer and Bron have accepted their nominations." Mr. Threehorn said.

Grandpa Longneck then looked at Blue-Scale. "Blue-Scale, you have been chosen as Overseer of Combat and Defense. You make any major decisions when it comes to assigning squads, training, combat, and expeditions. Only myself or Mrs. Longneck can override your decisions. Do you accept this position?"

Blue-Scale nodded. "I accept and I swear to uphold my duties."

Mr. Threehorn then looked at Grandpa Longneck. "Pardon me asking but exactly why did you choose Blue-Scale over me?"

"Mr. Threehorn, I find that question to be somewhat rude. If you must ask that question, could you at least wait until I'm out of earshot?" Blue-Scale said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to see if the squads are keeping up with their training." Blue-Scale then headed towards a plain on the far side of the main lake.

Grandpa Longneck nodded. "Sorry, but Blue-Scale's right. We don't ask why someone was picked over us for a position, especially if they are present; it's disrespectful to the one who did get picked for a position."

Mr. Threehorn grumbled. "Blue-Scale's not here; so why wasn't I picked?"

Grandma Longneck sighed. "Well, the biggest mark against you is the Tinysaurus incident. I am sorry but we cannot have an overseer make rash decisions."

Mr. Threehorn sighed. "Fine."

"And our last decision is position of Internal Arbitrator." Grandpa Longneck said. "Voting shall now commence."

After several minutes, the dinosaurs reached a verdict.

Grandpa Longneck cleared his throat. "For Ms. Swimmer, we have four in favor and one against. For Bron, we have one in favor and four against. The winner is Ms. Swimmer."

"I'll tell Ms. Swimmer the news." Blue-Scale said. He then left the group.

"All right then, this meeting is over." Grandpa Longneck said.

The dinosaurs then dispersed to go about their daily activities.

Over in flat area of the feeding grounds, Littlefoot, Ali, Hyp, Strut, Coatal, Cera, Spike and Rime were enjoying a fast paced game of ball. Raptix and Mutt were serving as referees. It was mid afternoon and the skies were still a cool steel grey.

Rime slid in front of Spike to prevent the ball, which was a brown seed pod, from reaching him. While still lying on his side, Rime then kicked the ball towards Coatal who picked the ball up in his talons and flew up into the air.

"Coatal! Put the ball down! You can't do that!" Raptix shouted.

Coatal dropped the ball and landed. Rime, Ali and Strut shot him dirty looks. "Sorry."

"Littlefoot's team gets one free shot." Mutt said.

"Go for it." Littlefoot said, looking at Hyp.

Hyp nodded, lined up the ball and kicked it towards into the goal, which were simply two sticks stuck in the ground. The ball ricocheted off one of the sticks, knocking it down.

"Time out." Mutt said. He then ran onto the field and placed the stick back into its proper place. He then left the field and resumed his position on the sidelines. "Time in."

Ali tail whipped the ball back into play. Hyp ran for the ball but Strut outpaced him, kicking the ball between Hyp's legs to Rime, who trapped the ball and kicked it into the air.

Littlefoot noticed the ball heading towards him and literally swatted it across the field. Ali blocked the ball with her body and kicked it to Rime, who then kicked it into the air.

Hyp and Coatal raced each other for the ball. Coatal managed to get just enough of a lead on Hyp to actually flip kick the ball. Unfortunately for Coatal, he landed on his back after the kick; luckily he managed to break his fall with his elbows.

The ball rocketed across the field, proving too fast for Littlefoot to block.

"One point for Ali's team!" Raptix shouted. "But damn, I've never seen a goal scored like that before!"

Mutt looked at the lines he had drawn in the dirt. "Ali's team wins 2-1!" he shouted.

Ali, Strut, Coatal and Rime cheered.

Littlefoot then went up to Ali. "Good game."

Rime was grinning. "That was fun. I've never played a game like that before."

"Coatal, that was a very cool trick! I've never seen anything like that!" Hyp said, clapping Coatal on the back.

Coatal chuckled. "Well Hyp, play me in this game and you'll see it more often."

"Not if I learn how to do it!"

Coatal shook his head. "Hyp, only flyers can perform something like that and you saw how I ended up on my back after it. If you try it, chances are that you won't even be able to do the flip, let alone the kick."

"Just watch!" Hyp countered.

Coatal chuckled. "Well if you want to try I'm not going to stop you."

Just then Ptyrax landed on the field. "There is a meeting at the main lake."

Littlefoot sighed. "Valley Council meeting?" he asked.

Raptix sighed as well. "The Valley Council takes too long to get anywhere. I hope they sped everything up."

"No, a meeting for all the dinosaurs." Ptyrax replied.

"Well, let's get this over with." Littlefoot said, exiting the feeding grounds.

After a few minutes, they arrived at the main lake, where pretty much everyone was gathered. The air was thick with chatter and Ms. Swimmer, Grandpa Longneck, Grandma Longneck, Mr. Thicknose and Blue-Scale were addressing the group. Behind them were Mr. Threehorn, Pterano and Bron.

Littlefoot lead his group near the front of the crowd where Deimos was sitting. A wooden staff lay next to him and his injured foot was wrapped in a leaf bandage.

"So how's your foot, Deimos?" Littlefoot asked.

"Not bad. I can still walk." Deimos replied.

"You're okay!" Raptix said.

Suddenly, the crowd grew silent and Grandpa Longneck's voice boomed around the lake. "We have made a drastic change to the leadership system. We have added a new council: the Warriors' Council."

The crowd was silent for a moment when a lone voice from the back of the crowd spoke up. "What's wrong with the previous system!"

"After last night's incident, it was determined that response time was too slow. This is an attempt to speed up response time." Grandpa Longneck said. He then cleared his throat. "Without further ado: I present the members of the Warriors' Council: Ms. Swimmer as Internal Arbitrator."

Ms. Swimmer stepped forward and waved to the crowd, which clapped in approval.

"Blue-Scale as Overseer of Combat and Defense"

Blue-Scale waved to the crowd as well, eliciting claps of approval.

"Mr. Thicknose as Overseer of Weapons and Herbs."

Mr. Thicknose bowed his head. The crowd clapped as well.

"And myself and my mate as Co-Heads of Great Valley Herd." Grandpa Longneck finished.

No sooner than he finished, the crowd broke into a thunderous applause.

After several minutes of near continuous cheering, the crowd dispersed.

Pterano flew back to the airfield, where members of the Great Valley Air Corps, who arrived before he did, were resting.

"There will be no practice today due to the recent death of Solo, Ovius and Dact. Dismissed." Pterano said, his voice somewhat shaky. A few tears rolled down his beak but no one noticed.

The gathered flyers and two footers walked away from the airfield.

"Have you noticed something odd about our squadron leader?" Ruby asked.

Ptyrax nodded. "He doesn't seem to be himself."

Back at the feeding grounds, Littlefoot and his friends, including Deimos were chatting about the new leadership system.

"Me think this new system faster." Petrie said.

"I don't know." Cera added, "I think the old system was just fine."

"We don't know how this system will work until we try it out." Deimos replied.

Ali went up to Littlefoot and noticed that he seemed to be staring off into the distance. "Hey Littlefoot, is something wrong?" she asked.

Littlefoot nodded. "Yeah, I just can't help but think about Ducky. I mean, she's one of my best friends and…" He trailed off, a sob slowly making his way into his voice.

"If there was only a way to get to Cloud Island." Strut said.

"There is a way." Rime replied.

All eyes present immediately turned to him.

"How?" Littlefoot asked.

"You can either fly there on a flyer or ride a big Swimmer." Rime replied.

"Where is it?"

"I don't know."

Cera suddenly got up and faced Rime. "You bastard! You got our hopes up and then you killed them!" Her eyes narrowed and almost seemed to pierce Rime.

Rime looked at Cera fearfully. "Look, I really don't know where Cloud Island is! Just… don't kill me, please."

"Cera! Enough! There is no reason to be angry at Rime. He didn't kidnap Ducky!" Littlefoot scolded.

"He's playing with our emotions!" Cera shouted.

"Cera, please calm down. We need to somehow find a way to Cloud Island; getting mad isn't going to make Ducky appear in front of us."

Cera took a deep breath. "You're right. It's just that… well, I've been friends with Ducky for many cold times and I'm mad at Styracus and his dinosaurs for kidnapping her."

Strut thought a moment. "Perhaps we can find out where Cloud Island is by kidnapping and interrogating a dinosaur from the Great Valley?"

"That's a good idea!" Littlefoot said.

Raptix sighed. "Do we really want to resort to the same techniques that Styracus is using?"

"It's distasteful." Ali added, "But we have no other choice. Sometimes, you have to do something bad to achieve a good goal."

Raptix nodded. "Okay then. I guess we have to do this then."

"I'll go tell the Warriors' Council about this plan," Littlefoot said. He then turned to Rime. "Rime come with me."

Littlefoot and Rime made their way to the main lake, where the members of the Warriors' Council were relaxing.

"I need to speak to Blue-Scale." Littlefoot said.

"Present." Blue-Scale said, turning to face them. "What is it you require?"

"Rime has revealed that Ducky is held on an island known as 'Cloud Island'. Unfortunately, we don't know where Cloud Island is. My group has decided to enter the Great Valley when night falls and kidnap a dinosaur so we can find the location of Cloud Island."

Blue-Scale held his chin in thought for many moments. He then sighed. "I'm sorry but I can't allow that. The entire expedition party could be captured or killed. I really am sorry but Ducky will have to remain on Cloud Island, possibly for several cold times or even her entire life."

Littlefoot swore under his breath. "Okay." He then headed back to the meadow where his friends were gathered.

"What Blue-Scale say?" Petrie asked.

Littlefoot took a deep breath. "He says we can't make an expedition to capture an enemy dinosaur. He claims that the risk is too high we either die or get captured."

"Well, first off, screw Blue-Scale. Second, we're doing this expedition and I don't give a damn who objects." Cera said. Her voice was cold and sharp.

"Yeah, but we can't really go against the Warriors' Council." Littlefoot said.

"Listen, do you want to see Ducky again?"

"Well, yeah. Don't we all?" Littlefoot asked. Raptix, Deimos, Strut, Petrie, Ali and Spike nodded.

Cera grinned. "Exactly. Which is why I'm basically saying screw the Warriors' Council and mount our own expedition once the Night Circle rises."

"Erm, we need to get equipment." Strut said.

"Mr. Bigmouth should help us." Ali said. She then looked skyward. The dark grey skies were soon broken with the beautiful golden rays of sunset that pierced the cool air. "It's almost night. And the Brightfall is beautiful."

"Good." Raptix said. He too was looking at the sunset.

"Oh, I have and I hate to say this but I can't take you all. I'll make that decision when the expedition party comes. One last thing, don't tell anyone about this except possibly Mr. Bigmouth. Is that clear?" Littlefoot said.

The entire group nodded.

"Let's do this." Cera said, her eyes glinting with determination.

Chapter 28: Shadow Hunters

The cool night near the main lake was shattered with the sounds of shouting. The members of the Warriors' Council were trying to calm down the angry masses of dinosaurs in front of them.

"Everyone, we can discuss this in a calm manner." Grandpa Longneck said.

"You try being calm when your child is stuck on some mysterious island and we can get there but Blue-Scale refuses to allow a rescue mission!" Ms. Swimmer shouted.

"Ms. Swimmer, please, we'll get everything straightened out. I'll need to have a talk with Blue-Scale."

Ms. Swimmer became silent and the angry crowd, pacified by Grandpa Longneck's words, began to disperse.

"Blue-Scale, I really hate to do this but you may have to be removed from the position of Overseer of Combat and Defense. It's for your own safety." Grandpa Longneck said. "Furthermore, I'll have to override your decision. We don't leave anyone behind."

Blue-Scale nodded. He was aware that he gone from one of the most well respected to one of the most hated dinosaurs following his decision. He had been bombarded with rocks, profanities and threats since he made his decision.

Blue-Scale then sighed. "I understand; I relinquish the position of Overseer of Combat and Defense."

Grandpa Longneck looked at the gathered group. "All in favor of Mr. Threehorn as Overseer of Combat and Defense?"

All the present members of the Circle of Elders voted in favor.

"I'll go tell Mr. Threehorn." Blue-Scale said. He then left the main lake.

"And I'll call a valley meeting." Grandpa Longneck said. He then cleared his throat and spoke. "Meet by the main lake! There is a meeting!" His powerful voice echoed across the meadow.

Blue-Scale soon arrived at the feeding grounds where Mr. Threehorn and several other dinosaurs were eating.

"Mr. Threehorn, I have something important to tell you." Blue-Scale said.

Mr. Threehorn swallowed his mouthful of grass. "What is it?"

"I have given up my position as the Overseer of Combat and Defense."

Mr. Threehorn snorted. "So soon?"

"Literally half the valley hates me."

"So? You're going to have dinosaurs who hate your decision. Deal with it."

"It's obvious you've never had to deal with so many dinosaurs who hate you." Blue-Scale spat.

"Listen, I've had to deal with that same problem. When Cera and Littlefoot were children, the Thundering Falls dried up. We had to conserve water and when I caught Littlefoot splashing some water out of the Thundering Falls Lake; I obviously, scolded him. Unfortunately, I went too far and called him a bad influence in front of his friends and most of the other parents. Needless to say, I was not well liked after that incident. But I came through it fine." Mr. Threehorn countered.

"Yeah, but at least they aren't hurling rocks and profanities at you!"

"Well, stand tough and don't run away."

"Damn it! Do you get it through your thick head! The Warriors' Council elected you as the new Overseer of Combat and Defense! I already gave up my position!" Blue-Scale shouted.

Mr. Threehorn, wordlessly, headed off to the main lake.

Blue-Scale, fuming, followed Mr. Threehorn.

All the Great Valley dinosaurs were gathered by the shores of the main lake, now lit with the light of many torches. The Circle of Elders were gathered by the front.

"Everyone, we have an important announcement. Blue-Scale has given up his position as Overseer of Combat and Defense. Mr. Threehorn is now the new Overseer of Combat and Defense.

The crowd applauded but it was much less enthusiastic than the applause from before.

Mr. Threehorn cleared his throat. "Well, my first decision is to mount an expedition to find out where Cloud Island is. And we will rescue Ducky and Chomper!"

The crowd cheered as Mr. Threehorn made his decision.

"Mr. Threehorn, may I speak?" Littlefoot asked. He was in the front of the crowd.

"Very well." Mr. Threehorn replied.

"Thank you." Littlefoot then cleared his throat. "Since we don't know where Cloud Island is, I propose that we mount an expedition to kidnap one of their dinosaurs for information."

"I approve and I designate you as the leader." Mr. Threehorn replied. He then turned to the crowd. "Are there anymore who wish to speak?"

None of the dinosaurs spoke. Mr. Threehorn then turned to Grandpa Longneck.

"The meeting is adjourned." Grandpa Longneck said.

The dinosaurs then dispersed. Some headed off to their nests, others to the feeding grounds to either eat or socialize.

Just before Littlefoot and his group left the main lake area, Ms. Swimmer ran up to them. "Littlefoot, I volunteer to join your expedition."

"Ms. Swimmer, I haven't chosen any members of my team yet. I need to think this over." Littlefoot replied.

Ms. Swimmer nodded and headed off to her nest.

Littlefoot and his group then headed to the feeding grounds for a snack.

"Well, I guess this is news. I didn't think the dinosaurs would react so badly to Blue-Scale's decision." Raptix said.

"Well, the way that leaf eaters and sharpteeth think differently." Littlefoot said. "We always help those in need, no matter the risk."

Raptix nodded. "I usually decide if the reward is worth the risk. It's how most sharpteeth think."

"So there was a clash of minds between our modes of thinking?" Cera asked.

"Yes." Littlefoot replied.

"Oh, so he wasn't being an insensitive bastard? I guess I should retract my statement."

Raptix nodded.

After the conversation, the group arrived at the feeding grounds. Rapidly swirling lights in the distance indicated that some of the dinosaurs were engaged in fire dances.

Rime and Deimos were spearfishing in a river that fed into the main lake. The river was moving at a rather languid space

"Hey, Deimos, you heard the news?" Rime asked. He saw a fish moving by him and he tried to spear it, but he missed.

Deimos said nothing but quickly thrust his spear into the river. A medium sized fish was stuck to the end of his spear. He pulled off the fish and tossed it onto the riverbank where a small pile of fish lay. "I heard. Frankly, I'm not surprised. Even though we're cooperating with the leaf eaters instead of eating them, we're still sharpteeth and we still think like sharpteeth. I understand why the Warriors' Council should be all leaf eaters."

Rime shrugged. He spotted a fish swimming by him and he successfully speared it. He held up the spear with the fish still wriggling on it.

"Nice. Don't worry you'll get the hang of it." Deimos said. He speared another fish; this one was the largest of the bunch.

Rime put his spear down and looked at the pile of fish. "Well, let's eat!"

Deimos grabbed the large fish and started taking bites out of it. He then suddenly felt something tap him on the leg. He looked at the source of the tapping and found out it was Raptix.

"Hey, Deimos you catch much fish?" Raptix asked.

Deimos gestured to the pile of fish on the riverbank.

Raptix grabbed a fish and began eating it.

Rime had finished his fish and he tossed the bones aside. He then began eating his second fish.

Deimos tossed the bones aside and grabbed another fish.

Littlefoot and his group were eating their own meals of various fruits and leaves.

"So when do we leave?" Cera asked through a mouth full of treestars.

"We make preparations when the Bright Circle is the highest." Littlefoot replied, finishing off his meal of treestars.

"I guess we'd better go to sleep now?" Strut asked, trying to stifle a yawn.

Ali nodded.

The group then headed to their own nests to sleep. Soon, Deimos, Rime and Raptix were the only ones left. Even the fire dancers in the distance went to sleep.

"I'm going to sleep." Deimos said, tossing the remains of his meal aside.

Raptix yawned and followed Deimos to the sleeping areas. Rime followed them as well.

Several hours later, the sun rose over the meadow, illuminating Littlefoot and the rest of the dinosaurs gathered by the main lake.

"Okay, we need volunteers for this expedition." Littlefoot said. Pretty much every dinosaur with hands raised them.

Littlefoot looked over the sea of dinosaurs. "Ms. Swimmer, Strut, Petrie, Ali and Raptix. You are all chosen."

The dinosaurs dispersed except for those who were named. Those who were named were gathered by Littlefoot and Ali.

"Okay, we need to prepare for the expedition. We leave as soon as we're ready." Littlefoot said. "First stop, Mr. Bigmouth's grove."

Mr. Bigmouth was in his grove. He was in the process of burning some fruit pits when Littlefoot's group entered.

"Anything any I can do for you?" Mr. Bigmouth asked.

"We need equipment for an expedition." Littlefoot replied.

"Help yourself."

Littlefoot looked around the grove. Several stone tipped spears lay against a tree, a flat rock had several gleaming stone knives on it and several stone slabs had poison darts resting on them.

"Wow." Raptix said. He grabbed a stone knife and began making a sheath for it out of leaves.

Strut grabbed a canister made from a segment of hollow reed as well as the hollow reed itself. He then turned to Mr. Bigmouth. "Which darts are best for a kidnapping mission?"

Mr. Bigmouth pointed to a stone slab. "Those are rubea berry and tree sweet juice darts."

"You said it takes a few shots to knock out a sickleclaw? We need something that works a bit faster."

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "I've taken that into account. The dart poison has a third ingredient, somnis tree sap. It takes only two darts to knock out a sickleclaw and it works much faster."

"We'll take it!" Strut said. He gently took the darts, which had an amber paste covering the point, and carefully slid them into the canister. He placed the canister over his shoulder.

"We'll need vines too." Littlefoot said.

Raptix grabbed some vines and coiled them up. Strut grabbed some vines to bind the necessary supplies to Littlefoot.

"Fire rocks and bright torches?" Ms. Swimmer asked.

Strut tied a pouch containing some flints to Littlefoot. "We can light pretty much any branch if we need a torch."

Raptix had finished rolling the vines into a coil, which he then tied onto Littlefoot.

Strut then attached his hollow reed to Littlefoot.

"I think that's all." Littlefoot said.

"Good luck." Mr. Bigmouth said. He then turned around to monitor a calabash filled with a golden liquid that was sitting on a flat rock with other calabashes of various plant materials. He gently poked it with a stick and the liquid dripped off the stick. "Hmm. The somnis tree sap needs to actually cling to the stick before I can use it. I'll give it some more time."

Littlefoot and his group headed for the entrance of the meadow. Several dinosaurs were there to see them off as was the usual procedure. Even a somewhat dejected looking Blue-Scale was present.

"Be safe." Deimos called.

"We will. Thank you!" Ms. Swimmer replied.

Soon, Littlefoot and his group were little more than small figures on the distant horizon.

Many miles away from the meadow, the sun shone over the mist ringed forests and beaches of Cloud Island.

Rytho, Chomper and Ducky were on a foraging expedition in one of Cloud Island's forests. The air was humid and warm. The scent of leaf litter and rotting vegetation permeated the moist and slightly misty air.

"So what have we gotten so far?" Chomper asked. He was carrying a hollow reed but since he had no darts, he simply carried it as a quarterstaff.

"We've got some penthium leaves, a few orangis fruits, a few sickleclaw plant pods with leaves, some shiny black rocks, oilplant leaves, as well as several calabash fruits." Rytho replied. He was pulling a large leaf as an improvised sled behind him. He was holding a spear in his free hand and a small stone knife was strapped to his right leg.

Ducky was pulling a leaf sled filled with edible fruits, leaves, flowers and even twigs of all descriptions. Her sled was also had four large clamshells on it.

Rytho suddenly stopped by a tall tree with several dark green vines dangling from it.

"Ducky, shell please." Rytho said.

Ducky handed a shell over to Rytho, who carefully pulled down one of the vines, then slashed one of the vines with his knife. As he did so, a viscous clear liquid dripped from the cut and into the shell resting on the ground just below the vine.

"What is that?" Ducky asked.

"That's the glue vine. The sap from it can be heated to make a type of glue. It can be used to help poisons stick to the darts or to stick spearheads on the spear shaft." Rytho replied. He then carefully placed the nearly full shell onto his leaf sled.

Chomper plucked a handful of sickleclaw plant pods and placed them on Rytho's sled.

"Well, I think we should be heading back soon. We've got to put all this stuff away and start heating the glue vine sap." Rytho said.

Ducky and Chomper nodded and made their way back to the beachfront encampment. When they arrived, Vio greeted them. A small campfire blazed away in the fire pit, now uncovered.

"So got any supplies?" Vio asked.

Rytho dragged his sled near the fire pit and Ducky followed.

"Where's Ed?" Chomper asked.

As soon as Chomper finished his sentence, Ed returned from the forest with an armful of firewood, which he deposited in the corner where only a few scraps of wood and a large leaf could be seen.

"Well, I see you got the food." Ed said.

"I found most of it. I did, I did." Ducky said.

"You're a natural at finding food."

"Speaking of food, I managed to get some for you, Chomper. Those clams and shells you like, they're in your food storage area." Vio said.

Chomper nodded. "Thanks."

"Well, now what?" Vio asked.

"We're going to explore Cloud Island's beaches a bit. There's one near where we found the black rocks. We can organize the supplies later." Rytho replied. "Any objections?"

All the gathered dinosaurs shook their heads.

"Shouldn't we eat first?" Vio asked. His stomach growled.

"Yeah, good idea." Ed added.

Chomper got up and went to his shellfish cache. There he retrieved two large whelks and two large clams. He tossed the clams into the fire and proceeded to smash open the two whelks and eat the meat.

Rytho and Ducky were sitting on the same piece of driftwood. Rytho was eating a large red banana like fruit, peel and all. Ducky picking and eating the petals of a large red magnolia like flower. As she looked at Rytho, she couldn't help but noticed how beautiful he was. Her gaze then shifted to Rytho's leaf green eyes.

"Rytho, has anyone told you that your eyes are as green as a fresh treestar?" Ducky asked.

Rytho chuckled. "Thanks. Your eyes are the same light blue as the sky. What could be more beautiful than them?"

Ducky giggled and clasped Rytho's hand in her own. They both looked out over the misty ocean.

Ed, who was sitting next to Rytho and Ducky, spat some seeds into the fire and took a large bite out of a pale yellow melon. He paid no attention to the couple.

Vio was eating some gold hibiscus like flowers.

Chomper used a stick to pull the clams out of the fire and he placed them on a rock. He let them cool for a few moments before he pulled out the cooked clam and ate it. The clam shells were placed by the supply area as instructed.

After several minutes, all the dinosaurs finished their meals and threw the remains of their meals into the fire.

"Well, time to head out." Rytho said. He along with Ed and Vio grabbed their spears, which lay against a tree.

Chomper grabbed his quarterstaff which was resting at his feet.

The group then left their encampment and headed into the woods. After journeying through the forest, Rytho suddenly stopped.

"Do you hear that?" Rytho asked.

"Hear what?" Vio replied.

"That. Sound's like there's a battle going on."

Vio sighed. "Rytho, have you been eating some strange plants?"

"No. Rytho is right. He is, he is." Ducky said.

Ed and Chomper came near the two and they too listened intently.

"I hear shouting." Chomper said. He then pointed down a trail out of a forest. "And it's coming from there!"

"Well, should we jump in or not?" Ed asked. He tapped the butt of his spear against the ground.

"Well, we need all the allies we can get. Besides, we've beaten their forces before." Rytho said.

"I'm for it." Vio said.

"Count me in." Chomper added.

"I do not want to do this." Ducky said.

"It's okay. Just stay out of sight." Rytho replied.

"What are we waiting for? Let's move!" Ed shouted, raising his spear in the air.

Rytho and his group continued down the path until they could see torches on the beach and the sounds of battle became very distinct. In the haze, two groups of dinosaurs could be seen fighting. Four Fast-Runners were desperately trying to hold off a group of leaf eaters at least double their number.

"What the? Another group of escaped prisoners?" Vio whispered. He along with other members of his group were hidden among some shrubs growing along the beachfront.

"I think the Fast-Runners are the escaped prisoners. Ms. Maia's leading the leaf eaters against them." Chomper replied, also in a whisper.

"Damn it! Some of the Great Valley's forces went rogue?" Rytho replied.

"Let's kill the rogues!" Ed said.

Ed, Chomper, Rytho and Vio burst from the bushes with the rustle of leaves.

Ms. Maia turned her head at the rustle and noticed the group. "Well, Rytho, nice to see you. Here to hand over Ducky and Chomper?"

"No. Here to kick your ass." Rytho replied, brandishing his spear.

Ms. Maia gestured for five of her allies, armed with either stone tipped spears or short bladed stone knives, to confront Rytho's group.

"Come fight us and die like the last time." Ed hissed.

Ms. Maia chuckled. "Oh, you didn't think I'd be doing the fighting with you?" She then headed back to where the remainder of her force was fighting the Fast-Runners. Along the way, she speared a seriously wounded Fast-Runner lying on the bloody sand.

"Coward! And you're a sick bastard for doing that!" Chomper shouted.

The two groups of dinosaurs squared off.

"Consider yourself lucky that we're on Cloud Island." Rytho spat.

"I do. You're too cowardly to fight without reinforcements." a gold Swimmer taunted.

