The second part of my fanfic... And, well, things get funky...
I sit up in my high tree all alone. I love the sky. I don't know why that is when I'm a water sign, not technically but my lusus Scales says Cetus the Sea Monster should have been one. The sky is pretty today. It's been a week since the Alternians joined us. Equius gets nervous easily and sweats a lot. I feel bad for the big guy. He tries to act so tough, but I can tell he's had a hard time without looking at his broken horn and such. Eridan is kind of strange. He practices magic, but isn't a formally trained sorcerer. He is very socially awkward and a little bit of a flirt. Karkat yells and screams and curses quite a bit. He tries to act better around Jay, which I think is rather odd. Gamzee might be the weirdest. Gamzee has a gravelly voice and spaces off quite often. My personal opinion is he is drinking or something.
"Uh," says a hoarse voice, "Nessie, can I come up into your tree?"
I look down and see Gamzee Makara looking up at me, his hands in his pockets, his frown clashing with the painted face. Well speak of the devil.
"Of course," I call down, "Come on up."
He does so and I scoot over on the tree branch to make room for him. He sits and looks at the sky a while, like he's steeling himself for something.
"Nessie," he says and I nod, "I have a secret, a dark secret. If anyone knew about it, they would run away from me or kill me. Back on Alternia, there was a chemical substance known simply as Mupi. I have to eat it or I, I go crazy. I've, I've done horrible things. But there isn't any of it here. I don't know what to do."
I look over and see him staring down at his hands, shaking. I reach over and put my hand on his shoulder. He looks at me with his glazed eyes full of the sadness of memory.
"Gamzee," I say, "We're like family here. We take care of our own. I promise."
"Thanks, Nessie," he says, "It's been so long since I've been able to tell someone that. I've killed people. Everyone who helps me does it because they want to save themselves not me. Or they do it out of pity. It's nice to know someone cares."
I smile. And he takes my hands. They are warm. Perfectly so. His purple eyes are full of hope.
"NESSIE!" Karkat pulled me out of the memory of that day, "Nessie! It's Gamzee!"
I didn't need to ask. He didn't need to tell me. I knew where Gamzee was. I ran all the way to the center of the little clump of houses. There he was. I saw him shaking and convulsing on his knees, not one person at his side. I ran to him and knew something was wrong. I could hear his irregular heartbeat and hear his shallow breathing.
"Gods no," I whispered.
"Go. Away," Gamzee choked, "I don't. Want you here. Get out. While you. Can."
"I won't leave you."
"Then we're both doomed," he said. He suddenly stopped convulsing and his breathing became normal. He stood up and unstrapped the juggling clubs off his back. When he looked me in the eyes, they had a dead look, like his soul was gone.
"Run away, little girl. Run and let me catch you," he said in a silky sweet voice free of the growl that usually filled his voice. Somehow this was even worse. He put both clubs in one hand, and brushed a stray hair out of her face, "Let me rip you. Let me break that pretty face and paint with your blood. Many prophecies and miraculous events have been depicted with the blood of trolls. Pity you will not get to see them. I want to hunt you. It has been so long since I could give chase," he leaned in close to her and she felt his hot breath on her ear, "Run."
She wanted to so badly. To run and run and get far far away from the person that looked like Gamzee. Because it couldn't be him. Not the Gamzee that had waited at the foot of her tree for her permission. Nott he Gamzee that had taken her hands so gently and looked at her with such hope in his dull eyes. Not the Gamzee that had trusted her with his darkest secret, the secret that was now trying to kill her.
"No?" said Gamzee, "Such a shame. I really would have preferred prey that runs. Or even begs for mercy. I will settle for the howls of your dying. The howls are almost better than the blood. Almost, but not quite," his shoulders sagged and I thought he looked he looked genuinely sad. Then Gamzee hefted his clubs and started back towards me, "Anyway, let's get on with this."
I could run. But he would undoubtedly catch me. I could fight him. But he would definitely was stronger. So I did the only thing I could think of that was slightly less suicidal. I surprised him.
I ran forward and wrapped my arms around his body. Before he could react, I kissed him. Even though I was terrified that at any moment he would break free and kill me, I enjoyed the kiss. I had dreamed about the day I could touch his skin again. I felt Gamzee's rigid body slowly loosen and he returned my kiss, cupping my face in his hands. When we broke away his eyes were clear. Not dead. Not muted. Not glazed. Pure and full of life. I felt a flame burst up inside me, a tiny spark that had been kindled at the top of an oak tree now a roaring flame. My face was flushed and he was sweating still, dark purple beads running down his face mixing with the tears.
"You did it, Ness," he said and I didn't mind the nickname that usually drove me up the wall, "You stood up to me. He's gone forever."
I smile, feeling a burst of emotion in my chest. Whoever said love was bliss was wrong. It's a flame that must be tended and it's going to hurt. But it's worth it.
"Then you don't need a drug anymore," I say.
"I'm not so sure," he says and wraps me in another kiss. I let go and let the fire engulf me completely. I loved it.
* * *
Frost Bite watched the two figures in the mist. Such petty love. It won't last. It never does. She fingers the pendant around her grey neck. The last week the young Hydrus male and the Equuleus male had come asking their Ruler's blessing. What a joke. That's all their lives are, a joke and a game. When the humans leave they will not remember their lovers or their experiences together All will be as it was. Like after the Grus male lost the game. She peered deeper into the mist. No. Not that. Curse them, they will find out. The Empress must know, they must be stopped at all costs. Frost Bite swept her hand through the mist and stalked from the room.
Theresa is beautiful. You wouldn't think it from looking at her gruff exterior, but she really was beautiful. The way she brushed her hair out of her face, or smiled when she thinks no one is looking. I really shouldn't think about that, she's a human and I'm, well, not so much.
Sometimes I hear lullabies that no lusus ever sang to me. I remember fairy tales no Ruler has ever told. I have been told my lusus was named Grey-Feather and that he died when I was very small. But I don't remember him. I don't remember anything. Nothing but fragmented stories carried in to me on a lullaby.
"Krani!" yells a voice. It's Eridan.
"We need help! The Ancestors are attacking. They're headed to Xuitacoatl's and they look fit to kill," said Eridan.
I jump down from the roof and take the rod off my back. It used to sit between my wings before I got in a fight with a Chimera. My depth perception is off because of my ruined eye and I can only use one of my hands. Never mind that though. Coat and Pin need my help.
We run to the square where the combat is in full swing. Gamzee is beside Nessie, fighting a horde of boars. Nessie herself is fighting with her sword and her Alo, Ini the Chimera. I see Fiona of Cetus the Creator and realize where the boars are coming from. I feel a jab in my side and see my Ruler, Lalika the Black One of Grus, flying above me. I know I can't win without my wing, but stave off her attacks anyway. Then there is this huge wave of fire. I don't even feel it, but one of Lalika's feathers is nipped by the licking flames and crumbles to ash. The Ancestors retreat reluctantly. I know the battle isn't over.
"HELP!" Nessie's voice comes to me from across the square. She is kneeling before a form in a tattered and slightly smoking sleeveless shirt.
"Oh gods," said Drago, "I forgot Equius."
I understood. Drago had commanded the fire to protect certain people and things. He had forgotten Equius.
"I get it," said Equius, "And I'm hurt anyway."
He takes his fingerless glove off his side and it is covered in dark blue blood.
"Somebody get the healer," said Eridan.
I run inside Xuitacoatl's house and see Fork-Tongue sitting outside Xuitacoatl's door.
"You can't go in there," he says stopping me.
"Too bad," I growl and push inside. Xuitacoatl is sitting on the floor, looking pale. Several others follow me in, including Fork-Tongue.
"Are you okay?" I ask. Xuitacoatl looks at me with blank, unrecognizing eyes. He looks skinny and confused. I wrack my brains and figure I haven't seen him in days. Oh gods.
"We shouldn't be here," said Sarang from somewhere behind me, "This is sacred."
I look at the bed and see two shapes. One is clearly Agripin, the other I don't recognize. He looks about ten. Oh gods. I was right. Agripin's eyes are open, fixed on the younger shape, and I don't know if either is alive when Agripin sits up slightly. He puts his arms around the limp shape and licks it's face several times like a cat. I hear a tiny whimpering sound and watch the younger male slowly tense and then open his eyes. They are a brilliant hazel color. Agripin starts making the deep rumbling sound in his chest that symbolizes pure bliss. Xuitacoatl rushes to the bedside, no one has even noticed us observers, and gently strokes the male's hair. I slowly back out of the room, pushing everyone out with me.
"I told you not to go in there," said Fork-Tongue, "The penalty for seeing the Denning is death. What will the Ancestors do?"
