Charmian and Thomas meet the strange Weavers face to face...to face...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Return To Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 82: Scott's Cave"
The Weavers' Web
CHARMIAN SHRIEKED AND jumped back, running into Thomas, who still stood behind her gaping. The cave they had entered was filled from wall to wall with spiders fully the size of buffalo, their hairy bodies gleaming in the pale light and their tiny numerous eyes glittering. As soon as Charmian screamed, they all raised their front legs into the air and began waving them, clicking their jaws and tossing their heads from side to side. Charmian grabbed onto Thomas, digging her fingernails into his arm and screaming unceasingly.
"STAY BACK STAY BACK STAY BACK!!" she shrieked, tearing off her mitts and flinging up one hand in their direction, palm outward. "F-f-FIRE!" she yelled, and flames started licking around her fingers. "Come any closer and I'll fry EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!!"
The spiders flailed their legs and clicked. They started jostling about the room in a frenzied mess and Charmian practically launched herself at Thomas, throwing her arms around his neck. He stumbled and ran into the wall beside the entrance, blinking with wide eyes. He glanced down at her and furrowed his brow.
"SPIDERS!!" Charmian screamed, eyes shut tight; it was a good thing he was holding onto her, as she kept one hand out in front of her, her fingers flickering. "Gigantic huge frigging immense SPIDERS!!" Several of the arachnids came forward, still waving and clicking, and she screamed even louder, making him wince, and flailed her own arm until they halted. "STAY BACK OR I'LL BURN UP EVERYTHING!!"
The giant spiders clacked their jaws even louder and started turning in circles.
"Charmian," Thomas said, then, almost yelling, "Charmian!" He shook her but she was clinging to him like a vine. "They're not attacking us!"
"THEY'RE GOING TO!" Charmian bared her teeth, shaking almost hard enough to make him fall over. "Spiders aren't supposed to BE that big!! They must've eaten the Weavers!!" She waved her hand and let out a weird strangled noise. "If you even TRY eating us you're DEAD MEAT!!"
"Charmian," Thomas said, "I think those are the Weavers."
Charmian's eyes slowly came open. She lifted her head to peer up at him, and saw that he was looking back down at her. She turned to look at the monstrous spiders still milling about in the room, flailing and clicking, and grimaced in anxiety.
"Th-those things--?!" She squinched her eyes shut. "THOSE creepy things--?!"
"Think about it," Thomas said, and tried to pry her off of him again. "What other creature weaves?" He gestured at the walls and ceiling, and she opened her eyes to see the glowing webs draping the entire cave. They looked just like those they had seen earlier, only much larger and brighter, lighting the whole room. The giant spiders threw even bigger shadows upon the walls as they scuttled around wildly.
Charmian's grimace returned. "These things?" she squeaked in disbelief. "But--they're so FREAKY looking! They scare the HELL out of me!!" She burrowed her face against his chest.
Thomas sighed. "Actually, I think they're more afraid of you than you are of them."
"They are not!!" Charmian shot back, but another glance into the cave showed her that the spiders were doing little more than running about in panicked circles, clicking like crazy and waving their hairy forelegs. She stared at them for a moment or two before realizing what their motions reminded her of. They looked like nothing more than frightened cockroaches or mice, trying to escape their doom. Their panic was so great that they bumped into the walls rather than exiting through the tunnels which ringed the cave, and it was only once in a while that one managed to slip out and scuttle away to safety. The rest of them just ran into each other and swung their legs and clicked like a roomful of crickets. Charmian spotted something shining on the floor, and looked down. She sucked in a breath and crawled down from Thomas's arms.
"Look!" She pointed, and he bent his head to see the remains of a large web which the spiders had apparently been working on. She'd never seen anything even remotely like it; its strands shimmered in every different color, like a prism, and she could swear that rather than the typical parallel lines and geometric shapes of spiderwebs, it contained pictures. She couldn't tell what they were, however, as the giant spiders were now trampling the web beneath their feet, and it stretched and tore apart a little more with each step.
