(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
Dark and Light
“The higher up the chain of command one goes in a time of conflict, the greyer and greyer reality becomes.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
The leaves shivered high in the moonlit branches. The sound was chilling, as though even the trees were aware of the grim purpose of the events taking place below. The moon hung full over the ring of polished stone arches that circled the clearing and the twenty-one stone chairs in the centre. A flash of lightning from the approaching storm lit the scene. As if on command, twenty one figures appeared in one of the arches. The figures wore black, hooded cloaks, their features indistinguishable as the light faded once more and thunder shook the canopy.
The figures strode forward and sat in unison. They each raised a hand towards a large stone basin in the centre. The hands were the only parts of the figures visible beyond the cloaks and hoods, and all but three had milk-white skin. Of the three, two had skin as dark chocolate, and another of sandy complexion. A jet of red sparks shot from each hand and they collided in the basin. Despite no apparent fuel, a blazing fire rose in the basin, providing a steadier source of light than before. At the same time, all the sounds of the approaching storm vanished.
The first of the twenty-one stood, his cloak wavering behind him, his feet peeking out from under the hem. His body was erect, but short of stature, no more than five and a half feet tall. Yet, despite his diminutive stature compared to the others, an air of silence fell over the twenty other figures.
“So, Lord Ivan, what can be so important that you summoned us all back here so soon?” asked a tall woman, who sat straight-backed in her seat.
A hint of raven hair could be seen from under the hood. Her accent was thick and hinted at a Mediterranean heritage.
“Yes,” replied another. This one was male. A hulking form under his cloak, he was powerfully built with broad shoulders so wide that another head could be set upon each with room to spare. “It has only been three months.”
“It is important, Lady Houda, Lord Aslan,” Ivan replied, shifting his weight from foot to foot. His voice was deep and gruff with great age, and thickly Slavic. A thick, bushy goatee could just be seen protruding from the hood in the glowing light of the fire. “Lord Darius and Lord Ayumu have notified me of ill portents which indicate this thirteen years of peace is swiftly coming to an end.”
“And what makes you so sure of that, Lord Ivan?” spoke up another of the figures. This one had a haughty voice, Scandinavian and smooth.
“The centaurs confirm it, Lord Bashkim,” the thin figure that was Darius replied.
“You have gotten more cooperation out of them than my agents then, Lord Darius,” said another. This one’s voice was even deeper than Ivan’s, cracked and hoarse.
“It is not just the centaurs,” spoke a sixth, the one named Ayumu. “The fey tell similar tales of their visions.” This one’s accent was much different than the others, his words clipped and short, and his voice breathy.
“They do, do they, Lord Ayumu?” Bashkim asked, sounding sceptical.
“You can doubt all you want, Lord Bashkim, but the signs are true,” Ayumu retorted.
“I share Lord Bashkim’s reservations,” spoke another figure, another woman this time. “Though perhaps not his disdain. How can you be sure these signs do not coincide with other conflicts already in motion?”
Darius rose. “Yes. The centaurs report Mars is the brightest they’ve ever seen it. Conflict is clearly coming. Though as to how soon, where, and how it will break out, that of course cannot be said,” he paused, “but I have my suspicions.”
“As opposed to the war the Americans now wage with one another?” Bashkim asked.
“I asked the centaurs about that, of course,” Darius replied. “But they insist this is something new. I think it is time we face the fact that it probably means the return of the Nameless One.”
An angry bout of hissing passed about the group at the term ‘Nameless One.’
Ivan added, “And the fey cross-confirm, you say, Lord Ayumu?”
“Hai,” said Ayumu. “That was the grave news I came to bring. The fey see visions of his return. A white figure rising from smoke, blood, and darkness.”
“‘A white figure?’” Bashkim asked. “Perhaps they foretell our own rise back to dominance?”
“Sacrilege,” hissed one of the women.
“Peace, Lady Julia,” Ivan said. “I’m sure Lord Bashkim was speaking only in jest.” The tone of his voice made it clear he was making a suggestion to Bashkim, not an observation.
“Yes, of course, Lord Ivan,” Bashkim said grudgingly.
“I believe there is something to what Lord Darius and Lord Ayumu are saying,” said another of the women. “I bring dark portents as well.”
“More, Lady Janna?” Ivan asked, concerned. “Why did you not report of this at once?”
“I only just learned of it before setting out to travel here,” Janna replied. “My contingent of Horsemen report the usual signs of the Nameless One’s activity in Albania has ceased.”
“Ceased?” asked another of the male figures.
“Yes,” Janna said. “It is just as the incident when he escaped with the one known as Quirrell.”
The figures fell silent at this. Despite being cloaked and hooded, every figure seemed tense and worried.
“That… that is troubling indeed…” Darius said, beginning to pace.
“What is on your mind, Lord Darius?” Ivan asked.
“A member of the Wizarding government of Great Britain has also gone missing,” he said. “I had not thought much of it, but she was last seen in Albania, near the forest the Dark Lord has been rumoured to hide.”
“Missing?” asked another of the dark-skinned figures. “Who?”
“Her name is Bertha Jorkins,” Darius replied.
“Jorkins, I do not recognize that name,” spoke another, even deeper voiced figure. He was tall and willowy, his accent deeply Russian.
“She’s no one of great importance to the British ministry,” Darius said. “She’s so unimportant, in fact, that no one has even gone to look for her from what my sources tell me.”
“And what makes this disappearance so suspicious then?” another figure asked. “If the British Ministry does not even see fit to hunt for its own missing. And if it is so, how can we be sure it is the Nameless One who is behind it?”
“Is Jorkins the sort who would consent to his possession, as the fool Quirrell was?” Ivan asked.
“No,” Darius said. “By all counts my horsemen report that she occupies a minor position in the British Ministry, and has never had any inclinations towards the Dark Arts whatsoever. In fact, she used to work under Crouch.”
At the name Crouch a collective wave of agitated hisses rose.
“No great loss then,” the other dark-skinned figure growled.
“Now, now, Lord Yong. Not everyone gets to choose their superiors.”
The figures spun and pointed their hands at the source of the new voice. Unlike the figures in the clearing, the newcomer was not hooded. Instead, he wore a perfectly clean and pressed black suit. He was a middle-aged man with blonde hair that had mostly gone to grey and a neatly trimmed beard. He had sharp blue eyes that studied each figure in the circle without a trace of fear.
“Morrisey…” Darius said, lowering his hand first.
At once, all the others lowered their hands as well. Professor Johnathan Morrisey’s confident smile grew as he strode into the clearing.
“I see you still disdain wearing traditional garb,” Bashkim said taking in Professor Morrisey’s suit.
“I will say one thing for Muggles,” Professor Morrisey said, unabashed. “They have an excellent sense of propriety and dignity in their higher fashions. I always found robes a particularly lazy form of dress, just draping cloth over one’s self. Now a suit; that is the mark of one who takes pride in their appearance.”
“What brings you here, Morrisey?” Ivan asked. By the sound of it, he trusted Professor Morrisey no more than the others did.
Professor Morrisey’s smile didn’t falter. “Well, as it so happens, I am here on my own business tonight.”
“Is that so?” Ivan asked, his ancient eyes narrowed.
“It is,” Professor Morrisey said. He surveyed the group. “Goodness, what dark tidings must be passing around if even here you won’t remove your hoods.”
The group all exchanged looks and as one finally removed their hoods. Again with the exception of Yong, the other dark-skinned figure who was named Altan, and the sandy-skinned one, named Rashid, all the figures’ skin were milky white. To a casual observer, they would all look quite human. However, on closer inspection, they seemed as though they had been sculpted in the image of humans but with deliberate alterations.
