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Hunting the Spider  by Ellynn

Cursed, cursed, hundred times cursed humans!!!

While she was passing through the tunnels of her home, she was boiling with fury.

And cursed, cursed those incapable orcs!!!

There were at least twice as many orcs as humans, but they just couldn't fight that well. She had observed the battle from another exit, a little towards the north, and peering from behind the edge of the rock. At first she hoped everything would be fine; those detestable Gondorians started to come out, the orcs attacked them, and the humans retreated. Of course, she knew the way was blocked, and the only thing they could do was to come out again. She thought that they would be in disadvantaged position because they couldn't go out all at once, so the orcs simply had to eliminate them with the arrows from above and with swords – one by one, little by little, as the humans would be coming out. The approaching night should have helped the orcs further; they were not fond of daylight, and they saw better than humans in the dark.

But the humans attacked incredibly powerfully and inventively; as soon as they appeared with that flame, she realized how everything would finish. The fire was a factor of a surprise – the element that bought them time for more fighters to come out, and that turned the tide. As the numbers' ratio began to change, she didn't wait to see the end. She turned around even before the last orc fell, and disappeared in her passages.

Stupid incompetent orcs! As she walked, she brandished with one leg and the claw scratched the lateral rock. She wanted to break, destroy, demolish; one stalactite paid the price of that wish. Venom dripped from her sting; she overwhelmingly wanted to kill someone or something. Anything. But at the moment, there was nobody and nothing around her, and that enraged her even more.

Obviously, this clan of the orcs that she had found was worthless. They didn't manage to fulfil her plans, and she needed all the humans to be killed; none could return to talk about her and her tunnels. Because, although she hadn't talked to anyone in the past three years, although nobody had retold her the events from the War, she realized in the beginning of this period that the world had changed. The tower was empty – and not just the tower. There were no more orcs, trolls or dark wraiths anywhere to be seen – not on the Pass, not all the way towards the foot of the mountains. That meant that humans now ruled the area. And nothing would stop them to return.

The dumb orcs failed her. She shrieked in frustration, having realized she would have to leave this lair that had been her home for many centuries. Too many humans remained after the battle and she alone couldn't confront them; she just could not defeat twenty or more at once. And humans would surely return in even bigger numbers, and they would overturn every rock of her home and its surroundings. Hiding the entrance would have no sense – the humans now knew where it was.

One day she would return to the pass, she vowed. However, first she would have to hide. Perhaps she could go northwards; there was the orcs' camp she had found. Her first thought was to go there instantly and to punish the females and the cubs for the males' failure. It would be a double gain – satisfaction because of the punishment, and a lot of food. Yes, she would do exactly that. She would find a new den somewhere in the north, and eliminate the remnants of that incompetent pack.

But not right away. First, she would have her vengeance on the humans. This squad would surely not be able to search for her at once because the main tunnel was blocked, and she hoped they wouldn't discover other eastern entrances; she would have a good advantage. Therefore, before going to the north, she would descend to the foothills – to their villages. They had to pay for what was done to her.


Faramir stood in front of the group of twelve rangers and stepped into the tunnel. They had a few torches, and all of them had swords in their hands. Every few steps they stopped and listened; everything was silent and quiet, and it seemed there was nobody around. But they didn't let their guard down for a single moment.

This tunnel was very similar in size to the main one, through which they had passed earlier. It was similar in everything else, too: equally stinky, also containing bones and web here and there. After one mild curve in the beginning, they progressed in a straight line.

"Considering the position of the two entries and the direction of this tunnel, I assume that we are now walking parallel to the main tunnel," Faramir said in a low voice to Haldar, who walked next to him.

"Yes, I think so too," said the captain.

After about five hundred feet they reached a forking and stopped. Right passage was closed by a web, while the left was free. Faramir observed both sides, and then made a decision.

"I am very curious about the right, blocked side. Maybe something is hidden behind it. However, I would like to check our position first. If the two tunnels are aligned, we should reach the main one if we turn left. We must know where we are," he said.

"If this is the way to the main tunnel, how come we didn't see branching that leads to where we stand now?" A question came from one of the rangers in the background.

"We probably did see it," responded Faramir. "Surely all of you remember several lateral passages, and all of them were blocked. The last lateral tunnel was not far from the exit, and it was blocked by the web."

Faramir's reply was followed by affirmative murmur. He heard someone comment, but in such a low voice that he couldn't hear it. The only word he thought he had discerned was "smart"; obviously the ranger who asked that question turned into a target of banter.

Haldar then gave them a sigh to be silent, and the group turned left. And really, they soon reached the new crossing. Just before it, near the point where the two tunnels joined, they saw remnants of the web; while it was whole earlier, now it was torn apart and hung in bands from the ceiling. After burning them so that they don't get caught in them, there were no problems to pass into the main tunnel.

Faramir observed the remains of the web, the crossing and the tunnels, thinking. And realizing. "The spider must have been hidden behind this web. It waited until we pass, and rolled the rocks afterwards, blocking our return."

