Chapter 1: prologue
it begins in darkness.
after all. most things do.
please pause at the large image. it may take some time to load properly. about ten seconds should do.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
> Dave: Wake.
> Dave: Rise.
Suddenly you understand jack shit.
[This is not for you.]
this won't be fully illustrated. consider this the teaser trailer or something. stuff took way too long and I am kind of a shitty artist.
stock images used include some MC Escher and a bit of Homestuck.
Chapter 2: Soaking Through
"It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking." - The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
My sincere apologies for the amount of time it has taken to update this work.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
> Be someone who isn't a pretentious asshat.
> You are now ERIDAN AMPORA.
You sit at your desk in the shattered remnants of the main area of the asteroid. All around you are the flotsam and jetsam left over from a baker's dozen worth of trolls all lounging about in one space. There's a few empty pie-tins, a pile of little fairy dolls, a broken pot with a forlorn looking flower, some musty old books, and a stack of fresh cookies.
Fuck. You will never eat another honey cookie again.
You're scared shitless, to be honest. Not of the honey cookies, duh - why the fuck would you be scared of cookies? No, you're way more worried about what's coming. Because you know. Or, well, you don't know-know, you have a vague idea and you've come to terms with it because haha you knew this would happen to you eventually but. Well.
You still don't like thinking about it.
You roll the matriorb across the desk and wonder, not for the first time, why you. If you really admit it to yourself? You think Kanaya'd be the better one for this. I mean, you? You can't deal with romance (much as you want it!), so what kind of father-to-the-race would you really be? You always fuck up your romances bad enough, you know this, every fucking time, and so this... you're certain you'll fuck it up even more. Hell, you'd even considered holing yourself up in your tower for all eternity rather than face down an Imperial Drone, before the end of the world made that irrelevant.
Of course, this worry's going to be irrelevant too in a few minutes. Fuck! Some distraction that was.
You try to distract yourself by watching The Scene again. It... makes about as much sense as it did the first time. And the last time. And the five hundred other times.
The screen goes black. She vanishes.
You've tried to talk her out of the thing you're 90% sure causes it before, and each time you met with zero success. You figure you'll try one last time before the end. You dial Trollian back and... … and she ignores you. She's talking to someone else, intently. You dial back a little farther and... there she is!
-- chronicAugustus [CA] began pestering tortileGhostwriter [TG] --
CA: okay look i knoww this isnt going to Wwork
CA: so i dunno i Guess im just messagin you to Wwarn you or somethin
TG: you keep warning me about some horrible doom
TG: all of you do
TG: and yet as usual you fail to specify what it is
TG: other than that it has something to do with the dark forces with which i deal
CA: look i don't Knoww wwhat goes wwrong
CA: wwhat the Black is
CA: i just knoww that it Happens
TG: why dont you make yourself useful and tell me where jade is
CA: i dont knoww wwhere he is Either
CA: you think i havvent looked or somethin
CA: because i havve and since he died i havvent seen him
TG: what the fuck do you mean shes dead
TG: you will tell me right the fuck now or i swear i will end you
CA: no Jegus listen you idiot
CA: first you Typod again called him a Girl
CA: i dont think he Appreciates that
TG: dont tell me what she does or does not want
CA: hes all fuckin God Tier noww okay
CA: killed himself on his Quest Cocoon or bed or wwhatever you pink treebeasts call it
CA: so hes Fine i just don't know Wwhere he is
TG: very well
TG: you may live
TG: anyway i am extremely busy attempting to negotiate with what appears to be an omniscient misogynist paedophile
TG: so that the world does not end
TG: i am busy
TG: so while i do like you eridan and greatly value your advice
TG: i am also giving you thirty seconds to go away before i blow up your computer
CA: Wwait come on Davve i just Wwant to help
CA: i mean Fuck evverythin but i Kind of care about you like i care about Jade
CA: didnt Wwe trade Fashion advvice before That is a kind of Bond an all
CA: just Please listen
TG: as a time player you should know that since you have already seen what has about to occur you cannot prevent it
TG: you have collapsed the waveform of the timeline
TG: let the cat out of the box
TG: fifteen seconds
CA: Okay Look Time Travvel Does Not Wwork That Wway
CA: i mean fuckin a davve thats Stupid
CA: Quantum effects like that dont count for things on Large scales
CA: every Troll knows that wwe get Taught it early on
CA: just ask the John he knows
TG: the alternative is to admit that things are predestined regardless
TG: given the evidence we have seen
TG: granted you may be right
TG: not knowing may not change a thing
TG: in which case your actions remain futile
CA: Fuck Howw Can You Be So Depressing
CA: evven if it is Pretestined you havve to try to change it
CA: evven if it kills you
CA: you cant Just Accept wwhats going to Happen
TG: i know
TG: thats what im doing
TG: not accepting
TG: i am sorry eridan
TG: i am blowing up your computer now
-- chronicAugustus' [CA] computer exploded! --
You sigh. That had gone about as well as expected, and hasn't helped with your anxiety at all! In fact, it's made it worse. Now you're not just worried about yourself, you're worried about her, too! Stupid Dave. Stupid troll-disease-called-Friendship.