Their eyes were large, and glinted prominently in the flickering firelight. Their brows were more prominent, and their jaws seemed larger than normal. Their lips were wider, and their faces longer. There were other recognizable traits that spoke to their close relation to humanity. The one named Ayumu bore a strong resemblance to Japanese humans, while Rashid a markedly middle-eastern appearance, and of course Altan and Yong who were unmistakably African.
“Ah, some new faces I see,” Professor Morrisey said. “I take it some covens had elections recently?”
Ivan sniffed. “Yes,” he gestured around. “I suppose for the sake of politeness there should be introductions. Professor Morrisey, may I introduce you to our newest members of the High Council, Lady Sigrid of Finland, and Lord Nickolai of Russia.”
Professor Morrisey bowed to each face in turn.
“Lord Nickolai, Lady Sigrid,” Ivan went on. “This is Professor Johnathan Morrisey, a prominent thinker in the Wizarding world and occasional professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Ivan turned back to Professor Morrisey and bent a very sceptical eye on him. “So, as we have asked, why are you here, Morrisey? I assume it is to bring news.”
“Yes,” Morrisey said. “I come before the High Council to inform you all that your concerns are not exclusively yours, particularly in the area of Jorkins’ disappearance.”
“The Ministry is finally going to take care of its unfinished business then, is it?” asked Visvaldis. He was balding on top with snow-white hair and beard.
“Alas, not,” Morrisey said. “But Albus does share your concern over the Nameless One’s return. Not a fortnight ago, a former servant of the Nameless One’s who had been in hiding, under our very nose, was revealed but escaped. A seer foretold he would return to his master and return him to power.”
“More prophecies…” Bashkim grumbled. As he did so his teeth flashed. They were pure white, and the canines, while not excessive, were much more prominent than a normal human’s, and the incisors between them were straight, even, and pointed.
“Yes, unfortunately, we have a strong reason to believe this time the prophecy is one to take very seriously,” Morrisey replied. “The last time this particular seer made a confirmed prophecy, she foresaw the fall of the Nameless One.”
“I see…” Ivan answered, his brows knit in thought. “That is certainly something we must take into consideration. But why have you come alone? Why has neither Albus nor the Ambassador come to us?”
“Oh they’re quite busy enough with their own matters,” Professor Morrisey said. “Wrapped up in trifling distractions. I, however, am not so naïve.”
“No, none would accuse you of such a failing,” said Murad, the deepest voiced and tallest of the figures with a flowing white beard and hair to rival Albus Dumbledore’s.
“You flatter me. No… I believe that if he does make it back to Britain, as the prophecy tells, we will need all the help we can request. And so I have come to ask that more Horsemen be brought to Britain just in case. I would much prefer to crush the basilisk as an egg than to allow it to grow to a monster.”
“We do not follow the orders of your kind,” hissed another female figure, her eyes burning.
“Yes, of course,” Professor Morrisey said, bowing. “I meant no disrespect, Lady Cadence. I am here to request only.”
“If the Nameless One returns to Britain, my Horsemen will hunt for him,” Darius said, confidently.
“I am pleased to hear it, Lord Darius,” Professor Morrisey said.
Darius’ old eyes narrowed. “However, I in turn have another concern I had hoped to bring to the Council’s attention, which makes it a very coincidental you are here, Morrisey.”
“Is that so?” Professor Morrisey asked.
“What matter is this?” Ivan demanded.
Darius did not take his eyes off of Professor Morrisey. “Whilst visiting the centaurs in the forests around Hogwarts, I happened into the town of Hogsmeade. And that is where I saw the boy in the Hog’s Head tavern… he’s unmistakable, the spitting image of his father and grandfather.”
Professor Morrisey raised his eyebrows. “By chance you are referring to young Master Stevens?"
“What of this boy, Darius?” Ayumu asked.
“He is another we have feared for some time,” Darius said.
