The Bald Tattooist of Maskerville

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The Monumental Elf Golem (Part I)

Not long after the Dimetrodon spotted two of its prey, the Beetle attacked the Bee. A loud popping sound was heard as it used special glands in its abdomen to squirt a poisonous chemical spray. The Bee evaded it, but a part of its body: mainly, the hind wing and the upper portion of it’s abdomen got soaked by a boiling poisonous chemical. Steam rose from the affected parts as it rapidly burned several branched hairs covering the body of the Bee. Two elf riders conjured a spell to slow the process down. While the other one held the fort by attacking the Beetle with his loadstone blade. The Beetle riders deflected it, only to be surprised at another one coming from the back. The elf rider controlled both blades. Using the other one as a distraction, and successfully landing a hit on the abdomen, severing it’s gut.

The Dimetrodon used this as the perfect time to attack. The thudding footsteps distracted both creatures. But before they could whip their heads to see where it was coming from, it had already beheaded them. The legs and wings of the Beetle were no longer attached as the force of the bite removed the entire thorax where the parts were attached, as well as the head. The Bee was already disintegrating on the wild flowers due to the poison spray. It only took a stomp from the Dimetrodon to crush its head and finally eliminate it from the race.

“And this is how the pros do things, sudden and swift. We didn’t even need elf magic,” Yanmar finished.

In the four hours that the masked men slept; two creatures had already been eliminated, while another two had been severely injured and are trying to mend their wounds. The Dimetrodon had now advanced further than the Snake and the Dragonfly by a few kilometres before finally taking a rest in one of the hills. Claus had slept for two hours. Then he switched with Frank for the second watch, letting him sleep for a few hours as well. He watched vigilantly, making sure that no other hungry creature wanders into their camp.

Just before the sun rose and before the cicadas stopped singing their song, Claus woke them up. They reaped some fruits from the trees then eventually mounted the Wolf to start running towards the finish line. The morning run was surprisingly pleasant. They haven’t had any encounters with any other creatures: participant or spectator alike. They even allowed themselves to enjoy the breeze while Il dashed through the forest. They got to see the rising sun as it peaked from the summit of the mountains far into the distance.

That moment didn’t last long though, cause somewhere further down the path was the sound of spells rebounding on trees as the riders of the Dragonfly fended off a gigantic chameleon whose tongue is twice as long as it’s body. The reach was so far that even though the Dragonfly couldn’t see the animal anymore, it’s tongue was still following them.

Good thing that the beast Rebecca and her friends boarded wasn’t an insect. As they passed by the huge chameleon perched on top of a thick branch, they all looked up and marveled at its immense size. It, however, ignored anything that is below its branch and focused on catching breakfast.

“Did you see what it was?” Sebastian asked.

“See what?” Demelov asked back.

“The creature that it was trying to catch.”

“I believe it could be any of the insects. We haven’t seen the Beetle since Rebecca cut off its antenna but I’m quite certain that the elves have already healed that and managed to catch up through the night. Or maybe it was the Bee or the Dragonfly,” Claus speculated.

“The Dragonfly?” Demelov repeated. “Didn’t the Snake already eliminate it?”

“Did you forget? The elves were mending it as we were passing by. I don’t think it was eliminated yet. It merely wounded the insect to get a head start,” Rebecca supplied.

“But wouldn’t it be lagging behind?”

“No, dragonflies are strong fliers. If the elves have mended it fast enough, it wouldn’t be a problem for them to catch up,” Claus said.

“I told you so,” Marty piped in. “They are definitely something to watch out for. I think, they will be the hardest to beat. We should have ridden it instead.”

“Oh, shut up,” Demelov replied.

“No, I don’t think we would have worked well with the Dragonfly,” Ink disagreed.

Marty looked at his friend, wondering why he isn’t backing him up. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you see? It’s strength lies in its exceptional flight abilities. But it has weak defense and offense skills. It won’t be able to survive a direct hit from other beasts like we have. That’s why only skilled elves could make it win because they would be the ones giving protection and providing attacks. And only they could heal a wound sustained in the race. We don’t have any of those abilities. Therefore, it’ll be hard for us to win using that beast,” Ink concluded.

“He is right,” Frank added.

“But none of those things are our concern, right now we don’t know how many more creatures are left. We only know one for certain was out and that is the Bison. While you were sleeping, I believed there were others who had been fighting. It is safe to conclude that there are probably a handful of us left. If I could take a guess, for certain the Dimetrodon, Snake and just now, the Dragonfly are still out there. We have to keep our guards up. We are going to win this!” Claus fired up.

The sun was high up in the sky now and it beat down on them. The group had been running for hours. They were getting closer and closer to the finish line. With only a few more hours left in the race, they relied on Eris’ connection with Il to hasten their pace, anxiously keeping out for anything that might appear in the way.

“Ladies and gentle elves,” Frinamdel begun. “Are your beasts still alive?! If they were, then by all means let me hear you cheer for them!”

