Thursday, September 16, 2010

Down the Spider Hole – Part 1

At their tiny size the ‘Steel Wool Sheeps’ stood barely tall enough to climb onto the back of an aphid. Having captured the Red Locust Ambassador, one of the human-ish Princes of the Locusts, and carried him down from the Temple of the Aphids into the towering grass blade forest at the base of the ruined Tower on Black Hill, the tiny adventurers found themselves suddenly beset by a new threat. Onto one of the grass blades high over their heads leapt another brawny Locust-Prince, this one of silver hue, wearing silver armor, and with the same strange oblong locust eyes and antennae.

In his anger at being told by the Red Ambassador that they had been betrayed by the High Holy Aphid, the newly arrived Silver Locust Prince began to transform from his Grasshopper form into the dread Locust form entirely. His muscles began to bulge and glisten, his features sharpen and glint in the bright sun, and his face began to take on an ominous hostility toward the band of tiny heroes. Though he was the same size as they, if the great difficulties in capturing the Red Locust Ambassador were any indication, the Silver Prince would be a formidable foe, one not to be taken at all lightly.

“The boat appears to have sailed on being able to handle this diplomatically,” said Storm Wizard to his friends. “Though I suppose it would not do any harm to give it one final try before we gear up for what will prove to be a hard battle, I think we best prepare ourselves for the worst,” he concluded grimly.

“I agree,” said Juliette, girding herself up for combat.

“The Wise Aphid did not betray you,” Storm Wizard shouted up to the Silver Prince high above. “We were merely bringing this individual in as a witness in an important matter.”

“It’s a lie!” shouted the Red Ambassador.

“He would not come with us, so we had no choice but to attack him,” concluded Storm Wizard curtly. His friends all stood behind him nodding affirmatively.

The Silver Prince was getting more irate by the second. He leapt from the grass blade he was on, to a closer one, towering directly overhead.

“A little help?” said Storm Wizard to Juliette.

“A little help with what? What am I supposed to do?” she asked in return, entirely perplexed as to what might sooth the savage heart of the Silver Locust Prince.

“I don’t know,” replied Storm Wizard. “Help me convince him that he doesn’t have to fight us.”

“This man here (who we’ve tied up) has some serious issues going on right now. He’s very angry, and people when they’re angry don’t always say exactly what they mean, and can have altered perceptions of a situation. So please hear what my brother has to say!” yelled Juliette up to the Silver Locust-man, who appeared to be restraining himself in order to listen to her.

“I am … listening,” he said through grit teeth.

“We have no intention of harming this individual. We merely need him to testify for us,” shouted Storm Wizard upward, “as to a matter that is entirely true.”

The Silver Prince cocked his head to the side.

“If you were willing to testify in place of him, we would be able to let him go,” offered Juliette.

“What testimony are you looking for?” asked the Silver Prince.

“That the locusts are coming,” said Storm Wizard.

“Ah. I see,” replied the Silver Locust Prince, seeming somewhat amused by this. “But truth be known, that question is undecided.”

“So you say,” said Storm Wizard. “But isn’t it the case that you have come as Ambassadors to warn us that if we do not help you to take all of the food from the kingdom of the Ants, allowing them to perish by starvation, that you will come with your Grand United Army and destroy us all?”

“Aha! So that is what you’ve been up to Emmanuel,” the Silver Prince said to the Red Ambassador.

“It is for the good of the people, and to save the land!’ shouted the Red Locust up to the Silver Prince.

“Good for which people? Do not the people of this land have an equal right to live?” asked Storm Wizard of the Red Ambassador. But he retreated into a stormy silence, brooding and hostile.

“Grasshoppers are known as heroes of the Insect Kingdom. Are you going to aid in an untimely destruction, or are you going to stand for Justice?”

The Silver Locust Prince looked down. “You must free my brother, the Red Ambassador.”

“Will you help us bring him to where we need to take him?”

“No.”

“Will you bring yourself?” asked Juliette.

