"For the last goddamn time, go away and don't come back until he's not bleeding out his soul out!" Hermione shouted, closing, for the thirtieth time that afternoon, the hospital room's door to a crowd of people before returning to Madame Chips and Kingsley.
What happened to him had rapidly become the most discussed rumour in New Hogsmeade. The Auror, now Battle Magus, was highly respected by wizards and D-Bees alike for his tenacity and ability. When he had departed for the continent alongside Vitious, everyone had granted them their best wishes.
Their mission, alongside other elite warriors and wizards, was to investigate the Gargoyle Empire. They had recently make a truce of the duration of two years with the German Republic, something which had raised suspicion in Ar'tuu and Merlin, given the supremacy politics of both nations. Therefore, a few weeks earlier, they had sent a few teams of trusted men to find out if there were something behind it, and what that would mean for the British Isles. So far, Kingsley was the only one to return home.
Seeing him as he was now was a huge blow to everyone, especially because had used Materialisation to return home, a method from their native world that was extremely dangerous on Rifts Earth. Nearly everyone who used it, at best, didn't move at all or ended up in the wrong place; at worst, people could be dismembered within a Ley Line.
Even the Ley Line Walkers like Hermione herself, the kind of spellcasters with the most control of that fulcrum of magical energy to the point where they could use them to teleport, didn't do it without taking caution. Kingsley was not one of them, yet he had tried it anyway. The fact he was still alive (even as mangled as he was) was an absolute miracle.
Madame Chips was mending his wounds the best she could with the herbs cultivated by the druids. The level of healing powers in this world were one of the few things that made her prefer it to her native home.
"How is he?" Hermione asked, returning to his side and helping mend his wounds under the close eye of the senior medic.
"Much better. The last time I've seen luck like this was when Harry somehow shrugged off the Killing curse."
Hermione was quiet.
"By the way," She finally said. "What do you think happened to Vitious?"
"Hard to say. The Gargoyle Empire, as far as I know, is a rotten dangerous mess," , the elderly Body Fixer replied. Hermione, again, couldn't help but grimace. When she was very little, the village where she had lived with her father after her mother's death, was attacked by Fomors. They had managed to escape, albeit barely, and, when the creature's surrounded them, it was Hogwarts' old spell teacher that came to their aid, driving the Formors off and leading them with the other survivors to New Hogsmeade.
All Hermione could do, for the moment, was wait and do her job helping Madame Chips close the wounds while the other Body Fixers were thinking about their own patients. After an hour or two, the bell at the door rang again. The girl cursed and went to open it with an arc of lightning between her fingertips, only to stop when she saw
Minerva McGonagall in front of her.
"Miss Granger, I hope that thunder is not aimed at me, or I will be quite disappointed," The old Ley Line Walker sternly said, simply adjusting her glasses. She was one of the village's strongest spellcasters, and a very trusted collaborator of King Ar'tuu, as well as Hermione's absolute idol in many ways. The young girl apologized and led Minerva toward Kingsley's room. The man luckily just awoken.
"Hi, Minerva," The warrior said, rubbing his head while she sat down next to him. "Glad to see you again."
"Same to you, Kingsley. I imagine you're still pretty sore after….whatever happened, but I must ask you to explain the events that led to your return."
Kingsley nodded. "I planned to tell it as soon as I could anyway," He said. "Vitious and I, after several weeks of searching, came across a meeting organised by a quite powerful Gargoyle Lord. We found out much more than we expected. Gargoyle was dealing with very powerful mercenaries, demons, and other creatures I wasn't able to identify. Vitious hid us with his best stealth spells, but they still sensed our presence. We set fire to an entire forest in hope to escape, but Vitious still had to stay behind so that I could return here."
"VITIOUS IS DEAD?!" Hermione screamed, starting to cry. Kingsley lowered his head, still ashamed for being unable to help the old teacher but he did resume his story under the eye of Minerva, who was barely less shocked by the news.
"I wandered by myself for a few days until I found an old base of the German Republic," Kingsley went on. "I thought I could find something to contact either you or the army, but it was already overrun by Gargoyles, including another lord. The only thing I could think of was materialising here….can't believe it worked though."
"But what was it you discovered?" Minerva asked, anxious for the truth. "What were they talking about at the meeting?"
Kingsley took in a huge breath and then finally released the terrible truth he had found out:
"Minerva, they plan to attack England, making it another base for their operations against Germany. New Hogsmeade will be their first target!" He spoke quickly, leaving everyone hearing in the distance in absolute terror.
