Lisa acted quickly, drawing on not what she’d learned from the Orrery of Worlds, but the work the Magi Club had been doing with spell augmentation. With staff in one hand and a glass marble in the other, she concentrated on drawing the energy from deep within herself and drew it out in precisely timed bursts as she cast the main spell. “Globo de fuerza!”
Arcs of white lightning flew from the head of her staff, tracing into being a sphere of force that surrounded herself and those closest to her: Kay, Tammy and Kura. These three had been close to her just for this purpose and that plan bore fruit as moments later, the thundering herd tore through the first trees. While the big animals did have the wherewithal to try to dodge the obstacles, there were simply too many of them and the larger ones forced the smaller into the trees where some shouldered them down.
One big tree fell right on top of Lisa’s globe of force and broke in half rather than damaging the globe itself.
Juniper in the meantime grabbed onto Melissa and flew straight up, putting herself above the trees, and Cyn shucked off her backpack, tossed it into the lee of a protruding boulder, then just fell over limp. The stampede went right over her and she just became a golden puddle, getting stepped on again and again with tons of force without taking any serious damage.
Once again, Warrick threw and arm around Tink and let Isp and Osp snap out and grab a nearby tree, swinging them into the air and to relative safety. Relative in this case because no sooner had they come to rest there, one of the sauropods was bulled aside by one of its bigger herd-mates and careened into the tree they had taken refuge in.
The huge dinosaur’s stumbling bulk shattered the young trunk, sending the remainder toppling. Osp struck out to snag another tree, but missed thanks to the motion of the falling one, leaving the pair to tumble back down into the midst of the herd.
Scrambling, they crawled to the lee of the same boulder Cyn had thrown her food to. A lumbering sauropod charged right past them, the ground shaking as it did. One heavy foot landed barely two feet from where they lay.
“This is not a safe place to be,” Warrick said needlessly. “Look for something to grapple on to, boys.” The tentacles peeked up over the boulder and managed to perform a gesture that somehow conveyed a shrug.
Warrick bit back a curse, but Tink put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’ve got an idea. Hold on.”
Before he could ask what she had in mind, she put her arm tightly around his waist, got her legs under her, and as the next sauropod stomped past, jumped.
She didn’t like to show it off, but given proper leverage, Tink could now lift almost fifteen hundred pounds and was tough enough to hold it up. That made her capable of leaping amazing distances. Normally, those distances were usually the span between city rooftops. Today, she leapt from the ground to the shoulder of a juvenile sauropod.
The animal bellowed in surprise when it felt her boot strike it, but she didn’t wait around to see whether it would try and shake her off. Instead, she kicked off again, launching up into the branches of a taller, stronger tree.
“I don’t tell you that you’re amazing often enough,” Warrick breathed. The tentacles affected nods of agreement.
After making a token effort to catch his breath, Warrick hit the comms. “Is everyone okay? Check in. Who has Tammy?”
The others reported in, including Lisa. “I’ve got the girls plus Kay. We should be—” she cut off which a scream because at that moment, an ankylosaur barged into them, rebounding off the globe of force. It stopped, lowing as it shook its head and sized up what hit it.
All it could see were a couple of tiny, strange creatures it had never seen before. Even though they didn’t look like a threat, the beast was still upset and panicked, so it struck out at them all the same, turning so as to bring to bear its primary weapon: it’s tail mace. Rearing back with it, it swung with a might meant to ward off Cretaceous predators. The globe was tough—nearly invincible thanks to its Magi Club augmentation—but it wasn’t anchored to anything, and so when struck, went rolling through the forest, bouncing over uneven ground and tree trunks alike.
The four young women inside were thrown into each other, tumbling end over end in a chaotic jumble. It finally Came to a stop by getting wedged between two trees, leaving them all in a heap on top of each other.
Fortunately by that time, the stampede had thinned, all but the slowest and sickest having passed them by. Warrick lost no time swinging down to the stranded force bubble. “Are you all okay?”
The globe flashed a few times, becoming outlined in blue-white light before vanishing and allowing the four crumpled at the bottom to collapse to the mossy ground, groaning.
