The team arrived in a new arena. Boltuk was actually feeling rather hopeful. During the trials, he was actually turning towards Realmfleet. He wasn’t sure they could convince the King, but they convinced a few Manticores at least. Arsha saw this. “You know, you COULD help us,” she offered.
“…Disobeying the King like that is a capital offense punishable by a most dishonorable death,” answered Boltuk. “My paws are tied.”
“…I’m sorry to hear that. You’re a good sort, I can tell.” Boltuk gave a sad smile before he took his place in the center of the arena. The crowd then gathered in the stands.
“These outsiders have passed one of the Trials of Intelligence by showing that proofs can be abused!” he called. “That is four trials under their belt. Only two more remain! How well can these outsiders find a pattern?! …Lady Andotal! Come forth!” A female Manticore strode out and waved as the crowd cheered.
“An interesting pun, Mr. Bloodwing,” she chuckled. “I am the fourth and you tell me to come forth.”
“…An unintentional pun, I assure you,” groaned Boltuk. He then turned back to the crowd. “Lady Andotal will write five numbers and the challenger must find a pattern within a minute! If they write out five more numbers that fall within the pattern, they win. If they fail to write the correct answer or they fail to come up with any answer within a minute’s time, well, I think we all can guess what that means!”
“All right, Delselii, Patrica, Foresna, it’s the four of us. Who’s the best at finding a pattern?” Arsha asked her team.
“Let me try my hand at it,” offered Patrica. “I’ve been able to find patterns in the past.”
“Then good luck.” Patrica then entered the ring.
“I, Patrica Looden, will accept the challenge!” she called.
“Very well!” replied Boltuk. “The instant Andotal finishes her last number, your time begins!” Andotal then used her tail to write five numbers in the sand. The numbers were 610, 987, 1,597, 2,584, and 4,181. “BEGIN!” called Boltuk. Patrica was a little surprised that the numbers were so large. Ten seconds passed and there was still no answer from her. Arsha gulped.
“I…was NOT expecting that,” she muttered.
“This is bad! There ISN’T a pattern!” groaned Bashoon.
“Actually, there is,” replied Orthena. “It all depends on if she remembers her math classes.”
“…Oh, I see it now!” realized Delselii.
“You do?” asked Arsha.
“Half a minute remains!” called Boltuk.
“Wait, really?!” protested Patrica. “I think you just added…added…added…just a minute!” She then started tracing out the first two numbers in another part of the sand. After that, she included an addition sign. She then saw that 610 and 987 equaled 1,597. She then added 987 to 1,597 and got 2,584. She then snapped her fingers. “A Loquntho sequence!” she cheered. “I know what the remaining five are!”
“Then write them,” declared Boltuk. “The clock has stopped for now.” Patrica then added new numbers to the original sequence. They were 6,765, 10,946, 17,711, 28,657, and 46,368. Lady Andotal then looked at the answer and how Patrica got her answer. She raised her eyeridges in approval.
“I never thought my ancestor’s number sequence would survive into your time,” she mused. She then turned to Boltuk. “She’s got the correct numbers!”
“And that makes five trials for the outsiders!” called Boltuk to the crowd. “The last trial will be prepared in an hour as it involves our King and Queen. Rest and prepare, for you need to have a flexible mind to face them.” The crowd departed and Boltuk gave one last look at Arsha and her team. “…I beg you, don’t take the last trial. If you fail it, we’re all slaves to Oyed and the Sphinxes will forever be in our thrall.”
“It’s because of the plight of the Sphinxes that we’re not turning back now,” replied Arsha. “I believe my team has demonstrated that they’re more than capable of passing anything you throw at us. I could only feel pride as they passed their trials and found the entrance to your kingdom. I won’t spit on their efforts now.”
“…No outsider has ever passed the Trial of the King and Queen. I urge you to reconsider.” Boltuk left and Arsha sighed.
“You have to admit, it IS a change from when we first met him,” remarked Lardeth.
“Still, I really hope he sees sense,” sighed Arsha.
“That’s the problem, here,” replied Falnii. “In accordance with his own culture, he DOES see sense and we don’t. Different cultures have different definitions of seeing sense. You’ve seen it yourself. I’m willing to bet your own parents have their own culture clashes, despite being on the same general page on certain things.”
“And it’s not just different species,” remarked Malnar. “Over-realm and Mid-realm Humans have different cultures. Even then, those pockets of humans have even further divisions. Rich and poor, smart and ignorant, which Divine One is the better one to worship, but it’s NOT inherently evil. It looks to me like the Manticores WANT to be more diverse, but they need a change from the top. Hopefully, we can bring that change. You saw it in Boltuk’s eyes.”
“…Well then, looks like we have a trial to pass!” declared Arsha.
“Atta girl!” cheered Malnar.
“Where is he?!” grunted one of the Manticore Revenants.
“It’s almost the end of the day and I don’t see 35 people before me,” replied Oyed. “Your father isn’t attempting to renege on the deal and get away with it, is he?”
“It’s well within his standard M.O.” The door then opened to let Lord Toonsar into the room.
“Ah, there you are,” purred Oyed. “How kind of you to join us. …Where are the people you promised?”
“…I regret to inform you,” replied the elderly Manticore, “that I couldn’t get enough in time.”
“Then your soul is forfeit. Farewell.” Oyed drew a circle in the air and…Toonsar smirked.
“Ta!” The circle then surrounded Toonsar and both it AND he exploded in white light.
“Wh-what?!” spluttered Oyed.
“That shouldn’t have happened?” asked the Revenant Manticore.
“No! It…a Maho-particle avatar! Someone tricked me!” Oyed was frothing at the mouth. The Manticore sniffed the air.
“It smells like…like…like something Velkor wove! The King’s behind this!”
“Your people’s loyalty is no longer certain! Get a team for me that will get me past the trials! Make sure they know a path to get me there before Arsha or there’ll be the Depths to pay!”
“Before Arsha, my Lord?”
“Arsha surrounds herself with people who are not only strong, but clever as well! They may very well pass the trials!”
“I understand, My Lord.” The Manticore headed off and Oyed looked out the window.