Characters: The Pale King/The White Lady, The Pure Vessel, Herrah, Hornet, Monomon, Quirrel, Lurien, Ogrim

Word Count: 12.086

Summary: It is time to reveal Hollow's identity at the party.

(Author's note: I wanted to have this chapter ready earlier, but it went out of hand and now I have a massive word count, I think I even beat the Deepnest chapter!

In the meantime, I got two fanarts for this fic, curiously from the same scene. The artists are Vainilla from Instagram and plantaequeen from tumblr. Please check out their work.

That being said, I am so GLAD that you latched onto my headcanon names for PK and WL. I was really really nervous about using them and seeing you using them in the comments makes my day.)

Pendry's punishment for Hollow was simple. Monomon had told him that the best way to punish a child would be something, that is a nuisance to them, but isn't a big deal for them. She had told him that she always would threaten Quirrel that he had to clean the jellyfish tanks if he didn't behave, apparently a task that he didn't like to do very much.

Pendry decided that the correct punishment for Hollow was "No more dessert or sweets until the party". For some people, that hardly would have counted as punishment, but Hollow was rather fond of getting dessert, so their head had hang low on the way back to the palace.

Pendry still took sympathy on them and told his retainers to not serve pastries with the tea, which got him a scolding from his Root. He didn't mind though, Pendry had never been too big on sweets, they were just a good way to pass the time and he felt at fault for Hollow's misstep. He shouldn't have left them alone, they barely knew how to handle other bugs, especially their age.

After this incident, the preparations for the party continued. The palace was busy and everyone was bustling from place to place while Pendry hoped for it to be over already. He spent most his time at Hollow's side, going over the etiquette with them, but because they had been used to just stand there and think nothing, they weren't too worried about doing something wrong. They could just revert back to that, which Pendry wanted, no, needed to get out of their mind. Acting like a statue was never the right solution, even though he once had believed in it.

With the preparations in process, the knights also were busy, upping up the security. Even though the Palace was lying in a secluded area, they were expecting bugs from the whole kingdom and even from the neighbouring regions, so they made sure to put up sentries at every corner and asked him for a few kingsmoulds also.

As Pendry was watching them, he lamented that Ogrim wasn't with them. He still hadn't returned from his time in the waterways. Pendry asked himself if he would ever return, thinking about using his foresight to see what could become of Ogrim, but decided against it. He just had to trust him and should Ogrim decide to never come back, then he would have to accept it. He had given his subjects mind so that they could form their own decisions, not to force them to stay at his side.

So, when Pendry caught a certain smell one day before the party should take place, he hurried in its direction to see Ogrim standing on the balcony. When had he returned? Why hadn't he told him that he returned? Maybe Ogrim had just come to tell him that he would leave for good. As Pendry approached him, his wings clung to his back and his tail curled around his feet.

"Your highness...", Ogrim said without turning around, leaning on the railing of the balcony, observing the courtyard. "Isma told me that you will reveal Hollow's existence to the rest of the kingdom."

"Correct.", Pendry said. "First the nobles and our allies, then the public will get informed."

"So you are coming clean.", Ogrim said. "I spent a long time thinking and I... I still have trouble condoning your actions." Ogrim finally turned around and his usual jolly face was a mixture of anger and disappointment. "I haven't become a knight to see you mistreating your own child. I have become a knight to help the citizens of this kingdom."

Pendry lowered his gaze to the ground and intertwined his claws with each other. He didn't had anything to say. There was nothing to say. Ogrim was right with every word of his.

"However.", Ogrim continued. "You saw the errors of your ways and stopped the mistreatment of your child. Now, that you will reveal them as your offspring, it is save to say that you don't plan to go back to your old ways. However.", Ogrim's voice turned into a warning tone, "Are there any more secrets you are hiding from us?"

Yes., Pendry thought. Secrets in the Abyss, that would make anyone leave me behind if they knew the scale about it.

Pendry took a deep sigh and raised his head, looking Ogrim into the eyes. "Hollow was the only survivor.", he said. "It pained us to see that their siblings were stillborn. We want to at least make it up to our last surviving child."

It was only a half truth, really, but Ogrim's eyes turned wide as Pendry's explanation.

"Your majesty, I am sorry.", he said. "I won't ask about this again..."

Ogrim turned around and continued to look at the courtyard. There wasn't anything to say anymore, so Pendry left and attended to his duties.

Later that day he heard Ogrim's jovial laughter along the five great knights again.

The next day came far too quickly. The actual party was set to start in the later afternoon hours, but it was expected that a few of the guest, especially the ones who came from farther away, would come earlier. Pendry was going over his ceremonial robes that he would wear for the event one last time with his retainers while Rydellia was busy searching out an adornment for Hollow's horns.

Both of them would only change in the clothes shortly before the party would start though, so Pendry was wearing his usual robes and Hollow had decided to wear their dress. They said they wanted to feel as comfortable as possible before it began. Pendry couldn't argue with that.

"Keep everything ready, we will change into our ceremonial robes an hour before the official even begins.", Pendry told his retainers who bowed and hurried along, probably helping to finish the last preparations. Pendry went to find his Root and Hollow and found them in a dressing room near the hall where the event would take place.

