Chapter 5: Hunting the Renegade Lion
As twilight crept through the Black Forest, the Three Witches of Fate, who had been standing on the shoreline of the Morbid Lake, each mounted their brooms, shouting, “Broom fly!” in succession. One by one, the three witches shot into the early evening sky, soaring into the upper echelon of jungle trees in search of permanent habitation. Now that the sun had set, the witches were in their own element; the cries of the night would be their guide.
After hours of flying at a high altitude, coupled with listening to the cries of the night, the Three Witches of Fate sensed they had finally reached their destination high atop the Camouflage Mountains, a loftier mountain range than the Evergreen Mountains.
The witches entered a giant cave with stalactites and stalagmites, giant bats and thousands of colonies of ants and snakes and other night crawlers. Once inside the cave the Three Witches of Fate, Hezekell, Mizekia, and Shirbella, immediately entwined their minds, yet again, to summon all of their magical tools together with a powerful incantation:
“Here now we sisters exist in this cave,
Yet we don’t even have potions, or crystal ball, or slave!
Let the Powers of Darkness now send us our tools,
So that we can get busy and open our schools!”
While the witches enumerated their magic spell, every syllable echoed throughout the cave. After having finished this major change there followed the loudest, most powerful explosion ever heard from a class 1A spell!
The air smelled like rancid sulfur from the smoke of the detonation, which billowed in every direction. The spellbinding, however, was successful, as after the mist cleared there remained in its place a wide variety of witchly necessities, all neatly arranged in their respective categories in jars, boxes, and secret chambers. There were:
Aged potions: 1,000 jars each of termites (for Wolfsbane), fish heads (for Nymphamarus), and omnivorous treats (for Chattermouth); 100 jars each of 500-year-old herbs and fungi, poisonous mushrooms, fermented bat wings, toad skins, stolen voices, and human fears and worries; 50 jars each of owls’ feet, rabbits’ feet, and human tongues; and 10 jars each of ground elephant trunk and ground walrus tusk.
Three wands: one made of aspen with a ruby tip for Mizekia to see the present; one made of silver with an emerald tip for Hezekell to see the deep, dark past; and an invisible one made of jungle tree root with a sapphire tip for Shirbella to see the future (only Shirbella and the Grand Wizard can see this wand).
One crystal ball for the witches to share.
Three spell books – Spell of the Ancient Void, for Hezekell; Contemporary Incantations for Mizekia; and Sorcery of the Hereafter for Shirbella.
One box of disguises for use in the mortal world.
And the witches’ three pets – Hezekell’s aardwolf, Wolfsbane; Mizekia’s raven, Chattermouth; and Shirbella’s cat, Nymphamarus.
Now that things were falling into place, the Witches of Fate could focus their attention on their mission to hunt down the Renegade Lion of the Black Forest.
As the Black Forest itself is hundreds of square miles, there are many small villages located within its boundaries. Besides Smalltown there is the Woodman’s Village, Poppytown, and the village of Jove, where the base of the Camouflage Mountains is located.
Now the village of Jove is a quaint little dwelling where everyone knows everyone else’s business; the world’s best-kept secret will not be found there. The total population of the town is 76, twelve of whom were the village hunters (until yesterday!).
The fur hunters of Jove were Lloyd Stewart, Bent Haverhill, Valska Gentry, Ronald Wentworth, Wendell Maxwell, Alexis “Butch” Buchanan, Wayne “Whitey” Waxman, Simon “Buster” Sneed, Marshall “Specs” Martin, Lucas “Mack” McGillicuddy, Chad “Riff” Rifles, and Benjamin “Benny” Pageman.
It all started yesterday around 7 a.m. Business was as usual. The village hunters were gathered in a band, ready to begin their morning ritual: hunting for animal pelts. (The village of Jove has long been famed for its fine linens, furs, and other refined garments.)
The boys were collecting together all the necessities for the hunt while waiting for Benjamin “Benny” Pageman to return from the village dog kennel. (Besides being one of the village hunters, Benny was also the town dog trainer.)
