Chapter 4
A Parting Gift

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Early Spring
The Stone Forest, The Darklands

Word had reached Arachne that the promised day was finally at hand. Soon the humans of Zephyr would arrive on their shores. Already hundreds upon hundreds of her children had spread across the land, spinning their webs in anticipation of the prey to come. With so many of her daughters producing daughters of their own, she allowed herself some rest from the intensive egg-laying that occupied so much of her strength these past five years. Also, without the strain of egg-laying, she could maintain her new form, which she had grown so fond of.
A tremor in the webs told her something was approaching. Her children did not move against it, so it had to be one of the few creatures permitted to enter her nest. Had the Monarch Lich come to check on the growth of his progeny? Arachne glanced at the egg resting in its place of honor. The young life within was growing strong. Arachne had hoped to claim some of the power of the Lich's seed for herself, but all of the power passed on to her child. Other than the pride of besting her rival, being the consort of the Monarch Lich had fewer benefits than she had hoped.
In the end, it was not the Monarch Lich but Medusa who had come to seek an audience with her.
When Medusa came into view, Arachne asked her, "What brings you to my nest, friend?"
"I have come to say farewell," Medusa replied.
"The Monarch Lich does not expect the Zephyrians to last long in this land and so he is sending the Old Snake to Zephyr and me to Notos to prepare the way for his armies. I do not know what I will find there. Perhaps the Notians will offer little resistance... and perhaps not."
Medusa did not try to conceal her misgivings. Arachne knew little of the outside world, but she did at least know that the Dominion collapsed the last time it ventured westward. Who could say what fate would await Medusa in Notos?
At very least, Arachne would not send her friend away empty-handed.
"Let us improve the odds in your favor," she said.
The call could not be heard by most ears, but soon dozens of her daughters began to emerge into the clearing.
"My children will go with you," Arachne said. "They will serve you well."
At Arachne's silent command, her daughters all bowed in fealty to Medusa. Seeing this, Medusa in turn bowed to Arachne and said, "Thank you, my friend. I will put them to good use."
"I have not left these lands in many years," Arachne mused. "Perhaps I will come with reinforcements once we have dealt with the Zephyrian rabble."
"Then I pray you do not keep me waiting long. Farewell."
"I look forward to seeing a beautiful stone garden when I arrive. Farewell, Medusa."
Though it was somewhat awkward for her, Arachne descended from her web and embraced Medusa. Having spent centuries trapped in the body of a spider, she had almost forgotten the human gestures of affection. Indeed, Medusa had been cursed nearly as long and was so accustomed to being kept at a distance that her body tensed up at first, relaxing into the embrace slowly. With a kiss they bade each other a final farewell and parted ways in the hopes of being reunited soon.