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ID: 3200


October 10, 2006, 9:36 pm

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Michael Jotne Slayer

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The Isle of the Labyrinth


Local mariners know to avoid this island and the spider demons that infest it.  Don’t say that you weren’t warned!

This lush island is best known for the elaborate ruin that covers several acres at its peak.  Once the temple complex of an ancient religion, only its cyclopean walls remain to mystify visitors.  The entire complex has been cleared of rubble and plant life, but the handful of devotees that remain as caretakers fearfully avoid anyone who is not an initiate of their little-known cult.  On those walls that have been spared the worst of the island’s frequent storms, images of a strange many-armed goddess occur frequently, along with brightly colored mosaics depicting her worship. 

Centuries earlier, the complex housed several temples dedicated to different aspects of a spider goddess, a religion that has been largely forgotten by more recent inhabitants of the region.  This goddess was a patron of weaving and arachniculture, the raising of spiders practiced by the forgotten people of the local islands.  They had found ways to domesticate spiders and had created strange breeds of arachnids that would spin massive quantities of silk, which the islanders would weave into delicate fabrics. 

Eventually, the islands in the area were invaded by the conquering forces of a local despot.  He ordered that the temple complex be looted of its beams and decorations of rare woods, thus sparing it from burning.  The inhabitants of the island were seized as slaves or slain; any sacred items of the spider goddess were despoiled or destroyed, as the invaders honored a demanding god who tolerated no other worship in his conquered lands.  The domesticated spiders were slaughtered as sacred to the forbidden cult. 

Today, the spider goddess is generally regarded as some sort of a demon by the inhabitants of the other islands in the area.  Her worship is remembered by a mere handful of people, the secretive descendants of the priestesses that once ruled the local islands.  A few times each year, they secretly journey to the temple, sailing in the small boats favored by local fishermen.  There they visit the sacred grottoes hidden beneath the ruins and pay homage to their forbidden goddess.  Each year, they bring with them a handful of maidens, the new initiates into the mysteries of their cult.  A few remain behind to care for the complex and ensure that its secrets remain hidden.

The whole island is infested with an innocuous variety of spider, descendants of the spiders raised by the ancient culture that once dominated the local islands.  These spiders can be quite large, growing to almost a foot long, but do not attack humans unless provoked.  Unlike most species of spider, these creatures often nest together, with hundreds of spiders forming large colonies.  These colonies are easily visible, as the large amounts of silk the spiders secrete forms almost a blanket for dozens of yards around the colony.  The spiders hunt nocturnally, seeking birds, insects, and other small animals.  Each colony has a large territory that its members share, killing spiders from other colonies that trespass.  Descended from domesticated spiders, these creatures are generally friendly toward humans, are nearly as intelligent as housecats, and enjoy being petted.  They will boldly approach visiting humans, rubbing against legs or climbing on them if allowed.  As most sailors regard these things as dangerous vermin, the spiders are usually disappointed.  They do have a poisonous bite, but are generally unwilling to attack humans.  Those attacking the spiders’ young or attempting to burn their nests will discover that the spiders can be driven to attack by such measures.

While the spiders and the secretive worshippers of the spider goddess are generally unnerving but harmless, those spending much time on the island may set themselves up for a real danger.  Some of the more superstitious inhabitants of other local islands regard the island as the haunt of demons; they will suspect that anyone who spends much time there is possessed by demons or is a demonolater.  If they notice spiders taken as pets, or quantities of silk on ships visiting their islands, they will notify the local priests, who generally advocate purging the offending ships with fire.   Instead of a pleasant visit at these islands, the offending ship may be greeted by repeated attempts to burn it and its crew.

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Comments ( 12 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
October 10, 2006, 22:53
Can the spiders be gently stroked?
October 11, 2006, 2:11
They love that! You'll have spiders bringing you bloated dead birds!
Voted Pariah
October 10, 2006, 23:15
And do they purr? Anyway, great job Wulf.
Voted manfred
October 11, 2006, 3:13
Sweeet. :)

A suprisingly harmless island, whose visit can turn out lethal in the end. I like this one!
Voted valadaar
October 11, 2006, 11:06
An excellent sub!

One of these spiders would make a great familiar!
Cheka Man
October 11, 2006, 11:10
I want one as a pet, I'd gently stroke it, feed it, and lie down and let it crawl on me.
Voted Scrasamax
October 11, 2006, 11:20
spidersilk, a benevolent spider cult, intriguing. I like how it has a major sinister vibe, but follows it up with a not-what-you-expected fuzzy kitty spiders who just want love...and a bloated dead bird.
Voted Murometz
October 12, 2006, 14:18
What manfred and Scras said. Cheka's comment is somewhat disturbing however :D
October 12, 2006, 15:41
I wasn't sure what to say myself. Cheka's surprising affection for "kitty spiders" caught me flatfooted.
October 12, 2006, 15:59
Wonder if boiled they'd taste like lobster?
Voted Dragon Lord
February 2, 2007, 12:17
We were expecting something nasty and demonic.
What we found was lots of essentially harmless, if slightly disturbing, spiders.

Nice twist Wulf

Voted Kuseru Satsujin
March 30, 2008, 10:26
Pet spiders, I love it! I can see this island as a plot device useful for the development of all kinds of pet spider varieties, such as "hunting" spiders, "arachnid retrievers," "sled spiders," "guard spiders," "lap spiders," "bloodhound spiders," "purebred spiders," "seeing-eye spiders," "herding spiders," "war spiders," and even (if they can be grown large enough), "riding spiders." You could obviously setup a setting where spiders have taken over the role of dogs in societies. (Admittedly this would be made difficult by the religious persecution of the spider island, but there are lots of plot possibilities available.)

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