Chapter 2

The Queen’s Web

Exhausted, Flynn remained laying on the dusty path in a dazed shock. With no idea how much time had passed, he eventually saw his father sprinting down the trail towards him. Not expecting to see his son, Brady stopped short.

“Flynn!” running over, he hugged his son tight.

Still in shock, Flynn wasn’t able to bring words to his mouth.

“Are you alright son?”

Flynn stared blankly into the blanket of webbing surrounding them.

“Flynn?” Brady said full of concern.

He finally managed to mumble in total disbelief, “I killed it Dad.”

Not understanding the mumbles, Brady asked, “You did what?”

“I killed the Webling.” Flynn said more clearly.

Brady let you a loud laugh of relief. He wasn’t sure if it was too soon to attempt a joke, but he asked it anyways, “Did this one tickle your ear too?”

Flynn let out an exhausted chuckle remembering the squashed spider that started it all. Colour had finally returned to Flynn’s face and his eyes had lost their dead stare. He quietly put the orb that used to be a Webling’s eye inside a pocket of his cloak and patted it for assurance.

Brady saw that his son was going to be alright, but still needed some time. So he gathered up the hem of his cloak and took a seat in the middle of the dusty path right next to Flynn. Brady wrapped his powerful arm around Flynn’s shoulders and they sat in comforting silence. After all, there wasn’t much that needed to be said now that he knew his son was safe and sound.

Staring into the webbed bushes gave them a chance to catch their breath and digest the events that just occurred. Their bodies and minds were shaken, so they needed this time of rest.

Eventually Brady broke the silence, “So, when we tell your Mother this story, could we leave out the part where you were INSIDE the Webling?” Flynn burst into a fit of laughter.

Relieved to see his son brighten up, Brady continued, “You know, we don’t want to worry her too much.”

Flynn knew this was his Dad’s way of saying that he didn’t want to get in trouble for putting their only son in serious danger. He also knew better than to tell his Mom the whole story, cause he would never be allowed to go Outside EVER again. So they both decided that this one little detail of their adventure would remain just between father and son.

Standing up, Brady offered to carry Flynn’s satchel. Still sore and battle-weary, Flynn appreciated not having to carry his pack. Brady slung the pack which held the precious Relic across his broad shoulder, then led the way along the dirt path towards Tarantu’s Hovel. The webbing became thicker and thicker as they travelled deeper into the Spider Queen’s territory. Everything was now draped in heavy, white blankets of spiderwebs.

Flynn brushed his hand through the web-covered bushes just off the path; feeling the silky strands rip away and trail behind his hand in the dry breeze. Little spiders crawled up and down his arms, but he didn’t mind them now. After being trapped in the belly of a Webling, these tiny spiders weren’t so bad at all.

A thought came into Flynn’s head as they were walking the dusty path,
“Hey Dad?”

“Yes?”

“I was just thinking…” Flynn paused, trying to think of how to say it.

“What were you thinking?” Brady led him.

“It looks kinda small.”

“What does?”

“The Hovel.” Flynn clarified, “I mean, her Hovel looks quite small for a Queen.”

“She was only the Spider Queen by name son. Enchantresses like to give themselves grand titles.” Brady explained, “Tarantu was no different than the rest. She wanted to be a Queen, so she called herself a Queen.”

“Witches are funny.”

“Flynn!” Brady scolded, looking disappointed.

“Sorry dad. Enchantresses are funny.”

“Why do you continue to use that vulgar word son?”

“Dunno dad.” Flynn said, ashamed.

“Well don’t.”

“Alright.” Flynn never understood why his parents were so adamant about referring to Witches as ‘Enchantresses’. They treated the term ‘Witch’ as a bad word. But that’s how Flynn saw Enchantresses, they were always Witches to him. All of the books that he read, agreed that Witches were terrible creatures that deserved to be called a vulgar name. But he did not argue this, instead he kicked up a cloud of dust and kept on walking.

They continued along the pathway in silence until the web coverage became so thick that Brady had to take out his broad machete once again after the battle.

“Careful now son, take a step back.” Flynn jumped back to keep clear as his father swept the blade through the air. As soon as the blade slashed through the webbing, countless spiders jumped into action quickly patching up the torn curtains behind the travellers.

Not wanting to be separated by the quick repairing blanket of webs, Flynn decided to face the danger of the swinging machete. He remained two steps behind his father, ducking and dodging the sharp blade swinging from Brady’s hand. All the while spiders diligently sealed up the path behind them.

