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Fallen Father

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    Another chapter from Four Kinds Quest:

    The scheme of the Fanged Flattooth and Tyrannus hadn’t just turned Littlefoot’s life upside down that early morning. Another young dinosaur’s childhood was also shattered forever.
    Young Andromeda, a six-month-old Strongbiter, who barely was old enough to talk, was with her uncle Androcles and her aunt Ursa. Her mother, Regina, had been killed some weeks earlier in a fight with some Threehorns. She was still having a hard time getting over that. Her father, Tyrannus, had had to explain over and over that mother wasn’t ever coming back.
    Where daddy go? she asked Androcles for the third time since he’d left.
    I already told you all that I know. He’s talking to a dinosaur, an odd one if you ask me, about a way to get back at our old enemies in the Great Valley. he replied gruffly, his patience tested by her many questions she’d been asking for the past three hours after Tyrannus had left.
    Great Valley? Isn’t that those who kicked us out long ago?
    Yes, it was. The Longnecks killed many of us and chased us out. Luckily, the pack found another decent place with lots of water. It also had lots of green food, which lured the Leaf Eaters there so our ancestors ate well.
    What’s an ancestor?
    Someone who was born before you were?
    Are you my ancestor?
    No. I mean someone who was born and died before you were born. Your most famous ancestor was Formidolo, the leader of what those land-stealing Longnecks now call the Great Valley. Formidolo was killed by a Longneck, who was angry that we had killed his wife and nest of eggs. We had been so close to driving the Longnecks out and then he was killed, leaving your great-grandfather without a father. Most of the other Strongbiters settled in Strongbiter Valley but we chose to migrate. We were determined not to live there, as though this wasn’t over, as though we’d given up all hope that we’d get our home back someday.
    Why are we going back?
    We were told to in a Sleep Story.
    A Sleep Story? That’s silly!
    I would agree, had not your father and I both had the same one.
    What happened in it?
    The Great Being, He told us that the time would come when the leadership of the Great Valley would be defeated by a young Strongbiter not yet born, but that would be born soon. He is to be your future mate. He, the Great Being said, will finally get things set to right.
    What’s a mate?
    Someone you fall in love with and spend the rest of your life with.
    What if I don’t wanna be his mate?
    I’m sure you’ll like him.
    How will we know which one he’s ‘pposed to be?
    The Great Being told your father and I that he’d be the first Strongbiter to be hatched in the Great Valley since the Longnecks chased us out. What’s more, as incredible as it sounds, his egg would be brought in by a Longneck.
    Are you sure he’s real?
    Yes. Your father and I have had the same sleep story many times.
    When will daddy get back?
    I don’t know?
    I hope he gets back soon.
    I don’t know why I wasn’t invited!
    It was her uncle Malum. Because your brother is the oldest and you’re the youngest. He would be in line for the leader of the Great Valley if we can oust the accursed Flatteeth from our rightful domain. replied Androcles.
    I still say that all of us should have come.
    Impractical. Someone would have to watch Andromeda now that Regina is dead. Androcles remarked.
    Andromeda, upon hearing her mother’s name and again being reminded that she was dead, began to cry. You had to bring her death up again, didn’t you? Ursa scolded her mate. Poor dear is still struggling with the loss of her mother.
    Some hours later, it was nightfall and still Tyrannus was not back. I’m sure nothing has happened to him. Ursa reassured Andromeda.
    Are you sure? Andromeda asked. Normally, she wouldn’t have been too worried, as this wasn’t the first time her father hadn’t been back by dark. However, since her mother’s death, she’d been really on edge.
    Yes. she said aloud. I really hope nothing has happened to him or else it’ll absolute devastate the poor dear! she thought inside her head.
    Andromeda climbed up onto her aunt and uncle and slept between them. Her uncle Malum slept separate from them. As comfortable as she was, Andromeda didn’t sleep well for she was still worried about her father. In the middle of the night, she leapt to the ground, thankfully landing in a pile of soft dirt, the same pile she had used to climb up onto her aunt and uncle earlier.
    URRRRG! Her stomach growled. Though she’d eaten insects, she was still hungry. Maybe she could catch something bigger. Then her father would be really proud of her!
