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An Itsy Bitsy Problem – Wright into the nest

John Wright followed their nervous guide through the dense island vegetation, though the ex-Pinkerton considered the fellow superfluous.  The nest had been visible from afar and Wright had a honed sense of direction.   But even Loki, obliviously pounding through the underbrush announcing their presence as a one manned marching band, could have found their destination.  The thick canopy above could not hide airships hovering menacingly above the spiders enclosure.  

Itsy had to know that, if she pushed the situation, fiery death would rain from the sky.  Wright set his teeth as he visualized the entire forest being destroyed to end the threat she posed.  No one could possibly want that outcome, least of all Itsy herself.  But there was a chance the torments inflicted upon her at Aquila IX may have taken her beyond the realms of reason.

It did not improve his foul mood that their entire plan hinged on a little boy who may not be remembered fondly like he believed.  Wright did not question the sanity of their mission, not out loud where the others could hear anyways.  The full moon was coming, and it was taking all his self control to maintain his air of quiet discipline.

Their guide abandoned them as soon as they found the entrance, which was nothing more than a break in the webbing between trees.  Bookworm called after him, trying to find out where they should go next but he did not reply.  

Wright grunted derisively at the cowards retreat and kept his attention on the nearby threats.  Large spiders watched their every movement with suspicion as they stepped forward.  The bigger spiders belied the danger of the smaller ones crawling across their intimidating home.  Vines of webs covered the canopy above while they stepped into the den of web-festooned trees.  

“So…where…do we go from here?”  Book asked looking to her companions for some ideas.

Wright shook his head and gestured towards the path laid out between the trees and webs even though it was herding them one direction.  Russell snidely commented, “I see this is a well planned operation.”

Loki clanged forward bringing ever more attention to their presence with each step. The spiders that had not had their attention before had it now. “Oi dunna, but we can call outta Itsy!”

Before anyone could stop him, Loki inhaled deeply, cupped his hands and bellowed, “IIITSY!!  Es me!!  Lowkey!”

There was a slight rustling as her name reverberated through the forest, and the spiders moved back slightly.  They watched the group intently, but this was as close to permission as the company were likely to get.

Loki led the way confidently, taking out another brownie that smelled like it had been dipped in chemicals.  Wright wondered what effect they were having on his brain besides taking away his fear.  If he couldn’t talk to Itsy in this state things might fall on Wright’s own shoulders.  There was a chance he might be able to reach Itsy himself.

A mist filled the air as they went deeper into the territory, sending Wright’s hackles stood like they had been electrified.  He fought to maintain his calm though his blood raced being in an enemy’s nest.  Drawing his weapon he followed Loki, noting the movements of the spiders following them.  It was a sea of movement, and he could feel some idly crawling on his pants leg.  He’d brush them off with his tail when he could, but the he could see that the others were in worse shape than himself.

They were already caught in Itsy’s web, the smaller spiders easily able to avoid detection they were so diminutive.  They weren’t deadly strains thankfully, but smashing even one of these would be a declaration of war.

The others recognized their predicament, except for the inebriated Loki who peered through the mist at what appeared to be their destination, “Oi!  Lookie tere!”  

There was a wall of webs blocking further passage, but below that there was a tunnel entrance. The former Pinkerton suspected that this was an abandoned mine shaft from the days of the Empire.  He grimaced again, noting that if there were gas pockets inside their weapons would be too dangerous to risk.  Outloud he added, “That will give us even less space to maneuver without shooting ourselves.”

“If she sees yer weapons she’ll freak!”  Loki warned as he clanged his way to the entrance at an unsteady wobble.  “Oi wanna go firs’!”  

“Probably right.  Holster up,” Wright suggested as he studied the boy’s movements.  He suspected that the hike and weight were taking too much out of the lad.  He had packed too heavily for a long hike through a forest.  Despite his youthful energy, the boy would likely collapse if he wasn’t careful.   

Captain Hienrichs joined him quickly, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Loki, I’ll stay close to you.  Mr. Wright, Captain Firecrest – keep a little behind us.  Watch for anything that might sneak up behind.”

The spiders weren’t sneaking so much as openly following, but they both nodded in agreement.  It was dark inside the tunnel, but Russell had a lantern and Loki stuck a candle to his hat confidently.  Wright winced, but he didn’t smell natural gas ahead but it was concerning.  His senses were sharpened with the coming moon so he suspected he would smell the gas before it was a threat.

They tread lightly into the den, their pitiful lights illuminating the walls just enough to illustrate the shadows ahead of them.  Movement slithered along the walls, but stayed out of their way.  A cold laugh broke their pace as the outline of Itsy appeared in the chamber ahead. She spoke with a haunting voice that reverberated on the stone, “Welcome to our home…

“OI!  ITSY!!  ES ME!!  LOWKEY!!!”  Loki cried joyfully, neglecting the menacing tone behind her greeting.  “Membah?!”

She laughed in response as she retreated deeper into the cave, her legs spread out and moving her back swiftly along the walls.

“OI AIN’ SCARE!! OI LOIK YA!” The boy cried, and followed after her noisily.  

Wright cursed slightly, ignoring the crawling sensations against his fur.  “She’s leading us on.”

Captain Heinrichs and Russell nodded apprehensively, but Loki obliviously ran forward heedless of his danger.  The others had no choice but to keep up with the lad who began to show his exhaustion as they rushed down the path.

They found several turns, but most of them were blocked entirely by webbing on the ground and walls.  Again Itsy gave them only one path forward though she had free movement.  Wright kept his temper in check for the sake of the others.  He couldn’t save them all if the spiders choose to bite.

Russell nearly reached out to test the webbing, but Wright seized his hand inches from the dangerous substance.  Bookworm shuddered, thinking of what had almost happened.  Wright breathing careful tried to steady his predators blood, “Don’t touch the webbing.”

“Caaarfu’” Loki said as he stared at Russell, for the first time sounding like he appreciated the danger around him.  He had tried biting the webs in the past, and it had not gone well for him.  “Them webs is some kinda poison oi thank!”

“Not poison, exactly,”  Bookworm corrected as she looked at his hand apprehsively.  “But it will drain you of energy.”

“Righ’.  Make ya numb tew.”  Loki added and Russell pulled back in understanding.  Wright released his arm to allow it.  

The group descended nervously watching where they put their hands and feet.  Finally they came to Itsy’s lair.  The walls were covered with webs and people shaped cocoons were placed strategically around the area.  Spiders crawled over every surface watching them menacingly.  

From above, Itsy lowered herself from the ceiling with a menacing giggle.  

Loki ran forward heedless of the danger, Wright followed after him concerned for the brash actions of the lad to hold him back.

“Watch out!!”  Bookworm yelled.  Wright ducked as two giant spiders lowered themselves from the ceiling and grabbed Loki’s pack.

Loki stopped excitedly calling cluelessly to Itsy.  Wright turned around and saw that two giant black widows, each the size of his chest had descended from the ceiling.  They had blocked off the entrance with a webbing trap.  

John and Loki were effectively on their own now…

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