The Spider Girl’s Krampus
Amongst the temperate forests of the Southern Continent (Kumari Kandam), there lies a particular cooperative colony of Jumping Spider Mamono. These lesser known Spider Mamono are as crafty and tenacious as their more notable relative- The Death Head’s Arachne.
The Jumpers are distinguished from their larger kin by being, smaller, furrier, and pouncier. This is because Jumpers prefer to actively hunt their prey together, as opposed to individually lazing about for some fool of an animal to blunder into their webbing. Their cooperative efforts has proven to be an advantage in that it allowed the Jumpers to colonize colder areas of the World that their larger kin wouldn’t even consider.
In the time before the Great Maou was even a gleam in her mother’s eye- both Humans and Mamono recognized the importance of the Winter Solstice, and they both celebrated the “return” of the Mid-winter Sun in their own way.
During the months of freezing cold, that often ends up with children being confined to their homes, it becomes rapidly apparent that the inherent nature of children of either Mamono or Human, is to push their parent’s patience to its limit, and often beyond.
Humans adapted to this by introducing the Krampus as a way to promote domestic peace in an effort to motivate their children to improve their behavior. This proved to be a Darwinian advantage over the occasionally more desirable (and rather drastic) inspiration of prolicide.
The threat of the Krampus to Human Children was that she’d put the unrepentant naughty human child into a wicker basket, then drag them away to a fate unknown, never to be seen or heard from again.
Conversely, Mamono children were told of a somewhat different, yet synergistic role for their Krampus.
Tia was your typical teen aged Jumping Spider- Girl, a multi-lobed ball of fluff with 8 legs, two arms and a hefty attitude. She and her best friend Tara were literally hanging out together in their Cooperative Colony’s main chamber.
They were both suspending themselves from the ceiling by their silk anchor lines in order to reach and service one of the colony’s source of lighting- a luminous Fire Agate. They volunteered for this duty because the ceiling offered the most difficult item to find in winter: privacy. Which is something teenagers everywhere crave.
“Are you sure this is the defective one Tia?”, said Tara the slightly smaller Spider-Girl, positioned upside down on one side of the head-sized agate. “It’s lit.”
Tia, also upside down on the other side of the agate replied, “Hold on.” She reached out one of her lower legs and tapped it. The agate sputtered and extinguished at her touch. “Yeah, I’m sure this is the bad one Tar,” she replied smugly.
Tara rolled all of her eyes, “Ha ha- Tia. All right, what’s the problem with it?”
“It was installed last year so it’s not old.” Tia frowned with a thoughtful look, arms folded.
After a few seconds, she leaned forward and looked closely at it, “Hmmm. Do you see the Mason’s Mark on your side? It’s not over here.”
“Uuuh …yes! It’s Portia’s.”
“Then it can’t be defective. Portia is too good of a mason to make poor products. That only leaves one thing to do then.”
“Aaah! That’s gonna take For-Ever to troubleshoot!” Tara screwed up (or down?) her face at the thought of the work involved.
Tia just pulled herself up towards the ceiling, with her hindmost legs, in reply. Tara soon followed.
“Well you could always drop down to the floor and help set up the children’s warren for the Festival…” Tia began.
“Oh forget that! I’ve had enough of that warren for the rest of my life!”
“It’s not like you’ve got much of a choice, you’ll be there tonight.” Tia said as she attached herself to the ceiling with her jumping legs, close to the agates mounting point box.
“Don’t be so sure Tia!” Tara said, grinning a snaggle-toothed smile that nearly split her furry head in two.
Tia paused in the opening of her bandolier tool bag and looked over at Tara.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
She nearly dropped her spanner at Tara’s reply, “Fasss decided that I’m old enough to be in the adult’s warren this year!”
“What!? Don’t jerk my anchor! You’re two years younger than I am and I’m still relegated to the kid’s warren!” she replied with a scowl.
“I’m not feinting you Tia! Masss even backed Fasss up, both my parents agree that I’m old enough to be there!” she said giddily. “Surely your Masss and Fasss will let you be with them as well?”
“I really hope so…” Tia said not looking at Tara. “Well anyway I won’t find out until we get this agate shining again. Do you have an extra spanner? I’ve only got the one on this belt it seems.” She said after having checked each bandolier pocket.
“Uh yeah, right here.” Tara replied handing over hers.
Tara sensed that she’d hit a sore spot with her friend and even though it was part of her nature to worry at it, she didn’t want to damage their friendship.
“Have you heard anything new about Bagheera?” Tara said trying to change the subject.
“Is she still on that diet plan of hers?”
“That, all plant nectar one? Yes. Not that it seems to be doing her much good with the size of her thighs.” Both girls chuckled.
“Oh, come on Tia, does your aunt really think she’ll be able to Pounce herself a husband any faster if her thighs are skinnier?”, Tara asked snickering.
“Well she does seem to think so. After all she was on the same pouncing party that Irura was on when she Pounced hers.”
Irura was the colony’s latest newlywed, she’d been out helping pounce for game to stock the colony’s larders when she stumbled across Viktor.
Viktor had gotten himself separated from the caravan he’d been hired to help protect, and he’d been running all day to avoid the forest’s Mamono. As a result, he was completely exhausted by the time Irura had chanced across him.
“How does she figure that?”
“She’d felt Viktor running too, and was all set to Pounce him when Irura got to him first.”
“Ooooh.” Tara winced. “Well I guess I can’t blame her! I think I’d be just as obsessed with my weight too.”
“Well my Masss told me that Bagheera’s Grand Mass tried to warn her off eating too many honey ants when she was younger.” Both girls went silent at that.
Even though Tia continued to work on the Fire Agate until it was fixed, her mind continued to wrap itself around Tara and her Adult status.
Tia quivered with rage as she clenched and unclenched her fists, frowning up at her fluffy mother.
“But Masss!” Tia whined, her body fur fully erect with anger. “Tara said she’s getting to sit with the adults this year and she’s two years younger than me!”
Tara being the only other teenaged Jumper in the colony. Everyone else was a preteen, an adult, or a fresh hatchling.
Astra; Tia’s mother, stood on the section between the adults and children’s warrens facing down her daughter. She crossed her arms and kept all eight of her legs firmly planted on the ground and tried to forestall her steadily unravelling patience by pointing out, “Tara doesn’t have any younger siblings to take care of, and You Do!”
