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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2313741
A Questing Beast is a Dragon that hunts out knights to fight and kill!
Dennis DuBeck at a hundred and fifty-five centimetres tall, as its founder and leader, was a giant of a man at the LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society. The society prided itself upon being able to re-enact almost any war. But today, Feb 9, 2024, they were going to spend the whole day on a quest.

Dressed as knights of old, some in papier-mâché suits of armour, some in more realistic chain mail, and some in Sherwood Forest green for some reason were planning to hunt a Questing Beast. Which is the poetic way of saying a huge green scaly, fire-breathing dragon. Questing Beasts were a special type of dragon though: one that lived and breathed to hunt down and slaughter knights of yore. At least according to highly unreliable historical accounts. Thus the re-enactment society was on a quest. Sir Lancelot (Dennis), Sir Galahad (Kenneth), and Sir Kay (Marsha Mitchell, a thirty-something two-metre-tall body-builder, who was currently dating Kenneth) were the three leaders of different chivalries (groups of knights) who would set out to hunt for the Questing Beast, which had been manufactured by Kenneth-Galahad's sister, Jennifer Maudsley.

"I hope Jenny hasn't gone mad again and overdone it with the papier-mâché beast?" said Dennis-Lancelot.

"When we're on a quest she likes to be called Genevieve, not Jenny, sire."

"I don't care if she likes to be called H.R. Poofen Stoof," said Dennis: "She has the habit of going mad when she's building."

"How do you mean, sire?"

"Like that full-sized Trojan Horse she built a couple of years ago," said Marsha-Kay.

"In fairness, our family has been carpenters going back generations," said Kenneth: "And our family were visiting us en masse at the time, so she ringed in our other four brothers, our father, and six cousins to help out. I thought they did a very convincing job."

"But it was too high," insisted Marsha. I got vertigo climbing up there."

"They built it full scale."

"But why did we have to enter and leave by the arse?"

"That's where the entrance was on the original Trojan horse."

"At the size they built it, they could have at least built a circular staircase in each of the legs."

"Honey, I'm sorry," said Kenneth.

"Well, as long as we don't have a fifty-metre-tall Questing Beast to hunt down in the forest?" said Kenneth.

"I don't know, sire. She wouldn't let me see it before the re-enactment. She said she wanted it to come as a surprise."

"Well, as long as it doesn't come as a bloody great shock!" said Dennis: "Now, any questions before we set out?"

"Yes, why do I have to be Sir Kay?" asked Marsha: "Why can't I be the more famous Sir Gawain?"

"Because Gawain is a bloke's name, and you're a sheila. The only knight of the round table with a sheila's name was Sir Kay."

"I'm fairly certain Sir Kay was a bloke."

"It doesn't matter. Now Sir Kay call your Chivalry to attention!"

"My chivalry to attention!" called Marsha-Kay. Then dismayed by their slapdash shuffling she shouted: "Stand to attention you worthless knight-wannabees!"

Which had the desired effect of bringing them to order!

"Excellent, Sir Kay. Now Sir Galahad!"

"My chivalry to attention!" shrieked Kenneth-Galahad, terrifying his 'troops' into line.

"Excellent. My chivalry!" shouted Dennis Lancelot.

As they set out into the sweet-smelling pine and eucalypt forest Dennis said to Marsha: "Another reason you can't be Gawain is because he was disloyal to Lancelot."

"Only because Lancelot was shagging Genevieve behind King Arthur's back."

"Please, don't make me throw up," said Dennis referring to Jennifer Maudsley whose beauty was strictly spiritual.

"Hey!" said Kenneth, for once in his life correcting his leader and mentor: "Genevieve is a very kind, spiritually beautiful lady."

"In a feminist anti-Utopia in a galaxy far, far away, men might appreciate a woman's spiritual beauty," said Marsha: "But here in the Milky Way men prefer lookers with big tits and enough arse to grab two large handfuls."

"Thou art a Philistine, Sir Kay!" said Kenneth.

"Huh!" said Marsha, wondering if he had just insulted her.

They had journeyed a kilometre or so into the sweet-smelling forest when they were startled by a hideous roaring in the distance.

"Something tells me that Jenny has overdone it again," said Dennis.

"Genevieve, please, sire," said Kenneth.

"Let's hope she hasn't made it fire-breathing," said Marsha.

"No, no the papier-mâché would set alight."

"Actually, sire, she said she and some builders she brought in were making it largely from sheet metal."

