How long had it been since Aladar led the Herd to the Nesting Grounds?
Well, it had been more than a year, and all those new dino babies were now at that energetic, inquisitive stage. The Herd, nearly decimated since the Fireball catastrophe, had been blessed with another generation, and the animals owed their deliverance to Aladar. He was that young outsider whose ways were so unlike Kron. But Kron had been dead a long time; the tall imposing rock wall served as Kron's final resting place. It was the idealistic iguanodon's idea to give the Herd's embattled former leader a proper burial; he owed that much to Neera who loved her brother despite the increasing disgust she felt for Kron's "only the strong survive."
But life goes on, and Kron was dead. Hardly anyone speaks of him now. The past is behind, and now is the time for celebration and anticipating the future, whatever it may hold.
On this lovely afternoon, Neera watched her children at play. Aladar
gave her four beautiful iguanodon children, two girls and two boys. The
daughters, Lydia and Harmonie, obviously favored their mother in both looks
and temperament. The sons, on the other hand, were splitting images of
their father. Castor, the first one to hatch, was fun-loving, kind, playful,
and courageous, just like his father. Castor was very athletic; he would
most likely be the one swinging though trees with his lemur kin. Always,
Zini, Suri, and Castor could be seen trying to outdo each other.
The other son, Timor, or "Tim", as the family called him, was not exactly what his parents had expected. Not an overly physically inclined child, Tim made up for his lack of "rough and tumble" with a sweet sunny disposition. He was blessed with a good and compassionate heart, just like his father. But there was something else different about the boy. An injury sustained early in life left the child with a slight limp. He was rather accident-prone, and the resulting injury and lasting aftereffects rested heavily on the parents' hearts. But, as Plio intimated to them not long ago, what could have happened to the child if Kron was still around.
Yes, what would Kron do?
"Sacrifice him, because Tim is weak and not able to keep up with the rest," Neera said with a twinge of bitterness in her voice. "I never thought of it that way, Plio. It sounds so cruel, to kill a precious child simply because it can't keep up."
Neera remembered her brother's final moments. Aladar, trying to talk
sense into the hardheaded Kron, could not stand by and watch Kron lead
the Herd to certain death. As a result, a terrible fight erupted between
Aladar and Kron, with the latter poised to kill the former. Right
there, Neera decided that no more would be sacrificed simply because they
were old, ill, or injured. Everyone, according to Aladar, had a fair and
equal chance to survive, that is if they all cooperated.
And everyone did survive, from the elderly and infirm to the young and uninitiated, in spite of Kron. Yes, Kron was dead, and life goes on. A few creatures however, didn't quite take to all this "giddy merriment". One such stayed to himself, seldom mingling with the common crowd.
His name was Eban, and he resided in a clump of trees just across the
lake. An old pachyrhinosaurus who hardly experienced life to its fullest,
Eban viewed the world by his terms. And what he observed almost compared
to those of Kron's.
For Eban was an "old dinosaur" -- no pun intended -- content to cling to antiquated customs and values. No one hardly spoke to him, and if they did Eban would acknowledge the greetings with a snort of indifference or a grumbling, "Humbug!"
On the inside he was a cold creature, and that internal glacier manifested itself into forbiddingly distorted facial features. From the gnarled horns to the thick bony nasal plates to the downturned mouth and flinty eyes, his entire face was frozen into one bleak, emotionally barren expression. No one or nothing could ever break through that thick sourpuss veneer Eban had built up over the years.
Now what?, he thought to himself on this afternoon. What is all this silly frivolity? He sat in the shade of his favorite tree and watched as dinosaur and lemur clans frolicked in the midday sun. There was much splashing about in the lake; Suri, the pint-sized daughter of Plio, slid the length of Baylene's back and tale before plunging into sparkling sapphire waters. And there was a game going on in the water, for Url, that annoying (Well, to Eban, Url was a minor annoyance) anklyosaur had found a lightweight rock. Someone suggested a game, so several dinosaurian children splashed in the lake and knocked about that rock. Call it a Mesozoic version of water polo. In time, however, the rock was no longer a challenge; so the children found a willing substitute -- Zini!
"Humbug!," snorted Eban. "Totally unnecessary! All this empty-headed
gallivanting over nothing! Why in Kron's day, this wouldn't happen..."
"Ah, Eban, if you could spare a few moments."
