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 The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley

The Spidress’s Order
Written by Benjamin Fouché

I.

Curiously strewed among the hillocks and mountainsides of New England are the ruins of walls and subterranean chambers.  The leaf-blanketed floors of the forests will mostly conceal the ancient masonry of these cavities and barriers.  Indeed, many of the tunnels have been claimed by the inevitable erosion of time.  However, many are still accessible if excavated by those who dare to conjecture their forsaken mysteries.  Sadly, no one can truly discern—nor conceive of—the inexplicable civilization and secrets to which these crumbling structures stand as testament.  But perhaps it is best that such knowledge of the past is never ascertained by the mind of humankind.  The truth of the matter is foreboding, grisly, and stained in blood.

Indeed, the precise astronomical alignments of the stonework demonstrate how superior the intellects of the constructors were for the period of their existence.  This extinct race would have ultimately been the conqueror of the mortal realm, had the Night of Deceit not befallen it.  Furthermore, these ruins should remind any ponderous soul that the material world should never make contact with the preternatural.  Both realities are incompatible.  And the consequences can leave an indelible horror upon the invoker.  A shadow of doubt and dread still lingers over the slowly vanishing structures.  Sometimes, a draft of deathly air will whisper of the agonizing cries which once pierced the stillness of the woodlands—and these shrieks were the result of a forbidden desire.

But this desire could not possibly dwell within the essence of mankind—not even those with the most morbid temperament.  No, this yearning could only develop within the mind of a creature not even remotely correlated to the nature of humankind—both physically and spiritually.  This enigmatic race came from beyond the stars.  Its cratered boulder struck the earth.  And from this object, it was borne.  These beings’ transfiguration over the countless eons daunted humankind.  Thereafter, the living developed a fear of night and darkness—and a fear of the dismaying beings that may reside within.  The most accurate way in which one may attempt to visualize this race is by observing a mere arachnid: expressly, the spider.  For this race relished impenetrable blackness; for it was without clemency.  This race of spiders’ ultimate longing was to dominate the meager Empires and civilizations that man had erected.

However, its struggle to establish its supreme order over the inferior humankind would prove to be strenuous, and at times, impossible.  For there stood a hindrance in its path: the syndrome of wehr.  When the sun ruled over the lands, the spiders were nothing more than small, eight-legged animals.  When the moon reigned and the shadows danced, they were fearless hunters.  And all who entered their dominion became lost and were stalked—unto a gruesome feasting.  The Spider Race reveled in the misery of others.  It was simply of its unworldly nature.  Nevertheless, it must be remembered that although it held an animalistic behavior, this Spider Race was quite intelligent.  These spiders built their Empire so that their presence was invisible to the other sentient beings that inhabited the earth.

But indeed, this race of spiders would have to summon and harness a force far beyond anyone’s control if it were to dominate and subjugate the human opponents.  This would take millennia to fulfil, but fortunately, patience was a merit the spiders possessed—and with this virtue, they would carry forth their grave rites throughout the ages.  The Spider Race dreamed of the evening whence The Spidress’s Order would descend upon the earth.  And indeed, it was she, The Spidress, who ordered the advancement of her race.  The Spidress was Queen; an Empress.  She reigned over all and commanded those beneath her to undertake their responsibilities.  Below her position were the four commandants: Myyrainth, Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox.  Myyrainth was The Spidress’s leading adviser; Voizeineth raised the younglings and transmuted them into hunters; Worrfrusch organized the various packs of hunters; and Nyqqthox gave orders to the most elite of the hunters.

On The Night of Judgement, the younglings would be tried in a pit from which they would be rendered no escape.  Voizeineth would throw them in one by one.  Two would then be called forth by Voizeineth and ordered to attack each other in a condemning tournament.  Both were to show no mercy, but only a perpetual violence.  The youngling who reigned victoriously would be tried again two more times.  If the youngling survived, he would be enlisted into The Spidress’s army of hunters.  Thus, Voizeineth was a critical figure among The Spidress’s Empire.

Once several younglings became hunters, Worrfrusch would establish a pack.  Worrfrusch’s responsibility was crucial, for not every hunter could work in harmony; for hunters would, from time to time, drain the bodily fluids of one another.  If one hunter perceived his comrade to possess a more dominant trait, he would commence a conflict, until it would progress into a physical confrontation.  In other instances, several hunters would become insecure and resent their Alpha, thus later plotting an attempt to rid their pack of him by any means necessary.  Undoubtedly, these actions became a familiarity to Worrfrusch—and therefore, it was his sworn obligation to arrange the hunters in a wise and delicate manner; The Spidress had to know that her army was dependable.  Worrfrusch would not tolerate resentment among the hunters; he would devour those who refused to cooperate.

Hunters exhibiting extraordinary capabilities were assigned by Nyqqthox, who was the commandant of the elites.  The elite hunters would firstly participate in the ethereal rituals that were held upon Ghastwood Hummock.  Only those considered commendable by The Spidress were permitted to engage in the ancient traditions of the Spider Race—for if any other spider attempted to carry forth a ceremonial action, it would be declared an unspeakable sacrilege that would, at length, lead to immediate death.  And indeed, Nyqqthox found splendor in pronouncing the insubordinate to be ‘insufferable blasphemers’.  Secondly, the elite hunters would be sent outward to search for the sacred mineral known as Amethyst.  Its dark-violet crystals were known to retain an energy that attracted The Dark Sickness: an entity that would lastly grant the Spider Race the key to forever rid itself of the wehr disorder.

Myyrainth was second in command of the entire Empire.  He would aid The Spidress in implementing essential strategies when hunters were to invade villages.  Myyrainth would also give direct orders to Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox.  When the hunters raided the human villages, they would amass the inhabitants—for humans were indeed considered an honorable delicacy to the Spider Race.  Besides nourishment, the foremost motivation for conquering the villages was to find the seeds of a particular plant that was desired by The Spidress.  This plant would, in the end, allow The Dark Sickness to manifest into the material dimension.  And for this, they dreamed always.   Myyrainth swore an oath to The Spidress: he would personally make certain that her plot flourished beyond expectation.

It was by the wanes and waxes of the moon that the great Spider Race became nearer and nearer to its vast longing.  And yet, it still felt as if time would only prolong over the course of its immortal journey.  What happened to the spiders you ask?  Patience.  It is rather unwise for you to request such knowledge that you cannot yet comprehend.  While this forbidden history progresses, it is my hope that the chance to observe how the midnight wraith entered the world will be bestowed upon you.  And perhaps afterwards, you will recognize the purpose which the lonesome ruins once had.  It all began with an ebon portal opening in the heavens.  Comparable to a maelstrom, everything was consumed by this gaping hole.  However, before the vortex collapsed, an interstellar object was expelled—its surface cratered—with a hue blacker than death—lusterless—and unblessed.  It approached the earth, quickening its descent.  And without further notice, impact.

 

II.

