A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 38

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Thirty-Eight

(Namill)

I did not pause upon hearing a challenge. The one who moved out had a body more swollen than my own. Instead of being a spider, or bug, it had the massive form of a caterpillar. Maybe it thought of itself as a centipede, but I considered the body more fleshy and not a tight shell. Unafraid I moved up even as I heard it boast in a manner that I felt displayed its inferiority.

“You have no way of knowing what you are up against. You have no idea how old I am.”

I replied, “I know how long I have been gone.”

Now the monster stopped. While I still retained my womanly form with the swelling of my body having removed any signs of wrinkles or other indications of age, the one before me had lost almost all signs of once being a man. His head had enlarged to fully appear as the front of the monstrous caterpillar with hard mandibles covering the possibly human mouth.

“It was said that you were defeated.”

“That would assume the battle came to an end. In a way it has continued to be fought. Right now the one that faced me that day returns with my daughter and others. If you want to prove yourself able to end the conflict, we can speak later.”

The head of the one who had become the massive caterpillar had his eyes grow large as well. That made reading his silent thoughts rather easy. I watched his head thinking he considered him possibly able to take on the challenge coming behind me, so was not surprised by his demand.

“If I do become victorious, will you submit?”

I replied, “If you overcome them, I will definitely need to consider you as superior to me.”

“Of course!” Instead of moving into a position of dominance, he instead asked, “How many are coming?”

“Not a dozen. Of course, on that day I faced only one.” Thinking to gain support, I calmly added, “He has managed to claim allies, while I am still alone.”

His eyes moved to the crack in the surrounding rock from where I had come, then said, “You avoided my traps.”

I replied, “With a form like mine you should not be surprised.”

“No, I guess not. Could you help me design better traps?”

“Traps are for the unwary and foolish. Those coming are neither. Our only advantage is that we are not either.”

He began moving toward the opening along the main path as he asked, “I assume you had minions to help you.”

I was estimating the power of the one before me as I replied, “No. I set my traps out with the others along the path. That gave them the belief I supported them. The traps however ended up being used against them, although I had plenty of warning before I faced the threat.”

The being was very large with a body that extended for multiples of the regular human length. I found myself wondering how it came to claim this place. I remembered the challenges I faced to originally gain this locale, but could not believe something like a caterpillar could present itself as a viable threat, much less win a fight. Actual caterpillars used camouflage or built up poisons. They did not fight. While I felt the creature could sustain me for a rather long period, I could only wonder how a body like that would taste.

Caterpillars could produce silk, and I found myself feeling inside a cocoon and not a lair. I found it improper for the plants to be draped in a layer of thread, as I considered it food for one such as him. Spiders ate other creatures while caterpillars were vegetarians. While it surely drained its victims as I did, the form was not of a threatening creature. In looking at the silk around me I however realized how it could be so relaxed about my presence in its lair.

I did know magic. While not someone that studied the arcane for its mysteries, I had gone seeking certain truths about sources of power and had the strength in discovering the secrets I sought. Seeing a shimmer in the strands had me recognize there was a trap even in the monster’s den. I smiled knowing it had not affected me, although then had to ponder why not. My understanding of magic had me follow the silk threads until I saw their melted ends near something I had yet to look at once again.

The caterpillar had actually sought to cover the pool. While my estimation of the creature was not high, it lost some credibility seeing evidence of multiple attempts to cover the importance of this chamber. Wondering again how it had survived to gain this place, I looked at the caterpillar as it approached the pool.

It asked, “Do you know what this is?”

“I do now,” I replied. “It is the Spring of Cormorphin. It is supposedly water touched by the tears of a god, and people come here seeking eternal life.”

“Huh, what stories people will create. It’s corrosive. I doubt anything could survive in it.”

I decided to allow the monster to live. Suddenly, I did not want to face Marekel immediately upon gaining this sanctuary. I needed to make some decisions, and what happened as the caterpillar faced death would help me determine my own future. I knew people had not only survived the pool, but none who entered or drank the water had died. Seeking to live myself, I needed to consider not only what I wanted for my life, but what I was willing to allow to gain.

Seeing the caterpillar continue to watch me, I asked, “What is your name?”

“I allow others to call me Majestic,” it replied.

Smiling because I knew I would enjoy watching its death, I said, “My name is Namill.”