"Oh no!" Charmian cringed. "They're ruining it!" She scampered away from Thomas and toward the spiders, and waved her hands. "Wait a minute! STOP!"
The spiders looked up to see her gesticulating, and that just made them scuttle about even faster, thudding into each other and waving their legs. Charmian gasped and waved her own arms even harder, but the more she did this the more they ran.
"WAIT A MINUTE! Stop! PLEASE STOP RUNNING!!" she yelled; Thomas finally sprinted forward and grabbed hold of her arms, pulling them down. Charmian was letting out little panicked whimpering noises.
"Please stop!" Thomas shouted at the spiders. "We didn't mean anything--we won't hurt you! Please stop running! We have to talk to you!"
The spiders at last began to slow in their frantic motions, glancing toward the two. They still clicked and waved their legs, but at least they weren't stampeding anymore. They slowed to a quick walk, ambling around in disorderly circles like a group of impatient children waiting for the schoolbus to arrive. Their clicking filled the room, echoing off the walls.
Thomas looked down at Charmian, then let go of her and gave her a nudge. "Well...go on."
Charmian stood, chattering and staring with huge eyes at the roomful of spiders. They all seemed to be staring at her, and the pale light glinted off of every part of their multiple eyes. Charmian winced.
Thomas leaned forward to murmur in her ear. "I rather think you owe them an apology."
Charmian made another face and wrung her hands. "Um..." She bit her lip and glanced at the spiders nervously. They slowed almost to a stop now though their legs still wriggled and their heads swiveled from side to side, jaws click-click-clicking. She swallowed.
"Um...I'm...I'm sorry I s-scared...frightened all of you like that," Charmian stammered in a tiny voice. "I...uh...just wasn't expecting to see a cave full of spiders. Really, really huge, HUGE spiders..." Thomas nudged her and she coughed. "Um...where I come from, you guys don't get any bigger than this..." She circled her thumb and forefinger to the size of a quarter. "And that's including all the legs...um..." She coughed again and rubbed her hands together. "I...uh, didn't mean to scream like that...over and over...and I really didn't mean to make you ruin your web..."
The spiders stood up higher, then turned their heads. They looked down at the remains of the web upon the floor and began clicking loudly again. They turned around and began picking up the pathetic tatters with their forelegs, tilting the strands from left to right and looking them over. They appeared to be comparing each other's sections, and passed the torn bits from one to another, accepting others in return. They clicked and clacked in a very purposeful manner. Charmian peered at Thomas and from the look on his face guessed that he must be thinking the same thing. The spiders almost seemed to be discussing the misfortune among themselves.
She looked back in time for them to turn around again, still holding the tatters of the web. Charmian flushed bright red, suddenly feeling ashamed; the web was beautiful enough in shreds, so she could only imagine what it had looked like intact. She averted her eyes and rubbed at the back of her neck.
"Um...I'm sorry. You must've put a lot of work into that; I didn't mean for it to get ruined."
Thomas tapped her shoulder. "Show them," he whispered. "Before they get impatient."
"Um...oh." Charmian blushed again and pulled off her backpack. The giant spiders lifted their legs and clicked again, backing away several steps. "It's--it's okay! I won't burn you or anything, I promise! I just...have something I wanted to show you..." She dug around in her pack and pulled out the burnt hoop of the dreamcatcher, feeling embarrassed to be seen with it now. She meekly held it up.
"Um...this is kind of why I came here," she murmured. "It was a dreamcatcher, but now it's all burned up...and I can't fix it without Weaver medicine..."
She gasped and nearly jumped back. All of the spiders had suddenly surged forward and surrounded them, click-clacking and wiggling their heads. She glanced from one to another in a near-panic until noticing that they were staring at her dreamcatcher; at a nod from Thomas she bit her lip and reluctantly held it out. It was taken by two hairy feet, which felt it over from top to bottom before passing it on to two more hairy feet. Charmian watched with great anxiety as her dreamcatcher was passed around the entire room, each spider examining it and nodding and clicking at its neighbors before handing it along. The room was again filled with their apparent chattering.
