|Quickstride's next clear memory was waking up on a small, too small, nestbed in a tiny house. She lifted her head very carefully, but still it was only with much pain. She looked around. She was covered in bandages; her neck was bound, as was her left leg, and her ribs, and the upper half of her tail, in addition to many smaller bandages for many cuts and bruises. She felt like a mummy. Looking around some more, she located Rex on another nestbed, who was also bandaged, though somehow he seemed to look a little less so than Quickstride; probably due to the fact that he was a better swimmer, able to dog-paddle with four legs, thus avoiding more injuries. He too was awake, and wagged his tail weakly.
"Ah, awake now you are, so good, so good!" a strange voice chirped in one of the ornithomimosaur dialects. Quickstride turned to see a six-foot long Harpymimus who had entered the room. She was reddish brown, and instead of the beak most of her relatives possessed she instead had a few blunt teeth in the front of her jaws. Several other Harpymimuses entered behind her, singing happily.
"Tell me friend, where am I?" asked Quickstride.
"The Towers of Time, the Time of the Towers," replied the Harpy. It took Quickstride a moment to process this, but then she realized she must be at the Time Towers, and these were the Harpymimus caretakers of the towers her friend Fleetfeet had once told her about. The Time Towers? She must have floated for days along the Polongo! How had she survived? She vaguely remembered half consciously grabbing onto a piece of driftwood...
Quickstride decided that whatever supernatural being must have been watching over her for her to survive all that, she must remember to thank sometime. Quickstride tried to rise, but with a cry of shock and pain sank back down under her left leg. The Harpies immediately sang that she must rest, and that food would be brought to her and her companion. Quickstride decided it was just as well, while she was healing she could sort out all that had happened and plan her next move. She had to find out what had happened to Francis, Jonathan, and the others, especially Azonthus. Quickstride didn't know why, but following the Velociraptors trail had disturbed her. The way the raptor's trail had gone, the smell of blood and of injury, the emotions that seemed to hang in the air in her wake...
After having been to the hatchery and relating to her partner-friends Maia and Thistlebud all that she had discovered regarding the raptor Azonthus, the three friends had sent a message scroll to their friend in the Rainy Basin, the Tyrannosaur warrior ShadowStriker. If anyone could track Azonthus through the Rainy Basin it would be he, who was trained as a warrior by the raptor.
ShadowStriker's father, Greyback the Fierce, had earlier summoned the three hatchery workers to their Clan in order to warn them of the impending Allosaur attack on Waterfall City and to offer them a safe haven with the Clan. Needless to say, due to the turmoil that had existed at the time, the message scroll had reached them too late, the trio having already arrived in Waterfall City.
The hatchery workers met ShadowStriker at the Bonabba Bridge and the friends began discussing what they could do to help Azonthus.
With Thistlebud translating, ShadowStriker agreed to help, "I could try to follow her tracks. If she's hurt, she has probably left a trail of blood."
Mathaira began to reply, "You're right..."
Her words were cut off as she turned away from the great vertebrae bridge to see a dark colored raptor with her staff level at the ground right in front of the raised bridge. The raptor appeared to be injured and in pain, traces of crimson blood were seen around her waist and trickling down her mouth. Not wanting to harm her any further, ShadowStriker merely blocked the weakened raptor with his tremendous bulk just as she attempted to vault the chasm that separated Bonabba from the Rainy Basin.
Dinner was a stew of various fish and crustaceans of the Polongo, which delighted both dog and saurian. The Harpies sang a joyful tune throughout dinner, but gradually their song grew slower and softer as the sun set and night fell, and it lulled Quickstride and Rex to sleep. By morning they were awakened by the sun's warm light and the corresponding song of the saurians, and were brought cold but delicious fish and insects for breakfast. However, as the Harpymimuses left for their day's work, polishing and maintaining the timepieces, someone else arrived. The dark little Dimorphodon settled on the window sill and chirped to get Quickstride's attention. "You Quickstride? And Rex-dog?"
"Why yes, why?"
"Boy and Eudimorphodon in Waterfall City worry, want to know what come of you."
"Francis and Jonathan? Do you mean Francis and Jonathan sent you?"
The Dimorphodon paused, then nodded his head yes. While the two hadn't formally introduced themselves to him, he had seen and heard much throughout the city and vaguely recalled their names from his "spying."
"Are they all right, then?" Quickstride asked eagerly.
