This is a very special battle for me. I wanted to go bigger and better, and I think I managed. This time, the two opponents are completely mismatched. One is a beastly monstrosity, and the the other is a beautiful tactician. This is a battle of beauty vs a beast, a case of brains vs brawn. Make way for Belle vs Grendel.

The hush over the woods was an unnatural thing. Even at the stillest moment of the day, there was always something to be heard; Birds tweeting in the trees, crickets chirping in the brush, a startled deer bolting over the fallen leaves. There was always some noise, so the lack of noise was eerie. Like all the animals knew something, or were conspiring to keep a secret. Perhaps they realized, like the denizens of the land were, that the world was ending and they had the Queens to thank.

Ever since these games had begun, the world had started dying with it. Each life lost in this blood sport was another bit of magic snuffed out from this magical realm. Some welcomed this entropic effect, others saw what was happening, and vowed to band together and stop the evil plot.

Others were too far gone to care.

A woman perched in the tree, gazing down at the forest floor, her eyes surveying the land for some sign of the foe she sought. Stunted pine trees, and towering oaks filled the forest, blocking the light of the sun, and lending a peaceful air to the world. Looking down, one could almost forget the turmoil that reigned in the world outside the woods. Belle allowed herself a fleeting half smile, knowing that the peacefulness would not last long.

Suddenly, the stillness of the woods was broken, as a tree came crashing down. Some previously silent animals were roused, in a cacophony of sound. One tree was followed by another, and another. Belle watched from a tree not too far from the calamitous impromptu deforestation. She sighed softly as a tree crashed to the ground, a look of grim determination settled over her face. Her quarry was close.

The creature was immense, much larger than a human, and ugly as sin. It pushed over trees with reckless abandon, its eyes glowing an angry red like the last embers of a dying flame. Its breath was rancid, and even from the distance, the woman in the tree had to cover her nose to keep from retching due to the stench. Spikes and horns protruded at seemingly random spots on the creature's body, scraping against trees as it walked.

The way the creature looked around, and sniffed the air as it pushed over trees, it was obvious that the creature was looking for her. Belle clambered through the treetops, making sure to stay ahead of the creature’s path. She made a point to to always stay upwind, for fear that her scent might give her away too quickly. She led the creature along by making soft bird calls as she went. She moved deftly from limb to limb, her movements all but silent. Her anger at the creature and all it had done, boiled just beneath the surface, but she choked it back. Anger was not an ally in this battle.

The monster left a path of destruction behind it that would have shamed even the most seasoned of lumberjacks. She felt bad for the woodland creatures that were losing their homes, but she did what had to be done, the monster would answer for its crimes. Perching in a tree not far from the creature's path, the anger seethed in her, as she watched. Unbidden, it boiled over. “Come on, Grendel.” She whispered, her voice dripping with venom. “It is time to get revenge for what your master did to Henry.”

The creature stopped when it heard her speak, and looked directly at her, another hot blast of rancid breath streaming out, curling up in a ghostly white cloud in the chill air. “There you are little bird. Thought you had flown away. Why don’t you come down and play?” His voice was thick, and gravelly, as if it was unaccustomed to speech. He chuckled, as he sank into the ground, and disappeared from view.

Belle looked around, frantically trying to find where he had disappeared to. Her anger had gotten the better of her, and she was going to pay dearly for it. She began moving to the next tree, trying to get ahead of Grendel. She wasn’t quick enough.

The ground behind her tree erupted in a shower of underbrush and soil, as Grendel burst forth from the ground, and ripped the tree she was perched in from the ground. Belle scrambled through the branches, fighting to stay upright, and keep her grip on the branches. Wrapping her legs around a particularly sturdy limb, Belle hung on for dear life, as Grendel swung the tree like a sword, smashing it against another tree.

