Chapter 1

The Burning Eye

Perched high up in a twisted oak tree, Flynn swept aside a wispy spiderweb and peered through the branches with a sense of disappointment. Lifting a spyglass to his eye for a better view, he studied the bungalow in the distance. It just wasn’t as impressive as he thought it was going to be. To be honest, he expected the Witch’s Hovel to have a more Magical feel about it, but this empty cabin covered with spiderwebs didn’t seem to possess any Enchantment at all.

Flynn lowered the spyglass and refocused his tired eyes on the dusty plains surrounding the abandoned Hovel. Thick spiderwebs covered the entire region in a crisp, white blanket. From afar, the silky webbing seemed to move about like shifting clouds in the sky, but Flynn knew this was just the movement of millions of spiders endlessly building more webs.

He never had a fear of spiders, but the sheer number of creepy-crawlies in the stretch below made his skin crawl. He was shaken from his uncomfortable spidery thoughts by a booming voice calling from below,
“What’s the lay of the land son?”

Flynn brushed a stray spider off his shoulder, surveyed the land again and shouted down to his father, “It’s between 200 and 250 farrows away.”

“Which way?” his father, Brady asked.

Flynn swiped another spider off his sleeve, located the sun in the sky and figured it out, “Northwest.” he said, hoping he was right.

Brady adjusted the hood of his ashy grey cloak, shaking spiders off himself, “Well done son.” Of course his father knew the way to Tarantu’s Hovel himself, but he had been teaching Flynn how to track the lands on his own.

“I’m comin’ down now. Alright?”

Flynn slid down the gnarled tree trunk with practiced motions, landing with a crunch of pebbles under his heavy boots. He walked over to his father who handed him a flask of water. After taking a deep swig, he wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his cloak. Seeing more spiders all over his arm, he brushed them off frantically, then handed the flask back to his father.

“Dad, you’ve got spiders all over you too.” Flynn said urgently.

“I don’t know what you were expecting from the Spider Queen’s Hovel, but we are in the Weblands aren’t we?”

“I know but — ”

“If you’re getting freaked out now, just wait till we get further in.”

“Yeah, but —”

“And we’re intruding on their Lands, so show some respect.”

“Okay Dad.”

Flynn kicked up a cloud of dust and started down the path towards Tarantu’s Hovel.

“Don’t forget your pack son.” Brady called after him, “Wouldn’t want to leave this behind. It’s the reason we came out here after all.”

Flynn turned as his father tossed a clinking satchel to him. He caught the pack with excitement, thinking about the precious Relic within.

“What do you think it can do Dad?”

“Not a clue son,” he laughed light-hearted. “And we won’t know until we recharge it down there.” He pointed to the Hovel in the distance, “Until then, we can only guess what Power it has. I imagine it’ll do something spidery though.”

Brady turned to collect his own pack. Flynn hefted the satchel over his shoulder ready to continue down the dusty path when he felt a tickle on his neck. He looked over his shoulder to see spiders crawling all over his pack. He flung it to the ground and wiped off his back frantically. Then there was a tickle in his ear. Flynn freaked out. Grabbing the spider out of his ear, he squashed it violently between his hands.

An eerie silence fell upon the land. Flynn looked up at his father who was also aware of the total silence. Suddenly, the deathly quiet was broken by a rattling wheeze that shook the clouds of webbing below.

“Flynn?” Brady’s voice was full of concern, “What did you do?”

“Nothing.”

The rattling wheeze was answered by others of the same call.

“Nothing?” questioned Brady.

“I didn’t do anything Dad. My pack was full of spiders, so I threw it down and got them off me.”

“Did you kill them?”

“It was in my ear Dad.” Flynn defended himself.

“Did you KILL them?” his father repeated.

“Only one.” answered Flynn sheepishly.

“You killed it because it was tickling your ear?”

The webbing below was shifting about in violent waves heading their direction.

“Get back in the tree Flynn.” his father ordered.

“I didn’t want to kill ’em —”

“Now Flynn! Up the tree NOW!”

Flynn ran back to the tree and clambered up as fast as he could. The wheezing was louder now, mixed with raspy grunts.

He turned just in time to see the first creature burst through the web-covered bushes. Standing about knee-height all puffed up, the creature was a mix between a fat, juicy spider and a wispy cotton ball. A single orange eye burned just above an oversized, toothless mouth and eight stubby legs.

The intense, orange eye scanned the clearing, not paying the slightest attention to Brady who was now wielding a thick-bladed machete. The vicious cotton ball let out another rattling call and was soon joined by four others.

“Stay where you are Flynn.” shouted Brady, his eyes never leaving the creatures, “I’ll take care of the Weblings.”

