Lurg’s whole world was upside down. Not in any figurative or emotional way, the barbarian did not possess such a mode of thinking. No, quite literally everything was upside down. He was caught in a giant spider’s web, feet pointing toward the sky, blood rushing to his head. He had attempted to swing from tree to to tree, trying to go over the massive spider, and misjudged the distance between two trees, thus finding himself in his current predicament.
“Demon Dogs.” he spat, trying to free himself from the sticky trap. But it was no use, even his considerable muscle could not break free. Then there came a hissing voice, a sound low and frightening that would startle any normal man. But Lurg was no normal man, he did not even tense as the voice called out to him.
“Ah,” it began, “like so many others you have no doubt come to steal great Mograw’s treasure.” From the rustling bushes emerged a great figure, an enormous spider, it’s eight large legs slowly crawling its massive body toward the spider’s web in which Lurg was trapped.
“I merely came for the scenery.” replied Lurg. The spider let out what might have been a chuckle.
“I admire your spirit, adventurer, I’m sure it shall be much fun to drain you of your precious lifeblood.” Mograw said.
“Oh no, we’re doomed. Utterly doomed.” came a voice at Lurg’s side. It was his magic sword, Gorn. A talking blade, enchanted by ancient wizards. Of course Lurg didn’t care much for sorcery so many of the details, as Ganymede the wizard had tried to explain to him, fell flat to his ears. “If I had eyes, Lurg, they’d be closed very tightly right now. Are your eyes shut?” Gorn added.
“No.” Replied Lurg. “I prefer to look death in its ugly face.
Somewhere, the hooded figure of Death felt a tinge of pain at being called ugly.
“I work hard on my appearance.” Said Death. Thusly insulated, the Grim Reaper considered collecting the soul of this brash barbarian, but held back to see how the interaction would go.
“A brave warrior til the end.” Said Mograw, inching ever closer to the trapped barbarian. “I do so hate it when they beg for their lives, but I can see you won’t be that way.”
“Not I.” Growled Lurg. He tried to turn his head. “If only I could but kiss my bulging biceps one last time.” He struggled against the web, lips formed to kiss his muscles once more before death. He tugged his head in the direction of his arm, but it was all useless. He laid his head back.
“Do…do you want to be alone for a moment?” Asked Mograw, it almost seemed like she was blushing.
“I’d love to be alone with my thoughts, just for a moment.” Gorn chimed in.
“Quiet, you.” Commanded Lurg. “Come at me spider, I’ll find a way to best you yet!
“Suit yourself you meaty man.” Said the spider. Mograw slowly approached Lurg, the barbarian could not help but remember how exactly he had come to be in this position.
* * *
The night before Lurg found himself trapped in the spider’s web, he was having a drink at the local tavern, the Goblin’s Nose. He found the name to be odd, but he also found the drinks to be liquid, and that was good enough. He sat in a booth by himself, mulling over just what he would do with the gold he had recently acquired. He had liberated it from some fat city official who had dared cross his path and commanded the barbarian to kneel before him. To avenge this insult to his honor, Lurg had, at sword point, demanded some compensation. Of course, Gorn was not as keen on this plan.
“I want to part of this. It’s robbery. You can’t tell sir, but I’m kneeling, I’m kneeling.” But got the gold he did, and before any city guards could chase him, Lurg made his way over the walls and fled to the next village. Here he sat, drinking his ale and weighing his options.
“Perhaps I could buy some company.” He said with a grin, squeezing the bag of gold before him.
“Like a company that makes horned helmets?” Asked Gorn.
“Or maybe I could find a new sword.” Lurg said fiercely.
“You can get whatever you’d like with that gold, but I don’t know how far you’ll get talking to yourself this way.” Came a voice. Lurg looked up, before him stood a tall, thin man with long blonde hair.
“What’s it to you who I’m talking to?” Asked Lurg. The thin man shrugged.
