"Diplomacy."

The one death had left behind, the undying voyager Valerna. Even now, as the spider traversed the sea of dunes, her mind marveled at how this providence stagnated. Many a time had she rambled athwart the globe. Her feet had trodden across many climates, yet none demonstrated themselves treacherous as this white desert. The denizens who anointed this wasteland home were calloused. Their cruces were bereft of empathy as they lolled within their avarice. It was ironic how many were apt to look for monsters. Yet failed to recognize the grandest ghoul of all, the depravity of one's heart.

 

The giantess could only imagine what these sand apes dubbed her. A despicable encroacher, the maleficent interloper? No matter the accolade awarded, Valerna doubted it was positive. While her web was ubiquitous, it wasn't spun out of malignancy. The ignoramuses of this kingdom were predisposed to radiate shade, supposing insidious ruses where only benignity nested. She recalled this arid hellscape well. Epochs of the distant past were all under the yoke of a cruel master. How this arachnoid discharged her web and uprooted the blight that deteriorated their willpower.

 

Not that this current generation would care. No, the White Sand's Empire couldn't care less for their history. They yearned to return to that vomit and wrangle amongst one another like children. While they remained motionless, the Verdant Dynasty billowed under her direction. That once-great Chasm between the two powers had been inverted. And for the first time in history, their southernly neighbors discovered themselves with their back against the walls. The web weaver could smell it; the dread was palpable. Not amongst the riff-raff, but amidst those that lorded over them.

 

The lioness may have been their best shot. Yet lamentably for these sand chimps, the Eternal House had bloomed nearly a century too late. And whether or not Samara and her subjects fancied recognizing it, they lived on borrowed time. As they traversed the wastes, her sights glanced upon the people with compassion. A cruel fate, to languish under the iniquities of your forefathers. Notwithstanding this weighted heart, this Machiavelli couldn't intervene, not yet. Her web wasn't complete, and though many decades were invested in meticulously spinning it, she required more time.

 

A hefty exaltation divorced itself from those inviting lips as the spider combed those talons through her red mane. Leaning back within the coach, she'd cross her legs, withdrawing once more into that pensive stupor. The procession that girded her kept their senses whetted, negating the allure of complacency. Their spider transport skittered across the knolls, kicking up a thin trail of dust in their wake. Many bystanders gawked at the extravaganza, impressed by how speedily those insects could move. The queen remained secured behind a curtain, her fair vestige concealed from snooping gazes. All the while, she'd don on the expected habiliment.

 

The last few times she arrived within this desert, the sovereign festooned garb akin to their primitive taste in threads. An activity, while innocuous, was meant to bolster familiarity between the alien civilizations. But she was done capitulating. Valerna saw little wisdom in maintaining this maneuver. Having secured sufficient technological advantages, she'd make a grandiloquent statement. She'd disrobe and daintily piece together her risque stitchings of emerald and turquoise jewels. The spider employed that webbing. Each gem was adhered to her denuded skin, using just enough to make the adhesive twines imperceptible.

 

Such an arrangement of worldly attainments would be placed so that she was covered in a dazzling bikini top and bottom, with a partially diaphanous dress to obscure her lower half. Behind her apple bottom was a luxurious mini skirt of emerald and topaz-hued feathers from peacocks. They were further exemplified by a matching neck and headpiece parading the natural resplendence the jungle housed. The chieftain understood that her exposed skin might pester some, given the sands' oppressive atmosphere toward influential women and their beauty. Suppose this showy juxtaposition didn't convey her intended message. Then the Aranea would surmise them as more stolid-minded than initially envisioned. No matter, their arrival had not gone unnoticed given the sudden shift in pacing as well as the outside cacophony.

 

The convoy crawled into town, disrupting the typical bustle as the sentries on the walls prepared themselves. Valerna peeked through the curtain. Those auburn eyes detected their heightened stance. Good, such a precaution wouldn't scintillate dudgeon. The spider took it as a compliment that they feared and retained the last time she visited. The matron understood the routine. She'd soon find herself being chaperoned by some local authority. On paper, it was under the pretense of protection. But in actuality, it was more or less a spy, a methodology of keeping tabs on the foreign leader.

 

Eventually, the entourage would come to a complete stop about fifty or so feet from Niazmina and Perna. The bone-clad giants formed a parameter as they displayed unparalleled military discipline and bearing. Each one stood anywhere from eleven to thirteen feet in height. These guardians were bedecked in pelts of their favored game and necklaces of various sized fangs. On their hips were skulls, explosive ammunition should this establish itself as a trap. An aura of uncomfortableness dallied while the sentries persisted as utterly hushed. A single mount was positioned to the side about fifteen feet further back.

 

A flap of skin blew in the wind as the soldiers let out a unanimous grunt. One by one, following a wave pattern, they'd collide their skeletal gauntlets onto their breastplate before about facing and kneeling toward the transport's general direction. These men who once seemed indomitable unveiled their fealty. Such fidelity communicated volumes while a sense of conviction permeated from their chiseled bodies. Suddenly that curtain would be pushed open, as from the confines of that royal coach, a lone figure emerged. Upon her back were arachnid ligaments, each one shifting about autonomously from her control. As those excessive contours and bedazzling apparels practically sparkled under the binary suns.

 

Valerna remained composed, presenting her men an even lower salaam. She'd remain static until such a time as the last one rose, only to follow their example. Outwardly, this custom represented how she served them, not the other way around. However, this Svengali debated whether or not the residents would identify its more profound connotation. Once this ritual was completed, she'd redirect her body to face the baderkerkhan and her kitsune pup. Interesting, so it appeared they were going to drag a toddler around? Though such intrigue wouldn't be perceptible, lest she triturates the expected response.

 

One by one, the guards would fall back behind their matriarch only to reform a line. Once they had repositioned themselves, the twelve-foot giantess would sashay onward. Her broad hips and ample curves were not skittish to flaunt their charm. Yet, behind such a strut lingered a discernment of power. Beneath those brown lanterns glistened a tempered and experienced soul. Every slight movement of Valerna's hourglass body dispersed with it one thing, power. The gap between the parties dissipated as not once would she steer her orbs from off the lodestar.

 

The arachnoid stemmed her stride only to extend a bow toward her would-be escorts. The thread spinner kept a healthy fifteen feet between them as she readied to articulate.

 

"My name is Valerna Jorgenskull. The breaker of wills, the shatterer of bones, weaver of webs, scriber of flesh. The spider, matron of the Jorgenskull tribe, and queen of the Verdant Dynasty. I speak for myself, for none can adequately speak for me. While within your city, I pledge to uphold your customs, honor your practices where they need to apply and publicize before all that I've entered with exclusively peaceable intentions. I, the representative of my people, do solemnly swear to respect the wills of my escorts. And aspire to facilitate a beneficial relationship between the jungle and the desert's inhabitants. As evidence of this proclamation, I express such matters candidly; that way both of our people might hold me beholden to my word."

 

The spider once more bowed, this time holding that posture until such a time as it was reciprocated, and Niazimina had the opportunity to retort, however she'd choose.

Interesting, the inquisitor lowered that guard enough to parrot the insight of her utterances? Could it be that the Niazmina's disposition might yet wane under their fellowship? Such a prospect brought with it some solace. It materialized in the form of a simper. The spider paused, hearkening to her rejoinders before unfailingly their hands did meet. This enforcer's hands were soft yet cordial. Bringing with that contact an odd phenomenon as the web spinner weighed over this unforeseen development.

 

Ostensibly the two were separated by quite the divide. A chasm that wedged itself between their people exceeded the distance between their empires. Those natural borders might have distinguished the. Yet here, within one another's company, the world appeared relatively small. Perna wasted little time chattering off; the kitsune was filled with such optimism. This prattling inspired neither ire nor delight. She was only advancing the chieftain's point concerning the guilelessness ingrained in such babes.

 

The Svengali had felt the embers wafting between the two. The sort of ionization that heralded the kind of tethering she scarcely frolicked within. The fear of such idyllic meadows stirred within Valerna's core as the giant kept her composure. There was little reason for apprehension, at least for now. The spider needed to weave her web further and assess this morsel before surrendering to such sorriness demonstrated itself as judicious. With their hands now locked, the queen would ever so softly circle her thumb on top of the jackal's palm. Those auburn eyes were curiously gauging the reaction to such stimulus as she prepared to radiate forth more saccharine locutions.

 

"It would be inadvisable for us both to have gathered such proceedings would have progressed without some minor disharmonies. This clashing, while conceivably unnecessary, has conveyed much. I'd wager you have equally begun to see me in a new light, as I have you, Lady Khalil. Chafe not over such petty details; I find such sparks as necessary."

 

She purred, only to guide the chaperone to her side so that the baderkerkhan stood next to her pup. While young, Perna's bluntness and inquisitiveness flourished as endearing. And it would be boorish for the arachnid to leave the girl left to flounder in silence.

 

"While it is nice to welcome other's customs, Lady Perna. It is equally essential to keep ahold of your values. After all, isn't your mother similarly stunning? I think so. And while we might prefer differing shades of threads, we still beat from the same heart. Plus, I find you to be pretty as you are."

 

She smiled only to guide the pair toward her royal transport. The giantess was maintaining that regal yet foisting sashay. This juxtaposition between an alpha predator and a lady shouldn't have worked. Yet Valerna stood as an anomaly, evidence that such a marriage could thrive in peace. Once they reached the coach, one of her spider ligaments extended over, spreading that pelted flap as she let go of Niazmina's hand.

 

"Perhaps later, Lady Perna, I might impart some nuggets of wisdom. But, for now, let's retire from the binary suns. Lady Khalil, would you be as kind?"

 

Valerna petitioned, offering her hand as an aid should she require it to ascend into that royal carriage.

 

"Children are indeed a gift. I have found the most purpose under the thraldom of motherhood. My girls are of age now, but I always find myself wishing for more. I know it's odd to say out loud, but it feels natural."

 

She spoke in a more calm tone. Though, the Aranea doubted the escort would ascertain that hidden implication.

How tantalizing, the enforcer maintained a professional deportment notwithstanding the germination of such emotions. Niazmina needn't fret; the queen herself felt some measure of enthrallment. And given the spider's station and this jackal's lowly rearing, it reflected less becoming on Valerna. Still, such fraternization concerns weren't viewed as degrading within her society. Naturally, the same couldn't be said for the desert and its less refined traditions. The foreign leader mulled on this, slinking within a meditative state of introspection. Such ruminations were hardly expressed via her persistent body language or aura of professionalism.

 

The necromancer frittered little time before engaging in that welcomed gawking. The queen returned her ogling with the drudgery of communicating that she possessed a proximate magnetism. That confession only furthered her arousal pertaining to the inquisitor's character. To so blatantly acknowledge failure in one's appraisal was beheld as anything but a deficiency. Such modesty and adaptiveness reflected gaily on this baderkerkhan's qualities. This deduction only additionally stimulated the web weaver's intrigue.

 

Naizmina's sermon to her adoptive daughter wasn't altogether bereft of a point. The arachnoid hadn't roused from her throne and traipsed to the desert under such pretensions. Much to Valerna's chagrin, torpidity and its trance hadn't been neutralized to achieve such winsome pursuances. And while its dousing might macerate Perna's spirit, sometimes the truth necessitated a necessary sting. Then again, stranger things have transpired. The benefit of sojourning across the globe for thousands of years unveiled just how often improbability blossomed into reality.

 

"It fills my heart with mirth that you'd utter such thoughts out loud, Lady Khalil."

 

She added poignantly, a degree of frankness pervading from her lingua as she assisted the necromancer onto the carriage. Valerna was sure to transmit that acquainted sensation abreast the lady's essence as she held her hand ever so tenderly.

 

"I aim to facilitate a healthy rapport between our people. Naturally, we might be able to fit something in if time permits."

 

The web spinner purred, only to enter the transport behind the jackal. That flap was secured as the giant perched and crossed her muscular legs. The child's protest was bizarre, striking some vexation. Providentially for the pup, the sovereign would discount such chutzpah. The matron cleared her throat, affording Niazmina time to enlighten the orphan. After all, it wasn't her place to discipline. And such actions might only reopen the recently closed divide should she demonstrate herself so inconsiderate.

 

"It is quite the commitment. Laudably the good outweighs the bad."

 

She coquettishly nictated. This response was devised to ameliorate the enforcer's woes while supplying the chaperon with some support. The mount started to move, its scurrying causing the carriage to wobble a little at first as they drove deeper into Emerald City. The curtains alongside the bone lattice windows obscured the outside, but not enough to deprive them of the municipality's wonderment.

 

"I have seen many things. I have wandered the world for over two thousand years. The good, the bad, and the ugly have crossed my path. If anyone is qualified to announce beauty when they see it, it might as well be me. I roved this desert during the mer's oppressive regime. Knocked on the baderkerkhan's door long before they engaged with the outside world. Stood by the first Devante and humankind as the second epoch waned and the third commandeered its place. When the age of man ended, I was present only for the current system to bud in its place. I have trekked across many worlds, many environments and experienced their people and customs. I know beauty when I see it, and I dare say you're pretty."