Hollow was currently wearing a floral wreath around both of their horns, made from yellow and pink flowers, which complemented their dress beautifully.

"Later we will use the silver ones to complement your robes.", Rydellia said as she cupped their face with two of her branches and looked at them with a loving stare.

"It feels like you decided on an adornment.", Pendry said from the door and stepped in once Hollow came running to him and pointed at their horns, almost stumbling in the process.

"Slow down, Hollow, not that you hurt yourself.", Pendry said in reflex to their stumbling, too used to them being off balance.

"I can heal myself with soul.", Hollow signed in response. "Father, look at my horns, look."

"I can see them.", Pendry smiled at them. "It looks quite dashing on you."

Hollow did a little jump in the air and then signed: "Can I show the knights?"

"Of course, go on.", Rydellia said. "We are finished for now."

As they dashed out of the room, only stumbling a little bit before regaining their balance, Pendry said. "Is that really the same child that hatched out of the chrysalis a few months ago? All I needed to do was give them a dress and let you decorate their horns and they are as excited as Ogrim when he finds new droppings unknown to him."

Rydellia chuckled with a branch in front of her mouth. "There are many ways to express yourself and wearing clothes that feel right for you is one of them.", she said. "I am glad to see them so expressive. I was about to make peace with the fact, that I needed to distance myself from them. This isn't necessary anymore. Now my dream of a little family has become true."

"If only the cost for it didn't have to be that great...", Pendry said, feeling his tail creep around his legs.

"Pendry...", Rydellia rubbed a spot right beneath his wings, one that normally would made him purr, if he wouldn't have been locked in his own negativity again. "We thought we did the right thing. It is too late to change anything now anyway, let us at least make sure that Hollow is happy."

"And find a solution against the infection or we are all doomed.", Pendry said gloomy.

"We can care about this after the party is over, my Wyrm.", Rydellia lifted him up for a hug and a kiss and then gently lowered him down on the ground again. "How about you check up on Hollow while I watch over the work of the retainers?"

Pendry nodded and left the room with a wave of his hand. He made his way over to where the knights were supposed to be and found them, especially Ogrim, marvelling over Hollow's dress. Even though Hollow's face wasn't able to emote, he could see that they were excited and happy by the way they presented themselves and moved in front of the night. There was a certain light-footedness in their steps and great enthusiasm when they nodded or shook their head regarding questions.

It was good that Hollow was happy, because Pendry assumed that they might be a bit nervous about the party later. They probably just tried to distract themselves from the big event. He couldn't blame them, he wasn't in the mood for it too.

Satisfied, that Hollow was fine and didn't need him right now, even though that last bit kind of stung a little. he turned around with the vague idea to maybe spend a bit of time in his workshop already, when he heard a voice next to him.

"And thus the father watching his child intends to leave, satisfied with their progress, but also disappointed because they spread their wings and are about to explore outside the nest."

Pendry startled at the words, that perfectly described what he felt when he had looked at Hollow just now and when he turned his head up, he looked at the mask of Monomon, the teacher, Quirrel standing next to her.

"Greetings, your majesty.", Monomon lifted a tentacle. "I thought I come a bit early to see how your relationship with Hollow has improved. Though, I am a bit peeved. Apparently, I am the last of the dreamers who got a good look at them, why haven't you come visited me in my archives?"

"Ma'am, it's-", Quirrel started, but got interrupted by Monomom.

"Shush, Quirrel, I want to hear his majesty's explanation from himself.", she said, crossing two tentacles.

"Our apologies, Monomon.", Pendry said. "We planned to come visit you eventually, especially after all the help you have provided with your letters, but one event led to the other and now we couldn't find time to come to the archives before the party would be held."

"You took them to Deepnest, your majesty. I swear, the uomas are not that dangerous, you just don't have to poke them. And the acid water should hurt you only a little, you can fly anyway and-", Monomon interrupted herself, "No, you know what? This is more fun when I tease you at the actual event a bit." She held a tentacle in front of her mask and chuckled. If there was an actual face under there, Pendry didn't knew, she might be like the uomas and just have a core.

"We certainly will make it up to you.", Pendry said. "We owe you and your assistant a lot, thanks to him Hollow can express their words without too much trouble. We and our Root also learned a lot, and with beings as old as us, that isn't easy."

"Raising children just is an experience.", Monomon said and laid a tentacle on Quirrel. "I know, I have raised this fine young man since he was a little grub, barely able to walk."

"Ma'am, please.", Quirrel said, Pendy had the feeling he might blush, but wearing one of the ceremonial masks for festivities right now, his face was hidden.

"When will you finally stop calling me Ma'am?", Monomon said. "Come, Quirrel, let's go greet the queen."

"She should be in the hall where the festivities will find place.", Pendry said and looked after them until they were gone. He then put his attention back to Hollow, who soon noticed that he was watching and came over to him.

"The knights like my dress.", they signed to him.

"You look wonderful in it, of course they do.", Pendry said and he had the feeling their void body swelled up, as if they literally swelled with pride. Must have been their shape shifting ability.

"What are you planning to do now?", Hollow asked and just as Pendry was about to tell them that he planned to spend a little bit of time in his workshop until the party officially started, he heard a booming voice.