Within the wraith-like meteorite dwelt bacteria unique to all microorganisms of the universe—their nature destructive.  Each bacterium leached from the crater, and spread forth.  Over the ages, the unearthly bacteria advanced into creatures representing the existence of something far more perilous—a force that continues to frighten mankind: araneae.  While some only reached the state of sapient intelligence, a particular branch evolved to possess a full sentient awareness.  As humankind established the first civilizations, so did this singular division of araneae.  However, their hostile disposition was more extreme than that of humankind; for they were completely unfeeling, vicious, and formidable.  These creatures were utter aliens, even amidst a fairly primitive world.

Their social order was insensible.  The weak younglings were devoured by their mother, or in other instances, the younglings devoured their weak mother.  These creatures were of enormous and muscular proportion.  A dark-gray coating of fur, with a bluish tinge, shrouded their armored exoskeletons.  Their five eyes were radiant with an orange hue—impaling fear into even the fiercest of predatory creatures.  The Spider Race’s means of communication were by a series of vibrations.  These beings’ movements were swift and calculating.  They were always preying on the susceptible.  Nonetheless, when the sun ascended from the distant horizon, these spider beings devolved into a species closely related to their evolutionary cousins.  Their mental capacity was reduced and they were only rendered their animalistic instincts.  But once more, when the shadows fell upon the lands, they were altered back to their true forms, also regaining their memories.

Discovered among the thousands of hatchlings was a rare female.  Her traits were vastly superior to the other few females that were borne from the egg-sack-filled cavern: she was diligent, courageous, and pugnacious—she consequently became The Spidress.  This particular female feasted upon her sisters while a hunger within intensified.  However, this hunger was not of the physical body, but of the soul and heart.  She knew not yet what she truly hungered for, but sluggishly, the realization of her desire dawned in the back of her intellect.  As the veil of time lifted, she established her reign over the entirety of the Spider Race.  Their cultivation became more methodic—a collective monarchy was set into place.  All spiders toiled and pledged their loyalty to The Spidress so that they could retain their rights to live.

While their race expanded, their knowledge of the preternatural world increased.  They became aware of the different forces of the universe that caused peculiar phenomena to transpire.  The Spidress longed that through their exploration of the unnatural, they would discover a way in which they could end their condition of wehr.  In order to resist their transformation, the Spider Race constructed chambers and tunnels within the earth.  During the day, the spiders withdrew to their dark and dank havens—for without darkness to shelter them, the rays of the sun would provoke their dreaded disorder.  Thus, the spiders remained hidden until the cloak of night.  After twilight, they continued to build their Empire.

Altars, as well as other ritualistic monoliths, were assembled throughout the foothills and mountainsides.  Fortresses with tall, sharpened rooves aligned with the sacred events in the skies.  Stones were meticulously designated, so that they held the Empire’s infrastructure together without mortar.  The geometry used was incomprehensibly sophisticated.  Guardian spiders hung within the towers, sentineling the entrance to their domain.  On one unusually quiet night, Worrfrusch instructed several packs of hunters to invade a human village—for this village was in possession of the plant that was needed to fulfil the Autumnal Equinox Rites.  The hunters’ many legs moved upon the earth.  And their death-like eyes, aglow.

Like shadows, they passed through their nocturnal environment—a world of their own had once again masked the lands, and yonder.  In a harrowing abundance, each Alpha shifted his pack into one formation.  Over the rhythm of the crickets’ chirping, their legs crushed the leaves.  They were indeed in communion with dusk—legionnaires of midnight, carrying forth The Spidress’s Order.  Across the silver, gleaming waters of a brook, the hunters proceeded into the gloom of the woods.  Blackening streaks moved across the sky—some translucent, and others dense.  Irregularly, the clouds submerged the moon, ceasing every solitary beam of moonlight.  When darkness became dominant, the only luminosity rendered to the stretch of wilderness was the glow from the eyes of each spider—appearing, disappearing, and again, reappearing from behind the infinite union of trees.

The hunters approached near—nearer—and nearest.  The lights of the village flickered; the flame of life wavered in the Reaper’s cold draft.  The hunters thus crawled forth, encompassing the village amidst the unpleasant disquietude.  Each Alpha momentarily halted his pack, and entered—waiting for the moment during which he would signal in his pack.  But first, the Alphas searched for the seeds of the plant that was needed for The Spidress’s rituals.  Once the seeds were found, an Alpha declared, “We shall bestow immeasurable contentment upon our hallowed Spidress.”  In an instant, another one of the Alphas raised his two front legs, gesturing the others to enter the village.

One by one, the hunters intruded, destroying the frail wigwams as they did.  All structures of the village were demolished—the people screamed and shrieked, aghast by the abrupt pandemonium.  Indeed, the true menaces of the darkness lunged forth, capturing all of the hapless souls and spinning them in webbing.  A fire spread, igniting the homes until they collapsed to ashes.  The humans were lugged through the wilderness as the hunters scuttled away into the shadows.  Once the Alphas and their hunters reached the entryway, the Guardian spiders skulked downwards from their towers to allow the packs inside.  Large tree branches were pulled aside so that the Alphas and their hunters could proceed inward.  Myyrainth moved towards them.  Then, seeing the sack of seeds being held by one of the Alphas, he snatched it and scuttled away to deliver it to The Spidress.  Meanwhile, the Alphas took the enwrapped humans to the Ingesting Circle, where each human was injected with a potent venom.  Thereafter, the pile of swathed humans was divided equally for the spiders to consume.  The muscles in each villager stiffened as the venom coursed rapidly through his or her veins.  They all lay in revulsion—inert—with only their minds able to function.  Even so, their brains too became inactive.  The spiders feasted, draining the bodily fluids of each human with their fangs.

Myyrainth entered The Spidress’s sanctuary, holding the seeds.  Meditating within the center of a weaved orb-web was The Spidress.  She gazed upon Myyrainth and enquired about the seeds with such bitterness.  When Myyrainth presented them to her, her disposition became less hostile.

“It appears my hunters have done well,” said she.  “Therefore, the Autumnal Equinox Ceremonies can be held.  These seeds are an indispensable part of the rites that will take place—do you know what they represent?”

“No,” answered Myyrainth.

“They are a symbol of harvesting, which is indeed what I intend to do.”

“Ah, but what shall you be harvesting?” queried Myyrainth.

The Spidress grinned, in the manner which spiders do, “Our condition should be my Empire’s greatest concern.  I ponder upon it with an unfathomable earnestness.  Sunlight has retained our latent abilities—it has kept us from accomplishing our mightiest endeavors.  The world has coldly stared down upon us for too long—but it is my dream for us to stare down upon the world and become its overlord—and The Dark Sickness will grant us the ability to endure the scorching light of day.  We must bring The Dark Sickness physically into this world by the reaping of darkness.  Thence, when our desired power is given to us, we shall all become one Master.”

“I concur, my dear Spidress,” spoke Myyrainth. “We march onward.”

The Spidress moved her front legs in a gesture of approval.  “The Rites will commence tomorrow—the skies’ expressions confirm that our time is very, very close.  You will know when my Order befalls the world.”

“I look quite forward to that moment,” Myyrainth said.

As Myyrainth scuttled off, The Spidress resumed her deep meditation, envisioning her Empire stretching across the world, and beyond.

 

III.

