The Last of Her Kind

Chapter 6

Who is this making her way through the crowd? From the safety of the cave, Baylene watched as the bedraggled figure leaned on Plio for support. Baylene couldn't see this creature up close right away, yet the elderly brachiosaur could hear the gasps emanating from the other animals.
"What is happening down there? Why all the shock?," she asked. Kenric, in spirit, stood by his sister and replied, "That is Glennis. She was to deliver a message from me, but she never arrived. You see, Baylene, that night..."

Baylene, allowing herself to gently embrace the brother she both loved and fretted over, didn't need further explanations. For even from the safe distance of the cave, the grand lady could tell that Glennis was a victim of the Fireball disaster. What happened to the pterosaur during that firestorm was a tragedy that not even Glennis wanted to relive, for she bore the scars that not only marred her body, but disfigured her soul.

"Listen to what Glennis has to say, Baylene," Kenric continued. "She is the link, you know. To you, to me, to Aladar if truth be known..."

No wonder Glennis stayed to herself...Everyone called her the Phantom of the Grounds...


 "I was but a wee babe when I first met Baylene's brother. Of course, that was after I was able to fly about..."

Glennis glanced about, her eyes resting the longest on Aladar and the lemurs. She peered into Plio's eyes and finally said, "Yes, dear heart, that island was our home, too. T'was always our home. Our dear mother hatched us there, and I, years later, hatched my own young'uns there."

She glanced about once more, suddenly realizing that these animals stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and dread. At first she thought it was a mistake to come and fill in the holes of Sarama's story. But here she was, standing in the full blaze of the afternoon sun. Now the Herd could see why Glennis stayed in the shadows, and earned the name The "Phantom of the Nesting Grounds".
At a distance she looked like any other of her kind, but up close, one could see the ravages of that firestorm. Glennis' entire right side was horribly disfigured, the result of third-degree burns. Her delicate wings were virtually nonexistent for the thin delicate membranes were now masses of ugly, welted scar tissue. Both hands were gone; one eye had been lost. Her face and crest were hideously marred as well. However, for some reason, the beak was one of the few places on Glennis' body that escaped injury from the blast's intense heat.
She put on a brave face for the gathering animals she thought feared her. But no, this isn't fear but gratitude. For in the end, it was Glennis' reminisce of an important missing piece of an ever complicated story. When she finished her recollection, nearly everyone finally learned the truth behind two events: Brother Kenric's sudden departure and ill-timed homecoming, and an egg that fell from the sky.

She turned the prophetic parasaurolophus named Sarama and said, "Dearie, why don't the two of us relate those few hours before the Fireball...Those many years after your darling grandmother met her untimely end, and I, years after that, lost me own mother to a monster..."

Glennis sighed as she glanced toward the cave. "We all lost so many to one catastrophe after another...Me, you, and Baylene...and another lady who lost all her young'uns so long ago. Poor soul – she never quite recovered from that..."


Now let us backtrack those many years ago, a few hours before the Fireball wrecked its havoc. Along the Nesting Grounds Trail, several Herd members spend a leisurely afternoon. They abound with anticipation of another generation yet to be born. Life is good. 
However, unbeknownst to them, this year will truly be a test of faith, patience, and survival...A trial by fire that leaves no one unscathed...
"It's not fair...No one should suffer such  adversities. Not her, especially. Perhaps Grandmother was wrong..."

The prophetically gifted parasaurolophus they called Sarama glanced back once more at the female iguanodon, the same lady who lost her eggs during a carnotaur attack many years ago.
"It was so long ago, Hadron," she finally said to her mate. "The beast had to smash every one of those eggs...That means..." 
"No, my dear," he replied, "for Mother Adah said that the one who shall inspired Baylene, and us in turn, was snatched from his nest..."

Sarama looked out across the water and watched the remaining brachiosaurs graze in the green meadows. During the glory years, the magnificent sauropods were plentiful in number; now only a handful remain, thanks to disease and old age. The parasaurolophus' heart nearly broke because neither Baylene nor Ember were among the usual brachiosaur community. Instead, at Baylene's insistence, the pair simply struck out for another part of the valley, preferring to keep to themselves.

