PART TWO OF FIVE
Another chunk of wood was added to the fire pit, it was consumed in seconds and the fire itself seemed to gleam gratitude by dancing ever higher, its heat warming the faces of many younglings.
"One more story, elder!"
"yeah, just one more!"
"we're not tired!"
to any sane fellow, the shrill voices of all these tiny creatures would seem like a horrible auditory curse, but not the elder.
"VERY WELL", he boomed in a deep, authoritative tone, causing a few of the younglings to softly gasp in contained fright.
"just one more", this time returning to his calm nurturing speech.
"Long ago..." he began, gesturing to a series of pictographs painted on the cave wall behind him, this particular group of pictures grouped at the very center, and drawn with aging pigments.
the flickering firelight made them seem to move on their own, in time with the elder's tale..
"There was great discord, and primal hatred. All of our different kinds fought to survive, to simply fill their bellies and live another day"
"This meant the tooth-kind used their name to great effect. The gnaw-kind could only hope to fend off their attackers, or become lunch for another!"
a picture of a small triceratops was surrounded by rows of white triangles, which pressed together.
The younglings of all different species looked to each other with fright, would their tooth-kind friend have once...? Had they once looked at their gnaw-kind buddy and tried to....?
"That is, until one day, a grand and mighty tooth-kind became aware of both himself and the pain surrounding him."
A tiny t-rex image was surrounded by a glowing halo, and around him were carcasses of other kinds of dinosaurs.
"His heart was filled with sorrow, and he refused to eat another gnaw-kind for fear of the pain it would cause them and surely their family!"
"He tried to eat the plants of the gnaw-kind, for they had no will of their own and simply grew, but his gut could not take it in."
The same t-rex, but sitting at the base of a tree looking pained.
"But then, one day, a divine beast appeared before him. It offered its flesh to the poor tooth-kind, telling him that this flesh would fill his belly for all eternity".
A four legged white creature stood before the tiny lizard, who proceeded to eat a section of its flank.
"The tooth kind's power grew, his touch alone brought the gift of thought and will, and a drop of his blood would allow a tooth-kind to eat of the plants of the gnaw-kind, and remove his hunger for flesh"
The t-rex walked through a crowd of other dinosaurs and left a pearly white wake.
"from these first few he built a grand kingdom, and wielded divine magics to spread his blood to all other dinos."
"This first thinker was crowned king of all the lands, and peace finally came"
the tiny t-rex sat on a silver throne with 5 other dinosaurs of various types on his left and right.
"and so, every year, the king must give his blood to all of us, through the great ritual"
the t-rex stood before a glowing pillar, his claws grasping it tightly.
"So all you tooth-kinds should never use your sharp teeth against your fellows, and all you gnaw-kinds never raise a tail or spine against your others!"
The younglings turned to each other again with fond faces, rather than fearful ones.
"And most importantly, GO TO BED!" The elder's deep booming voice filled the entire cavern with that last proclamation, causing all the younglings to yelp with fright and scurry to their warm homes.
The elder tossed a small pail of water onto the smoldering pit, sending up a puff of smoke and steam which suspended in the cavern's ceiling before wistfully escaping, almost as a lazy goodbye.
"Still telling those fables, gramps?" Said a young voice rudely
"Of course, how else will the little ones know their past?"
"Past? don't give me that, we all know your 'great chaos' never existed! Things have always been like this, always will. The great ritual is just for show to keep everyone happy."
The young voice was given form as a cloud lazily crept away from its position obscuring the moon. A deep red Velociraptor, leaning up against the cave mouth, arms crossed, attempting to emulate a 'cool stance'.
"It's a shame you think that way, Still-Water"
The raptor's demeanor changed from snide to aggravated in an instant
"I told you NOT to CALL me that, I don't want anything to do with your mumbo-jumbo, i've got my feet on the ground and the wind on my scales, i don't need ANYTHING ELSE!"
With a short snarl the young tooth-kind stormed off down the hillside
"Stupid shaman, must have gone senile, why did i have to get the soul-name Still-Water anyway? If i stand still I'm losing to somebody"
He grumbled all the way back to his home, a small hovel in the outer rings of the village. What he wouldn't give to get out of this podunk little basin, and away from that elder.
