Chapter 4: Like Father, Unlike Son
"It's no use, momma! Me no can fly! Why must Petrie learn how flap wings? Me okay with being on ground."
"My darling Petrie, it is okay if you are a slow learner. However, I cannot agree with what you just told me. The sky is truly majestic."
"Petrie no get it! What so good about sky? Brrrr… it high up… and scary!"
"To answer your question Petrie, I feel that as flyers, getting airborne is one of the most majestic and satisfying feelings that we can attain. There is simply no greater sense of contentment than soaring high in the skies."
"Me no believe you, momma! Petrie like stay on ground!"
"Well, that's because unlike your siblings, you haven't quite got the hang of flying yet. I think that's why you hold this viewpoint. But not to fret, Petrie. When you master the intricate skill of flying, I hope that you will look down at the ground below you with a smile and remember my vow to you."
As Petrie's life flashed before his eyes, he let out a humorless chuckle at the words that sprang to his memory.
"When you master the intricate skill of flying, I hope that you will look down at the ground below you with a smile and remember my vow to you."
To say that he wasn't smiling would be an understatement. His beak was drawn horizontally straight. It wasn't exactly a frown, but it wasn't a happy smile either.
Petrie did have to concede that there was some truth to the statement, however. After his rough early childhood, he finally did learn how to fly, and the feeling was indeed as euphoric as his mother had described. But now, it appeared like he would also meet his end while being high up in the sky and instead wishing that he was safe and sound on the ground.
There were definitely days where Petrie fervently wished that he had never left behind the sanctuary of the valley.
As he wildly gesticulated around and tried in vain to redirect himself from his current collision course, it struck him out of the blue while he was attempting to avoid ending up as a splattered flyer that this was certainly one of those dreadful days.
"Nngghhh!" he groaned, sucking in a sharp breath which came out as a high-pitched whistle as the cliff that would spell his doom loomed ever closer. It was almost like he was a spectator to his own demise, only able to watch helplessly while being unable to do anything to avert his grisly fate.
But such was life. Every once in a while, fate liked to remind him about just how fragile it truly was. Be it through illness, an earthshake, or a heart-pounding sharptooth attack, Petrie was often brought back down to earth and reminded harshly of how his own life could be cut short and terminated at any waking moment.
And it appeared like this was finally it for him. It looked like the time had come for him to head for the Great Beyond. Certainly a bit premature, but the finality and cold embrace of death did not discriminate between age or species.
He closed his eyes somberly, broken tears trickling down his face. Letting out a forlorn sigh, the flyer appeared to be at peace with himself as images of his best friends, his siblings, and his mother flashed in his head.
Hey… what me doing!? Petrie no can die like this in middle of nowhere!
Petrie angrily snapped his eyes open, straining himself to try and force his wings back to his sides as his body was swirling around in the vortex. Since the wind had blown him up to the sky by catching the surface of his wings, it followed that retracting his wings as though he was preparing to land would send him into a controlled dive… but one where he actually stood a chance at regaining control if he extended his wings at the right time.
Of course, if he failed, he would smash right into the ground. Painfully.
He shuddered, ridding the gory mental image from his mind. His imagination going wild was the last thing he needed at a time like this.
Truth be told, the only reason that Petrie was even going to attempt this maneuver was because he was guaranteed to crash into the cliff if he did nothing and surrendered to the whims of the brutal winds. Sending himself into a dangerous dive where he could escape the worst of the violent winds was his only way out of this storm.
Remaining passive was not an option. Risking a controlled dive was a gamble he would just have to take.
"Here… me… go!" Petrie gasped as he finally exerted enough effort against the relentless gale to flatten his wings to his sides. With his wings no longer accumulating the brunt of the wind, it no longer had enough drag to propel him up, and without warning Petrie quickly felt himself careening back down to earth at a terrifyingly fast speed.
Luckily, right at that moment, the winds beating at him from above miraculously slowed down just enough for Petrie to discern that they were no longer pushing his wings against his chest. Squinting his eyes as though he was bracing for impact as the rocky ground rose up to meet him, he took in a deep breath and spread open his wings just before he would slam into the ravine floor.
The effect was immediate. His flight path began to arc into a gentler curve as his swift dive allowed him to gain enough speed and lift to regain control of his flying capabilities. Once control was relinquished from the wind back to him, Petrie wasted no time in making his escape from the gorge now that he wasn't pelted by falling sky water. He used the momentum he gained from his rapid descent to pull up sharply until he was flying at an almost vertical angle.
