The long, snaking line of soldiers marched through the forest. Incredibly tall redwood trees, large spruces, maples and bay trees, gave shade, but offered little in the way of obstacles. Though azalea and huckleberry bushes pulled at the men’s legs, their heavy canvas pants and leather boots protected them. At the head of the group was Terrence Dechantagne, who was followed by a lizardman named Sarkkik. Sarkkik wore a feathered headdress and his body was painted all black along the right side and red along the left. Next in line was Augustus Dechantagne who was followed by another lizardman. This second lizardman, Szuss, was far less ornately adorned, with just a few stripes of ochre around his neck and arms. Behind him was the wizard Dudley Labrith. Behind Labrith were one hundred eighty well-trained soldiers in khaki.
“Blast!” shouted Augie, as a small dinosaur jumped up from the brush near his feet with a twitter and shot away through the woods.
Terrence turned back and gave his brother a look, though he didn’t say anything. They had journeyed by his calculation, more than one hundred sixty miles. Along the way, Augie had frightened, or been frightened by, at least half a dozen dinosaurs. To be fair, some of the beasts had been genuinely frightening.
When they had crossed a seemingly innocuous stream two days earlier, several creatures decided that some of the humans would make a pleasant lunch. Familiar with alligators along the southernmost rivers in Sumir, Terrence had read of similar creatures called crocodiles that lived in Mallon. That’s what these animals were—crocodiles. Neither Terrence nor anyone else had expected them to be so large. The three beasts in the meager little river were each more than fifty feet long and must have topped the scale at eight tons a piece. It had taken the rifle fire of more than fifty men to discourage the crocodiles.
The lizardman next to Augie hissed something in his language.
“What did he say?”
“He said not to worry. That dinosaur was harmless.”
The reptilian hissed again.
“He says it’s only a short walk to our destination.”
Augie spoke again in the lizard language. Again came a reply.
“He says we should be ready to fight.”
“All right. Tell the men.”
“Check magazines. Full loads,” said Augie to the sergeant behind him, who transmitted the order back down the line.
Less than half a mile past the point at which the small dinosaur had jumped up from the brush, the forest ended and a huge savannah spread out before the soldiers. Terrence had the men tighten up into a two by two formation and continue on. Here on the open grassland, tremendous beasts roamed. In the distance the men could see a large herd of triceratops, which they had grown used to seeing at home, but even closer was a troupe of nine or ten beasts whose size defied all logic. Their huge bodies were more than thirty feet tall, and they possessed a long serpentine tail and an equally long serpentine neck that placed their heads more than one hundred fifty feet from their other ends. The monsters walked along in a line toward another distant edge of the forest far to the east.
“My god!” exclaimed Augie. “They’re magnificent.”
“Seismosaurus,” said Terrence, and when his brother gave him a look, he said. “I’ve been reading.”
“Look what’s following them,” said Labrith.
A discreet distance behind the giants, were the huge black bodies and horrendous red faces of four large tyrannosauruses. All four turned to eye the humans making their way across the grassland. They might have sensed a fearlessness among the humans, or they might not have been hungry. For whatever reason, they turned back around and continued to follow the seismosauruses.
Crossing the great grassland, Terrence could see a line of rolling hills on the far side. It was only after they had marched through the waist-tall grass for more than an hour however, when the hills revealed one of the greatest sights that he or any of the soldiers had ever seen. Framed between two closer hills and sitting atop the larger, rockier promontory behind, was a city. Even from a distance of many miles, it was easy to see that this city was something spectacular. Huge gleaming white pyramids rose from its center and giant walls surrounded it, as if keeping it from flowing down the sides of the hill. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of houses and other buildings were contained within its confines.
“I didn’t think they were capable of anything like this,” said Augie, obviously speaking of the lizardmen.
Without thinking, Terrence had stopped to stare at the magnificent sight. He didn’t say anything, but he hadn’t been aware that the reptilians were capable of anything along this line either. The other soldiers moved up and formed a group, rather than a line. All stared in rapt fascination and open astonishment at a city that might very well have rivaled Brech in size.
“Dechantagne,” said Wizard Labrith, pointing.
Terrence followed his gaze and saw spread out across the savannah, a line of lizardmen. They were so well camouflaged that they blended right into the rising landscape behind them. They stretched out to the left and the right so far that they created a half circle around the humans, and this at a distance of more than a mile. Many of the lizardmen were painted red and white and black, and most wore feathers. Most also carried the swords, made of wood and flint, that the men had seen before.
“Kafira,” said one of the soldiers. “There must be a thousand of them.”
“More like five thousand,” said Labrith.
“Talk to them,” said Terrence to Augie, indicating the two lizardmen with them. “Find out if these are our friends or the enemies.”