Maria fled, The Spider’s warm hand in hers, pulling her through the forest. In the faint moonlight, the red and blue of his mask were muted to colorless shadows with only the white of mask’s exaggerated eyes reflecting any of the light that filtered down to reveal their path.
The bridge they ran towards was so near but with each step Maria felt their past coiling around them to deny them their final freedom.
The oldest strand, and the strongest, was her memory of the first time she had laid eyes on the man who people called “The Spider”. She had felt pity for him then, this man of the ring, so small in contrast to the one called “The Rhino”. Her pity had been unnecessary though. Though he was not the equal of his foes in stature, The Spider bowed to no man.
His struggles set Maria’s heart aflame as she watched from the press of the crowds. She joined in the chant of triumph they sang, feeling as connected with the humans as she had ever dreamed of being. Their spirit wrapped around her, lifting her with their joy and filling places in her heart she hadn’t ever known were empty and yearning. From her lips the words of cheer became ones of love for the unbowed luchador who stood for the common people and who would never fall.
It had been his magic which had drawn her to the match, had called to her from the enchanted bowers where her people lived. Though no human blood ran in her fairy veins, Maria had still felt her pulse quicken at the chanting that came from the spectacle of ritualized battle the humans gathered for.
Within the ring men grappled, but they were more than simple people. They were the giants of old, striding the earth with a purpose and power she had only heard spoken of in the whispers of times long gone by, times when her people had held the world chained in their enchantments, and the humans had loved them for it.
Those days were past, broken by iron, and blood, but in the cheers for the luchadors, Maria heard what had to be that same love still beating and alive.
The Spider had many admirers, but it was Maria who cornered him at last. He was fascinated by her tiger stripes, and the gleam of mischief in her eyes. She could have enthralled him with the old magics, played fairy wife to him, but that wasn’t what she wanted. No compulsion, no coercion, would win her the true prize she sought, and so she bound him instead with the oldest magic of all, a kind ear and an open heart.
His wasn’t an easy life. There had been loss, and heartache. There had been pain and battles that tested him beyond his limits. Though the Spider always walked away from the ring in victory, there were many times he left behind more blood and tears than six of his foes combined.
So she was there for him, listening to his worries, bandaging his wounds and kissing away the nightmares when they swarmed up from the dark of the night.
With her love, he stood taller, and fought harder than ever before. The Deadly Scorpion fell before him, and the Soaring Vulture. People began to whisper that even the Undefeatable Octopus might at last meet his match in The Spider.
Their battle would have been epic, a clash of titans beyond that which had been seen in living memory, but it was not to be.
On the day before the Spider was to enter the ring against the Octopus, Maria’s fairy liege, the Goblin King, had at last found her.
“You have tarried here too long,” the Goblin said. “No iron binds you, no salt circle enslaves you, so return, wayward child, back to my domain where you shall take your proper place as a beast guarding my vast treasures.”
Maria could not refuse an order from the fairy king, but she begged of him the time until the setting sun to take her leave, so that none would know of her passing or pursue them. Though great in power, the Goblin King harbored a terrible fear of humanity, hiding his face behind a green mask so that none would know him for what he was, and thus agreed to Maria’s request.
In despair, she flew to the Spider and poured out her heart. Long since had she told him of her true nature and long since had he loved her for it, but in the hour of separation, he could not abide the bounds it set on her life.
“If the Goblin can compel you so, we must flee,” the Spider said, who had never run from a foe before, and never would again.
“Where would we go my love? Where could we be free?” Maria asked him.
“Across the Great River, you have said your kind cannot pass over so vast a flow of running water, but I can carry you, my love,” the Spider said.
Maria knew his words were true, and she knew the cost she would pay for letting him take her across the Great River, but her heart could not be denied and without words, she nodded her agreement.
So together they fled, out from the town, across the steppes, and through the forest until, at last, the bridge over the Great River was in sight.
But there, guarding the bridge, stood the Goblin King, arrayed in his emerald mail, his green mask bent and twisted in a leering, evil grin.
“Release my tiger, Spider, I am beyond you and all men like you,” the Goblin King said.
“There are no men like me Goblin King,” the Spider said and threw his shirt to the ground, daring his foe to step past it.
There was no ring to contain their clash and the trees thundered with the force of their blows.
Seven times the Goblin King charged the Spider. Seven times he overbore the luchador in the red and blue mask. And seven times the amazing man rose to face the fairy lord again.
“I do not tire,” the Goblin King said. “You can not defeat me.”
“Though I am weary, though I am tore in body and bone, I will not yield to you Goblin King. I will never yield!”
For the eighth time the Goblin King charged the Spider, but the Spider did not fall.
With mighty muscles straining, the red and blue luchador clasped hands with the Goblin King and pushed the fairy lord back. Inch by inch, moment by moment, as inexorable as Fate and with a will that could not be broken. Moonlight caught them and gleamed off the Spider’s straining muscles as he drove the Goblin King towards the river. With each breath, the halo of the moonlight intensified until The Spider was swathed in a light as day and the Goblin King began to burn at his touch.
“I yield,” the Goblin King said. “In you lives a Soul of Iron, one as has not been seen since the heroes of yore. I can abide your touch no longer.”
“You cede this victory to me then Goblin King?” the Spider asked.
“I will stand against you no longer,” the Goblin King said. “But in this transformation you will find no victory Spider. As I can not abide your touch, neither too can my Maria.”
“She is not yours Goblin King,” the Spider said. “She is her own, and once past the river, she may do as she will. That is victory enough for me. If she will have me on the other side, then I will be The Spider No More that we may be together forever!”
“My dearest love,” Maria said. “You must know the truth. If we cross the Great River, I will no longer be Maria. I must leave my fairy nature behind if I am to live in this world with you. Will you still want me if I am a plain jane and not your tiger striped Maria?”
“For all the days of my life and beyond,” the Spider said, taking her hand again and leading her across the great divide.
And so did The Spider at last meet his end, his great battle with The Octopus unfought, his legend incomplete, but where his tale was never finished, the story of Pedro and Jane carried down across the years through the many generations that followed from them.