One of the scouts returned. “We discovered a path, that is used by rather small horses considering the hoof marks. It leads in our direction. Zabor follows it.”
“Lead the way,” Djarret ordered. A little later, they reached the Unicorn Path. It led into a rocky region. When they turned a corner, Djarret stopped. His eyes widened with shock. Zabor hung in a gigantic cobweb wrapped in the sticky silken threads.
“Back!” Djarret ‘s order came to late They were already surrounded by many, basketball-sized spiders. The men drew their swords. They rattled metallically.
The Dark Warriors rushed at the spiders but they shot up with surprising speed on their silken threads. Djarret’s gaze followed them, and he held the sword ready for battle, when a gigantic spider blocked out the sun. For the fraction of a second, Djarret was paralyzed. He had obviously underestimated this world. “Retreat,” he ordered, but the spider had already reached him and his men. He was flung aside by a spider leg as if he was made of paper.
Dust enveloped the melee of fighters and spider. Screams filled the air, and spider silk stuck on arms, legs and eyes of the fighters. Djarret forced himself to get up. He felt dizzy, and he swayed. Nevertheless, he attacked screaming. His sword sliced through of one of the eight spider legs. The animal roared until Djarret’s ears rang. He jumped on the spider’s back and dug his dagger into the hard chitin. In vain, the spider tried to throw off its rider. At the same time, it bit wildly around. Her sharp mandibles cut through the fighter’s flesh. Djarret found a gap big enough for his sword. With all his strength he rammed the sword’s tip into the body of the spider. He put his whole weight in the blow and pushed as hard as he could. Yellow blood welled from the cut and made his hands slippery. The spider uttered a sound that made Djeret’s blood run cold. Twitching, it fell to the side. He ripped the sword from the wound and jumped down. “Let’s get out of here.”
His warriors followed him as well as they could. Those who weren’t fast enough were covered in spidersilk from the giant spider’s children within seconds. Djarret had expected that. He made his men hurry but the spiders did not follow them. They had caught enough prey. Their storage was well filled.
Panting, the diminished group ran toward the mountains. One of the men still carried the magician. Finally, Djarret ordered his men to stop. His practiced eye grasped the losses immediately. Eight men were missing. He called the scout. Such a failure could not be tolerated. His warriors knew the punishment imparted by Ceres. The man stepped forward obediently.
Djarret’s voice sounded as icy as the cold between the worlds. “It was your task to warn us of such dangers. Ceres won’t be pleased with your failure.”
The scout bent forward apologetically. “Forgive me, Sire.” He folded his arms in front of his chest and waited for the punishment without fear. Djarret pulled his dagger from the sheath and cut the silver plates from the scout’s leather armor. Then, he cut a notch into the scout’s ear. Blood welled up and mixed with the yellow blood of the spider on Djarret’s coat. None of his warriors dared to say a word.
Djarret spoke the mandatory words. “Son of a dogess, you are not worthy to be counted as one of Ceres wolves. Do not let yourself be seen by me again.”
The eyes of the man sparkled with anger at his degradation but he crept to the end of the line obediently.
“I expect that faults like this will not happen again!” He appointed two new scouts. A little later, the group set out again.
The old cherry recovered slowly since the witch had not come for several days. Timidly, the cherry stretched its roots, looked for water and nutrients. With difficulty, it slid trunk and crown a bit further from the shadow of the wood. At the top of her distorted, tormented crown, two leaves developed and stretched toward the sky. The face of the girl shone sunnily in the cherry’s heart. The tree felt warm and safe. It knew that it did not have to wait much longer for her rescue. Every day took the girl closer. The cherry felt it in its branches. Its bloom lay ahead, and it looked forward to it.
To save time, the dragon carried Melissa on his back and her horse in his paws to a place close to Lysande’s house the next morning. He set them down in a clearing because he couldn’t land in the dense woods.