Worldsense - New Reign - Chapter 12 - CandorTheCreator (phoelynfabulous) (2024)

Chapter Text

“You know, I cannot help but feel as if I am forgetting something.”

Hornet sighed a little. It was a fond sound, but a tired one. “You have forgotten almost your entire past in Hallownest, Quirrel.”

“Well, I know that,” he gestured incredulously, “but I think Hollow told me something deeply important recently, and I cannot recall what it was for the life of me!”

She clicked her fangs, adjusting her place in her seat to look over at him. “Was it about the Archives?” she tried next.

He frowned a little. “I can't imagine forgetting anything important about the Archives, of all places.”

“Quirrel, you cannot even remember where they are.

“I can't?”

“Try.”

He furrowed his brow intently.

“Things have been fairly calm as of recent,” Hornet reassured him further while he chewed on that bit of information. Again. “It isn't as if the Hollow Knight would end up in some sort of peril, as a god of their caliber. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been that important. Unless it was about the Archives, in which case the situation is different.”

“...I actually, genuinely cannot remember how to get there. Why not?”

Hornet shrugged. “I believe the Vessel knows, but it isn't as if they can tell me.”

“Why, of course they could! I can translate for them, if you'd like!”

“Yes. Translate the message you can't retain knowledge of.”

“...how many times have I forgotten where the Archives are?”

She huffed a little. “Did you believe we were keeping score?”

Quirrel's face was completely stunned, but he wasn't in a panic or anything, so Hornet considered him well.

“As I said; things are fine. If it still worries you, we can ask them later.”

He nodded. “I suppose you're right. One favor, if you would?”

Hornet raised an eyebrow.

“Do start keeping track of that. I would like to study something that I can forget that consistently.”

This time, she snorted, stifling a laugh. “You are going to perform tests on your own peculiar case of amnesia?”

“Well, of course! The King told me that those who were born in Hallownest and leave do not retain their minds, so this sort of case has never been documented! I believed the scholar I once was long dead, but in reality…”

“You remember something the King told you?” Hornet questioned him, surprised.

He gave her a sly little grin. “Oh, so now my ability to remember things is interesting, hm?”

She grinned back, just as mischievous. “Do remind me what it is that you've forgotten that put you on this tram of thought?”

He opened his mouth, paused, then closed it.

She upped the mischief in her expression.

“...something about the Archives?” he squeaked, defeated.

“Close enough.”

“Hornet-”

“You don't remember where they are or how to get there. It was initially very worrying, but it has become a bit of a routine now. We just try to stop you from going to Fog Canyon so you don't get lost.”

He gave her a very similar incredulous look to earlier.

“What?”

“Did you try to help me at all?!”

She sputtered, “Of course we did! But it isn't as if any of us are very skilled at understanding the Archive’s encoded messages.”

“Oh please, it isn't a code, it's shorthand! It's called an alphabet, where everything is written phonetically - albeit with a few shortcuts along the way.”

“Whatever it was, we could not help you find what you were looking for. Perhaps you need someone just as dedicated to learning your own history as you are,” Hornet joked.

Despite her humorous tone, Quirrel looked deep in thought for a moment before waving a finger through the air as he muttered, “You know, Myla did mention a friend of hers down in the City with a collection of old relics.”

Hornet laughed.

“Oh, now what?”

“It is nothing,” she giggled, “Just that… I cannot think of anyone more different than you are. I believe if you two were to ever meet, you'd drive each other mad immediately.”

Quirrel scowled as she continued to attempt to contain herself, snickering and giggling as she imagined such an encounter. “Really.”

“It isn't bad! It- hehe- it isn't a bad thing at all, it's just… you're so tolerant by nature, and he… is very intolerant by nature.”

He rolled his eyes a little. “If you won't support my journey in finding an ally, then perhaps I'll just go about it myself. I'm a very capable bug and I'm sure Myla knows the way just fine,” he mockingly explained more to the ceiling than to her as he made his way out the door.

Hornet hopped to her feet and followed after him. “There is no need! I will help if you want it!”

“No, I have chosen my path and I am sticking to it!”

“I respect your drive, I do, but Lemm is-”

Quirrel gave a delighted “aha!” as Myla stepped into view, giving them both a confused look. Probably because of the noise.

“Myla, my friend!” Quirrel chirped, practically skipping over to where she had been snacking, resting on a picnic blanket, “I was wondering if you knew how to get to the relic seeker!”

She gave him an odd little grin, confused but willing to play along. “H-Haven’t exactly mapped out that far y-yet. But Holly knows the way!”

Hornet looked up to find that the structure Myla had been leaning on was actually her older sibling, sitting so still that when they turned their head to acknowledge Quirrel and her, they both jumped a little.

Quirrel recovered quicker. “Hollow, I extend this same request to you! Would you perhaps consider taking me on a trip to visit this fellow?”

“Me too!” Myla waved enthusiastically, “We're b-buddies! I think!”

Hornet rolled her eyes, but just gestured for the Vessel to answer.

With a short huff, they adjusted their position where they sat and began their odd full-body sign language.

Quirrel's smile faltered just a little as they signed. “Hm? Why not?”

Hornet tilted her head.

“They say it isn't wise to visit the city right now, because…”

Slowly, Quirrel's eyes widened as they gestured. When they stopped, he stayed quiet for a moment.

“Sorry?” he asked.

They began signing again-

“No- Hollow, I'm not apologizing for it, I- I wanted to make sure I understood you correctly. Rephrase?”

She frowned, giving Myla a glance, who also seemed worried at this point.

“...that's what I thought you'd said, but, ah…”

“Quirrel? Could you interpret that for us!”

He hesitated, giving them one more look of are you sure.

...Because they turned the water into blood…?

Worldsense - New Reign - Chapter 12 - CandorTheCreator (phoelynfabulous) (1)

Hmmm.

This seemed like something deeply critical. Like something the King would send in his Five to fix. Something that was almost certainly his responsibility.

Wiping green-blue blood off his brow, mixing with the brown concoction of different colored hemolymph that now coated the streets and trickled down through drains, Ogrim could not for the life of him actually figure out what he was supposed to do about this.

