|Upon exiting the Sanctuary's caves, Thistlebud watched as Tamith and Dylan positioned themselves for the battle. She and Quickstride stood momentarily at the Clan entrance, a bit unsure of what to do, as neither she nor the Gallimimus were trained warriors.
Her keen eyes quickly scanning the area nearby, Thistlebud realized that even though she lacked the skills of the warrior, she had other skills which would be in demand as a result of the battle -- that of a healing touch and a compassionate heart. Her years spent as a hatchery worker had often required her to perform ministrations on expectant saurian mothers having difficulty laying their eggs. She had also lavished tender care on feeble hatchlings emerging from their eggshells, some of them so fragile that only constant nurturing had enabled their survival.
The instinct and training of the Ovinutrix combined to guide her actions as she mentally assessed the injured nearby and made decisions as to which were the most severely wounded and requiring immediate care. She tended her charges with the healing herbs and ointments from her pack providing them with gentle but competent care. Gifted in her grasp of languages, Thistlebud spoke to each species in their own language, reassuring them with comforting words.
Azonthus charged towards an allosaur with a claws forward but stopped as someone shot a shaft from a bow at her opponents' chest. Looking around, she tried to figure out who could have done it.
The Allosaur shouted out a howl that could be heard everywhere over the incredible din of battle. The arrow only stuck in his chest, causing no damage but an annoyance. With one snap he ripped it out. He lunged forward with his gaping maw, trying to bite Azonthus in the leg and cripple her.
Azonthus was quick, and dodged the attack. She leapt out of the way, using her claws against his muzzle to push herself out of harms reach. "Skybax!" she called desperately. "Find the lead allo! It's he that we must kill to end this battle…" Her words trailed off as she again was forced to leap out of the way. "Please!"
"I'll see if I can," the Bax shouted back, knowing the raptor would be surprised she was speaking the velociraptor dialect. "How do I identify him?"
Quickstride watched somewhat distantly the battle before her. She had never seen this before. Something warm and furry brushed her hand, and looking down she saw that Rex had joined her. She then noticed that Thistlebud had left her side, and was off tending the wounded.
"Come on, let's see if we can help, too," said Quickstride, and she and Rex entered the chaos.
Meanwhile, Tigris was puzzled by what was happening all around her. Why couldn't carnosaurs ever solve anything without fighting? An allosaur lunged at her from the side, and with only partial interest she turned and grabbed the allo's back in her teeth and flung him into one of his fellows, who was charging her from the front. The carnosaurs slammed into each other hard and hit the ground in a heap, whimpering. Babies , she thought. If she'd wanted to really hurt them, she would have snapped the first allosaur's back with her powerful jaws, and then dealt personally with the second. These silly allosaurs had proven far easier than the bullying tarbosaurs from before, and Tigris could guess why. At first many of the allos had ganged up on her together, and she had had a rather difficult time of it, and if not for the help of the raptor warriors might not have survived the encounter. But as the allosaurs realized her heart didn't seem to be in this battle, and that their ranks were only being incapacitated further every time they tried dealing with her, they had focused their attack on more pressing things, like ShadowStriker.
Tigris could see the tyrannosaur out of the corner of her eye, plowing through allosaur after allosaur. Allos lay dead and dying around the warrior, but as Tigris watched she could see that for every allosaur he felled two new ones arrived to deal with him. They knew he was a major threat to their victory, and had to be destroyed at all costs. One allo succeeded in leaping onto ShadowStriker's back, and as he turned to deal with it another attacked him from the front. The allos around him began to close in. Tigris decided it was time she stepped in. With a great battle roar, and a sweep of her tail that broke the leg of an allosaur trying to attack her from behind, she charged.
Two-talon watched the slow breaths of the sleeping Utahraptor. He was concerned for Mist. It had been nearly half a day since he had given her the herbs that induced sleep. She needed the sleep, but still, he hadn't given her enough to sleep this long. Maybe it's just the stress she's been under, he thought hopefully.
While he sat there, waiting to move her to his clan grounds, his thoughts turned to his sister.Azonthus, what have you gotten yourself into this time?
MistReaver tossed her head back and forth, dreaming...
