Actions

Work Header

The Priestess and the Soul Guardians

Chapter Text

Autumn on Mount Ebott was always beautiful. The large, aged maples dusted a rainbow of color across the landscape, the poison sumach turned scarlet, and the tall grass gave up its lush greens as it turned to straw. By now, the only foliage retaining its green was the variety of pines that dotted the mountain. You closed your eyes and inhaled that peculiar scent that was unique to Fall. It was the scent of rain, drying leaves, moss and pine needles. It was crisp and clean. It might be the only thing you'd ever truly miss if the soul truly was immortal. Staring down into the jagged crevice, the weight of your choice became all the heavier.

This was really it.

The end.

It hadn't been that difficult to decide. You weren't needed or wanted; you wouldn't be missed, and you had no special skills that would make your future bright or promising. Death would provide freedom, relief, and much needed release. It certainly seemed preferable to the oppressive melancholy you'd been enduring all these years. Everyone said it would get better, that it was a sadness you'd grow out of, that everyone got depressed sometimes. However, it never went away. It was a black veil before your eyes that darkened everything you gazed upon, and no amount of positive thinking, mantras, or therapy had lifted it.

Of course, you had tried to make things work. You tried changing how you thought, being less pessimistic. You took plenty of vitamins and tried not to keep your problems in. You even took up exercising and yoga because everyone seemed to claim that it would cure you. Unsurprisingly, it didn't.

So why were you hesitating?

It was obvious you weren't meant for this life. Your soul had always longed for something else, something this world couldn't provide. Sure, you could force yourself to join the workforce and try and put yourself through college, learn a trade and spend your days struggling just to make ends meet. Drowning in student debt at such a young age just didn't seem like an interesting path to take. It sounded like a death sentence in itself.

No. You don't want to spend your life struggling just to survive and fighting to just get by. You didn't want...this--what your life had become.

Maybe on the other side, your real life was waiting, you thought as you stared down into the the blackened maw of the Earth. Maybe there would be some new place that would shine some light onto why you felt destined for something else.

Your eyes closed, your hand lifted to press over your breast and felt your oddly calm heart thump softly. You were resigned. You were free.

You were determined.

You jumped.

"I'M TELLING YOU SANS, SHE'S DEAD!"

"i know it looks that way bro, but i checked. she still has a pulse."

There were voices...who were these people?

"WHAT'S A PULSE?" came a loud, but genuinely curious voice.

"oh, well it's--" The other one was softer, deeper with a practiced calm. "--it's a throbbing movement in a human’s body that's caused by their heart beating. you can feel it in their neck wrists, and chest."

"SO A PULSE IS A GOOD THING?"

"yeah, a very good thing. if it’s moving, they're alive. if it stops, they're dead. pretty handy thing actually."

You attempted to open your eyes, but that small movement made you very much aware of an intense pain stabbing in the back of your head.

"WAIT, YOU'RE RIGHT! I SAW HER FACE TWITCH!"

"hey, kid." There was shuffling beside you as one of them went to their knees to your right. "can you hear me? are you ok?"

Something hard and oddly alive touched you. It felt so similar to a hand, but there was no flesh-- like living rock. It was on your wrist, digits gently finding the pulse point and pressing. With a soft whine, your chest vibrated in discomfort.

"shh, don't move," that deep, quiet voice soothed. "that was quite a fall. give yourself a minute."

"BROTHER?" There were footsteps pacing around you, and you got the feeling this person was trying to walk off excess energy. "DO... DO YOU THINK SHE'S THE--"

"there's no way of telling just yet," the other replied, and you felt careful arms slide under your body and lift your upper torso so that you were sitting. Even with your eyes closed, you felt the world toppling this way and that, the discomfort increasing intolerably. "it's best to let her majesty decide if she is or not."

"SHE'S MAKING SUCH AWFUL SOUNDS! IS SHE IN PAIN?"