Marsha and Dennis exchanged worried looks, then Dennis said: "Technically she has no right to bring in outside builders without first getting approval from the Re-Enactment Council!"

"That's what I told her, sire, but she said she was sure they wouldn't mind."

"Sure they wouldn't mind! She has no right to make assumptions like that. Everything new has to get approval from the Re-Enactment Council!"

"He's right," agreed Marsha as the roaring came again, seemingly closer than before.

"Onward valiant knights!" said Kenneth-Galahad, trying to change the subject.

"And I get to say onward valiant knights," said Dennis. Raising his sheet metal sword he said: "Onward valiant knights!"

And they started quick-marching toward the hellish roaring as it sounded again.

They had barely gone half a kilometre, when they found a blackened patch where gum trees and pines alike had been seriously scorched, some burnt down past the bark.

"Looks like Jenny has overdone it again," said Marsha.

"Please, Sir Kay, Genevieve."

Marsha started to respond, when the roaring-hissing came again, much louder this time, startling them all.

Stepping out into a large clearing, they saw what they assumed to be a fibre-glass green scaly dragon, at least twelve to fifteen metres tall.

"She's overdone it again," said Marsha and Dennis as one.

"It's very realistic-looking though," said Kenneth.

"You're joking!" said Dennis: "It's far too big to be believable. Knights were supposed to fight Questing Beasts, this one could stomp them to death with one foot. Not much of a fight there!"

"And the wings are ridiculously oversized," said Marsha: "I've seen Cessna's with smaller wings."

"And it looks nothing like any drawing of a Questing Beast I've ever seen," insisted Dennis: "It's more like a half-melted pterosaur merged with an equally partly-melted Tyrannosaurus Rex."

"That's it exactly," said Marsha Mitchell.

Then the Questing Beast turned round to look at them face on. And as they saw it blink its yellow snake eyes too realistically to be a model, the creature exhaled a great burst of red and yellow flame. Burning to death over a dozen members of the LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society.

Before the remaining members turned and, dropping their weapons, ran like Hell back to the imagined safety of the way that they had come.

"Run to where the trees are closer together!" shouted Dennis: "It's too big to follow us."

However, shooting out flames again and again, decimating the re-enactment society, the Questing Beast lumbered through the forest after them. Easily shattering and bringing down giant gum and pine trees. Many of them protected old-growth trees. What it couldn't bring down it incinerated with its fiery blasts.

"Run! Run! Run!" shrieked Marsha, no longer the mucho warrior who had entered the forest outside LePage township not that long ago.

As they ran the fiery bursts continued to shoot out, burning to death re-enactors, and almost thunder-like crashes rang out as the Questing Beast's great body shattered or knocked down dozens of pine and gum trees. Reducing great swathes of the forest to sweet-smelling kindling.

By the time that they returned to their cars, most of the survivors had abandoned their costumes to lighten their load as they ran. And less than fifty of the original one-hundred-and-twenty gamers made it back to their cars alive.

An hour later the police and emergency services were in the forest outside LePage, trying to make sense of the story that Marsha Mitchell, Kenneth Maudsley, Dennis DuBeck, and other survivors of the LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society (many of them with third-, fourth-, fifth-, and even sixth-degree burns) had told them.

"So you were attacked by a giant T-Rex?" asked Terri Scott. At thirty-two the beautiful blonde was Senior Sergeant and top cop if the entire Glen Hartwell to Willamby region of the Victorian countryside.

"No, a Questing Beast!" insisted Marsha, as the firefighters drove carefully into the forest to attack the fires that still raged.

"A Whatsit Beast?" asked Sheila Bennett. A thirty-something Goth chick with orange-and-black-striped hair, who was Chief Constable of the area, and Terri's immediate assistant.

"A Questing Beast," explained Colin Klein. A redheaded London crime reporter, now employed by the Glen Hartwell Police, and Terri's lover: "A dragon which is obsessed with hunting down and killing knights."

"And it certainly did that today," said Kenneth Maudsley. Who was seated on a bed of pine needles and dried gum leaves beside Marsha, Dennis, and some of the less injured survivors.

Overhead they could hear rotors as air ambulance helicopters arrived to ferry some of the more seriously injured to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital.

While Terri and co. did their best to glean evidence from the survivors, Jesus Costello and a team of medics attended to the survivors waiting for transportation.