The figures hissed again. Rashid rose from his chair, his sandy skin paling.
“You don’t mean…”
“I am afraid I do, my friend,” Darius said. “I have discovered the offspring of the Split Man.”
“Feared?” Professor Morrisey asked. “He’s just a boy, he’s not even magical. What about him could possibly scare you, Lord Rashid? You fought in the Crusades,” he went on, sounding genuinely puzzled.
“If Lord Darius is correct, that’s not a boy,” Rashid hissed through his pointed teeth. “That’s an abomination.”
Professor Morrisey raised his eyebrows, clearly quite interested.
“A product of the unnatural arts of the last dark lord before the Nameless One…”
“Grindelwald? I see… interesting that Albus never mentioned this…” Professor Morrisey said, stroking his beard. “But I’ve known the boy for years myself. I recall his being brought to Hogsmeade as an infant. I was sure there was something fishy about the boy’s story but as he grew he gave no indication of being anything other than an ordinary squib.”
Darius’ eyes narrowed. “The boy is not the direct product of Grindelwald and his minions’ perversions of nature…” he paused looking at Professor Morrisey darkly. “Nor is he a squib… but the boy’s grandfather was turned into a monster at their hands, and his father succumbed to the same fate. Whatever Grindelwald and his minions did, it did not die out with the original; it was passed on to his offspring. The boy is nearing the age his father was when he turned. It was we who put down his grandfather, and his father eluded a contingent of wolves and minotaurs for two years before a faun assassin managed to put a cursed arrow in him.”
“And his father was not as strong as the original article,” Ivan said, slumping into his chair.
“But if his father was not as strong as his grandfather, what’s the surety that the boy will be anything like them? It is an admittedly small sample-size, but it sounds as if it declines in power with each successive generation.”
“That is a risk I, as head of the coven of Great Britain, am unwilling to take. I will note that it seems even Professor Dumbledore is still addressing the risk,” Darius said. “And I am most displeased that he thought to hide this pending terror rather than turn it over to we who could deal with it properly.”
“Ahhh, so you think that is why he is keeping Aurochius and his merry band about? I see... I see…” Professor Morrisey said, his eyes narrowed with interest. “Tell me more…”
* * * *
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, another storm was brewing. It was the beginning of the rainy season on the Serengeti. Lightning flickered in the distance, steadily getting closer. However, the man sitting under the thin, invisible tent of demiguise hair paid it no mind.
First of all, he was far too enraptured with the spectacle unfolding before him. Second of all, he could not hear the thunder getting louder through the magical earmuffs he was wearing to block out the sound of the fwoopers calling from the nearby Salvadora tree. He found the fwoopers amusing creatures to observe in their natural habitat, but did not relish the thought of the inevitable madness that came as a result of listening to their songs.
But he wasn’t here for the fwoopers. He was here because of the nearby herd of erumpents.
“Nick Sutler: biologist. Notes for Saturday, the 18th of July, Nineteen Ninety Four,” the man dictated, whispering to a self-writing quill which danced across a sheet of parchment, writing down his words. “Have set up an observation post near the herd.”
Sutler grunted as he pulled out his trusty, well-worn pair of omnioculars and began to survey the herd.
“At present, looks as though the coming of the rain has the erumpents on edge. They could sense something I don’t yet, will continue observation.”
Erumpents, as their smaller, non-magical cousin the rhinoceros, had poor eye-sight. The thick rain would hamper this even further, and would cover the sound of approaching predators. This was putting the erumpents on edge, and even more so because they were with calves. He could see the cows crowding around the young calves, pushing them to the middle of the herd.
Sutler grinned in almost indecent anticipation. This was what he had been waiting all his life to see. There was only a handful of predators in the entire world that could put erumpents so on edge. One was dragons. The other was the massive, and even more deadly nundu; the monstrous, poison-breathed leopard.
