So, you know the nefarious Spinner-Hag who created the Azlu host? The host that all werewolves have sworn to destroy? Yes, that one. Surely you didn’t think she was the ONLY spider-spirit in all Pangaea? That would just be silly. No, there were other, lesser entities of the same metaphysical species knocking about in that land before time -- and one equal. You may know him -- and many West Africans do -- as Anansi: the spider as trickster, storyteller, occasional intermediary between humans and the gods, and all-around rogue.
There are tales about Anansi all over the place, and I would encourage you to look some of them up. However, there are a few such tales that only a very small segment of the population knows about -- maybe a couple hundred thousand in the entire world, and some of their families. These stories talk about Anansi, and many other animal spirits, like the others. But they also talk about his Cousin, a pompous schemer who thinks she’s way smarter than she is, and doesn’t know how to have any fun at all...and sometimes, they talk about a Wolf, a Lawful Stupid if occasionally well-meaning sheriff-type who bites first and asks questions later. One of the most famous of these stories tells how Anansi got fed up with his Cousin’s wicked ways once and for all, and decided to trick old Wolf into thinking he had wanted to hunt her down all along -- for Wolf was getting old and fat by then, and didn’t feel like gallivanting all over the continent to fix someone else’s pest problem. As it turned out, Anansi was extremely persuasive.
Now, all the Anansi stories, even the well-known ones, mention that Anansi had kids. The lesser-known tales go into far more detail.
In the present day, the Children of Anansi have a number of things in common. They all trace their ancestry back to Anansi himself, and thus to the West African Gold Coast, where the Anansi stories originated. They generally, to some greater or lesser degree, embody aspects of Anansi’s personality: his trickster-nature, or his facility with words, or his quick wits, or sometimes his self-centeredness.
Oh: and they’re all werespiders.
As such, the Children run into a lot of the same issues that the Forsaken do: for example, like werewolves, they interact with the spirit world. However, where the Forsaken keep the spirits placid through violent culling or guarded diplomacy, the Children keep them in line through bargaining, elaborate (sometimes deceptive) contract agreements, and often good old-fashioned trickery. They don’t feel any particular responsibility to keep the peace over there, but they do recognize that the spirit world and its denizens can be turned to their benefit, with enough wheeling and dealing -- which also sometimes means making sure those spirits don’t murder anyone, as a side concern. Plus, not dealing with the spirits would be way less fun.
The Azlu, they feel a good deal better about hating and opposing outright -- both because they and their mother were tremendous prats, but also because the Azlu strengthen the Gauntlet, and not being able to get through the Gauntlet means promising opportunities go away. The Forsaken, they would probably be just fine with -- if the Forsaken didn’t usually mistake them for Azlu and try to kill them right off the bat. As such, the two “species” have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship in the past; sometimes there have been violent clashes, and sometimes there have been fragile alliances.
Now, a few notes about genealogy, as it’s relevant to Nicholas’ case. Unlike werewolfism, werespider-ness is transmitted hereditarily, as sort of a recessive gene: a human/werespider pairing results in werespider offspring about 20% of the time. When two werespiders breed, that rate is just about 100%. However, werespiders have the same interbreeding taboo as werewolves -- both out of incest concerns and a desire to keep a low profile through relatively low population -- so human/werespider pairings are the norm in nearly all cases, with the human partner (usually) brought into the secret. This explains why many among the Children have large families: sure, they don’t want to overwhelm the world with supernatural progeny, but they usually want at least one kid with the gift, and that usually takes a few tries.
As a side note, the type of spider that a werespider becomes is also hereditary. It can be inherited from a child's werespider parent, which is self-explanatory enough, though -- presuming one is involved -- it can also be inherited from a human parent. In this latter case, the child's spider form is from a species geographically or culturally associated with that human parent: basically, if human mom or human dad were to have a spider "spirit animal," then there's a 50/50 chance that werespider kid turns out to be that kind of spider.
Within Children society proper, inheritance patterns follow matrilineal Ashanti custom: when a man dies, his sister’s son gets the property. The same goes for clan chiefdoms, which is why Nicholas’ cousin is in line for the C.E.O. slot, not Nicholas himself. (Also, Solomon is the chief of his clan, if you haven’t figured that out yet). Thus, the only two instances in which a werespider/werespider marriage is considered appropriate is between a chief and his wife, and between a chief’s sister and her husband -- in the former case because a chief’s offspring reflects on his own status as ruler, and in the latter case so that the chief is guaranteed a werespider heir. Generally, the relevant sister acts as a lorekeeper, spiritualist, and priestess for the clan, so that the next chief is brought up with an appreciation for his heritage.
To avoid inbreeding, the werespider/werespider pairings above are only sanctioned if the parties are from two different clans -- this also helps to strengthen the web (hah) of Children society as a whole. As a final note, here are the five recognized clans as they stand today, with the assumption that the Storyteller may feel free to invent more creative names for them in the future.
- Nicholas’ clan, the oldest and most central, headquartered in Nasande and stretching along the coastal Gold Coast from Côte d'Ivoire to Nigeria. Known as the most cosmopolitan clan, as well as the most business-focused.
- The Central African clan, headquartered somewhere in the Congo River Basin but extending as far out as the sea to the west. Larger in area but poorer, more diffuse, and more rural, they’re considered the country cousins of the Nasande clan. Nicholas’ mother Cécile is from this clan; she’s from a wealthy family of Gabonese oil speculators.
- The northern clan, headquartered in Kangaba in Southern Mali, and encompassing a thinnish band of dry savanna just above Nicholas’ clan’s territory, with its lower border passing through northern Ghana. Dates from the breakup of the Songhai Empire in the 16th Century, when Muslim sahel-dwellers interbred with their neighbors to the south. While the other clans are semipublicly animist, these guys disguised their beliefs by layering Islamic theology over them; after a while, syncretism happened. Known for their scholarship.
- The clan with the extreme misfortune to have settled in Liberia, i.e. “that country with all the civil wars and institutional poverty.” In their defense, it was better a few hundred years ago. Now, they’re a tiny band of ridiculously lucky soldiers of fortune, operating out of a heavily armed compound outside Monrovia. The only logical reason they haven’t been exterminated is because of the recent peace deal, and some of them are already taking credit for it.
- The diaspora clan, headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica but encompassing all the Children of the New World, from the Caribbean to Suriname to Nicaragua to the American South. Technically the largest clan by population, albeit one that has something of a volatile relationship with the other four, due to cultural and political differences: their priestesses also act as the chieftains, for example. Despite their reputation for rabble-rousing, their leaders still need eligible werespiders to breed with -- so they’re not planning to break things off entirely anytime soon.