As the black, starry shroud of night once more fell upon The Spidress’s demesne, all of the spiders toiled.  Crawling out of their chambers, they stretched out their eight legs, in a motion comparable to the fingers of a resurrected corpse.  It was on this evening that they would prepare for the summoning of The Dark Sickness.  The Spidress would forge the key that would allow him to materialize within the physical universe.  The rituals were to be held at Ghastwood Hummock.  But before they could begin, the sacred seeds had to be buried within the soil of a meadow near the border of The Empire.  Myyrainth inserted each unhallowed seed below the ground, knowing the beginning of a new age was to come.

The trees and surrounding brush swayed in a draft which whispered of the imminent tempest.  And Myyrainth crawled back to the Empire as a sensation of wickedness and apprehension befell him; it was an unfamiliar feeling.  Similarly, Voizeineth was enwrapped with the same indescribable impression of darkness.  But ignoring it, he continued towards the pit, where he judged several younglings.  Later that night, The Spidress crawled from her bone-decorated throne and proceeded towards the road winding up to Ghastwood Hummock.  Myyrainth, Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, Nyqqthox, and several Alpha hunters followed her.  The gusts of rain-scented air shook the tree branches hanging from the forest ceiling.  Whirlwinds carried dead, shriveled leaves through the hollows and ravines. Low bellows of thunder resounded here and there.  Within the dusky, billowing clouds, flares of lightning spread afar and yonder.  After several minutes, they arrived on the very summit of Ghastwood Hummock.

A circle of lofty stone pillars, with great, violet crystals of Amethyst atop each one, circled the summit.  Below the hillock rested the meadow where the seeds were inserted.  The Spidress watched intensely as a clearing in the misty sky opened.  Rays of moonlight descended upon the Amethyst crystals, causing them to gleam radiantly.  And as the blackening hazes consumed the moon, a surge of energy pervaded each cluster of crystals.  The spiders observed their environment in a moment of uncertainty.  However, The Spidress was at ease, waiting for The Dark Sickness to pierce through the earthly veil and fulfil her dreams.  Eventually, all of the tempest’s mercy ceased: the cracking of uncountable trees reverberated over the hills and the wind’s howling became nearly intolerable.  The thunder’s grumbling persisted as the seeds below sprouted wildly; these seeds belonged to pumpkins.  The sprouts transmuted into weaving vines.  Their flowers bloomed as hurriedly as they withered into dust.  The round, orange fruits formed, but only the hardiest one remained.  They all rotted within seconds.  But one of the pumpkins absorbed the richness of the soil and the remaining life of its fellow, dying fruits.

Thus the solitary fruit remained within the meadow.  The Spidress led her followers down from Ghastwood Hummock and into the fields.  Afterwards, two Alphas brought forth a burning ember upon a stone slab.  A chanting and humming only understood by the spiders’ tongue commenced.  The chanting persisted until The Spidress ordered utter silence.  No creature—living or dead—was stirring during that sacred time.  The cinder, now dying, was removed by The Spidress.  It scalded the tips of her arms, but she did not care the slightest, for her desire was all that truly mattered.  Thus, she impaled the orange fruit with the ember.  After this action, a horrid sound whelmed the entire earth, blacking out every cognitive being.  When the murk of consciousness subsided, there before the entire Spider Race drifted an entity whose violet shroud rippled menacingly—an entity whose ragged pumpkin face grinned grimacingly—an entity whose deep mirth emanated fiery sparks and wafting smoke: The Dark Sickness lived.

 

IV.

The Spidress and her servants gazed upon the hovering entity with a wariness and curiosity.  He returned the stare—the faint, golden gleams reposing within his glaring sockets peered back—intensely.  He thereafter observed his surroundings—it was a new reality to him—different sensations everywhere.  He glided over to a tree and pressed his hand against the bark.  Turning back towards The Spidress, the dark wraith clinched his fists, as if confused.  As he did this, several whirlwinds stirred about the surrounding woodlands and thickets.  The Alphas moved backwards, fearing him.  The Spidress herself—slightly dazed—slowly made retreating movements.  The leaves scattered throughout the hollows, whispering of The Dark Sickness’s arrival.

“What is this?” he questioned deeply.  “I can breathe the air—I can feel the earth—and all of its weaknesses.  I have a voice from which proceed my very own thoughts.  I exist in this material universe.  I can observe everything around me.  This is truly remarkable.”

The Spidress and her followers watched and listened to the shadowy spirit.

“How did this happen?  It is as uncanny as it is glorious.”

“We have brought you forth,” answered The Spidress, “out of a lightless void.”

There was a moment of quietness before the entity responded.  “Why have you beckoned my existence?”

“I plead with you, we are in dire need of your aid—you are the one who can help us further our great yearning,” spoke The Spidress.

“What matters may I possibly assist you with?” asked the entity.

The Spidress could not believe what was transpiring: the key to her eternal kingdom stood before her.  “Since my earliest recollections, I recall seeing my race—the Spider Race—becoming the superior creature of the earth; I envisioned my Empire crushing all of that which humankind had established; and my Order would extend over every corner of the world.”

“It sounds rather fascinating,” spoke the entity.

The Spidress continued, “But there remains one burden that has restricted us from accomplishing this goal.  The burning light of day causes us to become miniscule beings without our sophisticated intellects.  We are equal to our weak-minded cousins.  Our progress has thus become sluggish.  I have summoned you so that you may share your exceptional wisdom with my kind.”

“And what is my reward?” enquired the entity—with a more malevolent tone in his voice.

“You are sentient.  I have brought you into this realm.  That is your reward.  And now, you shall serve me in return,” declared The Spidress.

“Fair enough, my dear—I will assist you with spreading your Empire,” said the entity.

“Now please, rid us of our disorder, so that we may become immortal beings who can persist through each day!” commanded The Spidress with even less patience.

The shadowy spirit looked upon her.  “Your endeavor cannot be completed in one single evening—I fear the undertaking is not a simplistic one.”

She stood motionless for a few moments before becoming enraged.  “Leave my sight this very instant—and do not come back until you are requested.”

“Very well—it is your wish.”

 The entity floated afar, vanishing into the blackness.

“The rising sun is imminent—you must leave now, and make haste to your chamber,” suddenly spoke Myyrainth.

The Spidress moved away—furious and bewildered, for the night from which her Order descended upon the earth was supposed to begin at that moment—was it not?  She entered her chamber with Myyrainth and Voizeineth, who remained uncertain about her temperament.  They sensed the powerful frustration that lingered within her soul.  She crawled on to her orb-web and spoke to her two faithful servants.

“This is not what I had foreseen—why can he not cure us of our inescapable condition?  Must we live this way forever?”

“I am certain he will help us—remember, he said that our wishes are not simplistic—if anything, it will take time,” suggested Voizeineth.

Time?  I have had plenty of time to contemplate this vast objective—I have waited long enough—but my tolerance is beginning to diminish.  If he becomes useless, we shall cast him back into wherever he came from—and I will watch it without an inch of mercy.”

Myyrainth interjected, “My dear Spidress, you are letting your emotions consume you—you must stay calm—we are very close—the time is drawing near.  But you cannot be overwhelmed by your impatience.  Please, rest, and the world will very shortly belong to you.”

“Myyrainth is correct—we have already finished the Equinox Rituals—this was a leap forward—you must not worry yourself,” Voizeineth concluded.