Shifting Valley had always been a nice little village, a great place to settle down and raise a clutch. It was so named by the fantastic light-play that the rising and setting sun had on the surrounding mountains, almost like silent guardians keeping the lush basin in a fairytale state. Nothing ever changed here, and its friendly inhabitants hoped nothing ever would. Destiny is a fickle woman.
A few miles from the fertile valley, carved into a tall lone mountain was the capital of all Pangeus, the city Agrica. Tonight was particularly important to the kingdom's prince, a timid T-rex by the name of Ryas.
"The prophecy is very clear, your majesty" spoke the court's head Sage; Arulem. "when the light appears upon the highest peak visible from the lone mountain, on the eve of the grand ritual, 5 young ones and the prince of the land will journey there to begin their quest"
Sage Arulem was one of the king's most trusted advisors, his prominent brow growths made him unmistakable as an Allosaurus.
King Tine was silent and still, a hallmark of his.
"Truly if arulem deems this prophecy important enough to bring to light now of all times, it must be heeded?" one of the court members questioned the king.
Tine remained silent. He was thinking carefully.
"But the prince isn't ready! he's too young, and not to mention his timid nature"
"That's right! he isn't ready!"
the court rippled with un-hushed comments.
"Such a cowardly youngling, what could he do?"
"perhaps the prophecy is wrong, a generation too early?
The king finally spoke
...well, more like roared
"YOU WILL SHOW RESPECT FOR THE PRINCE."
The hall shook somewhat. Tine didn't speak much, but his voice could shatter stone when provoked.
The gathered politicians were too stunned to apologize.
Sage arulem simply said
"The prophecy is clear, and my calculations are always perfect. What do you bid us do, your majesty?"
Tine was again silent for a moment
"Bring my son to me" he said to a nearby guard while staring straight ahead
"The rest of you are dismissed" he directed towards the gathering with an audible snarl.
"You wished to s-see me father?"
Prince Ryas had been ushered into the empty chamber. He was clicking his front claws together nervously, a bad habit of his.
The king stared at him coldly from upon his silver throne.
"i have an assignment for you"
Ryas was simultaneously enthused and terrified. He loved mingling with the commoners as just another citizen with no pressure or responsibility, as it was difficult to tell their kind apart from each other, and few outside the city had even seen the prince before. but as soon as he donned his royal chain, they would stare and whisper behind their claws.
"what kind of assignment is it...?"
he asked hesitantly, dreading the response
"You are to travel to the village of shifting valley, and find five able bodied young ones like yourself for an important mission"
It was worse than he could have imagined. Going to a village was one thing, but he had to do it on royal business? and choose dinos for something? and have to lead them? This was a little too much
"um, father, perhaps whatever this assignment is c-can be done by another?"
"Nonsense, this is exactly what you need, prince"
His tone was stern and uncaring, as per usual
"w-well i-i don't think i-"
"You will leave tomorrow morning at first light. Shifting valley is an old village, and they start early, as should you"
This wasn't going nearly as well as Ryas had hoped, but orders from father were not to be questioned, least of all by the prince.
The following day dawned uneventfully, and Ryas was able to don his traveling cloak before slipping out of the city un-noticed. However he arrived just in time to bear witness to shifting valley's namesake. Just as he came over the mountain pass from the city, a painting leapt up to meet his eyes. Deep reds and yellows washing over the opposite end of the basin, the colorful rocks twisting the bright colors into myriad tones. He was invigorated by the view, and possibly a little less fearful of what he had to do.
The village was already in a bustle. Traders and merchants, farmers bringing the morning crop to market, many families walking about, children playing in the streets. The stories of the idyllic town in the lush basin where not unfounded. Ryas kept his cloak tight and his pace brisk, which was probably a mistake as it only further drew attention to his position as an outsider, such small villages could literally smell it. There was a small podium in the central square, for gatherings or for official business by the local leaders.
This would be quite the day.
He ascended the podium and took his cloak off carefully. His golden talon trinket shone in the morning light.
"um, ahem, attention, excuse me..."
Nobody paid any attention to him. Perhaps they didn't know who he was? Understandable he guessed, he wasn't much of a figure...
But this was important, an assignment from father!
"MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION"
He roared slightly as he said it. Not good, this was too much. Every eye in the square stopped and stared at him. A few of the younglings looked at their parents questioningly, as if asking "who is that loud one?"
"ah, um, well, i have, uh"
Of all the days.
"I am prince Ryas of Agrica, and i have come on, um, official business to seek five able bodied young dinos for a special assignment.."
Better, but his voice was still cracking. "Why oh why was i sent here? People in small villages were always so accusing of outsiders, what must they be thinking of me? oh dear." he thought nervously. His low self esteem was fueled by his poor speech in a vicious cycle, only making it more difficult to continue.
"So, if, um, s-some would like to v-volunteer...?"
Apparently no one, the villagers immediately set about their separate ways again.
He plopped himself down on one of the steps, defeated.
He knew this was hopeless, why not simply get some of the royal guard for this? why did it have to be younglings his age?
"An Assignment? well I'M YOUR DINO!" came a young voice from the dispersing crowd.
Ryas was quite startled, jumping slightly.
"who, what? oh"
It was a velociraptor, the slender form and menacing forward claws were unmistakable. This one had a deep crimson tone to his scales.
"Oh, don't worry about it, i should probably just report back to father an-"
"Pfft, Tine? That old fart? Look guy, you got style"
The raptor wrapped his arm around the t-rex's neck (difficult, given the size difference) and gestured wildly with the other, as if attempting to point out something to Ryas in the distance.
"Listen Prince-o, I can tell you got guts, but if you make a team you'll need somedino with speed. Somedino who thinks on his feet, and run fast on them. And I...
The raptor backed up, placed his claws on his hips, threw his chest out, and finished
"....am Tracks, that very dino"
Most dinos would have felt somewhat unclean after being so discharged on. Not Ryas, his eyes lit up.
"Yeah! Totally! But we need 4 more, do you know any other capable dinos in this village?"
Tracks mocked thought by placing his claw under his chin.
"I got the perfect one."
The hovel they arrived at was run down to say the least, and located rather close to the village elder's hut on the outskirts of town. "Are you sure this is it....?"
Ryas wasn't exactly dazzled. Tracks knocked on the door.
"Hold up yo" Came a lazy voice from inside. It took something on the order of thirty seconds for the door to open and reveal.....
a giant fin?
Ryas looked down. A teal Dimetrodon stared back up at him in awe.
"dude." responded Tracks, almost as if he was affirming the dimetrodon's disbelief.
"dude, its the prince!" Said the finned dino excitedly, gesturing towards Ryas' golden talon trinket.
"yup, and he needs some experts for a mission.."
"DUUUDE, you gotta pick me!" The squat creature put his forward claws together in a begging stance.
Tracks chimed in support.
"He'd be great, really knows his medicine and magic..."
Ryas wasn't so convinced.
"Well, he looks kind of..
"and proud of it! Take it slow bro and you'll win or something" Apparently he only knew half nuggets of wisdom.
"and, aren't dimetrodons...not dinos?" Ryas commented.
the squat fellow looked a little hurt
"Hey man, everyone says that, but i got scales just like you, i'm just a little warmer on the inside....i think"
He stared off into the distance, as if trying to remember exactly what made him different from regular dinos. apparently he didn't have much of a grasp on biology either.
Tracks folded his arms and raised an eyebrow at the prince expectantly.
"ALRIGHT!" yelled tracks and the finned one simultaneously.
"name's Didem by the way" He rustled his fin in a greeting gesture.
They had barely finished introductions when an aged cough from behind them broadcasted the presence of the village elder.
Ryas hadn't even heard him approach, elders were known for their...mysteries.
He turned to see a very old looking Parasaurolophus, the large crescent shaped crest extending out the back of his skull being unmistakable. His particular crest was adorned with feathers and beads of all manner.
"Ah! um, hello elder..."
"ooooo, What brings the young Sleeping Roarer to our little village?"
Sleeping roarer? Elders were known for their cryptic references, Ryas decided not to address it.
"I'm here recruiting dinos for a special assignment, I've already recruited Didem and Tracks here."
The elder beamed at tracks with his warm, wrinkled smile.
tracks had his arms folded and was looking elsewhere.
"I supposed you'll get your wish, Still-water. I only pray you discover who you are while on the way, and not lose yourself in the you that you have tried to construct."
tracks didn't even give the elder a glance.
