Work Header

A Blazing Glory

Work Text:

Sometimes, Rose doesn't know who she is.

Other times she’s sure of it. Her name is Rose Campbell; she was born in 1976 and is now thirteen; and she has a penchant for dramatic lipstick, Lovecraftian mythos, and biting wit. These things may or may not earn her undue attention at the middle school she frequents, as well as disapproving frowns from her foster parents.

Sometimes, she’s sorry for disappointing them. They’re nice people, albeit unprepared for the hurricane of a foster daughter they had so carelessly welcomed into their lives a year prior. They do their best with her; they buy her books, and take her out to the zoo to see the giraffes. It’s exceedingly kind of them. Rose has had much worse foster parents. Sometimes, on clear days where the sun is bright enough to chase the shadows from the corners of her eyes, she thinks that it’s enough. That she could be content.

But sometimes: she closes her eyes and sees a mother. 


She’s beautiful the way a weapon is. Her eyes, her hair, her painted lips: all weapons in a war against some unseen enemy. Her nails bite against Rose’s skin, but her hand is warm around hers. Even against the lavender softness of a winter evening, she wears competence like a scarf. But then she shifts; bubbles. Her entire being shudders like water after a rock was thrown, and then she’s dissolving in Rose’s hands, into thick sludge that starts off as ooze but ends up as lava, scorching her. Rose screams, and backs away, but when she looks back all that's left is blood.

(Rose wakes up shuddering; a kid with a mother who watched her die, all without ever really having one.)


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

Sometimes, Rose’s visions aren’t visions at all, but premonitions instead. Certainty will swell up in her chest, and she can chart the results of her decisions like a navigator at the helm of a ship on a clear sea. She prefers these. They feel less like an ocean buffeting her to and fro, and more like a path she is forging to certain victory. (She likes to think that she is the one forging the path. It’s preferable to the alternative.)

Victory, after all, is what everyone works towards. The only difference is, Rose can tell where she’s going.

When she’s twenty one, one of these premonitions leads her to a club where a young man with stupid shades and a smirk like hers is holding court. D.J. STRIDES, the poster at the door proclaims. EXCLUSIVE ONE-NIGHT EVENT ONLY.

How lucky, she thinks to herself, drawing her scarf closer around her neck. It seems that I’ve found the Knight of Time.

Dave playing his records in front of a crowd of screaming people is a spectacle. He plays them just like he plays the music – with a strangely mesmerizing rhythm. Rose sits at the bar, sipping her whiskey and observing. His voice is lower than she expected (but then, she was expecting a boy’s voice, not a man’s), his shades are the twenty dollar kind you could get at any department store, and he shares her cheekbones and her long fingers.

An hour or so after the show, when the crowd simmers down and another D.J. takes the stage, he saunters up to the bar and slams down a twenty. “Two beers,” he tells the bartender. “One for me and one for the gothy chick over there.” He jerks his head over at Rose.

“How charming,” Rose says. “No man has ever called me ‘that gothy chick over there’ before. I’m swooning.”

“Man, don’t even worry about that,” Dave says. “It’s all part of the Strider experience. Ladies just fucking fall all over themselves when I’m around. It’s like a natural disaster. The White House classified it and everything."

“Wow.” Rose glances Dave over. He’s leaning against the bar, grinning at her, hair glowing red blue green purple from the strobing lights. What is the most fortuitous outcome in this case? With a pulse of certainty, Rose can See their futures; two pieces of yarn, tangling more and more as the future marches on. “Is that an egotistical need to assert your masculinity in face of overwhelming insecurity in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

“Can’t it be both?” Dave says, and then the beers arrive. They talk. Dave awkwardly hits on her, and she sarcastically flirts back. He talks about his geocities page, which he uses to host his shitty comic. He apparently spent hours painstakingly making the design as unreadable as possible, although this did not deter his loyal fanbase. She talks about her books, and the publishing deal she was in the process of finalizing. And, when he asks further, she tells him about her visions.

It’s easy to forge the clearest path to victory when she knows what the victory is. She steers the conversation expertly, like a conductor with her baton. In another world, Rose Lalonde plays the violin; in this world, she plays Dave Strider.

“Visions, huh,” Dave says, crosses his arms. “Really. Hit me, then. Tell me the future or whatever. And if it includes us and a bed.” He waggles his eyebrows – it’s hard to tell whether he’s being ironic or sincere.

The moment of truth.

“What if I told you,” she says, and takes another sip to steady her nerves. “That through some fortuitous twists of fate, I happened to be your sister?”

There are times when her visions are absolutely, unequivocally worth it. Seeing Dave do a spit take is one of them.


Five Things Rose Lalonde Learns About Dave Strider Through Majykks:

1. He likes rapping, swords, shitty cartoons and dead things. He hates puppets more than anyone in the entire world.
2. Few native English speakers understand what the word ‘irony’ means less than him.
3. His insecurity is crippling.
4. He takes to time travel like a fish to water, and is about as psychologically suited to it as a fish to air.
5. He’s a Knight, although he won’t admit to it. But Knights are Knights, and the loyalty that defines them runs through his veins. In another world, they died together.

Five Things Rose Lalonde Learns About Dave Strider Through The Joys of Everyday Life:

1. He had picked his last name, Strider, when he was eleven and had read Lord of the Rings.
(“Don’t you dare tell anyone, Lalonde. I think most of my fans are under the impression that I can’t actually read?”)
2. Nobody is less impressed by her visions than him. On the flip side, when one of his fans forwards him an e-mail featuring an animation of a dancing baby, he is moved to near tears.
3. His tastes in fine literature are as shitty as his tastes in pretty much everything.
( “Rose,” he scoffed at her, her private notebook in hand. “Your wizarding crap is unreadable.” He’d stolen it while she was napping and had apparently read through Frigglish’s introduction. Rose thought this was rich, coming from the man wearing ten-dollar shades and the proud creator of the worst webcomic in the entire multiverse.)
4. He ran away from foster care when he was fourteen.
5. He is 110% ready to fight the Batterwitch, even though he recognizes the fight’s futility.

(All things said and done, Rose vastly prefers the latter list.)


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

When she’s fifteen, Rose sets off on a journey. She leaves a carefully worded note to her caretakers – she should be back in a three weeks at the very most – and grabs the paltry one hundred and twelve dollars she’s saved up, and hitchhikes from her lovely home in Cooperstown to New York City. Hitchhiking is easy when she can close her eyes and see which cars pose a danger to her wellbeing, and which do not. In New York City, she visits Times Square and Central Park, and then makes her way over to Penn Station to catch a train.

Through a combination of trains, hitchhiking and the rare horse ride, it takes Rose approximately four and a half days to get from New York to California. Even though she's grimy and exhausted, standing outside the sleek building with Skaianet’s logo looming over her tastes like victory.

“Excuse me,” she tells the receptionist. “I would like to see Miss English.”

“Don’t we all,” the receptionist says, something wry in her face. “Sorry, sweetheart. Jade English is appointment only.” She smiles condescendingly at Rose, before the phone rings and she turns away, completely dismissing Rose.


In this dream, she is the Baroness and her mind is an ocean. It rages and twists and turns, millennia in its waves. She is eternal and volatile both.

There is a dog in front of her, growling. His fur is hackled, and he lunges. But he's chained to a tree behind him, and his attack is futile. The Baroness is thinking of her children. A boy and a girl. Humans. Weak. On her planet, each and every wiggler would face trials. The Trials of the Caverns at first, and then the trials of daily survival. The trials of the hemocaste system. The trials of the drones. Her Imperious Condescension had the most difficult trial of all; raising her mother. It was tough, but she proved herself each and every night.

Heiresses gotta toughen up, after all. Ain’t no guppy of hers who’ll be caught flopping in nobody’s net.

She brings the trident down, and the dog yelps -


- Rose shudders awake and just has time to roll over before she vomits, black slick that reeks of sea brine and rot. Every time she closes her eyes, she sees the blood. Feels the alien evil, churning in her mind.

She leaves a crumpled ten dollar note on the bedside table for the maid, and returns to Skaianet.

“Halley,” she tells the receptionist. “Please tell Miss English that I mentioned Halley.”


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

"There’s your problem, Rose,” Dave said once, in the back of a limo. They're going to a fancy Hollywood party: she's his date. The paparazzi will talk, but that's more of an upside than anything. “You always want things to mean shit. Like most people, when they’re late because of a traffic jam just think they have rotten luck and go on with their life. Ain’t nothing to see here except an angry boss with sweat patches the size of the Nile spewing verbal abuse at you. You though, you’ll dissect that traffic jam until you figure out a way to make it be a metaphor for life or my lust for penis or whatever.”

