King Pellinore dismounted his horse because he felt that the questing beast was nearby. He literally felt it. Pellinore did not know how or why, but the creature somehow gave off this sensation, a sick feeling combined with the sensation of being covered in slime, whenever it was near. And that was exactly what Pellinore felt now. This wasn't the first time he had been close to the beast. He prayed, as he always did, that this time would be the last. It never was, but usually he only knew the beast had been in a place by it's grisly leavings long after it was gone. The mutilated corpse of animals or the occasional person was its usual calling card. But Pellinore had gotten close enough to see it before and he knew he was likely to see it again. He hoped against hope that this would be the last time.
The so-called questing beast was his family curse. The story he and his family would tell to others was that it was a family quest, passed down from father to son, to capture or kill it. But the true reason was that some ancestor had used foul magics to call the thing here, from where Pellinore did not know, and every generation felt it there responsibilty to send the foul thing back. So far, none had succeeded and many people had died painfully as a result. It had an appetite for human flesh
Pellinore strung his bow and moved forward to the woods where he was sure the beast was hidden. He wore only a simple leather cuirass and the clothes of a huntsman, rather than the mail and clothing that would befit his station, as he wished to be able to move stealthily. Sword drawn he moved toward the trees, quietly. The sickly sensation got worse as he crept ever closer. Then he saw it. It was hairless and the white of something that was never meant to live in sunlight. It had four clawed legs on a compact body, about the size of a large dog. And in place of a head, a single tentacle currently burrowed deep into the innards of a deer it had brought down. Terrible slurping sounds eminated from the corpse of the poor doe. Pellinore quietly pulled back the bow and...
Before he could loose the arrow, the "head" pulled out of the dear, it was covered in gore and sported a lamprey like mouth. The thing ran deeper into the trees and it was in full motion by the time he could let go of the arrow. The arrow landed in the dirt right behind it, but in a spot where it had been only a second before. Pellinore gave chase and ran deeper into the trees as well. But soon, he stopped. There was no sign of it. And the sickly feeling he got when it was around had left him. It was gone. And maybe next time it wouldn't be a deer it was feeding on when he found it.
Dejectedly, Pellinore returned to his horse. There would be no final victory against the beast. this day. Possibly never. As there had never been for his father and his father before him. He rode for the manor house of one of his loyal knights whom he knew to live very nearby, Sir Rhudven, where he intended to stay the night and decide how to approach the hunt on the morrow.
As he rode it began to rain, lightly at first but increasing to a steady downpour. It was almost as if the weather wanted to add to his miseries. It was dark as Pellinore apporached the manor of Sir Rhudven. And the lights from within the manor beckoned him as a shelter from the miserable downpour.
He was welcomed in by a servant and escorted to the table of Sir Rhudven, who was curently enjoying his evening meal along with his wife, children and Squire. Rhudven was a big man, barrel chested and going from muscle to fat as he approached his fiftieth year. Sir Rhudven got up and appraoched Pellinor, clapping his beefy hands on Pellinore's slim shoulders and saying "My Liege. This is an unexpected honor." Rhudven drew back and stroked his beard, "But from your mien, I take it you were...hunting...today and that it did not go well"
"Alas no." Was all that King Pellinore could say.
With that, Rhudven began shouting commands at servants, ordering them to bring the king some food and dry clothing and to prepare his own bedchamber for the Kings use, while RHudven himself would be staying in a smaller chamber. Pellinore smiled a weak smile and sat down to eat. Speaking little during the meal, until only Rhudven and Pellinore were in the great hall.
"You know, my lord, that I would accompany you in hunting for this beast. As would any of your knights, I'd warrant, if only you would ask", Rhudven said.
"I know, " Said Pellinore, "I have no doubts of your loyalty. But no. My grandfather learned early on that a huge entourage made hunting the thing impossible. Too many feet make too much noise. It is too quick and its senses too keen. Better to go alone, it's the only way that any of us have ever gotten near it"
Pellinore and Rhudven discussed the matter further. Pellinore discussed the various close calls that he and his ancestors had with the thing over the years. Rhudven, though his large frame and fearsome reputation painted him as a man more of muscle than brain, listened thoughtfully. Pellinore knew he was good man to discuss these matters with because Rhudven was, to the surprise of many, a cunning strategist. Perhaps he could give some good advice. And Rhudven, for his part, mostly listend, interrupting for only an occasional question or clarification.
