Chapter 4 - I Knew An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly...

Towards the end of their first day of travel, the jungle begins to thin. Eventually, it opens up to reveal an area littered with ancient stone ruins. The mountains direct to the south are not particularly tall, and Urol points out that their best chance to find a pass lies in that direction. Skald concurs, stating that this is most likely the course Lavina and the others would take.

“The ruins are Olman,” Urol states. “They date back to the time of the great empire of the isle long ago.” Over the centuries, this small outpost has fallen into disrepair and decay (thus their state as “ruins’), the jungle slowly overwhelming the crumbling walls.

“Say, did you hear something?” Skald asked, cautiously.

“I hear it,” Saris said, “It sounds like clicking … clattering.”

“Like spiders,” Ornrik bemoaned.

“That would have to be one big spider,” Diamondback said, incredulously, “Or a whole lot of them.”

“Or both,” Skald pointed out.

“Ever the optimist,” Avner said, mostly to himself.

Indeed, as if in confirmation of their suspicions, they began to notice spider webs caressing the ruins, hanging between old walls and carpeting the ground.

“Get some torches lit,” Viselys snapped.

“You know, the swords you and Saris carry have Continual Flame cast on them. They give as much light as a torch,” Ornrik pointed out. Indeed, the ambient light was quickly fading.

“That’s not why I want the torches lit,” Viselys pointed out. “Besides, I don’t want to draw a weapon until I am certain I will need it. It might appear provocative, otherwise.”

“Of course. We wouldn’t want to appear hostile to the giant spiders,” Avner sneered sarcastically.


In a clearing in the center of the ruins stood a throne made of web and bone. The party was barely able to make out the form of an old woman sitting on the throne, looking in their direction and beckoning them to approach. Cautiously, they did. She was dressed in a worn gown of black silk with cobwebs hanging from her bent form. She calls out in a rough, dry voice in a language foreign to most in the group, then in another.

“Olman and Sylvan” Urol informs the others.

“I can only confirm the second,” Skald says.

Urol extended a greeting in the first language. After a brief exchange, Urol turns to Viselys, “She wants to know who we are, and why we’ve wandered into her web. She hasn’t seen humans in an age – I’m not clear on how long that is – and she has never seen the likes of myself or Ornrik. Her name is Lithira of the Aranea, queen of these ruins, and she wants to know what brings us to her domain.”

With a nod, Viselys turned to Lithira and repeated her name. Pointing to himself, he spoke his own name and repeated this gesture for each of the party members. Viselys then addressed Urol, “You’re going to have to tell her about us. Keep it brief, but make it clear that we mean no harm, and being ‘in her web’ was a complete accident. We didn’t know she was here, nor the ruins, for that matter.”

After a bit of unintelligible give and take between Lithira and Urol, the gnome began to prattle on. Viselys was about to intervene when he realized that the old woman appeared to be enraptured by whatever yarn Urol was spinning.

“She knows of other native tribes and the settlement at Farshore,” Ornrik offered by way of synopsis. “She knew we were not native, but was surprised we were not from Farshore. When Urol explained that we were from the main land very far away, she started asking questions about the outside world. Urol is narrating the story of our adventures. She was getting really board when he was talking about Tamoachan, but the Sargasso really piqued her interest.” Everyone looked at him surprised. He made an exaggerated wiggle with his fingers indicating ‘magic.’

Then Lithira began talking, slowly, so Urol could interpret word for word, “I thank you for your tale. The world beyond sounds truly wondrous and I would very much like to visit it one day. As for your journey, there is little I can do to aid you. You should know that the way south is dangerous. There are unnatural things that lurk in the dark places, now more so than in the past. I know that four eyes have gazed upon you, and their servant seeks you out. You would do well to avoid him.

“If you plan to head south, take the dark mountain pass that travels under the peaks. It was made by the ancient ones, but beware – hungry reptiles nest near its opening not far from here, and they are fierce near their young. May you wander the web to find your way home.”

“Um,” Saris held up a finger in a ‘point of order’ fashion, “How’s that again about the four eyes? His servant and some stuff?”

Urol translated, “She doesn’t really understand her own premonitions, but she believes their veracity implicitly.”

“Well, thank her for her time,” Viselys told Urol. “I think we’ll set up camp just outside the ruins. I don’t want to impose, but Lithira seems friendly enough, so we should be fine.” Out of the corner of his eye, Viselys saw Lithira change into a giant spider and crawl away. Then he added, “But let’s light a fire and post guards, just to be on the safe side.”

Continue to Chapter 5...

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