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Summary:Your entire matespritship has been stolen moments that weren't supposed to exist. You don't know where this is going, but you can't stop now.

Characters:Handmaid, Condesce
Ships:Condesce<3Handmaid

Category One:
Tags Present: NSFW
Tags Not Used: Suicide
No other Cat.1 tags apply.

Category Two:
Tags Present: Character death (canon + non-canon)
Tags Not Used: N/A
No other Cat.2 tags apply.

I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VII


I
Shit. Stupid lusus. Stupid high blood. You dive deeper, deep as you can pink blood threading out in the ocean behind you. You’ll never be able to go deep enough, the pressures crushing even your lungs and destroying your tissues.

Smiling grimly you think about how at least you don’t have to worry about sharks. They know who’s the top of the ocean hierarchy. Frowning you remember it’s not you as that loss affirmed. It’s a good thing you don’t plan on hiding in the abyss.

Searching around you sift through the rocks until you find the passage that a (now dead) purpleblood had helped you establish. Flinging the rocks around you clear it, beyond worrying about being tracked.

You swim up fast, blood loss taking its toll. Too fast, but you’ve stayed in the water too long. She took some time before releasing her aquatic killer drones, but not long enough. It was how she’d killed your predecessors whose instincts kept them in the water. You were better than that, but you’d taken too long getting to your escape route, the injuries slowing you down more than you’d planned.

You don’t even try to breathe as you burst out of the water. You think that your body will figure that out on its own. If it’s not too broken to make that impossible. It’s all you can do to crawl most of the way out of the water before unconsciousness overtakes you.

You wake up. That part isn’t surprising. The sopor however is. It had been part of the original plan, but your idiotic underling had gotten himself killed.

Fighting for consciousness through the comforting green goo you pry open your eyes. Things are a bit blurry without your familiar goggles, but you make out an adult in a green dress with orange blurs which, unless your vision has gotten a lot worse appear to be one of the most impressive racks you’ve ever seen.

The green you can make out is bright. A limeblood whose line escaped elimination? There were rumors of such things. Perhaps she was hoping to use you to get amnesty. If so you’d be happy to take advantage. Smiling slight you return to your healing slumber.

Next time you wake it’s from the psychic pull at the back of your mind. Gl’bgolyb is angry that there are two adult tyrians at the same time. Shaking your head you try to shrug off your mother’s influence. Blindly attacking gets heiresses killed.

The worst of the urge to immediately swim out to the empress and fight until one of you dies repressed you drag your way out of the recuperacoon. Legs still unsteady you start to fall, but she catches you. Squinting you glare up at her. “Were ya plannin’ on givin’ me back my glasses oar on keeping me half blind?”

She stares down at you as far as you can tell. Her voice when it comes out is kind of muted as if it doesn’t get much use. “Of course. I just haven’t gotten to see you without them before.”

“Lady, this is the first time we’ve met. Think I’d notice if I knew I a glubbin’ limeblood.” She chuckles a bit, and gently enough to be kind of uncomfortable she fastens your goggles.

“Okay. So this is when I am.” She mutters under her breath, and gives you a soft smile.

Now that you can see, her great spiralling rack is even more impressive than you thought. Staring down her hair style is awkwardly familiar. She’s a psionic if the purple and green flash of her eyes is an indication. Gulping you gaze down at the bright green dress. It’d make a jadeblood cringe and....ah. There it was. A small red sigil. So, she was just a lowblood. That simplified things.

Smirking you lean against the recuperacoon flipping your hair back. It’s more dramatic since she left it loose. You decide you like it that way. “So, lowblood. You got a name?”

She bows her head gracefully. “I am but the Handmaid of Death empress.”

“Excellent I am your future empress.”

“I know” She says looking at you fondly. “I know everything about you.”

That...was a tad creepy, but mostly you feel confident. After all redbloods were creepy. Everyone knew that. You shove the wall of the cliff where the wall is thin out, and dive into the ocean below. She follows you, a bubble of air to your faint sploosh.

