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Zero at the Bone

Chapter Text

It was dark when he came to the Barrier, a distant rumble of intermittent thunder in the distance, like empty funeral urns rolling down a long slope. He was alone, picking his way quickly under the dripping cedar branches. He’d separated from the others days before to lure the following humans off their trail and still hadn’t caught up, but he could pick up traces of magic from the stones and grass near the cave mouth, so he knew they’d reached the Barrier. They had probably entered the Underground by now. But he had to check.

As he reached the cave mouth he paused to be sure that he was alone, then sang a verse of The Rosemary Tree. Quiet. He walking into the darkness, both eyes glowing a sharp mulberry to signal his presence.
“Hello?”
They’d gone. Good. But now he felt lonely. It always felt like an empty world at the end of a run—fewer and fewer monsters to guide to their new home and all the humans either dead, locked indoors, flagellating themselves in the squares or trying to kill you. Oh, plenty of them were still out and about, keeping that up. Gaster thought they might have given it a break, what with the war being over (and decidedly in their favor) and their own numbers dwindling so rapidly with the plague—some said it was the judgement of God on them for attempted genocide. Some blamed the monsters themselves. And of course, some of them blamed the Jews.

If God was judging them, he certainly wasn’t discriminating. Though maybe things were better beyond the Barrier. He hadn’t been through, because he could still lend his help as a guide on the Surface, but things were probably going great down there, with all the monsters banding together to help each other. He hoped.

No answer from the cave except the quiet purr of the Barrier’s energy from deeper down, hidden behind curves of rock. They were gone. Gaster let his eyes dim and started to step backwards when he sensed motion in front of him and froze.

Something metallic cut into his skull above his right eye. The force knocked him down onto his face. He lost consciousness for a moment, then hearing something moving through the air above him, rolled quickly to the side. There was a crash on the stone where he’d been lying. He flattened himself onto the floor, skull throbbing, and buried his hands in some light substance that covered the rock.

Somewhere deeper in the cave he heard flint being struck, then there was a blaze of light, and he realized that he was surrounded by humans. The right side of his field of vision was darkened, and everything was blurred with the particles he was lying in. They’d been stirred up by his movement. It smelled a bit like dust.

It was dust.

The world reeled back into focus and he recognized his situation. The human closest to him was raising an axe. Streaks of ectoplasm from his skull darkened the blade. He manifested his shield in a frantic burst which knocked the human into the air, the axe flying. Gaster quickly stretched it to force the other humans out of his way, then dropped it and ran. A crossbow bolt whizzed past his elbow from a dark crevice as he passed, but there was the Barrier, a dark-light-dark pulsating wall of energy with the surrounding rocks outlined in sharp relief. He’d almost reached it. Thank God.

Another crossbow bolt caught him in the side of the pelvis and knocked him down. Of course it did, he thought.  

He got up stiffly. Just a few more feet and he could touch it. Ignore the pain.

Almost.

He heard one of the humans running towards him, but they weren’t within striking distance. Gaster reached out, but then heard the whizz of a spear.

The world seemed to split into tiny fragments, then slowly piece itself back together. He looked down at the point of a spear which had split his sternum, the most sensitive bone on a skeleton’s body. Funny, he thought clearly, that he hadn’t noticed the pain.
It had transfixed his soul on its trip through his ribcage, then his hands, which he must have thrown up in some desperate attempt to block it.  
…So that was what it felt like when one’s soul cracked. Oddly sensual. A release of everything he’d spent his life clinging to. Memories, hopes and dreams, color and taste and scent melting away from him like his body, which was turning to dust before his eyes.
He didn’t realize that he was falling forwards until he hit the Barrier, which was a shock. His body froze, and then it left him.

Wis the cat monster watched the huge monster before him tear down sections of cave wall with lashes of rock-rending heat, exposing large sections of the Barrier. Wis’ body appeared entirely relaxed, his well-groomed grey fur lying flat, paws tucked up his sleeves. Only the tip of his tail showed his tension in its metronomic back-and-forth drift. The other monster stopped and took a few steps backwards to stare up at the Barrier.
“You can’t bring it down alone,” Wis said gently. “No one can. Calm yourself. This will accomplish nothing.”
The monster snarled at him and flung a fireball into the Barrier, which swallowed it up silently, and a moment later spit it back out. It disappeared over their heads in a flare of light through the darkness. The huge monster was breathing heavily. Wis watched his shoulders rise and fall as he stared down the Barrier.
He was drunk on EXP and desperation, a bad combination at the best of times, but lethal for someone as powerful as this monster was. But he had let Wis get close and talk to him, which was an improvement. Wis hoped that he’d eventually tire himself out by attacking the Barrier, and that if he wasn’t interrupted again, he might snap out of it.
Then again, maybe this was only an interlude in his rampage. He always came back to rage at the Barrier. But so far it had been the scene of repeated and ineffectual ambushes. The King and Queen had been desperate to subdue him and stop the carnage. It had probably made things worse, Wis thought. There were some forces, like gravity, like plague, that it was useless to try to fight. You had to let them sped their strength.
Or if you were Wis, you could volunteer to try to talk them down.

The Barrier hummed, and the monster’s head swung up. Wis followed his gaze, tail stilling in concentration. The Barrier flickered, pulsing with energy. Something was coming through from the Surface. He couldn’t see what yet. He watched as the Barrier shifted through dark to light and back again. He still couldn’t see what it was. Frowning, he watched it shift again, and then, just as it was passing through its brightest stage, a form flickered—as if fading in and out of reality—in its center. A very tall, thin form. Then it was lost again.
The huge monster gave a low gasp and his bright body flickered and turned several shades lighter. He stepped close to the Barrier. Wis’ tail twitched twice sharply.
“Let him come through, big guy, he hasn’t done anything to you.”
They needed this monster alive, whoever he was. There were far too few of them. And this was a boss monster, judging from his height. The fiery monster’s head whipped around and he prepared a magical attack.
“.L..E.A..V..E...U..S.S...”
He snarled. Wis let his body relax and gazed, eyes half-closed, lower than the huge monster’s line of sight, purring softly, soothingly. A third of his tail jerked slowly from side to side, three times, then he gave a faint sigh of relief as the half-formed fireball faded away beneath the huge monster’s fingers. But where was the monster from the Surface? They should have come through by now.

Dust began to fall from the Barrier, first a small trickle, then sheets. The huge monster stood motionless in the rain, palms up, as if trying to catch it. Wis watched silently. The tip of his tail had resumed its metronomic waving.
Then a body appeared, so abruptly it seemed to have been snapped into existence just outside the Barrier’s surface, and tumbled into the huge monster’s arms, where it lay in a cloud of dust. The huge monster caught and held it without moving, as if in shock.
.G..A.A..A.S..S..T.E..R..?
Wis took a step forwards and sensing it the fiery monster snarled at him. A wall of heat sprang up. Wis tumbled backwards and sprinted away on all fours. He knew when he’d overstayed his welcome.

When he felt safe he stopped and gave a few cursory licks to the scorched places on his fur, then looked back towards the Barrier. A wall of light hovered between him and it.
That was a shield. He’d never seen that monster use shield magic before. What was even more puzzling was the wisp of green he’d seen just before he ran. He could have sworn it was healing magic.

 

A/N: This is… sort of an AU of an AU.
It borrows heavily from AmberTale, the AU connected with my CORE fic, but there’s more major canon divergence and the characters are slightly different.
Also it got darker. Heads up, I’ll be dealing with heavy stuff. Probably too heavy for me, I’m a lightweight. Humor me. 
Not sure what the update schedule will be, but it should be -much- shorter than CORE. More like an outline of how I see things going down in this AU than a really involved story. I’m going to view it as a side project.
What say you?

The title is a line from Emily Dickinson's Poem 986 (or 1096 in some versions) describing her feeling when meeting a snake. 

Several of Nature's People 
I know, and they know me—
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality—

But never met this Fellow 
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing 
And Zero at the Bone—

Chapter Text

 In all my garden the loveliest tree
Is one who for sweetness is named for thee.
I cannot fail to think of my lady
When I smell the fragrance of Rosemary.

He was humming more than singing—he wasn’t good at it, but he wanted to keep up some sort of sound, hoping that Gaster would catch onto it. He’d stopped dusting, but he hadn’t woken up, and lay cradled limply in his lap. The top of his skull had been split through the right brow ridge, and a smaller crack had opened on his left cheekbone, perhaps from stress or from all the dusting he’d done at first, or both. His hands were broken, but his life magic still held them together.

He stopped humming, tired.

Everything was so silent.

“.Gaster.”

So silent.

He turned to the side and looked at where his shield flickered over the rock, then back down at the skeleton, thinking he had moved. He waited for several moments, then resumed humming, but almost immediately stopped at a faint sound.

“.Gaster?”

The left eyelid twitched. He watched intently, humming to fill the silence, to offer his hand. Please hear me.

He thought Gaster was smiling. He didn’t trust himself.

“.Can you open your eyes?”

“Hhnn.”

The left eyelid quivered, then half-lifted over a dark socket with dancing flickers of light. He traced a thumb over the right eyelid, found it sealed shut with dried ectoplasm, and gently pried it loose. It also half-opened.

“.Can you see like that?”

Gaster looked blankly at him.

“.Try to focus your eyes.”

Gaster was very warm. It felt nice. There was a blurry orange that felt familiar, talking to him, head against a dim yellow sky. With a sluggish effort he blinked and they slid into focus. Grillbz was looking intently at him. Above them, his shield flickered against a great darkness. Gaster cuddled down comfortably, wincing at the sudden discovery of pain.

“Mornin’ G.”

Grillbz watched him, head cocked to one side, and the suggestion of a smile caught his mouth. Carefully he lifted Gaster to sitting position.

“.morning.you’ve been asleep for four days.”
“Four?—“ Gaster looked down at his hands. “That’s right… how am I not dead?”
“.I healed you.”
“But.” Gaster frowned, then appeared to decide he’d rather not think of it. “I had some weird dreams.” Silence. “Where are we?”
Grillbz was silent. Gaster looked around. He couldn’t see much past the shield, which had a radius of several yards, but enclosed inside it with them was nothing but barren rocks charred with flame. There were traces of dust on some of them. Surely not all of it was his? He'd made quite the wide-spread mess if it was. Beyond, he could tell only that everything was pitch black. It seemed to be a huge empty place. He shivered.
“Are we in heaven?” he heard himself ask, and Grillbz gave a strange laugh. “Or hell?”
“.that’s closer to it.”
“G, where are we?”
“.past the Barrier.”
“Where is everyone?”
Grillbz was silent in a way that made Gaster afraid.
“G, what happened?”
Grillbz looked at him without speaking, then pulled him roughly into a hug and held him there. Gaster tucked his arms, still weak from his long sleep, over his shoulders and watched the shield flicker against the darkness. Why was he using his shield?... He realized that Grillbz was shaking.
“G?”
Grillbz attempted to speak, but seemed unable to breathe. He paused to catch his breath, then began talking quickly.
“.you came through the Barrier alone four days ago.I healed you.and I’ve been sitting here talking to you and hoping you would—hoping you would wake up.I couldn’t heal your hands, I’m sorry.” He lost his voice and struggled to regain it. “.they’re..outside.”
“Who?”
Grillbz stood abruptly, holding Gaster, and walked to the edge of his shield, then stopped as abruptly as he’d stood, as if afraid to touch his own magic.
“.can you walk?”
“I don’t know.”
Grillbz carefully stood him on his feet. Gaster gritted his teeth.
“.your pelvis is cracked.I did my best.I’m sorry.”
“It’s OK.”
Grillbz shook his head.
“.I had to focus on your chest…that’s better at least, isn’t it?” Gaster remembered the spear plunging through his soul and felt a chill. He looked down and found a hole in the front of his shirt. He poked his fingers through and felt over the scarred surface of his bone. There was a deep notch in the side of his sternum instead of the gash that must have been there before.
“Much. Thank you, you saved me.”
“.go through the shield, it won’t hurt you.they’re waiting outside.”
“Who?”
Grillbz was silent.
“.I…”
This was all very mysterious, but Gaster needed answers, and Grillbz seemed like he needed a break.  
“Alright. I’ll come back.”
Grillbz looked doubtfully at him.
“I will,” said Gaster, frowning at him. Grillbz turned away and stood with his arms around himself, head down. Gaster waited for a few moments.
“Right, so… I’ll be back.”
He turned and stepped into the wall of fire.