What, stop the bleeding? Bandage the entire city ceiling? He'd already gone looking to find whose blood this was, but all he'd found were old bodies, long dead and seemingly turned to sludge. It looked like they'd all been dumped by, or in, the lake.

Which, of course, is not a great place to hide that many bodies. Because, well.

He flicked the blood from his horns. The street reeked of copper.

Superstition of a sort tugged at his heart, begging it to race with panic as blood rained down from above. Some omen of death, a heralding of the end times.

Even if this wasn't a divine working, his suspicions of the Soul Sanctum confirmed, this was still a sign of worse to come. A coordinated movement from the hooligans and heretics who sought to stake their claim on the city, harvesting bodies for who knows what.

Ogrim could not defend the city from this.

He wasn't entirely confident he could protect himself from this.

A retreat, bitter and sharp, may be in his future.

Ogrim!

He turned to find Myla running through the city, waving her pickaxe through the air to grab his attention, sprinting through bloodied streets with the confidence of someone who'd lived there their whole life, and not of a blind bug who'd never seen it with her own eyes.

He jumped over to her, where she skidded to a stop with a yelp, tumbling backwards due to the slippery surface.

“Myla, how did you get h- ah, nevermind. It is not a very good time for a visit.”

She threw herself to her feet, chipperly declaring, “Ogrim!” as if she'd only just found him. Which made sense, as again, she couldn't see him. “So glad I found you, w-we've been looking everywhere!”

Not alone then, though he could figure that out just by her navigational skills. She probably could make it to the city on her own, but it might take a while. “And why have you been looking, might I ask?”

She was lucky she couldn't see the-

“Uh, i-i-isn't it raining blood?”

Oh.

“We thought you, uh, m-might wanna consider getting out of here…?”

He knelt down to her level. “Where are the others? It isn't safe to go around alone right now.”

“Mouthpiece,” she spoke grimly, “Thou return.”

Quirrel gave the Godseeker a patient bow, while the Vessel stood taller at his side. “You may have noticed, ma'am, but the waters here have been tainted. We've come to rescue you from this pit.”

Immediately, she barked a laugh, loud and incredulous. “Thou would be pressed to move Us! This place is sacred to the God of Gods!”

“I don't think Ghost cares all that much for the junk, Seeker. I think they just come here for you,” Quirrel insisted, recalling Hollow's disgust at the Waterways and imagining its little sibling having a similar opinion. They didn't seem a fan of cobwebs when walking through them, so distaste for sludge seemed a fair guess.

“Falsehoods, and blasphemy,” she snarled low, “Thine tune rings quiet and young, Mouthpiece. It would do thee well to respect the others of thy Pantheon, especially the strongest and mightiest of them all.”

“...Right. Why do you think Gho- er, the God of Gods, values this place so highly?”

Pleased at him taking whatever place on the totem pole she found appropriate for him - though, he seemed to have garnered some favor with her since their first conversation - she moved aside ever-so-slightly to once again leave the flower visible from its humble perch.

“This blessing,” she reverently rasped, “is a point in time, a beat in a story that shall be repeated until time itself ends. A moment irrevocable. And it was bestowed upon Us!” She made a high, wistful sound. “We shall never witness such greatness again in Our lifetime, nor our childrens’ lifetimes.”

He supposed he could understand, but he was also fairly sure that if Ghost heard this excuse they would just tell her to pick it up and go.

The Hollow Knight looked at him, drawing his attention. “Could she not simply bring the flower with her?” they signed, further emphasizing Quirrel's point.

“Mouthpiece, give song to Silence,” Seeker commanded, expectant. He was confused for an instant, before realizing she was asking in her roundabout way for an interpretation.

“Can you not bring the flower with you?”

Her gasp was utterly scandalized.

“Its words, not mine!”

“A blessing so small?! So intricate!? So fragile?! What if We were to slip and lose it!? What if it were to be destroyed?!

There are other flowers,” Hollow shrugged.

Quirrel held his tongue for that one.

“We will not forsake that which the God of Gods hath given Us! Let the wind and earth rend this place to dust, let the waters swallow the land, but We will remain here, as is the will of Them!”

She lowered herself down, huddled up around the little flower as if to shield it with her body.

When Hollow looked at him expectantly, likely waiting for him to translate, he slowly shook his head. “What?

“...I think that would be like telling you that there are other King's Idols,” he whispered.

A surprisingly thoughtful look came over them, and they nodded solemnly.

“I’m not sure where to go from here, my friend.”

They clicked their fangs together. “If she will only listen to Ghost, perhaps you should trade places with them. They were looking for Ogrim, while Myla searches for Lemm.

“Not a bad idea!”

Myla did not know where Lemm was.

Now, Ronin knew that. In a way. They had approximate knowledge of many things.

There was still a bit of confusion regarding how she wanted to be treated. She wanted to be respected for her skillful navigational ability. She needed to be guided around. Both of these statements were true at once.

It was hard to reconcile them.

It took Hornet reminding them of how lost they used to get to help them figure it out.

Ronin did not want to be told where to go. Even if they didn't know where to go either. They would probably find Cornifer eventually, if they just kept going.

As it turns out, her solution was to find someone who knew. So Myla went ahead and found Ogrim.

She found him up in the city. Ronin had been searching the Waterways.

Importantly, they had no idea Myla had already found who they were looking for.

And so, fruitlessly, they continued doing laps of the sewers, fighting off Flukes and Pilflips, hunting for areas they hadn't yet seen in a desperate search for Ogrim.

Eventually, they accepted defeat.

Ronin walked through the broken-open wall into Tuk’s little hiding place and looked up at her expectantly.

It was then that it occurred to them that they could not communicate with her.

They could go find Quirrel to translate for them. But really, anyone would do. They all had the same goal, and nobody really knew Tuk was even here. Since Quirrel was with Godseeker, they should probably get someone else.

Godseeker… was not very… typical. Interacting with specifically Ronin. It was better for someone else to handle that.

Ronin signed for Tuk to wait, then dashed out in search of Hornet. She had good enough priorities for this. She was to-the-point. She'd go well with Tuk.

