Here is the first chapter of the novel “Cretaceous Kings” by Kyle Waller. We hope you enjoy!
The massive Cretaceous moon dominated the night sky, casting its blue, lunar glow across the clouds shifting before it. Under the moonlight, three juvenile tyrannosauruses hid between the cliffs at the base of mountain foothills. The reflective surface behind their retinas shined bright as their eyes fixed on a vast volcanic plain with an abundance of animals moving just meters ahead of them. A herd of torosaurus—imposing three-horned beasts with armored black and white frills—moved slowly across the ash-filled expanse, tired from their day’s travel. The tyrannosaurs shifted their gaze to less challenging prey, edmontosaurus. Less imposing, though equally as large, these duck-billed dinosaurs lounged on the plains, resting under the cool of night.
Leviathan, the largest of the three tyrannosaurs, stared at the herds with fascination. It had been days since he and his brothers had eaten. His two brothers, Hannibal and Carnis, were equally fascinated as they growled and snapped at each other with growing impatience.
Sporting a unique white banded marking over his right eye, Hannibal, the second largest, could no longer contain his excitement. In one explosive movement, he charged out from between the rocks. The commotion caught the attention of a single edmontosaurus, the contrast of his small blue head crest against his brown body barely visible in the moonlight. He reared up on his hind legs for a better view. Once he saw Hannibal, he alerted both herds with a loud call. This created a massive stampede.
Leviathan and Carnis quickly responded to the exciting movement and darted from the rocks as well. Hannibal ran straight into the mixed herd, causing mass confusion as the animals darted in multiple directions to evade the adolescent tyrannosaur. Leviathan and Carnis caught up with their brother, then began charging random animals to check for potential weaknesses. With his keen eyesight, Carnis pinpointed a slower-moving torosaurus. She was quite old and limped awkwardly from a fresh wound on her back right leg. Drooling from the tantalizing scent of blood, he ran straight towards the injured torosaurus.
Hannibal and Leviathan caught on to this and followed him. With wide panic-filled eyes, their prey turned at the sight of them. Realizing the danger she was in, she bleated and fled, away from the young tyrannosaurs. However, in doing so she was headed in the opposite direction of her herd. This was a fatal mistake.
Hannibal ran past his brothers, leading the chase. Leviathan tried to outmatch him, but his brother was too fast. Zeroing in on the injured leg of the torosaurus, the urge to bite was just too irresistible. He clamped his jaws around it with crushing force. The torosaurus tripped and turned. She pointed her horns at the three young tyrannosauruses in desperation, not willing to die without a fight.
With one swing of her mighty frill, she knocked Hannibal into the rocks. But Hannibal, not one to stay down too long, sprang back to his feet and shook it off. The assault resulted in an immediate response from his brothers. Leviathan and Carnis both took turns biting the torosaurus’ injured leg, causing her to run further into the rocky cliffs. This was an even worse mistake. Running further into the cliffs lessened the chance of her herd coming to her rescue, but this was just what the tyrannosaurs wanted. Despite her age, the torosaurus could have eventually killed the juveniles if she’d stood and fought, but she was wary.
They chased her through the rocks. As the torosaurus looked back, she saw that the three tyrannosaurs had curiously stopped following her. They just stood there and watched her run. Surely, they were tired and had given up on the chase. Relief passed through her, and she ran for joy. Yet as soon as she turned her head, she was met by a giant pair of jaws crushing through her neck. Her spinal cord was completely pulverized, and she instantly fell to her death.
Standing over the body was an adult tyrannosaurus. This was Nandi, the mother of the three adolescent tyrannosaurs, her grayish-black body and faint white stripes hiding her well between the rocks—perfect for an ambush; a trait Leviathan had clearly inherited from her as the two were nearly identical in coloration. Hannibal was dark blue in color but had definitely inherited her body stripes. However, the white-banded marking over his eye was all his own. Carnis’ plain gray and brown scales gave him the most unique look. But they were just as effective at camouflage.
