Through the Spider's Web
Winds coursed through the cold, stormy air overhead as thunder crackled through the dawn of day. Puffs of smoke clouded Aranea’s vision ever so slightly as she looked out of a thin, yet somewhat long mahogany window. Her hair, messy as it was, reflected itself in the glass and her bloodshot eyes looked even worse for wear than they normally already did. Thoughts crept up to the back of her mind, causing her to slowly lose track of time.
Perhaps she’d been too harsh on her daughter, or maybe too lenient, but fact of the matter was that she was not coming home like she was supposed to. Opposite the table she sat at, light shone through the smallest of cracks in between the window curtains as her eyes caught speckles of smoke falling down. Putting the remains of her cigarette out, she grabbed another, reached for her lighter in her pocket and lit it.
Anger coursed through her body and an unprecedented feeling of disbelief encroached on her mind ever so subtly. She’d done her best, worked her hardest to ensure that her daughter would be the perfect host, the perfect tool to bring her mother back to life. Everything had gone right, her upbringing, her training, everything... except for her mind. Rosa was susceptible, but not easily manipulated.
“Ah, My Lady Aranea, what’s with the scary face? It will bring about a face full of wrinkles,” a laicar male said while pushing his brows together.
He spoke with a youthful wonder despite being a full-grown man of at least thirty. Though he held a half-grin on his face, it was not pleasant to look at. Through entirely his own fault, there was the mark of a burn across the lower left side of his face. It had healed into a dark black mark that looked like a state of constant charred crispiness. It left the area devoid of ability to move, thus the half-grin.
“If there was anything I could do to make you smile, I would!” His arms spread out like wings.
The man was Ollie, a well-muscled individual that always covered up with loose-fitting robes to keep people from being too intimidating. He kept his blond hair short and messy, exactly a natural morning look.
She looked up, strands of white hair falling in front of her now completely hidden right eye. “Ollie...” she said softly, taking a puff from her cigarette before putting it down in the tray sat upon the table. Why was he here again? She’d been so lost in thought that she didn’t hear him come in, much less remember what he’d come here to do.
The man, sluggish as he looked, had always been somewhat of an enigma to the woman. Not so much because he looked a little funny for the amount of muscle he had, but his intentions were never really completely laid bare. He made it seem like they were, but there was always this nagging in the back of her head when dealing with the man that told her he wasn’t telling her his entire story.
“Ahh,” she finally said with a sudden surge of clarity, remembering the errant she wanted to send him on. “Yes, well, funny you should say that. I have something I need you to do, but it’s... a bit different from what you’re used to.
“You see...” Levelling her eyes with the man, she lowered her head slightly and looked up at the man with a deadpan. “I need you to find my daughter, Rosalina Tacita Aetius, and incapacitate her. Don’t kill her, though, am I clear? You are my best assassin, but you are also my best tracker. This time I need my prey alive, I need her alive, Ollie.
“Do this for me, and I will see to it that Victoria will become yours.”
She normally didn’t like using people as bargaining chips, but this mission was of more importance to her than the live of a sleazy little slut that had the personality of a brick. The redhead was loved by many a man in the town, she even looked the part of town cutie, but she wasn’t exactly the brightest lightbulb to ever grace the face of the earth.
So, if it meant sacrificing a single woman’s life, for the life of her mother... then so be it.
“Don’t worry. I would never dream of harming a hair on your daughter’s head. Or her head directly,” Ollie clarified. “Or any part of her. That would make you frown, and that would be against my goals!”
A sideways grin appeared on Ollie’s face when he thought of Victoria, but then he sighed. He would never be able to make her smile despite how much he wanted it to be so. But she was always able to make him smile, even if he was just watching her from afar. Come to think of it, that might be a reason for her reluctance.
Ollie regained control of his runaway thoughts. “Though you tell me to find your daughter, that is a world of locations she could possibly be. You wouldn’t happen to have a more exact location on her whereabouts?” The man clapped his hands together hopefully.
A faint, somewhat uncharacteristic smile crept up on the woman’s face as her bloodshot eyes gazed even further into Ollie’s perceived soul. “Come now,” she said, licking her lips in the process. “Who do you take me for, Ollie? Just because she’s broken free from her cage with those scrawny, ugly little wings of hers... doesn’t mean I’ve lost sight of her.
“No,” she continued, “her perceived freedom is nothing more than a front. I’ve already dispatched some of my... less important cronies to try and bring her back a bit more... peacefully, but I suspect they’ll be dispatched - if not send back - by my daughter relatively quickly.”
In truth, the only reason she even send away those two cultists was so she could confirm Rosa’s current habitat, the two men weren’t known for their success rates on errands and missions alike. Her sources said she was last seen in and around Elata, and she figured she was still there... but there was no harm in double checking her sources.