She saw her clan, her brother, in peace within the Sanctuary. She saw the members of all the clans of the Sanctuary and her breathing was slow, even. Suddenly her vision was blocked by red and a new scene appeared before her, the clearing to the south of the temple, covered in blood and dead warriors. She opened her mouth to scream, to warn them. But she wasn't there. She saw her kin slain and the wretched allosaurs that had once, long ago, tried to take clan grounds swarm. She saw strangers on her lands, and saw them too get injured, their blood staining the ground. She tossed violently and screamed, suddenly sitting up, her green eyes wide with fear. She found the velociraptor healer concerned, crouching next to her, along with ShadowRunner. He had a strange look on his face as he stared down at her. Finally something like understanding lit in his eyes.
"The blood of the enemy seeps into the soil as well as those of the clans, it does not discriminate. Mist, we have to go..."
The fierce Tyrannosaur had youth on his side, in addition to the battle tactic of striking from the shadows without warning, the attribute which had earned him his warrior name. However, in spite of this as well as a solid background of training under Azonthus, the seemingly unconquerable ShadowStriker found himself heavily under attack by numerous Allosaurs who were determined that he would not stand in their way of victory.
With a deep growl ShadowStriker shook his massive body in an effort to rid himself of an Allosaur which had managed to leap onto his back, turning his head and clamping his jaw shut, dagger like teeth crushing the arm of his foe. But before he could make another offensive move against the Allo, another came charging directly in front of him, head lowered in preparation for attack. Sensing that the Tyrannosaur was now in a position to be subdued and destroyed, nearby Allos began closing in upon ShadowStriker, jaws snapping and claws flexing. Emitting a series of loud roars, the warrior fought ferociously as he felt himself beginning to go down amidst the Allos.
Hearing a roar that was not his own nor belonging to the Allos, ShadowStriker glimpsed another body, felt the draft from the swish of a strong tail, heard the crack of bone, saw an Allosaur going down and then the female called Tigris, who traveled with Quickstride, was charging the Allos who surrounded him. Caught off guard, the Allos lost their concentrated effort against him. Quickly regaining his footing, ShadowStriker joined Tigris and he initiated the classic battle tactic of positioning himself back to back against the female, the two forming an almost impenetrable force against the invading Allos.
Quickstride and Rex stood at the outskirts of the battle, more or less ignored by both raptor and allo who were too concerned with killing each other. The allos had taken substantial losses, but the Clans had suffered too, and it looked as if either side might carry the day. ShadowStriker and Tigris were valiantly fighting, but it was clear they were starting to tire as each wave of new allosaurs descended upon them. Quickstride wondered if they would all fight to the last warrior.
She looked around, hoping for a weapon. She spied the limp form of an Utahraptor on the ground, a wooden spear of some sort in his claw. Quickstride raced up to the form, checked for a pulse, or some other sign of life. None. The warrior was dead. Gently, she pried the spear from his claws, thanking the slain warrior. He would no longer need it, but Quickstride very well might. A piercing shriek made her look up. The Skybax, Highsoar, was wheeling about in the sky, dipping her wing as if indicating something on the ground. The Gallimimus looked to where the wing pointed. There stood a large, badly scarred allosaur, standing a little away from the main battle. Glancing around him, Quickstride could see the bodies of many raptors, slain in their attempts to vanquish this formidable enemy. He roared, and all at once both Quickstride and Rex recognized him. The same allosaur that had driven them over the falls in Waterfall City, the allosaur that had orchestrated the attack on the city, and now the attack on the Clans, the allosaur who had committed more atrocities than any saurian should even hear about: Herak.
Looking around, Quickstride could see that no one else seemed to have noticed the Skybax, so involved were they in the battle.
"Rex, go find Azonthus, anyone," she whispered to the dog. He whimpered in protest, not wanting to leave her in the midst of danger.
"If we destroy Herak then we will end this fighting. Now go!" Still reluctant, Rex disappeared in search of help. Quickstride hoped he would be safe. She looked back at Herak. A young allosaur, badly wounded and scared to death, tried to flee the battle. She watched as the enraged Herak sank his teeth into the younger saurian, who shrieked and collapsed to the ground. Herak has to be taken down , thought Quickstride. Silently, she crept closer. She had to keep an eye on where Herak was, lest he disappear again. A Utah warrior burst from the foliage and landed on the lead allo's head. With a snarl, Herak flung the young warrior down. Stunned, the raptor lay motionless on the ground as the huge maw came down to finish him.