"It has been a traumatic time for all of us, Sarama," said Hadron at last. "First the pestilence – nearly all of Baylene's family wiped out. Your grandpa, Japhet, expired the same time as Baylene's mate..."

He needn't remind Sarama again for the hard-won peaceful years following all the trauma was just that -- Well earned. During that march to the Nesting Grounds years before, Mother Adah, weakened by disease, age, and a broken heart, lagged further behind the Herd. Although her family tried to keep watch over her, it was an impossible task as Adah refused, "Such fussing over me."
It was during this march, and before her untimely end, that Mother Adah had a final flash of foreboding.

"She's here, children," she told them just hours before the carnotaur attacked. "The stranger's mother...But she returns empty-handed...Yet the child lives, far from here and amongst strangers himself...In the most cruel fashion, Ember will pre-decease Baylene, leaving her eldest sister to face the world as the last of their kind...The fiery rain comes, so many will die...And Baylene's brother...He is to come home, but he, and his messenger..."

She turned eyes to Sarama and said, "Years from now, when the time comes, tell Baylene's story. Ember made me promise to do so, but I won't live to see all this come to pass...Sarama, watch over your family; watch over Baylene..."


"Those words – her last words to us just before the carnotaurs attacked – are still fresh in my mind," said Sarama as she climbed a low rise overlooking the river and wide plains below. She could barely see them, Baylene and Ember, for they were so far away. The two old brachiosaurs were now the few survivors of their kind; so many sauropods simply died out of old age and illness.

"At least, Hadron, Baylene did get to see my family before moving on...She was especially taken with our Doli. Which reminds me, my love. Where is Doli?"

Doli was Hadron and Sarama's firstborn, and favorite child. At present, the daughter had gone further upstream with grandmother Ola. Doli was expecting her first hatchlings that year, and Sarama was so pleased with being a grandmother. But somewhere in the back of her mind, the prophetic parasaurolophus had yet another premonition of doom. Those vibes became more intense as the day progressed.
She turned to her mate, saying, "Something evil is coming, Hadron. I can fell it, smell it..."

Deep down Sarama knew that something was about to go horribly wrong, and she glanced over the plains again only to see Baylene and Ember's heads disappear amongst the tallest of trees.

"I really must go visit them, Hadron. But first, for some strange reason, I need to find my daughter and mother...I have this sinking feeling..."


"Do not despise the words of prophets..."

"Beg pardon, Baylene?"

On the other side of the river, miles and miles downstream and far removed from the rest of the Herd, two of the remaining brachiosaurs went about their daily routine. Ember and Baylene, the last of a noble family, had aged well following those trying years of pestilence and tragic loss. Baylene's heart sank as she recalled the Herd's recount an ill-fated journey to the Nesting Grounds so long ago.
She remembered Sarama's eyewitness accounts of a carnotaur attack, resulting in the destruction of a female iguanodon's nest. Then there was Mother Adah's sudden and violent end. The prophetic hadrosaur once again voiced those visions of fiery rain, tragic loss, and the arrival of the stranger who would alter so many lives.
Baylene, who allowed herself to sink into a twenty-year depression, uttered, "Do not despise the words of prophets."  However, Baylene couldn't understand why she said those words; they just popped into her head.

It was sister Ember's turn to break the silence. "Baylene, it's been so long ago. I feel it's time to go on living...I know you still miss them – Quivier, Amber, and Gemma – but, dear sister, life must go on..."

The elderly brachiosaur raised her gentle blue eyes to meet her sister's soft brown. O, thought Ember, the depths of pain and torment one can read in those eyes. Baylene, the family rock, simply withdrew into to herself, hardly speaking or acknowledging the presence of another.
She finally spoke to her sister, "Ember, these are the twilight years. Look about and tell me how many more of our kind have died today?  Three?  Six? A dozen or more?"
She took a deep breath then continued, "I've taken to heart Adah's words, and I've worried about the things she foresaw. While I'm not inclined to believe such things wholeheartedly, I've mulled over her revelations. That's why the phrase simply popped into my head..."

Ember acknowledged her sister's musing, for indeed the brachiosaurs had aged and died at an alarming rate. There would be no more. How sad, thought Ember as she bent down to take a drink, that there are so few of us left...

Of course, if our brother Kenric is still alive...