Right now, though, Hornet was with a different bug. So Ronin surged ahead towards the shortcut that would lead them straight to her.

“You cannot stay here,” Hornet insisted for the umpteenth time, “because the leaks in your roof will fill this room with decomposing sludge. Your plants will die, you will get sick, and you will die with them.”

“I swore that I would stay here until the kingdom crumbles around me!” Emilitia argued back, still chipper in spite of… everything.

Hornet's eye twitched. “You're late,” she snapped, “The kingdom already crumbled. You missed it. Now get out.”

Emilitia’s next bright idea was to pretend Hornet didn't exist.

Given that she'd tried everything, from a princess's royal decree to threats of grievous harm, Hornet just wanted to talk to literally anyone else.

“...y'know, I'm not r-really sure. We should prob’ly regroup.”

“Alright,” Hornet growled, clearly frustrated, “So we've tried, and failed, to evacuate Emilitia, Seeker, whoever the sewer-person Ghost mentioned is, Ogrim-”

“Hey, you haven't yet failed with me! You didn't ask!”

“-and Lemm. Anyone unwilling to escape at this point I would not mind leaving for dead.”

Quirrel pointedly ignored Ghost's silent cheer in favor of doing this, getting the distinct impression that they hadn't mentioned someone with the explicit purpose of condemning them to death, and instead commented, “Who asked Lemm?”

No hands were raised.

“I-I couldn't find him,” Myla noted.

Ghost shrugged.

The Hollow Knight sighed.

“I doubt I could convince him to leave anyway,” Hornet crossed her arms.

“I've yet to meet the man!” Ogrim declared.

“Alright! I refuse to let this be a failure, so I need to know where I can find him.”

Ghost and Hollow began gesturing, though he couldn't keep track between the both of them.

“Pause,” he requested, holding out a hand. “I actually have something for you two to do. Ghost, I think you have a chance of convincing Seeker to leave, so if you could-”

They shook their head.

“-well, it's either that, or you tell us who it is you haven't mentioned in the hopes that we'd leave them in the bleeding city.”

Ghost recoiled, shocked and horrified that he'd gotten such a good read on them. Puffing a defeated sigh, they agreed to his terms.

“Ghost!” Hornet scowled in disappointment.

“You're always the one advocating for the low empathy of Vessels,” Quirrel shrugged. Exactly what the doctor ordered, it would seem.

She still shook her head a bit. “I dread to learn who has earned your ire to such an extent, if Emilitia did not qualify.”

Ghost did not express any sort of opinion or explanation. Stoicism, as Quirrel has learned, did not bode well.

“Coming up with a reasonable plan of action here… the Seeker respects Hornet and Hollow, so you two can head down that way and try to convince her. You can loop around to find Ghost's person-of-interest either while you're down there or when you come back up…”

Ogrim raised a claw. “I have the proper authority to evacuate the city, if miss Emilitia insists on living in the past.”

“That's the spirit!” Quirrel chirped, delighted at the change in tone starting to form in their little search party. He wiped blood from the edge of his shell cap. “It looks like Ghost intends to head that way, so you two can travel together!”

“H-How come we're all moving in groups?” Myla innocently questioned.

For a brief moment, he was haunted by the vivid mental image of an unseen Soul Warrior lunging for him, followed by the flawless, seamless grace of a Pure Nail severing his head from his shoulders before either of them could think to even blink…

“...well, the times have changed here in Hallownest,” Quirrel gently began. “There is no King left to lay down any laws. The end times have come and gone. New sorts of order have been established all across the Kingdom - and in this city, Soul is a valued resource.”

Myla winced, almost sympathetic. Her slightly nervous hum punctuated her sense of understanding.

The Hollow Knight gently lowered their head with a sort of mournful guilt. Bloodied rain streamed down the natural and unnatural grooves in their mask, tracing along until it fell from the corner of one eye like a lone tear.

He patted the closest thing of them that he could reach - their thigh, apparently. These circ*mstances weren't their fault, but the inability to maintain the Kingdom as they were meant to would likely weigh heavy on them for a long time to come.

He could relate. Perhaps he should take some time sooner or later to pour over his maps, see if he couldn't give the old Archives a visit. A little closure there might be nice.

Though for now it may be best to get back on track. “Myla - would you come with me to check on Lemm?”

She perked up, bright eyed and with a peppy smile.

“Excellent! We all know where we're going, then?”

A small chorus of affirmatives, and affirmative hand gestures, answered him.

Hollow tapped him on the shoulder. “Do you?

His expression fell blank. Right.

Despite their reserved tone in the face of this strange calamity, they managed a tiny scoff of a laugh. “Find this Vessel's memorial, in the square. He stays in a building in-” and they gestured around their heart.

“...A building in…the heart?”

“The city,” Hornet started, “is named Heartstone. Named after the natural charm formed in a Wyrm's chest. The districts around here are named after areas of the heart, however. Lemm lives in Ventricle.”

Ah. Good to know!

“I only know that the districts are named after chambers of the heart,” she continued with an odd little smile, “because one of the few bugs who babysat and tutored me was full of fun facts. Were it not for him, I likely would believe it to be the other way around.”

Quirrel smiled at her expression of a fond memory. “Ah, to be full of such knowledge is a blessing, and wanting to share it is always something to cherish. He sounds like he was a good man!”

Ogrim laughed behind a claw. Hm? What was so funny?

Hornet shot him another knowing look. “We'd best get going,” she dismissed, flicking more old ichor from her brow, “before this city can embody its namesake any further than it is now.”

He had pinned up old curtains against the window.

Sitting by himself here, alone in his shop, watching the curtain on the window like it would jump out at him, Lemm had never felt more… isolated.

He glanced down at the tablet. He'd almost finished deciphering its meaning, if only he could focus…

Eyes once again flicked up and locked onto the window. Onto the curtain.

The rain pattering made him want to cower and hide.

Gods, what had the world become? Or what had he become? What did it even mean, that he wasn't sure if it was the kingdom or his mind that had gone bad?

