Words in italics represents character thoughts or flashbacks.
The various prompts of the Gang of Five forum's Fanfic Prompt Challenge for the year of 2020 has been released with a bang! The given prompts for this year's challenge look very fun, yep, yep, yep, so I'll definitely participate and compete as much as I can. With that in mind, you should hopefully be able to see a whole cavalcade of Land Before Time content from me in 2020.
I couldn't finish the Dec prompt in December itself, but the deadline is January anyway, haha. Getting right down to it, the theme for the month of December 2019 is: "The gang is notorious for exploring new places and finding new difficulties along the way. Write a story where one or more of the gang explore(s) someplace new and, along the way, discover(s) something about themselves as well."
Chapter 1: Fraction of a Second
Ask a flyer about which place their kind found themselves having the most affinity with across the entire expense of the Mysterious Beyond, and the resulting answer would be the same, unanimous even amidst an entire flock of them.
The boundless sky.
Wide and sprawling as far as the eye could see, the expansive skies were a facet of life that could only be truly experienced by the avian dinosaurs, and this was something that very clearly showed. When flyers soared in the air, they were invincible and untouchable, bound not by the rough contours of the land thanks to the trusty wings that were a part of their namesake.
In short, this domain was ruled by their kind, and their kind alone. It was an indisputable fact.
…all this being said, a lesser known fact about these magnificent winged creatures—a term which many tended to use when they were referring to flyers—was that they had one other locale where they could still feel right at home despite technically not being airborne.
"Oh, oh, oh! There it is! Feast your eyes upon the miraculous canyon of legend… where weather itself is twisted to the whims of nature! Doesn't that sound incredible, dear?"
Now what was the place in question, one might ask? Though the question posed seemed obtuse for non-flyers, the answer was more apparent than one might think — tall and rocky bluffs, the closest that a flyer could get to the skies above while technically still bound to the earth below.
"You're nuts, Skylar. Absolutely bonkers. Really… 'feast your eyes'? So very melodramatic, the wild gesticulation you did with your wings really sold that delivery. But y'know, that's why I love you so much, you reckless flyer, you."
It was this exact picture that plagued the flyer's mind as her memory brought her back to a jagged and twisted ravine that, from the bottom, seemed to extend upwards until it touched the sky itself.
"Come on, dear. Don't try to sweet talk your way out of this. Yes, I can see you rolling your eyes at me. You clearly knew I was a spunky daredevil from the day you professed your love to me. This shortcut cuts right through to the Miracle Plains, a fertile land of green and trees for us flyers, hence also the perfect spot for a nest. Let's make this perilous journey for the sake of our unborn children."
The dark and almost unnatural sky should have been a preamble that things were about to go wrong. The flyer grimaced, clenching her eyes shut and wrapping her dark blue wings around her body as she inwardly cursed herself, remembering how she and her light-brown colored mate had foolishly ignored those warning signs and flew into the large canyon…
…something that they both soon regretted.
"Darn this place, Skylar! I thought that the erratic weather was a joke or at least an exaggeration, but this whole place's going spastic! Gah, we should never have taken this shortcut!"
"I was going to call you a wimp for trying to squirm your way out of this, but given the current state of affairs right now, I hate to admit that you're right! Even my hotheaded brother Pterano would think twice before tackling winds of this magnitude. Let's just hurry and press through before things get any worse! We've come too far into this gorge for us to turn back now!"
A sigh escaped her as she recalled the exact point where the seemingly innocuous and fun flight turned into anarchy and chaos. As the male continued to complain, the already downcast weather turned absolutely horrendous. Before either of them knew it, a harsh change swept through the ravine, the howling winds picking up so much speed that it ended up grounding both her and her mate as flying under such extreme conditions was virtually next to impossible.
"This wind's getting insane, Skylar! Gee, this is some storm… and the horrendous sky water isn't helping one bit! Visibility is terrible, and my wings are completely soaked! Ohhh, I knew we should have simply quit while we had the chance!"
"Quit complaining and hold yourself together! We're already drenched from beak to toe, so there's nothing we can do now but trudge forward to get out of this heinous storm. Slow and steady now, make sure you take one step at a time! These strong winds will send you flying like a helpless treestar the moment your hind legs aren't planted firmly on the ground! Come on, we can do this!"
The miserable flyer looked to the sky, immersing herself fully into the memory and mentally preparing herself for what she knew was to come. Although Skylar did not know it then, the weak reassuring smile her mate had flashed her in that exact moment of time as he struggled against the winds would end up ingrained into her head.
It was the last time she'd ever seen him relaxed.
Just as things were finally beginning to look up, everything went wrong in a fraction of a second. A searing flash that was even brighter than the Bright Circle in the Warm Time turned the entire skyline white in an instant, the deafening bang from the sky fire blast reverberating throughout the entire valley.
Distracted by the light and sound, the male lost his footing against the ground, and then everything happened in a blur. In an instant the khaki flyer was flung back, his large wings immediately caught up in the relentless gale. The only thing that kept him from being blown away was his mate reacting instantly, grabbing desperately onto the tip of his wing.
