As dawn crept over the horizon, I declared the task of reorganizing the temple's libraries complete. For now, only the first room of each tower's library would be accessible to any incoming disciples, including those who were my direct disciples. Until I’d assessed each of the direct disciples to determine if they would keep their position, they would be treated as an outer disciple.
On the other hand, Meissa’s direct disciples would be able to access all three levels of the astrology tower, but were restricted to the first library of the other towers. Kip, and Roswyn were also restricted in the same way, as were the others from the guild. Only those who were currently filling roles as guards were given full access to the temple, except for my personal rooms.
After enjoying a warm breakfast in the staff tower, I escorted Rainy, Pia, Victoria and the four youngest of the Kijo’s siblings down into the basement level of the hall of origin.
Roan, and Liam both choose not to join the tunnel exploration, the former wanted to learn about transmutation from Kip, while the latter wished to spend time reading in the alchemy library to further his knowledge of plants that might be used for shamanistic talismans.
While Victoria led her brothers, and Pia into the tunnel, I remained behind with Rainy to work on converting the basement room into a space for growing moss and fungi.
“I think it would work best if you created cabinets on the walls as you did in Sēkrit.” Rainy said, pressing a hand to one of the walls. “That way we can keep the different mosses separated.”
“Do you think it's moist enough down here? I know we had an issue with the fungi due to a lack of moisture in the air back in Sēkrit.” I commented as I worked to form stone boxes along the walls, and Rainy began to attach the different mosses inside each.
“That was because we were in the desert, it shouldn’t be a problem here...” Rainy’s voice was cut off as a high pitched scream pierced the air.
More screams followed the first, and after a brief hesitation I moved with Rainy to the door, conjuring a ball of fire as I did so.
Footsteps sounded in the tunnel as the shrieking drew closer, and I sent my fire out to light up the form of Pia as she bolted towards us.
The faun was covered in what I first thought to be white cotton, but quickly realized it was the remnants of a spider's web as Pia’s screaming went from a wordless shriek, to a cry of “Spiders”.
When the Faun reached the tunnel's exit, she spun around to slam the door closed, eyes wide with fear as she leaned against it.
“Pia? Are you okay?” Rainy soothed, moving closer to the faun to brush the strands of spider web from her body.“Did you get bitten?”
“N-no,” Pia panted. “Oh gods Rainy. It was horrible. The spiders are bigger than horses! Horses, Rainy!”
I stared at the faun, torn between teasing her over being frightened, and being scared myself. The mere thought of horse sized spiders made my skin prickle, and sent a chill down my spine.
“Kip, gather all the fighter ranked guild members, and come down to the lower level.” I ordered, connecting to the dwarf only long enough to pass my message before shifting my focus to Meissa, and informing her she was in charge until my return.
Within five minutes Kip arrived with Darius, Roan, Liam and Roswyn’s hunting team. The moment Kip saw Pia, and the webs Rainy was plucking off the faun’s furred legs, his face became pale.
“Tell me it ain’t spiders.” He pleaded.
“Okay,” I said with a nod. “We’re going to go rescue the others from something I can’t tell you about.”
“Fuck.” Kip swore as the others let out small groans.
“Are the spiders really that strong?” I said, looking at the faces of the gathered fighters.
“They aren’t exactly strong, but they're not weak either.” Darius grumbled. “Why are there spiders under your temple?”
“How would I know? The tunnel came with the temple,” I complained, crossing my arms over my chest in annoyance.
“Foxy send Pyr in to burn them all!” Pia demanded, causing Rainy to let out a cry of protest.
“No!” Rainy exclaimed, shaking her head vehemently. “It would destroy the webs.”
“It would also kill my siblings.” Roan said, frowning at the dryad whose green cheeks took on a pink hue.
“That too.” She added hastily, averting her eyes as she stuffed the webbing she’d pulled off Pia into a pouch.
“We need to go in and get them,” I said, looking at Darius who nodded, his expression hardening as he turned to the group.