Perhaps illness had taken him, and he simply didn't know. Just waiting behind the counter as a mindless husk, waiting for some wanderer or another to return.

The girl, Myla, seemed convinced that all was well.

Myla couldn't see the color of the rain.

Lemm sighed heavily, pressing his palms to his closed eyes, rubbing away the sleep. He felt exhausted, too tired to work, but hadn't done anything at all. Just being here was so stressful, he was shutting down entirely.

Could this kill him? Eh. If he wasn't already dead, that is.

A sharp clink from the floor below had him jolt in his seat, whipping around to face the sound with horror. One of those floating strangers, or the man in the streets, or the fabled Hollow Knight back to claim him for his madness-

The elevator chugged its way up and revealed an unfamiliar fellow.

He was older, for sure, based on the matte of his shell and the long-worn scratches. The nail at his hip was carried with a sort of professionalism, but his eyes seemed almost… naive. Full of wonder and curious by nature. It clashed with the distinct feeling that he was looking at an old, old soul.

This spirit of wandering caught his eye with a sort of pleasant surprise about his expression, and tipped the shell hat he wore atop his head in a strangely polite little gesture. Out of place and out of time, some kindly figure of discovery.

Lemm blinked as the stranger approached, that strange aura of nigh-divinity seeming less harrowing up close. A somewhat portly man with a cautious step but eager gait, eyes warm and welcoming.

To be an atheist was to assert that the divine was simply not worth worshiping. The tales woven by simpler bugs could be told again until there was nothing left but static noise, and as such, gods weren't all that special. To defeat one, you just have to believe you can.

So, despite the aura of importance about him, Lemm fought past his first impressions and shrugged it right off.

What did he know, anyway. This probably was just a regular old bug. He'd been hallucinating viscera pouring down the windowsill.

“You would not happen to be Lemm, would you?” the stranger inquired, apparently pleased to meet him.

He'd likely change that attitude the second he got the chance to open his mouth properly.

“I might be,” he answered with a raised brow. “Who sent you, the miner girl? She's… cheerful. You strike me as the same.”

Despite what could easily be taken for insult, the man laughed. “We are friends, but I've actually been sent by who I can only imagine is your most regular customer. Ghost said you might not want to stop and chat for long, but I've always been the type to test a hypothesis before blindly going forward.”

Ah. Well, that was new, at least. And not yet in a bad way. “Oh, so it does talk.”

“In a sense,” the stranger vaguely responded.

“Most it’s ever said to me was pointing at something.”

He shrugged. “That is how it tends to be with them!”

A heavier raindrop tapping against the window had Lemm flinch, turning quickly to make sure his curtain still stood. Satisfied, he leveled a skeptical look at his newest visitor, having been brought back to reality - or torn away from it, depending - by the noise. “And who would you be, besides the vagabond’s friend?”

He smiled warmly, tipping his hat again. “I am a bit of a vagabond myself. My name is Quirrel, and while I was once from here, I have since lost my grasp on this land's many secrets. I had hoped to meet with you and see what the two of us could glean of the past together.”

“I suppose you're as good of an acquaintance to make as any,” Lemm answered snarkily, skepticism rising from the sheer oddity of this Quirrel’s presence.

A living bug hailing from Hallownest who wasn't either a vengeful demigoddess or a shambling corpse? He'd have to be a minimum of three centuries old, firstly. Mayhaps he'd misunderstood.

“You say that you were born and raised here in the Kingdom's prime?”

He bowed his head. “Indeed. I could not regale you with tales from my childhood, as the Blasted Plains rob the King's bugs of their minds and memories, but it is true.”

“Hmph. You've aged well.”

Quirrel laughed cheerily, waving him off while his other hand cupped his cheek as though flattered. “Why thank you! I'm afraid it will make me difficult to carbon date.”

“What else is new,” Lemm leaned back with a sigh, gesturing a hand towards his many relics, all stacked on shelves behind him. “Old stories about this place talk about how time doesn't quite work the way it should, but I didn't believe them until I got a look for myself. Trying to find out the when of things is not exactly the most enjoyable part of my job.”

A curious smile flitted across Quirrel's features. Gods, he was so damn smiley. So chipper, so interested. All Lemm had managed to do was question and complain, and he just took it with a grin. “What do you enjoy about relic collecting, then?”

“Pff. What do I enjoy about it,” he repeated mockingly, “I don't think there's a single step of the process I enjoy in full. Translations are well and good, but give me headaches, carbon dating is a nightmare, context clues are only helpful if there is any context to begin with, and I've yet to find any information on the figure depicted in the giant memorial just outside!” Lemm put his elbow to the desk, resting his cheek against his closed fist.

“Hm. Perhaps it is time for a new hobby?”

“The only thing I hate more than deciphering all these relics is not doing it,” he grumbled.

And he laughed. He was genuinely delighted by his snark, whimsical and wistful. “Now that, I understand very well!”

Lemm shook his head a little. Try as he might, he couldn't resist the smile that was creeping up on him. It was a contagious sort of joy that this wanderer brought in with him.

“I would love to stay and chat,” Quirrel looked past him at the barricaded window, “but perhaps this conversation would be best had… elsewhere.”

“Why is that?”

Nonchalantly, as if it wasn't a big deal whatsoever, Quirrel responded, “Well, the weather hasn't exactly been great as of recent. We've been working on evacuating everyone left in the city, given the, ah, circ*mstances.”

The blood rain was real.

It was real.

The sigh of strange relief that escaped Lemm came out almost like a bout of manic laughter, shaking as he rested his head against the counter. Liberated of his worries, even if that posed countless more questions.

“Ah-? Are you alright, Lemm?”

“You have no idea,” he groaned into the shellwood desk.

“Hah. I've felt that way, too. Will you be needing any help with packing…?”

Lemm blinked.

Oh, gods, he was going to have to relocate everything.

Oh, gods, it was raining blood.

“...I'm not sure where to even begin,” his eyes scanned over the countless relics with a sudden surge of overwhelming dread.

Quirrel snapped his fingers. “I do, actually! But first, we need an umbrella.”

