So Captain Zuno and his young officers enjoyed the antics of Carmen and her friends, and Lillia's many ribald stories. The girls danced and sang a song about the joys of the vagabond life much to Zuno's delight. Even he couldn't resist falling for Carmen's charms. In a way he wished he had seen her first, not Joey. Besides, Joey is promised to Mica; a few days of forced labor should cool the young one's passion for Carmen and make him come to his senses. But it was Carmen herself who asked Zuno about Joey, with which the captain replied, "He is to be relieved of his punishment today. But don't waste your time with that one. He is engaged to another..."
Zuno's voice and the revelry at the pond was cut short when the cheers of a crowd could be heard in the distant meadow. Attention was drawn to the figures who earned the crowd's adulation.
"Whoever is that?," asked Fraci, pointing to the stranger surrounded by adoring dinosaurs. It didn't take Zuno to figure out what was going on.
"Ah, I see Kron has returned. That is what the cheering is about. Kron is a particular favorite of the Herd. Rumor has it that he could very well be the Herd's next leader."
To that Carmen's eyes widened. Ooh, she thought, why not dump that nobody Joey and make time with Kron, someone who she could really love. All the way to where the crowd gathered, Carmen's eyes never wavered from Kron's commanding figure. As she drew closer she could tell that Kron had all the qualities of a natural leader.
"Forget about Joey! I have bigger game in sight."
Kron had just returned from an extended stay in the valleys beyond the
Herd's winter quarters. In his company was his sister Neera, a wide-eyed
yellow tinged beauty who had an intensely serious side despite her very
young age. She was, as Kron proudly said, "Barely a hatchling, but Neera
is by far the most sensible female of the Herd. It will take a very special
male to match her in intellect and sensibility."
Of course, Neera imbibed all this praise, which, unfortunately, made her come off as bit of a spoiled princess. However, Kron spoiled and catered to Neera anyway, fully believing that she was special and privileged just because she was his sister.
Then there was Kron himself: proud, haughty, a natural leader, and a little too sure of himse lf as Eema so often said. He was, according to Eema, given to arrogance and a too high opinion of himself. Surely, years down the line, if Kron does not mellow with age, his current mindset could jeopardize the Herd's very survival. Something in Eema's observations would surely ring true: Kron's hard-line "survival of the fittest" rhetoric would be totally out of step in the coming catastrophe that would nearly decimate the Herd. But he was destined to be the Herd's next leader; there was no question about that.
For now, Kron enjoyed the adulation of the Herd, especially the attentions of lovestruck females. At this point in his life, Kron had yet to find a mate: Perhaps he felt there were no females worthy of him. However, his roving eye fell on Carmen; he was instantly smitten. Ah, this female is different – Beautiful beyond compare, a strange exotic air about her, those alluring eyes, the smoky seductive voice. He had often heard of the vagabond dinosaurs that the Herd disdained so much, but he didn't care. This female, an outsider, could definitely be the one.
Joey, upon his release, headed for the spot where the Herd gathered around Kron. He could clearly see and hear Carmen; her amorous attentions to Kron were not lost on Joey. He felt it: an intense jealously building inside that threatened to erupt. At this point he hated seeing Carmen flirt with the formidable Kron. He hated the way Carmen came on to Kron, and Kron was all too pleased to acknowledge her every word and move. Joey had to do something or else lose Carmen forever – his passion was that strong. He had forgotten all about Mica and his promises to his mother. His obsessive love for Carmen clouded his better judgment, and he knew he had to do something, anything, to bring Carmen to her senses.
Later that afternoon, he cornered her in a secluded spot near the tropical
forest. Joey demanded that Carmen explain herself, and why she would dare
look at another when she knew Joey would give her anything and everything
to keep her. He picked a little red flower, a bloom similar to the flower
Carmen tossed him not long ago. He poured out his heart.
"Doesn't this mean anything to you, Carmen? This flower is a reminder of my love for you. It's scent and beauty may fade in time, but my love for you will never wilt. Say you love me, Carmen. Say it!"
But Carmen would have none of it. "You don't love me. If you did you'd join me and my friends. You could join us on our journey to the mountains, where we could be together forever. No! I heard Zuno summon you to duty, and you so readily obeyed. You would throw away a life of freedom for your precious loyalty to your Herd."
She tossed her head in contempt and eyed Joey with disdain. He was about to reply when Zuno appeared and sternly ordered Joey to report to duty.
"What are you doing here, Joey?," he demanded. "You were to report to your post long ago. What if a predator got through to the Herd, and without ample warning? You're slacking, corporal. Leave Carmen and get to your post! Now!"
Joey was incredulous. What? Leave Carmen alone, with him? Never!
In a jealous rage, Joey lunged at Zuno, aiming a right thumb spike at his superior's throat. And that spike found its mark, delivering a telling, but not life threatening blow. Zuno reeled from this surprise attack. He was wounded all right, and the shock of pain sent him to the ground. Convulsing and dazed with pain, Zuno could see Joey and Carmen vanish into the forest. He finally summoned enough strength to call out to reinforcements. His bellows of distress could be heard throughout the valley. Soon several iguanodon guards came to his aid. Zuno would be OK, but because Joey attacked him, Zuno worried that one of his best officers had just ruined himself.
Yes, as Bruton put it, Joey's fatal weakness would soon lead to his downfall. "It's because of the girl, Carmen," Bruton observed as he assisted Zuno to his feet.
"His so-called 'love' for her has clouded all reason. I warned him of
this. Perhaps if I can get
Mica to talk sense into him. That is, if we
find him in time, before the predators do."
GO TO ACTE III
Copyright©2003 by PRP ("Sarama")