Stouthorn turned to see the creature in the alley. "It seems not as much a question as what I want from you as of what you want from me, young hunter. Please, emerge from the shadows. Your presence is well known here. None will fear your presence more than is necessary." He grinned.
The utahraptor stepped out of the alley. She received a few suspicious looks in passing, but none spoke out or were afraid. The raptor -- if Stouthorn understood correctly, her name was MistReaver -- walked towards him, some hesitation in her step. "Do not fear me," the triceratops said, "it is you who has sharp claws and teeth." The raptor purred her amusement. Stouthorn continued, "You must be cold. Please, take shelter beneath my cloak, and tell me what you had in mind for me to do for your friend as we walk back towards the warmth of Myra's Inn."
The raptor scurried beneath the cloak, taking advantage of the ceratopsians body heat. She spoke, her voice becoming less nervous as she caught her breath and warmed up. "Well...as your ancestor helped our ancestors, we hope that you can help us in this ritual."
Stouthorn did not speak for a moment, and then, "How exactly did any ancestor of mine help an ancestor of yours?"
Mist sighed shortly, "Of course. You wouldn't know. Your ancestor, the great Stouthorn the Wise of Poseidos, saved a group of escaped prisoners from execution. Their names were Deego, an utahraptor and my ancestor, and Jara and Easo, a pair of velociraptors. Together, they founded the Sanctuary of the Clans in the Rainy Basin. None of it would have been possible without your ancestor's wisdom and graciousness. He's become somewhat of a legendary figure among the raptors."
Stouthorn was flustered, a bit flattered. But he set this aside, and continued his questioning. "How would you have me help in this ritual?" And he listened with rapt attention as the utahraptor continued.
Kie and Peb looked at each other in wonderment. It had just dawned on Peb that he really did not have a plan for the vacation. This was most out of character.
"I cannot believe you dragged me all this way without one of your carefully planned itineraries. I am shocked and appalled," Kie said.
Peb looked mournful. "I did make one... It's just laying on my bed instead of my paws..." Peb shrugged.
Kie, never the one to sit idly, decided to take some action. He led them into an Inn where a group of carnivores talked. "Well, I do not want to stand around here in the cold waiting for you to remember it." He grabbed one of the saurians, "Excuse me there... Um... What is there to do in Thermala, anyway?" He asked the Coronaraptor.
The carnivore eyed Kie with a certain distaste. Or perhaps it was a certain taste. "No nothing to do but eat chubby Ouranosaurs..." Kie could almost be certain that the raptor was joking, but Peb took anything and everything literally. In a flash the pudgy Ouranosaur was out the door and down the street. Kie was forced to chase after him. Why did I listen to Peb and come on this trip? Kie sighed, trailing his friend.
"OK, Mr. I-know-where-we-are-going," Tamith said looking around the crowded streets of Thermala, "Which way to the Blackfeather Village?"
Dylan didn't meet her eyes but smiled mischievously, "You're the one that knew Quickstride from before. Shouldn't you know where she lives?"
Tamith sighed, "Do you have the map Bracken gave us?" The older youth looked away again. "Great… Typical guy. You always leave the map."
Dylan laughed, "This makes it all the more fun. I mean, we're already a few days late, what's a few more hours?"
Tamith smiled. Leave it to him to find the bright side of anything, "As long as we don't end up in Sky City…"
"We won't," he replied looking around, "Lessee… Ah yes, there's a distinguished cousin of Karua. I'm sure that Parasaurolophusolophus over there could direct us to the exit nearest to the Blackfeather Village."
Tamith shrugged, "You're the expert in hadrosaur dialects. Give it a try."
"I think I will," Dylan said giving her that charming smile he always had when he won an argument, "Follow me, me lady!"
Tamith rolled her eyes, "No need to rub it in, ya know."
Dylan grinned and led the way to the huge hadrosaur, "Excuse me, could I ask you for some directions?"