 

She cautioned, wagging her talon playfully before leaning forward and pressing that claw against the Kitsune's nose. Jovially she'd wiggle it about only to chuckle—those auburn lanterns swerved to the jackal as she vested Niazmina with an alluring smile.

 

"My girls will always be my babies. No matter how much they age, no matter their accolades, I'll always see them as treasures. It bugs them, but such is the bond between parent and their offspring. Trust me, Lady Khalil. You will watch this fox grow into a woman. And, in due time, your bosom will swell with pride. And on that day, whenever it should appear, she will complain as you still refer to her as your little girl."

 

The Machavelli chortled, reclining back as she arched those tided brows. One of her spider ligaments reached behind her perch as it grasped a box of chocolate truffles, offering it to the two women.

 

"A delicacy of my people. Please, indulge yourselves. I promise you there isn't a treat like this anywhere to be found across the desert. When we arrive at the palace, I'll have some coffee prepared for you, Lady Khalil. However, that treat isn't for children. Unless you wish for your daughter to be bouncing off the walls from an abundance of vigor."

 

Valerna would withhold from addressing Perna by name until such a time as the family unit had that unsightly business settled. The chieftain's temperateness was difficult to miss, once more striving to demonstrate that she was anything but some savage. It was further clashing with her gargantuan stature and arachnoid additions.

Valerna froze, her eyes were drawn to the jackal as she appeared to have culled her distress. Could it be that the arachnid had failed to air on the side of caution and thus unveiled her pang? It was possible; she was in a reasonably relaxed position. Then again, the giant could have subconsciously lowered her guard in some hopeless play to garner a reaction. After all, it wasn't healthy keeping such vile emotions bottled up. A weighty exaltation exited from beyond those lips as the spider rapped her talons onto her lap.

 

Sheepishly the matron drew her gaze back to that window, gawking out across the breadth of the city. The concerned guardian strove to instill discipline onto the wild kitsune without delay. The chieftain refrained from interjecting. Thankfully the necromancer needn't worry. Valerna understood how children were predisposed to rambling off about the most peculiar things. And while improper, she had gathered that there was no disdain. Perna's little outburst was just that of a tot inept at categorizing the world around her.

 

"I'm glad you both savored it."

 

She paused, pondering if it would be wise to return their attention to that lapse in her composure.

 

"Sometimes, Lady Khalil, it is prudent not to tug on the spider's web. Some truths are best left buried in the past. Chafe not. Your disbelief is the most expected and, by extension, the most fallacious of rejoinders. Whether I speak the truth pertaining to my age matters little. Your faith over such matters is as formless as they are trivial. I know the reality, and that, for now, is enough."

 

While the thread weaver could have spurned her observation with silence, such reticence wasn't becoming. While anything but satisfactory, this address should toil as enough of a counter. A method of slaking that thirst without encouraging a several-hour conversation plagued by mistrust. That stern exterior cracked, giving way to a mirthful glimmer as her auburn eyes ogled the curious agent of the sands. Once more, the giantess wouldn't abstain from making her less than chaste attraction known. Could Niazmina foresee what was to transpire unavoidably? Could such a young and inexperienced dame have sensed such a "forecast"?

 

The spider lurched forward, her bosom swaying just within the escort's purview. A subtle invitation made all the more evident as rather bodaciously the arachnoid planted her hand on that thigh. This on-the-nose approach wouldn't subsist without a squall. This thundering came not in the way of a refusal, at least not yet. Perna's expressed yearning to renounce her country and gambol within the meadows under her governance was the root of it. Valerna said nothing initially, looking deeply into Niazmina's eyes as that thumbs rubbed against her to present relief. That touch communicated with it a connotation of understanding and sympathy.

 

"It is ok."

 

She added, only to turn her head and look upon the kitsune. That hand remaining rested as long as Niazmina might sanction. While the two remained perhaps uncomfortably close.

 

"When I was a young lass, about your age, I never knew a mother. My days were spent surviving the lashings of heartless elven masters. These fingers were sanded raw as they worked to keep my overlords wrath at bay. The yoke on my neck was heavy, too heavy. I never knew that light that glistens within your eyes when you look upon Lady Khalil. I am jealous. For you, Lady Perna, are beyond blessed."

 

Valerna paused, clearing her throat as she purposely moved across the carriage and roosted next to the inquisitor. That hand, not once leaving the jackal's thigh.

 

"I never wanted to kill a soul. My routine was centered on a single thing, survival. Battle, it isn't some game. And if you should go down this path, then do so for the right causes. When you are older, and if such thoughts still linger, perhaps. But, as it stands now. I will not separate a mother from her child. No, I think I have destroyed enough families for a lifetime."

The Machiavelli sighed, leaning back as her spider leggings intuitively brushed that red mane, slicking it back while those brown eyes gazed down at the child.

 

"I would give it all up to experience but a mile in your shoes. Each accolade, every step up the ladder that is my evolution. But I can't. Your mother is an experienced fighter. While perhaps not a legend, at least yet. She is more than equipped to tutor you. I, on the other hand, am not. These claws are meant to do one thing and one thing alone. And if left to themselves, they'd rip and tear apart anything they touch. It is nothing short of a miracle I have kept them under control for this long."

 

That look of reflection reared itself across her countenance once more. The spider wondered, letting out a whisper that Niazmina might overhear. But not audible enough to award it to the pup.

 

"Tlun Usstan natha bwael ilhar?" (Am I a Good mother?)

 

So far, she had ignored the jackal's revelation. Valerna cared little for her race nor their outlandish custom of pursuing amends for their great, great, great grandfather's iniquities. How the giant would love to tell her chaperon the truth. Expose just how often she had witnessed such a canard unfold. How every time the conclusion persisted unaltered. But she wouldn't. While a lie and misconception, this saccharine fiction was the necromancer's to savor.

 

"Indeed, Queen Samara will steer the sands to greener pastures."

 

She fibbed.

That wedge was unquestionable. What had initiated as a reassuring affair was torn asunder as quickly as it had emerged. The child's antics had sullied their engagement, rotting away the core. That hand, while initially touted, was spurned by that discomfiting air ionizing between the two. Niazmina ascribed the onus of rap on the spider. This much was evident. And while she mayhap was partway to reproach, Valerna cared little to oppugn such trifling perturbations.

 

The arachnids head pulsed vehemently. Valerna's mind stumbled to classify what had just occurred. Belatedly the chieftain removed her hand, resting it onto her own lap as those brown eyes yawed away from the two. The carriage rocked as the transport continued its travels, only to reach its destination. Abruptly it halted, only for the queen to remain mute as the two went about their little performance. Perna's shift appeared manipulative, ensuing from nowhere. Even her verbiage had pivoted to that of a babe.

 

Could it be the kitsune was overprotective? What had the thread spinner done to warrant such an approach? There were many questions, all of which were verified equally laborious and ultimately purposeless. The mood had swerved so drastically from its original path to the point reclamation materialized as a fruitless endeavor. The inquisitor hadn't believed her tale, and at this point, was misaligned. And if there was one thing the matron knew, it was the perils afforded by the attraction that is second-guessing.

 

The web weaver kept her eyes focused on the other side of the cart, only to rise from her seat and push aside that flap gradually. There, standing by the threshold, the redhead looked back over that shoulder. This dawdling didn't compliment the giant as she prepared to give the two a proper moment to get their house in order.

 

"Deal with your daughter. Take your time. I will be waiting outside."

 

Without any further pause, the queen vacated the carriage securing the flap behind her so they might enjoy some privacy. Standing outside the former epicenter of power, the queen gawked up at its spiraling structure. Her mind was meandering into thought, recalling how much blood had formerly saturated this city. The mer dynasty, its tyrannical hold, had been stripped. Only for one failed state after another to slither from the umbra and sink its fangs into the people. The sands were cursed, condemned to abide within an unending cycle of anguish. What mania, what folly to repeat the same routine yet envision a differing result.

 

No, Samara would fall. Her eternal house would be ironically short-lived. This wasn't a matter of assuming. She had already failed to maintain control thrice, initially, during the first plummet of this hedonistic society. Additionally, when the defilement soared across the firmaments when she was left alone and abandoned. And lastly, during the jungle's incursion. Niazmina could wallow in such self-deception all she wanted. In the end, nothing would be left but sand and ash—the two things this horrid badlands had in spades.

 

Perhaps the arachnid should invade this time in full force? Goad the cow to ignite her precious volcano and coerce the survivors under her banners? No, that would manifest itself as imprudent. These savages would only nip at her heel and sow discord in what was ostensibly utter symmetry. The denizens of this haven of troglodytes didn't deserve to rest within her webbing. They merited one thing, the fruits of their struggles. Unfortunately for them, such an apple was corrupted to the core.

 

Made all the more irrefutable by how here she was being the adult and chaperoning what was to be her caretaker. Valerna queried if the necromancer felt any semblance of discomfiture? Was she even cognizant of this effrontery and disrepute? Or, better yet, did the baderkerkhan even possess such chasteness?

That time separated from the dysfunctional family unit was appropriated for some much-needed reflections. However, her time to herself would thankfully not persist for too long. The jackal and her offspring exited the transport as the spider faced them. There, standing in the open, her hair drifted within the desert breeze. A gentle smile, one that stood in direct contrast to her tall and monstrous chitin resided over her face. Valerna's brown eyes loitered over the single mother, presenting a solemn nod while the necromancer saw fit to apologize. She needn't worry. The chieftain understood the wild and volatile nature of children all too well.

 

Within this pale's beauty mind, what mattered little wasn't the misbehaving but how the guardian handled such an effect. That lingering shame, the residue of discomfort, was all too prevalent. The web spinner beheld it clear as day as the two stood underneath the binary suns. Apart of the arachnid deliberated if she had come on too strong? Had she inadvertently spoiled what was germinating into quite the enticing game? How the giant had forgotten how their people refuted the flesh, seeking meaning in more chaste avenues. Naturally, she beheld such inclinations as unbefiting, and shallow given the deserts less than amicable history.

 

"It is fine; I see little worth in dwelling on the past. What matters is that it has been settled. Everything else is mostly inconsequential."

 

She added poignantly, wishing to banish any profane energy between the two. A pity the inquisitor appeared resilient to her allurement. Such a gorgeous specimen would look wonderous enshrouded by her webbing. Those auburn eyes couldn't refute that still present magnetism as they unabashedly took in her sculpture. Her appreciation would be overlooked while the agent appeared in a hurry. No doubt still squirming from that beforementioned distress. Indeed, they were close to that lair; however, Valerna saw little reason not to tarry.

 

"A minute please."

 

She added, only to step to the caramel morsel's side. There, loafing close and towering over the lady, the weaver lifted her hand. That talon dared to brush away loose hairs only to trail downward the jowl. A chortle accompanied by a smile greeted Niazmina as the foreign queen squandered little time in savoring this electrifying moment. Valerna had to know for sure if this woman had the gumption to tug on her silken thread. Did this jackal pang to be enmeshed and experience the sort of carnal delight only she could bestow? Or had those embers been snuffed?

 

"It feels right, doesn't it? Try not to overthink it. Something in this world is difficult to classify. Yet when one experiences it, its certitude is impossible to brush aside."

 

She purred, that verbiage vague to hopefully exceed the child's understanding yet unambiguous enough for the parent to grasp its inferred connotations. The matron removed her hand, licking her dry lips before she turned to face the building, gaiting toward its doors. That feather attire swayed in the wind as those jewels glistened 'neath the ambient light. Her stride stopped while she'd wait for the chaperon to take the lead and escort her to that room she'd be residing within during the soon-to-come diplomatic meetings.

 

"Vex not, should you find yourself so inclined. My door is always open. Your people may put a lot of stock in classes. Yet we Jorgenskulls see beauty as ever-present and equally deserving of adoration. If you protest or decline the offer at a private meeting, I'll understand. Our customs are not the same, and I shouldn't expect you to capitulate to my edicts. After all, I'm not your queen. I am just the big bad foreign interloper—the evil, savage spider who exists exclusively to suck your realm dry. By the elders, that must look fantastic on a leaflet."

 

She chuckled.

The spell had performed marvelously. The incantation that bewitched the jackal was not of the arcane, yet it emerged indistinguishable from it. Those roused stimuli beckoned the caramel maiden into her web. Her silvery orbs long since betrayed her thraldom. Niazmina needn't say anything, for the queen was sure she'd soon claim her prize. For now, she'd loiter close, keeping that touch present until such a time as the necromancer marshaled the resolve to relinquish its hold. The spider needed to gift her morsel with some notion of control, even if it were a lie.

 

The stammering juxtaposed brilliantly with the inquisitor's eventual refutation. That donned camouflage held no jurisdiction, causing her following words to ring hollow. Despite Niazmina's protest, the glint of curiosity and the need to feel such earthly delights swelled within her breast. The arachnid grinned, dropping her hand while she'd extend a single nod. That affirmation was merely a platitude—a means to further charm the enmeshed meal. Valerna wasn't offended. She more or less understood the appeal of outward appearances. Many sought to maintain both, yet their private hankerings ultimately prevailed in the end.