"Well," said Ria, "We just beat them, so they might not be in the best mood."
"Am I the only one utterly confused?" interjected Alex.
"You just witnessed the most sacred thing in our world," said Nessie gently, "The creation of new blood."
"What?!" yelped Alex, "But that kid was ten!"
"So?" said Ria in a bored voice.
"Things work differently here," I said, "Two people share their genes and one of them carries both sets of genes. Some of the worst genes from each person are chosen and deleted. The rest are expelled."
Alex turned a faint shade of green as he tried to comprehend this. Sarang turned to Fork-Tongue, "Did they have the permission of the Ancestors? It is said the Ancestors of each person choose the genes."
"No, Sarang," said Fork-Tongue, "That's why the Ancestors are so upset."
Just then Xuitacoatl walked into the room. He looked tired and went straight for the kitchen. He took out the milk and drained the whole carton in one go.
"How's Agripin?" asked Fork-Tongue.
"Fine," said Xuitacoatl, suddenly looking suspicious, "Why are you all looking at me like that?" realization dawned, "You didn't... You did."
"Not like that," I said, but it was too late. Xuitacoatl strode across the room and punched me under the jaw. I lifted off the ground a little and saw sparks in my eyes. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground with Arra holding my arm. Sarang was looking Xuitacoatl in the eyes, unafraid even though Xuitacoatl's frame was shuddering with his breaths. Soon his anger melted and with it I saw the clouds fade from his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Krani," he said, "I just, I just have been sitting in there, sore with worry for Agripin and, and I'm still not quite off edge."
"Coat?" said a weary voice from the bedroom. Xuitacoatl was off like a flash. We all waited awkwardly in the kitchen. Then he came back, supporting a weak Agripin.
"Wh-why is everyone in your kitchen, Coat?" asked Agripin.
"They want to meet him," said Xuitacoatl.
"Oh," said Agripin simply. He turned slightly and said, "You can come out, Haru."
A little head peered out from Agripin. He had shaggy black hair and his wide eyes were a brilliant hazel. He had little horns like Xuitacoatl's and the hands that were holding onto Agripin's shirt were the same long fingered delicate hands that Agripin himself possessed. He saw all the people and ducked back behind Agripin again.
"He's shy just like you, Pin," said Leyo.
"Uh," said Karkat from the door, scowling and adding about a pound of sarcasm, "When you get done crushing the ancient laws, Equius is close to death, so we would appreciate it if you get the hades out here."
Xuitacoatl walked outside with Agripin, Haru holding onto his shirt still. Haru saw the blood and ran over to Equius. He gently brushed Equius's hand off the wound. He touched two fingers to the wound and put the fingers to his lips.
"Hey!" said Eridan, "Stop that."
Haru looked at Eridan with his big hazel eyes, still silent. Xuitacoatl came over and looked at his son, his face smeared with Equius's dark blue blood.
"No," said Xuitacoatl, "He's on to something. Go ahead, Haru."
Haru looked back to Equius's still form. He dug one of his sharp nails into his own flesh and beads of swirling green and brown blood came to the surface. Haru pressed his bloody hand to Equius's wound and it smoked like his blood was acid. The wound knit back together and left barely a thin scar on his side.
Equius opened his eyes and looked at Haru, "So you're Haru?"
"Your name means spring."
"And you're the serpent horse."
"You don't talk much, do you?" asked Equius. Haru nodded, paused and then tilted his head side to side and twitched a shoulder. Equius laughed and said, looking at Gamzee, "Well, Gamzee, looks like we have two hoofed serpent animals."
Everyone laughed. I fingered my bruised jaw; Xuitacoatl is strong when he decides he's not a pacifist. I was just thinking things might settle down again when a giant lion swept into the square. Brak it.
So we were all happy about Equius not dying and then there's this HUGE lion. We all raise our swords and weapons and dangerous objects and such. We are preparing to fight the big cat, when I see Krani talking to Eridan. Eridan crosses his arms as Krani begs harder. That kid is throwing it into overdrive. Where's the lion? Oh, it's crushing somebody's car. Wait, that's one of Biancha's illusions. And there's this tiny butterfly on the window sill. Pretty.
