In which the heroes make a friend and Marco is tempted
Fairies report giant spiders in the forest. Intro Charles Bob Smith, deer hunter. Claire and Marco are both faced with moral dilemmas.
Braun tells Claire that he wants her to help him do more research about the Blood Stone. He wants to know if they can use it to remove the demon venom from his system, enabling him to recover from his weakened condition once and for all. Claire shares her fear that the Bloodstone is an unknown. It could very well have a corrupting influence. She is hesitant to use it, but she promises to assist with the research.
Then fairies arrive with reports of giant spiders preying upon the woodland creatures. Claire and Marco go hunting. The fairies lead them to the spiders’ lair, deep up the mountainside. They find a gigantic orb web and several webbed bundles containing a variety of dried husks of a variety of prey animals including deer, fairies, and other creatures. One of the bundles, higher up in the web is still alive. Looks like a child.
The hunters are set upon by the web’s owner, a giant orb spider. Its body is easily the size of a full-grown buck. They make quick work of destroying the creature and Marco returns to freeing the captive. On the ground, Claire is attacked by a giant trapdoor spider. She drives it back into its burrow. They send Pip back to the house to fetch a can of gasoline, rags, and matches. While waiting, they free the captive, who turns out to be a little man. He was hunting deer in the woods, yes with only a large knife, when he stumbled into the spider’s web. Luckily it hadn’t fed upon him yet.
Pip returns and the burn out the wounded ground spider, ending the arachnid terror. They then escort the short hunter, Charles Bob Smith, back to his hunting cabin in the woods. They freshen up and then Charles tells them he’ll be returning to his home in Charlottesville, but they’re not sure they believe him. They part ways, with Claire and Marco hiking back to the Braun estate. Charles returns over the next few adventures to lend occasional help.
Several days later, things are quiet on the homefront, so Marco drives up to Fredericksburg to visit his grandfather, Francisco Solerno. There he meets a friend of Francisco’s, an occultist introduced only as Cranston. Cranston is aware of Marco’s abilities as a mage and tells him that there are other wizardly fraternities out there besides the White Council. He describes the council as a closed society of uptight British “blue bloods” whose time has passed.
“We’re all living in a New World that has evolved past the monarchical mindset. The White Council should do the same if they want to be a viable governing body.” Cranston continues, telling Marco of a magical order that he’s related with that has more of a modern, American philosophy. You won’t find close-minded rules, but an open attitude of research and practice.
He invites Marco to an upcoming party, where Cranston can introduce him to members of this brotherhood. Marco can see for himself how much better this group would be for him, as an alternative to the White Council as a source of learning and guidance. Marco is hesitant and promises to consider the invitation. He trusts his grandfather implicitly, but isn’t sure about this other group. He’s made a point of avoiding the White Council’s notice, but doesn’t want to cross them by getting involved with a potentially renegade group of wizards and occultists.