"Shut up!" Ed shouted. He immediately charged the offending Swimmer with his spear.

The Swimmer sidestepped the thrust and struck Ed in the face with the butt of her spear. Ed quickly recovered and batted aside a spear thrust. He then slashed upward, cutting the Swimmer's stomach with the spearhead.

As soon as that occurred, the two groups of dinosaurs rushed each other.

Chomper was facing off with a knife wielding Fast-Runner. The Fast-Runner feinted to the left and lunged forward. Chomper barely dodged the deadly stabbing thrust. Unfortunately, he managed to lose his footing on the sand and he fell flat on his face. The Fast-Runner kicked Chomper's staff away and prepared to stab him as he lay on the ground. Chomper lunged forward and bit the Fast-Runner in the leg. The Fast-Runner tried to stab Chomper but he jerked his head back, simultaneously dodging the stab and tearing off a large portion of the Fast-Runner's leg in the process.

The Fast-Runner screamed in agony as part of his leg was torn off. He looked down at the gaping wound and fainted as soon as he saw the bone exposed and his blood soaking into the tan sand.

Chomper swallowed the piece of flesh in his mouth and retrieved his staff.

"Eww." Vio said, ducking under a spear thrust. He had just seen Chomper removing part of the Fast-Runner's leg and eating it.

"I don't think that's worse that what we're doing." Ed replied. He spat out a mouthful of blood onto the sand. He then kicked sand into his opponent's face, causing her to drop her spear in an attempt to clear her eyes. Ed then drove his spear forward with as much force as possible. The Swimmer gasped as the spear pierced through her organs and eventually came out her back. She grasped the spear and futilely tried to pull it out but it was no use; she crumpled to the ground in a pool of her own blood.

"Yes it is! He's ripping off pieces from them!" Vio replied. He pivoted out of the way of a spear thrust.

"And putting holes in them isn't worse?" Ed countered. He turned the dead Swimmer face up, put his foot on her chest and pulled the spear out. He didn't seem to be fazed by the fact that even more blood gushed from the wound.

Rytho swore as the Fast-Runner he was fighting kicked sand in his face, temporarily blinding him. Luckily, he managed to knock the Fast-Runner's knife away and kick it into the woods. He held onto his spear with one hand and used his other to clear his vision. He was barely able to see the Fast-Runner charging at him through the tears from the sand. Rytho stuck his foot out and tripped the Fast-Runner. He then quickly stabbed the Fast-Runner as he lay prone, then stabbed him a few more times until the sand beneath him was stained red.

Vio said nothing but spat in his opponent's direction. His opponent, a pale green spear armed Crested Swimmer, jabbed at Vio several times. Vio simply leapt back from the thrusts and retaliated with a few thrusts of his own. The Swimmer managed to deflect most of the thrusts but one of the thrusts landed on his chest. It was shallow wound so it didn't slow him down too much but the Crested Swimmer still flinched. Vio grinned and charged forward; unfortunately his opponent was expecting it. The Fast-Runner pivoted then speared Vio in the side in one smooth motion.

Vio gasped and dropped his spear in shock as the sharp stone point found its way into his body. "Rytho…someone…help…" he choked out. He coughed up some blood and fell to the ground. The Crested Swimmer, pulled out his spear and prepared to deliver the final blow to Vio.

Suddenly, the Crested Swimmer dropped his spear and clutched his head.

"Huh?" Ed asked. As soon as he spoke, another heavy stick flew through the air, striking the Crested Swimmer in the face and breaking his nose.

"You bastard! Come out and face me!" the Crested Swimmer shouted, clutching his broken nose, which was now bleeding profusely.

This time, a stone tipped javelin flew from the same area as the sticks and struck the Swimmer in the stomach. He then crumpled to the bloody sand. "You…kill…dis…" he said, his voice fading as lost consciousness from the pain.

"Who was that?" Rytho asked. He was now kneeling by Vio's side and he was desperately trying to stop Vio from bleeding to death.

Chomper turned around and noticed Ducky standing in the shrubs. "Ducky? You threw the spear?"

"I did, I did." Ducky replied. "Is Vio hurt?"

"Yes. He's badly hurt." Chomper replied.

Ducky came out of the shrubs and assisted Rytho in treating Vio's wounds.

"Nice throw." Rytho said. "Now, go get some no-bleed-leaf."

Ducky nodded and ran into the shrubs.

The four adult Fast-Runners were trying to hold off the four dinosaurs trying to kill them.

One of the Fast-Runners, a pink male, batted aside a spear thrust with a short stick. He kicked sand at his Fast-Runner attacker, who closed his eyes for a moment. That allowed him to break his knee with a quick strike. The opposing Fast-Runner screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground. He then broke his opponent's neck with a powerful downward blow.

Another Fast-Runner, a blue female, managed to smash her Fast-Runner assailant's stone knife with a lucky strike from her wooden club. She thrust the club into her attacker's groin, causing him to double over in pain. She then swung her club down on her attacker's head with all the force she could muster, splitting his head open.

At the same time, Ducky returned with an armful of large reddish leaves. She handed them to Rytho who crushed them with his hands into a reddish paste. He then applied the paste onto Vio's injury, almost immediately the wound stopped bleeding. Vio said nothing but merely moaned in pain.

Ms. Maia deftly pivoted out of way of a spear thrust from her opponent, a rather elderly dark blue female Fast-Runner. Ms. Maia's spear had found their mark a few times but they were only shallow stab wounds and light cuts. Ms. Maia's body was also covered in light cuts. Most of them were inflicted by some of the other members of the herd but quite a number were inflicted by the elder.

"You're too slow, you pile of bones." Ms. Maia taunted. She thrust her spear at the elder.

"Mind your mouth. You show much disrespect. And you do not understand the rules of fighting fair." The elder replied, batting aside the spear thrust and responding with a spear thrust of her own.

"Screw respect! I'm here for one purpose alone!" Ms. Maia parried the thrust then used her spear to flick sand into the elder's face and speared her before she could react. Ms. Maia then knocked the elder off her feet and speared her multiple times until she lay dead in a pool of her own blood.

"And now you learn that dirty fighting is the only way to win." Ms. Maia said coldly. She then spat on the elder's corpse. She then spotted a child Fast-Runner by her feet. She picked up the child and headed over to the Fast-Runners.

"Hey, what are you doing with our son?" the pink male demanded.

"I make the demands." Ms. Maia replied. She then placed the child Fast-Runner face first into a small tide pool and put her foot on his back. "You come with me or your son dies."

Ducky watched the whole scene with horror. Before Rytho or anyone could stop her, she grabbed a heavy stick and ran towards Ms. Maia.

"Do you…" Ms. Maia tried to say. Before she could finish, Ducky hit Ms. Maia over the head with her stick so hard it broke. Ms. Maia somehow remained conscious but she quickly fell to the sand, completely dazed.

The three remaining Fast-Runners were stunned at the scene; an unknown Swimmer had just flattened one of their assailants. The pink male Fast-Runner removed his son from the tide pool. The two females brandished their clubs threateningly and charged the remaining assailant. Being a Fast-Runner, she was actually able to outrun them and lose them in the forest.

Chomper had taken Rytho's place at Vio's side.

Rytho then headed over to Ducky. "Ducky, I'm… stunned. That was very brave."

Ducky blushed. "Thank you."

The pink male Fast-Runner went up to Rytho and Ducky. "Thank you for helping us."

"We saw some dinosaurs in need and we thought we should help you." Rytho replied.

"We are very grateful. By the way I'm Nublar." The pink male Fast-Runner said.

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Rytho and the Swimmer next to me is Ducky." Rytho replied.

"I am pleased to meet you Nublar, I am, I am." Ducky replied.

The two other Fast-Runners, one of them dusky reddish and the other a dark blue stepped forward.

"My name is Sorna." The blue female said.

"I am known as Isla." The dusky reddish female said.

"Well, pleased to meet you Isla, Sorna. I'm Rytho." Rytho replied.

Ed approached the group. "Well, I see these are the group we risked our lives for."

"Ed, be respectful." Rytho scolded. "I would like you to meet Isla, Nublar and Sorna."

"Sorry. Well, anyway I'm pleased to meet you. I'm Ed."

"Pleasure to meet you Ed." Isla said.

"Nublar, one of our friends was seriously injured in the fight. Do you have any herbs for him?" Rytho asked.

Nublar nodded. "We do. In fact, it may be best for him and possibly you all as well to spend the night here."

"Thank you." Ducky said.

Rytho then turned around and noticed a blank patch of sand where Ms. Maia should have been. "Hey, where's Ms. Maia?"

"I saw her fall to the ground when Ducky hit her with the stick." Ed said.

"That bastard escaped!" Rytho hissed. "We should have just tied her up or had someone watching her."

"Well, it didn't look like she was in any condition to move. Forget that, we'll kill her the next time."

The setting sun's golden rays gave the sea an ethereal golden sheen and made the sand itself sparkle. The rays also played over a set of Swimmer footprints leading away from the battleground.

Chapter 29: Hunter becomes the Hunted

The late afternoon sun shone over the Big Water Meadows. The air was humid but the skies were a clear blue.

Over in the airfield, Pterano was supervising the close quarters combat drills that the landwalkers of the Great Valley Air Corps was undergoing. As the drills were underway, Deimos hobbled up to Pterano.

"Pterano, Overseer Threehorn wants to speak to you." Deimos said.

"What is it that he desires?" Pterano replied.

"I'm not sure; he just told me to find you."

Pterano nodded then turned to Ptyrax, who was also supervising the drills. "Ptyrax, watch the drills."

Ptyrax nodded and Pterano flew off to the main lake, with Deimos slightly behind him.

Soon, Pterano met Mr. Threehorn in front of the main lake.

"Overseer Threehorn, what has occurred that demands my presence?" Pterano asked.

"Well, Pterano, I've got a mission for you. Take some of the flyers and landwalkers and fly ahead of Littlefoot's group. You are to perform recon of the Great Valley in addition to assisting them in the kidnapping mission. Also, I want your air patrols to extend past the ground patrols and your flybys of the Big Water Meadow are to be more frequent." Mr. Threehorn said.

"On it." Pterano then took to the air and flew off to the airfield.

Mr. Threehorn then looked at Deimos. "Deimos, I also have an order for you."

"What is?" Deimos asked.

"I want you to reorganize the attacking groups; we're going back to my preferred method. I want a group of at least six dinosaurs, all of the same kind. Six Longnecks, six Fast-Runners, six…"

"I get the point! And Mr. Threehorn, I suggest we adapt a strategy that smaller sharpteeth use to hunt."

"Go on."

Deimos cleared his throat. "Well, when sickleclaws and fast-biters hunt; we usually have someone attack from the front and the rest of the herd attack from the sides and back. We can use this when we're facing a group of enemy dinosaurs. Have the large four-footers attack head on and have the Runners and Fast-Runners attack the sides. We can also use the same technique to take down large enemy dinosaurs."

Mr. Threehorn nodded. "That's a very good idea. We'll run some tests later."

At the same time, Pterano was rallying his group of flyers.

"Okay, we're heading to the Great Valley to assist Littlefoot in his mission. We will meet up with Littlefoot's group enroute."

"Finally, a real mission instead of patrols and drills." Coatal said.

"Coatal, drills are important!" Pterano scolded.

Coatal snorted but said nothing in response.

"And now, to flight!" Pterano shouted.

At his words, Ruby and two other Fast-Runners boarded their flyers and several other flyers, including Coatal and Pterano, took to the air. In all, six flyers took off from the airfield.

Meanwhile, Littlefoot and his group had set up camp in an oasis near the Great Valley. The oasis bore a small lake surrounded by a few trees bearing treestars.

"Well, it looks like someone's been here before. There's a fire pit here." Raptix said, pointing to a small pit surrounded by stones.

"We were here before, Raptix. In fact, we're very close to the Great Valley." Ms. Swimmer replied.

"In any case, we need to start planning." Littlefoot said. He then turned to Strut. "Strut, build a fire but don't light it yet."

Strut did as he was told, piling up tinder, then forming a loose cone of sticks on top of it. He then gathered around where Ms. Swimmer had drawn a crude sketch on the dirt.

"The closest entrance is probably the Great Rock Pass. However, that is probably the most heavily guarded." Ms. Swimmer said, pointing to the sketch.

"The next closest entrance opens right to the Feeding Grounds. If anything, that's likely to be even more heavily guarded but we have the best chance of taking a captive." Littlefoot added.

"We'll need some way to scout out the entrances. We need someone who's a sharptooth." Strut said.

All eyes turned to Raptix.

"What?" Raptix asked.

"Raptix, how do you feel about a spy mission?" Littlefoot asked.

Raptix grinned. "Sure!"

Ms. Swimmer was using her twin sticks to dig up some reddish mud from the banks of the lake. "Okay, cover yourself with the mud."

Raptix's grin faded. "What?"

"Cover yourself with the mud." Ms. Swimmer repeated.

"And get my feathers dirty?"

"Raptix, this mud will color your feathers and hide your scent. You'll be less likely to be detected." Littlefoot said.

"Fine. This better work though. I'm willing to make sacrifices for this mission but only if they work" Raptix then grabbed a handful of the mud.

With the help of Strut and Ms. Swimmer, Raptix was soon covered in the red mud.

They waited a few minutes for them mud to dry then they scraped off the excess mud and ground the dried mud into Raptix's feathers. Soon, Raptix was transformed from a purple-blue to a uniform dull red.

"Okay, Raptix, good luck." Littlefoot said.

Raptix then headed towards the Great Valley. As Raptix was leaving, several flyers flew overhead and swooped in for a landing at the campsite.

"Hello Littlefoot. Overseer Threehorn has instructed us to accompany you." Pterano said, landing.

"Erm, Raptix is on a scouting mission right now." Ms. Swimmer replied. "You can assist him if you want to."

"It will be my pleasure." Pterano said. He then turned to two of the other flyers. "Rham, Phor, Ptyrax! Fly over the Great Valley! Stay high and flee if attacked."

Rham and Phor, both of them nearly identical deep red, long tailed flyers, took to the air.

"Great, Pterano, can't you have chosen three different flyers? I know what Ptyrax looks like but I can't tell Rham and Phor apart." Strut grumbled.

"Don't be picky." Pterano scolded.

"Strut, Rham is shorter than Phor. Also, Phor has a huge scar running down the left side of his face." Coatal said.

"Thanks." Strut replied.

"Well, since it's not smart to try and enter the Great Valley without having explored it, we should wait for Raptix, Rham, Phor and Ptyrax to get back." Ms. Swimmer said.

"So what do we do while we wait?" Strut asked.

"How about checking our equipment and weapons?" Littlefoot replied. "They're all by the campfire."

"Sure." Strut then headed over to the weapons and equipment. He dug through the equipment and mentally checked it off. Soon he noticed something was missing.

"Anyone seen the stone knife?" Strut called.

"Raptix was wearing it." Littlefoot replied.

In the meantime, the sun was now setting and Raptix had made his way into the Great Valley. He entered near the Feeding Grounds. He looked around and noticed that there were several leaf eaters around but they were tied to either trees or rocks. Several sickleclaws armed with stone tipped spears and slings guarded them.

"This must be the food." Raptix muttered. He the noticed two sickleclaws, one armed with a stone headed lance and the other a sling and a pouch of stones, heading towards him.

"Hey who are you?" the first sickleclaw, a gold female asked. She was armed with the stone tipped lance.

"I'm new here. Excidium sent me." Raptix replied.

The other sickleclaw, a dusky red male armed with a sling and the pouch of stones, frowned. "Hmm. Red-Eye and Styracus never told me about it. Excidium usually sends a flyer out to the valley to tell us about it."

"Well, I arrived ahead of the flyers."

"In any case, what's your name?" the gold sickleclaw

"Liensis." Raptix replied.

"Well, Liensis why don't we get you something to eat?"

"I'm not hungry."

The two sickleclaws looked at him suspiciously.

Raptix blanched. "Erm, yes, I'm sorta hungry." That was close. He thought.

The gold sickleclaw went up to a Fast-Runner tied to a tree and speared him a few times. She then tossed the spear aside and started tearing into him with her teeth and claws. Blood spattered everywhere as the sickleclaw was dismembering the Fast-Runner. Soon there was nothing left of the Fast-Runner except a pile of meat and organs in a pool of blood by the tree.

"Dig in!" the gold sickleclaw said, licking the blood off her hands. She started gnawing on the Fast-Runner's arm.

Raptix picked up a piece of flesh from the Fast-Runner. He shivered as he recognized the scent of the Fast-Runner. It was one of Fast-Runners he fought alongside during the Battle of the Great Valley.

The red sickleclaw was eating the internal organs. "Hey Liensis, catch!" he said, tossing part of the brain to Raptix.

"No thanks. You killed him, you get the organs." Raptix replied, placing the brain aside. He grabbed part of the Fast-Runner's ribs, drew the knife from its sheath and began cutting away the meat from the bones. He slowly ate the meat and tried his hardest to forget that he was eating one of his allies. The two other sickleclaws tore into the organs with relish.

After he ate the entire piece of meat, he walked away from the Feeding Grounds and headed off to the Great Rock Pass.

Meanwhile, Phor, Ram and Ptyrax were gliding high above the Great Valley. Ptyrax was flying at an extremely high altitude but Phor and Ram where flying much lower.

"Not many guards by the Bubbling Muds but the Feeding Grounds have a massive amount of guards." Ptyrax muttered to himself. He then spotted Phor and Ram flying just above the treetops. He also noticed that the sun was almost below the horizon and several bright spots were flickering to life around the valley. Interestingly, quite a few of those spots were moving.

"Phor, Ram! You're flying too low! Get back up here!" Ptyrax shouted.

Phor and Ram were flying over the Sinking Sands and they did not hear Ptyrax's order.

"You know, this might be the perfect place for the group to enter." Phor said. "There's no one...woah!" Phor was cut off by a sling stone that narrowly missed his head. He took a breath to compose himself and continued circling around the Sinking Sands. Two slingstones flew from the ground and broke his right wing. He then began to spiral to the ground. As he struck the ground roughly, he staggered to his feet and attempted to gain his bearings.

"Phor, are you..." Ram was forced to do a swift barrel roll to dodge a stone tipped javelin that nearly struck him.

Below them, a group of sickleclaw slingers and javelin throwers seemingly appeared out of the numerous shrubs surrounding the Sinking Sands. Unfortunately for the two flyers the setting sun silhouetted them, making them easy targets.

Ram tried his best to dodge the hail of stones that the slingers sent at him. He banked to avoid one stone; barrel rolled to avoid several of them, and even dove straight down to avoid them. However, it was useless; several stones struck him about the head and body with great force, killing him. His body landed in one of the forests. The sound of breaking branches could be heard as his body crashed through the trees.

Phor was mobbed by the javelin throwers, who began attacking him with their spears. He tried to fight back as best he could, but javelin throwers soon stabbed him to death.

Ptyrax watched the scene with an expression of horror on his face. Luckily he was high up enough that he couldn't be seen very well, let alone attacked, even in broad daylight.

He wheeled around and flew towards the Gravel Fields.

Raptix, in the meantime was exploring the Great Rock Pass. Two bright torches stuck in the gravelly ground flanked the entrance. He noticed that there were few, if any dinosaurs here. He then followed a small short trail out of the Great Rock Pass.

After following the trail for a few minutes, he ended up in a small grove. He looked around the dimly lit grove; all he spotted were the distant lights of bright torches stuck at the beginning of the trails. He spotted a trail overgrown with grass. He then followed the trail and he noticed it lead to a clearing with a small passageway in the rock face. The passage was also overgrown with weeds and vines. He made a mental note of the passage and headed back to the main trail and followed it. Eventually, he came to a fork in the road and he took the right fork, which lead him to the Sleeping Areas. He noticed that there were quite a few guards around and many of the dinosaurs were relaxing.

He then turned around and prepared to head back to the grove when he bumped into a green sickleclaw.

"Ah, damn I forgot your name…" The sickleclaw said.

"It's Liensis." Raptix said.

"Ah, that's right, forgive me, Liensis. In any case, I want to show you something: the performance of the Sky Hunters."

The sickleclaw lead Raptix through the grove until they reached the Sinking Sands. There, a group of six sickleclaws, all armed with slings and spears gathered. The sickleclaws all wore a glossy and smooth black stone spearhead on their body. Most of them wore it as a necklace, though some wore it as an anklet or a bracelet. The bodies of two long tailed flyers were in front of them. The light of many bright torches illuminated the area.

"Berg, we have retrieved the bodies of the two flyers we downed." A dark blue spear wielding, sickleclaw said. He then turned to Raptix. "Who's the new fast-biter?"

The green sickleclaw nodded. "Good. As for the fast-biter, his name's Liensis." He then turned to Raptix. "I assume you know who these dinosaurs are?"

Raptix blanched. "Erm, actually not. I thought Excidium's latest forces are not here yet?" He then noticed the jewelry that the sickleclaws were wearing? Erm, aren't spearheads usually on spears?"

"They aren't. You are looking at part of Hunter Battalion's Sky Hunter division. They arrived shortly after the expedition to intercept the Great Valley's expedition to the Land of the Mists returned. As for the spearheads, they are an identifier. They are basically the same spearheads that we use as weapons but though a long process involving sand and running water, they become smooth and even more shiny."

"So what's so special about these spearheads? Any dinosaur can make them." Raptix replied.

Berg grinned. "Only Hellebore and Aconite have the knowledge to polish the spearheads. And furthermore, only the Sky Hunters have earned the right to wear the Hunter Spearhead, as we call it."

Raptix merely nodded. He then noticed that Berg was wearing the Hunter Spearhead as a necklace.

"Well Liensis, I guess you're here to learn about the Sky Hunters' duties."

"I am indeed." Raptix replied. "However, I already have a guess as to what their duties are."

"Go on." Berg said.

"I assume the Sky Hunters' duty is to down enemy fliers?"

"Correct, Liensis." Berg replied, nodding his head.

"Doesn't it take a long time for replacement Sky Hunters to arrive here?"

Berg nodded his head. "It does indeed. Since they are handpicked from Hunter Battalion, which is based in Claw Valley, and specially trained, it takes quite a while for them to reach us."

Raptix nodded. "Can't you just substitute our plant eaters?"

Berg shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Though Hunter Battalion and the Shades receive similar training, the Shades do not have an equivalent of the Sky Hunters. However, we are working on training some Shades to down flyers." Berg then grinned. "Perhaps one day, they'll earn the right to wear the Hunter Spearhead."

Raptix nodded. "So I assume this is all of the Sky Hunters."

Berg nodded. "This is the largest group. There are only two other groups and both only have three members."

Raptix looked around. "This area's pretty much empty. What's so important?" he asked.

Berg chuckled. "That's what we want everyone to think. In actuality, Aconite and Hellebore work on herbs, poisons and weapons in a grove somewhere here and the Airfield is located here."

"Wouldn't hiding those areas work? Why waste your Sky Hunters here?"

Berg sighed. "We've had curious wandering flyers land here and look around. Luckily, we managed to drive them off before they found anything. We cannot risk that anymore; now we simply fire a few stones in the air near them. If they ignore that obvious 'leave' message, then we start pelting them with stones and spears and we don't stop until they die."

"So where are the other Sky Hunter squads located? I mean if this area is so important, wouldn't it make sense to put more Sky Hunters here? I mean, what if an entire herd of flyers decides to land here?"

"They are at the other important areas, the Feeding Grounds and the Sleeping Grounds. Meanwhile, I've got to alert Styracus and Red-Eye." Berg said. He then headed down the trail.

Raptix waited until Berg's footsteps faded away and he quickly darted down the hidden trail. He drew his knife and cut away the vines and grass that concealed the opening. When he was done he looked at the opening. The opening was rather wide and it was tall enough for Cera to fit through but not the two Longnecks. Strut and Ms. Swimmer could fit through as well but they would have to stoop.

Raptix entered the dark passageway, which was fortunately, rather short. He then exited and headed off to the distant glow of a campfire.

After several minutes, he arrived at the campsite. There, Ms. Swimmer and Strut were stoking a blazing campfire.

Ptyrax was relaying his information to Pterano.

"Ah, Raptix. You're back." Ali said.

"Yes I am. This mud is starting to make me itch." Raptix replied. He then jumped into the lake and washed off the mud that was ground into his feathers. He then sat by the campfire to dry himself off.

"Raptix! Do you have any information?" Littlefoot asked.

"Ah yes, I do. Plenty in fact." Raptix replied.

"Go on."

Raptix cleared his throat. "I found a hidden passageway that's just straight ahead. You'll end up inside the Great Valley in a wooded trail. The left fork leads to the Great Rock Pass. While there are few guards there, there is nothing of interest. The right fork leads to the Sleeping Areas, while there are quite a few guards there; there are also a lot of targets. Do not head down the trail where the forks meet. That leads to the Sinking Sands."

"What's wrong with the Sinking Sands?" Cera asked.

"The Sinking Sands is where Phor and Ram were when they were killed. They were literally knocked out of the sky by spears and rocks." Ptyrax said.

"What?" Pterano said, his jaw dropping.

"They probably had slingers." Strut replied.


Strut nodded. "We recovered a sling, which is basically some vines tied together in a certain way, from our expedition. I believe Mr. Bigmouth has the only copy of it and he is analyzing it. In any case, when I ran some tests back in the Big Water Meadows, I noticed that I could throw rocks with the sling much farther and harder than I could by hand. They probably used these to launch rocks at your flyers."

"Pterano, I actually gathered data about them. They have a group of sickleclaws known as Sky Hunters and they are identifiable by the polished black stone spearhead they wear. They are special division of Hunter Battalion, which is a group of highly trained sickleclaws. The Sky Hunters' job is to kill flyers and they have received special training. There are three groups of them, the largest is stationed at the Sinking Sands; the other two smaller ones are stationed at the Feeding Grounds and the Sleeping Areas. I would also avoid the Feeding Grounds, it is very heavily guarded. Since there are many leaf eaters there, I'm not really surprised. " Raptix said.

"So, how do we do this?" Strut asked, poking at the campfire.

"Well, flying in is out of the question." Ruby said, eating a few treestars.

"Not really." Pterano said. "We can have Ruby and the other Fast-Runners take vines, tie them to our feet, place the remainder of the vines on our back and stay out of sight. Once the ground group calls for us, we can rush in, throw the vines down, have them grab the vines and we can fly off."

"Erm, I'm too heavy to do that." Ms. Swimmer said.

Coatal thought a moment. "If you tied two of us together, we maybe able to lift you." He offered.

"I'll volunteer to do the joint lift." Ptyrax said.

"I will do the same." Pterano said.

Coatal nodded. "Ruby, we'll lift Strut and Raptix."

The last flyer, a large tan flyer nearly as large as Coatal, nodded. "This plan sounds feasible. My partner and I will lift the prisoner."

Littlefoot listened to the plan. "Sounds good, except there is one flaw: you forgot about Cera, Ali and myself!"

Pterano slapped his forehead. "Damn it! I got so caught up with the two footers I forgot about you all!"

Cera stepped forward, a scowl on her face. "So your idea was to simply leave us behind? What kind of squadron leader are you?"

"Cera, no need to get mad." Littlefoot said firmly.

