The Behemoth
The Behemoth

The Behemoth

The Behemoth
Tumble Lane, or ‘The Behemoth’s Romp’, Hive Ward

Imagine, dear reader, an iguana. Give your imagined iguana a crocodile’s head with a vicious underbite. Make the legs smaller, more muscular. The hide is soot-gray, as if years of the Lower Ward’s smoke had grazed the pebbled scales. The sharp curved claws and protruding barbed teeth seem to be made of smokey crystal or translucent chrome. The nostrils are nothing more than slits, not bulbous protrusions. It lies on its belly, eyes serenely shut, mouth held open by the huge teeth, sleeping. This lizard is over 100 feet long.

This is the Behemoth.

No one knows how long the behemoth has lain sleeping, with the leaning tenements of the Hive Ward barely clearing the tiny ridge on its back. It’s been around a long time, though. The badly cobbled streets (for it’s in a better part of the Ward) have been added to over the decades, and the slumbering giant is now almost a quarter buried in cobblestone, as Sigil heals over the creature like skin over a splinter. Its breathing is very slow, measured in months rather than seconds.

Many are intimidated by the massive beast, afraid of getting cut on the razor-sharp teeth or claws, or perhaps causing it to stir, roll over (crushing a dozen buildings) and return to its sleep. But most who live in the Hive are not picky about their abode, so they live with the Behemoth. Its mouth, open far enough to accommodate one careful person at a time, is the home of three families. Its curled claws form the framework for tents of cobbled wood and scavenged leather. Clumsy shacks are even occasionally built leaning directly on the creature’s side, but these are rare. After all, the Behemoth, though apparently a lizard, is warm blooded, and its gentle warmth acts as free heating, a luxury most in the Hive cannot afford. This is not the say the locals are parasites. They treat the Behemoth with every respect, keeping their borrowed homes cleaner than they bother to keep themselves. It’s become a mascot of sorts for the area, and the local touts jokingly refer to it as ‘The Behemoth’s Romp.’

But as I wrote a moment ago, many fear the Behemoth. The Lawful factions mount an expedition at least once a year to kill it or incapacitate it. Of course, they never succeed — even their finest holy swords and sharpest vorpal weapons don’t dent the pebbled hide any more than cursed sticks and butter knives. But they rarely have even that much success – the locals usually assemble in a great protective ring around the beast, preventing the attempt from even being made. Two of three attempts are blocked by the co-operative Hive Cagers, who depend on its presence for their shelter, or for its notoriety to draw customers to the various businesses in the area. Examples, both of the services available and of the creativity of the names, are ‘The Slumbering Behemoth Tavern,’ ‘Gray Lizard Inn,’ and ‘Behemoth Tooth Weapons.’

Speculations as to the beast’s origins are wild. Some point to it as an archetype of sloth escaped from the Gray Waste. Other claim it was the beast the massive bars of the Gatehouse were meant to keep imprisoned. The wildest rumour of all is that it is the watchdog of the Lady, a massive scaly Cerberus for Sigil’s protection. Of course, each story’s as likely screed as the next, but at least they’ve all got an equal chance of being right.

Locals are generous when it comes to sharing the Behemoth, at least for a while. Sure, there’s no food and its hide is hard as stone, but at least it’s warm.

Source: Belarius

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