Still not taking heed of Brady, the five Weblings all turned their burning eyes on Flynn high up in the tree. The leader opened it’s unhinged mouth to spit a webbed glob towards him. The sticky glob lobbed through the air and stuck onto Flynn’s boot. He tried to move his foot, but it was cemented to the tree trunk by the gooey mass.

Brady jumped into action to defend his son. He leapt at the Weblings, slashing the air to ward the creatures off. They did not flee though, instead they spread out and launched an all-out flurry of globs at Flynn. Each shot missed him, but the tree was riddled with webbing. The creatures continued to ignore Brady wielding his machete until the thick blade sliced through one of them, cutting it in half.

The two halves of the Webling crumpled to the ground like a wet blanket. Only four more left – or so Flynn thought. In fact, the creature was far from dead. It’s orange eye still burned bright. The deflated Webling flopped around for a moment before quickly stitching itself back together. Silk strands spun around in a flurry as the creature mended itself and puffed up to normal size once again.

Recognising the threat, two of the Weblings turned their fury on Brady now. Instead of firing globs of webbing, they both shot out thin strands of web like long tongues. Sticking fast onto Brady’s legs the creatures pulled him to the ground, then began to reel him into their oversized mouths. Slashing the webbed tongues with his machete, Brady freed himself and jumped back to his feet ready to fight.

Flynn watched from the safety high up in the tree as his father leapt at the two Weblings. They were just about to clash when Flynn was blinded by a glob of webbing that hit his face and stuck hard. The shock of it sent Flynn reeling. Blinded, he lost his balance and fell off the branch. There was a moment of free-fall when he braced himself for the long fall that never happened. Hanging upside-down, unable to see, he realised that his foot was still plastered onto the tree trunk by the webbing. He was now dangling high up in the tree.

Unable to breathe in his webbed mask, Flynn clawed at the gooey silk. He managed to rip it off only to see more globs being fired his way. He swung back and forth to avoid the incoming webs.

The Weblings stopped spitting globs and turned their attention to Brady who launched a new attack on them. Flynn now saw that the two creatures his father was battling before were dead and gone for good. There was no more orange glow coming from their eyes, only two loose heaps of wispy silk that were slashed and torn.

While Brady was dancing with the three remaining Weblings down below, Flynn tried to free his foot from the glob that stuck him to the tree. He scratched and clawed the webbing until it loosened. Not thinking that the webbing was the only thing holding him up, he tore through the final strands. Finally freed, he went crashing down through the brittle branches, tumbling head over heels until he hit the ground with a thud and a cloud of dust. Dazed and bruised, he looked up to see his father clashing with two of the Weblings.

Flynn heard a rattling wheeze right behind him. He turned to see the third Webling looming over him with it’s mouth gaping wide. The sticky tongue strand shot out and took hold of Flynn’s shoulder. It reeled him in and before he could react, the Webling swallowed him whole.

Inside the creature’s belly, it wrapped him up into a tight cocoon which constricted the more he struggled. Once he was totally secured in the belly, he began bouncing up and down violently. Flynn came to understand that the creature was running away with him securely trapped inside of it’s stomach.

Flynn kicked and screamed, but to no avail. The more he tore at his cocoon, the more sticky strands tied him up. He needed to come up with another plan of escape, so he stopped struggling and let the Webling carry him away for the moment. Bouncing up and down was torturous, but once he cleared his mind, he came to notice an intense orange glow throughout the cocoon. He turned his head as much as he could to see the source of the glow. The single, fiery eye burned bright, lighting up everything within.

An idea cemented itself in Flynn’s mind. There was no doubt what he needed to do – he must grab the eye. He gathered all of his strength and punched his hand directly at the orange glow. Closing his hand around the fiery eye, he winced as intense pain shot through him. Flynn tightened his grip around the eye even though it seared the soft flesh of his hand, but there was no way he would let go. He would never let go – this was his only chance of survival. So despite the severe burning sensation melting his hand, he held on even tighter to the fiery eye.

He twisted and turned his hand with all of his might until he ripped the eye free from it’s secure spot. The orange glow disappeared and the entire cocoon collapsed, spilling Flynn out onto the ground. Loose strands of the deflated Webling blew in the breeze while Flynn crawled away from the wispy shell of the dead creature.

He held onto the fiery eye with a tight grip; not noticing that it had immediately cooled down once it had been torn from the Webling. Looking down at his hand, there were no burn marks, just a smooth orb with a shard of glimmering orange stone embedded in the middle. The orb felt cool to the touch, but he still felt the heat burning inside of him.

With that Flynn slumped down, dropping his head onto the dusty path. He had no energy to do anything except to stare blankly at the canopy of webs covering the bushes above him.

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