Suddenly, without thinking, Ember said, "Dear sister, I'll admit our brother has been on my mind these days...I often wonder what has become of him..."
At once Baylene's eyes shot fire; she was about to speak but was distracted by the hale and hearty voice emanating from above.

"Are you the one they call Baylene?," asked the voice.
Both Baylene and Ember raised their eyes in the voice's direction. And what a sight greeted them!  It was a young female pterosaur en route to her island home far across the sea. She alighted on a nearby rock then introduced herself. "I traveled far and wide a-tryin' to find you. I have some news for you, dearie."

Ooh, what a warm voice full of brogue and burr; it was like pure music. Normally many of the plains animals feared the pterosaurs because the great flying reptiles had a much deserved reputation for snatching eggs and small dinos. But this was no ordinary hunting expedition for this flyer, for she had the good fortune to stumble upon the female brachiosaurs.
As she spoke again, the musical lilt of her voice helped put her listeners at ease. "I apologize for overhearin' your conversation, but when your names were mentioned...Darlin', I've been to the seashore 'cause me home's just across the water. There's another who looks like you; I believe he's one of your menfolk. Goes by the name of Kenric, he does...."

Both Ember and Baylene looked at each other in shocked amazement. After all these years -- nearly a generation -- the wayward brother finally makes himself known. But how could it be? How could it be that Kenric is still alive? And where has he been all this time?

The pterosaur replied, "If you're worried about your dear brother, Baylene, don't fret so. He is well, but he misses his sisters and wants to come home."
"Did you hear, that Baylene!," exclaimed Ember. "Kenric is coming home."

Baylene still said nothing as Glennis, the flying reptile, brought the sisters up to date on their brother. Apparently Kenric did blame himself on all the calamity that befell his family -- Baylene losing her babies for one.  The sickness that returned and claimed the lives of so many brachiosaurs somehow missed Kenric; he had traveled far to the south, hundreds of miles from his familiar plains.
"Right now, he's living near the shore, just across the sea from me island home..."

Glennis' voice trailed off as she was anxious to return to her children and, perhaps, pass along a much needed, long overdue message. To this Ember replied, "Glennis, will you pass along this message?"

She glanced at Baylene who by now had left her company, heading for a secluded spot on the other side of the plains. Humph!, thought Ember, this bitterness has gone on long enough! Baylene and Kenric need to make amends -- Let him come home to those who love him!

"Glennis, when you see our brother, tell him all is forgiven, and that we will welcome his return. We have never stopped loving him...My only hope is that Baylene will be just as open and forgiving..."


A few hours later, just before sunset, hundreds of miles removed from the plains, a lone male brachiosaur strolls along the beach. He is about to receive a very important message.  Read on...
He paused just a few feet of waters' edge, stopping long enough to gaze out across the sea, wondering about that island Glennis told him so much about. Oh, she told him of her family and how that island served as home for generations. She built her nest not far from the spot where her mother's was located, and this was done out of fond memories and a tribute to a grand lady. Of course, as Glennis told Kenric, her mother lived for so many years after the birth of her grandchildren. As always, Glennis' mother would hunt for her grandchildren as she did for her own.

"She always brought back something wonderful, and we'd never complain. However..."

On rare occasions, Glennis related, these hunting expeditions would end in a fight over food.
"There was this time, long ago, when I was just a wee hatchling," Glennis explained. "Our mum brought us a nice big egg -- Snatched right out of the river, she told us! Anyway, those blasted little scourges ganged up on me poor mum. She had no choice but to drop the egg down in the forest below. From then on she was mighty careful not to let those noisy, pesky rascals steal our food."

Kenric remembered that conversation with fondness, even if parts were somewhat unhappy. When he asked about the island itself, Glennis only told him, "We stayed high up in the cliffs -- Never ventured down into the forest anyway. Dad said -- and he'd never been down there himself -- that the forest is enchanted, and that little creatures scamper about the great green trees. When Mum dropped that egg, I sometimes wondered if those little sprites got it..."

Glennis said no more about her island home other than her mother, "On one last hunting trip, flew out over the waters and dove too close to the waves. Mum had just snatched a nice fat crab when one the monsters of the deep surfaced and grabbed hold of her." 
Soon after, there was a fight, and Glennis' mother lost the battle -- The mosasaur's powerful jaws closed around the pteranodon's delicate neck, then dragged her beneath the surface. This entire tragedy was witnessed by children and grandchildren.
"Never will I forget that sight," Glennis said, and nothing more.

