[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 33 – Hatchlings!
Thorgaut and Svart walked back up the tunnel towards the hole that led back into the main cave. The little spiders surrounded them in front and behind. There were hatchlings on the ground, on the walls, and even running along the roof over their head.
Well, the spiders weren’t exactly little, but just small in comparison to their mother. He would hate to have to fight even one of these little spiders as babies. Imagine trying to fight off one of their mothers. He had no idea what he would do if they did run across Abyss Snarer. He had no weapons to defend himself with.
He could pick up a rock just about anywhere here in this cave to throw at an angry spider. But he doubted that it would do much good. And the speed Happy Feet and Abyss Snarer jumped at meant he wouldn’t even have time to pick a stone up.
The image of being attacked and bitten by a spider was almost too much for his mind to handle in that state. He pushed the thoughts out of his head. He tried to think of something more pleasant, like getting out of this cave and into the rays of the bright, warm sun.
By this time, Thorgaut and his little entourage had reached the small hole back out. He peered into the cavern but didn’t see Abyss Snarer.
“Do you see mommy?” a small spider thought pushed into his mind.
His heart sank as he realized they wouldn’t ever see or get to know their mother. And deep down he felt guilty for their loss. He felt like in some way it was his fault because she had died to defend them. She could have let Abyss Snarer take them away and stayed behind with her babies.
“No,” he replied.
One of the little spiders scampered up the wall and scramble through the hole. The lead hatchling pushed her head out and looked around. Thorgaut picked up on the fact that she was sending back visual signals to the rest of the cluster of spiders. He tuned into the image stream to watch what she was doing.
It was like she was scanning the area and then uploading it for the rest of the group to access from their location. That way the whole group could stay in the loop. And it wasn’t just visual images either. There was a whole gamut of senses that she included as well.
Thorgaut could hear auditory cues as subtle as bat radars pinging. There were smells in the drafts coming down through the cave. He could pick up physical sensations like changes in temperature of the outer cavern.
There were even other senses that Thorgaut didn’t quite recognize. They seemed to be something like intuition. A sixth sense of sorts that spiders could hone in on. It was amazing to be a part of the collective mind and be able to pick up those extra sensations.
The little spider pulled herself out further and continued scanning the cave. The little hatchling kept pinging Thorgaut for clues about Abyss Snarer. He realized she was pulling more than just visual clues from his head. She was pulling out subtle details like her smell and sounds she made. Bits of information that he hadn’t even paid attention to when he was near the giant, evil spider. It was amazing to watch the way these creatures worked.
Eventually, she gave the all clear signal and several other spiders followed her out. They each continued scanning the area which helped create an even more detailed map of the area. Each of the new spiders that went out seemed to focus all their attention on one specific sensation. As they added it back into the feed, it harmonized with the original spider’s scan.
Thorgaut was amazed at the level of detail in the things that they picked up even over vast distances. He could sense subtle tremors in the ground that they picked up through the hairs on their feet. He was able to access all that information as they transferred it into the collective feed.
At first, he had thought he should be the one to go out first to make sure everything was okay for the little spiders. Now, he realized that there wasn’t much he could do for them that they couldn’t do for themselves much better. So, he held back and let the little spiders continue to pour out of the exit until they were all through.
He finally indicated to Svart that the opening was clear so he could crawl through. Just as Svart bent over to squeeze through, three more little spiders came tearing up the tunnel. They scampered right on past Svart almost pushing him out of the way.
Thorgaut scanned their minds as they squeezed past. They were already thoroughly in tune with the rest of the cluster. He could tell that they were accessing the collective knowledge of the group and knew what to do. It was amazing to realize that these spiders had hatched in the last few minutes. They had the advantage of instantly tapping into the knowledge of the other spiders.
Thorgaut snickered at the surprised look on Svart’s face. “They must have hatched after we left,” he said with a shrug.
Svart pushed his way through the hole, and Thorgaut followed close behind. He had to squeeze and twist a little to pull himself free. Svart gave him a hand as well so he could stabilize himself as he came through.
Most of the spiders had scattered their way out across the cave. Thorgaut realized why the web of uploaded sensations was getting stronger. He had thought it was because he was becoming more familiar with spider sensations. But now he realized that there was a very physical reason as well. He wondered how far out the spiders could spread before losing their connection.
Thorgaut heard some noise and looked over his shoulder. Several more spiders come scampering out of the opening in the crevice. He saw that other spiders had already started spinning webs around the cave walls at strategic points. Thorgaut wondered what they expected to catch. He assumed the cave was teaming with life in an ecosystem that he wasn’t even aware existed yet. He was curious to learn what they were.
“Where’s mommy?” the thought came squeezing its way into his mind.
He started to point in the direction they had last seen her. Before he even raised his finger, ten spiders were already racing off in that direction. Thorgaut was amazed at how they could do that. At the same time though, it was a bit scary how they could pull information out of his head so fast.
Thorgaut walked after them with Svart following close behind. He could sense the baby spiders sending out probes for their mother. He couldn’t get a direct lock on Happy Feet. But there did seem to be a familiar presence as he got closer to the tunnel that led up to the cave where they had left her.
By this time, most of the other hatchlings had caught on to where the cluster was going. The rest of the little spiders all came running along behind them trying to catch up with their siblings. Thorgaut had almost reached the entrance to the tunnel when he picked up a horrible vibe.
“Danger!” the collective thought of the cluster screamed into his mind.
He leaped out of the way pulling Svart with him. It was instinctual and automatic. He reacted without even thinking about it. He rolled over and pulled himself up.