Grillbz’ magic knew him, and swirled around him with an unpleasant but not damaging heat. He hopped out of it gasping and paused, blinking into the darkness. He was in a rocky wasteland, the walls of which disappeared into the darkness above him. Traces of dust clung to the rock in patches. And directly in front of him about twenty yards away was a small group of monsters, two of whom were standing, staring at him. Several more were curled up in blankets, but one of the standing ones kicked his neighbor and then there was a scramble of movement. While Gaster was still processing the new sights they had all gotten up except one, the largest form which all the others had avoided touching as if by unspoken agreement. Now one bent down and gently shook the figure. It was a furry white monster lying with their cheek against the rock. As she sat up he saw that she was a goat boss monster, large, and tired-looking. She had the blank grey look of long fatigue, not simply the limp look of one who’s been awakened from a deep sleep. The blank look didn’t leave her face as she stood and faced him.
“You’re Gaster.”
“Hello,” said Gaster, startled. “I… yes. What’s going on? I just woke up.”
“We guessed. Wis saw you fall from the Barrier, he says you were barely alive.” Gaster nodded. “I am Toriel, Queen of the Monsters.”
Oh, that was new.
“My queen.” He bowed his head.
“Come here,” she said, and Gaster scanned the ground between them with trepidation before starting to hop forwards. They watched him silently, without moving. Only when he’d gotten a few yards away from the shield did Toriel turn to Wis and murmur “would you help him?”
Wis trotted down and nudged his head under Gaster’s arm. “Lean on me big guy. Hey, you’re pretty light.”
Gaster was panting with pain and exertion by the time they reached the group. Now that he’d left Grillbz’ soothing warmth everything hurt. His sternum less than his pelvis, surprisingly, Grillbz had done a good job of healing it and Gaster couldn’t imagine how much energy it had taken. No wonder he was acting a little fried after four days of that.
Gaster reached Toriel and stopped. She held out her paws and he placed his hands in them. She looked curiously at the broken bones.
“You have had quite the adventure.”
“Yy-e-es.” Panted Gaster. Toriel kept holding his hands and bathed them in healing magic. Some of the pain sapped from his bones. She looked abstractedly towards the shield, which Grillbz hadn’t lowered.
“The monster back in there. Is he your friend?”
“Grillbz? Yes. We were partners for a while, then we split up because there weren’t enough of us left on the Surface. We’ve been helping the stragglers avoid humans.”
“I’ve heard of you both. He came down here some time before you did. He and his companions were ambushed by humans at the Barrier and he made it through with only a few survivors. I met him here.”
“Ah good,” said Gaster. “Well, goodish. Not the best. I mean, I’m glad he got through, and that you’ve.. met him…” something was terribly wrong and he wasn’t sure what. “My Queen?”
She looked abruptly back from the shield to his face, and he saw deep brown eyes with a startled look.
“Forgive me, I don’t know how to tell you.”
Gaster nodded. A strange calm filled him. This was all just a dream.
“What happened here?”
“You should sit down.”
She released his hands and sat herself, on her blanket. One or two of the other monsters sat as well, but the two who had been standing remained so, at attention. Gaster noticed that they faced the shield. Well, and the Barrier. Gaster picked a rock and perched on it, then immediately stood back up, on one leg. After reflecting on his situation for a moment he circled around behind his rock and leaned across it on his chest.
“Excuse my informality, I’m still adjusting to my injuries.”
Toriel nodded absently.
“Where should I start? Should I start at the beginning?”
“I would appreciate that. News doesn’t get through the Barrier from this side, you should assume I know nothing.”  
“Yes.” Toriel reflected silently for a while. “I only spoke with him for a moment, and I saw his pain, but I had other things to attend to. Perhaps I should have stayed.” She took a breath. “I said I’d start at the beginning. That’s not the beginning. My husband, Asgore, and I were among the first monsters trapped here. Asgore had fought as one of the heroes of the war, and I by his side. After the Battle of Ebott we were a part of the first army that was sealed under the mountain. When the dust cleared Asgore and I were the highest-ranking monsters alive and were unanimously declared King and Queen. We tried to organize. This place isn’t as bad, further in, once you get used to it. Some areas are quite beautiful. It’s very barren here just by the Barrier… We’ve moved into a cavern at the other end of the system and started building. Asgore named it Home.” Toriel smiled tiredly. “He was very… practical about names.”
Gaster nodded.
“We have a small city started there. Sometimes you can see sunlight through the Barrier. There are even flowers.” She looked at the ground in silence for a few moments. “I think that’s all I can say about the beginning. Your friend—of course, there’s much I don’t know.”
The air was so dark and still. Gaster found himself calculating how much darkness could fit in the room, and if it weighed the same as water, how much weight would be pressing them down.
“What did he do?”
Toriel looked to a scaly monster coiled at her side.
“Scamill, how did it start?”
Scamill half-uncoiled and flicked his tongue, looking narrowly at Gaster.
“He killed all the Moldsmal.”
“Grillbz?” said Gaster.
Scamill made a rough assenting noise and settled back into his coils. Gaster looked at Toriel with a horrible sense that it wasn’t a dream.
“One of the monsters he’d brought through the Barrier tried to stop him and he struck her down,” said Toriel, speaking easily now. “Then others tried to intervene and were killed. He began to kill indiscriminately. We sent warriors to stop him, and he killed them. Asgore challenged him to single combat and lost.”
“I’m sorry, is he dead?” said Gaster.
“Yes. Grillbz does not show mercy to the fallen.”
That… was true. But he’d never… As far as Gaster had known, he’d only fought humans. He had thought he’d erred on the side of caution, killing when Gaster would have simply slipped by, but they had been at war with the humans, so he’d learned to accept it. This was…
His mind blanked, and he found himself reflecting on the philosophical definition of “kill”.
Suddenly everyone was standing, and he realized that a charge had gone out of the air. Toriel scooped him up by the arms and swung him around to her side. The shield had vanished. Grillbz was standing where Gaster had left him, with his back to them, hands clutching his upper arms.
“He’s not attacking,” observed Wis after several tense seconds, glancing at Toriel, who nodded and let go of Gaster.
“Wis thinks you’ve calmed him,” she said. “Healing magic and fighting magic are generally polarized. Many things are different about Elementals, I realize, but I think it makes sense that healing you would… distract him from his murderous mood.” Gaster stared at her. “He may already have been calming down. After all, he was able to recognize you.”
“Ye…es. He did.”
“I’m sorry I have to tell you this.”
“What? No, no I—you—I’m sorry.” He lapsed into silence, scrabbling for words.
“Will you speak to him?” said Toriel.
“What… what do I tell him?”
“First find out if he’s lucid or if we should be running away,” she said dryly.
“I think he’s… more or less lucid, yes.”
“Good. Talk to him. The monsters have begged me to kill him on sight, but I want to give him a trial. But I’d like to know if it would be safe to bring him closer to Home.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Wis, tail twitching with nerve and resolve.
Gaster nodded silently and turned towards the Barrier.

 

A/N:

Apologies, I planned to post the first two chapters together because they make more sense like that, but I underestimated how long it would take me to get this second chapter ready after the first one was up. This was hard to write.

The Rosemary Tree is some verse I wrote for this fic. It’s supposed to be Gaster’s signature, he used it as an ‘all clear’ signal on the Surface, or to announce his presence, as at the Barrier.  

The most obvious difference between Amber and Chry is Grillbz. AmberTale Grillbz is an asshole with inner calm. ChryTale Grillbz is a soft friendly muffin who is filled with loud internal screaming. *said with intentional irony plz note

Other differences:

-Gaster hasn’t killed anyone

-Toriel has
(she still wouldn’t like it but it was in defense of her homeland and her love—both of whom are lost now)

-Half of the population of the Underground is missing right off the bat, which will definitely have far-reaching ramifications

-So the monsters’ civilization starts off similarly to how it would be after a failed genocide run.

-Asgore ded

-Also if you haven’t noticed, the Bubonic Plague is raging outside and since this is an AU I can make it as bad as I want. Not that it “needs” to be worse than it was in our own world. Yeesh, thing was scary.

-Gaster has done his time in the void, so to speak, with those four days. This will haunt him later, as you’ll see, but probably nowhere near to the extent that it does Consolas (Cantarell, this Gaster’s, CORE doppelganger.) Cantarell—again, to differentiate, that’s this Gaster, but nobody calls him his font name—was much more hopeful and determined than Consolas, who by the time he was knocked into the Barrier in his parallel-but-very-different backstory just wanted to die, which is why Cantarell was able to recover so quickly (four days as compared to a year.)

-Slightly different personalities from CORE. This should but may not always be assumed so I’m just throwing that out there.

-BASICALLY THE APOCALYPSE! YEEHAW STRAP YOURSELVES IN IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD, SCREAM ON THE WAY DOWN, Or don’t. Nobody cares. Is anyone even there?

Chapter Text

They circled around and approached Grillbz from the side, not wanting to startle him, though it was probably unnecessary. He had heightened senses and could tell where they were without turning. Gaster walked to his side and put a hand on his arm, while Wis stopped several feet back, tail lashing convulsively.
“G.”
Grillbz silently uncrossed his arms. Gaster dropped his hand.
“Why’d you do that, G?”
Grillbz turned to look at him for a long moment, then shook his head and turned back to face the Barrier.
“So,” said Gaster, searching for words.
“.what did they send you to say?” Grillbz asked dully, and Gaster was taken aback. Did the shield block sound? He wasn’t sure.
“You didn’t hear us?”
“.I wasn’t listening.”
“Toriel wants to give you a trial.”
He nodded.
“.very fair of her.”
A shiver passed over him.
“Will you come?”
“.do I have a choice?”
“Yes, actually, you could kill me right now and run off into the caves, nobody would stop you.”
Grillbz looked at him.
“.I’ll go.”
“You won’t resist.”
Grillbz huffed. “.no.what’s the point?”
“Good, I thought that’s what you’d say. She just wanted me to make sure.” 
Grillbz crouched, collected a handful of earth from the cave floor and stood, letting it slowly sift through his fingers. It was something Gaster had seen him do a thousand times on the Surface, and he found the familiarity of the action oddly comforting, although the dirt was half-mixed with dust which hung in the air. Grillbz looked at the traces which remained in his hand and then burned them away and half-turned. He glanced from Gaster to Wis.
“.you’re a brave fellow.what’s your name?”
“Wis,” said Wis, punctuating with a single twitch of the tail. “I did introduce myself, but I’m not sure you heard me.” Grillbz nodded once.
“.I remember now.”

So he was to stand on trial. He’d thought of asking her just to kill him then and there, but had decided against it. He’d caused her enough pain already. If she wanted him on trial, so be it, he had no right to refuse.

He just hoped it would go quickly.

He had an idea that it would not.

The journey itself was taking forever. They walked in stiff formation. He was surrounded by members of the newly formed Royal Guard, with Gaster at his side. Toriel walked behind them. “Walk with him,” she’d said to Gaster when they first took their places, and he’d agreed quietly. They seemed to view Gaster as a living chain. Grillbz was glad of his presence, but he had no illusions of the sort. If Gaster had been there earlier and tried to intervene, he would have struck him down with the others. He was glad he’d arrived late. Part of him wished Gaster had died outside the Barrier. It couldn’t have been worse than dying down here.  

He remembered fighting Asgore, but not the killing blow. It seemed disrespectful. He spent the slow walk looking at the ground directly in front of his feet, matching his speed to Gaster’s while Gaster matched his to the guards’, and searching his mind for the missing moment.

They stopped to rest. He hadn’t found it. Gaster was acting a bit odd. Toriel led him to the side and they had a hushed conversation. She seemed to be inspecting the cracks in his skull.
“.you OK?” Grillbz said after he’d come back, and he shrugged.
“A bit disoriented. It’s probably the head wounds.”
Grillbz nodded silently.

They spend a cursory period of time lying down with the guards taking the watch in shifts, though Grillbz didn’t think that many of them actually slept. He didn’t. Gaster, however, slept so deeply that it was difficult to wake him when the rest were ready to move on. Toriel slept on and off: sometimes he saw his light reflected from her eyes, sometimes he heard the deep breaths of sleep. Once she twitched and whimpered in a dream.

The door to the monsters’ refuge was sealed shut with a magic barrier—nothing like the spherical abomination holding them under the mountain, but effective enough. It had turned him aside on his first pass over the area. And now he saw one reason for their slow journey: Toriel had sent ahead to make arrangements and there were now heavy heat-resistant chains bolted into an especially structurally strong section of cave wall a short distance from the door. Grillbz was mutely impressed with the effort which must have gone into those chains. He could, of course, burn through them if he wanted, but it would take several moments and necessarily attract the attention of the guards, so he decided that they were effective. In any case, he didn’t intend to try anything of the kind. They could have tied him with a string.

Gaster curled up on the rock at his feet and went to sleep almost immediately. Toriel disappeared through the door and the barrier reformed behind her. It appeared to be permanent, he noted, seeing several guards pass through. Anyone wanting access to the settlement inside would need to have Toriel sync their magic with it. Again, he was impressed.

Amazing what they could accomplish when they were terrified of him.

The barrier must be a huge drain to keep up. No wonder Toriel was sleeping so much. He could have made one that drew energy from the elements around it, but that was naturally out of the question.

