The Princess of the Arachnids

PART I

 

Once upon a time in a distant planet not so different to earth…

A great large female Latrodectus the size of a bear attacked a human’s nest called Palmeria, she lead a large army of spiders to wreak havoc against the humans. They were victorious, most of the humans were massacred, their nest destroyed, and the ones who survived fled to the human’s strongest defence called Motherland, a giant nest that was ruled by King Valentinus. The outer skirts of the Motherland would emit a large fire whenever the spiders would attempt to ambush.

The humans called the great Latrodectus Rowan the black widow. As the spiders marked their territory on Palmeria, Rowan heard the distant cry of an infant human girl. Fascinated by the infant’s petite body, Rowan gently caressed her long prickly legs over the girl; to her surprise, the girl’s weeping turned to laughter.

As the rest of the spiders formed a giant web over the nest of Palmeria, Rowan made her decision not to kill the girl and raise her as if she were a spider herself. The humans would call the girl by the name of Astarya.

Rowan raised Astarya in Palmeria. Rowan treated Astarya with nurture, protection, and all the maternal instincts that a mother could apply. This odd relationship between the two would divide the spiders’ view on having Astarya killed and eaten; though the dominant presence of Rowan would quickly diminish those who opposed her. Rowan was infertile and out of despair had eaten her last three male partners following their unsuccessful mating rituals.

She continued this perverse act of sexual cannibalism by releasing chemicals on her web to lure the male Latrodectus into believing that she had already eaten lunch.

As Astarya reached the age of 4, she spent most of her time crawling more than walking and was always by the side of Rowan. She interacted with garden spiders, water spiders, trapdoors, jumpers, spitters, and net catchers; acquiring deep knowledge in weaving, jumping, and climbing. Rowan would keep Astarya away from newborn spiders, as they would eat their siblings.

The young girl was never afraid of the spiders; however, one day while weaving with the water spiders, she saw her reflection and felt ashamed and embarrassed that she did could not create her web or possess eight legs. Astarya could not comprehend the distress she endured. Rowan could not understand why Astarya would cry. Every time she would weep and whimper, all Rowan could do was comfort her or leave her alone until she had wiped her tears away.

On the eve of her 5th birthday, Palmeria was ambushed by a female wandering spider. The wandering spider was called Shezara, a lone spider who was notorious for killing thousands of humans and producing killers of her own. There were many spiders like her in the world who did not get along with other spiders.

Shezara fought Rowan in a vicious battle that destroyed Palmeria’s web. Rowan was overpowered by the wandering spider, taking a fatal blow to her abdomen. Shezara turned to Astarya; the daughter of the black widow dodged many of Shezara’s attacks, before being cornered and completely impotent to the wandering spider’s presence. Shezara bites her fangs into the back of Astarya for 2 seconds – the water spider who had taught Astarya to weave leaped onto Shezara and bit his fangs into her.

Shezara suddenly grew increasingly aggressive, she grabbed the water spider with her front four legs and instantly killed him. Astarya wept for the water spider’s brave sacrifice. As Shezara prepared to inject the rest of her venom into the feeble Astarya, Rowan thwarted Shezara to the ground, killing the wandering spider with her lethal fangs. Astarya felt a great surge of pain, her muscles and blood vessels contracted and busted causing her to fall into a seizure.

All the spiders used their web to heal Astarya. Rowan would stay by her side for days before she finally awoke from consciousness, to which Rowan would respond by embracing Astarya so tightly it was as if she was about to burst. The spiders of Palmeria celebrated by feasting on the carcass of Shezara, however, Astarya would forever carry the scar of the two red marks, inflicted by the wandering spider.

At 10 years of age, Astarya was treated like a princess of Palmeria, she was equally capable of running like a human and crawling on all four like a spider. Astarya and many other spiders of the nest embarked on an expedition for food, which slowly became scarce as the flies, ants, and frogs gradually began to die out. The vegetables and fruit and other naturally grown foods were all poisonous to consume for all living creatures. It was the first time Astarya and the aging Rowan would be a distance apart, though Astarya was eager to explore the outside world. Astarya and the spiders travelled far; so far in fact that they had reached a point in the world where the forests and webs turned to desert.

