What do you do with a Giant Spider?
In the Previous Part
In the immediate aftermath of the dragons’ attack on the city of Twynne Rivers, King Hastonne of House Twynnham and many of his courtiers are brought in chains before Kirraxal in Hastonne’s own burned and damaged throne room. Hastonne tries to be brave and defiant, but Kirraxal spits flame on him. The rest of the court is overwhelmed and slaughtered by screeching drakes.
Tonklyn meets the young page girl Mithrabella as he’s waiting to confront his old masters in the Royal Library. When they come, he is furious to discover that they don’t remember working for them as a young boy, nor do they remember his attempts to join their scholarly conversations. He reveals that he is now the chancellor of the new Dragon King. He is furious with their forgetfulness and disrespect and orders them to be executed. He orders Mithrabella to be his assistant.
Later, in his chambers, he is visited by an apparition of a man who calls himself the Knight of Shadows. This man challenges Tonklyn to choose who he will follow. Tonklyn declares that he follows the winners.
Another day, Shylai’a, Korr, and the rest of the party venture out into the dangerous streets to try and find the Seekers of the Great Reality. They return to the bookseller’s where Parith had found them before. It has been ransacked, and books are scattered everywhere. While they search, a patrol of the Dragon’s Flame cultists and soldiers sweep through the streets, rousting people out of their homes and trying to capture them into servitude. Eddiwarth calls everyone into the fight to save the innocents. While they are fighting, Shylai’a finds herself teasing with Korr.
Eddiwarth jumps into a burning building to free some people there. He doesn’t realize it, but he pushes the flames aside to get to them. Illariel and Ari, the giant spider, get separated, and Illariel comes to help Eddidwarth. She is surprised by his ability to control the fire. The people escape, but Eddiwarth and Illariel are captured.
Eddiwarth awakens to find himself imprisoned with Illariel, who is sleeping. He contemplates his life, feeling like a failure, and prays to the Creator for guidance.
Back in the palace, Tonklyn watches Xintalan, Exakas, and Kirraxal argue over who gets to go and free the dragons that have been in captivity by the high elves, the lead them in the attack on Emberfire City. Kirraxal declares that Xintalan must stay with him and be his queen. She is not certain she wants that title but is too afraid to defy him.
Soon after, Kirraxal holds court as the new Dragon King. The various noble houses and trade guilds of Twynne Rivers appear to swear their loyalty to Kirraxal. The Church of Three Lights challenges him but is put down swiftly and violently.
A few nights later, Tonklyn sneaks into Kirraxal’s throne room and uses the Dragontooth Dagger to kill the three dragonbonded soldiers. He had believed that the dragon-slaying ability of the dagger would affect them, and it proves to be so. Kirraxal immediately knows that his soldiers, bonded to him, are dead and rushes down to the throne room to find out what happened. There, he and Tonklyn face each other, and Tonklyn kills Kirraxal with the dagger.
Meanwhile, in the Vast, Thissraelle decides to brave the entropy storm and try to reach out to Eddiwarth. After a few difficult tries, she projects herself into Wynne and flies over the Emberfire Mountains. At first elated and invigorated, she panics when she sees her home city under attack by their own dragons, now freed. In her distraction, she loses control of the connection and is whipped through time and space. She sees herself as a child, then screams out to Heathrax to save her when she sees herself fighting the dragons in the mountain crevasse by the shrine. Finally, she sees Eddiwarth confronting three huge dragons in a throne room and calls out to him before they belch flames onto him. Afraid for his life, she finds herself drifting in the Vast, and St Ivarr comes to her to lead her home.
311 – “A Summer Garden” – Parith
The moonlight of a clear night shone down on Parith. Despite the darkness, the temperature was still hot. Without a steady breeze, Parith was uncomfortable in the muggy summer air. He stood in the back doorway of Eddiwarth’s family home, his shadow looking out onto the fenced garden. It was a small space, but in this part of the city, the family had been happy to have even this much area. It was nicely decorated with a couple of smaller trees as well as shrubs and flowers. A couple of small white oculi brightened the night. Along the far wall stood a small structure. Initially a storage shed, now it was where Ari the spider had stayed, protected from the weather and spying eyes.
Parith hadn’t seen her since the day of the fight by the bookstore. That was the last time he’d seen Eddiwarth or Illariel, too. The fight had gotten a little out of control, and once the building under him was in flames, he’d lost track of them.
He wiped his forehead and stepped down the few stairs from the doorway into the garden. He paused and, with a grunt, dropped himself down onto the stairs to sit. He let out a heavy breath and leaned forward to rest his forehead in his hands, braced on his knees. Since that afternoon, the party had spent every day trying to find their two friends, but to no avail.
I’ve tried every one I can think of. Nobody wants to help me find them. Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s too scared. He dropped his hands and shrugged. Or, maybe, they actually don’t know.
The doorway behind him darkened, and he glanced back over his shoulder. Lylee stepped out through the light and sat down beside him.
Parith glanced at her, then looked away.
She sighed, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know you’ve been trying. We’re just very worried.” She looked up at the stars and added, “and very afraid.”
“Your husband is certainly not too happy with us.” The dinner table for the last week had been a very cold and uninviting place. Harsh glances and silences had followed in the wake of harsher words in the days soon after Eddiwarth’s arrest.