Sutler began to scan the rest of the waving grass now. The storm was nearing, the wind and rain whipping the tall grass around. He was sure the massive cat would not be too difficult to spot, even in the storm.
It was known that nundu fed on erumpents. Plenty of erumpent carcasses had been found which showed clear signs of nundu predation, and likewise dead nundu had been found bearing the hallmarks of being stabbed by erumpents’ massive, spiralling horns and blown up by the volatile fluid that the erumpents injected into their targets.
Yet no one had ever actually witnessed the event of a nundu hunting erumpents first hand. Now, by the looks of it, he just might be the first.
“Erumpents getting more anxious,” he said to the quill. “Keeping lookout for nundu—wait!”
He leaned forward, his hands gripping tighter on the omnioculars. There it was. It was unmistakable; a massive, slow-moving mound of sage-coloured fur with black spots. The nundu was moving as close to the ground as it could. The colours would easily confuse the near-sighted erumpent.
Sutler checked the wind. The nundu was moving on the erumpents from downwind, typical hunting behaviour amongst its smaller big-cat cousins to hide its scent. However, that would be a disadvantage in using the nundu’s most potent weapon, its poisonous breath, which was the most widely accepted method of how the nundu went about catching erumpents.
Sutler however did not buy the hypothesis. Most erumpents found bearing the marks of nundu predation were single-kills. The nundu’s breath was not specialized enough to target single individuals, and so far no one had found collections of erumpents dead from poisoning. Sutler’s hypothesis was that the poison breath was an adaptation for defence of nundu cubs rather than an adaptation to aid in hunting.
Even more frustrating to Sutler was the magical world’s lack of interest in the possibilities. The last person to give any study to African magical fauna had been Newt Scamander, and he had been retired for decades. However, since the rise and fall of You-Know-Who, the magical world at large seemed to have lost interest in the world. It was as if You-Know-Who and his followers had sucked all the joy out of the world, all the sense of wonder and splendour.
But not so for Nick Sutler. No, he wasn’t going to give up discovering the world. Not when there was still so much left to see. He’d been fascinated with animals since he was a little boy, always wanting to be a biologist, studying life. After he learned to read as a child, he read every book on animals he could get his hands on. Then, he got his letter from Hogwarts, telling him that he was a wizard. And thus, an entirely new world of discovery was open to Sutler that was there to explore and study.
The erumpents were still shifting around but seemed unaware of the nundu’s approach. Sutler’s grin grew. This was it, it was going to happen. The nundu moved closer and closer still. Sutler hit record on the omnioculars. There was no chance he was going to miss this event for the world.
The nundu sprang into action. It moved across the open terrain with astounding speed for a creature so large. Just then, one of the erumpents spotted it and lifted its head in a bellow of warning. At once, the herd rounded in the direction of the attack and the nundu turned away to disappear (at least from the erumpents) once more, stalking around to another angle.
“Clever, clever,” Sutler muttered. The nundu had given up the attack so quickly that Sutler was sure that it was a feint. It was distracting the erumpents before moving around to launch another attack from another angle. Sutler’s knees were bouncing unconsciously as he watched, he was completely engrossed in the spectacle before him, paying no attention to the storm raging overhead.
Just then there was a flash of light followed by a concussive force that he felt through the ground and his stool. The lightning strike was so close that it spooked the erumpents who scattered. To Sutler’s horror, the nundu gave chase after some of the fleeing erumpents, over a ridge and out of sight.
“No, no, no, no-no-no-no-NO!” Sutler shouted getting to his feet and throwing his magical earmuffs to the ground, knocking over his tent in his rage.
“It’s just a bit of lightning! It’s just lightning! You put up with it every summer you bastards!” he roared over the sound of the storm.
He sighed as his anger faded and disappointment set in. He’d spent two months here, stalking the wilds, waiting for his moment. And there it went, gone in a single atmospheric discharge. Who knew when he would get that chance again?
