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Chasing The End

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“If you walk out that door, you lose everything we’ve worked so hard for!” your ‘father’ snarled at you, hands curled into fists on the desk. Everything was covered in dust. Thick dust that clogged your throat and brought tears to your eyes. Yet, in a blink of an eye, it was all gone. All you saw was your father’s large office. You still felt the acrid taste of bile in your mouth, the heaviness of your swollen eyes, and the ache in your soul. To hell with everything. If this is what everything got you. You turned around, grasping the door handle...but it went soft in your grip. The metal slowly fluttered away like dust. The door followed suit. Slowly crumbling. Slipping away in the wind. Your father’s words repeating in your head as a gaping void opened in front of you. Consuming. You looked down at your hands, seeing the tips of them beginning to flake ashes.

Then your eyes snapped open to the familiar sounds of birds chirping outside the house. It wasn’t like a usual nightmare where you woke panting and screaming. You woke quietly, staring at the thick hide covering your window preventing bugs or animals from entering. Slowly, you reached up and lifted the edge of the leather to peer outside. Daybreak had not fully arrived yet.

It had been ten years since that day, and yet you still got nightmares about it. However, real life had been so different. You had been summoned to your father study, the two of you had fought, and then you had stormed to your room. For two days, you had refused to speak to your father, and on the third day, you vanished. Escaping from the Citadel so easily that you couldn’t get a full nights rest for two months, even as you fled into the wilderness.

In the dream, you were always trapped. You never escaped the guilt that clawed at your heart. What your father had been studying. What you had assisted him with. What he forced you to watch.

You knew now he hadn’t forced you to do anything. You didn’t look away. You didn’t cry out about how immoral it was. You didn’t do anything.

Monsters were monsters, and you watched how easy it was to turn them to dust. You hadn’t even lifted a finger to help. You had watched as they were tortured, dust crumbling from their bodies as the Mages were able to keep the magic that comprised the Monsters body from entirely failing. Watched as those poor creatures shouted and begged for help...but no one came.

The guilt clawed deeper into your soul until you were forced from your bed.

Ignore the guilt. Focus on productivity.

Live life until you could figure out a way to repay for your sins, after all, right now your death would be for nothing. Just another self-serving act to get rid of the guilt in your soul.

You swiftly changed your clothes, tied your hair up, and headed over to the hearth. Thankfully, the embers were still glowing, and it only took a bit of encouragement to get a healthy fire roaring again. With a content hum, you allowed the light to chase away the lingering bad feelings in your chest. It filled you with warmth, and you basked in it for a moment.

Just a moment.

Then you were off.

You cooked breakfast, fed the livestock, tended to the small farm, released the animals to their small pasture, checked the property for needed repairs, did said repairs. Your mind was always buzzing with added tasks to keep yourself moving. The stone fence that encircled your self-proclaimed property required to be maintained as the last rainstorm had nearly washed away the portion nearest the river. You would need to also up your protective runes around your small forest farm to prevent other mages from tracking you if they were still trying to do that.

Probably weren’t...but you weren’t going to take the chances.

Quickly brushing that thought aside, you checked your cellar. You should really begin to stock up for the winter. Oh! Maybe you could head up the mountain for foraging later? Check your snares for small game to smoke and dry so you hopefully wouldn’t need to trade as much at the end of the harvest season. You weren’t patient enough to hunt bigger animals like the Elk that roam the mountainous region, and you didn’t like to be left alone with your thoughts that long.

Even now, your mind was buzzing with the types of herbs, berries, and vegetables you could find in the area. Maybe you could make some jam if you found enough berries!

It was full of ideas as you grabbed the small cart and headed out of the fenced perimeter so you could pick up some more rocks as you checked the fence.

You stopped at the first rune that was etched carefully and purposefully into the stone fence. You brushed your fingertips against the carving. With a soft inhale you felt your magic surge within your SOUL, and as you exhaled the magic seeped down your arm, crackling along your skin. The magic swirled around the spaces in the rune. Its edges were sharpening and the grooves deepening as your magic worked the stone back to the state it was initially in. You felt the power radiate happily from the rune after you had refreshed the lingering spell.