"i'd assume so, pap. it was a long fall." You didn't know who was talking, but you let your head roll onto what you knew had to be their shoulder. You didn't know it was possible to feel this much pain! Your head was splitting apart, and wetness was hotly gliding down your cheeks. "shhh, it's ok, kiddo... just a sec. hey pap, do you have enough HP to spare to heal her a bit?"

Heal?

"OH DEAR, IS SHE THAT BAD?"

"yeah, there's blood in her hair. she hit her head pretty good."

"SAY NO MORE!" You heard him drop down behind you, and gloved hands appeared gingerly at your temples, followed by the touch of his forehead to your own. "JUST BE STILL, HUMAN! TRUST ME AND LET ME IN!"

You weren't sure what he meant by 'let him in', but it seemed you didn't have much choice in such a weakened state. Something odd and unfamiliar began to move through you from those points of contact. It felt so warm that your body comparatively felt like ice, and yet the touch didn't burn. It was...comforting. Tingling. The rigidness of your body slowly began to release, and the pain that was making it impossible to open your eyes was coaxed into recession. Even your breaths began to come easier.

You had to ask what was happening and tried to force the query out, "What is-?"

"SHHH, YOU'RE SAFE." the man cut you off, speaking soothingly, his head nuzzling yours. That magical warmth spread out and touched each nerve ending, robbing them of your ailments, "I AM ALMOST DONE."

"don't over do it, pap." The other sounded concerned, "....please....pap, please!"

You felt a pang of worry suddenly. What was going on? Was he healing you, but it was hurting him?

"I'M DONE." Your healer sounded tired, apparently left with no more excess energy to walk off now. "IS SHE....BETTER?"

Experimentally, you shifted in the odd grasp that was steadying you. The pain was gone, but a fatigue still remained. Once more, you attempted to open your eyes, your lashes fluttering as the hazy world came slowly into focus. Above you was a sliver of light set amongst a high black ceiling. Was that where you had fallen? It looked so small and far away.

Wait, you...you were alive! You jerked free from the arm around you and grabbed your head, touching it. There was indeed blood in your hair, and it was still wet and sticky. There were no bumps or bruises or scrapes or-- or anything! How could you have possibly lived after falling from such a height? Alarmed, you looked under your body.

Well, that might explain things.

You had landed in a bed of golden yellow flowers so thick and spongy, that it might as well have been a matress. It wasn’t enough to make you land unscathed, but it provided enough cushion to prevent certain death. It was incredibly soft, and the moss beneath your hands was impossibly thick. Lifting your hands, you noticed that they were a little grass-stained, but otherwise fine. Your jeans fared the same, your tank top and sweater dirty but intact. Your gaze lifted to the rocky walls. Marble columns lined them, reaching high like hands trying to grasp the small shafts of sunlight that filtered from the crack where you had jumped.

It'd be beautiful if you weren't so disappointed. You were supposed to die, but you had failed. You were supposed to leave this life behind and now--

"Who said you could heal me?!" you sobbed, bending over your lap as your wide-as-saucers eyes clouded with tears. You watched the droplets overflow and fall to the petals of the flowers you sat on, gathering like dew. "Why....why? WHY DID YOU--?"

You turned, ready to scream at your saviors, but stopped short.

Staring back at you were two living skeletons.

The taller one on bended knee wore what appeared to you like a suit of armor over his ribs, and a well-loved red scarf was draped around his neck and shoulders. On his hands were matching gloves, and his boots were complimentary as well. He was slim and athletic in shape.

The shorter one on his knees wore black basketball shorts and an open blue hoodie. On his feet were fuzzy pink slippers that appeared to be very well-worn. He had a calm smile and a gentle stare that was taking in your reaction like it was the most natural response in the world. Your blood was on the white bones of his hands and smeared on his T-shirt from when he had helped you sit up. He, unlike the other, was shorter and stout, even somehow appearing chubby despite having no flesh to speak of.

