“Trina, my dear, please make sure you print on both sides of the paper when you submit your reports.” Clara shook the stapled stack of papers at the young woman who stood in front of her desk. “You know how I abhor waste.”
Clara watched as Trina dropped her eyes and raised her shoulders defensively. As much as she tried to be kind to the human Kinfolk she employed, Clara’s patience for waste was very short. She waited a moment more to let the fear sink in, then continued.
“Other than that, your report this week is excellent. The intelligence regarding the Ompallas’ attempt to buy out the Graingers’ business is very timely. We’ll be putting a stop to that tout suite. It consolidates too much power over the water supply into one man’s hands. Also, I would like you to keep a careful watch on the Belvederes’ mail. I have a feeling they’ve gotten into bed with a certain city councilwoman who happens to be invested in a particular contracting company. If you see an invoice from LaGruyer, please notify me immediately.”
Trina nodded gratefully and began to back out of the room.
“Thank you, Miss Clara,” she mumbled.
Clara let her go, hoping that her next report would be double-sided, and then pulled out her cell phone to find a contact.
“Hello, Mr. Nickles. Yes, it’s the Ompallas, again... No, I don’t know if they’ll ever give up, but I’m certainly happy to encourage them to do so… Oh, no, this time it’s the Graingers. No, the River Oaks Graingers, not the Tanglewoods Graingers. You know how Cynthia Grainger gets all widgey over anything dirty. That’s how I have six different staff members in her household...Oh, yes, I think a smear campaign on Kevin’s private holdings sounds perfect. Bless you. Good day.”
Clara pressed the hang-up button on the screen and nodded with satisfaction. The Queen would be pleased with today’s accomplishments, without a doubt. Even her wolfie friends might like it. There was that one pack that seemed to detest the human influence on the city, and whether they acknowledged her contributions or not, they always seemed pleased by the results. The fur-faces were utterly inscrutable to her, but Clara liked them, nonetheless. Obviously, her brother’s influence was rubbing off on her. Teddy loved everyone. Speaking of which…
Clara went downstairs to the large sunroom she had set aside for all of Teddy’s treasures. Webbing draped every corner and thousands of small spiders waited patiently within the webs. Clara waved at the family and peered through the piles of objects to find Teddy hunched over a desk, examining some new gewgaw and making notes.
“Hello, Brother. We’ve ensnared yet another plot. The Wyrm-That-Is is quite persistent in its desire to unbalance the Wyld.”
Teddy looked up and smiled at his sister. “Well, Clara, I’m sure you’re on top of it. Would you like to see this old clock I just acquired? I’m not sure, but it seems to be a true relic of the Victorian Age.”
Clara patted Teddy on the shoulder and tried very hard not to grimace. “Teddy, I’m so glad you enjoy your treasures, but honestly, it doesn’t even tell the time anymore!”
Teddy held back a laugh and patted her hand. “Now, my dear sister, a thing doesn’t have to fulfill its original function in order to have value. You promised you wouldn’t toss anything in this room, and my clock is staying safely inside its walls. Now, shoo. Being in here gives you the vapors and I’ll not have you inadvertently cleaning up my collections.”
Realizing he was probably right, Clara fled before she started cleaning. As much as her twin loved her, he’d never forgive her for throwing away any of his trinkets. In fact, she was pretty sure he still hadn’t forgiven her for the great cleansing of 1999. As much as irked her to go against her nature, there was a time and a place for such things. Balance in all things, she reminded herself. Soothed, Clara returned to her office to continue her work.
The second worst day of Clara’s life was the day she became a spider, and her twin brother didn’t.
Although they were night and day, heads and tails, they’d been on the same track since they were in the womb, and they always *knew* that they’d both shift one day into the terrifying Lilian visage of a war-form werespider. As they entered their teen years, they’d try to scare each other into their first shift. One time, Teddy snuck into her bedroom in the middle of the night and released a racoon, which resulted in a great deal of shrieking, a broken dresser, and a seriously pissed-off trash panda. Another time, Clara snuck up on Teddy while he was categorizing his newest collection of objects and screamed into a bullhorn behind his head. Although the resulting flurry of silver spoons flying through the air was deeply satisfying, it did not result in a change of shape.
No, what ended up catalyzing Clara’s first shift was nothing more alarming than a fender bender in the driveway. She had just finished her first week of driver’s training and was the proud owner of a brand new learner’s permit. As she backed very carefully down the drive and entered the street, another car came careening down the avenue and nicked her back bumper before she could react. The driver was long gone by the time she screamed and stomped the brake, and then Clara suddenly found herself looking at the world from a very different perspective.
As the little Volvo rolled backwards across the street and lodged itself in the neighbor’s fence, a thousand tiny jumping spiders came pouring out the window, raced up the driveway, and squeezed through the cracks and crevices around the front door. A cloud of tiny legs and shiny black eyes climbed up Teddy’s legs as he sat at the breakfast table, and he held very still to avoid accidentally harming whomever had just come to see him. He raised a hand to his face so he could take a closer look and instantly recognized his twin. His face broke out in a broad grin and he laughed in delight. “Why, Clara, you did it! Look at you! You’re a spider! You’re a lot of spiders! Congratulations!” The little brown jumping spider that was closest to Teddy’s nose waved its front legs excitedly and ran around in circles on his palm. “Yes, Clara, I see! How wonderful! Now...can you change back?”
The bevy of spiders all paused as one, then rushed together in a column that coalesced into a 16-year-old girl in a flowered dress and a straw hat - who immediately passed out.
Over the ensuing weeks, and months, and then years, it became increasingly apparent that Teddy wasn’t going to change. Every time Clara startled her twin and he failed to shift, she became more and more despondent. Teddy, however, remained infuriatingly cheerful about the whole thing. Clara suspected he was just trying to make her feel better, but it was awful to be able to hear the voice of the queen and know that her brother did not.
Clara submitted to the will of Queen Ananasa, of course. How could she not? She’d found her purpose, she knew who she was and what she should be doing, and that kind of security was a boon and a blessing. To be Viskr was to be a restorer of balance, one who sought to bring equilibrium to the pattern. To be Hatar was to clear away that which had already served its purpose to make way for the new. Together, they made her Anomia, the patient destroyer.
Meanwhile, Teddy was his usual jovial self, attending the parties and collecting the baubles just as he always had. He seemed infuriatingly serene about the whole situation. All the way until the Mardi Gras party, anyway. They were 20, and possibly enjoying the bourbon a little too much, when a sudden commotion erupted outside. It seemed Teddy had taken exception to some revelers who had spilled into their garden from the partying on the street, and he seemed well on his way to making one of them his dinner. At last, thought Clara. However, that’s quite enough of that.
“Teddy! Stop!” Clara shouted.
Teddy looked at his twin questioningly but released his prey. Clara beamed at her brother, an obvious mix of pride and elation on her face.
“Witnesses, brother,” she breathed softly. “Now change back.”
She caught him as he fell and she smiled.
“Teddy, I know you value your collections, but they’re simply not worth your life. Please, I beg you, stay in the Web until the storm has passed!”
Clara clutched his sleeve in a most unseemly fashion, but Teddy would not be moved.
“Sister-mine, I will be fine, but my collections will not if that hurricane flattens my shop. I must get everything to safety and I will stay safe. You have my word.”
Sighing heavily, Clara straightened the sleeve that she had rumpled and adjusted her own hat.
“Very well,” she said, mouth flat. “But I’m coming with you.”
Teddy took a breath, but as he looked at her narrowed eyes that dared him to argue, he realized there was no point. No force in the Web or the Wyld could stop his sister from a course she had chosen. Besides, he really could use the help.
The next couple of hours were a flurry of activity as bags were packed and calls were made. A car brought them to their home and any 8-legged family members who so wished were herded into large cardboard boxes. Meanwhile, a caravan of box trucks staffed by a bevy of efficient laborers arrived at Teddy’s shop and began the painstaking process of packing and loading his collections. In one afternoon, five large trucks were stuffed full and ready to roll, all under the watchful eyes of the Davignon Twins.
“Where to, Brother?” asked Clara as the last truck door was rolled down and secured.
“You know,” said Teddy, “I’ve always wanted to see a big city. I hear Houston has some lovely homes.”
“To Houston, then.”
Everything about their move was, indeed, fortuitous, as Teddy’s shop was flattened in the hurricane, and their new city was desperately in need of the balancing force of a pair of Damhan. While much of their time was spent in the Web, they were in town enough to begin to establish their businesses and contacts. All of that got turned on its head one day in 2009, when both twins heard the voice of their Queen loud and clear.
To the wolves. Defend!
They’d long since discovered the location of the Ovid caern, if only to steer clear of the workings of the furry ones, but if the Queen demanded, then there was naught to do but obey. Clara and Teddy raced to the sept only to find it nearly overrun, already. Humans with guns, tainted wolves flinging unclean energies, and dark spirits of the Wyrm-That-Is surrounded a bevy of fighting and dying wolves. It was bad enough that some of the wolves were even fleeing, dragging or carrying their compatriots out of the already-lost battle. Clara and Teddy shifted into their monstrous spider forms and defended the last of the retreating wolves. When the survivors seemed as though they’d escaped, the twins exploded into clouds of tiny spiders and melted into the grass, making their own desperate retreat from the shocking onslaught.
The next day, an invitation arrived at the chateau to the Silver Tower. And two spiders became wolves.