- Age: ∞
- Species: Malevolent eldritch being
- Weapons: Ability to shapeshift into any form, Unrivaled psychic powers
- Special Attack: Becoming your greatest fear
- Telekinesis, mind control
- Not invincible
- Lies dormant for around 27 years at a time
- Age: Pre-dates the Age of Man
- Species: Great Spider, last daughter of Ungoliant
- Weapons: Paralyzing venom, Near-inescapable web
- Special Attack: Venom sting
- Very fast
- Can see in the dark
- Is a giant, horrifying spider-creature, which is sufficient to win most arguments
- Repelled by bright light
By Seanan McGuire
The terrain is not what it should be: is vast and white and empty, not the safe tumble of stone in the mountain passes where a web may hang, not the comfortable confines of a tunnel through the earth, hewn by human hands and seized by inhuman intelligences. It shimmers, shivers, tries to become these two contradictory things at the same time, and cannot, cannot, can be nothing but what it is in the face of two such ancient minds refusing to come to an accord.
(On a level of reality outside the scope of mortal ken—and they are mortal, they are, even gods are mortal, when viewed from sufficient remove—the one who chooses the combatants shivers, remembers that hubris is a sin in the eyes of entropy, and hopes that they will distract one another sufficiently for safety’s sake.)
The first battle ends in a draw: the landscape settles to blank whiteness, and the combatants appear. One, a spider larger than the mind wishes to comprehend, large as a cow, a horse, a great hunting hound, larger than nature or merciful divinity should allow. She walks on legs which should not hold her weight, according to the Great God Physics, and the fangs she waves in agitated objection to this mistreatment drip venoms from the dawn of the world. She is, in her way, beautiful, and she is in all ways terrible, and she does not belong here.
The other, small, simple, brightly colored, a garish wound in the pristine landscape: a human, a soft, clean, simple biped, dressed in carnival clothing. A clown, with bright red puffball buttons, with tufts of soft hair the color of arterial spray, with a painted smile on his face and a bundle of bright balloons in his cartoonishly oversized hand. He looks around, curious, seemingly calm, but as tightly poised as any predator, ready to strike, ready for the slaughter. Always, always, ready for the slaughter.
“NOW,” says the voice from everywhere, from nowhere, from (the deadlights) outside all reality. “NOW YOU MUST FIGHT.”
The spider stills. The clown looks, mildly affronted, to the sky.
“We are not your creatures to command,” says the spider, and it is somehow no greater a perversion than any other that this spider, this great beast, should speak. “We do not dance when you bid it.”
“I do,” says the clown. His giggle is a railroad spike being drawn across a chalkboard as wide as the moon. “I’m Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and I’ll dance for anyone who offers me a shiny copper penny. I’ll do a lot more for a dime.”
“You speak nonsense.”
“You speak.” The clown’s teeth are sharp. Humans shouldn’t have teeth so sharp. “Spiders don’t.”
“I am no spider.”
“Oh good. Neither am I.” The clown begins to move closer, not walking, exactly, but gamboling, dancing, almost, toward her. “Pleased to make your acquaintance. Sorry I have to kill you.”
“You? Kill me? As well ask a pebble to murder a mountain, a breath to murder a wind.” The spider rears back, front legs raised in threat. “I will devour your bones, and fill my stomach with your juices.”
“Says the pebble to the mountain,” says the clown, and twists, warps, is not, becoming a spider even larger than the first, all legs and impossible angles and terrible, bloated body. It is the spider monsters dream about, on dark nights, when the sky is full of stars and the corners are full of secrets. It is an ending walking.
For the second time in the long days of her life, Shelob is afraid. “I am Shelob, daughter of Ungoliant, and I will see the sun die.”
“Ah, but I saw it born, and it wasn’t any fun then, either,” says the second spider. In a tone as slick as oil upon stone, it asks, “What are you afraid of?”
Shelob hisses, and rushes as fast as her legs can carry her, only to shy back as the world twists again and her opponent is gone, replaced by a Hobbit in a traveler’s cloak, a short sword in one hand.
Pennywise smiles with Samwise’s lips. “Oh. This will be fun,” he giggles, and the battle is joined.
When the motion stops, the field is white no longer, featureless no longer, but gouged and spattered with fluids both foul and fair. The only question asked by the echoing void as it dissolves, dumping victim and victor into nothingness, is a small, simple one: