Once upon a time there was a lovely princess. But she had a fearsome curse put upon her by her wicked godmother, which could only be broken by love’s first kiss. She was locked away in a tower, guarded by a huge, fearsome dragon. Many a knight had tried to rescue her from the castle in hopes of marrying the princess, but all had failed. She waited in the very highest room of the tower, for her one true love to finally save her, dreaming of true love’s first kis-
Knock, knock, knock.
Karkat sighed and shut the book with a snap. Ah, human romance, with its ‘one true love’. It wasn’t nearly as sophisticated nor as elegant as the troll system, but its simplicity had its merits. And some of the romantic folklore they had was pretty adorable. Not that he’d ever share that. Enjoying romantic literature was one thing, enjoying human literature was another entirely.
Well, not that he actually had anybody to share that fascinating little tidbit with, anyway. Karkat didn’t have friends. But if he did, he sure as hell wouldn’t tell them he could (and often did) sit around reading human romance novels all night.
He’d fully intended to go the same tonight, until that knock on the door of his hive had so rudely bumped him out of his reverie.
With a grunt, he went to go answer the door. Ugh, who was this douchebag? One of Lord Strider’s men. Something about rounding up all the ‘fairy tale creatures’ in the local area. Karkat raised an eyebrow.
“Do I look like a fucking fairy to you?”
A protest that trolls definitely counted; you saw them in fairy tales all the time, living under bridges and whatnot. An insistence that pretty much all non-humans could be classified as fairy tale creatures and if Karkat would just come along quietly then – oh God what was that sharp thing he was reaching for – did he know this could be viewed as a criminal offence, on top of his current offence which was being a troll, and it was essentially an act against Lord Strider-
Karkat growled, tightening his grip on the handle of his weapon as he raised it against the man. “Look, I am capable of your human pleasantries, so I’ll ask nicely. Get. The FUCK. Out of. My. SWAMP.”
And of course, he was running away like a cholerbear with its tail between his legs. Karkat snorted. That was what, the third one this week? If they cared to follow through on their threats, they would quickly learn that Karkat was not, in fact, much of a fighter. In fact, his combat skills were downright terrible. The natural strength that came with being a troll could only take you so far. He was positive that if say, three of his men came along, armed and ready for combat, he’d be totally fucked.
Luckily for him, the mere fact that he was a troll seemed to scare everyone he met utterly shitless.
It must have been all those fairy tales.
In the woods not far from there, the ‘rounding up’ of all these ‘fairy tale creatures’ was taking place. Talking animals, enchanted toys, gnomes, fairies, witches, the works. All being shoved into cages.
“And what’s so special about this boy, exactly?”
Mr. Egbert pushed his son forward with a smile. “He’s got these powers. Magic. He flies, makes objects appear out of nowhere, does all this stuff with the wind-”
“Hahaha, Dad. I keep telling you. Those are just, like, magic tricks! It’s not real magic.”
The officer looked at the pair sceptically, telling them that unless Mr. Egbert could actually prove his son possessed magic, his claim was as good as useless.
The son seemed to think this a great moment to do exactly that, launching into the air with a cry of “pchooo!” Safely out of the guards’ reach (he hoped), the boy decided to make his getaway. “Heh, fooled you all along! It actually is real magic. I’m getting out of here.” With the parting declaration, “by the way, Lord Strider is a really shitty rapper!” he took off, leaving awed spectators, several irate guards and a disgruntled father behind him.
If only he hadn’t been too busy laughing to watch where he was going.
With an “oof!”, the boy crashed straight into a tree, falling back to the ground at high speed. He took one look at the armed men heading towards him, before straightening up and running like hell.
Karkat was been heading out to investigate the ruckus (how was he supposed to enjoy his goddamn novel if they were going to insist on holding their noisy asshole festival so nearby?) when some boy had come hurtling towards him at high speed, a couple of soldiers in hot pursuit.
There was scarcely time for an “oh fuck” before the two on them collided and fell to the ground, the human landing practically on top of him.