The Spidress hissed, “You both are thinking foolishly.  Leave me at once!”

Myyrainth and Voizeineth left together, obeying their Empress’s orders. 

Before she fell asleep, her mind became clouded with doubt and resentment.

The following evening, The Spidress and her four main servants traveled to the meadows to meet with the entity once again.  But as they entered, he was nowhere to be seen.  They examined their surroundings, but the phantom still appeared to be absent.  The waning moon beamed down upon them as they searched—yet they could only see empty duskiness.  However, after a few more moments among the quietude, The Spidress was approached by the shadowy spirit.

“Have you returned to gain the knowledge you seek?” asked the entity.

“You amuse me, wraith of the night.  Yes, I have come to learn—much.”

“You all must heed every word that I am about to express.”  As he spoke, the wind disturbed the treetops all around—and the golden radiance within his carved eyes became dim.  “I cannot banish the condition of wehr within all of you—nevertheless, there is a way to forever rid this earth of the sun’s blazing rays.  There are pure crystals within the surrounding foothills—when they are fused together, they can garner all of the sunlight, thus ridding the world of day, and all of its entirety.  When night is everlasting, you will be free to conquer every empire, and humanity.  But until then, you all must extract the pure crystals from the ground and erect a tower.  When completed, I will transmute the crystals into a sphere that will rest upon the tower.  Thence, all sunlight will be absorbed, and the night will reign unendingly.  In return, I would like a few of the seeds that you cherish so dearly—the very seeds that you used to bring me into this world.”

“Only a few of those meager seeds?  You have my word,” said The Spidress.

“Our pact must not be broken—is that understood?” questioned the entity.

The Spidress replied, “Yes, of course.”

The dark wraith nodded accordingly, and disappeared into the shades of the forest.

The Spidress thus commanded her servants, “Myyrainth, please oversee the construction of the tower—it must begin promptly.  As for the crystals, Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox, lead the hunters into the hills, and commence a mining operation.”

They dispersed, and The Spidress crawled back into her sanctuary, becoming increasingly impatient.  Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox all led nine packs of hunters in different directions, away from the Empire.  Once they reached their destinations, they extracted limestone boulders lodged within the vertiginous hills and mountains.  One by one, they carried them back.  Meanwhile, on the grounds of the Empire, Myyrainth watched as the foundation was lain for the tower.  Wide flagstones were placed within an area forming a large, distinct triangle.  When the hunters arrived, the boulders were stacked upon the foundation in such a way that structural instability would have been impossible.  Eventually, others arrived with the needed material, and the tower thus rose.  Before dawn broke, the spiders all scuttled back to their chambers. When the proceeding dusk descended, they skulked out from the darkness of their homes and into the pallid light of the moon.  The tower’s construction resumed and other packs were led back into the hill country where the pure crystals were mined from the earth.  They exhumed the consecrated mineral from pockets and veins extending in many directions below the surface.  This pure quartz was thereafter taken to the field where The Dark Sickness waited.  And each time the crystals were placed before him, he shaped and formed them into a glistening sphere—creating what was to become The Spidress’s only hope. 

One evening The Spidress held a speech to encourage her subjects.

“This is only our genesis, my children.  Our eve will begin once this tower is completed.  And thence, the world becomes ours—no, the Universe, and all of its entirety.  But we must ensure that our advent is sealed—we must ensure that nothing interferes with our vision: a vision that has stirred our blood for quite too long.  A vision that has disrupted the accumulating dust within our shadows.  A vision that keeps our hearts beating.  This was our destiny from our entrance into this realm.  Our workers must be strengthened, for they toil now, erecting the tower of yearn.  You must all go your ways and find the meals that we need to sustain our energy.  Bring back the nourishment our workers deserve—bring back the nourishment that will propel us forward!”

Soon, all would yield—all would obey—all would acknowledge The Spidress’s Order—for the time was looming.

 

V.

The speech ended and the spiders resumed carrying forth their tasks.  Thus, The Spidress descended the arched entryway, but was unexpectedly approached by The Dark Sickness.  He glared with a look that caused momentary unease upon her.  For a minute, neither of them uttered a single word.  But lastly, The Spidress decided to disrupt the unpleasant silence.

“Why have you come to me?”

The dark spirit remained silent, and then spoke.  “Do not fear, for your dreams will come true soon enough.  However, I do come into your majestic presence with an enquiry.”

“And what may be your concern?” questioned The Spidress. 

He replied with a voice, deeper than before.  “I would like for you to bestow upon me a few of the seeds that were once so sacred to you all—this is all that I ask for, in return for my humble assistance.”

“I do not know where I would find more; it took ages to discover them.  My hunters were fortunate enough to stumble upon a village that stored the seeds.  I am afraid that I will have to wait until they return.  When they do, I shall send them back out to search for more—but until then, you must be patient,” answered The Spidress.

The shadowy wraith did not respond to her and glided off into the darkness.  The Spidress then skulked away to her sanctuary, envisioning the extraordinary power that she would very shortly possess. 

As The Dark Sickness floated over the grounds of the Empire, he abruptly paused, focusing on a pile of human remains: grayed bones lying in one stack.  A grin of pure wickedness ignited upon his face.  He seized a few of the bones from the pile and hovered into the neighboring woodlands.  Within the hollow of a decaying tree was the cadaver of a bat.  Peeling it delicately from the rough bark, he clutched the corpse within the palm of his hand.  He then eyed a cauldron-shaped rock upon a pillar near the Empire wall.  Within the hollowed rock, a fire died.  Shoveling a small portion of the ashes into his hands, he thereafter soared downward, back into the solitude of the wilderness.

In a desolate area, far from the Empire—as well as The Spidress’s sight—he placed his items on the top of a lone knoll.  First, the human bones—afterwards, the bat skeleton—and finally, the ashes.  The golden embers within his scowling eye-sockets dimmed as his left arm extended outward.  The shredded cloak hanging from his arm rippled in the autumnal breeze while he expelled a streak of violet-hued electricity from his fingers—the power absorbing into his curious assembly of objects.  After gazing in all directions surreptitiously, he continued to amass something horrifying.  From the pile, a creature of gruesome nature formed—clawing at the veil of reality.  The Dark Sickness chuckled quietly as his creation rose from the ashes.  Its talon-like wings stretched while the skeletal feet inched into the soil below.

“Patience, my friend,” spoke the dark spirit. “When comes our hour, the disturbing amusement will begin.”

The creature extended its gaunt fingers—wriggling them—then clinching them into hardened fists.  As it exhaled and inhaled, an orange light emanated from the two holes within its skulled face.  Its fangs ground while a low voice grumbled like an imminent thundercloud.  The shadowy wraith faced the direction of the Empire, and leered with such malicious confidence…

 

The Spidress meditated within her sanctum, dreaming of the unimaginable glories that would be granted to her when her Order descended upon the earth—and all of its pitiful entirety.  However, her bliss was disrupted by The Dark Sickness as he entered her inner sanctuary, uninvited.

“Hello, my dear Empress.  May I have a word with you?  It is of utmost importance.”

