Where Spiders Weave
by Kaieve in Dark Ages
Where spiders weave, beware, beware!
They always leave a trap to bear.
Where spiders weave, do not go there!
Where spiders weave, beware!
A rogue slunk through the shadows of Rucesionís concrete jungle. Up ahead was the building he wanted; open only to rogues and only when no law enforcement officials might encroach upon the dealings withing. The hunched form slid carefully on the wall, holding himself still again with each movement, lest he be discovered. Finally, he peeked around the corner. Seeing that none of the local constabulary was about, only mice and dust bunnies, he made a mad dash and dove into the building.
* * * *
Once inside the backalley-establishment, the man dusted himself off and removed the red-tinted cloak he had gripped tightly; using it to ward off Rucesionís cold air. He rubbed his hands together furiously, setting them to his face after a moment, and finally looked at the mundane standing nearby.
"Braz," he said.
"Taren," Braz responded. The two looked at each other a moment. Taren had jet black hair, perfect for blending in with shadows, hooked up and around a hair band which just barely restrained his ill-kept mop. His eyes were an odd reddish color, almost like fire, but a shade darker, angrier. He looked jaded from deochs of living a hard life: stealing to survive, running errands for Braz and avoiding officials of Rucesion the whole time.
The little burg had ostracized him, and he liked it no better than it liked him. He stuck to its alleyways and darkened street corners, praying on those too old, young, or crippled to defend themselves. Aislings returning from retrieving a death pile often found themselves coinless at Tarenís hands. His ability to Hide was very useful to him, making it that much easier to lift objects from their ownerís possesion.
"Did you get anything good?" the mundane intoned. He gave Taren a look that said he was no more than an errand boy and a tool.
"Aye," Taren responded. He unslung a small rucksack from about his shoulder, carefully working the string until it came open, revealing several raw jewels inside. Braz eyed it for a moment, then nodded approvingly. "These should bring in tidy profits," he said. "Give the bag to me, boy." Taren obeyed, knowing that Braz was his only way to obtain the moldy bread he lived off of.
"You may go, Taren," Braz told him. Braz very rarely called Taren by name; just enough so he would not forget his own name and be impervious to orders. Taren stepped out the door of the Black Market, slipping into the shadows the instant he was outside. Soon, Taren was completely gone from view.
Jarret walked off the ship heíd been on for the past few days, as proud and egotistical a young warrior as there had ever been. He carried a Loures saber, shining in the lamplight, and wore the grey leather tunic of all young warriors, though his puffed-out chest informed everyone that he was the greatest warrior in all Temuair. His blue-shaded boots clicked on hard concrete of Rucesion, and he looked for a shop where he could purchase something more, to make him look even grander.
A man was hunched over, propped up against a lamp-post. He held out a cup, which he shook and called, "Alms! Alms for the poor!" Jarret walked over and looked at the man. The man looked up and told him, "Please sire, please spare me a few coins to live off of!" The manís jet-black hair was hooked around a head band which could barely hold back the unruly sea of hair. The color of the hair seemed to blend with the shadows the lamp threw to the ground, and the manís eyes were a deep shade of red.
Jarret snorted derisively. "I have thousands of coins," he sneered. "But Iíll spare none for a lowly beggar like yourself!" He dealt the beggar a blow which provided a bloody nose.
"Is that so?" the beggar asked. He shook the cup one more time, and it rattled. He reached in and deftly withdrew a blossom dagger, the turquoise hilt gleaming in the lamplight.
From the docks of Rucesion, there was a scream.
Braz was well pleased by the several thousand coins Taren brought to him the next morning. Braz did not, of course, ask where he had obtained them, it really meant very little to him. Heíd have done nearly anything to make a profit, as long as the price of obtaining the materials did not include harm to himself.
"Very good, Taren," Braz said. He said these words with a smile not on his face or in his tone, but rather patronizingly. Taren nodded mutely. Braz directed him to give him these coins, too, and gave him his bread for the day. Once again, Taren disappeared into the remaining vestiges of shadow.
