The darkness grew the further he pushed into the Mirkwood. Eirikr kept to the shadows when he could, staying off the Elf path but keeping it always near. His supplies of water were dwindling, but he set his mind to make it to the other side of the forest before he would refill. He would not quench his thirst in the moaning streams that cut through woods. Lindiron led him as far as the Elf was able and warned him of the water, among other things. “The Woods no longer welcome us, friend,” he had cautioned as they snuck around a copse full of large wolves. Still, Eirikr’s lips were beginning to chap and he found himself moistening them with a sticky tongue. He took his waterskien and squeezed out a mouthful; it had to last.
As Eirikr trudged on, a weariness set into his bones. Surely, the end of the blasted forest was near. His travels with the trade caravan did not prepare him for the solitude as mile after mile passed beneath his feet. The monotony of tree after gloomy tree began to numb him as still he pressed on.
Stumbling over a tree root hidden in bramble, Eirikr nearly fell to his hands and knees. His hand caught within a hole in a hallow log. Withdrawing it slowly, he held it up and stared at the thick webbing clinging to his fingers. Suddenly alert, he withdrew to the shadow of a giant tree and waited, bow knocked, with hardly a breath.
They came swarming up out of the ground as if summoned. Arachnids the size of small ponies poured from the massive pile of leaves that camouflaged the entrance to their den. If Eirikr had not stumbled, he would have been easily lost within its depths.They danced and chattered, gathering around their den with chelicerae clicking and pedipalps grasping at the air.
There were too many to attack. They had not yet picked up his scent; the wind blew their sour odor into his face: a minty musk tinged with decay. Nostrils flaring, Eirikr looked around at his options. He could take to the trees and perhaps he could use their weight to his advantage. He doubted the higher branches could hold their weight, but then again there was a chance they would not hold his. Retracing his path to the road would lead to a clear sprint – for both predator and prey. Perhaps he could somehow spring a trap…there was no obvious way.
Slowly, he took a step back. Snap! His foot crushed a twig and the swarm of spiders turned to the sound. Without thinking, he loosed two arrows at the farthest monsters and turned on his feet and ran.
Firing at the furthest spiders gave him a brief head start as they screeched and flailed, drawing the attention of horde. As the two spiders died with arrows in their eyes, the swarm took chase.
Eirikr ran, never looking back.