“It’s not fair!”, Tia groused, stomping her legs in an alternating pattern.
“That Is Quite Enough, Salticidae Helvetia!” Her mother hissed ferally, her eyes blazing red with fury.
Tia knew she was beat when her mother called her by her full name. But it still rankled her that her younger sister was keeping her from her goal.
There were times she wished there was a Goblin King who could be bribed to take away younger siblings. This time most of all.
“Dasss.” Astra said quietly after getting her anger under control.
“Your father and I need you to keep at least one of your eyes on your baby sister during the festival. As adults, there are things we need to discuss without having a fussy hatchling around, and you know how easily bored she gets.”
Tia was about to say something else when she caught sight of her mother frowning and shaking her head at her. As like every other teenager who ever lived, she just wanted to get her growing up over and done with!
“If you want to sit with the adults then you should start acting like one.”
She noticed that behind her mother, her Incubus father was approaching. She also noticed that her younger sister Iona was sitting on his shoulders clutching at his neck with her legs.
She peered up at the toddler Jumper and suppressed a smile at the sight of her sister’s large central brown eyes peering innocently back, silently sucking on her father’s braided hair. It’s rather hard to stay in a huff when you’re smiling.
She couldn’t help but notice that Iona was still young enough for her carapace to be transparent in places.
“Helvetia?” he asked in his annoyingly quiet way.
“Yes Fasss,” not looking at him while she sighed pointedly and started to groom her fur. She never knew why she always felt the need to groom around her father.
“My Little-Spider-Girl,” he began.
“Fasss!” She yelled loudly enough to get the attention of several adults perched nearby.
“I’m not little anymore! Stop calling me that!” she said with the kind of annoyance that only a teen girl could summon, looking at him straight on.
He raised his hands in surrender, “All right Tia, I promise I won’t call you little anymore. Now, you may not be little, but your sister is.”
He paused waiting for her to acknowledge him. She did with a nod.
“So your mother and I need someone big like you, to keep her safe during tonight’s celebration from the kids bigger than her.”
Tia frowned at the sudden memory of that time several years ago, when she was trampled by another child playing Hide and Jump with the larger kids. That teen had been so excited by the play that she hadn’t even noticed Tia crying until it was pointed out to her.
Her Fasss continued patiently, “An adult knows when to set aside her wants to take care of needs. Not just her needs, but other’s needs such as your sister’s.”
“What your mother and I need from you,” he said while he leaned down and reached out an arm to hug his wife around her shoulders, ‘is for you to take care of Iona tonight.”
“She doesn’t have the experience with the festival games like you do. Perhaps you could teach her a thing or three about them. This is her first festival after all.”
“Yes Fasss,” she replied morosely not looking at him, scratching at the floor with one of her back legs.
Her Father, nodded once at her with a smile and then gently picked his baby daughter up over his shoulder and placed her onto the ground next to Tia.
Astra let out an exasperated sigh when she’d noticed Iona had left a large amount of silk all over her father’s back.
“Our silk elemental has been busy again I see.” She said with a smile while gathering it up and balling it.
“Now you two try to be good and have fun.” Her father said. “After all the Krampus comes but once a year!”
Tia heaved a sigh. A sigh so powerful that only a teen could summon it into existence. Almost the kind of sigh that would’ve annoyed her parents- had they chosen to acknowledge that it even existed.
Tia growled while she watched her incubus father and her jumper mother turn and walk over to the other adults in their meeting warren.
She turned her fuzz covered head down to her sibling and managed to force up a smile.
Iona looked back up at her with soulful eyes and said, “Are you mad at me?”
“No.” she lied. “Why do you ask that?”
“Cause if you wanna be with the ‘dults, that means you don wanna be with me.”
“No Iona, it’s not that I don’t want to be with you. It’s that I thought I was going to get to sit with the adults this year.’ Helvetia said, looking over at her parents who were now chatting with the other adults of the spider colony.
“I don unna-stan. If you want to be with them, that means you don wanna be with me.”
“But I do want to be with you. It’s just…oh never mind. Let’s go and find a good place to wait.”
“…’kay.” Her sister said sucking away at her thumb.
Tia reached down and took her sister’s free hand. Iona offered no resistance.
She then padded over to the kid’s warren to find an unclaimed spot for them both to perch. After a few seconds of observing the kid’s warren she spotted a potential place and led her sister to it.
After making sure there weren’t anyone else’s anchor lines marking the boulder, she raised her abdomen and marked it with her own silk.
After placing Iona on her thorax, she perched herself on the boulder. Iona just happily stayed there quietly looking at all of the other children playing a game of Hide and Jump.
Hide and Jump is the Jumping Spider version of Hide and Seek. The difference being that those hiding have the option of pouncing on the seeker to avoid being caught. Thus, the seeker has to be extra careful when hunting out her prey.
Tia took in her surroundings like any good Jumper would. She noted that the kid’s warren was a large square hollow dug out of the ground and lined with adult’s silk for cushioning.
It held a number of wooden frame works for the children to climb and lots of boulders to perch and wait until the Krampus arrived.
This year the Krampus was being played by a Satyros: Dame Zrihea. Dame Zrihea was a celebrity not only for her ability to portray the Krampus effectively, but also because she often chose to provide the drinks and children’s prizes free of charge. She’d also been rumored to randomly bestow a fortune telling on occasion.
Every year for a long time, the Spider Colony had approached her to cater their winter celebration, and for an equally long time she had turned them down citing conflicting schedules.
This year, for reasons unknown, she chose to accept the Cooperative’s offer. Also this year her helpers were a pack of elegantly dressed and well-mannered Cu Sith.
Tia watched but didn’t get in the way of the Cu Sith who were setting up netting on the kid’s warren wooden frames. She thought that even though the Cu Sith could use some help, they didn’t need or want a clumsy little hatchling getting underfoot.
“I’m thirsty.” Iona piped up. Tia looked down at her young charge and blew out her cheeks.
“What would you like to drink? Water?”
“Dasss’ blood.” Iona said, watching the older kids.
“Dasss isn’t here and besides, aren’t you a little old to still be drinking Dasss’ blood?”
It was traditional for a newly hatched spiderling to make her first meal her father’s blood. It was the first way for her to bond with her sire.
Too often, children were reluctant to wean themselves off.
