The spider dropped down in front of Samir, landing on Varajas’s shoulder. Nightmarishly big, it clung with several long, bristly black legs as its body spread across Varajas’s back. Varajas turned, drawing his sword with a fluid speed that would have been beautiful in a moment less terrifying. The spider clung to him and sank its finger-length fangs into his neck.
Samir lifted his hand and sent a blast of burning power at the monster. The magic touched it, sank in, and was snuffed out like fingers over a candle.
The spider grew.
Varajas stumbled, fell to his knees even as he was stabbing over his shoulder. He managed to slice off a leg. A rank smell erupted as black blood spurted from the wound. But the spider’s fangs were still embedded, pumping whatever foul venom into him, and he collapsed.
A cold clarity descended over Samir as time seemed to slow. He shoved at the spider with more magic, watched closely as the energy sank into the spider, seemed to feed it. With that energy, the leg Varajas had cut off grew back in front of Samir’s eyes.
The spider lifted its head and turned towards Samir.
Varajas wasn’t moving. Samir couldn’t tell if he was even breathing. That had happened so fast. Samir was seconds away from being the next victim unless he did something.
He scrambled back, trying to buy himself more time. He scanned the space, looking for something—anything that would help. He looked all around.
He looked up.
The spider leaped. Of course it would be a jumping spider, on top of the rest. Samir dove to the side, rolling and scrambling back to his feet. As the spider crouched to leap again, a wild, fluttering mass of wings and fur suddenly covered its face, making it rear back.
Giving Samir the one breath he needed. “Krys!” he said sharply, holding up a hand for her to come to him. With his other, he reached up into the air, found the chandelier with the othersense that magic brought, and pulled.
The cords holding it snapped, like they’d only been waiting for the slightest excuse. The spider was already moving towards Samir again, but he had no time for concern about that. All his awareness was focused on the giant, heavy mass of metal and stone that was crashing down above their heads. With a surge of power so hard it sent a stab of pain through his head, Samir turned its fall, angling it to miss himself and Varajas. Dropping it on the spider.
The crash was deafening. Samir waited, poised, but there was no movement from the wreckage. The spider had been crushed.
Which left him with Varajas. Who was breathing, shallowly, but his eyes had rolled back and no amount of shaking seemed to rouse him. Samir examined the wound at his neck. The skin was ragged, torn, bleeding. There was something else, the spider’s venom, glistening and burning when Samir touched it.
Varajas needed help that Samir wasn’t even sure he could provide, but he absolutely didn’t want to do it here. God only knew how many more monsters there were lurking above. Up the stairs, he remembered an antechamber connected to the throne room. It wasn’t ideal, but it would have walls and a ceiling that he could see all of at once. If he could get Varajas up there.
“This isn’t fair, you know.” Varajas was inches taller and stones heavier. “If one of us were going to have to carry the other, it really should have been the other way around.”
Samir grit his teeth and struggled to drag Varajas up across his shoulders. He staggered to his feet, wincing as the pounding in his head intensified from the effort. He stared, despairing, at the stairs, but Krys chittered and Samir thought of more spiders overhead and was able to push himself forward.
One step at a time, he climbed, listening all the while for any sounds of movement beyond his own dragging footsteps and Varajas’s uneven, stuttering breaths.
“I’m really going to need you not to die,” he said, as much for the comfort of the sound of his own voice as anything. “I don’t think I want to be alone in here.”
Who the hell had thought this endless grand staircase was a good idea?
One foot after another. Fighting for breath, fighting to keep going. Endless stairs.