"Holy…..Miss Granger, go speak to Mayor Bones. We have to organise, and have a bit of a meeting," Minerva ordered. Hermione nodded and took off running out of the building as fast as she could.
Alabama, Dinosaur swamp, three years after the Rifts' opening:
Arthur Weasley was heavily panting, sitting on a log. He had just - somehow - managed to pass towards the Appalachian Mountains, heading for the Dinosaur swamps. He knew it was luck that had managed to reach that point, but he knew he wouldn't last very long in a territory ruled by some of the greatest natural creatures ever to live on Earth, especially since their return after the Cataclysm when they had become Mega-Damage creatures.
Perhaps it was too soon to leave Moppy Town, the little village that had welcomed him after he had ended up in Nevada after the Cataclysm. It was also where he had managed to learn Technomagic. But he had been worried for three years straight about the fate his family could have met, and he could not rest anymore. He took what little he had and started his journey in the hope of finding them in the hellhole America had become during the last centuries of this world.
As above, It was still more luck than survival skills that had brought him here anyways. If someone had taken bets on his survival, Arthur would have put every credit he had and more on him surviving another week at the very most but, for now, he would rest and then resume his dangerous travel.
Dangers around him that were announced by a low growl. Turning around, aided by his weak psionic abilities, Arthur saw a couple of raptors between the trees that separated him from the swamp. The colour of their scales nearly camouflaged them between the trees. Only their teeth betrayed them.
He immediately drew his weapon, an elector wand. It was similar to a lightning rod with a handle of black rubber and a head of glass, modified to let him more easily cast his spells. Arthur immediately launched a lightning bolt at the nearest predator, who easily dodged and then ran towards him.
Arthur kept shooting electric bolts, but they barely made a dent in the dinosaur's mega-damage hide. He had to roll to the ground to avoid being bitten if another ray of psionic energy didn't hit the beast.
Looking up, Arthur saw a figure dressed as a cowboy and armed with two energy guns. This figure kept shooting at the Raptor, which roared before running at its new objective while the other Raptor took its stand against Arthur, forcing the red-haired Technomage to launch a fireball at him.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Gunslinger fired laser after laser at their enemy, creating little holes in its scales, though they also had to roll over to avoid being bitten. After nearly two minutes of the game, the Raptor got close enough for the warrior to channel a burst of psionic energy within their arms, and shot a powerful blast that destroyed the dinosaur's brain in an explosion of blood.
The Gunslinger was quickly distracted then by Arthur's cry for help. The wizard fought the best he could, but his opponent's speed got the best of him and, in the end, he was shoved against a tree with no manner of escape. Without any better ideas, Arthur took a gun from his belt and tossed it towards the Gunslinger, who used their telekinesis to grab it.
Recognising the gun as a Technowizard's weapon, the Gunslinger channeled some of their energy into it to shoot a blue laser at the last raptor. At first, nothing seemed to happen to source of Arthur's terror, but then ice began to form around it's sales and, with a last scream of pain, the dinosaur fell against the earth, turning into fragments.
"T….thank you. What's your name? And how may...I repay your help?" Arthur panted, falling while the Gunslinger came close, brushing a hand over his sweating visage. His saviour then took, out of their hat, revealing a humanoid cactus whose face, formed only by roots, resembled a perpetually sad expression.
"My name's Ross," It said through a form of telepathy in a feminine voice. "Regarding payment, just help me get through this blasted swamp."
Some hours later, after they had found a relative safe place and with the moon shining down upon them, Arthur and Ross took a well deserved rest. Arthur was setting a fire, some meat taken from the dinosaurs, while Ross crunched on a few weeds though her mouth was still set into an eternal face of sadness.
"I knew a few Cactus people, but none of them had psionic abilities as developed as yours are," Arthur remarked, who had met a few before when they had passed by his village. They were D-Bees with a vegetal physiology, capable of communicating with a limited form of telepathy. Most were pacific people, forced trough to fight for their lives since their blood was a very nutritious and tasty drink for everyone who didn't give a shit about a D-Bee's life.
"I'm the first one, I think," The Psionic gunslinger rapidly replied. "My parents thought my powers had become so strong because we lived near a Ley Line. A few City rats tried to smuggle me into their gang, so I had to escape. I've been in search of thrills and emotion ever since. What's your story, if I can ask?"
Arthur sighed and took some things out of his bag, starting to work though he didn't know what it was. Trying to build always helped him relax, especially when he talked about how he arrived on Rifts Earth and thought about the madness he had experienced during the travel.
