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The Ancestral Trail #3:

Baal the Giant Spider

Caught in a Sticky Web of Evil


On the Third Day...

Beware the silken ways
By evil spinner spun.
Yellow orbs that hasten days
Destroy when serpent comes
Some may perish, some feel pain
Tribulations not in vain
Three will tread these paths again
To save the precious one.

A high-pitched whistle is heard after the thicket is ripped open with such tremendous force. Richard looks up to see a monstrous spider towering above him, holding the thicket open with two of its legs. He stares in horror at the snickering beast staring down at him until Merkat orders everyone to run, saying he'll take care of the spider.

Orkan hurries Melek and Richard away while Merkat draws his sword and swings it at a blazing speed in the spider's direction. He slices through the spider's two front legs holding the thicket open, causing the brush to snap back into place and the spider to howl in agony. His job done, Merkat retreats to join up with his companions.

Once he finds Richard and the others, he explains that the spider was called Baal, whom he's run into before. The severing of Baal's legs won't slow him down, so they had better get moving quickly. Taking this advice to heart, Merkat then begins leading Richard and friends through an intricate maze of twists and turns through the forest to lose Baal. After a while, Orkan suggests they've gone far enough, to which Merkat agrees. Melek then suggests they look at the next riddle in the Book of Prophecies while Richard finds their bearings with the Path Finder. As Melek reads the riddle, Richard uses the Path Finder until it shimmers gold and a deep green rises through almost to the handle. This is the direction they take.

The group begins moving deeper and deeper into the brush, which grows dry and brittle with thorns covering every branch. The branchs also bear clumps of lucious yellow berries, which tempts Richard enough to reach out and pick one. Merkat quickly stops him, saying that the fruit is Gripewort, a deadly berry that will kill someone in a few seconds through accelerated growth. Those words are enough for Richard to avoid even touching the lethal fruit.

After a while, the four find themselves in a large clearing...and Richard quickly realizes that the Path Finder had misled them: they were in Baal's territory, which was covered with cobwebs and cocoons containing the spider's many victims. Merkat walks up to one of the cocoons and slits it open. A wizened figure with a fiery red beard falls out.

Merkat also sees an intricately carved badge fall out and instantly recognized the victim as the Mighty Muldoon, a great landsman warrior. He states that the badge was supposed to contain magical powers, but he was too tired to remember them when Muldoon talked about them. He then gives the badge to Richard, saying he may as well have it.

Just then, a familiar whistle is heard and Baal surges into the clearing, stating that Richard and friends won't get away from him. Merkat tries to lead the others back into the bushes, but Baal is too fast. A stream of silk spooled from Baal's body and wrapped itself around Richard, Orkan, and Melek, enveloping them in its sticky substance. Melek is instantly covered; Richard and Orkan try to struggle free, but they cannot. Just then, Richard notices Merkat sneaking up behind Baal, who was now looming over his prey. Richard yells a distraction in Baal's direction just as Merkat raises his sword.

The distraction works. As Baal turns to look at Richard, Merkat's sword sinks into Baal's underbelly. Merkat then leaps onto Baal's back and repeatedly stabs the monster's hide, releasing gushes upon gushes of the spider's thick blood. But Baal, like Merkat, is tough. He rolls into a ball and rolls to the side, forcing Merkat to jump in order to avoid being crushed. Baal then unfolds himself to face Merkat head-on, backing the leopardman against a wall of web. Meanwhile, Orkan manages to reach his knife and cut the web securing him away. He then releases Melek and Richard from the web. Once all free, they head out to help Merkat face Baal.

But Merkat quickly shouts out to them to get away and save themselves. Richard doesn't want to leave Merkat, but Orkan knows that this is what soldiers must do in battle and forces both Richard and Melek to run away with him. Merkat continues to shout at his friends that he can take care of himself...which causes his attention to falter, giving Baal opportunity to strike. The spider's pincers sink deep into Merkat's body, causing the leopardman to go limp...and then Baal begins to devour his victim on the spot.

