The room in which Deo came to grudging consciousness was cool and humid. He had been dumped unceremoniously onto the stone floor of what felt like a magazzino, a cellar beneath — well, that was the question, wasn’t it? Where was he?
“I’m glad I’m not dead,” Deo mused to himself, rubbing a tender welt at the side of his head. And then he thought, “My wife is going to have me trussed.”
From the dim murk, he saw a single arched doorway led out from the magazzino. Deo listened for a long moment but heard nothing. Only then did his thoughts go to his belongings. His captors had left him in his armor, but had taken his armaments from him.
What choice did he have? What little gray light suffused the room came from beyond the arch.
Beyond the the arch, a crude corridor had been hacked from chalky stone. At least he was likely still in Belluna, Deo reasoned. The corridor turned and turned again, angling ever so slightly upward and growing perceptibly brighter. With spirits he hoped wouldn’t prove false, he broke into a run—
—only to find himself entangled in something sticky, strong, and unyielding. A spider’s web.
For a moment he panicked, thrashing about in the web as does a fly… whose movements serve only to alert the spider to its presence. A terrifying clicking filled the air and Deo felt the web go taut. Another thrash, and he saw an eight-legged horror the size of a cavaliere’s horse scrambling down the hallway toward him. Eyes wide with panic, he flailed about the web and found the web-strangled corpse of some previous unfortunate pinned in the web-strands next to him. A dim glint gave him hope, and just before the spider pinned him with its fearsome, hairy legs, he jerked the dead man’s shortsword from its sheath.
The spider stopped. More than just a dumb beast? No time for reason. A reassuring tension at his ankle told Deo his hidden dagger was still there, and he drew it.
With a weapon in each hand, Deo felt sure of himself again. This was how he fought. The webs holding him immobile were a problem, but at least he wasn’t defenseless.
Seeing its advantage quickly waning, the spider lunged. Deo tried an aggressive parry, but the weight and mobility of the monster overwhelmed him.
“Oh, for the love of…” Deo cursed inwardly. Desperation driving his movements, he hacked and stabbed at the thing. The coolth of the cellar closed in, and he felt his warm blood spilling.
Frenzied persistence paid off, however. His sight growing hazy, he plunged his dagger and plundered sword twice and again into the hulk’s rigid chitin, and its fangs made a ruin of his chest. He felt the bristly hairs of its horrid body on his face as the spider struggled to subdue him.
And so he emerged the victor. Gasping for air, he cut himself loose from the spider’s web with the dagger in his trembling hand.
With a cautious step, Deo resumed the one-way path down the corridor, holding the shortsword before him as an ersatz probe. The corridor turned once again and ended, but a warm light poured in from a hole in the ceiling. A ladder ascended from his hallway into the trapdoor above. He could hear a fire crackling, and the sound of a bottle being placed on a surface.
“Welcome back to consciousness, mi ospite!” came a thick voice from the room above. “It seems you’ve managed to have your way with my housekeeper. Come up here. We have something to discuss, you and I.”
Heavy drops of Deo’s blood spattered to the stony floor.