"Francis and Jonathan fine. Darkwing return. What should Darkwing tell?"
Quickstride thought a moment. She didn't want those two worried about her and coming to find her. "Tell them I'm fine, and that they are to go back to Outer Island ahead of me- I'll catch up."
Darkwing turned as if to fly away.
"Wait!" said Quickstride suddenly. The little flyer paused and looked to her. "Is there anything else you can tell me? About the city? And the others?"
"Allosaurs leave city. People return. What others?"
"Specifically a red and gold raptor?"
"Ah, Azonthus-raptor!" the Dimorphodon cried with recognition. "Darkwing not see awhile. Then see run from city. Basin bound, Darkwing guess. She run in that direction, and had that basin-carnivore-look."
"Thank you, my friend," Quickstride said, and Darkwing took off. Now, at least, she could figure out what to do next. Francis and Jonathan were all right, so she could now focus on Azonthus. But what could she do? Should she try and find her? If Az was in the Rainy Basin, what were her chances of finding her? What were her chances of surviving?
Well, thought the Gallimimus, I'll trace her trail as far as I can go. If it leads to the Basin, well, I'll just deal with that when I get there.
Tamith stared wide eyed at her mentor and at her new partner. "You paired me off with him?!" she repeated in disbelief.
Bracken laughed good naturedly once again. "Of course! Your combined abilities are needed and both of you excel in your fields. You'll do fine."
"Except he's always clowning around! We never get anything done when we're together. It's a long history; since we where three."
"Tamith, I'm hurt," Dylan said with faked sadness, "We always figured out how to pull things off at the end."
Tamith snickered. "Yeah, right."
Bracken let the conversation carry out for a few more minutes before interrupting again. "Before you tell me your family history, I'll tell you why I want you two. Sound good? Ok. Recognize this?" she asked pulling a small plant out of her knapsack. Tamith took it and inspected it.
"It's Arctium longevus... But what is this stuff on it?" Tamith asked noticing the plant like organism growing on it.
"It's a parasitic fungus. Most of the crops are getting it and we have no idea why. We think it might be something in the water used on them. That's where Dylan comes in. Working under Magnolia and Paddlefoot, he and Karua are experts at water organisms, and other things you are not, so you'll need them."
Tamith looked from Bracken to Dylan and back. She could handle him for a while. It's not like they where going to accidentally burn down a barn again... "Ok. So where will we go? Bent Root? Treetown?"
"Neither," Bracken answered, "You'll be going to the Basin."
"Whoa there," Dylan cut in, "Therapods live there, the ones with the teeth."
"I agree, humans aren't allowed there."
"You will be now. You are on a scientific mission for the rest of Dinotopia. You will wear these medallions to let all the meat eaters know, meaning you'll be safe." Tamith and Dylan took the medallions from Bracken's out stretched hand and put them on.
"I still don't like this..." Tamith commented under her breath.
"Ditto," Dylan agreed.
Bracken continued, "You have enough supplies on Triforce and Karua to last you for three weeks," again she smiled at them, "you'll be leaving first thing tomorrow."
Looking up with glazed eyes Mist shuddered at the enormous bulk that blocked her way. Big dinosaur, like one she had nearly killed. Like one that had thrown her against the wall. Big one, cause pain. But next to the creature was a human. About half of Mist's height. She looked compassionately at the wounded raptor but when the human reached out, Mist snarled baring her teeth and shaking her head back and forth as she backed up.
"You're hurt, let me help you..." the human with the trappings of a hatchery worker reached a hand out to MistReaver. The raptor felt trapped, great chasm before her, giant therapod to the side...
Run, run now, doesn't matter where, get away...get away. Grabbing her staff she feinted to the left, scaring the oviraptor. The then jumped and spun around, everyone backed up, giving the claustrophobic raptor a small circle of space around her. More blood trickled out of her mouth yet the giant looming rex brought images of Herak to her mind and Mist did what she only saw as best; she leapt over the edge of the chasm.
FeatherDawn was at a loss of what to do for the raptor ShadowRunner had brought to him. She accepted his medicine, but not his offers at conversation. No matter how hard he tried, she remained silent. FeatherDawn knew that with each passing day, chances of her pulling out of her depression grew less and less. She could not be allowed to constantly dwell on whatever had happened to her. Whatever had happened, and he was sure it was something large, had to be forgotten.