You push your chair back from the smoking remains of your computer and try not to listen to Nepeta and Equius' conversation. He's whinnying - whining, you mean, god damn it - about Aradia. Again. You don't even get that. Aradia wasn't friends with anyone except maybe Sollux. Holy crap he is just going on and on over there about how he's an unworthy yellowblood and oh god you are just going to cover your ears now.
Which means that you don't actually notice that anyone else is here until you get abruptly pulled out of your chair. You proceed to FLIP THE FUCK OUT.
"HOLYFUCKINGSHITIDON'TWANTTODIE - "
"Oh god Eridan I've been looking everywhere for you, you useless jerk, hopy shit."
Oh. It's just this asshole. Wait no he's lithping, that means he's not the asshole right now. Ugh. You still don't like the non-asshole very much either. Fucking jerk.
"Holy fuckin shit, Sollux, jegus, don't fuckin sneak up on a guy like that."
"I'm. I'm sorry. Oh fuck. Eridan, I - Eridan fuck! She's gone crazy, oh god, oh god - "
You frown. This is weird, Sollux doesn't usually wibble. Usually he's calm and collected, even if he's got every right to be a fucked up quivering mess, what with that also wiggling around in his thinkpan. The fact that he's asking for your help is a seriously bad sign. Dude never asks for your help. Even Sollux with all his radical ideas about caste equality is usually in the camp of Eridan-Is-Kind-Of-An-Idiot-Club.
You... can't really blame him for that.
"Okay first stop fuckin cryin. Cryin is for squares, jegus. Man up. "
The purple blood's claws dig into your jacket. You can see that he's trembling, his knuckles pale from how hard he's gripping. You resist the urge to pry his hands off; he's going to put holes in it at this rate. Come on, Eridan. Gotta do the understanding thing. Try to do the pale thing for once. Maybe.
"She killed TZ, Eri, she killed her and she killed Gamzee and she's going crazy, completely fucking leatherwing-shit, oh fuck Eridan you've got to do something - "
What? Who killed Terezi? Not Nepeta, right...? She's right there! And haha, not Vriska. Can't be Aradia, Aradia's... gone (hence Equius' whinnying) Kanaya...? Yeah, you wouldn't put it past that flighty broad, especially given their history! … And... you know what, you're honestly not sure how to feel about this. You can't really blame someone for killing Terezi. Terezi had it coming, creepy doomy bitch. Fuck knows you've wanted to murder her before. Didn't everyone? Isn't that how she went almost blind and deaf in the first place? Even Tavros probably wanted her dead, if in a kind of abstract way. Sometimes you think she was asking for it.
Like she wanted it finished.
Gamzee... okay, that's more troubling. If Kan took the guy out... well, probably a fit of rage, and really you should have a talk with her. Even if she kind of terrifies you. She can't go around just destroying the hope for your people, jeez. Even with the Matriorb you still need a variety of DNA to get things going again, and if she thins the herd like that...
Sollux is now practically rubbing his face all over your shirt and getting purple shit on it god damn it. Okay, not rubbing. But he is clinging to you.
"Okay, first, Terezi prolly deserved it. Second, look, I'll just go talk to Kanaya and it'll be..."
"It's not Kan! It's Fef!"
