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The Last Valley Part 2 - The Fog

Max_Writer

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* * *

 

 

 

An hour or so later, they spotted another bird flying in the air. It had a longer head that made them think of a blue jay in shape. It seemed to be fairly close but they realized it was further away than they thought it was. It started wheeling their way. The flapping of its wings looked wrong.

 

West drew his black pistol as he realized the bird was much further away than they thought it was.

 

“That looks wrong to me!†West said. “Does it look wrong to y’all?â€

 

Jacali took her bow from her shoulder and nocked and arrow.

 

They all realized the thing was much larger than they had initially thought. It was lizard-like in appearance and had a wingspan of probably about 18 feet. It had a long hornlike thing in the back of its head.

 

“Strawberry!†Dr. Weisswald shouted.

 

“Strawberry!†Jacali shouted.

 

West fired at the thing, which was probably about 30 yards away. The bullet struck it and it screeched horribly. Otto banged on the medicine wagon.

 

“Stalloid!†he called.

 

Jacali felt ill. She was seeing all of the gods of her people that she had never put any stock into before. She raised her hands in prayer to her ancestors in her native language. Then her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell off the back of her horse in a faint. Dr. Weisswald had seen it coming.

 

Otto pulled on the reins, stopping the wagon.

 

Professor Stalloid stuck his head through the curtain of the medicine wagon.

 

“What’s going on?†he said.

 

Then he saw the terrible-lizard like bird that Jack West was aiming at.

 

“By Jove!†he said. “That’s a pterodactyl!â€

 

He pulled his head back into the medicine wagon and grabbed the lightning gun, running to the open back door and looking out.

 

In the front, Jack West thought the horrible flying lizard was flying right at him!

 

Dr. Weisswald pulled her horse around and dismounted, grabbing the reins of Jacali’s horse as the lizard thing swooped over her heard. The horses were a little skittish but she took them to Jacali.

 

Otto leapt from the wagon and put his rifle to his shoulder, backing away along the left side of the wagon and shooting the thing. He was certain he hit and hurt it. Jack West, still on the medicine wagon seat, narrowed his eyes and fired a single shot at the terrible beast. It let out a squawk as the bullet passed right through it.

 

Professor Stalloid leapt from back of the medicine wagon and just was the thing dipped out of sight, the wagon in the way. He pointed the lightning gun at the top of the wagon, expecting the thing to swoop over it.

 

The creature wheeled out of control and crashed into one of the horses attached to the wagon. The horse let out a terrified scream and then both horses panicked and ran, pulling the wagon forward with a jerk. The horses in the back were jerked forward and whinnied in pain.

 

Dr. Weisswald got Jacali onto her horse.

 

As the medicine wagon roared past Otto, he put his gun to his shoulder and shot the fallen pterodactyl in the head again.

 

Still on the seat, Jack West reached down for the reins that were sliding off. He pulled back on them hard. Dr. Weisswald mounted Shy Anne and kicked her into motion, heading for the horses pulling the medicine wagon.

 

Behind the wagon, Professor Stalloid let the lightning gun fall to his side on the strap and ran after the medicine wagon, calling the horses’ names. Otto ran towards Jacali, who regained consciousness looking down at the ground. She found herself laying on top of her horse. She looked around and saw her horse was behind Dr. Weisswald’s horse, chasing the wagon.

 

“Wha happened?†she muttered, pulling herself up on top of the horse.

 

Jack West managed to get the small team under control after a few moments, stopping the medicine wagon. Professor Stalloid examined the injured horse and found she suffered bad bruises where the thing had struck it.

 

When they examined the dead thing, Dr. Weisswald recognized it as a pterodactyl.

 

“Did you all shoot this thing out of the sky?†Jacali said.

 

“I sure did,†West growled.

 

“Seems we found his thunderbird,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“I have a big disagreement with one of those being able to be shot out of the sky,†Jacali said.

 

Jack West poked it. He felt its skin, which was lizard-like but obviously thicker.

