Actions

Work Header

The Wheels of Fate

Chapter Text

> In which Karkat escapes Alternia but, in a turn of events, gets separated from his friends and crashlands on Earth.

 

It's been over two perigees and still there was no contact from you’re friends. They'd gone against the empire for you to get this far out of Alternian controlled space. Something had gone wrong though, and what that was eluded you. Between the vague memory of Sollux and Aradia yelling and Kanaya leading you to an escape pod, there hadn’t been a lot of time process what had been going on around you. Despite the danger, things seemed to have been going smoothly only, your pod had gone and had some sort of failure and crashland on a stupid blue (and green upon getting a much closer look) planet orbiting a weak star.

After only a few nights you found something other than creatures of beastlike intelligence. These new creatures looked so different yet so eerily similar to yourself and to trolls in general that it sent shivers down your spine. In the village you'd come across, you saw people of varying skin and hair colors, varying heights and builds. Like the beasts and plant-life around you there seemed to be no end to the diversity nor an order to how it worked. It seemed that if one of the intelligent creatures was capable of a task and willing to do so, they would do it, whereas, in the empire, everything had a rigid sort of structure to it. If you were of one caste, you were given a specific range of jobs and which one you did depended on how well you tested for it. You were never given the possibility of a job for someone outside your caste unless you were a highblood, teal or above, though some would argue it really started with ceruleans.

 

You no longer had your translator with you. It'd been lost when your pod had crashed, but you didn't need it to tell that these strange creatures spoke at least two different languages between them. Neither of which were Alternian, technically, but there were words that sounded similar. Sure their lack of horns and sharp claws and tails were bordering on horrifying but that didn't mean you didn't find them fascinating. Watching them from where the forest met small gardens and fields for grazing beasts helped you pass the time. It eased the gnawing worry that grew in your digestion sack with every night that passed and no word or sighting came of your friends. If you couldn't find a way off-planet and back to your friends, you had reasoned as a full wipe slipped by, if they couldn't find you, then at least you could find out where you were and maybe, hopefully, try to find one of these intelligent creatures to help you get some kind of life here set up for yourself.

 

Unless they all ran at the sight of you, screaming about a monster in the woods.

 

Maybe this is where you’re meant to be. A mutant, bright red, good for nothing caste that shouldn’t exist. A red beneath burgundy, who are already the lowest of low in Alternian society. So low in fact you weren’t considered to be on the hemospectrum at all.

 

Two wipes on this backwater rock in space and you had found a small hive near where you'd landed. The main block was the largest but only had a few offering platforms in front of some statues and worn cushions on the floor for seats. The next two blocks were something like a respite block and ablution block respectively. There was something like plumbing, which you'd been grateful for more than you thought you'd be, but instead of a recuperacoon there was, instead, a concupiscent platform.

 

You had shuddered at the sight. Did these creatures seriously use these things to sleep on?

 

The sopor that was stored in your pod ran out soon after so, you supposed, you couldn’t just fall asleep anywhere or take the recuperacoon as it was now basically useless. The platform when you checked back in on it seemed to have changed since the last time you saw it. What once was just blankets, ropes, and straw was now...better was the only word you could think to describe it. Wooden frame, a large rectangular cushion instead of the thing with straw, a thicker blanket with your sign all over it (which you couldn’t complain about seeing as you could tell it was getting colder to where you might want to switch to being durnal for a while), and of course, pillows.

What the hell?


So, you ignored the sudden changes, and most of the weird things not explainable The last block was a nutrition block at the back of the hive so that, at least by your best guess, none of the three blocks would interfere with the main block.

You had made an effort to look around and search as best you could without being seen, but whoever the shrine custodian was, it was as if they hadn’t been back to this hive in a long, long time. There was, however, a way to work the various appliances. The best part about that was that you were actually somewhat familiar with in using them and could even read the buttons as all the script in this place seemingly changed to Alternian over the course of a day. Oh, and there was also some sort of alchemy station which would provide you with ingredients so long as you had some kind of material which was deemed equal in value to trade with.

 

Speaking of, maybe the plumbing wasn’t actually supposed to be fully functional but somehow worked anyway. Maybe whatever was powering the nutrition block was probably like that to. Hell, even throw in other things you had wisely not given much thought. Such as the times where you thought you should have gotten lost in the forest or where you could have sworn you were close to one of the not-trolls yet found yourself back at the shrine hive (and thus safety) before you had the time to properly freak out and make a fool of yourself.

 

Now? Now you were making a valiant effort in not being seen. See, a couple of the not-troll creatures were inside the main block. They hadn’t seen you yet, thankfully, but you had caught the scent of baked food, a little like grub loaf, and some kind of drink. Were they bringing this to one of the offering platforms? They must be. You snuck a glance out from behind the door to the respite block, seeing the two and hearing them talk to each other. What really caught your eye though was the necklace around the neck of one of them. A necklace with your sign. Your sign, which could’ve gotten you culled on it's own, (putrid) candy red colored blood notwithstanding.

 

Why would they have it? It had to mean something to them. Did it mean the same thing to them as it did to you? Probably not.

 

The moment their voices died down and you shifted a little bit too much, drawing attention to yourself that you really didn’t want, or need, right now, was the very same moment two pairs of brown (bronze, would-be bronze blood) eyes stared at you, at your shirt with the same sign as the necklace, and at your eyes which were no doubt a dark maroon by now.

 

And then the one with your sign did the most impossible thing you’d ever seen done.

She (you could tell that now both of them were), spoke to you in (admittedly accented) Alternian.

Chapter Text

> In which Dave is in a small seaside village, in part for his own safety and in part because something has been urging him to go there ever since he turned thirteen.

 

You weren’t all that sure whether it would be accurate to say that you escaped from the castle, considering how you weren’t so much as escaping, or fleeing, as you were being sent away by your eldest brother. The Crown Prince, Dirk, had asked that you go to this small, seaside village in a remote area of Derse’s lands to investigate the falling star that had been thought to land there. While this was true and you’d readily take him up on this request without the double meaning, the fact of the matter was that you couldn’t stand being there any longer.

 

Your twin, Rose had already been sent out the year before to Prospit with the veiled goal of studying their history and culture first hand and acting as a sort of second, more academic ambassador between your two kingdoms. Your older sister Roxy had left for the elven lands, hoping for something similar. For both of your sisters, they were taking this as an opportunity to cleanse themselves of the wine and hard cider they had taken up drinking copious amounts of in order to cope with your mother being missing for three years now. Your mother who had done the same thing they had been doing, before she stopped one day and didn’t pick up another glass.

 

Thirteen months on the dot before she’d up and disappeared.

 

Your father on the other hand…

 

Well, that’s what the double meaning was about. Dirk was getting the three of you as far out of the man's reach as he possibly could given the resources he had at his disposal. That would leave him alone with your father in the castle, with the exception of the servants and other staff.

 

As soon as you had a plan to get him out of there, you’re going to take it.

 

“Your highness?” You turned your head, keeping a tight grip on the reins so you didn’t just fall off the pegasus, and gave one of the knights that was accompanying you a long, narrow stare, “We’re here.”

