Sunday, August 30, 2015

Episode Twenty-Four

Horatch chewed the larvae until it was pulp. He resisted the urge to drink this, instead spinning a dense layer of  webbing to scoop the meal into. Once he had the goo packaged and portable, he began the arduous task of dragging it nearer to the Great One. 

Paralyzed, but not dead. Bless his girl. 

The mind of the giant spider tickled at his thoughts. He could wrap understanding around the smaller communications, pain, surprise, gratitude, but the Great One's consciousness was too broad to fully grasp. Horatch thought it was glad for its survival, but he couldn't be completely certain. 

He'd know soon enough, however. All he had to do was get his offering up to the Great One's mouthparts. 

He wrestled his gift across the vines until it was directly underneath the giant fangs and then, on reflex, he bowed his forward segment low to the ground and lifted his abdomen high in a gesture of respect. His homage was echoed only by the Great One's frustration.

It couldn't reach his meal. He would have to bring it up, hold it against the mouthparts that may or may not even be mobile enough to suck. Horatch needed his Hand. He needed Milyi, and the girl had wandered back to their campsite to wash. 

She'd saved the giant, but she'd been in a hurry to rid herself of the evidence. They had a long way to go still, but after the way she'd fought for the Great One's life, Horatch would have happily trusted the girl with his own. 

He drummed of waiting and patience to the paralyzed Great One and scurried to the nearest trunk. Leaping between the trees, he listened always with his toes for the hum that would mean their enemy had returned. He focused on the vibrations of the jungle and the air above it, and he almost leapt down to where  Milyi had built a fire without looking first. 


When he saw the flash of red and black, his toes tightened. His tiny claws held fast to the bark, and Horatch flattened his body against it and became only another lump in the shadows. Milyi's voice drifted from the firelight, low and shaky against his metatarsi.

"Horatch?" She called for him, but the red and black beside her held him at bay. "I don't know where he is."

"Still a little cold." An even lower voice joined hers, strange and dark. Definitely another human and yet, the colors, the unmistakable sign of a Wisp. 

"Come closer to the fire...your clothes were all wet." Milyi moved, a blot of black against the background of flames. She snatched at the red and black shape, dragged it around the fire and spread it out. Clothes. Wisp colored clothing. 

"Milyi," Horatch called for her and jumped to another tree to mask his location. 

She looked up at the spot where he had been. "Horatch? Are you there?"

"Milyi, I need you." He jumped again. Spoke from a different tree and then made a third leap. "Help me."

The girl stood and spun in place. Her hair fanned out like the fronds he hid in. Horatch waited for her to work it out. Come to the clearing. He willed her to understand and, eventually, her feet shuffled in the right direction. 

"I'll be right back," she said. "Stay in the heat."

Horatch jumped ahead of her. He reached the battlefield, the trampled patch of jungle where his Great One waited, and then scampered down a trunk. When the girl passed, he leaped to her shoulder. 

"What's wrong?" She'd adjusted fully to him, didn't even flinch when he sprang at her. "Are you okay? I found a boy in the river."

"The Great One hungers." Horatch ignored her revelation for the moment. "I cannot feed him alone."

"What can I do?" She walked without fear to the front of the T'rant's god. Amazing. The girl tilted her head and stared into the wide chelicerae. "Is he going to get better?"

"I think, if we can keep him strong, that he might regain his ability to move."


"The food is underneath," Horatch crawled farther down her arm, nearer to the elbow and waved his pedipalps toward the bundle on the ground. "But it must be held against his mouthparts."

"Oh." She bent down without questioning him. "It's leaking."

"If we hurry, it will be enough."

She squatted and only cringed once when she lifted his package. Green ichor dribbled between her fingers, but the bulk of the meal he'd prepared remained inside the webbing. Milyi lifted it and held it up directly against the Great One's fangs.

"Below there," Horatch said. "Where the red bristles are."

" Sorry." She moved the bundle, pressed it against the mouth, and Horatch held his breath. He tensed and listened for any hint of their success. "The boy would have drowned."

"Shhh, Milyi." He would need to tell her about the boy, about the red and black clothing, but he could sense already that she wouldn't like to hear it. There had been something in her voice, something tender, when she spoke to him. "Is he eating?"

"How can I tell?" 

Before he could answer, the sucking sounds began. The red bristles did not move as they should, but a mighty slurp echoed through the clearing, and Milyi pressed the meal more tightly against them. Perfect. If they were lucky, the Great One's strength would return.  If they were lucky, the red and black would be weak from his near drowning. 

If Horatch was lucky, Milyi would not balk at killing the boy.  But fortune had been very kind to them so far, and today, he had a bad feeling. When it came to his girl and the red and black, Horatch had a feeling his luck had just run out. 

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