While climbing up a boulder, Astarya discovered a strange winged species. It boasted stripes of black and yellow, a horn on its tail, alien compound eyes and two antennas. The creature was almost as big as Rowan, though she could not tell for sure since it was dead and curled up. There were more black and yellow creatures buried under the sands of the scorching dunes. The spiders collected these creatures and prepared to return them to Palmeria. As Astarya climbed up on one of the spider’s backs into the grass forests, she heard a gasp. This gasp did not come from a spider or a frog; it sounded as though it would come from her voice. She peered through the long prickly grass but could not see who was spying on them.

In that tall prickly grass a human male, gasped and immediately placed his hand on his mouth so as not to give away his presence. He was a hunter, a cool and imperturbable character – all of sudden he fell stiff to the bone, unable to move. His strained eyes were locked on Astarya – a brunette haired girl wearing spider’s silk for clothing, riding on the back of a spider, as she chewed on the raw flesh of a wasp, blood trickling down her bottom lip. She was a savage to the hunter, and he did not dare engage with her or the spiders. Without haste, the hunter returned to his human nest to inform the king and queen of what he had witnessed.

News of a human girl living amongst the spiders would spread like wildfire across the human colonies. When word reached the great human colony of Motherland, King Valentinus laughed at the notion, calling the hunter to be insane. Many humans, particularly from the upper crust families would reject the hunter’s account. In spite of this, there were a handful of humans who believed a girl was living amongst the spiders, including Valentinus’ 12 year old nephew, Prince Finnick.

Finnick was a timid and adventurous boy, his father and mother were the lords of Palmeria, both killed by the army of Rowan the black widow. Finnick was only an infant of 2 during Rowan’s conquest of Palmeria, his mother made sure he was delivered safely to his uncle and aunt in the event of an emergency.

Finnick was treated like an outsider by the children his age. He was weak in stature and strength compared to the other boys, his cousins would tease him when he would indulge in his activities, like collecting snail shells and cobwebs. However, where Finnick lacked in strength he made up for in intelligence; he was lighter on his feet, quiet as a cat, and as quick as a jumping spider. King Valentinus spared no time for his nephew, or his own children for that matter. He was always with the army, planning and preparing for their next conquest to rid the spiders.

Queen Ianthe was also distant with her nephew, Finnick, though she was the antithesis to Valentinus’ stone cold nature. Finnick’s only remote parent figure relationship was with the very man who carried the infant Finnick from Palmeria to Motherland during Rowan’s siege. His name was Evander. He had lost his wife on that fatal day, Valentinus did not allow the refugees of Palmeria to mourn their loved ones. He immediately ordered them to march with him against the oncoming tarantula army from the west.

Evander returned from the battle with his left arm cut off and a large scar across his upper chest. He and the refugees of Palmeria never forgave Valentinus and attempted a coup d’etat when Finnick was just 5. The revolution failed and Evander was permitted to hard labour on the outer perimeters of the Motherland, which is where Finnick would explore and collect shells and insects from the grass forests. Evander would tell stories of his mother and father and how they did their best to start a new life for Finnick when they had left Motherland.

Ever since Finnick was a young child, he disliked the taste of insects and arachnids. One day, Valentinus’ army returned with a goliath birdeater spider, the size of an elephant; the royal family and nobles feasted on the spider’s carcass for a week. Finnick could not contain the taste or smell of the goliath birdeater, he immediately puked at the first bite. After refusing to eat the spider, a highly offended Valentinus publicly humiliated his futility. Finnick was personally forced by Valentus to eat the meal, from which he would proceed to vomit 3 more times before Ianthe would come to Finnick’s rescue.

From that day, Ianthe made sure Finnick would have a vegetarian diet, though she did occasionally persuade him to have a bite or two of jumping spiders, garnishing the meat with onions and peppers. By the age of 8, the vegetables and plants were no longer edible, they evoked a strong odorous smell that would corrode the stomach when consumed. The frogs, spiders and flies fell ill to all plant matter foods. Many of the leaders and kings of other human colonies arrived at Motherland to discuss the matter at hand.

