"The Great Valley is filled with green food like this… more than you could ever eat, and more fresh cool water than you could ever drink. It is a wonderful, beautiful place where we can live happily, with many more of our own kind." — Littlefoot's Mother, The Land Before Time.
Words in italics indicate character thoughts or flashbacks.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Land Before Time or any of its sequels.
As the Great Night Circle shone up high in the sky, its image was simultaneously reflected on the surface of the sparkling waters down below.
The ghostly white reflection was then disrupted by ripples caused by nearby splashes as a bright green swimmer rhythmically paddled her feet in the water while sitting on the riverbank. "Oh, it is a really beautiful night tonight. It is, it is," the hadrosaur youngling commented as she leaned forward to admire the surface of the cold water.
Peaceful nights like this always left her refreshed. After a long, hard day of play with her friends, the exhausted swimmer had made up her mind that she needed this peaceful time for herself to reflect on her own thoughts. The swimmer yawned, taking in a deep breath as she inhaled and let the fresh cool air of the valley fill her lungs. She then closed her eyes with a smile, letting the chilly water wash over her feet as she did so, simply enjoying the feeling of the water gently lapping at her toes.
A grunt coming from her left, however, caused the tranquil peace of the moment to be shattered. Ducky opened her eyelids, with mild annoyance flickering across her face due to the abrupt loss of her moment of peace, only for her irritated blue eyes to soften when she realized who the newcomer was.
Ducky shook her head with an all-too-knowing smile, curiously gazing at the large figure who moved beside her. "Oh, it is you, Spike. What are you doing here this late at night?" she asked as she lifted her feet out of the water to face her brother. "Did you followed me all the way out here to this place?"
Spike gave a slow nod of his head in affirmation as the lumbering spiketail plopped its belly down on to the ground with a crash. His admission that he had indeed followed her out from the nest, coupled with the blatant disregard for his sister's personal space, caused Ducky to playfully put her hands on her hips in jest.
The act was kept up for a grand total of approximately five seconds, at least until Ducky burst out laughing at her brother's indifference to her supposed annoyance. Whether he was being slow on the uptake, already knew in advance that his perpetually-optimistic sister didn't mean it, was too bored to dignify her with a response, or his mind was focused on food and thus couldn't care, Ducky wasn't sure herself. When it came to Spike, it didn't make much of a difference in the end anyway.
After she recovered from her laughing fit, she lay down on the grassy meadow by the river, propping her head on Spike's front leg as she gazed up to the starry skies.
"Do you remember, Spike?" she asked with a wistful tone in her voice as she pointed a finger up to the dark blue sky. "The night that we all held on together for the first time in fear of Sharptooth? There were as many stars up there that night too. There was, there was…"
Ducky wasn't sure what had prompted her mind to reminiscence about her first adventure. She usually kept her memories of the incident locked away deep in the recesses of her mind. But tonight was special, she supposed…
Nevertheless, no matter how much she suppressed her memories of those dark days, one good thing had come out of that terrifying journey — the bonds that had been forged between her and four of her very good friends.
Ironically, her own mother hadn't been the one who had told her about the Great Valley, but a rather idealistic young longneck by the name of Littlefoot instead. The optimistic longneck had been the one who had made the place sound like a paradise — the promise of eternal green food in a land with diminishing treestars, lots of clean water that sounded like a swimmer's paradise, as well as being a safe haven free from the terror of Sharpteeth… to Ducky, it was like a sleep story that comed true! It was, it was! The promise of green food, clean water, and protection from dangerous sharptooth had been the valley's biggest draw after the swimmer found herself separated from her family after the Great Earthshake had ravaged the lands.
And thus, she had joined his group. A most unusual herd, to say the least. While most dinosaurs would keep to their own kind, her group of travelers who ventured forth to find the so-called "Great Valley" had ended up consisting of a longneck, a threehorn, a flyer, a swimmer — her, and a spiketail — her adoptive brother Spike himself. Much later on, there had also been a fast runner and a sharptooth youngling thrown in the mix, but the first five of their little gang were already bewildering enough to hear for most of the dinosaurs who heard of their tale.