He grunted from the enormous effort that was required to execute the hard turn and the subsequent upwards flight right out of the ravine. The journey through Weathered Gorge had already done quite a number on him, especially on the final leg of the journey when everything had gone horribly awry.
But at least now things were finally looking up. Quite literally, too, as he was streaking skywards and now tearing through the winds that previously had confined him to the deadly ravine.
Petrie let out a hurrah when the brown cliffs constricting him was no longer in view, for it meant that he had managed to escape Weathered Gorge! Leveling out horizontally now that he'd safely cleared the towering peaks which had trapped him prior, Petrie suddenly spotted a glimpse of dark blue out of the corner of his eye.
He performed a double-take, unable to believe what he was seeing. The only reason he didn't have a more vivid reaction was because it didn't quite compare to the revelations about his father or being bombarded by every weather phenomenon physically possible.
All of that still didn't stop Petrie from reacting with shock.
"M-Mom! What you doing here!?"
His mother angled herself so that she was besides Petrie, merely flashing a bemused grin in response to her son's query. "I should ask you the same thing, Petrie. Whatever brings you to Weathered Gorge, I wonder?"
Petrie immediately clammed up at her question, averting his eyes away.
Sensing that she wasn't going to get an answer from Petrie's standoffish body language, Skylar instead glanced down at the ground, her eyes glazing over the gorge far below them. "But to answer you… I wasn't going to let history repeat itself, especially with that reckless move of yours. I'm certain your father tried to do the same when the winds got the better of him."
Although he was in the midst of flying, Petrie whipped his head around and stared at his mother. His face turned deathly pale as he locked eyes with the other flyer, still proceeding what he'd just heard. Never before had his mother delved into the circumstances surrounding the death of his father, at least not willingly. Even when he and his siblings had collectively eavesdropped on their mother, Petrie could barely glean any details since he couldn't peer into her head and could only infer what had happened from her words and mannerisms.
"The wind blew your father to the sky as well. Took him for quite a bit of a spin, actually," she joked, though the frown on her face didn't quite match her attempt of humor. "Unfortunately, he didn't manage to escape." Her voice cracked, but she let out a sigh. "That was because at the time, I was stuck on the ground and not in the air to support him. But that's not the case with you, Petrie."
His mom was not in the air during the flight ten Cold Times ago? But what difference would that make…?
That was when it hit him.
Of course! The sudden reprieve of the wind letting up on him while he had executed his dive down to the ground wasn't a coincidence! His mom must have flown directly overhead when he was diving, and as her body took the brunt of the wind force from above, that respite combined with the speed of his dive allowed him to pull himself free.
The glint in his mother's solemn eyes was confirmation enough to Petrie that this was indeed what had happened. Without saying anything, she broke away from their current formation, speeding up as she flew ahead of Petrie.
Her intention was clear when she proceeded to take charge. Petrie didn't have to be a genius to realize that his mother didn't want to stay here for any longer than she needed to. After his own experiences, he was quick to follow suit and concur without complaint, silently trailing behind his mother's lead. The remainder of the trip back to the valley was thus comparatively silent.
Only when the valley wall was in sight did Petrie unintentionally break the silence, beginning to hyperventilate at the thought of seeing his siblings again.
This wasn't how he had envisioned returning to the Great Valley at all! He was supposed to return with a triumphant fanfare… to prove that he had stepped out from his father's shadow and could stand as his own flyer! Instead he was coming home with his head hung low in defeat, unable to debunk his brother's words. As he flew over the valley wall Petrie found his eyes darting around frantically, half-expecting his siblings to appear out of nowhere and mock him for yet another failure.
"You seem distracted, Petrie. Are you looking out for someone?"
His observant mother had caught him out again. Despite her leading question, Petrie still attempted to deny it. "N-No…" he stuttered, lying through his teeth, "what make you think that?"
Skylar merely shook her head at his feeble attempts to suppress the truth from her. Many Cold Times of dealing with Petrie's antics had granted her the uncanny ability of predicting what her son was thinking in that head of his. "Don't worry," she started, landing on a grassy clearing quite far from their home, "I've made sure that your brothers and sisters are at the nest before I left. You and I will have some personal space to talk over here."
