BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Tangled Forest, Realm of The Spore Queen” by E.J. Tett
Bashemath, sicari assassin and mistress of the hunt, entered the forest. She had slaughtered more araneoli than anyone else in existence and it never got old. This forest, this… dark and twisted place with its dead trees and barren earth, was the chosen home of the Spore Queen.
Silver webs strung from tree to tree caught her eye, the threads glistening with morning dew. She approached silently, but the webs were empty and, judging by the undisturbed droplets of water on them, unused.
Bashemath headed deeper into the forest, drawing the shadows of the trees around her so she would remain unseen. Let the forest be crawling with them, let their bodies burst on my blade.
She shivered in delight and anticipation. There was nothing quite like the splatter of araneoli blood or the way their multiple legs twitched and spasmed in death. She remembered the last one she’d killed, how its giant corpse spouted blood and deflated like a pig’s bladder.
Noise ahead. A slow, squelching, cracking sound and the smell of rotten flesh. Her eyes widened in fascination as she drew nearer and her lips pulled into a grin. A demon corpse – large, misshapen and half-melted – sprawled in a clearing, bubbling and moving all on its own. Spiderlings, each the size of a rat, hatched out of the cadaver and scuttled away.
Bashemath reached for her knife. Idiot fiend! To be caught so easily, to allow these abominations to spawn from its body! She swallowed a laugh and watched a moment longer. Then, she disappeared in a cloud of darkness and reappeared beside the corpse, skewering the next spiderling as it emerged.
Eyes flashing, she stabbed again and again and again – bodies popped most pleasingly. A few of the babies escaped into the forest and she let them go. Go back to mother and tell her I have arrived.
She wiped her blade on the ground and moved away from the corpse. Grey clouds gathered overhead, muffling the daylight. The darker it got, the more likely the Spore Queen would wake up. Good. Bashemath hoped this one would put up more of a fight than the last.
A darting movement to her left caught her eye and she spun in time to see a creature disappear behind a tree. It was only a young one, the size of a cow, and as she stood, poised, it crawled around the tree and up, heading towards its web.
She weighed the knife in her hand, flipped it and caught the blade. She waited, watching, and then as the araneoli settled in the centre of its web she threw the knife – the metal flashing through the air. It struck the bebelith in the centre of its back and the creature screamed and fell, landing with a thud at her feet. She kicked it over and retrieved her weapon.
Something clacked behind her and she turned sharply. Another young araneoli, its front legs raised, clicked its palps together. She grinned as she faced it and let it see her blade. The araneoli, stupid, ran at her and she scored the knife across its head, laughing aloud at its high-pitched scream.
It backed off, brushing at its wound with its legs. Poor baby, she thought, watching it, tossing her knife from hand to hand. Poor sweet thing. She should really put it out of its misery.
As she raised the knife, the araneoli threw a web and the silver netting enveloped her. With a hiss of irritation, she teleported out of it and materialised behind the beast. Mouth open, stomach twisted with pleasure, she thrust the knife into the araneoli’s abdomen, teleporting away as its innards spilled out.
When she materialised again, she faced another of the abominations. Two! She realised another waited behind her. She teleported again, farther and deeper into the forest. More noise, more rustling of undergrowth and the angry clacking of spider palps.
She bared her teeth in a grin as the araneoli came at her. I will kill you all! Darkness flowered around her – she disappeared and reappeared over an unsuspecting creature, dropping down onto its back to plunge the blade into its neck. She was gone again, killing another, and another, barely having chance to enjoy their screams before she moved on.
A web caught her mid-air and she dropped heavily. Looking up, she saw three of them scuttle towards her. She teleported before they could do a damn thing.
Silence again. She was lost in the forest, webs all around. Bashemath took the opportunity to clean her blade. It didn’t take long before the araneoli caught up with her. Angry now, wanting only to kill the Queen, she hurried away.
Three in front of her – she hissed and turned to two more behind. She teleported away. Still they came. She killed one, its blood bubbling on her skin.
As she moved away, she realised suddenly that this wasn’t where she wanted to go. They’re herding me! Anger boiled inside her and she rounded on the young araneoli, fighting with a crazed bloodlust, seeing nothing but the flashing blade and writhing spider bodies.
One of them struck out with its leg and knocked the knife spinning from her hand. Another ran to it and clutched it up before she had chance and she cursed and teleported away.
Another clearing. Webs all around, from tree to tree, penning her in. She smirked and bunched her fists. They think they can trap me!
She waited. They’d wanted her there and now they had her. Let them come.
Red eyes glinted in the murk behind the webs and in the trees. There was a shifting of bodies as a larger shape moved among them. The Spore Queen. She came forward, breaking a web and then sealing it again behind her. She was as large as an elephant, blue-bodied and strangely elegant.
Bashemath closed her eyes briefly and let herself imagine what it would have been like to spill the Queen’s guts. She wondered if she was full of eggs.
Her knife was gone. No matter. She opened her eyes just as the Queen reached for her and she rolled away – snatching at one of the Queen’s legs and pulling hard. The Queen jabbed out and Bashemath let go and darted out of reach.
I can do this all day, she thought, smiling to herself. Maybe she’d wear the Queen down and strangle her after she’d collapsed. Not as fun as she’d hoped, but just as effective.
The Queen leapt and Bashemath teleported. She laughed at the araneoli watching from behind the webs and they chittered back at her in anger. Okay, so maybe it would be fun.
Something heavy hit her back and she fell forwards with a grunt. Rolling over, the Spore Queen loomed over her. She cursed herself for not paying attention and, just as the Queen raised her stinger to stab it into her, she teleported away… straight into one of the webs.
Bashemath cursed and tugged her arms, but she couldn’t pull away. She tried to teleport but a strange sensation – like little electrical currents – passed over her and she didn’t move. The chittering of the gathered araneoli increased as the Spore Queen approached her.
It’s the Queen’s web! She tried to teleport again and failed. She struggled but the Queen closed in on her, ready to strike.
BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Tangled Forest, Realm of The Spore Queen”, written by E.J. Tett, published by XEI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.