Despite her grip, Belle was sent flying, managing to gather her wits at the last moment, to brace for the impact. Even being prepared, the impact knocked the wind out of her, and her vision blurred briefly. She didn’t take long to regain her footing, pulling her chain whips from where they were attached to her hips. She slipped behind a tree, attempting to regain her advantage. She managed to do it with barely a moment to spare, as a stream of molten rock spewed forth from the ground crashing into the tree inches from where her head had been.

“Trying to get away?” Grendel roared, smashing another tree, “I will find you, I will crush you. I will pick my teeth with your bones!”

Belle slipped quietly through the bushes, tiptoeing her way slowly around the raging behemoth. She held her whip at the ready, and as soon as she was behind him, she struck. The chain whip wrapped itself around his neck, and pulled him backward with a sharp yank. “Maybe first, you will shut up.”

As Grendel toppled to the ground, Bell untangled her whip and flipped over, landing on Grendel’s stomach, driving one of her spiked heels deep into his gut. The heel sunk in with a sickening squish, as Belle brought the other heel down with as much force as she could muster. With her whips in her hands, and her heels buried in his abdomen, she let loose the rage that she had kept bottled up for so long.

“You storm my castle, try to kidnap me, and when all of that failed, you drive Henry mad?” She slashed at him with her whips to emphasize each word. “You thought I was just going to let that slide? You thought I wouldn't hunt you down like a dog? What, did you think I was just some useless piece of fluff?”

Welts appeared with blinding speed as Belle let loose with her furious slashes. Grendel lay there, and took it, seemingly impervious to the pain. The blows rained down on him for several minutes, but her rage could only fuel her for so long. After a little while, the attacks began to slow, Belle knew she couldn't keep this up. Ceasing her assault with one final double strike to the creature's face, she attempted to back flip off of Grendel's stomach, only to find her heels would could not be pulled from the demon's hard flesh.

Belle adroitly slipped her feet from her shoes, and flipped off of Grendel's stomach, landing with a ballerina's grace a few feet away. With one final glare at the creature, she turned and started making her way through the woods again, once more heading in the direction she had been leading Grendel. Twigs and pine cones sent pain coursing through her now bare feet, not to mention the rocks and exposed roots. Mud and other things she would not like to think of, squished between her toes. She trudged on through the wet morass of the forest floor, trying to put distance between herself and Grendel. Always listening for the lumbering oaf's heavy footfalls.

When she figured there was sufficient distance, she once more took to the treetops. Despite how that had turned out the last time, she still saw it as her best tactical position. She practically flew through the canopy, her bare feet managing to grip the branches better than they could have with her shoes. She could see the lake up ahead, and her heart lifted, knowing her goal was in sight.

Rapid crashes, and the sound of labored breathing made her heart sink again. A quick glance behind her revealed Grendel barreling through the forest with reckless abandon, knocking trees out of the way like they were mere toothpicks. She redoubled her efforts to get to the lake, taking greater risks as she clambered from branch to branch, sacrificing sure footing for speed.

Grendel's long legs carried him quickly across the forest floor, each one of them as tall as Belle's entire body. She could hear him getting closer, and her hope of making it to the lake slowly died. She felt the tree she was in begin to tilt, and jumped for the next tree. With a deft hand, she pulled out one of her whips, and lashed out at a low hanging limb. Thankfully it caught, and her momentum drove her forward.

She hit the ground running, and dashed between trees once more, wishing she hadn't lost her shoes in that beast's gut. Her feet bled, and every stride sent knives of pain up her legs. She refused to let the pain slow her down, anger and fear drove her on. A glance over her shoulder revealed that Grendel had disappeared.

She skidded to a stop, as the ground in front of her exploded. She shielded her eyes, keeping the worst of the dirt and debris from blinding her. Broken branches and small rocks bit into her flesh, and fresh rivulets of blood began to flow.

“Did you think you could get away?” Grendel's voice rumbled out. She almost thought there was a sense of smug satisfaction in it. “You can't run from me.”

He reached for her with hands that could easily crush her head. At the last possible instant, she rolled forward, and yanked her shoes from his stomach, before taking them, and stabbing the heels with devastating force into his crotch. She was quite disappointed when it didn't seem to phase him at all. Nothing she was doing seemed to even phase him.