"Wyrm! Why haven't you personally greeted me at the gates?! Is that how you treat your guests?!"

Herrah was standing there, a royal retainer fruitlessly talking to her, a needle sheathed on her side and... little Hornet sitting on her head.

"Herrah? What is the child doing here?! Hatchlings belong into the nest!", he said, not reacting to any of her criticism at all, but all his concern relating to the little spiderling, that was as much his daughter as it was hers.

Next to him, he could see how Hollow shook with glee.

"Spiders don't keep their hatchlings in the nest, they keep them on their back.", Herrah said and plucked Hornet from her head, the little hatchling giggling. "Take some responsibility and watch her while I go find your wife, the way was long and I could use a bit of peace and quiet before I have to deal with all these nobles that have a stick up their a..", she looked at Hollow and corrected her last word. "..their rear."

Herrah then placed little Hornet into the Pale King's arms, who had two reactions at the same time. The first one was to hold her as far as possible and the second one was to curl his tail around her and hiss at everyone who came to close.

Apparently, thanks to his improving relationship with Hollow his parental instincts started to come through.

"Behave yourself, my little grub, I will come back to you soon.", Herrah said and caressed one of Hornet's tiny nubs. She then put a bag on the ground and said: "Generally she is pretty agreeable lately, but if the gets fuzzy, give her her favourite toy." Herrah produced a weaver plush from the bag. "Or when she starts to bite, give her this bite ring." As with the plush, Herrah produced the aforementioned toy from the bag. "Her venom isn't potent yet, so there is no danger, but it could still sting. There are also some snacks in there and diapers should she need a change."

"Um, alright...", Pendry said. "Is there anything to avoid?", he asked.

"Don't let her eat too much when she gets hungry or you'll regret.", Herrah ended her statement with a laugh and then, with another rubble at Hornet's head, was off. The baby shifted a bit in Pendry's arms and when she noticed that her mother was leaving her behind, she started to sniffle a bit and cried out: "Mum!"

"Oh, she started to talk.", Pendry said, instinctively holding her closer and forcing his tail to not creep upwards to shield her. Though, what exactly was someone supposed to be doing in this kind of situation? He looked at Hollow and asked himself what he had done when they had been that age and quickly forgot about that thought, because at Hornet's age Hollow had already been expected to be the Pure Vessel. He had expected a little toddler to held up all the hopes of the kingdom. What had he been thinking?

Hornet followed his gaze and a little smile covered her face when she saw Hollow, extending her little arms. Hollow came closer and offered for Pendry to hand him little Hornet.

"You.. want to hold her?", Pendry asked and Hollow nodded. Pendry gently lowered the squirming baby in their arms, having to bite down on his tongue to not tell them to be careful, they knew that, he didn't have to say every little thing to them. Hornet looked up at Hollow's face with glee once they had a good grip on her and cooed.

"I wonder if she can say your name?", Pendry said, wondering how many words Hornet already had learned. "Say, little nestling, can you say Hollow? They are your big sibling."

Hornet looked around and once her eyes focused on Hollow, she said: "Hollo. Sib."

With their hands occupied, Hollow couldn't sign, but at Hornet's word they jumped a little bit and Pendry knew that they were overjoyed that Hornet just had said their name.

"She still has trouble with the pronunciation, but that was definitely your name." Pendry stepped a little nearer to Hornet and looked down at this tiny, frail, but kind of beautiful being. "Do you know who I am?", he asked, dimming his light to not dazzle her.

Hornet raised an arm, or more a little stub to point at him and said: "Worm."

It was one of the only times Pendry cherished that Hollow didn't had a voice, because the way their body was shaken they were silently laughing their head off.

"Oh, of course, Herrah, of course you would teach her that.", Pendry said, crossing his arms, thinking about if he should confront Herrah about it, but decided against it. She would just put him into her pocket again. Here he was, one of the mightiest beings in Hallownest and he just got beaten by a little spiderling. "At least she recognized me, I guess?"

After Hollow had calmed down, they looked at Pendry, then down on their hands and then carefully put Hornet on their head, right between their horns. It looked cute, awfully cute and Pendry feared that he was about to make a very not regal noise when he stared too long at it.

Luckily, Hollow got his intention because they signed to him, which apparently had been the only reason they had moved Hornet up there.

"Can I go play with her in my room?", they asked.

There was still time until the party would properly start and Pendry surely didn't want to forbid Hollow some bonding time with their little sister, so he nodded, adding: "I come with you to keep watch."

He felt responsible, not only because Herrah had entrusted Hornet to him, the little spiderling was his daughter also and he felt more secure watching over Hollow when they interacted with a grub, they were a child themselves still.

Hollow nodded and walked into the direction of their room, carefully and gentle, to not upset Hornet who explored the horns on their head. It impressed Pendry that they weren't off balance for even a single second during that walk. He himself picked the bag up that Herrah had left with him and followed Hollow.

Once they entered the room, Pendry put the bag on the ground and sat himself down on Hollow's bed. Hollow picked Hornet up from their head and lowered her to the ground, then looking into the bag for toys. Hornet came over and very much showed them with which toys she wanted to play, sometimes babbling one word or the other in between. She hardly formed coherent sentences, but she could determine the names of certain things already.