 

“I want to make a coat out of it,†he said.

 

“I don’t think you should do that,†Jacali said.

 

“Do we put it on the roof of the medicine wagon?â€â€™

 

“I wouldn’t suggest putting a sacred creature on the back of the medicine wagon like a deer we shot.â€

 

Shy Anne kept backing away, apparently made nervous by the thing.

 

“Hey, Stalloid, check this out!†West called.

 

Professor Stalloid got some feed for the injured horse. He realized the bruising wasn’t very bad. We went over to the creature to look at it.

 

“You made this extinct … again,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“You never know,†West said. “It came from somewhere. It’s gotta have parents, right? Let’s get those.â€

 

“My parents are dead,†Jacali said.

 

“What came first, the pterodactyl or the egg?†Professor Stalloid quipped.

 

“Is it asexual?†West asked.

 

“When I heard tales about these when I was a child, I didn’t believe them,†Jacali said. “And I still find it hard to believe, so no … I don’t really know about their sexuality.â€

 

“They’re not asexual,†West said.

 

“You didn’t believe about pterodactyls?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“A what?†Jacali said.

 

“Scientists have published papers about them.â€

 

“It’s a what did you say?â€

 

“It’s a p-terodactyl,†West said, pronouncing the ‘p.’

 

“She can’t read,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Oh, that’s right,†Professor Stalloid said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.â€

 

“Why aren’t you pronouncing the ‘p’ in p-terodactyl?†West said.

 

“I don’t quite understand,†Jacali said. “What does he mean?â€

 

“It’s spelled with a ‘p’ before the ‘t,’†West said. “P-terodactyl.â€

 

He picked up the thing’s wing and dropped it, finding it lighter than he would have expected.

 

“Anybody good at skinning things?†he said.

 

“Wilder would be,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“I … have qualms with skinning this,†Jacali said. “I’ve done some before. I’m not as good as Wilder. But I don’t want to touch that. I’m not … going anywhere near that with a knife.â€

 

“It’s not going to bite you,†West said.

 

“I’m … not worried about that.â€

 

“Well, I guess we’ll have to set up an appointment with Wilder to get it skinned before it decays.â€

 

Professor Stalloid had written “pterodactyl†on a piece of paper and tried to show Jacali how it was spelled. The woman didn’t even know her letters, making it an effort in futility.

 

“Stalloid, do you mind if we put this on top of your medicine wagon?†West said.

 

“I believe it would crush my wagon,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“No, see, look,†West said. “It’s rather light.â€

 

He picked up one of the wings and dropped it. Professor Stalloid looked at him. He did it again.

 

“I don’t think my horses like it,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I don’t think it liked your horses either,†West said.

 

“Yeah, I don’t like that.â€

 

“But it’s dead.â€

 

“We could take its head,†Otto said.

 

“This belongs in a museum!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

They eventually used the three tents to cover the entirety of the thing, Professor Stalloid putting some salt onto it, and lashed it to the roof of the medicine wagon. The effort took about an hour. They knew the thing would rot fairly quickly. Professor Stalloid had some pressed flowers that he placed into the bridles of the horses to try to distract them from the smell of the thing.

 

“The hell are you doing, Stalloid?†West asked.

 

“Buttercup needs to look pretty,†Stalloid quipped.

 

“You’re a weird man.â€

 

“Buttercup is a very pretty, pretty pony.â€

 

“My God.â€

 

They continued east, Professor Stalloid suggesting they keep a look-out for more of the things. Jacali suggested they talk to the Ute to find out what it was but realized they might have trouble finding the Ute villages on the reservation. They checked on the man in the back to see if he knew what the thing was but he was still delirious and semiconscious. Professor Stalloid gave the man a little more laudanum.

 

They reached the mountains, the low spot being several miles across. They noticed fog between the mountains ahead. Dr. Weisswald realized such fog was not natural for the desert. Professor Stalloid wondered aloud if they could go around the mountains to avoid the unnatural fog. Jack West wanted to get to where they were going as fast as they could to try to preserve the pterodactyl.