Petrie landed next to her, a tired yawn escaping his beak as he finally rested his wings after the long flight. "Yo-you knew?"
"I was appalled when I heard about what had happened from your siblings. Don't worry, I assure you that I've given both Gyro and Pitch quite the harsh talking-to."
Petrie had to suppress a small grin at hearing that the perpetrators of his misery got what they deserved when his mother gave him a warning look.
"But to answer your question, I would have deduced it anyway, even if your siblings didn't tell me about what was going on. You are quite easy to read and figure out, you know? I'm not going to grill you about why you did what you did because I know exactly why you did it."
He scratched the back of his neck bashfully. "Me really that obvious…?"
Skylar chuckled. "Yes, you are. Your friends are such a bad influence on you. It really does show."
Petrie did not deny his mother's accusation, there really was no defense against it. Instead, he zeroed in on the other thing his mother had just revealed to him, even though he'd already guessed it beforehand.
"Brothers and sisters tell on Petrie?"
"Yes. Right on the mark there." Skylar lowered her voice to a gentle and soothing tone. "But they didn't do it to get you in trouble. They were very worried about you, Petrie. Not only did they state where they thought you were heading, a few of them actually tried to follow me to Weathered Gorge when I went to look for you. I had to put my foot down and insist that they stay put in the valley."
Petrie nodded. He wasn't surprised by the revelation at all — knowing his siblings, his question had been a rhetorical one.
His mother then continued. "There was a reason I was so staunch with them. No matter how much Pitch and Gryphon begged me to come along, I had to ground them to the nest." She glanced towards the general direction of their home, "I wasn't going to let them just throw their lives away, and considering that you've been to the gorge, I think you can understand where I'm coming from. You've seen just how vicious it is, in all of its glory. The last thing I want is to have additional casualties."
Petrie couldn't help but shiver, remembering just how close he was from being a "casualty" himself. The shaken flyer hadn't managed to get the chance to look at a reflection of himself, but Petrie suspected that he looked worse for wear. He was probably a wreck after his experience.
"Don't worry. It's over now." Skylar consoled her son by walking over and massaging his shoulders. "I don't blame you for being scared. Weathered Gorge is absolutely terrifying. I've flown across a large portion of the Mysterious Beyond and seen many landmarks, but nothing quite beats this place in terms of the sheer terror it inflicted on me psychologically."
Petrie hobbled forward to get out of his mother's hold. "Me no get it. Why weather against Petrie? It like big, horrible storm, only it keep on changing!" His apprehension was slowly giving way to frustration now that he was safe again. "Frozen water, then sky water, and big wind! What happen there!?"
"So you did manage to catch that… but to be fair, you'd have to be blind and deaf to miss it," Skylar murmured. "Well, what you experienced back there is the result of the strange weather effects that surround the gorge." She raised a wing to the sky, her voice solemn. "That is in fact how Weathered Gorge got its name — virtually any weather can materialize there. It is simultaneously both a marvel and a horrifying experience, all wrapped up in one neat package."
"That why Weathered Gorge weather so surreal and weird… it actually scary and dangerous place!" he exclaimed, before letting out a sulk. "Then Petrie no get it. Why you and Dad choose fly to there if it so bad?"
Skylar flinched at her son's direct query. "I was… a reckless girl, Petrie. You may see me as a calm and mellow mother, but that wisdom came with a price. Back in the day, I was actually a wild and adventurous deviant who flew upside-down loops around what was considered the norm. I sure did drive my parents crazy, you can bet," she chuckled, "It is rather disadvantageous to have no check and counter to shoot down your wilder ideas before they come to fruition. Unlike you, I didn't have someone like a level-headed Littlefoot to talk me down when I was young. Plus, your father liked that side of me and never interfered whenever I was in one of my impulsive urges."
"You were brave flyer, momma?" Petrie hedged evasively. He really didn't want to talk about anything resembling the subject after what had transpired.
"Not exactly," Skylar clarified, twiddling her wings together — a visible nervous tic. "There is a world of difference between being brave and being a reckless fool. The latter knows no fear, and that was certainly me back in the day. But I mellowed out significantly after I lost your father, especially after you and your siblings all hatched. I suppose that being a parent does that to you. Perhaps if one day you were to have children of your own, you'll see exactly what I mean. And maybe then, you'll realize exactly to what kind of an extent you end up scaring me to whenever you up and disappear on one of those little adventures with your fearless little friends."
