The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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Behemoth Wars (Part II)

They stopped in the middle of a large clearing and they could see several beasts gathered below, twelve beasts to be exact.

The biggest of them all was an fifty feet long lizard with thick skin and a belly jutting out. Next to it, was a gaudy-looking reptile with a beautiful sail on it’s back almost thirty feet long. It made Rebecca wonder how the riders manage to mount such a beast. It had attractive colors dotting it that makes it stand out than the rest of the crowd and scary-looking teeth, no doubt used for ripping it’s opponent apart. Then, there was a reptile looking creature that is greenish brown and grey. It had a spiny crest on it’s back with blue and red neck beads. Another one was a scaled lizard, without a neck. Or at least it wasn’t visible or maybe it was to small to be noticed. It’s legs were very small. The group wondered how it could run, let alone compete in the race.

“Heyo, heyo, everyone! Come to see which of these little creatures are going to win these year’s wars? Is it going to be the Dimetrodon, that had won the past three consecutive years? We aren’t expecting anything less from the Prince’s pet, are we? Or will it finally be a different creature this time? Is it going to be the Nothodon? I know it’s fat but it’s proven itself lethal the last year destroying half of the insects who joined. Or is it the beaded Guntheri?” the crowd cheered after hearing it’s name. “How about the skink? Gotta love their useful skills!” Gimofel roared. “Make sure you place your bets well!”

“Ok, off you go. This is the arena. This is where the race will start. I wish you good luck, dear mortals,” Prince Hanariel said as he motioned for the group to come down the misty stairway that wasn’t there just a few seconds ago.

“What are we even going to do once we get down there?” Ink asked.

He was skeptical at the whole idea of a trial by ordeal. Oh sure, we are innocent if we manage to win the wars in an almost impossible scenario. The creatures the elves were riding didn’t look like animals they could handle. If anything else, they looked like creatures that would have them for dinner. He was still angry and there were a lot of things he still wished to tell the High King. If it weren’t for Rebecca, he would’ve made an even bigger commotion. He was starting to sense a pattern now. He blows his fuse at any nearby recipient when his frustrations exceeds in his head, and Rebecca would somehow pacify him.

“Elmator will instruct you on what you should do,” Avrat said.

As they descended the stairs, they had a better look at the rest of the creatures that were participating in the games. All of them were gigantic, nothing smaller than twenty-four feet. They have to be, in order for the riders to mount them.

Catherine got to ride the flying stadium for the duration of the games. It floats above the contenders as they move forward through the forest, accompanying and watching them all the way. But Demelov, who was supposed to be in the same situation just wouldn’t let anybody stop him from participating in something that he claims to be good at. He actually made a very dangerous demonstration just to show that he had recovered, by means of taking down an elf soldier. He was really crazy and proud about that.

In the end, Elmator had allowed him to participate.

Rebecca stared at a gorgeous butterfly that had wide wings each spanning to ten feet. Three elf riders were climbing the thorax. They walked passed it, their attention now drawn to the sound of heavy buzzing much like the ones they had heard at the Vanilla Nest. Another one of their competitor was riding a queen bee, the biggest they had seen compared to the worker bees flying around the winged-honeycomb.

“Do you think it stings?” Marty asked Ink.

“No doubt about it,” Ink replied. “But if you are talking about stings, this one probably hurt even more,” Ink pointed at the deadly-looking scorpion with its pincers moving back and forth. It’s whole body is pitch black making it hardly visible at night.

“Hey, Becca look at those,” Demelov stared at the hard exoskeleton of a beetle just landing on the arena. “You need a pet just like that. You wont ever have to worry about forgetting to comb your hair,” he laughed as he indicated the comb-like antenna of the insect.

“I wonder which of these creatures we are going to ride,” Eris murmured.

“Well, let’s just hope we get to ride something fast. Or something that would be less likely to get eaten or eat us,” Frank mentioned.

“What about that dragonfly?” Sebastian murmured. “I think it would be fast. And I don’t think it’ll be inclined to eat us. Probably, the easiest one for us to handle.”

“Yes, they are agile fliers and if we are lucky we might just outfly the others. Ran away from them as fast as possible,” Marty mused.

“What do you mean ran away from our opponents? We are no cowards. We fight them head on. If they want to take out our beast. I’d want to see them try,” Demelov raged. “Which is why I’m proposing the Bison. It is fast and can definitely take on these beasts.”

“Oh yes, cause a bison just suits you. Right Demelov? You’re both unpredictable, attacking anything or anyone for no apparent reason,” Marty added.

Ink grinned underneath his mask agreeing to what Marty had said though he didn’t agree out loud. But he also knew that he could be unpredictable too. What the king said appeared to be true, he has hate inside.

“Oh yes, I also like to kill or maim anything or anyone with my legs. Want a demonstration?” Demelov cocked his head to the sides.

He wasn’t paying any attention to where he was walking that he tripped over the tail of a huge snake. His eyes bulged out once he saw it’s head turn to look at him. It’s tongue jutting out in the air.

“Okay, we are definitely not going to use this one,” he murmured backing away.

“Worry not Demelov, you won’t be riding the snake. Your beast for the behemoth wars is this Giant Gray Wolf,” Elmator said.