    She scouted around in the dark. Eventually, she caught a whiff of the smell of a Longneck. She knew the smell well, having eaten Longneck many times. Her family had told her all about how Longnecks had killed many of her ancestors in the Great Valley 80 years earlier. As such, she thought it would be appropriate for her first dinosaur kill.
    She tracked the smell to a group of four Longnecks. Two older adults, a young adult female, and a young boy. Obviously, the three adults were too much for her. But the boy might be killable.
    As she slowly moved toward the Longneck, a dragonfly moved past her. Normally, she’d have gone after it, it being more suitable for her than an entire Longneck, which, truth be told, she wouldn’t be able to eat it all anyway. But she didn’t know or care about this. She wanted her Longneck. Daddy would be so proud!
    As she drew nearer to the Longnecks, a Hopper came after the dragonfly and nearly knocked her over. It landed next to the Longneck and woke him up. He took off, chasing after it.
    Andromeda ran after the Longneck. It had come to settle in a pond by the hopper. But it wasn’t alone. There was a Threehorn with it. It sounded to her, for she couldn’t understand a word of the herbivores’s language, that they were arguing about it. Why would Flatteeth want to eat a Hopper?
    The two soon were playing in the pond. She thought this was her chance to kill both of them, little realizing how hard such a feat would be for one as young as herself. All she cared about was seeing how happy her father would be when she did it.
    And speaking of her father, she caught a whiff of his smell. Daddy? she cried out.
    The two Flatteeth were far less enthused about the approaching Tyrannus!
    “Sharptooth!” they cried.
    The two dinosaurs ran. Andromeda didn’t see how they could stand a chance against her father. The two Flattooth children soon tried to hide in a forest of thorny brambles. Her father tried to find them, sniffing for them. Andromeda wondered where her father had been and why he had suddenly turned up to pursue two Flattooth children so late at night. She could see the children slowly creeping away from her father and tried to signal him to alert him to where they were headed.
    He turned to see her and nodded. Andromeda crept through the thorns until she saw her father bearing down on the Longneck. He was trapped by a vine and soon would be done for.
    At the last moment, however, the apatosaurus child broke free and the thorns slammed into her father, hitting him directly in the eye. Nooooooo! Andromeda cried out in horror.
    The two children ran from the injured Strongbiter. Kill them daddy! Andromeda called after him, hoping he’d make the two Flatteeth pay for injuring his eye. Her father was almost upon them when suddenly he was whacked by the tail of an adult Longneck, probably the mother of the Longneck child, and sent flying.
    Her father soon got back up and he and the Longneck mother engaged in an intense fight. Eventually, the Longneck mother tailwhacked her father and she, her son, and the Threehorn child all turned to run. Andromeda knew that they were making a mistake. You never turn your back on an attacking Sharptooth. The Threehorns that had killed her mother learned this the hard way, retreating after slaying Regina only to be attacked in the back by a vengeful Tyrannus. Tyrannus launched himself through the air, landing on the back of the Longneck and tearing off several chunks of her flesh. Eventually, she dislodged him and knocked him away. The Flattooth trio again retreated. Still, Andromeda didn’t see how any of them would last long once her father got back up.
    Much as the Strongbiter vs. Flathead fight had awoken Ariana’s parents, Ignatius and Irene, it also had awoken Androcles, Ursa, and Malum. Where’s Andromeda? Ursa asked, panicked that her niece had disappeared.
    I don’t know. I thought she was sleeping with you two. Malum said, yawning.
    Clearly, she must have left in the night. We’ve got to find her. Androcles said.
    I’m sure Tyrannus will find her. Malum said.
    The group could smell him nearby, but couldn’t see him.
    I still think we should make sure she’s safe. Ursa argued.
    That girl can be a pain in the tush! Malum grumbled.
    At that moment, the ground began to shake. Earthshake! all three of them cried in alarm.
    Andromeda could feel the ground shaking as well. She’d been through an earthquake before, but she’d had her mother and father with her at the time. Also, the one that was occurring right now was far worse than the one she’d been through. In fact, though she didn’t know it, it was far worse than any her family had ever been through either.
