The Pool of the Spider people
The seas bubbled and frothed before our heroes' ship and Poseidon himself appeard before them.
“Return the sacred pool of the Spider People of Aretias and its contents to the sea.”
He commanded before sinking once again into the depths.
Lycomedes had wandered far and wide in his youth and learned much about the islands of the tide-less sea. He informed his companions that Aretias Is a mountainous island with Sun-dappled forests and lush green grasslands that lay to the west.
Immediately the Syntaxis was set to its new course and the willing oarsmen powerd it on its way.
Soon the lush island of Aretias was spotted by sharp-eyed Socus and the ship made for a small village he spied on the coast.
As they neared the coast Socus saw that something was not right with the way the surf crashed on to the shore and he commanded the ship to veer away just in time to avoid the hidden rocks. There would be no landfall here.
Our heroes sailed around the coast until, in the early evening, they spied a safer anchorage by another. larger village on the far side of the island,
The heroes made their way ashore and were greeted by the inhabitants of Euxine who seemed glad to welcome them.
Our heroes noticed that the town was covered in cobwebs and large spiders. On enquiring about this they were told that the spiders were seen as fortuitous and were welcomed in the village because their presence was instrumental in keeping the much larger and more dangerous spiders that infested the surrounding forest at bay. A small derelict temple had been refurbished in order to make offerings to the spiders and ensure the area's prosperity.
The heroes went to the temple and were introduced to the family that oversaw its running.
Everyone was very friendly and any anxiousness was allayed.
Because it was evening the heroes were taken to a taverna on the outskirts of town run by Nikomachos and his son Eupolos.
There were no spiders here even though the taverna was at the very edge of the forest.
Our heroes were treated to a sumptuous meal of exquisite mushroons that were a famous speciality of the house. Many of the locals who crowded round to see the heroes expressed wonder at how Nikomachos could harvest the mushrooms which only grew deep in the forest.
Nikomachos remained silent on the matter.
During the night swift Alexis, who had remained awake not trusting the friendliness of the locals, saw Nikomachos and his son walk into the forest with a lantern and a basket.
Alexis woke his companions and they followed.
In an attempt to remain stealthy Lcyomedes moved too slowly and dropped behind his companions. Suddenly he was sarmed by giant spiders dropping from the trees and erupting from the undergrowth.
He valiently held off their attacks and even slew many before his companions came to his aid. Even so, with all the heroes fighting they looked to be soon overwhelmed when Nikomachos ran up to them drawn by the commotion.
The spiders fled from the light of Nikomachos' lantern and the heroes were saved.
The night was rent with a cry. Eupolos was in trouble. Left behind in the confusion he was beset by spiders.
Swift Alexis ran to his aid and killed two of the three creatures but, alas, the third bit Eupolos, injecting him with venom and he fell to the ground and lay still. In rage Alexis despatched the final spider just as Nikomachos and the other heroes arrived.
Despite their best efforts the heroes could do nothing to help Eupolos and they carried his body back to the taverna with Nikomachos following behind weeping.
Eupolos was not dead but Nikomachos said he would not last until dawn and was unconsolable.
Feeling responsible the heroes demanded to know what they could do to help. They were mighty warriors who had acheived many impossible things in their lives, surely the death of this boy could be averted.
Nikomachos told of a legendary beast said to inhabit an abandoned tower in the forest that was an enemy of the spiders. The blood of this beast was believed to be a remedy for the spiders' venom.
The heroes declared they would slay this beast and return with its blood before dawn. Nikomachos handed them his sacred owl shaped lantern that kept the spiders at bay and they set off resolutely through the forest.
They marched for many miles before the ground began to rise and the forest started to thin out. As the going got easier the webs that had been so numerous became less common until the last mile was free of any signs of spiders at all.
Where the webs ended the statues began. Scattered throught he forest were life sized stone effigies of warriors carved with astonishing accuracy.
The heroes soon realised that these were not statues but actual petrified people.
Alexis declared that only Medusa herself, who was dead, long since slain by Perseus, and cocatrices could turn men to stone.
Lycomedes had wandered far and wide in his youth and learned much about the creatures of the world and he knew that cockatrices were immune to weapons but would die if they heard a cock crow.
Realising that they were woefully under-equipped for this task the heroes returned to Euxine.
There they secured a cockerel in a covered cage from a villager and, realising that they were probably going to their deaths, made suitable sacrifices to their patron gods and goddesses.