Charmian's brow furrowed. "What are they doing?" she whispered.
Thomas shook his head slightly. "I don't know. Appraising it, perhaps?"
Charmian rolled her eyes. "I figured the Weavers would speak manitou or something," she murmured, a little louder. "But I can't understand a...word of it...or whatever!"
"Geezhigo-Quae didn't give you any pointers on how to talk to them--?"
Charmian shook her head. "None! She just said they could help us!" She fell silent to stare at her dreamcatcher as it finally made its way back to the first spider, who took it and looked it over again. She felt like grabbing it back; the thought of standing there and watching it get handled all over again was almost more than she could bear. "It...it was a regular dreamcatcher," she said, trying to catch the spider's attention. "But it had some Weaver strands in it, and it's really important to me...to get it fixed up like it was before. It means a lot to me." She paused and could tell they were listening, but still didn't know if they understood or not. "I need it fixed," she said again, and made the motion of a needle and thread. "Fixed."
"Um, Charmian..." Thomas leaned toward her. "That's sewing. This is weaving."
"Like I know how to pantomime a loom!" Charmian hissed through her teeth, and he leaned back. "Um...I was told you guys--you...um...people--know how to do that," she continued awkwardly. "Fix it," she said, then made odd gestures with her hands, trying to simulate a spider spinning a web. She knew she wasn't doing a very good job, as Thomas looked skyward, and the spiders merely tilted their heads back and forth, staring at her and clicking. Charmian suppressed a frustrated noise and grasped the dreamcatcher, startling the lead spider so that they all stepped back and waved their legs. "Fixed," she said, then, out of desperation, she put her fingers to her mouth and whistled loudly. Fixed!
That got the spiders' attention immediately, and they roiled back to life, clack-clack-clacking and waving and wiggling. Charmian's eyes widened and she backed into Thomas, and they both stared at the writhing spiders as they made noises at each other. After a moment or two the lead one approached again; Charmian would have run into the wall had Thomas not been in her way. She whimpered instead and pressed against him, but the spider stopped as soon as it reached her, and let out a rapid series of clicks. She could see herself in its multiple eyes; her brow furrowed. She looked at Thomas.
"I--I think it's talking to me! But--I don't have any idea what it's saying!!"
"Try your charades again!" Thomas suggested. "At least you'll be amusing them!"
"Thanks a lot!" Charmian scowled, turning back to the clicking spider. "I don't understand!" she exclaimed; the spider took the dreamcatcher back and held it up, still clicking. Charmian ran her hands down her face, feeling ready to start screaming again, when the creature poked one hairy leg through the hoop and pulled it out again. Her eyes widened, then she dropped her hands and gasped. She grabbed the hoop back so abruptly that she startled the spiders again, and they again edged away.
"High-strung lot, aren't they," Thomas said.
"I think I have an idea," Charmian said, and held the hoop up in one hand, placing the palm of her other hand just behind its opening. "I can't hurt it any worse than it already is," she sighed, and concentrated. "Fire."
Her hand lit up, and the spiders waved their legs in fear. But Charmian merely moved her hand in slow circles around the hoop, and after a moment or two, tiny filaments of flame began to appear, lacing across the opening and joining in a spiderweb pattern. Almost as soon as she'd spun it, the flames died away, vanishing into thin air; yet a glance at the spiders showed her that they'd seen it. They were clicking excitedly now, waving their front legs up and down and bobbing their heads.
Thomas frowned. "I think...I think they get it," he murmured.
Relief broke out upon Charmian's face and she let out her breath, holding the hoop up higher. "I need you to do that," she said, and made crisscross motions around the hoop. "Fix it up again. I was told you could do that...can you fix it for me?"