Petrie chuckled bashfully when his mother called him out for his many attempts of flouting or ignoring her rules, and basically trying to evade her jurisdiction when it came to things that would get him in a whole lot of trouble, often involving his friends. "Petrie no going change that about me!" he rebutted in a playful manner.
"Speaking about change…"
The terse tone in Skylar's voice caused Petrie to stop his laughter and listen intently.
"Weathered Gorge is a place of constant change, shifts, and transitions. The weather never stays static, resulting in wildly unpredictable weather patterns, as you've seen. In a way, the gorge is very much an analogy to life itself," she remarked as she looked to the sky, "My point is that things change, Petrie. Nothing is forever."
Petrie immediately barked out a comeback. "But, that not true! Me friends — Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Spike, Chomper, Ruby… we all be together forever! We promise each other!"
Skylar appeared amused by his remark, which caused Petrie to fume until she explained things. "Do you remember when Littlefoot almost followed his father and his herd of farwalkers out to the Mysterious Beyond? You told me then that you were okay if he left, because your friendship would carry on in your heart," she quoted.
Oops… yeah, that was true. He did indeed say that.
With that counter-argument, Petrie also decided not to mention that they had to say goodbye to Chomper at least twice now before he and Ruby moved into the valley because of Red Claw and his cronies. He damn well wasn't going to bring up a point which would only serve to further shoot down his own side of the argument.
But his mother didn't push it, instead delving straight into her point. "I have changed as well. I am not exactly what one would call a model flyer in the past. My former attitude is probably what resulted in Pitch inheriting her impulsiveness and Roll getting her insatiable sassiness," she admitted, unable to keep a growing smile off her face as she used her wing to stroke the crown of Petrie's head. "And I suppose that the many misadventures of my spunky youth was where you got your intrepidness from… at least whenever your friends manage to coax that side out of you, Petrie."
Petrie stayed silent, pondering his words carefully before formulating a reply. "So you saying… me only brave because of you?"
"Not necessarily, Petrie," she consoled. "Just because you're my child doesn't mean you have to take after me."
"But you just tell Petrie that Roll act like this because of you," he retorted. "Then what about Gyro? He always mean because he feel like it! You no mean flyer, so he no get that from you!"
Skylar forced her beak closed. It looked like she was considering her next words carefully. "Not everyone must be exactly like their parents," she finally said.
Petrie shot an ugly glare at his mother when he realized that she was being altruistic and trying to defend Gyro. Whether she was playing devil's advocate or not, he was fuming at the idea. "That no excuse! He mean to Petrie because he feel like it! He make Petrie feel so bad me have to prove meself to him! Because he say that Petrie and Dad the same! And you know what? Me think he absolutely right about that!"
"Petrie…" Skylar cut her son off before he could fly into a further rage. "Your brother is just being presumptuous and trying to get under your skin. Think about it, Petrie. None of you saw or knew your father. Can Gyro really claim that you're both identical if he never knew him?"
Despite his mom's sensible explanation, it wasn't good enough to snap Petrie out of his funk. "It no matter… make no difference to Petrie," he muttered, resigned. At that moment, the weariness on Petrie's face made him appear as despondent as a leaf-eater who knew that they were done dinner in a sharptooth chase.
It was the expression of someone who had lost all hope.
"Oh, Petrie believe what Gyro tell me. Everyone else all brave and good at flying. Only Petrie bad at flying… no, me and Dad," he corrected, a desperate lilt creeping into his voice as he began to fervently pace back and forth. "Dad die at Weathered Gorge, and Petrie almost die in same way. That all the proof me need that we both terrible flyers! Me always been bad at flying and always been scaredy egg because of Dad!"
"You're wrong, Petrie."
The stern edge of his mother's curt retort caught Petrie by surprise, causing him to pause mid-rant to look up at her. Satisfied that she had Petrie's full attention, Skylar continued on. "As I said, Gyro didn't know his father, so he's not fit to cast biased and frankly unwarranted presumptions about what he thinks his father was like. But if you think about it rationally, Petrie — doesn't the same also apply to you?"
