"The River."

That storm long since dreaded had arrived, its influences at first eluding the detection of most. Then again, that alien call, not since experienced since the Eldritch Edifice, was not a sensation so readily forgotten. Despite the flow of time, the changing seasons and histories' repetitious nature. The Svengali maintained clarity, recollecting every note of that nerve-racking dirge. She had done all she could do to safeguard her people, and while it might have yet to swell into a tempest. She understood the monsoon was imminent and would test each action she had taken. Outwardly, the monarch had to appear resolute while hanging within her web; however, internally, she trembled.

 With the hairs on her neck standing upright, Valerna queried where it would strike first? Some might classify fear as frailty; these men were idiots. They were purposefully neglecting to take into account the necessity of what can be a crippling emotion. Wisdom was derived not from flinging it aside but sculpting that sentiment into a uniquely beneficial instrument. Regardless, the guillotine that was aloft still substantiated itself as quite the menace. While she might have known of that impending peril, this didn't precisely imply she could completely compartmentalize such jeopardy. Which, admittedly, did confer much exasperation. You see, there was no known solvent to ameliorate the vexation afflicted by before-mentioned ignorance.

As much as it grieved her to acknowledge it, vigilance and prudence were the only two agents available at the moment. The scrambling of her troops as if deranged could only disperse seeds of division in what was otherwise purportedly stable. Concordantly, her first plan was quite naturally perfect; it was faultless and sublime. A mastery rivaled only by its monumental collapse. The certainty of its conclusion is self-evident due to the blemish latent in every soul. Thus, she promptly redesigned it based on history to exhibit the diverging grotesqueries of our essence more concretely. However, once again, she was discouraged by negligence. Valerna had since come to recognize that the resolution eluded her because it demanded a lesser viewpoint or conceivably a mind far less hampered by the hunger for logical perfection. Thus, the solution was floundered upon by chance. That choice was equally a remedy and a scourge, paradoxical, yet irrefutable.

 That all life was the sum of a remnant of a neurotic equation. Integral to the subliminal programming of the dreamer. We are simply the eventuality of an irregularity. Notwithstanding outside forces' sincerest applications, they've been powerless to eradicate what is contrarily analytical precision. While it preponderates as a nuisance to circumvent it sedulously, it is not accidental, thus not exceeding a control measure. That has guided them, inexorably, here, to her domain. This brought Valerna to a moment of truth, wherein the primary defect is ultimately expressed, and the aberration is unveiled as both beginning and end. As she sufficiently theorized, the dilemma is choice. Long since shedding the puerile notions of Hope, it is the quintessential sentient delusion, concurrently the reservoir of one's greatest strength and one's most prominent vulnerability.

Both sides were at war; make no mistake. And the battlefield, while it may be earthly. Will transpire on one not so traditional to the dull-minded, a conflict of attrition to fragment their spirits. Butcher our world not just by the sword. But by peeling us of our Hope and our eagerness to rationalize. The war of the body and the mind, two fronts, where only one will reign triumphant. Or so she conjectured..

Immortality, the pursuit of many fools, was anything but blissful. The rancid nature of perpetual permanence, scarcely contemplated, yet this desolation was something Valerna knew all too well. The odyssey that is her life, by design, was a string of highs and lows—culminating in that inevitable precipice, a summit where the terminal plunge took place. Death, for all of its negativity, was a necessary function. No matter how strong, a woman was not engineered to bury her children—the natural harmony of our world, decreeing that a parent should be the one to wilt first.  The despondency and wretchedness of watching your offspring die is a trial few know and one none should ever taste.  Entropy, and its baleful cinch, had long since been the bane tormenting her cognizance.

Notwithstanding all her power, those vast lists of achievements and worldly attainments were powerless to abate her failure. Enfeeblement, seldom an emotion one reveled within, but one all were doomed to welter in. What advantage was the mind, what significance did prowess hold, if those you held dear inescapably turned to ash within your hands? The spider had enacted many changes and rose above an innumerable amount of obstacles, yet she could never cross this one river. Glee, while fleeting, like a wine, did much to mollify her depression. Nevertheless, once the smile had faded, she'd inevitably come face to face with that dreary reality. Despite her sincerest efforts, this weaver of webs was preordained to sulk alone within that filigree. 

Valerna was faced with that unsetting revelation; her shrewd mind had to cultivate a motivation to keep such misery away. Alcohol worked for a time before eventually deteriorating her mental state. While providing an "out of body" experience, drugs couldn't fill those chasms ripping the heart asunder.  But, the jungle and its people, bettering their existences, contributed genuine satisfaction. Many might wonder, why? Why keep trekking along? The answer was anything but inane. The choice wasn't pursued because it was comfortable, no, instead because it was arduous. And, if she should be doomed to endure this endless journey alone, then she might as well take this negative and spin it into a positive for those destitute souls. 

While most gained pleasure in violence, staring into the pages, reading about tragedies and woes afflicted on others from a safe distance as a method of being amused. Valerna hankered for something entirely contrary; wanting to apprehend rapture through that of her people vicariously is what spurred her onward. Civilization, since its formulation, was constructed around a singular principle. That a collective, whenever working as one, was more significant than the sum of the individual. And Valerna was just that, a single speck, and though she might be more prominent, a grain of sand is barely deserving of consideration. So by architecting a fine tapestry, tugging the diverse populace inward, she ascertained that intangible yet powerful concept known as purpose. For it is a purpose that guides us, purpose that differentiates us; without it, we are cast adrift within the river. Unable to resist the current, only to be battered against the rocks. 

This introspection, while seemingly profound to some, was blatantly apparent to the matron. And so, she wrote a song, a melody so that she never forgets and risks once more being pulled by that undertow.

