Short Story – Dino – Story – Battle
This is the third in a series of short stories I wrote for children. Although each story could possibly be read in its own right, it is probably best to read at least the first story in the series, Shrew Wood first.
Dino-story – Battle
Twig clambered up to the top of his tree and sat looking over the roof of the forest as it woke up for the day. Twig wondered as he did every day where his brother Acorn was and how he was doing. Acorn and Twig had spent many mornings, just like Twig was now, sitting on the top of their tree wondering what life was like outside their forest and one Spring Acorn, bolstered by his and Twig’s defeat of the Raptor wood cutters the Autumn before had decided to go and see what was out there. Twig missed his older brother but he knew he could not leave his tree yet without finishing school.
Thinking of school Twig realised suddenly that he was going to be late “I better go and get my school bag” he thought as he scampered back down the tree.
Just as Twig was running down the final branch to the hole in the tree trunk where he slept each night and where he kept his belongings, a loud thundering crashing noise filled the forest.
Twig stopped still on the branch, his whiskers twitching “What was that noise?” he thought to himself. He looked worriedly in the direction the noise was coming from, he could see birds scattering in the air in alarm, see leaves rustling and hear branches cracking. Twig also thought he could hear underneath the noises of alarm from the forest a distinct thump, thump, thump of a big bass drum, getting louder as it got closer.
Twig turned to hear his dad call out to him in alarm, “Twig! Get back in the trunk! Now!”
But before Twig could move even a paw forward on the branch, the noise of the big bass drum grew closer, so close it filled the air with its giant THUMP, THUMP, THUMP. Birds squawked in alarm as branches crashed and tumbled to the ground.
“Twig!” called his dad in alarm as a giant war Diplodo clad in spiked leather armour, carrying huge great big saddle bags lumbered past. A fierce Raptor clad in chain mail rode upon it’s back, sitting on a great big saddle and controlling the Diplodo with a set of clanking reins made of metal chains. Following behind the Diplodo were more chain mailed Raptors, this time riding Stegos. The Stegos wore metal helmets to protect their heads. After the Stegos was a squad of more chain mailed Raptors, this time marching on foot in unison, in time to the THUMP, THUMP of the big bass drum which was being carried on a cart, along with the soldier Raptor playing.
Twig tried to run along the branch to the safety of the trunk but the passing procession of Raptor warriors and their dino-beasts rattled the tree and its branches, including the branch Twig was trying to grip his claws into. Twig trembled along with the branch he was trying to cling on to, not daring to move a muscle for fear of falling off. The trembling slowly began to subside as the procession marched off into the distance. Twig, his breathing calming down as he realised the danger had passed prised his claws out of the bark of the tree branch and put one paw forward when suddenly STOMP, STOMP, STOMP, CRASH, SNAP, CRACK, the tree began to shake violently again as the last beast in the procession raced to catch up with the other, a giant Diplodo, running as fast as a giant Diplodo could. Twig watched in horror as the colossal beast ran towards his tree, the metal spikes of it’s thick, battered leather armour glinting in the forest sunshine. The Diplodo just missed Twig’s tree, but the huge leather saddle bags carried on its side did not. Twig heard one final CRACK as the force of the branch Twig was cowering on colliding with the saddle bag ripping the branch from the tree and Twig went flying and then darkness.
Twig felt like he was waking up from a long night sleeping on a hard bed in a cold draft. His head and back ached and he felt chilled to the bone. As he lay as still as he could, his eyes shut, his head ached so much he thought it was thumping. His bed seemed to be swaying. Twig could not remember going to bed that night, it all seemed so fuzzy, Twig wonder if he was ill. Twig slowly opened his eyes, it was still dark, his bed felt cold and hard. The whole room still seemed to be swaying.
Twig called out “Mum”. There was no reply.
