Of the many spiders that infest the wild woods, the colossal Arachnarok Spider is the largest.[1a]
The Arachnarok is a nigh-unstoppable predator bigger than an Empire townhouse. In the depths of the forest where the light of the sun never penetrates, the gargantuan eight-legged monstrosity stalks and entraps whole Beastmen herds as well as larger prey such as Giants or Cygors. After incapacitating larger creatures with flesh-dissolving venom, an Arachnarok Spider will drink up the liquefied innards of its paralysed, but still living quarry. Man-sized victims are wrapped into web-casings by the hundreds. So potent is the poison in the Arachnarok's web that a few hours entwined in its sticky mass will reduce a man into a jelly-like morsel of putrefied flesh, a protein-rich pudle ready to be consumed. Arachnarok Spiders have been known to ensnare the entire population of villages foolish enough to build near its darksome forest abode. Despite its bulk, the great beast can work noiselessly to encircle a hamlet within webs thicker than an Orc's arms. None can escape. Then, leisurely, the creature will feast.[1a]
Since Goblins first entered the primeval woods, they have been prey to the spiders that dwelt within the arboreal confines. The goblinoids adapted their customs to the woodland environment, becoming the precursos of the Forest Goblin tribes known today. They soon found that packs of giant spiders could be defeated and, over time, could even serve as mounts. The larger Gigantic Spiders could be fended off and, if their broodlings were captured, these could be hand-fed and turned into great steeds for powerful leaders. However, no tribe could stem the onslaught of the Arachnarok Spider. Luckily, these titanic beasts were rare, as their appearance spelt a horrible end for an entire tribe or, at the best, a rapid move of camp with many a fearful backwards look.[1a]
The Goblins reasoned that since the powerful arachnids could not be defeated, perhaps they could be appeased. Eight-legged totems festooned with webbed skills began to appear alongside the traditional idols of Gork and Mork. The Forest Goblin Shamans, having recently discovered the hallucinogenic venom of the tinier spiders, talked about the many faceted eyes of the Feaster from Beyond. With tongues swollen purple from the bites of tiny mouth-mites, the Shamans turned to worshipping the Spider-god. The tribes followed their Shamans in supplicating themselves, and the Spider-kult was born. Although Gork and Mork were not forsaken, in the black thickets of the endless forest the Spider-god soon ruled supreme. Forest Goblin Shamans led gruesome rituals, and the tribes offered elaborate sacrifices.[1a]
Who knows what thoughts, if any, occur behind the multiple eyes of an Arachnarok Spider, but the eight-legged behemoths did not attack Forest Goblin camps surrounded by Spider-totems. Some crept to the edge of the fire-lit clearings to watch the tribes weave the spider-dance and offer gifts of warm blood to the insatiably hungry Kings of Spiders. Emboldened, some Shamans dared approach their living idols. Many tried to communicate and were summarily eaten, until finally the mystical properties of the small Purple Skullback spiders were discovered. By chewing on enough of the bulbous, plum-coloured savouries, a Shaman either died a twitching and horrible death or entered such a state of shock that new vistas and mindpaths into the Great Beyond were opened. The convulsive rhythms of a mind-numbed Forest Goblin Shaman will entrance an Arachnarok. The great spider will sway back and forth on hunched legs, the image of the tiny twitching gobbo reflected in the black orbs of its many eyes. Under the hypnotic spell, the Shamans discovered they could communicate in simple terms with an Arachnarok.[1a]
The ravenous depredations of the Arachnarok were ended and Forest Goblin Shamans learned that, with enough bribes of fresh blood, they could call out to such a beast. Instead of fleeing from the deepwood behemoths, Forest Goblin tribes began to purposefully seek out and encamp near an Arachnarok's lair. There the tribe proffered the beast sacrifices and used Shamans to coax the enormous spiders out should a formidable enemy draw near. The worshipped spiders grew even more bloated due to the non-stop supply of blood-rich offerings. Many spiders began to remain in their darksome holes as still-screaming food was thrown into their pits. Over long periods of time some Arachnarok Spiders no longer needed the shamanistic rituals, having grown tolerant of Forest Goblins. They even allowed them to scurry about their hulking bodies, treating the Goblins as if they were young broodlings that needed to be carried upon their spiny backs. Great stick-howdahs were created atop the beasts using green saplings and copious spider-silk twinings to build battlements and platforms from which to shoot.[1a]
Over the centuries many Arachnarok Spiders have become satisfied with their life of luxury, keeping their bulk hidden underground upon a nestbed of their victims' remains and their own foul wastes. Such noisome dens house veritable mountains of bones and dried husks. To Forest Goblins, these pits are the most holy sites for the Spider-kult. When the needs of such an ancient monstrosity are required, the Great Shaman moans and convulses in a summoning ritual. First to emerge from the dark hole are the spider's front legs, which it uses to pull the rest of its bloated and nightmarish immensity out of its loathsome lair. Bedecked with shanty towers, altars to the Spider-god or even crude catapults, the Arachnarok Spider lurches forward to war, to once again terrorise the surface world.[1a]
In battle, Arachnarok Spiders usually carry a crew of eight Forest Goblins on their howdahs, armed with spears and short bows. These howdahs can be upgraded with either a Flinger (a lightweight catapult) or a Catchweb Spidershrine (if the Spider has been taken as a mount by a Forest Goblin Great Shaman).