He grumbled as he started to pack up his gear. He was completely soaked from the rain already when something flickered in the corner of his eye. It was coming from the tree that the fwoopers had been singing in. Sutler froze.
There was no longer a tree there. Instead, there was a stump, and a big, floating, pulsating orb of soft light. Sutler stared for a long while, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He had never seen anything like it in his life. And that was saying something, as a wizard biologist.
He felt a strong sense of reservation, yet his curiosity compelled him to move forward and investigate. He was presented with a mystery, he had to know the truth of what he was encountering. He checked his watch.
“Sixteen-thirteen,” he dictated the time to the self-writing quill which was still floating along next to him. The quill continued to write, though the heavy rain was washing away the ink the moment it left the quill.
“I’ve just seen something…” Sutler fumbled for a word before settling on “amazing…”
He kept moving closer. The orb was mesmerizing, slowly growing and shrinking, while simultaneously rotating lazily as if hanging on an invisible string.
“It’s… an orb… of some description,” Sutler said to his now quite impotent quill. “It… looks to actually be made, on closer inspection, of shards of… glass, but it’s glowing… and giving off a strange sound…”
Now he was only about five feet from the orb. Even over the rain he could hear a low whirring noise that increased and declined in pitch every time the orb grew and shrank again. The orb looked solid, and yet not so. He puzzled as he noted that the rain did not seem to be connecting with the orb at all. Indeed, it seemed to be passing right through it. However, when he looked at the remnants of the tree stump underneath the orb, the wood on the inside was dry.
The orb was absorbing the rain.
Sutler puzzled at the stump, crouched low for a better look. “I wonder…” he muttered and began to look around.
Pieces of broken, splintered wood were everywhere. The force of the lightning strike had blasted the tree apart. Finally, he found what he was looking for. At once, Sutler was saddened at the sight but satisfied that his hypothesis was correct. It was the tiny, lifeless form of an African bowtruckle. It had apparently been killed in the lightning strike. The tree had been a wand-tree.
“I’ve found the body of an African bowtruckle. Clearly, this was a wand-tree that the lightning hit. Fascinating, I’ve heard of wand-trees being hit by lightning before, but never heard anyone describe an effect such as this…”
Sutler knew that magic and electricity did not work well together. Magic tended to make even the most mundane electronic items fail.
“This must be the effect of such a powerful force of electricity striking a powerful source of magic,” Sutler mused, speaking more to himself now than anything. The quill was now writing in mid-air as the parchment had been obliterated by the rain. “Sort of like the old saying of an unstoppable force meeting and immovable object… it’s as if… as if the lightning has been caught into a ball over the tree… as if the magic has contained it here…”
He decided he needed to test the object. He bent and picked up one of the broken limbs of the tree.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered and tossed the limb towards the orb.
He turned away and covered his head. He didn’t know what he expected to happen, probably an explosion, but it certainly hadn’t been ‘nothing at all.’ And yet, he didn’t hear anything. He turned back. The orb was continuing to pulse lazily. He moved around to the other side of the orb. The branch he’d thrown was gone.
“What the—?” he said, scratching his head through his completely soaked hair.
Sutler picked up another blasted branch. He took a deep breath, and without turning away, tossed this stick at the orb as well. It vanished from sight.
“—devil?” Sutler said, finishing his unfinished sentence.
He puzzled more. Finally, he drew his wand and pointed it at another branch and levitated it. He guided the fallen branch to the orb. He took another breath, and urged the limb forward. He only moved it in halfway this time, and still using his wand drew the limb back.
The limb was completely intact.
“What’s going on…?” Sutler said to himself, bemused.
Where had the other two branches gone? Where was the rain going? How could the branch move into the orb, and yet come back out again?
With nothing for it, Sutler took the branch in his hand. He faced the orb, and slowly extended the branch out towards it.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he kept muttering to himself as he moved the branch closer.