“You are lovely. I know better than to trust you, but I believe I will enjoy having you around.”

“I have already decided I will not kill you. There is more than enough coming to kill us both.”

“Sounds like a momentary truce. Are you certain about not making further preparations?”

In as stern of a voice as I could manage, I replied, “As long as I have been gone, do not believe that I have not prepared.”

While the caterpillar moved off studying his threads as if to assure I had not corrupted them, I looked at the bubbling water. I knew why Majestic had determined the liquid was corrosive. I had felt it burn myself. In listening to Jelnaya I had however found answers. My problem, as with most who had a life like mine, probably even Majestic, was that a rejection of certain normal decisions had a strong decision on our path. I however could not but hope my daughter would continue to accept the life I had given her. I did not fault Marekel, although I knew I would need to kill him. Either that, or doom myself. Wondering about my own corruption and what options I might have, I studied the pool.

Seeing Majestic gain a place to rest, I set myself to work. The head of the caterpillar lifted seeing me stretch strands of my webs across the pool. I then carefully chose threads of Majestic’s silk and began working my own tendrils through the layers of fibers.

I smiled hearing the caterpillar tell me his story. I really did not care, but the words let me know that he was falling victim to my own power. Majestic related that he had been a young man who wanted to face the mysteries others could not. While he felt that he had proven himself, I understood he had been seduced just like I had. In my case I had not sought the unexplained, but simply certain powers and skills most others would not trouble themselves to learn. My story was that I had actually acquired what I wanted, and I listened to the caterpillar wondering if he would die learning how foolish he had been.

What Marekel sought to have me learn, realize, accept was that I could have another life. My first response had been the truth that I had faced that decision already and turned it down. I had not just made a decision, but sold my soul to become who I was. The fact I now faced was that I had however given birth to Ulemai. Somehow I had enough of my humanity to perform the requirements for gaining a blessing. Wondering if I could have, if I actually desired to have, another life, I sought to gain an answer before Marekel again came to me.

Something winged flew in and became caught in my strands. I quickly moved to assure it became helpless before closing to poison it for later eating. Before entirely wrapping it, I however sought to assure the one I had already caught in my spell.

I asked, “Majestic, do you care to eat?”

As if just now realizing the amount of work I had done, it asked, “Can I move safely?”

“You should be able to see my threads. I believe I spaced them to allow you plenty of room to move.” Not wanting to appear as powerful as I believed I was, I added, “I could bring it to you.”

The number of feet adjusted themselves as Majestic replied, “No. I need to move to the door. Something is coming. I believe it is those you spoke of.”

I dropped the catch, then said, “Gain the nourishment, then prepare. They are to be feared. If we are to win, direct combat will need to be avoided. That is the tactic with the web. Force them to move where they are not comfortable, and encourage them to act using their personal skills and not operate as a team.”

Showing some of his intelligence, Majestic asked, “Will they be focused on making it to the water?”

“That is the desire, and they might bargain for such a simple concession. What would be your thoughts on allowing them?”

“I have enjoyed eating those that tried.”

Again thinking that the caterpillar had not faced a real threat, but only other monsters, I asked, “So, you would grant them the freedom?”

“If they will keep their promise of simply going to the water.”

“They will keep their promises, but they also will not be so simplistic in their objective. Listen to them, Majestic, as I will ask you again should I hear something that might appease me.”

“They know who you are?”

I wondered about the depth of my enchantment upon Majestic as I replied, “Yes, they know who I am. Further, they have someone with them who I value. I am not going to like any decision I make, although, Majestic, you can have the confidence that I will live with whatever option I choose. Should it be with you, it will be with you.”

The feeling of power over the caterpillar dissipated as he said, “That was the truth.”

Still having a sense of control, I replied, “Yes, it was the truth. I was not attempting to dominate you, Majestic, but only assure myself of what you might do. Don’t think that I have yet made any decision concerning you, but also do not doubt the seriousness of the threat of those that come.”

“I was attempting to learn about you as well. You however did not seek to harm me or confine me. I guess I can consider you to be a potential companion.”

“You still have a lot to learn, but I guess we all have to face certain trials. Still, Majestic, you are right that I am not considering you an enemy. At the moment I am also not considering you as food. Take those words as you will.”

The caterpillar laughed, then said, “I will take them as the best words for the moment. Let me face those coming with you, then we can speak some more.”

And the party continues to advance.