Story for the Day: Spider-killer's Reward
A Spider-killer’s Reward
The coming of spring meant many things in Frewyn, but the objects most concerning to the kingdom’s citizens were the thawing of the frosts, the coming of the light dew on the grass of the countryside, and the infiltration of small home invaders that marked the onset of the winter’s end. Most had been used to the increase of ants seen crawling about their homes but as the appearance of these beings meant the arrival of warmth, the various insects were generally disregarded.
However, there were few who would claim that spiders found nesting in the corners of homes were considered a blessing to the home, but the numerous wives of Frewyn’s men might have suggested otherwise. With prospect of spring pervading the kingdom came the various screeches necessary and contrivances employed to mark the presence of pests: husbands were roused from their chairs and demanded to protect their loved ones, brooms were obtained and swept across cracks in walls, shoes were tossed into corners, but every method used to drive out these horrifying creatures did not succeed in keeping them out of home.
Many a wife was assured that the presence of spiders was a not a misfortune but rather an auspicious requisite to mark a clean home, but as these assertions were made by husbands they could not believed. Frewyn wives knew better than to trust the words of the designated eradicators, for husbands were forever wishing to be rid of their accorded titles if only their wives would find their courage at the end of their brooms. Seeing the creatures was not so disagreeable as nearing them or touching them, but the notion that they should slip into corners were hands would unconsciously reach and fingers would unknowingly touch was unbearable. How inconsiderate of spiders to assail the home without being asked to do so. Had they asked to share the space, they might not warrant so horrific a death, but as they had invited themselves every year in so discourteous a manner, they must be crushed and violently swept away.
These means of household peace were not without exception. Martje had often seen a spider or two nesting in the corners of the pantry or creeping along the walls of the larder. She had grown up in Frewyn’s countryside where there were plenty of crawling things abound. She had become immune to their presence in her youth and was therefore inclined to leave them to themselves. She had also been told their arrival was a source of providence but never had she believed it until coming to the castle keep. After her arrival and during the warmer months, she had often seen the Den Asaan enter the keep’s larder with his sword in hand and she had never understood his apprehension until she discovered the numerous smashed remains of her spring visitors smeared along the ground. A few broken shelves and large gashes in the stone walls revealed the Den Asaan’s dislike for her friends. Martje was therefore inclined to leave them in their places to disturb the giant and bring immense pleasure to herself upon seeing the telling signs of his distress.
One evening at the beginning of spring, Martje observed a large spider creeping across the ceiling of the kitchen’s main room. It had come in through the window and had stopped just above the stove. She was disposed to find it a safer nesting ground when she heard the commander and Den Asaan approaching from the main hall. She smiled to herself and left the kitchen, taking a place in the entrance to the yeoman’s quarter to watch her nemesis writhe in terror. All her aspiration was in watching the spider slink down from the ceiling onto the Den Asaan’s shoulder, and she sat in the shadow of the stair spying her small friend, sending him the internal messages of a vengeful cook.
There had just been a spider discovered in the commons, and though it had been small, its infringement into the Den Asaan’s residence ended in its death. It had merely come on business to visit another spider sitting in the crook of the commons’ hearth, but upon crawling over the fireplace and casting its shadow along the back wall of the main room, it had given its position away and had revealed the nest of its companion. This incursion could not be forgiven: both spiders endured a terrific scrape of the Den Asaan’s blade and only their twitching legs were left to mourn them.
The Den Asaan, having been roused from his peaceful evening meditations, was now in need of comfort and he assured his mate that all of his consolations would be found in the crust of a chocolate pie. He entreated her to make one, and after a few solemn pouts, the giant’s pleas had their effect.
The commander perceived her mate’s agitated state. She was obliged to let him wallow in anxiety after having taken her from her evening reports, but his delightful glowers were determined to soften her resolve. She laughed at him, tugged his hair with warm partiality, and agreed to give him the solace he sought. She led him down the steps and toward the kitchen, but upon entering the room saw Martje’s spider sitting on the ceiling. She approached to observe if the spider were dead or alive, and once she noted its tiny mandibles moving back and forth, she warned her mate of the dangers that awaited him should he enter the room.
Rautu stood in the entrance of the kitchen and looked at the ceiling with a tapered glare. Its mere company infuriated him and he took his sword into his hands, preparing to strike when a gentle touch on the hand from his mate warned him against any deleterious action.
“It is only sitting there, Iimon Ghaala,” the commander urged her mate. “I know it shall disturb you with its hovering presence but it does not affect me in the slightest, I assure you.”
Rautu could not ignore the spider. Its rudeness of lingering over the stove when a pie was to be made in his honour was insulting and unjust. The purposeful stillness in which is sat was an affront that must be rectified, and the giant raised his immense blade to convey how unwelcome its presence was.
