The story so far:
Kiss of the Spider Lady (Chapter 1: Welcome to My Parlor...) by WBScott
Emilia sat on a very plush couch as she watched two men bound in her service training in hand-to-hand combat. Each of them was specifically selected by her to be part of her personal attaché, so both were handsome, lean, and muscular. She kept over two dozen men at her disposal at any given moment and could easily call upon more. With superior strength and grace, all her men faithfully served her to their last dying breath; they would do anything in their power to please her. It was the debt they paid in return for the boons she gave them.
The first favor she would ask of her men was for any that was married to slay his wife. Occasionally, she would have a man try to resist her, but with persistence, he would show her that she was his true love. However, a few years ago, one of her men resisted just long enough to allow his wife to escape. It was an annoyance she had learned to live with.
A knocking originating from the door to her chambers distracted her away from her entertainment. “Who is it?” Her voice resounding with everything from sweetness to malice.
“It is your humble servant.” A voice called from the other side of the door. “I come bearing excellent news.”
“Then by all means enter.” She called him in.
The decorative door with gold inlay swung open as her messenger pushed into her chambers. “What is the good news?”
“Wulfgard's pack has been destroyed.”
Her eyes sparkled at this revelation. “How? Did you witness this for yourself?”
“Yes, my queen,” his words were like honey as he informed her, “I saw them attack the Hunter's Hunted during the full moon last night. The werewolves in their full moon frenzy, never saw the trapped laid for them.”
“Really?” She beckoned him closer. “I want to know it all.”
Silently, he walked over and keeled before her. Her lips contorted as giant, insect-like mandibles protruded out from her mouth. Without hesitation her transformed mouth easily cracked open the skull of her messenger and gorged herself with the gray matter inside. Easily she consumed all his experience, knowledge, and thoughts. As his lifeless body fell to the ground, Emilia searched his memory for the death of Wulfgard:
It was night. Full moon. Barely peeking above the distant mountain range. The howl of werewolves shattered darkness. FEAR. They came. No order. No pattern. No reason. Chaos. Standing on a tower as a vanguard of the night. Red hair unbound. Blowing in the wind. She held a torch. so calm... She watched. She waited. The torch dropped. Falling fire. Touched the ground. Spreading fire. Werewolves burned. They cried in pain. The smell. Charred dog hair and human flesh. Unbearable. They burned. Tossing and turning. They died.
After she finished digesting the memories of her messenger, Emilia snickered. The Hunter's Hunted planted an obvious trap, but the frenzied werewolves were too consumed with bloodlust to see the oil lined streets of the small hamlet where the Hunter's Hunted took refuge. By exploiting a werewolf weakness, the Hunter's Hunted succeeded where many would die.
Ever since a mortal man defeated Dracula in London the year prior, there had been several bands of humans forming to defeat werewolves, vampires, and others of her ilk. Usually they died quickly. It seemed that the Hunter's Hunted was different. She felt the members were driven by a deeper sense of commitment. Emilia searched the recently consumed memory; what was the name of the Hunted Hunter's leader:
“Micca darling stop playing with Johann.” Emilia stopped the match turned bloody with her question. “What was the name of your wife you failed to kill for me?”
Micca spoke between gasps of painful breaths. “Ludmilla, mistress.”
“As I thought...”
There were those who could roam a land plagued with vampires and werewolves with neither allegiance nor servitude to either provided that their fighting skills were sharp and their resistance to the unknown sound. A dark figure riding a nightmarish mount was one such individual. One look at his disproportionate hands, eyes, lips, ears, and nose told anyone with an inkling of alchemical knowledge what he was: a homunculus.
A being made from the essences of a mortal and congeal ether. A homunculus was one of the rare unliving creatures that roamed the shadows between the living and the undead. Unique to this particular homunculus was the grace and poise he held as he stared his mount through the landscape. With a unique staff strapped to his back that had a blade attached to both ends, any fool would know that this homunculus didn't rely on magic but rather physical assaults to win his battles. Elementary alchemy instructs that a homunculus is usually physically weak and that their physique is a direct result of the mystical abilities of their creator. Most alchemists would gasp in awe at the mystic level his creator would have had to attain to build this powerful specimen.
A secret he shared with no one. The mystical bound he had with his creator severed centuries ago when the alchemist died and reborn among the undead. This homunculus was neither offended nor pleased as his creator turned. Eerily still, when words came back to his ears of his creator's destruction, he was fazed no more than nihilist who heard a stranger's pet rat was eaten by another's pet cat. This particular homunculus cared nothing for life, and would take any life as easily as any man in a swamp would swat at a mosquito. This particular homunculus was known only by the name Bies.