Both of them, however, had bare skulls devoid of skin, muscle, or tendon, and black hollow sockets for eyes that were illuminated with pinpricks of optic light.

Skeletons.

They were....skeletons...

"I....I’m...dead?" you asked, suddenly very much afraid. "I...I didn't think...I was bad enough to go to hell! Oh god, no--"

The shorter skeleton was suddenly grinning uncontrollably and looked like he was desperately trying to keep from laughing. The other had taken to glaring at him, unamused.

"SANS, DON'T YOU DARE!"

"i'm trying, bro," he said, raising a bony fist to chuckle behind as his grin spiraled out of control, "but y'gotta admit, that was one hell of a fall at least?"

The tall one’s eyelights rolled in disgust at the bad pun. "UGH! THAT WASN'T EVEN CLEVER."

"but ya know," he added, his gaze settling on you. "if I threw myself off a cliff and failed at killing myself... i'd raise a little hell, too."

Something about his smile now seemed very false, and you acutely felt like he could see through you as transparently as you could look through glass. It made you feel cold and on-edge.

"WAIT!" The tall one suddenly looked horrified, and those dark sockets turned to look at you with worry. "YOU--" His voice cracked and then softened, suddenly losing its boisterous quality. "...You...human...did you truly wish to...?"

Your limbs were shaking and teeth chattering. How dare they judge you for what you had to do! How dare they look at you like he knew what you went through! How dare they make fun of it! You were on your feet, swaying at first as you caught your balance, but you managed to still cry out at them in your anger.

"I didn't ask for your help!" You gasped as you slowly backed away from them, stumbling over the tangle of buds and vines. "You should have left me! I was so close!"

"YOU WERE IN PAIN," the taller one explained, a gloved hand pressing to the breast of his armor to convey his sincerity. "HOW COULD I LEAVE YOU TO SUFFER AND WITHER AWAY?"

The smaller skeleton--Sans, you had heard him called--closed his sockets and slowly rose to his feet.

"give her a minute to come to terms with it all, pap." he said rationally. He raised the exposed bone of his hands up to his face and examined the blood still on them. After a moment’s reflection, he wiped them clean on his shirt. "it's a lot to take in."

"BUT SHE TRIED TO KILL HERSELF!" 'Pap' cried in reply.

"yeah, she did, but there's worse things, bro." he explained evenly. "we don't know what life was like for her up top. just like she doesn't know what's going on down here. she's going to run through the gamut of emotions before she's done. just be patient."

That surprised you; you had expected him to continue to make light of your decision, to continue his flippant comments. You weren't expecting understanding. Abject reprimands, scolding words, judgemental remarks, definitely--but not understanding.

"I don't get it...What's going on?" you whispered tearfully, trembling from head to toe. "I was supposed to die. How... how is any of this possible? And you're skeletons, you're talking, you're-"

"DO NOT DESPAIR HUMAN FEMALE," Pap began, his worry fading into hopeful optimism. He approached you, and to your surprise, despite his size and undead appearance, you felt no need to cower away. "I SHALL EXPLAIN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES TO YOU! YOU HAVE FALLEN TO THE UNDERGROUND WHERE MONSTER KIND HAS BEEN SEALED FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS. I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS!" At his introduction he sank to bended knee in front of you. For having a face of bone, his expression moved and seemed incredibly kind and compassionate. "I AM CAPTAIN OF HER MAJESTY'S ROYAL GUARD AND IN CHARGE OF GUARDING THIS AREA OF THE RUINS. THIS," he gestured behind him to the other skeleton, who offered a lazy wave, "IS MY BROTHER, SANS. HE IS A SENTRY."

"hey kiddo." Sans greeted, the endless carpet of golden blossoms obscuring his slippers and ankles as he came forward. He offered his hand. "always nice to meet a new pal."