 

The village itself was small, sure, but it was in your opinion one of the most beautiful places in all of Derse. Houses seemed to be packed tightly together in between forest and the ocean. There wasn’t a temple here, but you did hear news of a shrine that was being repaired after being abandoned for no one knew how long.

 

It’d taken a little over a week of riding and flying to get here, and as soon as you dismounted you knew you’d be feeling it for the next week and a half. The three knights that were your guard were great people, honestly. They helped you into a small inn that was more of a waypoint between Derse and Prospit, if you were going around the mountains. The place wasn’t much, but you’d slept the whole first day away anyway.

 

One of your knights, Lanque, suggested, when you woke up that evening, that you should check out the shrine. If anyone were to know what happened to that falling star, it’d be the priest or priestess there. One of the herders told you the new priest primarily spoke Alternian, and that no one knew his name. They called him Cancer, for the sign he bore. They called him Diviner also, for how he seemed so close to the gods. He said that in the month that Cancer had been here, he’d helped several villagers with sickness, sleepless nights, and even found a child who’d gotten lost in the woods.

 

In the evening with the sun at your backs, you and another of your guard, Remele, go to see this troll they call Cancer.

 

You were surprised when he answered you at the second knock. The shrine, people had told you, was in much better shape than it had been a mere month ago, but to see the drawings of artists compared to this was beyond the words you mumbled throughout your travels so far. The outside was covered roof to base in vines yet the wood looked new. There wasn’t a door, not really, but there was a thick cloth hanging from the archway in grey. At your knock on the door frame, you received a rough snap in reply to “just walk right on in it’s not like there’s a door or anything, damn it I need to replace it soon” and that he was “a little busy with something and would be there to greet you in a minute”. Though not in as many words and his voice had that thick accent to it that made some of his words hard to understand.

 

Sharing a glance with your guard, who for now forewent her helmet in lieu of pulling up the collar of her armor to where it covered the lower half of her face, you stepped inside to see something that was rather odd. See, most shrine rooms were bare of everything except a statue or smaller idol of the god or goddess in question, a bowl or low table for offerings, and either a cushion or forgoing comfort and leaving you to just kneel on the floor. Most shrine rooms had only a candle or two lit, unless they were for one of the goddesses of light, where the whole room would be lit, or for the goddess of darkness, in which there would be no candle or torch to light at all.

 

This shrine room was a lot more decorated. There were three shrines, which was the first thing you took note of. One to the god of the sky and storms, one to the goddess of life and birth, and one to the god of nature and hope. Rather appropriate, given the area. There was a large rug covering most of the dark wood flooring and there were a lot of plants around. Again, appropriate given that one of the gods this shrine was dedicated to was the one presiding over nature, which therefore included plantlife. Instead of candles or torches there were magelights, something that had to have been imported from Prospit, and while there were cushions in front of the shrine statues, there was also a sitting area between it and the “front door”. The chairs were odd, colored grey again and had to have some sort of soft material covering the wooden frame which was amazing and you needed to get the carpenters back home to make a hundred of these and fill the entire castle with them. Remele gave you an amused look at your mumbling.

 

More cursing could be heard near the back of the shrine, where the priest’s living quarters must be, as something crashed and rattled onto the floor followed by cursing that would make a sailor flush in embarrassment. Something vaguely cat sized bolted into the room and stopped before you.

 

“Holy shit is that a dragon?” You’d always wanted to see one, mostly the larger variety but this was just as good, “Oh gods that is a dragon, hey there, we’re here to see the priest to ask him about something.” The dragon, one with dark grey and black mottled scales and eyes bright blue-green stared at you for a long moment before the priest stumbled in. The dragon looked back at him before trodding over and brushing past him not unlike an actual feline. Huh.

 

Cancer huffed but didn’t acknowledge the creature otherwise, before turning his attention to the two of you. It was then that he seemed to freeze, gaze lingering on your guardt’s.

 

“Cancer?” She asked, tone gruff and impatient, “We’re here to ask you about the star that fell a couple of months ago. It was said to have landed somewhere near here. Do you know anything about it?”

Chapter Text

> In Which Kanaya buys some things, meets some aliens, and has a strange encounter.

 

Your custodian, your lusus, had died and you was left to care for the matriorb that was left behind. You escaped Alternia with the rest of your crew and things had, for the most part, gone smoothly. Feferi and Eridan pooled their money and resources into a ship that Sollux and Equius reconfigured so that Sollux wouldn’t have to become a helmsman in the traditional sense. You reached a system a good distance outside Alternian space and then, and only then, did disaster strike. You were making your way through the inner asteroid ring when one of the rocks had barreled through one of the engines. Sollux and Aradia took control, steering the ship through as best they could, getting as far as slightly out of the orbit of the blue planet with signs of life, before too many things had begun to fail and you were all made aware that crashing was imminent.

 

You got a confused Karkat and a worried Feferi out of there on two of the smaller, one man escape pods before you really began to fall, faster and faster through the atmosphere.

 

Since then you and what remained of your crew had cobbled together what supplies you could salvage from the wrecked ship and started travelling along the coastline. Eridan and Vriska’s history hunting proved useful and Aradia’s knowledge of what ancient Alternians were like provided insight into a fact that now almost seemed like common sense. If one was to look for civilization, the best place to start searching was here there was water. Never mind that you were near a coastline, or that somehow despite everything none of your crew had sustained any serious injuries. Besides, maybe, Tavros’s robotic legs needing to be repaired. For now though, the still functioning wheelchair was put to use, even if Sollux and Aradia had to lift it up over the sand.

 

And yet when you came across a coastal town full of trolls and what looked to be at least three different other species, you were all surprised. Terezi had been the one to ask the question to one of the trolls, a fellow teal it turned out, and the help and information they provided turned out to be rather useful. There’d been a rebellion in the empire hundreds of sweeps ago, that much Eridan had told you already, and that it ended with said rebellion retreating here and to systems and planets that at one point used to be apart of the empire.

 

You were told of the Sufferer’s tale when the troll, Giulia, asked you in turn what you knew about it, stating that you must be “new”. It seemed every troll on Earth was told the tale from wrigglerhood, so you conceded to learning it. At the end of a story that seemed a touch too romanticized to be complete truth, she showed you an all too familiar sign as part of a necklace.

 

Sollux had let out a string of curses before Aradia reigned him in, citing that you all had seen the sign before but hadn’t known what it meant until now. She hadn’t told the troll anything that would give Karkat away. Doing so, even if the response was a positive one, could have unexpected consequences.

 

Giulia showed you to what was actually her hive, stating that you could stay until you got money for an inn or even a place of your own, if that was your goal. While you were instantly suspicious, you at least could see the benefit in taking up the offer. It did, however, take a solid half hour for you to convince everyone else of this.

 

Which leads you to where you were now.

 

“She’s an adult, Kanaya, are you mad?”

 

“Well it will only be for a day or so, right, Eridan?” You countered, “After all you have enough jewelry on you that surely someone would buy for a decent price.”

 

“What if she asks for something in return for her help, still?”

 

“I could take her.” Nepeta offered, temporarily taking out her clawkind from her sylladex. You feel the urge to smack your face with a hand. You think of the guards around the town, clad in armor that none of you had. You think of the high thick walls and the paved roads and walkways built and laid down just to keep out the sand around them. You think of all the other things you’d seen on your way here, how unpredictable everything was.