“Okay,” Kura mumbled, crawling from the pile, “We were just in a giant hamster ball that got whacked like fifty feet by a dinosaur… and somehow, that wasn’t fun.”
“I’m more concerned with what made all those dinosaurs run from it,” Lisa said, standing with the aid of her staff, then helping Tammy up as well.
Kay managed to get to her feet too. “Agreed. How about we not be between it and them any longer than we have to?”
“Agreed,” said Warrick, hitting the comm. “Everyone meet up over here by the two big trees still standing. We need to move out.”
And so they did, moving with haste at a perpendicular angle to the direction the stampede went in. They lost some of the time they’d gained on the faeries, but managed not to meet the cause of the stampede. Eventually,t hey found another ford to cross the river, and an hour and a half later, Juniper directed them to a good place to rest.
It was a steep, wooded hill with a relatively flat top so they could spot attacks coming from a long way off.
“The only problem is, if we have a fire it’s going to be really visible,” she explained as the whole group stood atop the hill. “So we might have to have a cold dinner tonight.”
“Cold, but not raw,” Cyn said, slinging down her backpack and unzipping the top. “Dig in, folks: jerky, chips, honey buns, candy bars—you name it.”
Juniper looked scandalized. “But those are your travel snacks. If we eat those…”
“I can eat literally anything,” Cyn waved her off. To demonstrate, she put her hand down in the grass for a few moments before lifting it to reveal bare dirt and a mild wisp of smoke. “See? I just don’t like it. You guys can’t eat random junk, so you need my munchies more than I do.”
Warrick cracked a grin at his best friend. “You guys don’t really get what a beautiful self-sacrifice it is you’re looking at here.”
“Damn straight!” Cyn declared, going to sit down with her back against a tree. One hand absently swept the area clear of grass, moss and ferns.
Melissa also took a seat, along with Juniper to take stock of what they’d scavenged. “I think most of us know you well enough to appreciate it,” she said. “I brought a few granola bars too for anyone who needed healing from me, so let’s add that to the pot too. At least we won’t go hungry while we’re here.” She looked around her. “So what’s next?”
“A few uncomfortable hours taking turns sleeping on the hard ground, I guess.” Warrick let his armor melt off his body, forming up into metal ingots at his feet. “I’m suddenly realizing why other superheroes wear capes. Think of the utility: it’s a blanket, you can roll it up into a pillow. Notably something metal armor does not.”
“I have some emergency blankets, but not enough for everyone,” Tink volunteered. “And also I’m suddenly keenly aware that survival supplies for three on a team of more than ten people isn’t so much being prepared as it is inviting the cold calculation.”
“We’ll make due,” said Kay. “Jun isn’t the only one who’s been camping you know? A week in Shenandoah every year, folks. I can rough it. Even if I’ll miss my air mattress.”
“I know it won’t be as comfortable as an air mattress, but we can gather what grass Cyn doesn’t… eat… to sleep on. That’s what we do on our camping trips. I mean there’s plenty.” She gestured down the hill to water a field of waist-high grass stood.
“On it.” Warrick said. “Boys? Let’s get to reaping.” The twins affected nodding and he headed down the hill in the center of a veritable storm of golden scything blades. The grass fell in great swathes before them. In a few short minutes, everyone had a little nest of grass to curl up in while they ate a meal of junk food and decided who would take which watches during the sunlit night.
Once they finished eating, Lisa went to one end of the hill while Tink went to another, leaving the others to try to lie down and get comfortable.
Warrick lay down so his head was next to Cyn’s. “You ever wonder what you from three years ago would think if you told her she’d be camping in a hidden dinosaur valley chased by a centaur and an ice elf looking for an artifact to stop some fairy anti-godmother from taking over the world?”
Cracking a smirk, Cyn laughed. “I’d be all over that like Kura and Tammy over there.” She nodded in the direction of the two best friends who had huddled against a tree leaning on one another. “To tell the truth? Still kind of psyched. How about you?”