Some doubts creep through your mind as you swim. Shore, she clammed to be with you. And, she’d helped you...but...Gl’bgolyb preferred empresses kill each other directly. Even then she could simply be aiming to pit the two candidates against each other and kill whoever was weakened?

Bah. This train of thought led nowhere. You’d be able to make people do that kind of thinking for you. Just gave you a headache and made you want to stab shit. Oh, look there’s someone now! Happily you worked out your frustration on the purple guard via your 2x3dent. In your momentum you go to kick the door down movie hero style, but fail.

Of course it was made to withstand highbloods. Glowering you hear the Handmaid say “Stay back”. You see why as she blows the door off with a blast of power. Handy to have around lowbloods. Heh. Handy.

You barrel down the corridor Handy in tow, but see few guards. Only a hapless greenblood servant or two that nobody cared for enough to warn. It makes little difference. Green flesh parts get vaporized just as easily as higher.

Handy knocks down the door. Inside was simply your predecessor. Her hair is short. Her horns are almost like yours except curved the other way. You charge and she laughs expecting this to go the way it did before.

It doesn’t.

Handmaid blasts her, forcing her trident upwards and giving you the opportunity to pierce her throat. She gurgles as you pull her off and continue to stab her in the vitals a few times just to make shore. Sighing you pull the trident out of her for the last time...and the tiara is gone.

You feel the cool weight settle on your forehead as long fingers work the clasps around your horns. “Hail to the new empress. May your new reign be long.”

Before you can get out a “Hey, would you like me to give you a position?” she’s already gone.

II

A rainbow of trolls crowd the wall-less ballroom. It’s a cool Alternia night with the sky so clear the green and pink moons envelope the world in their gentle light. A high caste band plays in a protected alcove, state of the art speakers piping the sound to all corners. Tables weighed down with extravagant food are artfully arranged as the trolls mill around under and around the structure in their best clothes whatever those may be.

Indigos patrol making sure nothing higher than themselves can get near, of course. Still all were welcome to glory in your splendor. That was the point after all. To throw a big fancy party to show everybody the old queen was dead, and a new one reigned.

You’d been enjoying yourself. Fancy food, beautiful clothes, as many jewels as you can wear, and people treating you like a general big deal. It was pretty great. At an appropriately dramatic time the modifications to the royal tiara you specified would be revealed and it would all be very awe-inspiring.

Out the corner of your eye a sizzle of green-violet light flashes. You must have imagined it. No way in shell she would appear. Beach disappeared completely after helping you get rid of your predecessor.

Who did that? Didn’t she want to stick around to enjoy the spoils of having the favor of the reigning empress? Stupid lowblood probably had a good plan avoiding you. Everyone knew the highblood concept of gratitude was tying you to a helmsblock.

Suddenly the entertainments of the evening seemed dull and petty. It was annoying that the reason you’d managed to get here couldn’t come.

Being bored at your own party is stupid. You decide to fix that. Leaping to the top of a nearby table you brandish your trident. “Alright krilldren! Who wants to test your skills against your new empress?

With long practice you twirl it around the weapon and give one of your trademark predator perfect smiles. At first they back away nervously, but a particularly intoxicated and/or foolish indigo comes forward. His face is painted in a parody of a snarling cat as he swings towards you with a morningstar.

Easily you hook the ball between the balls of your 2x3dent and toss the weapon out of the way and knock the subjuggulator off to the side. The crowd realizes that you’re just fucking around and not trying to kill them all, so they charge happily.

Sweeping with your trident you knock the first wave over, and elbow any that close in. Soon they’re going at each other rather than just you. A few will die shore, or have to be culled. That’s the nature of trolls. If they weren’t willing to fight to the death they wouldn’t have made it to adulthood.

You’ve turned your coronation into a mob. It’s entertaining, but still lacks something. Annoyed you fling a table at a pack of squalling midblods.

The band starts a new song, and she appears in a floor length and glittering strapless black dress with a green shine. “May I have this dance?” The Handmaid asks shyly.

