On the journey north, Alfred and a few of the others peeled off. More of the rabbit’s lizards survived the Titan’s visit to his ranch than anyone dared hope, not to mention the scattered survivors of neighboring herds. As the caravan caught sight of each animal, the sheriff or deputy would nod to send the riders to round up the strays and add them to the growing menagerie travelling back with the elephants.
Clint and Sheriff Moric caught a whiff of death over the ridge ahead even as Clint raised his hand to halt the town migration. The Sheriff dismounted and crept forward to look over the cliff edge as Clint distributed the riders along the ridge, spreading them out to make them less tempting as snacks with the most room to run. Clint also chose a trick rider, the youngest among them, to go back and halt the slower element before they got too close. Anyone who has ever spent much time around an elephant knows even clean elephants smell strongly. The last thing they needed was to tempt the lizard across the ridge with such a toothsome meal.
While the townsfolk moved as the Deputy bid them, Sheriff Moric slipped down the ridge line. The ground beyond flattened out into a wide basin carpeted in low grass with deep roots. It was hard to tell just what the lizard snacked on in the bloody mess feeding the grass at the Titan’s feet, but it had been bigger than a buffalo, judging by the remains.
The Sheriff did not bother with stealth in his approach. The Titan was too busy to be interested in more food just yet. No one noticed, until Clint caught up with the Moose, that Sheriff Moric grew as he ran. Ordinarily, if Clint stood upright on his back feet and stretched tall, he could look between Moric’s antlers over the top of the Sheriff’s head. Clint reached the Sheriff’s side not twenty strides out into the flats, shrugging into a complicated harness, and had to reach up to pat Moric’s hip. By the time Clint had the last strap in place, Sheriff Moric bent down to scoop his deputy gently off the ground.
The Sheriff took his stand well short of the Titan. When he pulled their mountainous coil of rope from where ever it traveled, the lasso fit easily in his poof. Clint sat holding tight to an antler point like an exotic flower tucked there for decoration. Moric shook the loop out in one hand, holding the coil in the other. Thoughtfully, he studied the Titan a moment, and then started to twirl the loop above his antlers. Moric let the loop grow until it could drop easily over the great lizard’s head.
Clint must have known it was coming. When a voice like a rifle shot big as the sky sent a sharp, “Hey,” through the air, the frog deputy did not even flinch, much less stir from his perch. Everyone else in earshot of the sound (and everyone must have heard that sound) reacted. Even the Titan stopped feasting and lifted his head to look around. Light and lazy as a falling leaf, Moric’s lasso floated through the air and dropped over the lizard’s head as if it had all the time in the world.
With a skillful twist and tug, the Sheriff pulled the loop tight and the Titan ran. Even at his new height, Moric could not hold the Titan in place. He did not even try. Instead, the Sheriff of Funtown leaned back against the drag and skied over the grass in his slick soled boots. He carefully reeled in the rope as they went, dragging himself closer to the Titan even as it ran away.
Eventually, the Titan grew tired of running around the flats. Or perhaps, it forgot about the rope around his neck and the rifle shot voice. Whatever the reason, hunger brought the Titan ambling back to its unidentifiable, unfinished meal.
Careful not to change the tension Moric finished recoiling his rope. Standing beside the Titan, the Sheriff still looked like a toddler planning to mount a Clydesdale, but his movements were easy and calm. With the rope in one hand, Moric tossed Clint up next to where the tired, young tumbler clung.
The clown deputy in his bright red suit and the tired, dirty girl in ragged denim exchanged a few quiet words. She released her grip on the lizard with stiff fingers to cuddle close to Clint’s broad chest. Quickly, he rearranged the straps of the bright blue harness he wore. When they were ready, Clint gave Moric a sharp nod.
Without making a sound, the Sheriff counted down a quick Three, Two, One on extended fingers. On one, Clint jumped as high and as far away from the Titan’s side as anyone could hope to manage, and maybe a bit further. Then he spread his webbed hands and feet wide to catch the air for a glide while the harness held Ima close.
At the same moment, the sheriff made his play. The first bound took Moric to the Titan’s back knee. The second set the Moose astride the great lizard’s back close to the base of his neck. The Sheriff plussed up from toddler to jockey size in the air. This meant that when bottom met back, the Titan went insane.
The giant Lizard ran and bucked and reared and twisted and tried to bite at the Moose on his back. Sometimes he did all at once, but Moric could not be shaken. He worked the rope in his hand into another loop. In one of the rare moments the Lizard stood relatively still, Moric tossed the loop out and pulled it tight around the Titan’s jaws, leaving enough slack on both sides to serve as reigns. Quickly, he unpicked the lasso’s knot so that he had two free ends to hold with the improvised muzzle cum halter loop in the middle.
Slowly and very deliberately Moric shortened the right reign until the Titan had no choice but to follow what he could see and go in a tight clockwise circle or stop. A Titan could not give up the fight and just stop after all. After two full revolutions, Moric let the right reign go slack and started pulling the left one tight.
By the time Moric gained enough of an upper hand to get the Titan to go where the Sheriff chose, Clint regained his mount. For some reason, Ima took Morick’s seat, riding pillion, instead of a safer position among the town cavalry. Her weight was hardly significant enough to trouble Clint’s horse, but she had endured one wild ride already. They sat poised on the northern ridge line, clearly visible against the bright blue sky. When Moric had the lizard moving more or less in that direction, Clint clenched his mount tightly with his knees to get them moving off down the far side to serve as scout and guide towards the cave mouth by the easiest path available. Thankfully, through the cheat grass and scrub of the desert terrain would be far simpler than woods might be.