Thursday, September 16, 2010

Down the Spider Hole – Part 2

From his position in the lead, Laraby found that by the torchlight he thought he could see that the tunnel through the webs lead into a darker tunnel which seemed to exit the cavern on the far side, about sixty paces beyond where they were. He made his way cautiously toward it, everyone following behind him in a slow moving line. Everything was flickering torchlight, dancing shadows, and echoes of the terrible chitterling.

Laraby suddenly cried out, “There was something! I saw something! It was in the shadows! But now… now it’s gone! Where is it?! Where!?”

When she heard this, Juliette decided she should move forward, as her mystic eye allowed her to see better than anyone else. Again she noticed that seeing through the webbing was more difficult than she thought it should be. Magic, she thought.

Laraby was starting to panic. He was shaking, and his lips began to turn an odd bluish color.

“It’s ok Laraby. Keep going,” said Juliette encouragingly. “We’re here behind you. Did I tell you that Minvar killed a mosquito?”

“That’s great…”, Laraby called back shakily. Suddenly Juliette saw a black shape hovering in the webs over Laraby’s head. She decided it would not be good to panic him, so she held her tongue. The black mass suddenly fell, and Laraby, due to his great instincts, stepped backwards just in time for it to fall where he had been standing and land with a dull thud on the ground. It was a large hairy spider about the size of a small dog, with eight black eyes, and two black fangs glistening. Juliette called upon the great Elkron Minvar to strike down the hideous spider, and at that moment a rock fell from the ceiling and crushed the spider, it’s long black legs writhing beneath the gray stone.

The chitterling in the cave became more incessant, and louder.

“See Laraby, that wasn’t so bad!” said Storm Wizard unconvincingly as he darted his eyes in every direction.

The party forged ahead slowly, Brian holding the torch over his head, providing a flickering light for everyone. They came to a web-shrouded tunnel, which extended away into darkness. They followed it. The air was cold and dank, and a mist clung to the ground. The chitterling was incessant and horrible.

They entered into another black cavern, covered in dangling white webs, but on the far side they could see a light streaming through. They approached the light rapidly. They could see an exit from the cave, and everyone crowded towards it. Storm Wizard, who was at that point, was toward the rear, backed into something soft, wet and yielding. He slowly turned around and found that he’d backed into a large mass of round objects, glistening in a silky cocoon. Each one looked like a gelatinous ball about the size of a grapefruit, inside of which he could dimly see black shapes, which wriggled and writhed chillingly. At that moment a large black spider, dropped down from the ceiling.

This spider was much larger than the first one, and it’s black fangs dripped with green venom. Immediately Ferdinando leapt forward and thrust his sword into it. The creature was not phased, and appeared to take little notice. Juliette summoned her Kung Fu spirit, and attempted to use her power to kick the horrid thing. However, her attack fumbled badly, and she not only missed it, but instead stomped the ground so hard that a clod of dust flew into the air and temporarily obscured Ferdinando’s vision. He staggered back. As this was happening Storm Wizard had taken out his dagger and had stabbed one of the glistening balls, piercing the fist sized creature inside. It was a baby spider, and it died writhing on the end of his dagger. He thrust another one. And a third.

Meanwhile, the spider jumped suddenly at Ferdinando’s leg and bit into it, sinking his black fangs deep into his thigh, injecting green poison into the wound. Isabella ran forward as Ferdinando fell backwards into her arms.

“Ferdinando! My dear Ferdinando!” she cried out as he staggered backwards with her, the wound on his leg already beginning to turn black, and pulsate with a dreadful fiery agony. Morgana ran to him, and Isabella and she drained the wound as quickly as they could, while Isabella reached into her cloak for a small bag in which she had an array of useful potions.

The spider continued it’s furious rampage. The fighters tried to kill it, and Juliette called once more upon Minvar’s great power. But her strength was depleted, and the monster was not destroyed. The spider leapt onto Brian and sank his fangs into Brian’s arm. He fell backwards and Morgana ran to him and called upon her patron Elkron.

