Fanning the Flames
Archer let out a soft sigh as he gently waved his hand back and forth, the flames consuming his fingertips as he made trails in the sky, the firelight only seeming to add to the beautiful light of the Aurora Borealis. His other hand was tucked behind his head as he lay upon the soft grass, using his cloak as a pillow as best he could while still wearing it.
It’s been two night since he’d ended up in the room, and two nights still since he’d gone back to it. He’d spent his time sleeping outside when he got weary of exploring or practicing.
Closing his eyes, he snuffed his fire and let his hand fall to his chest. And for a few moments, things were quiet and calm, until he was suddenly taken from the comfortable spot on the grass and brought to the hard ground of a stage. He winced and flailed as he fell and he grimaced, sitting up on his elbows and he barely managed a weak glare at Diantha when she giggled at him.
Diantha had been the only one that he’d found worth getting to know, and she was relatively the only friendly human, he realized. Lori was selfish and greedy, as he’d observed, and Zeria had this air about her that stated she wasn’t one to be messed with and that she really didn’t want to be there, at the circus with the Fae. Not that he blamed her, but even still, it was disheartening, so he’d kept his distance from her.
Sitting up, though he stayed sitting on the ground, Archer brushed at the sleeves of his cloak and looked up, frowning and glaring a little more dangerously at Madame Moonstone when he saw her and the Ringmaster. He was still wary of the Ringmaster, though they both generally disliked the other, it was clear that they were on the same grounds of ‘don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you’. It wasn’t so much the same with Moonstone as the two both shared an extremely strong hate for the other: he hated the way she treated them and she hated him in general, especially when he often ran his mouth like he always did, commenting and riling her up and generally being a constant thorn in her side. Not that he cared, in fact, he found it amusing to rile the Fae up when he got bored with practicing his magic or exploring around.
“Well sheesh, if you wanted us here that bad, you could’ve just asked,” he puffed out and barely held back a smirk when Moonstone glared at him, her tone sharp when she spoke and her gaze on him; it made him wonder if the venom in her tone was meant only for him or for the others too, but he truly didn’t care whom it was direction to, it was amusing still, either way.
“We’ve received word of a special… guest headed this way,” she said, slow and Archer huffed, rolling his eyes as he looked at the others. They all seemed intent on listening to what Moonstone was saying; he wasn’t... he just wanted an explanation as to why she had interrupted his naptime. He almost wondered, for a brief moment, if she’d done it on purpose, but the thoughts were chased away when he heard Heathersbane’s voice.
“Guests,” he corrected and Archer smirks, letting out a little snicker when he sees Madame Moonstone’s gaze flicker over to where the humans could only assume the Fae was hidden.
She growls in annoyance but continues, hands folded tightly over her stomach, “Guest,” she reiterates coldly, “only one of them is important. Now, could you please forgo interruptions just this once? Some of us may be in danger here.” There is no response from the shadows this time, catching Archer’s attention and he frowns, standing up now and he gives at least ninety percent of his attention to Madame Moonstone while surveying his surroundings, alert and uneasy when he heard what she said. Madame Moonstone sighs when she returns her attention to Archer and the others, “Queen Kinu is rumored to be headed our way; not that that title means anything to the likes of you.” She says, sharp and smooth all at once and Archer goes quickly from uneasy too frightened to just plain pissed all in the expanse of three seconds when Moonstone continues to speak. “As none of you have shown yourselves to be particularly talented yet, I will entertain her Royal Venom-ess myself until we bore her.” But before Archer could come up with a smartass retort, she adds, “Unfortunately, where Kinu creeps, her brood will follow. The little pests could ruin our entire operation if not kept distracted.”
“Which is where you all come in!” Heathersbane flickers briefly into view with a cackle, and Archer blinks in surprise and confusion, unsure what to do now. “Hope you’re all good baby-sitters!” Baby-sitters!? He nearly chokes on his breath when he hears this and his face contorts into a weird half-grimace, half-scowl. Who did they think they were!? They weren’t baby-sitters, damn it; he especially wasn’t one. And while he could admit, only to himself, that he was good, great in fact, with kids, there was no way he was going to-
There’s a loud hiss from outside and a heavy thud that stops Archer cold from spitting out a bunch of viable threats at the Fae before him.