“Just trying to break the ice. I guess I’m no good at that.” He said.
“Oh, I’m just the same, I hate making conversation. It gives me such anxiety.” Said Gorn.
“A talking sword, how marvelous.” Said the man. “My name is Aruul.” He stuck out his hand. Lurg ignored it.
“What is it you want? Do you want the sword? I’ll sell it to you for a fair price.” Lurg said smiling.
“You can’t pay for sentimental value.” Said Gorn.
“Well, I’ll get to the point.” Said Aruul. “I see you’re a man who likes gold, and by the looks of it you’re a man who can get it if you tried.” Aruul paused, looking at the barbarian who was busy flexing his muscles.
“Sorry, were you saying something?” Asked Lurg.
“Look, the point is I know where you can find some serious treasure.” Lurg leaned in.
“Well now I’m listening.” It seemed to Aruul that somehow the barbarian was now flexing his ears.
“Have you ever heard of Mograw’s treasure?” Asked the thin man.
“Aye. But ‘tis a myth. Said to be guarded by Mograw, the giant spider.”
“S-s-s-spider?” Asked Gorn.
“Ah, what are you so afraid of?” Questioned Lurg.
“Everything.” Responded Gorn.
“Ignore him,” began Lurg. “Now what is it about this treasure? Are you saying it’s real?” He raised an eyebrow, interested.
“Oh, it’s real. Many adventurers have come seeking the Spider’s treasure, and none have made it back. But I get the feeling you might be more than capable of conquering such a foe.” Aruul said with a smile.
“It’s true, I’ve defeated many enemies in my time,” he began. Gorn cut in.
“Including self doubt! That’s the worst enemy of all.” Ignoring the sword, Aruul went on.
“Well, here’s what I propose: a team up, you and I. We kill the spider and split the gold fifty-fifty.” Lurg considered this offer for a moment.
“And what do you bring to the table?” He asked, finally.
“I can help guide you through the jungle. I have lived here for many years and just recently I discovered Mograw’s lair.”
“And how did you escape?”
“I ran, of course.”
“That’s my favorite plan.” Gorn cut in. Lurg looked at Aruul for a moment, not quite so quick to trust a stranger. Or anyone. Except his mother.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth? That this isn’t some scheme of yours?” Aruul cleared his throat.
“Ah, well, yes. Do I look like I could double cross you and live to tell the tale?” He asked.
“Truly, I would break you in two with my bare hands.” Lurg replied, making a wrenching motion.
“That would save me a lot of work,” said Gorn, “I do so hate the business of cleaving.”
“Look, all I can tell you is that there is gold and jewels to be had.” Aruul said. “And one day, some adventurer will best Mograw and claim what she hordes. Why should that not be you?” Lurg smiled at this thought. Gold AND glory, two things he could not resist, along with body oil to bronze his muscles.
“Alright, you have a deal, Aruul.” Said the barbarian.
“Excellent, most excellent. We shall leave in the morning. Meet me outside the tavern.”
“Let me buy us a round.” Exclaimed the barbarian, hoisting up his sack of gold.
“A round what?” Asked Gorn.
“Quiet you! Tomorrow is your turn to drink. Blood!” Lurg and Aruul let out a laugh as they smashed their drinks together in toast.
“I should be in a union.” Moaned Gorn.
* * *
As arranged, the two met in the morning outside of the Goblin’s Nose. Aruul carried with him two large sacks.
“Here, take one,” he said, “haul as much treasure as you can in there.” Lurg accepted the bag gladly.
“Plenty shall fit in this bag, I like the way you think.” He looked at the thin man. “Nothing more than that, though?” He asked, pointing to Aruul’s side, where a small dagger hung.
“I have a far better weapon: you!” Aruul exclaimed. At this Lurg laughed.
“I like that.” He said. The only thing bigger than Lurg’s muscles was his ego, it seemed.