Having sedated him first, Jesus (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus') said: "This one is going to require both legs amputated above the knees." As the chief surgeon and head administrator of the GH&DCH, he had seen serious burn victims before. But never before on a scale like this, being too young to remember the devastation of the Victorian bushfires of February 1983.

"This one needs one leg amputated," said his chief assistant, Tilly Lombstrom. A tall shapely fifty-something brunette: "But I can save the other if we can get him to the hospital in time. But he'll need the air ambulance, he won't survive being rocketed across by land ambulance."

"This one won't make it," said Annie Colfax. A thirty-nine-year-old ash blonde, who was the Nurse-in-Charge at the Glen Hartwell Hospital. Nonetheless, she gave him an injection of five-milligrammes of morphine to ease his suffering.

Unable to help with the injured, Terri and co. went across to where the coroner, Elvis Green was examining what was left of the corpses. Some were badly burnt; others were mere piles of charcoal. Elvis was nicknamed due to his worship of the late King of Rock and Roll.

"How they hanging, Elvis?" asked Sheila Bennett.

"Low at the moment," said Elvis: "After looking at the ashen remains of what used to be dozens of living, breathing, re-enacting human beings."

As two of her sergeants, Stanlee Dempsey and Jessie Baker approached them, Terri asked: "How are they coping with the firefighting?"

"Hermione says they'll have the last of the fires out by the end of the day," said Jessie Baker, a huge ox of a man, with flame-red hair. Hermione Meldon was the local fire chief, a role she had inherited eleven years ago from her father, long-time fire chief Ronald Meldon

"Although she says it could take years for the forest to get over the damage done," said Stanlee Baker, a tall, muscular man with long raven hair: "Not so much the burning as the crunching."

"Crunching?" asked Colin Klein.

"Yeah, lots of the trees are shattered as though by lightning strikes," said Stanlee: "But there was no lightning in the area today and they have clearly been freshly broken."

They set off into the forest to examine the broken trees.

"Hey, cop a butcher's," said Sheila, pointing to some dark green objects about the size of a small hubcap lying around the base of one of the trees.

"There's some here, too," said Colin. He bent to collect some of the green scaly circles in a large plastic sample bag.

"What do you think?" asked Terri.

"If we were up North in Queensland or N.T., I'd think they were from a giant crocodile," said Stanlee: "But we don't get crocs down South in our cooler climate. Certainly not ones with scales the size of hubcaps, thank the Lord!"

"We really need a wildlife expert to say for sure," said Jessie Baker.

Exchanging looks, Terri and Sheila said: "And we know where to get one!"

"Lover boy's old flame," teased Terri.

"Totty Rampling and I were never an item!" insisted Colin Klein: "That was just in the minds of Deidre and Natasha at the boarding house.

By the end of the day, the dead and dying had been transported to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital. Or on to hospitals in Sale or Melbourne. So Terri was finally able to telephone the Melbourne Wildlife Safari Park.

"Betcha Totty squeals like a schoolgirl when you tell her we've got a possible ye olde dragon on the loose around her," said Sheila Bennett.

"It's a Questing Beast," said Terri: "And Totty is a mature professional wildlife biologist. She wouldn't squeal like a schoolgirl ... Hello, Totty, this is Terri Scott ... guess what we've possibly got on the loose up here...?"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeh!" squealed Totty, when Terri told her about what had happened, and the green scales that they had collected.

"Told you," said Sheila.

Ignoring the Goth chick, Terri said: "She's coming by the midnight train from Melbourne. Gets here at nine sharp ... unless it's late, of course."

"Or early," said Sheila. And they all had a good laugh.

At nine o'clock the next morning, Stanlee Dempsey, Terri Scott, Sheila Bennett, and Colin Klein were at platform one of the Glen Hartwell Railway Station on Theobald Street, waiting for the daily train from Melbourne.

"Now remind me again what Totty looks like," joked Colin.

"Yeah, like you'd forget your former best girl," teased Stanlee.

"I could demote you for that, you know?" said Colin. Then turning toward Terri: "Actually, babe, do I outrank Stanlee?"

Terri thought for a moment, then said, "Mmmm...? I'll say yes."

"You only said that 'cause you two are an item," protested Stanlee: "Isn't that right, Sheils?"

"Don't ask me," said Sheila: "She made me Chief Constable because we went to school together from kinder, right through Police Academe."

"Nepotism," said Stanlee: "It's great when it works for you. But not when it works against you."

"Don't worry, Stanlee, the next promotion that comes up, I'll keep your name in mind," promised Terri: "Unless I forget."