Probably not too long anymore until she would speak complete sentences. As Pendry thought about how rapidly Hornet grew, his gaze fell to Hollow and their complete inability to speak and he felt like he wanted to curl into a ball and hide under the blankets. He had robbed Hollow of a voice and thus himself of the experience to see them learn speaking.

No, that wasn't entirely true... he had seen them learn sign language. That was very similar to see someone learn speaking, only that they already knew the words, they just learned how to express them.

It made him feel a tiny bit better, but he noticed that he had drawn his legs inwards and had his tail curled around himself. He decided to not think too much about his past regrets for now, instead he opted on watching Hollow play with Hornet. Once she would grow older, she would need to spend more prolonged times at the White Palace. It was a good thing for her – and Hollow – to form a bond. They were siblings after all.

As he watched them play, Hornet seemed to be especially fond of games that consisted of building something and then laugh and clap when it collapsed, Pendry found that the bed felt too exposed. It didn't feel safe and so he stopped watching the game the half-siblings were playing, only occasionally glancing over and started to work on the pillows and the blankets until it felt secure.

He only noticed what he was doing when he saw Hollow's blank look at him, Hornet nudging them for attention, giving up when they continued to sat rigid like a statue and chewing on a random toy. Pendry hoped that Herrah was right about her venom, or that toy would melt soon.

"Hollow, why are you staring at me like this?", Pendry asked, almost adding that they creeped him out, but swallowed these words. Hollow didn't need to be told that them being rigid as a statue was creepy, not after what had been expected of them.

They raised their hands to sign: "Father... what are you doing?"

Pendry looked around him after he saw their words and it slowly dawned on him what he had been doing. He had arranged the pillows and blankets on Hollow's bed in a nest, the typical wyrm fashion, nonetheless and was currently curled up in the middle of it, wings slightly flared up.

"I've been nesting! I didn't even realize what I was doing!", he blurted out, more to himself than to Hollow or Hornet. Of course his instincts had to come back at a time like this. Hollow didn't even need a nest anymore and Herrah had told him just earlier that spider's didn't tend to sit in the nest.

He still had the most intense feeling that he wanted both Hollow and Hornet in the nest, keep them close and hiss at everyone who dared to approach them. Why couldn't he keep his old wyrm instincts in check?

As he was still lamenting over his feral side, he didn't realize that Hollow, with Hornet in their arms, had come closer and sat themselves down next to him. They nudged a little bit closer and then presented Hornet to him. Pendry gently took her into his arms and felt how his tail automatically curled around Hollow, only being satisfied when he felt the ice cold sensation of their body on its tip.

Hornet looked up at him, but this time she wasn't fuzzy. Instead, she seemed to relax and muttered the word: "Warm." before her eyes closed and she fell asleep, exhausted from the journey and the play session.

The three of them stayed like this for a little while until Pendry spoke: "Why did you come over, Hollow?"

They raised their hands to sign: "Because..." They seemed to struggle a bit with their words and started over: "Because... I couldn't be a child back then... but you couldn't be a father also. At least Quirrel said that."

These words hit Pendry as heavy as a Primal Aspid, even though they simply had repeated the words of their tutor. They were absolutely right, as much as he had hurt Hollow, he had also hurt himself with his behaviour. Not being able to pick them up, not being able to be there for them, just letting them sit there and trying to disattach himself while all his instinct screamed at him to build a nest for the child.

"Thank you, Hollow.", he said, trying to hold back tears, but failing. "Thank you for letting me be your father, after all I have done.." The tears now silently streamed down his face and he felt Hollow's ice cold hand rubbing his shoulder, much like his Root would normally do it.

After he had calmed down and wiped the tears away with the tassel of his tail (promptly putting it back around Hollow again after he was done), sleeping Hornet shifting into his arms, he remembered his earlier thoughts about Hollow not having been able to learn how to speak traditionally, because of their muteness.

But they had known words. They had known how to write. They had followed words. They had learned. How could he ever have thought that a being that learned that quickly was hollow?

"Hollow, I never asked you this.", he said. "How did you learn how to write?"

"I watched you.", Hollow didn't even hesitate a second with their answer. "You would often keep me near when you wrote and saying the words aloud. I watched the letters to the word and the more I watched, the more it made sense. Later, when I learned all the letters and you stopped saying them aloud, I read along and... when I was alone... practiced with my nail..."

They looked down and hugged themselves, as if they had just confessed to a great crime. In a sense, what they had done was proof that they weren't hollow, that they had wanted to learn and had acted without an order.

"You have done nothing wrong, Hollow.", Pendry said and reached out to them with his second set of arms, the one that wasn't busy cradling Hornet.

"I always liked hearing you speak to me.", Hollow confessed. "It hurt when you stopped. I didn't want for it to hurt, so I stopped thinking about it, but the hurt never went away."

"Hollow...", Pendry said, at a loss for words. They were about to reveal their relation to the most prominent figures of the kingdom and here they were, talking more about themselves than they had done since they had hatched out of the chrysalis.

"Do you want to talk more?", Pendry asked, but Hollow shook their head.