But putting aside the sheer unusualness of their interspecies friendship, could you really blame their bonds of friendship to transcend the usual species barrier? After all five of them had collectively worked together to flee from the Great Sharptooth—definitely without a doubt one of the most reviled creatures to ever roam the Mysterious Beyond—it was no wonder that she and her friends became inseparable as a result. And as their first journey together drew to a close, the swimmer and her herd of friends had been gloriously rewarded.
"Cera, Spike, Ducky, Petrie! Over here!"
Hearing Littlefoot's ecstatic cry, Ducky held on tight as her brother Spike charged forward, before coming to an abrupt halt. When she regained her bearings, Ducky felt herself grinning from ear to ear.
The moment when she had first laid sight on the Great Valley was one that she would not forget as long as she lived. Ducky had gaped in awe, her mouth ajar as she excitedly wagged her tail at the sheer amazingness of the jaw-dropping amount of greenery that awaited them. Littlefoot's descriptive words whenever he had talked about the valley did not do the actual place justice at all… nope, nope, nope!
After their hazardous journey, finally seeing the Great Valley—the destination that they had all clambered towards for so long—had almost reduced the swimmer to tears of joy. "Littlefoot, you found it!" the little hadrosaur cheered while on Spike's back, before joyfully adding her trademark catchphrase as she turned to the longneck with sparkling eyes, "Yep, yep, yep!"
Littlefoot nodded his head, readily agreeing with Ducky's assessment. "We did it! We did it together!"
And they had indeed. It had been a perilous journey, one filled with joyous laughs, tough times, and cruel tears, but all five of them had made it together in the end to the land of everlasting greens — the Great Valley as foretold by the legends themselves.
The Great Valley truly was a place of miracles. It was a natural fortress against harmful predators, all while giving the leaf-eating dinosaurs a seemingly endless supply of food in a world where green food seemed to only get more and more scarce.
And that very charming description of her home was what was weighing so heavily on the young swimmer's mind right now. It was the paradox to end all paradoxes. If the Great Valley was such a wondrous paradise… then why would anyone ever want to leave such a beautiful place?
This was certainly something that had always bothered Ducky. She had observed that while farwalkers would occasionally come to the Great Valley for a period of time, they would never stay in the valley for long. This irked the swimmer greatly since many of their good friends that they'd made always found themselves forced to leave the valley because of this resulting trend. Ali, Tippy, Shorty… really, the list was far too long in her opinion! Way too long! Yep, yep, yep!
But why did the farwalkers have to leave? Ducky grimaced, letting a rare frown don her face as she pondered the question. She knew that farwalkers always roamed the earth, travelling across the Mysterious Beyond — that much was obvious… it was in their names itself. But what her mind could not comprehend was the reason that they always adamantly refuse to give in to the valley's temptation and benefits, always making their move once they were well-fed.
So why not stay? It was certainly the easier choice in her perspective! Was it perhaps because of the valley's leadership? Though Ducky might be considered a hatchling by the grownups, even she had realized at her young age that some of the laws and rules passed down by the leading committee of the Great Valley were really unfair… many of them courtesy of Cera's stubborn father, Topps. The number of times that her friends had done something on their own accord due to disagreeing with the grownups would probably be testament to the lack of a competent leadership system in the valley.
Of course, Ducky realized with a jolt, that the migrating herds probably knew about this weakness of the so-called paradise. With Mr. Threehorn helming the front and being a recognized face of the valley to outsiders, it was little wonder that some of the herd leaders chose not to stay in the valley if it meant having to listen to his rules. After all, if the migrating herds disagreed with the sanctions that they felt were forced on them, they were free to leave and not have any such restrictions imposed onto them.
