Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Conversations with the Darkness - Emergence of the Red Widows

A summary of select excerpts from the Chronulean Journal of Sociology and Spiders Issue #144, co-authored by W. Smith and C. Le Brau, on the shifts in gendered classes caused by the emergence of the drow upon the neighboring societies of Humans within the Suthlands.

The JSS is the most-cited academic journal with
regard to Sociological and Spider studies.

A Suthland Woman's Conversation With the Darkness

Woman: Hello?
Darkness: ...
Woman: ...
Darkness: You're late.
Woman: *after considerable pause* I'm... I'm sleeping. I don't understand.
Darkness: You're late with child.
Woman: Yes, yes... Uhh... I haven't decided on a name. I don't know if-
Darkness: Don't.
Woman: Sorry, I don't un-
Darkness: Don't.
Woman: ...

The Darkness offers the Woman a dark iron band.

Darkness: This will make them afraid. They will leave you alone. Your fear will be theirs. Their power yours. Never again, never again... Forever.
Woman: I don't understand... I don't...
Darkness: For this, the child.
Woman: ...
Darkness: ...
Woman: *whispers* Okay...

Darkness Exeunt

Woman: ... ... ...

They come on Darkdays, when the scant bit of sun is blocked by overcast clouds. When darkness and fog shrouds the land they come to the women of the villages and ask whether they have children or husbands to sell.

For this they trade petty objects worth small fortunes within the Suthlands: a bolt of woven drider silk, an uncut ruby the size of a thumbnail, an eternal love potion, an iron band which makes even guardsmen afraid, a spider which traps the bugs that bite, a medicine for the pain, a bound-familiar that warns of approaching raiders, silence and peace in sleep...

They are the horrors of bedtime stories and motherly threats: "Eat your soup or else mother will sell you to the Dark Elves!" Threats often made with insincerity, but sometimes not.

In order for slave acquisition to be "fair" in the minds of the matricians of the Twilight City, it must have been acquired by exchange - property for property traded fairly by those who govern it. In drow society these property-holders are the matrons. In the Suthlands, it is traditionally the fathers. This (supposed) cultural misunderstanding has fostered the rise of a new class of adult woman. It is as if the power of the matrons has bled down into the lowlands and uplifted the witches and the old wise women, linking their power and influence to the ascent of the Twilight Republic.

These witches, these wives and widows, these medicine women have been come to be known as Red Widows.

The drow leave small red spiders on the property of these women - red like molten wax on sealed letters, so small and still that they remain unseen even in plain sight. These spiders spin exothermic webs unique to the House which designed them, letting the drow know that this women is willing to do business and which House has laid claim to exclusivity. These spiders are not native to this land, and so do not migrate or produce offspring. Should the web be destroyed the spider will remake it before the next Darkday. Nothing less than burning down the house will rid a domain of this mark.

Of course, this "fair trade" doesn't always happen. If a matron has nothing left to offer - no husbands, no children or grandchildren, no far relatives in the nearby villages or information on other locals - then people might simply begin to disappear without her approval. Some, but not all Houses (poorer, more desperate ones) will forego ethics to avoid returning empty-handed, and simply steal entire families in the darkness. Inevitably, the witch will take the blame, and by exile or fire a new matron will be crowned - one that's perhaps more keen for 'business'.


It has given the adult women of the realm a special power they had not before, one normally reserved exclusively for the old wise women and the witches: one which instills fear and awe.

More than one abusive husband has stayed his hand at the fear of being abducted in the night. Children are taught to behave themselves lest mother decide to have them stolen and eaten by the elves. Fathers contemplate the merits of their sons when before they did not. It has put a deserved fear in those that had a cruel power.

For some, not enough. Concurrently, as the drow's expansion has empowered the witches, so too has it empowered witch hunters - horrible, horrible men - motherless, sisterless bachelors, like roaming bands of bandits. They go from town to town, with torch and royal authority in hand to find the little red spiders and burn those homes to the ground, preferably with its occupants still inside. They are prone to false positives and abuse of power, tending towards the intensively superstitious and ignorant. They travel only by daylight and make great campfires in the dark, for despite their power they fear the dark ones more than any. The drow, keen to preserve their business interests, reserve special torments for this lot. Though they rarely promote open combat with them (as even under ideal circumstances this is a dangerous endeavor), the drow are particularly adept at psychological warfare - noises in the dark, monsters in the shadows, illusions, curses, subtle poisons on painless darts. Witch hunters go mad by the dozen.

They often take out this madness on the people they have sworn to protect. Whole villages can go up in flames before royal charters are belatedly revoked. This frequently results in entire villages taking up arms against all - witch hunters, strangers, king and country alike. After that, peasant rebellion and royal crackdown is not far behind.

Which thereby begs the question: were the witch hunters always mad, or did the drow make them as such? Did they merely accelerate the progression of events, or did they cause them? Was this the grand scheme of the matricians of Twilight City all along? To foster rebellion and divide the nations of the Suthlands that they may more easily be conquered? The drow are famous for their schemes within schemes within schemes, for their double and triple feints, for their mastery of psychology and sociology on levels practiced whereby others only study.

These humble academics do not know, and perhaps it never will become known until far-future historians have discussed and debated their theories.


  1. welp, there you have it, my favorite thing you've ever written. fucking beautiful.

    1. JSS appreciates your peer-reviewed comments and will consider them tacit approval for publication.

  2. Incredibly interesting and solidly unique concept!

  3. one would have hoped that resources would've made the drow less prone to slavery. Good intentions and cotton gins, I guess.
    Slaver women and the madmen who hunt them. Sucks to be a suthlander.