It had taken her a long time to fall asleep.
Her sons had joined the others on patrol tonight. They had joined on hunts
before, but since the attacks began, she had made certain they stayed
close to her. Now she was alone with her daughter, her baby. She had longed
to join them. When left alone her fear overwhelmed her. But her duty was
to protect her child, keep her safe.
The monsters had come in a swarm. Descending upon them with barbed teeth
and long razor-sharp claws, they had driven them from the Greenwood, from
the trees that had been their haven, from the light they hungered for.
So many had fallen, their bodies hacked and left to rot, prey to those
that slaughtered for the joy of it.
For safety they had moved to this cavern. The damp and mustiness were
beginning to take their toll. She ached for fresh air, the feel of the
breeze caressing her skin, the sun warming her body. Soon aid would come.
Word had been sent immediately after the first attacks. In her heart she
knew that this time of horror would end but, tired and alone, despair
ate away at her.
She was roused by the silence. It stretched unnaturally into the deep
and caused her hair to rise, sending a single shiver coursing through
her. Instantly alert, she cradled her daughter and carried her to the
shelf set at the back of one of the small chambers nearby. She covered
her child in the darkness and quietly returned to the main tunnel waiting
to see if she was merely over-reacting. Surely the sentry would have sounded
the alarm if there were true danger.
Their stench reached her before the sound of any movement; faint, yet
sickeningly sweet, as rotting fruit. The heavy, damp air prevented her
from discerning the source of the scent. Realizing that the guard must
now be dead, she kept still, worried that the scent of her fear would
lead them to her. She longed for some telltale sign that would provide
her a clue to their whereabouts.
Time was motionless, trapped within her terror. She had no idea how long
she waited for the sound of a pebble skittering in the chamber to her
right. Yet, when it came she was ready. Leaving the shadow of the wall,
she hurried across the corridor to discover their number before they moved
on. From her new vantage, she could make out three of the foe. They were
moving across the room slowly, searching. If they continued they would
be between her and her child. If she alerted them to her presence now,
she would have a chance to lead them away from her daughter.
She had learned the passages and chambers intimately in the weeks they
had spent here. Snares had been laid against just such an attack; she
had helped lay them. Once she began, she knew she would find the courage
and strength to do what must be done.
Armed with grace and agility, she caught her breath, and released it with
a sigh. She did not wait to see if they were following, speed was imperative
if she was to lead them successfully toward one of the traps. Outnumbered,
her best hope was to keep them moving and pray that the patrol returned
in time. Her familiarity provided an advantage that she dared not take;
she needed them to continue to chase her.
Just ahead there was a deep crevasse that had been lightly covered. She
timed her leap so that her pursuers would not see it. Once across, she
paused briefly to allow them a chance to catch sight of her again before
racing onward. She could hear the scratching of their feet on the debris-strewn
Suddenly a piercing scream echoed in the cavern. She sobbed in gratitude
and continued deeper. As the sound of the cry died, she heard an answering
call. Her daughter.
In the moment of her faltering, she heard a hiss. The force of the bite
knocked her against the wall. Using that momentum, she dropped to the
ground and was able to roll away. Her shoulder on fire, she ran on.
Again her daughters call reached her, this time nearer. Filled with
dread that the creatures would break their pursuit in favor of easier
prey, she chose to double back in an attempt to place herself between
the fiends and her baby.
No longer wishing to be heard, she slowed her movements and paused frequently
in an attempt to locate her hunters. She would need to either pass by
closely or take a more circuitous route back.
In her desperation she chose speed.
She realized her mistake when again a hiss preceded a sharp bite just
above her knee. As she stumbled, she felt a claw rip her belly. Recognizing
the narrow corridor near the crevasse, and understanding that she had
little time left, she cried for her daughter to run. With the last of
her strength, she threw herself on her attacker and wrapped herself around
it. Sinking her teeth into its body she launched them over the edge. Her
last thoughts were for her child, mourning that her life had not been
returned at sunrise, bearing their wounded with them, mourning their losses.
The captain paused to shake his fear of the caves from him before proceeding.
He never wanted to descend into that darkness again, yet knew that as
long as the monsters remained in the Greenwood it would be required.
received the captains report that the queen spider and the young
female were dispatched.