 

You shook your head, “No. Not without Equius with you, at least. We can’t predict the things these people, the non-trolls included, are capable of so if things do get bad enough that a fight is inevitable, no one does so alone.”

 

“Okay but what do we even do now? Just sit around and wait before we get whatever currency is used here to do anything?” Vriska rolled her eye, “That’s booooooooring.”

 

“Well, whatever you decide to do when evening comes, or morning, don’t go alone.”

 

For some reason they all listened to you despite you only being a jade and not actually knowing what the hell you were doing. Maybe it was because no one really had an argument for your logic, or maybe it had something to do with Karkat and Feferi who for reasons beyond you, trusted your judgement. You weren’t sure if making you the de facto leader was a unanimous decision or if it was because you just sort of, stepped in and took charge before anyone else could.

 

Either way, you all decided it was best to stay in Giulia’s entertainment block for the time being, napping on the chairs (what few there were) or the floor in shifts. While it turned out that there wasn’t anything for you to worry about, you worried anyway. Everyone was up again early the next morning, something you were used to yet no one else was even with proof that this sun would not kill you in minutes. The most anyone got was something called ‘sunburn’, which was totally different on Alternian, example A, Terezi’s eyes.

 

You had Eridan give you a few of his rings and necklaces (two of each) so that you could go out yourself and get the money you needed, hoping only that if someone where to give you less than what the items were worth, that it would be enough for you all to get by.

 

The dawn of this weaker sun provided a no less beautiful sight when you stepped out of Giulia’s hive. There were all sorts of people about at this hour, ones without horns or tails and a variety of skin tones as well as ones with pointed ears like trolls, sometimes with dark colors and sometimes almost overwhelmingly bright. Shops and stalls were being set up and you really only had to follow your nose to where the food was to see the widest street and had to stand there in awe for a minute.

 

Eventually you got your bearings and made your way to a stall with someone of the bright pointed eared variety where people seemed to be able to exchange one type, or one amount of money for another. The one thing you notice was how, despite the noise, the sound around you wasn’t due to anyone speaking. In fact, try as you might, you couldn’t hear any voices around.

 

The bright person smiled as you stepped up to him and, well, you might as well go along with it. You took the several items you had to sell and held them out to him. His eyes widened as he gingerly took them from your hands, found a writing pad and utensil, and wrote in rushed Alternian how much you would expect to gain from them.

 

That?

 

That was a lot of money.

 

At least it seemed like a lot. You saw three different amounts of currency, and knowing just how much anything was actually worth may put a significant dent into the number he was actually able to give you. Fifty copper coins to a bronze, thirty bronze to a silver, and ten silver to a gold. After looking around to see there were not immediately any other customers, he helped you chart out how much some of the more basic food items were, just how much water alone would cost for the ten of you (and more considering Eridan was a seadweller), and how much the two rings were worth, which is what he was able to pay you for.

 

Twenty gold coins and not a copper more. Even though it would take ten silver, you could get enchanted water skins that would purify saltwater for you once they were filled. The rest, he wrote, would depend on what you planned to buy and how much you would actually need for ten people.

 

You thanked the man and left, and it was only after you were in line for the next stall, looking back on the one that you left, that you saw the stall, and it's vendor, had vanished.

Chapter Text

> In which a heartfelt reunion is subverted by the fact that neither Kanaya nor Rose know who each other is.

 

It took a total of ten nights for you to get out of the port town and out of Giulia’s hair. Everyone breathed out a sigh of relief when she didn’t ask anything of them, but that didn’t make you or the others any less nervous. Thank the stars that the teal seemed to understand and kept some distance, but was no less kind or accommodating.

 

Once Eridan refused to give anything else up and no one else was willing to part with anything (you had given up most of your completed projects which weren’t a gift to someone or personal use, as well as some spare fabric that you could afford to let go of), you got everyone to sit down for maybe two hours to go over where you might go from here.

 

Feferi, Eridan pointed out, would likely go for a populated place, or even just try to get around as many people as possible, while everyone was in agreement that Karkat wasn’t likely to stray from rural villages or smaller towns unless he couldn’t go anywhere else. This, of course, sparked an argument over who you should try to locate first.

 

Sollux, Aradia, you, Nepeta and Terezi wanted to find Karkat first. Eridan was firmly in the Find Feferi camp. Vriska didn’t care, Equius spun some logic mixed with casteism about how getting Feferi would be the best course of action in the long run, and Tavros didn’t much care so long as both of them were found in the end. Though he did point out that even if these trolls here were more likely to not care about blood color, Karkat would still be in a measure of danger seeing as he, well, he had the same color and sign as the Sufferer. Even if he wasn’t the Signless Sufferer’s descendent, which, lets face it, all the evidence was pointing toward that being the case, people would still associate him with the now long dead troll. They might still believe him to be some kind of Second Signless, and given how he never seemed to interact with people in person up until their grand escape? He wasn’t going to take that very well.

 

While on the other hand, Feferi had grown up as the Heiress, was a fuschia blood, and grew up with that kind of attention even if from afar. She’d be better able to hold out while they found Karkat. Hopefully.

 

Eridan wasn’t happy about what the final decision ultimately came down to, but nevertheless couldn’t find anything to argue with. Gamzee hadn’t said a word during all of this, not even when your discussion topic included his former moirail, and you had to bite down on your lip to keep from calling him out on it by asking him what he thought about all of this.

 

So you charted a course to take, meeting up with a caravan that would take you to a smaller town that was nearer to the capital. Thankfully there was someone there who was able to translate between you and, well, pretty much everyone else. The ride there was uncomfortable, what with there being a good number of adults around but there were also what seemed to be adolescents and wrigglers and even grubs (or the equivalent thereof) on this trip as well.

 

You did make an effort to learn some of the language most widely used around here. Prospian, they called it. If only to pass the time and make it a little more bearable. Of course, while you were trying to learn the others of your group had either complain or have legitimate problems to tend to.

 

Eridan needed water more often, for one, and Tavros, poor guy, had to keep as still as possible so he didn’t hit anyone with his horns. Sollux was the one doing most of the complaining about there not being any connection to whatever passed for an internet here which wasn’t helped at all when Vriska suggested that maybe they didn’t have internet, or computers. Nepeta helpfully added that maybe they use something else to communicate across vast distances near instantaneously, which did little to lift Sollux’s mood.

 

The wrigglers were a handful, and the grubs even more so. You were nervous about the smaller wrigglers asking you and your crew lots of questions, a couple grubs were crying, but, well, you were allowed to hold one of them. You were instructed, through miming and translations that you had to keep their head up, and probably a half dozen other things that went over your head. You were too busy being in awe of the tiny being who stopped their tears and cries as soon as you held them.

 

On the plus side you did gain some new friends of the human variety, as well as a few of other races whom you learn the names of. These friendships though, unlike those you formed with the majority of your group, was not based in some mutual antagonism that didn’t spill over into enemy, auspistice, or kismesis territory. It was based more in, you could only guess, the opposite in that it was formed out of a mutual liking one another. Whether or not this ventured into moirallegiance territory for these people you didn’t quite know yet.