“Yes, well, that’s true. I’m not very happy with things, either. Eddiwarth has always had a quirk for getting himself deep into troubles. This time, I just don’t know how to save him.”
“That’s the problem,” Parith blurted out. “I don’t even know where they’re holding him! I’ve tried to find out in so many ways, but nobody knows or is willing to tell. The Dragon’s Flame rules the streets now, and everyone is afraid of them. The Church is useless, and even House Northolt’s resistance is underground.”
She dropped her head and wiped her eyes. She sniffed, and said, “You try so hard to help them grow, to keep them safe, to make sure that they’re loved and cared for. Then, they grow up, and you just can’t keep holding on anymore.” She grimaced. “That’s hard enough when they just leave and find their own way, but with Eddiwarth, well…”
Parith reached up to comfort her, but it felt awkward, wrong. Unsure what to do with his hand, he just scratched his chin.
“Maybe with any luck,” she said, squeezing a laugh through her tears, “he’ll burn their house down and escape!” She glanced at Parith with a wry smile. Parith wasn’t quite sure how to react to that, but it made him laugh a little anyway.
More shadows appeared in the doorway as Korr and Shylai’a stepped out into the garden. She crossed quietly to sit in one of the chairs under a tree. Korr stood looking at the stars. Parith followed his gaze. A few dark forms passed in the distant sky above the city. Dragons on patrol. That was a nightly occurrence. Once in a while, they would fly low and create a disturbance, possibly attacking someone that was out after curfew. Mostly they just soared and watched, roaring and cawing out reminders to everyone below to stay in their homes.
Korr slowly lowered his head, glanced at Parith, then stepped over to sit on the bench next to Shylai’a, who quickly made room for him on the bench. Parith wanted to ask them if they had any more news or some new idea or place they could check, but he knew they didn’t. He’d already asked a couple of hours ago, before dinner, before the argument with Mellar.
The branches of one of the trees shook violently, the leaves swishing and flailing. Parith jumped to his feet. What’s that? There’s no wind! Lylee and Shylai’a looked up, and Korr also sprang to his feet and crossed into the center of the garden to get a better look. Parith stepped forward, but the upper branches of the tree were all in the shadow of the night. The branches rustled more and a huge dark blur flew through the air above them, landing on the roof with a thud. Lylee screamed and threw herself toward the door. The house creaked and groaned under the weight as whatever it was skittered on the rooftop. Shylai’a drew her sword and Korr set a defensive stance.
Parith looked close, and a gigantic hairy spidery leg reached out over the edge of the roofline, followed by Ari’s wide-open eyes and pedipalps. She chittered with excitement and the air was suddenly filled with a sweetish smell that Parith was sure meant something. He had no idea what. Hopefully something good.
Ari let out a long, squealing hiss and scrambled down the side of the house to the garden ground. A long silvery thread stretched from her body to her anchor point on the roof above. Clearly agitated, she chichichied and clicked her feet on the ground. Korr immediately relaxed and stepped up to scratch her behind her eyes. She dipped her head just for a moment, but quickly shifted to look at Parith, then Shylai’a.
Parith looked at Lylee, who was standing just inside the door, clutching her heart and looking around with a mix of fear and worry. She’d seen Ari many times during the summer they’d been there, but she had never quite gotten used to the giant spider in her backyard shed.
Ari flexed her forward legs, flipping them up in the air while bobbing her head and body up and down.
“Ari!” Parith stepped forward, “Where have you been?” He looked up at Korr.
“I don’t speak spider,” Korr shrugged. Ari chittered and squealed, backing away then jumping forward again. “She’s obviously excited about something.”
Parith said what everyone was probably thinking, “I’ll bet she found Illariel. And if she’s this happy, then she must be alive.” Ari bounced her head some more.
Lylee crept down the steps and hesitantly reached out to touch one of Ari’s legs. The giant spider turned toward her quickly. Lylee jumped back for a moment, swallowed hard, and looked deep into the spider’s eyes. “Is Eddiwarth with her?” she whispered.
Ari bounced energetically for a moment, then spun around and jumped back onto the tree. She shifted, then jumped over the garden wall. After a moment she squealed and chittered, thumping her feet on the ground insistently.
Parith and Korr exchanged looks, then nodded. Korr took a running jump and flipped himself over the wall. Parith ran into the house. “Let me get my bow and my staff! I’ll be right out!”
Shylai’a ran to the gate at the side of the garden. “We’re coming!”
Author’s Note: The problem with a Giant Spider
Ari has been one of my favorite characters to write for. Her relationship with Illariel has been one that tugged at my heart from the very beginning. I had considered having them separate when they left the forest, because what do you do with a giant spider in a city? That’s not a natural place for a giant spider, right?
I realized that I couldn’t sluff off the friendship with Illariel so easily after I spent so much emotional time setting it up. She’s like a pet, but way more. She’s a thinking, sentient giant spider. She has emotions and attachments. So, I couldn’t just let her go and wave bye-bye. If she’d stayed in the forest, then Illariel would have likely stayed behind as well and probably gone home. She’s the support of the group. Now Ari is helping the party!
It’s also been fun to see my own reaction to spiders change as I’ve studied them and written about this particular giant spider. I’m not nearly as afraid of them, like, in an irrational panic sort of way, as I used to be. It’s helped me to grow that way.