“I’m a Seer,” she says. “It’s my duty to unveil the elusive meanings behind cosmic events that shape all of being. For instance, that hypothetical traffic jam could have been caused by the alien who will eventually slaughter our entire species.”

“It’s a fucking traffic jam.” He slams his hand down on the seat between them. His knuckles are white: he'd been gripping his thigh. "Maybe our kids coming four centuries late is a fucking coincidence, okay? Or maybe it's paradox space just messing us over. Hey, that dude with the awesome Stiller shades always wanted a brother, right? Let's send that creepy chick some visions and then send them both kids, only haha! Joke's on you. They're coming in the aftermath of sea Hitler's water apocalypse. Hilarious. Maybe paradox space just gets off on jerking us around."

Rose starts to say something, but there's no words, and the limo is slowing down. Soon, they'll be swarmed by a crowd of reporters all wanting a look at the famous young director. Instead, she just reaches over and squeezes Dave's hand.

They'll deal with this. They have to; they have no choice. The whims of the universe don't bend to silly things like family. Rose blinks away the vision of her daughter, who has her smile. She can't get bogged down in sentimentalities. She needs to be practical.

How do you win when you're not even playing a game?


“Gosh, Jade, I don’t know,” John tells her. He’s perched on her bed, legs folded under himself like he’s six instead of thirteen, nibbling at his lip. “I know you hate Mother, but don’t you think you might be overreacting a bit? She would never kill Halley. Even if she’s pretty mean to us.”

Jade slams the lid of the box down hard enough to send hurt vibrating through her fingers. “John, stop being ridiculous,” she snaps at him, and immediately feels sorry as he flinches from her, eyes filling with hurt. It’s not his fault that he’s filled with childish naiveté on the true workings of the world. In truth, she think she’s jealous of him. Jealous of the hope and the life he still has left in him, where hers had withered away with Halley.  

She walks over and sits beside him. “Sorry,” she says, and then hugs him, burying her face in his shoulder. “I love you.” The words are muffled.

“I don’t want you to leave, Jade,” John tells her, unhappy. “You’re my sister! Who else am I going to practice my Prankster’s Gambit on?”

Jade sniffs. “Um,” she says, and chuckles all watery. “That’s honestly kind of a bonus for me. I’m sick of silly things like cake in my face all the time.”

“You’ve clearly lost all sense. Cake in the face is classic! It’s not silly at all.”

"If you say so," Jade says, and then they're both quiet. They sit there, holding each other, for a long time.

(The best way to get to know people, Rose thinks, is through her visions. Even if it's something she has no right knowing.)


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

Jade English, it turns out, is an elderly lady with a severe look on her face, endearingly bucked teeth, and an alarming steadiness of hand. Rose finds out this last fact when she opens the door and sees a rifle aimed straight at her head.

“I suggest,” Jade English says, voice like steel, “That you put your hands where I can see them and sit down.”

Very carefully, Rose does what she was told. “Is this the traditional greeting on the West Coast?” she says when she’s in her seat. “I’m afraid I left my semi-automatic at home. I hope that you can forgive this breach in etiquette – perhaps you’ll accept a punch in the face as an alternative salutation?”

The chairs are plush and comfortable, if a little moth eaten. It does not all fit with the rest of the office. Then again, Rose muses, nothing fits in the office. The desk is made of ebony and polished to a blinding sheen; the walls are filled with shelves littered by mechanical parts, both of the traditionally metallic kind and the strobing colourful, skull-themed kind specific to Skaianet; and every available surface is covered by an assortment of various exotic flora. Most out of place, however, is Jade English. Although she lowered her rifle when Rose sat down, she continues to hold it attention at her side. It looks well-used and well-cared for both. Despite the weapon, she is dressed in business casual, if by business casual you meant to accept an electric blue skirt with ruffles. Jade English, however, pulls it off. She looks every inch the revolutionary and genius entrepreneur that she was made out to be, even with a splash of grease on her cheek.

"I don't know how you knew the name Harley," Jade tells her. "But I suggest you start talking."

She does.

Halley’s white fur is matted with blood, and his eyes are glassy and dead. When she discovers him, Jade cries. For each sob that tears through her, another piece of her heart freezes and crumbles in her chest. Even with her brother beside her, matching tear for tear, by the time she brings herself to stop, the little girl inside of her who always hoped for the best was dead. In her place, there was a woman with a heart of steel.