“Perhaps.”

“I will lay our cards on the table. We need to convince our countrymen that the locusts are coming. Will you help us?” asked Storm Wizard.

“You have no choice,” said the Silver Prince. “You will release my brother.”

“Does this mean you will not help us?” asked Storm Wizard.

“It does not mean that. It means that you will release my brother now.”

“If we release him now will you help us?” asked Juliette.

“Maybe.”

“I think we better do it,” whispered Juliette to Storm Wizard.

“We will release him because we know Grasshoppers such as yourself are honorable creatures. And I know that since we are being cooperative, you will return the favor,” said Storm Wizard trying to sound convinced by his own logic.

Laraby untied the first of the knots, and suddenly Emanuel burst out his bonds and leapt high into the air onto the grass blade where his brother was situated. The two whispered with each other. The Red Ambassador was ranting about something to his brother. The Silver Locust Prince again began to grow irate.

Then, the Silver Prince leapt down to where the adventurers stood, while Emanuel leapt onto the top a nearby twig.

“Might I ask your name, sir?” asked Isabella after a moment of silence.

“I am Rohar, The Silver Prince,” said he. “And you, I understand from my spies, are Isabella of the Ladybug People.”

“You are well informed,” she replied.

“I hope you will consider assisting us,” said Juiliette.

“Explain to me what you are doing,” said he.

“We need to convince… “, began Storm Wizard, but then changed the course of his speech. “Essentially your brother asked the aphids to tell the king a lie, to say that the ants had stolen the locust’s food, and that they should return it. The holy aphid of course refused to tell a lie. And so according to your bother the locusts are going to come here and kill everyone. We do not want this to happen, and so we want to gain the help of the humans to help us avert the situation.”

“What can the humans do to avert this situation?” asked the Silver Prince with a scoffing laugh.

“Well, perhaps the humans can obtain some food of their own to help the locusts. We haven’t thought that far ahead yet. But at the very least we can make the humans aware and perhaps their council will aid us.”

“But they will not believe us unless we have some proof.”

“And so the locust man would serve as our proof.”

“Well, I have to say, I understand your desire. I also have to say that you are in great danger here. I would leave here if I were you.”

“Danger from what?”

“From Emanuel.”

“Perhaps we could leave together," suggested Juliette hopefully.

“We can not leave without our proof,” pointed out Storm Wizard.

“Then I will leave with you,” agreed the Silver Prince. He then put his hands to cup his mouth and made a strange sounding whistle-hum, which was rather loud and made the grass blades around them vibrate. “I have bought you a little bit of time. But we must move quickly.”

As the adventurers began to turn to leave the area, Emanuel also cupped his mouth and made another sound, which was higher pitched, and equally loud.

“What is he doing?” asked Juliette.

“I suspect he is calling allies,” said Storm Wizard nervously.

“Indeed, so he is," said the Silver Prince.

And at that moment the adventurers began to hear a distant hum which grew louder and louder.

“Lets get out of here – right now!” said Juliette, fear suddenly coursing through her.

It was too late. Isabella pointed upward into the sky and shouted, “Oh no! Look!”

Over the tops of the towering emerald grass blades they beheld a frightening site. It was a mosquito, who compared with them was the size of a horse. It had great huge wings, long dangling black legs, and a terrifying proboscis that ended in a sharp serrated barb. Most terrible of all were its glowing eyes, which pulsated red, then green, then red, then green in a steady rhythm, which they all found difficult to look away from.

The ‘Steel Wool Sheeps’ desperately yanked their eyes away and looked around for a place to hide. Not in the far distance there was a gray stone lying on the ground. It was gigantic compared with them, though if you found it you’d have thought it no larger than an almond. They made a mad dash for the stone, hoping to be able to hide behind it. As they ran, Isabella commanded the the ladybug that they had flown down on with the captured Red Locust Ambassador, to flee, and so the huge creature lofted clumsily into the air and fled away into the distance. Isabella and her blue-black warrior, Ferdinando, lead the way, followed by everyone else in the party.