Sitting in his sleeping quarters a sudden idea came to him. LiquidFire! Perhaps the FireSphere clans healer could help her. The red raptor may be more open to help from a female…
Strongbow paced up and down the length of the healers hut. De'al, the oldest raptor in the clan, was nearing the end of his seasons. Two-talon, Strongbow's adopted son, was doing all he could to save the ancient velociraptor.
The matter of De'al dieing was a serious one. It was clan tradition to always have at least four elders, and De'al was the fourth. Strongbow was the only raptor qualified to take his place, but if he did the Sharpclaw would be without a leader. Battleblood had been the heir, but he did not survive to even see the end of the war between the Hunters and Sharpclaw. Strongbow had one daughter who was older than Azonthus, but she had made it clear that she did not want to lead the clan. She had even joined another pack that was under the protection of the Sharpclaw. Azonthus had left the Basin, and in doing so had also made it clear that she would not lead the Sharpclaw. That only left Akiva, Strongbows youngest hatchling. The only problem was that Akiva was too young to lead the clan.
Strongbow sighed. There was only one choice. He had to send someone to find Azonthus and bring her back before De'al took his last journey into the depths of the Basin.
The blue and green raptor stared through the leaves at the struthi. She looked somehow familiar...but she just couldn't place it. No matter, her mission was to find Azonthus, not figure out who was wandering through the Basin unprotected.
Just as Esk was about to continue on her journey, it struck her who this struthi was; Azonthus had brought her to the clan not too long ago when they had the emerald sunstones. She stood to speak to the struthi but in doing so stepped on a stick alerting her to her presence.
After a quick check, the blue struthi ran off into the forest. Esk wasn't going to let a chance of easily finding Azonthus get away. Giving chase, she soon caught up with the struthi and jumped, landing on her back...
Cyrrus caught the scent of a velociraptor with her sensitive nose. I'm snack food... Okay, think struthie… Velos hunt in packs. You smell one, there's probably six more. Run now before they have a chance to flank you. Without a second glance she bolted from the direction the raptor's scent had come from, darting between trees and fronds. She heard it following her, and tried to increase her speed. Suddenly, something landed on her back with a whump. She squawked and lost balance, toppling over onto her side. Cyrrus looked up fearfully as a velociraptor face peered down at her.
C'xoila growled in irritation and swatted at a passing mosquito. The constant assault by bugs was one of the many things he hated about the Basin; one of the minor things. Sighing and grumbling, C'xoila continued to push his way through the great amorphous mass of vegetation. C'xoila thought about what he'd say to Cerule as he fought his path through the jungle. He hadn't seen her in 12 years, and didn't actually know if she'd help or not. Remembering how the whole Cyanno family had helped what was left of his clan escaped, he had the feeling that she would. Deep in thought, C'xoila almost missed the sparkle of blue that announced the presence of the mighty Polongo River. Emerging from the dense plant life, C'xoila breathed in the thick, moist air. The same smells as home, he thought. Not Waterfall City home, his old home, along the Grevvek River, close to the foothills of the Forbidden Mountains. The bank of the river quickly became a steep cliff of orange stone, peppered with many caves. Starting among the jumbles or stone, C'xoila bade his way to a cave up above the river. He remembered this was the Cyanno's new home, that they found this cave as they were fleeing with the raptor clan. "Cerule? Cerule? It C'xoila, come ta visit..." he said, poking his head into the cave....
While the Trilobur salve did wonders for Quickstride and Rex's wounds, they still had to spend many days resting. In that time Quickstride pondered over how she could find Azonthus. She decided her only choice was to trek all the way back to Waterfall City to see what she could learn there, although she didn't want to do that because it would take so much time. Then, one day, a Skybax rider arrived at the towers to bring supplies and news to the isolated Harpymimuses. He told them the same thing Darkwing had reported about Waterfall City: the allosaurs were gone and things were being rebuilt, adding that a few had evacuated to Bonabba and Treetown by a Sky Galley that had arrived just for that purpose. Quickstride decided this would be a great opportunity to ask for information.
"Hmmm...," the rider said, thinking. "I have heard word that a raptor did attempt to cross into the basin via the bridge near Waterfall City, but that's all I've heard. I'm sorry I can't be of more help." Quickstride thanked the rider joyously. The raptor he was referring to had to be Az! Now, at least, she had something of a starting point. As the rider left, though, Quickstride got a sudden chill as she realized she probably would have to face the Basin, after all.