Petrie brooded over his mother's question. While she did have a point, it didn't do much to stop his self-loathing. He just couldn't fathom that he and his father weren't like two identical treestars. The resemblance, the proof, the almost uncanny turn of events which had him almost mirror his father's demise…
As if his mother could read his eyes, Skylar proceeded to address his concerns. "Pitch warned me that you probably wanted to verify the authenticity of Gyro's claims by tackling Weathered Gorge for yourself, and upon hearing her prediction I found myself inclined to believe that it was indeed what you had done. Why is that? To disassociate yourself with your dad?"
The heavy silence that permeated the air was enough of an answer.
"Oh, Petrie… you shouldn't label yourself by affixing negative connotations through making comparisons to your dad. There will be no end to it if you consistently put yourself down with negative assumptions like those, furthermore ones that you would never be able to get closure on by confirming it as true or false. Those negative thoughts swamping your mood are very much like the Circle of Life — perpetual and never ending."
"Well, that no good enough for Petrie!" Petrie lost his temper as the topic hit close to home, his voice rife with jealousy as he thrust his wings outwards in anger. "Just look at Petrie brothers and sisters! They better than Petrie at everything! Me useless compared to them!"
"Then I humbly implore you not to compare yourself to your siblings," Skylar suggested, deliberately making use of fancy-sounding words to get her raving son's attention. "There's no need to do something as reckless as braving Weathered Gorge to establish a pecking order that only you and Gyro care about. Just because you lack the social nerve doesn't mean you need to get hard up about it. There are many other traits where you positively excel, Petrie."
Petrie was feeling rather vindictive. Normally he would be more receptive to such a lecture, but the events at Weathered Gorge had stung him so much that the flyer decided to channel his inner Cera. "Like what?" he questioned incredulously, using his best snobby Cera impression.
"You got your big heart from your father."
He dropped all of his cynicism, caught off guard by her statement. "Really?" Petrie squeaked, his eyes shining with hope for the first time since he touched down at the valley.
"That's right," she confirmed, "And if you really want me to be honest, Gryphon is actually the one who shares the closest similarities with your father, not you."
"…Gryphon?" Petrie cocked his head. His closest brother by hatch order and a relation? He didn't expect that. All this time Gyro and Roll had made it sound like he was the closest match to their father, but for his mother to reveal that it was actually the easy-going Gryphon instead? That was… unexpected.
"Your older brother is actually the spitting image of your father, in both appearance and personality," Skylar revealed when she saw the confusion on Petrie's features. "It is almost like my mate was reborn in my son…" she trailed off, a small smile gracing her beak at the thought.
"Petrie no know that! It no obvious to me!"
Skylar proudly puffed her chest out. "For good reason! I certainly don't treat Gryphon any differently from the way I treat the rest of you despite the uncanny similarities. Why should I? All of you are my precious children. It isn't fair to the rest of you if I showed him favoritism," she pointed out, before putting a wing to one of Petrie's shoulders. "I understand that you've fallen out of grace with most of your siblings, but they're still family. Give them time to change, Petrie. The Time of Great Growing might surprise you."
Petrie frowned, though in his heart he'd always known that his mother was impartial. Was it wrong for him to insist on further reparation for his unjust treatment? To demand that justice be served? He couldn't help but feel as though Gyro and Roll had gotten off with a mere slap on the wing from everything they did.
"Me no think brothers and sisters will change."
"There, there, Petrie…" Skylar let a chiding lilt into her voice to cut off her youngest son's accusatory lament. "…it's understandable that your mind will attenuate the bad, but always remember that some of your brothers and sisters have good intentions, even if it's not plainly obvious."
"Hmph! Me no think so." Petrie couldn't help but scoff at the notion that someone like Gyro and Roll had a heart of gold or secretly harbored the best intentions for their brother, just obfuscated and hidden under layers of snark and cruel sarcasm. It just wasn't possible.
Skylar folded her wings with a frown. "Don't give me that defiant face, Petrie. I meant what I said about change. Just look at me… would you have liked it if the same impulsive flyer who led your father here ten Cold Times ago still behaved like she did today? I don't think you'll be very fond of me as a mother too if I behaved like Gyro or Roll on a constant basis."
Petrie gasped, recoiling back in horror. The flyer had always taken solace in his mother as a bastion of hope who he could confide in whenever the going got tough, and the very thought that the mother he knew and loved could have very easily turned out to be a complete stranger who actually encouraged such rowdy behavior from his siblings had she not pushed Dad to Weathered Gorge… it was almost too much to bear.