"It is so very sad that the grownups are so bad at leading the valley…" she commented as she pursed her lips. "Yep, yep, yep…"
Spike tilted his head, letting out a confused grunt as he shot his sister a quizzical look. It was only upon hearing his response that Ducky realized that her previous statement sounded like it had come out of absolutely nowhere. After all, although she had been thinking about the thoughts, she hadn't actually spoken them out loud, so how was Spike supposed to know what she was thinking?
"Oh, I am sorry for confusing you, Spike. I am, I am." Ducky got to her feet, looking up to face her spiketail brother. "It is just that I was thinking about why all our friends have to leave the valley…"
Out of nowhere, Spike let out a humored chortle at her remark, causing Ducky to grumpily fold her arms. "Just what is so funny, Spike?" she questioned her laughing brother, "I don't see why you are laughing. I do not find this very amusing at all. Oh, no, no, no…"
With an amused expression, Spike lifted up one of his front foot, pointing the large appendage in Ducky's direction. The hadrosaur turned around, her blue eyes followed the direction Spike was gesturing at, assuming that he was pointing to something that was behind her. However, the swimmer was disappointed to be greeted only by the still waters of the flowing river behind her, with no dinosaur or distinct landmark in sight.
"What are you pointing at? There is nothing over there," the befuddled Ducky pointed out as she whirled back onto Spike. "There is not. Nope, nope, nope!"
At that remark, Spike continued to lift his front foot, this time making the gesture clearer as he jerked towards his sister.
"Wait… me?" Ducky cocked her head in realization, her jaw slackening as she pointed a finger to herself. "You're pointing to me?" she repeated.
Spike firmly shook his head in affirmation, which only made Ducky even more confused than before.
"But why would you be referring to me? It does not make sense to me at all! I am not a farwalker, Spike! Oh, no, no, no!"
Spike grumbled before he leaned forward to rub his nose against his sister.
"Haha!" Ducky laughed. "That tickles! Stop it, Spike!"
Quickly halting his assault, he then pointed his snout up towards the valley walls, holding the stance to let his sister recover from her laughter. When she did, she let out a surprised gasp, the answer hitting her square in the face. It was at that exact point that Ducky realized what Spike was driving at. By pointing to her and then immediately directing her towards the sharp cliffs that surrounded the valley, he was indirectly asking her, "What about you? Did you not climb past those walls yourself?"
"Oh… you are talking about us!" Ducky said, bopping Spike on the nose. "You are, yes you are!"
And sure enough, the query made a startling amount of sense. For all her mutterings about why the farwalkers had left the valley, she herself was no exception… and neither were any of her friends. It was funny how she hadn't looked at it from this viewpoint before.
Maybe she was being a hypocrite by asking why the farwalkers left the confines of the valley behind when they themselves had done the same. She and the gang had left behind the sanctuary of the valley so many times that Ducky couldn't even count all of the times they'd left the valley grounds on her two hands. And if this trend continued to hold true, then soon she wouldn't be able to list the numbers of times they'd escaped to the wilderness of the Mysterious Beyond on all of her fingers and toes.
But it wasn't really the same now that she thought about it, was it? In the end, unlike the farwalkers, they always returned home to the valley. Sure, they adventured out all the time, but they always returned back to their families in the valley.
But perhaps, she realized, that she and her friends had taken the valley for granted. For all the effort that they took to get to the Great Valley in the first place, they seemed to try their damnedest to get out of there at times, though her good friend Cera had always been the most adamant whenever it came to leaving the Great Valley behind. The threehorn had always been the most apprehensive and skeptical of the group, oh yes she was… she was.
"Maybe we are just as bad as the farwalkers…" she admitted with a sigh. "We always leave behind the Great Valley when it comed to our adventures." She tilted her head up to look at the daunting stone wall that surrounded the valley, knowing full well what was beyond that natural barrier. "I mean, out there, there is no safety from sharptooth, no fresh water to drink, no scrumptious treestars to eat—"
Spike perked up at the mention of treestars, causing Ducky to snort and roll her eyes in exasperation. "Spike!" she reprimanded as the swimmer proceeded to emulate her mother's stern voice as best as she could, "Now is not the time to be thinking about food! Oh, no, no, no!"