Taking her hand you pull her into a dip so that none can hear the words that are just for her. “Always. Without you I wouldn’t have it to offer.”
Condesce
Death’s Handmaid. Known colloquially as the Demoness. Your intelligence reports on her were much speculation and accounts barely fit to run in the terrorbloids. Drivel like acounts from moirail’s ex-auspistice’s lusii on the kismesis side. Nothing more than a legend.

It suits her. A soft smile curving your mouth in an uncharacteristically gentle manner. A troll of her stature deserves nothing less than the world cowering beneath her.

You notice a flushed blue blood who caught your smile. He dared to think it was for him, so you make a point of remembering his sign for later. Royal life offered so few opportunities for relaxation.

Anyway. The Handmaid. She’s a mystery. A lowblood, with an amazing rack. Not to mention lifespan and sheer destructive potential to equal your own. The things the two of you could do.

She often seemed confused upon meeting you. Recalling either events that hadn’t happened yet, or had happened a lowblood’s lifetime ago as if they’d just occurred. Either she was plagued with unusually vivid visions as the psychics occasionally were or she didn’t move through time the way you did.

Hopefully not the non-linear thing. If it was that she could have saved you so much trouble.

She had the best pair of horns on any troll you’d ever seen, and that was including Trollshops. She had phenomenal destructive powers. For some reason she always had an air of regret. Once, you’d pried. Inside a treasured stolen moment you’d asked who her master was. She’d refused to answer. From her that was as good as a yes.

You just wanted to growl and protect her and make sure no one could ever see the weakness that let her be controlled.. Also break shit, but the two of you already did that. Break more shit? The possibilities of having a matesprit shore were exciting.

Handmaid
How could any troll in her position be so naive? Here you were blatantly manipulating her on His orders, but that doesn’t make it any better. You’re still doing so. The terrible thing is she’s falling for it. Knowing you’re setting her up for the same servitude that is your life does not help.

After a particularly lovely visit you decide. You need to know. You have to ask Him for help.

Gullible though she may be, you don’t think you could handle losing one of the nicest constants in your existance. For the next several missions you’re as cooperative as you can be. You don’t hesitate in your needle precision attacks. Turns out you overdid it.

He calls you in. Asks you how you’ve been doing. Wonders if there’s anything you need. Screwing up every ounce of defiance that had survived the broom before you’d set every one of the wretched things on fire. You needed to know. You ask when she realizes she loves you. So few of your moments are shared that you’ll cheat for this one if you have to.

Instead of getting punished with cleaning implements He tells you with a “Get that bitch for me!” You’re gone before the door finishes swinging shut.

When you show up in her palace she’s playing a song a future you will know. Unfortunately it still means nothing to present you. She turns around her mass of hair nearly knocking down a lamp, smiling almost shyly.

“May I have this dance?” She asks holding out her hand. She’s dressed in a flowing pink gown.

You want to say yes a thousand times to go with the warm feelings that rush through you, but all you can get out is a flat little “Okay” She’s just so. Wild and free and adorable in the same way as a weasel who you know is just waiting to gleefully chomp your hand.

“Do you remember this song?” She asks in the tone of someone who expects the answer to be yes. Unfortunately you apparently live to dissappoint her.

Shaking your head you frown a bit. “No...” seeing her lost expression you force your face to brighten. “But I will! It’s only a matter of time!”

Gracefully she dips you. You’re not sure you could return the favor without the aid of psionics. How she avoids stepping on her hair without the aid of such is a minor miracle. On one dip she doesn’t go back up choosing instead to stare into your eyes. “Halibut.” she declares and pink lips descend on your own.

After you both come up for air, your hands tangled in her dress and hers in your hair you stare for a moment reveling the contact before she speaks. “Now. Look. Don’t take me for desperate here, but I glubbin love you. You’re the best thing to ever happen to me. Want to be my matesprit?”

You smile up at her “Always.”