"No!" yelled Quickstride, dashing from her hiding spot. Herak turned, and without a thought Quickstride thrust her spear forward, striking the allosaur in his right eye. Herak let out a howl of pain louder than his battle roar and reared up. Quickstride stared in shock. She hadn't meant to blind him, but she could not have just sat there as...
Herak's cry quickly turned to a deep growl, and despite the great pain he was in he lowered down his head to stare at the Gallimimus through his good eye. "That was a grave mistake, my pretty one," he said, "for I may have lost an eye, but you shall now lose much more..." As the allo came closer, Quickstride knew there was no escape.
Az looked around the battle, terrified that the raptors that had helped her would loose. There was a loud barking noise and something large and furry ran up to Azonthus. In the heat of battle she almost attacked him. Only his quick movements saved him from a deadly wound from the raptor. When Azonthus had another look at the brown creature, she realized that it was Rex, Quickstrides friend. "Rex! Where's Quickstride?"
He barked and nudged Azonthus in one direction. She quickly caught on and followed him. Jogging and dodging the numerous battles with the allos and utahs's, they soon made it safely to Quickstride.
Azonthus arrived just in time to see Quickstride thrust a spear into Herak's eye. Herak! Az thought, shuddering at the memories connected to him. Quickstride? I didn't know she could fight! Nice move with the spear… Then Herak's head swung down towards Quickstride, mouth open, prepared to end the life of Az's friend.
"No!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Az screamed and acted before thinking. She lunged towards Quickstride, pushing her out of the way.
They barely managed to get out of the way. Herak's head crashed into the hard ground of the Basin and all he got was a mouth full of dirt.
"Quickstride, are you ok?" Azonthus, asked, near breathless from fear. She gave her friend a quick look over to make sure she wasn't badly injured, then lunged back at Herak, attacking as she had been trained to from hatchlighood.
Herak kept diving and kicking at Azonthus, trying to either bite her or bowl her over, but the raptor was faster than he. Azonthus's old name hadn't been Moves-like-the-wind for nothing. Speed had always been her main defense, and she was using it now. She would run in-between his legs, leap onto his back, biting and clawing here and there.
Azonthus kept this up for as long as possible. Once Herak was defeated, the war would be over. Soon, she tried a new tactic; instead of attacking him she would stay on the ground, just out of biting reach. The next time Herak's gigantic head came down with teeth bared, Az ran around his feet and leapt at them putting all her weight into bowling him over. Leaning over, Herak was already off balance, but Azonthus' kick was all it took to push him over. He fell onto his side and his head crashed down onto the ground. His head fell to the side, and the spear was driven deeper into his brain. His mammoth legs jerked and he grunted, then lay still.
Azonthus had only wanted to get him down and injure him, not kill him. She stared at the inert form, gasping for air. All she could think of was that she had killed. Not for food, but ruthlessly killed a living creature. She began trembling and her legs gave way. Azonthus fell to the ground without a word, devastated. This was worse than betraying her friends!
All Azonthus could do was stare at the life she had taken.
Quickstride came over to her friend. "Nice move," she said, with no emotion in her voice. She herself was a bit dazed at what had happened. "Thank you for saving my life."
"And thank you for saving mine," said the Utahraptor warrior, getting to his feet, apparently recovered from his tumble. "You both fought very well."
Deciding Az needed some time to think alone, Quickstride, Rex bounding by her side to protect her from the threat should it somehow return, examined the body before her. She checked for life signs, though she knew there was no point- really, it was partly out of empathy and partly for her own reassurance. She then pulled the spear out of the skull, carefully wiping the gore off on the foliage. She was silent and subdued- she hadn't lost all empathy for Herak, for even though he was evil, he had been a fellow creature- though almost being killed by him twice had somewhat diminished any such feelings for him. Then, she realized, everything around her was silent as well. The battle had stopped, and all eyes were focused upon the scene: the dead body of an allosaur, a Utahraptor warrior, a Gallimimus with a spear, a dog, and a Velociraptor lying on the ground staring blankly.