Content, you continued down the stone fence dragging the cart laden with stones behind you.

You were hungry well before midday and you were drenched in sweat, but the good news was you have successfully finished your task. The fence fully maintained, your protection renewed, and a fresh supply of stones from beyond the wall. Those were for a job for another day. Right now, all you wanted to do was get some food into your grumbling stomach.

You finished your second meal of the day, watching the ducks peck away at the pests around the farm. At first, you had wanted to get chickens because they were what so many other farms had, but once you learnt that ducks were more hardy you got them instead. Their eggs also fetched more when you brought them in for trade, as chicken eggs were so easy to come by. You gathered up some leftover scraps and tossed them into the duck pen. They instantly went to town on the greens, earning a smile from you.

Ten years ago you had barely been able to survive, sickly thin, magic at an all-time low, and a few steps from death’s door. You had scarcely any knowledge of living off the land, and yet in your mind, you had too. Returning to a human settlement to live was not an option, and neither was going to a monster settlement. There was too much guilt, self-hatred, and distrust in your SOUL for either option.

You had persevered shivering, exposed to the environment until you were taught by some hunters how to create a lean-to. A few months later you had stolen a book about constructing farm buildings, so you were able to build a small shelter that you and your ducks slept in. Finally, after a few years, you had completed your current house. It wasn’t much, just big enough for you and you alone. Your ducks, cow, and handful of sheep took the small shelter which you expanded on over the past ten years to a small barn. Even though sometimes you missed sleeping with your ducks. They were cuddly at night, especially during the winter.

Even on your darkest days, you could walk outside and see all you have accomplished and feel proud.

You shook off those feelings of pride and headed into your home. You gathered your foraging supplies; a hand-woven basket with straps so you could carry it over your shoulders, a stone knife, and a waterskin. There, that should get you through a few hours of foraging.

Just as you closed your gate, you heard the grinding of dirt beneath wheels and the distinct clip-clop of hooves. You cautiously headed up to the main road but lingered slightly in the shadows of the tree. It took only a moment before a caravan turned down the path, a withered-looking monster whistling quietly to himself. He slowly turned his gaze towards you, and then raised an ancient claw to wave at you. “‘Ello, young one! Couldn’t stand to let ol’ Gerson pass by ya without comin’ ta say hello, could ya? Missed me?”

You smiled fondly as the caravan came to a stop beside you as you fully emerged from the wood. Gerson was a travelling merchant who only went by the nearest Monster settlement ever couple months. Not only that, but he was one of the only beings to know where your home was, as it was on his route. Sure, the land you claimed as your own was more rooted in the depths of the forest, and you couldn’t see it from by the main road, but anyone worth their salt could tell that you lived in the area once they saw you enough. Eventually, you had even invited him to your home, and the two of you had stayed up well into the night talking about his travels. Lord, could Gerson talk.

“Back so soon? It’s almost as if you missed me,” you teased back, even if it had been since the last harvest that you saw him. He patted the driver’s bench with his claws.

“Care ta join me into the village? I see yer looking to forage, might as well swing by the village and forage on yer way home,” he said, eyes peering at the basket on your back.

You agreed readily. Despite your enjoyment for not having to answer to anyone, or to bother with social awareness when you were did get lonely. A few hours with Gerson would charge your social requirement for the next couple of months until you saw him again. You did hurry back to your home to gather both gold and items for trade, tossing them into your basket. When you got back to the caravan, Gerson was whistling to himself as he waited patiently. He extended a claw down to you, which you took and allowed him to hoist you up onto the driver’s bench quickly.

The two of you chatted about everything and nothing, filling the silence with companionable chatter. He had been spending his time in the South where there were warmer climates for his old skin. You told him about your idea to build a small dock on the river so you could set up some fishing nets. A daunting task that will have to be done closer to the end of autumn when the river wasn’t as torrential, but before it started to freeze. He suggested you get help; you said you had two helpers. Bicep one, and bicep two. He chortled.

The trip was bumpy as it wasn’t often that the roads were maintained or patrolled due to its proximity to monsters. Gerson took it slowly but confidently. He knew the best route, after all. He had been alive longer than you could imagine.

