The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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Behemoth Wars (Part I)

“Are you crazy?!” Demelov bellowed.

“You dare raise your voice to a Prince, you cursed mortal,” Elmator chided.

“I apologize on his behalf, Lord Elmator,” Frank said this time.

“You better learn to control that temper of yours child. Or better yet, learn to apologize for your own mistakes. How many more times must you let your friends apologize for your sake?” Prince Hanariel said.

“That is none of your concern. You think I’d let Rebecca and my friends, with the exceptions of the peasants of course, join that bloody slugfest of yours?” he growled.

“That decision is not up to you, child,” King Vienuriel said. “I have made up my mind, this woman,” he said as he pointed at Rebecca. “And six of the guys will be representing your lot,” he added.

“Why must it be Rebecca? Take Catherine. Make her do it. She is less valuable,” Demelov disapproved.

Marty grabbed Demelov’s tunic and brought his face closer to him. He stared through the holes of the his red ogre-mask angrily. “I know I said I’d be more tolerant of you but you’re making it very hard for me Demelov.”

He grabbed Marty’s tunic as well. “Oh yeah, so what are you going to do about it, peasant?”

Frank separated them forcefully. “Break it up, you two. Fighting amongst each other is not what we should be doing right now.”

“I believe a knowledgeable and wise King such as yourself, your highness, would realize that we are merely victims of fate as well. We aren’t responsible for the disaster that happened hundreds of years before we were even born. Please see reason, like the kind of king you are, as the great ruler of a mighty kingdom,” Claus cajoled.

“You are as articulate as my son said you were, gentleman. You try to flatter me with your words. But flattery wont get you anywhere. You shouldn’t worry though. If you were truly not guilty as you said you are, your lives wouldn’t be in danger. That’s the whole premise of the trial. The Gods will protect the innocent,” King Vienuriel finished.

“Don’t you see that the gods have long abandoned us?! If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been in this position!” Ink cried.

King Vienuriel took his time to study Ink. Despite of the mask that covered his face, Ink felt like he could see through the material and peer deep into his soul. He shivered. “You are broken, my child. You keep within you so much hate and you try to drown it with your acts of kindness. I have no doubt of your noble intentions but your mind is too narrow.”

“Huh, narrow?” he spits. “You don’t even know what it’s like to live life like ours. You sit inside your castle and worry about the next creation you elves are going to make. Had you suffered an inkling of what my people had been through…”

“Ink! That’s enough,” Rebecca said getting his attention. He took a deep breath.

Some of the elf lords who are within hearing range turned their attention on them. King Vienuriel, Prince Hanariel, Elmator and Avrat stared at Ink. Quite a few elves in the lower tiers near the group had focused on the heating up argument as well, losing their interest on Gimofel Frinamdel, much to his dissatisfaction.

“And! What do we have here?!” he shouted diverting everyone’s attention to the group now. “A company of masked men. I’ve only ever heard stories about their kind. But Alas! The stories were true,” he whispered into the tusk. “The accursed men of the undead!”

The crowd of elves murmured. “I know, I know. A lot of you must be wondering what business they have amongst our kind. Worry not, for I, Gimofel Frinamdel, have been a close consort of the High King Vienuriel, ruler of all our lands. Today, is going to be a race like no other for everything has been spicy-upped by none other than our great king. Please sire, stand. Let us acknowledge your most holiness for gracing us this wonderful games.”

High King Vienuriel stood as the round of elves applauded. He raised his hand to quiet the audience. When everyone had their interest centered at him, he waved his middle and pointing finger and took a deep breath. He spoke very loudly then, loud enough that it echoed at the whole stadium despite not having Frinamdel’s elephant tusk.

“Oh Dear Gimofel, you and your flashy antics,” King Vienuriel shook his head. “Greetings! Elf-kind, I welcome you all to the Behemoth Wars!” Elves cheered.

