Yes, I know you can’t help staring, but could you make it a little less obvious? I suppose one should make allowances for common folks. My beauty does have a tendency to make everyone speechless. Unless Duessa, I, Vanessa Ashelocke, actually have the Ashelocke raven hair, the alabaster skin, and the traditional blood purple eyes. What? How dare you suggest my eyes are fuschia?! They are bloody purple golden of a sunset! Ask anyone! Yes, I have only six eyes and six arms, while Duessa Ashelocke has the full eight. Not that any of you could tell. As far as human eyes can see, I have only two eyes and two arms. Only the very special can see my additional four eyes and arms. As for Duessa, you’d have to be something quite extraordinary to see all eight of her arms and eyes. I’d be tempted to devour you on the spot. Oh, don’t look so frightened. Unlike Duessa, I try to save myself for my marriage feasts, but I do get carried away by my passions, from time to time. What is a marriage feast? Why, it’s our most sacred, special tradition as arachnocrats! It’s the source of a lady’s extra arms and eyes, not to mention the happiest day of a boy’s life, along with the most glorious end! Every arachnocratic boy looks forward to his marriage feast. It takes place, usually when he’s around sixteen. Once his feast is announced, for a season before, he’s treated like a prince. There are unending festivals, where he’s the center of everything. There’s at least one sweet and one savory shower, where everyone brings the bridegroom tasty treats, ‘showering’ him with treats, so to speak. It’s considered good manners to inculde the bridegroom’s favorites among them. The day of the marriage feast is spent with the bridegroom being bathed, oiled, dressed, anointed, and his hair adorned with flowers. His boyfriends spend their last hours with him, singing and sharing stories with him. Female friends and relatives can be present, but it’s a day mostly for the boys. The bride, of course, cannot see him before the feast. There was a time, when a bridegroom ate too many treats, before the feast. He got too fat, so he was no longer remotely appetizing. Upon seeing him, his bride refused to have him. So emasculated was he that he killed himself that very night. As a result, It’s considered very bad luck to see the bridegroom, before the marriage feast. The bride must wait, until the evening, when the feast begins. Before the bridegroom enters the chamber, garden, or standing stones where the feast takes place, he’s injected with the Bridegroom’s Bliss. This is usually administered by the bridegroom’s guardian via her fangs, although there have been a few times, when the guardian has been male. Venom is gathered from the closest female relative to make the drug, which the guardian gives to the bridegroom in a ceremonial cup. What is the Bridegroom’s Bliss? This is a drug, which ensures the bridegroom feels no pain, or terror, during the feast, only bliss. The guardian leads the bridegroom to the location of the feast. There’s usually a public area, where the bride and her ladies wait to undergo the opening ritual to the feast, as well as the private location, where the feast itself takes place. The bridegroom’s guardian leads her charge to the public area. He walks down the aisle, where every lady there can drink deeply of his beauty, and admire him. The bride waits at the end of the aisle. She, too, is magnificently attired for this occasion, for she wants to look her very best for her sweetmeat. Sometimes a few of the bridegrooms’ male friends are allowed into the public part of the feast, but I think it’s a mistake. Damian Ashelocke, Duessa’s pretty little nephew, was allowed to attend during one of his aunts’s feasts, where the bridegroom was his boyfriend. It was too much for the poor chilld, I fear. It may explain his strange reluctance to become a bridegroom himself, but I digress. In the olden days, the bridegroom was placed upon a dais, where he lay, while every lady approached and touched him, encouraging his passion. I find that practice crude and voyeuristic, not to mention disrespectful to the bridegroom. It hearkens back to a time, when every lady at a marriage feast fed upon the bridegroom. Now a days, the bridegroom’s hand is simply placed in the hand of his bride. The bride says a few words about how the bridegroom’s beauty will live within her forever, nourishing her future daughters, giving her fair, strong arms, with which to further his inner magic. For arachnocratic boys can’t cast magic themselves, poor things. They’re prettier than any other boys in existence, have enchanting voices, and a gift for making anyone listen to what they say, but they have no true magic. Well, a few have been able to tear their magic loose from within themselves, but it’s been at a terrible price. The magic bleeds and leaks all over the place, driving the boy mad in the process. No sane youth would ever do such a thing, when his magic can be safely ingested by his bride. This is what happens, during the marriage feast. Within a private chamber, the bride consummates her marriage with her bridegroom and devours him. If she’s a lady, she’ll make certain the consummation is pure ecstacy. Quite a few ladies practice on willing (and unwilling) victims to make certain they’re quite skilled, before taking a virgin bridegroom into her web. The feast itself can involve either swallowing the bridegroom whole, or draining him of blood, or vitality. What’s important is the bridegroom’s life force, along with his magic, is taken into the bride. Once the feast is complete, she’ll find herself growing an extra pair of arms. An additional pair of eyes opens upon her face. She may even be pregnant, with a daughter, if she’s lucky. What happens to the bridegroom, after his life force is ingested? Well, pardon my lack of delicacy, but you must have noticed we have no grown men among us. All our males are young, sweet and unmarried. Almost every arachnocratic boy becomes a bridegroom. Once he’s been feasted upon, he’s no longer a part of this world. There’s never an unsightly corpse, though! Our bridegrooms become translucent, crystalline statues, leaving behind a beautiful shell of their former selves. A former bride places them in her garden, or other places of respect, honoring their part in her growth in power. After all, she wouldn’t have her extra arms, or any daughters, if not for them, would she? Don’t look at me like that! It’s a great honour to be a bridegroom. If a lady doesn’t want a boy as her marriage feast, it means he’s undesirable. Other boys start teasing him, calling him ‘left overs’. I can’t understand why Damian doesn’t want to be a marriage feast! He’s perfectly delectable, bursting with power, just waiting to be devoured! We’re both Ashelockes, so he’s guaranteed to give me a beautiful set of arms, as well as a powerful daughter! Duessa really should discourage him from trying to develop magic of his own! I’ve never seen her act so foolishly indulgent of a boy before! It’s as if he administered Bridegroom’s Bliss to her! Well, it’s of no matter. Damian Ashelocke must come around. After after, a wedding feast is the only possible ending to an arachnocratic boy’s life and I’m the only bride worthy of him. Soon, he’ll have to accept my embrace, along with me. I just need to be patient and wait.