Twig struggled to sit up, his head felt like it was clearing but he could still hear the thump, thump, thump, ringing in his ears. He reached out a paw to steady himself. The wall felt funny, instead of the reassuring hardness of his tree at home, the wall seemed to be softer, more supple. And there was that chill in the air, even his bedroom at home in the depth of winter did not feel this cold. And his bedroom certainly did not sway like this, even in the fiercest storm. Twig decided that the best thing to do was to get out of wherever he was but how was he going to do that, it was dark and he could not see a door or hole to escape through.
This mysterious swaying room was not empty. Twig could feel in the darkness many cold hard lumpy objects. Twig tried to clamber up the objects, he slipped a few times as the room swayed like a ship in a storm but eventually he managed to clamber quite high up. Twig looked up, he could see a chink of light above him. Twig, still not sure where he was but getting increasingly sure wherever he was he needed to get out of there. Twig was running out of things to climb up on so he knew the only thing he could do was to cling on to this strange wall with his claws and climb up that way. Twig found it quite easy to stick his claws into the wall and he quickly clambered up to the opening. Twig reached his paws up over the top of the strange wall he had been climbing up. Twig carefully stuck his head over the edge and nearly fell back in shock. Twig tightened his claws into the top of the giant saddle bag he had fallen into. Twig watched in horror as the forest passed him. When Twig dared to look up and behind him he saw the sides of the giant Diplodo crashing through the forest, it’s tiny head swaying high up in the sky with the birds. Twig remembered the procession he had seen from his tree and the Diplodo racing towards him. Twig realised that he must have been knocked off his branch and fallen into the saddle bag. Twig did not know how long he had been knocked out cold for but he had a feeling home was already a long way away and with each thundering step of the Diplodo, he was going even further. Twig shuddered at the memory of the fierce Raptor soldier riding the first war Diplodo he had seen and he realised that there would be a just as fierce soldier riding on top of this Diplodo. The soldier was a lot higher up than the saddle bag though so Twig could not see him and he hoped that that meant the soldier could not see him. You never knew when a hungry Raptor soldier might want a nice snack.
Twig hung miserably from the saddle bag, he did not want to be there but he did not want to fall off either. He watched miserably as the forest passed him by. The procession was climbing up and up. Twig wondered with some fear when they would reach the mythical top of the valley. No Shrew he knew ever went ‘over the top’ and back down into the next valley below. The procession climbed and climbed, marching together to the beat of the big bass drum infront of the Diplodo Twig was riding on. Then suddenly the drum beat stopped and the whole procession came to a halt. The saddle bag Twig was riding in thumped against the side of the Diplodo as the great beast came to a sudden stop, Twig almost slipped, almost falling back down into the bag. Twig could hear some shouting from the Raptors, like instructions being barked. Twig could hear weapons being loaded and felt a new sense of alertness amongst the procession. Even the Diplodo seemed to stiffen it’s muscles. They were going to go over the top. A mythical No-Shrew land for the Shrews and enemy terrority for the Raptors.
The procession carefully wound it’s way through the forest, back down along it’s slopes. Twig fearfully studied the forest, he had imagined a strange place but where were the walking trees or the giant purple leaves from the stories he had heard? It looked just like his forest to him. The trees of this new forest slowly began to thin out as they reached the bottom of this new valley.
Through the thinning trees Twig could see at the edge of the forest a huge tented encampment. There seemed to be hundreds of tents ranging from small simple khaki tents to larger ones, some looking functional, like maybe a field hospital or stores whilst others were covered in silks and flags as if for someone very important. There seemed to be almost as many camp fires. There were large fenced off areas in which grazed Diplodos and Stegos. There was a large fence around this encampment which was closely guarded by a squadron of Raptor soldiers. The procession made its way to the encampment and when the guarding soldiers let them in through its gates the entire procession seemed to breathe a giant sigh of relief.