Time crawled past. The guards had gone through a full rotation and now there were new, fully rested faces watching him. Then monsters began appearing. At first they didn’t leave the safety of the door, then they began coming out to look at him, sticking in small groups and talking quietly. He watched them mutely. Then Toriel came out and approached. She still looked dead tired, but walked purposefully up to Gaster and nudged him, then knelt and shook him gently. He didn’t wake until she’d pulled him to a standing position, then he spluttered and grabbed for her arm.
“Whaa—what’s times—where am I?”
“You need to rest. Come inside.”
She pulled him towards the door and barrier. Neither of them looked back.

He looked down at the shimmer of his body in the darkness. He couldn’t see his hands, which were clamped behind his back. He’d faded to a dull red and his flames slunk close to his body. His core, the whitish light pulsing in the center of his body, was just visible through the sunken flames. He stood looking at it for a long time, almost in a trance.

Toriel returned, and this time she stood in front of him, looking directly at him.
“Your trial is in the morning.”
He nodded. Then, realizing that he had no way to know, asked
“.how long do I have until then?”
“Seven…. Seven and some odd hours, I think. Don’t worry, we’ll let you know,” she said blandly. Then as if by afterthought, “do you need anything?” he shook his head. “Are you hungry?” No. “You’re certain.”
“.I don’t need anything.”
Toriel nodded.
“Then I’ll see you in the morning.”

He could still sleep. That one comfort was left to him. Carefully he nestled into the rock behind his back, finding a comfortable position, then relaxed and waited.

He was tired, but sleep was reluctant to come. Finally, head tilted back towards the dark ceiling, he felt himself sliding out of consciousness and gratefully let himself drop.

Some time later he woke with a jerk from a recurring dream: he was a giant with streaming hair, striding across a battlefield, leaving a burning wake. He was surrounded by humans with hooked spears and magic knives. They stirred around his legs and fell away like dried leaves. Then, the mage with the bow—he could never remember what they looked like, or the arrow. Only the moment of blank surprise as he recognized the shaft plunging through his brighter core, then the sudden darkness as half of his mind vanished from existence. Reality warped and shifted, and then he was himself, alone again, and falling through a fiery wreck into the human army, trailing smoke and death. His core contracted in sympathy, but he was alive, and he couldn’t believe it.

Lydia had fought her way through the enemy to where he’d fallen and brought him back to the monsters’ side—no, that was later. The old dream was from long before that. Lydia—that was after another mage-archer had knocked him down. He hated mage-archers. Lydia was a huge wolf monster, a loyal friend to her allies and a terror to her enemies. She used to lie near him sometimes for warmth, and her fur was soft. When had she died? He hadn’t killed her, had he? No, he would remember that. Wouldn’t he?

He shook his head. Lydia had died defending a bridge, before the Barrier had been formed. He hadn’t killed her. He hadn’t even been there—probably why he hadn’t been able to remember at first how she’d died. He groaned faintly and stretched his neck and shoulders, then, sensing a presence, turned his head to the side. It was Wis, leaning against the rock near him and munching on a heavily buttered piece of bread. Other monsters were occupied with something in the half-dark of the open space that stretched before Grillbz, but he didn’t look at them.
“Morning,” said Wis. “The Queen sends you breakfast. There’s quite a lot, I hope you don’t mind that I’m eating some of it.”
“.no.go ahead.”
“Would you like me to pass you some bread? It’s quite good.”
“.no.”
“Ah, alright.” Wis took another large bite, squeezing his eyes shut in enjoyment, and chewed for a long time before speaking again. “Your friend is coming out with the others. He’s not feeling well, Toriel commanded him to stay in and get some rest.” He took another large bite and chewed with obvious enjoyment. Grillbz watched dully. “He tried to argue, but he fell asleep and still wasn’t up when I left. It rather ruined the effect.”
“.will he be alright?”
“Yes yes, they gave him a full examination last night. His soul is cracked, but if it hasn’t killed him yet it’s unlikely to do anything but get better. Next few weeks should be rough though. Yeah, he’ll be fine.” He began noisily cleaning the butter from his paw. Grillbz made a decision.
“.um.” he paused.
“Sure you don’t want some breakfast?” Wis prompted, licking his chops.
“.well.maybe I’m a little hungry.”
“I thought so. Here, let me cut you a slice.”
Grillbz watched him cut and butter a thick slice of bread. He wasn’t usually interested in food: on the Surface he’d only needed to eat when he’d overspent himself and was in need of fast energy, or when the sun was hidden for long periods of time, or both. He’d done it sometimes for fun or to be social. But while he was exhausted and hungry at the moment it was less the idea of food as fuel that appealed to him than the feel of being able to eat something, when he might never get the chance again. Wis stretched up on his hind legs.
“Lean down a bit. Here.” He placed the bread in Grillbz’ mouth and turned to rummage in a large basket. Grillbz concentrated on working the bread into his mouth without using his hands or losing too much of the butter. “You want some bacon? We’ve got bacon in here.” Grillbz made an affirmative sound, sucking in the breadcrust. He had melted butter down his chin. He burned it off with a small burst of cleansing fire. Wis looked up from the basket. “And what are you doing?” he said to a cluster of small monsters that had gathered nearby. Grillbz caught, only half-consciously, the words ‘bet you won’t!’ ‘bet I will!’ ‘nuh-uh!’ and some playful, nervous shoving. He tried to ignore it. “Trial not soon enough for ya, little vultures?” asked Wis. “Disperse, will ye? Ah, here we go.” He produced a greasy-looking packet and unwrapped it lovingly to display a large chunk of bacon. “Beautiful, isn’t it. Now we could probably fit the whole thing in that impressive mouth of yours, but I’ll cut it in bits so you can savor it.” He sat down and began carving away at it. Grillbz, looking down at him, became suddenly aware of something rushing towards him. He looked up in time to see a small form fling itself straight at him. He gasped, flaring a hot yellow, and jerked away. The chains brought him to a stop and he lashed out with a kick.

Several seconds later he became aware that he was cringing against the cave wall with the manacles biting into his arms, and that he’d kicked a monster child backwards by about fifteen feet. He stared at it for a single eternal moment, waiting for it to move. Finally it did. It got up shakily and stared at him.

Wis, who had frozen, put down the knife and bacon and walked over to the child with a purposeful stride. Once there he lifted it to his eye level by the front of its tunic.
“That was dangerous, disrespectful and rude. Your parents would flay you alive if they knew you were here.”
“Haven’t got any,” said the child, squirming.
“Then I’d be happy to do it myself.” He dug in his claws. “Go back to the city.” He dropped the child and watched its progress back to its group of friends, and continued to watch until they turned and started back towards the door. Grillbz caught some of their excited chatter.
“I touched him.”
“That doesn’t count.”
“It counts! I touched him.”
“He kicked you.”
“He kicked me in the face! That totally counts! Hey, did you see how far I flew?”
Wis returned.
“Sorry about that,” he said simply, and resumed cutting the bacon. Grillbz had faded back to a low red. He let his legs go slack and his body hang against the chains.
A child. He’d let himself be frightened by a child.
Something greasy gently prodded the side of his face. Looking up, he saw Wis with a piece of bacon, and behind him, he realized, the beginnings of a half-circle amphitheater, facing him.
“You want some of this? It’s beautiful bacon. It’d be a shame to waste it.”

 

A/N: Next chapter starts the TRIAL. Call it?

Actually, I’d like to try something. I’m going to ask you to contribute to the discussion at the end of the next chapter, and I’ll add the pertinent comments to the beginning of the following chapter.

Chapter Text

Things moved swiftly after that. The amphitheater was rough, planks on a frame, but huge. A skeleton with bandaged eyes and a stick was moving slowly around the interior, setting up what looked like human magic upcycled to create a sound-magnifying bubble. It made Grillbz uncomfortable. Humans who’d grasped the art of magic were a terrifying force. A few monsters were able to mimic their results or even improve on what they’d created, but to most, human magic was a mystery. This skeleton must have spent a long and hard life learning what he knew, and his bandaged eyes and stiff movements showed it. For lack of something better to do, Grillbz watched him as he walked, striking the first seat of the amphitheater with his stick every now and then to gauge his position. Monsters who’d come down early to get a seat scrambled out of the way. Grillbz could see at least one nursing a banged shin. As he watched, the skeleton slowed, then straightened up and turned his bandaged eyes to face Grillbz. It gave him a strange feeling. He knew they couldn’t see him—
“What’re you looking at?”
He jumped. The skeleton laughed atonally and continued with his magic.
“Sylfaen,” commented Wis, forcing a claw in between his teeth to free a piece of food. “He’s pretty weird.”
“.can he see us?”
Wis made a ‘who the hell knows’ gesture.
“Dunno. I’m not much to look at, myself, so it doesn’t worry me extensively.”
“Don’t play down the appeal of those fuzzy pointed ears,” shouted Sylfaen.
Wis jumped, and Sylfaen turned his skull towards them, grinning.
“My magic seems to be working. Whatever you say will be audible across the amphitheater.”
Wis stood up, lashed his tail three times, and said in a full voice,
“I am very fond of back rubs.”
“That’s nice,” said Sylfaen, continuing.
Grillbz tried to silence his breathing.

Not long now.

Not long. It would be over soon.

Where was Gaster? And Toriel? Fuck it all, why did she have to have a trial? He’d be much calmer if he were waiting for his immediate execution, why did they need all this fanfare? The amphitheater was filled.

It occurred to Grillbz to ask why Wis was still sitting there. Was he going to stay throughout the trial? The guards he could understand, but Wis didn’t make sense. He couldn’t bring himself to ask, knowing that his voice would be projected over the gathering audience.

They were strangely quiet for such a large group, and felt that they were all looking at him. The weight of so many eyes made him shift back against the wall. That was silly, surely not everyone was staring at him at once. What did it matter, anyway?

There they were. Toriel and Gaster’s white heads towered over most of the other monsters. He took a deep breath.

…They had stopped. Oh, they were talking to Sylfaen.

They had been walking towards the amphitheater when something seized Gaster’s sleeve and dragged him to a stop. “Wha—“ Another, shorter skeleton crossed in front of him and took a firm grip of his upper arms, staring intently into his face. It was a little disorienting, since this skeleton didn’t have eyes.
“Sylfaen,” said Toriel, coming back to join them, “There you are.”
“You’re a boss monster,” said Sylfaen.
“Erf,” said Gaster, squirming a little. Sylfaen didn’t let go, and inched closer.
“Hmmm. Curious. I sense no EXP, none at all. Yet you’re too old to have escaped the war entirely. Who has protected you?”
“I have a shield,” said Gaster. “Please let go?”
“Dr. Gaster, this is Sylfaen. Sylfaen—“
“The boundary is set up and it works, my queen. I think you should let me sync your magic with it.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“You’ll know without looking whether anyone steps over the boundary.”
“Why do you think that would be important?”
“Look at your audience, my queen, and look at yourself. They do not wish to hear of mercy.”
Toriel hesitated.
“Perhaps you’re right.”

They walked into the center and the amphitheater fell deathly quiet: Toriel first, flanked by two guards, a small crown perched between her horns; Gaster, a small group of other monsters and a child after her. They spread out and Toriel faced the crowd. Wis stood up, but remained where he was. Grillbz watched as if from underwater.

He could see Sylfaen in the front, in the center of a knot of skeletons. One sat in front of the rest with a desk and sheaf of parchment. Many of the monsters were grouped by extended family or kind. He had to tilt his head to see the topmost row of the amphitheater.

Toriel said something.

Her words flew right over his head. Suddenly everything was moving very slowly.

He caught up.