They gathered around him who stood beside the creature. There was an elf who was tending to it and when he turned around, they were surprised to see that it was Foril.

“Master Foril, it’s you. What are you doing here?” Eris asked.

“Oh, yes. I’m sure you’re all acquainted with Foril. He is a Master Tamer. He was needed here in the arena to tame this wild beast. Others couldn’t do as well as he does, you see. That’s why he wasn’t able to escort you all the way to the Moon Castle,” Elmator explained.

“Wow, a Master Tamer? That’s so cool,” Rebecca gushed.

“It’s no big deal really child. It runs in the family. My father was also a Master Tamer. This is Il, by the way. He is going to be your stake at these wars.”

The gray Wolf sat and towered over them. It’s mouth was hanging open and drool was coming out.

“Now this is what should remind you of a dog, Demelov,” Claus said.

“I don’t know about this. If Foril was needed to tame this beast, I hardly think we could manage riding it,” Sebastian worried.

“We have no choice but to do this,” Claus reminded, not just to Sebastian but to all of them. “Courage, everyone.”

“So, we just have to get to the finish line first, right?” Demelov directed the question to Elmator.

“Yes, you just have to ride the wolf. Run to the finish line through the canyon and make sure it doesn’t get killed. You’d just have to pass right through that rift,” he pointed at the mass of rocks a hundred meters away. “It will lead you directly to the canyon and just continue forward from then on. Remember, you can use any strategies to survive as long as it doesn’t involve direct harm to other elves,” Elmator answered. “Oh yes, and before I forget, beware, always remain alert for it’s not just your opponents that will haunt you on the wars. There are creatures that lurk in the canyon that you might run into. And those are the most dangerous ones because they aren’t a part of these games. Their attacks won’t be limited just to the beasts,” he notified a bit later.

“Oh, great. So, we aren’t just defending ourselves from twelve beasts but to all potential predators out there on the canyon. Just terrific,” Ink said sarcastically.

“I’m leaving Il in your hands,” Foril added. “Should any problems occur with controlling the beasts, the tamers are always on stand by to give aid,” he said as a comforting message to the masked men. “Good luck mortals. The games will be starting in a few. I guess you already know Frinamdel. You’ll hear the signal from him.”

Elmator and Foril left as the other riders were starting to mount their respective beasts.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Demelov took the first step closer to the wolf when it suddenly growled.

Demelov didn’t stop though and the growl only grew louder. It became apparent to the Wolf that his warning was taken for granted. So, it stood on all fours and bared it’s teeth.

“Demelov, you should approach no further if you want to remain alive,” Frank warned. “I’m a hunter. I know the prey is more dangerous when aggravated.”

“How exactly do they expect us to win the race?” Ink said angered.

Ink thought that while the rest of the animals were handled by rider elves who no doubt were experienced in this kind of activity, they do not even know how to ride the enormous wolf and now they have to stay in place and avoid getting injured as other creatures attack it.

However, for the elves, this is what makes it so exciting. They place bets on what creature would kill the other or which one would be fast enough to get away. Rebecca only hoped that the veterans would go easy on them for being newbies.

“Anybody have background knowledge on animal taming 101?” Claus asked.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?” Demelov asked.

“These is beyond my skills, Demelov. I haven’t been fascinated enough with wildlife to know taming skills,” he replied looking at Frank this time.

“I have very little. I usually hunt them down. Not tame them,” Frank replied.

“What about you, peasant? Are you going to be of any use here?” Demelov asked.

Marty shook his head. “I’m a political activist. The most interaction I had with animals was going here in Valhalla.”

“Well… young masters. What about you let me try?” Eris offered.

“Did Foril share to you any taming skills Eris?” Frank wondered.

“Not really. But I don’t feel particularly scared of the wolf and I am willing to try.”

The group nodded and let him approach the wolf first. Eris took his time to walk and tried to appear friendlier despite of the blue fairy-mask he is sporting. He outstretched his left hand first very slowly. The wolf was merely watching when all of a sudden it stopped growling and edged closer to Eris. It’s head lowered enough for him to actually pet it. They were all amazed that the creature responded to him.

“I think, it’s alright to climb up him now, young masters,” Eris indicated.

One by one, they climbed the rope ladder that was attached to the side of it’s furry body. It was placed there with an adhesive of some sort making it glued to the fur.

Once all of them were mounted on the neck, they grabbed a handful of it’s fur and waited for Gimofel’s go signal.

“My dear elves, I believe it is time. Everyone has been mounted. The moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived. In three, two, one. Go my Behemoths!” Gimofel shouted.

The creatures all scrambled and ran into the rift of rocks; others flew while some glided. They grabbed tightly into the fur of the wolf. The wind was fierce on their masks as it run as fast as it could. The rift was actually farther than they thought.

The dragonfly was leading all of the other creatures. It was flying high up in the sky, out of reach. But then, the snake was moving faster on branches using the cluttered projections to climb higher into the canopy.

Out of the blue, it launched itself from the branch tip and flattened it’s body about twice it’s normal width, gliding in the air for hundreds of feet, crashing to the dragonfly as it fell tail first while undulating it’s body. The dragonfly smacked into the rocks of the rift breaking off one of it’s wings.

“Well, there goes your agile flier,” Demelov said sarcastically.

And this is just the beginning.

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