You hesitated, but slowly slid your hand into his. Instantly, the obnoxious sound of flatulence filled the air. Sans had pressed a whoopee cushion into your palm. In spite of the tense situation, you cracked a smile at the gag and laughed. He seemed pretty pleased with himself.

Papyrus apparently didn't find it very amusing. "OH MY GOD, SANS!" he groaned.

"what? that joke’s a real gas," he claimed with a shrug. "besides... she's smiling now."

"AT LEAST SOMEONE IS!" Papyrus huffed, crossing his arms and straightening with a haughty tilt of his head.

Sans turned his attention to you. "so what do we call you, kid?"

"I'm Y/n..." you answered, looking back and forth between the two of them. "I... I know I seemed ungrateful. I'm sorry for that. I just--..." You began anxiously hugging yourself, rubbing your arms as you looked anywhere but at them. "... I wasn't expecting to survive the fall. Now that I'm here, I'm so confused, and I don't mean to be rude... but I don't know what's supposed to become of me now."

You almost missed a meaningful glance between the brothers. You froze.

"Wait...if you're sentries and are here to guard this spot..." Your brow rumpled tensely. "Were you expecting a human to fall?"

"EVENTUALLY WE WERE, YES." Papyrus admitted readily. "IN FACT, WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG TIME."

Sans shifted his weight, nodding in agreement. "yeah actually. it's been 43 years since the last human fell underground and we were re-stationed here to guard the ruins."

Papyrus' smile had a sad glint to it. "HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG?"

"it'll be 44 in three more months."

"This spot?" you asked. "Why this spot?"

"this is the place where the most humans have fallen. and...." the short skeleton scratched the back of his skull, glancing away. "....well this spot has a lot of history behind it. it's where her majesty's human child fell, and where both of her children are buried now. along with the king."

Your blood went cold. There were dead children under your feet?

Papyrus nodded as the two reminisced. "THIS IS ALSO WHERE FRISK FELL."

Sans’s smile became a bit tight at the mention of that one, but he digressed and agreed.

"yup, and all the other human children."

You were confused. "Why were you waiting for another human to fall?"

"BECAUSE OF THE ORACLE’S PROPHECY!" Papyrus explained excitedly, his high cheek bones bouncing on his smile. "THE NEXT HUMAN TO FALL WOULD BECOME THE HIGH PRIESTESS! SHE WOULD HAVE THE POWER TO SUMMON THE BEAST GOD AND FREE MONSTERKIND FROM THE UNDERGROUND!"

....What?

Your expression must have been one of obvious confusion and disbelief because Sans took one glance at you before he patted his brother’s arm and chuckled. "you're getting ahead of yourself, pap. there's no way of knowing if she's the priestess."

"RIGHT! WE MUST TAKE YOU TO HER MAJESTY RIGHT AWAY!" Your hand was instantly swept up between his gloves as he implored you, "WON'T YOU PLEASE ALLOW ME TO ESCORT YOU TO THE CAPITAL?"

"P-priestess?" you stammered, expression falling. "I'm... I'm no priestess, this is some mistake! I was trying to end my life, not--"

"you did end your life," Sans asserted as he walked past you and toward a row of crumbling marble columns. They appeared to be the only path away from this cavern. "your life above ended the moment you stepped over that edge. you did so with no intention of ever returning or surviving. now you have a new life."

Papyrus' face lit up at how Sans had chosen to view your obvious attempt at suicide, "WELL SAID, BROTHER! NO MATTER YOUR REASONS FOR WISHING TO SNUFF YOURSELF OUT, SINCE YOU’RE DOWN HERE, THEY NO LONGER MATTER! YOU CAN START OVER!"

You stood as still as a statue as all of that sank it. They weren't wrong. The worries and troubles of life above apparently couldn't reach you in this place. Nor could the encroaching pain of a doomed adulthood or tumultuous political climate. Maybe they were right. Maybe that you was successfully dead.

Maybe you...could possibly be... the priestess they were waiting for.

