Extraordinary Zoology

Free Extraordinary Zoology by Howard Tayler

Book: Extraordinary Zoology by Howard Tayler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Howard Tayler
Tags: fantasía, Steampunk
from the deck, her feet would still be a full fourteen feet above the mud and debris below. She turned and ran along the catwalk, quickly catching up with Pendrake.
    “I remember the way,” she said, slipping past him.
    “We’ll follow you, then,” said Pendrake.
    The huffing sound came again, accompanied by splashing. If Edrea could trust her sense of direction at all, the drake was headed toward their animals.
    Aeshnyrr, I’m coming.
    She breathed deeply as she ran, attempting to clear her head. Past the big room with the anvil, left around the largest tree, then straight ahead, and she could see the stairs.
    Her breathing deepened with exertion as she ran down the stairs, and by the time she reached the bottom, the pain in her head had subsided. She inhaled, closed her eyes, traced again. She felt the ring of Iosan runes flare to life about her right wrist, and when she opened her eyes she could see everything.
    Outlined in amber, the horses and Greta stood straight ahead forty paces. All stamped nervously. The shore and the pier’s pilings lay to the left. Also left, and a bit behind Edrea, lay the sodden ruins of the gobber tree-homes. The amber silhouettes of Horgash and Kinik ran through those, slowed by the debris. Out in the lake, the small shapes of fish, frogs, and snakes were scattering in the path of a much larger outline.
    It was a fat, vaguely reptilian silhouette with stubby wings and a head like a snake’s, only closer to the size of a pony. Not a pony’s head. A whole pony. This thing was huge. Abruptly, it turned, and Edrea realized it must be hearing footfalls along the shore.
    “It’s coming for us!” she shouted. “What’s the plan?”
    “Poke holes in it until it stops moving,” Horgash said, running toward her. His paired swords were in hand now, each as long as a great sword and twice as broad.
    “Edrea,” the professor said, his own ancient-looking sword in hand, “the beast is huffing fog, thickening it. I can’t see much past the end of my blade. This ‘poke holes’ plan needs a spotter. You can see again?”
    “I can spot, and I can shoot.” Edrea shouldered her rifle. “Everyone form up on me!”
    Lynus and Kinik came stumbling toward her, their hurried steps hampered by poor visibility and soft ground. Kinik had retrieved her war cleaver and held it at the ready. The enormous weapon had to be close to six paces long from butt to blade, which was farther than Edrea thought any of her friends could currently see in the thick fog.
    “Kinik,” she said, remembering how Lynus had stumbled into her earlier. “Stop right there. Any closer and you’ll hit one of us with that thing.”
    Kinik stopped in place.
    Edrea stepped behind Pendrake and Horgash and aimed her rifle between them, at the fog drake only she could see. “It’s big, Professor. Too big. Coming from that way, underwater, swimming with its wings.”
    “Hah!” Pendrake exclaimed. “Lynus, I told you that was what those were for! Too small for flight on any specimen we’ve examined.”
    Much too small on this one , Edrea thought.
    Lynus arrived at her side, great sword out and wavering, far too large for his grip.
    “Where do you need me?” he asked.
    “Behind Horgash,” Edrea said. The trollkin would be more effective leading a charge.
    “Last time the boy fought behind me he shot me,” Horgash grumbled.
    Edrea made a mental note to be very careful not to shoot Horgash. She’d only get one shot, anyway. Had to wait until the beast slowed down a bit . . . 
    “It’s speeding up. I think it means to lunge out at us.”
    Then the drake changed course again, and Edrea realized that by putting Kinik out of accidental cleaver-reach, she’d staked out much closer bait than the horses.
    “Kinik! It’s coming for you, just a little to your right.” As she shouted, Horgash started to move. “Blade up, butt down, you might be able to—”
    The fog drake burst out of the water, wings flat against its

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