Kie looked down at Dylan. The Parasaurolophusolophus' normally olive green face flushed a deeper shade of vermilion. He was the last one to ask for directions.
"Um... Just a moment..." Kie turned to Peb.
"Did you bring a map?" He asked. Peb sighed.
"I know I did... Where is it?" Peb looked frantically while Kie returned his gaze to Tamith and Dylan. He smiled weakly as his absentminded friend rummaged.
"Oh dear. I do not seem to have any of my papers with me," Peb began. Kie looked at his in wonderment.
"Maybe you had better ask someone else..." Kie intoned, feeling excruciatingly apologetic. Back in Sauropolis he could have rattled of street-names like the best of them. "I am very sorry. Breathe Deep, Seek Peace, God Bless..." It was all he could say. Dylan glumly stalked off while Kie looked back to Peb. Just then the snow began again.
Lorcireino looked at the Ouranosaur running down the street and shook her head. She didn't think she looked half as vicious as a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Allosaurus, but apparently others did. She was irritated because they had interrupted her while she was trying to make a conversation with the raptors and triceratops. She sighed.
"Ooh Boy. Lemme go apologize. I will be right back," she said to the two raptors, excusing herself and giving chase to the two outside. The Ouranosaur had gone quite a ways and by the time she reached them, the Parasaurolophusolophus and the Ouranosaur were in deep conversation with two others. Great, every time I go out to meet someone, someone new comes in! She thought. Well, might as well get this over with.
Just then, the two that were talking to the Parasaurolophusolophus and then Ouranosaur broke off glumly until they saw her.
"Hey!" They called. "Can you give us directions?" The Ouranosaur looked up and screeched and took off again.
"Wait!" Lorcireino called out. "Wait! I won't hurt you! Really! I promise, I was only kidding!" Luckily, the Parasaurolophusolophus was able to stop his friend from running and the two that had asked for directions looked back and forth in puzzlement.
"Why don't you all come back to the Inn with me? It is much warmer in there right now and you can get something to eat and drink." The Ouranosaur jumped when she said 'eat' and then whined. "Not eat you. You can get something to eat. And," She added pointedly, "You can get directions in there." Then she beckoned with her clawed hand, causing another jump from the Ouranosaur. "Come." The two new additions followed Lorcireino willingly, but the Parasaurolophus and Ouranosaur seemed hesitant. "I promise." The Parasaurolophus and Ouranosaur finally decided to follow slowly, though the Parasaurolophus was more willing than his friend to follow her.
"I am sorry to have scared you," Lorcireino said, looking over her shoulder. "Really, I am. I was raised in the Rainy Basin, and then taught the Dinotopian code, but not before a lot of my instincts had kicked in. Sometimes, I get real angry for no purpose. Someday I may change, my partner sure hopes so, I know. I hope that I will too, so I may please her." With this said, she nodded and then walked back into the Inn for not the first time while the others followed.
Kilo woke up with a loud SNAP. The small, leafless sapling he'd been leaning his bulk against finally decided the Stegosaurus was far to heavy for it and broke with a stringy snap. Kilo was named for his size. Consequently Kilo fully awoke with his face in the snow. Kilo was a near grown male Stegosaurus. His ancestors, for some peculiar reason, had decided to live up north and, consequently, he had a very thick insulating hide and his long, bony plates that were usually used to cool down were there simply for decoration. He got back up drunkenly; he'd just been snoozing in the sun on his way to Thermala. Kilo looked down, the seemingly insignificant scarf that was wrapped around his neck was still there, and the scroll was safely tucked down the side.
"Danged saplings," Kilo cursed himself for destroying the young tree. "Still, better not waste it."
Not being one to destroy nature, Kilo made short work of the sapling's bark then headed towards Thermala. Anyone who'd have thought Stegosaurs were slow creatures were wrong in Kilo's case; being slow in this atmosphere was dangerous, one had to keep active. He walked quickly and effectively, the shorter legs actually helping him in his large strides. Still she was no sprinting Gallie.
