She Who Has Many Legs is still looking at the warrior, waiting. Long ago she may have made the first move, a swift one that may have ended a fight nobody had even seen start. But now she’s old and has grown lazy and quite afraid, so she just lies in waiting, not knowing exactly what to expect.
The warrior is blind. He — she, now that she’s closer: it is tall and has broad shoulders and large breasts, and a scar that seems older than herself. She stumbles around the cave, trying to find her way in a place that is not made for humans, for those who still enjoy the sun and the heat and the noise. She Who Has Many Legs creeps closer, still observing: the warrior is hurt, it seems, legs buckling sometimes and left eye still crying red blood tears; the warrior is also round, soft, pregnant.
She Who Has Many Legs talks. Hers is not a language that humans understand, nor one that can be heard but in the deep of the night, at the bottom of old dwells. Hers is a primitive language, one that speaks of danger and hurt, of comfort and the sweet feeling of coming home. It sounds like cackling. The warrior freezes.
Once upon a time, She Who Has Many Legs had long, silky hair. Her eyes were bright; her voice, clear. The looked at her, they listened. She dwelled outside along with others, and she was wise, and she was revered. And then came the men and the curse and the casting out, go far from here, leave us.
The warrior is looking for her. An eye may be no more, but the other is still trying to pierce through the darkness. I mean no harm, she says, and she has a beautiful voice, one that’s full of hurt. I’ve been betrayed. I seek refuge. But she also has a knife in her hand and is ready to attack, to kill.
She Who Has Many Legs slithers towards her, clammy feet finding their way through the cold stones, eyes wide open and mouth slightly ajar. The warrior looks in her general direction for a second, takes a couple of steps back. She raises the knife; her other hand touches her belly for a second before sliding back.
I mean no harm, she repeats. She Who Has Many Legs doesn’t believe her.
There was once another warrior. No, not a warrior: a knight. The difference is small, but important, perhaps. It was a man, the Knight was a man, and he was tall and handsome and had an easy smile, eyes as blue as the deepest waters. The Knight had a nice voice, too, one that spoke lies and spew venom. And he loved her, She Who Has Many Legs, he loved her in the only way he knew how to love, and she him.
She Who Has Many Legs is hungry. Hurt. Confused.
I just need a place to rest, says the warrior. Her hands tremble, her voice falters: she’s dying and she doesn’t know it yet. Or maybe she does: she just doesn’t want to. It is a funny thought. Death comes for everybody, everything. Hiding from it is like hiding from life itself.
She Who Has Many Legs walks once again, creeps behind the woman, and the warrior feels her and looks back. Her face falls.
Oh, she says.
There is a cluttering noise when the knife hits the floor. A faint sobbing, and a sort of laugh. It’s you, the warrior states. It’s you.
She Who Has Many Legs smiles, mouth wide enough to rip the warrior’s head off in one bite. And she talks, a screech that grows louder by the moment. The warrior weeps.
A long time ago, the Knight was just a man. She Who Has Many Legs could draw his face, every line unique, and she saw change. She saw fear and saw greed, she saw him grow cold and cruel and terrible. And she should have known.
The warrior’s been betrayed; that’s what she says. She’s hurt and she’s scared, and she’s too weak, she pleads. Let me be. Just a minute, a day, a year. She Who Has Many Legs would like to tell her a story, one that’s old as time, one that’s always true. There was a woman, back then. A man, a man who was a Knight, and he was fearful and he was ambitious, he was too slow when the time came. He betrayed me, and one of us had to die. And they called her a monster, and she ran. Down here, where it’s dark and it’s quiet and there’s nobody to hurt her.
She Who Has Many Legs takes a step back, growls. The warrior’s eyes are filled with grateful tears, but she does not speak. Once again, she brings her hands down to her swollen belly: do not worry, we’ll be fine, we’ll be— It stings. She Who Has Many Legs is still fast, faster than the warrior, a woman with two legs and two arms and no knife. Her beautiful face twists in pain, and she lets out a howl, and she stills, and she dies.
Once upon a time, She Who Has Many Legs dwelled outside, and she was wise, and she was revered. And then came the man, the Knight, the pang of love and the fear. And then came a woman, and the Knight grew cruel and he grew greedy, and She Who Has Many Legs had to eat. Still does.