"And I should warn you," said Sheila: "She suffers from the Carmen Lawrence Disease: convenient amnesia!"

Before Stanlee could comment they heard the tooting of the steam train a few stations away.

Fifty kilometres or so away from Glen Hartwell, a group of forty young Aboriginal bucks were off hunting for food for their tribe and trying to have a little fun at the same time.

Hurling a spear across a clearing they had just entered, young Gunawadi said: "Bet you can't throw further!"

"Betcha I can," said a sixteen-year-old buck, Mulabundi. He hurled his spear, which flew metres past the first spear: "Told ya. What do I win."

"Nothing, we didn't mention any prize," said Gunawadi, as they raced off to collect their spears.

"He's got you there," said Tommi-Tommi running after them.

Soon all the bucks were running around playing, forgetting for a moment that their tribe was depending upon them for meat for the day's meals.

They were still playing around fifteen minutes later when they heard a great snake-like roaring-hissing from the forest just ahead of them.

"Mamaragan!" said Mulabundi. Referring to the Great Rainbow Serpent of Dream-Time mythology.

"No, Kuperee!" cried Gunawadi. Referring to a giant black kangaroo of Dreaming Legend. Said by many to be the only thing that can fright off a bunyip.

"Sounds more like a Yowie to me!" said another young buck.

"More like Waramurungundju: Mother Who Made Us All," said Tommi-Tommi, licking his lips: "One hot chickie from what I hear."

"Isn't she supposed to fuck her victims to death?" asked Gunawadi.

"Yeah, but what a way to go," said Tommi-Tommi, making them all laugh riotously!

Until the hissing-roaring came again, this time much closer. Followed by the sound of crunching as though something huge was literally crashing its way through the forest toward the young bucks.

"Maybe it really is the rainbow serpent," said Mulabundi, looking nervous, but not wanting to be the first of the hunters to turn and flee.

Then, with a mighty rending of giant lumber, the Questing Beast crashed into view, as trees fell to the ground on either side of it.

"More like a T-Rex," said Gunawadi as the twelve-metre-tall dinosaur-like creature stomped into view.

Like Dragons of Legend, it was dark green, with scales the size of hubcaps, with a large stepped tail which could almost have been used as a staircase, which it swished angrily from side to side. Smashing into gum and pine trees, making them screech under stress, or shatter and fall to the forest floor. Sometimes falling first onto the Questing Beast, which seemed to barely notice them. Its four legs were four metres tall, as thick as the body of a small pachyderm, with claws the size of cutlasses. Its wings were vast and razor-sharp, cutting through the trunks of giant old growth trees when the creature spread them wide. Scarring the bark off mighty gums when the monster merely flapped its wings slightly.

Its head looked like the head of a Komodo Dragon, but a hundred times larger. When it opened its mouth, out shot a three-metre long split lizard tongue. When it spat, out shot a strong acidic saliva which could burn through the thickest tree trunks.

"What the...?" cried Tommi-Tommi as the Questing Beast spat toward them. The acidic spit missed but burnt through the trunk of a pine tree, causing it to crash to the ground.

The beast took a pace forward, stepping upon the fallen tree, which crunched to kindling beneath its powerful feet.

"Time to get the Hell outta here!" cried Mulabundi leading a retreat through the forest, back the way that they had come.

Angered by this show of cowardice by the 'knights', the beast shot out its acid spit which landed on five of the young hunters. Killing three of them, and leaving the other two screaming, hideously scarred for life.

Stopping for just a moment Mulabundi and Tommi-Tommi grabbed up handfuls of dried leaves and pine needles to rub as much of the acidic saliva as possible from the two survivors, who they tossed headfirst across their shoulders before starting running through the forest again.

Hissing its rage, the beast started through the forest after the fleeing warriors, shooting out burst after burst of fire, or acidic spit after the retreating men.

"Don't stop running!" shouted Mulabundi, hoping that the denseness of the trees might offer them protection.

However, the beast continued to tear its way through the forest impervious to the damage that it was doing to the native-growth trees in the forest. Then when the trees became too closely grown together, the Questing Beast spread its razor-sharp wings, hacking through the trees. Then with a fearsome hissing roar, it took to flight, quickly soaring above the forest to try to follow the fleeing bucks from overhead.

Again and again, the beast spat its acid saliva down at the young men or whooshed outbursts of yellow flames. Setting fire to large sections of the forest, but not reaching down to most of the running men.

Hiss-roaring again the creature tried to land again but got stuck in the upper branches of the trees, which were too densely grown together to allow such a vast animal to land.

Repeatedly the Questing Beast roared in rage and disappointment as most of its intended victims managed to flee onto the densest part of the forest. In all the beast has killed perhaps six or eight of the young bucks. Allowing over thirty to escape alive. By the creature's standards a massive failure.

It roared over and over as it struggled to free itself from the tree branches. Finally using its sharp wings to cut away enough of the foliage for it to take to flight again. Trying belatedly to find the native huntsmen again. However, they were long gone, making the beast roar again in frustration.

When the train pulled into the Glen Hartwell Railway Station on Theobald Street, fifty or so people alighted. One of them was a tall, leggy brunette, of perhaps thirty-five, who looked around the station for a moment. Then spotting Terri and co., she strode across to them.

"Tots," said Sheila Bennett giving her a big hug: "No time, long see."

"It must be nearly two months," said Terri Scott.

"About that," agreed Totty Rampling giving them each a hug: "So what is it now? A giant killer mole rat that has taken to eating buildings? A gigantic tyrannosaurus on the rampage?"

"Close," said Colin Klein: "We've been told by eyewitnesses that it's a Questing Beast. Not to be confused with an ordinary dragon."

"What's the diff.?" asked the brunette as Stanlee picked up her suitcases to carry them to their cars.

"Questing Beasts actively seek out and kill knights," said Stanlee Dempsey.

"So where's it going to find knights in the Victorian bush?"

"Strangely enough, it got lucky yesterday," said Terri: "The LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society were on a dragon hunt. They were supposed to find a fake dragon that Jennifer DuBeck had made. Instead, they found a real one for the first time ever."

"Ooh, much safer to stick to Snakes and Ladders, or Chinese Checkers," said Totty, as she climbed into the front passenger seat of the blue Lexus.

"I tried to tell them that," said Sheila: "But they wouldn't listen."

"I wonder if Jenny and her fake Dragon are still out in the forest waiting for her brother and co. to find her?" asked Colin.

"Uh-oh," said Totty: "You might have to send out a search party if she doesn't return soon."

When they reached the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital, they found a close friend of theirs waiting for them:

"Bulam Bulam," Terri greeted the grey-haired Elder. A member of the Gooladoo tribe, outside the township of Harpertown, plus pro rata tracker for the Glen Hartwell Police Department. Giving him a broad hug, she asked: "So what brings you here, mate?"

"Some bucks in my tribe were attacked earlier today by what they described as a big scary monster!"

"Was it twelve metres tall, dark green, spewing out fire, and looking like Picasso's attempt to draw a T-Rex?" asked Colin Klein.

"That's pretty much how they described it," said the Elder.

"It's a Questing Beast," explained Sheila: "Although I do like the term big scary monster. My favourite group has a song called Big Scary Monster."

"The Devil's Advocates," said Bulam Bulam, all of the police, plus Totty Rampling, and Topaz Moseley, a gorgeous platinum blonde nurse.

"Oh, you know," she said: "Well, it's a great song. She began singing:

"There's a big scary monster

"Hammering outside my door,

"It's the scariest monster

"That anybody ever saw,

"It's big, ugly and horrid

"It's a huge crashing boor

"There's a big scary monster ...

"It's my mother-in-law!"

Sheila started to cackle with laughter, while the others stared at her in dismay.

"Oh, come on," she said: "I expected the blokes at least to laugh at that!"

"We're too afraid of the sheilas beating us up if we did," said Bulam Bulam.

"Cowards," said Sheila.

"A Questing Beast is another name for a fire-breathing dragon, isn't it?" asked Bulam Bulam.

"Yes, but one that goes out of its way to track down and slaughter knights," said Terri. They quickly explained about the massacre of the LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society the day before.

"Oh," said the Elder as most of them went upstairs to see how the native hunters were getting along.

"So let's see some of these Dragon scales," said Totty. Squealing like a schoolgirl again when she saw one of the giant scales: "Fabuloso!"

"That's a new dishwashing detergent," Elvis Green said to Topaz Moseley.

While they were upstairs Terri rang through to Hermione Meldon the local fire chief, to advise her of possible fires and tree damage in the forest around the Harpertown area.

Then after a while, Stanlee, Terri, Colin, and Sheila left to meet Hermione at the latest damage zone, with Bulam Bulam directing them.

