Native to the Demonsteeth mountains, the Giant Riding Spiders are so called because these huge arachnids were partially domesticated by the ancient Sakkala tribe over a period of several millennia, and are now nearly extinct and rarely encountered in Elatreus other than in the last Sakkala campsites..
Extremely fast over short bursts (up to 60mph for up to 2 mins) and capable of climbing sheer surfaces, there are few places that the Giant Riding Spider cannot go and few prey that it cannot chase down. Additionally, its powerful legs allow it to leap in any direction up to 20′ in the air and 50′ forward, backwards or sideways from a stationary position, tripled if it is moving at speed..
With 8 faintly glowing eyes set all around its head, the Giant Riding Spider is almost impossible to surprise and has excellent night vision as it is primarily a nocturnal hunter.
The Giant Riding spider displays considerable intelligence (more intelligent that the average warhorse), and through magic and sheer bravery, hatch-lings can be ‘tamed’ by special techniques known only to the Sakkala (adult spiders can never be domesticated, but will often live on the fringes of Sakkala sites and pose no danger to the tribesmen and women). Tamed Giant Riding Spiders are more than just a mount or a ‘pet’ – but are intimately bound to the Sakkala who rides it and both share a unique life long bond with limited close range telepathy to such an extend that if the spider or its rider is killed and the bond is broken, the other will become hopelessly depressed and frequently dies from self neglect.
In a wild state, the Spiders are solitary animals and typically hunt by burrowing into the ground near a well established game trail and will attack anything that is smaller than them, ignoring anything larger that may pass by. The only exceptions is if they are digesting a meal or encounter the Sakkala, who know how to both spot their hidden dens and prevent an attack.
The bite of the Giant Riding Spider is extremely toxic and anyone bitten by the spider that survives the piercing fangs will cause paralysis within 30 seconds and, if left untreated, death will follow within 1-6 hours.. They can also bite and choose not to inject venom, which they typically do on very small/easy prey or as a warning nip that they are getting irritated by something and the next bite will be envenomed..
Despite the fear they produce in most peoples (other than the Sakkala), in a wild state they are surprisingly docile and if a potential meal puts up too much of a struggle or injures the spider, they will abandon the attack and typically jump and sprint away at high speed. This behavior ceases if a Giant Riding Spider is domesticated, and due to the unique bond between rider and mount, they will never harm their rider, nor allow harm to come to them and will fight fearlessly until death if need be. However, if the rider loses sight of his or her mount, it may display some independent and undesirable behavior, moving a short distance from an area it has been instructed to wait, eating any horses tied up near it if it is hungry, burrowing into the ground, etc.. Because of the telepathic link, the spider can sense its riders mood and will be neutral to people whom the rider considers allies and bristle and prepare to attack anyone that he or she has less than pleasant feelings about.
The lifespan of a Giant Riding Spider is approx 50-70 years, but despite giving birth to large quantities of spiderlings, shedding to increase size means that it typically takes 15 years before the spider reaches maturity – and for this reason a future spider rider and spiderling are paired at birth and raised together – which also explains why if one dies, the other also seems to lose the will to live, and it is not unusual if one half of the symbiotic partnership dies of old age, the other seems to age overnight and typically passes away within a few weeks of losing its lifelong companion..
All Giant Riding Spiders are female – the males are smaller and short lived, existing only fertilize the females before they die and are eaten by the female (or the Sakkala).