“I’d be a lot more psyched if my little sister didn’t almost get stomped on, but this is kind of awesome. I wish we could just hang out and look at the dinosaurs and stuff instead of this whole race to the pyramid.”
“Well we’ve got a jet,” she pointed out. “And a girlfriend who can fly said jet. Maybe we can come back here for the dinos after the fact. Assuming the asshole guardian here doesn’t fold it up behind him once we nab the magic macguffin.”
The tiny bit of bitterness when she said ‘girlfriend’ did not escape Warrick’s ears. “So… would this be a good time to talk about Ollie?”
She heaved a sigh. “I miss him. A lot. And I’ve hung out with you long enough to know that the villain/hero thing is kind of a tradition. It’s just… well I got so angry I wanted to hit him. Really wanted to hit him over this, over the stuff he did to me as the Sneak Thief. And… and…”
“I think I see where this is going,” Warrick said, reaching up to pat her arm. “Look, you recognized that and knew it was wrong. That’s a hell of a lot better than Sean ever did. Maybe you won’t believe this coming from me, but I want you to know you’re so much of a better person than he is. You’re one of the best people I know.”
“See? This is why I don’t believe you. You had to go that one extra step too far.” Even if she didn’t believe him, there was a smile in her voice.
“No, I’m serious. Cyn, you could do anything with powers like yours—become anyone, do anything you want—but you stick with us and you stick with heroing when you don’t have to.”
Cyn snorted. “Says the guy who could literally make a million dollars in gold right here right now.” Warrick started to speak, but she cut him off, “And no talking about ruining the economy; you could figure out how to do that without the downfall of society. You’re just saying this stuff because we’re friends.”
“Best friends.” Warrick corrected. “And as your best friend, I know you well enough to know you won’t turn into Sean.
“That makes one of us,” said Cyn, staring up at the sky.
“You’ll figure it out,” said Warrick, “And we’re all here for you if you need advice.”
Kura didn’t know how she’d managed to fall asleep, but one minute she’d been dreaming of solving mysteries with a talking squirrel sidekick and the next she was being poked in the arm to the sound of her name being hissed at her.
“Kura.” Poke. “Kura. Are you awake?”
“Erg. Well now I am.” she cracked one eye open to find Tammy leaning over her. It was weird looking around and seeing everyone asleep in what looked like the middle of the day. “What’s up?”
Tammy pointed to the northern edge of the hill where Warrick and Tink were leaned against each other asleep. “The Parents Mk II fell asleep and I decided to go exploring. I saw something really cool. Let’s go check it out!” Everything was said in an excited whisper accompanied by a grin wide enough the stretch her cheeks.
It took Kura only a second to say, “Oh hell yeah! Let’s go!”
Keeping quiet and moving low, they made their way off the hill and down into the recently mown field where Warrick cut their bedding and beyond into the tall grass. After a few minutes of walking, Kura started hearing small growls in the near distance and stopped walking.
Tammy paused and grabbed her friend’s hand. “Hey, what’s wrong? We’re almost there. It’s so cool.”
Kura just gave her a level look. “Yeah, see the thing about that? We like to have fun and we take a lot more risks than Warrick or Ms. Brant or Ms. Carroll would like… but we’ve never been stupid. And running around alone in dinosaur land? Super stupid. Also, Tammy’s brother would never nod off when it might get her killed. Just goes to prove that you might somehow know somethings about us; but you’re not us.”
She reached out and grabbed the space just in front of Tammy’s forehead. “That and two more things: one don’t try and use illusions after we’ve been warned that there’s illusion monsters around. And two, I’m so very, very bitter about how awful real unicorns turned out to be.”
She felt her hand close over something hard and calcified—a horn. Then she used her power to make her hand feel as hot as a thousand suns.
‘Tammy’ screamed an unhuman (and identifiable unequine) scream and tried to break Kura’s grasp. Her concentration broke, as did all of the illusions she created—including the one that concealed her from the nest of veloceraptors she’d been leading Kura to.
With rattling hisses, the raptors broke from cover and attacked.
To Be Continued…