The confusion doubled. “I have one. You, ah, aren't suggesting we actually go out in that, are you?”

Now it was his turn to blink in slight befuddlement. “Oh, I've already been. It will not be pleasant, but an umbrella would do wonders. We've all agreed to regroup at Hollow's old memorial, and they can hold all of this easily, so I say we wait there for them.”

The list of questions expanded rapidly.

He was walking around in the downpour of rotting ichor without any sort of umbrella? Who is we? Hollow- Hollow? Oh, gods, that was real too, wasn't it.

Shocked, in disbelief, Lemm just noted, “That's a good point. I'll bring the umbrella.”

Quirrel chipperly encouraged him along to the elevator, seemingly unaware of just how upside-down he'd just turned his whole life.

“Quirrel!” Myla chirped, waiting below. She gave a firm salute, pickaxe held at her side like a proper weapon. “No soul thieves in sight, s-s-sir! Did’ya find Lemm?”

Sarcastically, Lemm responded, “No.”

She gave a delighted little “woop-woop!” in response.

While she cheered, Lemm gave Quirrel a pointed look and questioned, “You put the little blind girl on watch duty?”

“She's very light sensitive! And that's what we're looking out for.”

“O-Oh, is that why! I-I just assumed that you forgot.”

Quirrel scowled. Even that seemed cheerful. “I did. But I'm not wrong.

With an eye roll - in an attempt to stifle the damned urge to grin at Quirrel's antics, god, what was he, a spirit of joy? - Lemm shrugged and opened the umbrella, handing it off to Quirrel. “Lead the way, I suppose. I think I know where we're going, but I refuse to believe it.”

Quirrel took it, ushering Myla forward with a gentle pat on the shoulder, then commented, “I don't think it's wise to open one of these indoors. The superstition about it being bad luck likely came about simply because they're a bit unwieldy, and they block your vision regarding fragile things like lamps.”

Myla opened the door.

It took all of Lemm's strength to maintain his snark in the face of such gruesome horror; “I certainly wasn't about to open it out there.

Blood ran thick through the streets. Seeing it out from behind the glass was a whole new beast to him.

Leaning in closer, Quirrel held out the umbrella over Lemm's head, making sure he'd be protected from the downfall. “If it's any consolation, well… Ogrim went out searching for the source, and they were all husks fallen from Infection. It isn't fresh. There hasn't been any new massacre - good news, yes?”

In the face of such overwhelming positivity, Lemm was left at a loss. Regardless, the three of them trudged forward on their path to the Memorial for the Hollow Knight.

It seemed far more sinister with trails of blood streaking down its features.

Lemm was jolted from his thoughts at the exuberant cry of a familiar madman. Silently, he begged to whatever god was willing to hear him that this one was an actual hallucination.

The gods did not answer him.

Bowling in at top speed was that round beetle that paraded the streets, accompanied by the little Ghost that had given him so many treasures in the past. “Why, hello there! I don't suppose you are this Lemm fellow I've heard so much about?”

Ah, great. “That would depend on who's asking. I don't feel inclined to give my name to strangers who careen down the roads bellowing battle cries.”

Despite the insult, he laughed loudly and jovially. Lemm was beginning to question the sanity of everyone around him, given their ability to smile whilst being drenched in blood.

“Ghost,” Quirrel questioned, “I cannot help but notice you came alone.”

They folded their hands behind their back as their mad companion shuddered. “I think that would be for the best! We found that woman in the hot springs, and the moment she saw them she took off down the elevator shaft! Ghost chased her all the way to King's Station, and I worry what they would've done if they'd caught up…”

What.

Ghost, reacting to Quirrel's look of disapproval, showed their hands again to… sign a response. No, that was not a proper sign language. They may as well have been talking through interpretive dance.

In spite of the absurdity, Quirrel answered clearly as if it were perfectly cohesive. “Juggling is not much better, Ghost. I don't know what she did, but whatever it was, it isn't worth torturing her over!” He turned to the beetle and asked, “Ogrim, please just tell me she made it out of the city…”

Oh, so this was Ogrim, then. “That she did! We searched for Emilitia on our way back, but she wasn't home. Hopefully we can find her on our way out of here, if it isn't too late…”

Lemm did not want an answer to the new question that posed.

The sound of thread pulling against steel had him suddenly whirling around in panic as a familiar form landed with surprising grace just behind him.

“Quirrel. You've found Lemm.”

He nodded, giving a chipper “mhm!” to the sentinel who nearly took his life for daring to trespass when he'd first arrived.

“Hornet,” Lemm stated, hiding his nerves.

“Relic Seeker. Right now, in the wake of this kingdom’s lifted curse, you are of more value to me alive.”

“How courteous.”

“Be grateful my elder sibling knows not of your collection of King’s Idols.”

He tilted his head, somewhat curious. He hadn't known anything of her family - she seemed a bit of a loner type, from what he could tell.

“Speaking of which!” Ogrim piped in, “Where is the Vessel? Weren't you off to convince Seeker?”

“We've succeeded - I just thought it would be better if I got more of a head start. I will need this lead when we bring her up.”

Hornet proceeded to pull a white flower out from under her cloak.

Immediately, Ghost scrambled in silent panic, frantically gesturing and glancing between Quirrel, Hornet, and the little flower.

Careful,” Quirrel translated.

Ghost signaled very obviously to him that the intensity of his interpretation did not match the urgency they felt.

“It is to my understanding that this is somewhat fragile, yes?” Hornet twirled the little plant idly between her fingers. “I will take good care of it.”

Their gesturing grew slightly more frantic.

“Ah…? Ghost says it is so delicate that it will not survive a stag ride.”

Hornet blinked. “Hm. Hollow and I will take the long way, then. Thank you for warning me.”

Finally given a window of opportunity, Lemm nervously cleared his throat. “Hollow?”

A heavy thump sounded from just past Hornet.

Lemm looked up, and up, and up to find exactly who he'd been worrying about.

There stood the Hollow Knight once again, in all their glory, flicking blood from their claws that had stuck when they'd braced their landing.

They locked eyes with Lemm, and those still depths made him feel a little vertigo.