By the end of the day, they were all exhausted and ready for one of Deidre Morton's divine dinners.

"Oh, Totty," said Deidre, a short dumpy lady with exquisite culinary skills. A few months earlier she had tried to match-make with Colin and Totty and, unfairly, regarded Totty as having abandoned the redhead when she returned to the Melbourne Wildlife Safari Park.

"Um, hopefully you can put me up for a few days?" asked the brunette.

"Of course, she can," said Natasha Lipzing. A tall, grey-haired woman, who at seventy had spent the second half of her life at Deidre Morton's boarding house at the end of Rochester Road, in Merridale.

"How they hanging, Tots?" asked Tommy Turner. A short, fat retiree with short yellow hair.

"Probably better than yours," teased Sheila.

"Sheils, how could you?" complained Tommy.

"Yes, I'm sure yours are hanging well too, Tom-Tom," said Totty.

"Personally, I think Sheils has it right," said Freddy Kingston. A tall portly retiree, bald, except for a Larry Fine-Style ruff of curly black hair at the back and sides of his head.

At nine o'clock the next morning, perhaps forty people were waiting at platform one of the Glen Hartwell Railway Station on Theobald Street, waiting for the daily train from Melbourne.

As they were looking down the tracks, they heard a distant tooting of the steam train's whistle a few stations away. And at the same time, the vast figure of the Questing Beast zoomed past them overhead. Heading down the tracks toward the fast-approaching train.

"What the Hell was that?" asked the station master as the beast soared past them.

"Don't know," said Lizzie Enrich, an attractive brunette teen: "Just be grateful that it didn't land here."

Janice and Martin Richard were on the steam train from Melbourne, with their three children: Larry aged twelve, Leticia aged nine, and Hazel aged six, as the train pulled out of BeauLarkin.

"Soon be at Glen Hartwell, kids," said Janice, a tall, plain-faced brunette.

"Yea!" cried the children.

"Thank God!" said Martin. A tall, middle-aged bank clerk, who even on holidays was dressed in a dark suit and tie: "The kids have been up to mischief the whole nine hours from Melbourne."

"No we haven't!" they protested.

"Martin, they've just been playing. Children like playing."

"At home maybe. But a train is no place for playing."

"They slept the first seven hours," pointed out their mother: "They've hardly been playing the whole nine hours."

"Still, they need to know that life is hard, not all fun and games. What did that madman say? Oh yes, 'Life was never meant to be easy'!"

"Now he's quoting a madman at us!" protested Larry.

"I'm just saying that..." began Martin, as a hideous screech came from above the train.

Overhead the Questing Beast shrieked in rage at the long iron monster puffing smoke and roaring along. After shrieking again, the beast shot out burst after burst of yellowy flames at the wooden roofs of the carriages.

Bellowing its rage as the train did not stop to fight it, but kept racing along toward Harpertown a few kilometres away.

"What is dat?" asked Leticia a cute blonde. As they all stared up at the roof as the screeching continued.

"And why is it getting so hot in here?" asked Janice.

"I'm damned if I know," said Martin. Who usually refrained from cussing in front of the children.

"Daddy, it's getting berry hot!" cried Hazel. She raced across to climb up onto her father's lap, as though that would somehow cool her down.

Overhead the Questing Beast started spitting its acidic saliva across the roofs and sides of the carriages.

"Daddy what's dat?" asked Leticia as the clear slime started into the carriage through an open window.

"Damned if I know, Tish," said Martin slamming the window closed. Which had the effect of further heating the carriage, and spraying some of the acid across his beard and moustache.

"Daddy, your beard's on fire," said Tish.

"She's right," said Janice.

Putting down Leticia, he pulled out a handkerchief and started dabbing at his beard. Which stopped his facial hair from burning, but rubbed the acid down onto his flesh beneath.

"What...?" asked Martin, as the acid started to burn, soon screaming, as his flesh started to be eaten away.

"Honey!" shrieked Janice. Grabbing up a small bottle of spring water, she threw the contents in his face, hoping to stop the burning.

As the iron beast continued on its way, seemingly ignoring the Questing Beast's attack, the dragon shrieked its rage at this insult and started to slash at the roofs of the cabins with the sword-like claws on its back feet. Occasionally lashing out with its front legs too.

"What the...?" asked Larry in terror as two curved sword-like claws smashed through the roof of the carriage.

"Jesus wept," cried Janice. Grabbing up her two youngest children, she started running toward the next carriage.

