“Modern day adventurers are too picky, with how cheap and plentiful survival rations are and how any naturalist spellcaster worth their silver can conjure up enough food to fill an entire team’s mouths. When no such option exists, one is forced to live off the land.
Nomadic tribes and survivors from long ago were masters of such arts and turned merely surviving off of the bounty of the land into thriving. They perfected the artform of cooking with what you’ve got, and there’s plenty to learn from them.
So follow me on a journey to see how you can take a few cave roots and wild boar fat and turn them into a feast fit for a lord!”
-Excerpt from “Wilderness Thriving” by Wes Stout, Culinary Survivalist, first of his Class
The spider did not like waiting.
It was safe within their home, but there was a feeling of restlessness. That they needed to be doing something, anything, and nothing wasn’t something. Nothing felt terrible. And it wasn’t instinct either, the restlessness occupied their consciousness, not that they could really describe what that was, but they knew how they felt. They felt bored.
And as if granted by some divine or another, the arachnid’s prayer was answered. They now felt hungry.
The spider looked back to where the remains of its gracious parent were and saw chunks of chitin scattered around their home. None of it was edible, but that didn’t stop their siblings from trying. Those very siblings had since left the safety of home in the venture of more food.
The spider looked around and felt pressure loose from its legs as it raised its abdomen in a frustrated acceptance. Rather than immediately rush out like its other mostly-eaten brethren, they took another few moments to look around.
Many hours had passed, and the large predators had since left elsewhere. Perhaps the large creatures had their own homes, their own safe havens? Either way, the predators were not here, and the way to food was safe.
The spider slowly stepped out between the white pillars that marked its home, its legs primed to jump back to safety at the smallest sign of trouble. They waited for several seconds, attentive, ready to flee. The spider didn’t need to.
If they could’ve sighed, they would have. Instead, a small flash of relief and happiness appeared in their head and faded away as they remembered the danger that still surrounded them.
The arachnid took another step, and then another, until it was several feet away from safety. If they were to be ambushed by one of the predators now, their speed would not allow them to get back home in time. A wave of hunger went through the spider’s stomach. They didn’t have a choice.
When the predators first attacked, the spider saw that they only went for the ones in the open, the ones that walked past them. Those that had made it into the shadows or up the walls stayed safe, but the nearest walls were well past where they were comfortable going. So to the shadows it was, then.
The lone arachnid darted between errant rocks and stalagmites, careful to avoid the glow of the tree-sized mushrooms. Though the bright fungus would have made it easier to find morsels, they didn’t want to risk bringing attention to themselves. After all, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that light was the opposite of dark. The spider was born just yesterday, and even they knew so.
But even with the help of the light, it would still not be easy to find a meal. Namely because they didn’t know what exactly a meal looked like. Covered in chitin and filled with a rotting mush. That was the only way to describe the concept using outward facing senses such as sight. The best marker would of course have to have been taste, but the arachnid didn’t exactly know what to taste.
Instinct said nothing about the world in this instance. The lone spider attempted to bite into a rock, but all feelings were unpleasant. Their tiny fangs hurt, and the taste… they couldn’t describe it. But it wasn’t good. Definitely not good.
They continued on, looking for something, anything that they could eat. And they found it.
Wriggling on the ground was a miniscule creature. It had no chitin, no legs, and was pink. Such a creature could not possibly exist, could it? How had it not been eaten yet?
The arachnid approached the strange creature and observed. It moved forward little by little, seemingly without any particular destination in mind. Did it even have a mind?
They didn’t really care, because as if flipped by a switch, instinct kicked in and the spider bit into the pink creature. It writhed in their grip, but only when they lifted it into the air. It did not feel. The spider bit it again until it stopped moving, and felt a spark of joy at its first earned meal.
[Experience +1 | Next Level: 1/5]
There was that feeling again, what even was that? Words and numbers held no meaning to spiders, so what they received was instead the raw meaning and the feeling behind it. It seemed to be saying that something would happen when something filled up? The “thing” filled up when they killed the pink creature, and judging by the full sensation, they would have to kill 4 more.
The arachnid tossed those thoughts aside as it opened its mandibles to take its first bite.
It clamped its jaws shut around… nothing.
The spider found itself reeling back. Its eyes quickly opened and scanned around them as their legs worked overtime to push it in every which way to avoid any claws or jaws. But none of those came. Instead, they saw another spider before it. This one had the same color, chitin, and number of legs. But it was bigger. And holding the earth worm within its jaws.
The spider stared in horror as their meal was eaten by one of their brethren. Shamelessly, it pulled the pink into its mouth and stomach while it stared ahead in mirth. Here was a spider that had discovered the wonderful art of delegation as well as the use of force in achieving one’s desires. Someone was very jealous.
But this newcomer was kind enough to teach the lone spider these same lessons with another shove. The message was clear; “bring me food because I’m bigger than you.” The smaller spider had no choice but to accept. Because as it continued to look for food, its brethren followed closely behind it, making sure it was not cheated of its prize.
And hunting was not the only work the smaller arachnid had to do. The brethren’s eyes were so closely locked on them, that it wasn’t even watching its surroundings! The spider thought of leading it to a predator, but they remembered the greed of those creatures, and how eating one spider wasn’t enough for any of them.
The two eventually came across another piece of prey. A small, chitin-covered insect that walked along the ground. The smaller spider looked back at their brethren, who simply stared back with impatience, as if asking what they were waiting for. They felt true frustration for the first time and clicked their mandibles once in a low ring. And then they bit at the insect, killing it in one strike.
[Experience +1 | Next Level: 2/5]
Before the spider could do anything else, they were lifted into the air and forced to let go of their quarry. They were then tossed to the side as their brethren walked over to the insect’s corpse and ate it.
The spider clicked their mandibles again. What even was the point of this idiot following them around and keeping such a close eye if it was going to put in just as much work as the smaller arachnid? And from such an early age, they understood the concept of micromanaging, and how utterly terrible it was.