Meanwhile elsewhere in the world...
Like so much of the rest of town, the old factory had fallen out of use. It was monument to better times, but now was a sore reminder of what had been lost. Now it had no redeemable features, and most likely should have been put out of its misery. Most important the old factory was the least likely place anyone would ever want be. Which was preciously why I had selected it for the gathering...I had made the mistake of walking to the summons with Desdemona the Deinonychus. Desdemona was very much a testament to her kind, the Dromaeosaurs (though they have recently taken to calling themselves "raptors" due to the attention it gives them from the humans) not that I particularly like her or her kind. Dromaesaurs are a proud creed, and for good reason. They are among the greatest hunters* to evolve, they posses great physical prowess, and can boast the closet ancestry to birds**. Yet despite all this they are sorely lacking in the realms of big picture thinking and diplomacy. An abysmal combination to be deficient in.
*In Coelurosaur culture hunter is essentially a warrior, and a very honorable role/skill to posses.
** Often within the Pack of the Primordial Feather ones personal closeness to modern birds is a source of both prestitage and power.
If there was a Dromaeosaur who was worst for these missing qualities it was Desdemona.
"You have heard why the royals are summoning us?" she mockingly asked me. I choose to give no reply. "All this because they fail to be decisive on the issue."
"If they lacked decisiveness than they wouldn't have issued the summons in the first place," I grumpily responded.
Desdemona turned towards me to try and get me on her side. "You of all, must clearly see the weakness they have recently displayed. Especially with this problem," her tone revealing the cold anger Dromeasaurs were so good at fostering.
"That remains to be seen," I coldly retorted. I was seldom in the mood for Desdemona's games that alone today. Yet at the same time I was not eager to alienate the raptor matriarch either. So I quickly added. "I do agree with you though, something must be done about it soon," Though kept my plans for the issue to myself.
"Yes this is what I've been saying all along!" She eagerly jumped on this common ground, while clearly missing the point me and her were hardly seeing eye to eye on anything except the fact there was a problem. "If you'd only throw your support behind me for the leadership of the pack than things would be solved more quickly."
Here we were again. She was so predictable. If she got any of the rest of us matriarchs alone it was all talk of supporting a mutiny followed by glorious revolution under Dromeasaur rule. I'd heard it all before. Some from Desdemona herself directly, but most of it from what she'd told the other matriarchs. She never seemed to grasp that I was by far the best connected of anyone in the pack, and that I knew everything she was up to. It probably would have surprised her more that I was in most ways controlling the affairs of her pride, but that was not an issue today.
We were almost inside the factory so I decided to humour her. "How would you accomplish that then?" I asked in reference to her solving our issues faster.
"No more royals to begin with," she immediately stated. Desdemona's contempt for them was almost admirable in how much it seemed to give her life meaning. Sadly due to her typical Dromaeosaur hotheadedness she didn't remember she was talking to the royals' official lieutenant. "Instead we'd acknowledge those with real strength in the pack, and allow the strongest and most powerful to make our decisions."
I fought off laughing. She really was a fool sometimes. That was why the royals were the leading force of the pack. They were the strongest. Besides even if we eliminated them from the ruling structure Desdemona was fooling herself if she thought the "raptors" would be overpowering the Therizinosaurs in a free for all. Though the claw hands were currently push overs, with the royals to keep them in line, given the chance in anarchy I knew they would easily seize control of the pack.
"Let me guess your solution to this current problem would be to send in the talons?" I asked already knowing the answer.
"I have one of my elite scouts already in position ready to move, and I could have the rest of us there in under a week," she boosted of her plan that she clearly thought was brilliant and well thought out. Not that sending in some of our most elite hunters didn't have some merit, but it was missing the point.
We finally entered the empty interior of the factory, and there waiting for us as planned was the royal patriarch, Larry the Tyrannosaur.
Despite her short comings Desdemona caught on to my disregard for her, and turned to me earnestly before we were close to Larry. "You may think you're smarter and wiser than me Oviraptorid, but do not think me an idiot," Which was not a problem. I didn't need to think it. I already knew it. Than she made a good point, one I had to warmly nodded at to show that I still had some degree of respect for her. "We are treading on dangerous grounds here today, and if they make the wrong decision it could mean doom for us all. You mustn't just blindly follow them Layla. The Prides all look to you to help guide us where they may not."
I was taken aback by Desdemona's yielding to my authority. Had she been keeping up an act of being obstinate all the time to keep my attentions off her? Or had she simply just realized she was getting nowhere now, and that it was perhaps best to try and make some slight gains before the meeting.
We approached Larry. "Greetings matriarchs," he welcomed us. "I apologize for the lack of notice of this summons, but as I'm sure you know the situation requires shift action."