"Littlefoot, did hear what Pterano said? He's going to leave us in enemy territory!" Cera spat.

"Cera, please understand that as much as we would like to lift the four-footers out that way, it is not practical. Even if all of us were to do a joint lift, we would only be able to lift one of you." Pterano replied.

"You are damned liar!" Cera hissed. "I remember when Coatal…"

Ali cleared her throat rather loudly, forcing everyone to look at her. "Okay, how's about we stop this arguing and get to work on the task?" She then turned to Littlefoot. "Littlefoot."

"Well, Pterano's plan works but we'll need the flyers to stay out of sight, possibly on the outside of the valley walls or flying very high." Littlefoot said. "Personally, I would prefer you fly high so we can more easily signal you."

"So how will we do that?" Raptix asked.

"Well, fire is the best but it's not like we can start a fire on demand." Ali said.

"We won't be starting the fire." Littlefoot said. He then turned to Raptix. "Raptix, you said there were torches at the beginning of the trail right?"

Raptix nodded.

"So," Littlefoot continued, "we will be signaling with fire. We'll simply light something on fire with the torches."

"I like that idea." Coatal said. "So what will the pattern be?"

Littlefoot thought a moment. "A line of three fires, left to right with someone waving a torch a short distance above the middle fire."

"Sounds good. We ready to go?" Strut asked.

"Almost. We'll need to get wood." Littlefoot turned to Strut and the two Fast-Runners. "You two! Get wood!"

The three dinosaurs began to scour the campsite for wood. After several minutes, they returned with armful of twigs and some larger sticks.

"Cera, you'll need to carry three bundles." Ali said.

Strut and his companions began forming the twigs into bundles, which they tied with vines. They were then tied together and draped over Cera's back.

"Now, for the flyers." Littlefoot said.

Raptix, Ms. Swimmer and Strut tied the vines to the flyers' feet.

"That is good." Pterano said, as Ms. Swimmer finished knotting the vines that yoked Pterano and Ptyrax together.

"Now for the test." Ptyrax said, flying into the air with Pterano. "Ms. Swimmer, grab on!"

Ms. Swimmer did as she was told and to her surprise, they were actually able to carry her. Even more to her surprise, they were able to actually to climb while she was holding on.

"Pterano! Ptyrax! I think this is enough!" Ms. Swimmer shouted. She looked back and noticed that they were nearly over the Great Rock Wall.

Almost immediately she could feel them descending and soon she was back on the ground.

"So how was it?" Cera asked.

"We can do it, but probably only long enough to lift her out and land at the campsite." Ptyrax said, breathing heavily.

"Quetzal and I will volunteer to do the lift instead." Coatal said, pointing to the large brown flyer.

"No." Pterano said. "We do not have time to do modifications. We must lift off immediately!"

Ruby boarded Coatal and coiled up the vines. The other Fast-Runner boarded Quetzal, following the same procedure as Ruby. The three flyers took to the air and headed towards the Great Rock Wall.

"Ali, Littlefoot, I'll need to stay here with you." The remaining Fast-Runner said.

"That's okay." Littlefoot said. He then looked at the fire, which had burned out. "Light another fire and this time keep it burning."

The Fast-Runner did so, piling up tinder and twigs.

"Let's move out!" Strut said. He was armed with his hollow reed and the canister of poison darts. "One final question, where are we going to?"

"Sleeping Areas." Raptix said. "Though other areas may be safer and have more targets, we can't take too long. The Sleeping Areas are the best we can do."

Strut, Raptix, Ms. Swimmer and Cera headed for the Great Valley. After several minutes, they arrived at the passageway.

"I'll go first." Raptix said. He then entered the passageway. After a few moments, his voice came through the passage. "Come on and hurry!"

Ms. Swimmer, then Strut and finally Cera entered the passageway. Strut and Ms. Swimmer both had to stoop in order to make it through. The passage then opened to a small clearing.

"Okay, you'll all need to whisper." Raptix whispered.

"Got it." Cera replied. Her normally loud voice had dropped to a whisper.

"Where's the trail?" Ms. Swimmer asked. Her voice was a whisper as well. Her twin sticks were out and she surveyed the area.

"Here." Strut whispered, pointing to a barely visible dirt patch in the middle of the forest-grass border.

"Anyone coming?" Strut asked. His voice was barely a whisper.

Raptix shook his head. "Go." He whispered.

The entire group then made their way into the trail and took the right fork as directed.

As they carefully made their way out of the trail they looked upon the Sleeping Areas. Raptix saw a roving squad of Sky Hunters nearby. He waited until they were gone. There were some other guards but they were barely visible in the distance. He then gestured to an oblivious guard near the trail entrance.

Ms. Swimmer crept behind the guard and killed him with a swift blow to the back of the head with her stick. She then threw the body along the trail.

"Come on." She whispered.

Cera hid in a shadow cast by the light of the bright torches while Raptix, Strut and Ms. Swimmer, taking care to stay in the shadows, snuck up on one of the sleeping sickleclaws.

"Vine." Raptix whispered.

Ms. Swimmer put her twin sticks away and carefully handed the vines, which were draped over her shoulder, to Raptix who bound the sickleclaw's legs together, cutting off the excess vine.

"Vine." Strut whispered. Ms. Swimmer handed the vine over to Strut, who got to work binding the sickleclaw's arms to his side. Just as he was done wrapping the sickleclaw's midsection in vines, the sickleclaw snorted a few times and start moving.

"Damn it!" Ms. Swimmer hissed. "He's awake."

The sickleclaw's eyes shot open as Ms. Swimmer spoke. He tried to move but found out that his legs and arms were tied. "Intruders!" the sickleclaw shouted, "We have…" He was cut off by Strut, who tore up a handful of grass and shoved it into the sickleclaw's mouth.

Strut then clamped his hands around the sickleclaw's snout. "Ms. Swimmer! Tie his snout before he wakes everyone up!" he hissed. The sickleclaw kicked Strut in the groin, forcing him to let go for a moment, spat out the grass and continued shouting.

Theta, who was keeping watch at the other end of the Sleeping Areas heard the sickleclaw. He ran to the disturbance, awakening all the dinosaurs on his way to the disturbance, usually by either grabbing and shaking them or lightly kicking them or shouting as loudly as possible.

Soon, Theta had amassed a small group of javelin throwers and spear wielders, a mix of sickleclaws, Fast-Runners and Runners. They then headed to the source of the shouting, across the Sleeping Areas.

Ms. Swimmer had finally managed to tie the sickleclaw's snout shut. "We're done. Now to tie the lifting vines." Ms. Swimmer then used the last of her vines to form a lifting attachment so she could attach the hostage to Quetzal.

"We're good! Let's go!" Raptix said.

"Not a moment too soon!" Strut said, pointing to the group of approaching guards in the distance.

The group literally dragged their hostage to where Cera was located.

"Got one?" Cera asked.

"Yep. But we need to light the signal fires." Raptix replied.

Strut and Ms. Swimmer hastily removed the bundles of twigs from Cera and arranged them in the left to right order they were told.

"Damn it! Forgot the tinder!" Raptix hissed. Raptix then bolted into the woods. After a few moments, he returned with an armful of dried leaves. He then placed them underneath the wood piles.

Ms. Swimmer pulled the bright torch out of the ground and used it to light each of the tinder piles.

"They're getting closer!" Cera said.

"Come on! Light damn it!" Strut said, blowing gently into his fire. Ms. Swimmer and Raptix were doing the same.

As soon as the fires were lit, Theta and his group were close enough to throw their javelins at the group. Theta also threw two knives, aimed at Strut and Ms. Swimmer. Raptix drew his knife and held it to the captive's throat.

Ms. Swimmer and Strut narrowly avoided getting killed by the javelins but they were not unscathed: Ms. Swimmer ducked to avoid a javelin but one of Theta's knives left a deep cut on her leg. Another javelin cut the back of her neck. Strut dodged the stone knife but a javelin struck him in the tail and fell out. Another javelin cut his head. Ms. Swimmer and Strut grabbed the nearby javelins and threw them back; most of them missed and struck some rocks, shattering the stone heads, but a few killed the throwers

"Cera, go! I'll wave the torch! Strut, hold them off!" Ms. Swimmer shouted.

"No. I will stay and ensure you leave alive." Cera said.

Together, Strut and Cera formed a defensive line, behind which burned the signal fires.

Ms. Swimmer picked up the torch and started waving it above her head; she made sure to stand in the correct spot.

The javelin throwers, having exhausted their weapons, drew stone knives and advanced. The other dinosaurs, armed with longer thrusting spears marched ahead of the javelin throwers, their long spears protecting them. Theta was mingled in with the javelin throwers, he threw a knife at Strut but missed, he threw another one at Ms. Swimmer but she evaded the knife by luck. Theta then prepared to use his last knife as a close-quarters weapon.

Strut loaded a dart into his blowgun and fired, striking one of the spear wielders in the face, another shot and he collapsed to the ground unconscious. Strut loaded another dart and fired, this time he missed. He loaded another dart and fired, striking another spear wielder.

Cera, in the meantime, went after Theta but he proved to be surprisingly agile. After she narrowly avoided getting stabbed by him, she decided to attack a Runner armed with a spear; she knocked him down with a sweeping tail whip, then stepped on his head, killing him. She dodged spear thrust from another Fast-Runner and then disarmed him by breaking the spear with her tail.

Pterano, Ptyrax, Coatal and Quetzal saw the signal fires. They were high above the valley but they easily saw the fires

"Go, go, go!" Pterano shouted. He then swooped down until he could see the fighting. He made sure he was behind the combatants. Coatal, Ptyrax and Quetzal followed his lead.

"Drop vines!" Ruby shouted, tossing her vine overboard. The other Fast-Runner did the same.

Ms. Swimmer saw the vines. "They're here!" She then threw the torch at the encroaching guards, knocking one of them down with the heavy stick. She then grabbed the captive and tied him to Quetzal's vine.

Strut bolted for Coatal's vine as did Raptix. Strut grabbed onto the vine and actually climbed up the vine for a fair distance. Raptix leapt onto the vine and climbed up it as well.

Ms. Swimmer grabbed on to the vine that was carried by Pterano and Ptyrax and climbed up it so there was some space between her and the end of the vine. "We're good! Let's go!"

As soon as she spoke, the ground began to slowly recede from her feet.

As soon as the flyers began to lift off, Cera bolted from the Sleeping Areas and headed out the secret exit. At the same time, Theta ran to fetch the Sky Hunters who were stationed at the Sleeping Areas.

Soon, the Sky Hunters had arrived behind Theta as the flyers were climbing into the night sky. They immediately started hurling stones from vine slings at the flyers. The ones armed with javelins wisely decided not to use them.

A sling stone whizzed by Ms. Swimmer's head, she looked down and spotted another group of sickleclaws with slings and javelins. "Damn it! Must be the Sky Hunters!" she muttered. More sling stones whizzed by her.

One of the javelin throwers bolted for the vine that was carrying Strut and Raptix. He leapt for the vine and managed to grab it just before it was out of reach. He then began climbing towards them. At the same time, the Sky Hunters kept up a hail of sling stones and javelins, most them missing but a few stones struck Strut and Ms. Swimmer, nearly making them lose their grip.

The hail of sling stones and javelins abated as they flew too high to be seen.

"We're going to be clearing the Great Rock Wall soon." Coatal said.

Sure enough, the group began to climb higher and higher until they were able to fly over the Great Rock Wall. They then descended to a somewhat lower altitude, but even this lower altitude was over one hundred feet off the ground.

"Well, I know how it feels to be a flyer." Ms. Swimmer shouted over the rushing wind. She was clutching the vine as tightly as possible with both arms. "It's kind of fun."

"M…more….more like damned terrifying." Raptix said. He was clutching the vine tightly and he tried his hardest not to look down.

"Well, it's not as crazy as…" Strut began. He then noticed a sickleclaw trying to climb the vine. "Raptix!"

"As crazy as me?" Raptix asked.

"Raptix, look at the end of the vine!"

Raptix did so and screamed in horror as an enemy sickleclaw had managed to grab hold of the vine.

"Raptix, get a hold of yourself and get rid of that sickleclaw!" Strut shouted.

Raptix took a deep breath and drew his stone knife and began cutting away at the vine below him. However, he got less than two strokes in before the sickleclaw knocked the knife out of his grasp, sending it plummeting to earth.

The sickleclaw grinned. "That all you got?"

Raptix spat in the sickleclaw's face, forcing him to use one hand to clear his eyes. At the same time, Raptix tried to bite through the vine. By the time the sickleclaw had managed to clear his eyes, Raptix had bitten through half the vine. He could hear the vine starting to tear as the sickleclaw swiped at him, trying to knock him off the vine. Soon, he heard the vine snap as it broke, sending the screaming sickleclaw to a bloody death on the ground hundreds of feet below.

"Nice going Raptix. Thought we'd lose you." Strut said.

The flight continued without incident until they landed at the campsite. A fire burned brightly at the campsite, serving as a landing beacon. Ms. Swimmer, Strut and Raptix disembarked from the vines.

"I trust you have our captive?" Cera asked.

"We do." Ms. Swimmer. "Let's get moving; it's almost brightrise."

Strut, Ruby and the two Fast-Biters untied the vines from the flyers and coiled them back up. They then attached them to Littlefoot's vine pack harness, saving one so they could tie the captive onto Ali.

"Everything packed up and ready to go?" Ruby asked.

"Yes." Strut said, tying the last knot which held the captive to Ali's back.

"Well, let's move out." Littlefoot said.

The group then departed the campsite, leaving the fire still burning.

Far away on Cloud Island, Rytho, Ducky, Ed, Nublar, Isla and Sorna were sitting around a campfire on the beach. They were all eating breakfast. Rytho and Ducky sat next to each other as they ate. The sun was just barely visible on the horizon

"So exactly where are you all from?" Ed asked.

"Isla, Sorna, Cirrus and myself are the only survivors of our herd. There used to be many herds of Fast-Runners on Cloud Island. Few of the herds still exist. When the sickleclaws came, they went after our herds and started hunting them. Unfortunately, so many sickleclaws came that some herds have had all their members killed. Even worse is that there are some plant eaters who are cooperating with them and they seem to kill for fun." Nublar said.

"Who's Cirrus?" Ed asked. "Well, Cloud Island has a fascinating history." He added.

At this point, Cirrus, a light red Fast-Runner child ran up to Nublar. "Hey, dad what's going on?"

"Just telling Ed about Cloud Island." Nublar replied. He then looked at Ed. "Ed, meet Cirrus."

Ed looked at Cirrus. "Hi, Cirrus."

Cirrus looked suspiciously at Ed. "Who are you?"

"My name's Ed." Ed replied.

Cirrus still looked suspiciously at him and stood next to Nublar.

Ed simply shrugged.

Chomper came up to the group. His expression was somber.

"Chomper, what's wrong?" Rytho asked.

"Vio…he's not going…to live much…longer." Chomper said, sniffling somewhat.

Ed, Rytho, Ducky, Isla, Sorna, Nublar and Cirrus got up and followed Chomper to where Vio was resting on a bed of leaves. His wound was still bleeding slightly but he was incredibly pale. His breathing was slow and ragged.

"Rytho…Ed…Ducky…Chomper, never forget… " Vio rasped out. A few more breaths, then he grew still.

Ed checked for a pulse. "Vio's dead."

Rytho then started sobbing softly and Ducky tried to console him but she too was crying.

Chomper and Ed were kneeling by Vio.

"Vio, you were a great Fast-Runner. Without you, I don't know if we would have made it through." Chomper sniffled and wiped away a tear. "You…you will be missed." A few tears dripped from his eyes onto the sand.

Ed then bowed his head. "Chomper, conduct the rites."

Chomper shook his head. "I…I can't." He sniffled slightly.

Ed then gently carried Vio's body to the shoreline and placed it in the surf. The waves lapped at Vio's body.

"Everyone…now's your last chance to pay respects to Vio." Ed said, suppressing a sob.

"Farewell, Vio." Rytho whispered.

"We will miss you. We will, we will." Ducky added.

"It has been good knowing you. I…I'm sorry we didn't get to meet in better times." Chomper said, suppressing a sob.

Isla, Sorna, Nublar and Cirrus said nothing but respectfully bowed their heads.

"Vio, wherever you will go, always remember us. Even in the Infinite Beyond." Ed added. He then gently pushed Vio's body into the surf, where it slowly floated out to the open ocean.

At this time, the sun was gradually creeping over the horizon, painting the beach in a beautiful medley of red, gold and orange. The clouds and ocean took on an ethereal light gold tone.

As Vio's body drifted towards the golden sun, a gentle rain began to fall over the beach and a light fog, also shaded in an ethereal gold tone, began to roll in from the ocean.

Chapter 30: Now were ready to strike

The early afternoon sun shone over the Big Water Meadow. The skies were clear with wisps of clouds. But the calm skies above the meadow belied what was going on.

In the open plains at the front of the meiadow, two large hordes of dinosaurs faced each other.

The first horde had a group of Threehorns at its head, behind which were squads of Swimmers, all armed with javelins. Flanking them were two squads of Fast-Runners, all armed with short spears. The second horde had a group of Clubtails at its head and a group of Runners armed with sticks was behind them.

Flyers circled overhead, watching the impending battle.

Without warning, the Swimmers hurled their javelins en masse at the opposing group. Many of the opposing Fast-Runners were felled by the hail of javelins. The Swimmers grabbed the extra javelin they strapped across their backs and threw those too. They then drew knives and advanced behind the Threehorns, who had charged at the horde, effectively splitting it in two. At the same time, the Fast-Runners and the Swimmers closed in began attacking them. The Runners fought bravely but they were soon surrounded and cut down by the Swimmers and Fast-Runners.

"Stop! This test is over!" one of the Threehorns shouted. The bodies of Runners, Fast-Runners, Swimmers, Clubtails and Threehorns and broken weapons littered the battlefield.

A Runner and a Fast-Runner froze just as their weapons made contact with each other.

A Swimmer had just stabbed a Runner and the Runner seemed to freeze in the midst of crumpling to the ground.

"This test is over! Stop!" the same Threehorn from before ordered.

At this moment, the "dead" dinosaurs got to their feet, their bodies marked with the red fruit juice they used to simulate weapons hits.

"So what are the results, Overseer Threehorn?" the Runner who was previously "stabbed" asked. He had a large blotch of red fruit juice on his chest and several other blotches of red marked his body.

"Excellent." Mr. Threehorn replied. He was one of the Threehorns charging the opposing group. Several red spatters in the shape of sticks could be seen on his legs.

Deimos stepped out from behind a shrub. "Well, Overseer Threehorn. I can see your single kind groups are quite effective."

"They wouldn't be as effective without your tactics." Mr. Threehorn replied.

"So what do you say we run more tests?" Deimos asked.

Mr. Threehorn shook his head. "This is the fourth one we ran. We are not running any more." He then turned to the group of dinosaurs. "Dismissed!" he ordered.

The gathered dinosaurs picked up their practice weapons and dispersed to clean up.

Deimos decided to follow them and head back to the main lake. There, Grandpa Longneck, Bron and Ms. Swimmer were enjoying a drink of water.

"So how were the tests?" Bron asked, looking at Deimos.

"They were informative and I dare say we are now well prepared to take the fight to Styracus." Deimos replied.

"Good but remember that we still need to await the arrival of Littlefoot's team."

Deimos nodded and sat down on a rock.

Mr. Bigmouth was inside his grove as usual. He was examining the vine sling that was resting on a stone slab. The sling had come into his possession via Strut, who had taken it from one of the Swimmers he and his group had killed during the Nightflower expedition.

"It looks to be overly elaborate for a simple strangling weapon." He muttered. He then picked it up and let it dangle from his hand and examined it more closely. He noticed that there was a small pouch that appeared to be made for holding a rock.

Mr. Bigmouth then grabbed a rock from the nearby stream and placed it in the pouch. The rock fit perfectly.

"So perhaps this is some sort of stone thrower?" Mr. Bigmouth asked out loud.

He pulled the vines and noticed that they were very stiff and did not yield.

"Nope, can't use it by pulling the vines back then letting them snap forward and shoot the rock." He muttered. "Maybe if I swing it overhead like my vine-rock weapon, it will work."

He then whirled the vine over his head for several revolutions but nothing happened. Eventually, he lost his grip on one of the vines, thanks to his hands being slick with water, and the rock flew out of the pouch at high speed, striking one of the many trees surrounding his grove.

"So that's how you use it!" Mr. Bigmouth exclaimed. He went over to the tree he had struck and examined it. The sling stone was embedded into the trunk.

"Wow! No dinosaur can throw a rock this hard. Folks, I think we have a new weapon." He said out loud.

He then returned to the stone slab where the sling and his vine-rock weapon, which was no more than a piece of sturdy vine tied onto a fist sized rock.

He grabbed some vines and began trying to weave them into a sling. He was interrupted by Deimos, who walked into the grove.

"Deimos, Overseer Thicknose has stated that the vine-rock will not be used 'officially'. However, he will permit those who decide to use them do so."

"Actually I…" Deimos began before Mr. Bigmouth cut him off.

"And Overseer Thicknose wisely decided not to allow use of the variant you created by tying one end of the vine-rock to a tree branch. He named it a "flail" and we made a few as test pieces. Several dinosaurs ended up hurting themselves, sometimes badly, testing the damn thing! One of them almost lost an eye. In addition there were a few cases where the testers have accidentally injured others near them. As a result, all but one of the flails were taken apart and used for other weapons." Mr. Bigmouth said.

"Mr. Bigmouth that was not the reason I came here. I wanted to tell you that Littlefoot and his group have returned with their captive. And have you examined Strut's weapon that he acquired?"

Mr. Bigmouth nodded. "It is apparently used for launching rocks with great force. I am in the process of trying to replicate it."

"Good. Continue with the research; all we know about it is that it is called a sling." Deimos said. He then walked out of the grove. Mr. Bigmouth shrugged, put the sling on a nearby rock and left the grove.

Soon, they arrived at the front of the meadow where Mr. Threehorn, Bron, Blue-Scale, Grandma Longneck and Grandpa Longneck were gathered. Hyp, three heavily armed Fast-Runners and two Runners were present as well. All of the Fast-Runners carried a stone tipped spear for thrusting and a pouch of stone throwing knives. Hyp was armed with a simple wooden club. The Runners were not carrying any weapons but a stone knife was strapped to a leaf sheath on their leg.

Littlefoot, Cera and Ali with Pterano, Coatal and Ptyrax flying in a triangle formation above them, came into view. Behind them were Strut and Ms. Swimmer.

As they did so, some more dinosaurs gathered and began cheering as they arrived.

"Welcome back! I assume you have completed your mission?" Mr. Threehorn asked.

Raptix, leaping off of Cera's back, nodded. "We have indeed."

"Excellent Raptix. Hand over the captive to Hyp and the interrogation squad. You may then do whatever until brightfall. Then we will discuss the tests and tactics that Deimos and I have come up with."

Strut and Ms. Swimmer went over to Ali and untied the sickleclaw, keeping the vines that bound his hands, feet and snout on. The sickleclaw was completely unconscious thanks to Strut, who had jabbed him with several poison darts at Ali's request. They then placed the sickleclaw by Hyp's squad.

Hyp knelt down and felt for a pulse. "Good work." He then gestured for the rest of his squad to come. "We'll take the sickleclaw to the interrogation grove."

The two Runners picked up the sickleclaw and carried him off. Hyp and the Fast-Runner squad followed them.

"So now what?" Raptix asked.

"Place all our stuff back in Mr. Bigmouth's grove and relax." Ms. Swimmer replied.

"Sounds good."

Coatal, Ptyrax, Pterano and Ruby headed back to the airfield while Ms. Swimmer and her group headed to Mr. Bigmouth's grove. The other dinosaurs began to disperse as well.

There, Mr. Bigmouth was already preparing a revolting smelling orange paste. "Oh hello. What do you need?" He said, tossing some more wood into the fire.

"We're here just to put our weapons and supplies back." Raptix replied. He then sniffed the air. "What is that smell?" His eyes were actually watering from the fetid odor.

"That was something that the interrogation squad asked me to prepare; it's orangis fruit peel and penthium leaves. Either a potent dart poison or a truth serum. It'll be ready soon. Just needs to be heated."

Strut sniffed the air and gagged. "What is penthium?"

"Penthium is a tall tree with slimy feeling, green leaves. The entire plant is poisonous but it also has medicinal properties. The leaves can promote sleep in small doses and in large doses, they can kill. Thus…"

Mr. Bigmouth was cut off by the sound of someone vomiting. Everyone turned their heads and spotted Raptix vomiting in the far corner of the grove.

"In any case, the penthium tree is also used as a component in dart poisons."

"Yeah good enough." Strut replied. He placed the hollow reed and the dart canister back in their spot.

When Raptix was finished, he went up to the group. "Can we get out of here?" he asked.

"Let's unpack and get out of here before someone else gets sick." Littlefoot said.

In a few more minutes, they had accomplished their task and left the grove for the feeding grounds. There, Rime, Deimos and Blue-Scale were chatting over a pile of fish.

"Raptix, you, Deimos and Blue-Scale seem to know each other. Care to elaborate?" Littlefoot asked.

"Well, we do. We're from the same valley; Fang Valley to be specific." Raptix replied.

"What is this Fang Valley? Is it another valley that we may have to fight?" Cera asked.

"I can explain." Deimos said, hobbling up to the group. His ankle was still wrapped in the leaf bandage.

"Please do."

Deimos cleared his throat. "Fang Valley is another valley controlled by Excidium's forces. If anything, the sharptooth in command, Tethys, is even crueler than Excidium. Blue-Scale's brother had apparently, shall we say 'botched' a mission. Tethys then ordered…"

"Deimos… Can we not talk about that?" Blue-Scale replied, trying to fight back tears.


Ali then gently nuzzled Blue-Scale's side, the only part of him she could reach. "Sorry to hear that about your brother. If it's any consolation; we know how you feel."

Blue-Scale knelt down and hugged Ali. After a few moments, he let go of her.

The air was then shattered by a loud thud. Everyone turned their heads to find that Ms. Swimmer had punched a nearby tree, knocking off several leaves.

"Ms. Swimmer, what's the matter?" Raptix asked.

Ms. Swimmer then turned to face them. Her head was bowed and it seemed like she was crying. "It's this damned war!" She then slammed her fist into the tree again and started sobbing.

Strut went up to Ms. Swimmer and gently laid a hand on her shoulder. "Ms. Swimmer, we all wish the war to be over."

Ms. Swimmer continued crying. "It's not that… It's just that we war has permeated everything. I mean, I've seen hatchlings mock fighting with staves instead of playing tag and the way they fight is chillingly real. What's worse is some of the hatchlings look forward to combat. I don't know if it's from the tales of glory they hear or what. But this war…it's corrupting everything. No one says anything about it but I assure you that scary sleep stories are becoming more common and there are rumors that some dinosaurs are eating strange plants. And…" She then leaned against the tree trunk and continued crying. Strut decided to give Ms. Swimmer time alone.

A collective shiver ran down the group.

Raptix looked at the ground. "She…she's right. Nothing is normal and even when this war is over, the horrors will remain for cold times yet to come. And the memories of war will stay with the dinosaurs until they die. Try as they might; they cannot unsee the sight of their friends riddled with stab wounds or worse, lying in bloody pieces on a battlefield."

