A tangled web…

The Bree-land marshes… a mixture of stagnant water and spongy, water-soak land masses.   Traveling was difficult, but covering our tracks was not an issue… water quickly replaced any paw-print left behind.  The haze covering the marsh made it difficult to determine direction, but we continued heading in what we hoped was a northern direction.  As we traveled further into the marsh, the air surrounding us felt heavier and seemed to possess an un-natural cold to it… judging by the other areas we had traveled through, it felt like late spring, early summer… too warm to have this kind of chill, which easily found it way through our fur to our skin.  I shivered slightly as I stopped to sniff the air… nothing I could detect that could place the dwarves going through this mess.  “Besides,” I thought to myself,“how could the dwarves even travel through this mess on foot, let alone pull a large cage through here?”

“Something’s coming!”  Chucaro whispered, breaking me out of  my thoughts.  We went stealth and moved behind a small mound.  We felt them coming before we saw them… a slight rumbling from the ground as a small army of spiders moved past us heading in the same direction we were traveling… and amongst them was a package wrapped in webbing.  It was difficult to see what they had captured, but it appeared to be the size of a human man… as the spiders filed past us, a clearing appeared in the swirling mist and I saw the head of an elf sticking out of the cocoon they were carrying… but this wasn’t just any elf… it was Silwyth!   Winterwulf must have sent her after us when we took off into the marsh.

“We need to help her,” Chucaro whispered, “we already owe the free peoples a large debt and I don’t like to have to owe anyone anything.”

“Agreed… we’ll follow them from a distance to see where they are taking her.”

After following them for a short time, many of the spiders broke off from the main group, heading in all different directions.  We also noticed that the mist wasn’t as thick and it was getting easier to see… there was no longer the chill we had experienced earlier.  The ground was also not as spongy and was actually firm in most spots… it was then that we noticed the broken walls and pillars of a crumbling keep.   We ducked behind a broken column and watched as the remaining group of spiders carefully lifted their package and attached it to the limbs of a dead tree.   One of the spiders appeared to bite into the cocoon, causing the elf to flinch… “She’s still alive, then,” I said to myself.

The mist slowly burned off, revealing a wide, broken wall that shielded the tree on two sides from the marshlands.  “We may be able to get to her from the wall,” Chucaro said.  “I’ll go scout it out.”

“Be careful,” I added, “these spiders appear quite agitated and will likely turn on us if we are spotted.”

Chucaro smiled and gave a quick wink before heading off.  “Heh… always the daring one,” I thought, “but one I would rather have as an ally than a foe.”  I went off to scout the area where we were to determine what exactly we were dealing with… as I feared, there appeared to be hundreds of the spiders swarming all over the keep area… they appeared to not like the heat as the more the mist evaporated and the sun shone through, they scuttled away to hide in any shadows they could find or burrowed underground.  While I wasn’t able to see or smell any spiders nearby, I could sense they were there, watching.  If it were anyone other than Chucaro, I’d be worried… but she is at home in her element, and is the best I know.  I returned to the broken column to keep watch over her.

Chucaro surveyed the wall running along the near side before disappearing from sight around the corner.   A few minutes passed by before I saw her nimbly leaping up to the top of the wall.  After pacing along the walls nearest the tree, she hunched down as if formulating a strategy.   By this time, the mist had burned off and the sun was bright overhead.  No spiders could be seen, though I could still sense them.  I watched as Chucaro looked over the wall to the ground below.   Seeing nothing below, she crouched down and gently reached out to a thick branch that extended almost to the edge of the wall.  She slowly put weight on her paw to judge how much weight it would hold when there was a sudden Snap!, sending a large section of the rotten branch crashing to the ground.  I held my breath as I watched her… paw held still and frozen as if she were a statue.  It was then I noticed the web holding her paw still.  I started to rush towards her when I saw several spiders suddenly swarm her… their fangs repeatedly piercing her skin until her body fell limply to the top of the wall.  I could only watch in horror as they quickly covered her in a cocoon similar to the elf hunter.  Within minutes, they had all but her head encased and started to lower her down the wall towards the tree… her body limp with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth.  I had to figure out a way to get them out of there!

