#32

By Pilgrim

"Where are they? Fiends of the Dark Tower! Show yourselves!" shouted a knight.

"You will find no fiends in our forest, Mr. Haldon," assured the centaur treading right next to him. "And I'll thank you to keep your voice down, it will wake our tenants from their slumber."

"Oh, is that so? Are you certain? You are. Well, Centaur of the Guiding Arrow, you'll accept my apologies, surely! I can't seem to keep my excitement."

"My name, as I've told you, is Bellox, Mr. Haldon," said the centaur. His deep, calm voice was emotionless, so that if he was either amused or annoyed it didn't show. "There is nothing to be excited about here; you'll find no enemies to slay in our forest. It is without doubt the safest place in this world; far away from the wars of your Kingdoms, Mr. Haldon."

"Mmm, is that so?" The knight clearly didn't believe him, and he clearly didn't want to.

By the torchlight the centaur could still see the sense of wild excitement in Haldon's eyes. The knight was yet young and ambitious, looking for any means to further make his name known amongst the Great Kingdoms. This was further apparent by the way he swung the torch around and kept his hand firmly on the sword at his side, ready to strike at any moment. A smile constantly lit his face.

"I'll also thank you to stop swinging that torch. Our forest is, to our shame, susceptible to flame, you see."

"You're certain there are no fiends here?"

"Quite."

"Hmm, too bad..."

The two continued deeper into the forest. If night had turned to day, it wasn't noticed. The trees of the forest were so tall and their leaves so wide that not a flicker of sunlight could possibly get through.

"Our forest is impenetrable, Mr. Haldon," Bellox explained. "The constant darkness guarantees no Sun Transportation Magicks can reach the interior."

"But can't they be used on the tree tops? And can't the trees be climbed down?" asked the knight.

"The leaves atop contain a toxic poison. Any person touching them would quickly meet their deaths."

"I see... But can't that be changed if they used Fire Magicks to set the trees aflame?"

"That would only serve to hinder them further, as setting the poison aflame would create an expanding poisonous fog."

Hours passed, and eventually...

"Why, it's a little girl!" shouted Haldon. She was sitting next to a premature tree with her legs spread in front of her. Her eyes seemed to stare at her bare dirty feet.

"That's impossible...!" exclaimed the centaur. He stared at the forest ceiling. "Moonlight!" As he said, a ray of moonlight just barely escaped through the leaves at the forest top, and with a wisp of the wind, was covered again.

"Are you alright, Lost Lonely Little Girl? I am The Great and Noble Knight Haldon, though you may just call me Great and Noble Knight. Do you require assistance?"

"We must inform the Chief..." said Bellox. "Something is wrong with our forest."

"Little girl?"

The girl said nothing, but her head nodded up a little, and her gaze met the knight's chin.

"The girl is blind," said the centaur. "Likely mute as well. Perhaps a wizard's puppet or slave..."

"No, her dress is made of silk. I see! She must be the daughter of a nobleman!" Excitement arose from the knight's voice. "Or perhaps even the Princess of a long lost Kingdom."

"Regardless, Mr. Haldon, we must hurry to the camp; this situation merits urgent reporting. I will carry the girl with me, for she likely has a role in this..." The centaur, in one clumsy motion, picked the girl up with both arms.

"How will she be of any help if she is mute?" asked Haldon.

"We have ways. No, Mr. Haldon, I speak not of torture. You gravely mistake us for your own species."

Haldon walked forward. It wasn't until a few steps later that he noticed Bellox wasn't coming with him. He turned around and found the centaur exactly in the same spot as before. "What is the matter, Grand Horse-Man of the Forest?" Haldon got closer until he could clearly see the centaur's face by torchlight. Bellox was staring into the eyes of the little girl.

In them he saw... "Spiderwebs...! I can't... move!"

Cobbie, dear! Have you fffound me some fffresh meats?

"Who goes there!?" shouted the knight. His sword was unsheathed and his torch swayed from side to side searching for the voice's owner.

Oooooh, two! Gooood girl!

"Mr.... Haldon!! Cut the girl! Set me free!"

"Ridiculous, beast! I cannot possibly slay a little girl!"

"You...!!"

Oooooh! Such fffine pickings today! This horse-man looks just... Mm!!

From the darkness of the treetops dropped a gigantic black spider with the head of an elderly woman protruding from one of its great eight eyes. She stopped above Bellox and stabbed her fangs into the gut of his horse body; still he did not drop the girl.

As soon as Haldon noticed the spider witch, he reflexively swung in her general direction. Again and again, but he swung at nothing but the cold forest air as the insides of the centaur Bellox were being quickly sucked away from his body.

"BEAST! STEP AWAY!" the knight bellowed. The spider witch payed him no mind.

And then, his sword had finally cut; but the blade only fell upon the arm of the now deceased centaur, sending it off into the forest trees, and making the little girl fall to the floor.

Cobbie, dear! Are you fine? Clumsy HUMAN!

"STEP AWAY! STEP AWAAAAAAGH!!" The beast stabbed one of her legs into Haldon's hip. His knees immediately buckled and his sword and torch fell from his hands. The spider witch lifted him up, and slammed him into the floor. Then again. And then again. And again. Until he was no longer screaming.

Aah. Mmmm, before he gets cold...

She stabbed her fangs into him, and sucked.

Minutes later...

Fffine meats it was. So young toooo.

"...."

Next... Next... we must make preparations for the next...

"Can't I see my Mommy now?" spoke the little girl.

Your M- Noooo, not yet... You can't see M-Mommy yet. But soon. Yes, very soon. I'll let you see your Mommy very soon...

"...."

Next... Preparations... That clumsy human. He got your... pretty silk dress all torn and dirty... I'll... m-make you a new one...

From her silken web she quickly made a new silken dress.

Next... Cobbie, dear. Next... #33...