The three brothers all came running in; they could barely contain their excitement. They were literally falling over each other. Hannibal tried to push his way to the front, but his larger brother, Leviathan, knocked him to the ground. Leviathan went to take the first bite, but he was met with a bite to the face by Nandi. When Nandi let go, Leviathan quickly took a few steps back. Nandi emitted a deep rumbling sound at her rowdy offspring, asserting her dominance. They had to wait until she had eaten her fill. Panting, the three brothers sat, knowing better than to test her further.
Out from the tall rocks walked a small tyrannosaur covered in brown downy feathers. He was younger than the three adolescent tyrannosaurs and a lot more timid. This was their younger brother, Mansur. He was the only surviving member of his brood. Mansur walked over to his mother, only to receive a warning rumble. After being scolded, he went and sat next to his brothers. Hannibal was quick to bully Mansur, biting him in the face. Carnis followed Hannibal’s lead and knocked Mansur to the ground. Mansur jumped back up and hissed, his jaws wide open and teeth fully exposed. He then returned the favor, taking a snap at Hannibal’s face.
As his brothers went back and forth, Leviathan patiently sat down, waiting to eat. Nothing else mattered to him. He chirped at his mother as he had when he was a young chick. His mother, crunching through bone and muscle, seemingly ignored his calls. Leviathan persisted and continued to chirp. His brothers stopped squabbling and joined the fun. Nandi kept eating, but the chirps continued to nudge her maternal instincts, and she could no longer resist the cries of her offspring. She then got up with a rumble of frustration and allowed her chicks to eat.
All four brothers rushed towards the torosaurus carcass. Mansur struggled to find a spot among his larger siblings. Leviathan and Hannibal pushed at each other, fighting for the best position, while Carnis found his own spot on the back leg. Nandi lay down and rested. Mansur, not being able to find his place at the carcass, went over to his mother and began to nip at her lips. This triggered Nandi to regurgitate some of her food. Mansur then excitedly ate the predigested meal, slimy with its thick coating of stomach acid. Nandi got up with a hiss, slowly stalking away from her voracious offspring before settling down a few feet away, hoping for some peace.
A large roar blasted through the rocky plains, its infrasonic frequencies traveling through the ground, shaking the earth. Nandi quickly raised her head, her nostrils flaring. All the chicks, except for Hannibal, stopped eating and sniffed the air. Another louder roar blasted through the plains. Nandi rose to her feet while rumbling and hissing, her body tensed and prepared for a fight. Under the moonlight appeared two hulking tyrannosaur figures. Their muscles bulged as their robust frames came closer. Nandi responded with a loud, booming roar of her own. As they moved closer, the glow of their eyes flashed as the moonlight revealed their faces and bodies covered in old scars, each one healed over from countless battles long won.
The hulking tyrannosaurs quickened their pace, continuing their earth-shattering roars. Nandi charged out in front of the carcass and let out another roar. The two giant tyrannosaurs met Nandi right where she stood. They reared to their full height, towering over Nandi, attempting to amplify their already imposing stature. Nandi stayed defensive while hissing and rumbling. However, she kept her head low in a more submissive stance to avoid an attack.
The largest of the robust tyrannosaurs made his way towards the kill. He forced himself in, scattering the younger chicks out of the way, all of them except Hannibal, who kept eating while hissing at the monstrous beast. The other huge tyrannosaur also barged his way onto the carcass and aggressively tried to drag it away while Hannibal held on. This angered the larger adult male, and he snapped at his comrade’s face.
The two beasts began to eat while trying to outmuscle each other. Hannibal could have been bitten in half at any time. The two giant tyrannosaurs rumbled and bit at each other’s faces, but Hannibal kept eating with defiance in his eyes. Their aggression only fueled his. He was determined to stay on the carcass. Then, largest of the two beasts unintentionally positioned himself to where he was eye to eye with the young Hannibal. This unnerved Nandi, and she reared up and roared.
Hannibal had never felt such intensity before; this was the first time he had seen such creatures. Apedemak, the beast who Hannibal had locked eyes with, quickly reached across the carcass and grabbed Hannibal’s head, throwing the young tyrannosaur from his meal and sending him crashing to the ground. Nandi sprang into action. She bit Apedemak’s neck, but he easily shook her off. She roared at him as her chicks ran into the rocks. Once she was sure of her offspring’s safety, she too made a hasty retreat.
They all sat between the rocks and waited for the big male tyrannosaurs to eat their fill. Blood trickled from Hannibal’s head, but his injuries were only minor. He lay there and waited with his family. The loud roaring and commotion attracted other predators, such as raptors and raptor-like troodontids, as well as scavenging pterosaurs. The calls of these creatures could be heard in the distance, but they would not dare get close to the carcass.
Apedemak was the father of these four chicks. He was also slightly larger than his brother, Cronus. Unlike Nandi and her offspring, they both sported bright orange crests over their eyes, in contrast to their darkly-colored bodies. Hannibal had inherited his father’s dark blue color, with the only difference being Apedemak’s complete lack of body and facial markings—something Carnis had inherited. Cronus, on the other hand, was a dusky-gray color with faint-white stripes on his body. These were very rugged tyrannosauruses. Cronus had a large slash over his muzzle, and the rest of him was covered in scars; even a piece of his tail had been bitten off. Apedemak had prominent scars all over his neck and less prominent scars on his body.
Apedemak was the more dominant of the two, but Cronus never made it easy. The two mighty tyrannosaurs continued to devour the carcass. Apedemak and Cronus ruled over a vast empire that overlapped the territories of many females, including Nandi. She and her chicks would have to wait until the morning to hopefully eat what was left.
As dawn arrived, the sunlight spilled over the cliffs, the purple and orange hue of the skies illuminating the black ash-filled plains sprinkled with sparse pockets of tall green araucaria conifers. Apedemak and Cronus had since eaten their fill and settled down for the day. Nandi and her offspring had left for the night, but now they had returned. The big tyrannosaurs were docile and sleeping peacefully. There was some food left, but not much. The chicks quickly ran to the carcass and began to eat. Mansur got there first this time.
As Leviathan ate, he watched the two sleeping giants. His curiosity got the better of him, and he approached them. He sniffed at Cronus’ face but quickly jumped back when the mighty beast moved. Hannibal saw Leviathan standing near the now docile behemoths, and his curiosity got the better of him, too. He wandered over to his brother, to help him investigate. Carnis followed Hannibal, and Mansur followed Carnis. Now all four chicks were staring at the slumbering giants. Hannibal wanted to test the waters, so he nipped at Apedemak’s face.
When their father flinched, all four backed up. Apedemak opened his eyes, the sunlight revealing their piercing fiery red hue. He fixed them on his four chicks, all of whom met his gaze with eyes identical in hue to his own. He inched closer to them, but all four of his sons quickly jumped back. Unamused, Apedemak closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Hannibal, ever so fearless, jumped on his father’s back. Apedemak simply ignored this. Leviathan followed suit and jumped on his back as well. Mansur, wanting to prove his bravery, climbed on as well. Leviathan and Hannibal then chased Mansur all around their sleeping father and uncle.
Cronus’ bronze-colored eyes instantly jolted open from the impact of Hannibal’s feet on his back. The big tyrannosaur slowly lifted his massive body from the ground, eager to conclude this family visit. Apedemak rose to join his brother, he too had grown tired of his boisterous sons. Fascinated by these giants, Hannibal, Leviathan, and Mansur followed them as they strolled forward. Carnis lost interest and went back to eat with his mother. As the three others ventured too far for Nandi’s liking, she called them back with a low rumble, her hazel eyes fixed on them like daggers. Fearful of incurring their mother’s wrath, the three brothers reluctantly turned back, joining her and Carnis again for dinner. Apedemak and Cronus went on their way to patrol their vast empire.
It was the middle of the day now, and Nandi had left the chicks to patrol her own territory. The chicks moved far away from the torosaurus kill, but they were still within the vicinity. To pass the time, Mansur decided to harass a small mammalian didelphodon, scurrying past him. Carnis, still full from the meal, sat and watched him. The didelphodon evaded most of Mansur’s attacks, but it was stubborn and reluctant to back down as it hunched its back and bared its teeth. It tried to outmaneuver Mansur, nipping at his heels, its black and white striped fur bristling. This only encouraged him even more. Hannibal and Leviathan, on the other hand, just lounged around a large boulder and caught up on some sleep. The didelphodon began to find its rhythm, and it juked Mansur off-balance. Mansur fell, and the small mammal ran away. The small tyrannosaur, however, quickly regained his stance and pursued the didelphodon through the rocks.
