A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 36

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Thirty-Six

(Namill)

I could not help but wonder where my daughter was. After so many days, I worried that they might have already made it to the spring. Feeling restored, I turned my attention to reclaiming the place where I had felt at the height of my power. That however was also where I had met my defeat, but more importantly had accepted that I could not be a mother to my daughter.

Setting my focus on learning who had taken over my place, I heard a voice that could claim my respect say, “Yes. Return to the heart of the mountain. This time kill and show me your power.”

Those words hurt me. I had never thought of myself as simply a creature of death. While my body was now restored from the substances I had consumed of others, the acts of gaining the food were merely necessary actions of no more worth than what was required to expel the waste of my meals. I however then considered my thoughts when I had previously reigned over the Spring of Cormorphin. Admitting that back then I had obeyed the words to kill, I found the importance of my daughter.

She was proof that life still continued within me. I had feared that my new existence had sacrificed everything I once was. I had shed the arachnid form I found to overcome me, and used my feminine graces to gain the company of an established man. Of course I took advantage of a period of turmoil he was going through with his wife, but I could only hope that my time with him had helped and not set him on a course toward even lower acts of seeking consolation. The child was proof that my base nature had not been lost.

In a way, Marekel had been a blessing. I had sealed up Ulemai wondering what to do with her. I felt cursed to have to concede her to some perverted man, although I now knew the purity of his intentions. At the time I really did not want to give her up, although I did accept that I needed to do something with her.

Now that I had seen the life for my daughter, I felt it was time for her to do something for me. If she wanted my redemption, she would have to show me that her way was indeed better. I would not turn from my attitude of contempt for all life, but accepted I could be shown that the one that claimed me was not truly powerful. Marekel had indeed proven himself to me, but now he would need to prove himself to another. Exactly how Ulemai would gain my honor I did not know, but I felt a need to put her through the fire her husband had already survived.

Looking at my swollen form, I found no pleasure in it. Originally, I admired the change from the common woman I felt fate had condemned me. My years in the castle had however reminded me that spiders were always unwelcomed guests. I could never truly have a home, in spite of the gift of being able to create my own web. Wondering if I could make my future with my daughter and son-in-law, I set myself to prove which life truly was superior. My only fear was that I would not find pleasure with whatever resulted.

As I set myself along a route I knew, I heard a voice in my head say, “So, you are going to return. Good.”

“No,” I replied, “it is not good. I’m doing this for me.”

“Of course you are. Still, no reason for me to complain.”

Glad not to have to deal with a separate problem, I went ahead and asked, “And what do you get out of this?”

“I believe that I have told you. I feast on the souls. You gain the joy of the kill along with the physical sustenance. I gain the soul.”

“So, have you hungered these last many years?”

“My existence and sense of time is not as you would understand. I actually felt I lost your soul, but there was a fire within you. I found hope in you through the years, and in anticipation of this day I found sustenance.”

Thoughts of my own plans for rebellion, for determining my own path, had me wonder more about my relationship with this entity. I did not consider it a god, but only something that had the power to give me what I required. At the time of our agreement, I felt my form to be proof of the quality of the one I had bargained with. Eight legs did indeed operate at my command, and silk threads did come from my rear. I was not deformed into some illusion of having a connection to spiders, but was actually blessed with the form and powers. While I could still operate as I once had been, I felt it to be the illusion. Now, after all the years in Chaliger, I did not know the truth of what I truly was, but felt my plans would work to decide the truth.

Coming into the opening of the mount, I could make out where a group had camped. Nothing specifically identified the group as being Marekel, my daughter, and those that traveled with them. I still could not conceive of another group seeking the spring. Knowing what was further along the route, I considered taking advantage of another opening that my arachnid form could access.

I felt the sensation of a contact from another. The tone had the quality of curiosity, although it also declared its intentions to do harm. Since I had no doubt my return would require me to fight and kill, I calmly sent back the message that I planned to inflict harm upon a group advancing to the spring. Then sensation I felt in the reply had me feel the other was relieved with what I said.

“Yes, they are not like others that come. You are welcome to go challenge them.”

The trick to working with those of lesser mentality was to not treat them as if they were lesser mentalities. “I will take joy in doing what I can to stop them.”

That was all I said. Assuming I was being watched, I went about using my large form to move rocks and my webs to hold them in place to set traps. I had no doubt in the observation skills and basic experience of Marekel and those with him to notice my work. The traps actually were not for them. What I needed was those in the area to take action, and seeing a trap already in place had me assured others would take positions where I suspected they would advance my plans.

As if to support my thoughts, I physically heard a voice up to now I had only sensed in my head. “I see you are not completely unprepared. I will leave this.” I could only smile seeing a legged worm reveal itself while it said, “Yes. Good. Few is usually enough. I can help make more.”

Hoping it would take my words of instruction in a positive manner, I replied, “Well, you cannot trust in the traps to do all of the work. When they are disrupted, you need to strike in order to finish one of their number.”

“There are many of them coming, and I sense their strength.”

“Are you not willing to face them? If not then flee.”

I rushed upon a monster that had secluded itself. It attempted to avoid my attack by backing into the hole it had used to protect itself. While I did not have the form for reaching into the small tunnel and dragging the creature out, I did not show despair. With my eyes looking around for any that might think of challenging me, I filled the hole with webs. Using my magic to then ignite the strands, I declared myself to everyone watching.

“If you are not willing to face me, why should I allow you to die at their hands?” As I again filled the hole with webs, then set them on fire, I declared, “This one will die. Either by suffocation, starvation, or by me.”

None came to its rescue. The smoke finally had it come up seeking enough fresh air to continue to survive. I however knew the power in my form, so confidently sent my front two spider legs down to seize the creature. After enjoying the sensation of victory, if not the taste, I let the others know that there was only one hope for their own rescue from death.

“Are you going to face them?”

It did not take too much more prodding by me to get those in the area working to set challenges along with declarations of what they would do to those that faced the difficulties. Soon I had them moving to new positions where they could do more than watch. While I had to assume they had sponsors as I did seeking souls to devour, I found myself wondering about their reasons to be here. This was not a place where people regularly passed, so the ones here might have come to find a place of solace from those who would attempt to kill them. It was possible they sought a hope of working their way to the spring to gain immortality or at least the power of that place. Seeing them obey me, I contemplated that these were now free of voices controlling them as the one who had transformed them had starved to death on a lack of souls to sustain them. Those thoughts caused me to wonder if I might seek to increase my status by learning how to taste the spirits of those I killed. My attitude from contemplating such ideas seemed to be detected by those around me, as I really did not need to prod them into continuing the work.

By the time word spread of Marekel’s group coming, I could feel the anticipation in those around me for the trouble they expected to happen. I had to admit that I did not have a plan of my own, but simply hoped to take advantage of whatever might happen. I believe the others expected my desire to include whatever they imagined the travelers to possess, as I found eyes watching me and not just those of Marekel’s group.

I saw them stop. That was not unexpected. One lesson I had learned was one trap too many was the same as no traps. Marekel and his group were moving along the only path through the mountain. Whatever the truth of the history, the evidence was something happened that split the grand mound. The route to the spring went through a crack that had never been filled in with debris or the weight of the surrounding earth forcing the wound to close. A section that acted as a shelf had been worked to give a narrow lane for travel although those that went along the trail surely concerned themselves with the drop to where the crack started below. Not having much area to inspect, it did not surprise me to see them stop as a soldier from Chaliger noticed something.

All I could do was watch as a number of things happened quickly. A couple of those close to the start of the section of path rushed forward I could only assume hoping to catch a man with his attention diverted to the traps. One actually succeeded, but that only caused the others to respond with more conviction. I watched as I saw the hope to stop those of Marekel instead give them the drive to overcome the threats before them.