The two set off in the direction of the jungle, which was not far outside of the city walls. Long ago the city of Berenthal had built its large walls to keep the jungle out, and if the legend of Mograw was true, the walls had been built for good reason. Aruul took the lead.
“Careful,” he said, “there are loads of dangerous animals and plants in this cursed jungle.” Lurg let out a laugh.
“How can a plant be dangerous?” He asked as he chewed on a purple mushroom that he had just picked. Aruul turned and gave an alarmed look, swatting the mushroom out of the barbarian’s hand.
“Don’t eat that, it’s poisonous!” He cried.
“Ha. I’ve been poisoned so many times—“ Lurg cut off, doubling over. Putting his hands on his knees he promptly vomited. “It no longer has an effect on me.” He finished, wiping his mouth.
“You got a little on me.” Said Gorn sadly.
“Just be careful from now on.” Aruul scolded. The thin man led on, careful to avoid any pitfalls or dangerous life forms in the area. The jungle was dense with plant life, muggy, nearly suffocating at points. Lurg was not used to such lush greenery, coming from the land of Unth where there was not much vegetation to speak of. It was a land of cliffs, climbing had been the way of life, not inching through plant life avoiding who knew what hiding behind each leaf.
Narrowly they avoided a pit of hidden spikes. Aruul was fully aware of this danger, it was Lurg who wasn’t paying attention. Aruul threw out an arm to stop the lumbering barbarian. He pointed down.
“A fine mess that would have made. Many thanks!” Lurg said, slapping Aruul on the back, nearly causing the man to fall into the pit himself.
Then there came a giant snake from the trees. It swooped down, hissing, and wrapped itself around Aruul.
“You’ll not have my guide.” Bellowed Lurg as he drew Gorn from his scabbard.
“I hate it in there, I can’t breath. And I think I’m claustrophobic.” Said the sword as Lurg swung it down, landing with a piercing noise between the snake’s eyes.
“You saved me. I think we’re even now.” Said Aruul rubbing his limbs.
Finally the pair came to a thick brush of leaves. Aruul produced his dagger and cut through them. In front of them was the slumbering spider Mograw.
“Demon Dogs she is but a big one.” Whispered Lurg. Behind the enormous arachnid sat a cave mouth.
“There is the cave in which she keeps her treasure.” Aruul said, pointing his dagger ahead. “Many have tried to get in, but I don’t know of anyone who has succeeded, they all meet the same grisly fate.” He said with a shudder. Lurg looked up.
“That is because they are not me.” He said with a grin. “Many have tried, you say. But how many have gone above the spider?” He jabbed a thumb skyward.
“What do you propose to do?” Asked his companion.
“I shall climb these trees and scale down the cave entrance and slay the monster whilst it sleeps!” He said with a large smile.
“Oh no, I’m really not fond of heights.” Gorn said.
“Do you think you can do such a thing?” Asked Aruul.
“I am a barbarian, we are great climbers. There’s no way it could go wrong. You wait here, it is time to put Gorn into action.” Rubbing his hands together, Lurg began to ascend the tree. He got to the top of a tall one, then launched himself onto a neighboring tree.
“A perfect plan.” He said to himself. Then, he fell.
* * *
So it was that mighty Lurg the Barbarian came to be stuck in the monster web of Mograw the spider. He hung there, his thick hair obstructing his view, wondering what had happened to Aruul. Had he run when he saw the Barbarian fall, or was he out there lurking still? He tried to keep his eyes on the spider, as not to give Aruul away in case he was still out there.
“Another fool come to get my treasure.” Said the spider. “Well there’s none for you.” She moved closer, her menacing fangs coming into view.
“Boy those are some teeth. Who’s your dentist?” Asked Gorn.
“Quiet you.” Lurg said to his sword. “Also what’s a dentist?” He asked. Gorn gave no reply, for he was too scared. The spider inched closer.