Blue-Scale nodded. "The Great Valley dinosaurs were driven from their home. And they intend to take it back." He then sighed. "Sadly, territory is usually the cause of conflict. But never before has it sparked a war like this."

"To be honest, I really wish we could back out of this war." Deimos said with a sigh.

"We all do." Rime replied. "But backing out now could have horrendous consequences. And I am sure Mr. and Mrs. Longneck would agree with me."

Littlefoot nodded. "They would but they would also agree that engaging in war is something that must be done as a last resort… and I am afraid that we rushed into this, thinking that it would be a quick engagement with minimal bloodshed." He then fought back tears. "How very wrong we were."

"I guess a moment of remembrance is appropriate right now?" Strut asked.

Everyone nodded.

Deimos turned around and noticed Ms. Swimmer had walked away from the tree she was leaning against. He then faced the group.

"Rhett, you'll be missed but you will never be forgotten." Ali said.

"Tippy, Tricia, Tria, Dinah, Dana…" Cera then took a breath as a few tears flowed down her face. "We'll miss you. But we'll avenge your deaths."

"Ducky, Chomper… If you're out there; we'll do whatever it takes to bring you home." Littlefoot said.

"Ovius, Rham, Phor, Dact… you…you'll be missed." Strut said. A few tears dripped from his eyes and landed on the ground.

Everyone else present bowed their heads.

Ms. Swimmer was washing up in a nearby stream a fair distance from the rest of the group when Chomper's parents came up to her.

"Ms. Swimmer… my… mate… erm…" Chomper's father began in halting Leaf-Eater before scratching his head.

"And I." Chomper's mother replied in Sharptooth.

"Uh, sorry… My mate…and…I want… to… say…to…you…that…we…erm…think that… Ducky and Chomper…are died."

Ms. Swimmer shook her head. "No, I learned from Rime that they are being held on Cloud Island."

"Ms. Swimmer, the Bright Circle has changed its shape since we arrived. And this Rime character may be mistaken or worse, he may be trying to lure you into an ambush." Chomper's mother replied in Leaf-Eater. Her speech was much more coherent but it was still heavily accented.

"Well, I am not giving up."

"Ms. Swimmer, there is a fine line between determination and stubbornness and to be honest, you are crossing that line."

Ms. Swimmer shook her head. "Tyr, Ranno, can you please leave me alone?" She was trying to fight back tears.

"Let us go. It seems that she would like to be left alone."

Tyr, Chomper's father, followed Ranno, his mate to the main lake. As soon as they were out of earshot, Ms. Swimmer began crying again.

At the same time the memorial service was going on, Hyp and the interrogation squad had reached the interrogation grove in a remote corner of the meadow. Ironically, the interrogation grove was the closest to the feeding grounds.

"So I assume we have our interrogation supplies?" a dull green Fast-Runner asked. The group was just outside the short trail to the grove.

"Only some of them. We need the penthium truth serum, the clubtail fruit paste, and the enhanced sickleclaw paste. We have the vines, water, calabashes, sticks, painkilling herb mix and grinding rocks. Of course, leaves are in ready supply." Hyp replied. He then turned to the Runners who were carrying the still unconscious sickleclaw. "Take him in and restrain him. I have to get the supplies." Hyp then left the group.

The Runners nodded and entered the grove. The grove was densely wooded, letting in only a hazy light. Inside were several calabashes filled with water, several coils of vines, a calabash filled with leaf packets containing the painkilling herb mixture. The calabashes, vines and grinding rocks were located on a log with the top flattened. A small fire pit sat near the middle of the grove. The fire pit was prepared with tinder, kindling and fuel but it was not yet lit. Some unlit bright torches were leaning against one of the trees in the back. Several stout sticks were leaning against the trees in the back as well.

The Fast-Runners guarded the both sides of the grove's entrance, two on the inside, two on the outside.

The Runners grabbed some vines and bound the sickleclaw to a tree near the front of the grove.

One of the Runners drew her knife and cut the vines binding the sickleclaw's snout shut.

The sickleclaw twitched and gradually began to regain consciousness.

"Ugh… where….why are my…" the sickleclaw said, his voice somewhat slurred.

"Some clubtail fruit ought to wake him up." The female Runner said.

"We'll need to wait until Hyp gets back." A Fast-Runner replied.

Hyp had arrived at Mr. Bigmouth's grove. The fetid odor from the cooking penthium truth serum had mostly dissipated but it was still present. Mr. Bigmouth was busy grinding some sickleclaw pods.

"Mr. Bigmouth, is the penthium truth serum ready?" Hyp asked.

"Grab the calabash with orange liquid in it." Mr. Bigmouth said, continuing to grind the sickleclaw pods.

"What about the clubtail fruit and the enhanced sickleclaw paste?"

"The clubtail fruits are next to the truth serum. And I am working on the last batch of the enhanced sickleclaw paste." Mr. Bigmouth then got up and plucked some grey berries from a small shrub. He ground those berries into the sickleclaw paste.

Soon he had finished grinding the berries and he scooped them into some leaf packets which he then tossed into a calabash filled with the packets.

Mr. Bigmouth then washed his hands in the river. "Everything has been prepared."

Hyp then grabbed the calabash of truth serum in one hand and the calabash of enhanced sickleclaw paste in his other hand. The clubtail fruits were tucked under his arm. Surprisingly the cold truth serum was nearly odorless except for a very faint fruity odor.

He then returned to the interrogation grove with the supplies. When he entered, the sickleclaw was now fully conscious and cursing at the interrogators who paid him no heed.

"Hyp, you got the supplies?" the female Runner asked.

Hyp nodded.

"You bastards have no sense of honor! Kidnapping dinosaurs at night!" the sickleclaw shouted.

"Shut up." A Fast-Runner replied in an almost bored tone.

"Hey if you are going to kidnap me, how about giving me some food!"

Hyp crumpled up a leaf, dipped into the penthium truth serum and to the sickleclaw. "Eat this then."

The sickleclaw sniffed the leaf then spat at Hyp. "You have got to be kidding me."

Hyp shrugged and put the leaf aside. "Okay then, we'll get you something to eat once you tell us your name."

The sickleclaw chuckled. "My name? Nych. That's all you want to know? Now can I have my food?"

"We'll have to get it."

Nych laughed. "You're a twisted bastard, sacrificing one of your own for an interrogation."

"Just watch." Hyp replied. He then gestured to one of the Fast-Runners who followed him out of the grove.

Hyp and the Fast-Runner then went to a stream at the edge of the feeding grounds. There, Hyp sat on a rock while the Fast-Runner waded into the stream to spear some fish.

"So do you think we should lace the fish with the penthium truth serum?" Hyp asked.

The Fast-Runner speared a fish and tossed it on the bank. "Wouldn't he taste or smell it?"

Hyp shook his head. "The truth serum is nearly odorless and almost tasteless. Besides, the meat will probably cover everything up."

Hyp shrugged as the Fast-Runner speared more fish and tossed them on the bank. Soon a rather several fish were lying on the bank.

The Fast-Runner came out of the stream. "That should be enough."

The Fast-Runner picked up the quantity of fish and carried it to the interrogation grove. There, they placed the fish outside the grove.

Hyp entered the grove and picked up the calabash of penthium truth serum. He then exited the grove with the calabash in hand.

"Okay so, how should we do we do this then?" the Fast-Runner asked. The pile of fish was next to him.

"Not so loud." Hyp hissed.


Hyp dipped a leaf in the truth serum and shoved it into the fish's mouth with a stick he broke off a nearby tree. He then repeated the process.

"So we stuff the fish with penthium laced leaves?" the Fast-Runner asked in a whisper.

Hyp nodded and continued doing the same to another fish.

The Fast-Runner shrugged and followed Hyp's lead, soon the all the fish were stuffed with the penthium laced leaves.

The Fast-Runner carried the fish to the grove and placed them in front of Nych. "Hey, Nych! We've got food for you!"

Nych looked at the fish with disdain. "Fish? Come on, no sickleclaw eats fish."

The female Runner glared at Nych. "Listen Nych, we could have not decided to even feed you at all. All we have is fish. Now, I suggest you stop being so damn picky!" she hissed.

Nych spat at the Runner but his stomach growled. "Damn it! Why now!"

The female Runner chuckled. "Looks like even your stomach is telling you not to be so picky."

The Fast-Runners leveled their spears at Nych as Hyp untied him.

"Eat your fill but don't try anything funny!" A Fast-Runners said.

Nych immediately devoured the fish. Soon he became rather drowsy.

"It's working!" a Fast-Runner said.

"I've got this." Hyp said. He then went up to Nych.

"Nych, what is your position with Styracus's herd?" Hyp asked.

"I'm a Feeding Grounds guard." Nych replied.

"Good. What is Cloud Island?"

"Cloud Island is an island we take prisoners to. We have some sharpteeth there and we have an ally. She is known as Ms. Maia and she is stationed there."

"Where is Cloud Island?" Hyp asked, trying his hardest to not to show any sign of anger.

"Cloud Island is located out on the Big Water. High Tree Island is the closest to Cloud Island; you can see Cloud Island from High Tree Island but you cannot reach it from there. Don't waste your time."

"Nych, we will reach Cloud Island. But back to the subject, how do you reach High Tree Island?"

Nych's eyes closed for a bit but he soon reopened them. "There is a land bridge that is covered and uncovered by the tides. I don't know where it is but you can see it. But…" Nych then closed his eyes and fell asleep.

"Looks like the penthium worked." The female Fast-Runner said.

"I will report this to Overseer Threehorn. Watch him and make sure he doesn't escape or anything. Kill him only as a last resort." Hyp said.

Hyp then left the grove and headed to the main lake where Mr. Threehorn and the other members of the Warriors' Council, even Ms. Swimmer, were eating. Some members of the Great Valley Air Corps were present as well but they served as messengers.

"Overseer Threehorn! I have extracted some vital information from our prisoner." Hyp said.

"Excellent! Now tell me everything that you and your team have learned." Mr. Threehorn said, swallowing his mouthful of grass.

Hyp cleared his throat. "Well, the sickleclaw's name is Nych and he's a Feeding Grounds guard."

"Is that all? Go back and interrogate him some more!" Mr. Threehorn ordered.

"Overseer Threehorn, sir, I am not finished yet. We have also discovered what and where Cloud Island is. Cloud Island is an island that they take prisoners to and it is located near High Tree Island. We apparently need flyers or Swimming Longnecks to take us there as you can see it but not access it from High Tree Island. High Tree Island is in turn reachable from our side of the Big Water. There is a land bridge that we can cross but it is covered and uncovered by the tides. Also this piece of information will shock you, we have learned that Ms. Maia is also on Cloud Island and she's working with the enemy."

"What!" Mr. Threehorn shouted. "That asshole!" He then quickly calmed himself. "Hyp, thank you for the valuable information."

"What shall we do with our prisoner?"

"Continue interrogating him. Once he's out of information, kill him. Dismissed."

Hyp nodded ran back to the interrogation grove. At this time, the sun was starting to set, bathing the area in a light gold glow and giving the sky a beautiful purple-blue hue.

Mt. Threehorn then looked at Grandpa Longneck. "I believe it is time to call a meeting to discuss the tactics that Deimos showed us and the information we have learned."

"Right you are." Grandpa Longneck said. He then cleared his throat. "Everyone report to the main lake! There is a meeting going on!" His powerful voice echoed across the entire meadow. At the same time, the messengers took to the air to alert everyone.

"We may have a chance to rescue Chomper and Ducky." Mr. Thicknose said.

"I know but we cannot rush." Mr. Threehorn said.

"Chomper, Ducky, hang on. We will find you." Ms. Swimmer said, looking at the setting sun as a few tears dripped down her face.

Chapter 31: The Great Operation Begins

The torches near the main lake burned brightly, illuminating all the dinosaurs present. A crescent moon shone high in a starless sky. The members of the Warriors' Council were at the head of the crowd of Great Valley dinosaurs. The sound of chatter was heard throughout the main lake.

"Everyone, we know it is late but the faster you quiet down, the faster this meeting will end." Grandpa Longneck said.

The crowd grew quiet and listened attentively.

"The first order of business is the so called 'practice battle'. There we tested some tactics that sharpteeth use to hunt." Grandpa Longneck then turned to Mr. Threehorn. "Overseer Threehorn, if you will."

Mr. Threehorn then stepped up in front of Grandpa Longneck and cleared his throat. "The results of the practice battle are very encouraging. The first test was to see if there is a possible way to take down large sharpteeth or Longnecks if we do not have Longnecks available. Our tests indicate that it is in fact possible but time consuming. The tactics consisted of using Runner and Fast-Runner squads to bombard the target with thrown spears. The tests showed that the target cannot hope to attack each and every target. In addition, the spear throwers are too small to be hit with any great degree of accuracy. We also ran a test of my single kind groups. These proved to be remarkably effective, particularly the Clubtail and Threehorn wall technique. This consists of Clubtails and Threehorns forming a barrier behind which two-footers throw or shoot projectiles. Not surprisingly, very few dinosaurs were willing to charge through the barrier of Threehorns. However, there was one problem that Deimos discovered during the test: we were easily flanked. There was another variant of wall technique where two-footers armed with long spears replaced the Threehorns and Clubtails. Again same problem, but it seems that dinosaurs, especially Clubtails, were more willing to try and charge the barrier. Our final test was what we call the falling rock technique. It consists of a spearhead of some Threehorns, behind them are Swimmers armed with throwing spears. To the side are two squads of Runners or Fast-Runners. What happens is the Swimmers throw their spears at the opposing group as soon as they are in range. When they run out of spears or the opposing side gets too close, the Threehorns charge at the group, attempting to split it in half. At the same time, the Fast-Runner squads flank the two halves and the Swimmers follow behind the Threehorns. If done correctly, the opposing group will be split in half, each half will then be surrounded by hostile dinosaurs and they have no place to run."

Mr. Threehorn then stepped back. The dinosaurs gathered nodded but did not applaud.

"Now for Overseer Thicknose's report." Grandma Longneck said. She then turned to Mr. Thicknose who then stepped forward and cleared his throat.

"As for weapons and herb development, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that we have developed a new weapon known as a sling, thanks to the specimen that Littlefoot and his group have acquired during one of their expeditions. It is apparently used for throwing rocks with great force. Tests will be run tomorrow."

The dinosaurs around Littlefoot applauded but were silenced by a glare from Grandpa Longneck.

"And now for the bad news," Mr. Thicknose continued once the dinosaurs had quieted down. "The 'vine-rock' will not be made by Mr. Bigmouth or his assistants. You may use them but you must make them yourself; do not request them to be made for you. And Deimos's version, the 'flail', is not to be used under any circumstances as we have had many injuries, some quite serious, and one death resulting from the tests."

Some dinosaurs, including one who appeared to be missing an eye, shot Deimos dirty looks.

Mr. Thicknose then stepped back and Grandpa Longneck stepped forward.

Grandpa Longneck then cleared his throat. "And now our last order of business: our hostage and the data. Overseer Threehorn, if you will."

Mr. Threehorn stepped forward as Grandpa Longneck moved back.

"Well, as you are aware; Littlefoot and his team have undertaken a daring operation to capture an enemy sickleclaw. Thanks to his team, Hyp's interrogation squad has extracted very valuable information. So far we have learned roughly where Cloud Island is as well as the closest point to it, which is High Tree Island. We have also learned how to get to High Tree Island. Finally, we have learned a disturbing piece of information. Ms. Maia is on Cloud Island and collaborating with the enemy."

Gasps were heard through the crowd and the dinosaurs began to chatter amongst themselves.

"This meeting is not over yet! Please quiet down!" Grandma Longneck ordered.

The gathered dinosaurs complied but many still bore shocked expressions on their faces.

"Thank you Mrs. Longneck." Mr. Threehorn said, glancing in her direction. "As for the next meeting, that is currently undecided. However, tomorrow we will start scouting expeditions. You are all dismissed."

The gathered dinosaurs dispersed and headed off to their nests or the feeding grounds.

Littlefoot and his friends stood in stunned silence as the other dinosaurs dispersed.

"How?" Ali asked.

"Easy." Cera spat, "Ms. Maia's a backstabbing asshole."

"But she seemed like a decent dinosaur from what I saw of her."

Littlefoot shook his head. "She has always been rather nasty. There was the time when Ducky was looking for Dinah and Dana and Ms. Maia ended up throwing Ducky out of her nest. That was at least ten cold times ago. More recently, she beat Strut unconscious then insulted me. And of course, there was the time she threatened Raptix with a spear."

"I'll kill that fu…" Strut began.

"No use getting worked up over this. Let's go relax." Littlefoot said, cutting Strut off midsentence.

Strut swore under his breath and followed Littlefoot.

The group then headed to the feeding grounds. There, Rime, Raptix, Deimos and Ms. Swimmer were chatting over some fish and treestars.

"Anyone besides me shocked that Ms. Maia would do something like this?" Ms. Swimmer asked between mouthfuls of treestar leaves. "I mean, why would she do something like that?"

Deimos shrugged. "Who knows? Personally, I don't give a damn what her motivations are; since she has allied herself with Claw Valley she's an enemy. Considering that she beat Strut unconscious and threatened Raptix with a spear. She probably joined them just to satisfy her bloodlust."

Raptix nodded and took a bite out of his fish. "I'm surprised that she hasn't killed someone here already."

Rime said nothing but swallowed his bite of fish.

"We're closer to rescuing Ducky. I can feel it." Strut said, eating a handful of treestars.

"Don't be so hasty. We haven't got a damn clue to where High Tree Island is." Cera scolded.

"Cera's right. We'll need to do recon to find out where High Tree Island is. Then from there, we will need to find a rough location to where Cloud Island is and finally we need to find a way to get there. And from the information we have, getting there is the hard part. And we'll probably need to set up camp on High Tree Island as well." Deimos said.

"You will be coming with us, right?" Littlefoot asked.

"I hurt my ankle several nights ago. I can stand and walk on it but I'm not sure if it can take the stress of running, jumping or fighting."

"On second thought, maybe you shouldn't come."

Deimos grinned and winked at Littlefoot. "Remember, that we cannot actually invade Cloud Island without preparation. By the time all preparations are done, I may be ready to fight."

"So what do you all want to do now?" Cera asked.

Littlefoot yawned. "Let's go to sleep, it's getting late."

The group of dinosaurs dispersed and headed off to the sleeping areas.

At the sleeping area, Littlefoot, Cera and Deimos were chatting with each other before they went to sleep.

"I heard you talking about the 'Yellowbellies' a few nights ago. What exactly are they?" Deimos asked.

Cera groaned. "They are a group of dinosaurs from Berry Valley."

"Excellent! We can possibly recruit them to help us take back the Great Valley."

"No!" Cera and Littlefoot shouted simultaneously. A few dinosaurs woke up and glared at the two.

"What exactly is wrong with them? Are they evil or something?" Deimos asked, scratching his head.

"They are total idiots who probably don't give a damn that we're at war. Furthermore, they probably don't know which end of a spear goes where." Cera replied. Her voice was calmer this time.

"Train them. We could potentially have quite a large amount of allies if we recruit them."

"Fine. If you get constantly hugged and squeezed by your Yellowbelly recruits, don't come crying to us."

Deimos's face suddenly turned to an expression of combined disgust and shock. "Pardon?"

"Cera got forcibly hugged by one of them." Littlefoot replied.

"Yeah." Cera added. She shuddered at the memory. "I still have nightmares about that."

"On second thought maybe not." Deimos said. The mental image of him being hugged and squeezed by the hypothetical Yellowbelly recruits made him sick to his stomach.

"Good." Cera said. She then went to her nest and fell asleep.

Littlefoot went to his nest and fell asleep.

Deimos did the same. He carefully stepped around Raptix's sleeping form before he lay in his own nest and fell asleep.

Miles out on the Big Water, the crescent moon shone over the misty forests and beaches of Cloud Island. Specks of red from torches dotted the beaches and the plains.

Ed, Rytho, Chomper and Ducky were at Isla's beachfront encampment. Compared to Rytho's well-stocked encampment, Isla's campsite was extremely bare. The only feature was small firepit that had a small fire blazing away inside as well as a small pile of wood near it. The nests were simple indentations in the sand.

Ed, Ducky and Sorna were keeping watch. Ed was armed with his spear, Ducky with a large rock she picked off the beach and Sorna with her wooden club. The others were sleeping.

"So exactly how long have the sharpteeth been here?" Ed asked.

"Many, many cold times. In fact, I was only a hatchling when they arrived over forty cold times ago." Sorna replied.

"Forty cold times. That is a long time. It is. It is." Ducky said.

"It is indeed. I fear that my twenty seventh starday will arrive when I am on this island." Ed replied, sighing.

"Do not feel too bad. My twenty second starday just passed."

"Happy starday." Ed's voice carried an unusual weary tone.

"What is a starday?" Sorna asked.

"Starday is the term that Great Valley dinosaurs use to refer to the day we were hatched. It's usually a cause for celebration." Ed then quickly changed the subject. "But I really don't want to talk about what should be a joyous occasion in a situation like this."

"Why not?"

"It's just that… I…look, I said I don't want to talk about it!"


"Ed, what about our encampment?" Ducky asked.

"Damn, I forgot about that! We should head over there, retrieve our supplies and get back here." Ed replied. He then turned to Sorna. "Sorna, do you have a main encampment anywhere?"

Sorna shook her head. "No. We usually stay on the move. All we carry are our weapons and the fire rocks."

"What about herbs and firewood?"

"We gather them anew every time we set up camp."

"In any case, we need to return to our old campsite, to salvage some of our old materials and destroy the rest." Ed said.

"Understood, but remember, you and your group have to carry them." Sorna replied.

"All right. Let's move out." Ed then went to Chomper and Rytho and gently shook them awake.

"You better have a damn good reason for doing that!" Rytho grumbled, getting out of his nest.

"Ed, are we going on another night raid?" Chomper asked, stretching.

"No. We're heading back to our old camp and taking some supplies. Once we take everything we need, destroy everything." Ed replied.

Chomper grabbed his staff, Ed and Rytho grabbed their spears and Ducky kept her large rock.

"We all ready?" Rytho asked.

Ducky, Chomper and Ed nodded.

"Good luck." Sorna said. She then grabbed a piece of tree bark and tossed it into the fire.

The group then exited the beachfront and made their way to the forest. The entire trip was mostly uneventful save for the few times they avoided the roving patrols by hiding behind trees.

After several more minutes, they arrived at their old encampment. The encampment was in poor shape. The stockpile of food was mostly rotted, the fire pit was almost completely filled in and Chomper's food cache was destroyed.

"Take what we need and destroy the rest." Rytho said. He and Chomper stood guard while Ducky and Ed started picking through the encampment.

Ducky looked at the clamshells and calabashes resting on a log. She carefully examined them and noticed that all of them were used for storing drinking water and nothing else. She took one calabash and placed the clamshells in them. She then smashed the rest of the calabashes with her rock.

Ed was also digging through the supplies. He found the packet of flints which he quickly strapped to his upper arm with a piece of vine. He opened all the leaf packets of herbal medications and poisons. He grinned as he realized that most of them were undamaged. He grabbed another leaf sack with a vine shoulder strap and placed three packets of painkilling herb mixture and sickleclaw paste inside. The last leaf sack, also with a vine shoulder strap, was filled with three packets of the deadly penthium dart poison. Ed then proceeded to destroy the rest of the packets by tearing them open and throwing them in the ocean.

"We are done." Ducky said. She was carrying the calabash and clamshells in one hand and the other hand was carrying the rock.

"Not yet." Ed replied, "Those black stones we use to make weapons and oilplant leaves have to come with us too."

Ed then wrapped the oilplant leaves in an additional layer of leaves, which he then bound into a small bundle. He then grabbed the last leaf sack, threw the bundle in as well as a few of the black rocks. He then placed the vine strap across his shoulder and threw the rest of the rocks into the ocean. "We're done!" Ed called.

"Wait, what about the firewood?" Ducky asked.

"Destroy it. Carrying a large amount of firewood is impractical without a four-footer."

Ducky did as she was told, dragging the leaf sled into the water and dumping the load of firewood into the ocean.

"Firewood has been destroyed. It has, it has." Ducky said.

"Good. Move out!" Rytho ordered. He looked at the campsite; almost everything of value was floating on the ocean or in several pieces on the sand. He then led his group back the way they came.

"Erm, Rytho not to be disrespectful but are you sure we can trust Isla?" Ed asked as they wound their way through the moonlit trails.

"We can trust her. And even if she isn't a direct ally of us, we know that she is against Ms. Maia and that's good enough for me." Rytho replied.

After several minutes, they arrived at their encampment. There, Nublar, Isla, Sorna and Cirrus greeted them. Sorna had a leaf bag draped across her shoulder that held what were presumed to be the flints. The campfire had burned down to coals.

"So what's going on?" Chomper asked.

"We're moving." Sorna replied. She was still carrying her wooden club.

"It's up to you if you want to come with us but survival is enhanced if we stick together." Isla added. She was armed with the spear that belonged to the now dead elder.

"We're with you." Rytho replied. "Lead the way."

Isla and Sorna took up the head of the procession with Cirrus and Rytho behind them. Ducky and Ed were behind them and Nublar capped off the end. The group then headed into a wooded trail.

"So Mr. Rytho," Cirrus said, "how are you?"

Rytho yawned. "It's just 'Rytho', 'Mr.' makes me feel old. But I am feeling kind of tired." He then noticed a leaf scabbard with the hilt of a stone knife in it strapped to Cirrus's right leg.

Cirrus noticed Rytho staring at the scabbard on his right leg. "It's my knife isn't it?" he asked.

"Well… yes." Rytho replied.

"Made it myself." Cirrus said with a touch of pride. He then noticed Rytho's expression. "I've only used it to prepare herbs and stuff." He added.

Rytho shrugged. "A knife is a very useful tool."

Cirrus nodded but said nothing else.

The group then continued down the forested trail until they reached a small wooded clearing. The clearing showed some signs of previous inhabitation such as a small fire pit and some piles of firewood.

"This is it. Our encampment until next night." Isla said.

Ducky, Ed, Rytho and Chomper put their supplies aside.

"Let's rest up; we've got to forage for food and water at brightrise." Sorna said.

One by one, the dinosaurs at the encampment fell asleep.

Several hours later, when the midmorning sun rose above the Big Water Meadow, Hyp was speaking to Mr. Threehorn by the main lake. Two Runners employed as messengers were standing next to him.

"Overseer Threehorn, we have wrung out more information from Nych." Hyp said.

Mr. Threehorn nodded. "Carry on."

Hyp cleared his throat. "Some of the Great Valley dinosaurs have joined the enemy. Also, Styracus, Theta and Hasta are not acting on their own. They are acting in concert with Claw Valley."

"You repeated information that we knew from a while back because Deimos told us all that he knew. But in any case, continue."

"Right. We also learned the name of one of their leaders at the Great Valley, a sharptooth named 'Red-Eye'. Finally, we have learned what High Tree Island looks like. However, I warn you that he may not be completely truthful regarding the appearance of High Tree Island. Nych described High Tree Island as an island with land bridge that connects to our side of the Big Water. Also, the trees there are described as having pointy leaves and being extremely tall, hence then name."