“No watah!” Iona pouted as she glared up at her sister chubby arms crossed. Tia sighed and managed to wave down one of Zrihea’s servers who had been passing nearby with a tray loaded with juice bladders.
“Yes Miss?’ said the Cu Sith.
“Two juices, please.” The Cu Sith smiled and handed Tia a pair of children’s bladders. Tia wrinkled her nose at hers. The Cu Sith noticed, and then handed her another larger one and took one of the smaller ones back.
“Thank You,” she said with a smile as the Cu Sith ambled away with her load towards the adult section.
After handing the smaller bladder over to her sister Tia bit into hers and started sucking. Iona had snatched hers away and was about to bite into it when she noticed Tia’s bigger bladder. Iona dropped hers and reached out with both arms towards Tia’s bladder, crying “Want!”
“What’s wrong with yours Iona?” she said around a mouthful of her bladder. “Better!” Iona cried with a frustrated growl, arms waving.
Tia sighed, and pulled her bladder away from her mouth and offered the bite spot to her envious sister.
“No!” Iona cried.
“What’s wrong now?” she huffed in exasperation.
“Don wanna bite there! You bit there ‘ready” Iona whined.
Tia rolled all of her eyes and blew out another world-weary sigh, then turned her larger juice bladder around until her bite mark was no longer visible.
Iona bit onto the bare spot with glee holding onto her sister’s hands to keep it steady. As expected, she ended up with most of the bladder’s contents spilling onto her.
Iona didn’t care, she was happy with her prize. Tia rolled her eyes and tried to catch the eye of one of the other Cu Sith who carried cleaning towels.
By the time Iona was clean, the Cu Sith team were done with their preparations for the kid’s warren, so Tia took more time to observe her surroundings.
After all a Jumping Spider who didn’t take in her surroundings was apt to fall prey to another spider, an Order human, or worst of all, a Spider Wasp. The thought of which was enough to make Tia shudder instinctively.
Iona seemed to be content just to sit near her Sisss’ arm and digest what little juice she’d managed to get into her.
The kid’s warren was bordered on two sides with raised areas- on the side facing the Cave’s entrance was the adult’s warren that allowed the adults to keep an eye on both their children and the stage opposite the adult area.
Tia’s eyes lingered towards the adult’s grouping. Her sharp eyes picking Tara out of the crowd. She frowned when she realized that Tara seemed to be bored, and Tia couldn’t imagine why.
Puzzled, she looked over at the stage instead.
The stage held two thrones, one was meant for the Krampus after she’d arrived with this year’s Bengelkinder (Rock doves representing naughty human children) to share with the spider children.
Alongside it was a more ornate and grander throne meant for the Maou of the Festival. Who sat there would be the child who managed to capture the Queen’s Cake Dove.
“Down!” Iona suddenly cried out, struggling on her sister’s arm. Tia placed her gently down. wondering what had gotten into her.
Iona scuttled off in the direction of a small group of children who had abandoned their Hide and Jump game and now were playing Spirit Cob. Tia followed in alarm, realizing her sister’s intention.
She managed to catch up to her at the edge of the play area. Iona had stopped and watched as a large balled cobweb was kept suspended by the successive breaths of the children involved.
The cob bobbed along from one child to another until it was Iona’s turn. The balled cob started to slowly drift down towards the baby spider despite her best efforts to the contrary.
Tia tried to help her sister by blowing under it, but Iona shouted “NO!” at her. So, she stepped back and let her sister take charge. As expected the cob continued it’s descent until it settled on the ground. Iona adopted a frown and her face and upper body seemed to shrink in, in frustration and hurt.
“Iona’s it!” said Hyllus, Portia’s daughter.
At which Iona began to whine like a tarsi on clean obsidian.
“Here, Iona! Why don’t you come with me and we can play a different game?” Tia asked in a desperate attempt to ward off one of her sisters famous crying fits.
Iona glared at her sister. She wanted to have some fun, yes. But now she had worked herself up to a good cry, and didn’t want it to go to waste.
In the end, she succumbed to her sisters coaxing and followed her to a different playing spot. Here the children were playing Jills.
Jills is the same game humans called Jacks. It’s called that because there weren’t any male Mamono anymore; no Jacks, thus Jills. It was also good for enhancing snatching skills.
Tia hoped that she could keep Iona distracted with it until the Krampus arrived. Iona had already proven herself a protégé when it came to snatching small items.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t counted on Iona being fascinated with the rubber ball. Every time the ball bounced Iona grabbed at it instead of one of the Jills.
After the seventh attempt of trying to correct her sister she gave up and just let her keep the ball instead.
Tia lowered her thorax next to her sister and gave out a heavy sigh of desperation. ‘Isn’t it time for the Krampus to show up already?’ she thought, looking around with no small amount of despair for a sign, ANY sign that Dame Zrihea was about to make her appearance.
Tia kept looking around until she noticed what her sister was doing.
“IONA!” She yelled. “Don’t eat the ball!”
Iona, startled, dropped her half chewed ball and started crying. Tia realized her mistake and picked her up in an attempt to console her.
“Iona, I’m sorry. Please stop crying.” She said desperately, bouncing her sister in her arms.
It took several minutes, but eventually she stopped crying and started sniffling. Tia managed to make some of her silk into a makeshift handkerchief for Iona to blow her nose into.
“S-s-sorry.” Iona stammered up at her. “What I do wrong?” she snuffled to her sister. Blinking her already adorable eyes in an attempt to make herself even more cute.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you. Balls aren’t meant to be eaten.” She said tiredly. Iona seemed content with that and settled down.
“Hungy.” Iona whined.
“Well come along with me and I’ll see if I can find us something to eat.” Apparently one of the Cu Sith had kept an ear out for just such complaints and hurried over with a tray of candied insects for them to choose from. Tia smiled her thanks to the Cu Sith, who nodded in return.
Tia took one, but Iona being the hungry child she was, grabbed a half dozen and tried to eat them all at once.
“Don’t eat too much Iona! Otherwise you’ll be too full to go chasing the BengelKinder,” Tia admonished her sister as she picked her up and plodded over to their claimed spot.
With a measure of success, she’d managed to get Iona back to their spot without her leaving too much of a trail mess. It just wouldn’t do for a spider to leave a trail for someone else to track.