-do this. W-what was that!? Archer squeaks in his head, his body tense and he turns around sharply; his body shook a little as he hesitantly followed Moonstone, the Ringmaster, and Heathersbane outside. Oh fuck... he thinks as fear crawling down his spine, rendering him frozen on the ground he stood upon, when he saw what he figured was Queen Kinu.
This Fae was most definitely bigger than the rest, one that Archer wouldn’t want to get into a fight with, her towering form silhouetted against the night sky. Her upper body was humanoid, at least, with crossed arms and her fingers tapped impatiently and the stance and form would seem almost harmless, if you consider the vast difference in sizes to be so. Her spider-like lower body, though, took up half the bazaar as the shopkeepers ducked for cover from the eight long black legs that thunk loudly into the ground with each step.
Archer tore his attention from the Queen and he was barely able to notice the swarm of spiderlings that skitter about in Queen Kinu’s shadow, their many eyes peering curiously at them; them being Archer, Diantha, Lori, and Zeria. This would have made Archer shiver with fear and uncertainty, if the spiderlings didn’t happen to look so cute, despite their average size.
When Archer looks back at the Fae, he manages to catch Moonstone looking at them with something that almost resembled pity before flying up to speak with Kinu face to face. The teen watches with annoyance as she did before catching the Ringmaster’s eye as he gathers up a bunch of the spiderlings, apparently resolving to keep them entertained on his own, leaving the most distractible of the lot to be looked after by the humans.
With a small grimace, he turns back to the young spiderlings before looking down at his mask and he sighed, running a hand over his face. “Looks like I’ll have to find some other way to keep them entertained then...” he whispered to himself, my mask is practically useless, spiders are terrified of fire. He added in his thoughts and then shook his head before kneeling down. He managed to catch the attention of one of the little spiders, but it didn’t move any closer to him. With a chuckle, Archer shrugged and stood up, looking at the remaining spiders before clapping his hands together. “Well then, how about we go somewhere fun, alright?” He questioned, hoping he would be able to manage this without screwing something up.
For a brief moment, he considering where to take them and then figured the best place to play with them would be the storage area back inside the main building. There would be plenty of things they could play with there. Huh I wonder if they're like a cross between little kids and puppies... he thought with a silent chuckle and a hidden smirk. They’d like that then, I’m sure.
He was brought from his thoughts when a few of the spiderlings clicked their mandibles at each other before eagerly going up to Archer; he noticed that one of them was the one that he’d tried to get to come over to him a few moments ago. There were three in all, two small ones and one tall as a human... well a shrunken human, Archer noticed. More like a dwarf, I would think. The largest one nearly trampled his younger siblings in his haste to be the first to Archer's side. The other two quickly caught up, though, crawling up the boy’s arms and legs.
Archer let out a choked laugh at this, his free arm moving to cover his mouth as he tried to hide it. “Okay okay, hey that tickles!” He laughed anyway and ducked his head. He caught movement from the corner of his eye and saw Lori attempting to pick up one of the spiderlings, but he paid her no mind and looked back at his own little ones. “Well then, let’s see, what can we do?” He began to walk, very carefully, back inside the main building before going over to one of the doors, looking around to see if he was being watched, before going inside. He waited for the largest spiderling to get inside before closing the door, nearly giggling again, squirming a little. “Come on now, heh, how are we supposed to play if you keep, hehe,” he was barely even able to finish his sentence, ducking his head again, “oh alright, but only until we reach the storage room, okay?” He said, trying to go for stern, but his smile broke that facade. They’re actually kinda cute! He thought as he tried to hide his smile once more.
He had managed to find the storage room without too much trouble, though he had kept having to corral the biggest spiderling along since he kept getting side-tracked. Huh, they really are just like little kids, he smiled once more and his eyes lit up when he found the door he wanted; he pushed it open easily. Bingo, he practically purred with satisfaction and his eyes widened when he saw all the props and objects lying around.
“Wow... I really have hit the jackpot...” he murmured, a little jokingly, but he still couldn’t keep the awe from his voice. “Well, let’s see what we can play with first, alright?” He giggled, giggled for peat’s sake... as he was actually quite excited, for once, to play with the little spiderlings.