She held it out once more and the lead spider took it. It examined it, then held it up to the spider on its right, then to that on its left, and they all nodded and clicked at each other. It then turned back to her and started clicking again, still nodding. When Charmian made the crisscross motion it did the same; then, as if to reassure her, it picked up a stray strand from the floor and draped it across the hoop. Charmian sighed and nodded.
"Thank you," she said. "This means a lot to me. I'm not sure how I can repay you...maybe when we get back?" She felt like snapping her fingers. "That's right, we're trying to find the way to the Spirit Land. I was hoping you might know that, too." She looked around at the spiders. "Do you have any idea...?" Before they could respond, she said, "Is it in this tunnel, or one of the other two? From the main cave. Which tunnel do we have to take?"
The lead spider clicked and held up three legs, wiggling the middle one. Charmian nodded again.
"That's the way Mudji, Mani, and Wabasso went. Thank you," she said to the spider, and, unable to think of anything else to do, bowed her head as if it were Japanese. The spider wriggled its legs and clicked, the others following suit. They fell silent then and all stared at her, and she stared back, then frowned a little.
Thomas nudged her arm. "Um...I think they're waiting for you to leave."
"Leave--?" Charmian shot him a look. "But--my dreamcatcher! What am I supposed to..."
Thomas's mouth twitched. "Leave it with them. They have to fix it, and it'll probably take some time, judging by the look of things."
"But I can't just LEAVE it!" Charmian cried, her panic returning. She reached for the dreamcatcher, but this time the spider held it back and clicked at her, waving one leg toward the entrance as if to shoo her away. Charmian felt a flare of indignation and was ready to protest, but Thomas grasped her arm and held her back.
"I know you guys are the Weavers and all," she said, "but I can't just go leaving my dreamcatcher! My grandmother gave that to me! It's everything I had to get here! Can't you just weave it now, and then we'll be on our way--?"
Thomas took a step forward to stand beside her. "How long should this take?" he asked; the lead spider held up two legs and he said, "Two hours--? Two days--?"
"Two DAYS?!" Charmian yelped. The spider shook its head and clicked and Thomas looked down at her.
"I think it says two hours--but I can't be sure, since I don't speak...click-click-click. That should be how long it takes them to spin the web, and design it, and fill in the hoop; I've watched spiders before, they can be at it all day."
"That's HOUSE spiders," Charmian retorted. "As big as peas! Can you imagine how much faster THESE guys should be able to get it done--?"
"House spiders also don't spin magical webs," Thomas countered, and she had to admit that he got her with that one. Charmian scowled at him, then gave her dreamcatcher an anxious look. She chewed on her lip and even considered asking Thomas to remain behind with it, her fear of losing it was so great.
The lead spider cocked its head back and forth, then gestured at the dreamcatcher and then at the entrance. When Charmian still refused to move it reached down to pick up a scrap of the ruined web and waved it at her; she frowned a little, then took the piece of web, furrowing her brow at it. It felt like cool silk, almost like water, running over her fingers, and was thin enough that she could see through it, yet tough enough that it didn't tear in her grip. She pulled on it a little and it was almost like elastic. This piece was big enough to cover both hands.
She looked back up at the spider, her frown growing. "What do you want me to do with this?"
Thomas leaned toward her. "I think it's being offered as collateral," he whispered, and Charmian grew puzzled.
"Collateral...?" She looked at the spider once more. "You mean, I keep this, and you guys keep my dreamcatcher--?" Her face began to grow dark. "Hardly sounds like a fair trade--!"
Thomas grasped her arm again and started pulling her toward the entrance. "We accept," he said; then, before she could protest, "We'll be on our way now. We'll try to be back in two hours or so. Thank you for your business!"
The spiders waved, and he picked up her mitts and pulled her out of the room before she could begin fighting. He'd managed to get her halfway back up the tunnel before she at last managed to push his arm away and glare at him venomously.
"What's the deal?" she snapped, grabbing her mitts away from him. "You don't have any right to go bargaining over my dreamcatcher--!"
Thomas threw up his hands. "It was either that, or we never get out of here. Geezhigo-Quae recommended them to you, didn't she? You have a legitimate reason to doubt her now--?"
"When a bunch of giant spider-come-latelies refuse to give me back my dreamcatcher, and give me a little scrap of cobweb in return, then YEAH I have a good reason to doubt! My grandmother gave me that thing!"
"And you'll get it back in two hours, when they're done with it," Thomas replied. "Look, you can sit here and waste two hours watching spiders spin a web--which is like watching paint dry--or you can come along and check out that other tunnel in the meantime. Who knows, it might take us an hour just to go down the thing! The minutes will fly by, I assure you."
Charmian's face scrunched up, but she let out her breath. He did have a point. It would be like watching paint dry, and she would be able to tolerate that for all of...five minutes. "Fine," she grumbled, and hated how her eyes stung at the thought of leaving the hoop behind. She chewed on her lip and glanced toward the cave but Thomas was already pulling her away from it again. "Do you really think they'll take care of it, and give it back when they're done...?"
"I'm certain they have more than enough of their own webs to keep for themselves. Remember what Geezhigo-Quae said about them, and let's find that other tunnel. The others are going to be wondering what's become of us."
They made their way back up the tunnel to the main cave, squinting at the light which seeped in from outside. Faint noises came to their ears and when they at last stepped out into Scott's Cave, they saw that they were not the only ones there. Manabozho and Peepaukawiss sat huddled against the side wall, shivering, while Marten stood in front of them waving his arms.
"...And then he tossed it back in the water, with a GIGANTIC SPLOOSH!" the Mikumwesu was saying dramatically; Manabozho just scowled, though Puka's eyes were wide and his mouth hung open in suspense. "And the canoe almost sank--but Glooskap was smart and kept his wits, and paddled it back to shore! He got off on land, and the water had been SO cold that he was FREEZING all over! BRRRRR!" He let out a shudder, hopping from foot to foot. "And he had to walk ALL the way back through the snow--tramp-tramp-tramp--and it chilled his toes and froze his nose--"
"We're back," Charmian called. Puka and Marten both looked up at her with a shared "Awwwww" but Manabozho leapt to his feet and came straight at her.
"Thank GITCHI you're back!" he exclaimed, grabbing her hands; she started chattering at how cold his were. His face twisted. "He's been telling this HORRID-AWFUL story for the past HALF HOUR now..."
Marten puffed up. "I have not! It's only been TWENTY MINUTES!"
"How come you guys came back so early?" Charmian asked, peering down the right tunnel with a frown.
Puka got to his feet, brushing a fine dusting of snow from his shoulders. "Well--it was a little teeny bit of a dead end," he explained.
"You mean you couldn't reach the end of it--?"
"Oh, we reached the end," Manabozho groused. "THAT was the problem."
Marten hopped up and down. "The end of it was all ICE! Frozen! POOF!"
Charmian's brow furrowed and she and Thomas looked at each other. "Ice...? This far underground?"
"Perhaps it was Lake Huron?" Thomas suggested, not sounding convinced. Charmian shrugged it off.
"Well...it doesn't matter much, because that's the tunnel we're supposed to take," she said, pointing at the middle one; they all looked down it. "Have the others come through yet at all...?"
Puka shook his head. "There hasn't been a peep until you all showed up. Frankly, I was starting to get worried..."
"You would worry over a splinter in your toe!" Manabozho snapped, and stomped into the tunnel. "Come on and let's get it over with! It can't be any colder than this stupid cave!"
Puka pursed his lips. "He has the personality of a porcupine which has been steeped in some foul substance," he said, then rubbed at his head. "Ohhh...I need to work on my insults. This cold air is just doing atrocious things to me..." He made a face and followed his brother into the tunnel, then Charmian and Thomas glanced at each other again and went inside, Marten tagging along after.