"Oh! I'm going too elder! I'll be able to use all the things you taught me!"
Didem was unusually energetic.
"Yes you will...but there is much more you can do.."
The elder was still smiling, but not quite as much, as if trying to put on a face for didem.
"I only pray you truly listen to what i have passed onto you, and not simply what you wished to hear. There is much more to the old ways than potions and tricks..."
obviously didem wasn't listening very closely, instead lavishing in the attention from the elder.
"Now here, let me place a blessing upon each of you for a safe journey"
He extended his wrinkled grip, placing it upon each of the three travelers in turn, muttering some lost dialect. For a moment Ryas almost caught a faint glow from the aged claws...
However when it came tracks' turn, he immediately grasped the elder's arm, shoving it away from his forehead.
"I told you" he snarled
"I don't want anything to do with your mumbo jumbo"
tracks walked off slowly and determinedly.
The elder looked after him with a saddened face. he seemed years older with that frown...
Further searching was in order, hence Ryas' insistence on finding a very learned dino to act as the professional adviser. Being naive as he was, his first instinct was to search the library.
"Look prince-o, i know what you're thinking but there's no guarantee we'll find anyone in there, i mean it's basically a lost cause for any dino in a library to even consider taking on any kind of mission!"
Tracks seemed desperate, going so far as to put himself in Ryas' way and attempt to stop him moving by force. Given their difference in size, this was a laughable endeavor.
They arrived at the (very old, it seemed) library and Ryas took the initiative by knocking thrice.
"Yes yes, come in." Came a beleaguered old voice.
A small bell rang as they entered. This wasn't so much a library as it was a book depository.
Every square inch of the small central room was packed with old tomes. Some stacks looked disturbed, others might as well have been untouched for centuries, they probably were.
"Well? what would three youngsters want with a bunch of old books? here on a dare?"
The voice was initially disembodied until the trio realized it was coming from behind a wall of poorly stacked books directly in front of them.
"bah, no time for such frivolity, begone with you"
Well, that didn't go well
"Old coot's right, we should go, now"
Tracks looked anxious, what was going on here?
just then, an irritated young voice came from the second floor of the cramped building. The books were piled so high it was hard to tell where the staircase was in any case.
"professor, where should i put these texts?"
Tracks groaned "oh no, not him, anyone but him"
"just stick them in the historical pile" responded what was apparently the professor grumpily
A young steel-blue triceratops appeared from behind a nearby mountain of books, several large tomes balanced precariously on his back.
"oh and we have some guests or customers or something" one of the professor's claws appeared from behind the book wall to gesture toward the trio.
the triceratops looked up inquisitively, still balancing the books. Some of which appeared to be complex scientific texts as well as examinations of cultural divides amongst the provinces, monstrously advanced material given the triceratops' age.
Ryas took notice.
Tracks groaned again "hello retcai" he said defeatedly.
The triceratops didn't even notice ryas or didem, his eyes lit up with malice upon seeing the velocirator staring at the ground.
"Traaaaaacks! My good chum, what brings you to our little repository of knowledge? perhaps you're ready to admit your status as a plebian? i have quite a few books on culture which i'm sure you'd LOVE to peruse..."
Tracks was glaring at the floor with a hatred so intense most would have assumed he'd just witnessed the murder of his mother.
Retcai paused his sarcastic spiel only to glance at Ryas and the golden talon around his neck.
"Is that? oh dear, oh my, oh dear"
The triceratops suddenly began hustling around, straightening piles, sorting books, continuously muttering
"oh dear oh dear why did i not hear of this oh dear royalty in shifting valley? oh dear"
The professor leaned around his jail cell of printed words to observe his, supposedly pupil, scurry about.
"now just what do you think you're doing you little oaf-"
He noticed the same thing retcai had, and immediately sprang to full height, or lack thereof anyway. Euoplacephalus' were not known for their size.
"Oh by Agrica it's the prince! I'm so sorry you have to see all of this mess, MOVE YOUR LAZY BONES YOU THREE HORNED IDIOT" his sudden outburst was directed toward retcai, still too busy frantically sorting books to care.
Ryas decided to interject directly into this madness in an effort to calm it. He wasn't very successful
"well, i, um, need some dinos for a royal assignment...do you know of anydino who might...?"