The typical five-hour hike was done it roughly two hours by caravan, and you saw the monster village as the caravan crested the hill. It was tucked against the mountain, half-carved into its side. A river brought cold fresh mountain water into the heart of the village before whisking it away down towards your homestead.  It was a picturesque place and the opposite of what most humans thought of when they thought monster village. Flowers bloomed, it didn’t stink of shit (because monsters didn’t do that), and you rarely heard any fights, and those that did happen were ended with apologies.

It took no time at all to get down the hill, and as the caravan entered the gates, monsters were already calling out greetings to Gerson. A few merchants recognized you and called out their greetings, but mostly you received curious looks from more than a few of the villagers. It wasn’t often you came into the village, and you rarely (if ever) came in with Gerson.,

Still, it fills your soul with warmth as small monster children began running alongside the caravan. After all, Gerson brought stuff from all over the various kingdoms, luxuries that he traded for dirt cheap because ‘he wanted to get rid of crap not get more.’ With how old he was, you had the sneaking suspicion that he was merely rich enough to afford everything he bought and only sold them for cheap to allow other monsters to get a taste of the more exotic areas that they couldn’t usually. More proof that monsters were nothing individuals but caring.

“Ohoho! Would’ a lookit that,” Gerson chuckled as he slowed his caravan to a halt in the marketplace. He gestured towards some dogs that were standing near one of the more significant buildings. They had impressive armour on and were panting slightly with broad grins on their faces as monsters greeted them in passing. “The Royal Guard’s paid this ol’ village a visit.”

You tensed slightly at that. Royalty? No, thank you. Even if they were monster royalty. You dealt with plenty of royalty.

You came to despise royalty.

“King Riagol must be in for a visit; old goats been too busy with the unrest. It’ll be good to see ’im,” Gerson commented aloud to himself, before climbing down from the caravan achingly slowly. You hopped down a moment later, leaving your foraging basket, knife, and water skin behind for the return trip. “I’ve got some neat junk to sell if yer looking.”

You waved your hands, “I’ll let the villagers peruse first,” you called as you started walking away. You didn’t like to have the first choice of his wares, not when the villagers could have more use for them. Gerson waved after you leisurely before climbing into the back of his caravan to set up.

Besides, you didn’t want to bump into the King of All Monsters and Gerson sounded like he knew him on some level. So, you hurried off towards the Healer’s. You checked your list. You were running low on monster candy which helped replenish not only your HP but your magic. After the healers, you needed to-

Your breath was knocked from you, and your hip felt a twinge of pain. For a moment, you just laid there, staring at the dirt. Why were you on the ground? You blinked in surprise before you felt a hand attempt to help you up. “I’m so sorry!” a deep but oddly small sounding voice cried out above you. “I wasn’t watching where I was going! Oh, darn!”

You felt a blush cover your face as you quickly hurried to your feet. You chastised yourself silently, you’d been in the monster village for all of two seconds, and you were bumping into monsters! “I-It’s alright! I wasn’t paying attention either! I’m fine; just a bit dusty is all! Are you okay?” you asked. You raised your gaze to...well the stomach, of an incredibly tall goat monster, as you gaze raised higher and higher your mouth fell open. He probably was nine feet tall at least, not even including his towering horns. He was incredibly well groomed, with a neatly trimmed blonde beard and hair with intricate braiding throughout. Not to mention the shiny Delta Rune imprinted on the front of his armor...Oh...fuck. Your mouth closed with an audible clack. Was Gerson telling the truth about the King being an ‘old goat’? Did you just get knocked on your ass by the King of all monsters? Fuck! You began stuttering out some apologies which seemed to confuse the monster.

The monster chuckled, a touch nervously, and waved his paws, “No, no, I’m fine! Besides, you’re the one I knocked over! Ah...” he paused, head tilting slightly. “A human?”

Your body tensed, debating whether or not to run back to Gerson. “Y-Yeah?”

He seemed to perk up more if that was even possible. “What’s a human doing at a monster village? Trading?” he said, and then his face instantly fell. “Oh, no!” he let out a distressed noise similar to a soft bleating before bending down and started gathering all the various goods that had spilt out of your basket. “I’m so sorry!”

