Chapter 31:

Chapter 31


Huge, lumbering trees stood tall and proud at the forest's entrance. Mighty oaks and elms weaved together in a woody tapestry, creating a webbed network of narrow dirt paths that stretched out all across the enchanted forest. Moss wrapped around the trunks and bark. A variety of flora blanketed the forest floor. An intricate system of streams and waterways flowed through the woods like life giving veins. The unique fauna flourished and thrived amongst the plants. Birds sang a delightful tune. Bees buzzed around curiously. Fairies and pixies danced in sunbeams with butterflies. A deer or two would prance in and out of sight. The sweet perfume of honey wafted through the air like a dense fog. Along the southern border of Ethros was tranquility incarnate.

"UGH! FINALLY!" Vera cried, collapsing to the ground. "We've been walking forever! We seriously couldn't have hitched a ride on a stagecoach or something?"

"We did. If walking is such a chore for you, why don't you teleport us like Necros?" Isaac asked.

"I don't know how he does it! He shouldn't be able to do it! Teleportation is such a taxing spell that you have to have special ports set up! And even then, it's rarely used. So no, I can't, because I have no clue how he's able to do that on command!"

"Doesn't matter anyway, we're here. It's time we finish this quest. Speaking of which, what's on the agenda doc?" Elizabeth rummaged around in her bag and pulled out the scroll.

"All we need now is sunrose lotus."

"The hell is that?" Isaac annoyedly questioned. Vera's head perked up from the dirt.

"Only the most important magical flower in the world! It's a vital ingredient to so many potions, elixirs, and cantrips!"

"It's true. I've done some research on the flower's properties in the past. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to obtain that even a royal doctor like myself rarely works with it."

"So I assume that means you don't have any stored in your lab." Elizabeth shook her head. "Alright, let's go." He sighed. The three heroes made their way into the enchanted woods. Creeping and wading through twisted vines and shrubs. The little walkways available were barely enough of a clear path through the forest. Roots and branches invaded the space, trying their best to win the resource competition. Sunlight could only come through as cracks in a leafy armor. Sparkling, magical dust agitated the noses of those who inhaled it, those except Vera. The adventures broke off from the beaten path and explored the underbrush. Searching. Investigating. A doctor, a knight, and a mage all looked for a single flower. Their collective lack of botany skills held them back from any sense of efficiency. Elizabeth had the most experience of them all, but even her knowledge was barely passed surface level. Even so, her alone could not effectively search the entirety of the enchanted woods. The group's hunt continued to prove fruitless. Sun, obvious. Rose, found. Lotus, discovered. But no sunrose lotus. It seemed just about every other plant had been identified, except the sunrose lotus. And to make matters worse, as the party ventured deeper into the woods, spiderwebs became denser. Connecting to every tree, a vast network of silky traps. Isaac cut through the webs, Vera gently burned them, and Elizabeth helplessly swatted at them.

"Jeez! Do you three go around and destroy everyone's property or just mine?" A melodic and mellifluous voice called out from above. Confused, the heroes instinctively looked up to follow the voice. But no one was there, not that they could see. But then they felt the presence of someone dropping down from the canopy behind them. "Seriously, do you know how long it took me to set all that?" Timidly, they turned around. And standing behind them, poised and playful, was a woman. But not just any woman, an Arachne woman.

"Holy shit!" Isaac shouted, jumping back into Vera's arms. The woman laughed.

"Sorry! Didn't mean to frighten you! Name's Agnes, or Agatha, most people just stick with Agnes." On top of her being not the average woman, she wasn't the average Arachne either. Agnes still had spider and arachnid like qualities to her appearance, an exoskeleton, fanged mandibles, an opisthosoma with spinnerets. But her other qualities were a lot more... human. She was bipedal for one. She had four main limbs, two arms and two legs, and the other four were definitely more arachnid like but sprouted from her back. She also had two primary eyes, ones that looked a lot like a human's. There were other eyespots on her head, but they weren't as noticeable. She was an Arachne for sure, but Agnes could arguably pass for a human. She was definitely a lot more pleasing to the eyes than the rest of her kind.