After lunch that day, she asked the Harpies if they had any literature on the Rainy Basin. The Harpymimuses had a small library on their island, but it contained many diverse and unique scrolls acquired from travelers over the years. They presented her with an interesting assortment of scrolls, from great carnosaur wars to tyrannosaur poetry. There were a few scrolls concerning dromaeosaurs, but only one that particularly caught her eye. It concerned something called the "Sanctuary of the Clans", a name she wasn't familiar with, but perhaps it could be useful. She had her doubts that Az would just happen to come to this place mentioned in such an obscure scroll, but at present it was all she had to go on. Rather than take the Harpies' scroll and risk a very good chance of never returning it (because she risked a very good chance of never returning) she copied down the contents of the scroll onto a fresh piece of paper, using the island's small but serviceable pedostenograph (which proved an interesting affair, as her left leg was still sore.)
Finally, she felt she was ready to leave. The Harpymimuses provided her with all the supplies she needed. She told them only that she was heading back to the Waterfall City area to find a friend, which was true enough. She didn't want to worry the little ornithomimosaurs. They ferried her and Rex to the Polongo's eastern shore, and with that she set off in the direction where she knew she'd find a road leading to Waterfall City. However, she wasn't heading there. When the road curved back toward the Polongo River she would leave it, bound for the lawless jungles of the Rainy Basin. Quickstride shook her head as she finally stepped onto the road. This was crazy. And yet, she reflected, that's probably why she and Rex were doing it.
Esk looked down at the struthi. There was fear in her eyes, but the struthi did not try to bolt or run. Brave, she thought, but will she be able to help me? "What business have you in the Basin?" the raptor demanded.
The ocean blue struthi gulped and mentioned something about gathering plants for a friend.
Esk leaned closer, her face only inches from that of the trapped struthi. "Not any more. Know you of red raptor? Name is Azonthus."
Cyrrus stared at the velociraptor. What would she want with Az? the struthie wondered. Very slowly, so her "attacker" wouldn't think her about to bolt, she stood up and stared at the little dinosaur.
"Yes, I know Azonthus. What business is it of yours?" She eyed the velociraptor carefully, her leg muscles tense should this all be a ploy to make her a snack. "How does this concern me?" The struthie watched the raptor, waiting to see what she wanted.
The raptor watched Cyrrus' every movement carefully. "Azonthus is needed at clan. She to become new leader. Where she?"
Cyrrus blinked. "What?" This was not at all what she'd expected. "I don't know where she is at the moment. I haven't seen her since the allosaurs attacked Waterfall City." She bobbed her head in regret. "I'm sorry."
The raptor said something on carnosaur that Cyrrus didn't understand, but knew to be something bad by the tone of voice used. "Then must find soon. Di'al not wait long. Azonthus needed fast!" Then, staring at Cyrrus she ordered, "You come help find her."
Cyrrus covered a grin. Quite a pushy little thing, this velo. "Okay. Last I heard she was in Waterfall City, but I know everyone was evacuated. We could go to Treetown and ask around, but that would take several days." She frowned. "If only we had an idea of where she was..."
Esk nodded, pleased. "I Esk. You have gratitude for helping. Where Treetown? What Treetown?" The raptor was ready to go anywhere for her clan, even to the wimpy "civilized" parts of the island.
C'xoila walked a little ways into the caves, looking for his friend. "C'xoila!?" Came a booming voice from the darkness. Cerule Cyanno laughed, "C'xoila Mzat Tasskara? Is that you?!" A large Baryonix in countless shades of blue lumbered into the main cavern from a side chamber. Squinting in the bright sunlight that was pouring in, she smiled a saw-tooth smile and tilted her long, narrow head to peer at her old friend. "I haven't seen you for so long!" exclaimed the Baryonix, "Why'd you wait so long to drop by? Wanted to steer clear of prowling Allo's?" Her remark was in jest, but the big carnosaur held a hint of sadness in her eyes. C'xoila shifted nervously from foot to foot, avoiding eye contact. "Ah, so, we have a lot of catching up to do! Where you go? What'd you do?"
C'xoila chuckled, "Me been livin' in Waterfall City since...it happened."
Cerule launched into deep, bellowing laughter, "Waterfall City!? City!?" The big Baryonix was rolling on the ground with laughter, pounding the earth with her fists.
"What?!?! What be's so funny!?!?!" C'xoila exclaimed.
