Well, as February 13th draws to an end, I'm presenting Chapter 5 of my Gauntlet Dark Legacy fic, Legendary Hereos. This chapter is the only chapter that is a partial rewrite. You see, long ago when I first started this project, I had gotten to the fifth chapter, and really started to struggle. Hense, the fifth chapter went unfinished for years. From this point on, all chapters will not have a previous version to look back on. I do hope you enjoy this one, as well as the previous chapter. You can find the previous chapter at the following link.
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. The events of this story take place before the game.)
Chapter 5: Tiger, Spider, Burning Bright
Of the eight realms, one of the most deceptive is the Forest Realm. Even since the times of Skorne, the realm had hidden terrors in its majestic beauty. Only the Elvin people of that realm had found the secret of surviving them, by living in the area between the canopy of the trees, and the treacherous forest floor. Ever since that kingdom had been developed, the elves fought off the forces of the spiders and the lizard men.
Unfortunately for them, the worst of times had started years ago, when the Queen of the Realm proved to be as evil as the giant Arachnids of the realm. Some wondered if she served the giant Black Widow that led the spiders, or if it was Queen Melane that controlled the giant spider. Even the Queen's sister, Tori, who headed the Archers, was unsure, and it broke her heart to depose and exile her sister.
It did not break her heart as much as the sight she saw now. From her vantage point, she saw the growing corruption on the floor. For years, the forest floor was becoming more swamp like, which was perfect for the malicious lizard men. She knew the creatures weren't as vicious as they had been during the days of the demon Skorne, but as the corruption continued, she felt they would be.
What she noticed now, however, was that the swamp was completely quiet. There was no signs of any of the lizard men. Even the small spiders that could be seen from the lowest levels of the community were nowhere to be seen. It was an odd sight, and it set off every nerve in her. Where had all the creatures gone?
She received her answer when she heard a commotion coming from another area. She quickly bolted through the catwalks, bridges, and other parts of the tree born country before finally reaching where a majority of the Archers were. All were gazing out in the distance, many with their bows trained on something. This led to Tori asking the question that all leaders ask. “What’s happening?”
One of her troops didn’t look at her, but answered the question. “Something is going on out there. The lizard men and the spiders are rallying over there, near that distant ramp. That ramp wasn’t there earlier today.”
She nodded, and did some quick mental calculations. “That’s not good. That ramp must be near one of our catwalks, one that is undefended. We will need to make sure that there is someone…..” Tori’s words were cut off as loud screams cut through the air. As one, her Archers made their way to the location she felt the ramp was near, and wasn’t surprised by the spiders and lizard men now on the pathway. Without waiting for a command, all the Archers fired their bows, and the creatures quickly died.
Once the last of the creatures died, Tori turned to her Archers. "We need to stop this before it gets out of hand. I want several archers to work their way down this ramp, destroying it when it connects to our home. By the size of it, it looks like our biggest threat will be above us. I'll take care of that one." She watched as the others nodded, and moved out.
When they had all gone, Tori ran back to the Archers’ barracks, and opened a special case. In it was a huge pair of bellows. Ages ago, when the giant spiders had been agreesive once before, they were led by a foul giant spider. Some said the creature had been the same black widow spider, but things about the legend got muddled over the years. One of the early Archers, at that time a male named Questor, had managed to get venom of that spider into the bellows, making it a devistating weapon. Tori was certain only a spider of that size would be able to create the webbing ramp that lead the other creatures into her people's home.
With the bellows in hand, Tori bolted back to the ramp, and started rushing up it. As she ran, she noticed that in the far off trees, humanoid like creatures were starting to leap about. She once heard legends about dryads, but these could not be them. These looked evil, even from a distance. They looked like something she thought might be Treants, but she always assumed they would be larger. Still, if they made it to the community, her people might not survive. They respected the trees.
Eventually, Tori reached the top of the webbing ramp; and what she saw there made her shiver. It was the largest spider web anyone had ever laid eyes on. At the edge opposite of her, Tori saw a huge black widow spider, one that could easily trap any person in seconds, and kill them just as quickly. The most unnerving thing was what was sitting on top of that spider, as if the spider wasn't a threat, but an ally. It was her sister, Melane. As she stood there, Melane addressed her. "Ah, my dear sister. Did you come realizing the folly of opposing me, and want to join the winning side, or do I have to kill you? I really hope it’s the latter, since you exiled me."
