His sides cramped and red-hot iron scalded the inside of his chest. Worse, his knees kept buckling, hindering the desperate attempt to flee his would-be killer. Not just any spider scurried after him—oh no, not here in this place so infamous for its butchery people named it Silva de Clades, the forest of carnage. Few foreigners—which he was—possessing a rational mind dared tread anywhere within Avia, homeland of a gray-skinned people called Saeva, but especially not within this woodland.
To do so was to tempt the god of fate and get sentenced to the awful, eternal nothingness of Afterdeath.
If only he could reach the cabin where safety waited to meet with him in the form of three Saevorum warriors. Ironic and tragic he had gotten within sight of the cabin moss-enshrouded and leaning to the right, visible between leaf-heavy, dipping branches.
In opening his mouth to shout, he gasped a hoarse whisper.
And ran-limped ever onward while fighting the urge to glance over his shoulder. The arachnid, big as any horse and too heavy to sprint, darted in short bursts on eight hairy legs, any of which were suitable for spearing him. Fangs as long as his forearm oozed venom that brought paralysis in a few heartbeats, giving the araneum plenty of time to spin a cocoon. Not the way a man wanted life to end, entrapped in a silk prison and pitching uncontrollable fits as the poison did its job of turning his lips black and skin pasty, liquefying his flesh and enabling the araneum to suck out his meat.
What honor did such a passing hold?
By the sounds the spider made he might have assumed a quartet of heavy-footed people gave chase. That was how aranea ran, similar to a handful of folk stampeding on wood, except one of them lurched.
The monster was too close. No outrunning it. A hard life, the weight of his broad-axe, and a bad ankle broken years ago were too much to overcome. He heard the clack-clack-clack of fangs and ducked, rolled, rested on bended knees.
The spider blurred past and went from sight though not hearing. Much too close were the snapping of twigs and breaking of foliage.
He kissed the honed head of his axe, entreating the god of fate for mercy and wishing he fought from the start to avoid confessing cowardice that Fatum might deem as a reason to bar him from blissful Afterlife. The entreaty finished—sure these were his final moments—he thought of his wife safe in their house and tried to utter, “Me love you” in her Saevi dialect. They were the three words of her language he had bothered to learn because they formed the lone sentence he believed mattered.
Had he learned to bellow help, he might live.
Or possessed the air to scream.
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His sides cramped and red-hot iron scalded the inside of his chest. Worse, his knees...