Chapter 39
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Reaching inside the pouch strapped around my upper half I feel the touch of something cold against the unblemished skin of my palm. Something long and hard touches my fingers. No, nothing like that. A weapon? A spear? A sword? My mind races and my heart is hopeful as I grasp the round, thin cylinder. It’s not a coin this time, it might actually be something good! Excitement fills my eyes that grow wide with elated anticipation.

  The reddish-purple liquid inside of the long-necked, green glass bottle swishes around inside the container as I pull it out of the bag. Huh? I stare at it somewhat dumbfounded. Is this a potion? There is a note attached to the bottle, I am about to yell to the above that I can’t read. But then I realize I don’t need to. Even if I can’t read in this form, I know this symbol. It is universal, across all languages spoken and unspoken.

  As I look at the simple, crudely drawn eye on the piece of paper I feel something in my own pair. A wet. A warmth. I am sad again, but I am happy at the same time. I realize what this symbol means. I feel a deep pride setting root in my chest. A powerful click of a lock fastening a chain of determination around my now steadfastly beating heart; sending ample waves of rich, clean blood through my whole body. A pulse of thankfulness, happiness and pride through my soul. He has seen me.

  With both hands raised high, the bottle in one and paper in the other I wave to the above. To the cavern ceiling, the trees, the giant orb above with long outstretched arms. I wave with a smile as bright as the sun. I am so happy, friend. He sees me. He sees me! I am happy. I am so happy! Does this mean he knows about me? About the stairs? About all of this? I am so happy! I feel like a weight has been lifted from my core. I suspected he knew since he sent the trash-mobs up the lower stairs, but now I know for sure. I know! Pulling my hands back to my body I can’t help but let out an excited high-pitched half-shout, half-squeal. The cold glass touches my bare skin and I look at the odd thing.

  A health potion maybe? The color is similar, but… I grab the fat cork stuffed in the top of the bottle and pull it out with a squeaking plop. A sweet, pungent smell rises up. Fruity, but old, sour. Like a bunch of berries jammed inside an old shoe. It’s… musty in a strange way that isn’t nice to smell for sure, but… I don’t dislike it either as strange as that is to say. I sniff again, trying to discern what it is. It’s not like any health potion I’ve smelled, mana either. Shrugging, I look around and raise the bottle to my lips, taking a sip.

  I lean forward, nearly spluttering the red juice out of my mouth as it enters and coats my tongue. It burns in a way I hadn’t expected. Is this poison?! No. No… well, maybe just a little. Hmm. Having managed to keep the purple liquid inside of my mouth I swish it around between my teeth trying to get a feel for it. I don’t think I like the taste but… I don’t hate it either? Swallowing it down with a gulp, I don’t feel anything in particular. My body feels the same. My energy feels the same. Do I have mana in this body? Hmm. No. No. But I can make a string with my back end, so… that’s nice? But also a little embarrassing actually. What if the hero saw me? I blush at the thought, holding my cheeks with both hands.

  Looking around the forest I stuff the note back into my bag, which I am actually kind of glad I have. I don’t get to have bags often. Not in the loot sense, but just to carry things inside of, you know? Not that I often have much to carry. I take another sip from the bottle and try to figure out what it is. Some kind of juice I suppose. Thanks dungeon-master! It’s not the best tasting, but it’s really nice to have something new. I’ve been really lucky with food these last few respawns!

  Popping the cork back in the bottle I stuff it in the bag and try to come up with a plan. I come up with the same plan I always do. Stairs. Hmm. Yeah. Big suprise. Taking a step back I look at the long branch I fell down with and pick it up and swing it around, taking a moment to rip all of the twigs and leaves off of it. The wood is firm and hard. The broken end is jagged and non-pliant. It reminds me of the spear I had in my minotaur life. Holding it upright I can let one end rest on the ground with the other reaching to my breast. I suppose a pointy long stick is better than no weapon at all, right? My cheeks feel warm.

  We’re solitary creatures, us spider-kin. There are a few of us here in the forest, though we keep to ourselves mostly. But there are others here as well who we share the woods with. Little things with red caps. I hate them. I hate them. My fingers tighten around the makeshift lance as my spider brain goes through its thoughts. The sub-boss is on the top right of this floor, but we don’t go there. She eats her young.

  Instead I go a different way. To the northwest. There was water there. Water is a good hiding place, right? Heading through the forest I look around, taking in the sights of everything around me as I go. I feel an urge to climb up to the trees but I ignore it. For spider-me this is just another day in the world. But for me… this is magical. Every leaf, twig, blade of grass beneath my pointed legs. Everything touches my heart when I see it. Everything I gaze upon with my sight makes me think of the eye of the dungeon-master watching me. Of the hero watching me. It’s pretty embarrassing. I realize I am naked. Spider me doesn’t care about that. First me does. A lot. Is this why my face is so warm?

  I tighten the strap of my bag and place it in front of me to obscure myself just a little. Taking the opportunity I decide to take another swig of the bottle. You only live once, right? Haha. I set it back down and just enjoy walking through the quiet woods. Feeling the sun shine through the majestic crowns of the trees so far above. Listening to the gentle rustle of the million leaves in the wind. Listening to the gentle footsteps of the red-caps sneaking up behind me.

Wait.

Wait, what?

  I spin around, crude spear at the ready, my eight legs locking into the ground steadfastly. I see the many glowing little eyes staring out of the bushes, out from behind the trees. Glints of old rusty axes and sickles shine out, reflecting the aura of the radiant sunlight. They are ugly little things, the red-caps. They’re smaller than a goblin by a full head’s height. One would just reach up the middle of the hero’s shins. But there are many of them, dozens in any given group. Their wicked smiles are wide, devious and filled with razor teeth with chunks of old meat stuck in between. Their ugly gray, pointy heads each adorned with a crudely made, blood dyed cloth cap.

  They cackle as their glowing eyes shine out of the forest surrounding me on all sides. How many are there? Am I completely surrounded? My head darts around, everywhere I look I see at least one pair of the glowing eyes shining out of the underbrush. I clench my teeth. I hate red-caps. But this was my mistake. We usually stick to the treetops, it’s safer there. But I wasn’t listening to the spider-brain, I was taking control and I’m a big old dummy, guy. I prepare myself to fight. Dying to red-caps will hurt, they don’t kill their prey before they eat it. Maybe it will die while they’re hacking legs and pieces off. Maybe it won’t. There is nowhere to run though, I won’t make it up a tree in time.

  They begin their approach and I wonder why the dungeon-master isn’t telling them to back off. Now I wonder why he didn’t tell the red-dragon to let the others pass. I suppose even trash-mobs have a mind and will of their own. After all, what can the dungeon-master do if you don’t listen to him?

  With a gnarl the first one leaps towards me with his axe in the air. I shout with equal fervor and plunge forward, a small weight shakes through my body as a splatter of red coats the pale skin of my face. The red-cap sticks on the end of the spear and twitches, making a disgusting mix of gurgles and wordless grunting screams as a froth leaks out of his trembling mouth.

  I swing the spear sending him flying off of the point and smashing down to the ground. The others swarm over him instantly, hacking and slashing and tearing him apart as he screams and writhes beneath their mass. I feel sick watching them rip into his gut with their filthy claws and chew on his intestines. His screams only muffled by the others ripping at his lips and cheeks, gouging at his eyes.

Blood squirts over the grass, blood squirts over them. Blood over me. staining and befouling everything once pure with red. Red. Red.

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