- Lifespan: 200 years
- Typical Height: 8 to 12 feet
- Typical Build:
- Distinctive Traits: Neth like torso with a lower body of a spider
- Where Found: Most common in the eastern half the underworld
Qua’ress, the goddess of the Nethar is commonly depicted as a female with the torso, head, and arms of a Neth, and whose lower portion consists of an enormous spider. Like most gods, of course, this is only the form that she usually chooses to appear in, not something inherent to Qua’ress qua entity. This form, the aranetaur, does exist in lesser life forms. However, these creatures were almost certainly created by Qua’ress’s followers in imitation of her form, and did not occur naturally. (Very little occurs naturally in the Vaxian world, almost everything was created by somebody out of something else. The Nethar themselves, in fact, were corrupted from high elven stock by Qua’ress herself (this is, of course, why they worship her). In theory, only the original stock from whence the gods came evolved naturally.)
Aranetaurs are bestial, with only near-human intelligence, on average a little below an orc and a little above a chimpanzee. Despite this, they have a complex social order, often nesting and hunting in packs (called "clusters"), usually ruled by an alpha female. Their social behavior bears more resemblance to that of mammals than usually-solitary spiders or eusocial arthropods like ants or bees.
All female aranetaurs lay eggs (usually about a hundred at a time), and all males can fertilize them, though this is sometimes a dangerous proposition for the males. A male will usually provide the corpse of a large kill (usually a large lizard, salamander, competing male aranetaur, or occasionally a crabhydra) to a female to provide nourishment for the arduous egg-laying process and for the young once they hatch. If this offering is not substantial enough, the female is likely to eat the male instead, once he has finished fertilizing her eggs. The breasts of a female aranetaur are useless and do not provide milk; the grub-like larvae subsist entirely on this first meal for the first few weeks of their lives, and on whatever they can scavenge or hunt thereafter.
The strongest aranetaurs can live for about two hundred years (by surface-dweller reckoning), but only maybe one in a million actually lives long enough to die of old age. Most succumb to the dangers of their society and the surroundings of the underworld long before then.
The aranetaur’s name is a portmanteau of the Latin 'aranea', meaning spider, and the Greek 'tauros', meaning bull. There are, of course, no bulls involved (though a folk etymology has been suggested involving the large mammary glands of female bovines and the potentially large breasts of female aranetaurs). The word is an attempt to convey that this belongs to the same general class of creatures as the centaur (possibly from Greek for ‘bovine herder’ or ‘bull slayer’, having nothing to do with the liminal nature of the centaur itself) and the minotaur (Greek, ‘Minos’s bull’). And, of course, Latin and Greek don't exist in Vaxia, and every word we hear is simply our translation of the Vaxian words.
Other information of interest: