The Burnt World of Athas

The official Dark Sun website

The Journal of Zong-Tossu, Entry 5 - Captives of the Spider-Folk

This is the journal of Zong-Tossu, a master ghav-urath (life-shaper) from the Rhul-thaun capital of Thamasku. Zong-Tossu was sent by the har-etuil (judgment-makers) along with a detachment of junior life-shapers and lawkeepers to investigate a mysterious ring of standing stones and the strange creatures said to occasionally appear within. The expeditionary force was accompanied by a thri-kreen emissary known as Cho’ka.

After a close call with the sophorphic indigo lotuses of Guthay, Zong-Tossu and his group find themselves the prisoners of a strange race of spider-folk.

A NOTE FOR READERS: The journals of Zong-Tossu, though fascinating, should not be taken as accurate. Even though he was considered a great ghav-urath, eventually many of his writings were dismissed as the products of severe psychosis by the ruling council of Thamasku and simply regarded as fiction or parody. It was rumored Zong-Tossu had a mental breakdown caused by his usage of the narcotic cam-rahn.

I awoke in a haze, my head spinning and covered in a strange sticky material wrapped around my body - I could not move my arms or legs! Though this substance was wet and soft, it restrained me with great strength. I felt almost squeezed like the fruits used to make wine, so constricted that I could hardly breathe.

I looked about and saw my fellow ghav-uraths and vher-eutilis were also bound in this sticky webbing.

I could still feel my head spinning and pounding from the lotus pollen that yet filled my lungs with its hallucinogenic effects. Time and space felt like tar as my mind swam through the drunken haze.

Cho’ka stood near me, his four arms also bound in the milky-white webbing. Around us stood a host of arachnid entities, pale white with stripes of deep indigo.They stood upon sharp-looking legs and used their Rhulisti-like arms to gesticulate and communicate amongst themselves while speaking with their well developed mouth-parts.

My mind was still swimming but I could see that this communication amongst themselves had ended and one of the smaller creatures began to chitter at Cho’ka. Cho’ka slowly wheeled his sinewy mantid body around and translated using his strange mental abilities.

His clicking and buzzing voice felt like a throbbing pain in my addled brain. ”Zong Tossu, you must listen. Click These creatures call themselves the Chitine. They say that we have invaded their sacred sweet-water pond. They say you resemble their long hated enemy, the Children of the Stars. Click-Buzz They say they must take you before their leader - known as Brood Mother - she will determine our fate… But before that you must pay a “blood tax”. Their leeches will consume a portion of your blood over a few days. Buzz We must abide by this blood tithing or they will kill us here and now! Do you agree to their terms?”

Tr’Shadai looked at me with a dazed expression and I nodded my head, and said “Yes”. Cho’ka turned to the Chitine and communicated our agreement. Then the smallest of the Chitine, an albino carrying a large alabaster-colored cocoon on its back, walked forward and withdrew dark purple leeches the size of my forearm from its sack. Placed on our bodies, the creatures bit into the soft flesh of our necks with their needle-like mouth parts. At first it was sharply painful, but then the pain subsided and I felt quite warm and relaxed, perhaps even euphoric.

A large Chitine stepped before us, his spear held in one hand, with his other at rest near what appeared to be a saw-toothed club. He watched on impassively until Cho’ka and the albino spider-creature were finished. Then, with a trill he lifted one of his left arms into the sky and closed all three fingers into a fist. With that signal, the band of Chitine moved out in unison around us towards a scarlet and indigo forest in the distance.

After we reached the forest and walked under its alien canopy for several hours, the assembled spider-folk suddenly beckoned us to be silent. As we lowered ourselves into the undergrowth, we looked into the grassy clearing beyond. A lone wounded creature, at least three or four times my height at the shoulder and four times that long from tail to beak, was limping across the tall teal grass. From the way it was following the trails trampled through the grass, I assumed it must have been left behind its herd. The beast lowered its head to nibble at the grass of the glade, its body powerful but yet still swift-looking with its two powerful rear legs. Its coloration was of a base burgundy that highlighted to magenta near the creature’s back interspersed with stripes of turquoise. The beast seemed to seek a moment to catch its breath and graze from the grassy meadow. The creature had a particularly nasty wound across it’s hip which was bleeding and surrounded by biting insects of some type.

Soon the tall grass began to rustle and sway near the exhausted beast, as invisible forms moved through the grass towards the wounded animal. Suddenly, the grass was violently parted as black and white striped reptilian horrors sprung up from the grass all around the wounded animal. They fell upon the beast’s flanks, using large scythe-like claws and vicious teeth. In seconds, the wounded creature was grounded, bleeding, as the vicious beasts began to devour their hapless victim alive.

The assembled Chitine began to chitter faintly to each other. Cho’ka stood very close and whispered a translation “‘Striped hunters’, as the spider-folk call them; they wound their prey rapidly with their scythe-like talons and serrated teeth, but after they eat their fill, they become harmless like great playful pets. They just killed that thick-lipped beast and are feasting. If we give them one hour, they will become full and lazy. Right now they are extremely dangerous while hungry and having just made a kill.”

As we waited, the striped hunters ate their fill and quickly fell asleep after licking the gore from their talons and muzzles. Quietly the spider-folk hoisted myself and the other captives to our feet and quietly walked a great distance around the three sleeping predators. The predators’ massively-clawed talons gently swiped at the tall grass as they dreamed but the claws were so razor sharp that they easily cleaved the blades with the slightest motion.

Eventually our assembled host passed around to the other side of the forest glen and away from the striped hunters. Suddenly, the earth could be felt shaking as we made our way through the forest, the Chitine quickly raced up into the trees, dragging their captives along and whisper-chittering to each other in the canopy. The soil of Guthay began to quiver at what sounded like thunderous footsteps, when suddenly from the other side of the glen, a massive beast erupted out of the forest cover. Tr’Shadai recognized it and scrambled away in horror, its gargantuan razor-sharp talons tearing up the earth as it charged forth - a great beast on two mighty legs with a titanic fanged maw. We all remembered Tr’Shadai’s tale of his terrified flight from the eyeless predator and of how tall Xelno and stout Jari were torn to shreds and devoured. And it seemed now this terrible beast had found us.