The World-Spider came, and those who heard its approach were the first to go.
It started off as a distant scratching at the door, or the rustling of thick, bristly hairs over cloth. They tried their best to ignore them.
But the sounds came closer, and grew louder, until they proved too difficult to ignore- or to deny.
Soon they entered those ill-fated minds, and took up scratching and bristling against the backs of their brains. The sounds reverberated outward across their nerves like vibrations on strands. Actions ceased to be of their own volition, and thoughts of alien origin became the norm. With time, even the frantic undercurrent wishing for those scratching, skittering sounds to stop was subsumed.
What was leftover was a vessel.
For some time, they managed to look outwardly normal- at least at a glance. Speech became halting and unnatural, and virtually all daily routines were abandoned. But they retained their shape, and general knowledge possessed by the people who once were. And these qualities were used to their advantage. Few could hold themselves together long enough to infiltrate high and mighty places, but a body with only two legs was good enough when seen from a distance. No time could be wasted in their attempts to prepare the way.
Soon they were drawn together by strands of silk that only they could see, led to empty and desolate places where they could unsheathe themselves and work unobstructed. They tapped into the underlying web beneath all things, and sent such a tremor through it that the location of the world was impossible for the World-Spider to miss. They also kept abreast of anyone or anything that has heard the scratching at the door, but has managed to resist- or worse, work against it.
Once all legitimate threats are eliminated, and the World-Spider has been summoned irrevocably, its extensions may finally know the end. When the sky is wreathed in its silky cocoon, and the soft cries of reality itself can be heard, they are the first to be unmade. All becomes twitching legs and needle-like hairs for one moment of awful exultation, but just as suddenly the writhing mass dissolves into liquid potential.
They are spared the sight of fangs piercing the heavens as the world dies, though few of their many eyes would even be functional enough to see.
Of course, even that end would be welcomed, after so long spent under the direction of Mr. Sticks.
A nest of skittering signs and rumors
- Dust and cobwebs are accumulating at an alarming rate all over town. They seem to return after every footstep or broom sweep.
- Parents are alarmed at a new game which has taken their children by storm of late. It is called "Feeding the Cellar Door".
- The sudden surplus of fine silk on the market has caused massive devaluation, economic shakeup, and a growing fashion war between the upper and lower classes.
- A curious delicacy has begun appearing in coastal restaurants catering to the fine and exotic. They call it "land crab", and it is said to originate in Other Parts.
- Paupers and transients have been vanishing off the streets in increasing numbers for weeks. The authorities are only becoming concerned now that a few members of their secret police have gone missing undercover.
- Astrological circles have been in a bit of a tizzy recently. They insist that the stars seem "wrong" somehow. No one is listening to them.
- A string of grizzly murders has been committed. Each victim has been drained of bodily fluids through massive puncture wounds. Specialists suspected an unsanctioned vampire at first, but those do not grow barbed hairs like the ones found at each crime scenes.
- Something has been eating people's pets of late. Even when they are behind locked doors, several stories above ground.
- Services at one of the city's chief temples were interrupted when the high priest tried and failed five times to speak their god's name. On the sixth attempt, they vomited a mass of animate spider legs that then fled into the rafters, catacombs, and dark corners of the temple. Extermination is ongoing.
- Increasing numbers of clerics (as well as the odd warlock) are reporting that their patrons are responding less and less to their prayers, and that their voices sound faint and somehow 'peckish'.
- Spells tied to conjuration or the manipulation of planar magic are fizzling, being disrupted, or having wholly unintended effects.
- A wealthy noble's scion was spotted departing their estate with a strange gait one night during a storm. Their family has quashed all search & rescue efforts.
- A geomancer from one of the frontier areas was arrested for disturbing the peace. They insisted that the earth is 'thrumming in fear'.
- Nearby farmland is covered in record numbers of cicada exoskeletons, but not a single cicada was seen or heard, and the next brood wasn't expected for several years.
- The old, disused trestle bridge seems to be under renovation now. What else are all the ropes and midnight lamps for?
- That band of herb-burning itinerants hastily packed their wagons and left the vacant lot the other day. Most of the locals say good riddance to them, but their manner as they departed seemed strangely mournful.
- The provost has ordered the urban park to be closed with no warning or explanation. The guard will not release the people trapped behind its gates.
- A fire destroyed large sections of the local monster hunter's guild hall. No fatalities were reported, but untold sums in specialized weapons and equipment have been lost.
- Some new skin disease has been making the rounds lately. The rashes and peeling are bad, but it's the crawling sensation that is the worst.
- The man in the handsome suit is back. He's traded his face for a bowler hat.