But.. that was craziness! You weren’t even sure you believed in gods or an afterlife. How could you be a priestess for something you don't even believe in?

Papyrus, with your hand still securely in his, began to lead you chivalrously off the mossy mound of flowers and towards the path where Sans was waiting. The scattered blossoms carpeting the earth grew thinner and smaller until all that remained was hard, trampled dirt. The shorter skeleton was watching while you approached with his brother. One thing was obvious: he may always be smiling, but that man was hard to read. As you passed, you looked up at him as if for help. His gaze softened.

"it'll be ok, kid," he said as he took a position to your right, keeping you between himself and his brother. "we won't let anything happen to you."

Walking beside him, eyes searching the oddly pliable bone of his face, you sought something solid to hold onto in his expression. You needed strength and security.

Tremulously, you pleaded, "Do you promise?"

His face flinched, his smile tensing down at the corners. What did you say to compromise that placid expression he seemed to constantly maintain? Maybe asking for a promise from someone you hardly knew was asking too much? This was a world you didn't understand. Surely, there were things at play here that were beyond you at this point. Yeah, it'd been a dumb thing to ask, but then he looked back at you, searching your own face just as you had searched his.

"OF COURSE WE DO!" Papyrus eagerly interjected. "YOUR SAFETY AND WELL-BEING IS IMPORTANT!

It made you look up at him. You didn't understand why Papyrus was so eager to help you, from hurting himself to heal you, to so readily giving into such a childish request.

"yeah, kid." Sans agreed as well, but there was a deep disconnect between his words and his expression. Despite his smile, there was pain weighting in his gaze. You clung tighter to Papyrus's hand.

The tall skeleton monster looked down at you and offered you a soft, comforting smile, before he vowed, "I SWEAR I WON'T LET ANYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU, Y/N! TRUST ME, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO TURN OUT FINE!"

It was only a tiny gesture, and yet it meant everything to you in that moment. You didn't know what was going to happen or where life was going to take you now. Were you really this priestess they had been waiting for? Could you live up to the kind of expectations that would place on you? Aside from those things, you had so many questions about the Underground, monsters, and how they had all gotten here.

Not to mention... how was this priestess supposed to save them?

The shadows of uncertainty were oppressive but through it, the light of Papyrus's promise gave you an anchor. No matter what else was to come, you knew at least you'd be safe with him.

You don’t know what you should have expected of the Underground. You had heard the old stories that revolved around Mt Ebott, and the folklore was entertaining, but you had never thought there was any truth to those old tales. At it turned out, many were true, but only time would tell just how many. Still, filtering through what you knew and the things you had asked Papyrus and Sans had filled in a very bleak picture that they weren't keen on explaining in further detail until they took you to their queen.

Right now, they had taken you to a waiting gondola where a cloaked Riverperson was waiting for them. They were a tall, mysterious figure that regarded you with passing curiosity and a soft chant of tra la la that you found oddly soothing.

You couldn't help but feel as if you were about to be carted down the River Styx. Did the monsters themselves realize the many correlations they already had between their own world and the fabled hell told on the surface?

Sans had settled in the far back of the little boat, kicking up his slippers and leaning his head back for a nap. Papyrus sat beside you and patiently answered your many questions.

"All right, let me see if I have this straight," you began quietly as you stared out over the dark rippling waters. "Forty some years ago, a human child fell to the Underground and passed through. You were supposed to take this child’s soul, but you let them go, as did many others, but when they reached the king’s castle, the king was mysteriously murdered, the souls that had been collected vanished, and the human child left and never returned?"