 

You arrived in Skald, or rather, a temple outside of the town (you had guessed it to be a temple what with the decorative banners and stained glass that looked to be almost as thick as the walls), and everything about it appeared new and relatively clean, considering this was at the coast and the land was pretty much shrubland and sand dunes around here.

 

You all got out, presumably to not get in the way while others loaded up fresh food and water and took other crates of supplies inside. While inside to get out of the heat, you saw one of the humans there, a fair haired and skinned girl who couldn’t be much older than you, walking up to you. The ears were the only thing clueing you into the fact that she was human, to, because she was looked positively radiant, perhaps more so than the light elves themselves. Her attire was primarily orange and yellow, with a stylized sun symbol being a prominent feature to the outfit. A veil was over the upper half of her face so her eyes, purple ones, were somewhat obscured. The only accents of other color were the addition of some jewelry you think was more a status symbol than anything else, and the purple eye sewn into the veil that was more opaque than the rest of it.

 

In your most humble opinion, she was gorgeous, in spite of or maybe because of her not looking at all like a troll. A beautiful and probably wealthy person who for some reason beyond you was now sitting next to you on the bench you decided to rest on.

 

“Hello.” For all of the dozen words and phrases you had learned, all you managed to say was a simple greeting.

 

She smiled at you, brushing her veil out of her face so that you could see her more clearly, “Hello. My name is Rose. Might I know yours, miss?” She asked in your own language and you actually sighed in relief. It was a rather dramatic gesture for such a small thing but it did bring something close to a laugh out of her.

 

“Kanaya Maryam.” She gave a little half grin.

 

“Well, Kanaya, may I ask why you’re with this caravan? Are you perhaps going to the festival at the capital? It’ll be in about a week I hear, so you’ll likely arrive with a day or two to get your bearings.”

 

You tilted your head, “No, I suppose you could say I, and the other trolls who are,” You spared a glance to where Sollux and Eridan were arguing again, “somewhat regrettably in my crew, are new around here. We thought that going to the capital, if we could locate somewhere with records, would be useful in finding a crewmate of ours.”

 

It seems you piqued her curiosity, “Oh? And how would recordkeepers help you?”

 

“Do you.. Do you have any knowledge of something, or, more than one something, falling from the sky?” You asked even though her smile was quite distracting.

 

“Yes, actually, though I can’t say everyone would have by now. Give it a few days, or nights, more and the whole kingdom will know. The only thing I can tell you is that the stars fell in the opposite direction of where you’re going, “At your crestfallen expression she continued, “But going to the capital will still be a good idea, as I haven’t a clue where they might have landed.”

 

You thanked her, for her advice and her time, and was prepared to leave when she caught your arm, “When you come back through here, could you take me with you?”

Chapter Text

> In which Karkat goes to show Dave and his guard the “fallen star”, but gets sidetracked along the way.

 

You didn’t know what to think of this human named Dave or his cerulean blooded guard, introducing herself as Remele. You don’t know what to think of the way he casually lounges on your couches after you let him into what you were settling in to thinking of as your hive. You were even less sure of his other guards, Lanque and Azdaja, when they bothered to show up. Apparently one of them was on hoofbeast duty while another had been wandering around town. You don’t think too much of it when they rotate shifts.

 

Two days after Dave and Remele first asked about the ‘shooting star’, you had taken them out to show where it had landed. Dave had been awestruck to hear that the star had actually been a part of a ‘craft’ which had aided your escape from the empire. Remele was wary, on the other horn, and so you told them you would take them both to see for themselves if they would not, or could not, believe your word alone.

 

The trek would take about an hour on foot, given good weather, but ever since you’d arrived there had been nothing but. You blamed one of the gods or spirits your hive shrine was dedicated to, not that you really knew much of the Heir of Breath, or if the Maid of Life or the Page of Hope could have any influence on the weather themselves.

 

As it was you were hesitant to pray to the gods you’d normally seek out and the gods of the shrine because you did not know them. You felt trapped between a vicious FLARP player and a cliff. The whole way there, Dave did nothing but talk. In Alternian, which, admittedly, had you be more lenient with him as he didn’t necessarily need to speak so that you could understand him, but all the same, he wouldn’t stop. It was like once he opened his mouth just to breathe there’d be yet another word he had to say, something was always on his mind.

 

Remele was more quiet, picking up the rear as you lead the way and while you know you should feel uneasy with her around, you felt more at ease instead. Maybe it was the scenery. You’d found walks through the forest and through town to be rather relaxing lately, and the villagers here always made the effort to teach you more words and phrases and questions.

 

Dave’s voice should have grated on your nerves. Okay they * did* do just that, but that you identified as the feeling you got whenever someone called you Cancer. You’d much rather be called by Diviner, even though it was a title and trolls were only titled once they hit adulthood. Plus it sounded rather...pompous. Like you wanted them to revere you and show respect when instead you just didn’t want them to know your name.

 

That was fair right? You didn’t need to give your name to whomever passed you by, right? The few in the village that spoke Alternian (only a handful really and half of those were elderly folk) had reassured you that it was no trouble, but you had doubts, some days. It was on those days that the forest most called to you, and that you found yourself delightedly distracted by all the strange things you could find on top of just naturally beautiful places.

 

Speaking of, the last leg of your journey included such a place, and you found yourself almost eager to show the two that you were guiding. It was only a short ways off the path you’d mapped out in your head, so finding your way back would be no problem at all.

 

“Come! This way! I be showing you good place!” Fuck you for trying to speak Derse when you knew he spoke your own language. You sound stupid and inept and now you were going and insulting people learning other languages for thinking that like the fuck up you were. Great.

 

They got your message though, which was nice, yet as Dave ‘whooped’ and was happy to see whatever you showed him, “star” or not, Remele remained subdued. She only offered an ‘okay’, or was that a ‘yes’? Either way she didn’t seem as excited as you and the human were.

 

You reached an abrupt edge to the treeline, stopping a few feet from where there was a steep drop down into one of the wider rivers you’d seen around here. The sound of it you’d been able to hear for a while now, but every time you see it up close it was stunning. The trees around here were tall and strange, their leaves having turned all sorts of colors from bronze brown to golden yellow to your own bright mutant red. The river raged downhill toward the coast, and as the land evened out to be almost level with it, you had the rare chance of spotting bears waiting for fish which were travelling against the current. You’d spotted them three separate times in the past week and was not disappointed today.

 

Dave stumbled through the underbrush and you held an arm out to stop him from running off the cliff. He cursed a bit but settled down as Remele also stepped out of the treeline.

 

“Holy shit are those bears ?!” He had to raise his voice some to be heard even with how good your hearing naturally was. You grinned and nodded, sitting down by the ledge and content to just watch them for a while.

 

“You said you would show us where the fallen star went.” You and the human she was guarding both gave her a flat look in response, but otherwise ignored her as Dave sat down beside you.

 

“How close have you been able to get to them? Are you able to get close to like, any animal ever and just have it be as docile as a lamb? Are you…” He didn’t get to finish as one of the cubs trotted over to you. Remele readies a sword but you held a hand up, hoping it would stop her, and let the cub reach you. It...she, came right up to you, sniffing all over you and leaving you laughing until you were breathless.