Somehow, you found yourself in an apology war with a nine-foot-tall monster as the two of you gathered up your supplies. He offered to escort you to where you needed to go but then instantly apologized just in case he crossed any lines. “I don’t know much about humans,” he blurted out, honestly not wanting to step on any toes. You smiled, hoping it was reassuring.

“It’s perfectly fine,” you assured him, “I just don’t want to impose on you. Surely there is somewhere you need to be?”

He shook his head, “I was exploring the village. I’ve never been here before. D-Do you live here?”

“No, I live a couple of hours away,” you explained with a vague wave in possibly the direction of your home. You held out your hand as you introduced yourself.

He stared at the hand for a moment, head slightly tilted. “F-Forgive me...but...what are you doing?”

Your fingers curled, and you awkwardly retracted your hand, “A...handshake? I guess that’s not common amongst monsters? Or are you talking about introducing myself? Am I not supposed to introduce myself?”

“Handshake?” he said, testing the word out. He grinned wildly and held out his paw to you. “Howdy, I’m Asgore.”

You let out a relieved whoosh of air and felt the awkward wash out of you at his enthusiasm and placed your hand in his. “Nice to meet you, Asgore!”

 The awkwardness, thankfully, stayed away as you gave an impromptu tour of the village as you went about trading. It felt odd to be giving a tour of a monster village to a monster, but you didn’t linger too long on that thought. He was kind and thoughtful, and not just towards you. Everyone seemed to respect him on some level, but also treat him like an old friend. Even if he had said, he had never been to this village before. Was that just how monsters were?

By the time the two of you finally made it back to Gerson, you began to worry about getting back to your home in time. Thankfully, the days were longer, and even if you lingered for another hour, it would just be getting dark by the time you made it home. Thankfully, the sky was clear, and there was no impending threat of a storm that would make the trek, and foraging, more difficult.

Gerson popped his head out from the back of his caravan at the sound of your voice and grinned at the sight of the two of you. “Ah! I see you’ve made a friend in the Prince!” he cackled as he descended the oddly shaped steps in the back.

“Prince?” you hummed, tensing again. You had thought he had been the King when you first bumped into him based on Gerson’s previous word choice...but why hadn’t you connected two-and-two after that? You peered up at Asgore who seemed oblivious to your sudden discomfort; he was too busy chattering away with Gerson. You knew your thoughts on royalty. You remembered mentioning it in passing once. He had a long memory.

Regardless of your thoughts on royalty…Asgore just didn’t fit with them. You still really didn’t want to meet Asgore’s father, even if he was half as kind as his son...he was still a King. King’s made stupid decisions.

“Well, I need to leave soon if I want to make it home before dark,” you waited for the perfect lull in the conversation to cut in, turning both of the men’s attention to you.

“Leaving so soon? You’re not staying for the banquet?” Asgore questioned, his face falling at the prospect. The idea of spending that much time in a closed room with so many beings wasn’t appealing. Your social requirement was full, and a banquet might drain all your extra energy.

“I got a farm to worry about and no one to help me but myself,” you offered a smile to the kind monster, “It was nice meeting you, however, Prince Asgore! See you on your way out, Gerson, thanks for the ride!” you waved at the turtle monster pleasantly.

There, you had successfully avoided attending a banquet and meeting the King of All Monsters! Now you could begin your five-hour trek home. Oh, you really hoped you could find some berries, that way you could make some jam! Or maybe you could finally try making wine?

However, fate did not want you to find those berries.

Fate wanted you to turn around and nearly bump into a second goat monster. This one larger and more imposing than Asgore. He towered above you, almost twice your height, with curled horns that looked well worn with age. His beard was long, greyed, and braided even more intricately than his son’s beard was. He was staring down at you with a burning curiosity; you could see a slight distrust behind the dark depths. You were a human in a monster village.

Of course, of course, you would almost actually bump into the King. You had crashed into his son! Why not him too!

Before you could open your mouth to start spewing out apologies, massive paws landed on your shoulder. “Father!” Asgore said, happily, “My friend here just finished showing me around the village!”