The procession broke up once in the camp, the soldiers went off to find food and quarters, the dino-beasts led off to their pens and the Diplodos unloaded off their supplies. Twig bristled with fear, he was going to be discovered any minute. He sunk further down into the saddle bag, just peaking over it’s edge. Twig watched two Raptor soldiers approach the Diplodo with a ladder. Twig held his breath in apprehension. Phew they had decided to unload the saddle bag on the other side of the Diplodo first. Twig thought hard, he had to get out of there, he peeked over the edge of the saddle bag to the ground below, it was too big a drop to jump.
“I’m trapped” thought Twig desperately. Just as Twig was about to give up hope he noticed out of the corner of his eye the swinging Diplodo tail, it led almost to the ground.
“I have to go up!” thought Twig.
Twig looked up, the saddle bag was held on to the Diplodo by a huge, thick, leather strap. Twig quickly scurried up it and knowing that he could be spotted at any time, dashed across the Diplodo’s great, broad back and half run, half slithered down the Diplodo’s tail, jumping off the tail just before it tapered to a point.
Twig stopped for a second as he landed on the ground, thick with mud, “Where am I going to go? I’m too exposed out here”.
Twig could not stand still for long because just as he was looking quickly for the best place to hide, the Diplodo shuffled backwards. Twig looked up as he noticed a shadow blot out the sun, it was the Diplodo walking backwards a few steps and its giant foot was about to land on Twig! Twig knew he could not hang around any further, without thinking where he was going to go he ran as fast as he could in the thick mud in any direction as long as it was away from the Diplodo!
It was hard running in the mud, the gap between the tents of the camp, although quite close together for the dinosaurs was a lot bigger for someone Shrew sized. But eventually the thick khaki canvas of a tent loomed into sight. Twig ducked under the canvas and straight into a soldier’s tent. It was very bare, just two basic metal beds and a lantern, Twig soon realised there was no place to hide and think. Twig dashed across the tent and under the canvas on the other side. Twig ran through many tents. He ran through soldier tents, some empty, others occupied where the Raptor soldiers were startled by the sudden blur of movement on the floor of the tent but to battle worn to do anything about it. Twig ran through larger tents, some with many beds, full of wounded Raptors, others with tables and great big steaming pots of Raptor food. But still Twig could not find anywhere he was confident enough to hide until racing through the canvas of yet another soldier tent he reappeared out the other side to see instead of more khaki canvas tents of varying shapes and sizes, instead he saw a large round, domed tent, covered in purple silks and gold embroidery, now this tent was going to be different. Twig raced to the tent, his legs and his belly now caked with the thick mud of the encampment. He struggled through the thick layers of ornate materials covering the round tent and as he passed through it onto the other his head immediately went ‘thack’ onto something wooden. Twig stood still for a minute, still half buried under the heavy materials that made up the tent walls, “What was this?” he thought. Twig rubbed his sore head with his paw and looked at the wood before him. This wood was not like the wood back home, it was darker, smoother, even shiny and it smelt funny. It turned out to have the width of a small tree sapling on the forest floor, but it was not tree sapling as it had been shaped and carved by something. Twig ventured out of the tent wall a little further, avoiding the strange bit of wood this time. Twig could see three more strange columns of wood nearby, he looked up, he was underneath a table, something far more ornate than the tables he had whizzed past so far in the encampment. Twig tried as best as he could to hide behind one of the table legs. He looked round the floor of the tent, he could see the legs of equally ornate chairs and huge carved boxes. There was a pile of cushions in beautiful purple silks in the corner, Twig decided to go and hide there so he could think and decide what to do next.
From Twig’s hiding place behind a soft, silky cushion, he could see the rest of the large tent more clearly. The walls inside the tent were even more ornate than the outside walls of the tent, with more purple silks and intricate embroidery. There were tables piled with papers, books and half eaten plates of food. There were large carved wooden chests overflowing with beautiful fabrics. There were cabinets full of guns and swords both new and antique. There were small statues in white marble of Raptors in various heroic poses. The whole tent was at the other end of the spectrum in comparision to the the bare ordinary soldier tents Twig had run through. In the centre of the tent, hanging from the ceiling was a circle of fine purple gause, hanging from the top of the tent and brushing the finely carpeted floor, it appeared to be hiding something.