“Hey Buster,” Lloyd said. “Go see what’s taking so Benny so long with those bloodhounds. It’s almost 7:30 – he should have been back 15 minutes ago!”
“Come on, Specs, let’s go take a walk and see what’s up with Benny,” Buster said.
“Why’s everybody always electing me for extra duty?” asked Specs. “Can’t anybody else around here do anything but me?”
“Yeah, we can,” Buster replied. “It’s just that we trust your quick instincts on important issues.”
“Do you really mean that, Simon? Or are you just saying that to impress me?”
Buster responded angrily. “Number one: who needs to impress you? Number two: Of course I don’t mean that, you big dope! And number three: stop calling me Simon – I hate that name!”
“But that’s your name,” Specs said, confused.
“See? That’s what I’m talking about – you just don’t get it, do you? Why can’t you just call me Buster like everyone else does?” Buster asked, exasperated. “How come you always gotta be so formal, anyway?”
Specs sounded relieved that Buster’s tone of voice was less severe. “I don’t know, I was raised that way, I guess. Anyway, I’m sorry – I didn’t know you hated your name so much. Really, I mean it. I really didn’t –“
“OK already! Why do you always gotta keep ramblin’ on about nothing all the time, anyway?”
While Buster and Specs performed their daily bickering, they were wandering through the woods without noticing the oversized lion tracks directly in their path! It wasn’t until they approached the road to the kennels, Millhouse Road, that they became suspicious of their surroundings.
“Oh my God!” cried Buster. “Man, how long have we been walking inside of these giant lion tracks? I can’t believe we ain’t been noticing this!”
“Wow! Look at the size of them suckers,” Specs exclaimed. “That thing must be at least 10 feet tall to make tracks like that – man, I’m outta here!”
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere! The only chance we got is to stick together!”
At the same time that Buster and Specs were finally noticing their surroundings, a most amazing phenomenon was taking place on Millhouse Road, a winding road shadowed by pine trees with their strong scent. Ravens, crows, and deer dotted the scenery, as well as large bats hanging upside down in trees, taking their morning nap and awaiting night to hunt.
It was 10 minutes past seven o’ clock when Benny was about to unlock the cages and release the hounds for the daily hunt. Just as he lifted his eyes and wiped sweat from his brow, he caught sight of the most horrifying flying creature he had ever seen! Never before had he witnessed such a wingspan on any living creature. Not only that, but the wings were made of thick fur, not feathers. Benny was so in awe of the magnificent physical specimen that he couldn’t take his eyes away. It was as though he were in a trance. Benny was trying very hard to define what he was actually gawking at. He never thought, “I am in danger.” It never even dawned on him that he was about to become the Renegade Lion’s next meal. He imagined himself insane. On the one hand his mind was telling him he was gazing at a lion; on the other hand, everyone knows large felines have no wings! Even so, he kept investigating and scrutinizing, trying to distinguish for certain what the hell he was gaping at. By the time he realized he was in peril, it was too late!
As the gigantic lion descended on Benny like a plane coming in for a landing, he quietly and quickly seized Benny by the neck and shoulders, simultaneously tearing into Benny’s shoulders with his large talons and ripping Benny’s head from his body with his teeth! With blood splattering everywhere, the lion consumed almost all of Benny’s body, leaving a small portion of each leg from the knees down before silently flying away unimpeded! The only positive point was that Benny was dead within three seconds.
When Buster and Specs finally arrived at the hound house, their worst fears became an undeniable reality – Benny was dead. The dogs were all still locked in their cages, amazingly quiet considering what had just transpired. The two remaining members of Benny’s eaten body were clear evidence of what had taken place. But it was still a mystery to Buster and Specs, who were totally confounded by the facts at hand.
But all of these events unraveled so silently and swiftly that Benny’s family members weren’t even alerted, though the family residence was fewer than one hundred yards from the kennels, and you could hear a pin drop in the early morning hours. Benny was dead in three seconds.