Bies reigned his fiendish mount to a stop as flames snorted from the large black nostrils. The mount complemented the rider in an image that could strike terror in the calmest and hardest hearts from those that lived on this perilous land. A coat darker than the blackest night was offset by solid red eyes and an occasional flame that spouted from the mouth and nostrils. Although most of the body was shaped as a horse, cloven feet tracked through the creature's path that any sane person would swear came from hell.
Before the rider and mount stood an iron gate to the werespider's lair. “Who goes there?” He heard one of Emilia's slaves call to him.
Bies hesitated as if pondering whether to acknowledge the lowly existence of one well beneath him. “Tell Emilia that Bies is here to see her.”
Minutes passed, and motionlessly Bies waited. Eventually, the gate lifted. A word was spoken by no one as the cloven foot mount trotted on the hard cobblestone road through the recently opened entrance.
He steered his mount to the stables. A sigh of relief came from the stable hand as Bies lead his own mount to a stall and removed the harness and saddle. Perhaps, it was that the stable hand fear Bies' mount may devour the young man's soul. Bies began to walk out of the stable but stopped before the stable hand. “Anyone goes near my steed,” he said without even looking at the young lad, “and I'll kill you.”
Bies left the stables.
“Welcome Bies, come in.” Emilia lifted a goblet for a man with a swollen face to pour some red wine as she sat in a throne shaped like a giant tarantula.
A flick of her wrist dismissed the man from her company. Bies' eyes pierced through to the man's soul as he hurried from the room. “So what do I owe the great pleasure of your visit?”
“The Hunter's Hunted.” Bies enjoyed the fact that he could get down directly to business. “Let's be honest, you don't like them. How much do you want for their disposal?”
Emilia grin was devilish like only a woman with a black heart knew how to give. Less than an hour ago, she was pondering what to do about the new threat, and now the answer came to her. “Nothing.”
“You don't care?” Bies gave an uncharacteristic raised eyebrow.
“Tsk, tsk,” the werespider mused as she sipped her red wine, “it is too bad, as a homunculus, you are immune to my kiss. It would be wonderful to have you amongst my legion. I hear there is another organ that is unusually large that is usually covered.”
Bies remained silent and unflattered.
“Bies we have done business for many centuries.” Emilia passed the goblet from one hand to the other. “When you come here with a specific agenda, it is because you already have a commission and are trying to supplement your income. However, you are welcome to spend the night for your travels and have a good night's rest before you go and kill the nuisance, which will cost me nothing.”
“My mission is not to kill them.” Bies stood unfazed and maintained his stoic confidence.
Emilia's eyes perked up. “Oh, please, do tell.”
“Why?” Bies asked.
“Why not?” Emilia's smile radiated evil. “You obviously are not paid for your silence. Otherwise, you would not have brought it up.”
“I'm not paid to talk either.”
“If I do choose to pay your for information it would be complete, without any details deliberately withheld.” It was obvious Emilia pondered her choices as she began rubbing the goblet of wine with her dainty hand.
Bies looked at her in his usual stoic fashion that could only be perfected by the unliving.
Emilia sat up in her chair. “What could you want from me this badly?”
“The price reveals part of the explanation.”
Emilia sat back and grinned. “So there's no haggling over the price...” It was obvious that her curiosity had the best of her.
“I can assure you,” Bies informed her, “it will be well worth it.”
“Very well,” Emilia laughed, “you win this one. However, it better be worth it.”
“I was hired by the vampire Leopold Van Heathen to capture the leader, bring her to his castle, so she can be turned into one of his minions. I came offering to rid you of her and her colleagues because I figure in the process of capturing her, I might have to eradicate them in the process. However, since you're not paying for that service, I'll be sure to avoid them if at all possible. Now, although I fear the Hunter's Hunted in no shape nor form, it would be beneficial for me to have two werespider nets, which I'll be taking as my payment.”
“Why two?” Emilia asked.
“One to catch their leader,” Bies explained, “the other as a spare.”
“I can live with that.” Anyone could tell her mind ponder on how to leverage some advantage with the new information provided to her. “Bies, a word of caution: Although I don't doubt your prowess in battle, the Hunter's Hunted don't rely on brute strength to win battles. Ludmilla appears to be very clever.”
For the first time since he entered the chamber, Bies moved—but that was only to collect his payment. His mannerisms, as always, betrayed no concern.
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