"So if me Dad no go Great Beyond… then that mean you continue be cruel and arrogant flyer?!" he deduced, shaking as he said those words, the very idea of that frightening Petrie right down to the core. "Petrie no like that at all! Me no even want think about it!" He bowed his head, voice lowering to a whisper. "If it mean you be nice caring Momma, should Petrie be… glad Dad no around now?"
Skylar was taken aback at Petrie's words, her eyes wide with shock. "Don't say that, Petrie!" she scolded, before pulling her son into a hug and crushing him tightly against her chest. "I don't think I said this, but I have a feeling that without your father battering the winds by my side, I wouldn't have made it out of Weathered Gorge myself. I refuse to let your father's sacrifice be a senseless one, so the very least you can do is look up to the stars where he resides in the Great Beyond and remember him as a great flyer, not to curse and dishonor his memory. Please, please, please… don't wish that he was better off dead, Petrie. He would be so hurt if he could hear you say that…"
His mother's sudden breakdown instantly made Petrie feel abysmal. He cringed when he realized what he'd done and wrapped his wings around his mother, returning the hug as the bummed out flyer began to shake himself, his body wrought with grief.
"Me sorry, Dad… Petrie no mean it like that," he apologized in a raspy but sincere voice towards the clearing skies, looking intently at the Bright Circle as he blinked his tears away.
"Thank you, Petrie," Skylar whispered, her voice thick with emotion. "I think your father is smiling down on you right now." Releasing her hold on Petrie, she brushed off her wings as a cheeky smirk graced her lips. "Though the loss of your dad had something to do with mellowing me out, I suppose that being a parent of a bunch of rascals like you guys would have done the same regardless."
Skylar let out a haughty laugh at Petrie's face when she saw her son taking affront to her remark. "Maybe Pterano should get a mate for himself, and only then will my brother not act so hotheaded and pompous all the time! I mean, settling down worked out rather well for humbling me and quashing that attitude of mine, and I was arguably worse than him at my prime. And if it succeeded for me and possibly for your uncle Pterano if he's truly learnt his lesson after that whole Stone of Cold Fire fiasco, who's to say that it someone like your brother Gyro won't change for the better given time?"
"Or maybe he become worse," Petrie cut in somewhat bitterly as he wiped away his tear streaks, still refusing to concede the point regarding his older brother. The animosity he felt towards Gyro still lingered despite his mother's best attempt to get him to put it aside, although letting out his emotions regarding his father earlier did alleviate the agitation he felt overall.
"You never know, Petrie. Only time will tell." His mother advised, deciding to cut the topic right there for today and not press the matter any further after noticing Petrie's sour mood.
Taking into account her youngest son's usual ambivalence with regards to any matters relating to his older siblings, Skylar had to say that Petrie was taking her prediction of a better relationship between him and his siblings relatively well. Though he was moody and understandably skeptical of such an outlook, Petrie hadn't deflected the topic, for one. He was just being staunch and stubborn.
"Are you upset at Gyro because you can't live up to the expectations you imposed on yourself?" she asked, trying a different approach. "You don't have to be the very best just to prove a point, Petrie. There's no need to be an overachiever like Pitch. Poor girl puts so much stress on herself just because she was the first to hatch. I'm not going to be an overbearing mother who expects miracles from my children."
Petrie had a wry grin on his beak as a mischievous thought crossed his mind. "So that mean you no going be like Mr. Threehorn?" he wiped his brow in solace, "Whew, that definitely big relief for Petrie! Cera always complain about him!"
"That's right… I'm not going to act like Mr. Threehorn anytime soon." Skylar chortled at Petrie's jab at the threehorns. It was a flyer thing to make fun of threehorns more than most other species as they could simply fly out of range of any possible retaliation. "For me, being average is something that is perfectly acceptable so long as you've tried your very best. All of us have our limits, Petrie, and biting off more than you can chew by chasing something beyond your ability is a foolish endeavor. Perfection is like the Bright Circle. No matter how far up we fly into the sky, even we flyers are unable to reach it no matter how hard we try until it is our time to leave for the Great Beyond."
Petrie spun on his feet, turning his body away from his mother. It was clear that he was trying not to get overly emotional again. Despite his best attempts to pull himself together, his mother's next words almost made Petrie burst into tears all over again.
"You're alright just the way you are, Petrie. You just have to learn to accept that. Don't compare yourself to your siblings, your father, or even your friends."
