Spider hunting consisted of searching the palms down by storms for spider burrows. Then with a long palm leaf and you tease the spider out of borrow. At least that is how it is supposed to work. Even though Raharjo showed you the technique, you couldn’t lure any of the spiders out of their burrows.
“You got to be gentle. Make it seem like it is the leaf is a tasty insect. Watch.” Raharjo pokes his leaf into the spider den. He twitches his leaf, occasionally pauses. Suddenly a hairy tarantula the size of your hand darts out of the den. Splat! Raharjo stuns the spider with a large flat rock. Before he could pick it up, Mei Mei steals the spider and runs away with it.
“Hey!” You yell at Mei Mei. “Drop it!” Miraculously, the puppy listens and drops the spider on the sand. Raharjo retrieves the mangled spider and brushes the sand off of it and put it in his bag.
“Raharjo! Come on! I’m hungry!” Tri beckons you and Raharjo over to the fire.
“I haven’t caught any spiders yet.” You say, as you head towards the fire.
“Don’t worry, Tri and I will share with you.” Raharjo impales a spider on a stick and hands it to you. “Be sure to burn all the hairs off. They’ll sting your lips. “
“They will start whistling when they get close to done.” Tri helpfully adds. You hold the spider over the fire and wait for it to cook. Listening to Rajarjo, Tri, and the other kids talk, you realize you had nothing to add to the conversation. You sit there awkwardly as they talked about fishing, some relative, and whale hunting. No mention of the kidnappings.
You stare at the fire and consider your next steps. You’ll need to talk to the goddess to see where the whales were. Perhaps the lack of food had something to do with the kidnappings. Wear the kids down so they put up less of a fight when they were taken.
“Svante!” you look up when Tri calls your name. “You are going to let your spider burn!”
“Oh!” Lost in your thoughts, you didn’t not notice the spider had starting sizzling. You lift your dinner away from the fire and pull the hot spider off of the stick. After inspecting it for any hairs, you pull off a leg and pop it into your mouth. The tarantula is crispy on the outside giving it a nice crunch. Not bad. Tastes like crab, though it could use some pepper. You eat the rest of the spider and tell yourself to remember to give Rajarjo and Tri some food in exchange.
“What do you sacrifice to the goddess?” you ask after eating a few more spiders. You gave Mei Mei the spider she mangled after you cooked it for her.
“Fresh Fruit. Sugar Cane, if we don’t have rum.” Tri licks her fingers after finishing off her last spider. “What are you going to ask Batari for?’
“Not to be kidnapped.”
There is an awkward silence around the fire. “What have you heard on the other islands, Svante? Who do you think is doing the kidnapping?” Tri asks.
“I don’t know.” The others around the fire look downtrodden, so you say “I saw a naval ship while we were sailing in, so maybe the Shogun is investigating.”
“If the Dragons are here, then it means it’s an Anathema.” One kids speculates.
“Nah. I heard that it was the Lintha. Taking slaves. The younger the better.” Tri interjects.
“Well, I’m not going to let any demon steal my out of my bed. “ Rajarjo tightens his grip on his spear. “Next time there is a whale, I’m going with the hunters. If we kill it, then I’ll be a man. “
“They don’t take you if you’ve been though a coming of age ritual?’ you ask.
Raharjo shrugs. “It’s better than waiting around to be stolen.”
Later that night, you and Mei Mei head towards the shrine with fresh fruit and rum. Wanahton was not there when you got back to the hut. As you walk through the village, you could hear his voice a few huts over talking to a group of adults. You enter the shrine and set the fruit and rum down in the offering bowl. Kneeling down in front of the bowl, you say “Batari, goddess of the Cobalt Atoll. Hear my plea. I wish to request an audience with you.” You wait for the goddess to appear. Nothing. Mei Mei sniffs the offering bowl and goes and lays down in the corner.
You sigh and scratch your head. The goddess most likely does not appear to her followers except for festivals. She only talked to you and Wanahton to make sure that you did not mean the island harm. The kidnapping must make her more cautious of visitors. As a Sidereal, you had ways to make the goddess listen to you, but you didn’t want to break your cover to a goddess you didn’t know. You consider singing and dancing but that might scare the goddess away.
Perhaps you didn’t need to reveal yourself as an Exalt, but instead show her that you were something more than mortal. You look around the shrine and find some charcoal. You draw ritual marking on the floor of the shrine, beseeching the goddess for an audience. Then you sit cross legged in the middle of the markings. You repeat your prayer, this time in Spirit Speech. “Batari, goddess of the Cobalt Atoll. Hear my plea. I wish to request an audience with you.”
“Ah. I was right about you. There is more to you than what meets the eye.” The cobalt scaled goddess appears sitting cross legged in front of you, her webbed fingers spread wide on her knees. She is no longer wearing her long brightly colored dress, dressed only in moonlight. “What are you child? Did your mother steal away the seed of the Dragons? Or the heart of a lonely god?”
“I’m someone who can help.” You say after a beat. You give the goddess no more information than that.
After studying you with her flat black eyes, the goddess nods and says “Fine. Keep your secrets, child.” She raises her arms and stretches. “What do you wish of the goddess of the Cobalt Atoll?” the goddess asks casually.
“Your worshipers are running low on food. There nets are empty of fish and say that you have not sent them a whale. What have they done to deserve your wrath?”
The goddess closes her eyes and says “It is not by my will that my people suffer. I have unknowingly offered aid to one that has offended Mosikhun, the Storm Mother of this area. Even though the southern woman has moved on, Mosikhun has seen fit to continue to let my people suffer.” The goddess looks down. “She wants a sacrifice. There is a newborn child on the island and Mosikhun wants her.”
You shudder, not wanting to imagine what that hag would do to a baby. “What can you tell me about this Southern Woman?” Perhaps she is connected to the kidnappings.
“Uma washed up on short last week. She was asking questions about the kidnappings, but we didn’t know much more than what other boats have brought. She stayed with us and promised to protect us from the kidnappers. Then Mosikhun showed up. They had a… disagreement and Uma left the island. You said that you can help. What aid can you offer us?”
“Ummm….” You weren’t really expecting the Storm Mother to be involved. The last thing you wanted was to entangle with the hag. “Let me talk to my father and we can see what we can do. “
The goddess quickly schools her disappointment and says, “I think you for your offerings child.” She starts to fade away, you hear her say “Be sure to clean up the floor before you leave.”
You grab the broom and start to sweep the floor of your markings. Fortunately, they easily come off, so you won’t have to scrub the floors of the shrine. What could you do to help the village? Maybe Captain Shen has some ideas. He has experience with the Storm Mother. Or Wanahton knows ways to attract whales to the island. You replace the broom and call to Mei Mei.
“Come on, Mei Mei. Let’s go.” Mei Mei follows you out of the shrine. As you walk towards the village, you feel a sense of danger. You look around and see a large eared fox staring at you from a grove of palmettos. Mei Mei starts to bark at the fox when she notices her.
The Southern Woman. The Desert Fox. You realize that you are standing face to face with an Anathema.
What do you do?
- Walk back to the village and pretend it’s a normal fox.
- Throw a rock at the fox to scare it off. It may be just a normal fox.
- Head back to the shrine and ask the goddess more questions.
- Talk to the fox. Ask it questions.
- Attack the fox.