Now that they’d fallen, Karkat had plenty of time to cuss the idiot out. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going you colossal, moronic, piece of shit. I get it, you’re in trouble, but if you don’t at least pay attention to your damn surroundings it’s just going to end in-”
“Shhh.” The boy had climbed to his feet, and had the gall to offer him a hand. He took it. Grudgingly. “Oh man, they’re so after us. I think all your yelling gave away our position!”
“They already knew our position you stupid fu-”
“Come on, let’s make a break for it.”
As much as he wanted to, Karkat wasn’t going to argue. There were a hell of a lot of men chasing them, after all. The two took off at a sprint together, not even looking back to check if they were still being followed.
But they hadn’t been running long before Karkat realised he was lagging behind. Significantly. Trolls weren’t built for this kind of physical activity, dammit. Well, they were. But Karkat sure wasn’t. So this was the human’s game, was it? ‘I don’t have to outrun them, I only have to outrun you’? He hadn’t even checked behind him to make sure the troll hadn’t been caught, the asshole. Well, Karkat was having none of it.
With a quick glance behind him – they were far away enough – he darted up the nearest tree. He may not have been graced with any natural talent in the running department, but Karkat was a damn good climber, and proud of it. He sat in the branches for a few moments, panting for breath. Had the men caught that human? Ugh, he kind of hoped not, even if he had seemed annoying as fuck. Well, at least he was rid of him, at any rate.
“Hahaha, I thought we were goners for sure!” Karkat nearly fell off the branch, before turning to glare at the boy beside him with a mixture of wonder and horror. “Man, coming up here was such a great idea, well done. They’ll totally never find us! You don’t mind me sharing your super-secret hiding spot, do you? Thanks!”
“Douchefuck, they ‘totally’ will find us if you don’t shut your squawk gaper-”
“Heh, what does that even mean? Anyway, no worries! I think they’re gone.”
“How the fuck do you know-”
“Come on, let’s get out of this tree. Unless like, you don’t want to. Maybe this is like, your home. Do trolls live in trees? Is that a thing?”
“No.” That technically wasn’t true, since some of his species did choose to build their hives in trees, but he knew perfectly well this boy wasn’t going to give him the chance to explain.
“Yeah, I thought not! I always assumed trolls all just lived under bridges. You know, like the fairy tale? The Three Billy Goats Gruff?” They dropped out of the tree, Karkat heading straight back in the direction of the swamp. The inappropriately cheerful kid seemed to take it upon himself to just follow, hovering a few steps behind him, chattering away. “Pfft, fairy tales. Do you know they’re classing me as a ‘fairy tale creature’? I mean, I’m pretty clearly human. Auuuugh! So, are they after you too? I’m pretty sure trolls count as fairy tale creatures. What’s your story, anyway?”
Karkat didn’t even have time to formulate a response, before the boy was off on one again. “Want to hear mine? Okay, so, I can fly! Which is probably obvious since I’m like, doing it right now. I can do a few other sweet things with the wind, too! But uh, Dad wasn’t too impressed, I guess? Handing your son in to Lord Strider’s men, talk about the worst prank ever!” Karkat decided to interject.
“I’d say something sympathetic, but I honestly don’t give much of a shit. Why are you still following me?” The kid’s smile only faltered for a brief moment.
“Wow, you’re an asshole! I dunno, I like you! What’s your name?”
John snorted. “Pfft, stupid name. But whatever. I like you, Karkat! You’re kind of funny and grumpy.” How was being grumpy an appealing quality? “I’m John, by the way! John Egbert.”
“Fuck you, John Egbert.” He didn’t seem to take this seriously at all, simply giggling at Karkat. Ugh, he already loathed this boy. “Seriously, find somebody else to bug.”
“No way! I’m thinking sticking with you is a good idea. Having a troll buddy will be just great. You guys are pretty strong, right? So you can look out for me and stuff. And I’ll totally have your back! We’ll be an unstoppable duo!”