I nodded agreement. This however was not what Desdemona wanted to begin with. Dromaeosaurs are such rash and feral creatures, and do not posses that along understand formality or ritual within their kind.
"Yes shift action. Which you have failed to take!" She challenged Larry immediately. Which may sound brash, but would be perfectly acceptable among her own pride members.
Fortunately Larry was more than used to Desdemona and her kind. Having to tolerate their presence in his dealings with humans. "How is that exactly Crimson Talon?" he both patiently and politely acknowledged, though I could tell it angered him to have to put up with her belligerence immediately.
"Had you not been so sentimental and sympathetic there would be no problem," she coolly replied. I couldn't disagree with her on these points.
"It was far more delicate than you are accustomed to... Crimson Talon," he carefully addressed her by her formal title. Though through his pause he betrayed his annoyance at her challenge.
As a credit to her race, as I've said, Desdemona was only empowered by Larry's attempt at diplomacy. She sensed it was weakness, and like she would prey displaying such a thing she pounced. "You only claim it was delicate because your own flesh a blood was involved."
"You dare imply..." Larry began.
Desdemona interrupted. "I do! If it had been a member of my pride or Lilith's OR any other, you would have been as brutal and in-'delicate' as was necessary," She attacked.
Larry began to growl in protest, but impressively Desdemona was unphased and pressed on. Something I certainly would not have been brave enough to do. "You can not deny that when it has been time to indoctrinate members of the other prides you do not hesitate to take whatever means were necessary to secure them for the pack. Now not only did you fail with a member of your own pride, but also a second time with a direct relative! So you can see why I'm unimpressed with your double standard."
Surprising I found that I agreed with her again. I had had similar thoughts myself about how Larry had handled the two deserters. I bobbed my head in support.
Larry was a bit taken back by my siding with Desdemona. "You would suggest what?" he asked grimly.
Of course in typical "raptor" fashion. "Let me send the Crimson Talons after them."
"Ah yes and what. Hunt them down like what... a hadrosaur?" Larry mockingly finished the thought. "Every time you say it. 'Send in the Talons'. We aren't looking for food or assassinating a rival. These are our own kind, and we need them. You our front line hunter [warrior] should know how desperate we are for more troops. Especially royals."
"Yes so desperate that we allow them to roam outside our ranks openly mocking us, and announcing to our enemies how weak and divided we are," Desdemona rightly countered.
Larry finally lost his cool. He reared up in the air and bellowed at full volume. Desdemona bravely held her ground unyielding and unsubmissive to Larry's display of dominance.
"Enough!" Larry cried. "I shall not put up with any more of your insolence. I treat you as an equal and get nothing but disrespect. I remind you Dromaeosaur you are nothing more than a footsoldier! So be a good one and listen to orders."
Desdemona of course took offense to that, and immediately the two got into one of their typical posturing based "fights". Only they would think of these exchanges as intellectual or meaningful engagement. To the rest of us they were pity arguments. Hatchlings' squabbles were productive in comparison.
Of all the two pack members I had to be alone with. If these two were as important or influential as either of them thought themselves the Pack would have been out to destroy the others rival, and forget our true purpose and our REAL enemies.
I stood ideally by, incredibly annoyed at the situation, and not paying any attention.
They got into a pathetic argument which was more important the the Pack's efforts to retain popularity within human culture. It was a stupid argument. Larry was clearly the most successful of the two. He had just come to this summons off his tour promoting his most recent film Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Desdemona though an arguably successful breakout star with Jurassic Pack (along side Larry) had only achieved moderate stardom, mostly within that franchise, and was no where near as big a celebrity as Larry.
It was equally stupid as I standing right there on the sideline, had been a star in a Dinosaur Planet beside Desdemona's Mongolian pride members the Velciraptors. In fact the entire pack had in modern times been doing their part in movies and documentaries to keep Coelurosaurs in the humans' eyes. Bickering over who was most important was not just silly, but dangerous. It lost sight of the fact that the Gondwana Pack was very much interested in displacing us from this popularity.
The next tangent made me laugh even more. Desdemona took a pot shot at Larry's pride being so far removed from the avian lineage. She boasted of her feathers in comparison to his. I laughed, and very loudly but neither of them were paying any attention. Though she could claim direct ancestry to the lineage, Desdemona was in no condition to brag about her feathers. She, and Larry for that matter, had shaved them off! Due to humans having fixed stereotypes about us we were forced to shave our feathers to appear in their silly movies.
So though the two of them kept themselves in this lowly condition for the betterment of the pack, they looked ridiculous. As if that weren't funny enough Desdemona in her baldness trying to shame Larry, who is equally bald to her! By her logic I was the only credible one in the room, still maintaining my proud feather coat.
Finally from behind me came the loud footsteps of the last attendee of the meeting. The grand matriarch of the Pack. Teresa the Tyrannosaur.