As he walked, his plates clinked together, making a sort of tune, and he gurgled along to it in procession, now and then snapping up any stray wintered ferns that crossed his path.
After a short while Kilo felt and smelled Thermala. He put on a slight spurt, fed up of being in the cold. The prospect of warm vegetable soup was also a good speeder-upper.
Listening to his big feet crunch on the unfrozen town's roads, Kilo passed some interesting saurians. Mainly Thermala received very few tourists. "Hmmm," he mused out loud, passing the hadrosaurs and carnivores. Kilo had never been bothered by predators; he knew that his tail wielded devastating results and actually pitied the poor creature that might ever try to take a chunk out of him.
Kilo headed straight towards an Inn, the doors large enough to accommodate a mammoth, and passed through with ease.
"Ahhh," he sighed as the warmth hit him, making his skin seem to melt with relaxation. Kilo wasted no time; he headed straight towards the bar and parked himself on a resting couch. All sorts of interesting saurians were around him and again he wondered why there was such diversity.
"Mack!" he called in his deep friendly voice.
A young, human male headed towards him a huge smile on his face. "Kilo! Oh no, not Vegetable soup again? We don't have enough reserves!" Mack mocked.
Kilo snorted in reply then moved his very flexible tail round, as if daring Mack to say it again.
"Whoa... whoa... Put that thing away Kilo, I'll get your soup," he laughed. Kilo gurgled along with him.
"How are you Mack? I've got a letter here from your sister," Kilo said while Mack poured a warm leaf-smelling liquid in an odd shaped bowl. Kilo pushed the scroll out from his scarf with his big front foot, then nosed it towards Mack.
Mack came over and placed the bowl down in front of him. Kilo nodded thanks then took a long gulp.
"What does she want now?" Mack chuckled, picking up the scroll and reading it over.
Kilo shrugged. "I'm not nosey," he replied laughing, making Mack laugh too.
"Hey what's with the diversity?" Kilo asked, again noticing more strange forms enter the Inn.
Mack shrugged. "I dunno, we had two raptors, a big one and a small one, check in here last night, weapons and all."
Kilo raised his eyebrows in response while he sipped his soup.
"Excuse me, Kilo, let me know when you're done," Mack said moving off to serve new customers. Kilo smiled.
"Ok," then he went back to his soup, finishing the bowl and licking it clean. He sat back warm and contented and looked again around the bar. "They are quite bizarre." said the Stegosaurus.
Lorcireino returned with the Parasaurolophus and the jittery Ouranosaur. The hadrosaurs were quite friendly, even the sail-backed one, once he calmed down. The subject turned to the sudden influx of saurians in Thermala. As if to prove this point, a large male stegosaurus walked trough the door and sat at the bar.
"I'm still freezing."
Dylan turned to his friend and raised an eyebrow, "Are you doing this to annoy me?"
Tamith grinned, "Yeah... But I am cold."
"Ok... Lets call it a day then. We've passed an Inn a few time, wanna go check it out?"
Tamith's olive eyes gleamed, "Yes!" she exclaimed, "It isn't half this cold back home... During winter!"
Dylan laughed, "Yeah. That's what you get for being a forest dweller you little elf. I, on the other hand, have to keep track of the glaciers and hot springs. I'm used to this."
Tamith snorted, "Thanks for rubbing it in."
A few minutes later, they were at the check-in counter of the Inn Dylan had referred to. Tamith looked around the lobby at the gathering crowd. Queer looking group...
"You're room is in the second floor," Dylan spoke into her thoughts, "Mine's down here."
Tamith nodded and took the key he was offering her, "I'll go take a warm shower and meet you for dinner?"
"Sounds good. See ya then."
Tamith took a few minutes to look around. She was about to head upstairs when she over heard the attendant on the register comment something that caught her attention.
"....yes, a raptor! Two actually, and armed. They checked in yesterday..."
"Raptors!" Tamith said walking up to them, "Could you describe them please?"
