I open my eyes, but my vision is one big blur. The smell of wet leaves arrives at my nose. It takes a few seconds to figure out, after my vision comes to, that I'm upside down and suspended between two towering oak trees. I'm in a web. A spider's web. Calling it big would be an understatement; I'm almost completely covered by it. It doesn't even occur to me to try and struggle much--- I like to think that I'm realistic --- because I already know I'm not getting out of this of my own accord... My mind starts to wander as I think about how dreadful a creature this thing has to be to have such nasty webbing. It's not the silky smooth kind, but the ugly, dusty gray, torn cotton candy-like cobwebs. I often catch myself drifting like this; my mind latches onto the least pressing details when I least need it to. It's a fault of mine--- well, maybe not a fault, but it's certainly not helpful. Something is rustling behind me. The rustling gets louder, closer, as my cocoon starts to shake in-sync with the vibrations coming from the ground. Footsteps. Even if I could, I'm not sure if I'd want to turn around to see what fate awaited me. I try and close my eyes before the beast comes into view but I'm too late. I stare in awe, and terror.
"Who DARES trespass in MY forest!?," he roars in a deep, echoing voice. His name is Garfang the Destroyer, the latter part of which he's rightfully earned by destroying entire towns in a matter of hours. The size of this monstrosity’s body rivals that of a small hut. He stands high on his legs, the girths of which are almost identical to the tree trunks they're next to. But the thing that keeps my unwavering attention the longest is what's on the bottom of this spider. It, it looks like a black cornucopia, except that the end of it, pointed towards me of course, makes a perfect, deadly point. A faint mumble comes out of me as I finally realize that my mouth is webbed shut. "I asked you a question!"
"Ah yes, right, your mouth." The spider perches his piercer right up against my face and with a small, precise movement, rips the webbing clean off. "Now then, tell me what it is I want to know."
"Oh thank you for that, your uh, your majesty?... Right, right, my name. My name is Perceval, but most people call me Percy for short."
"Why are you here, Percy!?" I have to wriggle my newly freed mouth around to keep the obscene amount of saliva flung at me from dripping into it.
"I was told I needed to go through here in order to get to Woodhaerst, by the Sorcerer of Greenhill. He's sent me on a quest, you see, to get a magical item that he needs in order to make right with the townsfolk about the incident. I-I told him it was a terrible idea of course because this land belongs to you, but sorcerers, you know? They don't take no for an answer."
"Well it looks like the Sorcerer will have to get a new errand boy because you're not going anywhere except my belly." Ohhhh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
"Oh, oh, you do NOT want to eat me. I... taste really bad. Yup. We humans aren't on the menu for most creatures for a reason. There are so many other things you could eat that taste much better than I ever will."
"That may be true, but you're here, right in front of me. Food is food." Think, think, think.
"What if I... can be of some use to you? I could do something for you, in exchange for freedom, from your stomach."
"You being of use to me? What use could you possibly have?"
"Oh I have lots of uses... after all, the Sorcerer wouldn't send me out on a journey if I wasn't well-equipped to do the job right?"
"Hmm, I suppose. So, what can you do for me?"
"Well... what do you need?"
"I can't think of anything."
"There must be something that you want or need." There has to be, for my sake.
"...There is one thing. I lost something of mine long ago, when I was traveling through the Shadow Caverns. It was a talisman, called the Multalos, which granted me the power to create carbon copies of myself temporarily. They're not real, they just look real and act real, real enough that they buy me enough time to get what I want. That could mean anything from getting past million-colonies of tigerbees without stingbites or being able to close in on a group of mushroom flies without them knowing. An object like this can have many uses; alas since then I had to only rely on myself to get what I want."
"So, how did you lose it?"
"It was taken from me by that rotten king necrobat himself, Count Desmiro. Of course I would have gotten it back, and sent that hideous thing to the depths from which it came, if I could. My size doesn't lend me the ability to go into the far reaches of the Caverns without putting myself at great risk. The place is too unstable. That's where you come in. I want you to go get it and get bring it back to me. And don't even think about trying to escaping! I'll find you; I have your scent! If I smell you anywhere else but the Caverns and you don't have the talisman with you, consider yourself dead."
"But wait, if you couldn't get it, how do you expect me to get it?"
"That's not my concern to figure out now is it?" Garfang launches himself at me as he cuts me from the cocoon, which does little to soften the landing as I hit the ground. He rips the rest of it off of me and yet I feel just as trapped now that I've received this new ultimatum.
"Okay, I'll uh, think of something."
"Well, what are you waiting for? Get to it!"
It's hard to take in the calm night breeze rustling through the trees and the cool, moist grass beneath my feet. My mind keeps racing through so many thoughts, more than usual I mean. What are necrobats? And who's Count Desmiro? I've never read anything about them in my books and the Sorcerer never mentioned them either. How vile do they have to be in order to receive disdain from the likes of Garfang the Destroyer?... I wonder what other unholy creatures lurk in the Caverns. But above all I keep thinking about how I could be so stupid as to be coerced into accepting such a task by the Sorcerer in the first place, and how I just got into another suicide mission while on my first one. Well, at least I'll have the answers to some of these questions soon enough. Shadow Caverns, here I come.