I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the spiders that had spoken—a particularly large, ugly, and bloated individual.
“Soon I will bite you on your neck, and suck the delicious juices from your body.”
“I hope you get indigestion,” I replied.
“I won’t. I have eaten many Amatharians. You are delicious. Of course that furry one is not fit to eat.” The disgusting thing pointed one of its front legs at Malagor. “We will lay our eggs upon it.”
“You have killed us,” Norar Remontar repeated.
“I suppose I’ve disgraced myself by my negligence.”
“No. It was merely an unfortunate mistake.”
“I don’t have to kill myself to atone for it?”
“My people do not believe in suicide. If an Amatharian must make reparation for a wrong, he does it by doing service for the one he has injured. Besides, I do not think that you will have the opportunity to kill yourself.”
The large ugly spider creature spoke again.
“You must remain alive. You must be alive when I suck your insides out.”
Now it is not so much that I mind someone, or in this case I guess it was something, talking about sucking my insides out, but I had the impression that this thing was baiting me and trying to scare me. I was determined to put a brave face on the situation, if only to give Norar Remontar a good impression of me. So I spat right in the spider’s face, or what I took to be its face. It screamed out in a high-pitched whine that made my spine tingle, and actually made Malagor yelp out in pain. The spider jumped and danced around in a circle, whether in pain or in ecstasy I couldn’t say, but after that it seemed to keep farther away from my face for which I was grateful. If you would like to get a real idea of my predicament, simply go out to the back yard and move some wood or a flowerpot until you find a large plump Black Widow spider. Put the spider in a jar, and look at it through a magnifying glass. Now imagine that face right up next to yours talking to you, and you will see almost exactly what I saw there in the forests of Ecos, for the Pell, as the Amatharians call these creatures, resemble nothing so much as a fifty pound Black Widow, without the red hour glass marking.
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, which 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.