“You’re funny! Funny people!” Biscuit laughed at the group in front of him as they all stared at him with confused looks on their faces. The young unicorn bumped his head against Mark. “Apple? Goody? Biscuit likes goodies!”
Mark absently reached into his pocket where he had snuck an apple from the fruit tray inside. He figured he should have something for the horses as he normally brought them treats. He normally would have asked to take the fruit but just figured it would be fine to snag it this once. Going on auto-pilot, he pulled the apple out and handed it over to Biscuit.
“Mark friend best person!” Biscuit whinnied happily, ate the apple in a few chomps, and went to folic around the fenced in pen.
“So” Jason attempted to start talking. “Uh, talking horse.”
“UNICORN dad. He’s growing a horn.” Mark corrected.
“Ok, that’s new then. I take it the colt wasn’t talking much before then Etta?” Jason continued.
“Nope, can’t say that he did.” the silence after Etta spoke was only marginally uncomfortable. The thought train had derailed so hard that it was taking awhile before it could be set up on it’s tracks again.
“People! Go to School! Rescue George! Be ready for whatever the heck a Mana Storm is!” Mark spurred everyone back to the topics at hand.
“You’re right, we came here for a reason.” his dad said shaking his head clear as he turned to Bob and Etta and explained the situation. After a few minutes of updates, they nodded. “Of course, you can borrow the horses and carriage, and we’d be more than happy to come with you. As long as Biscuit’s willing. I’m betting he’s at least part of the reason those monsters out here have been avoiding the place.”
“What do you say Biscuit, want to come over to our place?” Mark asked the prancing colt, holding out another apple.
“Yay! New place. Mark place fine!” Biscuit exclaimed happily.
“Well, I suppose that’s that.” Bob noted.
“Biscuit make house open again. Closed house make Biscuit tired!” a shimmer flickered around the house and suddenly everyone felt exposed.
“I guess that explains the monster situation.” Jason said to no one in particular as he started walking over to the carriage house. Everyone moved into action to get things ready now that regular function had returned to their brains, particularly since whatever protections Biscuit had put up apparently were now gone and who knew what would be coming their way.
Mark and Bob helped Jason get the carriage ready while Liz and Etta went back to the house to collect things. Very little conversation was going on, and the only talking was done by the overexcited unicorn. Mark was still trying to accept that. Even though they had a timer counting down in their vision with monsters appearing randomly, none of it hit as hard as a talking horse. Truly, reality as he knew it was done, and he straightened his back as he accepted that fact. As the final harnesses were put in place and the gelding hitched to the wagon, Mark glanced to the countdown.
Mana Storm (Class X) Approaching
Shelter in place.
“About 40 minutes to get here Dad. Hopefully we can make it back sooner and stay ahead of whatever a Mana Storm is. Also, was there a thingy that said ‘Class X’ before? That doesn’t sound good.”
His dad looked up at his own display after securing the horse. “No, no it didn’t, and if we’re going by space weather reports, that means it’s the strongest classification of storm.” He pondered the new information a bit longer. “I hope that means humans built this system, too. I’d feel better knowing someone out there had our back and understood us, rather than some random things from god knows where. Regardless, we’re not going to get answers sitting here. We’re good to go, can you grab the gate with me Mark?” Jason asked, hopping down from the harness as Bob moved into the driver’s seat to direct the gelding towards the gate.
“Go now! New place! Then sleep. Tired.” Biscuit supplied, finally having slowed down a bit. Mark hoped Biscuit would would be able to do whatever he did before to get some protection. He had been fond of the colt before, and a talking unicorn seemed like an awesome thing to have as an ally.
He wasn’t certain if he could convince his parents to let the unicorn inside the house, though. He was pretty sure that this unicorn didn’t fart rainbows and poop sherbert, contrary to what popular culture had taught him. He figured it would just be one more thing he could worry about when he got back home.
Just as the carriage started to move Liz and Etta emerged from the house loaded with bags and a cooler. Jason and Mark went over to help stow things up onto the carriage and got everything as secure as they could. The carriage itself was not great at hauling gear and was more for just riding around. A modern suspension and wheels allowed for a slightly smoother ride, but the driver’s bench and passenger area didn’t offer much in the way of amenities. All told, it could probably fit 8 people, but the poor horse would have a heck of a time getting things started with that much weight. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to, and they would find everyone at the school healthy and not in need of emergency transport.
After everything was stowed, Etta and Liz hopped up into the carriage. Etta took shotgun and Liz perched up on the seat and balanced in the back with her bow. The rear seat wasn’t really meant to give a good platform and visibility, but Liz managed to get one leg propped up and it afforded her a pretty decent firing position. Jason and Mark mounted up on the other two horses while Biscuit seemed content to follow along.
“Stick close to us Biscuit, and if something comes after us and we split up, go with Bob and Etta, ok?” Mark said. He seemed to be the only person comfortable talking to Biscuit.
“Bob and Etta nice! Biscuit will go with them! Ok!” the unicorn replied happily.
Jason just shook his head slowly as he struggled to deal with new realities and the group was on their way. They had to stick to the roads now, but fortunately everything seemed relatively clear. The few creatures on the streets were scared away by the horses and carriage careening towards them. Having a larger convoy had numerous benefits. They tried to pick up a little speed as they headed towards home. They were approaching the big hill before their house and getting a little momentum would help keep them moving at a clip.
The roads relatively clear as they made their way back, and although they could see more and more signs of creature activity around houses, the monsters themselves were nowhere to be seen. In the eerie silence Mark noted other changes to the environment. Some trees along the street seemed to have grown a couple of feet in the past few hours, and the sidewalks were visibly bucking where new bulging roots were poking through. Pines and Cedars were particularly changed. The greens of the needles had taken on different hues and the Aspens were growing so fast Mark could almost see them get taller. It heightened the sense of surrealness that permeated the day.
Making good time they started climbing the hill. A block into the climb they passed the place where the beak bear had charged them and suddenly Mark knew why there wasn’t anything roaming around. A giant roar greeted them as the street came into view and shook them to their core. The beak bear was back, and it brought a friend.
A friend that was more than twice its size and looked royally pissed off.