As she perched on their spot, she noticed that a lone Cu Sith had begun marching solemnly to the center of the stage area carrying a Carnyx.
Tia grinned wildly at this sight, as this was the moment she’d been waiting for. The Krampus celebration had finally begun and perhaps her ever wiggly sister might settle down.
This Cu Sith was as finely dressed as the rest of her team. But unlike them she wore a pair of oversized clunky boots that gave off a noticeable ‘ka-thunk’ every time they impacted the stage floor.
Finally, she stopped a couple of feet shy of the Stage lip and raised the Carnyx to her lips. She drew in a mighty breath and blew out a long peal that did absolutely-nothing to gain the attention of the spider community.
This was because 1) They were too deep in their own conversations with each other to hear, and 2) Spiders hearing wasn’t all that good to begin with, they react better to feeling vibrations.
The Cu Sith looked annoyed at her lack of results and started stomping on the floor with her oversized boots with extra emphasis.
“KA-THUMP! KA-THUMP! KA-THUMP!” Her boots resonated with enough force through the ground to gain the attention of every Jumper in the entirety of the lava cave. Heads turned and conversations ceased, as they gave her their full attention.
“OYEZ OYEZ!” The Cu Sith intoned loudly while turning her head to make sure all could hear her, “In the old days before the Great Maou appeared and gave her blessings to the Mamono world.” She paused catching her breath.
“The Monsters of the World had to deal with the harshness of their existence as designed by the Chief God.” This statement was met with derisive chittering from the assembled crowd.
The Cu Sith continued after the chittering died away, “Their situation was bad enough for them to have to deal with the night to night challenges of obtaining sufficient food and maintaining proper shelter for their own nesting needs.”
“It was an even greater challenge to do the same providing for those who were their Greatest Treasure.”
The Cu Sith paused and looked around to be sure everyone was listening- they were.
In response, nearly every head in the cave’s great room bowed and glanced down to the kid’s warren. Every one of them thinking of their own or their Sisss’ children.
Tia bowed her head down too. She snuck a quick glance over at her sister and was surprised to see that Iona seemed to be utterly fascinated by the Cu Sith’s words.
At the sight of her Sisss’ adorable face, Helvetia felt her hearts skip a beat and suddenly she felt guilty about her impatience with her during the last hour.
The Speaker continued: “Yes it was bad enough dealing with that, but it became worse when Humans began blaming Monsters for their own misfortunes.”
“As the Humans often do, they chose to kill that which they did not understand: Us.”
The Speaker frowned and paused her oration; she’d noticed then that every Spiders husband was sheepishly looking down at the colony’s floor.
“Yes, the Humans killed many of us Mamono, until one day a Satyros by the name of Berda, lost her children to them and vowed Revenge!”
At this point the Speaker was joined on stage by two of her fellow Cu Sith, one wore a goat-horn hat on her head, her dress torn and rent as if she’d been in mourning.
The other Cu Sith wore a cloak with a broad brimmed hat, and a patch over one of her eyes.
They both stepped forward alongside then forward of the Speaker.
The one with the goat-horn hat spoke first facing the crowd, “Behold I am Berda!” She said in a grief stricken shrill voice loud enough to be heard to the entire hall.
She turned to the other Cu Sith, “I have come seeking you oh Lord of the Wild Hunt, for I would have my Revenge upon the Humans for that which they’ve stolen from me!” she said with tears flowing from her eyes.
The Cu Sith with the hat began in an equally loud voice, also facing the crowd, “Who are you to me, Berda? Why should I take time away from my own Taks to hunt down a sole human or two?” she said crossing her arms.
“I’ve come not to ask revenge upon a mere one or two vile humans, Lord!”
The Berda turned away from the Lord of the Hunt and addressed the hall, “I have come to ask revenge upon them all!”
“You speak the words I like to hear Berda!” said the Lord also facing the hall.
“What do you propose?”, the Lord said with one paw stroking her chin.
“Grant me some of your power Lord! That I might take their children away from the Humans, as they took mine away from me!” she said with her teeth bared.
“You demand too much Berda! Even such as I cannot take away all of the children, much as I would desire to!”, she said shaking her head.
“Then allow me the right to take away the naughty children of the Human world, oh Lord! Perhaps then the humans might change their ways!”
“That I can allow Berda, but such a deal will come at a cost terrible to you and it can never be undone!”, she stated with a grave finality.
The Berda replied quietly with her head bowed, “When I lost my children oh lord, I lost my world. Whatever you would demand of me would be nothing in comparison.”
“Very well Berda. Here are my terms.”, she said looking straight at Berda.
“One! You will roam the human world seeking naughty human children for all time even as I do with my Hunt.”
“I accept oh Lord!” the Berda agreed with a smile.
“Two! Of the children you collect, you may not keep any! A tenth of them you will hand over to me to do with as I desire! The rest- you will give to the Monster children of the world as gifts for them to feed upon!”
The Berda hesitated for a second or two, as if in doubt. Finally, she shouted, “I agree oh Lord!”
“Third and most importantly, you will set aside the name of Berda: FOREVER!”
The Berda stepped back, crouching down with a paw clenched to her mouth, eyes fearful.
The Speaker came forward and spoke loudly: “Berda was aghast at such a demand! For a Mamono’s name is the only thing she will carry with her into death. Without her name, Berda’s children would never find her in the after-life.”
“After giving it some thought, Berda came to her decision.”, the Speaker stepped back.
The Berda stood up and approached the Lord.
“I agree to those terms Lord! I am willing to sacrifice my wants so that other Mamono parents might have what they need most: their children!”
Tia was stunned by these words. She’d heard them before in previous plays, but never before had she LISTENED to them.
She felt her hearts flutter when she realized that sitting with the adults wasn’t important to her anymore.
Because she knew now what she truly needed. She reached down and pulled an unresisting Iona into her lap and hugged her close.
The Lord of the Hunt extended her paw to the Berda’s and they grasped them together.
“So Mote It Be!”, yelled the Lord and the Berda in unison.
The Lord spoke again, “I Name thee anew! From now until the End of Time, you shall be known as: Krampus!”
At this the adults and a second later the children began hissing and stomping their feet. Tia joined in, stomping with enthusiasm this year. She felt her sister wiggling and to her astonishment saw that Iona was joining in too.
