Karkat, if anyone asked, wouldn’t know what to call this current chapter of his life. As it stood now, he was tempted to go with something like ‘In Which The Mutant Blood Protagonist Gets Wriggler-napped By Crazy People In Robes’ or ‘In Which The Troll Gets Sacrificed To Some Ancient Horror That May Or May Not Actually Exist’. He also wasn’t sure if the crazed cultists were lying to him, though he had the sneaking suspicion that they were.
After all, they’d managed to find out about his blood color and hadn’t culled him on the spot.
Maybe a recap is in order.
Karkat didn’t venture outside of his hive very much. When he did, it was always under cloak and toeing that thin time frame between night and day, when most other trolls would be rushing back to their hives or more sensibly, already safely tucked away in them. He did this on a not quite one a wipe basis, and only did so when he couldn’t order what he needed from his husktop.
More recently, since his custodian, his lusus, had died and he was approaching adulthood, he was keeping his outings to the bare minimum that he could afford. The lowblood allowance that he was given wasn’t always enough to feed himself and obtain other basic necessities, so he took some tips and lessons from his cohort and set to work. Most of what need needed now were hygiene products, which Eridan was surprisingly helpful and generous in providing, and the materials for clothes if no just clothes already made which Kanaya was more than happy to help him with. This at first came to him with protests on his part, wondering why they would do this for him. It wasn’t like he had anything to pay them back with or the quadrant connection to either of them that would make such a thing worth it. It also wasn’t worth it, he argued, when no one knew when he’d die or if he’d be caught at some point and culled for existing. Aradia had already gone through her adult molt with Tavros and Sollux following close behind her. He, however, was barely seeing his eye color change if it wasn’t just a mix of paranoia and lighting.
He was a freak who probably wouldn’t even molt, for all anyone knew. Eridan and Vriska were looking for any trace of his Ancestor but in all seriousness they haven’t found much of anything and they probably won’t find anything more than that.
Knowing your Ancestor’s title, after all, wasn’t all that special when there were meticulous record keepers for that sort of thing.
Feferi had hopped on the Help Karkat polyscuttletrail and sent him more supplies to help him hide his blood color than he’d ever dream of needing, after he first made mention of it.
Needless to say he was getting a lot more aid and care about his continued health and well being than most cohorts ever gave each other, sans when moirallegiance was involved and that was only with a single other troll.
It was on one of his outings, off to get some personal care products that Eridan hadn’t sent his way and maybe splurge a little on something nice for himself, when he was cornered and blindfolded. He saw maybe one troll’s eye color, a shade that was halfway between grey and blue, and another’s horns before his pan had properly registered what had happened.
“Hey!” He tried biting out, all of a sudden very aware of how much force he was using to try and free himself from one troll’s grip as well as whether anything about his color might be showing, “Get off- Let me go-!” Yet his demands fell on unhearing auditory canals. Noting this while being prodded and shoved into a personal scuttlecraft, he then demanded to know where he was being taken and what they wanted with him.
Neither of these two questions were answered.
Left to stew in his frustration and plot his escape, he growled all of twice that his cohort would find out, or that his quadrants, nonexistent as they were, would find out that he was missing and search for him. They’d notice when he didn’t appear online on Trollian, look into it, and they’d find him and these weirdos and get him out of whatever situation he was about to be dragged ass backwards into. If he didn’t get out of it himself that is. If he wasn’t culled or otherwise a deceased corpse by then. If he was right and more than just a few of them cared enough about his bony, too thin, shouting and ranting ass to do all of that.
Even when they’d gone through all that trouble to hide his mutation and get him basic necessities he still couldn’t bring himself to be absolutely certain of what he was saying. He didn’t think it was a stretch to believe that the trolls around him could sense that.
It was what felt like a long time before they stopped and Karkat was pushed out of the craft. All he did was avoid his displeasure at being manhandled, since his hands by now were tied behind his back and he did not want an injury.
Too bad that seemed to be on the agenda for him this not so fine morning.
He was guided into a hive or block of some sort, and made to kneel at a certain point. They’d been very clear and very precise in how far he walked and how far he took certain steps. All so that he wouldn’t ruin something or other. The bindings around his wrists were still in place and so was the blindfold, so he couldn’t see a damn thing.
