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A Cretaceous Carol

Part 3á
"The Second Spirit"


Now Eban didn't know what to think. A few fleeting moments ago, he was dreaming of his youth and lost love. Now he was back in the comfort of his cave only to face yet the second of those three spirits Kron told him about. Even though it was still somewhat dark outside, inside the cave was illuminated so brilliantly. That same voice that called out to him a few moments ago spoke again.

"Come closer, old Eban! Come, get to know me!"

Eban followed the voice's direction, picked his way through mineral formations and colorful pools. What a sight greeted him on the other end of the cave. It looked like an entirely separate room; it seemed so different from the rest of the cave. Brilliant light flooded the room. In the center, mounds of delectable foods -- succulent exotic fruits and luscious green leaves -- piled as high as the cavern ceiling.
Amid all this delicious repast, a lone creature sat. Odd, thought the old pachyrhinosaur, this creature looked a lot like the lemur Zini. He was a jovial fellow, all full of smiles and jolly good times. Eban tentatively approached the young lemur, asking, "Zini? Is it you?"
The good natured lemur laughed and said, "No, no, no! You must have me confused with someone else! I'm the Ghost of Nesting Grounds Present."
"Nesting Grounds Present?," replied Eban somewhat haughtily. "So, you are to show me things from this time frame. Well, let's be off as I need my rest."

Looking at the food, Eban asked, "And what it all this?"
The Spirit laughed heartily as he replied, "Oh Eban, only you would ask such a question. Why this is the food of kindness and generosity, things you have denied yourself and your fellow dinosaurs..."

The Spirit thought what he said would sink in for Eban, but instead Eban stared back blankly. The lemur sighed with slight exasperation as he led the way out of the cave. "Eban, I'm about to show you things as they stand now. If you don't get it now, you'll learn the hard way from the last spirit."
Stopping just short of the cave's exit, the lemur reminded the old ceratopsian that, "No one can see nor hear us, so if you think of making smart aleck comments ...Hmm...I have a feeling you won't like what you peers have to say..."

*****

Although it was well past dusk, many of the Herd were simply too restless to sleep, especially the children. But it was a pleasantly warm night, and the moon shone with such a brilliance. Gathered at the lake was the Herd's leading citizenry -- Aladar, Neera, their children, Eema, Baylene, the lemurs. The conversation, while pleasant and light soon shifted to a sticky subject – a pachyrhinosaur named Eban.

"Honey, who knows what gets into that old fool."

That was Eema's take, and Neera countered that Eban once informed her that little Timor would have been, "Put out of his misery," after the accident.á
"That's exactly what he told me, Eema," the lovely iguanodon said bitterly. "Eban said that my brother would've demanded that we leave Tim behind simply because he slows down the others. Tim should've been sacrificed to the predators because 'That's the way we did things in my day,' he kept reminding me."
Plio shook her head and expressed hope that one day, just for one day, Eban would let go of his stubborn pride and enjoy his declining years. "How sad," said the lemur matriarch, "to live so long yet be so bitter." She turned to Yar and said, "I'm certainly grateful, you never turned out like that, Dad."
To this old Yar chuckled as he stroked his generous white beard. "Well, Plio, I will let you in on a secret, and for this I'm grateful to your mother. She once told me that life is like a great forest full of wonderful things. Problem is, such as Eban's case, there are those who simply can't stop to enjoy the fruits this life hands us. Who amongst us hasn't stopped and smelled the flowers along the way? Ever since our deliverance from the Fireball not a day goes by that I don't thank whatever force out there keeps us going. Eban should be doing just that but something is troubling him, and he's let it fester all these years..."

He stopped himself just in time to watch Aladar's children romping by the lake shore. Then Yar noticed that Aladar was strangely silent during all the talk about Eban. "Son?," asked Yar. "You've got something on your mind or else you'd be talking a blue streak..."
Aladar smiled then said, "You know, I think we should help Eban any way we can. After all, from what I've heard, he's been through a lot." And with that, he bent down to drink, saying, "I say we drink to old Eban's health. Even if he is stubborn and set in his ways, he still deserves some compassion...."