 

“Oh, not there that, ha, tickles, fuck.” And then the bear flops down and rested her head on your lap, rendering you immobile, “Gods damn it please get up we have to go somewhere soon I can’t just sit here for hours like last time. Besides you’re a bear, you’re heavy as fuck.”

 

The bear, being a bear, didn’t listen.

 

It took over half an hour to get the bear cub to move away and go back to her mother, but once that was done, you were up and moving back a ways so as to get back into the little trail you’d made. Dave scrambled after you, laughing at the guard and telling her to catch up.

 

Another half hour later, roughly speaking, of hiking later you reached the spot, only to hear unfamiliar voices in the area. You crouch down, Dave’s guard following in an instant, while Dave himself followed your lead but hadn’t yet heard the commotion. They didn’t smell anything like a troll, but your senses could be faulty. You glance back at Remele, noting absently that you didn’t even know her title yet you think if you asked for it now she’d wave it off. More important things at the moment. Right.

 

One of the voices grew louder, a guy maybe, and Dave tensed beside you as he finally registered what got you and his guard so on edge.

 

“Friends of yours?” He hissed at you under his breath. You glared at him, shaking your head sharply.

 

“Would we be hiding if they were?”

 

“Good point. Guard,” Which was the only formal address you could come up with on short notice, “Do you have an idea for what to do?” You didn’t know if they were friendly. You hardly knew anything about the people here other than humans. You also don’t know what their motive would be to be here. Curiosity maybe? Adventurers? There were at least three there, but even three meant that the playing field would more likely be two to three. Why, oh why did you not bring your sickles along with you?

 

That’s right, you’d become complacent and safe in a place where you wouldn’t be killed on sight if anyone saw a hint of your blood color.

 

“I’ll go, try to talk to them, if they are hostile they will fall.” You didn’t doubt her, yet watching her go ahead of you and making herself seen, catching the three’s attention didn’t sit easy in your gut. Remele talked, though within a minute you could feel the tension in the air. Two minutes, silence, and then one spoke up in a submissive tone. Good. They’d hopefully be leaving sooner, rather than later, and not cause trouble.

 

When Remele came back you had to ask, “What were they here for?”

 

“The fallen star, or, craft as it may seem. Didn’t get what they could possibly want it for, but they did say they didn’t find anything useful to take. Good for them then, as the shrine for this priest had laid claims and protection over it, and would rightly be furious should they have desecrated the site any further with their presence.”

 

“Who were they?” You flinch, head snapping to Dave who you’d forgotten had been near you this whole time. He’d been stone silent, barely breathing loud or hard enough even for you to hear. You flicked the tuft of your tail over his nose, making him sneeze and complain.

 

“Could you be any quieter? I’d nearly up and forgot you were there, Prince.” You growled lightheartedly at him as he gave you this wholey indignant expression.

 

“Sorry man, I’m a master of stealth. I can hide in these woods whether I know them or not.” You snickered, making him pause.

 

“Oh, no, if you did not have even a drop of the nature god’s favor you’d stick out like a sore thumb, that I can promise you. But, back to the point. Who were those people?”

 

“Treasure hunters I suppose. I don’t much care, so long as we don’t run into them again.”

Chapter Text

> In which Dave tries to get Karkat to tell him his name and hilarity ultimately ensues.

 

“Hey Diviner.” You called as you entered the shrine house for the seventh time in two weeks, “Brought some food.” You had come alone today, despite your guard’s insistence that one of them come along with you. After seeing that the fallen star was actually some kind of ship that had fallen from space, and that the Diviner had been aboard that ship? Well, opinions and trust shifted some. It had started out as the guards being even more twitching, only to back off at your word. It had ended, currently, with you sneaking off to the shrine because you caught them talking behind your back about questioning the shrine keeper for information about why he was here and you even caught the name of the troll homeworld being spat out with disdain. Maybe you were jumping to conclusions about what they were actually going to do. Maybe you were jumping to protectiveness and friendship too soon with the Diviner (especially since you knew small things about him but not his name when he knew yours).

 

It could very well be that you are overreacting but you kicked that thought to the street and head out to the forest once dawn came.

 

“In the back, Prince.” Ah, still using the title to it seemed. You insisted he use your name, but with you not knowing his, he said he felt uncomfortable being able, or even allowed, to use yours. Besides, he had told you, most trolls don’t get a title until they reach adulthood and for him, for them, that was roughly eight to ten sweeps, depending on caste. Roughly your age, you pointed out, as the lowest number.

 

He’d just clammed up, a pained look overcoming him that made his little dragon hiss at you, and didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

 

You were thankful at least that he was willing to allow you to be in his presence still. You were thankful for a lot of things, really. He didn’t know just how bored you were becoming as even though you tried to help some of the villagers out, they insisted they had everything well in hand and that you shouldn’t bother yourself. You found yourself, every other day since the second one, in the Diviner’s company as you both tiptoed around the language and cultural barrier. Several times you had asked him for his name with the promise of giving something in exchange. Gold, for the first time on the fourth day to which he scowled and snapped at you. A small bag of gold appeared out of nowhere on the table in the sitting area not five seconds later to punctuate the point that he didn’t need it.

 

The second time you asked, it was in return for something like the silk clothes that royalty and nobility tended to wear, in addition to those with connections to them. He turned you down again, and again a stack of the very same kind of clothes appeared on the table between you. He gave it and the statues a long, suffering look before taking them to the back where his room no doubt was.

 

The third time (day 8), involved a horse which no one brought up again because the horse sticking around was enough of a reminder already. The fourth (day ten), had him questioning his life choices up to that moment and had a second horse appear, unrelated but you couldn’t be certain. The fifth (day twelve), and the most recent attempt was learning. Knowledge. You’d seen the shelves with bound books and scrolls before, of course you have, but you hadn’t before taken a look at them and impose yourself on what you thought for sure was waning hospitality. But then you did check, just glancing at the titles is all, and found one whole book case was dedicated to Derse’s language (grammar and a dictionary and even children’s books), and culture (etiquette for meal times, gestures, expressions, eye contact, everything, good gods). You found a second smaller case propped between two plants with Prospitian’s language and customs, religious texts, and information on the other countries of the continent and nearby islands. The last shelf, the one on the wall closest to the side door that led to the living quarters, was filled with fiction. From what scant few titles that you could recognize, the Diviner (or his predecessor) was interested in tales that have a romance element to them.

 

He gave you a wholly unamused look and simply told you that would not be happening. So, as you had left and had your day of doing something (anything) else, a thought occurred to you, and with all things considered it really should have dawned on you sooner.

 

Today you would offer to teach him not only the spoken language (and everything from that set of books and scrolls on Derse, but you would also simultaneously try your hand at teaching him the written language so he could dive into those fiction books if he desired to.

 

All for his name, which by now you were beginning to believe was something he valued highly. Talking to your guards who you already knew by name and not by their titles, they gave you the same sentiment. Once titled, a troll will only be referred to by their hatch name by quadrants and a select few outside of that, like those they trusted and quadrant corners. Sometimes (though rarely) giving it in exchange for something, like a favor, money, or a task to be done. Among your guards you were apart of the ‘trusted’ category, and you found yourself touched by that in spite of their job requiring them to literally guard yours with their lives if the situation turned dire enough.