 

“Okay, let’s go,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

They continued through the pass. Though it was rather thick, they could still see for about a mile in every direction. Stalloid positioned himself in the back of the wagon as everyone else was facing forward.

 

“So, Otto, you been quieter than usual,†West said to the other man as they rode.

 

“Hm,†Otto said.

 

“What’s going on there?†West said.

 

Otto didn’t respond.

 

“Sounds good,†West said.

 

They rode on in silence.

 

The fog continued to thicken and they soon couldn’t see more than about a half mile. It wasn’t long until, off to the right, at the edge of the fog some half mile away, they saw a shape. It looked like it was standing on hind legs, whatever it was, and had a long tail. It kept lowering its bulbous head to the ground and lifting it back up. It looked very big though they were not sure how large it was.

 

“I don’t want to get into another confrontation with these things,†Jacali hissed at the others. “I don’t know about you. That’s just me.â€

 

“Don’t worry, Jacali,†West said.

 

“We’re carrying fresh meat on our wagon,†Professor Stalloid said from the back of the medicine wagon.

 

“It’s not p-terodactyl,†West said.

 

“Maybe it’s not a cannibal,†Dr. Weisswald said. “Let’s pick up the pace.â€

 

“I’m ready to cut the bindings if anything comes at us,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“It adds … 190 pounds best to the cart,†West said.

 

“Fresh meat attracts more things that like to eat fresh meat,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I think we should pick up the pace like Weisswald said,†Jacali said.

 

Otto handed the reins off to West, who pulled the horses to a stop. Otto and Professor Stalloid switched places, Otto taking a spot sitting in the back door of the medicine wagon and Professor Stalloid taking the reins from West. Then they got moving again.

 

They kept an eye on the thing that remained in the distance. Professor Stalloid looked through the field glasses at it and tried to focus on what it appeared to be eating. He didn’t think it could be just a single body, if it was a body at all. He guessed there were several bodies if it were bodies at all.

 

They discussed scouting head and Dr. Weisswald heard a strange clicking, hissing growl coming from somewhere nearby. It came off to the north, the opposite way from the horrible thing they’d see before. It was a rattling, clicking growl. She told them she thought she heard one of those creatures to the north and suggested they bear south. She also suggested she and Jacali scout ahead. Professor Stalloid thought they should be closer.

 

“We could get away faster than the wagon if we get into trouble,†Jacali said.

 

“Most predators like to separate their prey,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Well, we need to get out of here.â€

 

“I agree.â€

 

“Don’t you think going through the fog is the right idea?†West said.

 

“What if the path isn’t clear?†Dr. Weisswald said. “We need to know. We don’t want to get stuck in a dead end.â€

 

“Listen, Stalloid, I know your reservations but─†Jacali said.

 

“How about one scouts far enough ahead but then one stays in between?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

The growling seemed to have moved to the west, behind them. She noted the direction.

 

In the back, Otto thought he saw something move from cover to cover behind them.

 

“Nice berry!†he said.

 

“What the hell is a nice berry?†West said.,

 

“There’s something behind us!†Professor Stalloid said. “Run away fast!â€

 

He slapped the reins on the horses and, already nervous, they suddenly broke into a run. Otto fell right out of the back of the wagon.

 

“Nice berry!†he yelled. “Nice Berry!â€

 

Jacali turned her horse to ride for him. As Otto got up off the ground, she tried to ride by and grab him. She saw something running from the cover. It appeared to be some kind of lizard the size of a man, making for Otto. It ran with its head low in front of it, small arms jutting out there as well. The back legs were large and moved on the ground with precision as it barreled towards the man, its head barely moving up and down.

 

She looked back to Otto, kicked her horse for more speed, reaching out her hand.

 

“Otto Otto Otto Otto Otto!†she said.