“Oh Minvar, we’ve called upon you in our distress these many times, but take pity on our friend, and heal his terrible wound,” she prayed. It was a few moments later that Brian began to feel the pain ebb from his arm, and the wound, though still a sickening black color, stopped growing. He began to breath, and slumped into Morgana’s arms.

The heroes, angry and frustrated to be so close to the entrance and escape, yet so far, hacked away at the spider from every side. Daniel and Laraby thrust at it, kicked it, and hacked it with their weapons until the horrid thing fell inert to the ground, finally. Light was streaming through into the cave from a small opening above their heads.

Ferdinando was being tended to by Isabella, who had taken out a glass vial and poured some of its contents into the wound. She then gave some of the potion to Brian, who accepted it gratefully, though he did not know what it was. He began to murmer to himself, and he appeared to be suffering greatly, despite the fact that his wound was substantially healed.

“It’s a deadly poison, I’m afraid,” said Isabella. “This potion will help to stabililize them so that they will not die immediately, but we must get them someplace where they can be properly healed. I fear they shall suffer from delusions soon,” she said, wiping the sweat from Ferdinando’s forehead.

“Will they be able to walk?” asked Juliette.

“For a time, yes, but the potion will not last very long before the symptoms become more severe,” she concluded gloomily. "Oh my poor Ferdinando!" she said dabbing his forehead with her handkerchief.

The members of the ‘Steel Wool Sheeps’ adventure group clambered out of the dreadful cave into the sunlight. They found themselves directly under the twig upon which the Red Locust Ambassador, Emmanuel, had taken up his position. They could see him above them. Isabella, who had been closest to the exit, stepped outside first. She shrieked, and staggered backwards momentarily. Over head, a deep droning sound could be heard as the mosquito launched itself into the air. The pulsating of green and red light could be seen reflecting off of her eyes. She stood up slowly.

“Yes, my master. I come to you now,” said Isabella with a vacant and empty look in her eyes. She began to walk forward, her hands raised in the air in front of her. Ferdinando gasped and reaching up tried to stand, but staggered against the wall of the cave.

“Noo!” he cried out. “My lady!” and then he fell back against the wall and began to sob burying his head in the crook of his arm. "Nooo... anything but That! nooo!"

Juliette, infuriated, summoned from her dwindling power another prayer to Minvar, calling for yet one more Divine Strike against the hypnotic mosquito, hoping to free Isabella from his dreadful power. However, the prayer was too weak, and Minvar did not hear. Storm Wizard stepped forward in an attempt to stun the monster with his mystic beam, but he could not obtain a clean line of sight from where he was.

“I am coming, Master,” said Isabella dully as she walked beneath the hovering mosquito.

Brian, though wounded, and perhaps because he was delirious from the poison, leapt forward and grabbed Isabella, dragging her back toward the heroes who were crouching in the shadow of the giant twig. Fortunately, Brian’s moving forward gave Storm Wizard the opening he needed and so he chanted and pointed his hands and from them emanated a narrow beam of purple light, striking the mosquito in the face, and causing it to fall unconscious to the ground. Isabella, freed from the mosquito’s power, came back to herself.

“You saved my life”, she said to Storm Wizard.

Everyone looked around into the sky. Above them on the twig stood Emanuel who was waving his arms and making his strange high pitched humming sound, summoning and commanding the mosquitoes. They spotted three mosquitoes immediately in the air around them, and other mosquitoes further off heading in their direction. They counted five within visual range.

“We can’t outrun them. If our choice is to run or hide, our safest bet is to hide,” said Storm Wizard.

“But there is no place to hide … except … in the cave!” yelled Juliette frantically.

“Indeed. In fact, that may well be the safest place.”

“That’s just great,” said Juliette. “But I think you’re right.”

“The other alternative is to pile on Emanuel,” said Storm Wizard.

“Mosquitoes are only out a few hours per day,” pointed out Juliette. “We could wait them out.”

“Of course, that may not be true for mosquitoes being controlled by an angry Locust Ambassador,” responded Storm Wizard.

“I have a feeling that waiting out the mosquitoes is not going to happen. Our best chance, I suspect, is to knock out Locust Boy," he said.

“And then?” asked Juliette desperately.

“And then the Silver Locust Prince can send the mosquitoes away,” replied Storm Wizard.