"Oh! recruiting! here; let me whip up some tea so we can fully discuss the matter"
this was followed by another outburst
"RETCAI, STOP BEING WORTHLESS AND FETCH US SOME TEA"
retcai nodded dejectedly and scurried off into what was presumably the kitchen, as some pots and pans were scattered among the books.
Tracks was somewhere between angry that they had come here, worried that Ryas might choose retcai for the assignment, and confused about the entire scene unfolding before them.
Didem was sitting in the corner happily day dreaming.
"So! you need some younger ones for this, ah, assignment? well there are a few dinos that i respect in this village, i think you'd do best to-"
"Retcai" Ryas said assertively.
"what? that oaf? he just helps out around the place, doesn't know a thing"
Ryas was sensing familiar emotions. This professor was almost like....his father...
"Retcai would be perfect for the assignment." Ryas repeated himself.
The professor looked irritated.
"well if that's what the prince thinks, RETCAI GET IN HERE"
"coming!" came the three horn's voice, he was balancing a tray of tea and crackers upon his back as he emerged from the kitchen, again quite skillfully.
The professor snatched one of the cups up without so much as a glance at his servant and slurped.
Ryas took the added moment to thank retcai for the tea and took a small sip.
"I saw what he was reading, he'd be an excellent addition to our team"
Tracks couldn't have furrowed his brows more without causing serious facial damage.
"Well if the prince is personally asking for help from one of my star pupils, who am i to refuse?"
"I thought you said he didn't know anything, now he's a pupil?" Didem chimed in with a good point.
"Well i, um, you see the-"
"Retcai..." Ryas was done addressing the elder of the two.
This professor...this dino was nothing like his father
He was worse.
The triceratops didn't respond, still holding the tray. he simply stared ahead and glanced slightly at the professor every few moments.
"Do you accept?" Ryas asked determinedly.
Rectai found his lost voice, apparently stifled by his master.
"I, ah, of course!" His eyes lit up after fully comprehending what was happening.
"Oh, i'll need my equipment, and of course my survival guides, where did i leave them.."
Completely abandoning the tea tray to the floor, he scurried up the still-invisible stairs. Several loud crashes indicated he was locating something.
Tracks' expression had softened slightly after witnessing the somewhat disheartening scene. The professor was not amused.
"I still don't see why you're choosing that simpleton. Even if i did teach him everything he knows, he hasn't much absorbed it, i mostly keep him around for chores and sorting the shelves"
Ryas had had enough of this.
"I think we'll assist retcai in preparation, if you don't mind"
The three of them precariously navigated the paper labyrinth, tracing the heavy footsteps of retcai only moments earlier. Apparently the staircase was behind another ceiling-high pile of books, quite the revelation.
Retcai seemed to kept his quarters in slightly better shape than the rest of the building. Or at least he did until a few moments ago.
books which were presumably stacked neatly now lay in uneven piles next to shelves. some glass equipment on a table had fallen over and was spilling an acrid liquid on the floor.
"oh, just something i was working on, pay no heed"
the large dino was poking his snout through a small cabinet
"now where did i keep my...ah yes"
He retrieved a small jar, opened it upside down, and held the opening over a small candle. The flame instantly died.
He slammed the jar shut again and placed it into his satchel. Not a small feat considering how much the satchel was beginning to deform.
"Do you, um, need any....help?" Ryas had trouble following the horned blurr in front of him.
"No thank you, you wouldn't be able to find anything in here anyway- oh um, no offense. I just have my own way of storing things, here we go."
He placed another book in the bag.
"Do you really need all that stuff?" Tracks had abandoned his apparent distaste for the creature and was instead slowly walking around the room examining objects.
"Well YOU certainly don't seem prepared.." retcai gestured towards their lack of any kind of equipment "..so someone needs to be."
A very true statement, apparently none of the trio had thought to pack anything.
Thoroughly laden, the squat beast carefully navigated his way out of the library with the rest. The professor scowled at them as they left, but assumed a blank expression as soon as Ryas looked toward him.
Never saying goodbye, Retcai didn't seem too worked up over the prospects of leaving what was presumably his home.
"So, uh, anyone know anyone else we could ask?" Ryas addressed the very bizarre band he had assembled as they walked through the dusty streets.