I quickly surveyed my surroundings, but still could not see the spiders, though I knew they were there, watching… panic started to well up as helplessness settled in… what was I going to do??

“Seems like you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle, if I do say so, myself,” a voice said out of the blue.  I stepped back as I was caught un-awares of this ‘person’.  “Where is he and why didn’t I detect him?!?!”  I wondered.  “Has being outside the moors dampened my senses this badly?” I thought, doubt beginning to creep in.

“Relax, Deathwulf… I am on your side…” said the form as he slowly materialized before me, sitting on the broken column, eating slices of an apple off a shiny, deadly-looking dagger.  “For now, at least,” he said as he winked at me while sliding off the column.

“Who are you, human?” I asked, fur bristling.

“You really do have a short fuse, don’t you?” he chided as he swallowed another piece of apple.

“Careful you don’t choke on that,” I glared at him. “And who are you, seeing as you know my name?”

“Ah, in due time, my friend… in due time,” he winked.  “Now, we need to figure out how to get them down from there… knowing that you are from the Ettenmoors, I’m also guessing you can understand spider-speech, correct?” he asked, still eating away.

“You seem to know plenty about me, yet I know nothing of you… until I get answers, the conversation is over!” I responded.

The human sighed.  “Listen, we really don’t have times for games… as I said, you’ll get your questions answered later… unless you really don’t care what happens to your warg friend over there,” he said, pointing to the tree with his dagger.

I looked over at Chucaro, my heart dropping.  “Fine, human… we’ll do it your way, for now…”

His face lightened up, “Now there’s a good puppy!” he said, laughing.

“I would just love to snap this burglar’s neck,” I thought to myself… I have fought many burgs in my life, but none as full of himself as this one.

“Yes, I can understand spider-speech, as well as most beast-type languages.”

“Good, then here’s what I want you to do… you are going to go out of stealth and slowly approached the tree, calling the spiders out to you.  We want to find out what their plans are, so don’t attempt to free them, just see if the spiders will talk to you.”

“What kind of a plan is that?  They can’t detect me in stealth and what happens if they just capture me, instead?”

The burglar smiled back at me, “Let’s just call it a hunch,” he winked.

Resisting the urge to slap the smile off his face, I turned towards the tree… “I’ll get you out of there, Chucaro… please hang in there…”

I slowly walked towards the tree, my senses keen on my surroundings.  Halfway to the tree, I looked back to the column… the human had disappeared.  I let out a sigh and came out of stealth form.  Nothing popped out towards me and I wasn’t detecting movement.  To the best of my abilities, I called out to the spiders in their chittering speech.  “Come out, spiders,” I said, “I mean no harm.”

At that, they seemed to crawl out of every nook and cranny and had me surrounded within seconds… I was somewhat surprised by their speed and how they worked together as a group.

“You have no business here, warg,” one of the larger spiders answered, “leave now while you still have your chance,” he continued, his voice a myriad of chitters and chirps.

“Ah, well we have a problem then,” I responded, “for you have a couple of my friends tied up to that tree over there.”

“No! They are sacrifices for our queen!  You have desecrated our home and killed many of our kind!  They will pay for what was done!” he screamed… his pitch making me wince.

“What are you talking about?  We haven’t been here before and no warg I know would be caught dead here.”

“Lies! Lies! Lies!  Your small kind rolled through here, freezing our lands and our kind without regard… and a warg was with them… they will pay for what they did with their lives!  For the queen! For the queen!”

The remaining spiders started chanting “For the queen!” until it became a steady drone.

“Leave now! This is your final warning!” he said, rising up to his full height and shaking his body in warning.

I slowly backed up the way I came… the spiders behind me parting to let me through.  As I turned away, I caught the glint of the burglar’s dagger further past the column we had hidden behind.  I slowly walked to the column and hopped onto it, turning slightly to see if they had followed.  The spiders stood their ground, watching me closely.  I hopped to the ground and went into stealth, making my way to the human.  “This is looking bad… very bad…”

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