 

Her third declaration absolved the spinner of webs of any doubt. The certitude of her entrapment wafted from that oral muscle. A dog whistle that to most might appear benign was the admittance of caving to one's bodily wants. That smile of endorsement was further embellished by how those auburn lanterns blew little time, giving a brief go-over of the chaperone's figure.

 

"Indeed, there is much we can discover and glean from one another. Both the desert and the jungle have certain aspects worth indulging."

 

Such a calm tone coated her rejoinder. Valerna was almost positive her retinue could read between the lines. While she might appear innocent, the spider doubted she was that oblivious. The child's silence afforded them the proper temper. Those intangible ropes linking the two as its hold seemed to tighten. The opulence decorating those stone walls held no appeal. The giantess cared little for precious metals and beheld such pomposities as unbecoming. The irony of such materialism being hoarded wasn't lost to the queen. She often wondered how Samara could sleep knowing many languished within destitution while she cavorted amidst such attainments.

 

Their travel continued unabated, the hush only further amplifying that charge radiating abreast the two. Valerna was eyeing the door while the jackal finally discontinued her gait. The foreign seductress stopped alongside her. The hairs on her neck rose as she felt as if they were being watched. Calmly the matriarch peeked over her shoulders, only to see a face she had seen before. A mer with ashen hair, tall, decked in blackened scales, was reclined against a nearby wall. Those eyes were stunning, yet beneath their vibrant hues, the giant sensed the appetite of a killer.

 

Those brown eyes deviated back to her lodestar as she spoke. These lodgings were to be hers throughout the negotiations. No doubt such a cell was ornated in many pieces of art, the finest sheets with a stunning view of the metropolis. All distractions that were designed to lower Valerna's guard.

 

"Ah, thank you."

 

Valerna purred, her form shrinking so that she could adequately fit 'neath that threshold. Such magic might catch them by surprise. Though, conceivably not given it was their one skillset the desert was partially aware of. Once inside. the arachnoid would strut across the chamber, only to rest on top of that outer perch. Those hands clutched the railing as her lanterns peered at the horizon. The sound of their city reaching those ears, its clamor ignored while the feather and jeweled clad beauty turned to look upon the two.

 

"Lady Niazmina, Lady Perna, thank you for escorting me. I appreciate your company; it has been enlightening. As we discussed, inquisitor, feel free to return to my quarters come nightfall if you have time. I would love to discuss further with you concerning private matters."

 

The temptress beamed. Her air once more emitted a welcoming atmosphere sparked from less than wholesome aspirations.

 
 
spiderhoney2 (2)_edited.png
Vkq2a.png

"A second chance."

The paucity of self-indulgence had whittled the arachnoid to her core. Her time was often invested in manners regarding the bigger picture. The fickled nature of others often fostered with it destructive aims. And while outwardly her federation might appear tranquil, the thread weaver wasn't one to adopt complacency. Valerna had witnessed many times how things tended to succumb to entropy. If her umbrella state were to endure, it demanded continuous prudence and awareness. Yet, in lieu of her reputation, Valerna Jorgenskull was still very much a woman and panged after the same things all ladies yearned after.

 

For too long, she had abided within the tenebrosity of her lair, weaving quite the filigree to keep her empire from tearing apart at the seams. This solitude sowed seeds of temerity, internal plights that led the spider to second guess her crusade. Recently, she had opened her heart to another, a jackal who had been appointed as her chaperon. Their time together materialized as promising, convincing the nonnative to extend an offer. The spider had left her heart wide open, all for the hopes of feeling an emotion long since deprived of her, love. There, within her lodgings, the auburn-haired beauty donned her most gorgeous attire, lit the finest scented candles, and even prepared a meal famed within her homeland. She had hoped that such exposures to her culture might guide Niazmina to dismiss the propaganda she had surfeited on.

 

Alone she waited, nervously playing out how things might transpire. The pale beauty was rehearsing the event within her mind as if preparing herself for failure. The hours crept on by. Initially, Valerna duped herself into believing maybe her duties were responsible for her tardiness. Yet as the sun settled beyond the horizon, she sat alone in the darkness. The spider came to terms with the truth. Her monstrous appearance and foreign attire must have repulsed the necromancer. Ironic, the chieftain had subjugated nations, led the development of industry, and built up a superpower from nothing. Yet was powerless within the foray of matters regarding the heart.

 

She rose from her seated position, blowing out the remaining candles while cleaning up the mess she had created. Only to once more crawl into her cold web and sleep as she had lived, alone. Come morning, she would be gone, traveling from Emerald city to Nirvana, the sands capital. Upon her arrival, it was the typical fanfare, although this time, it chimed hollow. Alone, she organized her dwellings by laying out various trinkets of her homeland—artifacts that granted a fleeting glimpse into her history as a hunter, wanderer, and sovereign. Once she had finished reorganizing her quarters for a future meeting that she conspired. The pale beauty stepped beyond her room, perching upon the balcony overlooking this familiar metropolis.

 

Her curvaceous shape is bedecked by emerald and sapphire gemstones and a kaleidoscopic array of feathers. These prized possessions made up a stunning headpiece and a cascading dress. The jewels glued onto her body, and the painting underneath seemed to twinkle under the ambient light. Her risque habiliment was equally as regal as it was titillating, the ideal analogy to illustrate her people and their culture. Yet, notwithstanding her bold choice of attire, Valerna Jorgenskull felt anything but colorful. Privately, she still quarreled with that rejection. Her mind replayed that event on loop as if trying to locate where things went awry. Ultimately she didn't blame Niazmina; instead she kept the onus fixated on herself.

This everlasting pilgrimage was ripe with sequestration. Notwithstanding Valerna's myriad of accolades, the giantess had never been the mistress of her heart. Externally she might have appeared content, yet beneath that veneer of conviction billowed fear. Eternality was an often romanticized concept that toiled as the nemesis of many a fool. Men who invested everything to pursue an interminable life only to face their mortality alone. To those nitwits, death was the bane that loomed aloft the totality of their life. Yet to Valerna, it was a confidante she had glimpsed countlessly yet was unable to take her place within its shade. Too often had she watched others' light fade from their eyes, only to be left abiding by their tombstones.

 

And while time might be prone to omit their appellations from the annals of history. The arachnoid wasn't so keen to forget. Their faces, names, and stories weighed upon Valerna's essence. Each exposure to this cycle only made the chieftain pang to cross that river. However, fate was a fickled thing. Time and time again, she was powerless to do so. Ultimately she'd be left to dawdle alone upon those timeless shores. And while she put up a deceptive smile, the spider privately envied those who were swept in by the undertow. With each rotation of the globe, Valerna discovered herself asphyxiating under the heft of depression. That was until she marshaled the resolve to take her curse and funnel it into a blessing.

 

The inheritors of this newfangled aim were the people she would never meet—the sons and daughters of this world who were preordained to return to it. Generation after generation crept on as she witnessed her high aspirations materialize into a reality. Perhaps she was perpetually doomed to wallow within this cruel destiny. So be it. The least she could do was take what she had learned to improve the lives of others. This verve kept the sorrow away while bestowing some manner of clemency. And while not easy, Valerna derived solace from the harvest of her labors.

 

A sough divorced itself from those succulent lips as those lanterns of honey delineated once more athwart the border of the world. The queen missed her home. She wondered if her daughters gawked back and pondered what their matron was up to? Only to then entertain how much time they had left together? This train of thought struck her heart so that its cadence shifted to that of a somber melody. This webbing she had engineered is undoubtedly grand. Its ubiquitous reach touched the four corners of the world. And yet she found herself alone, a reminder that the Machiavelli was still very much a woman. One who spent many nights alone within its filigree.

 

Such an unpropitious series of inquisitions resumed. Their inauspicious grip was virtually stringent as Valerna glanced down to the street. She essentially rasped only to be liberated by the most mundane disturbance, a knock at her door. Baffled by who would seek her out, the sphinx pivoted and stared upon that barrier. Could it have been the sultan she had heard so much regarding? Samara, Matsumota, maybe an assassin? Tentatively she sashayed back into her lodging, navigating around the center table before resting her hand on the door's handle. The giantess took one last gander around the hearth, snickering as the recollections behind each trinket ameliorated her strain.

 

Valerna, having gleaned no prudence in deferring the inescapable, would pull the door open only to immediately have her eyes fall upon a familiar face. Niazmina, the chaperone from Emerald City who had spurned her invitation. What was she doing here? Her befuddlement was evident upon her stunning features while that split oral muscle spun about her lips piercing—a habitual reaction to stress, one that alleviated tension. Those groomed brows arched to the ceiling, while those brown eyes frittered little time before presenting the baderkerkhan a transient analysis. Was it possible she somehow misunderstood the timing of their amorous affair? Or had the necromancer sought her out to extend an apology?

 

There was no hiding that her failure to meet that rendezvous had stung. It was plausible the inquisitor had some excuse to justify such delinquency. Valerna stepped to the side, leaving the door wide open as her hand motioned for the Niazmina to slip beyond the threshold.

 

"Come, it would be inconsiderate to leave you standing out in the hallway to air our grievances. And unlike some, I am true to my word and hold myself to a higher standard."

 

She jabbed at the purveyor of death's pride. A slight that the spider doubted very much so would fail to go unnoticed. Assuming Niazmina accepted such an invitation, that door would be secured behind her. And if not, the chieftain would continue with her address regardless.

 

"I did promise you some coffee last time we met. I assume it would be inhospitable for me not to see through such a no-frills obligation. Plus, I would be fibbing if I feigned not to be interested concerning why you've solicited after my web."

 

A wide grin plastered itself across her ravishing visage, only for those pearly canines to emerge from behind her lips. Valerna unabashedly took in her magnificence as she had done before. She felt such candidness might revitalize that smoldering fire they once lolled besides. And at the very least might bring a fleeting moment of repture within an otherwise melancholy enriched day.

 Standing before the door, Niazmina steeled her nerves. It seemed that in the end, she had not been able to evade the spider's webs. No amount of preparation or training would have been enough for this encounter. Her heart pounded as the door opened and she was met with the regal sight of the giantess. The jackal's straight posture betrayed no signs of nervousness, but the fiddling of her fingers was enough to show through that bluff. It seemed that the arachnoid had been perplexed by her sudden presence, which was fair. The agent had dropped in unannounced after all.

"Queen Valerna." She'd bow in greeting. The necromancer would have said more, but upon that invitation to enter the room, she'd give a solemn nod and step past that threshold, deciding that it was better to avoid any prying eyes within that hall that might find her suspicious. Her fluffy canine ears twitched at that last sentence. The sting she felt from that prod was undeniable, but the foreigner spoke the truth from what she had seen so far. Nonetheless, the gears of her plan had been put into motion as the door closed behind them, signifying that there was no turning back now.

 

“I apologize for the no-show. Someone suspected the two of us and I could not take the risk of being caught.”

 

This was not entirely a lie. The head inquisitor, Tahira, had thrown some accusations towards the bader’kerkhan before it devolved into a less than wholesome affair. The jackal would not let her mind wander for long, keeping her senses whetted as those metallic gray eyes took notice of the various items laid around the room curiously before swerving back to Valerna.

This was not entirely a lie. The head inquisitor, Tahira, had thrown some accusations towards the bader’kerkhan before it devolved into a less than wholesome affair. The jackal would not let her mind wander for long, keeping her senses whetted as those metallic gray eyes took notice of the various items laid around the room curiously before swerving back to Valerna.

“You are much too kind, your highness. I admit that I was disappointed that we were unable to meet up as planned. So, when the news of your arrival here at my city of residence reached my ears, it was a rare opportunity I could not miss out on. That is… if you’ll still have me.”

 

It was obvious to the agent that the jungle monarch would not refuse her. The way the weaver looked upon her made that much clear. Niazmina reciprocated such an amorous stare with one of her own, brushing away a stray piece of her black mane. Taking in that voluptuous shape and beautiful face, the canine concluded that her enemy was truly a sight to behold. Just because she had come here as a spy, didn’t mean she couldn’t have some fun.

The inquisitor revealed a great deal of discipline. Niazmina's ability to take the spider's vocal lashing in stride exhibited the jackal's character in a complimentary light. Not once had she winced; this led the spider to question a great deal internally, even though outwardly, the machavelii emerged as unmoved. Such an unyielding deportment had been fashioned through her undying voyage, an eternal odyssey that was filled with more misery than smiles. But Valerna wouldn't crumble within her lair, even one as transient and unbecoming as this dwelling. Paranoia, that most advantageous characteristic reared itself, directing the chieftain to consider whether Niazmina had been dispatched as an assassin to eradicate her. If such fear should demonstrate itself as valid, then the Eternal House would learn once again that this insectoid wasn't easy prey.

 

Candidly those lanterns of honey canvassed the desert lily, having no qualms with airing her fondness for the female's shapely figure and gentle to behold visage. That apology was becoming, though the weaver of the tapestry couldn't help but oppugn their solemnity. But rather than vie over it, Valerna would reside within her net and scrutinize for now. If the gesture were hollow, absent of merit, time would be the proper arbiter to unveil such a reality. At that very instance, a sole defect concerning the inquisitor's emotional wall had been spotted. Those hands, the way that they fidgeted was that of a lady battered by apprehension. This tension they both shared, although the giantess had enough conditioning to keep it filtered from Niazmina's eyes.