You can only stare in shock for a moment. Feferi? Feferi!? You mean... sure, ok, her rants about the dark gods were getting creepy as fuck. But it's Fef. Fef's a goofy granola girl, she barely even managed to level up or anything, there's just no way.
You angrily yank Sollux' grubby paws off your shirt, then shove him away.
"Sollux, I don't know what the fuck's wrong with you, but if this is some kinda ploy to get me away from Fef it's a fuckin stupid one since I'm in no quads with her at all; I told you, I broke up with her and the red thing's one sided, she's all yours - "
"This doesn't have anything to do with romance, you gibbering idiot!" he says. "I'm not fucking kidding you, Eridan, she's gone crazy, the gods are all up in her head and she's coming. I tried to stop her but you know how I am with this Page of Hope business; there's nothing I can do. And I know you broke up with her but you were her moirail once, surely there's something you can..."
Oh fuck him. Fuck him for bringing that up. You're already on edge and now you're just going to take your sweet fucking time and flip the fuck out.
"Yeah, was once. She's not my fuckin morail anymore, and I ain't goin there again! She'll just come onto me flushed, she doesn't want a moirail outta me! She wants a matesprit and that just won't fuckin work and you know it, there's not a fuckin thing I can do!"
"You can't just do nothing!" screams Sollux. "YOU CAN'T JUST STAND HERE like the thoroughly useless sack of hoofbeast excrement you are and let her kill the others. Oh... wait."
You spring backwards, your gun, Rainbow's End, already in hand. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh hell no.
Sollux is... different. He isn't crying anymore, and he is standing up straight, his arms behind his back. There's a faint smirk playing around his lips, and the lisp is gone. Instead, he draws out his i's slightly, letting each one linger, a tinny whine like insect wings.
You're sorry. Not Sollux.
"That's exactly what you're going to do. Probably for the better, really; they're all just as worthless as you. Landdwelling scum. Really, you know what? I should just end you right now."
You don't even bother replying. No point with this kind of scum. You're finished with this asshole, you don't even care that you might hurt Sollux. You take aim and fire, intending to blow off one of his legs. Leave him crippled.
Unfortunately for you, he's too fast. He's already got his completely ridiculous weapon in hand - Debunkinat0r, a seemingly ordinary staff filled with all kinds of nasty devices and surprises - whipping its chain around Rainbow's End and out of your hands. You hiss, pulling out another gun, but Captor's already acting, a spray of throwing stars slicing into your arm, forcing you to drop it.
Jesus christ, you never should have alchemized that fucking thing for Sollux.
But you're too clever by half. Your film reels out, you don't care about doomed timelines, you're just - nope. Captor neatly trims your film and you know.
This is where your reel runs out.
If not for a sudden deus ex machina.
With a roar like a lionfish, Nepeta leaps at Captor, claws out, ready to kill; he spins and the spear tip of Debunkinat0r flashes out. Deep magenta stains the white wood.
You see the shot, you fucking take it. You're weaponless but you don't fucking care. You leap for him, ready to choke his fucking life out, ready to end his smug ass and then he just sidesteps and you faceplant. The next thing you know he flips you over with one foot, then stabs you in your right lung.
Holy fuck, ow.
You're not dead yet. But you know you're going to wish you were soon. Because you know Captor. He's not going to kill you.
First he's going to monologue.
You yank at the spear in your shoulder, trying to get it the fuck out so you can do something. Let the guy listen to himself talk, then. If you can get this spear out, maybe you can fight him.
The bastard is staring at the purple blood on his hands, lifting them to his lips. For one sick moment, you think he's actually going to lick his fingers. Instead, he closes his eyes and laughs.
"Would you look at that. Guess I committed regicide," he says, smirking. He gives you a lazy glance. "Guess that makes me Emperor. The little she-cat didn't deserve it anyway. I always acted more the highblood I am. No more of this Page bullshit. Emperor of Hope..? No. Sollux can be Hope. But we're always a pair, and what's Hope without Despair?"
"I dunno, maybe it's just fuckin' Peace then, you spawn of a pit-worm," you snap at him. You look over towards where Equius is. Was? Where the hell did that filthy sniveling yellowblood get off to? God damn it, his moirail is dead, shouldn't he be busy making this asshole pay!?
Captor, meanwhile, stalks across the room... and picks up the Matriorb.