Neera was shocked! "How can I drink to his health? He had not one kind word to say to me as long as I could remember. Then the cruel things he suggested -- about OUR child, Aladar!"á
But out of love for her mate she said just before taking a drink, "All right, I'll drink to the health of the Herd, to our deliverance from the Fireball. But I refuse to pay tribute to one who's so obviously insane."

Aladar understood this then led in the toast. "To Eban," he said.

The rest echoed him somewhat begrudgingly. In light of a dark situation, that gangly adolescent Zini broke in with,"Hey, why so glum, chums? The night's still young and I'm ready to party!"
That said, the entire valley resounded with raucous reveling that lasted into the night. And what kind of reveling? Let's say that it was a strange mixture of song and dance -- Sort of a Mesozoic "below decks party". (OK, so there wasn't such things 65 million years ago, but what do we really know? LOL)
A hadrosaur family and the lemurs indulged in what looked like a primitive form of Celtic step dancing. A couple of ceratopsians and gallimimus, along with Yar and Baylene, harmonized a dinosaurian song which sounded not half bad. But the most wonderful event of the evening came when little Timor, oblivious to his infirmities, performed a little jig with Zini and Suri. This endeared him to his parents even more.
Both Neera and Aladar looked at each other with heavy hearts, for Tim's energy was gradually getting weaker by the day. Even the dance, despite the exhilaration it imparted to the boy's spirit, left him worn out. But for now, everyone so grateful to the tiny iguanodon who touched so many hearts.

"Bless us all!," is what he said as he finally snuggled next to his father before drifting to sleep. It had been a long day and evening of merriment, but well worth the joy and comfort it gave the Herd.

*****

Eban and the Spirit watched this poignant family scene; the old pachyrhinosaur turned to the Spirit and asked, "What about the boy? Humph! He seems healthy enough with all that gallivanting around...But he does has that unfortunate limp..."

The Spirit interrupted in a sharp edged voice. "Eban, apparently you still feel as if the boy, and others like him, do not deserve to live. So, I'll tell you this much."
He indicated little Timor's favorite sleeping spot by the lake. "I see a vacant place where a youngster once slept. A clump of lovely flowers now graces that spot. If these shadows are unaltered by the future, the child will die."

Now Eban was quite dumbfound, yet he managed to get in a few last smart words. "Spirit, what I said before is true: No such animal deserves to live. Why, the sick and weak only slow down the strong and able..."
Again the Spirit directed Eban's attention to something else. He guided Eban to another location, this time it was the vast desert to the south. That same wasteland that claimed so many during the march north, and that was during the year of the Fireball. They were quite alone, Eban and the Spirit, and the stubborn old ceratopsian grew quite agitated.

What happened next startled Eban so much, and set the stage for something even more unsettling. The Spirit waved his hand and, like magic, two bedraggled figures appeared. They were baby iguanodons, looking very much like the orphans Kron had tried to force up the rock slide that year. This time they were pale and emaciated; their blank sickly eyes stared at Eban with a coldness that was indescribable.

"Who are these children?," Eban asked somewhat coolly.
"They are YOUR children, Eban!," replied the Spirit in a forbidding voice. "Beware of them! The girl is Weakness; the boy is Sickness."

Eban, now disgusted by this display, turned away saying, "Get rid of them!"
The Spirit replied, "Oh, throw them to the meat-eaters? Let the raptors have them, so the strong and able will not have to deal with them?"
Eban couldn't believe what he was hearing! "You use my words against me?!"

But the Spirit said nothing and soon disappeared in a misty cloud. No one in that desert other than Eban, and Eban was now becoming rather frightened. Where'd he go?, wondered Eban. And where are those ghastly children?

Poor Eban tried to find his way back to the Nesting Grounds but soon encountered yet another figure. This one was shrouded in a cloud so thick that none of its form nor features could be recognized. It slowly approached Eban and beckoned the old ceratopsian to follow.
It's all Eban could do -- inexplicably comply and do this creature's biding. But as Eban turned to follow this entity, he looked over his shoulder and swore that the figure in the far-off distance was none other than Kron. Eban could hear the iguanodon's booming voice call out to him once more.

"Beware, Eban! If the future does not soften your heart then nothing will!"
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COMING NEXT:
The Last Spirit

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Copyrightę2000 by "Sarama"


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