The sudden cry broke the strange peace that had befallen the battlefield. Looking up, Quickstride saw that three new saurians had arrived, a female Allosaurus, a blue Baryonyx watching the allo warily, and a very familiar Deinonychus- C'xoila! "How dare you?!" raged the allosaur. She seemed near tears. "How dare you deny me my revenge?! I, Saar, deserved the pleasure of vanquishing that infernal creature called Herak! How dare you?!"
Tigris and ShadowStriker approached the newcomers warily; ready to attack should something happen. "Yes, don't you just hate it when nemeses die before you can kill them," commented the Carcharodontosaurus. ShadowStriker grunted- perhaps tyrannosaurian laughter?
While Saar continued to fume, C'xoila and his Baryonyx friend rushed to Azonthus' side. Quickstride placed the spear beside Herak, not wanting to take credit for the deed of another. Even if she had done it, she wasn't sure she'd want credit. C'xoila stared at the body of his foe, shivering even thought he knew he was dead.
"'Zonthus, what happen?"
The allosaurs slowly stopped their attacks short, gazing in the direction of their fallen leader. K'veer watched from nearby, looking at Azonthus in surprise. She was ready, but she needed some final training.
Xilon stepped away from the group of raptors he'd been helping battle a large allosaur and stepped forward. LunarFrost slipped quietly next to him and the two clan leaders surveyed the bloodshed that covered their ground. They saw their fallen warriors, the strangers, injured during a battle that wasn't even their own, and the allosaurs, some maimed, dead and dying on the field. The others stared blankly at the fallen Herak. The quiet that had resumed after the appearance of C'xoila, Cerule and Saar was broken by FireBane. Screaming madly, triumphantly he ran through the clearing and through the jungle to where Herak lay. Raising his voice in mad glee he roared to all assembled. "The Sanctuary proves itself worthy yet again!" His eyes were wild and dangerous. Disgusted, LunarFrost stepped forward.
"Do you not see what we have lost?" She asked quietly, forcefully. "Do you not see the bodies strewn across the ground? The blood that stains the Temple grounds? We have won nothing, FireBane. You disgust me so." She narrowed her icy eyes at the fire colored leader who lowered his claws and whose gaze immediately turned as cold as the white raptor's.
"Those dead not from my clan don't concern me, Frost." He spat this nickname which got a low growl in response from the Sea of Cold leader.
"You try my patience, FireBane." She said with a low snarl and revealed a few of her front teeth. FireBane looked menacingly at the strangers gathered and let refused to move from his position before the fallen allosaur leader.
"Zonthus?" C'xoila quietly asked, "Yous kay?" He placed his clawed hand on her shoulder.
Azonthus stared straight ahead. "I killed him." Her voice was flat and held no emotion. "I killed him."
"I...I," she began hesitantly, "I've never killed before. I've hunted, but never killed like this." She looked down at her hands, expecting to see them dripping with blood, but there was none. Slowly, her head sank and her eyes closed. Azonthus' hands clenched into fists and unclenched several times.
C'xoila stood by, powerless to help his friend.
Slowly, as if in a trance, Azonthus stood. C'xoila took a half step back and watched her. She moved towards the spear at Quickstrides feet. Bending down, she picked it up. When she straightened, all could see the hardened look on her face.
Azonthus strode over to Herak. "You were a worth opponent. Thank you. Thank you for showing me what is needed to be a leader," she whispered. Then, she bowed, honoring the slain allosaur.
Silence reigned supreme for a moment. Azonthus did a quick salute, pulling the spear upright and gazing evenly at Herak. Turning, she looked everyone in the eye.
"Herak is dead. And so are many others," Her voice carried clearly. "And it was all for NOTHING!" she roared. "Why can't you make peace and stop the fighting? You can't even stop fighting amongst yourselves," she said motioning to LunarFrost and FireBane. She walked over to an injured Utahraptor and helped him up. "Try to save those you can," she declared and walked off towards the Sanctuary while helping the limping warrior to medical attention.