“Ah, Hollow, is something wrong?” Quirrel innocently asked.

Hornet's brows raised. “Perhaps they are aware of that collection after all.”

Older sibling. Dear gods.

That old Knight hesitated, then seemed to simply shrug off his presence. They looked to Quirrel then and began a very similar dance routine.

Both of them were mute, then… hold on.

Glancing between the eyes of Ghost and the looming form of the Hollow Knight, Lemm’s mind began assembling a deeply confusing puzzle as he listened to Quirrel interpret; “Seeker is on her way, and she isn't happy. I think-” and they scowled, “-fine, this Vessel asserts, that we should get going quickly before the blasphemous ones find us.”

Priorities once again quickly shifting, Lemm looked to Hornet for some explanation on what that was supposed to mean. Her grim expression offered no clarity.

A lone bug walked down the bloodied streets, dressed to the nines and wielding nothing but an umbrella. Her red cloak stood out harshly against the blue cityscape, crown of four horns and bouquet of bright pink flowers marking her as distinct in the decaying lands.

She hummed and huffed and giggled to herself as she wandered farther and farther from home, muttering to herself about the slacking off of menderbugs in the erosion of her path.

Watching from on high, an old student of a sanctum long condemned braced himself for combat, equipped with a skill not of his own.

With a snap of focus, he pounced, a predator in his own right, and lunged at her, sinking his nail straight through her back. The crunch of her shell as it pierced all the way through to her chest was only overshadowed by her own frightened gasp.

She would get no chance to cry out, petals all adrift in tainted streams and protection from the elements tossed aside. The jewels and charms wielded by the soldier were all set alight, capturing the energy that once fueled her, Soul collected and harnessed for a new purpose.

Eternity broken, a stasis now abandoned as the archangel that once held time in place dreamt of better things, she collapsed to the ground dead. And that warrior carried her off, intent on scrounging whatever he could from her remains.

Quirrel had been told on more than one occasion that he was too positive for his own good. But optimism was something inextricable from his nature, and so he continued to find delight in that which others found displeasure.

Case in point - he could not figure out what Hornet was on about regarding Lemm. He'd started to think that he reminded her too much of herself for comfort, as it was the only thing he could come up with to justify her distaste for his attitude.

The sarcastic approach to life, his quick wit, his endless thirst for knowledge, his enthusiasm when explaining what he'd learned; it had captivated Quirrel, not driven him away.

“Your usual company is perhaps more than a bit questionable.”

He only laughed. “Very much so! Alas, such is Hallownest.”

“Were you planning on telling me you would be accompanied by the Hollow Knight and the sentinel Hornet before or after you revealed the man I've been watching wheel around the streets attacking glowing figures and laughing maniacally is a buddy of yours?”

He shrugged, shooting him a silly grin. “I think if I'd opted to tell you all that in words, you would decide I wasn't real either.”

“Still on the fence, to be quite honest with you.”

Ghost's silly little skip-hop stuttered at that comment as they silently laughed.

“Now, here's a better question, assuming this loopy land really is the new normal; how is this Ghost going to help carry out several hundred grams of relics if you couldn't?” Lemm raised an eyebrow, gesturing to his shelves. An impressive collection, that. “I do not doubt their strength in combat, given they've survived this long, but it isn't as if their arms are much bigger than they are.”

Instead of giving Lemm a proper answer, he decided to toy a little further with his perception of reality. Perhaps unkind, but he couldn't help himself. “Here, Ghost,” he grabbed a journal perched just above his head, “Hold this.”

Exactly as he expected, Ghost took the slab and then shuffled it behind their back. The subtle rustling sound could be easily mistaken for the shift of their cloak, if one didn't know any better.

“And this,” he handed them another. Same story.

Lemm raised an eyebrow.

“And this one,” his grin widened, watching slate after slate disappear into the bottomless pit of nowhere-land that, evidently, all individual Vessels possessed.

When Lemm reached forward to move aside their obscuring cloak, Ghost smacked away his hand before he could pat their shade-exposed shell. They then held it up themself and popped a Hallownest Seal into the intangible space.

“That- well, that's- I suppose that would-... Where does it go?

“Honestly? I have no idea. Ghost?”

They shrugged.

“I imagine the Hollow Knight is more knowledgeable on the subject, given they've likely had some sort of one-sided conversation about it. Or maybe the Madam studied it at some point, and I'll be able to go find records on it later!”

Ghost sighed heavily. A noise between exhaustion and affection. Strange, but he shrugged it off. And then kept handing them random objects to disappear.

Lemm, who presumably could not take any more nonsense and was shutting down most logical centers in his mind, simply joined him in shoveling things straight into the Void. “As I was saying before regarding your company…”

“Please! I know they're all a little eccentric perhaps, but the hostility of this land demands a little strangeness to succeed. Take Ogrim, for instance!”

“He is strange alright.”

“He's like me. He has been in this kingdom for likely his entire life - he just actually remembers it all. He was a knight of great importance in his day, and that level of skill translates handily into his nonchalant approach towards battle! He isn't afraid because he knows he can win, and he's a delight to be around!”

Ghost huffed a little agreement with a tiny smile. Ogrim was simply a delightful man.

“And I suppose the self-proclaimed protector of the land has similar joyous energy, then, hm?”

Quirrel shook his head with a laugh. “Hornet has always been a bit prickly. But I think she deserves a little spite, in the end. She's lost almost her entire family, and some of it to her own hand. That loss of control… I wouldn't be happy, either.”

Lemm subconsciously dusted the shelves as if to prepare to put something new up there, forgetting that it would likely be a very long time before he saw this place again. “She mentioned earlier she had a sibling. The Hollow Knight, even.”

“A tragic tale. But yes, the two share blood on their father's side.” Quirrel patted Ghost's shoulder to encourage them onward, leading the way to the storerooms station. “As does Ghost, here, though you may have noticed. I'm happy for her, that she's put together some of the family she lost.”

Lemm let out a sort of snort. “And what beast of darkness birthed these abyssal creatures?”

“I think the Queen, actually.”

The incredulous look was impressive in its strength.

“It is quite the long story.”