But as her mind drifted back on topic… she realized that there was one common factor that usually led the gang out to the Mysterious Beyond… and it was eerily similar to that of the reason she suspected the farwalkers of choosing to emigrating to other places besides the Great Valley.
Namely, it was the Valley grownups.
Most of the times that Littlefoot, the undisputed leader of their group, called for them to venture off usually was due to the fact that the grownups disagreed with them or did nothing at all, preferring to idly remain cooped up in the valley, safe from any dangers, all while she and her friends were the ones who roamed out to the dangerous unknown for one reason or another.
Ducky's eyes widened. Yes, that was it. The keyword was "safety"! Yep, yep, yep!
How many times had she heard the phrase thrown about like a Pointy Seed in one of their games? The, "It's too dangerous! It's not safe!" cop-out excuse that one of their parents always threw at them whenever they wanted to do something fun?
Why could they not do what they wanted? Their lives were governed with curfews, rules, and regulations that they had to comply with. Maybe not so much for her since her momma was relatively on the tame side when it came to such things, but Cera definitely had it the worst out of all of them.
As she looked back on all the times she'd disobeyed her own parents, Ducky finally understood the allure of the Mysterious Beyond despite all of its shortcomings. The revelation threw everything into perspective, causing her to understand at last why even the plucky Cera could never resist Littlefoot's temptation in the end when it came to leaving the valley.
As a swimmer, Ducky envied her flyer friend Petrie at times. Once he finally learnt how to fly, the youthful flyer was able to soar up into the skies with no limits as to where he could go, bar his tendency to play it safe due to his anxiety, of course. But disregarding that, Petrie truly was a free dinosaur — the looming rock walls of the valley didn't confine him in. If he wanted to, he could take off and fly off to the Mysterious Beyond… although Ducky doubted that he would ever do something as reckless as that willingly. While being a swimmer meant that she had access to underwater areas no one else could venture into, a flyer like Petrie ruled the sky as his domain, free to command the very air with a flap of his wings.
Yes, that sweet forbidden fruit of freedom was what it all boiled down to in the end. Whenever they were out there on their own in the Mysterious Beyond, the gang had no grownups to rely upon, and therefore had to make their own choices. Sure, some of those more reckless decisions left things to be desired for upon further reflection, but on the whole, they collectively made the decisions together with no outside input. Out there, they were in control of their own lives. Whereas in the valley, it was the same routine — day in and day out, with little change and variety whatsoever, a mundane existence awaiting them unless something out of the norm happened that day.
"Sure, it is true that we are safe here in the Great Valley…" Ducky lamented with a sigh, "But are we truly free in the Great Valley?"
Honestly, the question that she'd just whispered was a rhetorical one. Not even Littlefoot could turn the answer to this question around, despite being the one amongst the gang who always stubbornly held on to steadfast hope in spite of surmounting odds. After all, he was in no position to argue the alternative, not when his very own father had left him behind in the Great Valley due to his own pursuit of being a herd leader of his own longneck herd.
But then, was it really okay for them to be trapped forever in the Great Valley? Sure, there were times when Ducky regretted their misadventures—usually when they attracted the attention of some nasty sharptooth in the heat of the moment—but looking back, overall she had enjoyed all of her adventures with Littlefoot and the others. Even prideful Cera would probably agree with her there, although to get her to admit that out loud would be an adventure in itself.
"Oh, Spike…" Ducky lamented with a soft mumble as she nuzzled her cheek on her brother's thigh. "I was just thinking about how much the big ones control us. I did not thinked that the valley had restricted our freedom this much. Oh, I do not like this at all… oh, no, no, no." She stopped her physical contact, tilting her head up to look into Spike's eyes. "Well, what do you think about all of this, Spike? Do you like it?"
Spike, unable to give a standard answer due to his inability to talk, gave his sister a noncommittal grunt in response, the spiketail gazing his purple eyes up to the night sky in a dazed manner.