“Iimon Ghaala,” the commander exclaimed, shaking her head. “I believe you can allow this one to live while I make your means of comfort.”
“It will leap into the batter,” Rautu contended, keeping his sword raised.
“It shall not leap anywhere. It shall stay where it is because it knows from the subliminal messages it has no doubt received from its two dead friends in the commons that if it moves, it shall be destroyed. I promised you, spiders are hardly interested in chocolate pies.” The commander began gathering the needed items for her task and returned to find her mate in the same position as he was before. “I daresay they are interested in revenge, however,” she said smilingly. She stood before the bowl she had placed on the range and began preparing the first of the ingredients when she was suddenly pulled away.
“Do not stand there, woman. It will fall on you,” Rautu said, holding his mate to him.
The commander attempted not to laugh at her mate’s sincere desire to protect her but failed when she saw him waving his sword at his unmoving adversary. “I would love nothing more than to stand here with you and regard the spider, Iimon Ghaala,” she simpered, “but if I do, the pie should never be finished.”
“You will kill that Undu, woman.”
“I would not mind doing so. However, it is far too high for me to reach.”
Rautu looked at his mate and looked again at the spider. “Then I will lift you,” he decided, reflecting on his conclusion with chariness.
“And if I should miss, it will most certainly fall on you, Iimon Ghaala.”
The Den Asaan stared at his mate. He considered the probability of her supposition of being true. If it were to fall on him, the entire kitchen would suffer destruction. He sighed and was compelled leave the creature where it was.
“Frewyn spiders are rather docile until bothered,” the commander assured him. “If we leave it where it is, I’m certain it will eventually grow uninterested and crawl away.”
“Then it will appear somewhere else,” the giant demanded.
“And then you may kill it. I believe you’ve killed enough unassuming creatures for one day.”
The giant was forced to concede and assumed his position as supervisor over the commander’s movements while keeping a close eye on his adversary above. He soon found it difficult to remain close to his mate and watch her in tolerable comfort as the spider was continually looming over her head. He could not but suspect the spider had other motives for remaining so close when there were corners and windows a plenty for it to venture toward. He resolved to keep his sword in his hand for the time his mate stood at the stove.
The ingredients were mixed, the crust was filled, the pie was baked, and all was done within the space of an hour. The Den Asaan and the spider had not moved from their places and the commander hardly took notice of either until, when upon taking the finished pie from the oven, the spider had decided to move. It began a slow descent along a pearlescent strand, immediately calling the Den Asaan’s attention.
The giant shouted to his mate to move but it was too late: the spider had detached itself and was already traversing the top of her head. “Traala,” Rautu growled. “It is on you.”
“How rude of it,” the commander said unaffectedly. “I am aware that my hair somewhat resembles a nest. That does not mean I give it permission to land in it.” She placed the pie onto the stove for cooling and requested her mate to direct her hand as she searched for the intruder in her hair. She felt it scurrying through her knotted locks and captured it before her mate could demand that he be allowed to kill it for touching that which was his. She would allow the lost creature to live and went to the training yard to toss it into one of the grass patches along the western wall. “There,” she said to the spider as it skittered away. “I would advise that you not return for several days. Hopefully by then your nemesis shall be appeased enough with pie to give you clemency.” But the spider had not heard her and was certain to be found sometime later where she would be prevailed upon to toss it out of a window or crush it with the heel of her boot.
The commander returned to the kitchen to discover her mate gone and the chief of the pie missing. She looked into the pie plate to see a small note written in the Den Asaan’s hand. The words “You may have this” were scrawled on a piece of torn parchment and left beneath a sliver of his treat, presumably left for herself as a reward for removing the spider from the keep. She fleered and shook her head, smirking at the extent of his generosity after the service she had done.
After seeing the whole of the event, Martje emerged from her place in the shadows and came to greet the commander with all the good humour the situation could afford. “Aye,” she chuckled, remarking the sliver of pie. “I’ll tell you, kin, I ain’t never seen someone so big afraid of somethin’ so small. Sure gives me a good laugh.”
“There are reasons as to why he is terrified of them and must decimate every one he should find,” the commander said with a smile. “I know you are a great admirer of his brother Otenohi, Martje, and although I know you enjoy hearing how much my mate suffers in any respect, I daresay you should not laugh if I told you the story of how is fear began.”
Martje doubted this was so and begged the commander to tell her, yet the more she heard of the Den Asaan’s painful demise at the hands of and Undu, a sand spider of the islands that caused him to dislocate his arms, the less she was inclined to believe in her own sense of cruelty toward him. She could not laugh at this history, for it was too terrible even to conceive. She made no reply of pity for her giant nemesis, but she felt a tinge of remorse, which was more than she ever believed she could feel on the Den Asaan’s account.