After a fair night’s rest, the camp arose to find only three of the evening’s party remained. Veraline had slipped away in the night, leaving no trace.
Balgur wasted no time in rousing from his sleep, and immediately set forth to the east following Lo’Gar. Vio and Ellia fell in step behind, chatting. After a time, Vio caught sign of what looked to be a struggle: imprints in the dirt, dragmarks to the north. Someone had been here and caught aware. Their attention turned northward, the three came across a small glen around midday. The sun glistened off of what seemed to be an intricate network of silken web. Spiders. It had to be spiders.
A muffled struggle sounded from further north. Stepping carefully around the webbing, a silken cocoon could be seen hanging from a tree by a single large thread. The victims attempts to break free looked feeble – disorganized thrusts and quiet sobbing had not yet won freedom. Balgur climbed the tree swiftly, and cut the sac from the tree. It fell to the ground with a thud. Another quick slice from his knife revealed a sweating and terrified Beren.
“Where is my axe?!” Balgur roared, pinning him to the tree’s trunk. It had been lost, Beren explained, when he was catpured. He’d only taken it for protection, as he had no weapons save his staff. How could they have left him alone as the goblins attacked?
Vio stepped up, attempting to calm the orc’s ire: “Beren, what you did was wrong. Why steal his gold if all you wanted was a weapon? Regardless, you’ll return it, and thank your graces that we were able to find you.”
Balgur snorted, ripped the coin pouch from Beren’s waist, and removed the gold that had been stolen from him. He dropped the rest on the ground and it scattered at Beren’s feet. “Get out of here. If I see you again, you’ll wish the spiders had killed you first.” Balgur narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth, as Lo’Gar growled menacingly beside him. “GO!”
Beren sprinted south, away from his saviors. He stumbled, promptly caught himself in a web, and began to thrash wildly. The webs pulled and twisted around him, while the strands in the trees oscillated his capture. Sighing, Ellia stepped forward and attempted to free him, while Vio continued to try and talk him down. Balgur notched two arrows, breaking the anchor points of the web higher in the tree. If he didn’t stop acting like a food, they’d all be dead meat.
On cue a few moments later, three enormous spiders leapt from the trees, and attacked their prey. The largest of the three, black with splotches of green and dark violet, hissed and clicked as it assessed the scene – more prey than expected, but not all ensnared. Caught by surprise and vexed by their speed in the webbing, the adventurers. Beren screamed loudly, ripping himself free and promptly grabbing the spiders’ attention. They caught his elbow and dragged him to the ground. Vio and Ellia stepped closer to protect him, sharing their healing magic and trying to attract the attention of the spiders.
A blue mist, rising slowly from a crack in the ground, helped to conceal their own movement and hide Beren, but it worked to the spiders’ advantage as well. Miss after miss plagued the three, as each spider worked in concert to take attacks from behind. Finally, a series of fortunate bolts and arrows from Ellia and Balgur started to connect with the spiders. One of the smaller spiders dropped, then another. The leader of the brood saw her brethren fall, and started to scurry back to the safety of the web and treetops.
Thwunk. A final arrow from Balgur pinned her to the tree. With a high-pitched screeee, its legs went limp. Balgur ripped the head off as a trophy – the rest of the body hung there as a grotesque warning sign.
Exhausted, the group nursed their wounds. Were it not for the webs and acrid scent of dead and dying spiders, this would have been a beautiful spot. Axe still missing, Balgur moved south, back to the path where Beren had been caught and presumably where the axe was lost. The others cautioned Beren to stay close behind, but not so close as to enrage the orc.
“You should think on what you’ve done. We’ll see you to the next town or trading post, and then, perhaps, never again.”
Lo’Gar picked up another trail, and the rest of the walk to Mosstone was uneventful, save for the quiet thankful murmurings of the half-elf behind them.