 

She looked terrified.

 

She grabbed the man’s arm as she passed but didn’t pull him up far enough. He bumped into the side of the horse and Jacali let him go so she wouldn’t drag him behind her.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

“What do you think he meant by nice berry?†West asked.

 

“He meant run!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

He slapped the reins to urge the horses on again.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The horrible thing rushed at Otto, who turned when he heard the crash of foot beats coming at him. He turned.

 

“Jacali!†he cried out.

 

He fired at the thing from his hip and winged the terrible creature. Then it tried to bite the man with a huge, terrifying head but he fought it off, striking it with his rifle butt and screaming his head off

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Weisswald was riding ahead of the medicine wagon and heard the sound of a man screaming. She was torn but decided to continue riding ahead to make sure they had safe passage.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Otto flung his rifle down as the thing kicked forward with its legs. He drew his saber and slashed at the horrible thing’s throat. He was splattered with blood and the hook of the thing’s foot, that it seemed to be trying to kick him with, caught his coat and tore it. Then it crashed to the ground as it died.

 

Jacali pulled her horse around and rode to Otto, offering him a hand. He sheathed the sword and picked up his Winchester carbine before getting up onto the horse. Then they rode back to catch up with the medicine wagon. They soon passed it, catching up with Weisswald who had moved up nearly a half mile ahead of the medicine wagon, just keeping it in sight.

 

As they proceeded, the fog thickened and she soon found she had to stay within about a quarter mile of the medicine wagon to keep them in view.

 

They could hear some strange noises unlike anything they’d ever heard before. They reminded them of the creatures they’d seen and dealt with already but they also heard other strange grunts and growls as if by large creatures in the distance. The fog hid whatever they were from view.

 

Dr. Weisswald suggested Jacali circle her and keep her in sight to give them a bit more range of vision and the woman did so.

 

Soon, the visibility dropped to about 100 yards and they fell back to keep the medicine wagon in view. Jacali continued to circle her to extend their range of scouting. The medicine wagon rattled loudly behind them. Then Jacali saw something on the ground ahead. It was bright red and looked like bodies, perhaps even some dead horses. She rode back to Dr. Weisswald, who signaled the medicine wagon to stop.

 

“I think we want to find a way around this,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

She signaled the wagon to slow but it kept coming. She told Jacali to find a way around the bodies and then she turned her horse and rode back to the approaching medicine wagon. Professor Stalloid finally slowed the wagon.

 

“There’s … uh … seems like bodies up ahead,†she told Professor Stalloid.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jacali moved her horse off to the right of the dead bodies.

 

“Watch my back,†she said to Otto, who still rode behind her. “And I swear to God, if you deafen me with that gun, you’re going off of this horse.â€

 

He slung his Winchester and drew his saber.

 

They bore to the right, going around the dead and found the ground not much different from the rest of the desert, just keeping the bloody mess in sight. She headed back the same way she’d come and told them the path to the right was clear.

 

They continued ahead with what speed they could, bypassing the bloody mess and leaving it behind. They continued to hear the strange noises that came and went around them. Jacali continued to circle around Dr. Weisswald as they went.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jacali was between Dr. Weisswald and the wagon, over an hour later, when the doctor spotted what appeared to be a massive ring of metal in the fog. It stood on the ground upright. They came at it from a slight angle and it appeared very green in the center. She stopped her horse and rode to Jacali, whistling. Jacali rode over to her.

 

She pointed out the thing, which seemed to be 30 to 40 feet in diameter and standing upright. There was some kind of debris, red splotches, and white sticks or bones perhaps, around it. They could see the gleam of metal scattered on the ground around it as well. The ring appeared to be made out of some kind of silver metal.

 

The wagon came up behind them and stopped when Professor Stalloid saw the thing.

 

“What’re we looking at?†West asked. “Let’s get a closer look.â€

 

“I don’t like this thing,†Jacali said. “But I also want to check it out.â€

 

West hopped down from the medicine wagon and cautiously moving towards it. He had drawn his pistol.