She looked upon him, vexed by his very existence.  She replied, “I have already told you that I will resend my hunters to find the seeds that you are so madly obsessing over.  We have made our pact, now leave me at peace this instant—do not intrude again, or I shall make you feel great remorse.  And I assure you the pain will be beyond compare.”

“You do not possess the ability to decipher my mind, creature.”

“Do not call me ‘creature’, disrespectful wretch!  I am the Queen of this dominion—and soon, the Empress of this world, and yonder.  And when I am, I will not forget your mocking words—perhaps I should send you back to the lightless place from which you came?”

He glared at her, and said, “Nay, Empress—I would go nowhere—I have always been a law of reality, and beyond.  But with your help, I can now physically pierce the veil—and tear it open—hearing the delectable screams of those who dwell in between, imploring desperately—from their inescapable purgatory.  This is the truth, whether you accept or refuse to believe it—and my presence shall remain, forever uplifted by the world’s shadows.  Perhaps you should discern your own intentions, before so vainly attempting to discern others’.”

“If you are threatening me, I still fear nothing—I have not feared anything since the moment I hatched from my egg,” replied The Spidress.

“My, you are certainly an excellent deceiver—it is no surprise to me that your subjects follow you so loyally.  All of their dedication to erecting this tower, so that you may declare your Order.   It would indeed be such a tragedy to have them finish the tower—all for merely nothing.”

The Spidress looked upon the shadowy spirit while she comprehended the words which he spoke.

“I am not your enemy, Spidress—only the voice of reason.”

“Why have you come to me?”

“There are other villages that your hunters can travel to.  With all of the delightful inhabitants, you can supply your entire Empire with the nourishment it deserves.  I can guide your hunters in the correct direction.”

“Very well, wraith of the night.”

The Dark Sickness nodded and floated out of the sanctum, leaving behind a thin, violet mist that gradually subsided.  The Spidress’s unease strengthened—as well as her regret.  What had she summoned?  This question troubled her.

Myyrainth soon entered, unaware.

“My dear Queen, the hunters have returned—and indeed, tonight we shall feast.  In addition, your tower’s construction is progressing very well.”  He paused a moment, observing The Spidress’s eyes.  “Is something wrong?”

“Myyrainth, whatever I have brought into this world—it is mysterious—and I know not its true intentions.  Although my Order will most certainly befall, the dark wraith’s presence is unpleasant—I do not like him lingering around the Empire grounds.  When the tower is finished, and the sphere draws out the sun’s life, we must find a way to annihilate him, and never bring him back.  However, we shall remain cordial with him for now—so as not to anger him.  Do you understand this predicament?”

Myyrainth looked into her eyes deeply, “Yes, my Spidress—I understand.”

“Good.  Please inform Voizeineth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox—for they must know my plans.  But do not tell anyone else, for the wraith of the night must not perceive our conspiracy against him.”

The following nightfall, many of the hunters and their Alphas were commanded to return to the forests and hunt for more of the sacred seeds at the human villages—they were also told that their future depended on finding the seeds.  Indeed, they made haste in the wilderness and passed countless trees, moving underneath the skeletal branches like shadows—ever so watchful and focused.  The moon’s mild radiance filtered through the treetops and flowed on to the cold, forest floor. 

But The Dark Sickness materialized without warning.  And the shadowy wraith’s sharp fingers clinched into fists as he stared upon the spiders in utter silence.  A leer formed upon his pumpkin head while both glowing cinders within his eye sockets ignited with deceitful fire.  For a few more moments, the grim uncertainty endured, until at last, the dark spirit spoke.

“You are moving in the wrong direction—the village that you truly seek is this way,” he whispered.

He gestured his emaciated finger and the Alphas followed him.  The woodlands became denser as the spiders hurried along, following The Dark Sickness.  His tattered, violet shroud rippled in the midnight drafts while his deep exhaling emitted a smoky haze into the air.  In the distance, the howling of wolves resounded over the wilderness—and owls hidden within their roosts dispersed their lonely hoots.  Soon, a low-soaring mist crept down the mountainsides.  By this time, the Alphas and their loyal hunters lost their bearings—bringing forth an unpleasant sensation that had never before penetrated them.

Finally, one of the Alphas confronted the shadowy wraith, “Where is the village that you claim to know?”

The dark spirit motioned his hand towards a knoll and said, “We are very near—it is beyond that hill.”

The Alphas thereafter commanded their hunters to follow them over the hill.  At last, when the Alphas and their hunters reached the other side, they realized that the village of which the dark spirit spoke did not exist.  As the spiders gazed back over the hill, they heard the rustling of the surrounding brush—as if a horde of animals were imminent.  Eventually, this sound was proceeded by bizarre snarls and bellows.  The Alphas and their hunters thus formed a circle, prepared to attack the looming threat.  Over the peak of the hillock, numerous glows lurked downward.  The furious creatures were pumpkin-like.  Their arms and legs, rugged, spiny and vine-strangled—their eyes and mouths ominously aglow, as if burning embers were resting in the center of their insides.  The beings lashed out.  Then, from behind, more of the fearsome things emerged.  Atop the hill, The Dark Sickness rose, glaring down upon the group of spiders.

“Let the feasting commence,” said he.

The pumpkin-daemons lunged, howling, and the Alphas and their hunters attacked.  Swinging their arms at the beings, the spiders caused gory, orange pulp to spill over the land, yet the number of the savages became quite overwhelming.  One hunter was overcome by several of the merciless hobgoblins, and was thus devoured alive.  Several other hunters were soon vanquished and feasted upon.  The Alphas’ efforts seemed to be in vain, as most of their hunters had already perished.  Eventually, the Alphas, too, found themselves only at the mercy of the shadowy wraith.  But The Dark Sickness only released his unpleasant mirth and encouraged his own kind to consume the final ones that stood.


VI.

While the light of the approaching dawn dominated the night sky, The Spidress and Myyrainth stood upon the Empire grounds, still awaiting the return of the Alphas and their hunters.  It had only been hours since they left the Empire in search for the sacred seeds.  Yet The Spidress watched, as if expecting their return very soon.  Myyrainth then turned to her, and after a few more moments of troubling silence, he spoke.

“My dear Spidress, I do not think they will return tonight—the precious seeds were a challenge to obtain the first time.  Perhaps it will take them longer than originally anticipated to find the seeds a second time.  You must retreat to your sanctum, for the sun’s rise is impending.”

She gazed further, until at last, she replied, “Myyrainth, my time is running short—I promised the dark wraith the seeds.  I must give them to him so he is no longer an annoyance.  Once he receives his desired items, we shall no longer owe him anything.  And when my order is forever set, he will be nothing more than a vague remembrance—for this is my future, and my future is within my grasp.  The shadowy spirit is only a means to an end; that is what he always has been—and that is what he always shall be.”

After declaring this to Myyrainth, she crawled back to her sanctuary, underneath the Empire grounds.

When the following evening fell upon the lands, the spiders rose from their daily slumber and continued the tower’s construction.  One by one, more stones were carried through the Empire’s gates and delivered to the tower site.  The monolithic edifice soon surpassed the height of the structures that stood above the treetops.  The interior of the immense tower was built so that the spiders could easily climb to the top.  Below the tower’s shadow, and beyond the entryway of the Empire, The Dark Sickness fused the quartz into an iridescent sphere. 

