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A Good Host

Black widows & death cults

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

5 min read.
photo of Latrodectus hesperus from Berkeley, California by Ken-ichi Ueda via Wikipedia
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The following story stands alone and can be read without any knowledge of my prior works, but does take place in the same city as Haze, a tale of repudiating conquest and symbols of sacrifice.

Six Monstterran widows sat around a carafe of moonfish bile and oh-so-casually inserted as many mentions of dead husbands as they could into their otherwise banal discussion of the weather. No matter what my childhood impassivity instructors would have said about making sure to keep an open mind about other cultures, Monstterran women were creepy when they counted coup.

Thankfully, I'd spent most of my time in Monsterra hanging out in universities, where everyone was far too young for mating games. It wasn't like here in Srineport, where most of the time it felt like mating games were the whole point of the classes. Here, university existed only to subtly enforce a caste system that had been technically outlawed a century ago.

The widow with ring of jade snakes wrapped around her prehensile tail held a priceless porcelain teacup a handspan from her nose and paused for effect. "Would you believe he expected me to dance?"

"No!" the woman I was trying to serve nearly knocked the bowl of snapper pie right off my serving tray as she flung her hands up to cover her ash-grey cheeks.

It had taken me sixteen years to work myself up to this position, learning everything there was to know about the cuisines of all the realms that could be reached from the aetherroads criss-crossing my homeland. I recovered my balance and kept on serving the appetizers.

"I like this one," Green Snake said in a language I realized belatedly she didn't realize I knew. "I think it would make a good host for my sixth nest."

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