 

Initially, the arachnid queried if it was some elaborate ruse. A facade meant to propagate an illusion to soothe her into a state of complacency. Yet, the more she mulled over it, the increasingly such a thing materialized as improbable. That remorse was genuine, which only further strengthened her explanation. Was it conceivable that another within her "illustrious" organization had observed their flirtations? If so, how could the matron fault her for exercising caution given possible ramifications? No, the necromancer had a daughter to consider, and no mother worth their salt would jeopardize their offspring for a single night of passion.

 

Poor Niazmina, to deny her hungering of the flesh all for the sake of upholding public appearances. However, if this was an accurate deduction, what changed? Why would she now be standing by her door knowing the peril that lay ahead? Could it be that the necromancer felt something more profound, a deeper flame than a single evening of tussling under the sheets? This introspection hastened the drumming of Valerna's heart, her body impacted by a deluge of stimulations that were too salacious to express out loud. Yet the not-so-subtle forerunners of such titillations were scarcely hard to miss. Her rose petals were hardened, goosebumps emerged across her alabaster canvas. At the same time, her breathing had altered ever so imperceptibly.

 

The dearth of romantic companionship whittled down the arachnoid willpower. Each second spent oozing loneliness furthered degraded Valerna's worth as a lady within her own eyes. Perhaps this was some cruel ploy. An insidious narrative spun to harm her psyche. Ultimately it didn't matter. The giantess needed to bask within someone's warmth within her web to once again feel alive. And so she'd welcome in the threat, knowing full well she might come to rue this lapse in sound judgment. Cooly, the jeweled bedecked maiden stepped to the side, observing as Niazmina strode into her chambers. That door gently closed and locked, affording the two the privacy they both deserved.

 

Upon entering, the baderkerkhan might notice those exotic trophies methodically positioned across the room—the pelts of large mammals placed on the floor to serve as rugs. The hanging of vibrant flowers within pots reminded Valerna of her motherland. This space that was once embellished with costly drapes and trinkets of gold that glorified the Eternal House's earthly wealth had been stowed away in a box. And in its stead were treasures not of precious metal, but bone and flesh. A single plate was resting on top of the central table, an enchanted piece of equipment the auburn beauty had grown fond of. There, on its surface, was a metallic kettle. A temperate breeze entered the hearth, causing the curtain of beads and fabric to toss about in its call.

 

Valerna gaited forward, her broad hips sashaying ever so suggestively as she shut the gallery's door and windows. The rays of ambient light still slipping inside providing much-needed illumination. Standing by the balcony's door, the spider froze, her eyes of brown peering over the shoulder as she hearkened toward Niazmina's address. Such a speech encouraged a cordial simper across her pale face. It was made all the more palatable by how Niazmina's gaze illustrated her attraction. That magnetism once repudiated had returned. Its influence pervaded the enclosure as the two were now enthralled within this pleasing exchange.

 

"Your highness? How quaint. Such a cognomen is too formal for this setting. There is no need to play coy. The role of the blind imbecile doesn't suit you, lady Niazmina. We both know I'm unable to dismiss you so readily."

 

Her heels din ricocheted off the walls, speeding across the acoustics as Valerna pivoted to face the entity of her desire. Her groomed brows arching, and that amiable smirk scattered any pretense of doubt. That menace of the jungle strutted forward to that table. Her hand was grazing the outer rim of that metallic plate as the runes flared. Valerna's chi activated them, heating its surface while the svengali seized the kettle and rested it on top. The water inside would slowly boil, yet she had enough time to prepare the grounded beans. This speechlessness bestowing the cactus rose enough time to think while she scooped up some of that powerful smelling coffee grounds into a compartment.

 

With the top opened, Valerna would position the contraption inside to steep it inside the now warm water. Her soft hand fastened the top shut before discharging a sigh. Elegantly her nails skimmed across the worn veneer of the table. Those honeyed eyes transitioned from the floor and back toward that of Niazmina. The natural sunlight mirrored off those optics as she ventured to peer into the inquisitor's own. The atmosphere was charged, so ionized the hairs of one's nape might have stood upright. Yet this electrifying ambiance was just what they both needed, allowing them both to relish in one another's company.

 

"Isn't it funny, twice now we have been positioned to chance upon one another. While I'm not one to fling about the moniker of fate so liberally, I do find it fitting in this instance, wouldn't you concur?"

 

Valerna chortled, ambling forward as she dwindled the space between them. The spider unabashedly stood close, penetrating that personal bubble as she settled her hand upon that cheek. That talon gently circulated the jowl before moving toward the necromancer's lips. They were warm, soft, and ever so inviting. Ravenously she peered down, her size decreasing so that she towered two feet over that of her dear Niazmina. Strands of red dangled over her striking features as she positioned her free hand to grab the jackal's hips. Such a delectable morsel. How she had long since hankered for a taste. And now that Niazmina was entangled within the spider's mesh, the arachnid wouldn't spoil this opportunity.

 

"It feels right. You know that? There is no need to question, to speak against what the body decrees. Fret not; I'll steal the words from your mouth."

 

The chieftain lowed her head further, hunching slightly downward as her thumb gently steered the chin upward. Their lips were close, so near that her heated breath ridiculed the inquisitor.

 

"I'll mollycoddle you, cherish you unlike any other. You can be my desert lily, the jewel of these cascading knolls whose brilliance outshines all others. You need only surrender yourself unto me."

 

Without further remittance, Valerna pressed her lips against Niazmina's own. Stepping forward, she'd use her superior weight and height to pin the agent against the wall. Those painted talons combed through the jackal's mane, only to grasp the back of her head harshly to keep her close. That split tongue wrestled with Niazmina's, mixing their saliva while she swiped the words she had long since demanded to hear. That seal wouldn't last forever. The kettle's whistling shattered the mood. Those lanterns of brown kept staring into the inquisitor's orbs, their foreheads touching while she chuckled.

 

"Your taste, it is even better than I had fantasized."

 

An effective enough quip, or so she presumed. It was evident now this wasn't a game to the spider and that feasibly the operative might have tugged on a web that she might regret disturbing. Soon, Valerna would know the truth. And the anticipation was killing her.

It felt like the room Niazmina had entered was a whole different world. The vibrant colors of the flora and the pelts of various beasts caught the necromancer's eye. The bone decor that the giants seemed to favor was here as well. Some items; she couldn't recognize at all. She could only make the educated guess that Valerna had brought a part of the jungle here to this place of temporary lodging, seeing as this desert native had never laid eyes on the Verdant Dynasty. Outwardly, it looked charming, though the jackal found it rather offensive as the original decor had been taken down; meaning that the spider likely found it to be subpar to what was now ornating the area. However, the necromancer did not betray any signs of displeasure.

 

Those silvery orbs trailed the araneae's shapely figure as she moved about the room, closing any openings. How strange. This monarch elevated the inquisitor and yet, found her own titles to be inappropriate for this environment. Niazmina was unsure of how to feel about such a thing, but would dismiss it for the time being. A simper of her own formed upon the inquisitor's winsome face as she heard those words escape the foreigner's lips. The spider had become ensnared in another's net. Her tail wagged in glee at that fact. A fact that could forever change the course of this desert empire. The spy would not throw care into the wind, however. One slip-- and it wouldn't be just Niazmina's life that was forfeit.

 

The canine chuckled. "Indeed, and it seems that I too, cannot keep myself away from you."

 

This was not completely false. Niazmina could feel this unexplainable magnetism pulling the two towards each other. Such were the ways of attraction. It somehow found a way to rear its head in the strangest of settings. Her hands would grasp the edge of that table as she'd slightly leaned forward to watch. The agent observed curiously with a small tilt of her head as the sovereign prepared that coffee. The pleasant aroma of those beans invaded her nose. That rich, earthy scent was like nothing she'd ever smelled before.

 

Niazmina's focus on the brewing drink wouldn't last, as her eyes moved back to stare up at the Verdant Dynasty's ruler who found it fitting to move closer to the bader'kerkhan. Those pupils dilated as they met the gargantuan beauty's amber lanterns, goosebumps rising across her now flushed skin. To be in such close quarters with the matriarch of her enemies was terrifying, yet brought about a sense of excitement. The inquisitor noticeably leaned into that touch. As Valerna's hands migrated from her face to her hips, Niazmina would reach for those pale biceps. Who would've thought that this infamous sovereign was such a romantic?

 

Fate? Niazmina attributed very few things to fate. However, could this fall under such a category? Though this was partly the scheme of the Eternal House, the attraction that had sparked between them hadn't been predetermined. So, she would entertain such thoughts.

 

"Fate is quite the kind mistress then. Allowing us to encounter each other twice now in such intimate settings."

 

Despite decreasing her size, Valerna still towered over the jackal significantly. As their lips came into touching distance, their breaths intermingled as the inquisitor forgot how to speak. There was no denying the fact that this felt right. For a moment, the jackal nearly forgot who was ensnared by who. The next words from the araneae made it even clearer that the caramel temptress had made the jungle beauty absolutely smitten. Wonderful.

 

One of the necromancer’s toned legs wrapped around Valerna as their lips crashed together. Having not been given the chance to speak, she would reply in the form of a muffled groan, both hands resting on either side of the giantess’ visage. The feeling of that two-pronged tongue against her oral muscle was divine as she soon found herself losing herself in the moment; submitting to the machiavelli's ministrations. Before long, the loud sound of whistling could be discerned by the jackal’s sensitive ears as the two individuals’ lips separated.

 

"I could say the same for you. You are a most excellent kisser. What you said is correct. This-- us, it feels right.” It was a shame that this was not a permanent arrangement within the jackal's ploy. Those metallic-hued ponds stared intensely back into Valerna’s amber ones. Niazmina pulled her head back to gingerly clear some stray fibers that veiled the chieftain’s face before caressing that porcelain visage. A small smirk formed before the inquisitor spoke in a hushed tone.

 

“So, about that coffee…”

It was such a delicate touch, yet it still transmitted a quake down the arachnids spine. And while Valerna may have sought to feign absolute mastery over her faculties. That slake to partake in more was too overbearing. Niazmina wasn't a fool, and the spider had considered those silvery mirrors might have beheld her subtle inflections. The nuanced precursors publicized the chemical reaction swirling within her body. And notwithstanding her sincerest endeavors to screen. Their exhibition had failed to smother her conquest over the flesh so seditiously. Ergo why she discovered herself mesmerized by this titillating venture.

 

The arachnid coquettishly nictated while the coffee pot whistled louder with each waning second as Niazmina sealed the gap. That tongue outlined her oral rims while she let loose a suggestive purr. Valerna's chestnut eyes were daring not to veer from the inquisitor's pools as the matriarch guided her hands over to the plate to neutralize its heating etchings. Such simple utterances had affirmed what the svengali had already regarded. The two shared in this mutual attraction which unfurled into quite a precarious situation neither could shy away from. Yet it was this peril that further bolstered the carnality rendered by this immediacy, only for that comment concerning fate to merit a chortle. Such convivial expressions had fleetingly dispersed that stuffy atmosphere.

 

"And I'm appreciative for lady fate to have presented me a second opportunity to marvel at my desert lily. I have spent many years ranging these knolls, centuries even. And in all that time, I've never happened across a jewel like yourself glistening from 'neath its grains. But it isn't just carnal pursuit that steers me. No, I see something behind those deceptively docile eyes—the flickerings of a wolf."

 

The chieftain wouldn't resist Niazmina's contact. Instead, she leaned into it as those eyes of honey kept fixated on her memorable hallmarks. Those spider extremities worked autonomously from the brain. It gathered two cups and poured them both coffee before dropping one cube of sugar in each and a bit of milk. The din of them twirling a spoon of bone against those cups echoed while spindler placed her large hand on Niazmina's hips tugging the meal ever so close. The weave of webs sneered, taking in her compliment as she leaned forward and flicked that tongue against her earlobe. Valerna released a heated breath against that wet skin, purring once more while her eyes moved to that neck.

 

"You are so much more than a quarry. How could the people of this land be so blinded to the beauty that stands before me? Do they not know that the deadliest things are often the most breathtaking? This might be some malicious scheme; I've considered it. However, I don't care. Tonight I wish to get to know you and give this temple you call a body the reverence it rates."

 

Her hunger was kept at bay, Valerna retracting her head lest she gorges herself on that scrumptious iron-enriched ichor streaming through Niazmina's veins. All the while, her nimble spinal leggings were setting the cups on tiny plats and lifting one of them to that caramel jezebel. That saucer and the libation were at chest level. The spider held no reservations in whisking those stray strands of dark hair away from her muse's countenance.

 

"Ah yes, the coffee as sworn. Enjoy."

 

She added assuredly. Her excitement maybe revealed something remarkable and inherent to her mutation. A unique appendage that could have been witnessed if one eye happened to rove southward. The redhead would turn her back, bending forward in a salacious fashion as she reached across the table to drag her cup of coffee close.