“In the unfortunate scenario that these two dimwits will fail their mission, which I’m almost a hundred percent certain they will, I want you to take what they’ve learned if they’re still alive and head for Elata immediately, or... you know, just go to Elata and do some little tracking of yourself.
“The lives of Gregorius and Alair are of no concern to me,” she finished up her assignment to Ollie. “If you find them more to your liking as newly deceased, and risen, then by all means.”
After all, it would save her a lot of trouble in the future if those two idiots were no longer around. She’d taken them in once because they showed promise, but like so many before them they choked on the morally difficult decisions and left themselves open for the more carnal pleasures of man.
“Such a troublesome child. It would be my pleasure to bring her back to her mother.” Ollie bowed. When he rose up again, his smile had gotten bigger. A sparkle was in his eyes. “So, how urgent is the need to bring her back? Would you want this done as soon as possible? Or would a more methodical approach that is slower be acceptable?”
In truth, Ollie had never been to Terminus and the surrounding areas before. The Elata Spiritus Docks would certainly be a sight to see, and one he was looking forward to exploring. Just because he was a master of death didn’t mean that he wanted to avoid life. And life was filled with new and fun experiences.
“As swiftly as time itself allows you to, Ollie,” she responded with a mild sigh, thinking back on the same set of objectives she’d given Gregorius and Alair and how they miffed it like there was no tomorrow.
However, she knew the man could not pass up the opportunity to go sightseeing whenever he went someplace new, and she could hardly blame the man. Just because she rather stayed at home, locked up in her room all day plotting her mother’s return, didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate the finer details of someone else’s life.
“As long as you bring her back to me before the moon’s cycle begins anew,” she finished,“I do not care how long you take.”
“Understood!” Ollie smiled from the middle of his face to the ear. “Don’t worry, My Lady Aranea. I don’t want to see you upset for too long either. I will be back soon. And maybe I’ll drag Gregorius and Alair back with me, eh? I know you don’t care about them, but lots of bodies never hurt. I’ll see what the situation entails.
“Now that I know what will make you smile, I shall take my leave. Unless there’s something else you wish to discuss with me?” He jumped with a spin, going a full rotation. Landing, Ollie had the top half of his body lowered in a bow with one arm extended.
“You are... dismissed,” Aranea said as her eyes tore away from the man.
There was, of course, the matter of her daughter’s prowess. She was frail, a little weak even, but underestimating her would be one of the worst things someone could do. If there was one thing she was an absolute prodigy in, it was necromancy and Aranea wasn’t sure how much of the back of her teeth she would show when provoked. That was also where her worries laid.
Part of her wanted to warn Ollie about her the danger Rosa could pose, but another part of her wanted to let things play out as they would. After all, how often would she get the chance to see if her daughter was truly capable of being the host to one of Araevis’s many wonders.
“Take care, Ollie,” she finally decided on. “Don’t let her appearance fool you.”
“Of course, My Lady Aranea. Rosa is your daughter, after all. I wouldn’t underestimate anyone related to you.”
Ollie left the master’s chamber to prepare. His room was a colorful place in the otherwise dark building. It was filled with knickknacks from what few travels he did, coral from the coast, dreamcatchers from merchants, things of brightness. People found it hard to smile in such gloomy and dark environments. Dark magic didn’t need to be taken as a literal way of life.
In the corner of the room was a tank filled with murky water. A dark form was hidden away in the muck. Only the sickly flesh pressed up against the glass could be seen, even then the shape was distorted.
Ollie tapped the glass tank. “I’m going out on a trip, this time to the Elatus Spirit Docks near Terminus! This is going to be fantastic, don’t you think Meccabee?”
The creature inside shuffled away.
“Anyway, time to pack.”
It didn’t take long. All he needed was some clothes, some ritual items and some protection from the harsh world. Everything fit in a bag except for his knife, which was strapped to his belt. Ollie brought along one more thing, an ornate box that was slung over his shoulder by a strap. By the time he left, the aquarium was empty with beads of water dripping down the outside face.
Lighting another cigarette following the trail of smoke left behind by the last one, Aranea stood up from behind her desk and stared outside of that thin, slightly crooked mahogany window overlooking a pond bordering her manor’s backyard. With slightly furrowed brows, the white-haired cult leader sighed softly, yet audibly.
Was it really all right for her to send Ollie, her most prized assassin off on a retrieval mission? One that might decide the fate of Valmoor? Probably not, but Rosa had eluded her grasp for far too long now, and the Queen was getting restless. She had to act now, or it would be far, far too late.