"I don't like how they haven't come back out yet," Charmian murmured as they went. "That tunnel we took seemed pretty long, and even we got back--what if they ran into something? What if it's some kind of Weaver trick?"
Thomas rolled his eyes. "Did a bad spider bite you when you were little, or something...?"
"You met the Weavers?" Puka asked, crowding between them and glancing from one to the other. Marten hopped alongside. "Oo! What were they like? Did they have any wonderful decoration at all? Were they very elegant--?"
"If by 'elegant' you mean eight legs, then yeah, they were plenty elegant," Charmian said. She held up the scrap of web she'd been given and the other two oohed and ahhed over it. "They gave me this dumb thing...I'm supposed to go back in two hours. Which means we'd better hurry up and find the others, and then that passage to the Spirit Land."
Manabozho slowed down. "They instructed you to take this middle tunnel?" he called back.
"Uh-huh." Charmian put the bit of web away and glanced up. "Why? Is it a dead end, too?" She scowled. "I just KNEW it! Never trust anything with more than four legs!"
"Not quite a dead end," Manabozho said, and stepped aside. Charmian had to pull out her flashlight as the webs here were not so thick, and shined it ahead of them. She gawked and felt a distinct sense of déjà vu when she saw...three tunnels opening up before them.
She blinked in disbelief. "What the...?"
Marten hopped upon Puka's shoulder. "Wow. Did we turn in a REALLY BIG CIRCLE or something?"
Thomas frowned and shook his head. "No...it's another fork. So to speak."
Manabozho looked back at them, mouth twitching. "Well?" he prompted. "NOW what do we do?"
"They didn't even MENTION another fork!" Charmian exclaimed, and stepped forward to look into each tunnel. She rubbed at her head. "Why didn't they tell us about this? Which one do we take NOW?"
"Maybe we stick to the middle one," Thomas suggested.
"Whatever we do, we shouldn't take the right one!" Puka insisted, and shivered. "If I get any colder I'm likely to DIE!"
"We should definitely take the right tunnel," said Manabozho.
Marten bit his lip and then pointed. "Well, I say we should take the LEFT tunnel, just because nobody ELSE has suggested that yet!" He crossed his arms and gave a smug nod.
Charmian clawed at her head. "UGH!! Be quiet a minute!!" She opened her eyes and shined the flashlight into the left and right tunnels, chewing on her lip while the others waited. "For one thing--where the heck are Mani and the others? We should've met them here!"
"They were probably as confused as we are," Puka said. "What if they all split up again, too?"
"It makes sense," Thomas said. "One to each tunnel, just as we did. They didn't head back, so that's what they must have done."
Charmian let out a gusty sigh. "So now WE have to do it again, too?" She grimaced. "Fine...Manabozho, you take the right tunnel...Puka, you take the left."
Marten glanced from one of them to the next, his eyes big and blinking. "What do I do?" he asked with a small frown.
Charmian looked down at him, then rubbed her head again. "Marten, you should stay here just in case Mani and the others show up and we miss them somehow, and let them know what happened to us and where to go. So we don't get split up and lost even more."
Marten stood up straight and gave a big nod. "I'll wait here!" he exclaimed. "And keep GUARD!" He scuttled over to stand near the main tunnel mouth like a little furry sentry. Puka and Manabozho both disappeared, and Charmian looked at Thomas.
"Here goes nothing," she said wearily, and again they set foot in the middle tunnel.
She had to make more use of her flashlight this time, considering how far and deep beneath the ground she assumed they must be; the thought of the massive weight of stone overhead made her shiver. Thomas took her arm, and she stopped shivering, but only for a moment; then she started chattering. He pulled his hand away and they both flushed.
"Sorry," he said.
"'S-'s--okay," Charmian chattered, surreptitiously rubbing her hands together. "Nothing worse than what's going on outside, at least."
Thomas looked even more embarrassed. "Somehow I feel as if I should be apologizing for that..."