I immediately bowed to her, as Larry had wanted Desdemona to do to him. "Matriarch," I formally greeted her.
"Rise Layla," Teresa warmly responded before glaring at the two squabbling fools. Her anger at their pathetic display showed at once as her lips curled to reveal her teeth.
For the first time today someone other than me showed some rationality, as Teresa held back to listen to the argument. Though they were both idiots, Larry was at least not making completely selfish claims, but his uncontrolled hatred of Desdemona was undermining my opinion of him. That coupled with the fact he was Teresa's mate made it clear who she was siding with.
Surprising them both Teresa rushed in between them, and barred in on Desdemona. "That will be enough Crimson Talon!!!" She shouted in a most commanding voice.
Desdemona instantly changed her posturing and tact now that the Grand Royal Matriarch was here. Dromaeosaur social dynamics are fast paced and chaotic enough at the best of times withing their own pride, so this change in the situation was well within her comfort zone.
She wisely bowed in submission to Teresa. "I apologize your majesty," Desdemona said in insincere humbleness. She hated Teresa almost more than her mate, though for far different reasons.
"I have only invited you to this summons out of courtesy Crimson Talon," Tersea warned the raptor. "If all goes according to the plan you and your hunters will only be needed as a last resort."
"And just what is the first resort may I ask?" Desdemona treacherously inquired.
Tersea's eyes narrowed in on the Deinonychus. "Though it is no direct concern of yours Desdemona, because I am a fair Matriarch I shall share it with you."
Teresa than turned to me. "I have heard that you have something in mind Layla."
Teresa despite her flaws was an excellent leader for the pack. She could not have missed how her mate's actions drove the runt and the absconder from the pack. Realizing that this did not reflect well upon the royal pride especially with the other matriarch's, she was clearly seeking one of us to alleviate concerns.
I had been doing some discrete brainstorming and planning with other key members of the Pack for a solution. Teresa clearly had gotten wind of this, and now sought my advice.
I had many good ideas, some were my own, but others from especially Razi Saurornithoides of the Troodonitid pride and Delano Compsognathus of the Compsognathid pride. The most amusing part was the Desdemona with her non-stop insistence on sending in the Talons had given me a brilliant thread to string all the ideas into one plan of attack.
"It is simple," I stated with confidence. "We sabotage both Traumador and Lillian's efforts at incorporating into the human world."
None of them were convinced by my introduction. Not that they were supposed to be. Desdemona was working up to ask her usual annoying question of how, so I beat her to the chase.
"Lillian is currently in an easy situation to play some of our old 'friends' off each other to destroy her last chance at stardom," I could just anticipate the fun of wrecking her with two stones.
"As for Traumador, he is trying to be human, and that makes him both a harder and yet easier target get at than any other trouble maker we've ever had," I quickly double thought what I was about to suggest. If I got this right I would reinforce myself as the royal's key lieutenant among the pride matriarchs. If I was wrong I would damage my position possibly beyond repair.
(A page is missing here from Layla's notes)...
My compromising plan met with agreement from all three. Even Desdemona was enthusiastic as I had opted to send a troop, all be it a small scout one, in after him. The fact one of her Crimson Talons was in this troop pleased her. Larry was very happy I had sought his advice on his cousin's weaknesses, and was obviously looking forward to results. Teresa though encouraged by my idea had one reservation.
"Who is to lead this operation?" She asked almost suspiciously. I hadn't thought of that. However she had come to a conclusion I was never going to consider. "Perhaps you?"
I thought she was accussing me of ambition I did not posses. Never once had I planned to go into the field. I preferred to work in the background.
Than I realized it was not worry of my over ambition, but rather she wished for me to lead. I couldn't have that. This was a worse outcome than if they'd rejected my plan. I was not capable, skilled, or most important enthused to lead our hunters into this plan.
Key moments went by. I was either going to have to agree or admit cowardess, which would undo all the gains I'd made so far. Than the perfect solution occurred to me. One that would forever endure me to the royals. "Dismalious should be the troops captain."
Desdemona shot me the most evil glare. I should have expected it. That would have been her least likely choice. Yet I wasn't trying to win her favour. The royals both seemed to sit upon that option for a time, and than what seemed days later finally both bobbed in approval.
"Yes," Larry said with great statisfaction. "Dismalious would make the perfect instrument to use against my cousin."
Teresa said nothing, and rather move towards her mate in a show of affection. This was high praise for my plan for the royals never showed sentimentality in front of non pride members unless they were extraordinarily happy.
"Yes my dear," she said nozzling her patriarch. "Your runt of a cousin shall be given the punishment he so rightfully deserves, and yet be brought into our pride at last.
Teresa turned to me again. "How long till you can have the troop in place, and enacting your plan?"
"I can have them in place by the end of the month," I assured her.