Kenric remembered those words with a heavy heart, but he was more intrigued with the stories of an enchanted forest populated with sprightly magical creatures. If only I could find a way across these waters; then I'd make a home for myself on that island. It sounds like Paradise...
But he pushed those thoughts from his mind as the day faded into twilight. Of course, he thought with a chuckle, he'd never be able to swim across the sea if he wanted to. He laughed out loud at the thought of the water holding up his eighty-ton bulk!

"No, our kind was simply not made for water travel..."

What a glorious sunset! The waning sunlight painted the sky a brilliant yellowish pink, but also conveyed the impression of uncertain change. Whatever was to come would change a certain brachiosaur's life forever -- His sister's life, NOT his.


"Hello there, Kenric!"

The familiar brogue could be heard above the never-ending roar of waves crashing upon the shore. Kenric, the wayward brother, glanced in the voice's direction only to see Glennis' swooping across the beach. She landed on a nearby rock then beckoned the big sauropod to listen. "I got some news from your sisters. And you better listen up!"

She glared at him with a curious mixture of disgust and admiration. 
Yes, Kenric had mellowed over the years; the time alone to work out his problems was time well spent, even if did mean leaving home. As he said, he had good reason for abandoning his family -- He felt he was the cause of all the tragedy that befell his loved ones. He also felt that his parents shouldn't have spoiled him so, but that was now all in the past.
In a way, the dashingly handsome brachiosaur was glad that he found such a good friend as Glennis. The pterosaur befriended him long ago when she was just a fledging. He fondly recalled her mother and often wondered if SHE shared the gift of foreshadowing. Long ago, Kenric scoffed at Mother Adah's prophecies; however, as time passed, the warnings of trials by disease and fire fascinated him. Of course, the old hadrosaur was correct, for since Kenric's departure those many years ago, the pestilence had returned and wiped out nearly all his family. Only sisters Ember and Baylene survived. Glennis, upon returning from one of her hunting missions, told him that much. Now it was her turn again to act as messenger.

"As I said, Ken, I got a message from your sisters. And don't look so surprised. They want you home, at least Ember does. I have no idea what's eating the other
"Oh, Glennis, after all these years, how can I go home again?," said Kenric as watched a flock of ichthyornis ("The very ones who long ago caused Glennis'
mother to drop that egg," he thought) soar overhead.

He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with fresh salty air. Ah! The clean crispness of the seashore with it's rich tropical forest not too far away. It was here that Kenric made his home after years of wandering. Not too many of his kind in these parts, but it was an appropriate setting for years of quiet contemplation and soul-searching. 
And it was a peace that he finally found in this little paradise. Now, in his advancing years, Kenric thought over Glennis' message. His sisters -- well, at least one sister -- were ready tto forgive and forget. Perhaps it's all for the best; there is no use in staying apart, especially since Baylene had lost both mate and children.

"Did Baylene say anything? I mean, how did she react?," he asked. 
Glennis' musical voice played over Kenric as she replied, "The old girl said nothing, dearie. I supposed she still a mite sore at you. Hmmm...Didn't you once tell me that you and her never quite saw eye-to-eye?"

Kenric stood motionless, his imposing form silhouetted against the brilliant twilight. Then he said, "You know, Glennis. I don't care if Baylene never speaks to
me again...I don't know why she'd be so bitter..."

He sighed in bitter realization and said, "Oh, yes, I know the real reason...." 

"Which is why you best be a-gettin' back to your sisters. They need their baby brother more than anything." 
The pteranodon glanced at the darkness looming over the western horizon. "Which reminds me -- I best be getting back to me own family. Now, as for you, Kenric, go home to your family! You can't run away from your problems forever, and neither you nor your sisters are getting any younger. One of these days, someone will pass from this life to the next, leaving the grieving family to wonder whatever became of..."

"Okay! Okay, Glennis! I hear you loud and clear!"

The pair shared a hearty laugh only to be disturbed by the frantically squawking ichthyornis overhead. Glennis appeared somewhat annoyed. "Now what in the blazes are they so fired up about?" 
Kenric craned his head to the sky and watched the play of strange lights streak against the darkness. "No, Glennis. I think it has to do with whatever those lights are...They look like falling stars, but..."