He found he hadn’t needed to, when something sharp pressed into his skin of his cheeks, just under both eyes. He hissed where other trolls gasped in shock or made a noise of disgust. Yet the sharp object being used didn’t come down upon his head, or his chest, or neck, or anywhere else that might land a fatal blow.
Another cut, this one along his forehead, as chanting rose up. With each ending to a sentence, or verse, he couldn’t tell, another one was made. One on each shoulder, one on each palm, yet they did nothing more. They hadn’t culled him like he thought they would. At least not yet.
“He who brings to the world death, destruction, endings and time. He who makes the clockwork of death chime at the point where he guides the spirits and souls of the dead to the arms of the maiden of the after world. We ask that you find your way into this place to this offering that we have provided for you...”
Karkat felt a whine building up in his protein chute before he clamped down on it, picking up some kind of pressure that was building up around him. It was like watching a balloon being filled with air and anticipating if and when it would explode. It was a thing that made the blood on his face sizzle with heat that for some reason didn’t hurt.
His knees were starting to hurt after a while of the pressure and heat, like a warm blanket, ebbing and flowing in time with the chanting trolls around him. It got to the point where it was hard to think, chasing that sensation and not noticing when he’d slumped over or when the voices faded into an anticipating silence.
The mutant felt his ears pop and everything seemed to clear as if he’d been a puppet on strings. Only now the strings were cut and he’d fallen over onto his side. The wounds on the cheek and shoulder that now had contact with the floor stung, not that the other ones didn’t, but that was more due to them being exposed to the open air if he had to take a guess.
There was a hand in his hair now, brushing strands back away from his face before moving on. There was someone breathing right next to his ear and yet his throat had closed up and his body refused to respond. The hands reached his wrists and at a touch, the binding came undone. Instead of feeling strands of rope at his feet, there was dust. Karkat tried moving now and found that he could, hauling himself up to sit on his knees like he’d been earlier. The hands of the troll that he couldn’t see were soft, clawless fingers brushing over the cuts on his face and shoulders.
“Who-” He was cut off by a cough, “Who are you?” His voice was rough and scratchy as he held his hands gingerly. He could tell something was happening to his other cuts by the aching in his face and shoulders, so flinched back when the hands that rested on his arms moved again to his hands.
Stupid fucking blindfold.
“Who are you?” He tried again as those hands held on and a tingling sensation rushed through his own.
“Someone who wants to help you.” A whisper answered him back. Something soft touched his forehead, but before he could make sense of that, whoever this was turned their attention on the psychos.
“So.” He, you thought the voice sounded like a guy, “Who was it that injured him? And who’s idea was it to go after him and use him to summon me in the first place?”
Two footsteps followed his questions. Karkat tried getting his hands free, to rip the cloth over his eyes off of his head, but guy tugged him forward instead and the mutant troll found himself sitting on something and facing the other way.
“Ah. You’re the leader then?” A pause, “And you were behind all of this. Alright. Here’s what’s going to happen. Whatever deal you think you’re going to be making with me? Forget it.”
“My Lord, we-”
“I don’t want to hear it, purple blood. Here’s what’s going to happen. The only deal I will be making today will be with Karkat,” Karkat hadn’t told him his name, but being some kind of spirit or inter-dimensional horror, he supposed it could’ve been plucked from his head without him being aware of it, “And you? And this cult you’ve gathered around yourself? You’re going to listen to him. Do whatever he tells you to from now on, do you understand me?” Another pause, “Good. I’m glad we could come to an agreement.”
Karkat leaned his head back, trying to at least make it look like he was looking at, or better yet glaring at the being who was holding him, “Why do you think I’m going to make any sort of deal with you?”
A chuckle from just above him, something that he could feel in his back, “It doesn’t need to be anything high stakes, super important, or long term.
“Then why make a deal at all? Aren’t you some crazy powerful being? Something involving death?”
A breath ruffled his hair, “It could be as simple as me takin’ that blindfold off ya for a piece of candy and I’d take it.”
Karkat huffed, taking a moment to think.
“What would you consider even payment for an explanation as to what the fuck is going on?”