Papyrus nodded and despite his smile, you could tell this wasn't a happy memory. "YES, THAT'S CORRECT. IT IS UNFORTUNATE EVERYTHING HAPPENED AS IT DID, BUT WE HAVE ALL BEEN TRYING TO KEEP OUR HOPES UP! THE QUEEN HAS HELPED, BUT MANY QUESTION HER RIGHT TO RULE AND HER DECISION TO WELCOME HUMANS AS FRIENDS AFTER THE HUMAN VANISHED WITH THE SOULS. MANY BLAME THEM FOR THE LOSS OF HOPE." How he could keep smiling as he told you this impressed you, "IT'S LED TO GREAT UNREST AMONG THE CITIZENS OF THE UNDERGROUND, BUT I AM SURE WITH YOUR ARRIVAL, THINGS WILL CHANGE! HOPE WILL RETURN BECAUSE WE HAVE YOU TO GIVE US HOPE NOW!"

You smiled at his wishful thinking, but you shook your head. You explained, "I'm not all that special Papyrus. Besides, Sans said--"

"DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT SANS SAID," Papyrus insisted, his hand coming to your knee and grasping it gently. "I HAVE A GOOD FEELING ABOUT YOU THAT I KNOW CAN'T BE WRONG! YOU'RE EXACTLY WHO WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR! SANS JUST--" Breaking off, he glanced back at his napping brother, his smile faltering. His voice lowered, "Sans does the best he can, but after Frisk came and went, I noticed a big change in him. I mean he's always been lazy, but now I worry the lack of hope has affected even him. I think Sans is just guarded. But, he'll see what I see in you, too, just give him time!"

Your gaze fell to your lap, and you put your hand over Papyrus's.

"But what if I'm not all of that?" you asked the tall skeleton. "I mean, if I can do that for you guys, I'd gladly do what you need but... there's the chance I'm not. What then?"

“THEN I HAVE MADE A NEW FRIEND, AND TODAY IS STILL OUR SPECIAL BEGINNING!” he declared, his voice regaining its vociferous nature.

When he put it like that, it was difficult to argue. You smiled, feeling a full, warm feeling building in your chest. It was a new--and bright..

It gave you hope.

"I always wanted a friend like you. You're so sweet."

"WELL NOW YOU HAVE ONE!" he beamed proudly. "AND THERE IS ONLY ONE GREAT PAPYRUS! NYEH HEH HEH!"

His laugh made a huge smile split your face, "Wow, Pap, your laugh is--"

"STRONG AND INTIMIDATING?"

"Adorable!" you squeaked as you hug his arm.

He grinned, leaning into your touch. "WELL, THAT WORKS TOO!"

The Riverperson slowed the gondola to a stop and looked back at the lot of you, a glimmer of light from under their hood making you feel like they were looking at you in particular.

"Tra la la, humans and monsters should strive to get along," the dulcet voice sang, "but peace will be difficult since lives were lost."

Papyrus stood, either oblivious to the cryptic message or ignoring it altogether. He got out of the boat and offered you a hand to help you out, but all you could do for a few seconds was stare into the black abyss that enshrouded the Riverperson’s face. They said nothing more. Uncertainly, you took Pap’s hand and got out, but you were having a hard time tearing your eyes away. Sans, hands in his pockets and yawning lightly, skipped off the boat after you.

"What did they mean by that?" you asked Papyrus.

It was Sans who answered as he strode past you, seemingly carefree, "the riverperson says a lot of things." He shrugged nonchalantly. "some don't mean anything." Then, the lights of his eyes shifted towards you. "other things...well.. i guess it’s up for the person to decide."

Papyrus took a moment to fish his phone out of his pocket, texting someone for what felt like the dozenth time since you'd met him. He doesn’t seem like the type to be preoccupied with that sort of thing, so somehow you assumed it was business. From his next words, you realized you were right.

"HER MAJESTY IS AWARE WE'RE COMING AND IS MAKING PREPARATIONS!" he announced proudly. "BUT SHE WARNS THAT THE CAPITAL SOMEHOW HAS ALREADY GOTTEN WIND OF OUR PRECIOUS CARGO AND IS RATHER ABUZZ WITH PROTESTERS!"