You have been instructed extensively on the behavior, history, and tyranny of Her Imperious Condescension. Being raised by a being whose punitive measures include taking away your breathing privileges has made you somewhat unclear on the concept of 'tyranny,' but you like to think of it as an extra large discipline broom.

You are the Handmaid, and you are three sweeps old. This is not your first visit to Alternia, but it is your first trip to the Battleship Condescension. Your job is to kill a violetblooded troll named Ganima something. You know his name, and it's part of your political education to know why you're going to kill him, but you don't really care about it. You know what he looks like, you're going to kill him, that's all you need to know. You've also been told "not to make a mess."

It will be the biggest mess you're capable of. This you are sure of.
Handmaid lying in wait for her target. Click for full size.You arrive early, because you wanted to scout the area for ambush potential and because you could. You like anywhere that isn't the Felt Mansion, and this part of the Battleship Condescension is comfortable. That's because it's meant for seadwellers to relax in, so there's an artificial shoreline and chairs and things even before you factor in the enormous pool. Right now, you're in an indigo-sized chair that's too big for you and perfect for hiding from anyone coming in through the door.

It's not so perfect for hiding from someone coming in from the water. The pool is supposed to be empty, and you are seriously considering killing whoever it is. You only reconsider the idea when you recognize the long parentheses-shaped horns and the dark mass mass of hair.

You have no idea what to do. You have even less idea what to do when her head breaks the surface of the water and she sees you. That's because she lets out a high-pitched squeal of glee and rushes up the shore towards you. You grip your needles awkwardly; you know you're not allowed to kill her. Also... also... nobody's ever been happy to see you before. You don't know what to make of that.

The Condescension is very tall, and very loud. She crouches in front of your chair, eyes bright behind her goggles like she knows you're not allowed to kill her and like she thinks you wouldn't even try. (You don't.) "Eeee! I've been waiting so long for this, we're going to have so much fun! I've been saving this glubbing adorable dress, and claw polish, and fried grublegs too, I know they're your favorite!" She claps her hands and bounces back to her feet. "Let's go!"
You're not going anywhere until your target is dead. You'll get in trouble. You slide off the big chair to your feet anyway. It isn't like you have to leave with her.

You're still rationalizing when the door hisses open to admit a seadweller, almost as surprised to see the Empress as you were. He fumbles his harpoon back into his sylladex, saying something about so sorry your glorious Condescension and so forth.

The empress waves him silent and turns to you. The violetblood's eyes turn to you too, shocked and questioning. You know about the hemospectrum, so you think he might be wondering why the Condescension is asking you a question.

"This him?" she asks, as if she knows why you're here in the first place. Does she? She said she was expecting you. Are you going to tell her about it when you're older and she's younger? Why would you do that?

You look at the violetblood and nod. It's him.

"Whale, do your thing!" the Condescension enthuses, urging you on. Ganima something is confused, taking out his harpoon again as he asks the empress what's going on. Or, well, he starts to. At three sweeps, you're faster than an adult Subjuggulator even without using your time powers or majjyks, and one needle is already through Ganima's skull by the time you hear the empress. She's making some kind of suggestion?

"How's aboat you leave him here floppin' around while we go have some fun?" the tyrian is saying as you jump back from the falling violetblood. He's not dead yet, you can see flickers of Life at work re-routing the damage you've done. It won't save his life, but it will prolong his death. You're thinking about stabbing him again as she goes on. "I know you ain't got to go back 'til you're finished, and he don't know he's dead yet."

She really does know, which means you must have told her, which means she already knows you're going to go with her. There's no point in not going. It isn't as though you want to go back to the mansion. You've never had fried grublegs before, either.

They're the most delicious thing you've ever eaten.


He
- because he is Signless and Nameless and you will not acknowledge him - is gaining traction, and you do not understand how. Soon, however, you will. You have captured some of his followers, elusive though they may be, and the interrogation will soon begin. You can’t sit in, of course, because that would be giving too much credence to these sorry bilge-scrapers, but you’ll know the results practically before they’re done coughing them up.