King Raigol’s eyebrow arched, and he smiled fondly over your head at his son. When his gaze returned to you, you were a bit relieved to see the suspicion faded and he smiled at you as well, “Ah, you must be one of the humans that trade with the monsters here? It’s becoming quite rare to find humans who willingly associate with monsters.”

You opened your mouth before snapping it closed. Could you speak to him? Should you talk to him! At least with Asgore, the awkward situation made way for you to at least get words out of your mouth. Now? You just kind of...stared vaguely in his direction. Would it be even ruder not to say anything?

Gerson clapped you on the back hard enough you swore you would’ve lost 1HP. “Comm’on youngin’ greet the King! He doesn’t bite much!”

“Har, har,” King Raigol huffed at the comment, “Forgive me if I intimidate you. I am King Raigol. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

You curtsied quickly and clumsily, Gods, you hadn’t had to do that in a while. “P-Pleasure is all mine, Your Majesty.”

That caused the King to blush, “No! No! Please, call me Raigol! You, humans, are way too formal.”

But…he was a King? You knew that your human King would’ve already tossed you aside for as little as the fact that you were in his way. Shouldn’t he be…more crucialimportant than everyone else? That’s why you wanted to avoid him! You found yourself nodding in agreement with him, more out of instinct to just agree with authority figures than anything. He beamed down at you.

“So, you’re staying for tonight’s banquet, are you not? It would be lovely to have a human present,” he stated, with just enough authority in his voice that you knew he was more than just suggesting. Still, it wasn’t really enough authority that said you couldn’t say no...but You looked back at Gerson and Asgore. Could…could you say no directly to the King? He didn’t want you to be formal, but what would happen if you said no?

“Uh…no…Your- uh, R-Raigol,” you swallowed thickly, cursing your clumsy words, “It’s a long journey home, and I need to turn my livestock in for tonight.”

His face fell, and you could see where Asgore got his ‘puppy’ dog face from. However, it didn’t last long, he raised a paw and stroked at his beard, “How long of a journey do you make?”

“Takes ‘er bout…whatcha say last time? Five hours ta walk?” Gerson interjected before you could fib and say it depends. You didn’t want any of the monsters to really know how far away your home was. The fewer people knew where you lived, the safer you felt. It took a while to feel okay with Gerson knowing, and he never pushed or prodded into knowing more than you wanted to share. When you had invited him to your place, he seemed pleasantly surprised. You shot a glare over your shoulder at the offending man, but Gerson seemed not even to be aware you were looking at him. Simply smiling happily with his eyes shut.

“Five hours?” Asgore blurted out, “It’ll be dark by the time you get back at this rate! You should stay the night in the village!”

“Oh! No, no!” you turned around, hands raised, “I’ll be fine! Bandits rarely come this far into the mountain anyways. There’s not a lot of traffic through here. But I do need to go now before it gets too late.”

“With the tensions growing between Monsters and Humans, I fear that the roads are more dangerous than you think,” Riagol hummed quietly.

You really didn’t want to stay the night. That would be imposing. Besides, what about your foraging?  What could you say to two overly friendly goat monsters, who were not only royalty but for some reason super concerned about the well being of a human? Did they think you were a threat and now that you had seen the King and Prince, you’d go running off to the closest human city to rage about that? Or were they merely concerned about a woman travelling alone?

Regardless, you just wanted to go home.

“I need to forage anyways, I’ll just…stick to the forest,” you said, allowing confidence to enter your voice.

Maybe you shouldn’t have come in to trade today.

That answer did not please either of them. Asgore started listing off all the different things that could go wrong in the forest by yourself, progressively getting more alarmed. Well, …that was not what you expected. You quickly patted the nine-foot-tall monsters’ arm.

“Humans are super tough, don’t worry,” you said with a, hopefully, reassuring smile. You’d flex, but you weren’t sure if monsters equated muscles to strength or not.

Riagol cleared his throat and clasped his hands gently behind his back. “I insist you stay for the banquet, and to ensure you are home by dark, I will send you home with two of my guard as escorts. I could not bear the thought that I allowed a young lady such as yourself to travel along the roads at night during such troubled times.”