The Spidress crawled out from her sanctum to wait at the gateway—expecting the arrival of her trusted soldiers.

But the night carried on, and her Alphas and hunters remained missing.  Knowing that The Dark Sickness was impatient, she hurried to the field to assure him that he would most certainly obtain the hallowed seeds.  Myyrainth and Voizeineth accompanied her as she exited the Empire grounds.  Upon nearing the field, they observed the shadowy wraith shape the sphere with his dark powers—and The Spidress could only ponder how she summoned this unearthly force.  As the spiders approached the entity, they were met by a grave stare.  Smoky gusts of wind whirled about, bending the desiccated grasses that shrouded the meadow.

His voice became even deeper than before—his tone, wicked and heartless, “Have you brought me the seeds?”

“Wraith of the night, I fear that my Alphas and their hunters have not returned—as I have stated before, these seeds are difficult to acquire.  But they will find them—this I swear.”

The dark spirit peered into their eyes for a moment and then replied, “Very well.  Your sphere is almost completed, and I will grant you this in return.  I appreciate your sincere honesty.”

There was almost a mocking quality in The Dark Sickness’s voice.  Myyrainth and Voizeineth endeavored to remain fearless, but even they were stricken with an irredeemable dread. 

Yet The Spidress was overcome by the reality that someone beneath her had infused uneasiness within her soul.  An anger consumed the Empress and she held tightly on to her pride.  Standing over the dark wraith, she yelled, “We shall see where your utterly pathetic arrogance leads you.”

Turning, she marched away, with an increasing self-possession.

The Spidress and her servants crawled back to the Empire, advancing towards the sanctum.  Once inside, they sealed the entrance shut.  Through the passageways, they arrived inside the main sanctuary, where The Spidress’s orb-web hung.  Climbing on to it, The Spidress faced Myyrainth and Voizeineth with a look of impenetrable confidence—indeed, the cruel Empress that was once her former self had been resurrected with a fury beyond mortal comprehension.  Looking into the eyes of her two followers, she spoke.

“The life of the dark wraith is becoming rather short—he does not know it, but he is a mere flame wavering in the wind—and it will only take one powerful gust to extinguish his essence everlastingly.  This I know, for my knowledge of this entity is greater than his own meager understanding of himself.”

“I concur, my dear Spidress,” said Myyrainth.

The Spidress then explained in further detail, “Plenty of seeds are in my possession—you see, I have kept many of them hidden since my hunters first brought them to me.  But I did not want to give them to the dark spirit—I had to keep them, in case I was rendered no other choice but to reverse the ritual.  And as it appears, we must send the wraith of the night back—he is a detestable hindrance—and I cannot continue my plans with him floating around the Empire.  His time is over, and I almost have what I have yearned for since the moment I came into this world.”

“How shall we perform the Reverse Rites?” questioned Voizeineth.

The Spidress replied, “We shall begin the ritual to obliterate the dark wraith once he has finished shaping the sphere.  Of course, he wishes that we give him the seeds in return first.  Therefore, I will hand him the seeds that the hunters bring back, while you, Myyrainth, Worrfrusch, and Nyqqthox engage in the Reverse Rituals at a secluded location with the seeds I have hitherto kept concealed.”

“But what if he suspects your true intentions?  The shadowy spirit is no fool,” questioned Myyrainth.

“I will have absolute influence over the situation—I can assure you.  And when you have concluded the rites, he will cease to exist.  Thenceforth, the world and all of its entirety will know my wrath.”

“When will the dark wraith finish shaping the sphere?” asked Voizeineth.

The Spidress answered, “Once our miners have provided enough quartz, the sphere of deliverance will be complete—that is when I will take what is mine.  For now, we must wait until he is finished crafting it.  Myyrainth, in the meantime, please go to the gates to see if the Alphas and their hunters have returned.  My patience is waning with them.  Voizeineth, please oversee the tower’s development.  And if any worker has become idle, deliver a swift death to him.”

Voizeineth and Myyrainth nodded, hastily leaving thereafter.  The Spidress, still positioned on her web, envisioned the expansion of her Empire.  How great the reward would be, once she had purged the very last obstacle standing in her way. 

Myyrainth hurried out of the sanctum, through the grounds of the Empire, and to the Guardian spiders at each gate; however, the Guardian spiders’ responses were all the same: the whereabouts of the packs remained unknown.  Crawling away, despondent, Myyrainth doubted and feared—for the Alphas and their hunters should have surely sent a messenger to bring news to The Spidress—where were they?  And were they still alive?

Voizeineth watched as the Tower continued to reach for the midnight heavens above.  Stones were handed from worker to worker, until each one found its place on the unfinished structure—furthering the progress of the massive, gray monolith.  Suddenly, Myyrainth approached him.

“The Alphas and hunters have not made it back from their journey—do you suppose that they have perished while scavenging the sacred seeds?”

“Humans pose no threat to us, Myyrainth—you are already very aware of this, are you not?  And surely they would follow normal procedure and seek refuge in a cave to hide from the sun?  You need not worry,” replied Voizeineth.

“No, of course I do not think humans are what caused their demise—it is something else—something much more.”

Once Voizeineth understood the deeper meaning to what Myyrainth was explaining, he too became pierced by the same throbbing fear.

“I am almost certain that the dark wraith is responsible for their disappearance.  We must warn The Spidress now—for the rites to banish the shadowy spirit must be carried out before he does something far worse.”

Voizeineth agreed and followed Myyrainth.  Their sensations changed very abruptly—indeed, they were no longer atop the world’s hierarchy; being afraid was undoubtedly the most painful emotion that they had experienced during their lifetimes.  Upon reaching The Spidress’s inner sanctuary, they revealed to her their grave speculation.

“My dear Spidress, the Alphas and their hunters still have not returned—I have spoken with every guard at all four gateways.  Moreover, they haven’t sent a messenger.  I fear for the worst,” explained Myyrainth.

Fear.  Such a pathetic word.  You are lost, Myyrainth.  Voizeineth, please end this miserable fool’s life.”

“My dear Empress, why?  Are you not aware that the dark wraith has probably slain your most elite soldiers?  You must prepare the ritual soon, before it is too late!” pleaded Voizeineth.

“You are equally as weak as Myyrainth.  You both must die.”

After declaring this, The Spidress leapt on to Myyrainth and pulled his legs out from the sockets, subsequently holding on to him more tightly and deeply drinking his blood.  Making haste, Voizeineth crawled out of the sanctum and through the Empire grounds.  Yet behind him The Spidress pursued.  And then, without warning, Voizeineth too was coldly seized by his leader.  She impaled him seven times before draining what little blood remained. Voizeineth’s carcass thereafter lay mangled and mutilated.  The denizens of the Empire all paused to gaze upon their unpitying Queen.

“There is no mercy for the weak—no clemency for the fearful—and regrettably, it appears two of my most essential servants have shown these vices that disgust me immensely.  I shall not allow this in my Empire.  Carry on with your work.”

 

VII.

