It had taken months to find all the ingredients.
Some were taken from her mother’s crypt in the basement of her own home, some from her mother’s office, and even one had been ‘borrowed’ from her father’s police station downtown.
The fingernail of a dead necromancer was the most complicated to discover, but the location of the grave itself - uncovered from her father’s files at the police station - were the most delicious. When Arachne had uncovered that one, she couldn’t help but let out a little cackle.
It was the night before Halloween, so Arachne had to make sure everything was in order. The thirteen-year-old witch looked at her co-conspirators with a sinful grin.
She adorned a flowing, dark-purple robe adorned with silver symbols and runes embroidered along the hem. Beneath the robe, she had a simple black dress that provides freedom of movement. Her knee-high, lace-up black boots offered stability on uneven terrain. Around her neck, a pendant with a moonstone glows softly, symbolizing the connection to lunar energy.
Arachne’s long black hair cascaded freely under her dark-velvet, wide-brimmed witch’s hat. The ensemble was completed with long, black, fingerless gloves, each etched with protective sigils, and a leather satchel containing essential ritual tools.
Tess mirrored Arachne’s mischievous look, as did Ash. Arachne’s friends had been pulled into the young witch’s world of mischief, and the trio had become the biggest troublemakers in school while somehow staying below the notice of the adults.
Arachne had made sure they had all been getting straight A’s, and her spider familiar Insidious had been sure to remove all evidence - like bubblegum wrappers or notes - that the group accidentally left behind at ‘crime’ scenes or when she inevitably slipped back into her bedroom at night. Tess was the group’s druid and could cover tracks like foot- and fingerprints when any were left behind. Ashenrod was the group’s attractive vampire.
Every effective friend group needed an attractive vampire.
This was one of Arachne’s more delicate plans: The timing was less than ideal. The night before Halloween had less magic pulsating through it, but in exchange there were fewer eyes.
The young gang had set candles around the grave. Insidious was keeping watch: skittering around the oldest graveyard in town.
“Oh this is gonna be fun!” Arachne said, chuckling.
“No it isn’t, Arachne,” another young voice said as a spotlight hit her face.
“Cripes, run!” Arachne hissed. “Forget the candles, Ash!”
Arachne and Ash raised their wands and began casting as many fog spells as they could in their wake while Tess began to summon vines from the very ground to trip their pursuer.
Almost as fast as the fogs spells were cast, a blast of light would dissipate them. They jumped over the vines as well, which grew a little too slow for them.
“It’s Elara!” Arachne said with a sigh as she ran. “Spread out in formation number two and meet back at HQ!”
“Got it!” Ash and Tess whispered back as they split away from their precocious leader.
What had happened to Insidious, Arachne wondered as she ran between gravestones. She gained a little bit of ground and zigged behind a large, ancient tree.
“MINI-QUASITARUM!” Arachne said with perfect diction, waving her wand at herself in the perfect series of arcs. Just before Elara’s fog-breaking light was cast, Arachne had already shrunk to the size of a blade of grass just as her persuer ran past. Elara looked on the other side of the tree, then forward. Biting her lip in confusion, the young witch continued running in the original direction.
You’re learning an invisibility spell? Arachne could recall her classmates asking.
Please teach me!
You’re so clever, Arachne!
Why spend a hundred hours learning invisibility when a short-term shrink spell only took twenty to master?
Even Tess and Ash were not aware of how proficient she had become at it: One of her hallmarks, now. Arachne watched as the young witch ‘detective’ ran past into the darkness of the graves while the spell began to wear off. She had studied shrinking spells that only lasted a minute on purpose.
Arachne waited a moment on the other side of the tree, her little heart still beating in excitement and the thrill of outsmarting one’s enemies.
“Arachne!” Elara could be heard yelling. “Why are you like this? Why do you have to cause problems?”
Elara was the sister of one of Arachne’s stepsister’s friends. Her brother, Arith, was a very competent swordsman when he was in school with Yvette. Unfortunately, Elara and Yvette shared another commonality: They were both talented magical detectives.
Arachne smirked and ran back to the ritual site: the grave of Normalton High’s old headmistress.
“Worked like a charm, Arachne,” Ash said, flashing a fangy smile as he relit the candles of the pentagram that surrounded the grave. The ritual itself lasted ten minutes - filled with incantations, pleas to spirits, and moaning - before the trio heard the groan of the old headmistress.