Suddenly Glennis felt it -- that "something evil this way comes" sensation in the pit of her stomach. She spread her wings in preparation to depart. "Something is wrong, dearie. I need to get home or else me young'uns will wonder what's become of their mum..."

So with that, she and the brachiosaur said their good-byes, then Glennis swiftly glided towards her island home.

It would be the last time Glennis saw Kenric alive...


Hundreds of miles inland, back at the hadrosaur camp...
"Something evil this way comes..."

Sarama stood at the base of the hill, watching for her mother and daughter to return. Mother Ola and Doli, and Amali (Doli's mate) had gone down to the forest in search of berries. It seemed young Doli wanted to treat her newly-found mate to, "The most delicious treats you'll ever taste. There are more growing further down the Nesting Grounds trail." 
But Doli and her grandmother had been gone for some time; Sarama was naturally worried.

"Hadron, it's not like them to be gone so long after dusk..." 
"My love, don't worry so. Doli is a very capable girl, and so is your mother. Besides, they do have a male escort, so it's not as if..."

The parasaurolophus couple's conversation was cut short by an aging ceratopsian calling out to them. "Sarama! Have you all seen Ember or Baylene? They're usually here to greet us on our way to the Grounds."
This was Eema, a one-hundred year old styracosaur who was one of the Herd's grande dames. Sarama and Hadron were so pleased that Eema would
accompany the Herd on yet another march to the Nesting Grounds as the old girl especially looked forward to Doli's new brood.

What irony!

Hadron replied, "No, Eema, I've seen neither one of...Wait!"

He turned to his mate and inquired, "Wasn't that Ember heading for the deep forest? To the berry patch?"
The prophetic hadrosaur nodded, saying, "And they have yet to return...Here, allow me..."

At once Sarama stood on the hilltop and bellowed at the top of her lungs. In the far-off distance, she heard the returning calls: One of which belonged to her daughter; the other voice belonged to an aged brachiosaur. Eema chuckled in good humor. 

"Hmm...That sounds like Ember all right. I guess everything's in hand...But where's Baylene?"

Her voice fell silent as her attention was drawn to the falling stars which streaked across the darkening sky. Sarama noticed these as well and at once recalled her grandmother's prophecies. 

"The fiery rain..." 

Without stopping to explain, Sarama began to bellow with alarm. The Herald of the Herd's foghorn blasts could be heard from miles away; yet on this night, not everyone would heed the alarm. And, at this very moment, several lives were about to take a dramatic turn....


Far away, at the island, high up in the cliffs...
"Donovan, you take the young'uns and head for the mainland. Something wicked is happening but I can't for the life of me..."

"Say no more, Glennis..."
Four pteranodons -- two adults, two fledglings -- spread their wings and took flight just before a Fireball of the most enormous size and blinding brilliance screamed
across the sky.


Deep down in the enchanted forest...
"Aladar, where's Suri?" 

"She's up in...the tree..."


Back on the mainland, on the beach...
The lone male brachiosaur strode on the beach, letting the waters of high tide lap at his enormous one-ton feet. He was about to retire for the night, in preparation for
his journey home in the morning. But those disturbing lights and the nervous squawking of birds sent a forbidding chill through his very soul. 
Yes, Glennis was right...Something evil this way comes...

Squinting his eyes against the Fireball's brilliant descent, Kenric began thinking of his siblings, especially Baylene. Oh my dear sister, I may never make it home...I may never be able to tell you how much I truly loved you...


Back with the Herd...
They saw it, too. That huge ball of flame hurtling towards Earth.
"Where'd it go?," asked Hadron. "Seems it vanished over the far horizon..."  

"Must have landed in the sea, and that's so far away..."
That was Eema's take, but Sarama knew this was the trial by fire Mother Adah foresaw more than twenty years ago.

Silence at first, then, a brilliant illumination no one had ever seen before. It took much fortitude on every living creature's part to shield his or her eyes against a light
so bright that turned night into day.

Then...a sudden jolt, followed by the worst firestorm and convulsing of the Earth...


Go to Chapter 7!

Copyright©2000 by "Sarama"

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