“I will be getting every detail.”

Ghost huffed and turned in place, walking backwards as they signed; “As much as you can from me. I've been trying to put this puzzle together myself. It has been painful!

“Ghost says they might not be able to tell you much - another victim of memory loss - but that they've been piecing together the history as well.”

“That is not sign language.”

Yes it is. I said so.

Quirrel chuckled. “The language spoken by our Vessels is one they've come up with themselves. One of the two has only one hand to work with, and neither have the resources to learn an existing one. They've made do with this long-running game of charades that references itself constantly.”

Lemm's eyebrows must be exhausted.

“For instance, once a word for knight was established, everyone skilled with a nail gained a name composed of one sign pertaining to them, followed by knight. The goal is being able to guess what they're referring to, and if it isn't broken, it doesn't get fixed. I believe it's been working very well!”

Coming to the end of a long hallway starting to be overtaken by fungal growths, Ghost pointed straight up and then began hopping between the suspended support platforms.

“I believe our destination is that way.”

As Quirrel hopped up and then extended a hand down to Lemm, he watched him hesitate.

Before taking it. “And where, exactly, would that be?”

He flashed him a bright smile as he hoisted him up alongside him. “One of our surviving crew is a stag.”

Lemm silently watched as Quirrel leapt up another step, once again hauling him up to his level. “How did you manage to happen upon all these random, mad bugs?”

“I managed to avoid most of them, really. It was this lone traveler here,” he nodded up towards them, “that united us all. Them and Hollow both.”

The two caught up with their guide, who then took the next step up with incredible speed.

“And the traveler - Ghost. You trust them to lead us to safety?”

Quirrel helped Lemm up the next platform. “I don't see why you wouldn't!”

Ghost made a jump to the next shelf that fell just a little short, feet slipping out from under them. In a panic, they flashed those bright wings for an instant, giving them just enough time to flail in the open air for a second longer, wildly swinging a pair of bone mantis claws, before plummeting straight down.

He did not see what happened next, but the distinct clonk reminded him strongly of their taller sibling’s plight with door frames and narrow tunnels.

There was a thump as Ghost hit the ground next, having landed all the way back at the bottom.

“...You don't?”

“Well… they have made it back to you several times now with exceptionally rare relics in tow, yes? Ghost is tougher than they look! Trust me, I have seen them navigate platforms like these whilst also dueling powerful enemies!”

Ghost nearly returned to their level, only to miss a swipe of the claws once more and flutter awkwardly, landing heavily on the platform directly beneath him.

Lemm raised an eyebrow.

“They won those fights!”

They hopped up beside the two of them with a subtle, yet certainly present expression that heavily implied frustrated grumbling that they simply could not actually produce.

“I haven't forgotten about the lady they presumably chased out of the land for no apparent reason.”

Quirrel clicked his tongue. “I'm sure they had their reasons.”

Ghost, still frustrated, whipped around and signed something very rude looking which loosely involved the sign for “take.”

“She may have been a thief of sorts.”

They stomped their foot and then carried on to the last ledge.

As Lemm stepped up with them both, his eyes fixed on the nail at Quirrel's hip. “What kind of a Knight are you, to them?”

He hummed. “My name in their language is the tip of a hat. One of the first words they created.”

“Ah.”

After a bit of quiet, not awkward, but comfortably lost in thought, Lemm eventually piped back up, “Hey! What's my name in your Ghost's symbols?!”

He laughed and looked to Ghost expectantly.

With a friendly little smile, they formed a sign akin to memory, followed by before, old, merged together with thing, then seek, then a specific gesture for action - someone who does the previous verb, likely with some proficiency.

“Relic Seeker,” Quirrel chirped.

He huffed as though offended, but seemed to be stifling a smile.

When Ghost hopped up to the stag platform and lowered a chain for the both of them to get up, Quirrel faintly heard him mumble the title to himself again, soft.

“Roic is waiting to take us up to Dirtmouth,” he explained, “and we can discuss as much as you want when we get up there.”

Lemm snorted. “Do you expect me to stop asking questions on the way there?”

“Well, no. But I don't expect you to be able to carry out a conversation properly on the trip.”

“Watch me.”

Lemm could not, in fact, carry out a conversation whilst also riding a stag. Also, he believed that he had acquired a fear of stag rides.

No wonder that flower wouldn't have survived this trip.

“Alright, single file everyone, the elevator only holds two! One at a time, people, one at a time!”

“Sly, there's only three of us.”

“You went down there with five! With full intention of bringing more people back up with you! I will not abandon the plan just because you seem to have lost some of your crew!”

Quirrel snorted, waving a hand dismissively. “We didn't lose anyone - Hornet and Hollow needed to take an alternate route, and Ogrim and Myla doubled back to see if they couldn't find a missing person. We should be coming back with three or four extra, if all goes well!”

Sly narrowed his eyes. “...Hm. Not all that many to evacuate, then.” He reached forward and flicked some dried blood from Quirrel's shell.

Lemm stepped forward on slightly shaky legs and raised a hand in protest. “I, for one, am thankful that someone came down to get such a small handful of bugs. Mostly because I am in that handful.”

Looking the new bug up and down with skepticism, Sly eventually hmph’d his understanding. “True enough. You need a weapon.”

A brief look of confusion quickly evolved into something accusatory directed at Quirrel. “If you brought me up here to fight-”

“Oh, no! Not at all. Sly just has a certain perspective on being able to defend oneself.”

At that, Lemm rolled his eyes a little. “I'm too old for that.”

Sly barked a sharp laugh. “If you think age is an excuse, you don't know me at all, and you definitely don't know Quirrel!”

Ghost had gone up without them, practically scrambling up the lift walls instead of waiting for it to carry them. Lemm stepped aboard, looking intently like his collection of questions was ever expanding.

Quirrel joined him as they both ascended into town. “For the record, I don't feel centuries old. Old, maybe, but it isn't that bad.”

He just shook his head. Understandable. From what he could tell, Lemm only really ever got little doses of Hallownest's absurdity during his stay here, and now all of a sudden he was thrown into the thick of it.