“How about a kiss from the pretty princess I just saved?”
Karkat was struck dumb, opening his mouth multiple times to give a reply before rethinking what he wanted to say and having it close with an almost audible click. He tugged a little at his arms which were quickly released so he could finally rip the damned blindfold off of him. He almost didn’t feel his injuries anymore, which was good, but also curious in how this being healed them. Back to the subject at hand however, said being just asked him, of all trolls, for a kiss. Never mind that he’d been called a pretty princess, which he would have gotten angry about and ranted on in any other situation.
He twisted around, noticing perhaps for the first time since all this started that the cult people surrounding them both were watching. They were watching and that instantly made him self conscious enough that he had to stamp down hard on the blush he knew wanted to rise up to his face. The guy, the god or spirit or whatever he was, whose name he didn’t know, was an awe inspiring sight, now that he could actually see him.
His skin was like liquid gold that was being processed and purified by fire. Gears churned, some exposed, some internal, some halfway like the ones around his shoulders and hips. His eyes looked as if it were holding within it the exact kind of raging fire intense enough that it very well could turn gold from a solid to a liquefied state. He had a halo formed out of a gear, split into two halves that rotated lazily above his head. His hair was like the dying embers of a hearth fire, strands glowing like hot wires. His hands and face were the only things that looked remotely troll-like, like gold tinted skin. Lava poured out of some of the more exposed parts with the gears jutting out, trickling down his arms and thorax like raindrops on a windowpane, adding to the light and the 'extremely hot metal, do not touch', appearance.
Every breath was in tune with the exposed gears turning and was accompanied by lava. Every breath came out visible like steam.
He wasn’t smiling, if he’d ever been, or was even capable of it.
“If you’re uncomfortable with it you don’t actually have to, I mean I won’t push we can figure something else out, you know how it goes, don’t want the prince to be mad at you because you did a lousy job of returning the princess even though the princess had no interest in him whatsoever and very likely ran away. Man who would even be the dragon in this situat-”
Oh what the hell. It wasn’t like he’d ever get the chance to kiss an inter-dimensional being ever again, so he went for it and cut the guy off mid sentence.
Surprising fact number one, his lips weren’t burnt to a crisp.
Surprising fact number two, Karkat didn’t want to pull away and found the position he was in right now, in this guy’s lap, to be very comfortable. Somehow. With what looked like heated metal for skin and you know what let’s not think about that too hard.
Surprising fact number the third, it felt right. It felt like coming back to his hive on a cold morning with his lusus at his side, immediately jumping into action once they got through the door to help him heat the entertainment and meal blocks, get blankets in the clothes drying machine to warm those up, while he went about putting food and other supplies away. It was like getting into the good parts of his favorite romance novels. It just was warm and maybe he wasn’t thinking straight but right now he didn’t care.
Dave, for his part, was in heaven right about now. Not like the afterlife where Aradia’s domain primarily was and he was being the substitute teacher for. Not like the proverbial Olympus where he and the other gods chilled and gathered for immortal family dinner once a month, where John pretty much ruled from and lived in. No, he was in that state of mind that told him everything was right again in the world, nothing to be worried about, hakuna mat fucking tata, bitches.
He was physically in the mortal realm for the first time in centuries. He was here because of Karkat, even though the quick flip through the troll’s head told him that he didn’t remember anything from his past life. Karkat had kissed him. For like, five seconds. And he wasn’t getting up and away from him like Dave thought he would either. In fact he seemed downright comfortable. Damn near falling asleep now with his face practically in his neck, one arm looped through one of his shoulder gears while the other tugged and twisted at the hem of his sweater.
Dave huffed a laugh, “You want me to carry you back to your hive, princess Karkat ?”
“No. I can walk. Besides, the sun’s already risen by now. Going outside would be damn near suicide if you don’t have a solar shield.”
“You mean sunscreen?”
“No? The fuck is sunscreen?”
“Stuff you put on your skin to block the more harmful radiation from the sun.”
“Have you ever seen the Alternian sun in the last millenia?”