The spiderlings seemed to be thrilled when he found the storage room and the two that had latched onto him leapt from him and onto some boxes; one of them, the boy, started digging through the masses of fabric, making many little tears in the process. The largest sibling, Archer noticed with wide eyes, was trying to eat the pillows and the remaining sibling, the girl, had found a box of pearls, spilled them, and was now chasing the wayward orbs around the floor.
“Oh no! Don’t do that!” He let a small gasp escape him before biting his lower lip when they didn’t listen, Of course they won’t listen... he thought, looking around, come on, think Archer, think. What would be more fun for the spiderlings to play with? He questioned before grinning wickedly as he spotted a box of ribbons and hoops and he walked over to it, digging into it before grabbing out some of the ribbons. “Hey little ones,” he purred, getting a few rubber balls out next, making sure not to grab anything easy to pop or break, “look what I have. Do you guys want to play with these?” He asked, tossing one ball up into the air before kneeing it, keeping it in the air and he used the same tricks his brother had once taught him, the ball no different than a soccer ball. He smiled at the little spiders, keeping the ball in the air. “Do you want to try? It’s really quite fun, you’ll see.”
It would seem he had their attention for the moment, their heads bobbing up and down in time with the ball when they had turned to him. Eventually one of the smaller ones crouched, preparing to spring and when she launched at the ball, her timing was off, and she flew over it as the ball fell and crashed into a mirror.
Archer couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up, after the initial panic faded when he saw the spider crash. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt, though it was clear that she was displeased with her failure, and the glass didn’t break, so, he let the ball fall and bounce a few times before rolling on the ground, slowing to a stop. He grabbed one of the smaller balls and crouched down, handing it out for her. “Do you want to try? Just... bounce the ball on your head, okay? See how many times you can bounce it.” He hummed and looked to the others. “It can be a little competition, yeah? See who can keep it in the air the longest? I can try too, if you’d like, but I’m not very good at bouncing the ball on my head.”
The spiderling looked at the ball in Archer’s hand and got into a ready position, over her previous mess-up and ready to try again. She bopped it from his hand and tried to bounce it in the air with marginal success before it fell and she had to start again. Archer smiled, quite proud with himself and his attention turned from her to the older sibling as he picked up the larger ball with his forelegs and tossed it at his younger brother’s head. The smaller spider succeeded at bouncing it back at the last minute, much to Archer’s surprise and delight, but his big brother wasn’t so lucky and got popped in one of his eyes. Archer’s eyes widened with this, once more, and he made a small noise in the back of his throat before wincing when the younger spiderlings laughed. The irritated and embarrassed spiderling looked down at his much-too-amused younger siblings with an eight-eyed glare and in a flash, he nabbed his little brother and was wrapping him in a silk cocoon as their sister ducked behind Archer.
This had something in Archer snapping as the teen narrowed his eyes at the largest spider and he puffed out a heavy breath. “No! You don’t do that to your brother!” He chided and then smirked as he got an idea. It was terrible and probably unfair, but he would teach them to behave and this seemed to be the only viable way to do so now. He grabbed his mask and put it on before snapping his fingers and he leaned down. “You see, the reason I haven’t used my mask is because I can create and control fire,” he started, his narrowed eyes staring disapprovingly at the wide-eyed spiderlings. “Now I promise not to do anything if you guys promise to behave. Okay? I don’t want to be the bad guy, and I really don’t want to threaten to tell your mother how misbehaved you are, understand?” He said, slow and unsure; he had to be sure they wouldn’t run and so he snuffed the fire out and removed his mask, tying it back to the loop on his pants.
The three spiderlings had cowered back from the flame; or rather, two of them did, and the little one wrapped in webbing tried to hide his face. They relaxed, though when the flame disappeared and Archer was a bit thankful for that.
“Are you guys hungry?” He then asked, only just realizing he himself was, after all of this. He wasn’t sure what they had here in this world though, and he definitely wasn’t sure what there was that spiders could eat. I’m sure I could find something though... he thought idly.
With the promise of food, they kept put and one of the little female crawled up onto Archer’s leg again, clicking her jaws expectantly as her brother struggled in his cocoon.