"O-okay…" Petrie managed to get out, "Me try…"
A whooshing sound caused Petrie to turn and see his mother extending her wings to their full length. It looked like she was finally done with her talk and was making preparations to fly back to their nest. Only now did Petrie see the sheer exhaustion on her face. Even without a body of water, he could see the weariness in his own face reflected in her eyes.
"Just like the unpredictable weather at Weathered Gorge, things and dinosaurs always change. I know you heard me say that I would never go back to Weathered Gorge, but I broke my own vow and came for you, didn't I?" she pointed out. "What's important is that I resolved myself to head back not to prove to myself that I could, but to protect you from harm. It wasn't easy battling my own demons with that place, but I came through in the end. I always do when it involves my children."
Petrie beamed at his mother's bravery as she took to the skies, sprouting out a few last lines of wisdom before she presumably headed off to take a long rest.
"You are not your father, Petrie. Every flyer is uniquely different, so just be yourself. Always adapt to change, but don't hold yourself to impossible standards. That way, you will become the best flyer you can be."
He dusted off his roughed-up wings, sitting down on the ground and closing his eyes to take a rest when his mother had left the scene. He really did feel a lot better after her pep talk, though now he found himself processing her advice in detail.
Maybe she was right? Striving to be better and crafting loftier standards for himself had guided him throughout his life. Perhaps it was time to just be satisfied with what he'd already managed to attain for himself instead of forcing drastic changes to meet increasingly absurd standards and goals…
Petrie was immediately jutted awake by two flyers coming out of nowhere and glomping him, one from each side. Too startled to react properly, he could only gasp out a plea to them. "Gah… Petrie no can breathe…"
Both flyers dialed things back a bit, giving Petrie some space to breathe upon his request. When they released him from the combined embrace, Petrie was finally able to get a good look at the perpetrators.
"Pitch, Gryphon… what you two doing here? Where you come from!?"
Gah, what was this!? How did his siblings find him in such a vulnerable state? He had even scouted out the area before he landed because he was afraid of this exact scenario happening.
Pitch laughed before replying with a non-committal answer. "You can figure that out for yourself, Petrie."
"Think of this as a bit of friendly payback for losing me in that game of hide-and-seek in the trees earlier when you escaped the valley," Gryphon admonished, likely still a bit annoyed that he had lost sight of his younger brother in the vegetation earlier.
Petrie gulped. "Y-You eavesdrop on me and Mom!?" He still was rather sore and bummed out at being caught out, even if it was by his nicer siblings on the relative scale. He still didn't know how he'd react to seeing Gyro or Roll, though knowing that they had gotten their comeuppance did feel like a sweet victory.
"Nah, we didn't hear a thing," Gryphon assured. "Mom was already on edge when Pitch, Yaw, and I were forced to confess to her that we all eavesdropped on her once you disappeared. But we knew you were coming back with Mom, so the two of us just flew around the valley in a low profile until we saw Mom in the air, heading back to the nest."
"And heading towards the direction that she was flying from meant that we were likely to find you, Petrie," Pitch grinned, before running forward and hugging Petrie again. "But enough about that! I'm so glad you're safe, you reckless brother of mine! One of these days you're going to get yourself killed!"
"Yeah, what she said," Gryphon concurred. "Your luck's held out thus far, but one day it's going to run out."
Petrie's face fell. "You two only come here to nag Petrie?"
"Of course not!" Pitch retorted, placing her wings by her hips.
Gryphon had a gleeful expression, revealing something that he'd kept concealed behind his back. "We came to return you this!"
Petrie's beak fell open. "M-me snuggling stick…" he gaped.
"Yeah." Gryphon waved the object around. "You dropped it back in the forest!"
"…deliberately," Pitch added.
"And I knew how much it meant to you, so I asked Pitch to save it for your return. To surprise you when you made it through Weathered Gorge!"
Petrie staggered backwards, completely taken aback by Gryphon's words. "You believe in Petrie?" he asked
Gryphon looked at him in disbelief. "What are you talking about? Of course I believe in you, brother! You and your friends accomplished so much! And you changed up the tradition of the Day of the Flyers! Don't short change yourself, Petrie!"
He looked at the beaming face of Gryphon, and for an instant saw shades of a proud adult flyer superimposed on his khaki-brown brother's features.
