Harry’s nose lifted in the faint night breeze. His furtive sniffing and quick glances indicated that others prowled the night. A small whine escaped his throat.
Allie pulled the dog closer to her, soothing him with soft words and a firm stroke down his side.
“No, Allie! Hand the leash to Sadie.” The spider’s gravelly command startled them. The spider instructed Sadie. “Lay your Seeker down before me. Gribble stand ready. Girl, set your hands upon the hound’s side now.”
Sadie and Allie coaxed the wolfhound to lay back down before the spider. He tried numerous times to rise, but they held him fast.
“He doesn’t like this. What are we going to do to him?” Sadie’s worried voice caused the dog to strain further.
“Your hound is your Seeker. You will enchant him with the ability to seek out the other Eyes of the Gribble. With the Eye in your fist, keep your hands pressed to his side and recite the spell three times.”
Harry’s whining interfered with Sadie’s memory. Allie whispered back the phrase to remind her.
“To those that seek, the power to sense my brothers is now yours.”
Sadie spoke the last Greek spell thrice over, her voice deepening on its own as she intoned the phrase.
Across the ravine behind the girls the group heard a high, disturbing sound, like that of a screeching raven. But the noise contained words and what sounded like orders.
“Argus, check the Seeker.”
The tiny man stepped cautiously up to the outstretched dog, and held out his hand. Allie worried that the great hound might chomp down on the wee fellow’s arm, and she held her breath as the dog opened his mouth, but instead of white canines clamping shut on the fat gnome’s arm, a long tongue darted forth and slathered the man’s fingers.
The Gribble held a thumbs up and nodded his confirmation that the spell had taken.
The screeching across the chasm split into two and then four. And one deeper sound, like that of a grunting beast could be heard coming up from the bottom of the gorge.
“Our enemies draw near,” Arachne said. “There is one more task, no, there are two more tasks. The first is easy. Sadie, you may return the Eye to your new friend Argus Panoptes, the Gribble.”
Sadie, still holding tightly to the orb, reached over the dog and returned the Eye. The Gribble’s hands, wiped clean, reached up and touched the girl’s as he received it. They felt rough but warm to her.
The grunting from the ravine sounded like it had crossed the stream and now struggled to crawl up this side.
The Gribble took the Eye and to the pinched seam in the center of his forehead pressed it in between its long vacant lids. He stepped back knowing what was to come. He flexed his muscles and drew what Allie now identified as a small blade, a Roman gladius from a scabbard at his belt. Then, before their eyes, he began to grow. Like a genii swelling from a lamp, the Gribble grew in size until he was twice as tall as he had been. The blade lengthened, as well.
Blinking his one good eye dramatically and looking about the Gribble said, “Ah, that’s better!” in a voice that now sounded like an older boy. He snapped his head to look toward the ravine. The noises of an oncoming attack were unmistakable.
Both Allie and Sadie had no idea what they were to do. They thought to release the dog, but Arachne bid them to remain steadfast a moment longer.
“And now for the second, unpleasant task. Argus, hold the dog’s head,” Lady Ara said as she surged forward and lowered both pairs of her forelegs over the prostrate body of the dog who thrashed frantically. The spider’s hat tipped forward as the girls watched the two needle sharp fangs stab swiftly down into the ribcage of the dog. Harry yelped and struggled to stand but the Gribble, grown twice his size and four times as strong, held the canine firm.
Both girls recoiled in horror. Sadie leaned forward to beat at the spider’s head, but a gloved pincer held her firmly off for a few seconds. The head of the spider, its golden floppy hat tilted to one side, came up off the dog withdrawing its fangs from the pair of wounds that oozed venom and blood.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you. But you would not have understood. And we must escape, for we are discovered.”
Sadie began to cry and collapsed over Harry, wrapping her arms over the bristly spider legs and around her bleeding dog. Harry whined and struggled. He tried to rise but the spider pressed him down. “Argus, carry him back to the house. I’ll handle our pursuers.”
The Gribble crowded in and the girls stood. Allie steadied Sadie, whose emotions consumed her. The Gribble hefted the dog easily in his arms. Though Harry struggled, the child-sized but giant-strong arms restrained him and the dog quieted.
Lady Ara shook them from their stupor. “Why are you still here? Run! Run back to sanctuary. Darkness and Night send their minions. I must fend them off. Now, quit gawking and RUN!”