After a few seconds the applause died down and the Speaker stepped forward to continue, “The Krampus hung her head in despair at what she’d done, and she contemplated the ramifications of her decision.”
After several moments of brooding the newly created Krampus looked up to the Lord and then nodded her readiness.
“The Lord had been waiting patiently for her to come around; “Krampus, I have a boon for you!”
“I have decided that you will not walk the world alone in your duties. I grant to you two servants who will assist you in all that you do.”
At this, another pair of Cu Sith appeared on stage, they wore hooded cloaks that covered their heads and bodies completely. The Krampus looked curiously at them.
“Behold Krampus! I give to you that which you’d lost and were willing to never see again in service to your fellow Mamono, your daughters: Perchta and Holda!”
The two cloaked newcomers flung their hoods off of their heads, ran to their mother, then flung their arms around her.
There were some muffled sounds of hollow goat horns bonking mixed in with the hissing and stomping of the assembled spiders cheering the reunion.
The Krampus held her lost daughters in her arms, tears streaming down her face. She continued smiling and kept kissing them on their foreheads.
After a few seconds, she held them at arms-length and bowed her thanks to the Lord of the Hunt who bowed in return. The Spiders resumed with a thunderous applause. (Thunderous for them).
As the Speaker waited for the applause to quiet down, the actors took their cue and exited the stage.
The Speaker began, “And so the Krampus began her mission of seeking out the naughty children of the human world! She proved worthy of the Lord’s trust, so much so that even now in these days of the Great Maou- just the mention of the Krampus is enough to get most human children to behave!”
“But what about those rascals who choose to be naughty even with the threat of the Krampus?” the Speaker asked.
At that- there came a sound of hooves stomping from somewhere off and behind the throne stage, then the sound of wooden rods rattling accompanied by the sound of a clanking metal chain and then a loud hissing!
The Speaker shouted, “Behold Jumping Spider Children, the Krampus has arrived!” And with that Dame Zrihea made her appearance.
Instead of her usual tailored clothes, she wore a fur coat and carried a large wicker basket on her back.
Her usually impeccably clean horns had been dirtied and made to look crusty, and all could see that she had a long fake tongue clenched in her teeth, lolling down below her chin.
She held a bundle of birch rods in one hand and a shiny metallic chain in the other. She rattled and clanked them both vigorously as she made a dramatic show of stomping around the stage in greeting the colony. The colony hissed and stomped back with enthusiasm.
After one final loud hissing fit she stopped with the rattling and clanking. This apparently was a cue to her two younger Satyros assistants, who had accompanied her on stage.
Perchta (the taller of the two, who wore a red dress) came over and relieved the Krampus of the chain and rods, then Holda (the blue dressed one) came over and accepted the fake hanging tongue that Zrihea had taken from her mouth.
Dame Zrihea looked resplendent in her costume, Tia thought. Even looking as travel worn and ragged as only the Krampus could, she still put forth an air of grace and gentility.
The Holda returned and relieved the Krampus of her birch basket then carried it over to sit it in front of the Krampus’ throne.
Zrihea, who was busy licking her lips and stretching her mouth out from the task of holding onto that heavy rubber tongue- finally stomped over to the front of the stage and shouted, “Happy Winter Solstice Jumping Spider Colony!”
A loud hissing and stomping came from the entire assembly in reply. The Krampus smiled in return and continued working the stage.
“I’ve been so busy this year! I’ve been all over the world collecting the naughty human children, and let me tell you I’ve never had to collect so many before! It was if they were working extra hard at their naughtiness!”
The spider kids giggled in anticipation and a number of adults just shook their heads in agreement at her comment.
“Don’t worry! Now while I have had to pay my tithe to the Lord of the Wild Hunt, there were still plenty of Bengelkinder to share with all of the sweet Mamono children.”
“I’ve had so very many, that even some of the Mamono grown-ups have asked if I had any leftover for them!” she said rolling her eyes.
“Yet they all seemed to just want the BOY children, HMMMMM.”
Zrihea tilted her head and put a finger on her lips. All of the adults laughed, while the younger children got a confused look on their face. Tia rolled her eyes and sighed at that old joke.
“But don’t worry my little Mogwai! The Krampus kept just the fattest and juiciest of the Naughty boys and girls to share with her worthy children of the Jumper Spider Cooperative!”
At this point the Perchta had come up to Dame Zrihea and tugged a couple of times on her arm to get her attention. The Krampus leaned over and made a big show of listening to her- complete with a hand behind one ear and an innocent expression all the while Perchta whispered something important to her.
Dame Zrihea made a face of her surprise to her play daughter for a few seconds
She then stood up to her full stance and said to the crowd with her hands clasped together in front of her, “Perchta tells me that she’s been hearing the Human children crying that they want to get out!”
The Krampus then walked over to the edge of the stage and looked directly down at the spider children with outspread arms. “What do you say spider children? Should we let the human children out to play?”
All of the spider children replied with a “YEEEESSS!”
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!”
An even longer and louder “YES!” came forth from the kid’s warren along with a number of them stomping their legs upon the ground.
The Krampus smiled and said: “One more time, and this time say it LOUD!”
She was not disappointed as the entire warren, adults included replied with leg stomps and everyone shouting a resounding “YES!”
Even Iona had gotten into the excitement of the moment by shouting a Yes with everyone else, all the while stomping all of her feet as hard as she could- on her sister’s lap of course.
But Tia didn’t mind. In fact she found herself enjoying it for some reason.
“Perchta! Holda! Prepare the play area!”- at which point the two help meets of the Krampus, along with the rest of the Cu Sith, started dragging a net over the wooden structure that surrounded the children’s warren.
The Krampus went and gracefully retrieved her wicker basket, then stepped down into the children’s’ warren with the play center as her goal.
After a few minutes the netting had completely covered the warren. The spider children were shifting about restless. They were hungry and they wanted their Festival meal!
“Remember your manners Spider Children! Don’t let a single one of my naughty human children go to waste!” and with that- the Krampus opened the top her wicker basket and out flew dozens of White doves into the air seeking escape from their confinement.
At the sight of the birds flying hither and yon trying to escape the bird’s netting that impeded their flight, the spider children jumped forth hissng and pouncing on as many of the doves as they could reach.
Tia yelled out a “Careful!”, as Iona leaped off her lap in pursuit of a dove that had somehow broken a wing. Iona’s eyes shown with a fierce reddish tint as she greedily pursued her prey.