Sans gave pause beside his sibling, and the two began to talk. "undyne supporters?"

"IT, UHH, WOULD SEEM TO BE THE CASE, YES," Pap admitted uncomfortably as he pocketed his phone. "IT...DOES MAKE OUR ARRIVAL IN THE CAPITAL FAR MORE... DIFFICULT."

"it's definitely a 'fishy' situation."

"UGH!" Papyrus rolled his eyelights. "THAT MIGHT BE FUNNY IF I HADN'T HEARD IT A MILLION TIMES BEFORE."

Sans’s easy smile never faded, and he didn't seem to be too worried about the apparently dangerous situation they were walking into.

You were lost. "I'm sorry, what's going on?"

"WELL, DO YOU RECALL ME MENTIONING THAT THERE IS A DEGREE OF CIVIL UNREST?"

Sans chuckled nervously, "heh, yeah, it's putting it rather mildly. it's more like the brink of civil war."

"I HAVE A VERY DEAR FRIEND WHO IS NOT HAPPY WITH OUR QUEEN AND IS LEADING A REBELLION IN HOPES TO OVERTHROW HER."

You blinked in shock. "A...a friend?"

He shuffled. "WELL, I KNOW SHE'S REFUSING TO SPEAK TO ME, AND SHE'S THROWN A SPEAR AT MY SKULL A FEW TIMES... BUT WHAT'S A FEW SQUABBLES BETWEEN FRIENDS? WE'LL BE FINE AS SOON AS YOU TAKE YOUR PLACE AS PRIESTESS AND HOPE IS RESTORED!"

Slowly, you blinked, heart sinking into your feet. "P-Papyrus...you couldn't mean--"

From behind him, Sans crossed his forearms franticly to make you stop talking, and instantly, you obeyed. You may not know much about Papyrus, but he was a sweet man with a very good heart. He assumed the best in everyone and every situation. There was no need to make him face the devastating truth of a friend lost if he didn't have to. So, you smiled.

"You know, I bet she'll come around."

"I AGREE!" He said cheerfully, "NOW LET’S GET YOU TO THE CAPITAL!"

"you’re on point," Sans said as he fell in step behind you.

"RIGHT-O!"

Papyrus's optimism aside, the trek to the Capital turned out to be extremely dangerous. They had passed through a steaming hot terrain, past an old abandoned laboratory, and to a system of elevators that apparently would take them where they were going. True to Papyrus’s words, protesters were coming out of the woodwork in the form of unhappy monsters.

It was terrifying seeing so many odd creatures gathering around, shouting.

"Humans stole our hope!"

"You're why we're down here!"

"You sealed us away!"

"DEATH TO HUMANS!"

Behind you, Sans kept telling you to keep moving. Don't look at them. Don't look at anyone. You glanced at him. He was walking backward only a foot’s length behind you. You had never seen him so alert. You couldn't see Paps’s face as he split the ever-thickening crowd.

"Take the human’s SOUL!"

"keep moving, kid," Sans said again, louder.

"I'm trying," you responded, but your voice quaked, and your eyes were darting this way and that as the screams and cries of the crowd grew louder, rising to a furious crescendo. You hurried to get as closely behind Papyrus as you could manage, grasping the fringe of his scarf and closing your eyes against the sounds. "Why do they hate me?"

"THEY WOULDN'T HATE YOU IF THEY KNEW YOU, HUMAN! JUST STAY CLOSE! WE’RE ALMOST THERE!"

How could he sound so unwaveringly optimistic? This was horrible!

Quickly, it got worse. Sans grabbed you and pulled you down just as a rock was hurled through the air toward you. Papyrus stopped in his tracks, and you looked up in time to see him moving his hands, slowly materializing magical bones out of thin air before he grabbed them and brandished them like clubs. Bright blue bones shot from the ground, forming a cage around you and Sans with Papyrus on the offensive outside.

