Ophelia’s Requiem

(Another thing I randomly felt like writing. I’ve been doing a lot of world building for a race of arachnid humanoids and I even have a character of that race, one that is incredibly dear to me. The cover image is a drawing I made of this wholesome spider woman. Anyway, enjoy the thing I made.)

Ophelia’s dreams were always so vivid, except when she awoke, the only things left from it were fuzzy memories and a set of scratched-out words or pictures on the wall she had etched in the trance of slumber.

This time she was back home again: her vast yet vaguely familiar cave system before it had been cleared out and destroyed by the evil men- before her name was Ophelia. And this time, she was walking with someone- walking uphill. Her partner was a younger boy with dark black hair that hung short and danced over his multipupiled spider eyes. 

Her…friend? Yes! She did have a friend. What was his name again? 

GAH! She could never remember names. She could faintly remember memories, and she could certainly remember facts- those concrete nuggets of knowledge -but never names. Names were just words that differentiated people. She could remember most of her language, but the names were mostly gibberish. 

She remembered the feel of names though. For example, hers was smooth and unique. It rolled off the tongue well and was easy to say. A perfect name for a perfect child.

The name of her friend however was short and rough, like if someone stepped on a rock that caused discomfort. So, let’s call him Rocky for simplicity.

Rocky was a misfit like her, though a far less respected one. He was infertile by birth instead of by surgery like Ophelia. Rocky wasn’t even a priest like she was, and he wasn’t strong. He had no usefulness in the tribe, but it would be sinful of them to kill him. So he just stuck around and helped around where he could. Very few Arachnians enjoyed his presence.

Ophelia did though. Most Arachnians of her age were too busy with finding a mate or learning their crafts to talk to her. But Rocky was mostly given the job of a forager, so he would accompany her to gather berries and leaves and such for her priestess work- not to mention he provided excellent company. It wasn’t surprising that they became instant companions. An odd pair though, especially with the gender divide. They were the only pair of opposite sexes in the whole tribe to ever cuddle or spend large amounts of time with each other.

And so they walked in calm silence. Uphill? Oh, that likely meant they were leaving the cave system. There was a crowd around them like a busy subway station. The only difference was that they were all walking with them in the same direction. Almost all of them were paired up, male and female. Ophie could feel the chill air biting her nose. Winter…no spring. The start of spring. That would be the most logical conclusion since at that time of year, their annual courting ceremony is held, a celebration when all those recently mated present their pairing to the leaders.

Ophelia found it fascinating how Arachnians could find their perfect pairings, a newfound warmth in the icy cold of the winter. And when there was a disagreement between males and the female couldn’t decide which of the two to choose, it was settled in the most civil of matters: a gruesome fight between the males, only ending when one gave up or until bone was exposed. And it cheered up Rocky too; bloodshed always made the pair happier.

Suddenly, there was a break in the darkness: the glow of the moon. The community of arachnid-like humanoids trekked onto the surface and marveled at the glimmering stars that hung high above the trees. 

The leader of the tribe and his mate broke away from the group and make their way onto a large rock. Behind him followed the high priestess, healer, and shaman of the tribe. The priestess, draped in dark robes, two intricate black bands tattooed around her neck, glanced at Ophelia. 

Oh, she was supposed to join them. Grabbing her friend by the hand, she ran over to the adults. The high priestess gave a skeptical look to Rocky but said nothing.

After everyone had gathered, the newly mated in the front, the chief spoke up. He spoke in their tribal language full of clicks and warbles. It went something along the lines of “Greetings! We have gathered here today to celebrate those who have found their new mates and to bind their souls for now and forever.” There were clicks of cheering in the crowd. “Each pair shall come forward, one at a time, and present their pairings to the high priestess where they will be officially courted. Let the ceremony begin.” He let out a howl and the others joined, including Ophelia and Rocky.

Excitement was in the air as all the young Arachnians lined up, the rest of the tribe making a circle around them.

With a small smile, Ophelia yanked her friend to the back of the crowd. He was taken aback by the pull and stumbled after, causing her to give a little giggle. She circled around him and brushed her head against his side with a light purr. It was some ritual that mates did to show they were interested, but they only did so to play. Rocky smiled gently at her and purred back.

Ophie slung her thin cloth bag off her shoulder and reviewed the contents: an assortment of colorful, natural pastes, glittery ground up crystals, and sticks of different thicknesses, honed smooth. She laid them all neat on a cloth with Rocky’s assistance. Their only job was to set up the supplies for the newly courted. At the front, the priestess would complete the ritual and paint a black band around the dominant wrist of each mate. Then, the pair would make their way to the center and decorate each other’s new tattoo. 

She remembered how, one year, she and Rocky had crafted a temporary black paint and crafted their own kind of friendship bracelet. It was decorated with a white flower, a daffodil, with ruffled petals. In the fields, all the other daffodils had smooth petals while only a few fashioned ruffled ones. They joked that they were a lot like the ruffled ones in that way, different from the rest. Sadly, their superiors weren’t a fan of their new accessories. They immediately had to wash it off. 

Ophelia and Rocky sat and watched as newly courted mates as they entered the clearing, two by two, and did their little craft project. Not too long after, they were dancing under the stars. A group of Arachnians warbled away a tune and tapped along to a tempo, some of the audience even joining in as they watched the pairs spin and sway. It was a strange kind of dance, but it had a kind of gracefulness to it. 

Ophie had an urge to join them. Would that be disrespectful? After a moment or so of internal debate, she stood, pulled her friend to his feet, and swung him around. Rocky let out a confused yelp, but soon enough, he understood, and clumsily, reluctantly, he began to sway his arms and shuffle his feet to the music. 

The moonlight lit them up like a spotlight as they giggled and danced in a kind of child-like bliss. And although there were uncertain stares and uneasy whispers- not to mention a disapproving glance from Ophelia’s mentor- they were enjoying each other’s company.

What a shame that such a moment was abruptly cut by the appearance of a group of strange men wielding sharp metal blades, their eyes gleaming with bloodlust. What a shame that Ophelia had never received a chance to say goodbye to her dear friend before the blood had spattered the grass. What a shame that he was one of the first bodies to fall to the ground with a soft, deafening thump, eyes lifeless and gray. What a shame indeed. 

And when Ophelia awoke from her dream of distant memories long forgotten, she was greeted by a new marking on her wall: a simple drawing of a daffodil with ruffled petals.

[4 pages]


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