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Aragnya's Veil

This text was translated and donated to the library by a team of researchers following an archeological dig. The original material appears to have been created shortly before the species' downfall, providing scholars (such as myself) with invaluable insight into how an event of such magnitude may have come about.

It seems that the author's species was entirely cut off from other civilizations, and - although visually similar - bore no relation to the inhabitants of the Spider Realm. There is also no evidence of knowledge of the gods or magic, and findings suggest a ludicrous belief that the universe formed over millennia as a result of rapid heat expansion.

I must work quickly. If I don't, I fear my analytical mind will make quick work of today's events and render it all a fallacy. And then it will be too late...

I am weaving with all eight of my legs. The idea that there are others out there who even have the intellectual capacity to read our scripture remains unknown. Days ago, I would have rejected such a hypothesis.

What am I doing? Why am I, 0078, documenting such things, things that surely cannot be? Everything I have been taught, everything ibelieve/i [sic] implores me to stop, to destroy my work. Logic is fact, and fact is all there is. Any creature worth its silk knows that irrational ideas are poisonous symptoms of mental instability, which must be removed from the gene pool at all costs! No. No time. No time.

Here it is: today, I saw an insect with just two legs. May I be thrown from my web if I speak falsely.

Its body seemed to be compromised of two segments: a head and a long abdomen, both of a similar hue to the blue of our mating displays (I briefly took it for a coquettish young male). These were draped with a peculiar yellow substance - something like our silk. On the front of its head were just two eyes, and on the back a patch of long fur.

Imagine my curiosity. The scientist in me longed to study it, to pry it open and discover the secrets of its strange anatomy. I'll admit that the simple hunter in me had less refined desires. There it was, walking inefficiently on its two legs on the forest floor, unaware of me in my woven eyrie. All I had to do was drop down, quietly, so quietly. Reach out and...

I stayed myself. Watched a while longer. This momentous discovery was all mine. In hundreds of years, mothers would tell their hatchlings of the great 0078, who changed the course of history forever.

The creature stopped, and it appeared that is was looking at something. Its top legs, now held aloft, produced an immaterial blue glow. I watched in wonder with all eight of my eyes.

It was not the sound vibrations or the flash of light that threw me from my web, but the sudden surge of electricity which suddenly seemed to inhabit everything around me. I don't remember falling. All I recall is the confusion and agony that followed, and the realisation that two of my legs were broken.

My eyes came into focus. I was levelled to the ground and the creature - once small and vulnerable - now stood above me, its legs bathed in the blue glow.

A moment passed that lasted a century. I renounced my dreams of 0078, scientist extraordinaire, and accepted my fate, flattened myself to the ground in submission. Then came a rumble:

'What creature dares to look upon Elidinis, goddess of the Kharidian?'

I'll admit now that I attempted escape. Scurried away as fast as I could with my six working legs. But then it was in front of me again, and I swear I'll never understand how such agility was accomplished on just two legs. Such powers that my kind had assumed impossible. What else was it capable of?

I made myself as small as possible. And then I spoke, tapping my answers into the ground: 'My name is 0078.'

It moved its head. 'You know these land?'

'They are the lands of my ancestors. I know them like my own web.' Then, tentatively: 'Are you going to kill me?'

'That depends. I need a guide.'

'Where am I to lead you?'

'It's not a case of where. It's a case of what,' it said. 'I'm searching for Aragnya's Veil.'

Every ligament in my body tensed. I had not heard that name in a long time. We do not speak of it.

'I don't know what you're talking about,' I lied. 'No such veil exists.'

The blue glow intensified. The rumble was harsher, louder this time: 'Don't lie to me, base creature! You know of what I speak.

My body trembled.

Aragnya's Veil: the power to deceive by posing fantasy as reality. The epitome of untruth, which is everything we despise. How many innocents had most the minds to the Veil? Lost the ability to think rationally, the great pride of our species. I could never reveal its whereabouts - my life be damned!

I remained silent, rubbing my abdomen in the dirt, my legs curling as if I were dead already. The creature snorted.

'What a miserable, wretched thing you are. Grovelling before me on your belly. Will you not stand at the command of Elidinis?'

I remained still, certain of my fate, waiting for the blow.

'If only you could know how long, how far I have travelled. How much I have lost.'

Its body slumped down., its legs bending beneath it, until it was beside me on the ground. And although the skies were clear, I thought I saw raindrops falling from its eyes.