Tori snapped out of her shock, and held up the bellows. "No. It won't be either of those two. I don't know how you are controlling that thing, but its kind will kill the people." She started to pump the bellows, but stopped when she heard her sister laughing at her. She glared at the evil woman and said, "And what has you laughing?"
She didn't falter in her stance when the giant spider started to advance. She did gasp, however, when her sister responded to her question. "Oh, this thing isn't in my control. We are working together. I knew long ago that the demon Skorne would return, and that this spider was his minion. I struck up a deal long ago. She's quite intellegent. She knows how those bellows were created, and the way to defeat their power. It also knows that our kind would be perfect food for her children. I‘d provide it, and in return, Skorne blesses me with the whole Forest to rule.”
That last statement was all Tori could take. She pumped the bellows, and a toxic green cloud left the thing, and struck the giant spider, as well as Tori‘s sister. The forest would be safe from two threats now. She watched, almost in satisfaction as the cloud engulfed the two, her sister sitting on the spider. She would have taken a bit of pleasure in it, but her near satisfaction was quickly destroyed as she watched what unfolded.
Something about the cloud cause the two figures the writhe in agony, but then she heard wicked laughter coming from the cloud. She was so stunned by the event, she almost didn‘t jump away when a whip strike came from the cloud. To her horror, the cloud didn’t kill the two evil beings, but merged them into a new monster. “Oh this is better, dear sister. You’ve truly created a Spider Queen.”
She jumped again as another whip strike came at her, and pulled out her bow. It was awkward for a moment, but she moved the with the speed of a tiger. She quickly nocked six arrows, and hit four of the legs, the other two stopping whip strikes. She then paused, amazed that her hands were now paws, tiger paws.
For a moment, the old legends came back to her. When Questor had used the bellows, he had become a humanoid tiger. Somehow, she had become a Tigress. Was this an omen that the fiend in front of her was truly the servant of Skorne. If it was, then maybe another attack form the bellows would destroy the creature she had somehow created.
Tori’s momentary musing turned out to be disastrous, as the Queen Spider’s whip wrapped around the bellows, and allowed the monster to whip it away, the item flying out of the forest. With the speed of a tiger, she shot more arrows, keeping the monster at bay, and severing several parts of the web. Just as she returned to her humanoid form, she had fully cut the ramp away from the huge web. She looked at the monster, and said, “I will stop you, Melane.”
She dashed down the ramp as the roars came from the creature. Still, the encounter told her many things. First off, she was the Archer of legend now, and it was her goal to stop this beast. The second was that she would need to retrieve the Bellows again, and that they flew off in the direction of the Desert Lands. The last thing she realized was that she could not take on the Queen Spider alone. She would need help, and unfortunately, it could not be her Archers.
When she reached the rest of her people, she saw her second in command come up to her. “Were you able to stop the spiders? And where are the Bellows?” Tori could already see that the question had an undesired effect. The others were starting to worry. They were right to do so, but Tori knew they needed to stay calm.
She held up her hands and everyone quieted down. She knew what she would say would not make people happy, but it was better they be prepared, than to be slaughtered. “I was not able to stop them. Melane was there, and she had teamed up with the foul creatures. What is worse is that she and the giant spider merged, and in a moment of surprise, got the Bellows and flung them away. I must leave the Forest Realm, and go find them.”
She heard the others start to protest, and even volunteer to find them, but she shook her head. Finally, her second in command spoke again. “You have to go to the tower, at the far end of the swamp.” When she nodded, her second in command understood. “Fair enough. What are your orders for us?”
Tori inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. She then looked at the others. “I want you to keep the creatures from getting at our home. Some should also get the people to safety. I don’t know how long it will take, but our family and friends should be safe. This is the sign of dark times, and we don’t need to be almost wiped out.” The others nodded, and started heading to their tasks.
Once they were all gone, Tori started her long trek to the ethereal tower of Sumner. It was the oddest structure she had ever seen, even from a distance. It always looked like it was there, yet not there. Still, Sumner was legendary. A wizard who could fight the darkest evil, and he was what was needed now. It was possible the wizard could get her the Bellows back, and even help her destroy the Spider Queen. She wouldn’t hold her breath, though. She just made her way to the ethereal tower, hoping for the help she would need.