Chapter 10: Underground
There were two assassination attempts that night. Both were easily dealt with by Sans. Roman wanted to help, but he stayed behind when Vivaldi begged him to hold her hand. No matter how much anger resided within his soul, he was still a guardian above all else. So he hugged his soul twin and smoothed her hair even as he kept a hawk-eyed glare on the door.
Although neither assassin managed to get anywhere near me or my children, the second one was enterprising enough to cut the power, which left us in the eerily quiet darkness. Without the hum of the air conditioner or the myriad of small electrical devices throughout the house, our home took on a distinctly creepy quality. It reminded me of the void, and I made the executive decision to go somewhere safer, like the castle.
But as we began to gather things, I started to second guess myself. Would the castle be too obvious? Should we go to the lab? Papyrus's house? Somewhere public? No obviously good answer was forthcoming. It was ultimately Vivaldi who came up with the most elegant solution.
"Why don't we go to the Underground?" she asked quietly as I placed monster food into various dimensional boxes. "It's warded against humans, and the entrance is protected by the castle. And the compounding doesn't work there."
It made sense. I looked at Sans, who also seemed to be reluctantly considering it. The Underground did not hold pleasant feelings for either of us, or for most of monster kind either. It was an abandoned place now, a graveyard of misery and lost hope. But Vivaldi was right. It would be safe.
"The King's Castle?" I asked. "Parts of it are still well-maintained."
"too close to the surface," said Sans. "we should try to put some distance between us and the assassins."
That ruled out the Core and Hotland. Waterfall might work, but without monsters to maintain it, the entire area had turned into a series of lakes and impassable bogs.
"snowdin?" Sans suggested hesitantly. Out of the entire Underground, Snowdin was the place Sans and Papyrus had chosen to call home. I had some very fond memories of that small town. But their old house would be dilapidated by now if there was anything left at all.
"No power," I reminded him. "We'd freeze."
That really only left one place.
"The Ruins?" Vivaldi asked. "The hole you fell through was closed long ago. We'd be safe there."
Closing the hole had been one of Toriel's first acts while on the surface. She never wanted another child to fall. Now that the Underground was empty, there would be no one down there to save them.
I looked at Sans, who nodded.
"the ruins," he agreed. "are you all packed?"
The boxes were full of food and a few supplies I'd wanted to bring along. I scanned the living room one last time, and I felt a strange wave of apprehension wash over me. It was as if I knew I'd never see this place again. It was a silly thought. I would come back tomorrow with a guard to gather up the furniture and other things. But when I turned to Sans, I could see that he felt it too.
This feeling that when we left, it would be for the last time.
I took our wedding album from the bookshelf as well as the pictures from the walls and tables.
"I'm ready," I said.
"we'll need to teleport to the castle first," said Sans, pulling me into an embrace while Roman did the same with Vivaldi. "we can't teleport across the wards, so we'll have to walk inside first."
The barrier may have been gone, but there were ragged edges where the power once stood strong. It was also warded with monster magic to keep humans out.
"Alright," I said, and the world shifted around us. Then we stood in the vast hall that overlooked Freedom Cliff and the monster city below. "Okay, we'll just—"
I was cut off by the distant and unmistakable sound of an explosion. I felt my heart clench as I looked through the windows. Far below us, I could see smoke and fire rising from a small corner of the castle grounds.
A small corner which had once contained a beautiful little cottage.
Roman and Vivaldi cried out when they saw the fire.
"We're safe," I reminded them as we watched our home burn. It was a house. It could be rebuilt. We could still start over. Even in my head, the words sounded empty. "That's the important part. Come on."
Still sniffing a bit, my children followed me into the cavernous entrance to the Underground, our new home—our new prison—until we could find a way to keep the assassins at bay. I ran a hand over my face and tried to clear away the dark thoughts. And to think, this morning my only worry was making sure I didn't fumble over my own speech.
Once we entered the King's Castle, Sans teleported us one by one to the Ruins. I took a long look at the tumbledown state of Toriel's once-pristine little house. How many times had I looked at this house and felt warmth and reassurance? Now I felt only sadness and weariness. But it was still safer than the castle and warmer than Snowdin. We'd make do with what we had.
The next day was spent repairing and cleaning out the worst of the mess. Sans teleported back and forth between the Underground and the surface to bring us supplies and to tell Mom and Dad what had happened. They were obviously concerned and angry, but there was little they could do, as no government or ruler was claiming the assassins.
Roman took responsibility for cooking us food, Vivaldi sang to fill the silence, Sans stood guard and set up puzzles, and I tried to make the house truly livable again. I spent every waking moment trying to accomplish something because standing around only invited thoughts I didn't want to consider. Like how long we all might end up living down here, or if it would be better to send my family back to the surface without me. After all, they were not the ones with death looming over their heads. I didn't want them to suffer down here if they didn't have to.
