By Bernard Ogden

Shaped roughly like a melon with a blunderbus-type barrel at one end.

Shaped roughly like a melon with a blunderbus-type barrel at one end, usually emblazoned with the symbol of House Li Halan (the original one, not the cross). The melon contains millions of tiny spiders of a particularly rare species (extinct in the wild) originally found on Icon. They are remarkably resilient to impact and hence can survive being fired from the barrel of a gun. They are not poisonous, but spin web at a remarkable rate.

When fired, the gun appears to emit millions of pellets, although the unfortunate being hit by it will wionder why the pellets seem to be crawling all over him. This is likely to cause an initial fear effect which should impair action somehow.

Shortly after being hit by the gun, the target will be totally encased in reamrkably solid webbing, inhabited by the spiders. Any tear will be instantly repaired while the spiders remain on the victim - they can be removed by placing the gun next to the v ictim. It emits a scent (almost imperceptible to the human sense of smell) which the spiders find irresistable, causing them to return to the weapon. The webbing remains strongly resistent to force (strength 10) but can easily be cut. While still webbed u p the victim cannot breathe and so will suffocate if the spiders are not recalled in time.

The spiders require feeding once a week - they drink blood and one rat will typically be enough for all of them. If overfed the spiders will become sluggish and spin less quickly: if underfed, they will turn on one another. Also, when starving these spiders develop a lethal venom, so failing to feed them is highly dangerous.

This weapon was originally created for the Patchwork Prince and a number of imitations were soon circulating among the Li Halan nobility. It was considered a deliciously cruel way to kill someone, particularly an arachnophobe and was popular for quite som e time, although the rarity of the spiders meant that only a limited number could be created. After the conversion the weapon fell into disuse for obvious reasons, but a number of families still keep them as heirlooms - the spiders are generally kept well-fed, to ensure no unpleasent accidents. A few have also fallen into the hands of the Decados, who will pay a high price for them, and rumour has it that the Hidden Martyrs still employ the device for assassinations and kidnappings.

There are a few obvious problems with the weapon. If fired at short range the spiders will still be able to smell it and so will return rather then webbing up their target. Also, it relies on gunpowder to provide the force to fire the spiders - tragic accidents are possible if too much gunpowder is used, causing the gun to explode and releasing spiders in all directions, causing everyone in the room to get webbed up and die of suffocation (a few prominent Li Halan went out this way). Finally, of course, i t can only be fired once without recalling the spiders.

Presumably some kind of Calm+Stoic Mind roll would be required for the shock factor of being hit by a lot of spiders (some penalty on all rolls if failed) and a contested roll against the strength of the webbing to get out (although, as already noted, any damage will be instantly repaired so long as the spiders remain).