Archer smiled a little, softly at them and he sighed before helping the little spider from his cocoon. “Okay little ones, let’s go find something to eat,” he said, his voice soft. “And remember, we’ve got to behave okay? Or we’d all get into trouble,” he chuckled and picked the little spider up, the one that had been in the cocoon, and he resisted the urge to cuddle it. They’re so cute, they are, he hummed and led the way out of the storage and back outside.
He made sure to keep an eye on the largest one, as the two littler ones clung to him as he walked.
He made his way to the bazaar and frowned when he saw Lori chasing a little spider around with another one in her arms. What is she doing? He wondered, curious and just a tad bit annoyed, but he shook his head and paid attention to his own spiderlings. “Alright, let’s see if we can’t find you guys anything to eat. I’m starving myself, I’ve not really had anything to nibble on since I came here,” he smirked a little, petting the spider in his arms, hoping he didn’t mind. “So, shall we?”
He was glad when the spiderling leaned into the touch, quite happily it seemed, but the feeling faded when he noticed the spiderling’s sister was jealous, quite possibly at the fact that he was getting petted and she wasn’t. She crawled up onto Archer's head, the teen letting out a strange noise that resembled a groan and a laugh, aware that maybe she would be too heavy and the two batted at each other.
“Hey now you two, don’t make me set you down. I have two hands you know, no need to fight,” he sighed and set the little one down, grabbing the other one from his head and he set her down as well. “Now, where did your big brother go, huh?” He looked around, when he noticed that his momentary distraction had caused him to lose sight of the oldest spiderling, and his eyes widened when he saw him, biting into a pouch of strange liquid. “No,” he couldn’t help the small laugh the escaped, “come on, that certainly can’t be any good for you.” He walked over to the spider and placed his hand on his head, and looked back at the younger siblings. “Here, why don’t we go to the fields instead? Surely there are tasty bugs there you can snack on rather than the Fae’s delicacy here." He murmured, looking back at the largest spiderling, “How does that sound? All the bugs you can eat,” he let out a giggle and stood up, gently taking the pouch from the spider and he handed it back over to the Fae with an apologetic smile. “I’m really sorry...” he said, barely holding back a flinch when the faerie snatched back the pouch and flew off in a huff. Shaking his head, he walked back over to pick the younger spiders up, being sure to give no extra attention to one. “Let’s go, alright?” He nodded to himself and began walking from the bazaar and away from the frightened fairies.
It didn’t take him long to reach the field, like he wanted, and just as he expected, all kinds of bugs were roaming around. It didn’t surprise him as it was in fact night time. He even noticed several glowing bugs; each of them were of different sizes than the rest. When he’d been practicing his fire, he never noticed his surroundings, so this was the first time he was really seeing the fields without a true distraction.
He made sure to set the younger spiders down before clapping his hands together. “Alright, go on you guys, you must be hungry,” he smiled a little, still unsure. He never had to take care of a spider before, let alone three and to be honest, he was actually uncertain what they ate... well, it’s certainly worth a shot, he hummed.
The two younger spiderlings looked up at Archer and the teen noticed their confusion, and he figured they probably didn’t know how to hunt on their own. As Archer tried to figure out what to do, he managed to catch sight of their older brother, and he watched as the spiderling set right to stalking a nearby ladybug. When he jumped on the beetle’s back, however, Archer noticed that his fangs didn’t penetrate the thick wing covers. Clearly annoyed, though the teen was very amused, he scraped around its shell for a moment before the insect shook him off and proceeded to try and fly away. The spiderling tucked a silken thread to his prey’s legs at the last minute, so the ladybug didn’t get far, but it was putting up quite a fight that made it hard for him to reel in.
For a few moments, Archer wondered if he should step in and help, but he noticed then that the younger spiderlings were creeping around their brother before they crawled up the string their brother had around the ladybug. Archer felt a spike of tiny panic run through him and he stepped forward a bit, hand outstretched, “H-hey, be careful...” he winced at the squeak in his voice, but he paid no mind to it and tried to concentrate on the younger spiderlings.
It was only when he realized that they were having fun that he managed a weak laugh at this and he sat down on the ground, sitting cross-legged, though he made sure he was ready to help them if needed. “Surely it can’t be that hard to catch a little ol’ ladybug.” He teased, humming a little and he tilted his head.