 

“I said I was in the back, Prince. Do you not hear me?” The Diviner asked, poking his head around the opening in the doorway you hadn’t noticed earlier. You startled, dropping the basket of food (thankful that it didn’t tip over) and turning around to see him and then his dragon as she wound around your legs.

 

“Did,” You corrected with what was hopefully a mild tone, “But yes, I heard you, and hear you still. Hey, I know I’m starting to sound like that one messenger guy that keeps coming by every day-”

 

“Oh please, you could do worse, have done worse in fact.” Hey, what was that supposed to mean, “The fact that they do so and say the same exact thing every time is, well, nice, sure. But sometimes they don’t even have letters or packages for me. Okay, no, they do. Every time. Without fail-” He responded back, filling in the gaps that he didn’t yet memorize of Dersic with Alternian, which, now that you think back on it, was becoming less of a thing that happens. Has he been learning by himself? What could you offer him then, if he was doing well enough with that on his own?

 

“Yeah so I know I must be sounding like that person by now but maybe I could, you know, in exchange for your name-”

 

“Holy shit, please not that again. I told you four nights ago-” Right, he did look tired and you really should have come during the evening like you normally did. But then there were your guards you had to think about and even if you somehow trusted that they wouldn’t kill the Diviner, you couldn’t trust that they wouldn’t scare him away to possibly be ambushed by thieves and bandits.

 

“That you would eviscerate me if I tried to give you something in exchange for your name?” You finished his sentence with a raised eyebrow, “I remember. So, what do I have to do then. For your name that is?”

 

The Diviner made a frustrated sound, and his dragon jumped up onto his shoulders and settled herself across them and around his neck. Probably an attempt at soothing him? Probably. You didn’t know how intelligent the dragon was, or even her name for that matter, but at the very least she had a passable understanding of Dersic so you weren’t about to go around insulting her by treating her as a common household pet.

 

Now the horses out back on the other hand were a different matter entirely. They were not ordinary horses, even as you thought the first one was when you’d bought him off that man that owned that horse ranch you’d seen once, a small ways away from where most of the other houses were set up. Anyway, the horses weren’t normal by a long shot and you honestly blamed the gods because how else was a second one that looked so pale it was almost like a ghost supposed to just appear like that? And how else would it have “eyes that only looked orange because of the lighting”? There had been no pale horses there, much less ones with that sort of eye color but Karkat waved your concerns stating that this kind of thing was “his new normal, you get used to it”. Which, here’s a thought. How? Why is this a normal thing? Do the gods that he’s the priest for just call in favors and give him all the gifts just because?

 

You smell bullshit.

 

But you had more important things to focus on right now, one of those currently being acquiring this priest’s hatch name, "Sweet angel fallen from the heavens your name is all that my soul longs for and forever shall I remain in despondent desperation should my ears never delight in the soothing euphoria of your own gorgeous voice gracing me with the true name of one so glorious."

 

He, and his dragon both, looked like deer at the receiving end of an arrow.

 

Nailed it.

 

“Uh, why the fuck do you think my name is… apparently so important for you to know? Shithive… this is… I’m at a loss for words here, Princey.” Aww, you have a slightly altered title nickname, “And those were a lot of words I didn’t understand because you accidentally said all that in Dersic,” Shit, “But yeah, why is it...fuck. You’re joking right? You’ve got to be joking.”

 

“About what?” You ask because you now have not a single notion of what he had understood versus what he hadn’t and there you went, messing things up again.

 

“Okay, one, I’m not glorious,” You begged to differ, “I do not have a “gor-geo-s voice, that’s a good thing? Yeah, okay I don’t have a nice sounding voice. Third, angels have a very different connotation on Alternia but with ‘sweet’ I am to assume that’s also a good thing, so let me ask you this. Why in the everpitying fuck did you call me those things when they aren’t true?”

 

Damn it, he’ll probably yell at you some more no matter what you say in response to this.

 

Might as well go all out right?

 

No, not right. You’re doing this for his name not because you have a cru- not because you are possibly entertaining the thought that you like how he looks and that he does have a nice voice and that you just generally like him as a person. You are not going to scare him away completely by accident. That’s not your end goal in any lifetime ever.

 

And so what do you do but open your mouth and let it run before you can really take the seconds necessary to think things through, “Fluffer puff, tiny angry priest of Shipton-”

 

“Wait the name of this place is Shipton? And don’t call me-”

 

“You are all those things even if you don’t believe it yourself. I’ve only known you for like, a week at best and even I can see that.”

 

He folded his arms across his chest, “Yep. You’re joking. This has to be one of those human “sarcasm” or “irony” things you’ve talked about before.”

 

“Nope,” You refute it immediately, “Seriously though. What do I need to do in order to be graced with your name?” You were willing to literally beg but you weren’t so sure how he’d take that.

 

“Why do you think my name’s so secretive and valuable?” He snapped back and the thought that this was a test of some sort had your face twisting in confusion.

 

“May I please have your name?” You tried. He grinned. You thought maybe this was it. That you were going to get to know the answer.

 

“Nope.”

 

Now it was you who made the sound of frustration. Why was this so hard?

 

The gods must be laughing up there at you, surely. Your misfortune in this endeavor had to be the machinations of one of them, at least.

 

“So what do I have to do?” You almost felt like whining, like the supposed spoiled petulant brat that you know some people in your kingdom called you, and more outside it.

 

“Hm. I think I’ll wait and see what you can come up with.” He challenged, still grinning while his dragon for all the world looked smug.

 

“Then I’ll be here later this evening with what I have in mind next.”

 

Challenge Accepted.

Chapter Text

> In which Karkat realizes he’s flirting black instead of red, feels both and more for the prince all at once, and doesn’t even have the time to have a proper crisis over this revelation.

 

For the next week and a half, Prince Dave came to your hive each day at sundown, and made offers that only continued to become more grandiose. Your dragon friend watched him as if untrusting, and yet made no move to strike against him like you knew she would (and had indeed already done, twice) to anyone who would actually pose a threat to you. Her actions told you well enough that though this human had the wealth and influence to end you without even killing you, that he would not.

 

Or at least, would rather not if the circumstances allowed.

 

He’d come here to see the star that had fallen near Shipton, though you now knew there had to have been two others. One, holding Feferi, and the other, holding the other members of your crew.

 

You were hesitant to tell him of this, as the thing you didn’t know was where they would have landed.

 

When the prince entered your hive this evening, it was to you kneeling in front of the statue to the Goddess you knew now as the one for life. You’d been seeing her lately in your dreams, and each day you found Dersic to flow easier on your tongue and that whatever you learned that day was easier to recall later.

 

You did not think to yourself that you were learning so much to impress the prince, or to show him that he would have to try harder if you were to be impressed in turn by whatever he might offer you next. You did not think of how easy it was to rile him up, or how much you’d enjoy doing so. Sometimes you’d catch him wanting to scream, tense like a coil waiting to spring because this was not about your name anymore. Not by itself.

 

Other times you were the one who had to refrain from just giving out your name in exasperation, for the past few nights he’d taken to coming up with nicknames for you and half of them were completely ridiculous, nonsensical, and made you almost burst something with how hard you tried not to laugh.