“Halt, cur!”

This was not who he was hoping to introduce him to first.

“Let him be, Zote - he doesn't even have a weapon!”

Alright, Zote did have one critical point of improvement regarding the situation. That was his audacity. It made an excellent palette cleanser for Lemm's poor exhausted brain, just an ordinary bug with very big ideas and poor execution. As normal as one could get. Average.

He scoffed. “If you expect me to stand idly by while you bring countless strangers into my town, you'd be deeply mistaken! It is against the principles of a knight!”

“I think Hollow and Ogrim might disagree with you on that point.”

Before he could convince him to step aside, Bretta damn-near teleported in front of him, already sheepishly apologizing and trying to control the wayward warrior that she'd convinced herself she was responsible for.

The gears in Lemm's head began working harder again as she dragged him away by one horn.

“...what?” he simply asked.

“Just some residents of our little town. Don't take anything he says to heart - his favorite hobby is complaining, I've learned.”

Juniper leaned over to take a look at the new arrival with a friendly little wave. Pleased to see him, Quirrel guided the new acquaintance over to meet one of the more reasonable folks around.

“Ho there. We've been expecting some new bugs in from the old city,” he nodded. Ghost, sitting beside him on the town's little wrought-iron bench, gave a little wave of their own. “Many of these old houses aren't used anymore - you're free to take one for yourself.”

It seemed to hit Lemm all at once that he was moving. Quirrel could tell by the look in his eyes - a sort of shell shock of which he was deeply familiar.

“Hey,” he softly got his attention. “I know you're being hit with a lot right now. It's alright. Someday we can get your home in the city back; think of this as an extended vacation, hm? This place is peaceful and safe - I'm sure you'll-”

Hornet came flying in from overhead, swiftly handing Ghost the delicate flower - sans a couple petals - and then sprinting off completely wordlessly.

Next, the Hollow Knight leapt up from the well, dashing after her and coming to a skidding halt when they saw Ghost holding their prize. “Brace,” they quickly gestured, then took up a defensive stance.

Next, they heard the broken, enraged cries of a very angry Godseeker.

“This is a bad example,” Quirrel very quickly noted.

She then came crawling out after them both at an alarming rate, panting heavily and hurling angered curses towards the blasphemy committed in stealing from the God of all Gods, and how the two had doomed themselves to their own destruction-

Before she laid eyes on Little Ghost, just sitting there with her precious blossom. Right next to a cowering Juniper, also holding a flower.

Nervously, they held it out for her to take.

She blinked, slowly. She looked utterly exhausted - understandably - from chasing around two of Hallownest's most nimble and swift bugs.

“O, God of Gods,” she gasped, “We thank thee for thine endless grace. To return the bloom to its sacred place would be a journey most treacherous, but We will endure-”

Ghost held up a hand to stop her, shot a glance at Quirrel, then signed, “You should put that somewhere up here.

“Ghost says-”

She glared.

“...the Lord says the flower must remain here. It will need a new place to stay nearby.”

Reverently, she nodded, accepting this truth instantly. “Yes. Yes, that is right. We shall find a place to lay it to rest, and then assist thee in bringing down thine wrath upon the protector Goddess who stole-”

Leave her alone. She did what I wanted.

“The Lord says that Hornet was carrying out their will. She is blameless in this.”

She only hemmed and hawed for a moment. Clearly upset about how this all transpired, but too devoted to question it directly. “Of course. We will abide.”

Flower in tow, she tiredly waddled off towards the graveyard area to presumably go right back to guarding it.

“...You're a god?” Lemm asked immediately.

Ghost just wobbled their hand, unsure.

The Hollow Knight let out a sigh - making Lemm jump a little - and they stepped off past Juniper to lean comfortably against a nearby building.

“As I was saying before,” Quirrel tried to save some face, “it really is quite safe here. It may seem a bit questionable, with our collection of mighty warriors, but really, what's safer than that, right? No bug is getting past us.”

He shifted with uncertainty, anxiously meeting Quirrel's gaze. “You trust these people to protect you?”

“Without question.”

“And the Hollow Knight? You trust it, too?”

Quirrel smiled, looking over Lemm’s shoulder at the sleepy Vessel, evidently tired from all the chaperoning and physical activity. Sometimes it was easy to forget just how long they'd gone without moving a muscle.

“With my life,” he hummed fondly, “They may appear imposing, but really, they are only threatening towards their foes. Once you get to know them, they are totally-”

The Hollow Knight yawned.

He was grateful that Lemm happened to be facing away from them at the time, because it absolutely did not help his case. He had only gotten a glimpse of those enormous fangs before - now, seeing their jaws stretched wide open, teeth like a Wyrm’s on full display, razor-sharp blades long enough to pierce clean through his head without stopping, the blood drained from his face.

Come to think of it, weren't most Wyrms venomous? He was fairly sure they were venomous. As if they'd need it.

Three tongues lashed, sharp tines on the ends visible in profile as they were, and they produced a very faint hissing sound, so high pitched it was akin to a whistle or whine. The sound deepened after a moment, as if wind swept through a cave.

And then all those horrible teeth and tongues were lazily tucked back away, fangs twitching as they got their complex mandibles back into place, keen-eyed and calm demeanored just as usual, face smooth, elegant, and in such a relaxed state, even cute.

“...harmless,” Quirrel finished once his soul returned to his body and he recalled that he'd been having a conversation.

Lemm looked over his own shoulder at them, calm and content. They met his gaze and offered back a friendly nod and shy smile.

“...and for some reason,” he quietly spoke, “I trust you when you say that.”

Something fluttered in Quirrel's chest. “I'll make sure to earn it, then.”

“...I already said that you have.”

“Consider it a debt I'll be working off. After all, my existence gives you a lot of work to do. Have you been to the Teacher's Archives yet?”

Both Vessels sighed.

Worldsense - New Reign - Chapter 12 - CandorTheCreator (phoelynfabulous) (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gregorio Kreiger

Last Updated:

Views: 5973

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gregorio Kreiger

Birthday: 1994-12-18

Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

Phone: +9014805370218

Job: Customer Designer

Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.