The Price of Magic – Chapter 6 Excerpt

The horrible red head turned toward them.  Lady Iolana Staff felt a thrill of fear as the great yellow eyes met her own.  It was by far the closest she’d ever been to a tyrannosaurus.  The great black body pivoted toward them and took a single step in their direction. She could hear it sucking air through its fist-sized nostrils even at a hundred yards away.

“You mustn’t be frightened,” said her father’s voice at her shoulder.  “You must never be frightened.”

“I can be frightened, can’t I?” wondered Benny Markham.

“Quiet,” said Mr. Staff. “Everyone take careful aim. Remember what we talked about. You want the spot right between those useless little arms.  I shall be very cross if anyone shoots it in the head and ruins the trophy.

Iolana raised her rifle to her shoulder just as the monster took a second step toward the group of humans and lizzies.  In her peripheral vision, she could see Benny, Walter, and Augie doing the same thing. Although just outside the range of her eyes, she knew that Ascan was as well.

“Not yet,” said Mr. Staff. “Let’s see if she’ll get a little closer.”

It seemed as if the creature simply went from standing still one moment, to running at them with the speed of a locomotive.  Opening its great jaws, it unleashed the most horrible roar that could be imagined. All four of the others began firing, but even with the tyrannosaurus bearing down upon them, Iolana could feel her father’s eyes watching her rather than the beast.  She fired ten perfectly centered rounds in eight seconds, before calmly dropping the clip from the bottom of the rifle and slapping in another. The second clip proved entirely unnecessary, as the monster dropped to the ground, her massive blood-red head still fifteen feet away.

Iolana flipped on the safety and slung the rifle to her shoulder before turning to Mr. Staff, who stood smiling at her, his own firearm still cradled, unused, in his arm.

“Well done,” he said.

“Sweet Kafira, full of grace, thanks for our protection,” whispered Walter Charmley.

“No offense to your beliefs,” said Benny, “but I’d like to thank whoever invented the repeating rifle.”

“Oliver Winston-Davies,” said Iolana, stepping away from the others and toward the tyrannosaurus.  “In 1855.  Thankfully ours are rather improved over his model.”

“Be careful Iolana,” called Ascan Tice.  “Make sure it’s dead before you get too close.”

“She’s dead,” replied Iolana, reaching down and placing her palm against the blood red skin just behind the creature’s still open yellow eye.

The monstrous hind leg kicked into the air.  Several of the others jumped, and Benny let out a squeak.

“It’s nothing but her reflexes,” said Iolana.  “You were the queen of your world, weren’t you?”

She then turned and sat on the creature’s neck.  “Let’s have a photograph, then.  Are you ready, Mr. Buttermore?”  She placed the butt of her rifle on the dinosaur’s jaw, holding it upright beside her. She lifted her chin and smiled with only a little bit of a smirk.

Edin Buttermore was indeed setting up the hatbox-sized camera on its tripod.

“Almost ready for you, My Lady.  Let’s adjust the focal length.  Here we go. Now hold still… There we have it. That will make a spectacular print.”

“I’m surprised you were willing to carry all that equipment out here into the wilderness,” said Benny.

“These are some of the first good dinosaur pictures,” said Buttermore.  “I could get famous from these.  Besides, I thought it would be a good idea to be out of town until the Drache Girl left.”

“It’s not your fault that her picture just appeared in all of those books,” Benny replied.  “She knows that.  Senta’s quite reasonable.  Not that I’m saying I wouldn’t have chosen to get out of town, had I been in your position.”

“I knew that photo would be trouble years ago when I took it.  I didn’t even want to.  But how do you say no to Zurfina?”

“A naked Zurfina, at that,” added Ascan.

“Yes, well, even Senta couldn’t say no to her.  As I recall, she didn’t want to sit for the picture, and it turns out, I suppose, she had good reason.”

Iolana stepped away from the dead tyrannosaurus as the lizzies hurried forward and began hacking at the neck.

“Careful there!” yelled Staff.  “Cut down a little lower!”

“All in all, I think it’s been a very satisfactory day,” said Augie.

“That it has, Lord Dechantagne,” said Benny.

“The proper address is ‘My Lord’,” said Augie.

“We don’t bother with all of that,” said Staff.

“No, we don’t need to bother with all that,” said Augie.

“The next man who calls me Sir Radley may wind up with my boot stuck up his keister,” continued Staff.

Both Benny and Ascan glanced at Iolana to see if she would blush at her father’s colorful language, but she just grinned.

“Well, the lizzies seem to have everything in order now.  Shall we head on home, Iolana?”

“Yes, Father.”

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