“Good point. Also, explanation time. The cult here was started by that purple dude over there that you’re kinda facing, yeah that guy, and his little loyal band of followers thought it’d be a great idea to summon me. Only, they misinterpreted a few things or just had some stuff plain wrong, you know how oral traditions are, yeah so they found out about a hemoanon, thought they could use whoever it was, meaning you, in a ritual to summon me and make a deal with me. Something to do with the Grand Highblood?”
“He’s old. Going senile. His descendant should just cull him already and be done with it. Not that he would be any better mind you, but at least we wouldn’t have the Grand, High off his ass, boob.”
“Explain please? I mean I know the Grand Highblood is a whimsical pain in the waste chute. I get it, but how much of a pain is he now compared to whenever the fuck?”
“For purple bloods, at least those who actively practice their religion, those who are followers of the pantheon, um, okay thing is that when we join we are meant to leave all of our quadrants behind, one way or another. Recently? Now? He is demanding that we kill them outright, in front of our desired troop.”
Okay, maybe Dave would be making a deal with him. Later though, after they’ve sufficiently made up for hurting Karkat. If they had to hurt him at all they could’ve just asked that he prick his finger or palm with a knife. That would’ve been enough, more than enough, to guide him here. Not that he really needed the guidance for more than a focal point in which his power and presence could condense into a physical form. Eh, details.
“That’s hoofbeast shit. I want to punch him in the face. Maybe break his nose. Hey, uh, wow I didn’t get your name.” Karkat sat up more to look at Dave in the eyes, which he dimmed so that it wouldn’t hurt him to do so, “You ever gonna tell me or at least give me something to call you by?”
Dave’s mouth twitched up into a smile, “Yeah. Dave.”
“I don’t know whether you made that up on the spot or not,” Cue a frown, “Okay, okay, maybe it isn’t. Anyway, can I punch the Highblood in the boob?”
He busted out laughing so hard the steam hissing from his mouth was wheezing and Dave thinks he may need some gears shoved back into place.
Around this time, up in space and in orbit around one of the other planets in the Alternian Homeworld’s system, was none other than the Battleship Condescension. She had come back to the planet on a mission, see, and whatever the Empress of Trollkind wanted, she was sure to find a way to get it. Currently, this goal was gathering up some jade bloods to be recruited to her ship’s crew.
Why might she have such a task in place for the trolls working on this project? Well, the simple matter is this. Out of the entirety of the troll race, in recent generations one percent of the population has shown to be able to carry their own grubs like mother grubs. Recent generations being hundreds of sweeps, by her count, back in the course of her reign. Around the time of the Sufferer actually, now that she remembered it. And one percent may not seem like much on paper, but with your race numbering somewhere in the trillions by her last check, that number turns out to be very, very high. On her flagship alone, there were roughly twenty confirmed trolls who were now carrying a grub, or multiple as the case may turn out to be.
She found the whole thing primitive and gross, but as a leader had to look at the benefits it could have. She also had to set up some kind of system of accountability here, and so had some of her court run some propaganda about compensation and making sure the mated pairs, or trios if both concupiscent quadrants were involved, stuck together to support one another. By the polls, the opinion on this was almost split evenly in half. Those who of course would stick around, and those who didn’t want to have any part in this. Well, she wanted to snap back, then you shouldn’t have gotten your matesprit or kismesis all, all egged up in the first place! Then there were those who were unsure, which was understandable. She was unsure about all of this. It had first started as an anomaly, no doubt something from the time of the rebellion. It had been maybe only a few trolls. Then in the century after she started receiving reports of this “affliction” and of deaths caused by a myriad of reasons, the least of which being grub death before they were even really born because of a thousand different possible complications. Others were more commonly related to the death of the the bearer and grub or grubs due to complications in the birth itself.
It had only snowballed from there, each generation the number of trolls being able to do this increasing, and with how long the highbloods lived? Well, she’d been setting up research into better grub care, but without the support of the jades, her other plans which hinged on this and their cooperation would go nowhere.
There were other things that she needed to fix, of course. Other policies to enact, laws to reform, but this was one of the bigger issues.
And perhaps the most immediate of those issues, seeing as one of these “mothers” as they were sometimes called, was now in her throne block, without his matesprit and having some sort of emotion related breakdown. She sighed, rubbing at her temples and order a couple of the blue and indigo guards to lead him out, get his matesprit and moirail, and make sure no other mother was allowed in without a quadrant's presence.