He stood like that for a few more moments, and then another cognition hit him. Oh, what a good opportunity it was... but missed. True, they couldn't do anything against the web with swords, but he believed the arrows would pass without problems. And maybe they wouldn't kill the creature, but many arrows would certainly do some damage and wound it – if only they had known it had been hiding here. He clenched his fists, furious. But there was nothing he could do about it now.

A quick inspection of the eastern part of the tunnel led them to the pile of rocks which stopped their retreat on the other side, and then they returned to the crossing. Faramir stopped next to the burned web.

"I would return to the forking, where the right side was covered with web. It is possible that the web is there with reason again," he said pensively. While still saying that, he noticed that Isilmir – the ranger who discovered the other exit – headed to the opposite side, westwards. He walked very close to the tunnel wall holding his torch, and it was obvious that he was scrutinizing very carefully the lateral walls, floor and ceiling of the tunnel. Delaying his order to return for a moment, Faramir observed the lad advancing foot by foot. And he didn't stop.

"Isilmir!" called Haldar just a split-second before Faramir himself meant to react. He didn't want anyone to separate from the group.

The young man stopped and turned towards them. In the light of the torch he carried, his figure was silhouetted against the blackness of the tunnel behind him.

"I was just about to stop, captain, I didn't mean to go no further," the young ranger replied. "In fact, sir, I think I saw enough. You can come to see, all of you."

When Faramir and Haldar came closer, the youngster looked at them seriously. "Now that we entered this main tunnel I first noticed slime that seemed fresh, unlike those dried traces we saw earlier on many places. So I went to check, and I found this."

Isilmir lifted the torch so Faramir could see the upper part of the ceiling, and he noticed a stalactite. Or what was left of it, more precisely. About a foot beneath its base on the ceiling it was broken, which was clearly visible from its sharp edges. The young man then lowered the torch, and Faramir saw a conical bottom part of the stalactite.

"When we walked towards the east earlier, I was on this outer position right next to the wall, right on this side, and I remember this one very well. There aren't many so they are noticeable, and this one really stood out for its colour, a little more red than the others. And it was not broken. But now it is."

A web that blocked the way earlier, but was torn in the meantime, and fresh tracks on the western side. Faramir didn't have to think much to conclude what the new discoveries meant.

"The spider is moving westward," he said, looking through the darkness down the tunnel. He wished he could pierce that opaque blackness – to see where their enemy was. Moreover, he wanted to know how far it advanced and what was on its mind.

"I wonder if the orcs were the allies of the spider... was this their mutual ambush?" Haldar muttered pensively, looking at Faramir, and then he turned to the young ranger and nodded approvingly. "Well done, Isilmir."

Faramir noticed that the boy tried to remain calm and serious, but his lips twitched in a hint of a smile and his eyes slightly widened.

"Thank you, captain."

Faramir then gave a sign to return. "We saw enough, there is no need to investigate further. We will not waste time to explore what is behind the web we passed by a little while ago. I believe it is not necessary anymore," he said. "As the spider is moving towards the west through the main tunnel, we would probably find only the empty passage and nothing more. Let's return to the camp, where we'll consider further action."

After these words, the group headed towards the exit.


As she progressed and her fury cooled down, she let her frustration loose on the objects passing by less frequently – but only a little less. She still occasionally kicked a bone if there was one on her way, and her jaws still rattled.

Oh, how much meat will go to waste!, a new thought flashed through her mind when she remembered the bodies next to the main eastern exit, and the piercing scream came out of her throat. All those orcs and humans would remain as a feast for crows and other scavengers who would discover that treasure, and it frustrated her tremendously. She also knew that she wouldn't be able to use much of the prey she would kill next. Unfortunately.

She still did not make the plan what to do once she reached the foothills; that would depend on what she'd find, and where. But she would do something. She had to. She felt as if she would die if she only left without revenge, and her hatred grew with every step. Humans. Her enemies. They seemed to have prevailed over the whole world, and now she had to leave because of them. Now they accomplished what they hadn't succeeded to do centuries ago.

But they would not go unpunished. She would find some humans, somewhere, somehow. She would very much like to be able to make revenge on those who had driven her out. But that, unfortunately, was not possible. However, her next prey would be humans. Gondorians. Enemies. She would punish at least some of them.

Kill, kill, kill.


After coming out from the tunnel, Faramir discovered it was almost completely dark. They joined the other rangers around the main exit. Aranir finished his work with the injured men in the meantime, and everyone were now resting on their sleeping bags.

Faramir took some food from his backpack, although he wasn't truly hungry. The battle dulled his appetite – more precisely, its consequences. As the War ended three years ago, and especially because in the last several months there were no more encounters with the orcs, he hoped he would never again have to knock on someone's door and deliver bad news to the family. And now he would have to do it again – no less than nine times. Someone else might send a messenger, but he didn't want to do it. He perceived it as his own duty, no matter how difficult and sad it was, and had no intention of running away from it.

He ate quickly, not even feeling the taste of food; his brain worked frantically all the time. Then he called Haldar, as well as Aranir and Borlas, because the latter two were among the most experienced rangers in this squad. It was always useful to have such men at hand when counselling.