Mr. Threehorn nodded. "Thank you Hyp. Dismissed."

Hyp then left Mr. Threehorn and returned to the interrogation grove. As Hyp left, Tyr and Ranno approached Mr. Threehorn.

"Threehorn…we knew High Tree Island. It…is our…sleeping area." Tyr said. His heavy accent made it hard for Mr. Threehorn to understand anything.

Mr. Threehorn looked at Tyr and then at Ranno. "Please repeat that." He asked.

"Overseer Threehorn, we were listening in to what Hyp was telling you. High Tree Island matches the description of the island that we and Chomper lived on. Only we called it 'Tide Island'. The land bridge appears and disappears with the tides." Ranno replied. Her accent was heavy but more comprehensible than Tyr's accent.

Mr. Threehorn nodded. "Thank you Tyr and Ranno. You are both dismissed. I will relay this information to Squadron Leader Pterano." He then turned to his two messengers. "Carry this order to Pterano: 'Take some of your flyers and try to find High Tree Island also known as Tide Island. The key mark of the island is a land bridge but that may not be visible depending on the tides. But the tall pointed leaf trees are unmistakable.'"

"Understood." The thin grey Runner bolted from the scene and headed to the airfield.

Tyr and Ranno headed back to the feeding grounds and the remaining Runner stood by Mr. Threehorn.

A few moments later, the grey Runner arrived at the airfield. There, Pterano and some flyers were practicing their close-quarters combat techniques. Mr. Bigmouth and a few dinosaurs, including Strut were testing out the slings made by Mr. Bigmouth. The cracks of the rocks striking and breaking tree branches echoed through the airfield.

"Squadron Leader Pterano! Overseer Threehorn has issued a command!" he announced.

Pterano immediately signaled everyone to stop their activities and pay attention to the Runner.

The Runner cleared his throat. "You are to search for High Tree Island. It is out over the Big Water. Look for a land bridge; if you cannot find the land bridge, look for the tall pointed leaf trees." He then left the airfield.

Pterano nodded. "Understood." He then turned to the group of flyers. "All right. Our mission is recon. You are to fly out over the Big Water and look for High Tree Island. As our messenger said, look for either a land bridge or tall pointed leaf trees. Get on it!"

Several of the flyers, including Ptyrax and Pterano immediately took to the air. Ruby and Hyp's father got onto Quetzal and Coatal, respectively. Both Quetzal and Coatal were carrying rocks to throw at attacking dinosaurs. They then followed the other flyers out of the meadow out over the Big Water.

"Good luck!" Strut said, waving to the rapidly disappearing flyers. He then draped the sling across his shoulder and went off to gather some more rocks. The other slingers decided to do the same.

A few hours later, the flyers were now flying high over the ocean. Below them were the deep blue ocean and the narrow strip of beach on the meadow. At the altitude they were flying, they could see for miles.

"Anything yet?" Ruby shouted over the rushing wind.

"Nothing yet!" Ptyrax responded.

Pterano was flying ahead of them. He scanned the landscape below him. Suddenly, he spotted a faint tan line running from an island to the beach.

"The land bridge is in sight!" he shouted.

The flyers then dropped in altitude until the land bridge came into clearer view. The bridge itself was actually fairly wide but strong waves constantly pounded the sides. The entire bridge appeared to be slick with water.

Ruby peered over Coatal's side. "That's it! The land bridge!"

Hyp's father looked at the island at the end of the land bridge. The island appeared to be rather large and it was covered in a multitude of tall trees. The land bridge led to a small rocky beach. "And it's attached to High Tree Island! We've got the right island!"

"Pterano! Do we search for Cloud Island now?" Coatal asked.

"We need to report the information we gathered; besides the flight is too long to make it from the airfield to Cloud Island in one go. Once we send a scouting party to High Tree Island, we can then use that as a resting area. Then, we can explore the area of Cloud Island." Pterano replied. He then wheeled around and headed back towards the Big Water Meadows with the other flyers following him.

It was late afternoon when the flyers returned to the meadow and landed at the airfield.

"Okay we are done for today." Pterano said. "You are free to do whatever you want."

The flyers and the two landwalkers dispersed and headed off to the feeding grounds while Pterano headed off to the main lake.

A few moments later, Pterano landed at the main lake. There, Mr. Threehorn and Grandma Longneck were eating.

"Pterano, what do you have to report from your recon mission?" Mr. Threehorn asked.

"Much. We have located High Tree Island. If you head in the direction of the Great Valley while you follow the coastline, you may see it in the distance. The land bridge is actually quite wide but I would gather that crossing it must be done swiftly lest the group on the land bridge drown. Also, once we have sent a scouting party to High Tree Island, I will set up a temporary airfield there so the Great Valley Air Corps can mount recon missions to locate Cloud Island." Pterano replied.

Mr. Threehorn nodded. "How long do you reckon it will take to reach High Tree Island by land?"

"Roughly a day."

"Thank you. You are dismissed."

Pterano then flew off to the airfield.

Mr. Threehorn then looked at Grandma Longneck. "I would like for a meeting be called because I am planning to send a scouting party to High Tree Island in the next few days."

Grandma Longneck nodded and cleared her throat. "All report to the main lake! There is a meeting!" she bellowed.

Several minutes later, all the dinosaurs were gathered at the main lake. Surprisingly, they chattered very little.

"Everyone. We have great news. We have located High Tree Island." Grandma Longneck began.

The dinosaurs gathered cheered.

"Please wait until the meeting is finished to celebrate." Mr. Threehorn said.

The dinosaurs complied and became silent.

Mr. Threehorn then cleared his throat. "We have indeed located High Tree Island but it was by air. We need to send a scouting force out to explore the island more thoroughly so a temporary airfield can be set up so the flyers of the Great Valley Air Corps can explore more of the Big Water and hopefully locate Cloud Island. Now we need volunteers for the scouting party."

Tyr and Ranno stepped forward.

"Mr. Threehorn, my mate and I would like to undertake this mission ourselves." Ranno said. "We are both natives of that island, thus we feel that there is less risk to your dinosaurs."

"I understand your position, Ranno but we need speed and the two of you alone can't cover enough ground fast enough." Mr. Threehorn replied. "Would you mind taking Littlefoot, Strut, Raptix and Pterano?"

"We would not mind." Ranno replied.

"Understood. You are all dismissed except for the dinosaurs Ranno has chosen."

The crowd dispersed except for the dinosaurs chosen. Cera, Ali and Deimos were also present.

"So I guess we're on another mission." Strut said.

"Yep." Raptix replied.

"Well, it's a recon mission. Things shouldn't go bad like they did last time."

"Still, don't get careless." Deimos said.

"Oh well, let's rest up for today and we'll head out tomorrow." Littlefoot said.

The dinosaurs then headed off to the feeding grounds. Above them, the sky was starting to show the golden hues of sunset.

Chapter 32: The First Waves on Shore

Dawn approached and with it, the golden beams of light pierced the foggy shroud of Cloud Island.

Rytho was one of the first to awaken inside the forest encampment. All the other dinosaurs were in the process of getting up. Ed and Ducky had placed their supplies near their nests, which were opposite those of Isla, Sorna, Nublar and Cirrus. The heavy tree cover did not allow much light into the forest; consequently, the only sources of light was the dim red glow of the smoldering coals in the fire pit and the watery beams of sun that made it through the dense canopy.

"Damn it," Rytho muttered, "Why can't they have picked a clearing or something? There's barely any room for our weapons and supplies. Luckily, we essentially have an infinite supply of firewood."

"Morning, Rytho!" Cirrus said, strapping his knife and scabbard to his right leg.

"Morning, Cirrus!" Rytho replied.

At this point, the other dinosaurs were awake and walking around the encampment to revitalize their limbs.

"So what's the plan for today?" Chomper

"Survive," Nublar replied.

"Sounds like a plan."

"What about the campfire?" Ducky asked.

"Stoke it," Isla ordered.

Ducky nodded and started gathering up loose twigs and leaves that were on the ground. She tossed the leaves on the glowing coals and blew on the coals until the leaves burst into flame. She then tossed the twigs into the fire and waited until tongues of flame started leaping from the small pile of wood.

"All right everyone." Nublar said. Everyone looked at him as he began speaking. "We are now going to assign tasks for everyone present." He then cleared his throat and spat into the fire. "Ducky, Chomper and Cirrus, you will forage for food and water. Rytho and I will maintain the campsite. Isla, Sorna and Ed, you are to find raw materials for poisons and herbs," he said.

Isla, Sorna and Ed followed the trail that lead deeper into the forest. However, Ducky, Chomper and Cirrus were gathering their supplies before they left the campsite.

"So what should we bring?" Cirrus asked.

"Well, you almost always should carry a weapon of some sort," Chomper replied.

"I've got my knife but I really don't think I can really stab someone with it."

"That's okay. Ducky and I will be armed."

"Chomper, we need the calabashes, we do, we do," Ducky said.

Chomper went over to the supply area and grabbed the calabashes that they used for storing drinking water. He tucked them under his arm and headed over to a shrub with enormous leaves on it. He snapped off one of the leaves and placed the calabashes on it.

"Wow! That's a good idea!" Cirrus said.

"Thank you," Chomper said with a blush. "It really helps in foraging expeditions."

"Chomper, Cirrus, Ducky! We don't have all day! Get moving!" Rytho ordered. He was holding his spear in one hand and keeping an eye out for trouble.

"We are almost ready!" Ducky replied. She picked up a stout stick from the ground to serve as a weapon.

Chomper grabbed his hollow reed. "Okay, we're all ready!" he said.

"Where to?" Cirrus asked.

"The beach."

Chomper, Ducky and Cirrus headed down the path opposite the one that the other group took.

In a few minutes, Ducky, Chomper and Cirrus arrived at the shore. Palm trees dotted the white sand beach and waves gently lapped the shore. The ocean filled the cool and hazy early morning air with its briny scent. The tranquil setting belied the fact that this was the very beach where Vio was killed.

Chomper left the leaf sled by the entrance to the each. He then waded into the water, using his hollow reed to test the depth of the water.

"What's Chomper looking for?" Cirrus asked.

"He is getting food. And speaking of which, so should we. We should, we should," Ducky replied.

"Okay then," Cirrus said. He looked up at the palm trees and spotted clusters of large ovoid fruits dangling from them. He picked up a large stone and hurled it at the cluster. The stone struck the fruit with a resounding crack as it ricocheted off. The fruit wobbled for a moment, then crashed to the earth below, embedding itself into the sand. He grabbed some more large stones and repeated the process until at least four fruits were embedded in the sand.

Ducky was picking some orange berries from a small shrub when she turned her head at the low thuds of the fruits striking the ground. "Cirrus, we cannot eat those!" she said. She then placed the calabash, now full of the orange berries, back on the leaf sled.

Cirrus ignored Ducky, ran underneath the tree that he had thrown the rocks at and picked up all the fallen fruits. "Trust me Ducky," Cirrus said as he went up to Ducky and placed the fruits on the leaf sled. "You can eat them and you'll like them."

Ducky shrugged and looked at another tree, this one had large brown nuts dangling from it. She used her stick to dislodge several of the nuts, which she then picked up and placed on the leaf sled.

Chomper returned from the shallows, his body glistening with seawater in the early morning sun. Several large conchs were tucked under one arm. His other arm carried his staff.

He placed the conchs on the leaf sled. Suddenly, his body stiffened as he sniffed the air. He frowned. "We need to get out of here now," he said.

"What's the matter?" Cirrus asked.

"I can smell the sickleclaws."

Cirrus, Ducky and Chomper bolted from the beach. Not less than a minute after they left the beach, three sickleclaws, all of them armed with stone tipped lances, arrived.

"Missed them," the tall gold sickleclaw said.

"We'll find those remaining Fast-Runners and kill them. I will enjoy feasting on their carcasses," one of the others said.

The other sickleclaw looked at the footprints in the sand and noticed that they led to another path in the woods. "They went that way," he said, pointing in the direction of the footprints.

The other sickleclaws followed him.

Ducky, Chomper and Cirrus were now inside a grassy clearing. The clearing itself was unremarkable, except for a small stream that flowed out of a rocky grotto. Some small pink flowers grew on the grass next to the stream

"Think we lost them?" Cirrus asked between breaths.

Chomper strained his ears but heard nothing. "Sounds like it. Now, let's get the water and return to the campsite or else Rytho's gonna be ticked,"

Ducky took a sip of the water and grinned. "This water is good, it is, it is," she said.

"Well, we should drink up now," Cirrus said, cupping his hands and scooping up the cold spring water. He then poured the water down his throat. "Wow." he said, "This water is good."

Chomper and Ducky did the same. As soon as everyone had their fill of the spring water; Ducky retrieved the three empty calabashes and filled them with the water that flowed from the stream.

She then placed the calabashes on the leaf sled. Chomper led the way out of the clearing with Ducky and Cirrus following him.

Several minutes later, the group arrived back at the campsite. Isla, Sorna and Ed were already back. Their gathered materials, mostly no-bleed leaf, a few lengths of glue vine, a handful of penthium leaves and a bloodplant, root and all.

"You're late," Nublar said testily. He tossed a handful of twigs into the campfire.

"Sorry, we had to gather some food for Chomper," Cirrus said.

"In any case, eat up. We're moving at brightfall."

Ducky dragged the leaf sled closer to the fire as everyone gathered around it.

Chomper took one of the conchs and smashed the shell with a nearby rock. He quickly gulped down the soft innards of the conch and tossed the shell pieces into the fire.

Ducky ate a handful of the orange berries she harvested. She sighed contentedly as the soft and sweet berries went down her throat. Ed grabbed a handful of the orange berries and swallowed them as well. "Not bad," he said, grabbing another handful.

Cirrus picked up one of the large fruits he harvested and shook it. He grinned as he heard liquid sloshing around inside. He then clenched the fruit between his knees, drew his knife and began peeling away the green skin of the fruit.

Rytho and Sorna had claimed the calabash of nuts. Sorna put one of the nuts in her mouth and bit down. Almost immediately, she spat the nut into the fire. "Did they make some kind of mistake or something?" she asked.

"No mistake," Rytho replied. He then picked up one of the nuts, placed it on a small flat rock and tapped it a few times with another rock. The shell crumbled, revealing the white kernel inside. He then handed the kernel to Sorna. "Try it," he said.

Sorna took the kernel and popped it into her mouth and chewed. "Pretty good," she said. She then grabbed two rocks and mimicked Rytho.

Nublar was waiting for Cirrus to finish peeling the fruits he had harvested.

Suddenly, the air was perforated with a scream and several profanities. All the heads turned to find Cirrus clutching his left hand in agony. Blood dripped from an enormous gash on his hand.

"Cirrus, what happened?" Nublar asked. He got up and tried to comfort his son.

"Cut myself peeling the water fruits," Cirrus said between gritted teeth. A few tears dripped down his face from the pain.

Rytho got up, grabbed some no-bleed leaf and looked for something to grind it into a paste with. Finding nothing, he placed the leaf in his mouth and chewed it into a paste. He tried not to gag at the nauseating taste. He then spat the paste into his hands. "Cirrus," Rytho said calmly, "I need you to show me the cut."

Cirrus nodded and let go of his left hand, revealing a deep gash that bled profusely. Rytho then daubed the paste on the gash and applied pressure to it, causing Cirrus to recoil in pain. Soon, the gash no longer bled as freely. Another minute and it stopped bleeding completely. When Rytho was sure the gash would no longer bleed, he released the pressure.

"Thanks," Cirrus said. "Guess I should let someone else peel the water fruits for now."

"You're welcome," Rytho replied. He then ate some of the orange berries that Ducky and Ed were enjoying to try and remove the taste of the no-bleed leaf he had chewed up before.

"I guess it would be rude not to try the water fruits after all that effort you went through to get them," Ducky said picking up one of the peeled fruits. She then bit into it only to find out that the flesh was hard and inedible. "How are we supposed to eat these?" she asked.

"Crack it and drink the juice that comes out of it. Once you do that, break the fruit in half and eat the meat inside," Nublar replied.

Ducky smashed the fruit against a nearby rock, opening a large crack. Another blow and a clear liquid started flowing from the crack. She held the fruit over her head and let the cool liquid flow down her throat.

Rytho did the same. "Hey, these are pretty good," he said.

Ed said nothing but simply smashed a hole in the fruit with his bare hands and drank the liquid.

Soon, everyone was drinking the cool liquid from the fruits and chatting.

"You said there are other Fast-Runner herds, right?" Chomper asked.

Nublar nodded. "That is correct but they are rarely seen even by us. In all honesty, it was sheer luck you stumbled upon us," he said.

"In any case, Chomper, you never told us where you are from."

"My friends and I are not from this island. In fact, we did not even come here of our own free will. We were forcibly taken here by sickleclaws. Ducky and I were tortured for information because of the war that is going on."

Nublar looked at Chomper suspiciously. "A war?" he said. "You never told us about a war going on."

Rytho sighed. "Well, Nublar I guess we have no choice but to tell you." he said. He then cleared his throat. "Far from Cloud Island is a valley known as the Great Valley, which was our homeland. A Spike-Frill known as Styracus led his herd into the Great Valley. With assistance from the sharpteeth, he has forced us from our rightful home."

Ed, Ducky, Cirrus, Sorna and Isla said nothing but sipped the liquid from the fruit.

Far from Cloud Island and several hours later, Littlefoot, Tyr, Strut, Raptix, Pterano and Ranno were gathered at Mr. Bigmouth's grove to get ready for the expedition. The mid afternoon sun shone brightly all over the meadow.

"So what are we going to take besides weapons?" Raptix asked. He was wearing his stone knife and its sheath across his chest.

"The usual," Littlefoot replied. He was wearing the vine pack harness that allowed him to carry medical herbs, additional weapons and other supplies.

Strut and Pterano were tying some leaf packets of poisons onto Littlefoot.

"Okay we're ready," Strut said. The canister of poison darts was draped over his shoulder and his hollow reed was clutched in one of his hands.

"Good, let's move out!" Littlefoot ordered.

The group then made its way out of the grove and to the Big Water. Unlike the previous expedition, no one was there to send them off.

Several hours later, when it was nearing dusk, the group had arrived at the shore. The tan sand beaches and the cool waters were bathed in the golden light of the sunset.

"Are we at the right place?" Strut asked.

Pterano scanned the ocean for High Tree Island. "I would presume so. The aforementioned island is visible in a straight line ahead. However, we will need to set up camp here as the land bridge appears to have been submerged by the tides," he said.

"Damn it! And we were so close too!" Raptix said.

Littlefoot sighed. "I guess traveling at night is not a safe preposition?"

Ranno nodded. "The bridge is quite treacherous even during the day. At night it becomes much more dangerous," she said.

"I guess it's foraging time," Strut said.

Littlefoot nodded. "Okay group," he said.

Everyone turned their heads towards him.

Littlefoot then cleared his throat. "First order of business is we unpack; then Pterano and Strut search for green food."

"What about us?" Tyr asked.

"Scavenge, fish or kill. Just don't kill any of us," Littlefoot said.

Tyr, Raptix and Ranno headed off along the beach to hunt. At the same time, Pterano and Strut helped remove all the supplies from Littlefoot. Pterano then took to the skies and Strut ran off to explore.

Many minutes passed by and the sun dipped below the horizon. Littlefoot was now alone with the supplies. "When we first encountered Sierra, Rinkus and Ozzie they were after the Stone of Cold Fire. What could they want with it? Unless… Oh no, they must have taken it for Styracus! Damn it! We were all so wrapped up at losing our valley and this war that we forgot about the Stone of Cold Fire. And if the legends are true..." he said aloud to no one in particular.

The flapping of wings interrupted Littlefoot's thoughts as he looked up to see Pterano landing. "All right," Pterano said. "There is a grove that contains nothing but treestars just head up from where we are. Or to make things easier, follow me."

Strut returned moments later. "There is also some water near the treestar grove that Pterano was talking about," he said.

"Guys, I was just thinking about something. You know the Stone of Cold Fire that landed in our valley so long ago?" Littlefoot asked.

Strut held his chin in concentration. "You know, I sort of remember. I think it was the first time I rode on a flyer," he said.

Pterano stroked his chin as he thought. "I do indeed have memories of the Stone of Cold Fire's landing. I also recall being forced to improvise tactics to take down the thieves – Ozzie, Rinkus and Sierra if I recall correctly - and Strut allying with us. The only thing I cannot recall is why they want that stone," he said.

"Well, now that we know that Ozzie, Rinkus and Sierra are allies of Styracus, we can now assume that Styracus is in possession of that stone," Littlefoot said.

Pterano's face then turned into a scowl. "This is an important piece of information! We must inform the Warriors' Council as soon as we return. What irks me is that only now we considered this; we should have considered this much sooner," he said with a note of irritation in his voice.

Littlefoot's stomach growled. "Talking about it isn't going to make the stone appear in front of us," he said. "What we need to do is accomplish our mission, rescue Ducky and take back our valley."

"So what are we going to do now?" Strut asked.

"Eat, gather some firewood and set up camp," Littlefoot replied. "Move out!"

Pterano flew into the air and led the group to the grove that he previously mentioned.

"Perhaps it is best if we forgo the firewood and only Strut and I gather treestars. We do not have torches and the Night Circle's light is not visible in the grove. Getting lost would have dire consequences even more so in that we are in the Mysterious Beyond," Pterano said.

Littlefoot looked at the trail leading into the grove. All he could see was infinite blackness. "Agreed. Pterano, proceed," he said.

Strut boarded Pterano and the two flew over the grove.

Littlefoot waited outside the grove for the two to return. He swore that he heard voices in the distance and those voices were unfamiliar.

Many minutes later, Pterano and Strut bearing many branches laden with treestars returned.

Littlefoot and the group then returned to their encampment. There, Raptix, Tyr and Ranno were already present.

"So what has taken so long?" Ranno asked.

"Looking for food," Littlefoot replied.

"Luckily, Tyr found a dead swimming longneck on the beach not to far from here. Quite good if I do say so myself," Raptix said.

"Well good for you but that's not what I eat," Strut replied, shoving some treestars in his mouth.

Littlefoot and Pterano also joined in. As soon as they were done eating, Strut spoke up. "I guess we should sleep now?" he said.

"Yes," Littlefoot replied. "Tyr, Ranno, do you mind keeping watch?"

"We do not," Ranno replied.

Raptix, Littlefoot, Strut and Pterano fell asleep on the beach.

As soon as dawn approached, the tides changed and the land bridge rose from the depths. Tyr and Ranno were the first to notice and they awoke everyone with an earsplitting roar.

"Hurry! The land bridge!" Tyr shouted in Leaf-Eater.

"Strut, Raptix! Pack this stuff back on me and get moving!" Littlefoot ordered.

Strut and Raptix did as they were told. In a few minutes, all of the supplies had been tied back onto Littlefoot, albeit with rather crude knots.

The group then made their way to the land bridge. True to Ranno's words, the bridge was very slippery and to make matters worse, the bridge was not quite uneven and strong waves constantly pounded the sides, throwing up a shower of salty water each time they did so. To top it off, dark clouds in the distance heralded rain.

Several times, Raptix and Strut lost their footing and fell onto the slick rocks. The only thing that saved them from falling into the churning maelstrom was the wideness of the bridge itself.

Even though Pterano was flying, the droplets of sea water kicked up by the crashing waves irritated his eyes and obscured his vision.

After many agonizing minutes, the group had made its way to the beach that the land bridge connected to.

"I never, ever, want to do that again," Strut panted out.

Raptix fluffed his feathers and lay on a rock in an attempt to dry off. "The only thing scarier than that was hanging onto a vine dangling from a flyer and watching the ground go away from you," he said. "And this was pretty damned close."

Suddenly, something buried itself in the sand near Strut. Strut swore and picked it up. To his surprise it looked almost exactly like a spear but much smaller and there was notch cut in the back. It was an arrow.

Another arrow crashed into a rock near him, the stone head shattered and pelted him with the sharp shards.

Yet another arrow struck Littlefoot in his left foreleg. He gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the searing pain in his leg. Another arrow struck one of the leaf pouches strapped onto him.

Tyr spotted several figures on a cliff. "Someone look at them!" he shouted.

Pterano immediately took to the air and flew up to the cliff. To his surprise, there were several Fast-Runners, all armed with bows. Almost immediately, the archers nocked their arrows and aimed at Pterano. He quickly flew over the ocean, where the hail of arrows harmlessly splashed into the water. He then wheeled around and landed behind a rock. Strut and Raptix had taken cover behind the rock as had Littlefoot.

"Is everyone okay?" Pterano asked.

"Littlefoot's hurt," Raptix replied.

Pterano went up to Littlefoot. He spotted the arrow protruding from Littlefoot's leg. Some blood dripped down from the wound but it was quite shallow.

"Littlefoot, this will hurt but I need to remove this arrow from you," Pterano said. He took the bag that was penetrated by the arrow. Ironically, it had sickleclaw paste packets in it.

"Go ahead," Littlefoot said, gritting his teeth.

Pterano then grabbed hold of the arrow shaft and pulled it out. He tore open a packet of sickleclaw paste and smeared the paste on the wound. He then continued applying pressure until the wound stopped bleeding.

"Thanks, never seen that kind of weapon before," Littlefoot said.

"It's called an arrow. It is shot from something called a bow. It basically combines a spear and the hollow reed's poison darts. It is very rare to see this kind of weapon; I have only seen it used twice and this is the second time," Pterano replied.

"So how can we get past them?" Raptix asked.

"We'll have to make a run for it," Strut replied. "Hopefully we'll be in the forest before someone gets hit."

Raptix peered out from behind the rock at Tyr and Ranno. Strangely, the archers on the cliff were not shooting at them.

"Do you think Tyr and Ranno know them?" Raptix asked

Pterano looked at them. "As long as they are distracting them, we can make a run for the forest," he said.

Strut dashed from behind the rock and headed for the forest. Almost immediately, the archers shot at him but his incredible speed and agility prevented him from getting hit.

Raptix followed Strut; again the archers shot at him but his small size made it difficult for him to get hit.

Littlefoot took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the rock. Almost immediately, an arrow struck near his foot.

In response, Tyr picked up a boulder from the beach and hurled over the cliff. "Back off!" he growled. He picked up another boulder and made a move to hurl it at the cliff. The archers retreated into the forest.

"Thanks Tyr," Littlefoot said, as he made his way into the forest.

Tyr and Ranno then followed the group into the forest. Almost immediately, the clouds rolled in and a light rain fell on the shore.

Several minutes later, the group arrived at a large clearing. A field of foul smelling pink flowers took up a good portion of the clearing.

"That is gross!" Strut said.

"Funny, I don't smell anything." Raptix replied.

"I disagree. The odor of this location is absolutely foul!" Pterano added.

"This is a good place for the airfield." Littlefoot said. He then sniffed the air a few times. "It smells really bad but we don't want to run into those dinosaurs who attacked us."

"Let's go then," Raptix said.

The group then left the odiferous clearing and made their way down another trail. This trail opened to a large grassy clearing. The rain had increased in intensity somewhat but there were no signs of thunder or lightning.

"This is a good spot. It doesn't smell," Strut said.

