Waldo tried not to look down as he bounded across the rooftops of Marjoram. He was already at a dizzying height, and he found it difficult to calculate where he would land while still keeping an eye on the tarantula, buzzing away with his net. Once he fell through a hole in someone’s roof, and then he missed a landing and nearly plummeted to the ground.
But he kept the tarantula in his sight, and followed after it. The chase took him bouncing down the smaller spires on the outskirts of the city, then finally out of Marjoram altogether and up into the rocky hills beyond.
It was there that Waldo’s spring finally broke, and he only narrowly escaped being mangled on the rocks by falling into a thorny bush. When he emerged from the bush, scratched and badly bruised, the flying tarantula was just a speck in the distance. Finally it went over the side of a tall hill and disappeared completely.
“Just great,” grumbled Waldo. He rubbed his eyeglasses on his shirt and sighed. He looked around for something he could use to build, something he could invent to get him there faster. “Nothing around here but sticks, rocks, and grass,” he muttered. Even he couldn’t think of anything to invent out of that.
So Waldo set out on foot. He climbed an ancient, winding trail up the hillside, feeling exhausted, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other. The countryside was dry and not entirely interesting. Dotted here and there between the stones and scrub grass grew the twisting trunks of olive trees. In the shade rested clumps of brown big-horned sheep and their sleepy shepherds. The odd ancient stone column or ruined archway made for brief curiosity, but otherwise there was little to look at.
Waldo began to reflect on things. It had not taken very long for a perfect day to turn into easily the worst day of his whole life. He wondered why it was so devilishly difficult to catch the tarantula this time—he didn’t remember having any troubles when he caught it originally, on that island in the Ivory Sea. He’d simply snuck up and put an overturned jar on top of it.
“Some days are just lucky, I guess,” he said to himself. “Today is not one of those days.”
He began planning how he was going to extract the venom from the spider (he had several delicate syringes back on the Merry Mariner that ought to do the trick), and how he would brew up the anti-poison (a drop of poison per serving of anti-poison, boil to release the vapors, then mix with calculoxide and some sort of natural solvent), when he realized he wouldn’t be able to make enough. The tarantula only had a limited amount of venom. After all the poison it had already spent that day, Waldo wasn’t even sure he’d have enough left over to cure everyone in the family. But to also cure everyone who’d been stung in Marjoram? Out of the question!
“I’ll worry about that later,” he huffed. He climbed over a crumbling stone column which had fallen across the path.
At the top of the column, he saw he’d reached the top of the hill. Behind him, the valley swept down to the bay, where the mighty stone spires of Marjoram jabbed into the air like stalagmites. It all looked so small and insignificant from here.
In front of Waldo, the skeleton of an entire ruined city lay spread across the hillside. Ranks of decaying columns supported empty air, archways which once no doubt led to lavish halls now struggled against the advancing roots of olive trees, and everywhere were scattered crushed white bricks, the ancient bones of a demolished civilization. A city so old, even its ghosts had been forgotten. It made Waldo uneasy somehow.
He vaguely recalled Pappa telling him something about an ancient ruined city earlier that day, before the accident, but his thoughts were interrupted by a frenzied screaming.
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