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Spider Island: Spider civil war

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It started out so well. With my own hands I had built a thriving, self-sustaining settlement on Spider Island. I had more food than I could eat, and boxes and boxes bursting with silks and glands. I became the generous visitor from afar as I was able to bestow this bounty on my human friends when I ventured out to the mainland. If they asked, I sang the praises of my little island and my many, many little friends.


But all was not so rosy.


For one thing, my new friends were fickle with their help. Sure, they would band together ferociously to defeat any enemy that might come to the island. What a joy it was never to leave my own hearth, even when the hounds would come. I would simply stoke the fire, disguise myself as a berry bush, and wait in comfort as I listened to the barking, hissing, and yelping of battle just out of sight.


But did I ever see a scrap of meat from these battles? Never a one. Where was the gratitude? The hounds only come to the island because *I* am there. They would never have that meat if it weren’t for me! And yet my ravenous little friends ate every spare scrap. And so it was for any battle! Even if I could coax a few of them to come with me to the beefalo herd for a kill I would have to stand in the middle of the fighting and grab any meat that fell on the ground. The gluttonous little buggers would even eat the curly tails of defeated pig men if I wasn’t fast enough.


And did they help me build the settlement? On the contrary, they were content to scuttle around, usually in the way, as I carefully tried to place each new bit of structure or equipment. Even bribing them with a little meat failed to correct the problem as a great crowd of them would gather about my feet, waiting for the next scrap and blocking my access to the bare earth.


It was very early one morning before the sun had risen that the idea came to me. I was standing by the dying fire, playing a little game of “will this log last until the light of day?” with the fire ring. And like so many other moments by the fire, I found myself sliding sideways due to the pressure of a loathsome little spider body pushing against me. Why could he not just go around? Why must he walk right where I was standing? I was so tempted in that moment to strike out at him with my tentacle spike, and I even started the swing but stopped myself halfway through. I knew that if I had finished the attack my ongoing patronage would count for nothing. Within moments I would be set upon by dozens of my former allies. There would be no time to get to the wormhole. I would be dead long before I reached it.


But then it hit me: their thinking is purely black or white, and their loyalties can switch at a moment’s notice. And even more importantly, *their loyalties can be bought.*


I laid my plans for the rest of the day. Bribes? Check: there was plenty of monster meat in the fridge. Target? Check: the queens seem to love to plant themselves in the middle of my infrastructure (“you see I’m farming right there, right?”), so there were plenty of targets. Escape route? Check: I would begin with the targets closest to the wormhole in case I needed to make a hasty retreat.


Ask the day turned to dusk, I began my recruitment drive. I wandered about the island, offering a scrap of meat to the occasional spider who became my instant acolyte along with a few more of his easily-influenced comrades. By the time night came I was surrounded by a few dozen of my newest best friends, pushing and jostling to get closer to me. This time, I didn’t mind as I slid along the ground, because I knew that soon these very beasts would be locked in a life or death struggle with one another.


In the morning I set out on my dark purpose. Mere words were not enough to command my minions; I knew I would have to demonstrate my meaning through violence of my own. But I also knew that if I were to fully go through with it I would incur the wrath of the rest of the island. I would have to tread that line very carefully.


Creeping up on the Tier 3 mound closest to the wormhole, I took an experimental swing with my walking stick, backing away at the last moment. Nothing. Apparently, my intentions were not clear enough. A little farther this time. Still not enough. Finally, on the third attempt they caught on. As I stepped away at the very last split second, my small army came swarming over the mound.


I ran as fast as my walking stick would take me to the wormhole, watching carefully for signs that any spider kind were going to turn their ire against me. But I was safe! I returned to the spider mound, now the site of a terrific battle. It was spider against spider as the two sides fought furiously. I can only wonder how the two sanctions could tell each other apart, because I certainly was not able to do so.


The initial battle was fierce and broad, involving the mound, all the spiders within, and any spiders within shouting distance. My little army was outmatched by the warrior spiders from the nest, but what they lacked in polish they made up for in numbers. Soon the nest was destroyed, leaving nothing but silk and spider eggs behind. And yet the battle raged on as new recruits constantly joined the fray. The sound of hissing was deafening as I stood in their midst, completely ignored, trying desperately to grab every bit of monster meat that fell to the ground (why should one of them eat it, only to perish in a moment or two?). I had to be very careful where I placed my hands; one wrong move and all that ferocity could turn on me.


Day led to dusk, and dusk into night, and still the battle raged on, drifting northward into the densely-populated areas of the island. Safe in the glow of my fire I could hear them fighting in the darkness. By the next day the fight had grown much smaller, but it still went on. I had a strange glow of pride as my little recruits fought it out to the bitter end.


By the end of that day the fighting ended. The island seemed eerily quiet. I followed the trail of silks and glands from camp to the north of the island where the last stand must have taken place. Any guilt I might have had vanished when I saw that the remaining spiders went about their business, apparently paying no heed to the carnage around them.


My little insurrection had been a great success. The spider population (especially near camp) was reduced. I had more room to move around and build in peace, and the spider mound was gone from the farm.


That night as I sat munching on roasted monster meat I contemplated my next move. You know, that spider mound in the drying racks is pretty annoying…

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