"I am fine now.", they said. "I felt happy. I felt sad. I felt afraid. But I didn't feel afraid of being not pure anymore. I can see sister growing up." At this point their gaze fell on Hornet. "But I am afraid of something different. If we don't stop the infection, than I can't see sister growing up. I could have stopped it, for a little while, but not forever... Father, once this is over, we need to find a way to stop it."

"We?", Pendry asked, his mind wandering to his idea of letting Hollow help fighting the Radiance.

"We.", Hollow nodded to their signs. "I want to help. Not as the vessel, but as your child."

"Hollow...", Pendry said and then gave them a hug, with Hornet between them, which made the little spiderling wake up and coo in annoyance.

"Oh, did we wake you up? My apologies.", Pendry said and lowered Hornet into the makeshift nest, where she rubbed her eyes.

"It can't be too long until the party anymore, so we should go and find Herrah and then get ready."

Hollow nodded and stood up, picking Hornet up. It took Pendry a little while to join them, not wanting to leave the nest, but he eventually managed.

The two of them walked back to the dressing room, where Rydellia would help Hollow with their outfit. Pendry would go to his own dressing room and get prepared by his Royal Retainers, but he wanted to walk with Hollow and also accompany Hornet back until she was with her mother again. She was currently perched between Hollow's horns and stared at everything in the palace with big eyes.

Near the dressing room, on a balcony, the two of them found all of the three once dreamers locked in conversation, apparently Lurien had arrived in the meantime. Or more, Herrah and Monomon were talking while Lurien occasionally would make a remark, most of the time he stayed silent. Pendry could very well understand that.

As Hornet spotted her mother, she started to squirm, making Hollow wobble a bit. In a reflex, Pendry extended his arm to hold them. Once Hollow had picked Hornet up from their head and placed her in their arms again, she got impatient and called out: "Mum!"

Herrah was at Hollow's side in an instance and took Hornet from them. "Did you had fun playing with your sibling, my little grub?", Herrah asked, tickling Hornet's belly which made her giggle.

"We didn't had trouble.", Pendry said. "She is a well behaved child, even though rather active, when she's not sleeping."

"Of course. Children have to move around and play.", Herrah said and then glanced at Hollow, luckily biting down any remark she had on her tongue, even though Pendry knew that it was for Hollow's sake. Would it have been just the two of them, she would have teased him until the end of Hallownest.

Which could be soon if the infection would be allowed to fester... No, he wouldn't think about the infection today, that was a thought for tomorrow.

"Oh Herrah, is that your daughter? Oh, she's so precious!", Monomon appeared next to Herrah, marvelling over Hornet. While the two of them broke into conversation, Lurien stepped in front of Hollow and Pendry and bowed.

"Your majesty. Pale Heir. It is an honour to be here tonight."

"You don't have to be so formal, Lurien.", Pendry said, giving him a sign to rise. "Also, please call them Hollow.", he added, when Hollow gave him a nudge.

"My apologies.", Lurien said and rose. "I hope the festivities will be able to be held without incidents. I can offer to watch over the guest."

"Our Root already takes care of it.", Pendry said, having full trust in his wife that she would be able to hold the guests in check. When Lurien seemed to deflate a bit, Pendry noticed that he actually had hoped to be useful to him and quickly backpedalled. "You can help her, of course."

"Very well, your majesty.", Lurien said and then joined the other dreamers again. Pendry looked at Hollow: "Are you ready to change into your ceremonial robes?"

Hollow nodded and Pendry delivered them at the dressing room, where his wife wasn't in right now. They might have been a bit too early.

"Do you want me to wait with you for her?", he asked, but Hollow shook their head.

"Alright, then I will go get changed. I will meet you in front of this room again."

Hollow gave him another nod and Pendry was off, changing into the ceremonial robes and getting his prongs decorated with some jewelry. He didn't care about his looks, he was a Higher Being of the mind and so a sharp perception and a creative mind was more important to him than looks, but the nobles in the city could be pretentious and cherished it the more palatial he appeared.

Once he was done, he went over the stone tablet in which he had written down his speech again and then simply tucked it into his robes, so that he could check it and not fall over his own words. As much as he enjoyed getting worshipped by his followers, talking directly to them never had been his strong point. This even showed in his voice, which was barely above a whisper, but still could be heard by anyone who was listening. He remembered that a Royal Retainer once had explained to him that it sounded like his voice would hit the walls and come back from it again to be projected directly into their mind. It had been impossible for them to not listen.

It was the thrall of his voice, once someone had devoted themselves to him, they physically reacted to it. While it was normal and expected for a Higher Being to pull their subjects in, he sometimes wished it wouldn't be so strong. He didn't want to rule by subduing his subjects with force, they should choose for themselves if they followed him.

Pendry decided not to dwell too much on his thoughts, this party wasn't about him, but about Hollow. He smoothed his robes and went to the dressing room, where he didn't had to wait long for Rydellia and Hollow to appear.

Seeing Hollow almost took his breath away. In their ceremonial robes, with the horn decorations his Root had chosen, they looked so regal. Lately, he had seen them much more through the lens of a father, especially with their clunky steps when they struggled to keep balance and their still rather large eyeholes and their mannerisms, that more and more resembled that of a child instead of the vessel that had to shoulder the safety of the whole kingdom.

