The hatchlings were running like mad through the jungle, faster than they had ever carried themselves in their lives, stout little legs scraping against the dense thickets and shrubs. They were terribly frightened, screaming at the tops of their lungs between heaving breaths, desperate to elude the horned ceratosaur at their heels.
The carnivorous dinosaur unearthed a terrible screech, shaking the adjacent brushes and trees right down to their very roots. The young khronosauns knew their chances for escape were slim, but still they ran, for fear of the painful death that surely awaited anyone caught in the therapod’s gapping maw.
One of the reptile-children tripped over his own tail and fell face-first into the tallgrass. His older sister, who had gotten a good distance ahead of him, was quickly forced to run back and fight to pull her little brother to his feet, but this would come at a cost to them both.
The ceratosaur came bursting through the foliage neck-outstretched, letting loose another disheartening shriek. The children sat together in behold of the voracious animal and held each other close, eyes teary, praying to their ancestors for a short and painless end. And whether their ancestors heard the children’s pleas and answered, or luck had simply found them in just the right place and time, the miracle that followed would undoubtedly remain engraved into their memory for as long as they lived.
Out from the thickets came another animal of powerful shape and size, charging full-speed at the ceratosaur and ramming the crown of its skull deep into its enemy’s side. The ceratosaur, taken completely by surprise, lost its balance and toppled over into a growth of trees nearby, crushing them all beneath its weight.
As the predator kicked and flailed in an enraged scuffle to rise again, the animal that had subdued it came running to the children’s aid, acting as a bodily shield. It was a parasaur, a herbivorous dinosaur, able to sprint great distances with the use of its four muscular legs, and in spite the docile nature of its species, could be trained to take on even the largest of foes.
Blowing a hard waft of air from its bony frill, the parasaur switched its attention to the children and looked them over only briefly, but in that single moment displayed a greater deal of intelligence than any creature they had seen. The children realized that their rescuer was also braced with a saddle, suggesting its ownership by what could only have been a skilled rider.
The ceratosaur announced its rage and bloodlust with another roar. The parasaur, coming between the beast and its prey, growled menacingly as it pawed at the dirt, the indication of its readiness to fight; but the animal’s master and closest friend, who revealed himself to be hiding among the birches above them, called down to stop him.
“Honk!” ordered Marko, his voice strong and commanding. “Get those kids out of here, now! I’ll hold it off!”
The children caught their first glimpse of the man as he stood crouched on a branch, his grey eyes focused squarely on the danger at hand. He was no khronosaun as they were, but much to their surprise a warm-blooded mammal called a graelock. These beings, in close resemblance us humans, stood upright on two legs and had faces flat and smooth, though their ears were far longer and their eyes considerably larger. This one was a young man in his early twenties, an albino with skin and hair entirely snow-white.
Only stranger were the graelock’s wears, for he sported a jet-blue gi around his waist, and at his belt there rested a katana. This caliber of sword, known to all of Duartha as the blade of the samurai, reinvigorated the children’s’ beliefs in the stories they’d heard, stories of a ghost in the woods who fought to protect the meek and powerless. They knew now the stories were true.
Marko drew his sword and clenched both hands tightly around the hilt, waiting for the ceratosaur to take a few steps closer. He continued calling down to his parasaur, Honk, with heightening urgency.
“Honk! Run! It’s about to charge!”
No sooner had he said it when the ceratosaur attacked, tearing through the underbrush with another thunderous bellow. Honk made his sharp turn back toward the children, bit down on the collars of their kimonos, and threw them both onto his saddle, starting for a clearing half a mile away that marked the edge of the jungle.
It was now in Marko’s hands to finish this fight. Taking a bold leap off the branch that supported his weight, the graelock samurai landed onto the back of the ceratosaur, plunging his katana deep into its hide. With a defiant yell, he pulled his blade from the beast and made a dead-sprint further up its back, cutting across the right side of its face just as it was attempting to shake him off. Marko dove from his opponent and caught a hanging vine several yards below, swinging back down to the forest floor. One would have thought him more vulnerable here, but this was part of his plan.
The ceratosaur unhinged its jaws like a snake and tried to take a bite out of Marko, missing the samurai only by a hair as he evaded its razor-sharp teeth. Marko raised his sword over his head and ran between the ceratosaur’s legs, cutting into its underbelly. Blood and innards spilled out, and with a final whimpering moan, the ceratosaur keeled over and made a tremor in the tallgrasses, where it lay still.
Marko, entirely unscathed, returned his weapon to its sheath and walked around to the ceratosaur’s head, gazing at his own reflection in its dead eyes. He bowed humbly to pay respects to his fallen adversary.
“You fought well.” he said. “Go in peace.”