A Cordelia Delacourt Adventure
Chapter 9 die Spinne
Cordelia awoke with a start in total darkness. Damn, she must have dozed off. What had happened to the light? Had the candles burned right down? Had she been out that long? She reached for one of her revolvers and went cold. Her guns were gone, both of them. With a cry of alarm she leaped to her feet, but she was too late. Something wrapped itself around her, pinning her arms to her sides and then she was slowly raised into the air. Kicking her feet she fought to struggle out of the rope that was raising her toward the ceiling; at least until she realized that she was now so high above the floor that she would be severely injured by the fall. She hung helplessly and then gasped in fear as something grabbed both her arms and forced them behind her. Whatever held her was incredibly strong. She fought desperately but it clamped her wrists like a vise and then twisted several loops of rope about them rendering her completely helpless.
Cordelia was terrified, but what happened next really frightened her. A powerful hand gripped her by the back of her gown while the rope pinning her arms was removed. Then while she dangled from her clothing, another rope was looped around her ankles and she was suddenly dropped.
She swung down, a yelp of fear escaping her lips as she dropped toward the floor and then she cried out in pain as the rope tightened about her ankles jerking her to a sudden halt. She hung upside down in the darkness, swinging slowly back and forth. To add to her fear her gown and petticoats hung down exposing her lower body all the way to her waist. If there had been any light she would have been exposed for anyone to see.
Hanging helplessly, Cordelia could only listen to the cries of her companions as whatever had caught her also caught them. Aunt Priscilla was next. Her shrill scream echoed through the tower as she was hauled toward the rafters. She sobbed in terror as she was trussed up and hung just a few feet away from Cordelia.
Then it was Lizs turn. Whatever was capturing them appeared to see quite well in the dark apparently going after them in the order of their ability to resist. Messalina was left for last simply because her wrists were already bound, but the Baroness was sobbing in fear long before she gave a loud shriek as she was hoisted into the air.
As the last of them was hung from the ceiling, there was a hissing laugh. Now I have all of you. Four little flies in the spiders lair.
The voice that spoke was high-pitched and rasping, and so filled with menace that Cordelia shuddered as cold chills ran down her spine.
A faint glow replaced the darkness and Cordelia realized that their captor had lit the candles in the chandelier, not that it did her a bit of good. With her dress hanging over her face she could still see nothing, but Liz, dressed in her male attire could.
Oh cor blimey, she moaned. Now what?
What is this? the strange voice asked. What language do you speak?
Take yer filthy ands off me, you filthy bludger. Liz shouted.
I dont recognize the language, but I am not sure I like your tone, the voice replied. However, I can teach you manners later. In the meantime I think it is time I had a better look at each of you. Cordelia felt herself being lowered and then stopped with a jerk. Looking down she could see that her head now swung just a foot off the floor.
Something tugged at Cordelias gown. There was a ripping sound and she realized her clothing was being cut through. It took only a few seconds and then she felt the touch of cool air on the rest of her body. She was stripped and hanging by her ankles like a side of beef. However, her current predicament was completely obscured by what she saw as her clothing fell away.
Everything else she had seen in the Barons castle of horrors was completely eclipsed by what was before her. He or it, was about eight feet tall with incredibly long arms and legs. And there was something very disturbing about its limbs. Each was possessed of an extra joint like a second elbow and knee. He resembled exactly what his words had described, a gigantic spider, an impression made even stronger by the fact that two large teeth jutted like mandibles from his wide thin-lipped mouth. Two enormous golden eyes set wide in a head that seemed almost too large for the spindly body swept over her. Cordelia had sudden sensation of an insect caught in a web, just before the spider gives her its paralytic bite. Clad only in a ragged loincloth, the bizarre creature moved from captive to captive, stripping each of her clothing. When it came to Messalina the creature paused.
Baroness, it hissed. What an honour. And you come already prepared to my lair. You and I are going to have a most enjoyable time.
Messalinas only response was a frightened whimper. She appeared too terrified to even speak, her body shivering in fear as she hung helplessly before him.