On that note, she got up and told one of the secretaries, a teal, to handle all but the most urgent of requests or disputes, barring criminals accused of things like treason, and left her throne room. Her quarters took up most of the upper middle part of the ship, that being no less than two dozen blocks not including the throne block. Her personal respite block was comprised of four connected rooms, one having been converted into a giant pool, another into her closet, and the third one having been converted into a mix of a study and a library.
It was in this room that she retreated to, as much as she’d love to just bathe for a while. There was always work to be done, and the work she was about to dive fins first into this night involved things that went so far back that by now, only she and the Highblood lived and remembered the events.
It didn’t take the Condense long to locate what she was looking for. Heading straight for the back of her study, she brushed over the ancient books and journals of trolls long dead before she pulled out one in grey leather, bound by bright red twine and having a stylized text within. Every word spoken was in that troll’s specific blood color. When multiple people were speaking at once, the text became as grey as the material the book was wrapped in. It was something she’d preserved herself, combining the accounts of a long forgotten journal and her own take on the events depicted within it.
It was the only thing she had of a troll she never met.
When the sky shuttle had touched down in front of Kanaya’s hive that evening, she’d been filled with suspense. She had thought that maybe one of her higher blooded cohort, like Vriska or Equius, had gotten a hold of one and for some reason beyond her current comprehension had decided this night would be a good one to pay a visit. Not that she would not be welcoming, of course she would be. But being several days and nights into one of the largest deserts on Alternia, and being right over top an underground spring at that, not many would dare to venture out this far without proper supplies. The nearest sign of civilization was at the desert’s edge and that was only a small hive cluster, nothing more than a handful of trolls that she’d seen.
So when out of the shuttle came an adult troll, and an adult violet dressed in a black, violet, and fuchsia uniform, Kanaya froze. Why would someone working directly for the Empress be here? Was she in trouble? Was she to be culled?
She would later admit to being on her way to panicking, gathering up non perishable food, some of her outfits, and hygiene products into a small pack and grabbing her lipstick.
Yet the knock at her door had her pause in this, just for a moment, before calling out, “One minute please!” and hoping that her voice hadn’t cracked. She quickly checked on the Matriorb, safely tucked away underneath a loose floorboard in her respiteblock, before making sure she was presentable as she walked over to open the door.
It was a nerve wracking thing and yet somehow she’d gotten through it. No, she was not in trouble. Quite the opposite in fact. The violet blood had been tasked to help her move any and all things that she would need, for she was to for the foreseeable future, be stationed on the Battleship Condescension. It was not normally done, recruiting before an adult molt, but there were so few jade bloods from the caverns that could be spared or otherwise relieved of their normal duties.
And so they of the Battleship resorted to looking for those within a sweep of their adult molt, and found only one. Kanaya. Granted she was on the far end of that, but it hadn’t mattered at the time. She met the rather low amount of requirements. She’d gone along up until she stepped over the floorboard and stopped dead in her tracks. The jade wanted to curse fate in that moment. She was not normally one to pray, but she did so in the span of a second then, pleading that the violet would let her explain why she was in possession of the mother grub egg.
The adult troll waited by the door, probably wondering why she was now removing a piece of her floor, but once she pulled out the orb he must have understood.
“My lusus was a virgin mother grub.” She said by way of an explanation. He merely nodded his head, gesturing for her to follow him to the sky shuttle. It would be some hours before they reached the ship, and he said he would give her more details on her new duties during the flight.
I would have never thought I’d see the day when Her Imperial Condescension would give the order to have a jade blood, multiple jade bloods, brought to the Battleship. I gave this jade, who calls herself Kanaya Maryam as her file had suggested (if she had not been I would have questioned her and then culled her if she proved to be of no worth afterward), was in possession of a Matriorb. Her file had stated that her custodian was a Virgin Mother Grub, but I could still hardly believe my eyes. Her arrival at the ship was to be a quiet affair, until she could get settled into her new position and after taking her to what will be her respiteblock (with all of her belongings carried by lowbloods), I believed that I would be back to my normal duties. Overseeing the training of new violet recruits for the Fleet, as sparse as they are some sweeps. This was not to be however. Upon waking the next evening I found a paper attached to my door which read that I would be taking a leave, and that the wimpy filter feeder of a violet just two blocks over would be taking over my position! And by order of the Condense herself! What is she thinking? What plan does she have that would see me taking up another post? It doesn’t make any sense to me, no matter how much I wrack my think pan for some logical explanation. I suppose all I can do now is wait and make the most of this vacation I’ve been given.