"Put that down!" you shout, struggling to try to get up, even though that spear's still firmly through your chest (you are very, very lucky that you are a Troll, and can therefore suffer vast amounts of pain and bloodloss, and still retain the ability to loudly protest!)
It's futile, of course. Once Captor starts monologuing, he won't shut up or notice his surroundings. Normally this is a boon - you and the others have smacked his arrogant dumb self back into being Sollux many times by taking advantage of his distraction. It's just kind of hard when there's nobody around to help and when you've got a goddamn spear through your chest.
"Like this, for instance," Captor says, rolling the orb in his hands, clearly enjoying watching you squirm (you... start to wonder if this is blackflirting. You have to admit, you're a little... … no, absolutely not. Fucker needs to die. Keep your hate platonic.) "I mean, we're doomed anyway. Why bother with such trinkets? Any children we created would die slowly here, killing each other or being killed by the Demon."
Captor sighs, a faint smirk playing around his lips. "Eridan, Eridan! Always so hopeful, despite your doom-saying!"
He drops the Matriorb to the floor, then with one swift stomp, shatters it.
Just as you get that blade out of your chest.
Sadly, you can't actually wield the fucking thing, since staffkind isn't in your deck. You'd admit that this is pretty fucking hopeless...
… except you know it isn't. You understand, now. Even if nobody else does.
"Fuck you. There's always fuckin' hope, you monster. I don't care what you or Dave says."
"Don't even speak of those pathetic aliens. It's their fault I'm driven to such lengths!"
"There's hope, damn you! And it burns bright! You'll see, you'll fuckin' see!"
You charge again. He snarls, and dodges to the side. You don't think for a moment that you're going to win. You know he's already picking up the Debunkinat0r.
You're okay with it. All will be well. You run for him one last time.
And then the world is painted jade.
You are no longer ERIDAN AMPORA because ERIDAN AMPORA is dead. Please input a new command.
> Be Sollux Captor.
You cannot be two characters at once!
> Be Sollux.
You cannot be Sollux, because he is too busy being Captor.
> Be Captor.
Your body sings with power, hums with the magic in your staff. Because it is magic. The science in your Debunkinat0r is so advanced, so cutting edge that it has become magic. That's how it works. It works that way, because you fucking say so. And that means that science as a whole is bunk now, because how can science mean anything when naturally since it has now become magic, and magic means that science doesn't mean anything anymore! It is bunk. Disproved. Finished. Debunked!
Clearly this argument follows and has no flaws, also everyone should shut up, especially that voice in the back of your head. Oh wait! He has already, because he is a whiny little bitch and is too broken up over Feferi to care. Ha ha!
God you love the irony. Eridan made this as a gift for Sollux. To give him options, the would-be filmmaker had said. To give him hope.
Oh man, it just makes you want to throw back your head and cackle manically. Fuck! You love being maniacal. When you are not flipping the fuck out. Actually you can be maniacal while flipping the fuck out, it's pretty easy.
> Captor: Be maniacal.
Oh yes, that felt awesome.
You twirl the Debunkinat0r and whistle a jaunty tune. You feel almost... festive! Emperor Captor, Lord of Despair. Much more fitting. Page of Hope, hah! Let Sollux rot in the back of your thinkpan, and let the game fuck itself. You're going to rock your new title. Hell, since you just killed the Mage, can you be Mage now, too? If you kill Tavros, can you be the Prince?
So many people to murder, so little time. You've wanted to for so long, now you can! Next order of business... approach the Demon. Be charming, yet subtle. Impress upon him your incredible powers, and express interest in destroying the world.
Oh yes. It's going to be beautifulOHFUCKOW.
HOLY FUCKING SHIT. JEGUS CHRISTI ON A FUCKING SPRING OPERATED POGO DEVICE (AS KARKAT - ooh. Karkat - WOULD SAY)
YOU ARE FUCKING BLEEDING.
In a fit of ABJECT FUCKING RAGE, you release the MAGICAL ROBOT BEES from your staff. They buzz around uselessly. And only then do you try to figure out what just happe - OW FUCK AGAIN!?
That spineless fucker.
You spin in a circle, your staff held before you in a defensive stance.
"Gutterblood. Where the fuck are you, you disgusting little shitstain? Get down here so I can end you."