What are you? Cordelia asked, forcing her voice to become steady.
Turning its frightening gaze on her the creature smiled. Why I am die Spinne, the Barons most brilliant creation. Do you not admire his handiwork?
Die Spinne, the spider, Cordelia muttered. The name seemed a perfect description, but told her nothing else about her captor. Why are you here and why have you done this to us? she demanded. We did nothing to you.
Impertinent questions, die Spinne answered. You invade my home armed with crude but deadly weapons. But I dont get many visitors so I shall answer them. He scrambled down in front of her and crouched amidst the wreckage on the floor.
Could you not lower us to the floor? Cordelia asked. We are helpless, but this position is painful and exhausting.
Perhaps, die Spinne answered, but it is nothing compared to the pain I have suffered. Do you know what it is like to be created a genius and then locked up for life in this grim tower? I think I will leave you where you are until I have finished my tale. Besides, I find your current pose most stimulating.
Cordelia did not know what to make of die Spinnes words. He did not seem angry, but there was a cold malevolence behind his every word. And the way his predatory gaze swept over her nude body sent shivers through her.
His eyes flicked to the Baroness. Messalina knows about me, dont you, sister? She knows how I got this way.
Cordelia gulped. Sister? she asked. She was getting dizzy from being upside down, but the meaning of the statement did not escape her.
Well, half-sister actually, die Spinne continued. The bastard offspring of the old Baron and a tavern slut. But that doesnt matter much anymore, Messalina and Claudius made sure that their embarrassing brother was well taken care of.
Cordelia shivered again. In spite of the die Spinnes calm words, there was an unmistakable of sense of suppressed rage and hatred, made all the more menacing by the creatures frightening appearance.
Die Spinne moved in front of Messalina. I promised you that if we ever met again you and your brother would deeply regret turning me into a hideous freak and I fully intend to keep that promise. It will give you something to think about while I finish my story. He ran his long fingers down Messalinas body finishing at a spot just between her legs.
The Baroness shrieked. Dont touch me. Im your sister.
Too bad you did not express those sentiments when Claudius first cut into me. Did you know that he didnt give me anything to dull the pain? Do you know what it was like to watch while my own half-brother cut off my arms and legs and replaced them with these freakish limbs?
He told me nothing, Messalina sobbed. Only that your illness had become severe and that he was forced to take drastic action to save your life.
Illness, die Spinne sneered. There was no illness. I was subjected to depraved medical experiments and then turned into a monster, as he used his forbidden knowledge to create a fiend of his own devising. Then he hid me away here and forced me to carry out experiments that were so dangerous he dared not attempt them himself. But I stopped him. I smashed all of his equipment and dared him to kill me. But he did not. Instead he locked me in here and kept me prisoner.
Now you know part of the story, my pretty one, die Spinne said, turning his attention to Cordelia. My own brother turned me into a freak and used my own knowledge against me.
Your knowledge? Cordelia asked. The upside-down position was giving her a headache and she was not sure that she understood everything she was being told.
Oh yes, die Spinne answered. My knowledge. It was I who carried out the first experiments and developed most of the techniques Claudius used against me. He pretended to help me and then when he thought he knew enough he stole my discoveries and kept everything for himself, but not before using me as a subject for his experiments.
Please, Cordelia interrupted. We are not bats. We cannot live upside-down. My aunt and my companion have already been cruelly used. Please let us down.
Humph! die Spinne grunted. I suppose there is little you can do to escape now that I have your weapons. I will leave you tied up., but I will let you down.
Cordelia groaned in relief as she was lowered to the floor. She experienced a wave of dizziness as her blood rushed back into her lower limbs, but it was a welcome relief not to be hanging by her feet from the ceiling.
Die Spinne looked them over carefully as they lay on the filthy floor in front him. I havent had a woman for longer than I can remember and now I have four. I will hardly know what to do with all of you, but I expect I will find something to keep me amused. His grin as he finished speaking was pure evil.
Cordelias mind was racing. Die Spinne was clearly mad, but he seemed capable of rational thought for all of his grotesque appearance. It was just possible that he could be reasoned with. After all, he had been a man once. But there was only one way to find out.