"You kidding? me and didem are all that's needed! right bro?"
"right!" his fin rustled again
"Oh please, you two would have difficulty retrieving fruit from the marketplace, much less anything the prince himself has been assigned!"
"Look smarty, you're only here because prince-o says you can be, so don't push your luck!"
"Well of course a plebian such as yourself wouldn't appreciate my presence, you know you would be useless without me, neither of you dolts thought to pack!"
"Yeah well we don't need anything! right bro!?"
The bickering continued for some minutes before....
It was a roar barely conforming to words. a nearby pot shattered and quite a few villagers turned with a start to look at him.
Ryas didn't mean to yell, he just....got carried away sometimes..
"um, please s-stop...arguing..." Barely a whisper.
He tapped his claws together.
The three others were staring, eyes wide. "Dude....", with a concerned word Didem had summed up their stance on the situation.
Well at least they weren't arguing anymore.
A passing shadow caught tracks' eye as he looked skyward. A bird, nothing spec-
Wait, those wings were too big...was that a..?
But there was no way, no dino could-
"found a candidate." Tracks pointed upward, breaking the group's apprehensive trance.
"what? where? oh." Ryas had just noticed it too. He'd never seen a pterosaur fly that high, some of royal air squadrons might have managed it...but this one seemed almost comfortable.
Just then, the black speck turned northward, toward the jungle at the edge of town.
"Shall we?" Retcai was only slightly ahead of the rest of the group as they all made a 180 in an effort to catch up with the presumably amazing arial acrobat.
"Are you sure this fellow is worth it?" Retcai was panting heavily, navigating the dense underbrush outside the village while carrying all his books and equipment.
"Well maybe you should have packed lighter?" Tracks sneered
Ryas very loudly cleared his throat before biting off an offending tree branch, he wanted to avoid further bickering
"He's bound to slow down or something soon, no way he can stay up there for this long"
Ryas' assumption was proven wrong however, as they soon entered a small clearing and saw that the pterosaur was still flying high above them.
"Great, now what? He might be up there all night for all we know!"
retcai seemed to be absorbing tracks' impatience.
"Indeed, and who said he even wants to accompany us?"
They were cut off as the soaring object began plummeting to earth at an alarming rate.
"What the heck is he doing? he's going to crash if he doesn-"
The black speck spread his wings wide and instantly turned the dive into a lazy glide.
For the next few minutes, the four of them stared in utter awe. The pterosaur was spinning and looping and diving and soaring far beyond anything they'd ever seen. Ryas hadn't seen much of the royal air guard's movements, but this was a whole other level.
"Whoever this guy is, I'm getting him down here somehow" Said tracks, eyeing a small pebble at his feet.
the village was so tiny up here. No one could see him, he preferred it this way. The cold high-altitude air grazed across his face and down his flanks as he cut through the sky, his most favorite sensation.
He felt like getting some exercise today. that area should do nicely. The thermals warmed his belly as he rose ever higher.
The dive was sudden and precise, his wings held tight to his body as the ground raced towards him and the air shifted from cool to pleasantly warm. Not too fast now or the air-breaking would tear his wings off. With a snap his fleshy cape opened and caught his fall before he leveled out again.
This was great. This spot always had the best thermals, as the warm air from the basin met the mountain side and began to ascend. He could really cut loose here, he just hoped nobody saw him, he didn't like other dinos much.
A few dots in a clearing below caught his eye. Dinos? oh no, had they seen him? He hated being watched, it just felt wrong. He made a turn to fly back over the village when something struck his forehead extremely hard. The pain dazed him just enough to break his glide. He fell.
"HA! got em! did you see that throw!?" Tracks was the only one amused
Ryas slapped the raptor across the back of his head.
"Come on, we have to break his fall somehow!"
But at this point there was nothing they could do. the pterosaur was falling far too fast.
Thankfully the blow hadn't knocked the flier out entirely, and with a simple extension of one wing he turned the deadly fall into a lazy corkscrew to the surface of the clearing.
Rubbing his head, he looked at the now 4 strong group of very surprised dinos and simply said
"well um, you see, we need to.."
apparently the ordeal had re-triggered Ryas' insecurities, there was no way this skilled a flier would ever accept. the mission was probably something really silly anyway. Tracks didn't think so.