 

"Indeed, we may have been conceived a world apart. Regardless, here we are as one relishing one another's presence. I won't lie I wish to snatch you into my web. But I'll not do so without your permission and blessing. I'm a lady, not some monster."

 

Valerna would then lift the cup, taking a sip as she stepped away from the jackal strutting to that latticed door leading to the balcony. The ambient light outlined her body while parts were still exposed by their generous proportions.

 

"Come close, look across this municipality and tell me what you see? I desire to witness the desert as you do. Tell me everything you cherish about this arid paradise you call home. I hope to wheedle my way into your heart. But to do so, I must get to know you first. I must glimpse the world through the lens you scrutinize it by."

 

The spider remained on that web, motionless as she lingered to see how Niazmina would respond to everything that ensued. Was this inquisitor just another incubator? Or, conceivably, she was indeed so much more than a well-seasoned blood thrall?

 

 

"The sultan and the spider."

The people of this desert coddled heavily within their highfalutin delusions. That gluttony only fattened the calf for the slaughter. And while they surfeited away, the weaver of webs had devised another tapestry of silk. A final netting to guarantee the world she had envisioned came to fruition, one of conformity. The beastkin union had thoroughly been contaminated, a nuanced action of which the arachnid doubted even the Eternal House could fathom the profundities of their entanglement. The liberation of the elves by their joint hands further disseminated the seed of chaos. Ensuring that the mer would be split regarding who to side with should they fight. And it was Valerna who saved the varenkun from humanity's conspiracy to obliterate their people and way of life.

 

The chieftain was responsible for the baderkerkhan's withdrawal from isolation. She bestowed them Emerald City and assisted their climatization with the outside world. For decades her hand had maneuvered the sands through a subtle series of pushes and whispers. Not once had the spider demanded payment, fostering goodwill and doubt within the commoner's eyes. Who was it that cast human kinds yoke from their fatigued necks? What will was behind the assimilation of the tribes and kept total collapse from transpiring twice? Her people repulsed those wicked abominations when the defilement slithered from behind the curtain. And even the Eternal House flourished due to her intervention.

 

To the ill-informed and haughty, the Jorgenskulls might appear as interlopers—a foreign collective materializing to commandeer control over what they had no claim over. Yet one needn't peek far to beheld their influence and will that had exerted itself over the wasteland. And while many might be inclined to retrogress to their unappreciative ways. Valerna wasn't so apt to disregard her blood, sweat, and tears. It was this belief that had nurtured the weaver of webs to trek far from the haven of her capital. Nirvana, that municipality bore the hallmarks of her design. The very palace was a bone skull, and while Samara might have toiled pointlessly to recast its look. The signs of her people's involvement were impossible to repress.

 

Her appearance within this city had exacerbated quite the bluster. The kerfuffle was difficult to miss, meandering from the denizens, guards, and nobles lingua alike. Many queried what instigated that foreigner to seek them out? And try as they may, their myopic perceptions would fail to surmise the complexity of her webbing. To some, she wanted to gloat, others stressed a dawning war, and a few theorized she had come to extend an olive branch. The reality of her motivations was hardly so mundane, and while she relished quotidian things, Valerna's objectives were hardly so straightforward to pinpoint. There, ensconced within the room she had been offered, the auburn enigma plucked on a strand. A courier had been dispatched to deliver a letter to Chuluun.

 

The exact nature of its contents was ominous yet littered with sanguinity. The ysstmar rise within the ranks and his proximity to the queen had rated her focus. And rather than discount his considerations, she'd herald his accolades and eminence by inviting the saurian over for coffee and a private exchange. The pale beauty stepped beyond her room, perching upon the balcony overlooking this familiar metropolis. Her curvaceous shape is bedecked by emerald and sapphire gemstones and a kaleidoscopic array of feathers. These prized possessions made up a stunning headpiece and a cascading dress. The jewels glued onto her body, and the painting underneath seemed to twinkle under the ambient light. Her risque habiliment was equally as regal as it was titillating, the ideal analogy to illustrate her people and their culture.

 

Cooly, her brown eyes proceeded athwart the horizon, tapering as they delineated over the rolling dunes of bleached sand. The arachnoid grinned as she reminisced over her time within this arid providence. She recalled the epochs, the fall and rise of empires, and the emergence of her very regime. The chieftain remembered the desert before fungi, a time when crystal town hadn't attained that moniker. The eruption that created obsidian canyon, the Ashlandian war, the Mer's collapse, and other such events history failed to record. And while the current custodians of the region were different, she could recognize that they were outfitted for failure. The Eternal house wouldn't live up to its snooty name. For there was nothing as everlasting as her...

Interesting. The sultan presumed he had the right to barge into her room without requesting access. A gutsy and foolish maneuver that daubed Chuluun as somewhat capricious if not smug. The auburn-maned beauty turned to face the door as she heard its creak. The alabaster lady leaned against the banister as those brown eyes looked upon the sovereign. Upon stepping beyond the threshold, the reptilian would be met with an assortment of trinkets. Bones trophies, pelts, fur rugs all foreshadowed her strength. Within the epicenter of that chamber was a lone table with two chairs, a single pot of water heating on top of a rune plate as the crushed beans of coffee saturated the room in their delightful scent.

 

Those elegant garments further accentuated their polar cultures while she stared at his blackened scales. The saurian was disfigured from the tempests of yesteryear. And while he paraded around in quite the suit of metal, it did little to exalt himself within her stony eyes. Valerna simpered as those spider ligaments stretched out from her back, only to brush their spear-like talons across her reddish hair. Her split oral muscle spun that lip piercing as her bosom swelled from a chuckle. The architect of tapestries appeared entertained by his curtain-raiser. How engrossing for one of such susceptibility to traipse so voluntarily into her lair. And alone to boot?

 

The whipping of the curtains translucently veiled the matriarch's fetching features. The cooling breeze of the desert brought about their thrashing while the feathered garbed maiden sashayed forward. Calmly she'd raise her right hand, drawing the razor talons inwards before expanding them outward as fibers of her filigree were strewn throughout the gaps of her fingers. That tongue let free a pop while she confidently leaned against the entrance leading to that sundeck. Those twin sols radiated their illumination behind her so that the foreigner's hourglass sculpture had become immersed by its rays. Those eyes were ever perforating, like that of a whetted blade, as they indicated no remorse in gauging the ysstmar. It was then her groomed brows unveiled a degree of puzzlement, only to settle her left hand amidst the ravine of her fleshly mounds.

 

"The enemy of my enemy? How riveting..."

 

She purred, feigning stupefaction before presenting Chuluun with a bedeviling sneer.

 

"I will refrain from declaring this conference as a pleasure until I have witnessed the fruits such a gathering will bear. Though the fact you even took up my offer is a good start."

 

The spider strode forward, her broad hips swaggering as that feathered skirt faultlessly mimicked their motions. It was there within those walls that the lizard might have caught his first whole peek of the jungle menace. Standing by the table at the height of 5' 6", she'd look down at the pot, continuing to rotate her lips piercing as she groaned.

 

"Your sand has grown on me. Well, as much as possible anyways."

 

Valerna shrugged her shoulder only to grip that chair with her right hand. Those claws were tapping rhythmically away at the furniture as she steered her focus back onto the sultan.

 

"Is it not customary to knock before you barge into a lady's quarters? For all you knew, I could have been disrobed while beautifying myself. Perish the thought if you had beheld such a thing! Could you imagine the scandal?"

 

She joshed, sprinkling a bit of levity onto an otherwise bland atmosphere. She felt this eccentric spice was necessary to keep their discord from becoming stale. Afterward, her hand gestured for the man to sit first—a nuanced endeavor to commandeer dominion over this fated relation.

 

"Please, sit."

Chuluun's roving eyes were hard to miss. Her guest naturally discovered himself interested in the myriad of trophies positioned throughout her temporary lodgings. Each artifact recounted a story, windows that might allow others to peek into the snapshots of time that composed her unending voyage. Immortality, for all its coveted after pursuits, was anything but a blessing. The spider had come to know it as a curse, one that blighted her soul and psychological well-being. And while she could have endeavored to end it all, her honor prevented such a cowardice conclusion to an otherwise sacrilegious journey. For the moment, she'd authorize his curiosity, abiding patiently while his eye invariable desisted their sailings.

 

The matron's bosom swelled with repletion as she reminisced over prior hunts and conflicts. The tragedies and travesties of her past were a reminder. While she might now lord on high, it wasn't always so. She too had been a nobody, an enslaved person. From there, she transited to a nomad and mercenary. The arachnoid was vaulting from company to company, bounding from one battlefield to the next—an interminable odyssey, one that would have pulverized a lesser woman. Those brown eyes had witnessed the rise and fall of many powers. She beheld how revolutions eroded, often leaving even more inhumane masters in their stead.

 

Unlike most, Valerna had been bequeathed the rare perspicuity concerning the rivulet of time. The history books were fallible, fanning only part truths, myths, or romanticization. While other events were scrubbed and forgotten, dooming the people to repeat their pitfalls. Some might regard the web weaver as wise, but she found such laudatory benedictions as hollow given their origins. Such meditations would inevitably be dismissed, her brown eyes probing the ysstmar as her razor claws concluded their tappings, instead clutching the furniture. The smells of various incense wafted around them, disseminated across the room by the gentle breezes. While the pot resting on that enchanted plate gradually heated up.

 

Levity, the most auspicious spice to life, was relayed to the Machiavelli. This struck the foreigner as quaint, given she half predicted some resistance given his people's reputation. Then again, the saurians were famed for their revelry within the butchery of life. And it wasn't farfetched that the Sultan had felt a kindred bond via the studying of her cultured array of artifacts. If such a supposition resounded as accurate, then that would imply he too shared in a matching drawback. Valerna herself had always found such anamorphic folk to be fascinating. The more alien or bestial, the greater her draw was to them on some level.

 

Such a stumbling block might have netted her trouble in her younger days. But these days, the arachnoid was sapient enough not to obfuscate her judgment with her inquisitiveness. Her immaculate brows relaxed, illustrating that typical stern expression while the reptilian complied. Chuluun's acceptance of her gentle decrees boded well. Though the spinner of silk always maintained a healthy degree of skepticism. This could all have been a ruse, some facade to lure the matriarch into a state of overconfidence. For the moment, Valerna would play along, joining him shortly after the scaley lord had roosted.

 

"I assume by now you are well aware of that fact that I'm quite the unorthodox lady myself. Concerning the privacy, we will get to that soon enough. I feel there are more urgent matters to clear up first."

 

She paused, sighing heavily before grooming her red mane with those chitinous extremities.

 

"I had wandered across these gnolls long before you were born. I led the campaign against the Mer that liberated your people. I was here before the eruption formed Obsidian; I watched as the forest crystallized. Who was it that destroyed the oppressive human regime? Was it not I who kept anarchy at bay, who positioned the Baderkerkhan, the Varenkun, and the Mer? Who was it that assisted with the formation of the Beastkin Union? Your wife, Queen Samara. She is only Queen because I appointed her; she only bore her offspring because I decreed it. Why? Because I necessitated competency for what was to follow. So, let me return your question with one of my own, How are these arid dunes your home and not mine?"

 

That tongue spun her lip piercing, extending the saurian and grin as the kettle whistled. Valerna would refrain from removing it until such a time as he managed to reply.

The man knew nothing. Therefore his gloating would tumble on deafened ears. If Chuluun had indeed realized the extent of her netting, then the sultan would have been conscious of his fatuity. His house held no authority unless she decreed it. His time at the helm was a manifestation of unmerited favor that she could yank anytime from under his feet. And while he might have tried to manipulate her with such a shoal exhibition of courtesy and intrigue. Such hollow gesticulations ultimately would fail to strike their intended mark. Whether the king accepted it or not mattered little, he was undoubtedly entangled within her webs. The fact that he assumed autonomy was a compliment. It conveyed volumes toward her proficiency as a svengali.

 

Valerna wasn't a fool; she didn't anticipate this inept lizard to acknowledge her account. Providentially for the spider, the immaterial beliefs of the ill-informed held no sway over the truth. There was only one indisputable verity, and that was the certitude of her triumph. Who was this ysstmar to flout her authority? Who was he to think he could tango with her within this theatre of dialectics? The sultan might have seen her as a hunter, but such an interpretation didn't cut both ways. Chuluun was but a hatchling with grandios aspirations. And while being fueled by magnific pursuances was meritorious, it meant little if not handled with levelheadedness.

 

The stories he had heard were just fragments of her attainments. After all, it wasn't the Verdant Dynasty fueled by fear of their southern neighbors. Instead, it was him and his failing house that looked north with palpable dread. The chieftain bequeathed him no external response, radiating an air of placidity while she lifted that kettle and positioned it off that heated plate. Wordlessly, the arachnid poured both of them a cup of black coffee before sliding one of them Chuluun's way. This kindness wouldn't subsist for perpetuity. Eventually, she'd triturate through the veil and reveal why one doesn't join negotiations so imperiously, particularly when they have nothing to back up their brass.

 

"You're a funny man." She smiled, only to trace her nail across the rim of her cup while she offered an atmosphere of total respite.

