|Jack knows this will not be an easy fight.|
Only with magical aid will he overcome so many and so powerful foes. The SpidaShroom given him by the Druid Nolurrag is so rare it would command a steep price in any of the world’s markets – but weighed against the value of his life? The choice is easy.
The rest of the Carnivorous Horses have scented Jack now, and turn to leap in his direction. Before they can pounce upon their intended prey, the Nightmare that commands them suddenly vanishes in an explosion of fire and reappears before Jack, wreathed in flame and smoke. Any hope Jack might have had that he could face off against the weaker foes instead is now dashed – the Nightmare is upon him!
There is no time to waste – Jack pops the dried mushroom in his mouth. The magic takes hold immediately; he can feel spinnerets emerge from his fingertips and stiff hairs bristle from his feet. A part of his mind he never knew existed suddenly blossoms with alien knowledge – how to weave and bind, how to spin silk fine and flexible or stout and sturdy, webs and funnels and draglines . . . he is now as much spider as man.
As the Nightmare rears to attack, Jack flings his hands forward and shoots the stickiest, most tightly woven web he can manage from his fingertips. The Nightmare goes down in a thrashing heap, thoroughly entangled. The fight is far from over; the Nightmare’s fiery breath is already beginning to singe the webbing, and its steel hooves are sharp enough to cut the strands. There is still some magic left in the SpidaShroom, but Jack is reluctant to spend it all on the Nightmare, for he can hear the snorts and screams of the Carnivorous Horses.
Screams? As he draws his sword to finish off the Nightmare, Jack catches a glimpse of an amazing sight – the Nagas have emerged to join the fight! Everywhere the Carnivorous Horses are under siege, falling to choking coils and venomous fangs. The largest of the Nagas must be a sorcerer as well, for even as Jack plunges the Rune Sword into the flank of the struggling Nightmare, a bolt of lightning illuminates the scene, spat from the Naga’s mouth.
The Nightmare, wounded and furious, suddenly bursts from the tangling webs and wheels viciously around. The Nightmare aims its steel horn at Jack’s heart; only a sudden impact from a Naga’s powerful tail diverts the horn enough to save the warrior’s life. Jack flings the last of his webs at the Nightmare’s legs, bringing the monster crashing down a second time. In an instant, the Nagas wrap their coils around the Nightmare’s neck and Jack’s blade finds its heart. The Nightmare thrashes once, twice, and then lies still.
The last of the Carnivorous Horses whinnies its terror and gallops away, pursued by the outraged hisses of the Nagas. A few of their number have also fallen in the battle, but the corpses of their foe outnumber their own.
The Naga Sorcerer drops from her platform to confront Jack.
“You have ssssssssaved ussssss,” she hisses. “Name what you ssssssseek and we sssssshall provide.”
“Emeralds,” Jack replies. “I am on an urgent quest to save a human girl from a giant. I must consult the Dwarves of Oakstump Hall, but the Silver Man who guards their door requires emeralds as payment.”
“We know the SSSSSSSSilver Man. Hisssss flesssh issss too hard for our fangsssss. We will help you.” The Naga Sorcerer flicks her tail commandingly at the Nagas behind her, and they slither off into their burrows, emerging with emeralds in their mouths. The Nagas deposit the emeralds at Jack’s feet and slither away. Jack looks at the gems with apprehension; venom from the Naga’s mouths coats them.
“Wasssssh them in wine or Antidote,” the Naga Sorcerer advises. Jack nods.
“Human,” the Naga Sorcerer says. “Do you know why the darknessss fallssss sssso ssssoon?
“I do,” Jack replies. “And if the Gods are willing I will undo the damage.”
The Naga considers him silently for a moment, as if assessing his worth. At last, she flicks her tail again and another Naga appears at her side. “The Cloak,” she hisses. The Naga bobs his head and retrieves a new item from his burrow: a cloak fashioned from the cast-off skin of a huge snake. The Naga lays it at Jack’s feet.
“The Cloak of S’liss,” the Naga Sorcerer says. “If you encounter our kind again, dissssplay thisss. You will passsss unharmed.”
“My deepest gratitude,” Jack says, trying not to make his S’s sibilant in emulation of the Naga. He bows to her, and when he rises again all the Nagas are gone.
Jack uses and Antidote to wash the emeralds clean and packs them and the Cloak of S’liss away in the Pouch of Ghrul. With a last marveling gaze at the corpses littering the ruins around him, Jack departs for Oakstump Hall and the Silver Man.
Add ten Emeralds and the Cloak of S’liss to the Pouch of Ghrul. Remove the Spidashroom and an Antidote.
Add the following to Jack’s Journal: I have been gifted the Cloak of S’liss by grateful Nagas. If I encounter their kind again, I need only display the Cloak and I will pass unharmed.