"You've, I'm sorry, you've become one of those wimpy, sorry, civilized raptors!" Cerule launched into another fit of laughter, but C'xoila just stood there, wearing a sour face. "I mean, you haven't turned into one of those up-ity we're-to-good-for-you-'cause-we're-from-the-city-raptors, have you!?" C'xoila growled in frustration. Cerule wasn't one who looked to the finer points of being a civilized carnosaur. "And what's this!?" cried Cerule, seeing C'xoila's new staff. "Can't rely on your own claws anymore? Have you gone soft?!" This launched another the Baryonix into another laugh attack.
C'xoila snarled and extended his claws. "Civilization gots a few thin's Basin doesn't..." C'xoila fished a cat sandwich out of his pack and threw it to his friend. Cerule snapped it up and swallowed, savoring the taste for a moment, then said, "Well, I guess civilization has one high point..." It was C'xoila's turn to laugh.
Mist dropped like a stone. She sucked in her breath and hoped she hit something soft. Before she knew what had happened she hit a hard surface which gave under her after initial impact. A deep cold surrounded her and struggling to turn her head up, she found a shattered distorted view of the sky. She had cleared the edge of the ravine and had fallen into the Polongo river below. The current was swift and Mist was mercilessly dragged downstream. Having difficulty reaching the surface to breath added to her situation. With a powerful kick she broke the water's surface and sucked in a breath of air. But the mist of the swirling waters was so intense that the raptor ended up inhaling water vapor and started coughing. This revived the pain in her chest and soon Mist was dunked underwater again. The cold cramped up her muscles and she felt consciousness slipping. Clinging to her staff she barely noticed when a tide washed her body onto the muddy bank of the Polongo.
The three hatchery workers and their Tyrannosaur friend watched in shock and horror as the dark raptor leapt over the edge of the chasm. Running to the edge, they were able to hear a faint splash far below as the Polongo River sucked the raptor into its depths. Sadly, the group split up, knowing that there was nothing more they could do for the dark raptor.
By lack of anything more useful to do LiquidFire had started refreshing her medicine supply, earlier this morning she had left the caves to find some new medicinal herbs. She had left the cave for a morning trip into the forest when the sun was only just coming up, long before most of the other raptors were awake, most importantly, long before FireBane was awake.
The bad tempered clan-leader had the habit of taking out his frustration on his own clan-members, and especially in the morning, could get mad over anything. So LiquidFire made sure she was out of his reach and had returned back to her cave at a time she was pretty sure FireBane wasn't anywhere near the Realm of the Firebearers, where her cave was.
She turned her bag upside down above the large resting stone in the middle of the cave which she often used as table. As always after a trip to the forest she had returned with some of the things she wanted and some other things she had just ran into.
The most eye-catching find had been some yellow mushrooms that could be poisonous. But when extracted correctly and used in very small amounts the normally poisonous part could be used against cramps. Liquid Fire put the mushrooms in a bottle to use later and started tying together her new herbs with a thin rope to hang them on the wall where they could dry.
Since she was already there she checked the other strings with plant material that hung there and took the dry ones down. She started singing to herself as she crumbled the herbs and put them in clean pottery when she noticed someone at the entrance of her cave. "Come in" She said, still in a singsong voice and perfectly matching the melody she was singing.
FeatherDawn walked into the slightly messy but well lit cave, wondering how the larger raptor could remember where exactly she put all her stuff since no logical order was to be found in the large collection of bottles, baskets, boxes that stood on the ridges of the cave walls.
LiquidFire recognized his look and chuckled, "Don't worry, I know exactly where everything is."
"Oh really?" He smiled, arms crossed, "Can you find your extract of ginko leaves?"
She needed no time to think "Yup, its on the third ridge from below, second row, in a glass bottle."
"Indeed." FeatherDawn stated after checking the mentioned spot. "Onto more relevant business, I suppose by now the whole sanctuary knows about the little raptor ShadowRunner brought in a few days ago?"
"She's not doing well, is she?" LiquidFire asked at seeing the worry in his eyes.
FeatherDawn shook his head. "Physically she is doing well for the circumstances. But emotionally she has collapsed, its like she has pulled up a wall around herself. She doesn't speak, she only eats when I urge her to, she has trouble sleeping and if she does sleep she has terrible nightmares but she just won't speak... Its like she's not even really there, her eyes glazed, playing some event over and over..."
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