Furious screeching filled the air. The attacker tried to pass the spider but although it only reached up to the birds belly, it was a dangerous foe. It shot thread after thread at the head of the bird of prey, covering eyes and feathers with the sticky fibers. The bird became slower, clumsier. Numerous cuts from the sharp mandibles covered its legs and blood dripped into the sand.
Melissa dragged herself from tree to tree toward the cobweb in front of the exit of the valley. She discovered several spider children who hid behind stones and under bushes with retracted legs. Unhindered, she reached the exit. A cool wind blew through the opening in the rock. To not stick, she carefully stepped over the silky spider threads. When she turned around the corner, she looked back once more.
The roc screeched with frustration, shook off the spider’s threads and hurled itself back into the air. The spider climbed after it as far as the damaged trees bore her. Melissa stared at the bird that flew off in the direction of the sea. Its sky blue feathers soon merged with the colors of the sky, making it hard to see. Fascinated, she watched the bird use every up-current with its long, powerful wings. “How majestic it looks when it flies.”
“If only it wasn’t so dangerous.” The voice came from under her pullover. Suddenly, Melissa realized that she still carried the little spider on her belly. For a second, she was disgusted but Leander was fleecy and soft. Also, he had saved her life. Melissa shook off the feeling and stumbled on. A few meters behind the exit of the valley, she sank into the grass. Her tongue stuck to the palate again. Without the strain of the flight, she noticed how thirsty she was. She leaned against a lump of rock and enjoyed the shadow. The heat stole her last strength.
Leander crawled from his hiding-place and blinked into the sun with all six eyes. “Pooh, this is bright.” He climbed down Melissa’s leg into the grass. His hairy foot-claws tickled but Melissa was too exhausted to giggle.
She sighed. “I’m exhausted. Now, your mother will catch me after all.”
“No way. Mom doesn’t leave the valley. Since my father disappeared, she has never gone into the grassland again.”
“Does this mean I am safe?”
Leander clicked with the mandibles in agreement. Melissa breathed a sigh of relief. For a while, she looked at the spider child thoughtfully. Finally, she said, “Thanks for rescuing me. By the way, I’m Melissa.”
“I am Leander”, the little spider said.
“I thought so.” Melissa’s smile still looked a little wry but her fear had disappeared.
Leander crooked his head. “I wonder what the roc wanted here. Usually, they leave the sea only for breeding.”
Melissa shrugged. She did not know why the bird of prey had hunted so far from its nest. “Maybe, it simply had an appetite for giant spiders.”
“Rocs are fish eaters. They only eat giant spiders if we get too close.”
“Well, this one fought as if bewitched.”
“I think he was trying to get to you. Maybe he had an appetite for human flesh”, Leander said.
Melissa pulled up a corner of her mouth. “Why should a roc be interested in me?”
Leanders mandibles opened and closed while he thought. Finally, he clicked contentedly. “As you already said, he seemed bewitched. Probably, someone has cursed you. You should go home as fast as possible and get a protection amulet.”
“But I can’t. I don’t have any idea, where I am or how I got here.” Melissa sat Leander on her knee and told it him what had happened to her. She described her relatives and explained what a heart attack was. She showed him the shining amber, her scratched arms and legs and the cut in the sole of her foot. She pointed to the dark ribbon of trampled grass in the plain. “That’s where I came. I am looking for people who can help me.”
“You have obviously come to Greenwitch by magic. Let me think.” Leander stroked his furry abdomen with the hindmost legs. “You should talk to the Talking Trees in the unicorn wood. Perhaps they can help you. They know a lot about magic.”
Amazed, Melissa shook her head. Talking Trees! This world is as fantastic as the ones in the fantasy novels I have read. She took a deep breath and sat up. “And how will I get to the woods? My legs are still not quite all right, and my foot feels as if it isn’t part of me. Also, I am hungry.”
“I’ll fetch you something to eat, and when you are rested we’ll catch a unicorn.”