Iona leaped, but missed her intended prize, landing far enough away from it that another child took it instead. Iona frowned mightily at that, but she was soon distracted by another dove that had flown too close to her.
Tia stayed as close as she could to her little sister. This was a difficult task as her own instincts kept distracting her. Her mouth began to overflow with saliva as she couldn’t help but notice how sweet the doves looked while they desperately sought to escape their fate.
Slowly, but with increasing frequency the doves began to tire, and one after another of the spider children would pounce on their prey. They’d then draw the dove to their mouths to ‘claim’ it with a bite of venom, then wrap it in silk to save for later.
Nearly all of the adults in their warren smiled with parental pride as they watched their children dispatch their prey quietly and efficiently.
Tia forced herself to ignore all of the doves in her quest to protect her sister from the other children and their dove-lust. Just ahead of her she spotted Iona who had yet again lost her prey to another child.
Tia could tell that Iona was getting frustrated because she started baring her fangs at everyone near her. She couldn’t make a choice from the dwindling number of treats.
Just then, Tia’s attention was distracted by the appearance of a Black Dove flying in a circle over her head. “The Queen’s Cake Dove!” she realized.
Whichever child claimed the sole black dove from out of the dozens of the white, would be crowned this year’s Festival Great Maou.
Tia decided in that instant that SHE was going to be the Great Maou this year! Maddened with dove-lust and still aching from her frustrations of being denied sitting with the adults- she began the pursuit of HER Prize!
In rare form that became the stuff of spider children legend, she managed a flying leap from a standing position! She twisted in mid-air and did a three-quarter twist that managed to confuse the black dove just enough that she was able to ensnare it with one of her tarsi!
She then came down with an audible ‘whompf’ upon the ground. Her eyes glowed with an intense crimson light as she raised the black dove to her lips to claim what was rightfully hers!
But just before she ‘claimed’ it, she noticed her younger sister crying all alone on the floor of the warren.
Tia kept a firm hold on the dove, but tore it away from her mouth as she hurried over to her suddenly beloved Sisss.
By the feathers caught in one of her tarsi claws, Tia could tell what had had happened. Iona had managed to snag a dove, but it’d managed to free itself by letting its feathers be torn out.
“Iona I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help! Maybe we can find another one for you!”
Tia’s shoulders slumped as she looked around and noticed that there were only one or two doves left, and they were already being pursued by the other children.
She knew that none of them would be willing to set aside their dove-lust for a mere toddler.
Then she remembered that there was one dove still available: The Queen Cake’s Dove.
Tia lifted the dove in front of her face and stared at it while biting her lower lip. She’d always wanted to catch it before! ‘And here it is.’ She thought with a tear forming in her eye.
She then turned and looked longingly at the Great Maou’s throne. ‘That throne would fit me ever so nicely, why’d it be better than sitting with the adults!’
Then she looked over at her little sister who had stopped crying and was down to snuffling, looking all dejected with her head and arms hanging down. And with that, she made her decision.
“Iona! Eye-Oh-Nah!” She cried in a sing song voice, waving at her sister to get her attention.
Finally, Iona took note of her older sister, and her eyes bulged, and her mouth dripping with saliva at the sight of what her older sister was presenting.
Tia smiled with delight when she saw that Iona’s hunter instinct had kicked back in. She crouched down so far that her cephalothorax was scraping the floor. She held the still quivering black dove out towards her eager sister.
“Come and get it Iona! It’s ready for you! See! It’s still flapping!”
With a cry of delight, Iona leaped herself into a graceful arc, and landed a couple of feet shy of her goal.
Tia just smiled indulgently and waited until Iona had gathered her feet under her again and made another, more accurate, leap the second time around.
Iona gave out a triumphant squeal as her legs enclosed the Queen’s Cake Dove in a fierce embrace.
“Ok Iona, now bite it! That’s the way to claim it!” Tia held onto the still fitful dove to prevent it from flying away while Iona clumsily let go of her prize and then bent down to make it hers.
Tia giggled and twitched her fingers away as Iona nearly bit her instead.
She then let go when Iona grabbed her suddenly limp dove and lifted it over her head with a fierce snaggle smile.
“Now wrap it in your silk Iona!” who did so as best she could. Tia ended up needing to discreetly help her with her inept wrapping.
When it was done, The Krampus came forward and spoke to Iona “Well done little one!”
She then turned and spoke to the room- “The Spider colony has its new Great Maou this year! Salticedae Iona!”
With that proclamation, another resounding hissing went up through the colony. The Cu Sith started to remove the netting, until the Krampus could escort Iona to her waiting throne.
After lifting and placing Iona down upon her throne, Perchta and Holda came over and placed a tiara that was just a little bit too big onto Iona’s head. The Krampus then knelt down upon one knee and asked her, “Will you give us your blessing this year, Oh Great Maou?”
Iona just giggled and nodded her head in delight, all of her legs wiggling. The Krampus then turned and spoke to the colony- “Let the supplications begin!”
That was the hint for the spider children to queue up before the “Great Maou,” and give her their respect.
Afterwards they’d go over to the Krampus who would ask them what their Solstice Gift Wish was, so she could write it down to give to their parents for later. As a final gift the Krampus would give them each a useful trinket.
Tia waited at the end of the line to let the younger children go first. Right now, she just wanted to enjoy the sight of Iona having the most fun of her life.
Tia smiled as she watched Iona just sit there with the Holda attending to her every want and need. Iona nodded to those who bowed before her and kept suckling on an oversized silk-wrapped honeypot ant that the Holda had provided for her.
Tia jumped at the sensation of someone touching her on her shoulder, she then noticed that her mother was standing behind her! She was alarmed by the fact that she’d not even noticed her approach.
She was even more surprised when she saw that her mother was doing something that she hardly ever did anymore- she was smiling, at HER?!
“Your Fasss and I just wanted to let you know that we’ve got a spot saved for you up at the Adult’s warren, in case you were interested.”
“Wh-wh-what?” Tia stammered in reply, suddenly all wide eyed and unsure of herself.
Astra reached out with both arms and hugged Tia close to her. She whispered into her daughter’s ear, “That, was an amazing display of adulthood my dear daughter.”
