How I hunger! Don’t look at me like that. Well, I suppose you can’t help but admire my beauty. Unlike my perverse cousins, I’m a proper lady. I only feast upon my bridegroms, although I can’t help snacking a bit. I’ve already had three marriage feasts, beginning with my little Dyvian. How delicious his submissive, yet secret rage was, how spicy! I felt so empty once I devoured him. Oh, I had his beautiful husk which I placed in my garden, but the spirit animating him was gone.
“This is the price of an arachnocrat’s power.” Duessa’s words rang in my ears, a horrid echo which continues to haunt me. “Do not shirk from your marriage feasts. Revel in them. Live your life with enough vitality for yourself, your daughters, and your lost bridegrooms.”
The great Duessa said something similar when she chose my fragile little brother to be her fourth bridegroom.
It was my duty to let her have him, yet it pained me, letting him go!
“Do not grieve for Christopher. I do him the greatest honor imaginable by adding his power to my own. I shall use it to do great things for Arachnia.”
Great things, my Lady Duessa? Admittedly, Christopher was only a boy, nothing much to mourn over. He was a sweet boy, though, and what have you done with the power you drank from him during the marriage feast?
Grow extra eyes and arms.
You won’t even let me visit Christopher in your garden, see the example of grace and beauty he must set, standing among the flowers.
I haven’t thought of Christopher in so long. I didn’t notice when you took him, not really.
Damian did. Damian suffered in a way our boys never should. Arachnocratic boys should be beautiful and carefree, growing up cherished. You let our little Damian suffer, grow angry. What’s worse is you taught him. You silly fool, you offered him an education in magic and other arts no boy should need.
Worst of all, you let him escape. I still can’t believe you let that androgyne from the Temple of Direction steal Damian away from us.
I truly do detest you, my dear Duessa. Damian should have been mine by rights. He will be mine. You’ve proven you’re only too careless in guarding our boys.
Now Dyvian has disappeared from my garden where he’s stood ever since our marriage feast. Something is dreadfully wrong.
I can guess what it is. You’re weakening, my dear, and that pretty daughter of yours has always been weak. Your power is being siphoned off by the Shadow Forest.
Can it be that the Spider you made a contract with to create Arachnia so long ago is losing interest in you?
Serves you right for boring her, Duessa, with your decadence and your hypocrisy, your freaks and Valentines.
Things will change, oh yes, once I have Damian. He shall be the marriage feast that gives me not only my seventh and eighth arms and eyes. He’s powerful enough to increase the might of Arachnia tenfold at least.
Serves you right, Duessa for all your dull speeches, warning us to be willing to sacrifice our brothers and sons, all of our male kinfolk while they’re young and tender, to never let them grow up to be men. Given half a chance, you’ll have us all yawning with your talk about how men and their patriarchies inspired you to contract with the Spider, creating Arachnia as a haven away from all that.
You’ve told us all way too many times not to get attached to males, yet you broke your own rules, Duessa. Shame on you. You allowed Damian to become a man, an enemy.
Happily I’m here to save us all from you, Duessa. I shall devour the enemy you created, consuming his strength as the Spider commanded every arachnocratic bride to do so.
Do you even remember your first husband, dear? I do. Stefan Ashelocke still stands in your garden or I hope so. Perhaps he’s vanished, too. I often suspected him of whispering to Dyvian. Perhaps he communes with Damian, too.
My own visions warn me of peril facing not just the Ashelockes, but every arachnocrat in Arachnia.
The only way to prevent this peril is to take Damian before someone else does. That’s something else my visions warn me of. Others want him. Others will claim him if I don’t act swiftly.
Oh, don’t worry, my dear Duessa. I’ll savour every last drop of your sweet little nephew, oh, yes. Don’t think I love him any less than you do. Truly, he’s a fascinating creature, intriguing as well as dangerous. The dangerous difference between him and other arachnocratic boys only make him stand out. Unlike you, though, I shall not let his allure sway me as you have. I shall take Damian the way every boy should be taken.
Perhaps I’ll take you, too. Oh, dear, how grotesquely perverse I’ve become. I’ve started to wonder, though, if there isn’t something to Melyssa’s inclinations. If I take your power and position, perhaps I should drain your vitality from you as we do our bridegrooms. Perhaps we arachnocrats have grown too complacent amidst our bevies of boys coying flirting with each, while anticipating one if us feasting upon him. The threat of ladies attacking other ladies might sharpen us, make us less decadent.
Truly disgusting, such uncivilized brutality, so twisted. I shrink away from the idea of becoming such an unladylike lady.
If I am to best Duessa, I’ll have to think like her, anticipate her, try to be better than her.
I look forward to the challenge.