Finally they used all their healing knowledge to try and keep the ever fading Eupolos alive a little longer before setting sail around the island to the tower,
Our heroes approached the tower again, keeping to the cover of the trees. Alexis threw a rope around one of the petrified warriors and pulled it crashing to the ground in an attempt to make the cockatrice reveal itself.
It worked! The huge beast appeared on top of the tower, its baleful, deadly gaze scanning the area for any threats.
Immediately Socus pulled the cover from the cockerel's cage and the fowl began to crow.
The cockatrice, startled by the noise, froze for a second and then disappeared back into the tower.
"It didn't die?" remarked Socus.
"But it's vulnerable!" declared Lycomedes, charging forward followed by the other heroes.
As they began to batter down the tower door the cockatrice fled from the top making for the safety of the trees. Socus set the cockerel to crowing again and the heroes gave chase.
Socus and Chevin peppered the fleeing creature with arrows which slowed it down and Lyomedes and Alexis set about it from behind with sword and spear.
Lycomedes leapt on the cockatrice's back and managed to slit its throat before being thrown clear by the dying creature's frenzied spasms.
Alexis rushed forward into danger, covering the monster's head with his cloak so none of his companions would be turned to stone and finally the beast died.
After collecting the blood the heroes returned by ship to Euxine and administered the cure to Eupolos. In a matter of minutes it was clear he was on the mend and would survive.
With this task completed our heroes set out on foot to cross the island to the first village they had seen. Once again they used the sacred lantern to avoid the spiders.
Another night's march and our heroes reached Aitoliko just before dawn.
Although obviously inhabited the village was deserted. Webs and spiders covered everythnig and there was a temple to Poseidon at one end of the village but there were no people in the houses.
However, as the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared several giant spiders emerged from the forest and scuttled ito the open upper windows of the houses. Shortly afterwards villagers appeard from the front doors and began to go about their daily tasks watched by our heroes from their place of concealmant.
Were these the Spider-people? Almost certainly.
The heroes entered the temple to investigate further. Inside everything looked fine but it was clear that the temple wasn't used to worship poseidon. In the centre was a large shell-shaped bowl on a plinth containing water that smelled odd. Beneath the plinth, the floor showed signs of decay.
Alexis and Lycomedes moved the bowl and plinth to one side. They were very heavy and difficult to carry. Consequently, some of the water splashed Alexis and he was burned. The floor where the liquid landed began smoking. Alexis staggerd back, suddenly weak, and fell to the floor.
Realising he had been poisoned and that the bowl contained spider venom the other heroes made Alexis drink some of the cockatrice's blood and he began to recover.
The heroes prodded and struck the floor where the plinth had stood with their weapons and it gave way, the flagstones falling into a cavernous room below.
As they leaned forward to peer downwards a massive, pale spider errupted from the hole and attacked.
So sudden was its appearance that the heroes were forced to scramble backwards, defending themselves from the legs and mandibles, as they attempted to organise their resistance.
The heroes spilled from the temple into the village square pursued by the monstrous, pale spider queen.
As they set their shields and prepared for battle they were astonished (but not surprised) to see the surrounding villagers transform into spiders themselves.
The contest was fierce but our heroes prevailed. Chevin and Lycomedes drove off the villager spiders who fled into the forest whilst Socus shot out the spider queen's eyes with his unerring aim and Alexis dived beneath its venom-dripping jaws to eviscerate it from below.
It died with a horrible scream that echoed around the deserted buildings.
With the immediate danger over Socus, Lycomedes and Alexis descended into the hole whilst Chevin stayed above covering their progress with her bow.
Beneath the temple was an egg chamber swarming with pale spider babies and heaped with eggs. Tunnels led off to each house in the village.
Mecifully deciding not to slaughter the infants the heroes returned to the surface and set about the difficult task of carrying the shell shaped bowl to the beach without spilling the venom.
They set the bowl on the waves where, miraculously it floated out to sea against the prevailing current before being engulfed by a huge watery hand and swept beneath the surface.
At the same time the temple in the village collapsed in on itself, nothing now but rubble.
Eventually our heroes returned to their ship and sailed away from the island of Aretias where they had gained much glory from their exploits and the legend of their names grew even greater.
The Mediterranean in antiquity is littered with small islands inhabited with strange and exotic people and creatures, each offering the chance of glory and adventure.
Our heroes sail amongst these islands at the command of the gods doing their bidding and serving their will.
The reward on offer is glory, each hero adding to their individual legend with their deeds and hoping that their name will echo down the corridors of time forever more.
Sharp-eyed Socus played by Giro
Alexis the swift played by Karl
Chevin the industrious played by Michaela
Lycomedes the wanderer played by Mark