For a moment there was silence, and no one moved but Azonthus and the injured raptor. Then Quickstride stepped forward. "Well?" she asked all assembled. "What are you standing there for? There are wounded to be tended, dead to be honored. I don't care who you are, why you were fighting, just MOVE! Now!" That said, Quickstride moved to the form of the young allosaur Herak had killed, the last creature who would ever fall victim to his terrible fangs. She bent her head as a sign of respect. Religions varied greatly from individual from individual in Dinotopia, and though Quickstride's personal beliefs were a hybridized form of basal Christianity and many other religions, she knew the allosaur's beliefs, whatever they were, if anything, were probably far different. Still, though it felt awkward, she made the sign of the Cross, knowing that whatever God, gods, or other deities reigned in those realms beyond mortality would know the gesture was well meant. She paused for a few minutes, reflective, and when she looked up saw that the others, be they raptor, allosaur, rex, carcharodont, or otherwise, were, if not helping the wounded, also starting the various rituals they held for a slain warrior. They differed from species to species, and even within many of the species were quite different, but the different tongues, the different chants, all blended together to perform the most beautiful symphony Quickstride had ever heard. She went to the side of the slain raptor, whose spear she had taken, and began performing the burial rituals.
FireBane backed away from LunarFrost and retreated back to the Sanctuary, after Azonthus helping the wounded warrior. LunarFrost looked after him and seemed pained. Hearing the gold and purple gallimimus with the strange feathers speak brought her back to the grounds she stood on. Bowing her head she silently sent her own wishes of luck and peace to the raptors. Her own belief held that the worthy would be placed among the stars that lined the sky, and if they wanted they could act as guides for the others through this life. She opened her eyes to find the gallimimus starting to perform the rest of the ritual and was amazed. Though not of the same specie the saurian held such respect for the fallen. LunarFrost walked over to her and started to chant quietly. Soon the other raptors of her clan and those of the others began the harmonic song and raised their voices, praising the lost warrior of their own, and showing regret for the young allosaurs who died as well.
Not a word was mentioned of Herak yet LunarFrost touched a single claw to his limp foreclaws, her final way of saying goodbye. Breathe Deep, Seek peace she thought quietly as she called her hunting party together. They would take their clan member's bodies to the edge of clan grounds, where they would be left on the riverbank. They had not died in vain, and it was only right, as the Sanctuary had held for centuries, that their flesh should be then given to help another's life. One by one the raptors of the hunting party, joined by the others as well, paired up, each pair delicately lifting one of the fallen raptors and forming a long, swaying line deeper into the forest to the Emerald Falls. They sang as they marched, and their song was bright, they relished in the fact their fallen companions were in a better place and would not want their mourning. The line of raptors slowly wound deeper and deeper into the forest, LunarFrost and Xilon in the lead.
It was over. Just like that, everyone around her had stopped fighting and stared at the fallen Allosaur, Azonthus, Quickstride, and their surroundings. From her tree, Tamith could see all this. She thanked the heavens she had not had to kill anyone nor anything in the period of her stay there. A quick look at Azonthus' face proved she wasn't feeling very well at the moment. Jumping down from the tree, she was only too happy to land on Tri's back. She had not seen her throughout the entire battle, but bleeding slashes across her side were more than enough proof of her assistance. She quickly slide off her and joined Dylan and Karua that were now walking to the gathering group.
Seeing what Quickstride and the white raptor were doing, she encouraged Dylan and the others to do the same. Chanting softly the song of mourning all those around her were singing they joined the now mixed processions of creatures carrying the bodies of the dead to their final resting place. Seeing all the destruction around her, she had to inhale deeply to fight of the sudden urge to cry. Such a waste of life, and all for what? Nothing. Life brings life, hate brings hate, and death more death. Yet for some strange reason, only when these take place can there be unity. Now, Allosaurs, raptors, and the rest of the gathered creatures had finally joined to honor those they had lost one last time.
As a warrior, ShadowStriker had great respect for those fallen in battle, both those he had fought with and those he had fought against. In his deep rumbling voice he sang a mournful chant in honor of the deceased warriors. The massive strength he had previously used to defeat his enemies was now willingly used as he carried the bodies of the fallen ones upon his strong back to their final resting places.
Her species dedicated to bringing forth new life, the Ovinutrix was deeply sorrowful over the loss of so many lives she now witnessed on the battlefield. Thistlebud briefly joined ShadowStriker in the mournful chant honoring the deceased, her high pitched chirps and squeaks in contrast to his deep rumbling, the voice of grief expressed by each somehow blending together amidst this tragedy.
