Okay, first the good news. I now have enough spider silk to repair pretty much everything on this continent. Bad news is, I’m still mostly not a fan of fighting spiders, especially the big ones that can talk. Didn’t know my original views on spiders could have gotten worse, but there you have it.
So, I didn’t wait for the spider to regain control of its body fully, I smashed it as hard as I could with my very incredible mace. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this mace? Even more so that I know a bit about its history, who wielded it and so forth. Frankly, it has magic that makes it easier to hit your target and to do significantly more harm to your target when you land a blow.
I can’t be sure, but I’m wondering if the green sight may have helped as well. That first blow staggered the creature, breaking chitin and damaging one or more eyes on that side. Staggered is not killed. It leapt into the air, seriously, like over my head and would have landed directly on top of Kithri if I hadn’t had the divine grace the sight afforded me. Instead, I stepped back with my right foot, pivoting as I moved, and caught the thing a crushing blow, knocking it sideways. I smashed three of its legs with that blow, which was not enough to make it fall over. Still, it lurched drunkenly when it rose. I can’t imagine having eight legs, but when they are something you are accustomed to, losing one or more has got to create a cognitive disconnect.
Then the strangest thing happened. It backed away from me, waving its two front legs, and began to cry.
There is a point when the surreal becomes the sublime. I stood, breath like a bellows, ready to rush forward and finish the beast. The part that stopped me was when it literally fell onto its belly and asked for protection from The Green Lady. I stopped in my tracks, lowering my mace and softened my face, perplexed and curious. Analise had mentioned this ancient deity when she first met me. I recalled this deity represented a group who cherished the wild lands, the natural beauty of the world, and the creatures who lived in them.
I thought back over the events at hand and wondered how I had misinterpreted the situation. In my green sight I could see this vibrant creature with swaths of red pain radiating from where I had struck it and I realized it had not struck me even a minor blow.
I stepped back, standing in front of Kithri and slung my mace on my belt. That was the moment for the beast to lunge at me, bite me and sting me, do what spiders do when they take down their prey. Instead it cowered back, its mandibles clacking as it whimpered in pain.
Once it was out of my reach, it turned its back to me and prayed. Honest to goodness, prayed to The Green Lady, imploring her for guidance and protection, and an end to her suffering.
“I’m sorry,” I said, sitting down in front of Kithri. “I thought you were attacking my…” I paused. “One of my gods,” I finished, pointing to Kithri and feeling ludicrous.
It scrabbled a half turn, directing its undamaged set of eyes in my direction. “Why do you not kill me?” it asked. “You are man.”
And the lessons I had learned with the hobs and the goblins came crashing down on me like an anvil. Assumptions are not always accurate. Our biases make us fearful. Waiting until I had been stung by this creature would have been foolish, but my experiences stated that spiders attack prey. I was prey. But maybe, at least in this case, I was wrong. My head hurt.
“I thought you were attacking me,” I replied. “I have been attacked by your kind before.”
If you can believe it, the thing snorted. “We all look alike to you.”
What could I say. All spiders did look alike to me. My instincts were to crush them if I could, or kill them with fire if I had no other means of dispatching them.
I tentatively reached out with the green divine and felt its life force like the peace of the reflecting pond at the monastery, but as deep as the oceans that I have read about but have yet to see.
“I apologize for attacking you,” I said, realizing that I had struck the first blow.
It scuttled around a bit more, bringing all its bulbous eyes into view, highlighting more of the damage I had delivered. “You do not want to kill me?”
I shook my head. Honestly I didn’t want to kill anything I didn’t have to. Okay, maybe gorge-wings, but now that I’ve figured a way to co-exist with them via the green divine, maybe my stance on them would soften.
“I reacted out of fear,” I said, folding my hands on my lap. “Many spiders have tried to kill me in my lifetime. They have killed some of my friends.”
The spider did not move again, but watched me, shuddering with the pain which glowed brightly in my enhanced sight.
“I understand that your limited life experience has burdened your beliefs,” it replied. “You are ignorant and do not understand enough of the world to know better.”
Harsh, but truthful.
“May I heal you?” I asked.
It scrambled back three strides, poised to bolt. “You would lull me with pretty words and kill me when I let you approach.”
It had a good point. “I don’t think I need to touch you to heal you,” I said. “Just hold still for a moment and I will see if I can lesson your pain.”
It shuddered for two full breaths then clacked its mandibles twice.
“Does that mean yes?” I asked.
It clacked its mandibles twice again. “Yes,” it said.
I studied the way the pain radiated out from the first blow I had landed. There were pieces of its chitin that I had smashed on the left side of its head and two of its eyes on that side had been ruptured. I concentrated, letting the vitality of the green flow into me, filling me with life and used it to daub at the great swath of red that wreathed the creatures head. It gasped, scuttling back two more steps, but then froze. The red was dissipating. My heart pounded in my chest and my muscles tensed. This was so much harder than healing with Kithri’s brand of divine. Is this why Liz healed so little? I had to make amends.
“Is that helping?” I asked.
The beast clacked its mandibles twice so I continued. I grew exhausted before I could heal it completely, but I managed to repair its eyes and face, as well as two of the three legs I’d smashed. When I collapsed forward onto my hands with my head swimming from the exertion and my breath coming in gasps, the creature rose onto its seven good legs and gave me a salute.
“Perhaps we have learned something this day,” it said to me, bowing. “I have learned that not all men are murderers.”
I glanced up, thinking I had found a new level of enlightenment, a new way to see the world. What I didn’t count on was the web that the beast shot from its abdomen., pinning me to the ground.
“The Green Lady will be pleased,” it said as it scrambled around me and began to wrap Kithri in a cocoon of silk.
“Wait,” I cried out. “I healed you. I thought it was a misunderstanding.”
“Yes,” the creature said. “That is why I leave you alive. We are not all barbarians.”
And with that it hoisted Kithri into the tree and scrambled out of sight.