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The Ravenous Manticore

“Such insatiable hunger! How is man to live in a world filled with monsters?” ­— Lestrian General Harold Ainsworth.

A number of years back, I caught rumors of a town beset by some kind of monster. Each night they lost at least one person to the creature and yet no bodies were ever found.

They’d sent out some of their town guards to hunt the creature, only for none of them to return. That was when they sent out a call for adventurers, monster hunters, and anyone who thought they could deal with the creature.

I tagged along with a group of monster hunters. They seemed glad to have me, but I imagine a lot of that had to do with my paying them as well as the fact I wasn’t interested in the reward for slaying the creature.

I only wished to see it. To study it and learn more.

Between the expert tracker in the group and the witch helping pick up the trail any time it was lost, it only took us two days to find the creature. And, most of that was time spent sleeping and recovering from the long trip.

The beast was a manticore. A horrid creature with the body of a lion, the head of a man, a scorpion-like tail covered in long quills, and three rows of almost shark-like teeth in its mouth.

We pulled back as the group wished to set a trap for the beast rather than attack it head on. I told them all I knew about manticores to help them of course.

And, now I shall tell you much of what I told them.

Manticores eat their prey whole. Using their three rows of teeth, they devour everything, including skin, hair, and bones. Given that no bodies were found, I was, of course, certain that the manticore was indeed the monster plaguing the town. And, a manticore’s appetite is rather well documented. Eating several men a day is hardly an issue for such a ravenous creature. And, humanoids are a manticore’s favorite prey.

And, while the body of a manticore resembles a lion, it’s important to note that they are in fact much larger as well as far more powerful. Not nearly as strong as something like a chimera, but a good deal stronger than your average lion, with claws that can bite deep into even the toughest steel.

But, perhaps the most deadly feature of a manticore when it comes to a fight is its tail. It can strike with blinding speed, with force enough to puncture full plate and inject its deadly venom. And, each of the quills upon the tail can be shot off like a crossbow bolt. Each one is coated in venom, and fires with similar power to a good crossbow.

Choosing not to fight it head on was a wise decision.

So, the hunters set a trap, using all the guidance I could give them to help fool the beast.

We secured a man’s weight of raw meat and tied it up in a scarecrow fashion in an open field near one of the manticore’s favored trails. We liberally smeared a tasteless, odorless poison over the meat, then covered it up with clothes and the witch cast an illusion over it to make it look and smell like a man standing in an open field.

We hid, watched and waited.

Sure enough, at what I guessed to be around two in the morning the manticore leaped out of the darkness and tore into the illusionary scarecrow. It devoured it whole, and I shuddered as the illusion spell carried the sound of crunching bones to us. Although, I was certainly impressed with the witch’s talent for illusion!

Once the manticore finished its meal, we followed its tracks until we came across its corpse.

The hunters handed in the beast and collected their reward. Not the most heroic of stories perhaps, but it certainly worked, and hopefully shows some of my students that not even the experts try to fight a manticore head on.

- Nicholas Wolfram, Professor of Monsterology at Lestria University

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