“You look like quite a meal, I’m going to enjoy—“
“I think not!” Came a voice. Suddenly Aruul shot up from behind some bushes and threw his dagger. It sailed through the air toward the web. Lurg could see it now, the dagger would cut a corner of the great web down and free him, he would grab Gorn and, in one swoop, impale the spider. Only it didn’t work out like that. The knife flew through the air and promptly dug itself into Lurg’s leg. He let out a howl of pain and from the bushes Aruul winced.
“I’m so sorry! My aim. . .you see, I was a little off if I just—“ he could not finish as Lurg screamed in fury. And now the spider had turned, her attention on the blonde man in the bushes.
“My, my, two of them? I’m going to eat well tonight.” Mograw said, advancing on Aruul.
“The only thing you’ll eat,” came the voice of the Barbarian, “is my sword!” With all of his might he pulled his arms from the web, successfully freeing them. It was his Barbarian fury that had freed him and nothing more. Not only did he have blood loss, he had blood lust. With his free hand he grabbed his sword and hacked away at the web until he fell to the ground with a thud.
“Barbarian, don’t work yourself up, you’ll get all stringy!” Warned Mograw, who once again had her attention on Lurg.
Lurg stood up, wiping himself off. He lunged at the spider, who dodged him, she was quicker than he had even suspected. In turn the spider leapt at the Barbarian who, through luck, or perhaps a sixth sense, rolled out of the way. Aruul looked on in amazement.
“You are not dead yet, this is most excellent!” He yelled, encouraging Lurg. But Lurg could only hear the beating of his own heart, the flowing of his blood. It was man versus monster and one of them would be dead when it was over. The giant spider crept her way toward the Barbarian. Finally she was within range, and Lurg thrust his sword toward its body.
“Oh, don’t make me go in there.” Cried Gorn. Mograw threw up one of her legs and deflected the sword, smacking it out of Lurg’s hands.
“I don’t need a sword to kill you,” he yelled, jumping into the air. He landed squarely on the spider’s back. “I’ll chew your eyes out!” The Barbarian began madly chomping away at the spider’s eyes.
“You crazy Barbarian get off my back! Stop trying to. . .to eat my face!” The spider began to buck wildly, trying to loosen Lurg from her back, but it was no good, he just clung tighter. Then suddenly he had an idea.
Without a sound, Lurg pulled the dagger out of his leg and jammed it right into Mograw’s brain. There was a twitch and then the spider dropped onto her back, her legs curling up toward the sky. Then there was silence for a moment, followed by a muffled noise. Lurg was trapped under the large spider’s carcass, save for his arm, which waved about wildly.
“Hold on, I’ll rescue you!” Cried Aruul, who sprang from the bushes and ran toward the body of the spider. He grabbed Lurg’s hand and pulled. The Barbarian came out inch by inch, covered in goo, like a baby being born.
“Ha! Another opponent bested!” He cried as soon as he was free. He bent his arms, flexing his muscles.
“Great show, I thought we were done for. Sorry about the leg.” Said Aruul, rubbing the back of his head.
“This?” Asked Lurg, pointing toward the blood soaked gash on his leg? “It’s but a scratch. Now, let’s get that treasure!”
The two men gingerly entered the cave, Lurg limping along, Gorn in hand. As they got to the back of the cave, they discovered in great quantities: nothing. There was no treasure, the cave was completely empty.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Cried Lurg.
“I. . . I don’t get it.” Said Aruul.
“Wait, I think I understand.” Said Gorn. “The real treasure is the friends we made along the way.”
Out from the cave whirled the sword, thrown in frustration.
“So you were right, the treasure was a myth. Buy you a drink?” Asked Aruul sheepishly.
“You. . .” Lurg said, pointing at the blonde man.
“Buy you. . .two drinks?” Aruul tried again. The Barbarian hunched up and then relaxed.
“It’s a start.” He said. Together they walked out of the cave and braved the Jungle for something perhaps more important than treasure: ale.