"S-Skylar? Y-you… caught me? Oh, praise the Bright Circle, you really are as strong as you are beautiful, you wily flyer!"
"Yes, I did… and will you stop giving me that sappy face, you miscreant! Hurry and plant your legs back on the ground! These winds are far too strong! I can barely support myself, let alone you, so quit wasting time staring at my pretty face and get to regaining your footing before I lose my grip!"
"I would if I could, but I can't! The winds are blowing my body in a skywards arc! I can't force my body to the ground when it's blowing me up in the opposite direction!"
"Fine, then! We'll wait for this horrendous gale to subside. But until then, in the name of the Bright Circle, don't you dare let go of my wing! C'mon, I can already feel you slipping!"
"Ugn… I know, I'm trying—"
A brilliant flash lit up the sky, the sky fire distracting them both for just an instant. But unfortunately, that minuscule interference was all it took for the course of their lives to be altered forever. In the span of time that it took for the two flyers to blink, a disoriented Skylar accidentally loosened her grip on her mate's wing.
"Nooo!" she cried, seeing her horrified expression reflecting in her mate's eyes right before he was wrenched away by the relentless storm. Instinct then forced the flyer to throw herself down to the ground below lest she ended up being carried away as well.
A sickening crack followed his panicked cry.
Skylar felt her heart freeze. Her body still pressed flat against the damp ground, the flyer willed herself to take a peek in the direction of the sound…
…and immediately felt sick, wishing she hadn't let curiosity get the better of her as she was greeted with the chilling sight of a crimson red liquid being spilled all over the rocks.
There was a brief moment where time itself appeared to freeze as Skylar and her mate locked desperate eyes with one another. Her mortified beak was agape and greatly juxtaposed by the resigned slackness of her mates' beak. His high-pitched shriek of panic had instantaneously turned into a muffled gurgle on impact, and it didn't take her long to realize why his expression was so dazed — the large hole in his head was enough explanation, so blatant that even a yellowbelly couldn't be mistaken about what had just happened.
And then, with another bolt of sky fire, time unfroze.
Her mate went into violent convulsions, the flyer wildly flailing his wings about in what appeared to be excruciating pain caused by the bluff's sharp rocks impaling him through the side of his head, the grotesque nature of his unfortunate plight only further accentuated by the copious amount of wet blood pouring out of his beak.
In her heart Skylar knew that his injuries were mortal from just a single glance, her mate making the distinctive death rattle made by dying dinosaurs who were choking their last breaths only a further confirmation to the grim reality that was playing out before her. And yet, despite what her rational mind was telling her, she couldn't help but to desperately plead for a miracle.
"No! No, no, no! Please… I haven't even laid my eggs yet. You were going to be a father to our unborn children… our precious hatchlings! Please don't die on me… you can't just die on me like this! I won't let you… you have to live for my sake, for our future children' sake! Don't leave us like this!"
Despite her desperate begs, the miracle never happened for her. Her mate didn't even react to her fearful cries, his glazed eyes a terrifying hint to Skylar that her mate couldn't even see her, let alone process what she was saying.
Far too soon those writhes of agony turned into feeble twitches before the male's broken body slowly slumped to the ground as a result of gravity, his beak frozen in a contorted expression of surprise and pain. The haunted emptiness in his eyes accompanying the twisted look on his face was enough for Skylar to break her composure as she bore witness to her mate unconsciously kicking his feet up to the air one final time, his death throes finally concluding with a whimper as the flyer mercifully breathed his last and was put out of his suffering, entering the Great Beyond without any fanfare.
It had all happened so fast. One moment he was joking around with her, the next his limp body was cooling, devoid of life and exposed to the surrounding elements. Give a day or two and his corpse would be nothing but bones, either having rotted away under the Bright Circle or stripped of flesh by scavengers and sharpteeth.
Skylar could only stare at the cold broken carcass of her mate before slumping back down to the wet ground below, the stricken tears streaming down her face mixing together with the puddles of falling sky water and the rapidly congealing blood.
"It… it wasn't supposed to be like this… I… I…"
She didn't know how long she stayed there, lying uselessly on the ground. Only when the boom of a nearby sky fire pounded her eardrums did she shakily get to her feet.
Even if her mate was gone, she owed it to him and her future children to not perish here. Taking one last fleeting look at the body of her fallen mate, she took off to the skies when the winds were on her side.
'To hell with the Miracle Plains… this bloody shortcut wasn't worth it! My poor mate… I killed him. If I never brought him here…'
Jerking her head to stop that thought before it depressed her further, she proceeded to make one last vow in her head as she ascended, determined to get out of the storm alive and not let her own legacy die in this forsaken ravine.
'I swear to the Bright Circle… I will never return to this damn place for as long as I live!'
The skies above were filled to the brim with darkened sky puffies which cast a long shadow over the entirety of the Great Valley.