“Double points.” He said loudly, causing the group who’d all be muttering about their reluctance to enter the spider infested tunnel to fall silent. “A giant spider is normally worth ten points. For today's hunt those points will be doubled, and Kadia will be giving each member a bonus reward as payment for clearing out the spiders infesting her temple.”
Excuse you? Narrowing my eyes at the guild leader, I fought the urge to deny his words, but the expressions on everyone's faces made it clear no one would be entering the spider infested tunnel without incentives.
With a sigh, I explained the plan for the temple’s own point based system to redeem rewards such as potions, astral blessings, and transmutation arrays.
“I will match the guild's points, offering twenty points per spider. This will be for each person as an individual who participates. If everyone as a team kills three spiders, each person will receive sixty points.” I told the group.
A pale looking woman with elvish features, and light brown hair raised stepped forwards looking at me with interest. “What can we buy with twenty points?” She asked, glancing to the door which led into the tunnel.
“I haven’t finished calculating the prices yet.” I admitted. “At the moment, I can say that twenty points would equal a basic grade tincture, while a hundred and fifty points could buy a bottle of light foot potion. Five hundred points would purchase an undying fire array, though considering you’ve got Roswyn on your team I don’t think you'll need transmutation items.”
The woman nodded, looking thoughtful as she glanced at her team who all shrugged, with the exception of Roswyn who was waving her hand in the air.
“Priestess, priestess,” the gnome called, bouncing up on her toes to stand taller.
“Roswyn, I told you. You don’t need to put your hand up.” I said, causing the woman to flush.
“Will the points stay doubled when the spiders revive?” The gnome asked, and I stiffened, glancing at Darius who frowned looking at the door.
“Is there a way for them not to revive?” I asked the guild leader, who shook his head, then nodded.
“Creatures won’t spawn on claimed land, but you can only claim it if we clear the entire area first.” He said, rubbing his chin. “That’s if this is a normal nest, and not a dungeon.”
“Could it be an entrance to the Almer dungeon?” Kip suggested, his expression brightening, but Darius shook his head.
“I highly doubt it, there are no known entrances this low on the mountain range.” The guild leader said, his eyes sweeping over the gathered fighters. “My guess would be this is a nest of spiders hibernating for the winter.”
“What it is, doesn’t matter right now,” Roan said, striding towards the door. “Not while my brothers, and sister are dangling around for some spider's lunch.”
Before the orc could yank open the door, Darius moved to block him. “I understand your concerns, but we need to come up with a plan first. Rushing in will only see us becoming the next course on the spider buffet.”
Jaw clenched, Roan stepped back from the door, arms crossed over the steel chest plate he wore. The orc’s expression, and body posture made it clear he wasn’t happy with the delays, but Darius was correct that charging in without a plan wasn’t a good idea.
According to Pia, she’d been ordered to retreat by Victoria when twins got paralyzed, and dragged to the ceiling in webs, which meant we didn’t know the fates of the others.
The faun claimed her screaming hadn’t been an act of fear, but a means to alert us if the spiders caught her before she made it out the tunnel, but I didn’t believe it for a second. I’d seen her face when she left the tunnel, there’d been no hiding the utter terror in her eyes when she reached us.
Despite my reluctance, it was decided I would lead the way into the tunnel, with Roswyn and Kip flanking me as the only fighters who possessed magically controlled fire. Using the Kitsune fury orbs was determined to be only a last resort action, as the alchemic fire could put everyone at risk when used in an enclosed environment.
Considering I was the only one who could naturally control fire, Darius claimed it made sense that I should enter first with the transmuters who each held a fire strike array at the ready.
Coming with us would be Roan, and Lenny, a human man on Roswyn’s team who wore full plate armor. Our makeshift team of three casters, and two tanks was the main attack, focusing on the extermination of the spiders due to their weakness to fire.
The remainder of the fighters, who could attack with long ranged weapons or magic, were directed to stay close to the tunnel, providing cover for the rescue team that would free those who’d been trapped in the webs.
Staring at the door which led into the tunnel, I called forth my flames, shaping it into half a dozen fire balls that hovered over my head. Holding my head up high in an attempt to hide my fear of what lay ahead, I pulled open the door, and strode into the spider's nest.