“And Wis will speak for the killer.”
“.what?” said Grillbz, voice crackling. Toriel turned to look at him for the first time.
“I thought it best.” There was a rustle through the crowd like a wind through trees.
“.thank you.”
She turned away. “I think we should start by reviewing that facts. Is there anyone here who knew him before or during the war?” Silence. They were all dead, mostly because of the war and fallout—mostly. “Dr. Gaster. You met him after the Barrier was created?”
“Yes my queen.”
“Speak up a little. How did you meet him?”
“Accidentally, but very fortunately for us. I was travelling towards the Barrier with a group of other monsters who had waited out the war in Ireland, thinking it would be safe. Ah, it wasn’t. Yet another reason I hate the English.” He smiled nervously and went on. “Anyway. He was sweeping the country for survivors to escort to the Barrier and found us.”
“But you didn’t enter the Barrier with the others when you arrived.”
“No, I thought I could help more monsters outside. He and I were partners for a while, then we split up because there were so few of us, and the human army was losing numbers anyway from the plague.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Uhh… February, sometime. Early February, I think. He told me to stay warm. That’s all I remember.”
“And you didn’t see him again until traversing the Barrier a week ago.”
It had been a week already? How strange time was.
“Yes.”
“Thank you. Martin?” Martin was a weasely monster. He stretched up onto his hind legs.
“I travelled with Grillbz to the Barrier on his last trip.”
“What was your impression of him?”
“I thought he was alright. A bit downcast, but everyone was. It’s the end of the world up there.”
“We don’t know that.”
“Well—no. Anyway. Yeah, he was a good guide. He let those of us who got cold at night sleep close to him for warmth. Didn’t go out of his way to antagonize the humans like some ex-soldiers I’ve known.”
“Who else were you travelling with?”
Martin paused for a long time.
“Two Snowdrakes—they were never bothered by the cold, that was nice. My sister, her three children and our cousin. And a bear monster called Euin.”
Grillbz shut his eyes tight.
“What happened when you reached the Barrier?”
“There were humans there. I thought we were goners, but Grillbz fought his way through and pushed us into the Barrier. One of the Snowdrakes was killed, but the rest of us came through alright. He was the last.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well… nothing for a few days. We split up and spent the time settling down near the Barrier, trying to find friends and family. Grillbz was restless, I thought because he hadn’t meant to come through the Barrier himself. He’d mentioned before that he wasn’t going to. He wandered around and around not speaking to anyone.” He stopped.
“Go on.”
“On the 21st, I went on a walk alone to stretch my legs, and suddenly found everyone fleeing the area. I went back to find my sister but couldn’t, so I followed the others. That’s when we started seeing dust everywhere. I still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on until we reached Home.”
Grillbz knew for a fact that he still hadn’t found his relatives.
“Do you remember, specifically, anything that he said to you?”
Martin shook his head, then paused.
“The first day after we’d come through the Barrier, he said we’d exchanged one hell for another.”
“Thank you, Martin. Ciarda?”
Ciarda was a darkly-colored bear who moved stiffly forwards. Silver fur flecked his face and neck.
“I am Euin’s grand-uncle.”
“Tell us what happened to Euin.”
“He was with me when we heard the news. A snowdrake came to tell us that ‘Sparks’ was terrorizing the community. Meaning him. That was their pet name for him.”
“What was the Snowdrake’s name?”
The bear looked at the weasel.
“Alba.”
“Yes, Alba. Euin went off with her—he said he was going to talk ‘Sparks’ out of it. He seemed confident that he’d be alright.” His voice broke, and he paused. “I didn’t see him again. Or the Snowdrake.”
Toriel turned to look at Grillbz.
“Do you remember them?”
He nodded.
“Did you kill them? I’d like a verbal answer.”
“.yes.”
“Why?”
He shrugged.
“That isn’t an answer.”
“.they approached me.there was no reason.”
“Do you remember the weasel family?”
“.faintly.”
“And you killed them?”
“.I think so.”
“You think so?”
“.yes.I did.” weasels were small and slippery, but that wasn’t justification for losing track of how many of them he’d fried. That was early on, half of his memories from then were erased in a haze of white. Only later did his memory crystalize into a single burning purpose.
The queen was talking to a mouse who had seen him near the Barrier. Asking for a description.
“There was fire everywhere. He just started setting things on fire. When I saw him he was walking along, not slow and not fast, and very alert—he’d whip around whenever there was movement, so I didn’t dare move, even though I was hiding under a tent that was on fire. I nearly choked to death before he left. As I was running away I caught a glimpse of him fighting some of the Guard, but I didn’t stay to watch.”
The remnants of the monster army had in general become the new Royal Guard. They had attacked him in clumps, as they heard the news. None of them had waited to form an organized attack. None of the fights had lasted long.
“I can speak for the King’s death myself,” said Toriel. “We were in Home with many more of the monsters who had moved on from the Barrier, building our new city. It took several hours for the news to reach us with the first wave of refugees. Asgore was horrified, but hoped that the Guard would be able to stop and calm him. We waited the night, but early in the morning found even more evacuees arriving than before. It was clear then that he could not be stopped or reasoned with. The King and I left immediately.” She paused. “Asgore continued to believe that he could be reasoned with. He was convinced it was delayed battle fever—he’d seen warriors become disoriented and fight their own friends, he said, but it wasn’t a permanent state. But when we arrived we found him unwilling or unable to speak. He would only fight. So Asgore fought him, trying all the while to talk to him. Had he been less hopeful, it would have been a more equal battle, but because he tried to show mercy he was struck down.” She paused. “I retreated with the rest of the monsters. The Undines volunteered to come last as rearguard and collect any stragglers.” She turned to the child. “Katara? Come here.”
It was an Undine, not more than six years old, with salmon-colored hair and fins. She crossed to Toriel and grabbed a fistful of her skirt. Toriel rested a hand on her shoulder.
“This is Katara. She asked to be here. As far as I know, she is the last living Undine. None of the rest returned. Argent was in Home briefly when he brought the injured Gerson in, but he returned and hasn’t been seen since. Gerson is still unconscious, so we don’t know the details of what happened to the Undines, but it seems that they died in Waterfall. Katara saw a few of them there, but they sent her Home.”
Toriel turned to Wis.
“I’m going to ask him about the Undines,” she said, then broke off as someone crossed the boundary.
“Ask me first! Waha!”
“Gerson?”
He was walking with a cane, shell encased in bandages.
“I woke not long after you left and I’m not going to be left out.”
Toriel smiled faintly.
“I’m glad to see you up. Tell us.”
Gerson struggled into the center and faced the crowd. He pounded his cane on the floor.
“If I told you everything about the Undines’ last stand we’d be here all day. With the queen’s permission, I’ll give you the short version for now, and then sit down.”
“Certainly.”
“As far as I know, every last one of them died protecting the rest of you.” He waved his cane at the crowd. “I wasn’t with them for long, but I saw enough to know they’d never give up. Their strategy was to hide, ambush, and retreat across Waterfall, slowing Mr. Fire McMurderson here down, and it worked damn well from what I’ve gathered. Mrs. Dreemurr wouldn’t have had time to get the little small barrier up and all the stragglers inside otherwise. Now, may I sit?”
“Please do,” said Toriel. “The witnesses may leave now. Ciarda, will you help him?”

The weasel and mouse disappeared into the crowd, and Ciarda, whose own speed was equally slow, helped Gerson follow them. Toriel looked down at Katara.
“Do you want to go with them?” She shook her head. “Alright. Stay close to me.” She paused and looked up at the crowd.
“As Gerson said, when most of the evacuees were inside Home, I created the Lesser Barrier, combining my magic with that of many volunteers from Home. I and waited outside it to let stragglers in. Gr….. He came not long after it had been created, and I went inside and waited for him to leave, which he eventually did, after attacking the Lesser Barrier and failing to break it. After this, he wandered the Underground, and many monsters left Home to fight him, but none returned. And this brings us to nine days ago, when I asked Wis to follow him. Wis was the first who succeeded in getting close without being attacked. Wis, it’s your turn.”
Wis took a step out.
“Hello. I spent a day watching Grillbz wander around aimlessly in the area of the Barrier. Every few hours he’d go back and stare at it, sometimes attacking it. A week ago, he was standing there when we saw someone passing through the Barrier. It was Dr. Gaster, and when I tried to intervene Grillbz created a shield, something I hadn’t heard of him doing before. I decided to interpret this as an encouraging sign and went back to Home with the news. The Queen took a small party to investigate. For several days there was no change, then Dr. Gaster walked out of the shield, and after a short discussion the shield was deactivated. Grillbz then submitted to arrest and was brought back here.”
“Thank you.” Toriel turned to face Grillbz and stared at him for several moments. Her face was blank, eyebrows drawn down in a straight line. Katara stood behind her. “Now… you. Your perspective is the only information we lack. And know that, if you lie, you will have the hatred of all monsters bent upon you.” She drew herself up a fraction taller, and silent power radiated from her.
“.I have no reason to lie,” said Grillbz. “.you already know the truth.”
“Swear.”
“I swear I will not lie.”
Toriel looked keenly at him.
“I will believe you. Speak up, there are many who want to hear you.”
He took a deep breath. Over Toriel’s shoulder, Gaster caught his eye and tried to give him an encouraging smile. He looked ill.
“Do you remember the first monster you killed?”
“Yes.”
“Do you remember the date?”
“….no.”
“It was probably early on the 21st or late on the 20th.”
“.that….sounds right.”
“What happened?”
“.I killed a Moldsmal.it was blocking the path.”
“That was your only reason?”
“.I don’t know.”
“You didn’t consider the effects of your action?”
“.I knew I’d gain EXP.”
“From killing a monster. Do you not consider Moldsmals to be real monsters!”
“.no!I…” was that it? He had killed them off first. But that was because they hardly moved, and it was easy! And also because they hardly seemed like monsters.. Well, it was great to know that he was a racist jerk as well as everything else.
Toriel watched the dawning realization on his face.
“You killed all the Moldsmals within a mile radius of the Barrier. Possibly, all of the Moldsmals in the Underground. We haven’t been able to find any more.”
“.that’s how I started.yes.they don’t move much.”
“Do you have any, however unsatisfactory, justification for what you did?”
“.there isn’t any.no.I wasn’t thinking, not in ways that make sense now.”
“How were you thinking?”
“.that I wanted to free all of us from this place.and that I needed to be stronger to do it.and that I could gain EXP from killing.”
He hated saying it, because he knew it made no sense. He looked at Toriel as he spoke, not at the mass of life behind her. Her stare was like ice.

 

A/N: Gonna end there for now…This isn’t a modern court procedure, but some things are fairly standard across the ages.
…It’s a bit easier when everyone already pretty much knows and agrees on what happened.

And here we are, I want you to speak up.

You can comment here or on Tumblr (here’s the post with some bad art I made! apologies in advance for ads), anonymously or with an account.

Give your argument, for or against mercy and to what degree, and I’ll include it in the beginning of the next chapter, and (unless you ask me not to) on a Tumblr masterlist (yes I’ll credit you… unless you anon me, then how).

My only restriction is, no ‘arguments’ from personal preference, ie ‘nu plz dun kill Gribby cuz he’s mah fave!!1!’ That’s not a real argument.

Otherwise, any applicable point that you can make is welcome.

I already have plans, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to hear from you.

Chapter Text

Itinerant Reader (FFN)


Huh. Grillbz started with good intentions (getting the monsters out of the Underground), but it went off the rails as soon as he decided killing was an acceptable way to do it. (In canon Undertale, one could argue Asgore made the same mistake.) There need to be consequences for his actions, but perhaps some mercy is appropriate for his motives.

^^^in private message:
I suppose one could argue that perhaps the initial decision was due to some sort of psychotic break – but that's almost worse under the circumstances, because I don't know how anyone would be able to predict or prevent it from happening again. Grillbz would be a walking time bomb unless someone could figure it out. But I don't get the impression that this is the case. I still think it was a conscious, sane (though wrong) decision that snowballed into total disaster. I already argued he acted on wrong principles. Maybe he also acted on wrong information – for example, perhaps he believed that there was no time to look for another option, for some reason, and so had to take the fastest possibility that had a chance of success? That sort of thing wouldn't justify the action, but would help provide a rational cause.

Sirrius The Moonblade (FFN)

Hmm, well the intentions were good but the course to get the desired outcome was bad. The fact is is that he DID willingly kill, to gain EXP and LV. For "good reasons", but he did kill nevertheless. That should be grounds enough for Excecution.
But, it's also obvious that he is mentally unstable right now. It seems he was overall aware of his actions, but he's also confused on his own thinking. So pleading insanity (which would be mercy in this case) would also be applicable.
Overall I am undecided. Pay for his crimes? Or be forgiven for his instability? A high EXP/LV Grillbz would make for an interesting story when other things occur, but is he too dangerous to keep around?

eriecanary (Tumblr)

Alrighty so rationally, I don’t think monsters would let him live after all he’s done unless he does something to prove himself. If Toriel shows him mercy now, there is going to be a lot of resistance and hate towards her decision and it wouldn’t make much sense, I mean they can’t just let a mass serial killer run loose in the Underground.
If they DID spare him, then he would have to be required to do service. What service idk maybe strengthening the shield? (Kind of pointless when the shield is made to protect everyone from him anyway right?) He would also have to be in isolation away from all other monsters. Well maybe besides the queen, Gaster, and Wis. Anyway that’s not so much of my argument as it is conditions necessary for Grillbz not to die […]
And now that I’ve said all that I realize that they could always send Grillbz into exile. It depends on how much they’ve explored the Underground though. I know there are people in Snowdin (right?), but are there any in Waterfall and Hotland yet? […]

procrastinatingbookworm (AO3)

There is, of course, the most common and accurate defense: innocent by reason of insanity. All accounts of the story seem to conclude that Grillby's action were a direct result of some sort of madness or battle fever. However, without an established prison to hold him in, or a system of laws to devise his punishment, or proof that the madness was a singular, temporary event, the most logical conclusion would be to execute him.