Twig sat resting, after the excitement of the day it was good to be in the peace and quiet, even if it was in a strange Raptor tent. The peace and quiet was soon disturbed by a meek, young Raptor, apologetically entering the tent. The Raptor was wearing an white frilly apron and a white frilly hat, Twig thought the Raptor looked silly, not that he normally saw many Raptors but he was did not see many with clothes on, unless it was something related to the job they were doing, woodcutter Raptors for example would wear protective hard hats and soldier Raptors would wear armour. Twig had never seen a Raptor wearing a frilly white apron before and he was not sure what sort of Raptor would, he watched interested, fairly confident that he would not be discovered in his hiding place.
The young Raptor, who Twig guessed was a girl nervously straightened a few things in the tent before gently coughing “Ahem, your majesty, sorry to disturb you but it is time to wake up, your commanders are back from the battle field and they urgently wish your counsel.”
A shape seemed to stir behind the fine purple curtains but there was no reply.
“Ahem, your majesty?” the girl said nervously.
Suddenly a mug came flying out from the curtains, aimed straight at the maid. The maid, used to such behaviour ducked neatly to the side and the mug slammed into the wall of the tent, smashing as it fell onto a table below.
“Your majesty?” said the girl, even more nervously this time.
“Are you still there?” roared a voice from behind the curtains.
The maid shrunk back a little “Yes, your majesty. The commanders, your majesty?”
“Tell the snivelling wretches that they will get my counsel when I decide they get my counsel and no time before! No one disturbs my beauty sleep!”
With that the maid hurried back out of the tent. Shortly Twig could hear angry Raptor voices outside the tent. Two blood and mud splattered soldiers stormed into the tent, closely followed by the maid trying vainly to stop them. The soldiers wore purple sashes of their armour, they looked like important Raptors to Twig.
“Your majesty” they bowed “We must talk. We bring news from the battlefield”.
There was low growl from behind the curtains “I see I am not going to get any more sleep now until these idiots are out of my presence. Maid! Bring me my gown!”
The maid picked a fine purple silk robe decorated with white fur from one of the wooden chests and dissappered behind the curtains. There was a great deal of mutterings and then the curtains opened, revealing a round bed, covered with the finest fabrics from the four corners of the fabric. Sitting on the bed was the Raptor Queen, wrapped in the purple robe and sneering at her commanders. Now the Raptor Queen was a fearsome sight, she was old and battle worn, having in her youth fought her way into power, when most Raptors saw her they were torn on whether to hold her fearsome gaze or to look meekly away but after an initial glance Twig was not at all interested in the Raptor Queen because he had noticed on the queen’s bedside table an elaborate metal cage, residing in which was Twig’s brother Acorn!
It was hard for Twig to resist the urge to leave his hiding place and race over to his brother, even though that would have been under the Raptor Queen’s nose. Twig had to content himself with anxiously watching his brother to see if he was ok. Twig could not see very well from where he was but he could just about make out as well as being trapped in the cage, one of his ankles were tied to the ground on a long fine length of chain.
The Queen and the commanders argued amongst each other, Twig lost track of their conversation, his school level Raptorese escaping him as he worried about his brother but he got the impression that the battle the Raptors were fighting was not going well. Twig just wanted them all to go so that he could go and talk to his brother.
Eventually the commanders left, shame faced and down trodden as the Queen as usual had won her argument. The maid fussed around for a while before being dismissed by the Queen and soon the tent was quiet again. The curtains had been drawn shut again and Twig soon thought he could hear the Queen snoring. Twig had to risk it, so he dashed out from behind his hiding place and under the purple curtains. Twig studied the table Acorn’s cage was on, it seemed bigger now that he was up close to it and it was made of the same smooth, dark shiny wood, Twig did not think he could climb up the table without slipping, that left climbing up onto the bed and then jumping onto the table from there then. Twig shuddered, but he had to do it.