Was this....magic? You reached out to touch one of the bones, but Sans grabbed you to keep you away from them. "blue means stop kiddo," he explained quickly. "if you don't move, the bones won't hurt us, and they’ll protect you from anything flying this way."

As amazing as this was, you were worried.

"What's he doing?" you gasped in a panic, seeking Sans’s gaze for answers. "He can't take on all of them!"

"THIS HUMAN IS UNDER THE PROTECTION OF HER MAJESTY AND HER ROYAL GUARD!" Papyrus announced to the crowd, his back straight and shoulders square. Awed by his commanding presence, you stared, holding his scarf a little tighter as he went on with fierce passion in his booming voice. "JUST AS THE WORDS OF THE ORACLE OF WATERFALL FORETOLD, ANOTHER HUMAN HAS FALLEN AND AS PREDICTED, THE HUMAN IS AN ADULT FEMALE WITH A POWERFUL SOUL! THIS HUMAN WILL BE THE HOPE OF THE UNDERGROUND AND THE KEY TO OUR VERY FREEDOM! BUT THAT WILL NOT COME TO PASS IF WE GIVE IN TO FEAR AND DISSENSION NOW!"

The crowd was quieting down and listening.

"WE HAVE SUFFERED MUCH AND HAVE STRUGGLED TO REMAIN OPTIMISTIC. WE HAVE BRAVED THE DEATH OF OUR KING AND MANY FELLOW MONSTERS!" His proud voice echoed across the crowd. "I KNOW IT IS HARD TO REMAIN IN GOOD SPIRITS! HOWEVER, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE WAY TO COWARDICE, OR TURN ON ANY SOUL SIMPLY FOR BEING DIFFERENT FROM OUR OWN CAN BE DESCRIBED AS! MY BROTHER AND I WILL TAKE THIS HUMAN TO THE QUEEN, AND IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME, SHE WILL ADDRESS YOU HERSELF! SO I IMPLORE YOU!" He opened his palms, the bones he'd gathered to fight vanishing in a gesture of good will to the onlookers. "FOR THE TIME BEING, MY MONSTER BROTHERS, LET US PASS! THE TIME TO RISE MAY YET COME, BUT THE HOUR FOR HAS NOT ARRIVED!"

The crowded streets slowly parted to make a direct path to castle. It was so close that you could see the gates.

"THANK YOU!"

Papyrus smiled brightly and led the way, keeping you caged within the blue bones, just to be on the safe side. There was only silence now as every eye of each monster, from Whimsum to Tsundereplane, watched the human who might save them pass by under her skeleton guard.

You dared to look at a few. You saw their strain and the pain on their faces, tired and so in need of hope. Papyrus's words to you on the gondola came back to mind. He had so much faith in you, and it had filled your heart with something intense and new. You wanted to save them. You wanted to be the one to give them their hope back and help them be free.

It filled you with determination, and for once, it was not on your own behalf!

The giant carved doors you reached had two enormous guards in front of them. They grasped the brass handles and pulled the giant gate open for you and the sentries. Only after Papyrus had led you within the safe, beautiful confines of a palace courtyard did his cage of bones vanish.

He looked down at you with a proud smile.

"YOU WERE VERY BRAVE, HUMAN!" He commended proudly. "I KNOW I'M RIGHT ABOUT YOU!"

Sans laughed lightly. "i hope so, bro, because you just told the entire kingdom that she was the key to restoring hope."

"And with good reason," came a motherly voice from the other end of the garden.

Appearing from behind an intricately-crafted marble fountain of a goat kid and human child playing with flowers, a female goat monster appeared. Her white fur was draped in purple robes, and she had kind ruby eyes with a smile that could warm even the coldest of hearts. This had to be the queen.

Both the skeleton guards dropped to their knees at her arrival, but you stared in amazement as the woman approached.

"Y/n," she whispered, eyes glassy with emotion. "My child... we've been waiting for you."

End Part 1