“It is as what Gimofel had said. Today, is going to be a race like no other in the history of the wars. I have commissioned this group of mortals to take part in the race.”

More chattering sounded in the crowd. Elves are more talkative when perked up by the dried caffeine. Usually, they are quiet and prefer to converse telepathically. One of the side effects of dried caffeine, but they deem it necessary to stay alert through the whole race. Gimofel prefer it that way of course since it is more lively with them loud and animated.

“Yes, yes. They are going to ride one of the beasts and race together with our riders. This will spice things up a bit, and will make the race more exciting. We shall see how well they do out there on the field? Shall we?!”

The elves cheered more and clapped. The King sat down and Gimofel took over the floor once again.

“So, you heard right wee elves! Today, we are going to be joined by the accursed people of the undead in the most terrifying and the most exhilarating and the most beatifying and most awaited event of the year, the Behemoth Wars!”

“Now, who’s ready to make bets on them?” asked Gimofel. The elves laughed at his question. “No one?” More laughter came.

“This tweebs think we couldn’t handle the wars!” Demelov said pissed.

“You have a very wonderful vocabulary for nicknames, don’t you Demelov?” Claus said.

“Just wait and see till I get out there and kick all their butts,” Demelov added.

“Oh, by the way young lad, you aren’t going to be a part of the race,” Elmator said.

Demelov stared at him like he just lost some screw on his brain. He couldn’t understand anything the man just said. Clearly, he must’ve heard him wrong. “I beg your pardon?”

“You heard him right. The King did say that Rebecca and six of the men well accompany her, that means you and orange pixie-mask will be staying here with us in the stadium to watch,” Prince Hanariel said.

Demelov was enraged. “What are you talking about?!” He shouted as he stood up from his seat, attracting onlookers.

Gimofel was annoyed once again at the interference. “Ugh, seriously, you with the red ugly mask. Seat down, will you? Stop trying to draw their attention away! Look only at me, my dear elves, the Handsome Gimofel,” he smiled as the elves laughed.

Rebecca grabbed Demelov’s hand and forced him to seat down.

“I know I said this is going to be a trial by ordeal. But I can not allow injured people participating in the wars. I am not as heartless as you think I might be. Your kind will be represented by this seven mortals and should they succeed. We wont be holding it against the Maskervillians the catastrophe of Mount Norigath and I might reconsider giving your lot the Vertigo Forest you so desired. Should they fail, the nine of you will be punished in place of all your kind.”

They were now flying over the forests of the mountain, north of the Moon Castle. On the other side, they could see the same floating cloud above the trees. There were a lot of worker elves too, from a different region no doubt, gathering above the clouds. The stadium was placed high in the sky in order for the spectators to see the whole race.

There wasn’t a track in which all the creatures ran. But the race was within the forest. Just like all the other races, the objective was to get to the finish line first. But that’s not all there was to it. Unlike the normal marathons, the Behemoth Wars were brutal - way brutal. The creatures didn’t simply run to get to the finish line, they were allowed to use any means possible to get to the end first. Any means - the creatures could attack each other, play tricks at their opponents or even go as far as to kill them. It doesn’t really end up with the creature getting killed though, cause elvish magic just prevents that from happening. There’s some kind of brew that the behemoths drink before the race that allows them to be revived if such circumstances does occur. They call it the elixir of life. The moment the beast will be slain during the race, it would vanish and it would be reborn at the fountain of life like nothing had happened. That isn’t the same for the riders though, they can not drink the elixir of life. Therefore, it is strictly forbidden to harm the riders directly. Cuts and scratches resulting from the attack of the creature to the other beast is exempted though. That is why despite of the “no direct harm rule”, it still makes the race very dangerous. The attack of the behemoths are very aggressive and therefore containing it would be impossible. Often times, it could lead to a broken bone which is nothing really to an elf. But to Rebecca and the rest of the group it might be more than what they could handle.

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