A dark blue flyer drearily gazed upwards to the gloomy sky with a downcast mood which roughly matched the state of the weather. Her eyes lingered in that position, still and unmoving. Even though by this point of the day the Bright Circle should have made its appearance already, she quickly surmised that it was likely to be absent due to the numerous number of sky puffies clustering and congregating above.
…and perhaps that was for the best.
She had snuck away from the nest, giving herself some alone time from her six children for once. Considering her current emotional state, she definitely needed to take a moment to recuperate, especially considering that the damn memory had plagued her non-stop throughout the night.
The vivid imagery of her mate's final resting place always gave her chills, even though it had been so long since it happened. She didn't like to think about the loss of her mate for a multitude of reasons. For one, it brought back painful memories of happier times spent with a handsome and witty flyer who knew her inside-out. Though she eventually learnt to deal and cope with the absence of her other half who once completed her like the Bright Circle to her Night Circle, there were days where that stony façade broke and she reflected back upon those times with a hungry yearning.
"Get a hold of yourself, Skylar," the flyer firmly told herself, shifting her posture as her body shook. "You promised yourself Cold Time after Cold Time that you got over him. Your mate passed over to the Great Beyond a very long time ago, and you're all your children have left. Who will take care of the kids if you break down over past events?" she asked herself. "It is all in the past, with an outcome that you cannot change…"
Still, on somber days like this, she often found herself pondering about how different things would be if they hadn't made that foolhardy crossing to Miracle Plains through that blasted canyon. And as if to add insult to injury, Skylar had soon been forced to shift away to a different place as the so-called "miracle" plains ended up being an unconducive location for her nest, thus rendering the entire flight moot.
What irony. My hastiness to get to a place which ended up being unaccommodating to us got my darling killed for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It was all for naught, huh? Good to know, Skylar, now you've sunk yourself into an even greater bout of depression…
"If only I hadn't been so foolhardy to attempt a crossing through that place…" Skylar lamented. "If we didn't take that risky route to Miracle Plains, you would have lived to see your children. Darling little Pitch, Yaw, Roll, Gyro, Gryphon, and Petrie," she listed them off from oldest to youngest, allowing herself a small smile as the thought of her pride and joy warmed her heart despite the melancholic ambience hanging in the air. "They would have loved to have a father, and I bet that you would have loved them tenderly too, my dear."
Her mood then proceeded to swing as abruptly as a threehorn on an ego trip, fiery eyes shooting to the gray sky above that just so conveniently happened to reflect her current frame of mind. "It's the fault of that wretched Weathered Gorge!" she burst out in anger. "I should have believed the rumors about how treacherous that place was instead of treating it like a joke, and my mate paid the price for my foolhardiness! But at least now I would never forget where that accursed mountain range is located… near where the Land of Mists is in present day, towards the direction where the Bright Circle rises from the ground."
Skylar finally exhaled a relieved sigh as she finished her rant, getting it out of her system. Feeling much better now, she left her perch and made her way back to the nest. Even if the Bright Circle wasn't visible due to being obscured by sky puffies, it was roughly time for them to wake up anyway.
…but little did she know that her six children weren't actually asleep, and nor were they at the nest.
The adult flyer didn't have a clue that a crowd of very rambunctious flyers had intruded and eavesdropped on one of her most personal moments, or that her poignant words would end up being the catalyst to a chain of events which no one could have foreseen.
Only a matter of time before I got around to tackling the topic of Petrie's father. In case you can't tell, Skylar is Petrie's mother. I haven't thought of a fitting name for Petrie's father, so I shall leave him nameless.
Barring that, I'm… not all too happy with how this story turned out. Those on the Discord server probably heard me say that Dec is the prompt that I'm least interested in and yet still wish to write about. As a result, I've hit an impasse with it throughout most of December.
To be frank, this is a rather self-indulgent fic. While my normal stance is to write unusual stories that haven't been done before and embellish them with details, I've shed that mindset this time and instead attempted a topic close to my heart — you'll soon find out what it is. It will also have a lot more action than what I'm used to writing, but I snuck in those low-key introspective moments as well, which is probably how this thing got so blastedly long that I had to split it up again. It is also the first prompt fic I've written to not use events from a movie as a base and instead focus on an entirely original scenario, something which I am striving to try more this year. Weathered Gorge is an entirely original location of mine, for starters, and it is the primary focus of the prompt.
Because of all this experimentation, this story might not be of the highest quality compared to some of my other offerings, but I'm generally satisfied with what I have so far. The flashback might be rather graphic, and that was because I wanted to actually try writing a drawn-out death scene, something which I haven't really done a lot in my LBT writing thus far. Gotta get some practice in for the hard-hitting stuff, after all.
This was supposed to be a one-shot—hm, where have we heard that before—before the actual adventure itself was thrown off by an approximately 7K word setup. I am in a bit of a lull as my studies resume next week, so I decided to post what I've already written to tide me over until I write the actual adventuring part of the story. This fic will only be four or five chapters long, so I should be able to finish it in time. :)