"Wait for us!" cried Larry, as he and Martin started after them.

Until suddenly the carriage shuddered, throwing the Richard family and a dozen other people to the floor.

"What the Hell!" cried Martin, the left side of his face raw and weeping from the acid burns. For once forgetting his rule against cursing in front of his children.

Overhead the Questing Beast had reached an insane level of rage. Roaring its longest, loudest roar yet, the creature swooped down and grabbed the Richards's carriage with its great claws and tried lifting the compartment away from the tracks.

The train was only a kilometre out from Harpertown now, but would not get there. As the monster roared its rage it began lifting the front carriage off the tracks throwing about the people inside.

"What the...?" asked the engine driver as the great iron wheels suddenly lost traction on the metal rails. Looking back he almost had a heart attack as he saw the Questing Beast raising the train off the tracks. "Holy shit!" he said reaching for his mobile phone. Just grateful that Glen Hartwell had had a mobile phone tower installed less than a year ago. So for the first time ever the region had good reception.

"Give me..." he said. Dropping his phone as the train suddenly crashed back onto the rails. Despite almost falling out of the train, the driver managed to pick up his phone and continued his emergency call...

Enraged as the carriage roof gave away from the burning and acid it had sprayed upon it, the beast flew down to the second carriage. Less damaged than the first, the carriage did not fall from its grasp as the monster stabbed its sword-like claws through the roof to start lifting the carriage off the rails. Flapping its vast wings furiously. straining with all of its might to try to raise the entire train from its tracks.

"What's going on, Daddy," cried Hazel, as the carriage lifted, off the rails.

"I don't know," said Martin, as it crashed down to the tracks again. Then as they heard loud flapping overhead, he said: "Whatever it is, I think it's going away."

Unwisely, he climbed to his feet, to look to his wife and children. Just as the beast wrenched the train from the rails again.

As the train juddered, Martin, Janice, and three other people were thrown through the large windows out onto the ground beside the tracks. Martin and another man fell onto their heads, breaking their necks and dying instantly. Two elderly women were slashed to ribbons going through the windows. One died instantly, the other bled to death on the way to the hospital. Only Janice landed relatively unscathed. Although she would have hellish back pains on and off for the rest of her life.

Little Hazel jumped from the rising train, landing safely upon her mother. Although that only added to Janice's back damage. The other children were too frightened to leap. Although twenty or so other people leapt from the train. Some fell awkwardly, breaking their necks, and dying. An elderly lady broke her back and would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. The others all had at least one broken limb but would recover.

Two people fell onto the train tracks, just as the train, now twenty metres high, slipped from the monster's grip again and crashed back down. A blonde woman who landed seated on the pilings between the rails had her head and neck smashed to a pulp as the train fell on top of her. The man, having landed lying across the tracks, had his body hacked into three pieces by the iron wheels, killing him instantly.

As the train started to topple onto its side the remaining passengers, if still alive, leapt to the ground, just in time. Before the train started rolling over sideways away from the fallen victims, toward the neighbouring forest.

Shrieking it's rage again, the Questing Beast shot out one last prolonged burst of flames at the toppled train. Then confident that it had bested its opponent, the dragon soared away. Not wasting time with the fallen passengers, many of whom were already dead.

"Mummy!" cried Leticia Richard, crawling across to her mother, despite almost fainting from the agony of a broken leg.

"Tish!" cried Janice, climbing to her feet, despite the agony in her back. She managed to collect her three children together. Then not letting them see that their father was dead, started to lead them, carrying Tish and Hazel, toward Harpertown Railway Station about six hundred metres away.

Half an hour later the police and medics had arrived at the scene.

"What the Hell happened here?" asked Terri Scott as they started out to help the injured.

"That thing went to war again," said Jessie Baker, who had arrived there first: "This time against the train from Melbourne. The passengers were just collateral damage. From all accounts, it was the train that the monster wanted to kill."

They looked across the track to where the train lay on its side the three wooden compartments, including the guard's van, completely burnt out. From the wreckage came the noxious aroma of burnt human flesh.

"Jesus, let's just hope the people still inside were already dead before they were incinerated!" said Tilly Lombstrom. Turning she started to take care of the survivors.

"So what now?" asked Colin Klein as they started to help out as best they could.

"So, now it's time to get in touch with Russell Street, Melbourne, to get them to send us a military chopper," said Terri.

"They'll be thrilled," teased Sheila. Remembering how much the big bosses had screamed the last time they had needed help to get a chopper from the R.A.A.F.