Some roared Xana which Catherine had learned to be the Dragonfly’s name. Spen was the Snake. Half of the stadium repeated “Anari” over and over again, like it was an incantation. Of course it is famous, since it is the High Prince’s Dimetrodon. A crowd favorite and a three time champion, who wouldn’t love that. And to Catherine’s surprise, many cheered for the Skink as well though it hadn’t had much action.

“Where exactly is the finish line?” Catherine asked. “I don’t think you exactly told them where it is,” she realized, worried.

“Oh, don’t worry. I gave them enough information. Just keep heading straight once in the canyon,” Elmator answered.

“That is hardly any useful data,” she grumbled.

“Don’t worry, child. The finish line is very hard to miss. You will be able to see it from up here in a minute. Oh look, there it is,” Prince Hanariel pointed out.

Something caught Catherine’s eyes from afar. She wasn’t really sure what it was though. It appears to be a tall mound of clay but it was reflecting some sort of light. “I can’t exactly see clearly. I don’t have keen elvish eyes, you see.”

“Ah yes. From this distance, the human eye wouldn’t be able to distinguish it well,” Elmator replied. “You’ll see what it is soon enough. We are only a few hours away, anyway.”

“What does it look like? The finish line, I mean.”

Prince Hanariel stared straight ahead and answered, “Nothing that special, just a dedication for one of the greatest elves that ever lived.”

“Do you guys have any idea what the finish line look like?” Demelov asked.

None of them answered.

“Great, we won’t even know when we pass by it. I don’t suppose they have some kind of ribbon in there, do you?” he asked sarcastically.

Ink replied, “Elmator said to just keep going forward. I would assume that there is some kind of a distinguishing feature that would let us know we are there.”

“Uhm, young masters. I think you should take a look at this. How about that for a distinguishing feature?” Eris asked.

They were at the fringe of the forest where the trees were less dense. They were still plenty tall and thick but they were spread sparsely. Through the break in the trunks, they could see a barren land with clumpy vegetation. It looked like a desert only it didn’t have any sand. The soil surface had a cement-like horizon of prismatic clay.

But that was not what caught their attention, approximately seven kilometers away was a monumental elf golem. The elf was wielding a blade with both hands and a crown was placed on top of its head. The crown was heavily decorated by precious stones that it glitters under the light of the sun.

“Holy, that is one huge memorial,” Frank echoed.

“I think this is it. We are almost at the finish line!” Rebecca gushed excitedly.

“Don’t be too excited we still have a few kilometers to ruunnnn… out!” Sebastian warned.

A flying log came hurtling their way as the Snake just broke of one of the tree branches before gliding into the air and landing at the clay soil. It didn’t stop to look at them but went straight ahead towards the Dimetrodon who was already striding towards the golem. Not a few seconds later, the Dragonfly came rushing by, its fluttering wings unstoppable as it sped towards the end.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Go after them!” Demelov shouted.

Eris prompted the Wolf to go faster. It bent its four legs in a crouch position before thrusting and leaping away. The leap was so high it almost managed to bite the end tail of the Dragonfly. The Snake had already reached the Dimetrodon and attempted to do the same grappling technique it had done to eliminate the Nothodon. But before it could wrap its scaly body around the beast, the elf riders had already casted a spell summoning centipedes that crawled all over the Snake. The centipedes were small compared to their gigantic size but a hundred altogether is another thing. Each had painful bites that could make the Snake swell. Good thing the elf riders were quick to respond by summoning their own defense, wasps. They stung every centipede that crawled up the Snake’s body paralyzing the crawlies for at least three minutes.

Ink and the others engaged the Dragonfly, on the other hand. The elf riders were constantly throwing objects in the way as the Wolf lithely dodged them.

Rebecca and Frank became their offensive team for long range, as they shoot arrow after bolt and bolt after arrow at the insect. Every time they would get close enough with Eris’ maneuver leap, Demelov and Sebastian would try to whack a hit on either it’s wing or body with their blade and axe, respectively, making them the close range offensive team. The other elf riders were firing an assault of arrows to Il as well. But Ink and Marty were both swift enough to cut the arrows in half using their blades before it even grazed the Wolf. They became their defensive team. The group collaborated well that they were able to keep up with the Dragonfly at first. Until, one elf rider summoned a colony of ants crowding the Wolf. The ants were ten inches in size and they climbed up the paws and legs of the Wolf leaving bites every step of the way. This hampered their pursuit of the Dragonfly. They did the best they could to exterminate one after the other but there were too many of them, leaving the Wolf occupied and writhing in pain and the Dragonfly free to zoom away.

It even went unnoticed by the Snake and the Dimetrodon who were both busy trying to kill each other. With the rest of the creatures engaged in their own battles, the Dragonfly switched to phased-stroking for fast flight.

It was gaining some distance away from the chaos of its three opponents when all of a sudden the ground rumbled and a large lizard came out from the solid clay, spraying rocks all over the place. It was the Skink. It appeared directly underneath the Dragonfly that it had no time to react when the Skink jumped and landed a fatal bite. With as much force as it could muster, it whipped its head while its teeth were clamped on the Dragonfly’s segmented abdomen and threw it aside, effectively eliminating it from the race.

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