 

“Hey, Sugar.”

 

“The fuck? No. Don’t call me that. Try again, asshole.”

 

“Pretty pants.”

 

“You called me that two nights ago, fuckmuffin.”

 

“Easy on the eyes? Hottie with a body?”

 

“That was yesternight and four respectively, shitflinger.”

 

“Future Husband-”

 

“Try again, that was night two, and by that way, it wasn’t funny.”

 

Dave huffed, but did list off the other nicknames he had for you in his ever growing list. Starlight. You rolled your eyes. Dragon Heart, you were tempted to tell him you were no such thing and would never consider infringing on Terezi’s love for the creatures but managed to resist it. Cutie Patootie. You didn’t even know what that was. Did it have something to do with your butt?

 

“Starshine?” With no reply from you, you could tell that he was grinning and continued, “So I spent like, this whole week trying to come up with something,” You absently noted he was speaking Dersic and that you could understand, now, pretty much everything he was saying, “And I thought, well if you’re not going to be swayed by expensive gifts, maybe I should try a different route? And so I got to asking around, right? On how to sweep you off your feet with you saying ‘oh prince Strider this is wonderful I wouldn’t dare give you my name now for it would not be enough’ and I would respond with…”And on and on he went.

 

You send a small apology to the goddess, get up from your spot, and think you hear a giggle from somewhere far off.

 

“Could you get to the point sometime tonight?”

 

“Oh. Yeah. Right.”

 

Before he could actually say anything though, you both were startled by the horses outside making a racket. One of them, the bright one with odd eyes, even poked his head through the divider for a front door and neighed practically right into Dave’s ear.

 

He jumped, twisting around and glared at the equine who pulled away, neighing again and stomping his hooves hard against the ground. You were filled with unease. Sharing a look with the prince, you rushed to grab your sickles and belt from your respite block before making haste outside.

 

Your dragon friend glided up to a tree branch as Dave kept pace with you, and the three of you followed the two horses up onto a hill. It wasn’t your most favored thinking spots, but it didn’t give you a good view of the village below.

 

“Oh no.” You took a step back, almost unbalancing and falling down the hill if not for Dave steadying you.

 

Everything was on fire.

 

“No.” Even the boats at the port were set ablaze. How were people going to get away? Where would they even be able to flee to?

You were struggling to move forward, “Dave, c’mon we have to help them, we have to go down there, we can’t just-”

 

“Diviner, I had three knights there. They would’ve gotten as many people out as they could, and fight off whoever did this. We can’t go down there. Either the smoke or the fire would kill us, and if not…” The grip he had on your arms turned into more of a hug.

 

There had to be some other way though. Something you could do even from this distance.

 

“Gods…” Dave bit out, either as a prayer or a curse you don’t know, but it did give you an idea.

 

“Heir of Breath I plead please make these fires cease! Maid of Life I ask that the villagers here be alive and well and that they be safe! Page of Hope-” You paused, taking a breath before growling, “May whoever set the fire suffer nature’s wrath.”

 

Immediately there was a change in the weather. You knew by now that the Maid’s power and influence didn’t always have a visible sign, but something warm settled in your bloodpusher and you knew she was working her magic. While storm clouds poured a heavy load of water onto the town and wind kicked up to blow the smoke out to sea, the Page began his own work. You could hear faint yelling coming from somewhere in the distance, past most of the hives if you had to guess. From here, the people on horseback (you think with formerly lit torches by the smoke coming from there, were yelling at each other. You couldn’t hear what they were saying, but soon it hardly mattered. From the woods to the south where they were attempting to flee to came, something. You think it was vines and some kind of small woodland creature. Either way, the vines, or roots, and creatures attacked the band of attackers. They fell off their horses first, leaving the creatures to flee. One was immediately dragged off into the woods, while others used their swords, daggers, and you think crossbows, whatever they could use really, to try to prevent that same fate.

 

You turned away from the sight and Dave lead you back down the hill, still holding onto you in a way that was very comforting but also screamed...something of the redder variety. Your immediate thought was pale, but for all you knew it could be flushed and this was Dave just being protective and why were you even thinking about any of this? Weren’t you flirting pitch? You had been for almost the past week!

 

And yet when he brought that horse to you and it bucked him off, there was both a paleness (tending to the bruises and making sure nothing was broken) and a flush of red (you couldn’t deny he was attractive) there.

 

That’s three quadrants! Three quadrants with two of them often at the same time (more so than not) and the last one vacillating seemingly without predictability or warning! This was ridiculous! You were ridiculous! Get your pan out of your ass, Vantas! No troll worth their horns would ever-

“Hey.” Dave’s voice was little more than a breath of air and you were made aware of the fact that you had your eyes shut tight and hadn’t let go of him, or his tunic, in a while, “It’ll be okay. You did some damn good channelling there. You’re okay.” He spoke like he was unsure of how to give this kind of reassurance, how to show the paler side of affection. He spoke like he didn't know what he was doing, and just held you there instead of, say, running a hand through your hair or something equally sweet enough that it'd give you cavities.

 

You twisted away, righting yourself and wiping your tears on your sleeve. He stopped talking then, but didn’t move away or, when you could see him without the blur of tears, immediately move back into your space. Okay so maybe he did know something, but didn’t know it was moirallegiance territory? Or something else. It was probably something you hadn’t thought of, as usual.

 

You walked the short distance to where the (probably) normal horse was and took his reigns, climbing up into the saddle with enough effort expended that you thought Dave was going to have to jump in to help you, but you made it. He, after a moment of standing there where in your dragon friend decided to nest in your hair, got onto the light colored one.

 

You were about to head into the direction of the shrine, if only to pack up your things, when a branch from a nearby tree shot out to your left. You tilted your head, tail still as stone and ears swivelling as you picked up someone’s terrified screaming. Oh, and the scent of one having been so scared they’d wetted themselves and now have to suffer through the embarrassment. Moments later the tree branch returned, curled around the ankle of one of the people (if they could be called that) who attacked the village.

 

You, without thinking beforehand, had your horse walk right up next to the guy, and promptly punched him in the face.

 

“C’mon.” You called back to Dave not wanting to turn around to see whatever expression might be on his face, “We’re going back to the shrine and gathering up what we can.”

Chapter Text

> In which Jade Harley finds that her life is about to take yet another drastic turn.

 

YEARS IN THE PAST BUT NOT MANY...

 

You were out on another hunting trip with your cousin, Jake, when it happened. Armed with your crossbows you ventured out into the snowy forest valleys of Skaia, in the dead of winter. It had been a desperate attempt for food, as the rivers were frozen over and the fish had all fled. Most ground animals were in hibernation, while those that weren’t were just as hungry as you both were and just as opportunistic. A child no older than thirteen, you had thought, half frozen herself, wouldn’t make a very good meal. But what had you known? Your cousin had gone on a plenty of other trips without you, and even in his encouragements you could tell that you were only going to drag him down.

 

So the first chance you had, you took to separate from him and his path. You hadn’t thought you’d wandered too far off, but with the cold sinking through your clothes and threatening to ice over your only means of defense, you realize too late that you would’ve been better off turning back around to the mountain cave you called home.

