Chapter 2
The New Mother

AT 1081 (AZ 1453) - Early Winter
The Stone Forest, The Darklands

Who could say how many thousands of eggs Arachne bore during the long centuries of her exile? However, the lone black egg bound up safe in its place of honor in the middle of her web was different. It was the crowning jewel of all her political maneuvering ever since the Monarch Lich laid claim to this land. It was the trophy of her victory over her hated archrival and the master creation of all her arts, both natural and arcane.
To achieve this, Medusa helped her friend weaken the curse that plagued her to bring out more of her former beauty. Though perhaps still monstrous to common human's eyes, it was enough to win over the Monarch Lich. Arachne was quite proud of this form and so she remained as the egg took form within her. She birthed the egg much as an ordinary human would birth a child, with great trial and travail. A testament to their intimate bond, Medusa alone was allowed to be with her when she gave birth, acting as midwife. Besides Arachne, she was the only one to have touched the egg that bore the next generation of the Dark Race.
Looking up at the egg appreciatively, she told Arachne, "You have done it, my friend."
Still weak from her ordeal, Arachne was reclining in her web, her eyes fixed on the egg.
"Yes," she said with a satisfied grin. "Would that I could see the look on that insect's face."
"I fear her face would tell you little," Medusa quipped.
Arachne gave a low chuckle.
"Perhaps so."
Basilissa, the so-called Queen of Queens of the Herakles, failed to supplant Arachne as the Monarch Lich's consort. Now that his seed had been passed on, there would not be another opportunity until Arachne's son came of age, but surely his mother would fill him with all her hate of the loathsome insect. Basilissa's power was great, but it was incomplete and with this victory, it would never find completion.
Arachne and Basilissa's rivalry was not simply over a matter of honor and it certainly was not for love. Both of them sought to add the great power of the Dark Race to their own. While Arachne won the contest between them, Medusa wondered if indeed all her ambitions came to fruition.
"Did you gain what you wished?" she asked.
"In part," Arachne replied. "I have bested the insect, but I did not gain any share of my mate's power. If anything, I fear it has diminished me."
It was as Medusa feared. A weaker creature probably would not have survived having the seed of the Dark Race within her. Perhaps the fact that Arachne bore an egg saved her life. Of course the Dark Race would be parasitical in nature, stealing power all around them. Even their own bodies were consumed over the course of time.
Attempting to comfort her friend, Medusa said, "You still have great power within you. Surely this honor is reward enough."
Arachne closed her eyes and sighed. A sign of her weakness, her pinkish flesh was a few shades greyer. It worried Medusa a little, but her power was still strong within her. This weakness of the flesh would surely pass.
"The fruit of my body shall be made great," Arachne said. "It is indeed some reward."
"You seem tired," Medusa said.
"As I said, I fear this child has left me diminished and even if not for him, I have an army to bear."
All the powers in the land were mustering their forces for the war. When Medusa reported the strength of the Monarch Lich's vassals, he demanded their forces be double, even tripled to meet the coming invaders. Arachne was no exception, but seeing her like this, Medusa was concerned for her well-being.
"Surely you have daughters enough," she said.
"The earth must teem with my children," Arachne replied. "As we speak, the insect and her daughters seek to do the same."
Medusa had always been Arachne's ally and held no love for the vile Herakles, but now was not the time for fellow servants of the Dominion to be fighting amongst themselves.
"Even now you two fight each other when our true enemy draws nigh?"
"She is no less my enemy than the men of Zephyr," Arachne insisted, "even if we are bound by common purpose under the rod of my mate."
Though it likely bode ill for them, Medusa knew where her loyalties lie. There was no question about it.
"I will do what I can for you, my friend."
"Continue your duties," Arachne told her, "only see that my mate is not the only one to receive word of your findings."
"Have I ever failed you in this?" Medusa asked.
Arachne rolled onto her side, momentarily taking her eyes off her prized offspring and looking to Medusa.
"Never," she said, "which is why you are the only one I trust."
Living under a curse for centuries, driven only by anger and hate, living in a land wholly consumed by death and the Darkness, it was easy to forget the good and beautiful. If Medusa ever knew love at all, it should have been little more than a memory of a dream, but truly in her heart, she loved Arachne and would do anything for her. She would face the legions of Zephyr, the swarms of the Herakles, even the Monarch Lich himself.