I can get you out of here, she said. But you must promise not to harm any of us and to let all of us go.
Die Spinne turned his oversized head toward her. You are making promises you cannot keep. There is no way out of here. Do you not think someone of my genius would not have devised a means of escape?
I have knowledge that you dont have, Cordelia answered. You have been locked up here and kept away from all scientific advancements. There are things that I know that can make an escape possible.
What could you know? You are a just woman; and a very young one at that. Although I must admit that you are a very tasty looking morsel.
Cordelia swallowed. Being compared to food was far from flattering, and bargaining in the nude put her at a psychological disadvantage. However, she was counting on the fact that die Spinnes desire to escape from his prison would overcome his lust.
However, escaping seemed to be the farthest thing on his mind as he sidled toward Cordelia. So very pretty, he muttered as he reached out to touch Cordelias skin. One long finger caressed her just above her right breast. So soft, he mused. Like finest satin. He slid his finger lower stopping just above her nipple and then slowly moved it in a circle.
The feeling was unspeakably frightening, but almost unbelievably Cordelia felt her nipple stiffening. Blushing in shame she tried to hold still as die Spinne moved his fingers to the lower curve of her breast and then over her smooth flat belly. Quivering from the tension, Cordelias chest heaved as she tried to hold still.
Oh yes, die Spinne said softly. It will be so very pleasant when I take this one. His lips parted in a licentious grin and then he turned his eyes on Messalina. I have not forgotten about you, Messalina. I shall save you to last so that you will know what you have to look forward to.
Didnt you hear what I said? Cordelia asked in exasperation. I said I could get you out of here. Is the rape of four helpless women so important to you that you would sacrifice your freedom to get it?
I heard you, die Spinne replied, suddenly whirling on Cordelia. But I doubt your pretty little head has the ability to devise a way out of here when even my mighty brain has not been able to find a way.
Nude and with her wrists bound painfully behind her, Cordelia faced up to the bizarre creature. If you are as brilliant as you claim, then you would be intelligent enough to realize that a woman is as capable of intelligent thought as any man.
For an instant Cordelia thought that the spider-like creature was going to strike her. But instead it moved its fanged face just inches from her. Spraying her face with saliva he screamed at her. You have no idea of the depth of my genius. You have been taken in by my brother and his vile, cringing bitch of a sister. They stole my ideas and my freedom, keeping me alive only to continue to serve them.
Knowing that she was flirting with danger, Cordelia refused to back down. And yet for all your brilliance you allowed yourself to be imprisoned and are so vain you would rather stay that way rather than accept help from someone who can free you.
Die Spinne glowered at Cordelia, but composing himself, sat down facing her. Alright, tell me of your plan. But if it proves worthless then you will pay dearly for your impertinence.
I will tell you nothing, Cordelia replied, without a promise to free me and my companions unmolested.
I will torture it out of you, die Spinne threatened, standing up and looming over her.
Cordelia answered without cringing. That will get only screams out of me. But I will die before I tell you anything. Either you free us unharmed or you stay here forever.
Beautiful and brave, die Spinne said slowly. But I have nothing to lose. If you fail I will still have your body. I agree to your terms, but I will not give up Messalina.
Cordelia gulped. The Baroness had brutalized her aunt and deserved everything that was coming to her. But she could not leave another woman to be raped, no matter what she had done. All of us must be released. Otherwise there is no agreement.
Your nobility clouds your judgment, die Spinne commented. But very well. I do not expect you to succeed in any case. I will delay my pleasure for a short time. But be warned. I cannot be easily fooled. I will know almost at once if you are merely seeking to delay your fate.
I must be untied, Cordelia said. I cannot help you if I am not.
Of course, die Spinne sneered. How foolish of me to think you could help me with your hands tied behind you.
It was clear to Cordelia that her monstrous host had almost no confidence in her, but she was determined to prove him wrong. He released her bonds and rubbing her wrists she looked for the chemicals she had partly sorted. It took her a few minutes to find the basics of what she needed. But there was one thing that would take more time. If you will help me I could do this more quickly.