 

"You circumvent my question by proposing a vapid query that in no way is pertinent. It is made all the more nonsensical as you provided your answer before hearing mine. You're endeavoring to guide me into your miniature box constructed by an infinitely smaller mind. Perhaps within your court you might be the big fish, feasibly even a savant. However, you're no longer aboding within your little fantasy world." An interim followed, retracting her hand from that cup before leaning back into the chair as if to get herself nice and comfy.

 

"What a fine home indeed. Tell me again, who was it that constructed these buildings initially? Who was it that propped your house up? And to think I gave you all of these incredible tools, and you still failed." The arachnoid scoffed while settling her hands onto her muscular thighs.

 

"Let me speculate, you blame the people? Because you are clearly too shortsighted to look inward. If I was a rash king, it's what I would have done. I'd probably be preparing to cleanse out those I feel are holding me back. Of course, people are only as strong as their leaders and mirror their strengths and weaknesses." The sovereign smirked, rotating that lip piercing with her split lingua as her brown eyes dissected the cold-blooded jester.

 

"You know nothing, are aware of nothing, and are out of your depth. There are no books about me. Because your people never bothered to study their enemy. But make no mistake, just because you turned a blind eye toward us savages doesn't mean we behaved accordingly. So what you "know" is hearsay amassed by the very people you are likely to gibe down at while governing from your throne of shit and sand. And here I have been informed that the ysstmar smash their defective children against the rocks. I suppose one did manage to slip through...That or you're head was too hard. Either way, how fortuitous..." She nodded, keeping her senses whet as she lifted that cup and sipped on the coffee.

 

"It's good isn't it? The coffee?"

The sultan was irate. He hadn't grown accustomed to his authority being so vagrantly flouted. This defiance sparked contention between the two. What had initiated as a congenial exchange rapidly devolved. Chuluun had played a risky game. His drudgery to corner the spider and manipulate her had failed. His gravest blunder was endeavoring to best the Araneae at her theatre. Not once had the king considered that he wasn't in control of their negotiations, nor had he envisioned the netting that now entangled the beast. Those reptilian eyes were smoldering, the king assuming his peoples' viciousness as he flipped that table and brandished his weapon.

 

That Damascus steel blade and matching armor were indications of his temporal wealth and station. Lamentably for Chuluun, such armaments would not avail him. It would take much more than a sharpened tool and bravado to eviscerate the arachnid. The chieftain had witnessed too much. She was far too familiar with the butchery of life and the din of ambivalence to be demoralized so easily. Had the sultan visualized such a gesture would have inspired Valerna to wince out of dread? Had he conjectured that the mere prospect of a bloodbath was enough to thwart her pride and ambitions?

 

No, if Chuluun longed to intercept her or terminate her existence, he'd have to do better. One of her spinal ligaments instinctively reacted. It worked autonomously from her will as it ejected from that spear-like tip a single strand. And given his wrath, proximity, and shortage of experience as a warrior. The saurian would discover his position compromised as that silk had attached itself to his breastplate. Bewilderment cemented itself across his expression as he vainly tried to yank that thread free from his tin suit of armor.

 

Valerna frittered little time; she sprang into action and grasped the rope. The giantess employed her strength to pull the man inward, only for his face to be met with a forceful palm strick against his snout. That cranium cracked, bending inward as her razor talons pushed inside of his eyes sockets depriving the king of his vision. Quickly she'd drop her weight, steering the rage-induced lizard to the grand so that his skull collided with the stone floor. The need to survive took over the spider as she repeatedly banged his head against the rock until, eventually, his skull was reduced to fragments of bones and blotches of brain and flesh. The Araneae chestnut eyes looked about the room as she gradually stood upright. Upset that his undeserving flesh had sullied her hand, the queen would flick her wrist to clean it of blood.

 

"Most uncivilized..."

 

She groused, pivoting to that chamber where her oasis lily had been presumably sleeping. The armistice had failed. War and the imminent massacre were all but inescapable. And the consequences of such actions implied that Niazmina's life would forever change. Valerna was sickened by this development. Her muse would be the first victim and have to make a difficult choice. And no matter how the matron might package it, in the end, this was partially her fault. And her desert jewel was the victim in all of this.

 

The arachnoid sashaying forward, those bone armored claws pushed aside the beaded curtain as the giant stepped into their room. The hemoglobin of a fresh kill spattered across her bosom while those amber orbs looked upon her jezebel. Its crimson shade contrasted with her alabaster skin as the predator slithered out her split lapper to lick some of the prey's ichor from off her countenance.

 

"Your king attacked me. I put down the rabid animal. I'm not remorseful. If given a choice, I would do so again. However, there is one thing I do lament. That you, Lady Niazmina, were swept along this undertow of chaos. Come, leave with me. I can't force you.

 

Nevertheless, I fear they'll attribute culpability to you for this unforeseeable outcome. Time is not on our side. If you accept, cling to me so I might carry us by slinging to my loyal forces. And when we return, it will be to remove the Eternal House. Fret not; I have no interest in stomping your queen into a paste. No, Samara still has usefulness. And while she may have failed. I must commend her for building this much, given the materials she was plagued to work with."

 

That anomaly from before slipped free from its pocket, leading the spider to clear her throat out of shame. It didn't matter, the two had to go, and she didn't have the time to trouble herself over such trifling details.

 

"The pupil."

It had been years since the chieftain had fallen for that foreign inquisitor. And while their time together might have been blissful, the weaver of webs couldn't help but wonder what made her rate such devotion. Such ruminations bequeathed much-needed clarity, prescribing the formerly melancholy induced spirit with solace. That rapture enabled those brown eyes to behold this rancours world in a differing light. The spider could see through the film of despondency and esteem the faint glimmering of hope squelched behind that veil of murk. Yet with such an amorous rapport came with it the realization that the giantess now had something dear to forfeit. Each new bond cultivated made the Svengali more susceptible. Others could appropriate them for maleficient purposes, or she might discover herself biased by such tethers.

 

While a calculative risk, the bounty far overshadowed the perils. And so, the matron had assigned someone to assist with her adoptive daughter's training. A house was only as effective as its flimsiest link within those wise eyes. And if the Jorgenskull name is to remain feared and respected, then even the urchin ought to be whetted. The time had come for the arachnid to descend from her webbing. And to traipse southward to the Skeletal Highway and witness the fruits of her investments for herself. The expedition across her secured pasturages confirmed uneventful—this journey bestowed the queen an opportunity to mingle and glimpse upon the citizens she served.

 

The denizens frittered little time before regaling their matron with their plights and gratitude. The fact they would confide within her so willingly only bolstered the upbeat cadence of her heart. Valerna did listen, hearkening to every word as she rejoined with kindness. Once the sun had set, and her party had feted, come morning, they'd exit one town only to bound to the next. This ritual repeated as the monarch took notes on their grievances. She'd make sure to refer to that parchment when she returned to the boneyard to see to it that some of their frustrations were remedied. Eventually, both the chieftain and her armed entourage made it to their desired location—an unassuming hamlet built around a placid lake. Valerna had been here before; she had witnessed it change throughout the centuries. And each time she remarked on its metamorphosis, the queen felt extraordinarily humbled by their progressions.

 

The rumors of Valerna's appearance had been disseminated across the Skeletal Highway. The machiavelli was gaiting down the streets as she conversed with the local governor to procure adequate lodgings. The elderly man was baffled, his mind unable to apprehend what was it that had attracted the queen to his ignoble settlement. When pressed, Valerna replied, "The lake is beutiful this time of year. It reminds me of the colored rain..." Such a puzzling answer did little to placate his nerves, yet the village elder wouldn't dig further and prepared a room for the arachnid. Once Valerna had gotten comfortable within that quaint lair, she'd look out the adjacent window on the second story. Those perceptive lanterns scanned across the horizon until they happened to stumble across a lone kitsune waddling into town.

 

Upon observing that familiar fox, the queen beckoned for one of her men before dispatching him to meet this offspring of the sands. The loyal slarkreen bowed, accepting this charge before rushing downstairs and out of the building. The ape raced through the serpentine streets, slipping between the masses as they meandered up and down the road. The soldier kept a watchful eye out until he blundered across the vulpine. The bedecked troop stood proudly, his eyes endeavoring to lock with Perna's own as the tree dweller let out a grunt.

 

"The chieftain summons you. It would be unwise to refuse the queen's demand for muster."

 

The brute cried, only to pivot and motioned for the still growing combatant to follow his lead. Calmly the slarkreen would lead the child through the town, the eyes of passersby veering their way as they looked curiously upon that emigre. The seasoned warrior snorted before spitting a wad of phlegm onto the ground, only to snarl at the citizens.

 

"Not often we get your kind in these parts. Forgive them, tiny pup."

 

The commander added just before they reached that unassuming two-story structure. The chimp tapered his eyelids as he looked upon that bone door. He would ascend the stairs, pushing the door open before stepping to the side and waiting for the kitsune to move beyond the threshold. Once Perna had accepted the offer, the man would follow behind before securing that barrier. Confidently the soldier strutted onward, only to pause once they trekked across the vestibule and into the main room. The slarkreen sniggered, his eyes staring at the matriarch before the man dropped to his knees and bowed. Within the darkness, those brown eyes refracted the ambient light so that they perforated through the umbra.

 

There, abiding within her mesh, the arachnoid purred. The soldier's prompt reverence humbled her, rousing those honeyed lanterns to meander over to Perna to catch if she too shared such devoutness. Cooly, those razor talons of skeleton plucked a single strand, that thread vibrating resembling the sound of a harp as her digits wildly strummed across a series of webs. A harrowing dirge filled with ululations reverberated athwart the acoustics. The giantess's fingers were impressively dexterous. Her voice followed shortly afterward, resonating a canticle to celebrate the fallen as one by one, the occupants within that room were lost to its haunting call. The two melodious dins melded into quite the treat to the ears as the monstrous matron materialized oddly graceful upon that perch of filigree.

 

Ultimately she desisted her strumming of those chords, only to sneer as she peered at Perna from the corner of those eyes. The insectoid descended from her roost as those osseous boots connected with the floor. Her spider ligaments spread outward from her back while the predator let out a hiss. Those extremities clicked against one another as she sashayed forward only to overtower the teenager by five feet. Those claws reached down to support the child while the palms faced the ceiling. She would say nothing initially, giving time for the kitsune to react and go through the appropriate decorum should Niazmina have reared her properly.

According to what she had been told by Nia, chieftain was referring to Valerna. So when approached by the hairy soldier and given that info, she got back to her feet without a word and nodded toward him, following as he lead her through the town. She didn't care for the looks she was given, especially since now what she had come out for was finally before her. But the soldier bringing attention to it, and calling her tiny, didn't sit too well with her. She knew she was rather short compared to some others, but people pointing it out to her tended to touch a nerve. It then occurred to her that where she was going, she would most likely be the smallest being around. So she let it go for that reason alone. "It's fine sir. No harm has been done, yeah?"

 

She stepped past him as he offered to let her through first, taking note of the weird material the door was made of. She even brushed her hand along the rim of the door, curious of its feel. Rather rough, hard, probably a nice use for a blunt weapon as well. She stopped momentarily to allow the Slarkreen to lead once again, then accompanied him into the next room where she followed his example. She knelt down to bow, her eyes meeting the Queen's as they pierced the darkness. However the interaction was brief, as she then lowered her head.

 

She had once acted a fool in front of this woman, surely embarrassing her mother. Now she of all people would be the second of her "parents". She found fate rather cruel for allowing such irony to transpire. But she has since learned from her mistakes, and she planned to make it known to her. She listened to tune resonating from Valerna, a somber feeling creeping over her despite how pleasing it was to hear. Her body stiffened as she heard the chieftain approaching her, and she raised her head just enough to see the woman looming over her. She took her silence as an invitation to speak herself.

 

"A pleasure, Queen Valerna, to be in your company once again. I'd like to thank you for having me. I hope I have not kept you waiting for long. I'd hate to waste your time."

A single lapse in judgment wouldn't be held for perpetuity over the young lady's head. The blunders of the past were just that, expired events scarcely meritorious of remembrance. Childishly clinging to the past to sway the fox wasn't within Valerna's purview. She found such appropriations to be within the dim-witted and less shrewd arsenal. However, what would be utilized to evaluate Perna would be how she acted in the coming moments. It had been six or so years, to return to that vomit she disgorged as a child would only reflect horrendously on her character. The child failed to react to her performance. This led the arachnoid to weigh if her skills with the harp had waned over the years.

 

How unfortunate, then again, she couldn't have expected one of the sands to appreciate art. The only thing they had grasped was the ability to massacre one another. Stoicism took hold over her voluptuary figure, the queen studying the fox as she wallowed within muteness. Everything was being dissected, Perna's mannerism and her words. Not just what the kitsune said, but also what she might not be inclined to speak. Valerna sighed while the adopted urchin replied, a bit ashamed that her extended hand had been spurned. Nonchalantly, the web spinner retracted her arm so that it loitered along her side.

