Suggested by: Raven Ramsey
-a crazy scientist grandfather's house
-a velociraptor egg
Lucia Montgomery leaned against the train window and watched the green hills rolling by. It was a long ways to Tipperary, but he had promised that their destination would make the journey worthwhile.
“There is such lots to see at my grandfather’s house!” Tobin had enthused. “He’s a massive collector of rare and valuable things—and interesting, too.”
Of course, Lucia sighed as she envisioned a crotchety old man, glaring at them over his hooked, warty nose, calling them children and sternly admonishing them not to touch anything. Who knows? Probably everything in there would be boring old portraits or naked statues—who would want to touch those? She sniffed and played with the folds of her blue pinafore. Well, she wasn’t a child, anyway! She was thirteen years old, and quite responsible enough to take care of herself—she’d come all this way, quite alone, hadn’t she?
Lucia shivered and glanced around the sparsely-populated carriage. Yes, quite alone indeed; these lot of strangers gave her sidelong glances but not much else in the way of “how-do-you-do” or any other social nicety. She only wished the train could move faster so that she could get off and find Tobin and be back with someone who enjoyed her company.
“Tipperary Station! Tipperary Station!” cried the conductor, over the hissing screech of the brakes as the train pulled up alongside a small building. Few people milled about, mostly men for unloading luggage and maintaining a clean station, such as it was. Lucia stepped down from the train and stood on the end of the platform facing the road into town, carefully watching the faces of everyone around her, in case one of them might be Tobin. He did not appear to be waiting for her here—but then again, did he say he would be, or had she made that assumption herself?
Lucia sighed and sat on the bench outside of the station, kicking her black-booted heels in frustration. The sun was at its peak, it was nearly teatime, and she was wondering furiously whether this was such a good idea for one so young to travel so far with little means of being able to find her own lodging, in case something happened to the one she planned for.
A loud clatter disturbed her musings. Lucia looked up and shielded her eyes. A large wooden cart drawn by two horses thundered down the road, driven by a small shape she couldn’t quite make out until the cart rolled to a stop. The white-shirted figure looked out from under the brim of a wide straw hat and waved enthusiastically.
“Lucia! I knew you’d come!”
Lucia stood and carried her bags over to the wagon. Tobin extended a grubby hand to help her up. She saw that he wore his customary black breeches—but his feet were bare, as was the lower part of his legs. He smiled at her, taking off his hat to run his hand through his unruly black hair that insisted on sticking in every which direction rather than just one. “Are you ready to visit my grandfather?”
“Does he know that I am coming?” Lucia asked tentatively.
Tobin bobbed his head and snapped the reins, sending the horses forward and back down the road he had come. “Oh yeah; I told him once or twice—though if he was actually listening or not, I can’t tell. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” He reached over and grasped her hand. Suddenly, the three-year age difference between them didn’t seem so very great a gap, and Lucia almost felt more womanly for the way they were behaving like two adults, instead of a sixteen-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl riding together in a wagon to spend a holiday with some wizened patriarch in Tobin’s family tree whom he had never met, and his parents had not seen in years. Things were certainly different in the Montgomery household; in addition to Lucia’s parents and six siblings, there also lived with them three aunts, two of which had multiple children about the ages of Lucia’s younger siblings, her father’s father, and her grandmother on her mother’s side. All in all a rowdy bunch—Lucia could not imagine going more than a few months without seeing another family member. What sort of man must he be, to seclude himself so? Or perhaps, as Tobin alluded, he might have “forgotten” his family—but what could be so important that it consumed his attention so?
They arrived at the foot of a very long hill with a winding path up to the mansion that crowned the hillside, so Lucia had plenty of time to imagine what sort of a collection this man might have.
“You’ll like it here, I think,” Tobin was saying. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things Grandpa has collected over the years; he was a biologist, you know—a real scientist. There are a lot of animal things in his house—practically a skeleton in every corner!”
Immediately, a terrifying vision of gruesome, morbid skeletons piled willy-nilly about a dark, stony, Gothic castle sprang to Lucia’s mind. She shuddered.
Tobin broke off his chatter. “You’re not cold, are you?” he reached over and tenderly swept a lock of her nut-brown hair away from her face.
“I don’t like skeletons,” Lucia responded in a small voice, afraid of announcing too loudly; who knew how well sound carried on a slope like this?
Tobin chuckled. “Not that kind, silly! I mean there are a bunch of animal bones—like statues of animals, but without the skin on.”
Lucia rolled her eyes. “If you can’t make it better, Tobin, dear, at least have the decency to refrain from making it worse!”
He shrugged and urged the horses onward.
They pulled up to the big black door. The house was very neo-Gothic in style, with high, vaulted arches and flying buttresses decorating the exterior. The door itself was tall enough that Lucia could have stood upon Tobin’s shoulders and still had plenty of room over her head. They made it as far as the foyer and stopped. Lucia gasped.
The entire house was crawling with the displayed skeletons of animals she hadn’t known existed. A staircase wound its way up the middle, but all around were skulls of every shape and size, including one with enormous tusks arcing out in front; the head of a moose stared at her from one side, while some large ancestor to the crocodile swam in midair far over her head.
Something brushed her ankles, and Lucia leaped into the air with a scream.
“Einstein!” Tobin cried, lunging for the small white shape. He stood with an armful of wriggling white dog. “Lucia, this is Einstein, Grandfather’s puppy.” He held the animal tightly until it calmed down, staring at Lucia with its tiny black eyes, wiggling its tiny black nose, and panting with its tiny pink tongue hanging out. It lunged for her hand when she reached out, but once she got her fingers buried in its fur, Einstein settled down and accepted the petting. Finally, Tobin set the dog down, but it kept fairly close to Lucia’s ankles.
“Here,” said Tobin, “Grandpa is usually upstairs; let me bring you to meet him.”
Lucia almost objected to being taken so soon to meet the crazy scientist who lived in such a terrifying house—but just then, both children heard a loud yell—but whether of surprise or pain they couldn’t tell.
Tobin’s eyes widened in alarm as they stared up the stairs, where the sound originated.
“Grandpa!” he cried, and charged up the steps.
“Wait for me!” Lucia cried, gathering her skirts and ascending after him.
They reached the top of the stairs, where total silence reigned.
“Grandfather?” Tobin called.
He received no answer. They moved deeper, past even more wonderful displays, to the little room at the back that held not another exhibit, but a desk and loads of books—obviously the man’s study. Slowly, the two friends crept inside.
Papers were everywhere—piled high on the desk, strewn on the floor. One half-filled piece of paper still rested on the blotter, with a thick stroke of ink right down the middle, as if something had interrupted his writing.
Lucia’s quick eyes found an errant detail in the room. She pointed. “Tobin, look!”
One of the paintings on the wall had been pulled away on one side, like a door. Inside the hidden compartment was a safe, also open.
“I wonder what Grandfather was keeping in there,” Tobin mused.
A whine from Einstein called their attention to another side of the room, just under the window. The little dog nudged at something round and whitish, like a rock. Closer inspection proved that it wasn’t a rock, it felt more like an egg.
“But what animal could lay an egg that size?” Lucia cried.
“I think I know,” mused Tobin, looking at the label left inside the safe. “Grandpa had been talking a lot about dinosaurs of late, but I always assumed he meant the fossils and the bones.” He brought the label for Lucia to see. “Apparently, he has found himself a perfectly intact velociraptor egg.”
“But what are we going to do with it?” asked Lucia.
Just then, the egg began to hatch.
#26 "The Tides of Battle"
#1 "Red of Morning"