 

“What do you think, Stalloid?†Weisswald said.

 

Professor Stalloid watered his horses quickly. Jacali dropped off her horse and told Otto if he was going to come over there, he shouldn’t bring the horse. Then she led her horse towards the strange ring. Dr. Weisswald rode closer to the things as well.

 

Professor Stalloid mounted the medicine wagon and headed off to the right of the huge ring, keeping it within view but moving the wagon to a place where he could put it into motion away from the thing if he had to. It also gave him a good view of the rest of them.

 

The first oddity they noticed about the great ring was that it floated about a foot off the ground.

 

“Jacali, it’s your favorite thing,†Dr. Weisswald said. “It’s floating.â€

 

Jacali hadn’t noticed that before.

 

“I don’t like that,†she said.

 

There were bodies and blood around the base of the thing. It appeared the bodies had been torn apart. There were also curved swords and spears scattered around near the bodies. Crossbows of a strange design were about as well, some of them damaged or destroyed. Some of the bodies appeared to have had bands of metal around them, almost like armor. A few of them had some kind of pots or thick, glazed bottles connected to their belts.

 

West walked directly towards the huge ring. They all noticed the bodies didn’t appear to be people. Their flesh was green and scaled. They had what appeared to be the heads of serpents or snakes. It was quite disturbing as the creatures seemed to be human-sized serpents with arms and legs. However, none of the bodies were intact. They had all been mauled, gnawed on, torn apart, and chewed upon.

 

West stopped to examine the armor and found it was metallic, like steel, though the blood beaded on it as opposed to being splashed across it. It felt slick and proved to be very light when he lifted up some of it. It seemed strong and solid. It appeared to be some kind of banded mail unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

 

He walked right up to the ring and saw it was about a foot thick and appeared to be covered in some kind of writing unlike anything he’d ever seen. It was a particularly sinuous, curving script with many curves and curls.

 

The fog billowed out of the ring and he wasn’t seeing the desert through it but a lush jungle. The other side of the ring was positioned atop a pyramid or ziggurat. Steps led down to a city built of what appeared to be some kind of green soapstone. There were towers and buildings, many of them damaged. Trees were scattered about though some had apparently been knocked down, some of the buildings likewise destroyed. There was only a little mist on the other side of the ring but he could see lizards the size of a men with hooks on their hind legs as well as a larger creature like the one they’d seen on the edge of the fog earlier. It must have been huge as it was ripping away at a large building.

 

He also saw more bodies and blood, some of them wearing armor, some of them being eaten by the various horrible lizard-like creatures he had seen before. There were more noises as if from more of the creatures coming through the portal.

 

Dr. Weisswald picked up a knife from one of the corpses. There was something smeared all over the blade that wasn’t blood. She wasn’t sure what it was and so dropped the knife.

 

When Jacali saw the portal she was very afraid.

 

“Hey …†she said. “What’s coming through the portal?â€

 

She had her bow and arrow out and was looking around, trying to keep her eyes on every direction as much as she could.

 

“What’s … do you hear that?†she said.

 

“Nothing,†West said.

 

“Nothing,†Otto said.

 

Jacali let go of the horse and it started to move away from all the blood around. Otto kept her still.

 

Jacali felt terribly paranoid for about a half minute before she regained her wits. She didn’t care though. She grabbed the mane of her horse and got back to the medicine wagon with Otto.

 

West had gone to look at one of the pots and found it closed with a strange cork. He pulled it open and found it contained a foul-smelling liquid. He took some time to gather two more of the strange pots. Then he went to work on removing the armor from one of the things. Once he had it he took it all back to the medicine wagon.

 

“Stalloid!†he said.

 

Professor Stalloid took the pots into the wagon and put them into the cabinet with his chemicals.

 

“There were some snake people that had those,†West said.

 

“Are we going?†Professor Stalloid said. “Are we going? Are we going?â€

 

“Yes. But … but … we should come back later and investigate …â€

 

“With a posse!â€

 

“… the safari jungle that’s through that portal.â€

 

“But with a posse, right?â€

 

“Yes. With about nine men, we should be fine.â€

 

“Twenty-nine.â€

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Back at the ring, Dr. Weisswald decided to continue looking for a snake person knife. She found one and used some cloth from her kit to wipe what she assumed was poison off the blade.

 

She thought she heard a whimper or a grunt of pain from just around the side of the portal. She mounted her horse and urged Shy Anne over there. There was a portion of broken stone and a lot of blood on the ground. The trail of blood indicated someone dragged themselves behind the rocks.

 

“Hey Weisswald, where are you going?†she heard Jacali call from the medicine wagon.

 

“I think there’s something hurt over here,†she called back.

 

Lying on the ground amidst the broken rocks, partially concealed. was another of the serpent people, this one intact and even alive. It wore blue robes and had ornamental jewelry. However, it was terribly injured and practically torn open. Some organs extruded from the thing’s body and it was obviously in terrible pain.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jacali saw Dr. Weisswald ride around the side of the ring. Then she leapt from her horse and grabbed her medical bag from her saddlebag and rushed around a small escarpment of rock. She jogged over, afraid the woman might be in danger. West followed.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The green-scaled serpent person glared at Dr. Weisswald with cold, unblinking eyes filled with hatred.

 

“So,†it hissed in English. “This is what eventually replaces us. The future primates come down out of the trees to claim our world. Is it not enough that the beasts have destroyed my people? Must I endure the humiliation of the inheritors of the world being monkeys who won’t even evolve for millions of years after we are gone?

 

“Valusia is gone. We were the first to evolve on this world naturally and we’re done. We were the first true rulers of the Earth. We didn’t come from the stars like the elder things or the Yithians or Cthulhu of old. Earth belongs to us. We will take it back someday. This wasn’t the only gateway we constructed. And others have ways of surviving the eons.

 

“Remember the City of Zuriss. Remember the last valley. Yig takes me now.â€

 

The creature lay back.

 

Dr. Weisswald didn’t hesitate for a moment. She didn’t care that the thing wasn’t human. She didn’t care that she had no idea about its goals or plans for her or humanity. She didn’t care that she had little idea if it’s physiology was something she could even repair with the materials she had at hand.

 

She went to work.

 

Despite the odds against her she tried. She pushed the loose organs back into the creature and she got to work closing up the thing’s skin and scales, applying bandages and sewing the skin back, falling back on every last skill she had until the serpent or person or whatever it was had been closed up and was breathing, if not peacefully, at least steadily. She thought the thing would live now.

 

She looked up to see Jacali and Jack West standing over her, watching.

 

“Should we put it in the wagon?†West asked.

 

She sent the men back to medicine wagon for a litter, knowing too much movement of the creature could undo everything that she had done.

 

“Ladies, by the way, if you were wondering where all the … prehistoric stuff was coming from, it’s the big ring,†West said when they got back with the stretcher.

 

“Wow,†Jacali said. “Who would’ve thought.â€

 

Dr. Weisswald asked for the wagon to be moved closer as well.

 

“Is someone injured?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“Yeah!†Jacali said too loudly. “Yeah!â€

 

“I think some THING works better,†West said.

 

“Well … I don’t know,†Jacali said.

 

“You got a dinosaur?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“Would you be happy if I did?†Jacali asked.

 

“Maybe,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

He went back into the back and tried to wake up the American Indian. The man was unconscious and would not wake. He unstrapped the man and tried to move him out of the bed but the man proved too heavy for him and he found himself born to the ground by the man’s form, being pinned there. He squirmed out from under the man and then tied his hands and feet, trying to otherwise make him comfortable in the corner.

 

Otto was still on Jacali’s horse nearby when West and Jacali carried the serpent person to the medicine wagon on the litter. Dr. Weisswald opened the back door of the wagon and took it in. They got it up onto the bunk and strapped it down as well.

 

Some of them who had seen the strange creatures melt away before realized the dead serpent people were not doing so.

 

“I hypothesize that anything of this Earth stays on this Earth,†Professor Stalloid said. “I’m going to write that theory down.â€

 

He jotted it down in his notebook.

 

They were ready to go but Jacali didn’t like the idea of just leaving the strange ring there. Professor Stalloid asked if any of them had dynamite. Of course they didn’t. Jacali said that was the next point she was going to make: she didn’t know how to destroy the ring. West was against destroying it.

 

“I don’t really know how to turn it off,†Jacali said.

 

“There’s a gorgeous land on the other side,†West said.

 

“It’s not like we can knock it down,†Dr. Weisswald said. “It’s floating.â€

 

“I’m not going in there if you paid me to,†Jacali said.

 

Stalloid asked about it and they described it. He suggested they fiddle with the runes or letters on the side. West described the beautiful jungle on the other side again. Stalloid was ready to get out of there and asked Dr. Weisswald to keep an eye on the thing as they might not be trusted.

 

“Y’all wanna explore a little bit?†West said.

 

“Okay, sir,†Professor Stalloid said. “There are about 50 snake people. They are all dead! They were trying to get out of there! Why would we go in there?â€

 

“There’s more inside.â€

 

“They didn’t even make it!â€

 

“Well, clearly. We got guns.â€

 

“One. Two. Three guns.â€

 

“Four.â€

 

“I’m not counting mine.â€

 

“Five.â€

 

West kept pulling pistols out from under his coat.

 

“So, does nobody have any ideas for destroying this?†Professor Stalloid said. “He wants to go in.â€

 

“I’ll be right back,†West said, heading for the door.

 

“We have a pterodactyl, we have a patient that’s in critical condition,†Dr. Weisswald said. “I think we should get out of here. There’s monsters all over!â€

 

“As usual, Weisswald is correct,†Jacali said.

 

“If you absolutely want to try to destroy it, I have one idea for that and then we go,†Professor Stalloid said. “If everyone’s okay with it, I’ll shoot some lightning at it and maybe that will disrupt it. And then we leave, because I think that’s our best bet.â€

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

West had walked to the ring once again and looked through. The scene on the other side was about the same. He took off one of his leather gloves and put his hand up to the ring to put it through. His hand stopped though he didn’t see anything there to stop it. It was like a formless but solid wall was blocking the interior of the ring. He was surprised to see fog billowing through and he could hear what was happening on the other side as if he was there.

 

“Dang,†he said. “Well, that’s unfair.â€

 

Jacali had exited the medicine wagon and mounted on her horse in front of Otto.

 

“Did you try pulling?†she called when she saw West. “I notice some doors you must pull.â€

 

He frowned at her.

 

Looking through, he saw the wide staircase on the ziggurat went down to a wide, paved plaza or street. He noticed a large dragonfly fly by. He saw smaller dinosaurs as well, moving quickly through the city from cover to cover.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

In the medicine wagon, Professor Stalloid and Dr. Weisswald discussed using the lightning gun on the portal. He wondered if it might damage one of the runes or perhaps, if the device were actually some kind of machine, destroy some of its interior works.

 

Otto dismounted and looked around for one of the serpent person swords. He found one, possibly covered with poison, so he ripped part of his coat and wiped it off, leaving the rag behind. West found some of their armor that seemed to be intact.

 

They had also noticed there was another view of the city through the other side of the gate.

 

West finally got into the wagon as Jacali rode around, scouting a few dozen yards from the medicine wagon and keeping a lookout.

 

“Otto, are you riding with me or Jacali?†Professor Stalloid called from the seat of the wagon.

 

“Jacali,†Otto said.

 

Professor Stalloid got the medicine wagon moving. Jacali rode over and took the reins of Dr. Weisswald’s horse and Otto suggested he ride on it.