Pterano surveyed the area. "You have chosen an acceptable area. I will alert the Great Valley Air Corps. In the meantime, I want you to prepare the area. Make a landing zone and a rock storage area," he ordered. He then flew up into the grey skies and vanished.

Chapter 33: Ride into the Danger Zone

It was late afternoon and the skies were overcast in the Great Valley. Theta, Styracus, Hasta, Red-Eye and some of Styracus's herd were gathered by the Thundering Falls Lake. Dil, Icthy and several other sharpteeth were feasting on the carcass of a Far-Walker Longneck who was ambushed and killed by a squad of sickleclaws led by Saber.

"Styracus, all the sharpteeth and myself will be leaving this valley soon," Red-Eye said.

"What for?" Hasta asked.

"Our mission here is done."

"It is not done," Theta said flatly, "and it will not be done until we hunt down and kill every last dinosaur of the Great Valley."

Red-Eye shook his head. "Sorry, but according to the deal you got the Great Valley in return for helping us," he replied.

"So what is your next mission?"

"Excidium should be sending out a messenger flyer to this valley."

As soon as Red-Eye finished speaking, a grey flyer landed on his shoulder.

The flyer cleared her throat. "Red-Eye, Excidium is preparing for a conquest of Berry Valley," she said.

"So what is it?" Hasta asked.

"We're preparing for a conquest of Berry Valley," Red-Eye replied.

Theta then stepped forward. "Red-Eye, we would like to join you on this mission,"

Red-Eye was taken aback. "Erm, I'll have to see if Excidium will allow it," he said. He then turned to the messenger flyer. "Tell Excidium that Styracus, Hasta, Theta and some other members of his herd are willing to join us for the conquest," he said.

The messenger flyer nodded. "Got it," she said. She then flew into the overcast skies.

"We now have a place to live so do we really need to do this?" a black Clubtail asked.

"Blackjack! Where are your manners?" Styracus scolded. "Excidium helped our herd get a place to live so we can at least help his herd get more living space."

"Styracus! I am tired of this war! The only reason I even consented to this is because our home is a damned wasteland!" Blackjack spat.

"Blackjack, you do not have to come along with us." Styracus's voice was calm but it had a dangerous edge to it.

Blackjack grumbled and stalked off. Red-Eye simply shrugged. "Well, I have to wait until Excidium gives the go ahead," he said.

Back at Claw Valley, the skies were also overcast and the sun was almost blotted out by the clouds but the Stone of Cold Fire emitted a blue glow that illuminated the entire area. Several of sharpteeth stood guard around the valley.

Excidium was addressing a small group of sharpteeth in front of the Stone of Cold Fire. The stone sat on a stone pedestal and the cold blue light of the stone gave the entire clearing an otherworldly appearance.

But these were no ordinary sharpteeth; several of them had crystalline claws or even blades growing from their arms. Others had a blue aura surrounding them. The odd part was that these strange sharpteeth had no pupils and their eyes seemed to glow. The resurrected flyer, Flamewing, sat perched on a nearby tree. He earned his name because of the flame-like patterns on his wings but he was now literally ablaze with a supernatural red flame.

"What is our next task?" a black sickleclaw cloaked in a blue aura asked. This was Stoneclaw, one of the resurrected heroes of Claw Valley.

"You are to invade Berry Valley. Our population is growing and we need space for them," Excidium replied.

"You conquered the Great Valley. Kill Styracus and take the Great Valley for us, the greatest of dinosaurs."

"No!" Excidium snapped. "If it were not for Sierra and his flyers you'd still be a pile of bones in the Bonelands!"

Flamewing spat a small bolt of red fire that sizzled out as it fell to the ground. "I don't care what we do as long as I get to fight. It's been too many cold times since I got to taste the glory of combat," he said. His solid topaz eyes seemed to glow even brighter.

Stoneclaw looked at some normal sickleclaws who were standing guard over the stone. "Don't tell me you're sending normal sharpteeth alongside us?" he asked disdainfully.

"I am. Even though you and your fellow Reborn are far stronger and tougher than any sharpteeth, we simply cannot risk your defeat. Right now, we only have around five Reborn and five members of the Diamond Squad."

Stoneclaw laughed. "Defeat? Don't be ridiculous. I can't die and I'm damn sure that my fellow Reborn can't either," he said.

"We don't know that for sure. It is best we play it safe," Excidium replied.

Stoneclaw grumbled but said nothing.

"Diamond Squad?" a silver sharptooth asked. He had two short but deadly crystalline blades growing from the top of his hands.

"The name differentiates sharpteeth enhanced by contact with the Stone of Cold Fire from the 'normal' sharpteeth. 'Reborn' are sharpteeth like Stoneclaw – revived by the Stone of Cold Fire. Both of you can survive injuries that would kill normal sharpteeth. Furthermore, as you demonstrated before, members of the 'Diamond Squad' are capable of ripping apart rock," Excidium replied.

"I like that name," Stoneclaw said with a grin.

"Now all we need to do is wait for the sharpteeth to return from the Great Valley."

Over on High Tree Island, Littlefoot and his group had finished preparing the airfield. A large patch of dirt sat in the middle of the field, courtesy of the efforts of Tyr, Ranno and Littlefoot.

Some sticks were stuck in the dirt safe distance away from the landing zone. This was the rock storage area. Piles of rocks were stacked up in the storage area. The rain had intensified and the skies were dark with rain clouds but the sun faintly shone through the clouds.

"I wonder when Pterano will arrive?" Strut asked. He was sitting down on the rock.

"He's probably on his way now," Littlefoot replied. He was keeping an eye out for the archers who previously attacked them.

Raptix prodded the airfield with his knife. "Not sure if the Great Valley Air Corps will want to land here," he said.

The faint sound of flapping wings was heard.

"Hey, who's that?" Littlefoot asked, looking skywards. Overhead were some flyers.

"Well it looks like Pterano and the Great Valley Air Corps are here," Strut said.

"No. Sharpteeth flyers!" Tyr shouted as he sniffed the air.

"What?" Strut asked.

"Sharpteeth flyers. They steal our food."

"Let's hope they didn't notice us," Raptix muttered.

The sharpteeth flyers circled overhead but they eventually flew out of sight.

A few moments later, Ptyrax, Petrie, Pterano, Coatal, Quetzal and two other large flyers landed on the muddy landing strip. Ruby was also present; she carried a vine sling and had a pouch of stones dangling from her shoulders.

"Pterano! We had sharpteeth flyers above us!" Strut said.

"I was aware of that," Pterano said, "which is why I had Ruby armed with a sling. Luckily, the sharpteeth flyers flew off before we had problems."

"Pterano, what are we going to do about those archers?" Coatal asked.

"We'll have to avoid them. Luckily, I don't think their weapons will work in the rain. Furthermore, it is getting late. I recommend we set up camp and rest up. We need to wait for the others to arrive," Pterano said.

"Others?" Littlefoot asked.

"Yes, we are assembling a strike force to raid Cloud Island. Ms. Swimmer, Deimos and Rime have volunteered to join us. In addition, Raptix will be joining them."

"What about Ali, Cera and Spike?" Raptix asked.

"They expressed a desire to join but we were forced to turn them down as we have no way to transport four footers by air. Swimmers are the largest we can transport by air and it requires four large flyers due to the great distance,"

"So do we have enough flyers to carry everyone out of Cloud Island?" Strut asked.

"We are taking Ducky and Chomper. No one else," Pterano said sternly.

"But we can-,"

"Strut, what happens to the island or its inhabitants are of no concern to us," Pterano interrupted.

"But what if other Great Valley dinosaurs were taken there? We can't just leave them there, that's really unfair," Littlefoot said.

"Until we get a recon flight there, we will assume that Ducky and Chomper are the only Great Valley dinosaurs there."

"So when are we going to be undertaking this recon flight?" Littlefoot asked.

"Brightrise," Pterano replied.

"Wait, if we could get an aquatic Longneck like Elsie, could we rescue everyone on Cloud Island?" Littlefoot asked.

"We could but you said that you met Elsie several cold times ago, right?"

Littlefoot nodded. "We did but I think she's still here," he replied.

"We will set up camp for tonight," Pterano said.

"On it," Strut replied. He retrieved the flints from Littlefoot's pack harness.

"No fire," Littlefoot ordered. "We don't want to alert either the hostile Fast-Runners or the sharpteeth flyers."

Ruby and Strut began removing the supplies from Littlefoot and stacking them up near a tree. The group then scattered around the clearing looking for places to sleep. Soon everyone present was asleep.

A few hours later, Littlefoot was awoken by the sound of shouting. It was still dark but it was no longer raining. "What's going on?" he asked.

"Sharpteeth flyers are nearby and the archers are fighting them," Pterano replied. "We'll need to move."

Strut, Ruby and Raptix replaced the supplies on Littlefoot and the entire group fled from the forest. It was still dark when they finally made it to the beach. As they prepared to set up camp, they saw several points of fire on the cliff as the archers released a volley of flaming arrows into the mass of sharpteeth flyers circling around them. The flyers backed off as the arrows fell into the sea but the flyers then swooped in and began attacking the archers.

"Let's hope they keep each other busy," Littlefoot said.

Strut yawned. "We need to get some sleep," he said. He then fell asleep in an indentation on the sand.

Raptix and Ruby removed the supplies from Littlefoot and they too fell asleep on the sand. Tyr and Ranno fell asleep on the sand as well. Pterano, Petrie, Quetzal and Coatal volunteered to keep watch.

Several hours later, the dinosaurs began to stir. The skies had cleared somewhat but it was still somewhat cloudy. The midmorning sun shone weakly through the hazy skies.

Strut looked into the distance. In the distance, he could make out the shape of an island surrounded by a thick fogbank. "It's Cloud Island!" he said.

Pterano gathered all the flyers by the beach for a briefing. "Okay, flyers. You mission today is to search for Great Valley dinosaurs and landing points. We will be leaving soon, so eat up," he said.

"Me ready to rescue Ducky!" Petrie said, puffing out his chest.

"Not so fast, Petrie," Coatal said. "Remember, we are just going to scout out Cloud Island."

"I guess that means we stay here?" Raptix asked.

"You are correct. This is a flyer only mission," Pterano said. He then turned to Littlefoot. "Littlefoot, form a small group and try to find Elsie," he ordered.

"That will not be needed," a voice said from behind them. Everyone turned their heads and spotted Elsie floating in the shallows. Elsie was green aquatic Longneck.

"Perfect timing, Elsie!" Littlefoot said.

Elsie looked at Littlefoot. "My, aren't we growing up to be a strong Longneck?" she said.

Littlefoot blushed a little at the compliment. "Thanks, so what brings you here?" he asked.

"Nothing really, this is where I live," Elsie replied. At this time, Mo, a purple dolphin-like creature breached.

"Littlefoot! You're back!" Mo said.

"Nice to see you Mo," Littlefoot replied.

"Nice to see mud brother and friends!"

Littlefoot then turned to Pterano, Raptix, Strut and the others present. "Everyone, I would like you to introduce yourselves to Mo and Elsie," he said.

The group then did as they were told.

"If you don't mind me asking, why exactly did you come to this island?" Elsie asked.

"We're trying to rescue Ducky and Chomper along with some of our other friends," Littlefoot replied.

"So why exactly would they be on Cloud Island?"

"It's a really long story but the short version is that we're at war and they got captured,"

"Oh, in that case, I wish you the best of luck," Elsie replied.

"Elsie, if it is not too much trouble, would you mind lending us some assistance?" Pterano asked.

"Well, I guess. But admittedly, I'm not really a fighter or anything of the sort."

"You don't need to be. All you need to do is wait for a signal on the beach and come up to the shore. Once all of the dinosaurs are aboard, you simply leave."

"All right then. I will assist you," she said,

Pterano then turned to Mo. "Mo, would you mind assisting us as well?"

"Mo not a fighter," Mo replied.

"Not as a fighter but as a scout."

"Oh, it sounds fun!"

"Mo, Elsie this mission will be dangerous. I need to know if you are willing to stick with the plan," Pterano said.

"I made my promise, I will not back down," Elsie replied

"Mo no dishonor mud brothers," Mo replied.

"All right then…," Pterano said trailing off as he turned to the other flyers present. "Great Valley Air Corps, prepare for recon mission!"

The flyers flew over the water and headed towards Cloud Island, which was visible in the distance. Mo and Elsie also headed off towards Cloud Island

"Good luck," Raptix said watching the flyers vanish into the fog.

On Cloud Island, Rytho and his group were camped out on a beach. The beach was ringed with a veil of fog and the midmorning sun shone weakly through the clouds. Ducky and Cirrus were stoking the fire on the beach while Rytho and Chomper were guarding the encampment. Ed and Sorna were out gathering food and water while Isla and Nublar were gathering herbs.

"So I guess this is how we spend our life?" Chomper asked. He tossed the remains of his meal, some smashed whelk shells, into the fire. His staff was resting at his feet.

Rytho leaned against his spear. "I'd say no but since it's been so long since we've arrived that for all we know the war may have been over," he said.

Chomper sighed. "I guess you're right. We don't know anything about the world outside of Cloud Island," he replied.

"Do not be so sad," Ducky said, tossing some twigs into the campfire.

"What's the point?" Rytho asked with a sigh. "The war could be over and we're still stuck on this damned island."

"Well, you've got your friends."

"Yeah, but we can't stay in one place too long or else the sickleclaws will find us and kill us. We can't relax with a ball game or anything like that because we're surrounded by enemies," Rytho replied, kicking a small pebble on the beach.

Cirrus said nothing but sat on the sand with his knife and a small stick. He was whittling something out of the stick.

Several minutes later, he had finished his project. It was a small wooden flute. He placed it on the ground next to him. At the same time, Ed, Sorna, Islar and Nublar returned from their foraging expedition.

"Time to eat," Sorna said. She was dragging a large sled filled with fruits of all sorts behind her.

The entire group then descended upon the fruits that she and Ed had returned with. Soon, they were all gathered around the campfire and chatting away.

"So what exactly is this?" Ducky asked, picking up the flute that Cirrus had whittled. She was munching on some red flowers.

"It's a flute," Cirrus replied, taking a bite out of a large purple fruit.

"What's that?"

"You blow in it and it makes music,"

"Can you demonstrate?" Ed asked.

"Sure!" Cirrus replied, picking up the flute. He then placed the flute to his mouth and placed his fingers over the hole and blew. After a few sour notes, he managed to coax a beautiful melody from the flute.

The melody went on for a few minutes. At the end of the melody, he placed the flute on a nearby rock.

"Where did you learn that song?" Ducky asked.

"It's called 'Beyond the Skies'. I came up with it on the spot," Cirrus replied.

Meanwhile, above them, Pterano and his flyers were already scouting out the island.

"Anything?" Coatal asked.

"Nothing," Quetzal replied.

"Wait! Me see fire on beach!" Petrie called.

"Swoop down and examine it!" Pterano ordered.

Ptyrax and Petrie did as they were told and they spotted a campfire and several dinosaurs. After examining the group for several minutes, they flew out of view.

"Ducky, Chomper and several unknown Fast-Runners are present," Ptyrax said.

"The waters here are too rough to allow Elsie and her group to land," a large black flyer said.

"Okay then, find a safe place for Elsie to land," Pterano ordered.

Petrie, Ptyrax, and the two large flyers dispersed. Coatal and Quetzal remained by Pterano's side.

Many minutes later, the scout groups returned. "There's a sheltered cove on the other side of the island," Ptyrax reported.

"Okay then, we shall digest this information and use it to formulate a plan," Pterano said.

The entire group then returned to High Tree Island. By the time they arrived, it was nearly dusk and Ms. Swimmer, Deimos and Rime were already gathered at the beach. Deimos wielded a stone tipped lance, Rime was armed with a simple stick and Ms. Swimmer carried her trademark twin sticks. Littlefoot, Strut and Raptix were simply chatting with the new arrivals.

"All right, we have located Ducky and Chomper. However, the area where we found them is too dangerous for Elsie to land there. We will need some way to relocate them to the safe landing zone, which happens to be on the other side of the island," Pterano said.

"How about if we drop one of us off at the island and we direct them to the landing zone?" Littlefoot suggested.

"That will work but the vine lift method takes too long,"

Raptix was playing with a large leaf when a sudden gust picked up and blew him out to sea. Coatal quickly went after Raptix and retrieved him.

"Thanks," Raptix said as Coatal set him down by Littlefoot.

"Wait, what if we were to attach a leaf to Raptix and have him jump from a flyer?" Littlefoot said.

"No, just no," Raptix said, "The vine lift is enough for me; this 'leaf ride' is too much!"

"Raptix, we don't have a choice. Besides, this is the only way we can save Ducky and Chomper. Do you really want to leave them behind to die?" Pterano said.

Raptix sighed. "All right. I'll do it," he said. "I'd better get some sort of heroic commendation for this," he muttered.

Strut and Ruby got up to get some leaves from the forest. A few minutes later, they returned with some leaves and some vines. They then got to work attaching the leaf to Raptix with vines. Soon, had vines wrapped around his midsection. The vines lead to the four corners of the leaf that he was dragging behind him.

"All right, Raptix, time for the flight test!" Coatal said.

Raptix said nothing but climbed aboard Coatal. Soon, Coatal climbed high into the twilit sky. When they were at the proper altitude, the winds had picked up dramatically and they threatened to knock Raptix off Coatal's back.

"Comfortable?" Coatal asked.

"Fine!" Raptix shouted back. He was tightly clutching his leaf.

"Okay, jump!"

Raptix looked over Coatal's back; below him was the infinite blackness of the ocean and the small white sandy beach where he was to land. He then took a deep breath and jumped.

He then let himself freefall for several seconds, feeling the air rush past his feathers. He then let go of the leaf and felt himself being slowed by the leaf's air resistance. He looked at the ground below and noticed that he was about to land on a rock. He quickly pulled on one of the vines leading to the leaf. This caused him to jerk sharply, avoiding the rock. Before he knew what happened, he splashed down in the cold waters of the ocean surrounding the island.

"Some help please!" Raptix shouted as he frantically splashed about trying to stay afloat.

Coatal swooped down and picked Raptix from the ocean and carried him back to the beach. There, everyone present clapped.

"That was amazing!" Littlefoot said.

"Truly a sight that has never been before seen," Elsie added.

"I'd like to see any fast-biter braver than you!" Deimos added.

Raptix bit through the vines connecting the leaf to his body. His sharp teeth easily severed the vines, which fell away from him. "Thanks but I'm getting cold," he said.

Strut cut the sodden vines away from Raptix's midsection. Raptix then fluffed his feathers, getting seawater on everyone.

"Okay now what?"

"It's getting late," Pterano said, looking at the sky. At this point, the sun was almost below the horizon.

"So does that mean we wait until brightrise to send over Raptix and the others?" Littlefoot asked.

"Wait, so does that mean we're all riding leaves down to Cloud Island?" Rime asked.

Pterano shook his head. "It does not appear that the leaves will support your weight," he said.

"Oh well, guess it's time to move," Strut said.

"No. We must send them over now!"

Strut and Ruby quickly prepared Raptix for another drop. At the same time, Deimos, Rime and Ms. Swimmer began preparing the other flyers for the vine lift.

Raptix quickly climbed aboard Coatal, who then headed out to Cloud Island.

"Good luck," Deimos said.

Coatal flew fast and low over the waves. Raptix felt the cold water splash on him as Coatal dodged the waves that broke around them.

In the distance, he could see Cloud Island.

"This has got to be most insane thing ever attempted by any dinosaur," Raptix said.

"We're almost there," Coatal said, pulling up from the sea. Soon, he began to climb at a rapid pace. Below, them the sea was an infinite black slab.

"I see the fire!" Raptix shouted.

"Okay, get ready to jump!"

Raptix clutched the leaf to his body and waited for Coatal to get into position. As soon as he was in position, Raptix jumped.

Raptix let his body engage in several seconds of freefall before he released the leaf. As before, the leaf's air resistance slowed him down. He then noticed that he was drifting away from the burning red dot on the beach. A couple of quick jerks on the vines and he was back on course.

Below him, Ducky was busy stoking the campfire while Cirrus was entertaining the group with more flute melodies. Rytho, Ed and Sorna were keeping watch while Isla, Chomper and Nublar were asleep.

Suddenly, a muffled thud broke the sound of Cirrus's flute melodies. Everyone who was awake turned their heads towards the ocean.

Rytho was the first to head towards the crash. When he got there, he saw a large leaf and some vines on the sand. He gently prodded the mass with his spear.

Ed and Sorna soon arrived with their weapons at the ready.

Raptix stayed huddled under the leaf until Rytho flipped the leaf over with his spear.

"Rytho?" Raptix said.

"Raptix?" Rytho echoed.

"Yeah, it's me, Raptix. Now can I have some help getting untangled?"

Rytho quickly untied Raptix and carried him over to the campfire.

"Rytho, who is this fast-biter?" Sorna asked.

"That's Raptix, he's a friend of ours from the Great Valley," Rytho replied.

"Pleased to meet you," Raptix said.

"So what brings you here?" Ed asked.

"I arrived as part of a strike force intended to help you leave Cloud Island. Ms. Swimmer, Rime, and Deimos will be arriving soon to assist us."

"What are they doing here?"

"We'll need to head to the beach on the other side of the island. It's too rough for Elsie to land here. And we are here to help guide you to that path," Raptix said.

"All right! We're leaving this island!" Ed said, thrusting a fist into the air.

"Can our new allies come with us?" Rytho asked.

"Sure!" Raptix replied. He then turned to Isla, Sorna, Nublar and Cirrus. "Do you wish to accompany us?" he asked

"We would be honored to come with you and see the paradise known as the Great Valley," Nublar said.

Raptix then looked skywards and noticed some dinosaurs dangling from vines. "And the others are here!" he said.

The dinosaurs deftly slid down the vines and landed on their feet – except for Deimos who ended up falling flat on his face. He quickly picked himself up and brushed the sand off of himself.

"Cirrus and Sorna, I would like you to meet Ms. Swimmer, Deimos and Rime," Raptix said, gesturing to the dinosaurs.

Sorna kept back from the two sickleclaws but Cirrus went up to them and introduced himself.

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Deimos," Deimos said.

"Hi, Deimos. I'm Cirrus," Cirrus replied. He then turned to Sorna. "Hey mom, come introduce yourself to Deimos!" he called.

Sorna looked at Deimos cautiously.

"No need to worry, I am allied with Rytho, Ducky, Chomper and Ed," Deimos replied.

Sorna carefully approached Deimos. "Hello, Deimos," she said respectfully.

"Hello…," Deimos's voice trailed off as he tried to recall Sorna's name.

"My name's Sorna," Sorna replied.

"Well, hello Sorna."

"Ducky, I'm so glad to see you!" Ms. Swimmer said with tears in her eyes. She then ran over and clutched Ducky in a powerful yet affectionate embrace.

Ducky said nothing but sniffled slightly as she embraced her mother. She felt nothing but utter joy at seeing her mother again but she still could not shake the thought that Ms. Maia was after her.

After a few minutes, Ms. Swimmer released Ducky and embraced Chomper.

"Ms. Swimmer! You're crushing me!" Chomper choked out.

The gathered group laughed at the overdone display of affection.

"Sorry," Ms. Swimmer said with a blush. She then released Chomper, who sat on the sand and tried to catch his breath.

Rytho then cleared his throat. "In any case, once we're done with introductions, we need to get moving and set up camp elsewhere. Also, though we may be armed, combat is a last resort," he said.

Everyone present began to introduce themselves as Ducky and Chomper began to pack their camping supplies away. The sun was now below the horizon and the stars began to shine.

Meanwhile, in the forests, Ms. Maia and Procella were leading a group composed of several sickleclaws and a few rogue Great Valley Swimmers. Ms. Maia wielded a stone tipped lance while Procella was armed with a stick that had been studded with several sharp rock flakes. The other dinosaurs wielded a medley of weapons, ranging from stone tipped spears to blowguns with poison darts and even simple rocks. Some of them also carried torches to illuminate the darkened trails.

"Wait, I smell something," Procella said, halting the group in the middle of the trail. She then sniffed the air and pointed with her stick to a small trail that seemingly led to nowhere but the misty forests.

"Ms. Maia, take some dinosaurs and check out the area. I have reinforcements outside if they are needed," Procella ordered.

Ms. Maia and four sickleclaws, two armed with stone knives and two armed with large rocks, entered the trail. A few moments later, the entire group entered the clearing. The clearing was completely deserted except for some old nests at the edges. A fire pit rested in the middle of the campsite.

Ms. Maia then poked the fire pit with her fingers. "It's fresh," she said.

She and the other sickleclaws returned to Procella.

"Any findings?" Procella asked.

"The fire pit's fresh. I'll bet they camped out at the nearby beach," she said.

"We've found footprints leading to the beach," a Swimmer armed with a club that was similar in design to Procella's weapon.

The group then headed down the trail to the beach by torchlight. There, by the light of the moon, they could see a group of dinosaurs heading into the forest.

"After them!" Procella ordered.

The dinosaurs increased their pace to a fast jog as the pursued the dinosaurs across the sand.

Ed, who was in the back of the procession and armed with a javelin, noticed the dinosaurs chasing them. "Damn it! Move it!" he shouted.

"Hey, no need to be so mean!" Rime snapped.

"Yeah but we've got company!"

A dart struck Ed in the shoulder. He pulled it out and sniffed it. "Rubea darts," he said. He continued moving forward, even though another dart struck him in the back. He reached over and pulled the dart out.

The group then continued moving through the forests with Ms. Maia's group in hot pursuit. Several times, the dinosaurs with the hollow reeds fired poison darts at the group. Most of them missed but a substantial number struck Ed as he was the largest target.

"I'm tired," Cirrus said. He was in the middle of the procession and holding onto Nublar's hand. At this point, the group was now inside a clearing next to the mountain on Cloud Island.

"We've got to keep moving," Deimos said.

"I'll carry you," Ms. Swimmer said.

Ms. Swimmer picked Cirrus up and placed him on her back. He soon fell asleep.

Ed was soon falling behind and he appeared to be very drowsy. "We need to rest. I-" Ed then toppled over with a thud as he fell onto the grassy ground. The pale light of the moon revealed that Ed's back, shoulder and even tail were pocked with a multitude of poison darts.

"Ed!" Sorna said. She doubled back to Ed and checked for a pulse but his pulse was very weak and slow.

"We can't do anything for him! Move it!" Deimos shouted. He was carrying Raptix on his back and both were taking a brief breather.

Sorna did as she was told; a thrown spear narrowly missed her as she rejoined the fleeing group.

Ed used his final reserve of strength to thrust his javelin at a nearby sickleclaw's neck. The last thing Ed heard before he died was a shriek of pain.

Ed had actually managed to sever the sickleclaw's artery with his desperate stab. The sickleclaw dropped his hollow reed as he clamped his hand to the wound. But it was to no avail, blood spurted from between his fingers and he eventually bled out. Ms. Maia and the other pursuing dinosaurs ignored their dying companion and Ed's body and went after the fleeing dinosaurs. The Swimmer who threw the spear at Sorna grabbed the spear as she passed over Ed's body.