The young woman proceeded and Tamith smiled at the image she got. Az was here! It would just be a matter of time now before they met. She left a message for her friend at the counter and headed for her room.
I wonder how life as a clan leader is going for her..." she mused, And what brings her here?
He slept amid the crumpled paper and ink splotches, the promising ideas and rejected dreams. He slept face down on the long worktable he had slaved at for so many sleepless weeks, designing and planning and drawing, always drawing. The building was new and large, yet it had already grown claustrophobic. Thick conduits and pipes snaked over the walls and dark, mechanical shadows of his designs filled the unlit room, unlit but for the one sunstone lamp hung over the sleeping figure. Hung from the pipes, the machines, and from every available space were completed designs, elaborate pen and ink drawings on parchment paper. They were plans for the city. There were plans for the Fog-lanterns, mirrors within mirrors within mirrors which would amplify the light of a sunstone beacon until it could burn its way through the mists that engulfed the city to give it light. There were site plans, lists of grades and levels and elevations. There were floor plans for every building in the city to be, and many were actually expanded into full elevations and three-dimensional views. All were drawn in beautiful detail and spoke of hours of hard work. The room's lone occupant had toiled for months in this room and throughout the growing city, and he deserved a rest...
Saar peered into the darkened room and shivered slightly. She had left the golden robot Sparks to oversee the building process while she went to see how her friend was doing. She really didn't like going into C'xoilas laboratory, there were just too many strange and foreign machines to suit her liking. Plus, she really did not want to wake the Deinonychus. In the past few months, he had truly given his all to the combined C'xsann clan. First it was convincing them to unite, to put aside their fears and hatreds to join and become something better. Then it was convincing them that a city should be built. The C'xsann Deinonychuses were for the idea, having lived in civilization for many years, but the C'xsann Allosaurs weren't trusting of the world outside the Basin. Fortunately, C'xoila, several eloquent Allosaurs, and Saar herself had managed to convince the unbelievers that there would be more benefits then losses. Once everyone had settled themselves on C'xsann land, the next step was the actual building process. C'xoila had worked without sleep to complete the plans, constantly referring with Saar to make sure the Allosaurs would be happy with their new home. She, in turn, worked with the golden hoverhead Sparks to oversee the city's construction while the true genius locked himself away with his plans and dreams for the future. Saar smiled at the poor, sleeping Deinonychus. He had been forced to take on the rolls of Architect, Engineer, Machinist, Draftsman, Artist, Stone Mason and Diplomat, as well as many more, all at once. Cautiously walking into her friend's domain, she gently rocked his shoulder.
"Please...me's already designed you's city....me done the best me can...leave me be..." C'xoila moaned hoarsely, not knowing or caring who was there behind him.
Smiling again, Saar retreated and let the Deinonychus sleep. C'xoila's job was over, now it was time for others to follow his plans. "He has a vacation coming to him. We have so much to thank him for, the least we can do for him is give him some time off..."
After finishing off his third bowl of vegetable soup, Kilo glanced around the bar again. His armor twitched when a big Utahraptor, obviously the one who had checked in earlier, leaped up on a table. Kilo shivered.
"I really wish it wouldn't do that," he mumbled to himself. Ignoring the raptor that was now spluttering at some newcomers in the bar, Kilo turned to a Triceratops who was near him. In his best Mammalian, most creature whether saurian or mammalian spoke mammalian up here, he said, "Breathe Deep, Seek Peace." The triceratops looked at him blankly. Kilo tried again this time in Universal Dinotopian. "Breath Deep, Seek Peace." The Triceratops smiled and replied with the same greeting.
"You don't seem from around here. Are you with the rest of these guys? " Kilo asked casually flicking his tail at the strange saurians in the bar, almost knocking a Gallimimus waiter off its feet.
"You could say that," replied the Triceratops.
Mist had been quieter walking back to the Inn. She was a little surprised the tri-horned one didn't know what she spoke about. She was here for Azonthus' benefit. Having run messages numerous times through the Forbidden's, one of the few raptors to venture here, Mist was only recognized in Thermala by a few, most unsure of what to make of the particularly large utahraptor. Ducking back into the Inn, emerald slitted eyes widened in surprise.