Far from The Spidress’s Empire, The Dark Sickness lurked through a hidden valley.  Gliding beyond the endless oaks, hemlocks, and maples, he caused the wind to stir the dried leaves.  Twigs, acorns, and pinecones also plummeted from the sylvan canopies.  The layers of clouds in the nocturnal sky shifted, altered, and billowed.  The dark wraith smiled while he ascended above the treetops—his ghostly, amethyst cloak undulating.  Below him, the vale of darkness lay—the place in which he would soon reside permanently.  Facing another direction, The Dark Sickness raised both of his closed hands—and soon thereafter, released hundreds of the sacred seeds.  They dropped to the ground below, quickly sinking into the soft soil.  Extending his left hand, he released a charge of dark energy—the fluctuating current of power reaching every seed below.  They thus sprouted—their roots burrowing deep beneath the surface.  Vines inched over the ground below, strangling every sapling, tree, and boulder.  The pumpkin plants flowered, with each one blooming wildly.  However, the attractive, yellow flowers soon withered away.

The earth below exhaled and inhaled, as if living.  Orange fruits formed underneath the dying flowers—some large and smooth—others irregular and lumpy.  The foreboding leer of carved, sharp teeth only grew wider upon the dark wraith’s face, for his magnificent children were strengthening—their hearts were beating—they were ready to breathe.  Their dark father thus chanted an unhallowed hymn:

“Entirely conjured from thy grim pumpkins and thy darkest burnings;

“I have summoned thee from my very own grisly desires and horrid yearnings;

“Churning violently, and shaping fearsomely, I willingly share my enduring gloom;

“So thus thy terror cast from thy shadows can malevolently loom. 

“And thenceforth, I now declare this realm, thine.”

In an instant, the innumerable vines developed hands and ripped out the innards of the pumpkins; they were now monstrous fiends with a fiery aggression.  As the things liberated themselves from the black soil, some consumed each other.  Their stringy, seed-strewed gore fell on to the earth, only sprouting more plants, which, at length, too become forbidding creatures.  They growled with rage and grimaced—prepared to dine upon any mortal being.  Onward, into the night, they rushed.  The Dark Sickness watched them, very pleased.  Raising his right arm upwards, he caused his fingers to discharge a streak of alternating lightning into the sky, summoning the bat-winged ghoul that he had previously brought into the world.  A thunderous roar proceeded, as the large, skeletal gargoyle soared towards the shadowy spirit.  His thorny wings flapped; the nightstalker smiled with utter malice.

“I shall give you this precise signal when I am ready.  You will do fine—I am very confident in you,” spoke The Dark Sickness…

 

Meanwhile, at The Spidress’s Empire, the tower’s construction concluded at last.  The final part of the monolith was added to the top: a stone, talon-like goblet that the crystal sphere was to rest within.  The worker spiders crawled to the ground to gaze upon their vast accomplishment.  The tower stretched far to the heavens, nearly scraping the clouds moving eastward. 

Yet within her sanctum, The Spidress deliberated upon her actions.  At first, her spirit was torn—she wondered if brining death to the two of her chief servants was a sensible decision.  She also reflected upon their earnest warning: would The Dark Sickness come for her?  Was he responsible for the hunters’ prolonging absence?  Only time would tell, but she assured herself that Myyrainth and Voizeineth’s fear was inexcusable, for how could she possibly face the dark wraith if her loyal servants were afraid?  It was all for the greater good—this is at least what she desperately tried to tell herself.  Recognizing how serious the Reverse Rites were, she skulked to one of the far corners of her sanctuary.  Within a wall hung a loose, shortened brick: it was disguised as a part of the masonry of her lair.  Behind this brick were the precious seeds.  But pulling the moveable stone from the wall—and to her horror—she discovered that the seeds were missing.  Not a single trace remained, and thus, the true apprehension constricted her heart.  Crawling back, The Spidress hastened out of her sanctum and scuttled to the western gate of her citadel.  Passing the Guardian spiders, she advanced to the field where she discovered her miners carrying the sphere.

“Where is the dark wraith?” questioned The Spidress.

“He is gone—he told us that he has already received the seeds that he desired,” answered one of the miners.

The Spidress stood confused for a moment, then said, “Quickly, then—bring the crystal sphere to the tower, for our time has commenced—the world shall genuflect before me!” The Spidress paused a moment, as if thinking deeply, and finished, “Furthermore, please tell Nyqqthox that we are preparing for war.”

Without further questions, the spiders marched toward the Empire grounds, with an increasing lust for conquest.  Their blood stirred madly during this time. 

The Spidress peered over the meadows, and said to herself, “The dark wraith shall pay greatly for his betrayal—his suffering will be beyond the boundaries of reality.”

Facing the direction of her Empire, she stared upon the tower in the distance—impressed by its height. 

The Spidress returned to watch the placing of the crystal sphere that night, and her heart leapt.  Crawling up the extensive edifice, she felt the imminent power pulsating through her soul and mind.  And upon reaching the top, she clutched the large, white, glistening orb.  Once placed into the stone goblet, the quartz sphere ignited with a blinding radiance, as the world around darkened further—but this darkness was far greater than even moonless nights—it coiled around the earth, declaring The Spidress’s Order.  Laughing, in the manner which spiders do, she looked down upon her denizens, and spoke thus,

“Our time is now—the world is ours, and we shall cause all of humankind to quiver before our very presence.  But a war is brewing, and we must prepare to destroy the dark wraith, who has not only betrayed me, but each and every one of you.  Shall I permit this?  No, of course I shall not!  Therefore, we must brace ourselves for a clash with a force that our race has never before faced.  Our future depends on this, and I believe in you.  We march onward!”

The Spidress’s followers cried with a piercing screech after she concluded her speech.

 

VIII.

Thunder rumbled in the distance.  The scent of impending rain penetrated the air amidst the tempest’s eye.  An intense premonition hung over The Spidress’s Empire, yet the spiders were prepared for the approaching conflict.  Nyqqthox ordered all hunters, soldiers, and elites to guard every inch of the outer wall.  And outside the Empire, spiders clung tightly to elevated tree branches, keeping watch over the forest.  Upon the inner grounds marched thousands of soldiers, prepared to defend their Empress’s domain.  And from the tower, several Guardian spiders overlooked the region.  The Spidress surveyed her guards and soldiers, becoming more satisfied as she eyed their precision.  Then, climbing up to the tower’s main battlement, she commanded the guards to leave, explaining that her superior eyes would oversee the enfolding landscape.  Without question, they left.  Studying the brightening, iridescent sphere that imprisoned all sunlight, The Spidress became rather content—the only agony that lingered was the dreadful reality that The Dark Sickness was still well and alive—somewhere—conspiring against his maker and Queen. 

Suddenly, a strange animal crawled towards the Empress.  Distracted, she looked upon him with curiosity.  He was similar to the other predatory felines encountered in the wilderness, but was considerably smaller.  His fur, black like obsidian.  He carried about with him a sense of domestication.  And his eyes, a deep gold.  The ebon cat spoke thus with a kingly voice, “He is forthcoming—The Dark Sickness draws near.”

“Who are you?” questioned The Spidress.

“I am Tobias—an ill omen.”

“When will the dark wraith draw near?”

“Briefly.”

“Can you foresee the victor of the looming confrontation?”