Baal has almost finished eating Merkat when he realizes that Richard and the others had escaped. Infuriated, he whistles again, this time a high-pitched, rhythmic tone. From deep in the forest, a creature begins to stir. This creature is Lotan, a giant snake that interprets from the whistle that Baal, his master, had been thwarted and now Lotan must find those that escaped Baal and kill them.

Melek is the first to hear Lotan approaching, and seconds later Lotan bursts into the clearing they're in. Orkan tells everyone to split up, but Richard is instantly captured as Lotan wraps his coils around the Chosen One. Orkan and Melek wonder how they can help him when they remember the riddle about the yellow orbs, realizing that the "yellow orbs that hasten days" must be Gripewort.

Melek recalls seeing a whole patch of the fruit as they were running and leads Orkan to them. Orkan takes one of his arrows and spikes three berries on the tip. He then heads quickly back to where Richard is being suffocated by Lotan's stranglehold. Orkan then loads the arrow with the arrows onto his bow, aims, and fires it directly into Lotan's cavernous mouth. As this is going on, Richard doesn't realize that his bag had opened and that the pod inside had rolled out.

The moment Lotan swallows the berries, he begins to expland, his muscles becoming swollen and rippled. Then he begins to spasm and his body thrashes around in fury and pain. The snake releases Richard's semi-unconcious body as he continues to thrash...before he falls silent and begins to rot under the berries' poison.

As Lotan decays lifeless on the ground, Orkan and Melek rush to Richard, who manages to get up. Richard then notices that his bag is open and that the pod is gone. The trio look around frantically for it...before Orkan sees it sitting next to Lotan's rotting body.

Relieved, Richard stands up and moves to retrieve the pod. But when he almost reached it, he heard a familiar voice coming from the bushes. It was Baal...and he was just a few steps away from the pod as well. Richard knows that Baal would reach the pod before him...but he has to get it back. He takes a step forward.


Baal is a monstrous spider that dwells within Cobweb Wood. He's a cunning and deadly foe who is very mobile and incredibly tough. He can immobilize his prey using his silk, and if they're too quick he can easily hold his own in a fight. Baal also commands a giant snake called Lotan, whom he uses to kill those who somehow escape him. Baal likes to communicate through high-pitched whistling, though he can also speak normally.

"Two thick hairy legs held the thorn bushes apart while two baleful red eyes glowed down at Richard. The spider's mouth formed a cruel sickle, bordered by vicious-looking pincers. Then Richard noticed even more eyes on the spider's head, flickering alertly in every direction.

"...It's mouth seemed crueller now, its pincers snapping more viciously. In the red eyes he caught an unpleasant gloating expression."


We all knew that a giant spider would have to show up sooner or later in the story, and it just happened to be sooner. But Baal is an interesting take on the giant spider monster idea in that not only is he very intelligent, but he also commands his own creature, the serpent Lotan. What's also interesting is that by the end of the third volume, Baal is still alive and there seems to be no possible way for him to be killed by Richard; in fact, he has the upper hand in this moment.

Speaking of the third volume's ending, Richard is facing the possibility of losing the first pod he found to Baal, showing that the pods don't simply stay with him just because he found them. Will he manage to regain the pod that Baal has his sights set on...and will he be more careful with future pods he might find?

Finally, there's Merkat, who was killed in this issue by Baal. Returning to the theme that The Ancestral Trail is more gruesome than a lot of American sanatized children's entertainment, it's interesting to see a character on the side of good killed off like this; usually, characters like this are either separated from the main party or leave by their own free will. But here, Merkat is devoured, showing that even those who are good can be killed.


"Don't touch those! It's Gripewort, or Killer Sunrise some call call it. The berries look good but if you eat them you're dead. They contain a metabolic poison which accelerates the ageing process beyond belief. Your whole body is crammed into less than half a minute. For a few seconds you have the strength and energy of 100 people, and then - burn-out. You shrivel and die. It's a horrible fate. I once lost ten men to Gripewort."

Richard: "We can't just leave him!"
Orkan: "Yes we can. First rule of war - don't waste lives. Remember that. Now do as he says. Go!"

"You are a few paces from your treasure. So am I. Shall we see who can get there fastest?"

"So predictable, and soon you will be so dead."

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