"Yeah, I do not think so too." She shook her head in agreement. "Nope, nope, nope…"
Of course, now that she had enlightened herself as to one of the valley's greatest drawbacks, she couldn't help but look at the whole valley with a critical eye. Ducky cheekily chuckled at the thought of looking at everything with skepticism, since it would imply that Cera was rubbing off on her, something that the threehorn would almost certainly brag to Littlefoot about.
"Ahhhhhhh…" The hadrosaur covered her mouth as she let out an exhausted yawn. After she had tired out her brain by thinking so hard, Ducky realized that she didn't have the energy to crawl back to their nest. "Oh, let Momma find me herself tomorrow when the Bright Circle comes up…" she mumbled in a voice that was almost incoherent. With the sweet temptation of sleep catching up to the young swimmer, she found herself leaning down and nuzzling Spike, the spiketail contented with his adoptive sister's impromptu decision to lie down next to his belly as he himself rolled onto his back.
As Ducky prepared to let the sweet embrace of sleep claim her, her introspective mind suddenly thought about one last curious little tidbit, causing her to blink her eyelids open and put off her sleep for a couple more minutes. She got off her resting spot, turning to her back only to see Spike already beginning to snore.
"Good night, Spike…" Ducky wished her brother as she herself made her way back to the river to admire the beauty of the Night Circle—what she had originally been doing before Spike had interrupted her—for one last time before she slept. After all, she definitely couldn't admire the Night Circle when she woke up, since by then the Bright Circle would have taken its place.
As she gazed down at the still water, the swimmer distinctly remembered the time that Littlefoot had persuaded the gang to head out to the Big Water so that they could get Mo back to his home.
Even though she had not physically swam in the Big Water—and come to think of it, she wasn't sure herself as to why she had refrained from doing so—Ducky had distinctly remembered being marveled by its beauty. It was certainly more pristine and less menacing than the Big Water that had stranded them on Chomper's island about a cold time before that. That time had been so bad to the point where they all sang a song about why the Big Water was so scary.
However, the Big Water that greeted them when they bid their farewells to Mo was of a different nature. Calming, relaxing, almost peaceful — Ducky blamed the changing currents for the difference in her opinion of the Big Water between the two incidents. Perhaps the vicious currents that had previously plagued the Big Water had calmed down over time? It was definitely a plausible explanation… it was, it was.
And much like the Big Water that Mo had lived in, the water in the water path right now was still and undisturbed.
Wait… still and undisturbed?
Her mind suddenly making a connection, Ducky lay flat on her belly, feeling the blades of grass on her underbelly as she inched forward to the end of the riverbank until the upper part of her body was suspended above the water path. The swimmer then reached out to the middle of the river, slipping her hands into the cool water as she touched the reflection of the Night Circle, dissipating the white circle by making the surface choppy as she splashed the water about.
The stillness of the water had, for that brief instant, reminded her of the staticness of the Great Valley. Yes, that was the perfect way to sum up the whole situation. The ever-changing sky represented the unpredictability of the Mysterious Beyond, while the calm water represented the unchanging Great Valley. The sky changed every day — sky puffies one day, sky water the next. The water path, on the other hand, was at the mercy of the sky, much like how the valley was at the mercy of the Mysterious Beyond at times.
The sky and ground were two different worlds, poles apart just like the Great Valley and the Mysterious Beyond. And as Ducky's eyes looked back down to the water, she noticed something very disturbing — everything on the surface of the water was just simply a reflection of the objects in the sky.
Of course, it made sense. In the end, the valley was just as much prey to natural disasters as the Mysterious Beyond. But man, did it hit them harder here. If the Night Circle represented security and safety, then her hand making waves in the water was like a test of that security. And since the reflection of the Night Circle above could not be reflected on a rough surface… it vanished.
All it would take is one catastrophic event to break down the valley, collapsing the only advantages that the valley offered over the Mysterious Beyond. Ducky let out a humored laugh at the realization. It wasn't even a hypothesis… it'd happened before when they lost their water and their food supply in two separate incidents, in fact!