Sometimes, you have to admit, it is good to be Empress.

What you didn’t expect to see today was a lower seatroll rushing into your audience chamber, falling to her knees perfunctorily, and saying, “Empress, you have got to come see this.”

Each of the three cell doors is missing a lock, courtesy of what looks like strong laser blasts. You grab the nearest troll by the collar, assuming he’s the one in charge, and hiss at him, “Which of them was the psionic, you shallow-bottomed pool?”

“None!” he gasps out, “milady, Empress, none of them, we tested them all-”

You throw him aside and stalk back to your audience chamber. There’s the smell of burning ozone in the air and a card on your throne. All it says is ‘s0rry, 0rders’ and you rip it in half slowly to ease your fury.

You are going to have words with Handmaid the next time you see her. Pity only goes so far.

He’s not as impressive as you had hoped.

Handmaid showed him to you once, saying how he was a linchpin of your timestream and you should pay attention and all you could hear was he will destroy you. You had brushed her off, of course; you’re a survivor. A little redblooded cull-on-sight mutant should never have gained enough traction to actually challenge you.

And here you are.

She couldn’t take sides, she’d explained, her purpose was chaos and couldn’t you tell she was manipulating you? You think perhaps this would have happened anyway. You talked to him yesterday – talked at him might be more accurate – and the only thing you got out of him was a calm request to say goodbye to his companions.

You stand next to him to show that you are unafraid. His shoulders cave in as he stands in the shadow of the execution pillar, and you look impassively over the crowd, searching for bright green and spiral horns. You’d hoped she would put in an appearance, at least.

He dies. Your loyalists cheer, other onlookers remain silent, and she doesn’t even make an appearance. The execution pillar is dismantled, his cadaver taken away, his companions separated and damned, and still she doesn’t show up. You’re about to go inside to avoid sunrise when she appears in a flash of green. Credit to your guards, they don’t run away, although one drops his weapon. You’ll have him culled later, of course.

“Walk with me?” she asks.

You unbend yourself from your chair, dismiss your guard with a flick of your wrist, and follow Handmaid. It feels like you have always been following Handmaid.

“Shore was nice of you to turn up,” you say, dragging the tines of your 2x3dent in the sand behind you.

“Do you ever feel like you’re making the wrong choices?” She turns to face you, a sudden wind whipping sand into your eyes, and all you can notice are her psionic eyes fluctuating wildly. “As if- this universe is wrong?”

“I don’t regret what I did.” You shift into a more balanced stance. “Shoaled I?”

She takes your hands and grips hard enough to draw pinpricks of fuchsia from your palms. “Sometimes - No. Sometimes I just feel so sorry for you,” she says, and you have no idea what to make of that at all.

You take the long way home, with her. It's not necessary - the two of you will duel in only one place, at only one time - but then, it isn't forbidden, either. Your Master is not displeased to be the drone to your flushed romance (or so you understand the comparison) - and you will take any chance you can to snatch happiness from his claws.

Condesce shows you her flipped kismesis/moirail's corpse, preserved by her powers and by the ship's. She seems more annoyed by his dereliction than upset by his death, but you know better. You don't bring it up; you've never been sure how to comfort anyone, even if you'd wanted to. The Helmsman is dead, and he'll undoubtedly keep his dreambubble far from your matesprit's sleeping mind.

"I am so glubbing happy you're here," the Condesce sighs some time later, both of you pillowed on her hair. "Shell, it's quieter than vacuum without you!" She twines some of your hair around her fingers and brushes your bare thorax with it, playful.

*

The pair of you play like wigglers on the dead ship, oblivious to the decaying corpses and disrepair. The emergency lighting begins to feel like home, appropriation from the dead your new source of supplies. You teach her card games and majjyks; she teaches you to swim properly, not just propel yourself through the water with psionics. You spend long sweeps developing your minds, learning how to draw out new gifts. Condesce laughs when she first hears the disgruntled ghosts aboard the ship. The two of you make a game of wrecking the more vocal ghosts' possessions, "to give them something to whale about!"