When Pellinore had finished, ending with his most recent encounter, Rhudven leaned back in his chair and thought for a minute or so. Then he leaned back forward and said "My lord, you say that a strange feeling comes over you when you are near it, yes?"
"Indeed, it feels as if I am wrapped in a cold wet blanket and I often feel as if I am going to vomit", Pellinore replied.
"Is it possible, then, that it can feel you the same way. Was it not your ancestor that summoned the beast? Perhaps it can somehow sense the blood of he who called it here in your veins", Rhudven offered.
"I hadn't considered that. It is possible but..." Pellinore trailed off "that would just mean that things are hopeless and will always be so. If it can feel me, how can I ever catch it unawares?"
"That is a good question, my lord. One to which I have no answer. Let us retire for the evening and think on it. Perhaps an answer will come to one of us", Rhudven said.
The next day and many days after that came and went. Pellinore had other kingly duties to attend to beyond hunting his foe and had to return to his castle at Listenoise. But as always, he had eyes and ears throughout the kingdom, ready to give him any news of any strange deaths attributable to the beast.
It was nearly three months later, on a cold winter day with snow blowing across the ground, that Sir Rhudven appeared at Pellinore's castle. Pellinore suspected it might have to do with the beast, so he insisted on talking to Rhudven alone, in his audience chamber.
"I bring two pieces of grave news, my liege." Rhudven said as soon as they were alone.
"Aye. The first is that I have thought of little since our last meeting of what can be done if this creature can truly sense you as you sense it. And I have come to the conclusion that the answer to that is 'Nothing", Rhudven said gravely.
"I had expected as much. What then, is the other?"
"I think the beast has struck on my estate. One of my woodsmen disappeared. He was found a short distanced from my manor and his body had been gravely desecrated in a manner that suggests your beast"
Pellinore nodded. "I shall gather my gear and we shall depart." Pellinore spoke with confidence but he felt in his heart that this was going to be as fruitless as all the previous attempts.
"One more thing, my lord. I would ask to accompany you on this trip. I do not ask that you bring a full hunting party as your grandfather did. Only me. It was my man who was killed and I think that you need someone who is not of the blood of its summoner to kill it."
"But killing it is MY responsibility." Pellinore said, perhaps a bit more sharply than he meant to.
"Respectfully, my lord, I do not think you can. I think you are the person least likely to be able to, if my guess is correct. Please, oh king, let me accompany you."
Pellinore grumbled but he could not argue against Rhudven's logic. The most important thing was to kill the beast, even if it was at the hand of his loyal knight rather than his own. Pellinore and Rhudven set out.
They patrolled the woods around Rhudven's manor for days. Sleeping in the rough and eating little. They found the occasional mutilated deer corpse indicating it was still nearby, and once they found the body of one of Rhudven's peasants. Rhudven's eyes narrowed with rage when they made that discovery, but he said little except a few words over the woman's grave when they buried her.
Eventually, though, King Pellinore got that feeling in the pit of his stomach, the beast was near. Rhudven was an adept hunter and he found some odd tracks that led to a deeper, darker part of the woods. Pellinore began to ready his bow when Rhudven placed his hand on Pellinor's arm to stop him. "My lord", he said, "Please allow me. I have the best chance to get close enough to get off a shot"
Remembering their earlier conversation, and against every instinct, Pellinore nodded and relented. Rhudven crept deeper into the woods. "Come behind me", He whispered, "If God is with us. You will come across me and the body of the beast. You will know when to move"
Pellinore assented and waited. It was a short wait, because within a minute or two, it was broken by a scream. Pellinore rushed forward into the woods. He was soon greeted by the site of Sir Rhudven with the creatures tentacle head buried in his belly. Rhudven was bleeding from the mouth and clearly in excruciating pain, but he had the tentacle in a death grip so it could not retract and his massive bulk was like an anchor for the beast. Pellinore realized immediatly what Rhudven had done, sacrificed himself to give Pellinore this opportunity, and he struck. He charged, pulled his sword from his scabbard and plunged it deep into the creatures body. three times he stabbed it before it got it's tentavle free from Rhudven's death grip. The mouth was coming for Pellinore when, with a final slash, Pellinore cut the tentacle from the body.The sickly white body stumbled a bit before collapsing and the tentacle thrashed for a bit. Finally both were still and the sick feeling left Pellinore. He knew it was dead at last.
Pellinore's quest was finally at an end.