"Horatch!" Milyi found tears on her cheeks. Her throat tightened and she blinked and watched the white and black streak darting between the Great One's legs. He seemed so small now, her giant spider. Her T'rant. How had she ever considered him a monster? Little Horatch.
The tips of the Great One's feet were larger than his whole body. They danced and batted at the assailants, coming dangerously close to the T'rant dodging below. What could she do? The giant black-and-red Wisps were easily twice Milyi's size, and there were four of them now.
Droning filled the jungle. The air moved all around, buzzed to life by the giant bees' wings. They darted in in turns, two at the front and two from the rear, hassling the Great One, wearing him down.
Watching the attack awoke something in her belly, half fear and half fury. The methodical strikes, the coordinated assault turned her blood to ice. She wanted to squash this bug, but there was no rock that she could swing that might damage those slick, ebony skeletons.
She shifted her feet, fought with her flight instinct while Horatch latched onto the Great One's leg and started to climb. He'd get on top. He'd do what he could to defend from above, but he would completely expose himself in the process.
Milyi looked at the ground. She eyed the brush to her sides and found a suitable twist of branch, fat enough to not break, but light enough for a girl to lift. She had to tug it free of the vines and nearly lost her footing in the process, but once she held it in her hands, the Wisps seemed a little less horrifying. Only a little, but that difference lent her courage.
Horatch had climbed to the center of the Great One's cephalothorax. He reared back there while the monster dodged and batted at its attackers and his own meager arms did their best to fend off the rear assault. He needed help, and Milyi took a deep breath and charged into the open.
The Great One spun. Milyi saw the shine of fangs as long as her arms, the flash of a reddish mouth below. She clutched her stick and found her legs frozen in place. So big. Did it know she meant to help it? She ducked the furry limbs, wove between them to the other side and ended up standing beneath the thing's body.
She'd do no good there, but she'd earned one of the Wisp's attention. It hummed and dropped lower, eyeing her directly from just outside the range of the Great One's thrashing legs. If she moved, it would be on her. If the Great One moved, she'd lose her cover. The curved eye of the Wisp gleamed and tilted, appraising her, looking for an angle to breach.
Milyi tightened her fingers around the branch and lifted it, parallel to the ground. Her legs trembled, but she focused on the black length, the solid body hovering beneath a veil of blurring red wings.
The Great One stumbled to the side. The Wisp lifted and zipped forward. Milyi's makeshift spear jabbed out. It slid off of the hard, black surface, but the Wisp stuttered, dodged and flew higher, circling, still keeping its attention on Milyi. Now, the giant spider stepped fully away, leaving her exposed. She swung the branch wide and turned in a circle.
One Wisp had ventured too near the Great One's face. It hung from the fangs now, already curling in on itself, its red wings still buzzing in short pathetic bursts.
"Milyi!" Horatch shouted from atop the Great One. He sprang through the air, but his warning had her spinning too fast to see where he landed. The Wisp had recovered, and it lunged for her. She barely got her stick up in time to bat at it. Not hard enough either, the Wisp rolled to one side and came on again. Its long legs reached for her, barbed at the tips and shining.
She swung again. This time her branch landed against the Wisp's side and knocked it away. It still wasn't hurt. Her body just didn't have the strength to break that armor. Still, the Wisp lifted into the air and kept itself outside the range of her weapon now.
Milyi watched it. She moved her feet and tried to see behind her too. The Great One had dropped what was left of the dead Wisp. It had stopped batting at them, stopped rearing, and now it stood, still as a statue with all eight legs on the ground. The forward arms curled under its fangs as if still holding onto its meal.
"Milyi." Horatch landed on her shoulder, dragging her to the side a step. She waved her branch, turned and waved it again. "It's too late," Horatch howled. "It's all over."
Except the Great One still stood. The Wisp she'd battled flew higher, rose above the tips of the trees and was joined by one of the others. Milyi spun again and found the last one, perched on the mighty abdomen of Horatch's Great One. The Wisps wings hummed still, but her black abdomen had bent forward, stabbed a leaking wound in the very center of the mammoth spider.
The spear still embedded there. The last black segment pulsed as the Wisp injected her poison. She hummed and buzzed her deadly veil and watched them with one, gleaming black eye.
Milyi lunged forward. She raised her stick high over her head and hollered. The Wisp didn't flinch. The stinger stayed put, plunged deep inside the Great One. The other two remained above the trees, choosing not to intervene.
"No, Milyi!" The bite of T'rant toes against her skin got through to her. She staggered to a halt, shaking, her stick still waving.
She blinked the tears away and waved her branch. The Wisp didn't flinch. It didn't look away from her, and the eyes glinted with a vicious, unwavering light. Whatever her people thought of spiders, Milyi knew this thing, this red and black devil, for what it was. Pure evil. She wanted to strike it, to smash it from the Great One's body and hear the crunching of its skeleton. "She's killing him."
Horatch clung to her arm more tightly. His voice came low, an echo of the Wisp's drone. "No Milyi. No. They're doing something far, far worse than that."