Lord Luparn and the Colossal Skeith: Part Two
Sir Cheekalot had followed a trail of reports from the outlaying villages pointing him towards the Skeith. The knight arrived at the village of Turtum Mound one mid-afternoon. From the destruction throughout the village, he guessed the beast had been there already. The villagers stood around looking at what little remained of their pitiful crops. "The Skeith, was he here?" asked the Kacheek.
"Yes, m'lord," answered a Striped Kau. "Come through jus' this mornin' an' ate all our food."
"Where did he go?"
"East, towards the ol' ruins. Probably sleeping off our grub."
Cheekalot hurried east and soon spotted the ruins resting on top of a nearby hill, from which the village took its name. It probably dated back to the early days of Meridell, when it was divided into smaller kingdoms. Once Skarl's family had united the land, many of the old castles fell into disuse. More than likely the people living in the area took the stone from the old castle and used it to build their homes; it would account for the large number of stone buildings in the village.
The Kacheek slowed as he reached the hill, not wanting to tire himself before the battle. The hill was steep and at least partially made artificially. Back when it was created workers had built up the mound, so the castle would look over the surrounding land and offer defense against any invading army. When he arrived at the top, he shifted his shield from his back and inserted his right arm through the straps. When in this position he could defend himself but still have reasonable visibility around his massive shield. There was a set of grips built into the back of shield that he could hold with his left hand for extra stability and pushing power.
The skeletal ruins filled the top of the hill; it looked like some ancient stone behemoth was trying to claw its way out of the ground. The knight moved around the ruins trying to find a trace of the monster. Then he spotted it, lounging against the remains of an interior wall. He was three times the size of most Skeiths. This worried Cheekalot as the reports had placed him at only twice the normal size. The way he saw it, there were three possibilities; there was more than one monstrous Skeith, the reports were wrong, or he was growing in size quickly. With all he had been eating, Cheekalot wouldn't have been surprised if it was the third option.
Sensing he was no longer alone, the beast growled and stood up. Cheekalot gulped and swung his shield in front of himself, taking the grip in his left hand for added support. He had never tested the shield against anything this big and he hoped it would hold.
The Skeith scraped his feet on the ground before charging at Sir Cheekalot. He crashed into the knight with the force of a Super Attack Pea that had been thrown by the Battle Faerie. It knocked the wind out of the knight. The monster swung his head at the shield, lifting and sending the unfortunate Kacheek flying several feet before crashing into a wall, knocking the wind out of him a second time.
Dazed, Cheekalot had trouble focusing on the Skeith. He blinked a few times and was able to see him clearly. Then it struck him; if he was able to see him like that, then he was no longer behind the protection of his shield. The Skeith was approaching now, saliva dripping from his maw. Cheekalot scrambled in the grass and his fingers found his precious shield. Looking up he saw the behemoth was almost upon him. The knight fell backwards in the corner of what remained of a room and curled into a ball. He lifted his shield over himself forming a perfect shell around himself.
The Skeith pounded on the shield with his giant hands. Cheekalot shook with fear as massive dents appeared in his shield. He prayed for his shield to hold. The sound was deafening, to the Kacheek it sounded like resting your head on an anvil as a blacksmith struck at it. After several minutes the hammering stopped and Cheekalot found himself shaking under his shield like a clapper of a bell.
An hour passed before he ventured out from his protected spot. Looking around he saw no sign of the monster that had almost ended his life. "Perhaps," said Sir Cheekalot to himself, "I need to invest in some offensive weaponry."
The last village Tohkan had visited had reported that the Skeith being thrice the size of a normal pet of that species. They had also told her that he had eaten his way through the entire village store of food. He had left footprints and a trail of half eaten food. The Ixi had been using that to track the Skeith for two days now.
Since the morning, the tracks had been getting harder and harder to find, but the lancer had been top of her tracking class back in basic training and was still able to find the distinctive marks. She was certain that they had been made in the past hour.
The tracks led her into a wood. Deeper and deeper she went; the trail was obvious now, with the broken limbs on trees, bent bushes and trampled undergrowth. It was clear the beast had been through here. She was puzzled by his choice; after two days of evading her, why was he now making himself so easy to follow? Suddenly she heard the rumbling of a growl to her right. Turning in that direction, she noticed that she was in a particularly dense part of the forest. A pair of angry red eyes peered out at her from between two trees a short distance from her.
Hefting her lance into position, she charged at the monster. The dense trees meant that she was never able to get up to speed. By the time she reached the Skeith, she was barely at a fast trot. Her lance bounced harmlessly off his thick hide. Seeing the beast clearly now, she could tell he was four times the regular size.
"My turn," he said in a deep, thick voice. He swung a massive paw at her, putting a large dent in her regulation Meridell armour, but the protection held well and the Ixi herself was unhurt. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, Tohkan turned tail and ran.