Valentinus was adamant to blame the spiders for poisoning the plants of the forests and waged war against the spiders. Finnick did his best to avoid King Valentinus, who would spend the next four years planning his strategies to rid all the spiders for good. Finnick would spend as much time as possible in the outer perimeters exploring and conversing with Evander and the other Palmerian workers. The more he kept his distance from the King, the less anxious he felt from being undermined by the stern oppression of his uncle.

Finnick always spoke to Evander of his desire to leave Motherland. Evander, however, was less apprehensive of Finnick’s aspirations, his time working in the outer perimeter had diminished his rebellious nature, he had grown more cautious and tried to thrust his wisdom on Finnick’s naive mind. Evander warned Finnick not to leave against the wishes of his family, or he may end up in a place that he will never be able to escape from.

At 12 years of age, the young prince had aspirations to leave Motherland and explore other human colonies. The news of the hunter witnessing a human girl living amongst the spiders could not have come at a more perfect time for Finnick. The hunter was looking to raise an army in an attempt to rescue the girl from the spiders. Finnick was the youngest out of 15 eager people to join the hunter’s mission in retrieving the girl. Finnick and the other 15 people would leave in the night to rendezvous with the hunter in the colony of Ilympus, the southern border of the grass forest.

At the time, Finnick believed he would see the last of Motherland and his wretched uncle, though he could not anticipate what lied ahead in the future…

PART II

9 years later, in Palmeria, Astarya returned from a long trip with a web full of beetles and woodlouse that she found by the river.  She had not seen living creatures flourish for years since the famine began, and all of a sudden there was a swarm underneath the logs down by the river of the grass forest.

Astarya the princess of the arachnids, now accepted as the successor to Rowan’s reign, lead the spiders to countless battles on the front foot against the cruel Valentinus. Rowan had suffered a fatal injury in the spider colony of Terrakin five years earlier. The nest of Palmeria had declined significantly in population, as did the human colony of Motherland.  It would not be long before Valentinus’ army would enact their final blow against Palmeria and the rest of the spider colonies.

Two jumping spiders carried a human male soldier in a web. They presented the man to Rowan and Astarya. The man was astonished by the towering presence of Rowan, and mildly attracted to the outlandish appearance of Astarya’s attire – dung beetle horns for shouldered pads, a crown of severed insect legs, twigs and leaves, and two butterfly wings attached around her back, which are supported by her ragged human clothing which she had taken from former prisoners.

The human prisoner dropped to his knees and began to speak to Astarya.  The man began to sob, he begged Astarya not kill him. Astarya was aware of the distress he was in, but felt no sympathy, she had become vicious and incredibly ruthless in the eyes of men. To the man’s surprise, Astarya repeated the same words as him – ‘Spare me, oh god spare me!’. It sent a biting chill down the man’s spine, his jaw was left wide open, and it would be the last expression he would ever make on this dying planet.

As Rowan and her reduced army of spiders fed on the human male, Astarya delicately caressed her human clothing with her fingers, her mind focused on those living creatures in the river.  She had witnessed her queen and guardian grow weaker and weaker over the years.  It was only a matter of time before Palmeria would succumb to Valentinus.

Astarya tried to convince Rowan to command the spiders and head for the river, but the great black widow feared that being out in the open would make her colony an easy target for the humans.  Astarya realized there was little time to waste, she made it her personal quest to follow the river to its end point, which would hopefully lead her to many live creatures that had not yet fallen to the poisonous lands of the grass forest.

She promised to return to Palmeria with an army that would drive the humans out.  Before departing, Rowan and Astarya embraced each other with tender affection. There was a look of melancholy in Rowan’s eight beading eyes, as she was very aware that this could be the last time they ever see one another. The water and garden spiders provided her with plenty of web on the journey. Astarya looked back at Palmeria one final time, not knowing if it would be the last.

In the colony of Gelleos, A large brawl had broken out between two families over a dead wandering spider. The brawl was intervened by the colony’s captain of the guards, Finnick, who perfectly split the spider open in two with his sword, taking the head for himself into his quarters.