Eventually, the webbing became so dense that Brady’s machete became stuck in the thick wall of web. He pulled the wedged blade out and swung again, striking with a dull thud. Again and again he hacked at the webbed wall until he cracked through. Using his shoulder, Brady barged through the wall and into an open clearing surrounding the Enchantress’ Hovel.

Flynn stepped through the opening to see that his father had just hacked through a thick ring of webbing that surrounded the Hovel. The clearing itself was totally open and free of loose spiderwebs. The webbing here, was arranged in intricate designs that were wondrous to look upon. The artistry of the Hovel itself was even more impressive.

From far away, the Hovel appeared to be draped in a carpet of loose webbing, but up close it was apparent that the Hovel was itself weaved entirely of tight-knit spiderwebs. The immaculate webbed construction was adorned with beautiful patterns and swirls woven into the tapestry of the walls. Flynn’s earlier disappointment in the state of the Hovel was replaced with awe now that he saw the craftsmanship of the Tarantu’s Hovel up close.

“Come on son. Let’s do this.” Brady called out.

Faint wisps of fog covered the ground, swirling around their feet as Brady led the way to the entrance. It wasn’t until his father stepped forward that Flynn took notice of a low buzzing sound that had been going on ever since they entered the clearing.

He stopped short, “What’s that sound Dad?”

Brady turned, “What sound?” Then it dawned on him, “Oh yeah, I forgot! We’ve entered the Inner Circle.”

Flynn stared at his father in utter confusion.

Brady swung the pack off his shoulder and held it out to show his son. Flynn saw a dull glow emitting from the vibrating satchel and remembered what it held inside.

“The Relic!”

“Exactly! Tarantu’s Web.” His father clarified, opening the flap wide. He dug his hand inside the pack and pulled out a shimmering net of interwoven silver threads. Flynn stared at the vibrating net in his father’s weathered hands.

“But why’s it buzzing so much?”

“That’s how Relics recharge.” Brady explained, “It takes a lot of energy to recharge and that Power doesn’t come quietly.” Flynn nodded in understanding as Brady continued, “And this stone here is the source of it all.”

Flynn concentrated on the stone embedded in the centre of the net. It burned bright while the thin silver netting hummed with Power. The glowing stone reminded him of the eye of the Weblings, only a bit brighter. Lost in thought, Flynn patted the orb deep in his cloak pocket as he studied the Relic expectantly. Watching it buzz and glow, Flynn’s excitement rose thinking about the dormant Powers the Relic possessed.

“This is only the beginning of the recharge.” Brady explained, snapping Flynn out of his thoughts “It’s going to get much more intense as we approach the alter inside.”

Brady slung the long, silvery net over his shoulder casually as it slowly recharged with Power. Flynn was very excited by the Enchantment they were about to unleash, whereas his father carried on like a glowing net brimming full of Power was the most normal thing in the world.

Flynn watched his father stroll up to the entrance through the swirling fog. He was a bit hesitant of entering an Enchantress’ Hovel for the first time.

“Come on son.” Brady urged. He turned to see Flynn’s apprehension, “It’s alright Flynn. She’s long gone by now.” He encouraged, “And there shouldn’t be anymore Weblings around. Even if there are, we can handle them; right? I mean now you’re the legendary Eye-Ripping-Webling-Slayer.” Flynn laughed with a renewed sense of confidence and followed his father up to the entrance of the Hovel.

The buzzing of the Relic steadily increased with each step towards the threshold. Up close the walls of the Hovel were alive with spiders scurrying through the webwork pattern adding new styles to their work of art.

Brady stepped up to the doorway first, with a moment of hesitation. Flynn noticed what made his father pause – there was no door. Instead, there was a curtain of webbing sealing up the entrance where the door would have been. Countless spiders were diligently stitching it up, adding designs to the ‘door’.

Brady inspected the solid webbing, tracing his hands along the lining of where the door frame would be. He considered it for a moment. With no doorknob to turn, he swiftly punched his arm through the webbing. Grabbing an armful of silky strands, he swept them aside like a curtain. Fresh puffs of hazy fog poured out of the torn opening, revealing a dark foyer.

“Well, that was a bit too easy.” Brady thought out loud.

“Isn’t it supposed to be easy Dad?” hoped Flynn.

“Oh yeah. It’s going to be very smooth.” Brady tried to sound convincing, “I’ve got the Eye-Ripper by my side. What could go wrong?” Brady gave Flynn a heavy pat of reassurance on the shoulder.

Flynn didn’t want to think about what could possibly go wrong. He had no chance to think anyways cause his father crossed the threshold quickly and motioned for Flynn to join him. Shaking off his fears, he stepped into the darkened interior behind his father while spiders of all sizes immediately began stitching up a freshly woven door behind them.

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.