She dodged and weaved through the thick woodland, the crashing behind her made it clear the Skeith was in hot pursuit. Turning occasionally she could see that the beast was slowly gaining on her, she knew that normally she was faster but she had to waste a lot of time going around the trees, bushes and thick undergrowth, where as the Skeith could just crash straight through them as if they were not there.
She had to think of a way to slow him down, racking her brains until she came up with an idea. She thrust a spare lance into the ground, the point aimed directly behind her, in the direction of the giant that was pursuing her. She continued to run, turning when she heard a frustrated cry from the Skeith. He had run into that lance and received a minor scratch from it. Smiling to herself, she continued placing lances into the ground as she ran.
No more of the lances wounded the beast, but he had slowed a little and was now maintaining his distance from her, rather than gaining. As Tohkan reached for her last lance she realised she was reaching the edge of the woods. Replacing the weapon onto her back, she broke into a full gallop, crossing the open ground with ease.
Several minutes later she slowed to a stop to catch her breath. Turning she saw the monster had stopped himself a good mile behind her. She reflected on her day and was reminded of her first lesson she had received during her lancer training. "Terrain is key," the instructor had told the class. "If you get caught in a confined space, it could cost you your life." Tohkan sighed; it very nearly had.
Sir Wockilan had been working on a theory. From all reports the Skeith had been growing in size and eating everything he could get his hands on. He knew the Snowbunnies were behind it somehow. Passing through a village that had so far avoided being attacked, he came upon a festival. Food was out on display, being purchased and eaten by hungry Neopets, games were being played and contests fought. There were displays of strength and skill, as well as many entertainment shows and performances.
It was while watching a performance of "Mechachiazilla", where actors recreated the time when a massive metallic Chia attacked Maraqua, when the idea struck him. The part of Mechachiazilla was played by a few normal sized Neopets in a large costume. That was how the Snowbunnies had done it. There was not a single Skeith attacking the villages, but a group of Snowbunnies in a massive costume. That was why he was seemingly growing, as more Snowbunnies joined up they had to increase the size of the costume to accommodate them.
Now that he had solved the riddle, he needed to find a way to get the Snowbunnies out of the costume. As well as having good hearing, he knew they had sensitive noses. The knight purchased some Rotten Egg Stink Bombs from a nearby weapons merchant. The knight would use those to stink up the interior of the costume and flush out those pesky Petpets.
After making his purchase and storing the bombs safely in a saddlebag, Wockilan heard a loud roar followed by several screams. He knew that the beast was attacking. The knight jumped onto his faithful steed, a Lupe that was called Binky, and together they charged towards the screams.
The knight pulled the Lupe to a halt as they entered a long street that was full of food stalls. Panicked villagers flowed passed the knight, pleading for him to save them. At the end of the road was the massive "Skeith", which was now five times the normal size; he was chomping his way through all the food that the vendors had.
The knight waited for the street to be clear. "Hold, Binky," he told his mount as he pawed at the ground itching to get into the action. Only when all the villagers were safely out of the way did the knight order the charge.
In his right hand Sir Wockilan held his trusty lance and concealed in his left hand were a couple of the Rotten Egg Stink Bombs. The costumed Skeith turned his head at the charging knight and roared in anticipation. Sir Wockilan had to admit that the special effects were very realistic. Seizing the moment the Wocky threw the stink bombs directly into the mouth, satisfied that they burst deep inside the so called creature. As they passed behind it, the beast kicked out with his back feet, knocking over Binky and causing Sir Wockilan to fall from the saddle.
The knight stood up, rounding as the thing turned as well. Clutching the last of his Rotten Egg Stink Bombs, the knight waited. As the massive jaws opened, he threw the weapons deep into the Skeith's throat. He waited for a moment and then became confused; why hadn't the Snowbunnies come out yet?
"Those were tasty," he said to the knight.
"There's no use pretending, I know you are in there," Sir Wockilan replied.
"What are you talking about?"
"I know you are just Snowbunnies in a costume."
The Skeith laughed. "Guess again," he bellowed. With that being said, he let off a massive burp at the Wocky. Normally his breath was bad enough; with the added effect of the stink bombs it was downright putrid and the knight fell to the ground unconscious.
"Yummy, a Wocky in a tin can," laughed the very real Skeith and began to try and chew his way through the knight's armour. A sudden blow to the side of his head put a stop to those dastardly plans. The beast shook his head. Once he had recovered he saw the unconscious knight being carried away by the Lupe he had first rode on. He decided not to pursue them, but went back to eating the food instead.
Once safely away Binky stopped and waited for Sir Wockilan to wake up. Once the knight did so he looked at his faithful companion and said, "Thank you Binky, you saved my life. You know what? I am starting to think that maybe the Snowbunnies aren't behind this after all."
To be continued...