“What happened to ‘we’re in a hurry’?” Allie asked. She and Harry had both kept a tight eye on Lady Ara as the spider moved ponderously around them in the growing moonlight.
“Oh, the hurry is still upon us. But for what we need to do, calm nerves and a clear mind are more important.”
Lady Ara extracted a thermos and small nested cups and deftly poured out three portions.
Sadie held her cup, warm and fragrant. She sipped and sighed at the taste.
“This smell. My mother, she used to…”
“It’s ambrosia, dear. An ancient Grecian recipe. A mix of herbs from around the Mediterranean,” Lady Ara said.
After the calming effect of the tea settled in. Allie explained her name. “Sadie, they used to call my namesake the Truthsayer. Her name was Alethea. She was a Greek goddess. My parents, for whatever reason, decided to name me after her.”
Sadie smirked in the darkness. “So, does that mean you always tell the truth?”
“Me? Always tell the truth? Um, well…”
Lady Ara let the moment linger before she spoke. “Sathena, as strange as this may sound to you, you must learn to trust your tutor with your life. What I relate to you this evening, beneath the fullness of Selene, beneath the stars of our ancient heritage, you must adopt as your own.”
Harry had settled into the grass between the girls and the spider and lay down as if to sleep. He’d gotten over his aggression toward the spider.
Lady Ara continued, “Sathena. Your mother’s oracle must be honored. Yes, I know of her pronouncement.” The spider held up her three-fingered calfskin glove to stem off their expected incredulity. “Tonight you embark upon your journey.
Arachne rose up on her hind legs. “I know I appear threatening. But, do not fear me. Instead, fear the Darkness and the Night. They will seduce you. They will seek to steal what you find–”
“Lady Ara,” Allie interrupted. “I will admit I am both terrified and honored to meet you.”
The spider returned to a sitting position and nodded her head to accept the flattery.
“And I’ll be thinking about this night for years to come. But what are you talking about?”
“Yes, of course. I wish we had more time. But this is the summer solstice, and with a full moon, and the forces that gather, I cannot spend too long explaining what must be done. You, Alethea, must be my voice. Delve into the history, the import of what you are about to witness, for The Gribble, he comes.”
Sadie cast around, both eager and anxious. This Gribble, this ancient Greek Giant, must surely be imposing and frightful.
From behind the spider, who returned to her high stance, came, walking beneath her, like a fat elf or a hatless garden gnome, The Gribble.
He walked blind, yet he found his way. His multitude of eye-sockets pinched shut, empty of their sapphire orbs. His head stood no more than the height of Harry’s shoulder, but he strutted with dignity and, were he ten times taller, a bearing that spoke, “Look at me, I am Argus Panoptes, the Giant, the Great Observer.”
He continued his miniature stride, sidled over and sat cross-legged in the grass near the left-gloved pincer of the spider. He laced his arms across his pot belly and glared, sightless, at both the humans.
Both girls bit their lips to contain their first thoughts
Sadie spoke first. “I have kept your Eye safe. I have only the one though. Would you like it back?”
The tiny giant turned and laid a hand on the spiders glove. He signed a thumbs-up at the girl and nodded his approval.
“I’ve spoken to Argus, and he agrees with me. You’ve done as I asked?” questioned Lady Ara. “You’ve warmed the Eye in your hand, carried it with you, nurtured it and embraced it?”
“Good, then it is ready to be returned. But not until you have read the runes. And, of course, Alethea must have her story.”
“Human civilization has prospered during these last ten thousand years that Chaos has been imprisoned. Yes, Calamity and Catastrophe have had their way, at times. But nothing like the Before when Chaos ruled. Then, sky-rocks fell and earth-fire erupted, sun-blasts would burn and ground-quakes wreck; these and more would cover the world in flood and fire, soot and cinder.
“That time of Chaos may return. Darkness and Night have awoken. Your mother’s oracle, Sathena, has foretold this. The time of human culture and progress may come to an end. You wanted a story, Truthsayer? There you have it. In return, I ask for yours and Sathena’s vow.
The spider took a scant pause and then spoke with a solemn voice:
“Sathena Leona Brimson, I come to you a legend. I am proof of what I speak. I ask you to honor your mother’s vision. Will you so vow?”
Sadie had felt the truth of this story deep within her. That and the hope that her mother’s return would come with her vow. She nodded.
“Lady Ara, I vow to follow my mother’s words. I don’t know how, or really, why. But I know you are real, that this night is really the beginning. Yes, I vow this.”
The spider’s eight eyes shifted to the tutor.
Allie shook her head. “That’s a great story. And, frankly, I think you may have worked it up expressly for our benefit. But a vow? To you here and now?”
“The vow would not be made to me, dear,” the spider corrected. “It would be to Sathena. I can accept your reticence with regards to a promise to me. But to her? Have you not already committed yourself in such a way?”
“Lady Ara, you should have been a lawyer.”
“Alas, I became a weaver, and look at me now. So, what say you?”
Allie sighed. She bent and patted the dog and scratched his chin. “Ask me.”
“Alethea Kaia Trindell, will you vow to assist Sathena in her quest to fulfill her mother’s oracle?”
Allie nodded. “I so vow.”
The group remained quiet for a time as the sacredness of the impromptu ceremony filled their thoughts.