Now, that he saw them fully prepared in front of him, he noticed their similarities, their face looked so closely to his, their horns were big, like his and their size indicated that they had inherited some traits from their mother.

"Aren't you going to say anything to your child, my Wyrm?", Rydellia asked.

Pendry took a deep breath and then said: "Hollow, you look wonderful. You are truly..." Pendry was about to say "the heir", but changed his words in the last second. "...the child of me and your mother."

Now that he had said it out loud, Hollow technically was their heir, the next in line should something happen to him and his Root. As Higher Beings it was impossible for them to die of old age, but they still could die. Pendry had used his gift of rebirth once already and as far as he knew, every wyrm got only granted one. His next death would be final. His Root, even though she was a Higher Being of life, even she would be able to die, even though it would take quite some effort and probably the power of another Higher Being to kill her.

It didn't concern him too much when and how they would die though, it concerned him more that Hollow would be put into the responsibility of ruling the kingdom if they would. Maybe they didn't even want to be the ruler? They didn't had a say in their role as the Pure Vessel and Pendry knew that he never wanted for them having to feel obliged to fulfil a role they weren't cut out for.

He decided that he would ask Hollow what they wanted to do with their life, once the whole thing with the infection was over. They deserved to decide for themselves. They should have the say if they wanted to be marked by the King's Brand or not. It should be their decision and theirs alone.

At the same time Pendry asked himself if Hollow was even able to make such a decision. They had surely gotten better over the last few weeks, but there still seemed to be this sense of duty in them.

Them offering him to help fight the infection proved it.

Pendry had been so caught up in his thoughts, that he didn't even notice his Root nudging him, apparently having nudging him the past few minutes. "Hello? Root to Wyrm?", she said and as he snapped out of his thoughts, he looked into her smiling face. "Were you so stunned by Hollow's looks that it took your words away?"

"No, I've just been... thinking.", Pendry said, searching for Hollow as he noticed that they weren't standing next to him anymore. He quickly found them, only a few metres apart, talking to Quirrel. Both of them were signing, Quirrel always did this to strengthen their confidence and skill in sign language, he had said. Pendry followed the conversation a bit, but it was just about some romance book, nothing more but small talk.

At least Hollow felt comfortable. If they were casually talking to their tutor, he probably didn't have too worry too much about them.

"Look out for them, my Wyrm.", his Root said and squeezed his shoulders. "They look chipper and happy, but they are actually quite nervous. I could sense it through my roots while I helped them dress up. They have suppressed their feelings for so long, that it apparently isn't a big problem for them to fake how they feel as well. They just try to distract themselves, so that they don't go rigid and fall back into old behaviour."

Pendry felt cold crawl over his exoskeleton at her words. He himself had fallen for it, thinking that they were fine and even looked forward to the event. Even though they had latched right onto Hornet once they spotted there, probably to keep their mind occupied. Even though they had come to his nest and searched for his comfort. He had thought they had come to comfort him, but it had been the other way round.

Maybe they both had sought for comfort into the presence of the others.

"Hollow, you need to stop suppressing your feelings...", he said, more to himself as he felt Rydellia giving him a squeeze again.

"It's almost time.", she said. "We should head to the event space. All three of us. We are family after all."

The way she had said the last line made Pendry shudder, it hadn't felt very warm, almost as if she had herself disattached from the idea of a family. Were they a family? What even made a family? Pendry thought that it was more than just a father, a mother and a child. Herrah and Hornet were a family and even though Pendry was her father, he didn't feel like a part of it. Monomon wasn't even the mother of Quirrel and still, the both of them felt like a family.

Him, his Root and Hollow, were they a family? They tried, but they felt dysfunctional. They never had meant to be a family.

Just a king, a queen and the vessel that should save them all.

He wanted for them to be family, though, he wanted to have what Herrah and Hornet had. Just with his Root and his child.

He just wasn't sure if they ever would get it. His past crimes seemed to always linger on the back of his mind.

"Are you alright, my Wyrm?", the concerned face of his Root appeared in his vision. "Your light started to flicker..."

Pendry took a deep breath and looked his Root directly into the eyes. "I am fine, my apologies that I worried you.", he said. "I just had some... thoughts..."

"You have awfully many thoughts this evening.", she chuckled though the concern never vanished from her eyes. "We should talk about them later. For now, Hollow needs you." She gestured at them. Quirrel had left in the meantime and they were leaned against the wall, arms crossed and... rigid.

His Root was right, they really had tried to distract themselves to not break down under their anxiety.

With his own anxiety creeping up, was he even the right person to calm them down? He had to be. Hollow relied on him.

Maybe that was what it meant to be a father.

Once Pendry stood next to them, he extended an arm to lay it on their shoulder.

"Hollow...", he started, unsure how to continue or what to say to them. He didn't had to say anything, because Hollow broke out of their rigidness and buried their mask in his robes, visibly shivering.

"Hollow... it's alright, I am here.", Pendry said and rubbed circles in their back, mimicking what his Root did to him whenever he got eaten away by his anxiety. "I won't leave your side this evening and if you need to take a break, tell me and we will leave until you calmed down, alright?"