"As you probably guessed, I''m a Technomage and I came from another dimension similar to this worlds' 20th century," He explained, anger and sorrow rising in his voice alongside a terrible fear for Molly and their children. "Magic already existed there, although it wasn't nearly as common, and mixing it with technology wasn't really a thing beyond shitty experiments. I worked for the magical government in England, and I had a beautiful family. Everything changed when the Rifts opened. I was testing a flying machine I had built and ended up in Nevada, with no idea of what happened to my wife and our children. I've spent the last three years in a village called Moppy Town, hoping my family would somehow arrive while I started to study Technomagic. In the end, I got tired of waiting and left to explore this damned continent."
"Why didn't you go to the Federation of Magic or Lazlo?" Ross queried in her telepathic voice. "They're the most likely places to find wizards or even someone who could send you back to your home dimension."
"Moppy Town was a very small place, but it was also a centre of rumours and information that don't only come from Erin Tarn's books," Arthur explained, sadness rising in his chest. "The Federation of Magic is too much of a mess for my liking, between Lord Ducson and others like him, and even if I found a spellcaster capable of taking me home, they could ask something of me I couldn't pay. As for reaching Lazlo, I'd have to pass through the Coalition's territories, which I'm not strong enough to do. With Tolkeen out of the picture even if it survived, I had to choose the dinosaurs."
Tolkeen, the state city in Minnesota, would have been Arthur's dream; a place of acceptance and great knowledge of all kinds of occult magic, including technomagic. Sadly, however, both for territorial and ideological reasons, it had been attacked by the Coalition, starting a terrible war of attrition. That beautiful utopia had to resort to hiring mercenaries of the worst kind in the name of survival, using vast demon summoning and technologies about which the morals were dubious in more ways than one.
But it wasn't enough. In the end, Tolkeen was annihilated after a desperate call by its king to return to their old ways, and the survivors were scattered to the winds.
"Hmm, I can't argue with that," Ross agreed. "Anyways, and I mean no offense, but your creations still need a bit of work. That gun you gave me was definitely powerful, but…"
"Yes, I know," Arthur sighed. "Back in my dimension, I was very obsessed with Muggle technology, as we called those without magical powers, but our society had little to no knowledge about their culture and I wasn't much better. I still have a lot to learn."
"There's no shame in being inexperienced when you have time to learn, Arthur. I wouldn't mind helping you improve."
"What do you mean?" He asked, confused. Ross telepathically laughed.
"I'm not new at handling technomagic devices. I might be able to help you improve your work and how to better use your psionic abilities. And I've been searching for a trustworthy companion for a long time, since no one - and I mean no one - can survive alone on Rifts Earth.", the cactus woman explained extending her hand toward the lost wizard.
So, the two travelers shook hands, officially giving each other their bonds of friendship and loyalty.
Body Fixer: Medics with great knowledge of several fields, including D- Bees' biology.
Erin Tarn: Famous adventurer and scholar who wrote a series of books about her travels across the globe. Number 1 on the Coalition's shit list.
Cactus People: D-Bees similar to cactus, whom they share their biology with (although Cactus people are also able to eat vegetables alongside photosynthesis). They possess limited psionic abilities and as said, their blood is a very searched beverage within the New West.
Gunslingers: The best firearms duelist of the American continent. Their psionic counterpant possess several useful abilities.
Ley Line Walker: The most versatile kind of spellcasters, capable both of using a large arsenal of spells and of using the Ley Lines for several uses( teleport, sending messages, drawing more magical energy, etc.).
Dinosaur Swamp: Placed in Alabama territory, this hazardous place is filled with Mega- Damage dinosaurs and some savage tribe that also accounts for mutants and other weird psionic or wizards.
Federation of magic: Territory, or more like a series of territories scattered over the Mississippi. The original Federation of countries that used magic scattered in various factions. all with various agendas and morals. The most dangerous is definitely the 'True federation', led by Lord Ducson, a descendant of the Federation's founder that has no problem dealing with demons or backstabbing his allies, like...
Tolkeen: In the past a great centre of technomagic, paragoned to a new Camelot by Erin Tarn, now just a set of ruins after the Coalition wars.
Lazlo: City that grew in the place of Toronto. Led by the Dragon Plato, is probably the biggest centre of Technomagic in the continent after Tolkeen's destruction.
Hello to all, hoping the chapter is of your liking and that you're all ok despite the pandemic. Ross is the first companion Arthur found, next chapters will alternate beetween the present and the past until his group will be completed. Thanks to everyone who left a polite review, see you soon. And as always a big hug and thanks to my betareaders, sleepywriter