The night prior, Finnick was greeted by his oldest cousin and heir to Motherland.  He came as an ambassador for King Valentinus, who offered Finnick an ultimatum to share his supply of beetles that had sustained a higher population in the colony of Gelleos than any other human colony of the grass forests. If he failed to deliver 90 percent of the beetles supply to Motherland then Valentinus would wage war.

Finnick realized how desperate and insane Valentinus had grown, for him to threaten another human colony showed that Finnick had the upper hand on him.  Finnick spoke with the lady of Gelleos of this matter.

The lady of Gelleos understood the research Finnick had conducted over the years in order to save humanity from extinction.  Finnick proposed to follow the grass forest river down south, which would lead him to the mountain and beyond. He believed that human civilization had flourished in the south because their main source of nutrition came from the sea, where the creatures were not affected by the poisonous lands.

Finnick travelled south alone, it would be a journey of at least a month by horse. When Finnick had left Gelleos, Valentinus’ army had pillaged and conquered Gelleos, he sent his eldest son to track and capture Finnick.  Valentinus had lost his wife Queen, Ianthe, to the famine, which made him to act in a chaotic and disproportional way; he not only tortured and maimed the spiders but also the human colonies that stood against his war efforts.

Finnick reached the village of Helena, a small colony that lived in open lands and caves rather than the trench-like habitats of Motherland and Palmeria. They too had suffered from the outbreak of the famine, in spite the fact that they had recorded zero attacks from spiders in the last five years.  Finnick learned that many of the Helena villagers had fled to the end point of the grass forest river, but had not returned to report their findings.

In the evening the people of Helena and Finnick feasted on a jumping spider that had been caught lurking aimlessly in the grass forests. Helena was suddenly ambushed by Astarya. She attacked and brutally injured the two guards who poked and kicked at the jumping spider, she defended the dead spider, aiming her spear at anyone who came close to her.  Her ferocious eyes met with Finnick’s.

As the soldiers and guards of Helena began to outnumber and overpower Astarya, Finnick intervened with haste. Finnick defended Astarya, though the people of Helena were not so forgiving of her crimes.  To the shock of both Helena and Finnick, Astarya pleaded in the human tongue and cried the Motherland song, a trait she had acquired listening to the human prisoners of Palmeria.

The Helena soldiers prepared to attack Astarya, though she was too quick and agile for them. Finnick spared her time to flee, and he followed her tout de suite.

Finnick attempted many times to speak with Astarya, though she only responded with grunts. Astarya did not understand why he had saved her.  Finnick approached her and came  so close that Astarya aimed her spear at his face, almost cutting his nose in one blow.

Finnick willingly surrendered his weapons to Astarya.  He spoke to her softly, and repeatedly. He pointed to the river and then to the mountains, she mirrored the same hand movements. They came to a partial understanding that their journeys were headed in the same direction. Finnick introduced himself and Astarya did the same. She was well aware of the name the humans had given her.

Astarya did not know whether to trust Finnick.  She was confused, he was the first human to not loathe or attack her.  She wasn’t too naive to believe that he was on her side.  However, she allowed Finnick to follow her, but kept his weapons.

Finnick and Astarya travelled along the river and up the large mountain. As they neared the peak they could see the entirety of the grass forest. Finnick was amazed by Astarya’s unique hunting abilities. She moves on all fours and leaped like a frog without injuring herself. As they reached the peak of the mountain they saw what lay ahead in the distance.

The tales that Finnick had heard during his time in Gelleos were true; in the horizon the river led to the vast ocean, it would take another day’s hike before they could reach the sea.

As they approached the sea, the land turned to sand, they were on the shores nearing the ocean. There were many large rocks on the beach. Finnick wondered where the villagers of Helena had fled to. Both Finnick and Astarya felt as though they were being watched. Astarya saw a severed hand buried in the sand near one of the rocks. As she approached the severed hand, from behind the rock appeared a scorpion the size of a tiger.

Two more scorpions appeared, one spat out the flesh of human, presumably a Helena citizen. Astarya and Finnick fell back on the sandy beach as the scorpions approached them with their pincers.  One of the scorpions flailed its stinger at Astarya, who quickly dodged out of the way.  Astarya handed Finnick his spear.  Finnick was nowhere near as quick or agile as Astarya, he retreated and climbed up the rocks where one of the scorpions would follow him.