I saw Krani lift off. I saw his tawny wings spread outwards and saw how he taunted the lion over the edge of the cliff, his legs and torso bleeding grey from its giant claws. I follow, jabbing the lion and making it angrier when it decides it wants to go back to the hive and wreak more havoc. Then I see the cliff. It's huge and I know what Krani is doing. He dips in for the last jab and the lion senses his weariness. It roars in triumph and dives at him. Krani manages to dodge it and the cat goes over. It grabs his leg in its mouth as it does and the two of them go hurtling down off the edge and away. I turn and see Aspen. She rushes me and I have no chance. I go down screaming at her hands.
I still feel sick. The lion is gone and with it Jay and Krani. I'm not worried, they can hold out and apparently Eridan recreated Krani's wing, so he should be fine. No I feel sick like I did when Haru was being born. But that's impossible, the sickness should have gone away when the extra genes were deleted or expelled. I double up with pain just as we see the Ancestors. In front is Aspen, holding a knife to Jay's throat.
"Hand over the child and its parents," said the Empress of Camelopardalis, her eyes sparkling with malice, "Or we slit her throat."
"That girl is the controller, Empress," said Sarang, "Have mercy."
"Mercy is not the way. Neither is going against our wishes. You owe us your lives, now we are here to collect," said the Empress.
"Please, Empress-" began Arra. She didn't get far when the Empress cut her off. Aspen pressed the knife deeper into her throat. Beads of blood appeared on her throat and her wide blue eyes were full of determination and fear.
"Go now. Do not fear the loss of my life. I am only human. I enjoyed my time with you, but I welcome death. Save yourselves, live on," said Jay.
"No!" yelled the Empress, "You cannot leave the game! You will die!"
"You will not die. The only ones who will kill you are the Ancestors. Do not fear them. I have seen it. You will live," Jack said, "The word poems of numbers, they were a pattern. I have seen it in the future. I knew we would lose Jay."
"No, Jay!" the voice was a surprising one. It was Karkat, infamous for his snappy demeanor and shifting moods more traitorous than a sink hole, "Don't leave us. Please!"
"Do not fear, for I am with you always," she said, "Save the others, Jack. I know you can, because you are my brother. I saw our mother in a dream."
"Make your choice," said the Empress, bored by all the swirling emotions, "Her life or the lives of a few puny trolls."
Silence. Then one by one the humans and the trolls stood in front of Xuitacoatl and Haru and I. Jack was crying. He had known she was his sister for about a minute. The Empress frowned, "On your heads, so be it. We will have your lives soon enough."
She turned to Aspen and the Ruler slit Jay's throat in one clean movement. The Ancestors and their animals and weapons surged towards them. Out of the sky Krani careened down, one of his legs hanging at a weird angle. He crashed into Sarang and I caught Xuitacoatl's arm.
"We have to get Krani out. Get Sarang and meet me at the-" I doubled over in pain and felt Xuitacoatl's arms lifting me off the ground.
I felt the cool grass on my back and curled up in a ball, wracked with spasms. It felt like I was being torn apart, and not for the first time. I once again felt the sensation of loss that I had felt at Haru's birth. The feeling intensified and I thought I was going to die. It was so hot. And cold. And painful. I heard Xuitacoatl take off his coat and wrap something in it gently. He then laid it beside me.
"THIS WAY!" Sarang's voice was magnified ten thousand times. I heard pounding footsteps and held the bundle of cloth closer.
Xuitacoatl picked me up again and then I felt it. It was worse than anything I've ever felt. I recognized the feeling of interdimensional travel, magnified much more in my weakened state. I felt the bundle in my arms grow still and began to gently lick its face and rub it gently with my hands. We were out of the portal and Xuitacoatl set us down. I looked at the bundle in my arms and could see black hair and brownish skin. I feared the worst for a moment, and then my second child was looking at me with bright hazel eyes.
"We will call her Natsu, the summer," said Xuitacoatl, stroking her black hair. Natsu smiled. She didn't have fangs. I looked at my own hands and saw I too had light skin. Xuitacoatl had darker skin and I noticed again his slightly more almond shaped eyes.
"Natsu is a beautiful name," I say. I take Haru's hand and look around. The rest of the trolls, or former trolls, are standing in the dappled sunlight in a sort of daze. They are human. My own Haru has Xuitacoatl's black hair and darker skin. Nessie has long brown hair and chocolate brown eyes.
"What happened?" asked Theresa, rubbing her head.
"We are free," said Biancha, her blonde hair falling around her face, "We are human again."