Challenge #02097-E273: Surprise Attackers
"Where are we running to?" asked the panting officer.
"Let's just worry about the away part right now," shouted the private, making a determined effort to run faster than her Captain. -- Anon Guest
There is an old saying, The Brass will kill you. Sooner or later, some lord with a horse and shiny armour will make the world's stupidest decision because that was how it was supposed to go according to some epic poem or some book he read somewhere. Sooner or later, some allegedly superior strategist will decide that your unit is perfect canon fodder for a feint or a distraction or merely a test of the enemy's strength and determination.
A soldier's mission, put simply, is to avoid for as long as possible the consequences of that particular saying. In this particular case, it meant avoiding the riled-up natives of Spider Hollow. Which was not, as it turned out, an ironic misnomer. It was, indeed, full of spiders.
Big spiders. Big, angry spiders who could understand and speak the common tongue. Big, angry, intelligent spiders who were greatly offended by Lord Blaythlocke's assertion that they were, "dumb beasts" who, "couldn't catch a gnat with that mess of a web." They were further offended when he cut a guide-cord of webbing that subsequently put the Queen's nest in peril. Private Yoss wasn't bothered by any of that. She had started backing off at the first sign of irritation from the big and intimidating spiders. Thus giving her a head start when they started to attack.
Other spiders had blocked off the way they had entered, and now it was a mad dash for anything resembling sanctuary. Being careful, of course, to avoid snapping any webbing cables in the process. Yoss was a good runner in an open field, but here? Where she had to jink away from random obstacles and turn at a moment's notice? She was certain she was going to die.
Behind her, Wilhelm screamed. More and more of her troop were falling to the spiders.
Yoss honestly didn't blame the spiders. She blamed Lord Blaythlocke. They could have just as easily parlayed with the spiders, or even attempted communication at all, and come to an arrangement. But no, Lord stupid Blaythlocke had to flap his stupid mouth and stupid swing his stupid sword and stupid ruin everyone's stupid lives. Stupid son of a spavined ox.
Her legs were burning. Her lungs were burning. Her eyes were starting to leak and she really, really did not want to die. Especially not because of some stupid officer with a bloodline and a horse and no brains. She was lost and scared and all alone and it was getting dark and she was beyond terrified and--
She skidded to a halt. There were glowing eyes in the darkness, blocking her way.
Maybe it was because she put up her shield. Maybe it was because she had never once reached for her sword. Maybe it was because her fight or flight responses had reached her bladder and bowels. Maybe it was because she was crying. Or maybe, it was because she had run a thirty-minute mile in twenty whilst also in full plate. The full plate from an era or so ago when thick iron was the only way to survive any battle.
Either way, the spider stopped.
"Please... I don't wanna die..."
"Then why did you become a soldier?" asked the spider.
Still gasping for air, still trembling like a leaf. "M' Da couldn't pay th' taxes an' he's too lame f'r the army an' I'm the oldest. So I had to." As her breath slowed, Yoss added, "Next oldest's ten. Lost a lot to the pox."
"That is not a wise way to recruit," said the spider.
Well... they weren't wrong, "Aye," said Yoss. "But I got t' go back to it, else they kill me 'n' raze me farm 'cause of I deserted."
The spider considered this. "Would you like us to help you?"
Yoss could vividly imagine returning to the General with a posse of gigantic, intelligent spiders in tow and the sad news that Lord Blaythlocke had tragically succumbed from a misunderstanding, but the spiders were very sorry about that and also willing to help. For the first time she enlisted, she started to feel better about her position in the world. "Aye. That'd be so grand."
As she went to talk to the Queen to secure volunteers, the Spider introduced herself as Krik't and asked, "Why's your codpiece got a face on it?"
Since she only wore it not to catch crap from any and seemingly every male in the army, Yoss tried to think of a briefer answer. "To confuse the enemy."
 Yes. That scream. If you don't know about it educate yourself.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Marcopolo]
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