It headed in the direction of the kill. Mansur had never killed anything larger than a lizard, and he was determined to catch this didelphodon. He was beginning to gain on it when suddenly it made a sharp turn, and Mansur tripped and tumbled down some rocks. He landed directly in front of the torosaurus kill. Mansur got up and shook his head. But when he looked up, a group of three dakotaraptors were staring right at him. They had moved in on the kill once the tyrannosaurs had left.
It was a standoff. They were around the same size as Mansur, if not slightly larger. The largest, a female, hissed and jumped down in front of Mansur. She was a young sub-adult, evident by the short mane of black feathers going down her tawny brown head that would one day become the crest of a mature female. The two plain tawny brown males by her side were her brothers of the same age. They had all wandered away from their pack after smelling the scent of fresh meat. Startled by the large female’s approach, Mansur jumped back and hissed. He stayed somewhat submissive so as not to invoke an attack. But these were dakotaraptors, and they took pleasure in killing young tyrannosaurs.
Mansur backed up slowly, hissing and flashing his teeth, careful not to turn his back to the dakotaraptors. The large dromaeosaurs then began to slowly follow him, displaying the feathers on their arms to make themselves appear larger. Mansur began to back up quicker, but when he turned around to run, he found all three of his older brothers were standing there behind him. Leviathan let out his best version of a roar. It wasn’t as powerful as his parents’, but it was still somewhat intimidating. Hannibal also made himself heard with his own fearsome shriek, followed by Carnis. The three brothers were about twice the size of the dakotaraptors. This emboldened Mansur, and he screeched at his enemies with a newfound confidence.
The dakotaraptors, seeing they were outnumbered by larger foes, turned around and ran away from the carcass. The brothers could not resist, and they chased the raptors. Mansur was now close to becoming a true hunter. He and his brothers trailed the raptors into a grove of conifers near the foothills. Leviathan took the lead as they pursued the raptors through the trees. The two young male raptors had disappeared into the foliage and had left their sister to be trailed by the young tyrannosaurs.
Leviathan began to get close to the lone dakotaraptor and reached out to grab her by the leg. The dakotaraptor’s keen reflexes picked up on this, and she turned in midair and slashed Leviathan across his left eye with her killing, sickle shaped, foot claw. Leviathan fell to the ground in agony. The raptor leaped to end Leviathan when Hannibal headbutted her, knocking her to the ground.
The raptor quickly sprang to her feet and displayed her claws and teeth with a blood-curdling screech. Carnis came in from behind and bit into the raptor's spine, dragging her to the ground. Hannibal then grabbed onto the raptor’s throat and began to thrash his head in order to break the raptor's neck. The raptor kicked and clawed in a desperate attempt to get away, but as Carnis bit down harder into her spine, the unfortunate dromaeosaur’s legs became paralyzed.
Mansur, following Hannibal’s lead, bit down on the raptor’s throat as well. The raptor, using her hand claws, slashed at Hannibal’s face and neck, causing Hannibal and Mansur to let go of her throat. Once they let go, the raptor quickly turned, clawing and biting at Carnis' face, causing him to back up and release his grip. The three brothers surrounded the dakotaraptor as she lay there, apart from Leviathan, who was still recovering.
Bleeding profusely from her throat, the young dromaeosaur's trepidation was obvious as she struggled to move her feet, to no avail. Carnis, Hannibal, and Mansur stood there watching the raptor, panting.
Out of nowhere, Leviathan charged in and bit into the back of the raptor’s skull, killing her instantly. The raptor went limp on the ground. Leviathan sat, exhausted. He still could not open his eye as blood ran down his face. Hannibal, Carnis, and Mansur wasted no time in tearing the raptor apart and enjoying their latest snack.