* * * *
That eve, Taren took to the streets once again. He spotted a man, younger than some, but older than others, striding along the streets. His hair was the same dark color as Tarenís, but it flared up at his forehead and drooped down like a wilting flower. He was adorned in green-tinted dwarvish leather, very fine-looking at that, with a red kerchief tied near his neck. Taren wrapped himself carefully in darkness, pulling whisps of smoke and shadow over his brooding form to hide himself from the view of the man.
He pulled the darkness tighter about him like a cloak on a cold winterís night, and approached his new victim from behind. He lifted his hand and reached delicately into the pocket of his prey.
Suddenly, he called out in pain as the man dealt him a smashing blow to the forehead. He reeled backwards, nearly tumbling on his back. "Wot do yew want?" the man said. His eyes blazed, an oaken brown color as unmistakeable as Tarenís burning red. Taren made a few noises in his fear; and suddenly the rogue he had just tried to pickpocket had vanished into thin air.
Just as suddenly, he was knocked from his feet by an invisible force pushing him over. He crouched, breath coming in ragged gasps. The rouge reappeared, looming over him. He looked about to deal him another crushing blow, but instead held out his hand to help Taren up. Taren shunned it, shoving it away and spending a few extra moments standing up unaided.
"Iím Kaieve," the other man offered.
"Taren," Taren said coldly. Kaieve gave him a sour look. "I work for Braz, and I neednít your like interfering."
"I didnít interfere!" Kaieve sputtered indignantly. "Yew tried ta pick my pocket, so yew did!"
"So I did!" Taren said back. "And thereís nought ye can do about it, either! The local law enforcement suspects all rogues, they donít like you anymore than me!"
"Iíd be more Ďn Ďappy ta settle this Ďere aní now!" Kaieve said, drawing a blossom dagger like Tarenís. Taren spat at Kaieveís feet.
"Not tonight, rogue. Some other time." With that, he disappeared.
Eyes that in the night are fire,
Darkened by an endless mire,
To the sky, a climbing spire,
Where the spider then resides.
Kaieve sat down for a moment, mulling over his recent encounter. He had to find Taren again, he obviously needed help. Whatever he thought he would gain by picking pockets, he was ruining the reputation of all rogues of Temuair. He had to be set on the right path.
* * * *
Kaieve, clothed in shadows, crept about Rucesion, searching every nook and cranny he knew of for the rogue called Taren. He spotted the black market, and realized that would be the best place to start. He walked in, for some reason finding himself counting his steps. He stopped after entering the doorway, staring around the building at the shelves and racks of illgotten goods, and, finally, his eyes settled on Braz himself.
Kaieve locked eyes with the mundane, gazing icily at the older man. Braz returned the stare, an almost amused look playing across his face. "And what would you like, lad?" he asked in an intentionally condescending way. Kaieve snorted.
"Iíd like information," he responded. Braz did not seem at all surprised by this request, rather, he seemed ever more ready to help.
"And what do you need information on?" he asked. Kaieve, of course, realized Braz knew what he was looking for, but heíd have to spell it out before Braz would help him in the least.
"Earlier this eve, I was the target of a pickpocket attempt by one of your agents," Kaieve accused.
"One of myagents?" Braz asked, wearing a look of surprise on his face. Kaieve continued his unswerving stare.
"Donít play dumb with me, Braz," he warned the mundane. "He said his name was Taren and he told me he worked for you. What I want to know is where he is now."
Braz held his shocked look for a few seconds more before Kaieveís furious silence finally broke him. "Alright," he muttered. "Iíll talk. Taren is one of my best agents. Heís brought in more profits than anyone else. And, heís one of my craftiest workers. He can meld with the shadows, and float like a leaf. And there you have it."
"You didnít answer my question," Kaieve said. "I asked where he is now."
Braz looked somewhat annoyed that Kaieve had dodged his stream of avoidance, and let out a grunt. "Heís...out." Both of them knew it wasnít a satisfactory answer.
"And where is Ďoutí?" Kaieve said, breaking the momentary silence.
"...Out," Braz responded.
"Iím not in the mood for you games, Braz," Kaieve said, fingering his dagger. Braz was beginning to look uncomfortable, Kaieve figured it had been quite a while since anyone had questioned him quite this intently.
Finally, Braz said, "Heís at Dubhaim Castle...hunting for coins."