At least, that’s what Jade tells herself. You need an iron heart when going up against a witch.

(Rose wakes up, and steels her own.)


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

"Jade." She's nearing thirty years old, more than twice as old as the Rose Lalonde who once started playing a game. She's sitting on a bench somewhere in Florida, watching Jade English weed. “Do you think I would have made a good mother?”

A rebellion is brewing. Her latest book had come out and the Batterwitch had exploded her mailbox. Rose managed to avoid it, but the message was clear. It seemed prudent to go visit Jade, whose company was beginning to fall apart at the seams. The tension is beginning to get to her, Rose can tell. Her face looks more lined now than it did five months back, and her snipping is particularly vicious. She's going to move soon. Rose will suggest a deserted island where some critical ruins lie; a good place to raise little Jake. This will be the last she will ever see of Jade English.

"Geez, Rose," Jade says, and frowns at her. "I don't know what you're trying to say! You know I think you'll be a fantastic mother."

“Mine and Dave’s kids aren’t going to arrive,” she says softly. And, before Jade has time to say anything to try and console her: “What does winning actually mean in this scenario?” Rose bites her lip, not even minding her lipstick smudging against her teeth. The paparazzi would have a field day with that – the perfect Miss Lalonde showing a bit of humanity. Rose has never felt so far from being herself. “By rule of paradox space, we can’t actually defeat the Batterwitch or her troupe of dastardly clowns and rappers. No matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to save humanity from certain extinction. We won’t be able to help our kids play the game. It seems that every path ends in defeat. So, Jade. What should we actually do?”

Irrelevancy sits uncomfortably on her shoulders. A cloak that she can’t shake off. What is victory when you lose everything along the way?

The silence stretches between them.

“I think,” Jade says. “That we should cultivate our garden!” Her face is kind.

“Voltaire?” Rose says.

 Jade frowns at her as if she's crazy. “Um, no. Jade English. And I was being serious! Grab some fertilizer.”

“Oh.” Rose does, and brings it over. When she gets over there, Jade stands up and pulls her into a hug.

"I'm sorry about your daughter, Rose." For a moment, Rose lets herself be held, but then she pushes her friend away.

"Thank you," she says. "But I'm fine."

Jade just reaches back and squeezes her one last time. "You can't always change the game, Rose. But you can always change the way you win!"


She sleeps.

She sees a little girl, who has her eyes and Dave's chin. She's gorgeous, in the way a weapon is gorgeous. Her daughter. And she's facing the Batterwitch.

(Rose wakes up, and forces herself to sketch this vision down. She's not an artist. But she wants to remember this.

Something to fight for.)


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

Her name is Rose Lalonde. Sometimes, she’s not sure of who she is. A girl who wrote a book, or a girl who played a game. A girl desperately playing a game she can never win, or a god.

Her name is Rose Lalonde, and none of that is important.

Cultivate her garden…? The people she cares about. Jade. Dave. Her daughter, doomed to an existence four centuries in the future. And Rose Lalonde, who has a book series, and a pair of knitting needles, and visions of the past, present and future. 

"I guess we're really doing this, huh," Dave says. He's clutching at his sword as if it's a lifeline. "It's not some crazy dream I'm having or anything?" He sounds vaguely hopeful.

"Sorry," Rose says. Her knitting needles are warm in her hand. "We're really facing the Batterwitch."

"I thought so." Dave sighs. "Jade would be pleased, at least. Let's go then?"


It's not really a victory at all. It's barely even a battle.

Rose closes her eyes and Sees - 


What is the most fortuitous outcome?

"Ms. Lalonde," Jade says that fateful first meeting. The first time anyone has ever called her that, but not the last. She leans back in her chair and smiles. "How would you like to use your visions to save the world?"

 Sometimes, when she closes her eyes, she sees darkness. Blood and empresses and a green sun. But usually, Rose sees the clearest path to victory.

It comes with being a Seer of Light, in another world. She's not a Seer in this one; just a girl who sees things no one else does. 

Her path won't be marked by the creation of a universe. Or the destruction of a demon. She won't even get to save her species.

"I'd be delighted," she says. 

 Her name is Rose Lalonde and she is going to win. Even if it means defeat.