 

“You ain’t asking me about that,†Jacali said.

 

“It would be simpler,†Otto said.

 

“Weisswald!†Jacali called. “Otto wants to ride on your horse!â€

 

“No!†Weisswald yelled from the medicine wagon.

 

“Well, there it is. What if I ride on your horse and Otto gets mine?â€

 

“That’s fine!â€

 

“Okay.â€

 

They changed horses, Otto taking the sword he found and put it in the medicine wagon with his saddle. It was a strange sword with a thick blade, curved slightly and heavy on the end. The hilt felt strange and the weight of it was wrong as well.

 

They headed off.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The fog thinned quickly as they left the strange ring in the foggy valley. Soon they could see a mile away from them again and the noises seemed to fall behind them. When they stopped once to water the horses again, Professor Stalloid marked the atlas page for Utah, noting where he though the valley was. Then they continued on, crossing a dry riverbed just before they made camp for the night.

 

The pterodactyl was already starting to stink and bloat in the heat.

 

“To be clear, this was not my idea,†Jacali said, looking at the thing.

 

“To be clear, we could have skinned it there,†West said.

 

“You can get leather at the store,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“It’s p-terodactyl skin,†West said. “You know how rare that is?â€

 

“Yes! Impossibly!â€

 

“Exactly.â€

 

“It should go in a museum!â€

 

“Why would you want to put my coat in a museum?â€

 

“Because it’s a pterodactyl, not a coat.â€

 

“Yet.â€

 

West suggested cutting open the creature and cleaning out the guts. Otto took Jacali aside while they talked.

 

“Jacali,†he said. “Thank you by the way, for coming back for me.â€

 

“Well, I mean, I wasn’t just going to leave you to be lizard food,†Jacali said.

 

“I appreciate it,†Otto said. “If you ever need anything, just let me know.â€

 

“I’ll know where you are,†she said.

 

They heard a growl or a roar in the far distance back towards the valley. Otto got out his rifle. Jacali went to the others again.

 

“Whatever this thing is, is not going to last long and pretty,†Jacali said. “So─â€

 

“I just really need the bones,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“And I need the skin!†West said.

 

“I’m not keen on that one,†Jacali said.

 

“They already have some more,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“What?â€

 

“These are everywhere. They found these in Europe.â€

 

“I have not seen these things everywhere!â€

 

“No no no no.â€

 

“They’re on the other side of that portal!†West said.

 

“These, they’re dead,†Professor Stalloid said. “Normally. Long dead.â€

 

“Just cut it up!†Dr. Weisswald said. “You don’t need Jacali to cut it up.â€

 

“If it is reverent and you deem it necessary, I can help,†Jacali said. “But I don’t really want to and if I do, it’s going to be a burial.â€

 

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I’m just saying, if you need my help …†Jacali said.

 

“And we can make its skin into a ritual duster,†West said.

 

Jacali ignored him.

 

“This is just the scientific find of the century,†Professor Stalloid said. “Other people have found the skeletons in rocks.â€

 

“The what?†Jacali said.

 

“The skeletons.â€

 

“People have found the skeletons of these?â€

 

“Remnants of the skeletons that have been fossilized by─â€

 

“Where were these that I did not see them and everybody I know taught me about them.â€

 

“A lot of them were found on the coasts of England.â€

 

“Why would thunderbirds be in England?â€

 

West pulled the pterodactyl body down and Professor Stalloid helped him to gut it and take the stinking guts a hundred yards from their camp and bury them about three feet deep. West then tried to skin it but Professor Stalloid stopped him and they wrapped the body back up in the canvas from the wrecked tents and tied it back to the roof of the medicine wagon.

 

They set watches that night. Outside Otto kept the first watch and woke West for second after several hours. West was supposed to wake Jacali for the third watch. Inside, Dr. Weisswald kept the first watch and Professor Stalloid kept the second, shotgun in hand.

 

 

* * *

 

 


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