When he stepped off the trolley to walk the last mile to the house he was feeling in an odd mood. He had never quite felt this way before. It was as if he could see his own mortality. He had been in danger a few times in his life, particularly when he was running errands for Master Bassington… his father. He had felt sad when he had found out that his father had died, killed by a dragon here in Birmisia. But it wasn’t quite the same. There was something about the death of a little baby, a miniature little person with all the promise in the world, the way that an acorn held the promise of a mighty tree, which changed one’s perspective about things. Peter wasn’t a child anymore. It was time to make his mark in the world.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a velociraptor, keeping pace with him, but skirting along the edge of the trees. There were probably more in there somewhere. With a single word, he sent a bolt of magic energy blasting toward it. He didn’t know if he hit it, but he saw neither it nor any others of its kind the rest of the way home.
There was no lizzie waiting to open the door for him, but once he went inside, he found his little niece sitting with Baxter in the parlor. The man was reading her a story.
“Hi, Uncle,” said Sen, looking up.
“Good evening,” said Baxter. “There’s tea on the tray. I just made it. Biscuits too.”
“Thanks. Where’s Cheery?”
“I sent the lizzies home for the night. I gave them tomorrow off, except for the nurse, who’ll be in just for the morning.”
Peter nodded and stepped back into the foyer to hang up his coat before returning and pouring himself a cup of tea. He sat down by the fire and listened to the story Baxter was reading.
“Come with me,” said the opossum. “I will teach you how to get away from the hounds.”
At that moment a hunter arrived with four dogs. The opossum climbed nimbly up the tree and sat down on a branch, where the foliage quite concealed her.
“Open your sack, Mr. Fox, open your sack!” cried the opossum. “Pull out one of your many tricks!”
But the dogs had already taken hold of the fox and they tore him to pieces.
“Ah, Mr. Fox,” cried the opossum. “You with all your magic are now food for the dogs. Your pelt will clothe the hunter’s wife. If only you had been able to climb the tree like me, you would not have lost your life.”
“The End,” read Baxter.
“That’s a sad story,” said Sen.
“Not for the opossum,” said Baxter, touching her on the nose. “Just remember, it doesn’t do you any good to have a bag full of magic if you can’t climb a tree.”
“That doesn’t really sound like much of a lesson,” said Peter.
“Remember that next time a utahraptor is after you,” Baxter replied, standing up, picking up the little girl, and heading for the stairs. “Time to get your night dress on, little princess.”