Allie met Sadie halfway up the drive after parking her VW in the pull-out just inside the gate. The Professor, Sadie said, was away at a conference.
“I really appreciate your help. It’s just Harry, you know. I can’t do both.” Sadie held the dog’s leash steady.
“Hello, Harry, you massive beast, you.
“Sadie, I’m only doing this to humor you, you know,” Allie said, taking the leash from Sadie and commanding the dog to heel. “I figured you’d attempt this with or without me. At least with me as witness, you’ll see that sometimes fantasies can be taken too far.”
“You’ll be able to control Harry?”
“Yes. I shall restrain your friend here — if he attempts mischief.”
“Thank you. We’re going this way.”
The three of them crossed west over the drive and headed into the woods.
“You know your way around here, even in the dark?” Allie asked.
“I’ve spent the afternoons mapping. If the Gribble lives near here, I haven’t found it.”
“You went hunting this monster, I mean this myth?”
“So, you believe me now?” Sadie had stopped and pulled from her pack the red lens, now fashioned into a cap, and snapped it onto the flashlight.
“I believe that you believe,” Allie replied, deflecting the question. She watched Sadie perform her flashlight modification. “That’s clever. Will that red light help you find this Arachne?”
“No. Lady Ara has sensitive eyes. This dims the light for her.”
The full moon had yet to rise, but its presence could be seen as a glow toward the eastern horizon. After a short walk, Harry, his nose to the ground, came up stiff and growling. Allie held him tight as he pulled at the leash.
“You’ve brought a friend, I see. And an enemy!” The spider’s voice, still rough, rose in pitch. “Why have you brought that creature with you? You know he terrorizes me!”
The foppish hat, golden in the moonlight, tilted and slipped back once again, off Lady Ara’s head as her great bristly legs and threatening fangs rose up to fend off the dog should it attack.
“I had no choice. Father insisted that if I venture out I must bring Harry.”
“I’ve told you I will defend myself–”
“Allie has a good hold on him. He won’t get away. Right Allie?” Sadie turned and patted the dog calmingly. She looked back finding Allie petrified. Her face, in the crimson light of the torch, a mask of utter terror.
The spider stepped off the path to get a better look at the woman staring at her. Then, in a penetrating, formal voice the spider addressed Allie:
“Alethea Kaia Trindell, Truthsayer, answer my riddle:
Sometimes new, sometimes blue,
My light is not my own,
Sometimes I hide and bend the tide,
But at night I drift alone.”
The intonation of the stanzas had somehow broken through.
“You are the Moon.”
“Quite right my dear,” said Lady Ara. “Alethea, have you told your ward about yourself? No?” The spider turned and walked further long the path. “Well, we’re rather in a hurry tonight.”
“Hurry? Hurry! I’ve only just met you. We haven’t exchanged more than a few words, and you command me to hurry?”
Lady Ara replied immediately. “If I mentioned that we have adversaries on our trail, would that help? And, you know, the Gribble is here somewhere.”
“The Gribble is here?” Sadie asked.
“Oh, yes. He’s here, about.”
The spider waved a gloved hand to halt the procession. She alone wandered out to the edge of the ravine. She looked around in the moonlight, her thorax bending up, down and sideways with her yellow tinted hat following the motion. On her return she circled around the three others and plopped herself down in the tall grass and queen-anne’s-lace. She removed her satchel and spoke, “Come have a cup of tea.”