Gryphon closest to Dad, huh…
Well, perhaps having traits of their father wasn't really as bad as Gyro and Roll had made it out to be.
"Thanks, but uh, can you give Petrie some time to meself?"
Gryphon tossed the stick to Petrie. "Okay! See you back at the nest later!"
"And don't go running off again!" Pitch warned jokingly. "You were lucky we were able to keep this under wraps! I know your friends were worried sick, but we managed to hide the fact that you flew away to some death trap from them."
"Hehehe…" Petrie chuckled nervously, picking up the fallen stick. "Thanks…"
One lecture from his mother was enough. He would be mortified if Littlefoot and the others ended up nagging at him too.
With casual nods to bid themselves goodbye, his two siblings left him be. Petrie smiled to himself, holding the snuggling stick close as he saw their retreating figures.
The past was the past. Whoever his father had been as a flyer, his misadventure in Weathered Gorge had taught Petrie that there was no point in remaining stuck in the past. He would never have a yardstick or a true basis of comparison between him and his father, but with the help of his mother he realized it didn't matter. He wasn't required to hold himself to some ridiculous standard just to meet the demands of others.
Petrie let out a soft croon as he nuzzled his snuggling stick with his face.
He might be the runt of his siblings, the butt of many jokes, and dead last in various physical attributes, but all of that didn't bother him as much anymore. What mattered now was that he felt comfortable being his old self, perfectly satisfied with the growth he managed to attain where previously he'd been frustrated at that stagnating progress.
Now that he was looking at things from a more positive angle, Petrie found that he was okay with playing a passive role, happy with being delegated the role of lookout on his friends' many adventures, and generally decent enough when it came to his flying abilities. Free of that judgmental burden that had plagued him now that he switched his mindset around, Petrie felt as though he was reborn again, just like when he had first relinquished his snuggling stick. But this time, that feeling came from accepting his snuggling stick back, and this time the gesture was done as a celebration and acceptance of who he was.
The world around him constantly shifting and trying to force him to fit the new mold wasn't going to change who he was.
Yep, he was just plain 'ol Petrie…
…and that was okay.
Well, this conclusion ended up being slightly late for the December prompt deadline. Figures. :P
This also marks the first time that I have ever completed a multi-chapter story on my account! You might have seen that I've previously left behind a bevy of unfinished works in my trail in the past, but this year I will be working on wrapping up some of them.
I had a lot of trouble writing the talk between Petrie and his mother, but I hope the overall themes of perfectionism and change upon a reflection of Petrie's journey managed to come through in a coherent manner. These two topics are quite dear to me, so I hope it was conveyed and wrapped things up neatly.
Still think this story could have turned out a lot better, but I'm going to take my own advice and not beat myself up for failing to meet my own lofty standards. In a way though, I wished I'd left it as a shorter oneshot. But this is my first prompt response of the year, and more will come in future!
Anagnos: I left the weather unexplained, as the whole reason I used the changing weather as a gimmick was to drive home the "constant change" lesson of this chapter, but I hope that wasn't a letdown. The part where the weather changed constantly was also the exact point where I wanted the chapter done quickly, and in retrospect it really shows. While it's a bit messy in my opinion, I hope Skylar's talk with Petrie was satisfactory enough of an explanation.
Keijo6: The underlying reason behind Petrie's vitriol towards his father is somewhat explained in this chapter. Funnily I never meant for Weathered Gorge itself to be the main beef of the story, and the emphasis was on the buildup and falling action, so I understand if it seems like the journey through the gorge was rushed.
Rhombus: In a perfect world where I had more time and drive, Weathered Gorge was supposed to be its own chapter… but true enough, the pride and fall of Petrie's determination to best the gorge in a chapter works rather well too. I think you put it together quite well, as the struggle for Petrie to outdo his father is fundamentally the catalyst behind his actions. I like that you noticed the snuggling stick, as in essence it is the very encapsulation of what this story is about.
StardustSoldier: Thanks for reviewing! Yep, Petrie and his siblings are all the same age, but what I mean is hatch order, sort of how Ducky is the oldest of all her siblings by just a few minutes or so. Almost all those scenes you mentioned dragged for you were only added when this story was turned from a oneshot into a longer story, so you might be onto something there. It is true that Gyro and Roll seems a bit too malicious, but every one of us uses their errant behavior in LBT12 as a base. :p