 

It was painfully evident that the training hadn't broadened Perna's ability to take in her surroundings or social cues. The matron at least hoped it strengthened her brawn. Otherwise, she'd be forced to second guess the wisdom of subsidizing a mentor for the vulpine. If nothing else, at least Perna had the foresightedness to extend an apology regarding her possible delinquency. However, the rest of her remarks were par for the course. The sort of reaction so expected it stood out as lukewarm and thus undeserving of further acclaim. For a few seconds, the queen did nothing but linger before spinning that lip piercing with her split lingua.

 

"Naturally." The spider made a popping sound with her tongue only to swell and deflate her bosom as she divorced a sigh from her oral rims.

 

"This is all riveting, but you're no longer a child, and so I will not be treating you like one. Stand, draw your weapon, and wait across the room. I wish to evaluate your skills. Please don't hold back."

 

Valerna cautioned, stepping back while from her pores that chitinous shielding formed before tightly wrapping around her hourglass figure. The matron extended her arms as she spun a web between them to weave a single three-inch rope. The whip of fiber was a total length of six feet, the warrior tugging on it to test its strength before grinning. The distance between them was about thirty feet. The perfect little arena for them to engage within this timeless pastime. The other soldiers rose, dragging all furniture and obstacles against the wall as they hugged the edge of the room. The men wouldn't interfere unless the fox dared to use her magic within such a confined space.

 

The spider peered undeviatingly at the kitsune. Valerna maintained a very neutral posture while the giantess patiently waited. One of those spider growth reached forward, bending inward as if gesticulating for the young warrior to make the first move.

 

"Come. Show me your form, your strength, and your ferocity. Show me no mercy, as you'll receive none from me. You're a Jorgenskull, born of the debilitating sands. Nevertheless, you must purge out such feebleness if you're going to have a standing within my family. Unveil your claws and fangs fox. Let us see if your people are as strong as they proclaim to be."

The kitsune surely wasn't expecting to have to spar inside. This could spell trouble for her. She hated having to draw closer herself, and now she couldn't use her magic, unless she too wanted to get burned. A quiet frustrated growl emanated from her throat as she take a step forward, unsheathing and brandishing her sword, her hand gripping the hilt firmly, as she eyed the spider limbs originating from her back. This felt all too familiar. They may have a different look but these limbs sprouting from her back reminded her of Zelena, who she had been introduced to so long ago with the same problem presented to her. However unlike then, Perna had something a little more effective with warding off extra limbs than some rocky staff. But her gaze shifted to the whip that she had produced. That must be her weapon of choice, rather than those extra limbs.

 

She was quite sure that she would lose this sparring match, if she could even consider it that. She was sure to endure an immense amount of pain in these next few moments, but she swallowed her fear and dashed forward, covering 8 feet in just a second. Without knowing what the use of that whip would be, Perna figured she could keep it at bay with her sword rather easily. With how she decided to approach her, she'd have only a second or two to react to any retaliation Valerna threw at her. Hoping that she couldn't move unnaturally fast. Perna took that into account a little late, so she committed to her choice, preparing an upward slash at Valerna's torso as she drew closer.

The wrath that plastered itself across Perna's face wouldn't alter the trajectory of this engagement. The arachnoid was nothing if not confident in her abilities. This assurance wasn't sutured by pride alone, rather an epiphany wrought from the fracas of ambivalence. Unlike the youthful fox, Valerna had been inundated in the turmoil of war and conflict. Her eyes have born witness to many tragedies and the imbecilities of lesser sovereigns. Ever since her younger years, she had known the sting of death, yet never was so fortunate to embrace its bittersweet venom. Time and time again, her feet were whisked by the undertow of that timeless shore, yet she was powerless to drown under its tumultuous waves. Nonetheless, through the bashing of those waves, the spider had ascertained her place within the hierarchy of the macrocosms.

 

It was Valerna's wish to endow the aspiring warrior with this opportunity. And in the process, sow a seed of humility. If Perna wished to trod down this topsy-turvy road, she needed to comprehend what such a commitment curtailed. That stratagem, while unorthodox, may yet render the most promising of outcomes. The arachnoid wasn't oblivious. After all, it was she who chartered the cephalopod to hone this vulpine's abilities. And while superficial they might appear comparable, the reality couldn't have varied anymore wildly than if the chieftain had conspired it. Regardless of what Perna might have thought, the Queen would strike accurately and devoid of malice. Her onslaught would be one of love, albeit of a harsh nature.

 

It was at that very moment before the two would engage within this timeless dance that Valerna culled the subtle inflection of doubt. How mesmerizing, was the child so weak-willed that she had already resigned before straining her grit? Nevertheless, whatever inspired that dillydallying wouldn't subsist for long. The child of her lover sprung into action, rabidly sprinting into the fray like the legends of old. Perna's tenacity was commendable, as was her footwork and pace, all signs indicated that Zelena had at least done something of note. Self assuredly, the web weaver stood still, her eyes of brown flickering from the perdition of a seasoned killer. The sort of expression only the most qualified of predators may discern.

 

Valerna tugged on that cord, sneering while Perna continued to diminish the gap between them. If the kitsune hoped for some immense exhibition of sorcery, then she'd be sorely aggrieved. While the chieftain could have evoked her aptitude over the flesh, there was little rationale to behave so flamboyantly. The domain of flashy attacks belonged to the fools who prance about as if they are somehow expert killers. Sometimes the most straightforward technique is the most effective. Those eyelids narrowed as her pupils fixated themselves on her mark. Perna's weapon of choice, the ever-cliche sword, had been brandished yet displayed little sign of use.

 

This revelation only furthered billowed the spider's confidence while her honeyed lanterns kept assessing the teenager. Valerna was scrutinizing for anything that might betray her strategy. Eventually, it did blossom before her, the fashion of which Perna's hip flared advertised much. That toothpick was pulled back only to be sent flowing upward in some fruitless endeavor to land a fatal blow. That opening attack was quick. Regrettably for the pup, it wasn't fast enough. And instead of squandering her energy in some acrobatic dodge, the monarch lowered that strand woven between her hands at the last second.

 

The sword would be met with the resilient fiber, its organic strength more than enough to stop that wild swing dead in its track. If Perna should aspire to retract her weapon, she'd discover it was stuck. The giantess wrapped her web around the blade, stepping forward. Valerna shifted her feet and body so that her side faced the kitsune while she pulled the child inward while sending her shoulder blade toward the fox's chest. The weight of 1,500 lbs, her brute strength, and the conceivable compromised position besmeared a grisly picture for the juvenile. If somehow her counteroffensive should remain faithful, upon that collision, the fox would feel her ribs bend inward but not break. The air within those lungs would be forced out as she conceivably would have the wind expelled from the body.

 

Valerna couldn't see a way out of this, let alone did she imagine Perna to have the capability to regain her footing, senses, and control over this predicament. If that should demonstrate itself as accurate, what ensued would be a beneficial lesson to her daughter.

With Perna's opening engagement successfully repelled and with Valerna's counterattack striking true, the giantess sneered. The bones bending from her shoulder were felt as the intended effect wreaked havoc over her daughter's mortal coil. The matriarch said nothing, her eyes peering indifferently at the suffering kitsune. Perhaps Perna predicted some quarter, an interim between her onslaught? What foolery, to amuse such notions it could only indicate an incomprehensible degree of naivety on the teenager's part. What manner of predator would desist their attack now? While their adversary lay on the ground, winded, powerless to oppose the continuance of this waltz? To treat Perna like a babe was the most egregious of effronteries; she was a dignified warrior, not some chutzpah.

 

With her target plunging to her knees, Valerna would step forward, lowering her weight while she sent a palm strike to Perna's face. Lamentably for the impaired fox. That lackadaisical mindset and self-absorption into her agony left Perna little prospect of eluding this secondary strike. Valerna's hand connected just as the juvenile dropped earthward. The chieftain's palm smashed across the side of her face while those knife-like talons tightened their grip over that cranium. That blow would afflict dizziness and disarray, sending a succession of throbbing headaches yet was reserved enough to preclude brain damage or the bursting of her dome. Descending to her knees while steering the defenseless prey, Valerna would pin her head across the floor while digging her knee into Perna's backbone.

 

A jolting pain would likely throb, yet providentially for her adoptive daughter, she kept enough control to prevent the snapping of that spine. The spider snarled. Her brown eyes burned with the indignation due to Perna's constant alacrity to relent. Pathetic, perhaps splintering that spinal column would be empathetic, given it appeared Perna wasn't keen to use it.

 

"You delayed during your opening, you delayed when blocked, and after a single, gentle blow, you've resigned yourself? What did you envision? That I would coddle you? What's next? should I breastfeed you like a babe? No, Niazmina needs to snip that umbilical cord. Wah wah, poor Perna, someone fetch the kitsune a nipple!"

 

She taunted the fox, the arachnid hoping that such a strategy might stoke something, anything within her stifled spirit.

The spectacle of someone being tromped beneath her knees had struck a chord. That primal impulse to dominate and contest all in her path had resurfaced. Yet the lesser disposition would be promptly quelled as an aura of temperance resonated outward from the spider's shapely figure. Perna wasn't prey; she was her daughter. This realization was what inspired that self-control. Nonetheless, just because the giant wasn't aspiring to cripple or exterminate didn't implicitly suggest that she'd immerse herself within complacency. Impassivity was a valuable attribute of her character, a mindset she donned whenever deemed applicable.

 

Her patience had been rightly rewarded, even now, while pitiable the kitsune was stirred by her words. Those honeyed lanterns watched as Perna vainly resisted the poundage keeping her stapled to the floor. That spunk materialized; it manifested itself in the form of a childish attack. The child having little recourse deemed fit to represent her defiance over that serendipity by chomping onto the spindler's talon. Her skeletal armor made it rather impotent from an offensive standpoint. Yet, the muffled rejoinder coupled with such drudgery to regain control over this lackluster quagmire billowed Perna's merit as a fighter within the chieftain's eyes. Valerna sneered from the sport derived from such bravado before removing herself from the pup.

 

The arachnid stood tall, her face partly veiled by the room's darkness as her orbs mirrored the sparse ambient light. Those spider ligaments clicked, only for Valerna to delineate across her luscious lips with that twirling split tongue. A definitive huff dislodged from her gullet while the prideful matron extended her hand to oblige the child off the ground.

 

"Nia? Show my muse the respect she has rated! She is your mother, my wife, and your sovereign—the diva of the sands, my estimable desert lily. Now, rise and take my hand. You will no longer be beneath the tutelage of Zelena. She might have been a serviceable enough mentor for the time. However, to hit true excellence, I wish to appoint a more stringent and seasoned instructor for you. If you're to become a Jorgenskull and bear my banner, then we must purify out those enfeeblements you inherited from the sands. Unless, of course, you wish to abode within the shade of mediocrity?"

 

She questioned, leaving Perna with the burden of choice, or at least the illusion of it.

The impetuous and unintelligent presumed defeat to imply disrepute, yet it was via our floundering that we reap erudition. Perna may have found herself bested within this theatre, Nonetheless, whether the fox was cognizant of it or not, her distinction had bellowed within Valerna's eyes. The cadence of a warrior is a nebulous aspect to intellectualize. However, one could unquestionably distinguish its presence whenever observed regardless of its immaterialistic nature. And while the adoptive spawn might derive opprobrium over such trifling details, it paraded a singular advantageous characteristic. Such an emotional fluster heralded that Perna cared and aspired to claim greater alps. And if nothing else, such observable reactions verified her veracity and tenacity in ways words alone would fail to divulge.

 

A simper triturated through the spider's often unmoving deportment—that smirk affirmed that the manhandled kitsune had done something exemplary. The chieftain's chest inflated, only to compress upon the exhaling of a weighty sigh. Its faint din was comparable to the sough one might hear amidst the towering trees of the jungle during a pleasant spring day. That chipperness was indisputable. It branched outward with the ferocity of the binary sols that transited athwart the welkin. The giantess sashayed forward, that gait indubitable concerning its air of authority. The gravity of her proximity might have been perceived as the space between them diminished.

 

Remaining close, Valerna tilted her head as a few wayward strands of red hair thinly veiled fragments of her striking countenance. Yet through that mane, the arachnid's overpowering gaze perforated uncontestably. Cooly, she'd reach out her hand, giving the sore and winded fox an endearing pat across the cheek. Thrice she stuck, only to then settle her chitinous palm on Perna's cheek. Affectionately the mother circled her thumb across the jowl while she stared undeviatingly into the teenager's orbs. This moment was intimate, unsullied by the begriming of the outside world. Beyond these walls, the globe might have been rotating upon its axis. Yet within this room, the rivulet of time and its current appeared to distort around the two.

 

"I regard myself blessed every day to have bumbled upon such a desert jewel. You might not have originated from my egg, but you're my daughter none the same. Both you and your mother are treasures, flowers that the scythe had spared so that I might happenstance upon you and cherish your familial beauty. I don't demand perfection. I only aspire for what's best for you and that you give it your all."

 

The spindler beamed lovingly, only to lengthen out those spider ligaments as they reached around Perna. Gently she'd bring her daughter inward as she coiled her arms around her—the two sharing in this unadulterated manifestation of love. Her beseechment for that weapon hadn't been rejected, just deferred. Valerna desired to show the mischief-maker that while she might be adamant in her approach, the arachnoid wasn't callous. Unfortunately for Perna, given their height difference, the vulpine's face had practically been submerged between the valley of her fleshy mounds.