For safety reasons, all the torches were extinguished now. It was dark and the silhouettes were hardly discernible in the night, and it was getting colder. It was the end of April and the days were getting warmer, but the nights were still chilled even in Anduin valley where he lived; this high, it was even colder.

When the three sat around him, Faramir spoke to them. The outlines of the plan had already formed in his head.

"If we had not discovered the spider's track, I would have probably decided to go to the Tower tomorrow morning, all of us together, and to go back to Ithilien by road. That is the easiest way, and we have to make the return easier for the injured," he said for the introduction. "However, things changed. While we sit here, the spider moves towards the west. We have to go after it. I wish we could go right away, but we've been on the move since dawn. Now that we know the length of the tunnel, we know we need several hours to pass through it, and we must continue our pursuit after we come out, too." He sighed and frowned. "We must give the men four to five hours of sleep and rest."

In the brief silence that followed, he heard rustling on his right; Haldar was slightly shifting, and then sighed heavily.

"A search like that is quite risky, especially because we have several injured men," said the captain. "They surely won't be able to follow the pace of the others, and splitting into two smaller groups is not wise."

"I thought about that too. But we must split," responded Faramir. "If there are injured men whose wounds are light enough that they can fight and won't slow us down – they can go with us. The others can go to Ithilien at their own pace and the route they choose themselves – maybe the road, which I mentioned as the easiest way." He turned to the healer's figure. "Aranir, you checked all of them. Are there any injured men who could join the chase?"

It was impossible to see the facial expression of the older man, but a few moments of silence hinted he was thinking about it.

"I think there are three or four," he finally replied. "They have only skin-deep cuts that shouldn't bother them in wielding their swords."

"All right. Then they could—"

"But I would not advise them to go with you," Aranir stopped him in mid-sentence. "You see, there are two wounds that I must supervise all the time, and no matter how much I would like to contribute to your pursuit, I'm afraid I will have to stay with them. As for those with lightest injuries – the problem are not the injuries themselves, but risk of infection. And we all know that it can be fatal. I would like all the injured to be near me. And near the antiseptic salve."

Faramir's forehead wrinkled in thinking. Aranir's words made sense, especially when he thought of orcs' blades full of rust and dirt. He finally nodded.

"The reason for my question is my wish for more of us to be in the chase, so that we overpower the spider more easily. But even if I exclude all the injured and you who must stay with them, about twenty of us remains," he said, having accepted all Aranir's arguments. "That should be enough."

"Also, maybe it is a good thing for those with lightest wounds to remain with Aranir and those more seriously wounded, as some sort of cover if they see the orcs and they have to fight," said Borlas, getting involved in the talk for the first time. "Although, I doubt it will happen. As soon as they leave the Pass behind them and start going down the road, they will be safe. There are almost no more orcs on our side of the mountains."

Faramir nodded.

"I agree with that, Borlas. I also agree with what you said in the tunnel, Haldar. The more I think about it, the more probable I find that these orcs were in league with the spider. And when it saw the things weren't going as planned, it escaped." Faramir stopped for a moment and thought. "Surely there are more orcs in Mordor, but I, too, believe that the western side of the mountains and the road are safe for the return of Aranir's small group."

"Yes, we will take the road to go back," Aranir said. "The man with leg injury could not take steep paths through the forest, and we will probably have to make crutches for him."

"We will leave during the night, and you can start your return in the morning," Faramir told him. "Before you go, put the bodies of the dead in the tunnel, next to the rocks that blocked our way. That is deep enough, and they will be well hidden. When you reach our garrison in Vinhir, organize an expedition to retrieve our fallen comrades."

He fell silent and looked at all three dark shapes sitting next to him.

"Regardless of your arguments, I am not glad that we will split," Haldar said finally, his voice full of disapproval.

"We have no other choice," Faramir replied firmly. "What we know for sure is that the spider is going towards the western exit of the tunnel. What we don't know are its intentions. It could just hide in some of the lateral passages. But it could also go out and head towards our villages in Ithilien. I think that the probability for that option is quite high. After all, it has done it before, and has grabbed two of our people."

The silence after his last words hung between them; all three around him obviously thought about that. After expressing his disagreement twice, this time Haldar didn't speak any more.

"All right then, we arranged everything," Faramir summed up this little council, and lifted his gaze. There were a few clouds sailing over the sky, but it was mostly clear and the guards would have no problem in estimating the time.

Some of the men around them were still talking, but they could also hear snoring from several directions. "Always take the opportunity for the meal and sleeping", he heard in his head one of his first lessons, from the days when he was just a boy and only started his military training. Well, some of the nearby rangers had already followed that advice. Although it was peaceful for quite a while, the men around him were soldiers and that way of life was deeply rooted in them. As it always will be, he thought.

Then he concluded that he should take that particular counsel himself, too. Resting would pass very quickly, and soon they would have to move on.

"Four hours," he said in the end. "And then we go hunting the spider."

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