Our resident thief, Artemis had managed to fashion some torches from the clothes of dead adventurers found strewn across the dark hallways of this underground labyrinth. Nothing but bones, rusty weapons, broken shields, and rags was all that remained of the foolish souls that ventured this far down just to meet their doom. Dust and cobwebs entombed their bodies against the walls. It was as if someone cleared a path for others to walk through, or as if they had died sitting against the passage walls. Every now and then Athena would say prayers for the souls of the dead to find eternal rest. Nobody had seemed to notice that some of them appeared to have been pick-pocketed, or if they noticed, the observation was never voiced. Someone could have done it before our party arrived but if my suspicions were correct, Artemis had removed the no longer needed valuables from the dead by the time we got to them.
With torches in hand, the trek through the dark corridors continued at a slightly faster pace. At the far front of our single file line, Artemis would mark the traps that were not easily detected, Athena would mutter prayers to herself and Lubu would remain close behind me covering our retreat. Artemis’ torch could be seen far ahead moving up and down every time a trap was found. I was pleased with our progress and with the group selected for this quest. For the next quest, a few mercenaries would be hired to do all the heavy lifting and fighting. The elusive artifact had to be secured and the undead dragon had to be destroyed. Hiring mercenaries would expedite the process and ensure I did not lose any of my extremely valuable companions. Peyton would surely accompany me and there was no longer a need to worry about the Sylvari Ranger. Surely Peyton would be able to easily follow Artemis’ marked traps and meet us in Lion’s Arch.
Suddenly and without warning Artemis’ torch disappeared from view. “Artemis!” shouted Athena as she began to run, but immediately stopped when she heard me command, “WAIT!” Chattering could be heard ahead of us getting louder and the sound of a legion of small running feet reached our ears. Athena began to cast “shield of absorption” as a what appeared to be hundreds of rats ran in our direction. The sea of vermin parted around Athena’s shield like waters when hitting an anchored object and I was pushed aside by Lubu who got in front of me waving his makeshift torch at the rodents. Some of the rats that got too close got burned by the flames of Lubu’s torch but most continued their panicked stampede down the way we came from. While it was truly a sight to behold, a blood-curling realization hit me as sudden as the unexpected swarm of rats. “Prepare for battle!” I shouted, and added “these rats are fleeing from our true enemy.” By the time that sentence was uttered a nightmarish vision manifested directly ahead of us.
Out of the darkness thousands of red eyes reflected the light of our torches growing ever larger in the dim illumination. The feeling of impending doom was so palpable that the overwhelming desire to flee was almost too much to bear. There was nowhere to run and there was nothing to do but to face this new threat and hope that we survived. There was no time to worry about Artemis, only time to react to the onslaught that was about to be unleashed upon us. “What is that?” said Athena but by the time she finished her sentence a multitude of shots of silken netting impacted her “shield of absorption.” Soon enough the remainder of our party would be fighting to survive against the horde of spiders that had made these halls their home.
~ George Unty