What must I do? die Spinne asked. It was difficult to tell, but Cordelia thought that her seeming familiarity with the chemicals had made an impression on him.
I need as many bones as you can gather and a hot fire and pot of water to render them.
You are attempting to waste my time. I told you that you cold not deceive me.
Cordelia took a deep breath. If you promise not to go back on your word I will tell you what I am trying to do. If you still think I am wasting your time then you may do with me as your wish.
Tell me then, die Spinne demanded. But you had better be most convincing.
Cordelia told him and die Spinne sat back. I see I have misjudged you. Your plan not only has merit, but it is bold to the point of being completely reckless. However, I expect you and I have very little to lose. Either we succeed or we die in the attempt. I will release your companions. But Messalina remains tied.
It was probably about the best Cordelia could hope for. Liz had suffered terribly and Aunt Priscilla was not in much better shape. She would work all the better for knowing that they were not bound.
With die Spinnes help she assembled her apparatus. To her surprise Aunt Priscilla joined in and even Liz overcame her pain enough to lend a hand for a short time. Soon a large pot of water was boiling on a makeshift stove. Fortunately there were enough fragments of broken furniture to serve as adequate fuel.
While the water bubbled and the thick aroma of boiling bones filled the air Cordelia worked on creating the other chemicals she needed. It was a multistage process and would have taken much longer if it had not been for the help of her companions and die Spinne. In spite of his grotesque appearance he lived up to his boasts, clearly understanding all of Cordelias instructions, and frequently anticipating what she was about to do next.
I see, he said excitedly, that I really did misjudge you. You are a very rare thing. A woman who knows science with a mind that might come close to rivaling mine. This substance we are creating is very special and I suspect very unstable. And that makes it incredibly dangerous does it not?
That is one of its characteristics, Cordelia replied. But gunpowder would not shift both of those doors. This might.
You are a woman of daring and genius. It is a rare combination.
We are dealing with a ruthless lunatic, Cordelia replied. One who did not hesitate to sacrifice his own sister in order to protect himself. But with any luck he will be in for a rude surprise.
Die Spinne creased his face in his version of a smile. It was the first time he had come close to looking human. Cordelia began to feel that there might actually be a way out of their predicament after all.
They worked for hours. Since none of them possessed a timepiece and there were no windows in the huge tower room, there was no way of telling exactly how long. All Cordelia knew was that by the time she was finished she was close to physical collapse and about as hungry and thirsty as she had ever been.
Die Spinne informed her that he was normally fed once a day, although he wasnt exactly sure. However, it appeared that this time his regular ration of food and water had been skipped. Perhaps the Baron had decided to starve them to death. But it didnt matter. Cordelia held up the vial of oily liquid and studied it against the candlelight. She hoped that it was pure enough, but there was only one way to find out.
How does it work? die Spinne asked.
Pour it into the cracks in the door and set it off with a small concussive charge.
Then let us proceed, Die Spinne said. I am most anxious to see Claudius again.
Cordelia nodded. As carefully as she could she poured half of the liquid into the cracks around the heavy inner door. Then she took one of the percussion caps from the revolver that die Spinne had restored to her and wedged it into the crack. Now it was just a matter of hitting the cap hard enough to set it off. For this she had arranged to have a heavy metal rod swing into it. She had measured everything carefully and even tested it several times before applying the nitroglycerine. She moved as far away from the door and she could and huddled on the floor with her companions and die Spinne. She held a string in her hand that would release the rod. Well, here goes. She pulled the string.
Von Thorstenburg awoke with a start. It seemed he had just gotten to sleep after a very exhausting day. But something had awakened him, something that caused the magnificent crystal chandelier in the centre of his bedroom to sway back and forth. What the hell? He clambered out of his bed in his nightshirt just in time to hear a knock on his door. Since his servants knew that he had retired he knew that it must be something very important to disturb him.
Enter, he called and Karl entered the room. What is it? It couldnt be Heinz. The last of his transplants had been destroyed in the ballroom fire.