He closed his eyes and braced himself for whatever would happen when the branch touched the orb. But as with his first test, nothing seemed to happen. He was still alive. The only change was an odd tingling sensation in his hands. He opened his eyes again. He was holding the branch into the orb.
“Okay… so I haven’t been electrocuted… score one for me,” he said and began to draw the branch back out.
Then it happened. Something tugged on the branch.
“Hey,” he exclaimed and jumped back.
The branch came back out of the orb and he looked at the end of it. A clump of leaves had been stripped away.
“What in Merlin’s name…?” he said and he stuck the branch back into the orb. His curiosity was completely getting the better of him.
He held the branch there and felt more tugs. Mostly gentle but every now and then a firm one. He began to pull the branch back when something grabbed onto it hard and tugged back. The branch slipped from his hands but not before it knocked him off balance and he stumbled forward.
Sutler shouted out and held up his hands but it was too late. He stumbled right into the orb. He felt a strange lifting sensation before thudding with a gasp to the ground. He grunted and spat out hot, dry sand.
He blinked. Sand? He was in the Serengeti.
Sutler lifted up his head and looked around. Above him was a perfectly clear, azure sky. All around him were rolling yellow dunes of sand.
A gravely lowing sound came from above him and Sutler turned and his eyes went even wider. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. His eyes had to be tricking him.
The creatures were massive. At a glance, they looked to be almost ten-feet long. Their skin was a soft, sandy colour. Their heads were blocky, barely two-feet long, and covered in bony knobs and wide, plate-like cheekbones. Also in the heads were deep set, tiny black eyes. Their backs too were peppered with bony scutes. They were four legged, their legs thick and powerful, sprawled out to their sides. They had tails but these were short, and they wagged back and forth in apparent agitation. The creatures were clearly torn in their appreciation of the branch’s leaves.
Sutler didn’t move. He couldn’t. He was much too mesmerized by what he was looking at. He recognized the creatures, but they couldn’t be real. It was impossible.
They were pareiasaurs. He couldn’t be sure exactly what species. Fossils did not give very strong indications of how the soft tissues looked over top of the bones. They could be scutosaurs, or maybe pareiasuchus.
Just what this meant hit Sutler like a kick in the gut. Which was then followed by a sharp pain in the gut. He jumped up, startling the pareiasaurs who grunted and growled, backing away. He looked down where the sharp pain had come from. There was an angry squealing noise and a small, beaked face was poking out of a hole in the ground. There were little tusks on either side of the beak. The little creature squealed aggressively, moving further out of the hole, taking little defensive snaps at him with its little beak. In spite of himself, Sutler laughed. This little creature was unmistakable, a diictodon.
Another diictodon emerged and both growled at him. They were both only about a foot long. Then he realized that water was pouring into their hole. Sutler turned and looked behind him. The orb was still there, pulsing slowly. Except this time, instead of absorbing a deluge of rain, it was expelling one. The sand underneath it was soaked with water as rain poured out of the bottom of the orb. And there was the two other branches he’d tossed into it.
Sutler suddenly began to laugh. He didn’t know why he found it so funny, but he couldn’t help himself. He’d set out to discover the truth about how nundu hunted erumpents, and instead he’d found something else altogether more amazing.
The orb had not only transported him across space, it had transported him across time. Hundreds of millions of years. Sutler looked around in amazement. He became aware that there were in fact dozens of the pareiasaurs around. Many of them were making their way in his direction. The landscape was parched and mostly desert by the looks of it. Undoubtedly they were coming because they smelled the water.
Sutler laughed more and the nearest pareiasaur bellowed in agitation at him as the diictodons scampered off and down another hole a little ways away.
He had travelled through time.
The orb had taken him so far back that the creatures surrounding him had not even become dinosaurs yet. He was past the Cretaceous, the Jurassic, and Triassic periods. He was in the Permian period; two hundred sixty million years ago.