"We need your help for an important mission! this guy here's the prince himself! We saw you flying up there, you got some serious stuff!"
The pterosaur averted his eyes. They saw him? He hated people watching, he could feel their eyes on him.
And with that he attempted to take to the sky again, only to wobble slightly and hit the ground with a thud a moment later. He hated people watching.
"Here bro, let me help you out.."
Didem had picked a leaf from a nearby vine, placed it on the ground in front of him, and...sang to it?
A single, deep tone came from his maw for a few seconds. The leaf in front of him dissolved into a powder. He gingerly applied it to the winged dino's head wound, now quite swollen.
Ryas and Retcai were confused.
"How did you do that with your VOICE?" retcai questioned. He didn't like things he did not understand.
Tracks knew exactly what it was. "soul arts" he said simply. "dumb shaman stuff".
"It's not dumb bro, you should listen to the elder more, he's got some cool tricks!" The finned one had finished applying the salve, already the wound was subsiding.
Tracks didn't respond.
"Thank you", another lengthy monologue from the ever talkative pterosaur.
"What's your name, if I may ask?" Ryas was honestly curious in the fellow at this point.
"..." the pterosaur looked at the ground before quietly speaking, as if trying to remember.
No one had tried to talk to him like this before, at first he didn't like it but...
"...Etron" He concluded.
"kind of weird name if you ask m-" Tracks was interrupted by another slap on the back of his head.
"you really seem to know your stuff, and we could really use a scout....or something..."
Ryas' initially confident proposal caved in the end. This pterosaur, this Etron was a total loner, no way he'd go with them, why bother anyway?
Etron continued to stare at the ground. The pain in his skull had subsided and his ears had stopped ringing. He could easily fly away now, could easily escape these staring eyes... Three beats of his wings and he'd be out of sight and out of mind again...
But these four didn't seem so bad...maybe he could stand to have them watch for a while...
"...ok" He said quietly.
Tracks was particularly enthused. "all right! welcome aboard etriom!"
"err, yeah, that's what i said."
Their walk back through the village was somewhat difficult for etron, he had walked on the ground before, using the armature of his wings as forward support...but everyone was staring at them. Fliers didn't walk much, it drew eyes..those eyes...
Apparently his apprehension was showing, as Tracks gave him a reassuring nudge and wink. It was enough to calm him down at least...
They searched for another few hours, the sun was dipping below the peaks of the western mountains, the second half of the daily shifting valley light play would soon begin.
"I'm not seeing anydino worthwhile.."
Retcai was right, the rest of the younglings in the village didn't seem at all interested in anything the prince had to say. His reputation as a coward had long since spread to every corner of agrica. The markets were beginning to close up, and the influx of commuters drew more attention to Ryas, they were whispering behind their tails and claws again....
His claws tapped together seemingly on their own.
"Well, any bright ideas fellas?" Tracks seemed about ready to give up. The rest parroted his sentiments.
"Perhaps we will have better luck tomorrow" Retcai was in an unusually reassuring mood.
"Im getting tired bro" Didem's drawl had since become even more slurred.
"hrm" Etron could only manage a reassuring grunt.
"Well im not even sure what this assignment is, but the blood ritual is the day after tomorrow, there are bound to be more dinos our age running around then...." Ryas was just about to turn towards the town inn when Tracks stopped and stared at something.
It was a Compsognathus, a tiny dino by any standard, one of the smallest. he was sitting down in the dirt sobbing. Several larger dinos encircled him, mostly tooth-kinds, ruthlessly taunting him
"Ha ha! Tiny dart!"
"why do you even come out here anymore Itty-Bitty?"
"You should stay home with your mini-momma in her little mound!"
They kicked dirt in his face, spat, snarled and jeered.
Tracks was lost in memory.
Years prior, a small red velociraptor sat in that very same position, crying in much the same way.
"Ha ha, elder-chosen!" they said.
"You'll grow up to be a lonely old man!"
"Parlor tricks for the speedy tracks!"
"I'm not like him! I'll never be!" the little red raptor ran off, streaking tears.
"Tracks? Tracks what are you looking at?"
The now older red raptor strode over to the gathered circle of hatred.