Robotic Waffle (FFN Guest)

Okay. Um...I get kinda nervous when stating my opinion. I'm just going to make a really stupid point, that, um...from one perspective...killing him may be more of an act of mercy? I mean, the other monsters are certainly not going to accept him after he basically did a Genocide run. And if he comes to realize what he did and how terrible it was, he may not want to be able to live with himself. [...] …I dunno, it's just a perspective that can be considered.
I don't think he should be confined for life or anything like that, because I've heard that that can just make people's mental states worse.
Yeah. I have...I have spoken, I guess.

AgentBengalTiger (AO3)

murrcie
because mercy is always the right answer when it comes to undertale! right?
of course, mercy might not be possible, but they should at least do the best they can. they don't need more dead monsters. if they can find a way to assure that grillbz won't kill anyone else, then they don't really have a reason to execute him.
he needs a therapist, tho. help that poor sick fire boy.

Ayla Skyrider (FFN)

For the honor, and justice, of all those who have died at your hands, I cannot argue mercy. What you have done is an extension of what the humans have done to us. I hear my friends saying you deserve to die. I won't say they're wrong.
And yet, because of what the humans have done to us, I do not wish further killing. Any of us killed - any of us - is one less of a shrinking group. If we kill each other - no matter what reason - the humans win.
I'll say one thing. How could you have been so arrogant as to think you were the only one to free us? Did you think we couldn't work together? Did you think we were somehow weaker?
Talk to us. Answer me that.
Can we work together?

ColorfulVegetable (AO3 Anon)

I would say the final decision should be influenced by several factors. 
First : Grillbz sure is guilty, but can he be held fully responsible for what he has done ? As a certain bookworm has already said, we can guess from the story that he was not really himself while doing those things. It's not very difficult to imagine that one can lose their senses after enduring such a big trauma as living through a horrible war and ending up trapped underground. However, although the "I have to kill monsters to get stronger and free us all" argument doesn't really make sense, as Grillbz says himself, it does make him sound like a psycho - a traumatized psycho maybe, but still a dangerous murdery dude. To me his temporary insanity should be taken into account and incline the final decision towards mercy, but it will all depend on the way he speaks about how everything happened. Which leads us to the second point.

Second point (woah I bet you weren't expecting that now) : does Grillbz regret what he has done ? Surely he does, since you described him as a "soft friendly muffin". But as a result (and since his mind must still be kind of hazy), he probably thinks of himself lowly and is just waiting for death at this point, so he might not even try to plead and make the monsters understand his regret. If monsters (well, especially Toriel) get his distress and sincere regret, then maybe they can consider mercy. Again, it all depends on how he is going to answer Toriel's questions (I kind of doubt Gaster would/could raise his voice in Grillbz's favor here), yet it is (in my opinion at least) the most important factor that determines to what extent he should be forgiven or not.

Third big thing to consider (and probably the one which will actually have the most drastic influence on the verdict) : if spared, is Grillbz going to do that again ? I guess that will be determined when the trial continues. If yes (as in "he's too unstable to be trusted"), the most logical solution would be death sentence, to protect what's left of monsterkind since containing him in a prison seems difficult in the current circumstances. If not, then I think mercy can (must) be chosen - and is probably the solution Toriel will go for. Executing him won't bring back any of the monsters he killed anyway. So wouldn't it be too easy (and I think Toriel would say it's too cowardly) to simply kill him ? It would add more grief without righting any wrong. Moreover, I can't picture Toriel acting out of a desire for revenge, so I don't believe she'll listen to her people when they ask her for a death sentence, unless she is forced to.

Anyway, I think the monsters should continue asking Grillbz questions and listen to how he answers, so they can assess his state of mind when he commited the murders as well as his level of regret, and determine whether he's still dangerous or not. Then, if that's possible in terms of collective safety, they should let him live and make him work under the Queen's supervision to help rebuilding the monsters' civilization. The hate he will get from the entire monsterkind will be a hard enough punishment, and making him help monster society is a better attempt at justice than just killing him.

CassandraCatx (FFN Anon)

Alrighty, so in the end, Grillby believes that he's doing the right thing to help out Monster-kind. I mean, I kind of understand the desperation of getting everybody out of the Underground, but at the same time-with everyone being trapped together-the population is probably not that high, and at this time, more than ever, monsters need to stay together in order to work out how to survive the situation they're in, and come up with some solution to escape. Now, Grillby was confused about the Moldsmals, but I feel like he did know that they were monsters. He was probably so wrapped up in this "get everyone out of the Underground, this place is horrible" mindset that all he could think of was gaining EXP. He was very desperate.
Unfortunately, as much of a Grillby fan as I am, I cannot argue Mercy for him in this story. I say this in agreement with some comments I've read. Like, he's really mentally screwed up after everything that's happened. Yeah, leaving him to deal with the consequences of what he's done is a powerful punishment, but being left to continue to mentally deteriorate will cause him to (probably) make worse decisions in the future. I'm only not saying to directly choose FIGHT, because I think Toriel and the others should hear him out more, because it feels like he has so much more to say about his mindset in doing this. At least let him speak as much as possible so they can get an understanding of why he did what he did, 'cause he's only said a little bit so far. 

 

...

 

He's not going to speak.

No one is listening.

Chapter Text

“You wanted to save the monsters by killing monsters? Doesn’t that seem a bit circular to you?”
“.yes.”
“My queen?” said Wis. “I think that’s a good point. If I may interject?”
“Please.”
Wis turned to Grillbz.
“Does this make sense to you?”
“.what?”
“The thought that you could somehow save the monsters by breaking the Barrier yourself, alone and unaided, by gaining EXP? From the monsters?”
“.no.”
“Did it make sense at the time?”
“.I… I’m not sure.”
“Did it seem to?”
Grillbz was silent.
“You felt that what you were doing was reasonable at the time, yes?”
“.I… no. .yes?yes.I knew it was wrong.but somehow, it…in the moment, seemed not to matter?”
“And now, this doesn’t make sense.”
“.no.”
“My Queen, I think it’s fairly clear what this shows. He was severely deranged at the time of the attacks, and has since regained his senses.”
“That’s a possibility,” said Toriel cooly. There was a distant murmuring from the crowd, like waves at high tide inching up a bank far, far away. “How do we know he’s recovered, as you put it?”
“He can tell the difference.”
“I’m willing to consider the possibility,” said Toriel. “But I think it will take more than that to convince the Underground that he can be trusted.”
Affirmative grumbling noises from the crowd. Grillbz caught a glimpse of Sylfaen laughing.
“It doesn’t excuse him,” said Wis, “But if I may make the point, battle fever was well known even on the surface. War puts a strain on the warrior, and sometimes it becomes too much and they snap. Usually it’s only brief, and happens around their companions, who can subdue the monster. We were unlucky to have an elemental reach his breaking point surrounded by civilians.”
“Unlucky. That is a word for what happened, yes. As you would have it, this is all a great misfortune and no one’s fault. But I find I cannot deny our fiery friend agency for the crime.”
“Neither can I. I don’t think he denies agency himself. Grillbz?”
“.no.I know what I did.”
“Do you have anything else to say for yourself?”
Toriel asked him. He shook his head.
“There’s nothing you can say that might save you from death?”
“.no, nothing.”
“From your attitude I’d think you want to die.”
“.it would be just.”
“This surly penitence will gain you no pity. This is your last chance to defend yourself.”
He was silent.
Toriel turned to the wyvern that had come with her, who had previously remained silent.
“This is Sioned, a scholar interested in the differences between species of monster. You have especially studied Elementals, correct?”
“Yes my queen.”
“Tell us what you’ve learned.”  
“Elementals are a third species, neither human nor monster, although often considered by humans to be a type of monster. Their lifespan is understood to be limitless, as there is no record of an elemental dying of old age; however, there are very few left due to their extended wars with humans. They have heightened senses and can draw strength from the earth. Their SOULs, unlike those of either monsters or humans, are fused with their ‘core’ and cannot exist even briefly outside the body. The core of an elemental is believed to hold their element in its pure state, and removing or severely damaging the core will kill the elemental. Elementals with compatible elements can fuse together into a single being with a dual consciousness, and all elementals can half-fuse or mentally fuse to exchange information more directly than through speech or writing. Each elemental is aligned with a particular element: the classic ones are earth, fire, water and air, but there are elements which we barely understand, such as attraction and death, and some that we do not understand at all. Grillbz is a fire elemental who draws power from the sun, but can live without it by consuming flammable substances. Those are the basics.”
“Can you kill them?” asked Toriel.
“Yes but,” said the wyvern. “When an elemental dies, the magic knitting its body together disperses, and its element mingles with the air around it. Depending on the element in question this can be disastrous. Many have been known to explode or worse. The cores of fire elementals usually explode.”
“How would you suggest killing one, then?”
“Drowning. But it would take a large amount of water. It would not be a quick death, unless the elemental were already weak.”
“So, a pool in waterfall fed by a steady stream of water. Would that work?”
“It would need to be deep, and I would suggest binding him with antimagic to prevent him from draining it.”
“What are the other options?”
“Transfixing the core with a weapon reinforced with anti-heat magic. But it would have to be strong. And if the executioner wanted to live, he would have to stab and then immediately run to safety.”
“Would a magic shield protect against the blast?”
“Yes, it would.”
“So that’s two possibilities. Are there more?”
“You could bind him with antimagic, encase him in a sarcophagus that restricts movement, and bury him deep underground, where he would eventually either suffocate or starve. Elementals are strong, and I’m not sure how long it would take, but eventually one or the other would kill him, and when his core finally decayed it would cause very little damage. Those are all the options which are apparent to me.”
Toriel nodded, then looked down at Katara, who was squeezing her arm. She pointed at Grillbz, who had blazed brighter for a moment. His flames were disordered.
“Do you have a preference?” she said dryly, looking at him. He stared mutely back for several moments.
“.not the last one.”
Katara squeezed Toriel’s arm.
“Do the last one!” she said.
“Katara,” said Toriel. “Be good or you’ll have to sit with the others.”
Katara nodded, then looked up at Grillbz. They locked eyes. She had golden eyes, full of hate.
“The sarcophagus seems unnecessarily complicated to me,” said Toriel. “That leaves us two options for death, but we have to consider alternatives.”
There was a sudden roar beyond the boundary. Toriel looked up and waited for the sound to die down, arms loose and hands folded together.
“Have no fear, I do not intend to send him off free. But listen to my words. We are here today because someone claimed power over life and death which was not theirs. Does that give us the same power over him?”
Murmuring from the crowd which sounding like an affirmative.
“I do not think so. And after all… we may need him alive one day. Who can tell what the future holds? Not many elementals are still alive.”
She waited for the renewed shouting to die down.
“Sylfaen, come here.”
Suddenly there was dead silence. Sylfaen stood and sauntered forwards over the boundary, swinging his stick.
“Yes my queen?”
“You told me you had magically bound a human mage. Could you do the same to an elemental?”
“Eh, if I had help, sure.”
“What would the effects be?”
Sylfaen gave an exaggerated shrug.
“Haven’t tried it yet. They’re partially made of magic, kinda like monsters, but not quite the same. Magically binding a monster, depending on the monster, would either kill or cripple it. This guy probably won’t die, but he’ll be drastically weakened, and won’t be able to use any magic—fire magic, bullets, weapon constructs, healing; anything more than his basic biological functions will be shut down.”
“And there’s a possibility that it will kill him.”
“Yep. Take away the magic in him and he’s nothing but fire. It’s the magic that makes him live. But I’ve heard of monsters being magically bound, and living, though crippled. So this will probably be close to the same.”
“You said you would need help. How much?”
“Elementals have strong souls, and I’m not what I once was either. I could probably do it with less, but I’d like seven.”
“Seven besides or counting yourself?”
“Counting myself.”
Toriel nodded.
“What would they be required to do?”
“Nothing technical, just lend their magic. It would be very draining. Someone once told me that this kind of magic takes years off your life, but obviously I didn’t listen. Still, I’d prefer older monsters, who’re already a bit slow and are less likely to be seriously affected. Or just, you know, useless potato people with no purpose in life whatsoever.”
Toriel nodded. Wis was lashing his tail.
“And what would you do with him after this?” Wis asked.
“Send him into exile,” said Toriel, “in the dark lands beyond Waterfall.”
“Alone, or with a guard?”
“If—and this scenario is only if—Sylfaen’s experiment goes according to plan, I see no reason to spare an entire detachment of the Guard to watch him. We will need them at Home. But neither do I intend to send him out alone.” She turned to Gaster. “You are his friend, and I trust you. You have never killed. Would you go with him, watch him, and report back to me?”
“Ahah….?”
“Is that an affirmative answer?”
“Yes! Yes? Yes of course, really? I mean I didn’t expect this but yes. Yes I would.” He smiled, panting a little. Grillbz wondered hazily what was wrong with him.
Toriel’s head jerked up as someone stepped on the boundary.
“My queen,” said a tall birdlike creature.
“Yes? Come into the center.”
He walked several paces out and bowed.
“With respect, I think this is ridiculous. It would cripple seven of our own and leave him alive. Significantly less of a threat, yes, but alive. How does that make sense? He deserves to die.”
“Does he? I hate deciding who deserves to die—isn’t a mistake of this sort our reason for being here?”
“That’s different,” said the monster, trembling a little with emotion. “He’s killed uncounted hundreds of us. I doubt there is anyone here who has not lost someone dear to them. A “mistake,” as you call it, of that magnitude forfeits his right to life.”
“Perhaps it does, and perhaps it does not. For myself, I am unwilling to cause more death than we have already suffered. But I do not rule alone yet:” She smiled, “he hasn’t gone quite that far. I think it is time for a vote—“
The birdlike monster frowned—his beak was immobile, but the expression was clear in his eyes—and turned to face the crowd.
“Kill?” He shouted. As one, the crowd shouted the word back at him. The rest of Toriel’s sentence was drowned out as the shouting continued, then resolved itself into chanting.
Kill
Kill
Kill
Kill
Wis stuck his paws under his belt and twitched his ears.
“Well that’s quicker than collecting tokens.” he said to himself. He glanced up at Grillbz. “Luck, kid.”
Sylfaen was laughing again. He appeared to find the entire experience highly amusing. Well good, someone was getting something out of it. Grillbz stared into the crowd. Martin the weasel was chanting, but Ciarda the bear was silent. The entire group of skeletons near the front appeared to be chanting. Everything else was a blur, sliding away from him even as he looked at it.
“I’ve heard you,” said Toriel, raising her hands in a quieting gesture. The chanting died out. She looked at Sylfaen. “Seven counting yourself, you said.” He grinned up at her.
“Please?”
Toriel faced the crowd.
“This is my final word. I do not want to kill any more than I have, even someone such as this.” She glanced at Grillbz. “If seven of you will volunteer to bind him, I will take that path, but if fewer than seven come forward, I will listen to you, and kill him in whatever way you suggest. Think well.” She paused. “We will wait half an hour, then this question is decided.” Toriel made eye contact with the skeleton scribe, and he turned over an hourglass.