Deimos and his group had traversed the clearing and were in the woods. The scent of leaf litter permeated the air and the gentle sound of the waves lapping at the shore could be heard but there was no time to enjoy them as the sound of footsteps from Ms. Maia and her group could also be heard but they grew fainter.

"We really…need…to take a…break," Ducky panted. The entire group was now inside a deciduous forest and the air carried a faint scent of flowers

"Already?" Isla asked.

"Hey! Swimmers aren't built for long distance running!" Rytho snapped. He was breathing heavily.

"Resting up is vital. I think we lost them," Raptix said.

"Hey Ed, you mind keeping watch for tonight?" Chomper asked. When he got no response, he looked around the encampment. "Ed? Where are you?"

"Everyone," Sorna said, "Ed…he's dead."

"Rest in peace, Ed," Ducky said, bowing her head.

"May your memory live on in our words," Chomper added.

There was moment of silence as the dinosaurs paid their respects to their fallen comrade.

A few minutes later, Rytho spoke. "Ed's death will not be in vain. We will carry out his goal of leaving this island!"

"And we need to be well rested to do so," Raptix replied.

As soon as Raptix finished speaking, Rytho, Ducky and Chomper quickly made nests and lay down in the.

"Cover yourself with leaves. It'll help hide your scent," Sorna whispered.

The three did so and they soon fell asleep.

Ms. Swimmer also fell asleep and covered herself with leaves. Soon, only Sorna, Isla, Nublar and Deimos were awake.

Meanwhile, a few hundred yards away, Procella and her own forces were setting up camp. The Swimmers were asleep as were a few of the sickleclaws. But Ms. Maia, Procella and a few other dinosaurs were awake.

"You lost them!" Procella snapped.

"Well, it's hard to find anyone in this forest and it's worse at night!" a sickleclaw with a stone knife shouted.

"Not so loud. Do you want them to hear us?" Ms. Maia hissed.

The hours passed with agonizing slowness as the night crept by and the sun rose.

Back at Deimos's camp, the dinosaurs gradually stirred as the sun's rays hit them through the canopy of the forest.

"We've got to get moving," Deimos said.

"So soon? We didn't even have breakfast yet!" Rytho grumbled as he shook the leaves off himself.

"Worry about breakfast later!"

"I'm hungry," Cirrus said.

"So am I," Ducky added.

Deimos swore under his breath. "Fine! Go look for green food but be quick about it," he said.

Cirrus, Isla and Rytho headed off to get food. Cirrus had his stone knife and Rytho was carrying his spear. In contrast to the two, Isla was unarmed.

After a few minutes, they arrived at a fruit grove. While, Isla and Sorna were picking up the few fruits that had fallen, Rytho was spearing the fruit and placing them on the grass. They then began eating the juicy yellow fruits.

"Ugh, so damned sour," Rytho said, taking a bite of the fruit and swallowing it.

"Strange, these are real sweet," Cirrus replied, eating his second fruit.

After about a minute, the group finished eating.

"Let's say we get some for the others," Cirrus said.

Rytho listened for the sounds of approaching dinosaurs. He heard faint footsteps in the distance. "Get a few and get out; they're coming," he ordered.

Rytho hastily speared some fruits while Isla and Cirrus picked up the last fruits on the ground. As soon as they were done, they bolted from the grove.

However, Cirrus, trailing behind the group was suddenly snatched by a fast-biter who had been hiding behind a tree. He screamed for help as he attempted to draw his stone knife.

Rytho and Isla turned around at the screaming and noticed that they had left Cirrus behind. The two looked around for where Cirrus could be.

"He's behind that tree," Isla said, pointing to a tree with dull green rounded leaves.

Rytho shrugged at wondering how Isla knew that but he decided not to press the issue.

The two then bolted for the tree. They were midway there when another scream pierced the air. A few seconds later, silence was all that was heard.

When Rytho and Isla arrived at the tree, they found Cirrus sobbing and shaking from fear. He was clutching his bloodstained stone knife in his right hand and the body of a fast-biter lay on the ground, staining the leaf litter red with blood. He also had some blood on his body as well but it was hard to tell if it was his or the dead fast-biter's. Some of the fruit that he had harvested was on the ground as well.

"Cirrus, are you all right?" Isla asked.

"F…fine," Cirrus panted.

"Let's get back to Deimos and his group," Rytho said.

Cirrus wiped his blade on the feathers of the dead fast-biter and sheathed it. He then picked up the fruits and followed Isla back to the trail.

When the group headed back to the encampment with the fruits in tow, Deimos was glaring at them. "I said be quick about it," he said testily.

"Deimos, shut up," Rytho said. He then quickly distributed the fruits to all the leafeaters in the encampment.

Deimos scowled but said nothing.

Sorna spotted something out of the corner of her eye. Almost immediately, she leapt to her feet and pushed Isla out of the way of a javelin that seemingly materialized out of the forest. In the process, Sorna was struck the back with the javelin. She gasped as the stone point found its way into her body. She began to cough up blood as she slumped to the ground.

Rytho was the first to react, gulping down the rest of the fruit and dashing to Sorna's side. He quickly looked her over and then turned to Ducky and Chomper. "Ducky! Chomper! Get the sickleclaw paste and help me remove the-," Rytho's orders were cut off by Sorna.

"Rytho, they're coming. Save yourself," Sorna rasped out, blood dripping from her mouth.

True to Sorna's words, the sound of footsteps and voices grew louder.

"Move it!" Deimos ordered.

The group then gulped their fruits down, grabbed their weapons and ran. Deimos was about to pull the javelin from the dying Sorna and hand it over to one of his allies but he realized that working it out would take too much time. He disappeared from the clearing as Ms. Maia and her dinosaurs closed in.

Ms. Maia was the first to arrive. "Where did they go?" she bellowed at Sorna.

When Sorna did not reply, Ms. Maia hurled her against a tree. Sorna slumped down to the forest floor leaving a trail of blood on the tree.

Some of the sickleclaws were sniffing the ground in an attempt to pick up the scent of Rytho's group.

One of the sickleclaws pointed down a forest trail with his spear. "They went that way!" she shouted.

"Move out!" Ms. Maia ordered.

The dinosaurs then headed down the trail after their prey.

Meanwhile, the sound of waves could be heard by Rytho's group as they were now approaching the shore but the sound of footsteps grew closer.

The group then burst out onto the beach. It was now dusk and the setting sun could be seen over the ocean. Elsie's form was vaguely visible in the distance, silhouetted by the setting sun.

"Light the fire!" Deimos ordered. The sound of footsteps and shouting grew louder.

Raptix, Chomper and Ducky quickly scurried around to gather tinder and fuel. But there was no convenient source and the path to the forest was blocked by the incoming dinosaurs.

"Damn it! No fuel!" Raptix said.

"Cirrus! The flute!" Chomper shouted.

Cirrus, standing near the waves, picked up his flute, which was dangling from his neck. He then put it to his lips and began playing. This time, there were no sour notes and a fast paced melody echoed around the beach and over the ocean.

A javelin nicked Deimos's head. "They're coming!"

"Thanks for the warning," Rytho said sarcastically.

Almost as soon as he spoke, Ms. Maia, Procella and their allies burst from the beach.

"You're not getting away from us!" Ms. Maia shouted.

"Move and die, traitor," Deimos said coldly. He brandished his spear to emphasize his point.

The two groups glared at each other, weapons ready.

The setting sun silhouetted Cirrus as he played on the beach. The fast paced melody seemed to ignite something within Rytho.

"Let's do this!" Rytho shouted, raising his spear into the air. The other dinosaurs with him shouted and brandished their weapons as well.

"Very well, attack!" Procella shouted.

Almost immediately, the two sides ran together and began fighting hand-to-hand. All the while, Cirrus was playing his flute as loudly as possible.

Rime was fighting with a Swimmer armed with a large tree branch. Rime quickly parried a blow aimed at his head and he pushed back, staggering the Swimmer slightly. He then closed in and landed a powerful two handed blow with his stick to the Swimmer's ribs, knocking the wind out of the Swimmer and cracking several ribs.

Before he could finish the Swimmer off with his teeth, a powerful blow from behind knocked him down, making him drop his stick. He slowly lifted himself from the sand only to find himself looking at a sickleclaw armed with a heavy stick.

"Bastard," he muttered.

The sickleclaw said nothing but kicked Rime in the stomach, leaving him doubled over with pain.

He then turned his attention to Ms. Swimmer, who had snapped a sickleclaw's neck and was now after him. He swung his club at her only for her to catch his weapon between her two sticks and disarm him.

Ms. Swimmer then closed in on the sickleclaw. The sickleclaw ducked under the first blow, but another caught him under the chin. He staggered back from the blow. He then lunged forward and tackled Ms. Swimmer, knocking her to the ground and knocking the sticks from her grasp. He then roared in triumph and bent over her with his mouth in preparation to eat her.

Ms. Swimmer used one hand to fend off the sickleclaw's head while she gathered sand in her other hand. She then threw the handful of sand into the sickleclaw's face. She missed and the sickleclaw continued in his attempt to tear her throat out. In desperation, she let the sickleclaw get close to her. In that moment, she dug her fingers into the sickleclaw's eyes. The sickleclaw screamed in agony and tried to bite her in response. She moved her head out of the way and punched the sickleclaw square in the throat. The sickleclaw coughed and staggered back to try and catch his breath. Taking advantage of his incapacitation, Ms. Swimmer tripped him with a sweeping tail whip, got to her feet, kicked him in the jaw and stomped on his head until he stopped moving. She then went to retrieve her dual sticks, which lay nearby.

Deimos was fighting Ms. Maia almost to a stalemate. Both combatants, slashed, thrust and swiped at each other with their spears.

"Lay down your weapon," Deimos commanded, "and-," He was cut off as Ms. Maia tried to stab him.

"Shut up!" Ms. Maia shouted, thrusting her spear at Deimos, who quickly batted it aside and retaliated with a slash that Ms. Maia ducked under.

Nublar was fighting with a sickleclaw armed with a club, which was simply a heavy stick studded with pieces of rock and broken shells. He blocked the first blow with his stick and grabbed his opponent's weapon arm with his free hand. A blow to the wrist shattered it and forced the sickleclaw to drop her weapon. Nublar swung his stick at the sickleclaw's head only for the sickleclaw to grab his weapon arm with her good hand. He aimed several kicks at the sickleclaw's stomach to little effect. A sickening crunch was heard and Nublar suddenly fell backwards. He looked at the sickleclaw and noticed that she was holding part of his arm. He looked down at his right arm and all he saw was a bloody stump where his elbow used to be.

"Asshole!" he shouted at the sickleclaw.

The sickleclaw tossed the arm aside and looked at Nublar. She then rushed at Nublar and tackled him, pinning him to the ground. Nublar tried to fight off the attack as best he could but with blood loss and shock setting in, he eventually lost the wrestling match. The sickleclaw bit his head off and looked for someone else to kill.

Isla was fighting with Procella and a Swimmer armed with a rock. Isla's weapon, a heavy stick, fared quite well against the two. She used her free hand to catch Procella's weapon arm and disarmed her with a blow to the wrist, which she followed with a strike to the ribs. Before she could deliver the finishing blow, the Swimmer snuck behind her and hit her in the back of the head with his rock, killing her almost instantly.

Chomper, Ducky and Raptix were fighting against a group of sickleclaws who had gotten past the main defenders.

Chomper blocked a knife thrust from a female sickleclaw and sent the stone knife spinning into the water. A swipe across the ribs winded the sickleclaw. Then a swipe to the legs tripped her and an overhead blow to her head killed her.

Ducky was grappling for another sickleclaw's weapon, a stick. She had gotten hold of the stick but the sickleclaw kneed her in the stomach forcing her to let go. She ducked a swing aimed at her head and at the same time, lunged forward and tackled the sickleclaw, knocking him to the ground. The two then wrestled on the beach. Eventually, they reached the shallows, where each was now trying to drown the other. Eventually, Ducky ended up on top of sickleclaw; her hands holding the sickleclaw's head under the waves.

The sickleclaw thrashed as he tried to get free. He slashed Ducky several times as he thrashed and the saltwater stung her wounds but she held on and ignored her blood mixing with the sea. Eventually, after a few more gurgles, the sickleclaw stopped moving.

Ducky, now breathing heavily and her legs stinging from the slashes and the saltwater, slowly waded back to shore.

At the same time Ducky was wrestling with the sickleclaw, Raptix was busy attacking the final sickleclaw. He dashed around his spear thrusts and jammed his stone knife deep into the sickleclaw's foot. The sickleclaw dropped his spear and screamed in agony. Raptix then took that opportunity to leap on the sickleclaw and start attacking him with his claws and teeth. The sickleclaw screamed louder as Raptix began tearing pieces of flesh from him. He finally grew silent as shock and blood loss set in. Raptix, now covered in blood, jumped off the dead sickleclaw and jumped onto the bloody sand. He then looked for more targets to attack.

Rytho was fighting off two sickleclaws armed with clubs similar to the ones that Procella wielded. He quickly speared one of them, pulled his spear out and slashed at the other sickleclaw. The sickleclaw ducked under the slash and took a swing at Rytho, who blocked it with his spear. He then used the spearhead to flick sand into the opponent's eyes, blinding him for a moment. He then immediately ran the sickleclaw through.

Ms. Maia had blinded Deimos by kicking sand into his face and ran into the forest. Procella and the few survivors followed. By this time, the moon's light played over a beach littered with bodies and stained with blood. Almost everyone was had been injured.

Cirrus, who had taken cover behind a tree when battle started, finally stopped playing his flute. He then peeked out from behind the tree. "Is it over?" he asked.

"It's over," Rytho panted.

Chomper then went up to Cirrus. "Cirrus, I've got bad news for you,"

Tears welled up in Cirrus's eyes. "Don't tell me…," he trailed off.

Chomper nodded. "Sadly, yes. Isla's dead,"

Cirrus began sobbing uncontrollably and Chomper tried his best to comfort him.

Deimos looked away from the two.

Elsie, Mo and another Aquatic Longneck were closing in the beach.

"Just a little while longer and we can leave," Ms. Swimmer muttered.

Meanwhile, Ms. Maia's group had taken refuge at one of their encampments. The survivors were tending to their wounds and making some more weapons.

"We almost had them," Procella said.

"We will have them soon," Ms. Maia replied. "We'll give them some time to relax; then we'll attack with javelins,"

"Are you sure it will work?"

Ms. Maia grinned. "Positive," she said.

Many minutes later, several of the dinosaurs present had prepared multiple javelins. They then silently headed out of the forest with the javelins in tow. The moon bathed the beach and forests in a cool white light.

Meanwhile, on the moonlit beach, Elsie, Mo and the other Aquatic Longneck had arrived in the shallows. Ms. Swimmer and Deimos were already on the Elise's back. Raptix, Cirrus and Chomper were having some difficulty wading through the shallows.

Ducky and Rime were trying to help Rytho aboard the other Aquatic Longneck.

Just before Rytho was on board, he screamed in pain. Ducky and Rime both gasped as they saw a javelin sticking out of his back. Suddenly, more javelins began to pepper the group. Ms. Swimmer, Deimos, Rime, Ducky all lay prone to try and reduce their profile. Raptix and Chomper simply crouched down. Unfortunately for Cirrus, a javelin thrown by Procella somehow hit him in the back, causing him to scream in agony. Ms. Maia then picked up a large whelk shell on the beach and hurled it at Cirrus. She hit her mark; Cirrus, dead or unconscious, sunk beneath the waves.

"Rytho…I…cannot hold on," Ducky said. She was still prone.

Rytho said nothing but coughed up some blood. "Ducky I…" his voice trailed off as he grew weak from blood loss. Another volley of javelins peppered the group, most of them missed and floated in the ocean but some struck Elsie and her companion but they were too large to be significantly injured by them.

Ducky and Rime were eventually forced to let the now dead Rytho drift away as their arms weakened.

Ducky glared at the dinosaurs on the beach. She picked up a javelin floating in the water and hurled it at the dinosaurs. The sound of the javelin striking someone was muffled by her sobbing.

Rime then noticed the dinosaurs closing in on Chomper and Raptix, who were almost onboard Elsie. He then grabbed another javelin floating nearby and leapt into the shallows.

"Rime! What do you think you are doing?" Deimos shouted.

"Letting Raptix and Chomper get to safety! Now go!" Rime ordered.

"Get back here!"

"Damn it! Go!" Rime shouted. He then looked at the approaching dinosaurs, all of them armed with spears. "If I die protecting my friends, so be it. Deimos, Littlefoot, Ali, everyone, remember me, Rime, the Hero of Cloud Island," he muttered.

Deimos, who heard some of Rime's speech, fought back tears. "Everyone! Once Chomper and Raptix get on, move out!"

Rime let loose a battle cry and charged onto the beach. The dinosaurs on the beach were so taken aback by Rime's ferocity that they stood stunned for a moment. That moment allowed Rime to spear one of the sickleclaws.

Almost immediately, they began attacking him. Rime parried, slashed and thrust with seemingly supernatural speed. He stepped over the body of Procella, killed by Ducky's javelin, as he parried and attacked.

One of the sickleclaws speared him in the side but he did not seem to notice; he quickly ducked under a slash and promptly shoved the spear through his neck, causing some blood to spurt out as he severed the arteries. He then pulled the spear out and continued his onslaught against the group.

Meanwhile, Ms. Maia had left the group. "You may have won this time Ducky, but I'll be coming for you," she said as she headed into the forests.

Rime's battle with the sickleclaws gave Chomper and Raptix enough time to climb aboard Elsie. Almost immediately, the three Big Water Swimmers headed away from the beach where Rime was fighting. Then entire atmosphere around the big Water Swimmers was one of sadness.

"Rime, the Hero of Cloud Island. We will never forget," Deimos said, trying to fight back tears.

Ducky, Ms. Swimmer and Raptix respectfully bowed their heads.

"Rime, your heroic actions will never be forgotten. I promise to keep your memory alive," Chomper said.

The Big Water Swimmers remained silent out of respect as they headed back to High Tree Island.

Back on the beach, Rime had finally succumbed to his wounds but not before killing at least four sickleclaws.

"Deimos, Littlefoot, Ali, everyone, end this war," he muttered. He then closed his eyes and grew still.

Rime, the Hero of Cloud Island, was dead.

Chapter 34: Hammerfall

The two Aquatic Longnecks and Mo were gliding through the glassy water of the ocean. The crescent moon shone overhead and a multitude of stars speckled the night sky.

"So this is it; I still can't believe we lost Isla, Sorna, Nublar, Cirrus, Ed and Rytho in such a short time," Chomper said, looking out over the black ocean. He, Raptix, Ms. Swimmer and Deimos were riding on Elsie.

Raptix shivered despite the warm tropical air.

"Raptix, is something wrong?" Chomper asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Just a little cold, that's all," Raptix said.

"Raptix, if this is about Rime, I completely understand."

"Damn it, Chomper can you shut up for just this once?" Raptix snapped.

Chomper left Raptix alone in his thoughts. "Wonder what happened to him?" Chomper muttered. "He's usually never this rude."

Ms. Swimmer was sitting down on Elsie's back and she was apparently asleep.

Deimos was also seated and he was scanning the ocean for other threats. "Rime, there…there truly are no words to describe your heroism," he muttered.

Chomper was looking at the other Aquatic Longneck who carried Ducky. He noticed that Ducky appeared to be crying.

"Elsie! Can you move next to your friend?" Chomper asked.

"That would not be a problem," Elsie replied, drifting closer to her companion.

Chomper waited until the two were as close as possible. He then leapt from Elsie's back onto the back of the other Aquatic Longneck. Ducky was sitting down and looking over the ocean.

"Ducky, is something wrong?" Chomper asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Ducky sighed. "Just…I am glad to be off Cloud Island but… well, I cannot seem to grasp that Rytho's gone. I mean… I keep looking behind me and I imagine him standing right there," she said.

"He's not really there. It's just your mind playing tricks on you," Chomper replied. Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, he mentally slapped himself.

"I… know but for now… I want to imagine him standing by me. Can you at least grant me that?" she asked with a note of sorrow in her voice.

Chomper nodded and became silent. He silently berated himself for letting his mouth run.

Riding on Elsie's back, Deimos sighed.

"Something wrong?" Raptix asked.

"Yeah, it's just that Cirrus reminded me of something rather disturbing that Ms. Swimmer told me about a while back."

"You mean…" Raptix trailed off as Deimos nodded.

"Yes, those who hatched and grew up during the war – the so-called 'Twilight Hatchlings'," Deimos replied.

Raptix shuddered as he recalled seeing a mock battle that involved a massive number of hatchlings. The battle he saw was terrifyingly close to reality – complete with screams of the "dead" and "dying". Pieces of overripe fruit and fruit juice stained the grass like blood after a real battle. But what he saw afterwards was what scared him the most; the children were laughing about the "battle" and chatting about it as if it were merely a game of tag or ball.

"Raptix! Are you all right?" Deimos asked, noticing that Raptix was vacantly staring out over the ocean.

"Erm, yeah," Raptix said, shaking his head.

"Mo see High Tree Island!" Mo said.

Deimos looked over the ocean and there he saw it, the faint red glow of a fire burning on the beach.

The two Big Water Swimmers swam up to the shallows and the dinosaurs on their back leapt off and waded to shore. There, Littlefoot, Strut and Pterano were keeping watch. A small campfire burned on the beach and Cera along with the other members of the Great Valley Air Corps were asleep.

"Ducky, Chomper! You're back!" Littlefoot said, running up to them.

The three embraced for a brief moment.

"I take it that you were successful?" Pterano asked.

"We were. But not without casualties, Rytho, Ed, Sorna, Isla, Nublar and Cirrus did not make it off the island," Deimos said sadly. "And we avoided adding Chomper and Raptix to the list only by Rime's heroic sacrifice."

"Erm, I know this may sound a bit disrespectful but who are Sorna, Isla, Nublar and Cirrus?" Littlefoot asked.

"They are a group of Fast-Runners who live on Cloud Island. They helped Ducky, Ed, Rytho and myself," Chomper replied.

Littlefoot nodded his head but said nothing else.

The group held a moment of silence in memory of the dead. The only sound being the crackling of the campfire.

"Littlefoot, if you need any help you know where to find us," Elsie said.

"Elsie, I meant to ask you this a while ago but, who's the other Aquatic Longneck with you?" Littlefoot asked.

"That's my friend, Las," Elsie replied.

Littlefoot then went up to Las. "Hello, Las, pleased to meet you," he said.

"And I you," Las replied.

"Not to sound ungrateful or anything but what made you come to Cloud Island with Elsie?"

Las chuckled. "Adventure. You see Littlefoot, I've been an adventurer my whole life and taking a journey to a dangerous island is just too good too pass up. Bonus in that I get to help someone too," he said.

Deimos yawned. "I don't know about you all but I'm burned out after that battle," he said. He then went over to an indentation in the sand and lay down in it to sleep.

The other dinosaurs who arrived from Cloud Island lay down on the beach and slept as well.

Several hours later and hundreds of miles away, the late morning sun shone over a group of dinosaurs who had set up camp in a small oasis just outside Berry Valley. Styracus, Stoneclaw, Flamewing, Icthy, Dil, Saber, Theta, Hasta and another Reborn and a single Diamond were gathered around the burned out remains of a campfire. Their supplies – mostly weapons and herbs - rested by the small lake.

"So have we gathered intelligence yet?" Hasta asked.

"Sierra and Ozzie are scouting out Berry Valley as we speak," Styracus replied.

"Damn the scouts!" Stoneclaw shouted, crushing a small pebble he held in his hand. "I say we go in and butcher all the dinosaurs there! I want that valley to run red with blood!"

"Stoneclaw, intelligence is vital. Without it the valley will run red with blood – our blood!" Hasta scolded.

Theta said nothing but continued making his stone knives.

Saber was taking some practice swings with his stone hammer.

The flapping of wings alerted them to Sierra's arrival. He landed and Ozzie dismounted him.

"So what's to report?" Styracus asked.

"There are apparently no weapons and no patrols that we can see in Berry Valley and-" Ozzie said before Sierra cut him off.

"Their singing. That damned singing! It's driving me nuts!" Sierra shouted. "I swear I will rip their throats out so they can't sing any more!"

"Sierra, do not interrupt," Styracus said.

Ozzie cleared his throat. "Thank you, Styracus. And there are many entrances, none of them guarded," he said

"So we can start the killing?" Stoneclaw asked.

"Let's see if we can intimidate them into leaving the valley for us. If that doesn't work, we'll start the killing," Styracus replied. He then led his group into the nearest entrance.

Meanwhile, in Berry Valley a group of Yellowbellies were dancing in an open field. Several other Yellowbellies provided music by pounding on hollow logs that served as drums and singing. Surrounding them were the peaks of mountains.

"Come on, let's dance!" a light blue female Yellowbelly shouted.

"And do the Yellowbelly Bounce!" one of the drummers replied.

Just then a light green Yellowbelly ran up to the dancers. "We've got visitors!" he said.

"Good! Maybe they'll join us for a dance!" another drummer replied.

The entire herd followed the light green Yellowbelly to the front of the valley. There, Styracus stood, flanked by Stoneclaw and the other Reborn, this one a sickleclaw with metallic silver skin and strange metallic claws. Theta and Saber, armed with a stone knife and a stone hammer respectively, stood behind Styracus. Sierra - carrying Ozzie - and Flamewing flew overhead at a low altitude. The Diamond Squad member, an emerald green sickleclaw with crystalline claws, stood behind Styracus. Hasta stood behind Styracus.

"Greetings friend," the light green Yellowbelly said.

"Greetings," Styracus replied, "we request that you turn over this valley to us and leave."

Stoneclaw seethed at Styracus's diplomatic approach but he figured that something would go wrong and he would get to kill.

"Sorry, but you can't just ask dinosaurs to leave their valley," a light red Yellowbelly drummer replied.

Styracus pawed the ground. "That was not a request but a demand," he said icily. "Comply or you will regret it."

Theta and Saber brandished their weapons.

The light red Yellowbelly shook his head. "Sorry, but you were awfully rude to us. So I don't think we'll listen to you," he said.

"All right then…Go!" Styracus shouted.

Stoneclaw let out a bloodcurdling roar and charged a light red Yellowbelly with supernatural speed. He knocked the hapless dinosaur down. With quick swipe of his crystalline claws, he beheaded him, sending the head rolling towards the gathered Yellowbellies.

The Yellowbellies quivered in fear as they looked at the growing pool of blood by Stoneclaw's feet.

Styracus turned to the Yellowbellies. "Give us the valley and no one else has to die," he said coldly.

The gathered Yellowbellies shook their heads. Almost immediately, blood spattered on some of the Yellowbellies as a dark blue Yellowbelly had his head split open by a stone.

"Get them," Styracus ordered.

Almost immediately, the Yellowbellies broke into a run. Saber, Styracus, Stoneclaw, Theta, Sierra, Ozzie, Hasta, the Reborn and the Diamond chased after them. Soon, they had cornered them in a small rocky pass where they huddled together in fear

Styracus charged one of them and threw her into the air. The Yellowbelly landed with the horrific sound of breaking bones. Before she could recover, Styracus trampled her until the body was almost unrecognizable. He then continued ramming as many Yellowbellies as he could

Theta leapt into the crowd, stabbing any Yellowbelly he could reach. His first victim was nearby male Yellowbelly who was stabbed in the groin. Theta pushed the severely injured Yellowbelly down and grabbed another Yellowbelly and prepared to slash her throat.