 

At thirteen, you’d heard a howl so loud you were paralyzed in your fright. At thirteen, you had turned around to be met with the largest wolf you’d ever seen, and would ever see again in your life. At thirteen, you had stumbled back, fallen, raised your bow to fire but never getting the chance to make the shot. At thirteen your cousin had found you, swore up and down you’d been halfway to death already, and had rushed you to the nearest settlement.

 

In the state you were in you didn’t remember any of that, only that you woke up to warmth and the gentle light of a fireplace, and being informed that you were now in the hands of a Prospitian healer.

 

The bite wound on your hip healed at a miraculous rate, but the twists and turns being made in your life were not to end there.

 

After you had healed and been deemed clear to leave the healer’s care, Jake told you he’d been approached by the king and heir to the throne. He told you that they were willing to take you both in, that you were family, and the king was not going to let you be out there alone in the wilds again after what had happened to you.

 

Ashamed at how you were thought now to be weak, surely, you trailed after your cousin and the guards sent to escort you to the castle. There, you’d been shown just how the royals had come to the conclusion that you were family (they’d always known, but didn’t believe that you both were alive) and had been given rooms and a tour of the castle. You suddenly had to deal with far more people than just Jake on a daily basis, and the amount of things you were expected to know but didn’t was....pretty staggering. Nevertheless, you took to your studies and only dared to break down in the safety of your rooms.

 

This was also where you were met with the fact that you would never be quite human again. Your ears had flattened against the sides of your head and had been looking smoother by the day, while something else was growing out the top of your head (and your lower back, to). For a few days you couldn’t hear a word that was spoken to you, and after you regained it, there was a period of time where you couldn’t smell anything, and a full day where you were all but blind.

 

Jake, your other cousin Jane, and John who was apparently your brother, helped you through it as much as they could handle. At least whatever was going on wasn’t painful. After those days passed you found the information that your eyes, ears, and nose were picking up to be too much. Just as you got used to one sense, the next would follow in strength and you had to get used to it.

 

You could hear some of the maids whispering at how freakish your ears looked, how you’d grown a tail (and it was hideous and got fur everywhere), how your eyes unsettled the people around you and your teeth of all things made one of the castle’s staff wet themselves when you (instinctively) bared them to get him to leave you alone.

 

You whimpered and whined when you got upset or sad. The servants called you dumb for not always speaking when you wanted something but you could tell a lot of different things now about them that made words not absolutely necessary anyway. You think John and Jane prank them on the regular now, until they get it to not pick on you.

 

Even though they’re right that it was your own damn fault you’ve changed.

 

The first time you actually changed forms was after a nightmare. You’d woken up from seeing a giant wolf, reliving the day you’d gotten bit, and in a state of only being half awake, shifted from human to wolf. John had found you in the wash tub, having been awake already (he didn’t tell you why), and instead of being scared, he was patient.

 

“You walking on all fours every so often will not scare me away.” Even though he had every right to be scared. You certainly were. Able to become the very thing that had attacked you? You could barely focus on your studies for weeks, finding yourself putting your new skill in reading to the test as you combed through book after scroll after shelf to figure out what it was you could do now. What it was you were.

 

Even afterward (you were a werewolf, a so called evil being of the night that ate humans when in wolf form and lived only for what the body wanted) you could often be found in the library. Your brother and cousins assured you that you weren’t like that, but you pointed out that even if you weren’t, even if you refused to ever be like that, it didn’t mean that there wasn’t going to be a werewolf out there that was. It also didn’t mean that there weren’t other creatures of human legend out there somewhere. It was best to be prepared.

 

They joined you sometimes, they got you glasses that helped you see farther distances (as that was screwed up by the werewolf thing), and they even helped you get some semblance of control over your transformations.

 

And then? A couple months after you’d first arrived at the castle, John introduced you to two friends of his in a neighboring kingdom that he wrote letters to, and would get letters back from in turn. He’d told them about you, but made it clear that they didn’t know of your wolf side. That, he’d said as he set up a magic thing which would let you transport letters near instantly and showed you how it worked, was up to you to decide whether or not to share it.

 

PRESENT DAY

You had woken up to the sound of one of the staff knocking on your chamber door and the scent of their nervous urgency that had you up and presentable within minutes. It was a wonder how you managed it, what with your style of dress usually requiring someone there to help you, but you decided to be merciful on yourself today and chose something easier. Something, green to, that matched your eyes and would hopefully draw eyes away from your inhuman features. Not that it helped much when your whole self was regarded as inhuman.

 

“The king be asking for ya, princess!” The maid left after that, and you didn’t bother to dwell on that when you knew the reason why.

 

Scurrying out the door and down the hall like a rat, you tried to keep your navigation by scent down to not being obvious enough that someone would point it out. You passed by the kitchens, which had your mouth watering, and then took a turn that lead to a side door into the throne room. No doubt that would be where your uncle was now. Court was held from dawn to noon every day, after all.

 

You didn’t know what time it was, but by the sounds coming from the reception hall, Court was still in session and yet your uncle still asked to see you.

 

You stopped at the door briefly to speculate why that was, before deciding to just go and get this over with already. The sooner you talked to the king, you reasoned, the sooner you’d be out of his hair and not bothering him until supper.

 

Shoes clicking against the floor, you realized no one else besides your uncle and the guards were in the room at the moment, and made your way to the base of the stairs leading up to the throne itself.

 

You curtsied, “You wanted to see me, uncle?”

 

“Relax, Jade.” You did so, noting his warm tone even as you looked up to see him gripping a scroll so tight you thought it might tear in two, “I will be frank with you. King Strider, of Derse, has sent a betrothal contract to be made between yourself and his youngest son, prince-”

 

“Dave.” You finished, feeling weird, happy and tingly and scared all at once, “He wants me to marry Dave?”

 

Your uncle nodded, his grip on the scroll relaxing as he did, “You know of the prince?”

 

Oh, you’d kept your letters a secret from him, “Yes. I didn’t mean to not tell you I-” He held up his free hand and you paused, mouth falling shut.

 

“You don’t need to apologize for having friends, Jade. You’ve rarely ever been outside these walls the past three years...it does my heart good to know that you have people you are close to, other than family.”

 

A subtle jab at how the staff around here (not including the guards) rarely interacted with you directly more than was strictly necessary. You nodded your head in agreement, hands twisting the fabric of your dress.

 

“I’ll have to marry Dave, then?” You expected the answer to be a ‘yes’ and be done with it.

 

What you got instead was, “No. At the least I will not be pressuring you into the marriage, and if you believe it won’t work out, I’m sure there will be someone else out there that catches your eye.” Your uncle commented with amusement, “King Strider will also understand if a...ah, traditional human marriage isn’t what you think would fit, should you get along with his son but not in the way the contract states.”

 

You could hardly believe him, and knew your expression reflected that, “Are you certain? Uncle? He may act in a way you don’t expect.”

 

He grinned in a way that was like when your brother thought up a good prank or when Jane had a puzzle or “mystery” to solve. He grinned in a way that Jake did when he told you he’d gladly go back out to the mountains of Skaia to kill the werewolf who changed you, if that was what you wanted. His grin had your wolf whimpering like a pup. It spoke retribution, if Bro did something against him or you.

 

“He will.”

 

And you believed him.