Astarya avoided the first scorpion’s stinger once more and rolled under the creature’s body, using her spear to cut open the book lungs, destroying its respiratory system. Blood sprayed all over her. Two scorpions were left, Astarya joined Finnick and climbed up the rock.  She leaped onto the second scorpion’s tail and used her knife to cut the stinger.  Finnick struck his spear into the scorpion’s cephalothorax (head and thorax).

Finnick was suddenly grabbed by the third scorpion’s pincers; in that moment Finnick closed his eyes as he realized his fate. His shoulders felt compressed as blood began to trickled down his chest. As the third scorpion prepared to inject its venom into Finnick, Astarya jumped high into the air and swung her long-bladed knife through the third scorpion’s tale. The third scorpion let go of Finnick and fell to the ground as Astraya chopped off its claws and struck her spear through it mouth parts.

Astarya tended to Finnick’s wounds by using the spider web, though his shoulders were in severe pain and would have to heal over time.  As the two reached the sea beyond the rocks, they washed the scorpion blood off their bodies in the salty water. The sea was a majestic splendour of corals that fluoresced in bright blue, golden brown and green.  Hundreds of schools of fish scattered and scurried along the reef.  Finnick and Astarya embraced and kissed over this joyous occasion.

Finnick and Astarya gathered as much fish and other creatures in the sea as possible for their return.  This period of revelation ended abruptly as soon as the two reached Helena and saw the flags of Motherland planted all over the village.

Astarya’s eyes began to swell with tears when she witnessed Rowan and other spiders of her colony burn in the distance; the Motherland soldiers cheered and taunted the spiders of Palmeria.  Astarya readied her spear and charged for Helena, but was held back by Finnick.

A great army of spiders, including a wandering spider and funnel death charged against Valentinus’ army. The funnel death killed Finnick’s eldest cousin. The people of Helena began to fight back against Valentinus.  Finnick and Astarya watched from the mountain with dread over the destruction caused on the colony of Helena.

Finnick walked down to the battlefield to confront the tyrant King Valentinus. The hairs on his body had turned completely grey, his posture was bedridden and his eyes lacked any sign of emotion, though he was permissive to hear what his nephew had to offer.  Finnick was willing to surrender the occupation of all living creatures in the ocean to his Motherland colony so long that he did not interfere with the spiders and other rebellious human colonies in the grass forest.

Valentinus agreed and allowed the remaining spiders and humans to return to the grass forest.  Finnick could not see his old friend Evander, he feared he was too late to save him in the first place.  Finnick plead for the freedom of the Palmerian prisoners, though Valentinus was not so generous in this negotiation.

The spiders of Palmeria and other spider colonies now looked to Astarya as Rowan’s successor.  She decided that they would help Finnick and the human colonies.

One year had passed – what few remainder spiders and humans, that lived in the grass forest, now harmoniously followed their leaders Finnick and Astarya in the new colony of Palmeria. The two were able help regrow the plants and crops by building artificial reservoirs and underground canal systems. There was little conflict between the spiders or the humans, life began to grow and there was prosperity in the grass forest.

One day, a bloody and weakened Valetinus soldier arrived at Palmeria seeking refuge. He told them that the sea creatures had all grown ill which sparked a rebellion amongst the Motherland soldiers, freeing the prisoners of Palmeria. Valentinus begged for forgiveness in his dying few breathes, though Finnick only wished to hear of Evander’s whereabouts.

As the mad tyrant, Valentinus perished in the colony that he once destroyed, Finnick and Astarya set on a journey back to the ocean to find Evander. With fortune they found him at a crucial time, he was sick, struggling to walk, and incredibly old, but still breathing.

Astarya, Finnick and Evander, the three remaining survivors of the day Rowan attacked Palmeria, returned safely to their birthplace of Palmeria. Evander cried to see his place of birth for one final time before his imminent passing. From that day on, Astarya and Finnick ruled Palmeria together with the spiders and humans in peace

 

Evington Echo