Kaieve nodded, uttering not a word of thanks or farewell as he turned and slid out the door.
* * * *
Fly into the Spiderís nest,
And he will catch you, you can bet.
The Spider does not like for thee
Trespassing on his property.
The Dubhaim Castle loomed far above Kaieve, its highest turrets bearing not a single window or other opening, and the lower floors being colder than the rest of Rucesion, and, indeed, the entire island. It was certainly an imposing structure, constructed of unfeeling granite, and within were any number of terrible, Sgrios-worshipping beasts.
Kaieve stepped into the huge building, feeling a bit claustrophobic as the darkness closed in around him. Even the flickering torches seemed only to shove the dark away to another corner, where it came back to haunt the unlit areas.
The architecture of the Castle was itself horrible. Far from the flowing curves of most of Temuair, these halls angled sharply, and once a man entered it seemed to proclaim he could not leave until he completed the task for which he had come. The shadows danced and jumped, setting Kaieve to a very uneasy feeling. Several of the morphing forms seemed to grow claws or fangs, turning to Kaieve, despite the fact that they lay flat on the wall.
Finally, Kaieve arrived at a door, completely unadorned, save for one phrase, which was scratched at the top in stumbling, angular handwriting. In its few words, the writing captured every horror and nightmare of the imagination, showing them to the viewer all at once.
End of Hope
Kaieve stood for a moment, shaken by the words that floated over the door like a tyrannical decree over a city. Then he steeled himself, and set foot into the void.
* * * *
Inside was what seemed to be a crude maze. Right angles all around, feral snorts and growls echoing from the dark beyond the crackling torches mounted at odd intervals on the walls. Kaieve wasnít quite sure what lay in the deep of the maze, smothered in darkness and hidden utterly from view; and he was not sure he wanted to find out.
Kaieve stepped tenatively forward, hearing some ethereal breath from further on. Something seemed to reach for him from deeper in the maze, some irresistable attraction that called to him, compelled him to take another step, and another, until he was bound irrevocably towards the center.
* * * *
Out of nowhere, a schreech emanated and a form leapt toward him. Kaieve dodged and watched a beast unlike any he had ever seen almost stumble onto the ground beside him. It was large, and well-muscled, carrying a bulky frame, small, black eyes, and ears pointed like an elfís.
The creature bared its fangs, and Kaieve recoiled at the sight of their long, ripping points, which, he was sure, were capable of tearing him to ribbons whenver it cared to. It let out a fearsome roar that made his skin crawl, and Kaieve scrabbled backwards out of the way.
The beast cocked its head, as though listening for something, then sniffed the air. It let out a snort, then turned its soul-searing gaze on Kaieve. He cowered at the sight of it. The fiend moved closer to Kaieve. He withdrew the blossom dagger he carried from itís ornamental scabbard at his side and carefully set his fingers about the hilt.
The thing gave the knife a cursory glance, then continued its inexorable advance towards Kaieve. Finally, it was within striking distance. It tossed a huge hand that looked like it could have demolished a building with a few well-placed strikes. Kaieve dodged to his right, the fist impacting the spot where his head had been seconds before; leaving a finger-deep indentation in the wall of the maze.
This shocked Kaieve into action, and he jumped up and dashed past the beast. At its rear for an instant, he plunged his dagger into the monsterís back. It howled in pain, and turned toward Kaieve again. It gnashed its teeth and prepared to deliever another smashing blow, and this time, it did not intend to miss.
* * * *
Suddenly, Kaieve vanished into thin air. He took one last look at the creature from his Hidden form, and dashed off into the maze. After encountering this fiend, he dreaded what might lie deeper, but knew he could do nothing else.
* * * *
The maze had twists and turns where Kaieveís mind told him none should exist. He reached dead ends where he was sure there should be passages, all the while working toward the center of the maze. There was something at the center of the maze, something important--that much he knew.
Kaieve saw no more monsters on his way into the center. Something at the back of his head nagged that it was too easy, that he was being bottle-fed this victory. Kaieve knew it just as well as the annoying little voice did, but there was nothing he could do. Of course, he was too far in to go back for fear of becoming utterly lost, and he knew that even if he did escape the maze he would be forever haunted by the notion of what might be at the center. So, he treaded on.
