All across the valley was peaceful, with tall graceful trees towering over nesting grounds full of large, content eggs. King Cauda stretched out his neck, gazing at his land. He sighed, happy, then carefully picked a few choice leaves off the middle branch of his favorite tree, the conifer. He swallowed, letting the pieces of branch mix with the leaves, feeling them go down his gullet. Then he bent down and picked up some rocks with his teeth, gulping them whole. He smiled, satisfied with how well his kingdom was prospering.
The king was fairly young, only 50 years, but he was built to be a leader. With his long, strong neck, matching long tail, and weighing 40 tons, he was the largest apatosaurus for miles around.
For three generations his family had led his fellow sauropods through a period of peace. Before, for as long as anyone could remember, there had been war between the carnivores and the herbivores. Small sauropods had to hide in the bushes and shadows until they became strong enough to withstand the sharp, murderous teeth of their arch-enemies, the allosaurs.
Then, after losing a battle which cost him the love of his life, Cauda’s grandfather, Lentus, struck a deal. Cauda remembered it clearly. He was only a juvenile apatosaurus at the time, and he remembered how it was to live in fear. His heart used to beat so strongly he was afraid it would burst every time he heard the shrieks of nearby predators. Though he had spent all his free time eating so he could grow big, for the first few months he was still too small to protect himself. He used to hide with his brothers, but one time when they huddled together behind a tree, a young allosaur caught their scent and went after them.
The allosaur called out to his brothers, and Cauda knew he had to run. Cauda’s brothers thought they should stick together, so they might have a chance fighting them off. But then Cauda’s father arrived to help. Since Cauda was the smallest and youngest, his father yelled at him to run away—he had a better chance of survival. Cauda did as he was told and just ran.
He ran until he was completely out of breath, but he could hear the screams and the sounds of monsters tearing off chunks of his brothers’ flesh. He turned around for a second, and saw his father, covered in blood, walking away with a small allosaur. His brothers were nowhere to be seen.
Panting, he fell against another tree and hoped he would be safe until he could find real shelter. Then he felt a large splash on the top of his head. He looked up, and heard his grandfather sobbing. Cautious, he strained to hear for signs of allosaurs. There was nothing. He poked his head out from behind the tree, and scanned the area. His jaw dropped when he saw his grandmother, Amare, on the ground, her neck bleeding out.