You have your fights, as you imagine any couple must. Sometimes she forgets that even though you are a servant, you're not her servant, and you have to remind her. She has a terrible temper, and the worst habit of swearing at you and calling you a rustblood when you argue. She only calls you that once per argument, because you take yourself to the furthest reaches of the ship and wait for her to seek you out and apologize the instant she does. Condesce can't stand being alone, and it's not long before you've broken her of the habit entirely.

*

Only hours (three hours, fourteen minutes, twelve-eleven-ten seconds) before your matesprit is to kill you, you realize that you don't know if you can consign her to millennia of your Master's service. It's terrifying to think; you have never actually failed before, and you know the alpha timeline depends on her survival - but once you think it, the idea won't let go. You would both be dead, but you've always known the end of your service would be death, and you know that even doomed dreambubbles can have their influence, if the occupants are clever.

You're clever. She's clever. Selfish, too: you don't want to lose her, you don't want to leave her at all, much less to your Master's service. You know the fate laid out for her there, last of her kind, queen of empty planets and usurper of moons. She will be so lonely.

You fiddle with your wands, twirling them in your fingers. The idea of rebelling, even a doomed timeline's revolt - it appeals to you. You've aided hundreds of rebellions, small and large, and seen them quashed, but you've never cared about any of them. You care about this, though. You can't do it. You can't sentence her to that life. The thought is oddly calming, 'I can't do this.' Like some kind of threshold has been passed, some inalterable decision reached.

It gives you the strength to smile at your matesprit when you ascend to the deck. She's dressed in her finest jewelry, hair tangled behind her. You think hard about brushing it soon. Condesce always tells you that's more pale than flushed, but you love the way the strands smooth themselves under your comb, you don't care about the quadrant.

"I have a plan," you tell her, and you can feel the timeline split with the words. "You'll have to trust me. Strike, quick."

It's not a battle, it's not even a fight. Three and a half seconds, wet pain blooming under your ribs as she moves, majjyks lashing back from your hands to her head, her chest. It's as fast as you can make it, and as she drops her trident, you close your eyes and let yourself fall.


You’d like to say that you never expected this to happen, but facing Handmaid down on the bridge of the Battleship Condescension feels oddly fitting, like a point locked in time that was always meant to happen. You stab, she shoots, both of you die (Gl’bgolyb only knows when Handmaid dies), and it’s what happens next that surprises you.

You wake up in the Battleship. The cauterised circles through your chest and head are still there, so either this is a very odd dream or an even stranger afterlife, and it’s only when you reach out to the place in your head where Gl’bgolyb used to be and receive the replies of a thousand thousand horrorterrors that you understand.

Pollux is gone, the Helmblock long deserted by the looks of things. He could have at least left you a note.

You’re not sure what to do. You are all alone in this strange new world, and you are sick to death (ha!) of being alone.

You’re communing with the horrorterrors for lack of anything else to do when the Battleship shudders, and a feeling of wrongness chases over your spine and disappears in an instant. You go to the throne room, figuring that will be where anyone looks for you, only to find Handmaid reclining in your throne and prodding at her trident wounds.

She looks up when you enter. “Oh, good! I found you!”

“Are you...?” you trail off and gesture to her stomach. On anyone else, those wounds would be fatal, but Handmaid has always been an odd case.

She stands up and twirls, happier than you have ever seen her. “I’m completely free!”

You lean on the side of the door, aiming for a seductive pose. “Then I fin we should celebrate!”

Her eyes light up and she claps her hands. “Corpse party!”

You have, if the horrorterrors are to be believed, a very long time to spend with Handmaid from now on, and you intend to use them wisely. Starting tomorrow.

Tonight is for a corpse party.

--
"Ganima" is a reference to VastDerp's One of our Submarines, an excellent fic about Helmsmen.

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HSO 2012 Collab Round Sector 3

August 2012

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