Karkat had woken up, next thing he knew, back in his empty hive in day wear as if nothing had happened the evening before. And yes, his tired mind didn’t seem up to processing exactly what had gone down, what he’d done, and what had been done to him. Gog, he had such a headache. The mutant wandered down into his kitchen, all of the lights either dimmed or off and the covers over the windows closed as per usual. He was going to find himself something to eat when there was a knock on his door.
“Oh, what the fuck? Whoever you are I will kick your ass to the metaphorical curb I-” He didn’t get to finish his sentence, hissing as he blinked against the slowly dimming light of dusk. In front of him stood a troll that had to be even shorter than he was, however she had the darkened carapace of an adult and her eyes, purple ones, gave away her caste. He blinked a few times in case he was imagining that she was smiling at him, and that she was carrying a basket on one arm and a large cooling cylinder in the other hand.
“Good evening. I’m Teamaker. Me and the rest of the Order have moved in nearby and I thought I’d come over and bring you some breakfast.”
Moved in nearby? He scanned the area passed her head. In his front lawn ring alone he could spot a half dozen temporary shelters set up and even more beyond that. Scattered about between them were carpenter droids and partially or half built hives further away by the river. Every few clusters of these shelters were fires where trolls were gathered around. Purples were prominent, but there was almost every caste below them represented as well.
He turned back to Teamaker, wary, but invited her inside to his meal block. The island in the center of the space had four stools, one of which where the tiny purple blood sat.
It was about this time that his brain registered her condition and hastily looked away hoping she hadn’t caught him staring.
She must’ve noticed, but she didn't get mad at him like he expected. Instead she laughed. Karkat was thrown for a loop.
“Why are you laughing?” He asked, shifting to move to the other side of the island and stared at the basket and cooling cylinder that Teamaker brought with her. It smelled like bread and something fruit flavored, and the cylinder had a similar fruity smell. Both were warm.
“Oh it’s nothing, really. You don’t need to worry about staring.” Her grin didn’t let up, “This’ll be my second.”
“Your second?” Karkat parroted even though he had an idea of what she was referring to.
“Aye, my second clutch. I’m assuming you’ve never seen a pregnant troll before.”
Karkat sent a deadpan expression her way, not so subtly picking up one of the pastries and biting off the end.
“Right. Well, I-”
“Not to be rude here, but why the fuck are you, the whole lot of you,” He waved his free hand around toward the front door, “Here? Yeah sure you moved and are now within sight distance of my hive. But that doesn’t mean you had to move right on fucking top of me. Shit. It definitely doesn’t mean that you, specifically, have to go and be nice to me.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Even as her tone was light her face dropped and Karkat thought his blood pusher might’ve followed suite, “How much do you remember of yesterdawn, ser’vtazara?”
“Uh, I was asleep?” Even knowing that this had to be true, he still phrased it like a question, “Why? Was some decision made between you all at that time? Did something go down because once again, I was. Asleep. And what’s with the ser shit? You’re a highblood, I’m a goddamn mutant as you just pointed out. There’s literally no need for you to call me that.”
Teamaker’s eyes lit up and despite the… balancing that she should’ve had trouble with, she hopped down from the stool, and rounded the island to face him. She had to stand on her toes to meet him directly in the eyes, and yet despite that and her enthusiasm, Karkat had to admit she intimidated him. It was enough for him to pause in reaching for the cooling cylinder.
“We summoned a god.” She hissed out in a whisper, “We summoned a god, you had helped us and…” There was a pause here, as if she was waiting for him to interject. When Karkat didn’t do so fast enough, she continued, “You are someone favored. Highly so. Someone treasured by The God of Winter’s End.”