"Don't remind me, Sheils," said Terri.

It was well past tea time that evening by the time that the last of the dead and injured had been transported to the Glen Hartwell Hospital.

Terri had phoned Russell Street after the last of the living had been transported. After the initial expected screaming, she had been assured that the military chopper would be in G.H. soon after breakfast the next day.

A little before 9:00 AM the next morning, Terri, Colin, and Sheila were in the front office of the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell, when they heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter approaching.

"That sounds like our baby!" said Sheila as they went outside to stand on the sundried lawn outside the station to wait as an R.A.A.F. A25 Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk helicopter approached the station.

After landing in the street, out stepped its female pilot, fifty-something Jennifer Eckles, an attractive brunette with pixie-cut hair, and her twenty-something daughter, Barbara.

"Barbara, Jennifer," said Terri, giving them both a hug.

"What happened?" asked Sheila Bennett: "You've both been demoted. The last time we saw you, you were in a super groovy SR-71 Black Bird!"

"Actually we've progressed since then. We now fly a Lockheed Martin SR-72.

"Ooh, after more than half a century, they finally moved up a number," teased Sheila.

"Yes," agreed Jennifer: "But when we saw our old mates were in trouble again, we specially requested this assignment."

"We wanted to show off the Lockheed Martin SR-72 to you," said Barbara: "But our bosses were having none of that!"

"Do you think they're still pissed because we got an SR-71 destroyed last year?"

"I think so, Sheils," agreed Barbara, and they all started laughing.

"And they told us that this time you three are not allowed to get into the chopper under any circumstances," said Jennifer.

"So, what, we squeeze up into the back seat together?" asked Sheila.

"Sounds good to us," said Barbara, laughing again as all five of them piled into the S-70 Blackhawk Chopper.

For three days they sailed above the local forestlands looking for the Questing Beast without success. But on the fourth day, around lunchtime, they suddenly heard its sibilating hiss-roaring in the distance, in the general direction of LePage township.

"This could be our baby," said Sheila, as Jennifer took a hard right to head in that direction.

"If you like baby monsters," said Terri Scott.

In the chopper, it took them just over ten minutes to reach the forest beyond where they saw the unexpected sight of the Questing Beast roaring at what at first appeared to be a smaller version of itself.

"There can't be two of them?" said Colin Klein.

"No, I think the smaller one might be Jenny DuBeck's handiwork," said Terri. She quickly explained to the two pilots about LePage and Elroy Battle Re-Enactment Society's intention to have a dragon hunt a couple of days ago: "This must be Jenny's over-the-top-as-always model for the society. She's not above bringing in professional builders without permission from the society."

"Okay, honey, let 'er rip," instructed Jennifer Eckles.

Barbara pushed a button on the dash and two rockets whooshed out of the chopper...

And blew up the fibreglass dragon.

"Ah, honey, it's the live one we want to blow up," said Jennifer.

"Sorry, Mum," said Barbara. As the Questing Beast flapped its vast green-scaled wings, Barbara, adjusted some dials, then pushed another button.

This time the rockets whooshed out and exploded against the monster, making it drop from the sky, one wing completely blown off.

Despite its injury, the beast roared its anger and exhaled a great burst of yellow flames, which soared up toward the chopper. As the glass windows suddenly imploded the helicopter started to fall out of the sky.

"Mum!" shrieked Barbara, seeing large slashes across her mother's face.

"I'll take care of her," said Terri. She leant across from the back to mop at Jennifer's face with cotton wool. Leaving Barbara to take over the flying.

Barbara struggled for a while before finally managing to bring the chopper in for a bumpy landing.

"Everybody out!" shouted Barbara. Even as she fired off three more rockets at the flailing monster.

"Direct hit!" cried Sheila, as they gathered thirty metres from the crashed A25 Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk helicopter.

The Questing Beast let out one last hellish screech then collapsed dead.

"Mission accomplished!" said Barbara, helping Terri to mop the wounds on her mother's face.

"So how do we get back into town?" asked Colin.

"Ring for an air ambulance for Mum," said Barbara: "Then the rest of us can hike back to LePage."

"Just one thing," said Sheila: "Are we gonna get in the shit with Russell Street and the R.Double-A.F. for destroying the helicopter?"

"Uh-oh!" said Terry, Colin, Barbara, and Jennifer together. Before bursting out into laughter.

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
© Copyright 2024 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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