Sticking his claws out to cling onto the fine bedspreads on the bed, Twig quickly scaled up the side of the bed. On top of the bed he could see the great big hulking, snoring form of the Raptor Queen, laying under the covers. Her mouth was open, revealing her sharp pointy teeth and everytime she snored great waves of foul rotten meat smelling breath rolled down the bed, it made Twig’s nervous stomach feel even sicker. Keeping as close to the edge of the bed as possible Twig made it nearly to the top of the bed, with just the area of the pillows to go, but that was where the Queen’s head was, there was not any other way to get up to the table though. Very gingerly Twig climbed onto the giant, soft, feather filled pillow, he was inches away from the Raptor’s mouth now but he was almost as close to the table. Twig jumped as high as he could and landed, almost slipping on the smooth polished table top. Breathing a sigh of relief but knowing the danger was not over yet as he was in a very exposed position he quietly went over to the cage and peered in.
Acorn was laying curled up asleep on the hard cold floor of the cage. To Twig he looked tired and thin, his fur lacking the bounce it normally had. Twig gripped the bars of the cage, he wanted to cry out in anger at what they had done to his brother, keeping him caged, away from the freedom of the trees but he knew he had to keep quiet. Instead he whispered urgently “Acorn!”
Acorn stirred uncomfortably in his sleep.
“Acorn” cried Twig, a little louder this time.
Acorn’s eyes flickered open, he was sure he was dreaming, nobody here knew his name. Acorn shut his eyes again, trying to get back to sleep.
“Acorn!” cried Twig, loud enough this time to make even the sleeping Raptor Queen stir.
Acorn opened his eyes again, even his sleep was getting tortuous he thought. He rolled over “Now I’m seeing things” Acorn thought as the image of this brother Twig came into focus through his tired sleepy eyes.
“Twig?” he said groggily as he sat up stiffly.
“Oh Acorn” said Twig, relieved to have woken him up. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you” replied Acorn.
Twig smiled “It was by accident, but I’m glad it happened, wouldn’t of found you otherwise would I? What about you?”
“I have had some adventures little brother since I left the tree” Acorn shook his head slowly “But it is a long, long story and one you don’t have time to hear, you could be easily caught sitting there.”
“I have to get you out” said Twig determinedly.
“I don’t know how” said Acorn sadly.
“I’ll find a way” said Twig more confidently than he felt.
Twig and Acorn both turned suddenly to the sound of movement within the tent.
“Someone is here” whispered Acorn “Hide now!”
With that Twig jumped off the table, onto the bed, scurried down the bedcovers and crawled under the bed.
There were comings and goings in the Queen’s tent throughout the night but Twig paid little attention to them, racking his brains to find a way to help his brother. He needed not only to get the cage open but he needed also to get rid of the chain that was attached to his brother’s leg, Twig knew he could not gnaw through it and so was not sure what he could use.
The Queen was a noisy beast constantly shouting at her staff. The next morning the Queen was having a fight with her maid, something Twig suspected that often happened. Twig wished that they would be quiet as he was having trouble thinking with two Raptors fighting virtually above his head, even though he sheltered by the enormous bed. It sounded like the Queen was not happy with the way the maid was dressing her for the day and things were being thrown everywhere with crashes and splinters. Twig felt doubly sorry for Acorn having to witness this every day. Pots were landing with a smash on the floor next to the bed making Twig shrink further under the bed, but when he saw something small, hard and glinting fall just under the bed he crept forward again, quickly grabbing the object with his paws. It looked like a small metal nail that had been slightly flattened, on one end were the remains of some sort of sticky substance on one end. Twig studied it, it looked strong enough to help him unpick the chains on Acorn’s leg, now he just had to get in the cage and he could think of only one way of doing that and he reckoned there was a 50:50 chance that he could actually get eaten instead, but he thought his best chance would be if he waited until the Queen’s breakfast arrived, he figured that the Queen would be less likely to eat him if she already had food there. Twig waited nervously for breakfast to arrive, eventually he heard the words he had been waiting for.