    The ground literally began to open up beneath her. She ran, screaming, in a panic. Nearby, her father had gotten back up and ran forward, chasing after the Flattooth children at first, but, as the ground continued to break up, his focus soon changed from trying to kill them, to mere survival. He nearly crushed the Flattooth children with his feet. Then, as the earth opened up, all three of them narrowly avoided blasts of fire coming out of the opened earth, which seemed to have been torn miles deep by the incredible tremors.
    Andromeda, get over here! It was her aunt Ursa.
    Daddy! We need daddy! she cried.
    Tyrannus can handle himself.
    However, she’d spoken too soon. Soon, the ground began to tilt and Tyrannus and the two Flatteeth began to tilt toward a newly opened chasm. The two children ran up Tyrannus, who was now slipping over the edge. Andromeda looked in horror as the Longneck mother swatted away her father before grabbing the two children and pulling them to safety. Andromeda screamed as her father fell out of her sight.
    Andromeda didn’t want to leave, half expecting her father to somehow climb up from the depths of the canyon. However, with the earth still crumbling, Ursa seized her with two of her claws and lifted her up, carrying her off, crying and sobbing. Eventually, she found her mate and Malum and the three ran for it, not stopping until the earth had stopped shaking.
    When is Daddy going to come back? Andromeda asked, tears in her eyes.
    I’m afraid he’s not, Androcles replied.
    It’s not fair, both mommy and daddy can’t be dead!
    Dear, it’s part of the circle of life. Sometimes we win and sometimes the Leaf Eaters win. Ursa said gently.
    I hate that Longneck! She hurt Daddy! Andromeda fumed.
    She didn’t hurt him, she killed him! Malum said.
    No, Daddy can’t be dead! Andromeda sobbed.
    I’m afraid he is. Thanks to that stupid Longneck, Malum said.
    It’s not fair to blame that Longneck for what happened to Tyrannus, Ursa said.
    Why not? They kicked us out of the Great Valley.
    And that Longneck pushed Daddy into that big hole! Andromeda said, also wanting to blame Ariana for what had happened.
    Andromeda was hard to console. She refused to accept that Tyrannus was dead. Strangely, some days after seeing him fall into the Big Underground, she thought she smelled him. His scent seemed to be in attached to a crushed Tree Star in a Strongbiter footprint that she’d found. She thought the footprint belonged to her father.
    Come quick, I found Daddy’s scent! she cried. The others came running, though more to humor Andromeda than because they believed that Tyrannus could still be alive. However, as the other came into sight, the wind began to blow away the Tree Star fragments. No! she wailed.
    Andromeda, it’s time you stopped the games already! Tyrannus is dead and that’s final! Malum thundered.
    Androcles elbowed him in the stomach. Dear, I know you miss your father, but he’s clearly not here. he said to his niece.
    After that day, Andromeda found no further scents of her father. Eventually, she conceded that he was indeed dead. Eventually, they reached Strongbiter Valley and, knowing him to be the heir of Formidolo, the pack leader quickly handed over control of the valley to Androcles, knowing he couldn’t take him in a fight anyway. Control of a pack and its territory could either be handed over willingly or won by slaying the current pack leader in a battle to the death. The old pack leader wisely chose to hand over control via the former option.
    Andromeda, as she grew, channeled her hatred for Longnecks into her hunting. Her first prey, killed at two years of age, was a Longneck child. As she progressed in age and skill, she was killing larger and larger Longnecks, outstripping her peers. By her teens, she was beginning to rival her father in fighting skill. You just can’t wait to make those Longneck scum pay, can you? her uncle Malum said gleefully.
    Though he hadn’t cared for her too much as a child, finding her antics annoying, he loved her hatred for Longnecks, particularly those of the Great Valley, a hatred he shared. Don’t you think she’s taking this too far? Androcles asked his brother.
    Nonsense. When this Chosen One that you and Tyrannus saw in your Sleep Stories comes around, he’s going to really want to be her mate. Makes her a tempting prize. Then we can use him to finally get revenge on the Great Valley and reclaim what is ours!
    Andromeda would indeed meet the Chosen One from her father’s Sleep Story, but that tale will be told later.

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