"Huh--?" She blinked in surprise; he gave her a frank look and she blushed again. "That's Augwak!" she blurted out. "Not you! You would never do something like that."
"Actually I just did..." He gestured at her coat and she saw the little trace of ice he'd left on her sleeve. Charmian stared at it for a moment, then looked forward into the flashlight's beam again.
"Well," she said, trying to think of any way out of this conversation, "that shouldn't be a problem, if I can get my arms to turn as red as my face must be right now."
Thomas blinked, and then started laughing. Charmian let out a tiny sigh and waved the beam around to try to make out any differences in the tunnel ahead; her brow furrowed when she noticed what appeared to be a wider opening, and she pointed.
"Hey, take a look...another cave?" He leaned forward to look in the direction she was pointing in. "Maybe that's it. Or at least, another dead end we can rule out." She made a face. "I'm really starting to hate this cave."
"Actually, I think it would be rather fun," Thomas countered, "if one only had a map of the place..."
"Yeah, but where would the joy be in that." They both slowed their step as the tunnel widened into what seemed to be the start of a cave...only to then curve down on itself, forming nothing more than a domed room at the end. They stepped into it and peered around themselves; some Weavers' webs adorned the walls, but from the looks of it they had been here a very long time, as they were tattered and dusty and glowed only a little. The stone had been worn smooth, but aside from that there was nothing there.
"Not even ice or ANOTHER tunnel!" Charmian cried, throwing up her arms so the flashlight beam flailed wildly around them. "What the hell is the DEAL here?"
"Tell me the truth," Thomas said. "If it had ended in another three tunnels--would you have liked that any better--?"
Charmian ground her teeth and pulled off her pack to shove the flashlight in down among her other things. The webs around them provided just enough light to see, though it was quite dim. "I'm REALLY getting pissed off," she growled, setting her pack aside and stepping toward the wall. She touched her fingers to it, pressing in a few spots. "If you ask me those spiders are holding back a LOT more than wherever that tunnel is supposed to be!"
"Oh, stop blaming those poor spiders!" Thomas exclaimed in exasperation. "Perhaps they're simply addled from being down here day after day after day! Maybe there was a fourth tunnel we overlooked--that could have thrown everything off. Or maybe--"
"Or maybe they're just liars." Charmian scowled and leaned her shoulder against the stone, with no result. "Come on, Thomas! When's the last time you trusted a giant spider?"
He rolled his eyes. "Until you came along--I never had any reason to try talking with one!" he said, when Charmian stepped back and pressed her hands against the wall, pushing as hard as she could. Her feet slid against the floor and she let out a strained noise.
Thomas's mouth twitched and he crossed his arms. "And what, pray tell, are you doing now?" he asked in a too-polite voice.
Charmian made a face at him over her shoulder. "ANYTHING! It's better than just TALKING!"
"So is backtracking and trying one of the other tunnels," Thomas said. Charmian started hitting her hand against the wall. "Better than breaking a finger, at least. Why don't we just head back and lament our losses there? We're not exactly finding any of the others, either..."
"I'm just tired of going in circles!" Charmian snapped. "I want something to go MY way for once!" She drew her hand back and made a face. "Ew, there's something stuck on it!" She rubbed her hand against the rock, then grimaced and started striking her palm against it again. "Get off, get OFF already--!"
Thomas took a step forward and gestured. "Just get that light-flash thing of yours out again! I really don't understand what's gotten into you all of a sudden--"
"Get OFF!" Charmian yelled, and slammed her hand against the rock wall. Thomas started when something bright flashed, and Charmian's other hand flew up to shield her eyes; he had to blink away the glare and squint, trying to reaccustom himself to the dimness, but his eyes only widened when he saw how Charmian's hand was glowing where she touched the wall. He gawked and then rushed forward, just in time for her to go limp and start to fall backwards; he caught hold of her before she could hit the floor, and her head lolled back, her eyes glazed and dull. The blue glow faded from her hand and Thomas eased her to the floor as if she were dead.
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