He sat still, watching for a good few minutes before freezing up when he heard a loud buzzing and his eyes widened, snapping his head to the side, when he saw the largest bee he’d ever seen before in his life. He couldn’t have scrambled up faster, fumbling with his mask and he finally managed to get it on before creating fire and he threw it at the bee, more than terrified, his eyes closed.
After a few seconds of silence, he cracked his eyes open to see that the bee was on the ground, scrambling around, its wings singed and now of no use to the insect. “Uh...” he blinked, unsure what to do now as he tried to desperately calm his racing heart and control his ragged breath. It looked like the bee was still trying to use its wings, frantically jumping up to try and take flight once more.
When Archer saw the spiderling go up to the bee, spinning its web and trapping the poor insect, he managed a soft sigh of relief before tensing up and he turned his head quickly, eyes wide when he saw the little ones and the ladybug. He stepped forward once more, but froze when he saw what he did, the ladybug running into the barrier and falling, with the spiderlings in tow. Archer let out a small noise, close to a whimper, letting his mask fall around his neck before he went up to them, gathering the little ones in his arms and letting the ladybug fly away. “Aw, come on you two, I’m sure your big brother will share.” He said softly, the relief clear in his voice and he stood up before walking over to the larger spiderling, making a small grimace when he saw the poor bee. Serves it right though for startling me... he thought bitterly, shivering a little before setting down the two little spiderlings, petting each of them before sitting back, some of his own appetite a bit ruined. “Go on then, you guys eat and then we’ll see if we can’t explore around a little more before returning to your mother,” he smiled, “how does that sound?”
Archer watched with a gentle, worn smile as one of the spiderlings hesitantly crept up to his brother’s side and planted his fangs into the bee’s soft side to have a meal. The other spiderling took some more prompting, deciding that she wasn’t so afraid of Archer's fire after all and felt much safer with him than with her brothers. But at last, hunger won out and she joined the other two.
Archer sighed in relief and fell back, eyes closed. Well, thank the gods that's over with. He thought, the voice even in his head exhausted. Now that he thought about it though, it was much darker than it had been before, when the little spiders showed up. When do they sleep? He questioned in thought, opening his eyes and he sat up, staring at the spiders in curiosity. I wonder if... well, no... I doubt that, but still... after dinner don’t kids usually get sleepy? I know that I did when I was younger, but that might not apply to the little spiders... he sighed again and shook his head, laying back on the ground, his cloak bunching up around him and he waited patiently for the young spiders to finish their meal.
It wasn’t long before Archer noticed a small weight against his sides and he smiled softly, his eyes closed once more. Archer heard, rather than saw, as one of the spiders tried digging for a bit, to entertain himself, but soon enough he figured sleep won over and the spider curled back up against him, nestled beside his sister.
Archer let out a breathless chuckle and sat up just a little, without disturbing the younger ones and he looked at the oldest spiderling. “Come lay over here, you must be tired after such an exciting day, yes?” He murmured, holding out his hand, tilting his head. When the spider stayed put, where he was, seemingly ignoring him, Archer looked down in thought before smiling. “If you lay down, I might be able to sing a lullaby. Would you like that?” Maybe I can sing a lullaby my brother used to sing to me?
That seemed to have gotten the little spiders attention and he walked over, though he didn’t lie down at first. Archer chuckled and nodded his head, accepting this and he let out a soft breath before starting the all too familiar lullaby that his brother had sang to him when he was little.
Eventually the spiderling did lay down, settling against Archer and his eyes closed. When Archer was finished, he brushed his fingers against the spider's head, smiling softly. “Goodnight, little one.” He cooed, soft and gentle even as he reached up and wiped away his tears. Goodnight brother... he added in his head, staring up at the night sky and he lied down gently against the ground before finally closing his own eyes.
Later when Archer returned the little spiders back to their mother, he was smiling, happy and content. When he reached the bazaar and spotted Queen Kinu, it was apparent that the little spiderlings had as well and they made little noises as they excitedly crawled back to their mother.
The teen had noticed that all the other spiderlings had been returned as well, though he only saw Moonstone, Lori, and Diantha. Zeria and the Ringmaster were nowhere to be found, but not surprisingly, Archer didn’t even care, not when he spied the smile upon Diantha’s face and the annoyed, but fond smile on Lori’s.