The rush paid off for one, although the loss caused the group to broaden their observations beyond any safety issue with the path. Considering that it was Lancer Jernst that was taken, someone known for a good eye, I felt the loss would prove detrimental to the party. I again however heard them speak of the benefit provided in the manner of death would make up for the loss by what the others learned of how the terrain could work to the monsters’ advantage. Jelnaya pointed out things the men did not about threats to be watchful for. One lesson was rather dramatic as she timed a throw of a rock to catch one of those hoping to rush upon her.

I found myself hoping for someone, or even luck, making a strike against the young lady. She was not large. While she did show some strength, most of what she did was effective due to her skill with her body and weapon. She also helped in keeping a positive attitude during the battle. She truly displayed an enjoyment in fighting, which inspired those with her to step up and face the perils before them. I found myself watching hoping for some weakness to be found in the young lady that could be exploited.

What happened was that Sephex felt he had gained an understanding of the flow of battle. To help his impression, the men from Davelda dropped one large humanoid beetle who felt his shiny carapace would ward off the edges of blades and the energy of spells. While it might have had some truth against regular threats, the enchanted blades cut into the hardened surface and the magic cast by one who had faced major opponents did not get dispersed. Seeing the death of the one who thought it could prove itself superior, Sephex did something to have him rise in the air while he began working some grand arcane power.

One who had what might have been a form like what I feared mine would have been, a grand rear with arms and legs highly extended, came out of its den to jump upon the mage. Irgamy screamed support for his friend while Jelnaya instructed those from Davelda to shield her as she readied an arrow in her bow. It seemed that the mage had his own arcane protection, although the arrow from Jelnaya causing a deep wound also let the one that attacked know that he had made a mistake.

I want to say that everyone took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief seeing Sephex toss off the one that had accosted him. In that split second the same thing happened to Irgamy who had put into action his own plan to save his friend by gaining height then pushing off the vertical surface to float toward Sephex. One of the more confident monsters surely hoping to successfully duplicate the actions of the other, leaped to have its multiple legs secure itself to the man. He did not have arcane protection as his main defense, but had the special covering that I had no doubt kept him safe when out over the waters of his home. The extended appendages of the monster however wrapped around him not really attempting to penetrate his skin. The added weight sent him down with the momentum of the jump directing them to miss the pathway. Having the man put his focus on doing something with a stone in his possession caused him to lack the focus on protecting his body from a venomous bite. Sephex and the others quickly responded to help Irgamy, but his fate had been sealed.

Life for some reason would show a secret to those of us that survived. It was a cruel vision. The shock of the scene hit me, because I realized that I had been used at times to provide that experience to others. I saw the monster fall with Irgamy giving his companions no hope of rescuing him. It was as if the fates had secretly made their determination on his life with every intention of using his death as a lesson to those who survived.

Another smaller monster jumped on to assure the victory. I believe Irgamy sought to use another item on his person, but the additional weight, however minor, did not help give him time to act. While the blast from Sephex, arrows from Jelnaya, and other attacks might have hurt the one around Irgamy, I saw it unwrap where the closing walls of the crack finally stopped the descent, did something to the body that finished off whatever life remained, then pulled it to a hole where I was certain it began reconstituting its body with a victory feast.

I put my focus back on the group hearing Jelnaya declare, “KEEP MOVING! That’s not the only monster, so you need to keep your wits about you!”

“SHE’S RIGHT!” Marekel blared out. “This will not ease up. Keep moving!”

I guess I had come out too far to watch, as I then heard my daughter shout, “Mother! I’m glad you’re not fighting with the monsters, Mother!”

I did not answer, but ran off toward the spring. While it helped my mind to see a couple more with Marekel die, I found myself glad that Ulemai still lived. Not wanting to see should the fates decide to take her life, and truly not wanting her to have memories of me as a monster, I fled to our hopeful eventual meeting at the spring.

The party suffered losses, but they are still committed to reaching their goal.