"I thought flat teeth didn't do this," she said.

Theta chuckled. "Not all flat teeth are nice," he replied, slitting her throat.

The Yellowbelly gurgled as she struggled to breathe. Theta pushed her down to the ground as well.

Theta looked around at the Yellowbellies. "What's the matter, afraid?" he said mockingly. He licked the blood off his right hand, causing some Yellowbellies to faint and others to vomit from disgust.

He then resumed stabbing and slashing as many of the dinosaurs as he could.

Saber had also waded into the crowd. He smashed out the brains of a Yellowbelly who got too close. He then turned around and pulverized the ribs of another Yellowbelly. He swung his hammer again and again, breaking arms, legs and whatever else happened to be in the path of his stone hammer.

Hasta was swinging his deadly spiked tail at any Yellowbelly who got too close. One Yellowbelly had his throat torn open by the spikes while another was slammed into the rock wall, his spine broken by the impact. Hasta body slammed another Yellowbelly and crushed her head underfoot.

Stoneclaw and his two companions were butchering the Yellowbellies with great relish. He eviscerated a Yellowbelly just as his two companions had each grabbed hold of a Yellowbelly's arms. With a quick jerk, they pulled both arms off and began beating the hapless Yellowbelly with them. He then went after another Yellowbelly, grabbed him and ripped off his head.

"Get 'em Dil!" Icthy shouted, pointing to a terrified Yellowbelly huddling against the wall. Dil moved towards the Yellowbelly, who tried to run but underestimated the range of Dil's tail. A powerful tail whip snapped his neck. He dropped to the ground, his neck bent at an odd angle. Dil waded into the mass, blindly swinging her tail. Her powerful tail, coupled with Icthy's penchant for attacking the eyes left many Yellowbellies blinded or crippled from the bone crushing blows.

Flamewing circled around them, spitting bolts of red fire. His first bolt struck the ground, sending a small shower of molten rock into the air. His second bolt set a Yellowbelly on fire.

The Yellowbelly frantically ran around, trying to extinguish the fire. Flamewing laughed as the Yellowbelly set others around him on fire.

Ozzie was flying above the Yellowbelly herd and pelting them with stones from his sling.

"Nice shot!" Sierra said, watching a Yellowbelly fall as Ozzie split his head open with a sling stone.

Ozzie said nothing but placed another stone in his sling and whirled the sling over his head. After three revolutions, he released the stone and watched, satisfied, as a Yellowbelly fell to the bloody ground.

Several minutes later, the stone pass was slick with blood and the corpses – and pieces - of the Yellowbellies littered the area. The smell of charred flesh hung in the air.

Theta flicked the blood off his stone knife. "Well, I guess this valley's ours now," he said.

Stoneclaw said nothing but spat on the bloody ground. He was standing next to half of a Yellowbelly and behind him were the remains of several Yellowbellies, spread out over many square feet of bloody ground.

Stoneclaw's two companions were kicking around the head of a Yellowbelly.

Sierra landed and surveyed the carnage. "At least those bastards won't be able to sing anymore," he said.

Ozzie simply shrugged from Sierra's back.

"Let's sweep the valley for survivors," Styracus ordered.

The Reborn idly kicked the Yellowbelly head, sending it flying onto a cliff some fifty feet off the ground.

The group then left the rocky pass. As they did, so one of the Yellowbellies staggered to his feet. His left arm dangled uselessly and he was covered in blood and bruises. He staggered out of the pass and made his way to the center of Berry Valley.

At a clearing in the center of Berry Valley, Loofah, Doofah and several other Yellowbellies were gorging themselves on berries. The Wise One was looking around for any threats.

All of a sudden, the severely injured Yellowbelly staggered into the clearing, leaving a trail of blood behind him. "Attack…," he rasped out. He the collapsed and died right there.

The Yellowbellies started chattering amongst themselves, until the Wise One pounded the hollow log he used as a drum rather loudly. He then began gesticulating wildly.

"The Wise One states that we attempt to resist the invaders," a light blue Yellowbelly said, translating for the Wise One.

"But how?" a dark green Yellowbelly asked.

The Wise One made some more gestures. "Hide and then throw whatever you can at them," the translator replied.

The Yellowbellies quickly dispersed, taking cover behind rocks, shrubs and trees.

A few minutes later, Styracus's group made their way into the center of Berry Valley. All he saw were berry shrubs, trees, and scattered rocks. Half eaten berries littered the ground as well. A trail of blood led to the solitary carcass of a Yellowbelly lying in the middle of the clearing.

"Looks like we killed everyone," the Diamond said.

As soon as he spoke, a large dirt clod struck Saber in the face, causing him to drop his hammer as he tried to clear his eyes. Dirt clods, rocks, sticks and other debris began to bombard them. Saber dropped prone to avoid getting hit in the head with a rock.

Theta swore as a rock shattered one of his knives. He ducked under another thrown rock. A dirt clod struck him in the face, forcing him to clear his eyes. He had the sense to drop prone to present less of a target.

Hasta was mostly unaffected by the projectiles, so he moved to protect Saber and Theta from the flying objects.

Stoneclaw was struck in the head by a large rock but he simply shrugged it off and went after the Yellowbelly who threw the rock.

The Reborn and Diamond ignored the hail of projectiles sent their way.

Loofah was stunned as he hit the silver sickleclaw square in the head with a large rock to no effect. He picked up a dirt clod and threw that at the sickleclaw, also to no effect. He tried to run but the Reborn quickly caught him and ripped him apart.

Doofah, the Yellowbelly who had blinded Theta with the well thrown dirt clod and had struck the emerald sickleclaw in the face with a large stone, met the bloody fate as Loofah, courtesy of the Diamond.

Styracus was much too large for the bombardment of projectiles to affect him. He noticed a shrub rustling and he charged it. He plowed through the shrub and the Yellowbelly behind it, leaving them both trampled beyond recognition.

Icthy pecked out the eyes of a Yellowbelly armed with a large stick. The Yellowbelly clamped his hands to his face as blood began to stream down from his eyes. Dil tracked the severely injured Yellowbelly by the noise of his screams and tore him apart.

Flamewing leapt into the air. A short burst of fire incinerated a stick aimed at his head. He circled around the battlefield and spotted the source of the projectiles: Yellowbellies hiding behind objects. He took a deep breath and spat a sizzling bolt of red fire that ignited a Yellowbelly who threw the stick at him.

Sierra and Ozzie slowly circled the battlefield; Ozzie launching stone after stone from his sling.

In a few minutes, the attacking Yellowbellies were dead and Styracus's group was unharmed save for being covered in dirt.

Ozzie and Sierra landed.

"Everyone all right?" Ozzie asked.

"Can't see," Theta said. He was still trying to clear his eyes.

"Damned Yellowbellies!" Saber shouted. Dirt was still visible in his eyes.

"Ozzie, Sierra, find a stream and help Theta and Saber wash out their eyes," Styracus ordered.

Ozzie and Sierra did so. The four then headed to a small stream nearby.

"I think that's all of them," Theta said, splashing water on his face.

Saber said nothing but flushed the dirt out of his eyes.

"All done?" Ozzie asked.

"Yeah," Theta replied.

The four then returned to Styracus.

"All right, now what?" Theta asked.

"Let's see if we can keep a few of those Yellowbellies as food," Saber said, "After all, we have four sharpteeth, a Sharpbeak and a Bellydragger to feed."

"Saber, perhaps you are not aware of this but we Reborn do not need food," the silver sickleclaw said.

"Okay, make that two sharpteeth, one Sharpbeak and one Bellydragger."

"Don't bother; we've got a bunch of dead Yellowbellies," Theta replied.

"All right, Sierra! Tell Excidium that our mission is accomplished and he can start sending in families," Styracus ordered. He then turned to the others. "And all of you make sure there are no more Yellowbellies! And Ozzie, come with me to carry the supplies into the valley," he ordered.

Sierra took to the skies and flew out of Berry Valley.

Saber, Theta, Hasta, Stoneclaw, Flamewing, Icthy, Dil, the Reborn and the Diamond fanned out to search and destroy the remaining Yellowbellies.

Ozzie and Styracus headed out of the valley to their old campsite to retrieve their supplies.

In the chaos of the melee, the Wise One and his translator had bolted for one of the exits of Berry Valley.

Hundreds of miles away, Littlefoot and his group had left High Tree Island just before the land bridge submerged itself underwater. They continued on their trek on the beach. The early afternoon sun shone brightly on the beach. The waves were surprisingly gentle on the shore despite how rough the ocean was on the land bridge. Elsie, Mo and Las accompanied them to the beach.

"If you need our help, you know where to find us," Elsie said.

"I'm always up for an adventure," Las said.

"Mo help mud brothers when Mo asked," Mo replied.

"Mo, I have a request for you," Littlefoot said.

"What can Mo do?"

"Mo, I need you to swim up to the Great Valley and spy for us. Once you have as much info as you can get, swim back here and one of our flyers will escort you to the lake in the Big Water Meadows."

"Mo do good job spying," Mo replied, swimming towards the Great Valley. He was soon out of sight.

"Very good thinking," Deimos said. "But will the elders trust him?"

"I know my grandparents will," Littlefoot replied. He then turned to Pterano. "Pterano, do you think you can station three flyers here to watch for Mo and escort him to the main lake?" he asked.

Pterano nodded. "That will not be too much hassle."

"I assume a heroes' welcome is imminent?" Strut asked.

"It would be rather unseemly to not show gratitude," Pterano replied.

"It would indeed; Deimos, Raptix, and I risked our lives to try and save the prisoners on Cloud Island. And Rime sacrificed himself to let Chomper and Raptix live," Ms. Swimmer replied.

The group continued on their path to the Big Water Meadows.

At the Big Water Meadows, the dinosaurs were going about their daily activities. Blue-Scale, Bron, Mr. Threehorn, Grandma and Grandpa Longneck were gathered by the main lake.

"I do hope Raptix and Deimos made it back alive," Blue-Scale said

"Littlefoot has been a strong leader from childhood. He will make sure everyone gets back alive," Bron replied.

Suddenly, Ptyrax landed in front of them. "Everyone! Littlefoot's group is back!" he shouted.

Blue-Scale, Bron, Mr. Threehorn, Grandma and Grandpa Longneck rushed to the entrance of the meadow. There, almost the entire population of the Great Valley was present.

Littlefoot, Ranno, Strut, Deimos, Raptix, Ms. Swimmer, Ducky and Chomper walked into the meadow. Flanking them were the Great Valley dinosaurs. Instead of cheering as the group proceeded to the main lake, the dinosaurs maintained a respectful silence.

It was only when they reached the main lake that thunderous applause and cheering broke out. The sound of jubilation echoed across the entire meadow.

Spike, Shorty, Ali and Cera, who were at the main lake, ran up to the group.

Spike ran up to Ducky and licked her affectionately. Ducky hugged Spike in response.

"We thought we'd never see you again!" Cera said.

"Never say never," Chomper replied, running up to Cera and nuzzling her.

Shorty playfully head butted Littlefoot. "Looks like yet another successful adventure,"

"Hey, where's Rime?" Ali asked.

The gathered crowd grew somber.

"Rime… didn't make it," Ms. Swimmer said.

"No, Rime sacrificed himself so Raptix and Chomper could get to safety," Deimos said somberly.

"Furthermore, Rytho, Vio, Ed and some other dinosaurs were killed during the escape attempt," Strut added somberly.

"We must never forget their sacrifices. And we must never surrender."

In another part of the main lake, the Warriors' Council – minus Ms. Swimmer - was discussing the next move.

"I vote that we mount an assault to take back the Great Valley. The Night Circle has changed its shape several times since we lost it. Our enemies have probably grown complacent," Mr. Threehorn said.

"Mr. Threehorn, we cannot act without proper intelligence," Mr. Thicknose said.

"The Great Valley Air Corps can perform reconnaissance flyovers of the Great Valley. Once the intelligence is gathered, we can then formulate a strategy and retake the Great Valley," Grandpa Longneck said. "All in favor?" he asked.

The council voted unanimously in favor.

"Well then, it is settled; the announcement will take place tonight," Grandpa Longneck said.

Chapter 35: Foward Unto Dawn

The Fast-Runner looked around. He was in the middle of the woods with his two companions. The humid air was rich with the scent of leaf litter and flowers.

"So what are we supposed to do again?" a green Swimmer asked. He was armed with a sling and a pouch of stones.

"We're supposed to dispose of the enemy's food," his companion, a light gold Fast-Runner, replied. She was armed with a stone headed lance.

Suddenly, something flew overhead and struck a tree.

"Run!" the Swimmer shouted.

He and his companions bolted down the narrow path, projectiles narrowly missing them.

The Swimmer was struck in the head by one of the projectiles. He ducked down and felt something wet dripping into his eyes. He touched his head and noticed that his fingers were covered in a red liquid. His heart flew into his throat as he realized that he had been hit.

He got to his feet and ran, ignoring the continuing hail of projectiles and the ugly wound on his head. His other companion, a brown Runner was struck with a javelin and fell to the ground. Their hearts pounded as they weaved their way through the forest trail, heedless of the projectiles that flew past them.

"Damn it! We're not going to make it!" the Fast-Runner said between breaths. A javelin scraped her head, leaving a thin red line.

"Don't say that!" the Swimmer replied.

The two continued running through the sylvan path until it opened up to a small clearing. The clearing itself was unremarkable with verdant grass gently waving in the breeze and a pile of what appeared to be a pile of brown nuts.

"There it is!" the Swimmer said.

The sound of voices could be heard and it seemed the voices were getting closer.

"Screw the mission! We're going to get ripped to pieces if we stay!" the Fast-Runner said.

"No. We'll burn the food," the Swimmer replied. He then ripped up some dried grass, piled it near the nuts and stacked up some twigs near the tried grass. "Find a fire rock!" he ordered.

He got no response. He got up and noticed to his horror the enemy dinosaurs had followed them to the clearing.

His companion was fighting with a blue Runner armed with a similar stone tipped lance. She parried the Runner's spear thrust and immediately stuck the spear in his chest, causing him to collapse. She pulled the spear out and found out that she was now facing two more enemy dinosaurs.

She thrust her spear at one of them but the enemy dinosaur grabbed hold of the spear shaft and disarmed her.

The Fast-Runner gulped and squared off against two of them, unaware that a third dinosaur was behind her.

Before she knew what happened, the third dinosaur grabbed her and slit her throat.

"Damn it! I've got to get the fire rock!" the Swimmer muttered. He nailed an oncoming dinosaur square in the head with a stone launched from his sling.

Before he could load another stone, a javelin struck him square in the chest. As he fell to the ground he awaited his fate.

"Kids! Time for lunch!" a disembodied female voice called.

The Swimmer got to his feet. He licked his hands and used the saliva to remove the red fruit juice left on his chest from the javelin's impact. He picked up the javelin that struck him. The javelin's "stone head" was merely a harmless fruit that had been cut to look like a spearhead.

"Boy, I'm getting hungry," one of the "enemy" dinosaurs said. He was a light brown Swimmer about the same age as the Swimmer who had been hit with the fake javelin.

Around them, the gathered dinosaur children were picking up their toy weapons and heading out for lunch. The children all chatted as they made their way back out of the grove.

"I have to admit, I never played this game before but it is really, really fun!" the gold Fast-Runner said. A line of red juice was still visible on her neck.

"Yeah! Once you play 'Intruder', you'll never want to play anything else again!" a purple Fast-Runner said. A large splotch of red fruit juice was on his face.

"Did you see how Krito slashed Mona's throat? That was awesome!" a grey Runner said.

"Forget that! Shan taking out Tabura with a shot to the head was even more awesome!"

"Was not!"

"Is too!"

The argument continued until they made their way to the Feeding Grounds where the green Swimmer's mother awaited with a pile of treestars.

"Okay you all, wash that fruit juice off before you go eat," she said.

"Aww, but do we have to?" the gold Fast-Runner whined.


The children headed over to the river and washed the fruit juice off their bodies.

Meanwhile, Ms. Swimmer was eating some sweet bubbles and watching the children at play in the area. She drank in the sweet scent of food in the area, the cool breeze and the laughter of children. Most of them played innocent games like tag or ball but some played much darker games like 'Intruder' or had mock battles. She shivered inwardly as she remembered Raptix's statement about the Twilight Hatchlings.

All of a sudden, a seed pod struck her in the head. She looked around and spotted a group of children running up to her.

"Hey, Ms. Swimmer, can we have our seed pod back?" a young light green Longneck asked.

"Sure," Ms. Swimmer replied, handing the seed pod over to her.


The children accepted the seed pod and headed back to the playing field. She heard the sound of them arguing over which side gets the penalty kick.

She continued eating her lunch. The sound of the children laughing and playing pushed the thought of the Twilight Hatchlings from her head. A sense of warmth replaced the icy dread of the Twilight Hatchlings that crept into her mind. There was still innocence in the hellish environment that was wartime.

Meanwhile, Littlefoot, Shorty and Raptix were arguing over who had to tell Ms. Swimmer the news that Saurolo was missing or dead.

"You tell her, Littlefoot!" Shorty said.

"No you," Littlefoot replied.

"Raptix, you go tell her."

Raptix shook his head. "It would be better if a leaf-eater told her," he said.

Littlefoot stomped the ground head in frustration. "This isn't going anywhere. We'll pull grass to see who tells her," he grumbled.

"Fine by me," Shorty said.

"Is 'pulling grass' some custom that is undertaken before we tell the family of the dead?" Raptix asked.

Littlefoot chuckled. "No, it's to decide who gets an unpleasant task like doing late night patrols or-"

"Telling Mr. Threehorn bad news," Shorty cut in.

The group chuckled at the joke. "In any case," Littlefoot continued, "whoever gets the shortest piece of grass has to do the task." Littlefoot then wrapped his lips around three tall stalks of grass and ripped them out, holding the stalks in his mouth.

Shorty carefully pulled one of the stalks from Littlefoot's mouth. Raptix did the same.

"Okay, compare," Littlefoot said, placing his stalk on the grass.

Shorty opened his mouth and dropped his stalk on the grass next to Littlefoot's stalk. Raptix placed his stalk next to their stalks.

"Raptix, you have to tell her," Littlefoot said, looking at the stalks

Raptix sighed and headed towards Ms. Swimmer

Ms. Swimmer, who had finished eating her meal turned around and noticed Raptix standing behind her.

"Hello, Raptix, what do you want?" she asked.

Raptix looked at the ground. "I…I… have to tell you that… Saurolo…is missing. We-" he took a gulp, "think he died on Cloud Island."

Ms. Swimmer's joy at seeing Raptix plunged meteorically into sadness and anger. She bit her lip as tears began to well up.

"Ms. Swimmer, are you all right?" Raptix asked, placing a hand on her side.

Another vein of grief had been struck. She tried to hold back her tears but she gave up and started sobbing.

"Why couldn't they have saved him? They had the dinosaurs, they had the weapons, they had the skills. Why? Why?" she said, her voice racked with sobs.

"Ms. Swimmer, we tried our best but we couldn't make it in time. I'm sorry, I truly am," Raptix said softly.

In a field not far from where Ms. Swimmer was grieving, Deimos, Ali, Hyp, Nod, Mutt, Cera, Ruby, Spike, Ducky and Chomper were enjoying a game of ball. Coatal was perched on a nearby dead tree. He was serving as the referee. Deimos, Hyp, Ali, Ruby and Chomper were one team. Facing them was the other team: Nod, Mutt, Ducky, Cera and Spike.

Cera had possession of the seedpod-ball. She had stopped Nod from trying to kick it into the goal. She then dipped her head and using her nose horn, tossed the ball into the air and sent it flying towards Spike with a sharp head butt.

Spike let the ball bounce off him and he kicked the ball underneath him to prevent Deimos getting to it first. But when he moved to get in a better position to tail whip the ball, he inadvertently stepped on it, crushing it into several pieces.

"Spike! You are not supposed to destroy the ball! Oh, no, no!" Ducky said.

Spike grumbled apologetically.

"So is there a penalty shot?" Deimos asked.

Coatal flew from his perch and landed in the middle. "No penalty, just another face off," he said. He then flew off to get another seed pod. The players decided to simply chat while Coatal was away.

"You know, it's been a while since I've played ball," Chomper said.

"Same here," Deimos replied.

"Well, you gotta have some time to relax," Hyp added.

"More relevant to what we're doing now," Ruby said. "Why can't Coatal play?"

"Because every team that has him always wins."

"Isn't that a little unfair?"

Hyp shook his head. "No. We banned him from playing because he ruins the fun," he replied.

"But how so?" Ruby asked.

"Because he can't stop picking the damn ball up with his feet! That's one of the rules; you're not allowed to pick the ball up. You're allowed to head butt, kick, body slam, knee or tail whip the ball. You're not allowed to pick up, punch, elbow, slap or touch the ball with your hands. Four-footers are not allowed to pick the ball up with their mouths. That clear it up?" Cera replied.

"Yeah, that helps."

At this point, Coatal flew overhead and dropped a new seedpod-ball in the center of the field. He then flew off to his perch. "Begin!" he yelled.

Deimos and Mutt glared at each other. Suddenly, Mutt kicked the ball between Deimos's legs to Ducky. Hyp then intentionally slid into Ducky from the side, knocking her off balance. Ducky staggered for a moment and flicked her tail before Hyp could recover.

At the same time Hyp's sliding kick took place, Grey-Wing along with Quetzal, Pterano, and Long-Wing, landed on the sidelines.

"Ah, looks like we missed the start of it," Long-Wing said.

"So what? There's more to come," Grey-Wing replied.

Quetzal looked at the game with disdain. "A waste of time. They could be doing something constructive, like doing patrols or training. That game is for kids and these dinosaurs aren't kids anymore," he scoffed.

"Come now, Quetzal, that attitude is not warranted. We came to watch the game to relieve our tensions," Pterano replied.

Quetzal said nothing but merely scowled.

"You're no fun, Quetzal," Long-Wing replied.

"Have you forgotten that we are at war?" Quetzal shot back.

"That's why we need to relax," Grey-Wing replied.

"What is wrong with you! Relaxing during war time! You're all getting lazy, that's what!"

"Quetzal, we prefer to watch the game without your snide comments. Please refrain from commenting unless it is about the game," Pterano scolded.

Quetzal shook his head. "Even our esteemed squadron leader is getting lazy," he muttered.

That did it; Pterano turned to Quetzal and pierced him with a stony glare. Pterano's brown eyes - normally full of warmth - had turned as sharp as freshly hewn spearhead.

"You will not speak of your superiors in such a manner. As punishment, you are to perform endurance laps until we return to the airfield," Pterano commanded. His voice was neutral and cold, yet there was an undertone of barely restrained anger.

Quetzal wilted under Pterano's icy glare. "Yes, sir," Quetzal said timidly, taking flight and flying back to the airfield. Pterano watched as he flew out of sight.

Long-Wing and Grey-Wing were staring at Pterano in shock. Pterano turned back to the two flyers; the characteristic warmth in his eyes returning. "Pay no heed to the tongue lashing I administered to Quetzal and let us enjoy the game," he said.

By the time the four Great Valley Air Corps members finished bickering amongst themselves, Ducky's fortuitously aimed tail flick sent the ball to Nod; who then kicked it to Mutt. Who in turn kicked the ball into the air, sending it hurtling towards Spike. He sent the ball flying towards the opposing team's goal with a powerful tail whip.

And was blocked by Ali, who launched the ball back into play with a swift tail whip.

Miles away at the Great Valley, Mo and his water kin had no time for such games as they were engaged in a vital recon mission. They swam up the swift river that led to the Thundering Falls Lake. The water was swift and cold but being Big Water Swimmers, they were accustomed to rough conditions.

Mo had some reservations about doing this mission. He was unfamiliar with the concept of war and part of him wished that he had told Littlefoot in no uncertain terms that he did not want to do the scouting mission and that he did not want to be part of their war. But the other part of him reminded him that Littlefoot was his mud brother and going back on his request was tantamount to betrayal. He banished the negative thoughts from his head and focused on his mission.

Soon, they reached the mouth of the Thundering Falls Lake. The roar of the waterfall pounding the surface of the lake was audible to them. Mo looked around the lake. The lake itself was fairly deep; deep enough for a Longneck to fully immerse its body in the water. The bottom of the lake was covered in smooth pebbles but several stone weapons - spearheads and knives - were visible on the bottom.

"I along with two of my herd members will listen in. You go explore other rivers," Mo said in Water-Speak.

The other Big Water Swimmers except for two headed out to other tributaries of the main lake.

On the shores of the main lake, Red-Eye, Berg and some Fast-Runners armed with slings were gathered. The polished black spearhead the Fast-Runners wore as necklaces gleamed in the afternoon sun.

"Red-Eye, I have successfully trained the first Shade Sky Hunters," Berg said.

Red-Eye nodded. "Good work. But I must ask; how is their performance?" he asked

"I will admit that their performance is not exactly as good as the normal Sky Hunters but they should be more than a match for any flyers. Also you need to keep in mind that the normal Sky Hunters have actual combat experience."

"It is acceptable. In any case, the Sharpteeth are preparing to head back to Claw Valley. Once the Berry Valley conquest squad returns, we will officially turn the valley over to Styracus and his herd," Red-Eye said.

"When will they return?" Berg asked.

"In two, three, maybe four nights."

"Good enough. In any case, I wish Styracus, Theta, Hasta, Saber and the rest of the Berry Valley conquest squad the best of luck," Berg said.

The dinosaurs then dispersed, paying no heed to the dolphin-like creature cavorting in the lake. Mo had heard every single word.

Meanwhile, a group of Mo's water kin was making their way to another small lake. This group was led by Thal, a Big Water Swimmer who looked like Mo, only with green skin and some splotches of blue across his back. His mossy green eyes sparkled in the rays of light that pierced the water. Compared to Mo, Thal was a bit more prejudiced. Admittedly, he didn't give a damn about the war or the scouting mission but Mo more or less pressured him into it.

When they arrived at the small lake, muffled snatches of Leaf Eater were heard in the lake.

"Anybody understand what they're saying?" a dull yellow Big Water Swimmer asked in Water-Speak.

"I do and personally don't give a damn about what they're saying. Leaf Eater is such a crude language, befitting such crude creatures," Thal said in Water-Speak.

"Thal! Shut up and listen in! You're the only one who can understand them!"

Thal sighed. "All right, but only because Mo said I have to help leaf-eaters by doing this stupid mission," he said bitterly. He then poked his head above water. He was hidden behind a floating log. On the shore, two groups of plant eaters - one led by a solid black Clubtail and the other by a light green Crested Swimmer – were arguing.

"Let me get this straight; you all are leaving the Great Valley?" the light green Crested Swimmer asked.

Blackjack, the Clubtail, nodded. "I am," he said.

"But why? We have our home now!"

"Styracus, Theta and Hasta have become poisoned by the lust of battle. Just a few nights ago, they joined a group of sharpteeth to invade Berry Valley. I do not wish to live in a valley where the only thing is war," Blackjack said.