“Ok, then go ahead and stun him!” ordered Juliette.

“I will,” replied Storm Wizard. Everyone climbed back into the dark cave as the mosquitoes began to bear down on their position. Laraby, meanwhile, had run forward with the silver sword of the Red Locust Ambassador, in the hope to stab the unconscious mosquito through the heart so it would die, but his luck was stretched too thin, and another mosquito had come far too close for comfort. So, he made his way back into the cave without slaying the unconscious monster, where the others were cowering in various states of discomfort, fear and anxiety. There they found the Silver Prince, observing them with a wry smile on his face. He evidently found all of the proceedings rather amusing, though none of the adventurer’s could quite discern why. Insect humor is quite different from our own, one might suppose.

“How long do you think it will take for your brother to get bored of waiting?” asked Storm Wizard of the smirking Prince.

“He won’t,” was the unfavorable reply.

”Well, how long before he gets hungry?” asked Juliette.

“Ah, well that’s another matter entirely. He is bound to be ravenous any time now,” replied the Rohar, Silver Prince.

“Well, we fed him pretty well before we tied him up.”

“When you say, ‘pretty well’, what do you mean?”

“Oh, well he ate a few tables, and a few chairs, along with all the food in the Aphid Hall,” replied Storm Wizard.

“Ah well, that’s too bad then,” said Rohar.

“I’m so HUNGRY. I wish I had food to eat!”, yelled Juliette out of the mouth of the cave. “Some yummy green plants would be so GOOD right now!” However, her effort was in vain, as Emanuel was not yet hungered, and so he paid no heed to her suggestions.

Instead he called down into the cave, “I have you surrounded. You will never escape!”

Storm Wizard crept up to the mouth of the cave, and stepping forward he chanted his mystic spell, and pointing his finger up at Emanuel, he caught him on the side of the head with a stun beam. How annoyed Emanuel was as he fell unconscious would be hard to describe. But there he lay, inert, unconscious, his antennae twitching slightly.

“We have about thirty seconds before he wakes up again. We might be able to make a run for it,” said Storm Wizard.

“I could assume command of the mosquitoes which would give you a chance to flee, but I must be in the open air commanding them,” offered Rohar.

“That won’t help us. We need you or your brother to come with us to the human lands.”

“We need to grow up again”, said Juliette.

“Well how can we grow again? Last time we climbed down the Great Ivy Way. Would that work again?”

“Well how did we get small this time?” thought Storm Wizard out loud. “Well, … we used the red pearl.”

“The red pearl? Great Minvar! Why didn’t we think of that before?! We could have been grown up by now!”

“We can grow big again if we stand in a circle and I use the red pearl while we hold hands. That’s the way I think it works, isn’t it so, Isabella?”

“Yes, that is how you use it. We must all hold hands, but I’m afraid we can not try that inside the cave. By the time we grew large, but not large enough to push through the rocks, we’d be crushed. We have to do so out in the open air. Otherwise anything larger than we are will very likely crush us along the way. I should remind you, that it took about thirty seconds or so to grow small. It will take that long to grow large.”

“We could have avoided this whole nightmare, by growing large!” said Juliette with great exaspiration.

Outside, they heard the sound of a horn blast. Then they heard a horn reply from another direction somewhat further away.

Rohar leapt from the cave entrance to the top of the twig. He looked down at his sleeping brother and shook his head regretfully. He then looked around in the distance in every direction. Again the horn blasts sounded. Again horn blasts replied.

Deep in concentration Rohar commanded the mosquitoes to fly together and form into a squadron over his head. All of a sudden a black wasp with blue stripes came flying fast and low and zipped past the twig. Then another wasp flew past from another direction. At the same time, several grass blades began to sway, and upon them, from the entrance of the cave, the tiny heroes could see black ants climbing upward in Dectalions of ten. There were very many of them, forming an army along the towering green sward around them.

“My goodness! What is this?” exclaimed Juliette.

“These are the forces of the Insect King,” said Isabella. “He promised to send his Calvary, and they have arrived!”

Last Episode: Down the Spider Hole - Part 1
Next Episode: Insect War - Part 1
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