A pair of lanky gallimimus approached the sour old ceratopsian. Whatever
could they want? The first animal spoke in lofty tones.
"Sir, our good and venerated leader, Aladar, has requested that all of us contribute to the festivities prior to departing for the winter. And it has come to our attention that you, sir, have yet to voice your part..."
Eban cut him short with, "Let me get this straight. I'm to contribute to events in which I don't participate. Hmm...Tell me which creatures will not be participating in these 'festivities'? And why, pray tell, would one who thinks such reveling is sheer nonsense should be forced into contributing?"
Eban said nothing more as he resettled himself under his tree. The two gallimimus were quite shocked, but not totally surprised at the old pachyrhinosaur's reactions. They just shook their heads as they walked back to rejoin the others. Watching them leave, Eban, his face contorted in that awful scowl, emitted a noticeably audible, "Bah! Humbug!"
"Daddy, look at me!," shouted Tim at the top of his lungs. Although he walked with a slight limp, little Timor always tried to keep up with his siblings. He wanted to make his father and mother proud; so, with the help of Suri and Zini, Tim made the long climb up a parasaurolophus' back. They stopped just short of her neck then slid down the full length. Just before they reached the tail, the massive hadrosaur let out a triumphant bellow then lifted Suri and company with her tail.
Whoa! With a gentle yet deliberate move, the parasaurolophus
hurled the merry trio in the air. All three of them -- Suri, Zini, and
Tim -- let out screams of delight as they plunged into the water. Everyone
around them howled and whooped with joy at this amazing acrobatic display.
Aladar and Neera watched their little one from the shore. The proud papa laughed and called out, "That was great, Tim!" He turned to his faithful mate and said beamingly, "I'm so thankful we have Timor. Don't get me wrong, Neera. I love all my children, yet Tim has that certain...Hm..."
Neera gently caressed Aladar's neck and replied, "He has, despite his infirmities, that joyous bounce and energy, a loving heart, a tender, sweet spirit."
The lovely iguanodon was near tears when she added, "And to think, if my brother was still around, he'd see to it that Timor no longer lived." Letting out a disgusted snort, she muttered under her breath, "Survival of the fittest, my foot!"
Aladar only comforted his mate with a tender caress and gentle words. "It's OK, Neera," he said as he watched his little son, the one with the slight limp and gentlest soul, amble up Baylene's long neck and take a second plunge with gusto.
Meanwhile, one of the Herd's grande dames decided to give a certain sourpuss of a pachyrhinosaur a piece of her mind.
He continued to sit under his favorite tree, away from the madding horde, as he termed them. How dare they waste precious time celebrating and frolicking! Why, he thought with an increasing degree of disgust, things were not that giddy and...
"Eban, you old fool! What in the world is wrong with you!"
It was Eema, the Herd's leading matriarch, a hundred year old styracosaur who stood for no nonsense. Not one to bite her tongue, the old girl immediately launched into a volley of colorful commentary. "And don't give that 'I don't believe in all this merrymaking' junk! Eban, you are no different from anyone else. And may I add that if it wasn't for Aladar, then YOU wouldn't be here to lay your guilt trips on the rest of us."
The old pachyrhinosaur countered, "Kindly leave me be, Eema. And spare
the lectures!" He scowled and frowned, making the lines on his face and
eye bags even more noticeable. Eban had a few choice words for Eema as
he continued, "All this is for naught! Eema, you remember those years past,
when peace and order reigned supreme. Kron saw to that, and now this young
whippersnapper has gotten everyone caught up in a tizzy. Look at Baylene!
A fine, upstanding lady at that, reduced to playing idiotic games with
these uncouth, unrefined, barbaric..."
"That's enough, you old grouch!," Eema interrupted with an audibly exasperated snort. She rolled her eyes heavenward, muttered "Why?" under her breath, then finally said to Eban, "One of these days you'll see the light. Don't ask me how, but you will."
She added as she turned her back on him, "Eban, tomorrow is a big day for us. We celebrate our deliverance from all the trials and tribulations from the past. Word has come that the old lake bed is full of water. Most of the greenery has returned as well. We're grateful and blessed that life will go on for us. But you, with your insistence for a return to the old ways, have to change, Eban. It's for your own good and well as the Herd's."
And with that, Eema returned to her company. And what did Eban have to say in light of Eema's advice? "Humbug!"