“Your breakfast, your majesty”
“Oh goody, what is it?” a pause “Gut loops, oh fantastic!”
Twig could hear the springs of the bed above him move as the Queen settled herself to eat her breakfast in bed.
“It’s now or never!” thought Twig as he raced out of his hiding place, climbed once again up the bedspread and ran this time to the centre of the bed, this time in full deliberate view of the Queen.
The Queen squealed in fright, her bowl of Gut Loops flying into the air “It’s a shrew!” she yelled.
“It’s ok , your majesty” said her maid, rushing to her aid, she reached over to the middle of the bed and plucked Twig up with her claws “What do you want me to do with it?”
“Bring it closer” said the Queen, calming herself “I can’t abide how those hairy little things pop up all over the place, giving one such a fright, but if it’s chained and in a cage, why they make quite amusing little play things!”
“The cage then, your majesty?” asked the maid.
“Yes, the hairy little thing in their could do with a friend, he’s been looking quite blue”
The maid, Twig in one hand, opened the cage door and pulled out another chain and cuff, clamping it to Twig’s leg then stuffing Twig into the cage before slamming the door shut.
“Awww, now don’t those two look a pair!” said the Queen.
“Yes your majesty”
“Now it’s time to go and inspect the troops, follow me servant” and with that the Queen swept out of the tent closely followed by her maid. Acorn and Twig were now free to talk.
“What on earth did you do that for?” burst Acorn.
Twig stood their tight lipped.
“Say something!” said Acorn.
Twig coughed and out of his mouth came the thin piece of metal that he had found on the floor. He was glad to get it out of his mouth, it had tasted so cold and artificial.
“That’s one of the Queen’s fake eyelashes” said Acorn. The brothers both looked at each other, both thinking why anyone would want to fake eyelashes.
Twig smiled, he took hold of the fake eyelash and walked over the Acorn and grabbed hold of his chained leg.
“What are you doing?” said Acorn in surprise.
“Getting you at least out of this” said Twig.
Twig used the metal eyelash to loosen the screw holding the cuff together, it soon with a bit of fiddling loosened enough for Acorn to free his foot.
“Great!” said Acorn “But we’re still in here!”
“We’ll have to figure that out next but for the meanwhile undo my foot will you” said Twig.
“Ok” smiled Acorn “When did my little brother get so grown up?”
Both free from their chains Acorn and Twig decided to stick their feet back into the loosened cuffs so as not to cause suspicion. They decided that the best thing to do would be to wait until the cage door next opened and then dash out. They waited and they waited, the Queen and her entourage came and went many times but no one showed any interest in opening the cage again.
The next time there was the opportunity to talk Twig said “We have to get them to open the cage”
“How?” asked Acorn.
“I have an idea” replied Twig.
When the Queen and her maid returned back to the tent they immediately heard a lot of distressed squeaking coming from the Shrews’ cage. Acorn was laying on his back, his feet stiff in the air, his eyes shut and Twig was nudging him in distress. The Queen and the maid both peered into the cage.
“Looks like one of them is dead, your majesty”
“Ugh get rid of then, I don’t want the smell of dead shrew polluting my tent. It’s a good thing we found that other one then isn’t it” said the Queen.
The maid opened the door, Acorn suddenly sprung to life and both bolted out of the cage entrance, jumping down the maid’s back and straight out underneath the walls of the tent. The last thing Acorn and Twig heard from the Queen’s tent where the frightened squeals of the Queen at the prospect of ‘hairy things’ running all over her tent.
“Make for the forest!” yelled Acorn as the two brothers dashed back to the slopes of the valley.
© JSS 2007