 

A/N: So about that person who called Grillbz a ticking time bomb

UM

Yes.

Lore things mentioned in this chapter, though not by name:

-Epimetheus, Hyperion, Oceanus, Lelantos, Eros and Styx. In this world they are all elementals, of whom I have headcanons. One has already appeared in a recent dream sequence.

-claustrophobia.

-fusion. Has also appeared in a dream sequence.

I hope to address all of these at some point. The elementals may have to wait a bit.

Chapter Text

Gaster took a deep breath and crossed to Toriel.
“Not you,” she said immediately. “If you’re going to watch him you need to keep your strength.” He paused and swayed on his feet. She frowned at him. “Do you need to sit down?” he shook his head.
There was uneasy shifting throughout the crowd. The shouting that had echoed like ocean waves before had sunk to a scattered whispering sound. As a few minutes passed this sank almost into silence.
Suddenly a cane flew over the boundary and clattered at Toriel’s feet, and Gerson waddled into view.
“Wahaha, count me in! Might as well do something useful in my old age, eheh? Who wants to live forever?”  
Sylfaen pointed in Gerson’s general direction.
“You, sir! I have no idea who you are, but I like you!”
“Ye should thank God for yer eyes bein’ the way they are. You’re spared the sight of me!”
Gerson limped towards Toriel, and Gaster hurried forward and helped him. When he reached her, Gerson bowed, then leaned hard on Gaster, almost losing his balance and dragging the skeleton down with him. “It takes great strength to show mercy even to your enemies, my queen. I will support you.”
Toriel picked up his cane and gave it back to him. “Thank you,” she said dully. Gerson limped behind her to stand with Sylfaen.
Ciarda slowly stood and shuffled forward across the boundary to Toriel. He bowed from the shoulders.
“I volunteer.”
“Thank you.” Said Toriel.
He nodded and sat quietly near Gerson.
There was movement beyond the stands, where the larger monsters were standing. A hoary dragon slid his chin over the boundary.
“My queen, if it is your desire, I will gladly lend my magic as a link in the chain. But I have another offer for you.”
“Tell me.”
“His heat cannot hurt me. Let me kill him myself. If he is bound, my flames will consume his.”
“Bold words. I hope it does not come to that.”
“Then I will join the volunteers.” He slid over the boundary and settled with his body looping between Grillbz and the Queen. It made a crescent shape, his tail and nose both pointing towards the crowd. 
There was a faint whispering sound. Toriel looked up in surprise as a moth monster, about the length of a man’s arm, glided in, landed a few feet in front of her and appeared to bow, if that was the purpose of the bending of its front legs.
“…are you certain?” said Toriel. “Your kind does not live very long, and this may shorten what little life you have left.”
The moth nodded and fluttered behind her.
For a few minutes no one else came forward. A muffled, quiet drone came from the crowd as they discussed what was happening.
Two columns of mist crossed the boundary. As they came closer, Grillbz saw slim bodies walking within the mist, hand in hand. Naiads. Daughters of sweet water. He was surprised any had survived, and moreover, had left their native land to take refuge under the mountain. Few of the nature spirits had, and… as far as he was aware, none of the elementals, besides himself. But that had been for the most part unrelated to the War between Humans and Monsters. He was sure there were a few out there somewhere, living some place that no other living things cared to go.
They bowed together. One of the Naiads spoke quietly in the common tongue. The words burbled musically like a water whistle. Toriel nodded and took their free hands briefly. They passed behind her.

Grillbz, suddenly realizing that there were quite a few monsters near him, did a quick count and realized that they only needed one more. He looked across at the monster with the hourglass. They’d stop at the halfway point then, right? He couldn’t see exactly where the sand was but he thought there was some left. He felt strangely nervous. He’d almost prefer to be executed, but whatever they decided, he wanted it over with. Surely everyone had stared at him enough.

He noticed a young skeleton a few rows back stand up quickly, look around, and then pitch forward into the next rows, to the dismay of the skeletons sitting there. He flailed his way down to the ground, kicking the scribe in the face in the process, stood up, and began shouting. Grillbz had excellent hearing, despite the muffling barrier.
“WHAT WAS THAT FOR OK listen I was just going to ASK you about it but YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO I’VE MADE UP MY MIND STOP DOING THAT”
he crossed the boundary at a fast jaunty walk, coughed, straightened his tunic and looped towards the queen.
“This better not be who I think it is,” said Sylfaen, the tilt of his head following the skeleton’s progress.
“My queen,” said the skeleton, stopping and bowing.
“Sancreek,” grunted Sylfaen. Sancreek glanced at him and smiled.
“No,” said Toriel quietly. “You’re too young.”
“I want to help.”
“You have too much to lose.”
“And yet you accepted the moth’s sacrifice. Let me take their place.”
“That is not for you to decide,” said Toriel, but looked at the moth, who shook their front end in a negative and settled down firmly on the ground.
She then looked at Sylfaen.
“You know him?”
“Yes. Kin.”
“Is he of age?”
“Am I required to answer truthfully?”
“You are.”
“Yes.”
Toriel sighed and looked at Sancreek. He was tall and bright-eyed, eyelights orange-gold rings the color of sunset staining faraway clouds.
“Why?” she asked.
“Well... I’ve been thinking about it. I mean, he probably deserves it more than anyone else currently alive, except a few humans, but it doesn’t make sense to kill him after we’ve already lost so many monsters. There aren’t many elementals left that, and none in here with us. Who knows, we might need him in the future. Besides, he might as well be alive to regret what he’s done for a few more years. Death is cheap lately. This seems like a more appropriate punishment. And, also, it’s what our Queen wants, and she is a good Queen and I will support her.”
Toriel chuckled.
“You flatter me, young man. I will not turn you away, but are you sure you understand the risk?”
“I do.”
“Then we have seven.”

Grillbz felt he was in a trance. This couldn’t be real. Why would they do this? He wanted to die. As if from behind thick glass he watched the seven and the queen take an oath, and Gaster sit down suddenly behind them and then slowly lie down on his side. Then everyone was leaving, and Toriel carried Gaster away… Grillbz’ head was ringing. Wis was still beside him, pulling his claws through his whiskers and frowning.
“What happened?”

Gaster slowly regained consciousness in a warm windless space. Toriel and Sylfaen were talking over him.
“It’s just fatigue. It will be a long time before his soul is healed. I shouldn’t have let him come, but I didn’t think I should forbid him..”
“Sometimes you need to explain to people what their boundaries are. You think he’s tough enough to go into exile with our friend the incinerator?”
“I hope so. This is all just a guess… do you think I’m doing the right thing?”
“No. Where’s Wis? He’s better at the encouragement thing than I am.”
“No, I want to hear your argument.”
“My queen, I’m not good at arguments. I just know stuff, I can’t explain it.”
“Try. For me.”
“Eh OK, listen. You’re given him consideration he doesn’t deserve. Do you think he’ll be grateful? Maybe at first, but it’ll wear off, elementals are long-lived. Over the long term this will turn into an unconscious idea that he can get away with anything. Depend upon it, the guilt will wear off. We’re not solving a problem, just tossing it to our children’s children to deal with.”
“I have no children. If he comes back I will deal with him myself.”
“..That’s unwise. But, hey, I might be wrong. I have a dim view of morality. I’m surprised you got seven volunteers. You know, a crowd will always behave as you expect it to in your least flattering expectations, but individuals can surprise you. It’s a sign that you might be right and not me.”
“Do you think so?”
“Don’t you, my lady?”
Sylfaen’s voice had softened slightly. Only slightly.
“I don’t know. Maybe this is.. only cowardice. I’m not fit to rule alone. I never wanted to rule at all. I want to stay at home and be a grandmother and make pies and give advice, not make laws and see that they’re enforced, but such things are needed. I keep thinking, I’m not doing this because I really think it’s right, but because I can’t stand to be responsible for any more death, in a time of peace, even when it would be just. And perhaps this… squeamishness is causing only more pain. This is the most lenient course I can imagine taking, but only for him, and it will permanently cripple seven monsters in ways it’s impossible to predict.”
“They volunteered,” said Sylfaen, sharply again. “Their loss. Personally I’ve stopped caring when I die. Soul bindings are fun.”
“Of course they volunteered. I asked them to.”
Sylfaen sighed, stood and moved across the room. Gaster was now pretty definitely awake but not sure if he should intrude his consciousness into the conversation still going on.
“Mind showing me his soul again?” said Sylfaen, and then gently, gently Gaster felt his soul pulled up from his chest and held in the air for a few seconds. Alien sensations which were usually blocked by the natural barrier of magic in his body needled through it: a smell of rock, small currents of cold air which he hadn’t noticed before, and the bright shock of life magic from two sides. Toriel’s was gentle and confirming, with almost a warm tone to it; Sylfaen’s frenetic and biting, like the spirit of a winter storm. He wondered if this was something like the way Sylfaen sensed the world.
“Mm. That’s why you like him?”
“That, what?”
“No EXP.” Toriel must have made some nonverbal response. Sylfaen continued. “I think it’s fair you put the two of them together. I did some sleuthing on my own. Grillbz found Gaster about to be killed by humans, rescued him, by annihilating said humans in spectacular fashion, and they stuck together for most of the intervening time before Grillbz accidentally crossed the Barrier while trying to kill more humans. Gaster did eventually go out on his own, once he’d gotten decent-ish at stealth, but he’s only alive now because Grillbz protected him for all that time, which he did by handling all the dirty work himself, if you will. I think it’s unfair that Gaster never had to kill. There was a war against our entire race. He’s the only one I’ve met who had the audacity to pretend he had no part in it and survive. Usually the peacemakers are annihilated.”
“Your point?”
“They belong together, in a way. There’s an Eastern concept of right and wrong which joins the two in a neverending cycle of reliance. Though they are opposites, they are also the same, and one cannot exist without the other; dark and light cycle incessantly through each other, each needing the other to exist, each leaving traces of itself in its counterpart. What we perceive as bad luck or good luck is only an unexpected shift in positions of these two in their eternal dance. Dark and light. Action and passivity.” He paused. “I half-expected you to put this one here on trial with the other. They make each other worse.”
“Now you are too deep for me. Watch him, I’ll go make some tea.”
“What, you expect him to run off?”
“No. –Do you think he’s really asleep?”
Oh. Toriel must have been surprised that moving his soul hadn’t woken him. Gaster wondered uncomfortably if he should answer her question. He was still sleepy enough that he felt it would take a strong effort.
“Eh? Personally I don’t care,” said Sylfaen, and a soft warm weight of blanket settled over Gaster’s chest, and he heard Toriel leave the room.

