For the first time since being trussed up, I looked around to take a real stock of our enemies. There were about twenty of the disgusting creatures around, and they all looked about the same, with slight variations of size. Then without so much as another word or shrill squeal, the spiders started off through the forest. Four spiders grabbed my cocoon in their vertical mouths and began to drag me across the forest floor. Malagor and Norar Remontar were subjects of similar treatment. It was neither a comfortable nor a dignified way to travel. We were dragged about a mile into a very dark and silent portion of the forest.
The Pell had taken us to their home. This settlement, if one can so dignify the place with that name, was nothing more than an immense spider web covering several hundred square yards, and rising high into the upper branches of a number of trees. We were taken to the center of the spider web, then long strands of silk were tied to our feet, and we were hauled up to hang upside down some thirty feet above the ground. I then noticed that the Pell numbered in the hundreds, ranging in size from about as big as a tarantula, to one individual, possibly the village elder, who was about the size of a large pony. All of these beasts climbed around the webbing, but their main residence seemed to be a large hole in the ground below us and a little to my left.
I have always hated spiders, and the experience of hanging by my ankles in a giant web, and being examined by arachnids close to my own size did nothing to strengthen my opinion of them. I tried to think of some way to free my hands, but they were wrapped tightly at my sides. I couldn’t imagine things getting any worse than they were at that moment, but they really always can. Just then it started to rain.
I like rain. I suppose that it is because I grew up in the southwestern United States, where rainfall is relatively rare. However rain, when in conjunction with gravity, has an unfortunate effect upon an individual who is hanging upside down. It runs up his nose.
“You have killed me,” said Malagor, and he stretched out his head and began a long low howl.
This did nothing to improve my own state of mind. I looked around, blinded by the water running over my face, but desperate to find some means of escape. There seemed little hope.
“Can’t you call on the power of your sword?” I asked Norar Remontar.
“Can’t you call upon the soul in your sword to rescue you?”
“I do not call upon the soul. It comes of its own accord. And it does not do so to cut bonds. It comes only for battle.”
“That seems inconvenient,” I replied. “I see no way of escape.”
“There is no way of escape.” Came a high-pitched voice. “You are doomed to die, as am I.”
I twisted my body around to look upon a Pell sitting nearby. It was about the size of a big dog, but otherwise seemed identical to all the other spider creatures.
“You are doomed to die?” Malagor asked. “Why?”
“I have angered the web-leader. I feasted upon food that was not mine.”
“Could you get us out of this web and these cocoons?” I inquired.
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why not? You are going to die anyway.”
“My death will not be as horrible as it would be should I release you.”
“We are going to Amathar. If you were to come with us, you would escape death, and be welcome there.” I was attempting to weave a web of my own as I talked. “He’d be welcome. Wouldn’t he, Norar Remontar?”
“No,” he said.
“Work with me here!” I pleaded.
“The Amatharian speaks truly. I have no place else to go. Amathar would not welcome me.” Whined the arachnid.
“What if Norar Remontar promised to protect you. You know Amatharians always keep their word. He could promise to find you a new home.” The Pell’s forelegs began to twitch.
“You’ll protect him and find him a new home. Won’t you, Norar Remontar?”
“No,” he said.
“Do you want to live to see Amathar? Do you want to be able to rescue your sister?” I hissed. “Tell the damn spider you’ll protect him if he’ll let us go.”
“No,” he said.
“I cannot go far away,” whined the Pell.
“Why are you up here anyway?” I asked him. “Why would you be sentenced to death for eating something that wasn’t yours?”
“We eat any live flesh,” he explained. “but thinking, speaking creatures are reserved for the leader and the hive elder.”
“That hardly seems fair. Why, a fellow like you… what was your name?”
“Why,” I continued. “I would much rather be eaten by a fine fellow like you than almost anyone else. What about you, Malagor?”
“Indeed,” said my companion. “It would be an honor to be eaten by Vvvv.”
“You must surely be the finest of the Pell,” I said. “In fact, now that I think about it, why aren’t you the leader?”
“I should be!” Squealed the spider, puffing himself up larger. “I have always known that I should be leader! Even the lower forms can see it!”