After being rocked back and forth like a baby for about 10 minutes, Arbor had calmed down enough to let him back on his feet. Randidly brushed most of the ash off of him, and turned to Kiersty, who seemed content to just standby and watch the process. The men and women in robes behind her were just watching wide eyed, most of them aware of who he was now.
There was… something in their eyes. Worship. Randidly’s mentality had make great strides since the arrival of the System, but this… this was something new. This was a strange form of pressure apart from responsibility that was cloying and sticky. He shifted uncomfortably, turning to Kiersty.
“So… where did the spiders come from?” Randidly asked, his eyes scanning the nearby treetops, seeing the hundreds of thousands of tiny spiders that skittered around.
Kiersty shrugged. “…we don’t really know. One day, they just came out of Arbor, and started making this area. But he said they came from you, and they could be controlled, so we communicated with them to stay in a certain area….”
For the first time since Randidly arrived, Kiersty frowned, seemingly confused. “…you don’t know what they are…?”
Randidly opened his mouth, then closed it. Because he could suddenly feel Lucretia’s amusement, and made the connection. Arbor’s connection to his Soul Skill… had let a life form similar to the Weavers from inside of him come out into the world…?
Now that Randidly knew what he was looking for, he focused his vision, feeling threads of Aether. There was a thick rope going from himself to Arbor, which flowed into the surrounding Aether. But from Arbor, there was also two smaller flows of Aether, one of which, to Randidly’s surprise, went to Kiersty. That had… a lot of repercussions. The strangest of which was that the number of people who were feeding off his Aether was growing.
Not really at an alarming rate, but still, without his consent. He passed it, and then down the line it flowed, from Arbor to Kiersty. Also, he wondered if any of the people he gave Aether to would pass that onto their children. Perhaps not the men, but the women? If they were carried in the womb, flooded with that Aether? Would there be side effects on the birth?
Randidly felt a headache coming on. More questions for another time, he supposed. Instead, he focused on the second stream of Aether, which flowed into the canopy of of webs. Randidly turned to Kiersty. “And there is…”
“A matriarch.” Kiersty said, smiling and nodding. Then she shooed him away. “I’ve got to handle these things here, after you have messed them all up. I’ll come find you later.”
There was something extremely strange by being shooed away by an 8 year old, but Arbor was already waving at him goodbye. Feeling strangely rejected, like a parent meeting their teenage child and quickly dismissed, Randidly walked back through the group, trying his best to ignore the stares that he got.
They muttered behind him, but Randidly heard Kiersty take charge, and he could then slip away into the treeline. Apparently the matriarch felt his approach, because the thousands of tiny spiders sprung to action, rushing to the area in front of him and parting the curtain, allowing to make a beeline directly for the location he sensed.
Although they stayed somewhat back, he could sense… a curiosity from them, like a child’s as they examined him. It was a whole nother sort of examination than the one that Kiersty’s cultists gave him…
But he supposed it made sense, in a way. As Lyra said, he was the Inciting Action. Based on what he had heard from her, she meant more grandly, but it applied more specifically
Randidly made a mental note to ask what Kiersty called her cult, and proceeded deeper. The ground was soft and wet beneath him, probably due to the lack of sun, but there were no more leaves falling, so there wasn’t any real decaying matter on the ground. It was all just soft loam between his toes.
The matriarch was sitting on a stump, her nondescript, grey-white armor glowing softly in the darkness. Whereas most of the spiders here were the size of a quarter, this one was about as big as a human hand. It regarded him thoughtfully, its eyes trained on him.
For several seconds they stood there, and then he felt something brush the edges of his mind. A notification popped, indicating that a monster attempted to form a non malicious mental communication line between them. But there was a warning that this could change, and the monster could use this to have a small advantage in mental attacks.
That certainly made Randidly grit his teeth, but he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere if he didn’t trust the other. So Randidly accepted the mental communication. It was hard for him to believe that the monster in front of him, that only had a Lvl 19 hovering about its head, would be able to deal any significant damage to him anyway.
. The Matriarch said formally, bending its front legs in an approximation of a bow.
We have long waited for you here, near your prophet. I am glad we were not misled.
Randidly scratched his chin, unsure of how to respond. Finally, he sent a thought message back to her, couched in caution.
…I am surprised you have managed to reach this place. I didn’t imagine… that traveling would be possible for your people. Can any others-
I suspect not.
The Matriarch said, seemingly satisfied with the fact they had managed it.
We, the Weavers… are uniquely poised to understand certain things. Our Mother’s gifts have flowed down towards us. Of course, we could not use your connection to move to your world… because our world “is” you. There is no bridge to cross, we are already there with you, all the time.
On the other hand,
the Matriarch continued.
Your world tree is connected much more intimately… as a brother, adjacent. That space let us slip through to seek you. Unfortunately… we, those that came through, lost much. It is not possible for us to communicate with the Great Matriarch, or to return…
She trailed off, and in that silence Randidly heard a question. His mouth twisted.
…I’ll look into it. But I can make no promises. This is something, I didn’t expect to happen.
The Matriarch nodded, and through their connection, Randidly could feel her hope settle into a calm certainly. There was faith there, he realized, wide and deep, and suddenly he could feel it all around him, a little spark from each of the tiny spiders that were around him, in the trees, watching, burning small on its own, but together they were blinding, hammering him with their force.
Through an effort of will, Randidly didn’t flinch, but he knew that he would need a small reprieve from these expectations soon. It was… exhausting.
Inciting Action, they expect it to continue.
Lucretia whispered, her humor becoming strangely morose, as she floated away, turning in on herself. And Randidly reflected briefly on that too, how his presence affected everyone around him. But really, everyone’s did. His impact was perhaps just… a little splashier. Especially recently
Coughing slightly, Randidly soldiered forward, feeling awkward to bring it up, even with monsters.
I suppose Kiersty has talked to you about… behavior in this place…?
Yes, and she possessed much less tact in her questions
. The Matriarch thought back.
But she also put us in contact with our mother, who has us working with your people to create cloth. We believe it will be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Besides, I believe the Holy Arbor benefits from being in a quiet location.
Mother…? The Randidly slapped his forehead. Mrs. Hamilton. Originally the Weavers were the race that spawned inside of him from Mrs. Hamilton’s meaning that he absorbed. Which meant that they were under her discretion, which Randidly had absolute faith in. It was even something of a relief, and further, made him feel slightly guilty for forgetting their connection to Mrs. Hamilton, and harboring doubts about them.
Although he didn’t quite understand their methods and was slightly alarmed at their sheer numbers, if they were truly the children of Mrs. Hamilton, they would be considered and good natured, if absolutely pragmatic and without scruples. But more importantly, they were on his side.
Randidly exchanged a few more pleasantries with the Matriarch, then departed, heading back towards town, feeling strange. The worship in the cultists eyes. The faith from the spiders…
Sighing, Randidly wondered whether his life would ever be normal again. He missed Lyra’s little quips already, which reminded that he was a person to be made fun of too. Unfortunately, him straining his senses to the limit had been unable to locate her, even when he used his Aether senses.
And she had said to trust her…
So for now, he let it go. Instead, he focused on those four thick connections in his chest, and adjusted his direction to head towards the nearest one. Of all the people he wanted to meet, the 4 he had given the Blessings were perhaps not the most important, but they were some of the most important.
The corners of Randidly’s mouth quirked up. Alana. And as he approached, he could feel the sounds of battle. His senses immediately widened, covering the area, but then he relaxed. Just a spar, but a serious one.
Randidly cracked his knuckles. This was probably exactly what he needed to calm down.