He lay for a while without moving, absorbing what had happened and becoming more alert. He could hear Sylfaen moving nearby, tossing and catching something hard: swish-thunk, swish-thunk. Finally he opened his eyes and looked towards the sound.
Sylfaen was playing with a silver-edged knife, flicking it from the hilt, twirling it in the air and catching it again in his palm with a satisfying thunk of metal against bone, only to flick it again. His blind face was turned to the side and he was humming. Gaster struggled up.
“Careful!”
Sylfaen did not stop.
“Ah, you are up.” He caught the knife blade between two knuckles and held it up. “Nice knife.”
Gaster realized that it was his knife.
“What—?”
“Family heirloom?”
“Yes. My family was… not the friendliest.”
“Hm. Figured that’s the only reason you’d still have it with you.”
Toriel came in, accompanied by a breath of warm bread-scented air. She was carrying a tea tray.
“Oh, you’re up!” she said to Gaster. Sylfaen talked over her.
“I don’t think it’s strong enough. Not nearly enough silver. Dangerous enough for a normal monster, but not an elemental. Though, I’m not sure what he’ll look like after the fact, his physical form may be weakened significantly.” He stood, walked to Gaster and returned the knife to its sheath up his sleeve, then patted his arm.
“…Strong enough for what?”
“If we’re doing this, we need to decide on some rules.” Toriel plumped up a pillow behind Gaster and shifted him into a more comfortable position, then handed him a cup of tea. “I’d like to have an statement written by tomorrow on exactly what we plan to do given certain situations.”
“Should I say it?” said Sylfaen.
“No. Gaster, your responsibilities are not limited to watching your friend, if you accept this task. You would be seen as the first line of defense between him and the rest of us. If you ever suspected that he was losing control, you would be required to kill him immediately, by your own hand.”
Gaster’s first reaction was to refuse, but Sylfaen’s words still haunted him. Instead he stared down into the golden depths of his tea.
“Alright.”
“You’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it.”
“Sylfaen will make you a weapon.”

 

A/N: The moth is brave and good. The moth is soft and flies with a whispering sound. The moth can see in the dark with its feathery antennae and offers to guide less-well-equipped monsters through the lightless portions of the Underground. I love the moth.

FINALLY! It's been a while. I thought I was going to complete this story rather quickly but um. Writer's block happened. 
There's a good bit of story left yet... 

Chapter Seven also being number 7 was unintentional but pretty cool and yes, it is supposed to be actually named Seven. 

Chapter Text

-Heads up, this chapter is why the work suddenly has a tag for 'body horror'-

 

Six days later they set out from the smaller barrier. Grillbz walked at the front with Wis at the end of his chains, both closely followed by the watchful dragon. The moth perched on one of the dragon’s folded wings and Gerson sat hunched on his back. The bandages were gone, displaying the gold plates which had replaced the smashed portions of his shell. The two skeletons, the two naiads, the Queen, Gaster and the bear followed in the dragon’s wake, and the bear carried provisions, and occasionally Sylfaen, who was not fond of walking long distances and tended to begin wheezing and complaining after a few hours. Gaster carried a polearm fashioned like a long spear slung across his back, the long, narrow-tipped head glinting with cold layers of enchantment. The haft was metal instead of wood, infused with less intensive heat-resisting enchantments and wrought with twisting dust clouds, preservation charms, and two modified lorica prayers which Gaster had pestered Sylfaen into including.

Deus manum meum dirigas / causa pacis et iustitiae

Toriel had presented the completed weapon to him in a public ceremony, and he’d sworn an oath to keep it with him each day and lay it close beside him when he slept.
It was heavy. He supposed he’d get used to it eventually, but at the moment the extra weight was not helping his still not fully healed pelvis. After the first morning of walking he unslung it from his back and used it as a walking stick to help drag himself along faster. For part of the second day, Queen Toriel carried him, the spear on her own back.

For the first day and into the afternoon of the next they traveled through a silent wood of dark, towering trees and faintly glowing snow. When they reached the end, where the stunted trees and scanty patches of snow trailed off into barren flatlands, they paused to discuss options, and finally continued on until they found a dry ravine, large enough to contain some of the initial blast if things went badly. There they rested, as Sylfaen said they’d all be much better after a night of sleep: after this he rolled himself up in a blanket and went to sleep immediately. The others sat around a fire Grillbz had been permitted to light for them until late into the night. No one felt like sleeping. Gaster attempted to talk to Toriel, but she wasn’t in a talkative mood, and he lapsed into silence and finally fell asleep, slumped against her. She didn’t move him for several hours.
Grillbz stared at the fire, wondering if it were the last magic he’d ever do.
There was no point in rushing, so it was late morning of the next day before they were ready to begin.

The bear pounded two iron spikes deep into the most solid shelf of exposed floor rock they could find in the ravine, and they chained Grillbz on his back between them, arms stretched above his head. He stared up at the sprinkles of faint blue light in the darkness of the cave roof above as Sylfaen’s hard fingerbones tapped over his chest. Sylfaen whistled tunelessly as he worked. It occurred to Grillbz that skeletons had no lips. How was he whistling? Magic, presumably, same as how he talked. It was all equally confusing.
“Arright, circle ‘round him,” said Sylfaen, tilting his head up. Gaster stepped closer and rested a hand on Grillbz’ arm for a moment, then moved out of the way. Grillbz felt himself shiver, then was ashamed. He could at least accept his sentence without faltering.
“You don’t need to do anything,” said Sylfaen, “except be calm and focused, and don’t fight it when you feel me tapping into your magic. My Queen, I would suggest you get out of the direct path, around the bend. I don’t expect I’m going to screw this up but you never know with this kind of magic. It’s tricky.”
“I’m staying.”
“Alright. Gaster, if he suddenly glows bright of if you hear me shout, get the shield up around the three of you. Don’t wait. Move back a bit, alright?” Gaster, Wis and the Queen grouped together and inched away from Grillbz. “More. Humor me. ...Okay.”
Sylfaen settled down, crouched with his toes wedged under Grillbz’ ribs, and folded his hands in front of his jaw. After a few moments of silence he spoke to the other monsters.
“An elemental’s soul is fused with their core, so we can’t pull it out to look at it. But I’m used to working by feel. The core is the problem, it’s concentrated element magic, or something. I’m not exactly up to date on the theory, but I can tell it’ll burn through foreign magic pretty quickly, whatever it is, so the insertion needs to be strong, which is why all of you are here. The binding spell is simple enough by itself, making it stick is the problem.”
“And it will be strong enough?” said Ciarda.
“Yes, it’ll be fine. From what I can sense his soul is more like a massively overpowered monster’s than a human’s. He’s still a magical being, none of that hellfire that drives humans. Any more questions? Alright. Be ready.”
For the next minute Sylfaen crouched motionless, breathing deeply. Then he lifted his hands and rested them on Grillbz’ chest.
It wasn’t visible to the others, but they felt an immediate drain of magic. Ciarda bowed his head. Sancreek felt sick, but clenched his fists in the skirts of his tunic and tried not to look it. The moth trembled violently.
Grillbz felt a constricting force gather around his core and gasped. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. It wasn’t painful so much as it was invasively wrong.
Then the feeling, which traced itself out in lines like a net, began to sink through his core. He clutched the chains above his head until they heated despite the antimagic enchantments, gasping for breath.
Then several things happened all at once. There was a whispering light sound, and the magic crumpled sharply. Grillbz flinched, arching his back from the cave floor. Sylfaen swore loudly and at length, then slowly quieted and curled himself up in a ball next to Grillbz.
“What happened!?” Shouted Sancreek for the third time. Sylfaen began humming.
Grillbz registered the pile of dust sitting where the moth had been, over the sharp welling of pain in his chest. Then he shuddered and closed his eyes.
Gaster and the others came back and there was a rapid exchange of words. Then Gaster gasped and said “oh no.”
“Sylfaen,” said Toriel. “Sylfaen, get up. He’s hurt. What did you do?”
“Nothing,” said Sylfaen, sitting up and stretching his arms out in front of him. “Hmrrrr it’s probably just the backlash from the break.” He placed his hands over Grillbz’ chest. “...He’s hemorrhaging.”
“Yes,” said Gaster.
“So that’s why his chest is turning brighter,” said Toriel.
“Hm. Odd. It shouldn’t be that bad,” said Sylfaen. “Well this might as well happen too I guess.” he trailed off into another string of swears.
“His core is weak,” said Gaster, “It’s.. been damaged before. I’m sorry, I just remembered.”
Grillbz clenched his jaw, wishing he could sink into the rock and disappear from them. Gaster had promised not to tell, and now they were just.. casually discussing it. Well, it made sense given the situation. He tried to calm himself. It wasn’t easy when he could feel the magic seeping out of his core.
“We need to stabilize that before we can do anything else,” said Sylfaen.
“Or what happens?” asked Toriel.
“Well he could pop at any minute for one thing. If not while we’re doing it then the binding might make it worse and he’ll go off later while it’s still taking effect. I’ve been informed those are both scenarios we want to avoid. Fiery deathblast of heat and doom, you know. Also he’ll be dead and isn’t that not what you wanted. Can you do it? I’m not good with healing magic.”
It made sense not to use any more of the volunteers’ magic. But Toriel hesitated.
“I will,” said the dragon, placing his jutting peak of a nose against Grillbz’ chest and breathing healing magic through him. The bleeding slowed and he breathed a little easier.
“Good enough,” grunted Sylfaen. “Now all of you get far away and be ready to use the shield if you must.”
“Did you get a good idea of how much magic you need?” asked Wis.
“Yes. If you’re going to volunteer as moth substitute I’ll tell you that I can do it fine with six but if you do join it’ll take a lot of strain off the others, and that would be appreciated in light of recent occurrences. They’ve already been drained once.”
Wis turned to Toriel. “My Queen?”
“I thought we’d decided you would not volunteer.”
“I’m old enough to take a risk now and then.”
“Then be safe. All of you.”
Gaster and Toriel retreated alone, carrying the dust, and Wis sat in the moth’s vacated space.
“Now,” snarled Sylfaen, “Let’s do this right and be done with it.”

It took a little longer to form the spell this time. Fatigue was taking its toll on everyone. This time Grillbz felt the net sink through his bleeding core and lock around his soul, and then he struggled and cried out because he knew he’d agreed to it but this wasn’t right, he couldn’t take this, nothing should be that close to his soul and it wouldn’t go away—
 “Hmmmmh,” mused Sylfaen, standing, head cocked downwards towards Grillbz. The area around his chest had dimmed to a duller red, and the color was spreading out along his limbs. His flames had sunk down to a frantic shimmer and the skin above his core looked like ash sunk in fire.
“Come on,” rumbled the dragon, pulling him away by the back of the tunic. Even the dragon showed signs of exhaustion, his wings dragged on the ground.
“Oh cut it out! He’ll be fine now, probably, I think;” said Sylfaen.
They all gathered behind Gaster and watched pensively to see how Grillbz’ core held up. Sylfaen slumped down between the dragon’s forelegs and went to sleep. Ciarda appeared to be slowly losing his own battle with sleep.

They watched Grillbz change over the course of half an hour. The patch over his core darkened until it was black, then the black spread until his whole body was hidden in it. It became hard to tell his exact dimensions, because the new black substance seemed less defined than his usual form. Then it began to crumble off in the cave draft and they realized a large portion of his body had turned to soot and was sloughing off in the breeze. Gaster imagined that his whole body was slowly turning to soot as he lay there paralyzed, drying and cracking off in bits to dance across the rock face in the wind; but then saw with relief that he was still moving.
All at once Grillbz wrenched his now-smaller hands free of the manacles and immediately clutched them close to his chest, rolling around to lie curled in a ball. Sheets of the soot rolled off him. His body underneath looked just as black as the soot.
They woke Sylfaen. “Is he stable? Tell me if I can go to him,” said Gaster. Sylfaen yawned and reluctantly got up and stumbled closer.
“Hhhhhyeah, yup he’s done,” he yelled back from standing beside Grillbz for a few moments. Gaster ran to join him and knelt beside the curled body.
“Hey, Ribs. Hey. You in there, buddy?” he dug aside crusts of soot, blackening the bones of his hands, and touched Grillbz’ side. It was black and undefined as darkness itself, but still warm, and rose and fell with his breaths. Grillbz made a distorted screeching sound. Gaster continued scraping off the soot.
“It’s OK, you’re gonna be fine. Please stop making that noise. You’re fine.”
Grillbz’ screeches were growing louder and more insistent, keening, curdling indistinct sounds.
“Maybe he’s lost his mind,” remarked Sylfaen, grinding one of the crusts of soot experimentally under his boot.
“Grillbz!” shouted Gaster, and he quieted with a few final creaking whines. Gaster knelt beside him and scrubbed at his side, raising a flurry of soot particles. “Wow, you’re a mess.” Grillbz covered his side with an arm and gave a piercing cry. “Oh, are you sore?” A popping, crooning sound. “....Alright. I won’t touch you.”
Sylfaen unlocked the manacles from his feet and dusted off his hands. Grillbz used the granted freedom of motion of pull his legs up close to his chest.
“Did it work?” said Toriel. Sylfaen laughed.
“Seeing this, you’re still asking?”
“Yes. I want to be sure.”
“It worked, my queen. Magically inert. He couldn’t start a fire in dry tinder, much less create fireballs. And he’ll probably be much weaker physically as well.”
“What happened to him?”
“Damned if I know.”
“Did his element change?” asked Sancreek. Sylfaen shrugged exaggeratedly and dropped his arm across the younger skeleton’s shoulders.
“Good question little small young one my friend, perhaps it did, perhaps it didn’t. Again, I don’t know. All I know is he can’t magic anymore, so it worked.”
“Then that is enough,” said Toriel.
They were all silent for a moment.
“...Is Ciarda going to wake up?” asked Sancreek, and Sylfaen removed his arm with another exaggerated shrug and a laugh.