A noise from the cave's exit startled Eban out of his deep sleep, and when he was fully awake -- Oh my!
A loud thumping could be heard from just around the corner of the narrow
passageway. Eban, alarmed that this might be an approaching predator, slowly
made his way back towards the cave's exit. Must warn the others. It could
be raptors...or...or worse -- Carnotaurs!
Just as Eban turned to leave, he heard an eerie sounding voice calling to him. "Eban...Eeeeebann!"
The voice sounded vaguely familiar yet so unearthly, disembodied even.
Eban looked all around for the creature addressing him. At first he thought
it was an ill-bred Herd member playing tricks on him; but no, the Herd
was still down by the lake preparing for evening festivities. Whatever
it was, it made Eban shudder in fear.
Then, when Eban looked up at the overhanging stalactite, its bulging form swollen with mineral-rich waters, a peculiar formation caught his eye. A protuberance of calcite swirled in lovely colors suddenly transformed into the face of a dinosaur. Looking more closely, Eban could tell that the face looked just like Kron! It called out to him, "Eeeebannn!"
With a yelp, Eban almost tripped over his feet trying to escape this God-forsaken place, but the voice called out again, and this time it had a form. It also had a name.
"Don't you know me, Eban?," said the strange apparition. It drew itself
closer to Eban, and the old pachyrhinosaur nearly bellowed in terror. No,
this was no flesh-and-blood creature but a ghost, a spirit, and there was
something rather familiar about it. It was a massive iguanodon which towered
over Eban as it did in life. The powerfully built physique, the enormous
head, the proud bearing...
Yes!, thought Eban, it has to be, but the usual spark was no longer there. No, the creature, although he appeared the same, was now a dejected dinosaur with forlorn eyes and weary expression.
The apparition settled before Eban and addressed him as such: "Eban, don't you know me? In life I was Kron, the former exalted leader of the Herd!"
Eban couldn't believe what he was hearing. he didn't want to believe
what he was hearing. But this strange apparition addressing him claimed
to be the long dead Kron.
"Impossible!," exclaimed Eban, "for you are dead. You are obviously a figment of my imagination. Yes, that's it. A mere illusion brought on by perhaps an underdigested green leaf, or lack of sleep..."
The ghost clamored loudly and rattled the cave's interior to its very foundations. Eban thought the cave would collapse from the deafening din. "Eban! I am Kron! And I've come to warn you of your fate. Look about you; tell me what do you see?"
The old ceratopsian complied and nearly fainted from fright. Surely
this cannot be! He thought he and this spirit who claims to be Kron were
in the warm confines of the cave. But when Eban glanced about again, he
found himself surrounded by arid wasteland -- much like that vast desert
the Herd crossed last year.
"Kron, what is this? Am I dreaming? For surely you are still a figment of my imagination. One moment I was safely ensconced in my cave; the next I find myself in the midst of this dreaded, confounded..."
The wraith Kron spoke again. "You are in the desert, Eban...MY eternal
home! Your eternal home if you do not mend your ways!"
Eban looked at Kron disbelievingly, but what the long dead iguanodon said next shocked Eban to the core. "I earned this, Eban; in life I earned this. For my ruthlessness, 691 my stubborn pride; for my total disregard for the welfare of the weak and small. I am condemned to walk the vast wasteland for all eternity, never to rest in peace. This fate awaits you, Eban."
The pachyrhinosaur still didn't want to believe what he was hearing, but something made him stop questioning Kron and listen more.
"Tonight, Eban, you shall be visited by three spirits. Listen to them,
Eban, for they will speak a wealth of truth and wisdom. If you fail to
heed these warnings, you will suffer the fate as I."
Nodding, Eban finally said, "Kron, what about the others? The other Herd members that is...?"
"Farewell, Eban. I'm afraid I won't be able to tell Neera how much I
love her, and miss her...And how much I want to make amends with Aladar.
But alas, it is too late for me."
Kron's voice then turned harsh as he addressed Eban for the last time. "But is not too late for you! Heed the Spirits, Eban! Do not suffer my fate!"
And with that, Kron disappeared. Eban glanced about again and was surprised that he found himself back in his cave. A dream....that is all. Just a bad dream. Eban tried to go back to sleep but he became suddenly cold and uncomfortable.
A small voice called to him, "Eban?"
Eban looked up and his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Who is this?!
The First Spirit
CopyrightŠ2000 by "Sarama"