By L. Blunt Jackson
from Black Gate 13, copyright © 2009 by New Epoch Press. All rights Reserved.
As you may imagine, when Ch’bib came of the age where men and women begin to regard one another, Ch’bib was a very popular young man. He was handsome and strong with perfect deep-gold skin and beautiful blue-black hair. His eyes were as soft and coppery as a gentle doe, and all the women of the village fancied him.
When their were dances, which was as often then as it is in these days, Ch’bib was very much in demand. And he had his eye on the loveliest of girls, Ri’lili, who was dark skinned, dark eyed, and moved as softly as a whisper. Ri’lili had come up from the South a year or two earlier, and caught the attention of all the young men of our village. She had a way of smiling while giving a shy, sidelong glance that caused every boy’s heart to leap.
It was said that many young women would have accustomed themselves to the blessing of Ch’bib in order to win his hand. Not all women are afraid of spiders, and a number of secret consultations with H’hotch concluded that the blessing of Ch’bib would likely protect his wife and his children from the bites of the recluse.
But not Ri’lili. Under the deep blue sky with the great fire crackling beyond the ring of palms, Ri’lili told Ch’bib that if he wanted to win her, he would have to remove the blessing of Spider Friend.
Ch’bib was but an ordinary fellow, and the great love he felt for this quiet and mysterious Ri’lili quite overcame any thought for himself or his future. Of course, he knew that without his blessing, his nets would be ordinary nets, and wealth would be harder to come by. But Ri’lili swore she was not interested in his wealth or his renown, and that they would find good honest work together.
So, after many hours of thought, spent lying in his hammock beneath a gauzy curtain of spider silk, Ch’bib consulted H’hotch. H’hotch in turn consulted his medicines, and the very gods themselves. After several days, H’hotch called for Ch’bib.
The old man brought him before the great and holy hearth, with stone walls painted and carved with ancient symbols. There hung feathers of the birds of night, and the great skin of the jaguar guarding over all.
H’hotch spoke to Ch’bib. He said:
“My son, removing a blessing is in some ways harder than removing a curse, for the god who bestows a curse often forgets about it and does not much regard it once it is set. A blessing, however, is strengthened over time by bonds of continued affection. To remove the blessing by force would almost certainly give terrible offense to the Spider Goddess, and I must assure you that you do not want to do that.
“No: you must go to the Queen of Spiders herself, and explain your heart. Only she can grant you the true resolution you ask for. But it will be a fearsome journey and the end is not at all guaranteed. Spiders are not like the birds of the air or the beasts of the jungle or the monsters of the sea: they have ways we cannot fathom, so I make no promise to you that your journey will succeed.
“Before I send you forth, there is one other possibility, Ch’bib, that you ought to consider. Set your heart on another, a woman who does not so ill regard your spider friends. I can tell you without use of medicine that no small number of beautiful young women of this town would welcome your blessing.”
Ch’bib nodded, and for some time gave the appearance of thinking it through. But Ch’bib’s heart was set. In the end, he told H’hotch his decision and asked how he might find the Queen of Spiders.
The complete version of “Spider Friend” appears in Black Gate 13.