Conan: Blades of Shadizar

Chapter II, Session II, Part III

The Sign of the Hawk

From the Memoirs of Darius the God Slayer

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As I wound through the streets of the Craftsman District and made my way to Ninotchka’s in the Desert, I began to suspect that something was not quite right. I won’t swear to what clued me in. It may have been the people running into the street screaming in terror, it may have been the giant spiders scurrying about, it may have been the people being devoured by said spiders, or it may have a combination of all three. I fear that we may never know. It is a question for the ages!

In any event, there were spiders. Man-sized spiders were scuttling about the streets and attacking the terrified folk of my city. I was surprised, I must admit that. I also realized that my careful plans would have to be altered immediately. I noticed a spider on a rooftop just before it attempted to jump down upon me. This, my friends, is what an arbalest is for. I fired my arbalest and the bolt sunk deep into fiendish spider, catching the beast in midair. Trailing ichor, the thing fell at my feet, dead. I did not have time to spare to reload my arbalest, a lengthy procedure in the best of times, so I drew my newly acquired arming sword and proceeded on my way. It took a force of will to keep moving towards Ninotchka’s. I had always disliked spiders, and I had only just discovered the reason why. Now that dislike and been fanned into hatred. Several times while traversing the streets, I found the need to battle those eight-legged monstrosities. To be fair, I could have run away or looked for an alternate path. Indeed, there were several who I could have passed without having to confront the beasts at all. I realize that I was not thinking like a survivor. I could excuse my actions as the simple choice between being predator or prey. The truth was that I enjoyed it. These creatures were manifestations of evil and needed to be put down. Remarkably, I reached Ninotchka’s unscathed. Several of the beasts I had struck from behind, unawares, as they inflicted their evil upon helpless folk of Shadizar. The others had never managed to land a hairy leg or fang. I was a whirlwind of death, deftly dodging their attacks while landing my own with ruthless efficiency.

Reaching the Ninotchka’s, I entered only to find a scene of horror. A large spider had immobilized Ninotchka in its web, and had now set to feeding. There was nothing I could do for her, so I moved swiftly to the stairs. Ascending with care, I managed to reach Vilena’s room. Entering, I found a fearful Vilena. Relieved by my presence, she fell into my arms. I held her in my arms and she slowly calmed. When she was ready, I set to work swiftly. I gave her a small bag to carry, while I loaded myself up to an absurd degree with loot. The fewer trips that were necessary, the happier I would be. As we were leaving the room, I noticed the ebon war club which I had taken from Liyongo. While heavy, and a bit unwieldy, I decided that its value would make the inconvenience well worth it. I had no idea how right I would prove to be! No sooner did we reach the bottom of the stairs, but we were confronted by the spider I had last seen devouring Ninotchka. Dropping my bag of loot, I readied by ebon war club and confronted the vile creature. The speed of my attack caught the creature off guard. The war club, made of a single piece of solid ebony, felt lighter in my hands that I had thought it ought to. With a mighty downstroke, there was a crunch as ichor flew and the light of life went out of eight menacing eyes. My blood was up with an exhilaration I had never before felt. Glancing about, I saw another of the beasts scuttling, somewhat uncertainly, towards us. I leapt at the spider, swinging the war club and shattering what I suppose was its head into an unrecognizable goo. Looking about, I saw several spiders withdrawing rapidly. Our way cleared, I once again lifted the heavy bag of loot and Vilena and I continued on our way.

I felt strangely disappointed at the withdrawal of the spiders. I had many times before, when the circumstances called for it, both in an unseen sneak attack and in plain combat when it could not be avoided. I looked upon it dispassionately. I was a professional and was interested only in the skill and efficiency of it. This was the first time in my life when that failed. I found myself fighting with passion, with rage, and with a joy for the combat which was previously unknown to me. While the chaos continued around us, we reached the Caravan District without confrontation, much to my disappointment. I had planned to use one particular caravanserai, but at this point I was willing to use either of the other two as both were on the way. Passing the first, I saw guests running from the place. Oddly enough, I decided that this boded no good and continued walking. As we neared the second, it was clear that spiders were moving in and out and all over the establishment. Since the burden I carried was rather heavy and Vilena’s terror was increasing by the minute, we headed for the final caravanserai. Much to our relief, the place seemed relatively arachnid-free. There were bodies of spiders, riddled with arrows, in the street outside of the Sign of the Hawk. As we approached, it became evident that this was due to the presence of a number of asshuri, no doubt fellow guests, who were defending the place against the creatures. After several knocks upon the gates, the landlord admitted us. I did not begrudge him his caution, but I was a paying customer and would have admittance.

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I settled the loot and Vilena in the room I had paid for earlier in the day. After inspecting the room and making certain it was secure, I instructed Vilena to bar the door after I had left and to admit none but me. With the asshuri manning the walls of the caravanserai, I was fairly confident of the safety of the place. The Sons of Shem were reputed warriors and archers. I had no doubt that they were more than sufficient to handle a few oversized spiders. With confidence in the safety of Vilena and my treasure, I left the caravanserai, hearing the doors barred behind me, and made my way back to Ninotchka’s in order to recover more loot.

Without any arachnid confrontations, I made it to Ninotchka’s. I moved carefully towards the stairs, passing several web-covered and desiccated corpses. Gripping my war club, I eased my way up the stairs. The hallway was silent and deserted. Carefully, I made my way to Vilena’s chamber. Closing the door behind myself, I swiftly checked the chamber and made certain that no uninvited eight-legged guests were present. After satisfying myself that the room was safe, I loaded myself with more loot, ready to begin the arduous journey back to the Sign of the Hawk. Leaving Ninotchka’s for the return journey, I saw Danyo moving furtively in my direction. I hailed him and he related to me a tale of his harrowing journey which I shall summarize for the ease of the reader.

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