An explosion, Herr Baron. From the tower.
Von Thorstenburg cursed mentally once again. He didnt have to ask what tower. Would his troubles never end? It had taken three hours to put out the fire that accursed English girl had started. But at least he had the satisfaction of knowing that she had been chased into the hands of his monstrous half-brother. Messalina too, unfortunately, but it was about time that the worthless bitch made some contribution to the welfare of the family. If she had to die in order to keep him safe, well so be it. He hurriedly pulled off his nightgown and struggled into his clothing, not even bothering to summon the servants to help him. Lets go, he said, picking up a loaded Colt revolver as he left the room.
He hurried toward the tower. Karl explained things to him as they moved. It appeared that what sounded like a huge explosion had come from the tower. It had been powerful enough to shake the very foundations of the castle.
The Baron shook his head. It was beyond all understanding. Surely the English girl had not managed to find a way out of there? Die Spinne should have killed her. He killed everyone else he got his hands on. And even if he hadnt where had she found the explosives? There were chemical ingredients in his old tower laboratory but not enough to make more than a loud bang. This seemed like much more than that.
He entered the doorway at the bottom of the tower and looked up the stairs. There was nothing but silence. Perhaps if there had been an explosion it had killed everyone in the tower room. And of course, there were two heavy iron doors blocking the way. They might take out one, but the other would still be there. He started up the stairs.
He reached the landing in front of the outer door without incident. All appeared calm, but he took no chances. Karl, he ordered. You and Heinrich check the door. Make sure that it is secure.
Yes, Herr Baron, Karl replied. The two men headed for the door. They had just reached it when there was a loud boom and while von Thorstenburg watched in amazement the heavy door lifted from its hinges and flew across the room, carrying the luckless Karl and Heinrich with it. With a deafening crash it slammed against the wall, leaving only one of his henchmens hands sticking out behind it.
What in the Baron began, and then felt his bowels loosen as several figures emerged from the smoke that curled out through the now open doorway. Scheizen! Without a word he turned and ran, followed by what remained of his henchmen.
Not a very brotherly welcome, die Spinne said as he emerged into
the landing. For someone who
had just escaped from years of imprisonment he seemed strangely calm, but
Cordelia did not comment on it. She
was merely happy that the strange creature she had helped free no longer
seemed interested in threatening her or her
companions. Just in case, however,
she kept her fingers closed around the butt of her
I will leave you now. I have a score to settle with the Baron and a deal is a deal. You are all free to go, even Messalina, but if I cross her path again she is fair game.
You cannot throw me out of my own home, Messalina replied.
Your audacity astounds me, die Spinne replied. You think I care what you think? Look at me I am a monster. There is no way to change me back to what I was, but I am taking the castle and holding it until I am forced to leave. And if you are still in it in half an hour I will take great delight in punishing you for you part in what was done to me. Now if you will excuse me I have business to settle with Claudius.
Cordelia watched in wonderment as the grotesque creature scampered down the tower stairs. He moved much faster than a normal man and was soon out of sight. Well, that is clear enough, she said. I suggest we make our way to the stables and see in we can get a carriage.
Only Messalina stubbornly disagreed. You go. Im staying. This is my home. I will not desert it to that monster.
Cordelia shook her head in dismay and then shrugged. She went to the Baroness and untied her hands. I think you may be making a mistake, Baroness. But it is your life. After what you did to my aunt perhaps you deserve to stay here and take your chances.
She didnt wait a moment longer. The stairway seemed deserted and she ran down it, her aunt and Liz following as quickly as they could. Reaching the main entryway they found the front doors open and made their way across the courtyard to the stables. As Cordelia had hoped the carriage she had arrived in was still there. With the help of Liz and Priscilla she harnessed up four horses to it and headed out through the castle gates. No one made the slightest move to stop them.
Driving the coach down the winding road from the castle, Cordelia looked over her shoulder. Behind her the castle loomed in the early morning light. She felt a strange regret. Why was it that every brilliant scientist she met was as mad as a hatter? Well, all except one. There was Antoine. A small smile played about her lips.