When I tried to broach the subject of them returning and only visiting me occasionally, I barely managed to get the first sentence out before Sans's blazing eye silenced my suggestion. Roman scowled into his dinner, and Vivaldi simply told me no.
That was the end of that.
The days stretched to weeks with no sign of death or humans, and we all began to relax a bit. The Underground was a lonely place, but it was secure. Roman and Vivaldi spent most of their days pouring over ragged old notebooks and discussing complex equations. I asked them about it once, but they wouldn't tell me what they were working on. I decided to leave them to it. Sans and I sometimes went for long walks through Snowdin and he refreshed all of his old snow-based puns. It was the only time the tension seemed to drain from his bones a little, and I cherished our time together. My work pulled me away so often, these weeks were the longest I'd spent with my family since Vivaldi started school. On the few occasions when I could pry my children away from their mystery project, we visited places in Waterfall to see the star gems and glowing pools. The children seemed to enjoy this new world, though there was still a feeling of dread hanging over us all.
But even here, we could not completely escape the surface. Sans brought troubling news one evening while we sat down for dinner.
"They think I'm dead?" I asked, disbelief causing me to echo Sans's statement. Sans nodded. I rubbed my forehead. "I should have seen this coming."
"don't be so hard on yourself," he said, winking. "after all, you have been living 'under a rock' these past few weeks. people take it badly when the heirs to the throne all vanish without a trace."
"I'll have to make some type of public statement," I said, prodding my food. There were risks with going public. People would ask where I was hiding, and even the Underground wasn't impenetrable. Compounding or not, there were people who would be happy to take this unrest to destabilize the monster kingdom. And it was my duty to stop that. "A press conference would work best. King's Castle. Just beyond the wards. Dad, Undyne, Papyrus, and the rest of the royal guard present. Do you think you can set something up for tomorrow?"
It was short notice, but that only meant less time for my enemies to prepare.
"You're not seriously talking about going outside of the Underground, are you?" Roman asked. "You'll be killed."
"I'll be perfectly safe with your father and Papyrus watching over me," I said, reminding him of his own heroes. Roman scowled at his plate but didn't comment.
I spent the rest of the night drafting a short speech and bouncing ideas off of Sans for a plausible explanation for our disappearance. I had no intention of telling anyone about Roman or the resets, but the explosion of my house left little doubt that someone very powerful was trying to kill me. I decided to go with the vaguest of platitudes and to deflect any invasive questions. Ultimately, the only thing they needed to know was that I was alive and well.
The next morning, I stood in the ancient throne room with Dad, Papyrus, and Sans. Mom was giving the opening speech, and Undyne was guarding the hall. The children had been told to stay in the ruins, but I knew Roman would eventually sneak out. I'd reminded him a dozen times that he needed to stay behind to protect Vivaldi, but I doubted that would keep him away for long. My daughter was not the one currently in danger.
"THE GUESTS ARE ALL SEATED," said Papyrus in his booming voice. "THE CAMERAS ARE ROLLING. HUMAN. THEY ARE READY FOR YOU."
"Thank you, Papyrus," I said, following him out of the barrier with a steadying breath. Sans and Dad took up their places on either side of me. No sooner had we stepped over the threshold than I felt something in the air, like a ripple of power or magic.
Papyrus was the first to fall, but as I reached forward to catch him, I saw Sans and Dad collapse on either side of me. Suddenly, I was standing there alone with the monsters in the audience slumped over, unconscious, and seven human men approaching me with grim expressions.
I took a step back, feeling the air where the wards should have been. Should have been…but weren't. The humans must have done something to disrupt the monster's magical powers. The Underground was no safe haven now. What was I going to do? Seven against one. Not good odds under any circumstances, but after all of these centuries, I did know how to fight.
Undyne had prevented them from bringing in guns, at least. I'd remember to thank her for that later if I survived this. I sank into a fighting pose as the men fanned out around me. Two of the flanking men lunged forward, rushing me from both sides.
They never reached me.
Bones appeared from the air, slicing through their chests and knocking them down to 0 HP. I watched their souls emerge from their bodies and fly behind me, soon followed by the others as five bone spears cut the remaining humans down in an instant. I felt a wave of dread as I turned around.
Roman stood there, looking lost and frightened and yet oddly determined. The seven souls hung in the air before him, and he held out his hands to prevent their escape.
"They…they would have killed you," he said quietly. "I'm sorry, Mom. I can't watch you die again."
And then he absorbed the souls.
To be continued…
Note: Normally I update on Saturdays, but there may not be an update next week as I will be travelling.