Senta was standing in front of her house when a car drove through the gate, up the drive, and stopped right in front of her. All four of the occupants stared at her. She was dressed in leather pants and a leather bustier instead of a shirt. This left the two star sigils on her chest in full view. She had recently shortened her hair to chin-length and today it was partially covered by a black top hat.
“Well, if it isn’t the whole Baxter clan,” she said.
Kieran Baxter was driving and Bryony sat in the front passenger seat. In the back, were Sen and little Kerry.
“Daddy is driving us to the dinosaur ranch,” said Sen.
“Well isn’t that lovely. Bryony came along for the ride as well.”
“I’m riding shotgun,” said Bryony.
“Are you all packed, Sen?”
The girl held up a medium-sized purse—lime green to match her walking dress.
“Even so,” said her mother, holding up a similarly sized bag in black. “Come along, Felicity!”
A young troodon, it’s brilliant green feathers the most colorful thing in the neighborhood, ran from behind the shrubs and pressed its toothy snout up against the sorceress’s leg.
“She’s getting big!” said Kerry excitedly.
The little dinosaur zeroed in on his voice and leapt up onto the side of the car. Bryony gave a little shriek, but the creature did nothing more than hop into the boy’s lap and curl up. Kerry cooed to it and petted its head.
“Boys and dinosaurs have a natural affinity,” opined Senta. “I suppose I’m in the rear?”
“Too right,” said Bryony, as her husband stepped down to help the sorceress climb back between the children.
Soon they were all on the road, heading south. Bryony turned and looked back at Senta.
“You’ll be gone two weeks?”
“I’m thinking more like three. We must account for travel time.”
“That’s a long time.”
“Don’t worry,” said Sen. “I’ll keep her out of trouble.”
It was a journey of more than an hour to the Charmley Dinosaur Ranch, but at last they arrived. Baxter helped Senta and then Sen down from the car. The girl kissed all three of the Baxters good-bye, and lifted the sleeping dinosaur from Kerry’s hands.
“Be a good girl,” Baxter told her.
“We’ll be back before you know it,” said the sorceress.
Baxter just nodded and climbed back into the car. Without another word, he drove away with his family.
“We’re off on a great adventure,” Senta told her daughter. “Let’s go.”
They walked to the front door of the large ranch house. The troodons in the front yard gave them no trouble, though Sen carried Felicity in her arms, just in case. Wenda Charmley met them at the front door.
“Senta. Right on time. Walter is waiting for you in back. Come on through.”
She led them through the house and out the back door to a broad, open porch. Walter was leaning against one of the columns, drinking soda water from a glass bottle. He looked no different than he had when he was Warden. Standing just beyond the porch, munching on greens piled in a wheelbarrow, was a huge iguanodon. He was fully forty feet from nose to tail and weighed in at nearly five tons, and he was outfitted with a howdah on his back.
“Is that..?” wondered Senta.
“I wouldn’t trust you to any other. Stinky really is the best. He’s an old hand at carrying passengers.”
“I haven’t seen him since…” The sorceress looked around. “I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
Novuary 1907 had been a long time before—fifteen years. In another week and a half, it would be fifteen years to the day. Stinky had been much smaller then and Senta had been so much younger. She had been seventeen and madly in love. Then a steam carriage had exploded. It was the same explosion that had cost Honor McCoort her leg. It had injured Stinky the iguanodon, and he had fallen on his rider—Graham Dokkins. Graham Dokkins, the boy that Senta had loved so fiercely.
“I took him out of the city after the accident,” said Walter. “He hasn’t shown any real fear of cars, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Since then, he’s carried a howdah to Yessonarah many times, and once he went all the way to Tsahloose.”
The sorceress stepped up to the great beast. He lifted his head, and she rubbed it between his eyes.
“Do you remember me, Stinky? I remember the morning Graham came home and you were waiting for him. That was the same day that I got my first sigils.”
The iguanodon snorted, leaving a wad of mucus the size of a large man’s fist on her stomach.
“He remembers me,” she said, cleaning herself up with a simple spell. “Come along, Sen.”
“Hut hut,” called Walter, stepping up beside her.
The iguanodon dropped down onto his belly.
“You’ll still need a little help getting up.” He pointed to a rope ladder handing down from the howdah. “Once you’re up there, pull it up with you, so it doesn’t get tangled on anything. There’s plenty of room for you to sleep in the howdah, so you really needn’t get out until you reach your destination, except maybe to stretch your legs. There’s a chamber pot inside.”