He turned a looked at the human up and down. He had dark, almost black, hair and looked pretty tall, standing quite a few inches above Karkat. He was a skinny bastard, who looked like he could stand to eat a bit more. He was wearing a ridiculous pair of glasses and a dorky blue getup that matched his eyes. He had prominent front teeth that made him look really fucking goofy.
Yeah, Karkat didn’t like him.
“Ugh, NO. Leave me alone.”
If John was at all hurt by his words, he didn’t show it, launching into some bullshit musical number. “But Karkat! How do I liiiiiiiiive without you?”
“What are you-”
“How will I breeeeeeeeeeeathe without you. If you ever goooo…”
“Stop singing or I will-”
“…How will I ever, ever surviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive?” John’s ‘song’ had reached an impossibly high note, which he was utterly failing to reach. This guy was a downright horrible singer, and this was the last straw.
“Sweet almighty taintchafing FUCK, would you QUIT IT ALREADY?”
His words didn’t produce quite the desired effect, John simply pausing his singing to laugh at him instead of to run away in fear, or at least out of common courtesy. Ugh. Why was this person acting so sickeningly friendly with him, anyway? What was the deal?
“Hey, Egbert. Direct your oculars to me for a second. What am I?”
“Uh… really short?”
“What? No! I’m a TROLL. You know, humans hate and fear us, etc. Don’t you?”
John just looked blankly at him for a moment, before breaking out into a grin. “Nope! Like I said, I like you. You’re all shouty and funny and stuff.”
Karkat was, for once in his life, lost for words. As incredibly irritating as this boy was, he actually liked him? He didn’t run for the hills as soon as he was yelled at? This was new territory, and he wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. They were rapidly approaching his hive, too, and the last thing he needed was this ‘John’ kid inviting himself to stay.
“Ugh, look at this place. Gross. Who’d want to live here?”
“That’s my hive, fucknuts.”
“Haha, your hive sucks!” Karkat ignored the criticism, marching onwards and doing his best not to listen to the continuous stream of bullshit spewing from Egbert’s chute. “Is hive the troll word for house? What are you, bees? Why is it in the middle of an icky swamp, anyway? Talk about shitty location! You could at least decorate a little. Though hey, I like the boulder here. That’s nice. Shame about everything else, hahaha! Buuuurn. Oh hey, wow. You don’t like people much, huh?” Looked like Egbert had caught sight of the numerous ‘FUCK OFF’ signs he’d so painstakingly crafted. “Why are they all in all-caps, anyway? Laaame.”
The message that was so clearly in the signs obviously hadn’t got through to the boy’s damaged thinkpan. Karkat rolled his eyes. “Not particularly, no. Anyway, caps get the words across better.” Willing John not to follow, he opened the door to his hive. But wow, John was in there, making himself comfortable on his couch, before he had even taken his first step into the building. God. Dammit. He wasn’t sure why he’d expected any different.
“You. Out. NOW.”
“You can’t throw me out! I’ve go nowhere else to go! Weren’t you listening, my Dad totally sold me out. You’ve gotta let me stay, please?”
It was the most unconvincing pleading Karkat had ever seen. He wasn’t even trying to sound genuine, already propping up his feet and stretching out in full over his sofa. They both knew perfectly well that John Egbert wasn’t leaving any time soon.
“Fine,” he grunted.
“Oh man, awesome. We can stay up all night tell each other secrets and reading stories and doing karaoke and eating candy and doing each other’s nails – only not the nails thing because that’s for girls – but we can totally do all the other stuff and it’ll basically be the best slumber party ever.”
“No way. I am going to bed right now, and you are not going to be keeping me up. Understood? You sleep on the couch.”
But Karkat’s orders were in vain. John decided that it was only proper for him to sleep on Karkat’s bedroom floor, and kept him up half the fucking night with idiotic stories, rants about shitty books that certainly weren’t romance novels, and more of that horrible singing.
Karkat was going to murder him for sure.
In the morning.