Hollow shivered a few more moments in his hug and then removed their face from his robes and nodded. They took a step back, their chest heaved probably from taking a deep breath and then they signed a few words: "Father... do I ever have to be a ruler like you?"

Ah, exactly his thoughts from earlier. Even though that it could be very much possible that one day they would take over and rule Hallownest, Pendry knew the exact right words to say to them and they were genuine: "Hollow, I won't ever again force you to do something that you don't want. You yourself are the only one who can decided what they want to do with their life. Me and your mother are simply there to show you the possibilities."

At this, he felt how his Root had stepped closer and laid a branch of each of their shoulders.

"Everything what my Wyrm just said.", she added. "It's your life, Hollow, a life that we granted you, though tried to control out of your consent. We both vow to never expect anything as impactful as this again."

Hollow just looked from Pendry to Rydellia and then the three of them shared a hug. As a family., Pendry thought.

"Are you ready to be revealed as our child?", Rydellia asked once she broke the hug and Hollow nodded.

"Then come.", she said to both Pendry and Hollow. "Let's enter the hall."

"As a family.", Pendry said out aloud and saw the smile flashing over his Root's face.

"This is Queen Vespa and her Hive Knight.", Pendry told Hollow as the aforementioned bugs entered the hall. "We trade with the Hive, for they produce the honey you are so fond of." Pendry saw Hollow shift a little bit at the mention of honey, they probably were eager to finally eat some sweets again, now that their punishment came to an end.

"Last time we invited them, Hive Knight had trouble with the glass windows in the palace.", Rydellia chuckled. "We needed an awful long time to convince him that they are not an invisible threat. Luckily, he didn't hurt himself too bad by constantly running against them."

Pendry had his head in his hands and internally groaned at that memory. It had taken hours, himself, his Root and Vespa herself to calm him down from his crusade against the windows.

Like every bug that entered the hall, Vespa came to him and Rydellia to greet them. Him and his Root were placed at the royal table with the five great knights positioned around them. Hollow was placed among them, in their ceremonial robes but with their nail to give the impression they were a new knight. They stood close enough to Pendry and Rydellia so that both of them could talk to Hollow.

Pendry planned to reveal Hollow once all the guests where in the hall, but surely, the new bug among the knights already piqued interest. Vespa also eyed them before she went to find her seat.

Pendry knew that there probably were countless of rumours in the hall already, even without checking with his foresight.

"And here we have the Mantis Lords.", Pendry said as the three of them entered. "Three? One of them is missing."

"'Che spends a lot of time in the Mantis Village and they had a fallout.", Ze'mer's voice came from the side. "They call him a traitor... 'Che is doing what 'che can to calm the waves, but..." Ze'mer lowered her head and didn't pick up the topic anymore once the Mantis Lords arrived and bowed before Pendry, which he returned, briefly getting up from his seat. The Mantis Tribe was all about pride and honour and he had managed to win their respect in his youth, gaining them as an ally for Hallownest.

"Please follow the Royal Retainers to your assigned seat.", Rydellia said to them and helped them find the servant who should take care of them. Pendry knew that it was because she had to make sure they were seated as far away from Herrah as possible.

More and more guests arrived and either himself or his Root said a few words about them. Rydellia mostly took over when it came to the nobles of the city, as much as Pendry often had to sort out their troubles in meetings, he just seemed to be incapable to remember their names or what they did in the city. That they usually died soon and got replaced by others didn't help. Only his most devoted followers shared his longevity, like his knights or Lurien. He surely would be able to extend it on all of Hallownest, but that would take a very great toll on his body, so he had to be selective with this gift.

As it seemed that every guest had arrived, Rydellia was checking a list and nodded to herself, indicating that they were done, Pendry wanted to not waste any time anymore and reveal Hollow to them. Though, before he even could get up, the room temperature seemed to rise only a little bit and then, in a ball of flame, Grimm stood in front of them.

"Oh, your highness, I heard that you are throwing a party?", he asked, his face a half grin as he saw how Pendry's face fell.

"Grimm, nobody invited you.", he hissed, resisting the urge to lash his tail and flare his wings. Grimm was another Higher Being and his presence in his home brought all his territorial urges to the forefront of his mind.

"Nobody told me to not come.", Grimm said, leaning casually over the table, shutting Pendry right up. It was a weird, crude logic, but it was some logic. Next to him he could see how Rydellia chuckled and then her face went a lot more serious.

"If you are here to cause trouble, you will regret it for the rest of your life cycle. And the next one.", she said, in a tone so icy that even Pendry shuddered. It were these moments when he recognized that his warm and caring Root also was the queen of Hallownest, alongside him, and had ruled over the realm for over a thousand years already.

"I won't. I am just here to have fun.", Grimm said and disappeared in a flash of fire, probably appearing elsewhere on the party, riling the guests up. Pendry heard how a deep sigh escaped him.

"He won't do anything, not after my warning.", Rydellia said and gave him a small rub right under his wings.

"Right... thanks, Root.", he said and straightened himself up. "Hollow, it's time."

