Extinct Fauna of the High Malafan
by Alter S. Reiss
It started with an eight-inch-long sickle-shaped tooth, badly damaged by treatment
and time. This was three years after the Acts of Union, and I was leading a survey
of the old border region, something that hadn't been possible during the Auslander
wars. We had passed the word around that we were looking for fossils, but we
hadn't gotten many; the old border is ghost-ridden, and there are other uses for
fossils than paleontology.
Still, there was a constant trickle of finds, some from people with a real interest in
the field, and some from people who wanted to show that the old borders had the
best of everything, even if it meant giving up a pound or two of fossilized bone.
There were three of us conducting that survey: Renner Bock, a student at the
University of Ralport; Dant Corder, a Necromancer of the Grey Orb School; and
myself, Orn Hapt. At the time, I was director of the Acquisition Department of the
Paleontology Wing of the Republican Museum at Halbston. The department in
question was a desk, a telephone, and two old file cabinets, but it was an
impressive enough title that it opened a few doors that otherwise would have
In Talapathas, a town that was little more than a stock-buying station and a pair of
saloons, the pickings were even slimmer than average. We set up at a table in the
back of the larger saloon, and spent a day and a half looking at nothing. A pair of
natives brought the carved-down remains of a brace-wing's forelimb, and were
deeply offended when we didn't want to pay them twice what it was worth. Other
than that, there were unrecognizable bone fragments, a chambered swimmer's
shell, and some rocks that weren't even close to being fossils.
We were about ready to pack things up when the rancher came in, carrying an old
coffee-can, half filled with cotton wadding. He eased the tooth out, and we all
perked up. This was something worthwhile, at last.
"Broad toothed coffin-mouth?" asked Renner, who had the worst view.
"Don't think so," I said, passing it over to Corder. "It's coming out, to the side,
and I've never seen a coffin-mouth with --"
"This is something new," said Corder. His eyes were closed, and the tooth was
resting on his finger-tips. "Not a coffin-mouth. Something much smaller, maybe
five feet tall."
"Five feet!" said Renner. Corder was a good enough necromancer that we
couldn't argue with what the bone had told him, but it was a little much to choke
down. "That tooth's more than half a foot long itself."
"We got a lot of teeth like that," said the rancher, who had been watching us
bemusedly. "Bones, also. In the rocks that wash down out of the High Malafan
during the spring flooding."