 

A/N: FINALLY!! This update was a while coming, but I'm back now! And I have arts of our newly transformed sootbaby! 

(Oh, and a translation of the Latin [hopefully, if I did it right]: 'God guide my hand / for the sake of peace and justice'

my own concept 

a contest prize chibi

Chapter Text

Anno Domini 1398, February 22

Letter from Wis to Queen Toriel

My dear Queen,

We have reached the cave wall. By the time our draconic friend has brought you this I hope we will have explored the area and have more to report. There is a spring, and a stream flowing from the cave wall back towards the bright blue marshlands farther in. A lot of scattered rocks. Cantarell Gaster suggested using them to build a house. I asked if he knew anything about stone laying, and he admitted that he did not. Well, it’s an idea.

We have had no trouble from the elemental. He has been very withdrawn, such that I was at first worried he was relapsing into his earlier state, but my fears were, I think, entirely unfounded.

He’s lost the capacity for speech. It took us two days to realize that the garbled screaming sounds he was making were not cries of pain but attempts to communicate. I can only guess that the binding interfered with the magical process which allows him to speak. Fortunately, he and Cantarell can communicate through signs, as both are fluent.

The elemental has begun sleeping for long stretches and eating whenever we do, two things which Cantarell tells me he didn’t previously do. He still produces heat and shows an aversion to water, but the sooty appearance has remained much the same as when you last saw him. His form looks softer now that he has completely shed the crust of soot: like smoke but more solid. In dark places in the caves, I’ve glanced at him and thought I was looking into a hole in the wall. He has the appearance of darkness. Cantarell agrees that he is definitely smaller, he hesitates at an actual number. Perhaps 30% smaller, but remember that numbers are not my strong point.

I’ve sent a rudimentary map of the area and our route to arrive here. Send word if we should remain here or continue on.

 

Year 1, May 2

Queen’s Journal Entry

Life goes on, somehow. Even when you feel it shouldn’t, it does, and the days follow steadily one on another in gray hue, and everything has changed and continues to change.

The city is rising steadily. I throw myself into the work to numb myself, and I believe many of the others feel the same about it. Since there are not many of us and everyone who can shares the work equally, I think we will soon have everyone housed, at least to some rudimentary degree. Expansion will follow. We need a more convenient source of water. Katara spends a lot of time exploring the channels in Waterfall, saying she wants to build an aqueduct, but I’m not sure if it’s feasible. I believe she is also looking for the armor of her ancestors, who made their last stand there.

Damien has started work on the statue already, in the evenings, when he should be resting instead of chipping stone like he has been all day. He says the creative outlet re-energizes him. The rough shape is emerging, only the rough shape and my heart aches already when I see it. What will I feel when Asgore Dreemurr, the Fallen King, stands again in the square?
They want me to write something for the inscription. I don’t feel equal to the task. Nothing comes to mind that would fit him—simple, yet noble; warm and kind, yet ruthless in battle. Protector, defender, lover, tender of gardens, pie-eater, feller of the White Mage.

The people have more or less accepted my decision regarding the killer. This surprises me a little. I myself am not sure if I accept my decision. But someone has suggested that it honors the King’s sacrifice and legacy, since he died trying to talk him down peacefully. The truth is I don’t know. What would Asgore have done, had he lived? Would he have spared him, seeing everything that happened after his fall?

Ciarda is doing better, I think, or at least he’s stopped declining. He seems to have aged ten years in a few months, is so stiff he can hardly move and easily confused.

Sylfaen is still falling down a lot, but he refuses to admit there’s anything wrong with him. I’m glad Sancreek is there to watch over him. Sylfaen has grudgingly accepted him as his pupil.

The dragon seems to have been affected least of the others, and still insists on being the one to deliver supplies and check in on the exiles. He insists on doing it at odd times, a few days ahead of schedule or behind; I think he wants to catch them unawares. So far Cantarell Gaster has kept the fire in check and our friend has nothing unusual to report.

Gerson’s memory has gotten ‘spotty’, as he tells me, but he insists it’s nothing he can’t deal with as he’s been a harebrained, distractible creature all his life. I certainly hope he’s alright. He spends a lot of time out in Waterfall all by himself, exploring and foraging. He brings us new foods and herbs, curious rocks, and maps showing roads to new caves.

Wis is much the same, but I detect flecks of silver appearing in the fur of his face. I mentioned it to him and he teased me mercilessly, saying I cared only for beauty and that I gave the aging dandy no rest.

The Naiads had the most surprising reaction to the ritual. They came to me just this week and said that they are both certain they can sense the killer’s location if they focus. I thanked them for telling me. They asked if I wanted them to do anything particular about it, and I said no, but to tell me if they noticed him moving outside the dark caverns where we have secluded them.
It makes me feel better to think we have another failsafe. I trust Cantarell, but I do not trust his companion, much as he appears to have reformed.

We continue building. One thing is for sure; in this our new city there will be no death penalty. I’ve set a precedent for mercy. We will have to see where that leads us. What develops instead.

It’s late. I can’t sleep.

 

Year 1, May 29

Letter from Sylfaen to Sancreek —excerpt

Here’s the real question, does the shiny water taste any better than the water here? No? Probably not. [...] Have you heard? On his last trip, Mister Dragon found the two exiles camped at the top of one of those wall-cracks in a side cavern, way up by the ceiling. Cantarell said they’d been threatened by a band of vigilantes from Home. Emberfells searched the ground in the direction indicated and found them fleeing. They’d heard him coming. Seems they couldn’t let the past linger and decided to kill the weakened elemental themselves; Gaster sent him up the path in the cave wall and held them off until they began attacking him. He’s fine, he has a shield. But he was rather shaken, I hear. Well, we should have known this would happen. All things considered it went rather well.

Dunk Gerson in the water for me will ya? -Your loving Uncle

Your mother says tell you to eat your vegetables so EAT YOUR GODDAMN VEGETABLES YOU ABSOLUTE ANIMAL. And get back here soon. I know I said I wouldn’t miss you but I lied. I can’t reach the ingredients on the top shelves anymore and I forgot the combination code for that nifty box you made. Please come back soon.

 

Year 1, July 10

Letter from Cantarell Gaster to Queen Toriel

My Gracious Queen,

Forgive me for not answering your letters sooner, I hope I did not worry you. As the dragon has probably told you, I’ve been sick. I’m doing better now but still very tired and weak. It’s probably something to do with the damage to my soul, perhaps I’ve been using too much magic, but I’m sure it will pass soon.

G has been keeping me warm. I think he takes a little consolation in the fact that he can still do something helpful. He was very distraught after that attack; he’s always been the one protecting me, not the other way around.

I would like to make this a longer letter but I have a feeling that if I try, I won’t finish it; so in the name of promptness I’ll send this as is. My next will be longer.

I pray for your health,

-Cantarell, Gaster

 

Year 1, August 5

My Gracious Queen,

The dragon was correct, I am looking different these days. G’s soot leaves stains, and they built up on my face and hands when I was sick. I’m having trouble washing them off. But I don’t mind how they look, and they don’t cause any discomfort, so it’s not really a problem.

G is more upset about it than I am, really. He’s still leaving a trail of soot everywhere he goes, we’d hoped it would stop once he got used to the new body, but it still hasn’t and it’s bothering him quite a lot. He’s always been very clean and this is a lot to get used to.

I wonder, if I made him clothes, would he wear them? I’m getting better at thread magic, I think I could make something that would catch and collect most of the soot so he doesn’t constantly shed all over everything. It really isn’t an issue, out here in the middle of nowhere, but I think it would make him more comfortable, mentally. Maybe not physically, he’s never really liked clothes. I believe it’s an issue of pride—very few elementals wore clothes back in the old days, he tells me. He was only ever glad to wear armor. Still. I’ll ask him about it.

 

Year 3, December 12

 Queen Toriel’s Journal Entry

Gaster arrived safely for our meeting. The dragon and a few of the Royal Guards are stationed around the house, which I’ve heard is starting to look more like a real house and less like a pile of rubble.

He looks stronger than before, with the same subtle, softspoken strength as always. Just seeing him soothes some of the pain and uncertainty in my soul. I did get one nasty shock, he hadn’t prepared me for the extent to which he’d been stained by the elemental’s corrupted magic. What I could see of his bones were dirty grey instead of the usual pale color. But he seemed cheerful. He said he was working on a book and he liked the peace and quiet, that it reminded him of the peace of the cloister in his time with the monks on the Surface. He said when it got too quiet he sang. He said G had found a place where there’s a crack in the cave ceiling, where one could see light through the Barrier from the outside world and that the elemental sat there for long hours, staring upward. That it seemed to soothe his mind, and that Gaster was glad to see him become more contemplative. He asked if I had any seeds he could plant there. I gave him some. I wonder if they will grow.

I watched him leave, walking away through the crowd all stained and dark with the spear on his back, and then I wondered again if this had been the right choice or if I were just being a fool. He shouldn’t be kept out there alone in the darkness with an unstable elemental. We need him here.

I wonder how much of these feelings are personal.

By year 50, the city that had been named Home in honor of the Fallen King Asgore had fresh running water, utilizing aqueducts that travelled from springs in Waterfall. The barrier at the city gate remained in place. Guards patrolled the area below the openings in the ceiling, where the Barrier, and some light from the sun, was visible. This area was considered a security risk, but as time passed and it became clear that the humans didn’t care about their continued existence as long as they stayed inside the mountain, more and more monsters took to picnicking there, under the light. Queen Toriel made the place a garden.

By year 100, monsters were starting to move out of the fortified city of Home and take up residence in the developing town of Snowdin.

In year 109, Queen Toriel stopped requiring Cantarell Gaster to visit and report on the exile’s condition yearly. He was now required to report only every five years, though he was allowed to visit more often if he cared to. However, the elemental was still banned from leaving the dark plains at the very edge of the cavern.

Queen Toriel and Gaster continued to exchange letters regularly, but the letters now rarely had to do with Gaster’s mission. Gaster had taken up weaving and sewing and sent fabric and clothes into Home, originally as donations, but as the society of monsters became more stable Queen Toriel convinced him to sell them.

In year 232, a slime monster living in Waterfall developed a method of magically lighting crystals for an extended period of time. Monsters had observed long before that it was possible to create a spark of light by flooding crystals with magic, but until now they had been unable to make the light last. Over the next few years the Underground became much brighter, but it was still very dark. Generations of monsters were growing up light-starved, and Queen Toriel encouraged further scientific research into the properties of crystals, hoping to solve the problem once and for all. But it seemed that crystals would only give off so much light, and usually a dull, cool-colored light. Nothing like sunlight or firelight—rare now because of the scarcity of available fuel.

Cantarell Gaster did his own independent research. He was fascinated with movement, waterwheels and pulleys and aqueducts. He theorized on the causes of wind, gusts of which wandered down through unseen cracks in the ceiling.

The elemental, who now referred to himself simply as G, began farming water sausages to supplement the food they received from Home. He was now able to exert at least some level of control over his soot output, helped by the thick black clothes he wore, woven and stitched and saturated with cleansing magic by Gaster. An odd smell clung to his clothes, like ozone. His soot had a sharp stinging thick smell, but beyond making a mess it didn’t appear to cause any ill effects. It made great fertilizer for the water sausages and the flowers now flourishing beneath the ceiling crack in the side-passage.

In year 307, on one of his royally mandated trips into town, Gaster met a monster with lightning magic and became obsessed with its properties. Toriel gave him permission to travel to Home regularly to conduct tests.
G wandered farther and farther from home, exploring the remoter parts of Waterfall and Snowdin Forest. He avoided being seen on these excursions, and Gaster said nothing.

In year 380, Gaster created a lightbulb, which rapidly burned out. But the brightness and the warm quality of the light were enough to fascinate the monsters, and the Queen, who ordered further research to be done. Gaster now had a small lab set up at his house, and would travel to Home, where an independent Royal lab researched similar subjects, to compare notes with the other scientists.

In year 604—2003 in the outside world—G, walking through Snowdin Forest, accidentally met someone.