Epilogue
The Wasp

AT 1084 (AZ 1456) - Spring
The Stone Forest, The Darklands

Arachne could not enjoy the luxury of her more pleasing shape when she was in need of haste. She had woefully underestimated the Zephyrians. After two years in the Darklands, what few survived should have been on the brink of death. With her new Herakles slaves joining her daughters in battle, they should have been no match for her.
Surely her eyes did not deceive her. The leader of the Zephyrians carried the cursed sword of the Knight of Chaos. How could the undefeated immortal general be vanquished? Where did these mere humans find such strength?
She did not know what drove them, but just as the Zephyrians had purged the hives in Naus and Saras, so too did Poris fall. Arachne was lucky to get out as she did, but the Zephyrians saw her escape and were marching in pursuit.
They were not far behind when Arachne returned to the Stone Forest. At very least, here she had the advantage. Let them see what happens when you enter into a spider's web.
She called out to all her daughters, "Go, my children! Leave none alive!"
How many of her daughters remained? How many of the Zephyrians remained? She did not know. All she could do was take refuge in her web and wait. It did not take long for the fighting to begin and the webs told her that the Zephyrians were advancing.
Implacable as ever, the young leader of the Zephyrians stepped into the heart of her nest, hacking away at the strands of her web with his cursed blade stained with the blue blood of her daughters. He was alone. Without him, perhaps the courage of his men would fail. If there was a time to turn the tides of battle, this was it.
Lurking up high in the shadows of the tree boughs and shrouded in layer upon layer of web, she said to the Zephyrian, "You are a fool to have come here."
The Zephyrian moved around, trying to follow the sound of her voice, and replied, "Come down here and let's finish this."
Even though he was just one man, Arachne still feared him. With that cursed blade, he was not one to be trifled with.
"You do not have to die here," she said. "Withdraw and you will be spared."
"I'm afraid I can't offer you the same courtesy. Now come!"
How could one man be so bold? It was his very lack of fear that made her afraid. A mere reckless fool would not have survived this long. If only she could outwit him...
"Your enemy is the Monarch Lich," she said. "Why waste the lives of what few men you have left on me and my daughters? Agree to withdraw and I will call off my children. You will have nothing to fear from the Stone Forest."
"I have a hard time trusting the word of a giant spider," the Zephyrian said. "I must decline."
Perhaps she could take a different approach with him. With her foreclaws, she pierced the underside of her thorax and opened up a hole. She then transformed herself and crawled out the hole she had made for herself, silently descending down a strand of her web to the ground.
If she could take him by surprise, she might have tried to kill him outright, but he was too alert for that. Fortunately, thanks to her new appearance, he did not cut her down right away, instead taking a quick step back to open up a little more distance between them. Men were so predictable.
"Am I more agreeable to your eyes now?" Arachne asked. "Now might you listen to what I have to say?"
The Zephyrian did not answer, but he did not attack either. If she could not win him over with her words, perhaps she could enchant him. Either way, she needed to play for time.
"We do not need to be enemies," she said. "You have fought valiantly. I acknowledge your strength of arms. You defeated the Knight of Chaos. You defeated the Herakles. What does it profit us to continue this bloodshed?"
She stepped closer to him, saying, "Let us forge a pact of peace. We can seal the deal... however you like."
She arched her back ever so subtly. Surely it would not take much to tempt him. How long had it been since he last had a woman? However much her form might be repellant to an ordinary human, after so long, it must certainly have enticed more.
And yet the Zephyrian did not take the bait. He remained on his guard. Curse him. Did she dare get any closer? If she could not seduce him, perhaps she could appeal to his more tender sentiments, if he had any.
Holding her hands up in a display of passivity, she slowly went down on her knees, saying, "I am unarmed and a woman. Would you put me to the sword like this? I am in your power."
The Zephyrian hesitated. It was all the opening she needed. One of her daughters sprang out to attack him. His reflexes were quick, though, and her daughter was cloven in two. Arachne moved in to attack him herself, but he was faster on the recovery than she expected. Even jumping back at the last second, she could not escape his blade. The edge opened up a long gash across her chest.
"Fool!" she hissed. "You will not leave this forest alive!"
More of her daughters poured in, covering her retreat while she transformed back into her spider form. She needed the strength of her larger body to finish off this worm.
Even attacking three or four at a time, her daughter fell to the Zephyrian's blade. Skilled as he was, he was still a human. He would tire and then he would be vulnerable.
Arachne navigated her web to take up a position above him. All it would take was a single thrust of her claws to skewer him. He could have died under more pleasant circumstances, but instead he would suffer. She would not kill him right away. She would use all her arts to draw out his suffering for days on end. A fitting punishment for spurning her.
She dropped down from her web. He would never see it coming. Or so she thought. The strike of her claw missed its mark but his did not. He thrust directly into her thorax. It would have been a stab to the heart if a spider were more like a human. There was still a chance to turn the tables on him, but the Zephyrian was faster. Throwing his weight behind the blade, he split clean through her head.
Everything went dark. She was dead. However, she did not find oblivion in the darkness. Nor was she alone. Her daughters were there. And the Herakles. And the shades of Old Euros. She remembered. The cursed blade Soul Drinker claimed the souls of all who were slain by it. In death she would find neither Elysium nor Tartarus but an eternity in the darkness with the vengeful dead. Cursed in life and cursed in death, so Arachne the Spider Queen met her end.