Well, in Arachne’s ears, it was more like a scream.
“Where am I?!” The voice shrieked as the children ran back toward the entrance of the graveyard. "By the ancient boughs of the Eternal Wood, I am summoned back from the realms of eternal slumber! What sorcery has shattered the tranquility of my rest?!"
The teens tore through the streets, running their separate ways - opposite ways to their respective abodes in order to confuse authorities - to evade capture or detection.
Where are you, Sid? Arachne asked herself, still unable to detect the location of her erstwhile familiar. If he had been killed she would have felt it. She figured her giant spider familiar was either still in the graveyard or had already left.
Elara tried to open her eyes, but found herself encased in... something. That’s when she heard a deep voice.
"Fear not tiny detective, I mean you no harm,” a deep, calm, chittering voice said to Elara from the void. The chilling voice could be heard in Elara’s head, but it did not originate there. “I only wish to understand your purpose. Speak your intentions, and we may find a way to resolve this situation without further ado."
The patch of... whatever it was... was ripped open near Elara’s mouth. She found herself gasping for air, although she didn’t recall the circumstances of her capture. Soon enough, though, she was fully aware of what had happened.
“Insidious!” She yelled. “Is that you, you sneaky spider?”
“Certainly not!” Insidious lied. “I am a new enemy,” he intoned darkly. “One you have not yet anticipated.”
“You can’t keep me bound up forever, Sid!”
“Oh yes I can! I mean... Who is this ‘Sid’?”
Elara couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’re adorable, Sid. Could you please cut the webs away from my eyes?”
Sid gave a large sigh and snipped the webbing away from Elara’s eyes. Even with her acute darkvision, Elara couldn’t see. That was disconcerting to say the least.
Arachne was running through the calm suburban streets of Normalton. Families were hanging up ritual pumpkins and lights together - enchanting floating candles for the upcoming Hallow’s Eve. Arachne stopped at one such house to look at them wistfully before she heard a bellowing from beyond the hill she had just come over.
“MY REST! WHO DISTURBED MY REST?”
Now the teenager was sweating as she ran once more, her sturdy boots now more of a hindrance despite how fashionable they were.
Arachne ran through her spells in her mind. Her house was on the next block, but already grown ups were gathering. Arachne had been training for the junior October games and was able to scramble over a fence and hedge just as families stopped decorating their houses and turned to see what the matter was.
The young witch managed to land on her feet on the other side of a fence just as gasps arose from the gathered townsfolk. Arachne didn’t want to stick around: she had to get in bed before her mother and father discovered her whereabouts.
Elara struggled for a bit, then got her hand free.
Finally, she breathed as she took out a knife she had received from her brother and cut the rest of the webs. She carefully reached out with a foot and felt carpet.
At least it wasn’t an endless pit or something, she thought to herself as she groped in the darkness until her hands bumped up against what seemed to be a normal wooden door. She opened it slowly and light spilled in. That’s when she and Arachne locked eyes.
“Wh-what are you doing in my room, weirdo?!” Arachne hissed. She was on her bed reading a mystery paperback while Insidious was in the corner pretending to sleep.
Arachne puffed up her cheeks in consternation while Insidious made himself look smaller before the scream of the old headmistress could be heard throughout the neighborhood.
“C’mon Arachne,” Elara said, sighing, “Let’s get Miss Umbrah.”
Miss Umbrah was Arachne’s mother and a skilled necromancer. Arachne ran to the window and saw her white-haired mother running along the street already - her staff in hand, walking purposefully.
“It’s already being taken care of, Elara,” Arachne growled.
Elara sighed, “Arachne, why are we always at odds? Why do you do what you do? Is it just to prove you’re not like your step sister?”
She was far too perceptive. Arachne stepped up, nose to nose with the interloper and put a finger in her face. “Shut up!” Arachne snapped, signaling Sid.
The immense spider spun to his many legs and skittered over to Elara.
“Not again,” Elara sighed as the spider wrapped her in silk once more and carried her out the door.
It wasn’t long before the spirit was under control with Miss Umbrah’s help along with the entire suburb. Arachne and her troupe laid low for the next few days, even during Halloween - not even planning any heists or capers for a few weeks.
At school Elara and Arachne avoided each other, but Elara’s words still stung.
Was she right? Why did Arcahne do what she did? As much as the girl racked her brain she couldn’t remember the reason herself. Was it really as Elara said? No, she was standing up to authority! Right?