Unbeknownst to the chicks, a pair of young adult male tyrannosauruses were not too far from them and were outside of the grove of conifers drinking at a stream near the cliffs. These were challengers to the throne of their father and uncle. They were young and just now coming into their prime. This was made apparent by the bright orange crests over their eyes. The young challengers wanted this great empire with the resources and potential wives that came with it.
The two tyrannosaurs heard the noises coming from the grove, and they could smell the blood of the kill. The smell of blood meant a potential meal. So, the two beasts walked into the conifers. As they crashed through the trees, Carnis picked up on their vibrations and quickly became alert. Hannibal and Mansur kept eating. Leviathan also felt these vibrations, but he was too tired to stand. Carnis growled as the trees parted and the two huge tyrannosaurs stepped in front of them. This immediately got all the chicks’ attention as they stood and stared at the intruding tyrannosaurs.
Leviathan, Hannibal, Carnis, and Mansur had never been in so much danger. These two savages had every intention of killing the young heirs to the throne to eliminate any competition before it became a threat. One of the two intruders let out a deep earth-shaking roar that reverberated through the chicks’ bodies. All four of them turned and ran for their lives. The smaller chicks were much faster than these two massive beasts, and they quickly ran through the conifers. But Leviathan still could not open his left eye and was running half-blind. His depth perception was off, which caused him to misstep and tumble down a hill.
The two intruders saw this and ran straight towards him. Leviathan fell all the way down and landed on his side. He stumbled to his feet and, in a last-ditch effort, tried to dart away, but was knocked to the ground while trying to dodge a bite from one of the intruders.
The intruder put his foot on Leviathan. The other intruder heard a loud screech and turned his head. He saw Leviathan’s three brothers bravely running towards him. It looked like Leviathan’s days were over when an intense, bellowing roar shook the entire grove.
Leviathan, Hannibal, Carnis, and Mansur had never been so lucky. The whole grove became quiet. The two intruding brothers turned their heads as the confidence drained from their bodies. One brother answered with his own roar, but there was a clear lack of gusto.
From the trees walked a giant beast, covered in scars and outweighing the intruding brothers by a few tons. It was Apedemak, who had heard the intruders’ first roar and had come to investigate. Apedemak then blasted another earth-rattling roar. As the intruder holding Leviathan down shifted his foot, Leviathan took the opportunity to dart away and hide between the trees with his brothers.
They all watched, paralyzed with fear. The disrespect of the two challengers enraged Apedemak. He had been smelling their scent for days, and to see them, clear as day, in his territory and harassing his chicks gave him a thirst for blood. Apedemak charged in and bit into the throat of the challenging young tyrannosaur and began to ragdoll him around. Just as Apedemak was about to throw him to the ground, the challenger’s brother bit into Apedemak’s shoulder. The forceful bite caused Apedemak to let go, and the other challenger regained his footing and latched onto Apedemak’s neck.
With one thrust of his massive bulk, Apedemak broke free of their grip, knocking the second intruder into a tree, causing the tree to fall over. The intruder fell to the ground with a large thud. He quickly realized he was no match for the more experienced tyrannosaurus and got up to flee, leaving his brother to face Apedemak alone.
The remaining challenger, having seen his brother run away, turned to face Apedemak. The two beasts circled one another, looking for an opening. The challenger charged the larger tyrannosaur, but Apedemak, who was surprisingly agile, easily dodged his attack and bit into the challenger’s head. He threw the young tyrannosaur to the ground and bit into his throat. The challenger struggled, but Apedemak held him down with his weight. With each movement, the air drained from the young challenger’s lungs.
With a final snap of the neck vertebrae, Apedemak let go and held his foot over his vanquished enemy. He then let out a victorious roar that made every bird in the nearby trees fly away.
Apedemak, in an act of ultimate dominance, began to eat the flesh of the fallen young tyrannosaur. The four chicks had never seen such a raw display of power and aggression. They all watched as their father ate the tyrannosaur who had tried to kill them.
Apedemak had made his point. He left the half-eaten tyrannosaur to rot and walked into the forest to look for Cronus. The four chicks hurried past the dead dinosaur to catch up with their father.
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