Tobias only looked upon The Spidress and yowled.  Without further notice, he vanished into the shadows.

Turning around, The Spidress was then unexpectedly greeted with a familiar and unpleasant sight: The Dark Sickness.  He hovered above the Empire’s Queen, gazing down upon her with condescension.

“It appears that you have succeeded; what a marvelous sphere this is—holding within every ray of daylight.  When shall you declare your supreme order?” the dark wraith questioned scornfully.

“My Order will be established once my final hindrance is completely overthrown.”

“And what hindrance could that possibly be?”

“I am certain you know, wraith of the night.”

The Dark Sickness remained silent for a few moments before speaking, “Indeed, Spidress.  I think we both knew from the very beginning.  And it disappoints me that I will no longer be able to agitate you.”

“I will admit that my endeavor could not have been accomplished without your gracious help—but you do understand that I cannot advance onward within the confines of your shadow?”

“Neither can I advance in your shadow, my dear Spidress, as I possess my own will—but of course, to you, I have always been a means to an end.”

“I cannot lie—this has been my view of you since I brought you into this world.”

The dark wraith dispersed a low mirth.

“Yes—you did summon forth my physical spirit—but I have dwelled always.  Your understanding of who I am is extraordinarily limited.  I am a law that cannot be rewritten—I am the incoherent thoughts that cause individuals to commit horrendous acts against one another—as well as the instability of a mind plagued by psychological morbidity.”

“You are utter madness.”

“Yes, and my desires are contrary to yours.  In the end, there shall not be order, but only chaos.  And amidst the pandemonium, my kind’s hunger shall be satisfied.  You see, one day, faraway human settlers will come to inhabit this land.  Their minds are far more amusing than your spiders’—and they are far less superstitious than the human natives of this land; thus, these colonists will refuse to believe I exist whilst they vainly erect what they deem to be a ‘rational civilization’.  But these fools will all nourish me greatly once my games are over.”

In a moment of heated fury, The Spidress swiped her arms through the dark wraith.

“I am a spirit, and you cannot harm me—but I can very effortlessly harm you.”

The Spidress called for her Guardians, as well as Nyqqthox and Worrfrusch.  Climbing up the tower, her two remaining servants and several guards hastened to her aid.  Fearlessly charging towards The Dark Sickness, Nyqqthox extended his arms in an act of hostility.  Alas, they were caught by the dark wraith’s claw-like hands.  He clutched Nyqqthox’s arms tightly, bending them backwards as he did—and a rancorous grin formed upon his pumpkin head.  Beseeching The Dark Sickness, Nyqqthox cried whilst his arms were twisted violently, until they broke off—his blood pouring in a cascade of sapphire.  The shadowy spirit proceeded to throw the severely injured Nyqqthox over the tower’s edge.  Staring at The Spidress and Worrfrusch, he raised his hand upwards—his sharp fingers stretching apart—and released several bolts of lightning into the blackened heavens.

A roar grumbled over the land.  And not so far away, a winged creature soared towards the Empire.

The ashen beast’s empty sockets burned with an orange luminescence as he glared down upon his incoming prey.  The creature’s jaws widened, exposing his thorn-like teeth.  And his leathery wings expanded broadly.  A blaze of lightning revealed the fiend’s full skeletal body in all of its ghastly entirety.  Thus, the consequential thunder proclaimed the battle’s commencement.  As the beast lunged towards Worrfrusch, a clash erupted.  Hanging on to the creature’s thick ribcage, Worrfrusch slashed and tore.  The fiend cried out, thereafter sinking his claws far into Worrfrusch’s abdomen—caerulean blood spewing through the air.  And with one vigorous pull, Worrfrusch was torn in half.  The fiend quenched his thirst as his fangs pierced deeply into the horribly marred remains of the dead spider.

The Dark Sickness watched as The Spidress ordered her guards to attack the Vampyre Beast.  After they leapt on to the winged creature, the several Guardian spiders splintered his bones.  Struggling, the gargoyle threw himself from the tower, falling to the ground below with the spiders still clutching on to him.  The Empire bells tolled, and many of the hunters outside the walls implored for assistance.  Indeed, the very same pumpkin-daemons that the dark wraith wrought in the forest began to invade the Empire.  They whipped their sharp vines into the soldiers, badly weakening their exoskeletons.  Some were even strangulated by the malignant beings’ long arms.  But many of the orange hobgoblins were impaled by the arms of the elite hunters and crushed against the ground—with stringy gore spilling out of their broken shells.

The Dark Sickness soared over the spiders—his golden embers within his eyes radiating—and with one profound inhale and exhale, he breathed a scorching burst of flames, instantly igniting the soldiers.  Their torturous cries resounded over the Empire grounds while the Vampyre Beast rose and fed upon the numerous spiders beneath him.  And from the innards strewed over the battle, more living pumpkins sprouted from the thousands of seeds.  The vines wriggled and writhed, grasping the hunters and soldiers nearby.  The dark wraith hovered over more soldiers, and once again breathed flames, causing them to become charred corpses.

While the battle prolonged, the winged fiend glided over to the wall, and with extraordinary strength, pushed the stonework with his hands, until at last, a portion of the structure fell over the side.  And inward, more of the wild pumpkin creatures crawled forth.  Sacred monoliths and other structures were devastated by the fiendish gargoyle.  He extended his arms—breaking the stones and flinging them towards the spiders below.  Within the depths of her sanctum, The Spidress listened to the dismaying noises emanating from the surface.  The walls around her trembled while objects collided with the earth above.  With the leaden sense of responsibility, The Spidress chose to brave the unfolding war above the sanctuary.

Upon crawling out of her haven, she trembled.  Edifices lay in ruin—their stones scattered over the grounds.  And worst of all, her own kind was on the verge of extinction.  Fresh cadavers lay hither and thither—their legs gnarled and curled—a grim sign of death.  The walls had mostly given in, and the only notable structure that refused to fall was the tower.  Hastening over the debris, The Spidress advanced towards the very last thing she cared about.  Her dying brethren pleaded with her to help them as she passed.  And when the troubled Empress reached the tower, she turned to witness her own kind being consumed by the remorseless race of pumpkins.  After climbing up to the battlement, she once more met The Dark Sickness.  He floated before the glowing sphere that retained all daylight.  The phantom peered deeply into The Spidress’s eyes, and a leer of malice opened upon his ragged pumpkin head.  The cinders within his carved eyes dimmed, “My dear Spidress, behold what you have brought upon your Empire—gaze down at the vast obliteration of your citadel.  Nothing will remain, once I have coldly seized the final possession that you cherish greatly.”

Realizing what the dark wraith was insinuating, The Spidress beseeched, “No!  Please!  Do not take this away from me!”

The Dark Sickness only looked upon her with amusement, “It matters little, for your entire species has perished miserably—you are the very last one of your race.”

In an instant, The Spidress fled the tower, tormented unto insanity by her immeasurable guilt.  Quietly laughing, the dark wraith drifted away as the Vampyre Beast circled the tower—comparable to a vulture closing in on its cadaverous meal.  The structure was knocked against with immense force, until lastly, it collapsed in a heap of gray dust.  Henceforth, The Spidress’s Order was no more.

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