This story is the sequel to Heart of Fire Time of Ice, which introduces Kathleen and Cadeyrin. I’ve finished the first draft and am now working at editing. Here’s an action scene from one of the early chapters:
A sense of presence warned her. Kathleen turned slowly to see a large, ugly creature rising up from where it had been resting in some thick bushes. It was covered with fine yellow down-like feathers and looked like some gargantuan baby duck, except its huge mouth was full of awful teeth. It opened its mouth, showing teeth that she instantly equated with those of a T-Rex. An incongruous cheeping sound came out as it stepped one large step forward, its leg pushing through the bushes as if they weren’t there.
The thing was too large for the nine millimeter to make much of an impact, but perhaps the sound would discourage it. It had turned its head to look at her better from one side, reminding her of a chicken eyeing a bug that it was about to peck. She aimed carefully and shot at the large eye. The yellow dinosaur recoiled and made a nasty hissing scream, raising one of its arms and raking it against the damaged optic.
This was no T-Rex. Its arms were longer and more capable. She backed up while it was distracted, then turned and dashed up the ridge towards the rocks. The creature made another hissing scream and began to follow, its legs moving deceptively slowly. Its stride was so long that it quickly began to catch up to her. She dodged through a thick stand of trees, hoping that would slow it down. It followed her directly through the trees, simply pushing its way through the trunks, and leaving two of them leaning sharply.
She continued up the slope. The rocks might be some shelter. They were piled high and her pursuer didn’t look particularly agile. Perhaps it couldn’t climb very well. She was panting as she reached the first of the stones. The yellow thing screamed again from close behind. She whirled and fired five shots into its opened mouth. That slowed it down. It stopped and raked at its face. Blood was coming from the back of its throat and running between its teeth. The yellow feathers on its breast were rapidly becoming crimson stained. At least the bullets had some effect, even though they would never be adequate to stop it permanently.
She used the brief respite to work her way up a crevice in the rocks, then quickly climbed beyond the creature’s reach. She was safe, unless it could climb. Panting, she paused to regain her breath. As she rested, a thought struck her. She’d panicked like an idiot. It could never reach her as long as she saw it coming. She could simply duck through time. If she moved an hour or even a few minutes, the creature couldn’t possibly catch her, unless it was extremely luck and happened to be in location when she re-appeared. She was glad that Cadeyrin wasn’t there to see how poorly she’d reacted, but perhaps he would have been alarmed also. He wasn’t any more used to dinosaurs, even feathered ones, than she was. His experience was in hunting the mega-fauna of their adopted home period.
The creature had recovered and was scrabbling ineffectually at the crevice that she’d climbed. It was still interested in her, turning its head to the side to stare balefully up at her perch with its undamaged eye. She didn’t want to harm it irrevocably, but it seemed intent on hanging around until she came down.
The next time it turned its head to look up at her, she fired a round into its eye. The 110 grain bullet hit with a splat and the yellow creature squawked, then began to blunder around. Her shots had either blinded it completely or damaged its vision enough to make it difficult to see. It crashed into some rocks, then knocked a small tree over.
She stood, determined to escape while it was distracted. Below the yellow creature moved into an open area. There was a flash of brightly colored feathers and a much smaller bipedal dinosaur leaped up and clung to the yellow one’s ribs. The smaller one made a convulsive movement with its feet, cutting large channels with its talons. Blood spurted and ran in rivulets down the yellow dinosaur’s side. Big Yellow hissed again and spun ineffectually. The brilliantly colored one dropped off and dodged making a quick flash of green, blue, and red feathered motion.
Kathleen noticed that there was a second feathered creature watching the battle from a vantage point on a low rock. She hadn’t seen it arrive. The two small dinosaurs reminded her of colorful birds of prey. Their eyes had the same distant, uncompromising gaze as that of an eagle.
This second one was a little larger than the first. She judged that this one probably massed about as much as she did. It swayed back and forth, gauging the distance. When Big Yellow came close, it leaped, timing its jump to land along the big one’s spine. It climbed quickly upward, digging in both fore claws and the huge hind talons as it climbed. The big one screamed again as the smaller creature reached its neck. It tried to claw the rider off, but the smaller dinosaur was too quick to be caught by the big one’s blunt claws.
The first two colorful dinosaurs were suddenly joined by a third, slightly smaller one. This one appeared out of some low bushes at the side of the clearing. Kathleen was fascinated, despite the danger.
The small ones looked like some maniac’s version of a roadrunner combined with a threshing machine. They were covered in bright, almost iridescent red, blue, and green feathers. Their pretty aspect was marred by the presence of seriously deadly-looking claws on their arms and their feet were armed with a large claw that they kept raised until they flexed their toes to use it. She could see the results of their kicks with that claw. There were rib bones showing through the gaps in the big yellow creature’s side. The claw must be as sharp as a ceramic knife.
The smaller creatures also had teeth, but didn’t use them in their attack. Instead they waited for openings, their brightly feathered bodies blending surprisingly well into the undergrowth. When the big creature turned, the two that remained on the ground would leap in, grab with their fore legs and kick hard with their hind claws. The large creature’s downy yellow coat was streaked with bright red blood. The damage was having a definite effect. Kathleen was impressed at how deadly this type of attack could be.
The smaller dinosaurs were about her size, seemingly too small to attack such a giant, but they were systematically cutting the huge one apart. The battle would have been more equal if the large one could see, but her shots had greatly increased its vulnerability. Big Yellow must have out weighed them by thousands of pounds. She guessed it was nearly thirty feet in length.
The action was amazing. She had a momentary thought that a modern paleontologist would pay any amount to be able to see such an attack. Kathleen’s thought brought her back to her own position and she moved slightly. She’d been so impressed by the smaller animals that she’d neglected to think about how they might view her. She’d be far easier to kill than the big one. Of course she could move in time, but these three seemed very clever. They were coordinating their attack in a way that made them seem almost human.
She drew up her feet and prepared to slip down the other side of the rocks. She’d better use the moment to escape. As careful as her movement was, the smallest of the colorful creatures saw it. It turned and looked directly at her. Its mouth opened and to Kathleen’s utter astonishment, it said, “Stop,” in a tone that left no doubt that it meant what it said.
Paralyzed, she sat there wondering just what had happened. She must have been mistaken. Dinosaurs didn’t talk, even if they looked like colorful birds. They most definitely didn’t speak English and use the words in a meaningful manner. What was this creature?
The battle below had paused for a moment. Big Yellow was breathing heavily and weaving unsteadily, suffering from blood loss. The small ones were now back in the trees watching it expectantly, waiting for it to collapse. During the quiet, she heard a slight rustle as something pulled itself over a boulder. She spun, aiming the pistol at a man who was working his way up the boulders behind her.
He grinned and held up his free hand in a surrender motion. “You’re safe, Miss. I was just coming up to help you get down,” he said.
Kathleen took a deep breath, then said with a degree of satisfaction, “Jason Gridley, I presume?”