Curse of the Chelicerae

Page 2

The trip back through the portal void was disconcerting as usual, but she expected it. It seemed they were traveling back the way they'd come, but when the horses the kobolds bargained for again started off, there was a subtle difference. They again rode into trees, Sinaedh was sure of it, but this place was not like the vibrant pine forest near the shore. The forest here was quiet, dry, and waiting. Even the horses' hooves sounded muffled in the unmoving air. The animals themselves slowed their pace as they moved through the trees, as if hesitant to enter this particular woods. Sinaedh felt as if the trees were hovering over her, watching her in anticipation. A cold dread settled over her. She looked blindly from side to side, but no warmth from the sun penetrated the trees here. She was blind, lost and traveling through a strangely forbidding forest.

"Stop." Sinaedh heard the voice clearly, though it seemed the female kobold spoke with a soft quaver of fear. This new kobold had offered her no quarter, slapping her angrily when the witch had spoken with her, and treating Sinaedh harshly at every turn.

There was a faint double thud as the kobold slid to the ground from her horse. The kobold behind Sinaedh gave her a nudge. "Down," he muttered.

Sinaedh slid slowly down from the horse, stumbling slightly as her feet once again took her weight after many hours of riding. Firm fingers gripped her arm and pulled her forward and to her right. Sinaedh's feet crunched with the kobold's as they walked on a carpet of fallen pine needles. Instead of the fragrance she expected, only musty air swirled around her.

Sinaedh grimaced as a whisp of spider's web stuck to her face, clinging with a tingle to her cheeks. The kobold walking with her kept her moving forward, tugging her up a small hill. Rocks peeked through the pine needles, bruising Sinaedh's toes more than once as they walked. "Du pay fer killin him," whispered the kobold escorting her. "See how du pays."

"I am sorry," Sinaedh murmured. "I..."

"Sorry not 'nough," Kadatha answered, tugging her forward. "Not no more."

Sinaedh noticed a soft chittering, as if crickets hung from the branches of the trees. Another web spread stickily over her forehead. She glanced anxiously about, though the kobold urged her forward. The rasping and squeaking sounds grew stronger, coming from the ground and high in the trees, surrounding the pair as they walked. The kobold's steps slowed, then stopped, and suddenly, so did the sound.

The kobold bowed from her waist, then tightened her grip on Sinaedh, urging a stumbling bow from her captive. "Me brings dis one, in return fer me kin."

"Asssss we havvvvve agreedddddd," an alien voice answered. "Sssssso be ittttt."

The kobold released Sinaedh with a shove. "Come! Come quick!" she cried. Sinaedh heard the quick patter of small feet on the rocks before all her attention was on hard elongate arms that wrapped around her, tugging her into a hard, yet strangely furred chest. Loud chittering swelled around her again, then was drowned by her scream as the creature bit her. Pain lanced through her from the fangs that sliced into her shoulder and held her motionless. A wash of heat and muscle-twisting agony flowed through her before silence fell on the forest; merciful silence as Sinaedh hung limp in the grasp of the spider being.