While she saw the need to carry the fallen warriors to their resting places in order that they may receive a proper burial, Thistlebud knew that she was needed even more elsewhere. There were still many wounded who had not been tended to in the heat of the battle, injuries still fresh upon both sides of the combatants. She wove her way through friend and foe alike tending their injuries as best she could, not seeing a comrade or an enemy, only a life that needed to be preserved.
The Skybax glided over the trees, looking down at the battlefield. She saw the scenes of death and violence and could only think of how un-Dinotopian it all was. She landed in a tree near the group of dinosaurs and tried to figure out what was going on.
Very little was said as the wounded were taken into the sanctuary and the fallen to the riverbank, and when words were exchanged it was usually only for the sake of efficiency ("careful, now" or "watch the slope here.") ShadowStriker and Tigris now, for the first time since the battle, parted; he aiding mostly in the carrying of slain allosaurs, being able to lift them far easier than the raptors and also the smaller allosaurs that were working with them, and she in transporting wounded carnosaurs. Though she had participated in some of the funeral rituals, like Thistlebud her logical mind told her emphasis should be placed on the living. Quickstride and Rex disappeared amongst the activity, busy helping with whatever was in need of them. Soon the battlefield was barren of almost all life, the only testament anything had even happened being the blood, which would be left to the rain to cleanse. There were only two other things left behind. One was the body of Herak, for though all wanted to carry him away, off to where he might finally find peace, none dared approach the second thing left upon the field. Weeping like a bereaved spouse over the fallen allosaur leader's body, Saar drove away all who came near. As night fell, the only sound to be heard was that of an allosaur crying.
Azonthus had searched the entire field and had found everyone she had looked for except for one raptor, Esk. Esk seemed to have vanished and Azonthus was frantic with worry. She looked over at Saar and Herak. Who would have known that Saar would feel that way about Herak? Killing Herak still weighed heavy on Azonthus' conscious, but it had been a necessary evil. Perhaps now, the raptors of the C'xsaan and the Sanctuary could rest easy knowing that one threat had been diminished.
Growling to herself, Az shook her head and went back into the sanctuary. Hopefully Esk was only injured and not something worse.
As she neared FeatherDawns cave, she heard a very distinctive voice shouting "I do NOT need help. You help others. Others more important. I need find Azonthus, get her to clan." Az's pace quickened to almost a run and she soon entered the cave.
"Esk! There you are!" Az was beyond relieved to see her friend alive and well. Maybe not so well... Esk was staggering around the room trying to evade LiquidFire who was chasing her with some bandages. Esk came very close to falling over several times but managed to right herself before crashing into the hard floor or an injured raptor. As Az watched her, she realized just what was wrong with Esk; her tail hung at an odd angle, apparently broken. And the broken tail only seemed to annoy Esk more.
"Az! You get to clan now. You took care of Sanctuary, now your clan needs you. Go, go, go!" Esk pointed emphatically at the door, but the motion caused her to finally fall over.
Seizing the opportunity, LiquidFire quickly caught up with the temperamental velociraptor, picked her up, and carried her over to a stone table in the middle of the room where some sort of paste was waiting.
Az smiled at the scene. Apparently content that she had told Az what to do, Esk was now sitting still and allowing LiquidFire to place the strong smelling goo on her tail and bandage it. LiquidFire kept muttering to herself about helping raptors who would rather have died on the field than be put through the indignity of a broken tail. "I'll be heading back to the Sharpclaw as soon as you can come with me Esk. But I'm going to go find C'xoila when I can. I need to talk to him."
Esk muttered something that Az didn't quite catch, but sounded like "Trading your clan for a guy."
Az rolled her eyes and went out the door, searching for her friend. Every time she thought of Waterfall City her entire body felt heavier and her heart seemed to relocate itself to the bottom of her stomach like a lead weight in water. She knew that she had told C'xoila exactly what had happened, but she still didn't feel that he could forgive her. How could he when she hadn't forgiven herself yet? It was fitting that she be back in the Basin, but as leader of her clan? Az was only going through with leading her clan out of duty and not from any desire to lead. She was no leader and doubted she ever would be. Esk was more of a leader than she, perhaps she could convince Strongbow to accept Esk as leader instead.
Az sighed and continued down the long corridors, vaguely thinking of what would happen if she got lost again.
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