"Many gathered now..." She smiled at Lorcireino. "Not to worry, not you. Needed...fresh air..." Mist pushed through the crowd and gracefully leapt onto a table, getting a gasp or two from the crowd and blushed beneath her dark skin. She was a warrior and, though now and then she ran message, she had to remember she wasn't in the Basin. Calling the teachings of Xandu to her once more, she looked around the Inn, seeing not only the people but the aura that surrounded them, searching for Azonthus.
She caught sight of a vaguely familiar person alighting the steps. "From Allosaur war on clan grounds...with partner...Habitat? Tam..Tami..ssss chaaaa must remember," taking more care this time, the raptor bounded across the open space in the Inn's dining hall and landed at the base of the stairs, clicking her bowstaff against the stone ground at the base of the extra-wide (for saurian access) stairwell.
"Forest one? Know you're there," she tilted her head back, letting her eyes focus on the dim light that remained of the young woman's passing. She was still impressed with the realm Xandu had opened her eyes to. Clicking talons against the ground again, the sounds from the main dining room of the Inn echoing in the corridor behind her, Mist tried again, this time in a poor imitation of the human tongue. "Sssaaaaathith," followed by a few low growls, and a slight trill at the end. The dark raptor tilted her head back and waited for a reply, looking curiously over her shoulder for who else may arrive.
Tamith closed the door to her room behind her. She took a quick look around then froze. Something started tugging at the back of her neck making her walk once again towards the door.
"Dylan?" she called, but she knew it wasn't him outside. She opened the door and looked. She jumped back slightly startled by what she saw. A raptor was in the halls. It wasn't Azonthus, but she recognized her as one she had seen in the Sanctuary of the Clans some time before. She narrowed her eyes as she struggled to remember the name Az had given her.
"Mist... MistReaver?" she said, "Yes, you are from the Clans. Can you understand me? Others of your land could not."
MistReaver nodded toward Tamith. "Can undersssschand wehlll." It was obvious though Mist could follow the human language it was much more difficult for her to reproduce it. After years of being a message runner the dark raptor knew many languages. Seeing Tamith's slight fear (or was it merely surprise?) at seeing her, Mist leaned her bowstaff against the wall.
"Not huuurt, juss talk," she leaned her head back, still fearing upsetting the girl more, painfully aware of how her fiercesome appearance, by no fault of her own, frightened those unused to the warrior's presence. "Whhhhhy ere?" She let out a low rumbling growl that resonated through her chest. She couldn't pronounce the words she wanted and slipped into the universal saurian tongue, hoping that from her work with her partner Tamith would understand. "Know gold feathered one? Of mountains, we seek. New clan leader is with," her head motioned back toward the main dining hall.
Tilting her head slightly to the right Tamith followed the language, as she had been tough by her teachers.
"Quickstride? Yes! A friend and I came because she invited us to join her here. We are looking for her village. Do you know how to get to it?"
"Feathered one not seen. I know of the mountains but not of her tribe. Perhaps my companion does," Mist trilled again, pronouncing the name of the clan leader and quickly followed with the common version. "Azonthus is with me. Perhaps she knows," Mist grinned a little smugly. "But is doubtful. Companion? Come with another?" The raptor chimed in curiously. Looking back at the dining hall she contemplated whether going up the stairs or returning.
"Come? Meet others?" She peered at Tamith...
Tamith smiled and nodded, "Sure, I'll find Dylan later. He'll go to the dinning hall for dinner."
Odd, Stouthorn thought. And that's exactly how Mist was acting. There must be some other reason for her being here; she seemed troubled. Excusing himself from the conversation with the stegosaurus -- though he was curious to talk to him. Why was he here? He might prove to be a valuable friend to have -- the triceratops navigated the stairs to make sure Mist was all right. It was unclear what was troubling her, and Stouthorn hoped she wasn't in any trouble.