 

"I will see to it personally that you mature into the woman you deserve to be. And no matter what might await you at the end of your voyages, know that you'll always hold a special place within my web."

 

One of those spinal extremities turned, aiming the tip behind Valerna while she looked over her shoulder. A single strand of fiber expelled outward, the silk sped across the expanse only to attach itself to that sword. The sound of its dragging bounced across the wall before it was flung into the air. That broad implement collided with her carapace growth before manipulating it to slip the blade inside of its sheath.

 

"Do you recall when we first met within that cart those many years ago? You were so inquisitive concerning my people. At that time, while you played with the feathers I gave you, I knew you were my tchotchke. And while you've grown and will continue to do so, no matter how old you'll become, you'll always be my little tchotchke."

 

Valerna chuckled, combing those sharp talons through Perna's hair while she appreciated this intimate snapshot between mother and daughter. Keeping her face buried a moment longer before loosening her grip so that the kitsune might withdraw herself and respond. Even if the chieftain anticipated this spectacle of having the consequence of mortifying poor Perna.

"Tchotchke... I don't recall the meaning of that word. I would like you to refresh my memory. But first know that you too hold a special place in my heart. You've brought much joy to Momma, and for that I am so very grateful. And you flatter me with your words. I can't find the words to express how I feel right now. As my mother, I will love and protect you just as I do for her, I promise you. And mark my words, you may not expect perfection from me, but I will bring nothing less. As a woman, and a fighter. My actions will reflect back on both of you, and you deserve nothing less." Perna added.

This solemn embrace propagated a wholesome energy. The dynamism of their kinship ionized the atmosphere around them. Perna's acceptance was expected. Nonetheless, it established itself as a welcomed shift within the mood that formerly pervaded inside this structure. The tension that initially strained her muscles was noted, exposing the potentiality that paranoia remained within the kitsunes heart. A healthy dose of fear and suspicion was admirable, but if misplaced, it could verify itself as disastrous. Nevertheless, for now, Valerna would stomach this rascality lest it mars an otherwise undiluted experience.

 

Eventually, her antagonism eroded under the surges of her motherly affection. Perna, the brat, had always slaked for a family. A fact, while she might not have been mindful of, couldn't have been denounced so readily. Those spider extremities were kneading against the spine while the continual thawing of her barriers emerged as absolute. This development assuaged the arachnids dread, fetching the cooling waters of satisfaction. For too long had the web weaver wallowed within winter. Providentially for the giantess, her persistence had been rewarded as that dismal season weakened under the ardency of spring.

 

The fox may have endorsed or disliked her bosom molding around her mug. Yet such topics were trivial when contrasted with the repletion they both savored. Sequentially this portrait that had singed itself onto Valerna's memory abated as the child took custody over this situation and withdrew herself from that hold. The chieftain chuckled, rotating that lips piercing with her split lingua as she hearkened keenly to Perna's retort. That rejoinder was devoid of quips or aggression, diverging out the humbling currents of gratitude—that veneration, whether it be genuine or a forgery, mattered little. Ultimately for the matriarch, she'd appreciate it regardless of its factuality.

 

"Tchotchke means pretty girl."

 

That opening remark was forthright enough. Its construction was absent of elaborate articulations of a more noteworthy intent behind it. The pale beauty smiled, securing those arms 'neath her perky breast for support as Valerna beamed lustrously upon her spawn of the sands.

 

"It is inadvisable to make a lady a promise if you're unable to uphold it. Let alone a queen or your mother."

 

She precautioned, only to wag a finger as those broad hips slanted ever so imperceptibly.

 

"Curious, has your mother confided in you this little fact? Or are you assuming such on your own accord Perna? I sometimes wonder if I'm keeping her content enough. She is quite a demanding partner. Thankfully for us both, I'm fond of such challenges."

 

The redhead chuckled before looking to the side. Her tongue released a popping noise as she wondered what her muse was doing? Had her queen missed her? Perhaps she should procure Niazmina a gift, a way of expressing how much she idolized the necromancer. Those lanterns of honey veered to the corner, peering nattily upon Perna as a sneer cemented itself on her snazzy countenance.

 

"You have furlough now, a rare commodity in the years to come. While you have my ear and rest alone within my web, I feel it is only judicious to amuse any queries you may harbor. Go ahead, ask away. Nothing is off-limits. If we are to further our budding relationship as mother and daughter, student and master and of course subject and queen...it is only reasonable to get to know one another. Wouldn't you agree, my tchotchke?"

"Pretty girl. Thank you. And no, I don't believe Momma ever said it to me. I just assume so, why would I not? As for any questions or requests, I only wish for one thing at the moment. With all due respect, I am aware that you can change your size, so I ask that you do that before you ever hug me again. The lack of air between your cleavage is quite uncomfortable. Just a small favor, yeah?"

 

Perna let out a quiet sigh as she returned her gaze to Valerna with a smile. "Its been nice seeing you again... Mom. I hope too much time doesn't go by before I'm awarded another meeting with you. Perhaps next time I could accompany you back to the Jungle? I've never forgotten about your chocolates. I think about them often. Spending time with you while gorging on those sweet treats sounds like a nice day indeed, if of course you aren't too busy. Or maybe, I could come with you this time?"

Perna embraced the queen's laudatory observation without ostensible opposition. The edification rendered on the surface might emerge as inconsequential. Yet the web weaver understood that small ripples could surge into tsunamis given enough time and with the aid of a complementary string of pushes. The kitsune was being molded. The defects inherent in her programming as a former denizen of the sands had to be purged if the fox was to reach the zenith of her potential. Nothing that was transpiring within these quaint halls was by chance alone. Every thread functioned in solidarity to steer the vulpine down a single path. Such maneuvers spindled together quite the elaborate mesh.

 

The radiation of her motherly affection continued to be discharged. Its palliative warmth wheedled the child to lower her barriers and become susceptible to the spider's persuasion. Such webs knitting was not done with malevolent ambitions—the threading by her talons suturing together such an entrancing tapestry that was solely inspired by benignity. Whether Perna was cognizant of it or not, everything that had been enacted toiled as a test. From the moment she had leased Zelena's tutelage to the very events ensuing within this abode. It all benefited a function to assist the machiavelli with gauging and deciding an appropriate place for the kitsune within her tribe.

 

Valerna's deportment discharged out a pacifistic aura. Such an ambiance was a fabrication, one that oddly only bolstered her steely company. Wordlessly, she stood close—her honeyed lanterns canvassing the fox as she resumed to gabble off. Such drivel was amicable, rousing forth a smirk as Perna divulged she spoke without objective knowledge. However, the statement concerning the giant's bust and stature was anything but entertaining. Such offense would be pardoned, Valerna reminding herself that Perna knew little of their practices and thus couldn't have fathomed the gravity of such an entreaty. Let alone the barb such a concession would provoke amongst her people.

 

It would be easy to say nothing, to tolerate the visionless foreigner as she blunder within her shortsightedness. Nevertheless, Valerna hadn't built up her legacy by grasping at low hanging fruit. No, she had architected her empire by doing what she deemed proper, which often carried severe strain. Valerna had culled enough; the arachnid lifted her pointer claw, setting it on her very lips while she released a shushing sound.

 

"Unfortunately, I will have to reject such a proposal. Don't fret my tchotchke. I'm a fair if not a stern mistress. I punish those by the stripes of what they know. And you're not knowledgeable concerning my people and our exquisite culture. Within the desert, you flaunt your earthly attainments as a mode of broadcasting your triumph. Here, within the jungle, we are above such materialistic gloatings."

 

Valerna paused, the predator pacing back and forth while she gazed upon Perna via the corner of her eyes. Her hand rested above her buttocks as her spiderling extremities diligently combed through her red mane.

 

"The body you see asserts my distinction as a giantess. These exorbitant curves are maintained by the continuous exertions of my mastery over the flesh. To summarize, it parades the fact I have dominated my corporal shell. And by extension, the temporal domain it inhabits. It declares not just wisdom, knowledge, and assiduousness. But is the forerunner to something far more encompassing and admirable. That being the compartmentalization of my strengths weaknesses and how it all operates in concinnity to support the totality of my being."

 

The chieftain stopped her stride only to pivot and face the child. Her split lingua rotated that lip piercing as she chuckled. That rapture stoked by how the indigent lass had missed the mark.

 

"You have much to learn. This fact is made all the more evident by how you've failed to break down my language. Of course, we will be spending time together, for I'm taking you under my wing. Your furlough is only for today. You've been blessed with a rare opportunity. One that many would kill to obtain. My undivided attention and willingness to entertain your questions. Be warned, after the sols set, I offer no guarantees that I'll be so open in the future. After all, a lady is entitled to her secrets."

 

Perna's empty comment regarding chocolate wouldn't be acknowledged, given it held zero relevance. She was fifteen, her chest swelled from womanhood, and by Jorgenskull customs, this made her an adult. Valerna made a note that when she returned to Niazmina to express her concerns that the jackal's coddling might have stunted the student's mental development.

Perna bowed her head, silently cursing herself for unknowingly insulting Valerna. "I am terribly sorry, I had no idea. I think it'd be best if I save my questions for another time. When I have more of an understanding on where you're from. I'll probably have them answered in due time anyway." Perna's posture shifted, somewhat shrinking away from the Queen. She'd fumble with her own fingers, trying to think of anything else to say but she came up blank. She'd end up spouting more useless nonsense anyway. She had no idea how to speak to Valerna, though she wished to so much. It was however nice to know that she'd be spending quite a bit more time with her, however threatening to her health it may be. But at the moment, she found herself to be quite tired from her trip and swift beating. She took a seat on the floor, keeping quiet until she was addressed again or told to leave.

That deep seeded discomfiture had billowed outward. The spider beheld no disrepute in Perna contending with her scarcity of knowledge. Nevertheless, it became indisputable that such sentiments were not shared between the two. That shook body language, and her strung together words had illustrated beyond a reasonable doubt that her alleged effrontery flustered her. That lack of bearing which so quickly betrayed her heart exhibited that the kitsune had yet to master her emotions. In combat or social dealings, the capacity to temper and control one's nerves was quintessential to their triumph. Whether Perna meant to do it or not, the teenager had unveiled further information that the spindler would use to fashion this budding delinquent of the desert.

 

The giantess stood proudly, her breast expanding from repletion only to be sapped from the lungs. What a pity. Here Valerna had hoped that the lackluster protégé might yet present some degree of intrigue. How was it that such an offer could be so easily turned away? If the young pup hungered for acumen to develop her acuity, why didn't she take full service of the circumstances to do so? Was it plausible that this outlander had misconstrued her strength or capacity to grow alone? Or was it her pride that deflected away that kind gestures the spider had extended out of goodwill? No matter the rationale and the chieftain's objection, she'd nonetheless honor her wishes.

 

Wordlessly the arachnid sashayed to the window, her honeyed lanterns looking beyond them at the tranquil lake. All the while, her hands persisted as roosted above her shapely rump as the mind reminisced of her time here many centuries ago. A day when the bright rain descended from the firmament with all the ferocity of a monsoon. It doused all life from this meek hamlet, save for one, her's. The fragrance of burnt flesh, the warmth of soot, and the mangled yet charred cadavers of those she had failed to convince to flee were all still present within her mind. However, amidst all the devastation, she remembered a single flower that had survived. It was from this spectacle that Valerna had cultivated enlightenment. A new future could arise from the defoliation of life and the jungle and start anew. Sometimes even returning more robust than before.

 

"In life, there are moments you can't take back. These are instances where your fears will consequentially close doors. You will always look back at such junctions and wonder, what if I had done things differently? The passage of time waits for no one. Whether you are aware of it or not, it flows at a steady pace. And one day, you'll find yourself invariably upon those timeless shores looking across its waters to see those who have moved to the other side waiting for you. You should find your mother, spend time with her, and cherish what time you might have left. Otherwise, you'll live with regret and a myriad of questions."

 

Valerna cautioned; she had already gleaned that there was trouble between the mother and daughter. A sort of wedge that she couldn't place yet was artificial and inadvisable. The arachnoid peeked over her shoulder at the sitting fox. The illumination of the sols swallowed half of her face. At the same time, the other portion had been immersed in the shadows. That knife-like gaze poked Perna while she spun her lip piercing with that tongue from behind her parted mandible.

 

"You can't understand unless you challenge or question. Whatever you might reap vicariously through others will be insufficient when contrasted to the bounty achieved by one's willingness to solicit after their own resolutions. To contend otherwise is even more shameful than how enfeebled you look while sitting on that floor amidst my entourage. Go, rest. For tomorrow I'll no longer hold back. And dead or alive, you'll become a Jorgenskull or be cast out from my illustrious line. We'll soon see if one of the desert has the spirit to match a verdant babe's. Regardless of the outcome, it should be interesting."

Perna left, heading home which meant she had defied her Matrons request. This insolence would undoubtedly sow much contention within the Jorgenskull house...

Click the buttons below to start your journey through the chronicles that is my life...