"Hey, leave him alone" he said defiantly.
"Huh? Who are you?"
"Tracks, and if you don't scram right now, I'll run you all down." He put himself into a menacing readied stance, claws open, legs prepared for a sprint.
The bullies took the hint and wordlessly backed away before running off down the street.
The little object of their jeers still sat, his head hung low, the dirt before him turned to mud from tears and spit.
"You alright?" Tracks held out a claw.
"W-why?" The little dino was only barely holding back tears.
Tracks would need to save face, his new team mates were watching, better not seem like a softy.
"Because we need you for an important assignment! That guy is the prince and we're recruiting the best and the brightest for something!"
It was as if the first king himself had offered his claw to the little dino. His eyes lit up and the tears dried instantly.
"You really mean it? You need me?"
"Yeah! We'll need someone stealthy and your size should allow you to sneak anywhere!" Tracks made up his reasoning on the spot, immediately after realizing that perhaps drawing attention to the dino's size was not a good idea. The compsonathus didn't seem to care, and in fact relished the mild adoration.
"Yeah! I can sneak under any door in agrica, pick any lock, I'll get you where you need to go!"
Ryas seemingly fell for Tracks' bluff.
"amazing! but, what's your name?"
Being in a group with the prince of Agrica certainly did have benefits. They had acquired the master hall of the local Inn, and a bountiful feast for them all to share. It was only at this point that Ryas fully comprehended the absurdity of this group. A raptor, A dimetrodon, a triceratops, a pterosaur, a compsognathus, and himself, a t-rex, the prince.
"It's amazing that we're all together like this, I guess that prophecy was right!" Ryas said as he bit hungrily into a starfruit.
"Prophecy? Is that what this is all about?" Tracks hated any concept even approaching destiny. This was one of the many things he shared with Retcai, a fact neither would ever admit to, who responded in a like manner. "Prophecy nothing, we're just a good team and happened across each other at opportune times."
Etron was perched on a table in the corner, slowly pecking at a pineapple while staring off into space. Tracks had taken up the task of encouraging etron to be a little more forthcoming, he wasn't very good at it.
"Hey etome, here's a space right here..." gesturing towards an empty seat with a high back, perfect for perching
"no" the winged one said simply, never looking at tracks.
"pft, suit yourself."
Dart had apparently warmed up to the group greatly, however his enthusiasm was beginning to rub everyone the wrong way. He was an unfortunate combination of fast-talking and inquisitive.
"So! what's this assignment supposed to be hmm? Tine always seemed like a pretty cold guy to me is he really like that Ryas? And what's with that golden chain is it really old is it like an actual talon covered in gold? Oh and has anyone seen the light on the mountain nearby i hear it's causing animals to behave really weird near grey-river-"
"Dart" Didem attempted to interject
"Does the light have to do with our assignment? i bet it does, there isn't much else going on in agrica. Hey has anyone been to the capital? i hear it's really awesome at night and-"
"DART, maybe you should....chill out bro?"
Didem took the initiative in calming the little one down, not a moment too soon as Ryas was beginning to get a certain angry look in his eye again.
Oh course this was easy for him to say, having abided by a rather simplistic philosophy of stoicism and stillness all his life. Dart looked a little defeated, but remained quiet just the same, as if attempting to fully integrate what didem had said into his very being.
They retired uneventfully.
Ryas however, had difficulty accepting sleep. he stood on a balcony, staring at the mysterious light on the distant mountain peak. The moonlight accented the peaceful little village, one day he would rule this place....he wasn't sure if he wanted to.
A rustle to his left startled him, until he realized it was Etron performing the same ritual he was.
"nice moon" he commented simply.
"what? oh, yes, it is....but why are you out here?"
Etron continued to stare ahead, not at anything in particular.
"well, why did you join us anyway? you could have flown off..."
the pterosaur thought a moment, a single word described his revelation;
"oh, so you think we're your friends?"
Etron turned to the green giant slowly, thinking.
With that he waddled back to his bed, apparently tired enough now.
Ryas stared after him for a moment before returning to that beautiful night sky. The moon really was nice.
Tomorrow would be a big day, he had to report back to his father for the assignment.....accompanied by the 5 strange and eccentric fellows sleeping behind him.
a big day indeed.