“Masss? I don’t understand!” Astra pulled back and held her daughter at arms-length looking at her with all of her eyes. Tia noted that her mother’s eyes had grown teary.
“You gave up your want of the Queen’s Cake Dove, to provide for your Sisss’ need.” Astra said quietly. “That’s what being an adult is about. You’ve proven you’re worthy of sitting with the adults.”
“Thank you Masss. But I think I want to say hello to Iona first”- Tia said all misty eyed.
“Take your time my sweet elder daughter. You’ve made me proud of you today. Oh, and one other thing.”
“I don’t know if I would’ve been strong enough to let go of that dove.” Astra said as she turned away to rejoin her husband up at the adult’s warren. He was standing and waving down at his daughter.
Helvetia stood open mouthed at her mother’s confession, then looked up and over at her father and waved feebly back.
Later , as she was getting close to her sister as she stood in line, she overheard the usual litany of requests from the other spider children to the Krampus.
Tia smiled wryly- every single one of her fellow spider girls all asked for the same thing- a husband. The Krampus smiled warmly every time she heard the request, undoubtedly, she had heard the same from the thousands of other Mamono children she’d listened to over her century plus years of life.
When it was Tia’s turn to bow and request the Great Maou’s blessing, Iona surprised her when she stopped sucking on her honeypot ant, and jumped onto her.
Iona scuttled up to Tia’s shoulders and looked at her big sister’s eyes with her own liquid browns, smiled a big smile and then gave her as big a hug as she could manage with her petite arms. “Thank You Sisss!”
Tia hugged her sister back silently, and then gently set her sister back upon ‘her’ throne, whereupon she happily returned to greedily sucking on what was left of her ant.
‘She won’t be getting much sleep tonight what with all of the honey!’ she smiled to herself as she stepped over and bowed to the Krampus.
Normally the Krampus would just sit upon her throne to listen to the requests of the children before her, but this time she got up and bowed to Tia.
“That was the finest display of restraint that I’ve ever seen from any Spider girl I’ve ever met, particularly considering your age.’ Tia blushed blue underneath her fur at that compliment.
The Krampus sat back down and smiled at her, “So shall I assume that your greatest Solstice wish is for me to find you a husband?’ She said holding a quill pen to some parchment in preparation.
“Umm, actually no.” The Krampus looked up from her parchment and stared at her open mouthed in surprise.
“What would you prefer instead Helvetia?” she asked cocking her head at her with an unreadable expression.
“oooh. Ummmm.” Tia hesitated with looking everywhere but at the Krampus.
“Go ahead, you can tell me anything. I won’t mind nor will I tease you.”
“Well, if I had a choice, it’d be something that not even the Great Maou could provide.” She said blushing.
The Krampus just kept silent waiting patiently.
Finally, Tia got up her courage and said with a sigh, “What I’ve always wanted, ever since I can remember- is to have a Big Brother.”
She immediately looked down at her front feet and waited for Dame Zrihea to reply.
After a few seconds of hearing her not say anything she lifted her head and saw Zrihea looking back at her as if she’d never seen her before. She had a forlorn look at her face as she slowly began to smile back at her.
“Salticidae Helvetia. Would you please accompany me for a moment?” She then turned and walked away before momentarily looking over her shoulder to make sure Tia knew to follow.
She did so, utterly curious as to this out of character action for someone who played the Krampus.
After a few seconds. she noticed that she’d been led to the backstage area where Dame Zrihea had her private dressing nook. Even the ceiling had been covered with a tarp.
Tia was looking around nervously as Zrihea divested herself of her fur coat and shook herself as if glad to be free of the heavy garment.
She then turned and sat down upon a piece of furniture that was obviously intended for a two-legs. Tia couldn’t help but be fascinated by it- as she’d never seen a chair before.
“You’re probably intensely curious as to my reason for bringing you here in private Helvetia. Don’t worry! I’ve nothing naughty in mind.”
“In fact, what I would say to you could be considered a punishment.” She said eyes down with a frown, her head slightly bowed.
She was silent for a moment and then looked up at Tia who had been waiting patiently. She waved her to come closer. Tia did.
“When I was close to your equivalent age, I was a Cassandra.” She smiled when she noticed Helvetia frowning in confusion.
“What that means, my dear, is that I was a Prophet.”
Tia gaped at this confession. She just knew that she was going to get her fortune told!
“It’s a ‘gift’.” Zrihea said quietly
“A ‘gift’ that jumps from generation to generation in the Satyros family of Mamono.”, “What it meant for me was that I got to live in the lap of luxury so long as I could continue to provide fore-tellings for those who could afford them.” Zrihea said with a small smile.
“It’s a gift of magical ability. Now you’ve probably heard that Prophets give out indistinct poems that could mean anything?” Zrihea asked with a tilt of her head.
Tia just nodded.
“That’s only half of what a real Prophecy is.” Zrihea stopped and closed her eyes then sighed.
Zrihea continued as she opened her eyes, “Over time my ‘gift’ began to fade and the prophecies came less and less often. As such my luxuries dwindled and eventually disappeared. Luckily my husband at the time must have had Danuki blood in his veins…”she hesitated and waved her hand, “but that’s not relevant to what I have to say right now.”
Zrihea looked up into Tia’s eyes, “I received one last True Prophecy before my talent evaporated entirely. The problem was, I had no idea of whom it was meant for. But I knew that it was important, important enough for me to find that one person it was meant for no matter how long it took to find them.”
“So, I’ve spent the last 70 years of my existence looking for that person. And I think that I’ve finally found her.” Zrihea said- looking at Tia fully on.
“That person is you Salticidae Helvetia, I am sure of it.”
“But I’m no one! I’m no one important! I can’t have a prophecy just for me!” Tia protested, suddenly fearful.
Zrihea lifted up her hands and cupped Tia’s head in them, looking directly into her blue eyes.
“No Helvetia you are not unimportant. Your actions with the Queen’s Cake Dove prove it. In all my years, I’ve NEVER seen any Mamono give up her Dove to anyone else.”
“This Is particularly important because every year I be-spelled that dove with Succubus Level lust magics.”
Tia was aghast at that, suddenly she had a hundred questions, “Why?” was the only one that came out.
“Because that person who could resist that Lust, was the only one worthy of my final True Prophecy.”
Tia began to shudder in fear at what she was hearing, she wanted to scuttle away from this all. Yet, somehow, part of her wouldn’t allow it.