It was a clear command, not a question. There. That was more like a King. It irked you but…well, you really couldn’t refuse at this point. So you acquiesced. Gerson chortled behind you, and as you turned to look at him, you saw a mischievous glint in his eye. He planned this. Why? You didn’t know, but you’d figure it out.

You sent him a rude gesture as the Prince and King looked away to greet a passing monster.

You were left alone with Gerson as the two royals left to go and prepare for the banquet. You grumbled under your breath and sat down heavily on a chair in the caravan. Gerson hummed pleasantly as he shuffled about, closing up the caravan for the night.

“Why did you do that?” you grumbled, kicking off your shoes. He handed you a cloth, and you set about cleaning the dirt from them. If you were going to a banquet, you wanted to be at least presentable.

Gerson poured two cups of tea, placing one in your reach before he sat down in one of the other chairs. “Times are changing, child. We will all need friends in the coming days,” came his simple answer. You stared at him, pausing in your movements.

“I’m perfectly fine with the one friend I have, thanks,” you said, eyeing him cautiously before returning your attention to getting the mud from the leather boots. “Besides, a simple peasant girl can’t befriend Royals.”

“Wahahaha. We both know you’re not some simple peasant girl,” he laughed before taking a sip of his tea and sighing happily. “Y’know, I got this tea from a small village down South. I was at this small tea shop, and it had the most beautiful view, oh! The humidity there was so nice on this old monster’s skin. Didja know that-“

Before you could clarify what he meant by ‘we both know’ he was rambling on about his travels once again, dragging your attention away successfully. By the time you were presentable, the banquet was started, and he escorted you there.

At first, you were uncomfortable and stiff. Gerson left you to sit at the head table, which surprised you, but when he offered to see if you could sit there with him, you quickly balked at the idea. You didn’t want to be seated with royalty. You weren’t exactly worth such a level of respect, especially amongst monsters.

However…you had to admit…it was nice to be a part of a banquet again. Even if at the start you were nervous about eating in front of other people, especially monsters. You knew they all had different ways of eating and you didn’t want to stare and be rude…but the monsters quickly distracted you. They asked you plenty of questions about being a human, and you were able to ask your own burning questions. After the first question, the monsters around you had burst into laughter, and you felt immensely embarrassed, but they quickly assured you that it was alright to ask them more.

Plus eating monster food was always a treat! It was also so warm, fresh, and delicious. It did more for your magic levels than your actual nutritional needs, but you ate enough of it that you felt sated. You’d probably have a second dinner when you got home, anyways.

By the end of the banquet, you felt stuffed, tired, and content. The monsters you had chatted with were now consuming monster alcohol, and that was something you weren’t touching. Gerson gave you some once, and you were laid on your ass for a full day recuperating. It wasn’t pretty.

A large, warm hand plopped down on your shoulder, and some monsters shifted to make room as Asgore plopped down on the bench beside you. “My father said he could send you home with some guards whenever you’re ready!”

You idly wondered why he didn’t just send the guards over to inform you, but…monsters weren’t humans, and you needed to stop comparing the two. That much was proven only by spending the banquet talking to the other monsters. You stuffed the remainder of the bread you were picking at into your mouth and gave Asgore a thumbs up. He beamed down at you and then hurriedly waved over two guards. They were both large and imposing with dark, but shiny armour. One had a cape of a deep blue and the other a fiery red. You couldn’t see either of their faces, but the red-caped monster’s visor glowed brightly as if it were a furnace. That piqued your curiosity...just a touch. You weren’t able to tell what kind of monsters they were...but they were bipedal at least.

“Grillby and Nindree will be escorting you home!” Asgore announced, gesturing to the two as they came to a stop beside the table. You shyly waved at them, the one with the blue cape waved back almost hesitantly.

Ah, yay. Two more individuals who would know where you lived. Maybe you could get them to drop you off on the pretense you were near your house? You shoved the thoughts away as you stood and felt the heaviness of food and drink weighing on you. Maybe…it would be alright…maybe as long as you got to bed soon.

You were exhausted.