* * * *
After another three hours of wandering the maze, Kaieve came upon a door. This door emanted blue-white light, like unearthly clouds sprinkled with a neon sky. Kaieve shielded his eyes, and stepped in.
* * * *
Inside, Kaieve saw the source of the light. On the floor of the room was inscribed a huge circle, adorned with smaller circles inside of it. He gasped in awe and wonder--an aosdic circle! It gave off a shimmering light, the same light that had crept out the door Kaieve had come in through.
Suddenly, Kaieveís attention was drawn by a laugh--a cackle, almost--from just beyond the circle. He looked up, to see Taren standing on the other side of the circle.
"Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly."
Kaieve snorted, and dispensed a burning glare to Taren. "What díyew want me for?" he asked, anger and puzzlement seeping out of his voice.
"Simple, simple," Taren said. "You were the only one that could possibly figure out our...unorthodox methods."
Kaieve spit in the direction of the other rogue. The little puddle landed in the center of the circle, where it sizzled like bacon and disappered. Taren laughed, an evil laugh.
"Why are you doing this!" Kaieve demanded.
"One purpose," Taren responded. "Revenge. Temuair--your like--ostracized me, threw me out like garbage! I am going to eliminate you, become richer than the lot of you combined!"
"Youíre a fool!" Kaieve shouted involuntarily. Taren stopped in his tracks.
"A fool?" he said menacingly. "We shall see who is the fool, when you have dissolved into nothingness upon the face of this circle!" Taren made a great vault and landed on Kaieveís side of the circle. Surprise paralyzed Kaieve for a moment, allowing Taren to make the first move.
He drew his dagger and plunged it toward Kaieve. Again, Kaieve narrowly dodged the flying blade. He drew his own knife and stabbed toward Taren, who expertly danced out of its way. Kaieve stumbled forward a small bit, nearly falling.
Taren snorted and knocked the flat of his blade against Kaieveís skull. Kaieve saw stars for a moment, then jumped out of the way of Tarenís strike, recieving only a bloody arm. Taren drove his blade forward again and again, intent on either killing Kaieve or driving him into the circle.
"Sgrios will yet have your soul!" he screeched, and Kaieve could not fight the feeling that it might soon be true. Nonetheless, he did his best to avoid Tarenís blows and return them whenever he could. The two of them skirted the circle, each performing an elaborate dance to both avoid the otherís strikes and keep himself off the edge of the pulsing rune.
Suddenly, Kaieve recieved strength. He could never figure out where it came from, or why, but it was there and he took full advantage of it. He pushed forward, driving and stabbing and thrusting and feinting at every opportunity.
Finally, a blow landed well and hard. Taren shouted out and tumbled backwards, into the circleís gaping maw.
* * * *
Tarenís blossom dagger clattered to the floor as he reached out. Kaieve shouted and streched forward, balancing as best he could so as not to fall into the circle himself. He thrust his arm out to grab Taren. Their fingers brushed, then a blast of light that scraped the ceiling of the room knocked Kaieve backwards, sending a tingling wave through his body. He screamed, Taren screamed, and when the light receded, Taren was gone.
* * * *
Curl up and go to sleep,
Snoring softly, counting sheep.
In the night youíll not resist
My daggerís every stab and twist.
Kaieve opened his eyes to the first droplets of morning. The newly born rays of sunlight danced and twirled about a beautiful forest dappled with shadow and sunplay; the verdant leaves shook in seeming laughter and the windís tickling caress.
The rustle of the leaves seemed to chuckle above Kaieveís head, innocent and oblivious to everything else in the world. Kaieve smiled, a small satisfied look that blossomed into a huge grin at the sight of the bobbing purple flowers near to him.
Kaieve sat up on the soft grass, asking himself if everything that had just occured had really happened. For the moment, he decided, he didnít really care. He jumped up and dashed off into the woodlands, calling out a happy little tune and bouncing up and down.
In a small patch of grass near where heíd lain, a blossom dagger rested, its color muted by the grass wrapped about its hilt, its blade gleaming happily in the sun.
So it was that spider died,
No one mourned and no one cried.
But spider was like you and me
Do not forsake his memory.