When they arrived on the other side of the stone Morgana found a cave entrance leading into a tunnel, which vanished away into darkness beneath the stone. It was large enough for each of them to walk into, and formed a corridor that was one person wide, and tall enough for them to stand upright in. And so they ran into the tunnel, following downward into the darkness. Behind them at the entrance stood the Silver Prince, his huge oblong eyes shining, his two antennae twitching. He had drawn his sword and was looking into the sky behind them. The terrible drone of the mosquito could be heard as it approached the tunnel entrance. But the Silver Prince stood his ground and the horrific creature approached no further.

Into the darkness they ran. It became pitch dark. Only Juliette could see by virtue of her mystic eye-stone. But even her vision was thwarted in this dim place. So they stopped when they came to a small circular cave, and Brian took out a torch and lit it. The walls of the cave were covered in a thin shimmering sheen of spider webs. Moss dangled from the ceiling and the air was chill. Out of the cave they saw another tunnel leading further downward. They followed that tunnel until they came to another much broader cave that opened into a small cavern. This cavern was covered with a thick sheen of spider webs, through which there formed a single narrow tunnel. It was quite terrifying to behold.

“I think that fighting a spider is probably better than taking on the mosquitoes,” said Juliette, as the others began to look longingly behind them. She noticed that she could not see very far though the spider webs, even with the light of the torch and the power of her mystical eye. The webs must be magical, she thought to herself.

Since Juliette was not in the front of the group, she could still just barely see upward through the ground to the air outside, and saw that there were several mosquitoes aloft above them. She called upon Minvar, the Divine Elkron of the Earth, to strike down one of the Mosquitoes outside of the cave entrance. Minvar heard her plea, and so the mosquito suddenly felt the heavy hand of Minvar upon his wings, and he fell to the ground, and his wings broke, and his neck snapped, and so Minvar slew him.

The rest of the adventurers forged ahead, having surmised that Juliette’s powers were not unlimited, and that there were too many mosquitoes above for them to tackle with any hope of victory. Into the webs they cautiously proceeded. Laraby picked his way through the white tangle, and used some oil to try to burn the webs. However, they resisted the fire since they were fresh, and not dry. He then tried to cut the webs with his dagger, but the result was less than encouraging. After some effort he managed to cut through one thick strand of webbing. They then heard a chitterling sound coming from within the dark cavern. It was a horrifying sound. Laraby began to feel a great dread. He could not see anything in the flickering torchlight, but he thought he saw shadows moving within the veils of web all around him. The short hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. He felt as if he were standing ankle deep in freezing black water.

“I think I see something!” called Laraby to his friends behind him. Storm Wizard came up from behind to back Laraby up. Putting a hand on his shoulder he noticed that Laraby was shaking. Isabella commanded her warrior Ferdinando to go ahead and help the man make his way through the webs.

“Yes, my lady,” said the blue-black clad warrior, and he went forward with his steel bladed rapier held at the ready before him. He too approached the danger with some trepidation. Morgana hid behind Brian, and Daniel unsheathed his sword and put a protective arm over Isabella who was cowering next to him. The chiterling sounds echoed throughout the cavern.

“I’m stuck in the web!” shouted Laraby as his arm became ensnared in the sticky white threads. Ferdnando came to his side and cut through the webbing, but in the process his rapier became stuck in the webs. Laraby then withdrew the fine silver sword that he had taken from the Red Locust Ambassador after they had knocked him unconscious in the battle of the Aphid Temple. It was a fine sharp sword, longer than most, and in the torchlight he could see that it had an inlay of silver script along the blade. Even he, however, could not recognize the letters of that dazzling weapon. Yet with it in his hand he felt a renewed courage, and so he forged ahead, the party of adventurer’s following close behind him in a line through the tunnel that was formed by the sticky cloud of ghostly white webs.

Last Episode: Battle of the Aphids - Part 2
Next Episode: Down the Spider Hole - Part 2
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