“You can't hurt me, little girl.” He chuckled. A low hideous sound, that rumbled through the forest and seemed to shake the trees.

She sidestepped as he swung one of his huge fists at her. She tossed her heels to the ground, and slid her feet in, as he prepped for another attack. Sure he had a size advantage, and a strength advantage, but she had a huge agility advantage. As the next swing came, she wrapped her chain whip around his wrist, and pulled, redirecting the blow to a nearby tree. Where his fist made contact with the tree, it burst into a rain of splinters, as the rest of the tree began to fall toward Grendel. She smiled and wrapped her other whip around his ankles, pulling him off his feet, just as the tree came crashing down on him.

She started to run away once more, trying her hardest to get to that lake. She could practically smell it in the air, the rank sent of algae wafting through the air, mingling with the pine scent. Through a break in the trees she could see the sunlight rippling on the lake's surface.

As she burst into the clearing with an overpowering sense of accomplishment, she was startled to her the ground erupt behind her, and a large meaty hand grabbed her leg, pulling her off her feet.

“Not so fast now, are you?” She dangled in front of his face. He reached up, and gripped her arms with is other hand as she began reaching for her whips. She screamed in rage, as she wiggled in his grip. “That's more like it. Scream for me.”

His own scream rang out, as a dagger seemed to just bloom from his eye, followed by another in his other eye. He dropped Belle so he could claw at the hilts. He managed to clumsily rip them out, and throw them to the ground. He stumbled around blindly, swinging his fists about. From nearby, Snow White emerged from the woods, a look of satisfaction on her face.

The surface of the lake bubbled, as a woman rose slowly from the depths. She held in her hands a large sword that glowed with eldritch energy. The blade hummed with power, as she threw it with practiced ease, the blade burying itself deep withing Grendel's heart. A scream escaped his misshapen lips, as crackling lines of energy coursed along his body, burning him. His flesh fried, giving off an aroma, that made his breath seem positively pleasant by comparison. As flames consumed him, the lady in the lake once more sank beneath the water.

Belle let out a whistle, and an axehead tied crudely to a large limb came flying over their heads, to slam into Grendel's collar. For a second nothing happened, and Belle worried that her plan may have failed. Grendel flailed about, then with a single beep, the collar exploded, sending flaming bits of gore flying in every direction.

Alice joined her two compatriots by the lake, after the gore had finished raining down. “So... Why didn't we just kill him in the woods? Did we really need that lady in the lake?”

Belle gave a half smile, as she looked from Snow to Alice. “Well... Excalibur seemed like it might be helpful. And, if the plan didn't work, I thought maybe he couldn't swim?”

Snow's jaw dropped. “You risked your life on the off chance that creature couldn't swim? Are you insane?”

“Aren't we all mad here?” Belle shrugged, as she wiped gore from her face.

Alice shook her head, and reclaimed her axehead. “You know how much I liked this ax, right? This is twice I've lost the handle.”

Snow snatched her daggers from the ground, and wiped the demon's blood on her skirt, as a large wolf emerged from the woods to stand by her side. She sheathed her daggers, and idly rubbed the animal's head “We'll find you a proper ax handle.” She looked up at the sky, “But for now, we better get moving.”

“Did any of you manage to find out where Henry was going?” Belle asked as they started to walk around the lake.

Snow, looked at the lake, the lady was gone. “When I got to the clearing that lady in the lake, said she saw a beast dressed in human clothing heading north.”

Belle looked down into the depths of the lake, seeing only clear blue water, no woman. She sighed, then nodded her head slowly, and together the trio set off for the north.

Back in the woods an impish form watched from the shadows as the three walked away. He glared daggers at their backs, before turning his attention to Grendel. With a howl of rage, and a stomp of his foot, the form disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Thoughts, comments, complaints? Leave them in the comments below. Ideas for future battles? Also leave them in the comments below.