'What kind of deity am I? A goddess without followers, without family, without home. I have watched my husband's body scatter across the horizon like so many grains of sand. I haven't seen my children since...since a time I cannot even recall. I have abandoned my duties and my people, been forgotten by all. And now I make believe that I am still just as powerful as I used to be for the respect of a spider?'

I hesitated, spoke gingerly. 'You want those things back? Your family? Your home?'

Its head moved again. 'The Veil is my only chance now.'

'You can lay more eggs. Find another male. They are plentiful here; you may take your pick. If you show them your colours, they will dance for you, worship you.'

'That's kind of you, but no. I can't just start over. It's not so simple for me. To make a family...mine is a different culture. And I am incapable. I...'

More rainfall.

'I'm so weak now.'

'I have seen you electrify the world beneath you,' I said. 'Rain falls from your eyes! You are powerful!'

I paused.

'Aragnya's Veil is dangerous. My kind fear it beyond all else because it disguises what we hold most sacred, that being truth and logic. It was woven because Aragnya was jealous: her legs were not so long as the other females, and she was a cripple. No male would breed with her. In creating the Veil, she harnessed powers that cannot exist, that defy logic, and with it she spread her unruly genes to generations upon generations of my kind. It was only when her spawn had hatched that we began to see the truth of it.'

The creature's eyes stare blankly beyond the trees. 'What happened to her? To her children?'

'The children we ate. As for her, we dared not touch her while she wore the Veil. Instead, we lured her into a place from which she could not escape, and we waited for her to die. To this day, her corpse remains as beautiful as it never was. None of my kind dares remove her Veil.'

There was silence for some time. 'You killed her children.'

'It is natural,' I said. 'But do you see? You desire the Veil so that you can change your reality and bring back your family, but that's not how it works. Aragnya was beautiful in the gaze of others, but when she looked at her reflection in the water, the cripple hung before her. Your reality will change for everyone else, but not for you.'

It was a while [sic] before the creature spoke again, and I wondered if it had not heard me. 'Hundreds and hundreds of children...'

'Thousands,' I corrected it . 'If they had lived, Aragnya's genes would have poisoned our race. We would not have survived.' I hesitated. 'So you see now why I cannot take you to the Veil?'

'I haven't seen my children in so long.'

'You never explained why you can't just go home to them.'

'Because...' It paused then, deep in thought. 'Because I was banished. For what someone thought I might be capable of, because of what I was. Because of what they saw when they looked at me.' Another pause. ' Will you tell me more about Aragnya? How she died?'

'I can't say there's much else to tell,' I replied. 'We call the place where we trapped her the Living Cell. A prison made of creatures that devour when they face resistance. That are too dumb, too mindless to be deceived by the Veil. A horrible way to live, to die.'

'The ant colony to the north,' the creature murmured, possibly to itself.

It was still. A leg rose to the creature's eyes to wipe away the rain, and I saw then that from it five smaller limbs were protruding - almost as dexterous as my entire body. To study that, I thought once again. To be the author of such discoveries, such revelations...

I almost reached out, the venom in my fangs tingling. I could paralyse it in moment. But something kept me rooted to the ground. Something immaterial, impossible to quantify or capture.

It rose up to its full height and turned to look at me. 'You have served me well, 0078, and you shall be rewarded.'

I blinked. 'You do not require further aid from me, from my kind?'

To this, the creature did not reply. Instead it reached out with its five smaller limbs and grasped my broken leg. A flash of light, then it grasped the other. Another flash. It was only when I saw the corners of its mouth rise that I realised my legs were no longer broken.

'Thank you.'

'Don't be so quick to thank me,' it said. 'I have a command.'

'Anything, for what you have done. Anything.'

'Go back to your web and document our meeting, all that has occurred here today. And then say goodbye to those you love, those you hold dear.'

My whole body seemed to freeze. The creature continued.

'You have told me of you kind, your culture, and I find it wretched. You have slaughtered thousands of innocent children. For that there can be no forgiveness. But there can be justice. And after that...After that, I shall find a way home. [sic]

It was after those final, chilling words that the creature vanished. And so it is that I have scrambled back to my web to weave this tale. For who? I can't know. Perhaps creatures from another world, since it's now clear to me that there are other worlds, and other creatures capable of intelligent thought.

My web is shaking, and I know that if I follow my silk I will find webs of those who have already fallen to that creature, the creature that calls itself Elidinis. I can hear the shriek of electricity as it burns my peers alive. And I know that when it comes for me, it will not look as I recall. I will recognise it only by the sound of death as it crackles between its limbs.

My web shakes again, more violently. I hear a crackling noise. The creature has arrived.

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