“In truth Helvetia, you may be so important that the fate of the world may rest upon your shoulders.”
“Bu-bu-but what?!” Tia stammered with her eyes wide open, her hearts full of fear for what she knew was about to happen.
“I’m sorry Helvetia, I do not bring this Prophecy to you as a Gift, but as a Burden.”
“But such is the nature of a True Prophecy. All too often they carry a weighty responsibility that few are willing to accept. This is because the other half of a True Prophecy, combined with that nonsensical poem causes visions of foreordination.” Zrihea stopped and shut her eyes for a second as if to steel her resolve.
After a moment she opened her eyes with a stern, yet frightening expression, “This invocation will cause you to experience everything that I experienced when it came to me- in all of it’s hellishly painful glory.”
“So, I make this offer to you, tell me now that you do not wish to hear this Prophecy and I will say no more. But be warned! I make no idle threat when I state that the fate of the world may lie upon what you choose here. Now. Today.”
Tia screwed up her face and closed her eyes.
She wanted Zrihea to be joking about what she’d been saying. She didn’t want this burden that was about to be placed upon her.
But somehow a small yet important part of her knew that she needed to hear it.
This important part of her knew that this was another one of those sacrifices she needed to make, so that someone else would get what they needed, possibly everyone else. Deep down she knew that Zrihea spoke truth.
After a minute Tia opened her eyes, her sight cloudy with unsought tears until she looked at Zrihea straight on and nodded her head once.
Zrihea blinked away her own tears then grasped Tia’s head firmly with both hands.
“These words are for your ears and your ears alone Helvetia, never reveal them to anyone!” Zrihea began.
Tia nodded her head shakily and Zrihea began.
“In the City of the Center you will find.
The Brother you seek, from Ancient Time.
You might think he’ll pass thy test
When he offers to clean his mess.”
You will know he’s your Brother True,
When he takes the Death meant for you.”
The words shocked Tia to her core. Each line struck at her soul like a blacksmith’s hammer. Images formed and dissipated in her mind’s eye.
She felt herself beginning to quiver uncontrollably as they continued rapidly: a city near a lake with no shores, a man taller than her Dasss who looked at her with a smile, small brown cubes that evoked lust in her, tentacles reaching out towards…
Zrihea continued, her voice like a knife cutting into her soul.
“This deathless one will need you great.
As he is bound up with your fate.
He doesn’t know he seeks his wife
As he throws away his endless life.
Your Brothers will need you in every way
And it will become apparent every day.”
Somehow these words struck her even harder. What Brothers? She only desired one! Her head filled with endless questions that she couldn’t ask! More images: strange buildings not made of lava rock, more Mamono than she’d ever seen! Valleys with the buildings as the walls! The number of images started to hurt!
Zrihea’s Prophecy came at her like Thunder, images loud enough to blot out some of her words!
“Sifting …. your Brother …..will find
A ……. worthy … ….. kind.
You … know that .. .. …. husband True.
…. He dances ……..just … You.
Savor the …. you have with ….
… .. …. it’ll turn to Grim.”
She couldn’t hear all the words yet she knew they were being etched into her soul! That last part made want to cry with anguish. She saw an image of a human gravestone wet with rain. It held a name she didn’t want to look at! All she could feel was a paralyzing grief!
Tia clenched at Zrihea’s hands in an effort to get her to stop.
Zrihea continued to speak, but it felt as if she were shouting at her as she kept her eyes locked onto Tia’s soul,
“In this time of your greatest need
Mind the story of your brother’s seed!”
Images poured relentlessly in- of dusty caves and tiny webs overhead,
Humans crying and shouting at her! A dragon grinning evilly! Strange looking Mamono leaping and diving in the large lake!
Tia tried to fight what was coming next, but no matter what she did she couldn’t get Zrihea to stop!
“When your brother finds what he doth seek.”
A scene of that smiling man now crying with tears running down his face, standing in a quarry…
“His anguish will be enough to shatter peaks.”
That same human screaming in pain with a sword that wasn’t there piercing him,
“A Cursing Break, the Endless Ends!
Tia tried to scratch Zrihea’s hands away but it didn’t do any good, as visions of a dead land, crawling with enormous Spider Wasps filled her mind.
“Trail him far around the Bend!
Then drag him back so he can Mend!”
Tia struck out at Zrihea, desperate to end this torment! She knew something Terrific was revealing itself. She tried to jump at her to get her to stop, but nothing worked!
“the Earth will be Dire,
Even the Moon will begin to Tire!”
Tia was silently screaming, twisting with everything she could to free herself from what the words formed within the depths of her mind. She didn’t know how she could take anymore!
“Follow the Path…..
…trust the words of A Liar!”
Finally, it stopped!
Zrihea released her hold upon the Spider-Girl’s head as Tia sank to the floor panting furiously.
She wanted to scream at this outrage that Zrihea had visited upon her! Instead she just remained on the floor with her visions running through her mind over and over.
After a long while, she lifted her head and stared up at Zrihea who was still sitting in her two legs-chair crying endless tears.
Zrihea spoke, “I’m sorry Helvetia, for giving you that prophecy.”
“But why? Why did you do that? I didn’t want it!” Tia cried out, her eyes flashing red with outrage as she climbed to her feet, ready to rip into Dame Zrihea.
Zrihea turned her head and locked her eyes with Tia. Instantly Tia lost herself again for a second as she looked deep into the mind of the old Satyros, deep enough that she caught a fleeting glimpse of the mind of the one who’d sent that prophecy.
And in that instant- Tia UNDERSTOOD.
When she understood, she felt all of her anger melt and drain away.
Then the moment passed and she was herself again with her understanding evaporating, her staring off into nothing.
Tia shakily turned away from Zrihea and started to leave the room, but just before she exited, she stopped and turned her head to stare back. Zrihea continued to cry tears for the crime of taking away a Spider Girl’s innocence.
Zrihea sensed her gaze and lifted her head and looked back silently.
Tia kept staring at Zrihea for a long while.
Finally with an effort, she made herself smile at Zrihea in forgiveness, then turned and left the room.
When Tia joined her parents at the Adult’s Warren, her Fasss inquired as to what Zrihea had to say that was so important.
Tia took a while to think and then replied with, “Girl Talk.”