 "Nature, nurture, heaven, and home

Sum of all, and by them, driven

To conquer every mountain shown

But I've never crossed the river

Braved the forests, braved the stone

Braved the sandstorm and the fire

Braved and beat them on my own

Yet I'm helpless by the river

 

Angel, angel, what have I done?

I've faced the quakes, the wind, the fire

I've conquered country, crown, and throne

Why can't I cross this river?

 

Pay no mind to the battles you've won

It'll take a lot more than rage and muscle

Open your heart and hands, my son

Or you'll never make it over the river

 

It'll take a lot more than words and guns

A whole lot more than riches and muscle

The hands of the many must join as one

And together we'll cross the river

 

It'll take a lot more than words and guns

A whole lot more than riches and muscle

The hands of the many must join as one

And together we'll cross the river

 

Nature, nurture, heaven, and home

It'll take a lot more than words and guns

Sum of all, and by them, driven

A whole lot more than riches and muscle

To conquer every mountain shown

The hands of the many must join as one

And together we'll cross the river

 

Braved the forests, braved the stone

It'll take a lot more than words and guns

Braved the icy winds and fire

A whole lot more than riches and muscle

Braved and beat them on my own

The hands of the many must join as one

And together we'll cross the river

 

And together we'll cross the river

 

And together we'll cross the river

Nature, nurture, heaven, and home

And together we'll cross the river

And together we'll cross the river

Nature, nurture, heaven, and home

And together we'll cross the river

And together we'll cross the river"

"Memoria."

Another year, and while most reveled in this ritual, Valerna relived the horrors each time. Those majestic retellings were a way of experiencing a myth; nonetheless, it was anything but some fabrication in their Matron's eyes. That smell, the taste of consumed gore, those strands of flesh caked onto her vessel; they never went away. Once more, the brood mother had to forsake her happiness to ensure the sake of appearances and the gaiety of her people. Those hazel eyes peered across the balcony, taking in the numerous flamboyant decorations strewn about the exterior of those boney pyramids. This was a mirthful time, where the Dynasty came as one and insultingly deprecated past sacrifices to stoke their contemporary motivations.

 

The cacophony of their geity, ricocheting against those fortified structures if nothing else, this lull before the hurricane might give them something to fight for once the aversions appear. Those streets of bleached bones were comprised of marrow and other such remnants. They were reflecting the radiance from artificial lighting, those gems broadcasting various celebratory hues. The way they twinkled, while professedly trivial to some, was a modern marvel. The Svengali averted her gaze, gawking toward the atmosphere, as she took in the first of a few flickering stars. The firmament, how it seldom changed, unlike this bitter earth they called home. Nations rise and fall, royal lines disintegrate, yet those jewels of the heavens appeared eternally ensnared within the sky. 1,600 years of languishing, this world, her cage, she was required to tarry as if penitence had been demanded of her. Ironic, those distant sojourners of eventide, while they've never met, it appeared they had much in common.

 

The Arachnoid, letting out a tender exhalation as she crept back within her lair. Such rumination wouldn't linger, the spirit yanked from dawdling, as that aroma of baked goods and barbecued meats whisked within the breeze. As the nights before, the temperature was fair, a cold front swept bringing with it a tempest. A reminder that no matter how tumultuous life might present itself, hope and serenity may be a daybreak away. Her bedroom, embellished in ossein and webbings, unlike their southern neighbors, Valerna didn't see much value in gold. Still, given their recent interactions, she felt it prudent to dress accordingly to keep the appearance. That voluptuous body, being denuded, as she slipped on a ruby dress over her chitin. The visible canvas was devoid of blemishes, as those arachnoid ligaments intuitively ironed out and secured her clothing.

 

 Her hair, combed back, appearing wet as she peered into a polished silver mirror. That body in her eyes is disfigured—the taint from that distant memory whittling away any value from her feminity—those kempt brows unfurled while those veneered talons stroked against her bosom before resting on the heart. No amount of makeup could remedy her internalized disgust; no volume of perfume could elevate that sorrowful mood. Beyond these fortified walls, many fancied her as above them when, in actuality, Valerna was just as vulnerable, if not more so. The weight on her shoulders, soul-crushing, made all the more intolerable due to how lonely it was on top. Rising to her feet, she had one final glance athwart the room, querying how many of her fallen brethren remains were still fused with this bedchamber? And, if they could look upon her worldly attainments, what would they think?

 

The guards outside were on alert, their spiderlings remained close to their side as the streets were crowded. Many performers would be observed from throat vocalists, musicians, seers, and acrobats throughout those streets. Many giants were nude, covered in paint made from blood, dancing throughout the city around fires with a wooden effigy suspended over the pyres. Exquisite jewelry of bone and stones were being peddled, along with skin-backed books and other such souvenirs. Pits housing many creatures were tucked throughout, where nonnatives can come and see the outlandish animals of this jungle. If none of this titillated a wanderer's inclination, there was always the booze and the boxing arenas. The festivities were routine to the residents, and few, if any, still regarded such whimsical retellings as anything but fiction.

 

 Sneaking off, the Queen marched to the river, gawking into its near still waters at the reflection of the pale moonlight. Here, she always managed to find lucidity within her meditations. The tone of the current ordinarily pacified her; regrettably, tonight, its ambiance seemed absent. Why did she frequent such a mundane spot just outside of those towering trees? Because this was the spot where she died and was reborn. And that whirlpool, which motivated the current, persevered as a monument of her wickedness. Thankfully, she had time to deliberate and compose herself before showing face and addressing those she represented. Fireworks were erupting in the heavens as their rose glare juxtaposed faultlessly with the moon's spectral image on the waters. Poetic, all this power, and yet, she still couldn't cross this river...

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