It appeared that in the end, Littlefoot had been wrong. He had claimed after a while that the valley's greatest strength was not its abundance of green food, or its promise of everlasting water, but rather the security that it provided over their predators. But just like the moonlit blossom of the Night Circle reflected on the surface of the water, the security that they had in the valley itself was dependent on outside forces. In other words, it was nothing more than a mere mirage… simply an illusion.
The greatest gift of the valley was to give its fellow residents peace of mind. However, that was also its greatest drawback. Hatchlings who grew up in here had no idea of the hardships out there in the Mysterious Beyond, something none of the Gang had ever taken for granted due to spending a good portion of their childhood days out in the wilderness. But these hatchlings… they'd grow up pampered, sheltered from the harsh reality of life even when they grew older. It wasn't peace of mind that the valley offered at all.
It was simply an illusionary peace of mind — one that could be dispelled easily by a sudden twist of fate, the same way that she had made the reflection of the Night Circle disappear by splashing in the water.
To live a life like a Valley resident was to be safe with no worries for the rest of their days, but it came at the cost of having no freedom whatsoever. Everything was micromanaged by the grownups and their parents… from their bedtimes to the petty rules that honestly seemed to make no sense at times. She supposed that trading away a migratory herd's freedom to venture to wherever they wanted in exchange for a safe life was the price of admission to be a Great Valley resident.
But to live their life out there in the Mysterious Beyond, if ever came to that… just the five-no, seven of them out there, meant that they were allowed to make their own rules. After all, they'd never listened to their parents during their little misadventures. Usually, Ducky instead took command from either Litlefoot or Cera, depending on whose idea between the two seemed more sensible at the time. While in theory it seemed pretty suicidal to throw away all the protection they had and trudge out to the Mysterious Beyond, she could finally see why some of the farwalkers chose this path.
With this arrangement… they themselves were the masters of their own destinies.
Ducky let out a wistful sigh. Honestly, she was unsure if she could ever make this choice. She knew full well that she and her friends were inseparable. If they eventually rebelled against the false sense of security the valley offered, choosing to leave the Great Valley and head off to the Mysterious Beyond in a bid for freedom when they grew older, they would do it together.
But the million-treestar question still remained. Would they ever trade back the safety they now have… for the freedom they once had?
So yeah. This is my first foray into Land Before Time. Yep, yep, yep!
I've always wanted to write something for Land Before Time, especially since I've been lurking the FFN archive for it since early 2014… basically close to four years now. In fact, I think one of my favorite LBT fics, The Seven Hunters by Rhombus, was just barely beginning around that time if I recall correctly… which just makes me feel old now that I'm thinking about it, and also tells me that I've been lurking for goodness knows how long now.
As a matter of fact, my lurking here actually predates the actual creation of this very account — and for good reason too, since I've always found that the writing for Land Before Time is generally of consistently high quality for a relatively small archive. But after creating an FFN handle, I've finally decided to stop sitting on my tail (after starting up ideas and writing for multiple other fandoms) and give the Land Before Time fandom a shot since it's so close to my heart.
Alright, now as to why I wrote this… it's pretty much Land Before Time tradition for the Gang to leave the confines of the Great Valley in every single sequel, fanfic, and whatever in between. Seriously, it's like to the point where the fun parts of the sequel films are when they're out of the valley.
The thing is, from an outsider's viewpoint it seems to make no apparent sense at first glance — why ever flee from the safe haven of the valley and risk your life to venture out to the Mysterious Beyond? And while it's obvious why the Gang would adventure out from an analytical viewpoint (hint: the tipping point for all of them following along is usually friendship and sticking together), I've decided to write about what one of the possible reasons is from one of their points of view. To be truthful, I was actually torn about whether to write this story from Cera's or Ducky's perspective, but I eventually went with the latter. I think you can probably see why!
Yeah, that's all I got. I'll certainly write more for this fandom when time permits, most likely for the Gang of Five monthly fanfiction prompts so I can actually motivate myself to cough out a story. Hope you all enjoy this one.