Az sat on the hearth next to the fire, enjoying the warmth. She stared into the fire, mesmerized by it's dancing flames. The blanket from her nest bed was still wrapped around her, but the fire did help with the warmth. It was so quiet here...
Half asleep, she didn't notice someone approaching...
Setting out shortly after dawn, Mathaira shouldered the bulky pack containing her personal belongings along with provisions and two of the smaller blankets woven of mammal fur, having had to loosen the straps in order to accommodate its wearing over the heavy parka-like cloak which protected her body from the icy climate. The Smilodon had no such need of additional insulation, her thick golden fur providing its own coverage against the blowing snow and freezing winds. Her muscular body enabling her to carry more than her share, Azjik bore the remainder of their provisions in heavy pouches strapped to her broad back along with an ample supply of blankets for delivery to Blackfeather Village. Having traveled enough times in this more frigid region of Dinotopia, Mathaira wisely strapped her water pouch beneath her cloak and directly against her body in order to keep its contents from freezing. Likewise, Azjik bore her much larger water containers in the section of pouches resting against her warm fur.
Though the distance from the Glacier Ridge Trading Post on the outskirts to the village proper of Thermala was not great when measured in neck lengths, the snowbound path with its deep drifts and the constant blowing of frigid winds descending from the deep ridges of the Forbidden Mountains, lengthened the journey and made the time pass slowly. The two friends, however, did not seem to mind as they traveled amiably, oftentimes in constant conversation yet drifting at other times into companionable silence and quiet reflection.
Upon reaching the village border of Thermala, the daughter of Petar and Natasha was recognized immediately and greeted warmly by human and mammal alike. Having to stop several times to introduce her visitor from the lower regions of the Island, though not minding at all, Azjik slowly led Mathaira to the center of the village whose hub was Myra's Inn. Frequented by long time residents as well as travelers journeying through the Forbiddens, the Inn was named for its hostess who was also one of the proprietors. Much loved and well known in the region, the gregarious mammoth that was simply called Myra greeted members of her large herd and other Thermala residents as well as complete strangers with equal welcome, often embracing them with her massive trunk in a mammalian hug. While her duties entailed the day-to-day running of the Inn and of course the greeting of visitors, the other proprietor preferred to tend to less conspicuous duties such as the detailed operation of the Inn and also to those chores which required human dexterity. Five mothers Norwegian, Olaf was of indeterminate age, bearing the weathered countenance and rugged build of one accustomed to life in the harsh climate of the Forbiddens. The partnership that had formed between the mammoth and the human had long ago forged into a deep bond of friendship evident to any who entered the Inn.
Stamping off the snow that had packed onto her boots, Mathaira followed Azjik into Myra's Inn, an icy wind arriving with them as they opened and then quickly shut the massive doors. The common room of the Inn would have been dim due to the small windows set sparsely into the walls in order to keep the frigid temperatures at bay, except for the myriad of candles and candle lanterns placed strategically throughout to illuminate the room. Heat as well as light emanated from the two massive fireplaces, which graced either end of the common room. Within the fireplace nearest the kitchen there hung large caldrons over the blazing fire, one containing hot spiced tea, another warmed fruit juice, the soothing beverages much sought after by those entering the Inn to escape the bitter cold outside. On the opposite end of the wall was an even larger fireplace, its hearth providing warmth and welcome to those in the Inn, surrounded by soft cushions, a multitude of chairs, and resting couches for mammals similar to those for saurians. Tables of varying sizes were interspersed throughout the Inn, some much larger than the others to accommodate the large mammals of the region. Facing the large entry doors, a long counter stretched the length of the common room; again stools of various sizes were made available to the variety of patrons and allowing empty spaces for those who preferred to stand.
Her vision not yet accustomed to the lighting of the Inn which still seemed rather dim after spending all morning shielding her eyes from the white brightness of the snowy terrain, Mathaira could not yet determine whether those she sought were among those in the common room...
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