"Apologies, Agnes." Elizabeth began. "We didn't mean to uh, destroy your property. We're actually just here to finish up a quest."

"Oh you adventurers and your quests. Just about everyone who strolls through the enchanted woods is one a quest. So, what can Miss Agnes, Queen of the Arachnids, do to help?"


"Yeah! I protect these woods. In the past I would just fight anyone who entered my territory, you know, to keep meddling adventures from destroying this precious habitat. But I later found that assisting those adventures was actually more effective. So now, I help with just about anything. Come on! Spill the spider cider!"

"The what?"

"What do you need? How can I help? Don't keep a gal waiting, spin me your story!"

"Ah, well." Isaac cleared his throat. "We're looking for a flower."

"Gonna have to be more specific than that, hot stuff. This a forest, you're gonna find flowers everywhere." Agnes smiled, checking out her nails and keeping one eyespot locked onto Isaac.

"Right..." Isaac laughed nervously while Vera shot daggers.

"We're looking for sunrose lotus." Elizabeth clarified. Agnes stopped. Her gaze swiftly switched from herself to the party. She hissed slightly, not turning her head or making really any movements.

"For what?" She asked, her tone darkened. Gone was her flirtatious, bubbly attitude. Rage seeped through her words like a fiery venom.

"Sunrose lotus..." Elizabeth said again, timidly. Slowly, Agnes turned to the party. She sauntered over to Elizabeth and bent down to be at eye level.

"One more time." She whispered. Elizabeth dared not to speak. She swallowed her words before giving them the chance to escape her lips. "Ha! I'm just kidding!" Immediately switching back her tone. The three collectively took a sigh of relief. "I can take you to the best spot, it's in the middle of the forest. How many do you need?"

"Just one." Said Isaac. "Right doc?" He looked over at Elizabeth who gave a nod of approval.

"Perfect! Because I don't know how I could justify losing multiple, let alone one. Endangered species and all." Agnes eyed Isaac up and down. "But for a stud like you, I could make anything happen." She winked. Isaac again laughed nervously.

"Imma kill her." Vera whispered into Isaac's ear.

"Let's wait until she gets us the flower." He whispered back. Agnes strutted passed the heroes, making small passes at a certain knight. She took lead in the group and made way to the sunrose lotus.

"What do you need the lotus for anyway?" Agnes asked.

"We need it for a special potion." Elizabeth answered.

"Again hon, I want specifics."

"Oh, right. We're trying to make a cure for the plague."

"Yeah, and stop that Grimwald guy." Vera added. Agnes stopped dead in her tracks.

"Who?" She said softly.

"Nice try, your majesty, but you won't fool us again." Isaac scoffed.

"No! Who?!" Agnes whipped around. She was frantic, stressed. Her collective demeanor had been overtaken by fear. True, genuine fear. The heroes were too stunned to speak. "Who did you say you were gonna stop?!"

"Grimwald?" Elizabeth hesitated.

"No. No no no. No no no no no! NO!" She screamed. "Listen to me, and you listen good! Abandon your quest!" Agnes demanded.


"You heard me! Do not FUCK with Grimwald!"


"No, but nothing!"

"We're doing this to save Ethros!"

"You're gonna destroy Ethros! And yourselves!"

"How?! How do you know?!"

"Because I know him! I've seen what he's capable of!" She began to cry venom saturated tears. "You have no idea what you're up against. I watched him crawl out this forest. I've seen him topple countless empires. You think this is his first?! Even if you succeed in what you're doing, it won't be his last!"

"What do you mean?"

"Yeah? What do you mean?" Isaac and Vera collectively pressured.

"You guys don't know? Grimwald isn't human! He's-" Agnes was cut off. An arrow flew through the air. A second one too. A shot between the eyes, a second into the heart. Agnes, Queen of the Arachnids, dropped dead. Assassinated.