"Though it pains me to turn upon one as richly blooded as you, Soll-"
"DO NOT SPEAK HIS NAME!"
"- ux Captor, you have murdered the Empress, an unforgivable sin. Furthermore, you have destroyed the Matriorb and its keeper, the Chosen of the Virgin Mother Grub."
You hear the sound of a bow being drawn back. Dammit, he's somehow in the vents? It's always the fucking vents. You hiss, softly. You cannot possibly die now. Your frilled seadweller ears twitch, and you think you have an idea of what direction he's coming from... ah. You barely get out of the way as another arrow sings towards you.
"You idiot. In our society - and you know this fully well - after the Empress is dead, the next highest blooded individual becomes the Emperor or Empress - regardless of if they killed her! Indeed, there is a long tradition of the new Emperor rising by regis - STOP SHOOTING, I'M TRYING TALK AT YOU - holy fuck! "
You are only just able to evade this rain of arrows.
"Be silent, traitor, be silent be silent SHUT UP - forgive my lewd use of gutterblood phrasing - … be silent!"
The arrows stop for the moment. He must have run out. You know his quiver will replenish shortly, but it gives you a moment.
"AS I WAS TRYING TO SAY, you piss-blooded monstrosity, regicide is perfectly acceptable! You should be bowing before me. Why the change of heart? Always so eager to please the highbloods! So do me a favor, gutter-guppy. Kill yourself. Save me the troub-"
An arrow flies for you.
You hear the creaking of great tree limbs
"Rkrks rkd akrghgrnd ni o rkhg
Fo tzks bglkrrktky od zhk mkjonens akl sneg
Ckjfkmnens piok flr tme peke-bkrmalfd tpo
Azd gxznid vmnzvds fpr tee aepmwn tzme
Bqt bomnk nlmnghzxqde's bkmt fqr tme kzs-i-mzxs
Sazke-divk qzpxmnt's pjmfsln tofjdsah apd tafkjdnh!
"Flfsjdt afdaljfjn cfsdjs aed lpoe dplh fgse
Mafdsht bkkrnzs izko tve skznxe
Ffdmmks cdlksfke, wfdksr apd sfkh
Lfmdss plft amd siy gfmdsze..."
You see only a black fog hiss from the vents and a dying sigh. The vent drips suddenly with mustard-yellow blood.
This is completely terrifying.
Or it would be, if you were Sollux. But you are Captor. Instead, you tilt your head and you
hear the whispers of the deep ones
listen to the the creaking of great tree limbs
Your senses e x p a n d
You hear the poetry in her words.
"Roses red arranged in a ring First autumn comes and life doth fade
Of this do the matesprits sing
Carnations for the pale-bound too
And violets for the ashen true
But nightshade's best for the kis-i-mets
Black poison through and through!
Moonlight blends into the shade
Flowers close, wither and sigh
Lovers part and say goodbye..."
First autumn comes and life doth fade
Darkness slides into the room and you let yourself swim in it. You drink it, take it into yourself and drown.
And then you, too, sing.
"Sing higher, goddess of the earth
Cruel womb of death and then new birth
Seasons' deadly grace of which you've sung
Our own delight has just begun...
We'll paint in blood a red romance
Now, my dear, take me to dance!"
To clarify: Sollux Captor has a Staffkind specibus, with the staff as a reference to the magical staves wizards carry in fiction and a throwback to canon Sollux's title of Mage of Doom. The weapon Eridan created for Sollux runs completely on scientific principles. The Debunkinat0r is a staff with spring-loaded components inside such as a retractable chain that can be charged with energy, a spear-tip that can fan out into an axe-blade, tiny robot bees, and throwing stars in a hollow chamber.
It is indeed a thoroughly absurd weapon, but Captor likes to be prepared. Also, he is dead convinced it is magic anyway. MAGIC.
But as we know, sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic; and sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science.
As always, huge thanks to adamantApocalyptic for creating Red Dead Virgo (Of which this work is an AU); Karijoufor being my editor, hand-holder, and all around moirail when it comes to this work; Aave, for being a good friend and source of inspiration and encouragement; and Bucketmouse for her always lovely and inspiring fanart and endless enabling. Finally, this particular chapter is dedicated to Trickshire.