Hollow nodded and walked over to his side, their movement appeared stiff. "Root?", Pendry asked and she stood up from her seat and joined him as the three of them walked up to a gallery, where the whole party could see and hear them.

Once Pendry, Rydellia and Hollow were up on the gallery, Pendry cleared his throat and tried to get the attention of the party guests, horribly failing because of his whispering voice. While he normally would just pull people into his thrall, with so many bugs that were distracted from his presence, he didn't manage and had to rely on volume alone.

"Excuse us..." "We have an announcement to make..." "Is anyone even listening...?"

After a few failed attemps Rydellia let out a deep sigh and then said with a booming voice: "I would like to garner your attention, everyone. My Wyrm has something to say to you."

Instantly all the chatter died down and Pendry felt how far too many eyes fell on him. Suppressing his urge to duck and hide behind his Root, he cleared his throat again and spoke: "As you know, we have invited you today to our palace, to make an announcement."

He took a deep breath and produced the tablet from his pocket, in which he had etched notes.

"Lately there have been rumours in the City. You probably are all aware what these rumours are about, but let me repeat them anyway. The rumours were about us and our Root having gained offspring... a bug was seen in our company that aroused the suspicions that they might be related to us."

Pendry paused and waited for a while as he heard the murmurs of the crowd and then gestured for Hollow to step forward.

"These rumours have been the truth. This is the bug in question, our Pale Heir." He stepped aside to let Hollow take his place, they stood there stiff and anxious as the crowd was silent in shock, until it slowly erupted in what felt like polite applause.

Pendry had the feeling that the party goers had expected a different announcement.

"Please don't be offended that the Heir can't address you directly, sadly, there have been complication surrounding their hatching and as result, they have hatched without a voice. That is also the reason why we waited with their reveal, their weak state after they hatched left us worried and they only recently grew strong enough to leave their nest."

It was a full blown lie, Pendry knew that, but he surely couldn't tell his citizens the truth about Hollow. His knights and the dreamers knew anyway, the rest shouldn't know and would never know. For them, Hollow had been born under complicated circumstances and had been too sick to leave their nest until recently. In a sense, it was a half truth, just stretched very thin.

After he finished with his words, the growing unrest among the party guests picked up again.

"That has been all.", Pendry said and stepped aside, Hollow following him. His Root took his place and addressed the party guests, but he only heard it half. Something about them enjoying themselves and if they had any questions, they shouldn't hesitate to ask them.

Once Pendry and Hollow had left the gallery and stood down in the hall again, Hollow took a deep breath, their hand on their chest.

"Are you alright?", Pendry asked, concern in his voice.

"I was so nervous.", Hollow signed. "Everybody looked at me. I am not the Pure Vessel anymore, but I still felt like I couldn't fail their expectations."

"You did well.", Pendry said and squeezed their shoulder with his hands. "Would you like to take a look around? I have been so busy looking at everyone, that I haven't even admired the work of your mother."

Hollow nodded and as Pendry walked, they searched for his hand. He took it in his claws, noticing that they had their nail in their other hand.

"You aren't planning on fighting the party guests, are you, Hollow?", Pendry asked, pointing at their nail with one claw.

Hollow shook their head and then briefly let go of his hand to sign one word.

"Comfort."

"Good, because my Root doesn't accept duels at parties.", Pendry said, thinking about the few times some party guests had tried to duel over a petty argument and then had to face the wrath of his wife.

As they walked, Pendry took the time to admire the work of his Root. She had decorated the room in colourful flowers, each and everyone probably having a meaning. The walls were decorated with greenery from her garden, which gave the whole room a more lush feel, opposite to the very sterile feeling the palace usually had and Pendry preferred to have in his workshop. There were several tables put together where different groups were seated, even though most of them had scattered and were talking to whoever, getting snacks or drinks from the busy Royal Retainers, who made sure to take care of everyone's whims. In the corner, Pendry could see how Grimm juggled with some fireballs, igniting the awe and fear of a small crowd of nobles at the same time.

"He better not burn the palace down.", Pendry grumbled, as he felt Hollow tugging on his hand and when he put their attention on them, they pointed at a table with various sweets.

"You want a snack, Hollow?", Pendry asked and they shyly nodded, making sure that he really was fine with them eating sweets again. "Sure, go ahead and take one.", Pendry said, but they dragged him with them and Pendry half stumbled as they suddenly walked forward, taking one snack and letting it vanish under their robe, probably busy eating it.

As Hollow was still busy eating, Pendry got approached by a small number of nobles who surrounded them. It felt like they all wanted to speak at once, but finally a tall bug woman with a massive amount of jewelry spoke for them all: "Your majesty, we came to say, that we were surprised by your announcement. We want to congratulate you and your queen to your child, even though the poor dear had a rough start."

At this point, several eyes were placed on Hollow and they all seemed to look sympathetic, even though for Pendry they felt mocking. If they knew just what their rough start had been, they wouldn't look at Hollow with those eyes, but at him with pure anger and hatred. He felt his tail creep up his leg. No, he couldn't get nervous now, not in front of his subjects.

"They are fine now, thank you for your concern.", Pendry said. "What is it that you want to ask us?"

"Ah, well, you see...", the woman stumbled a bit upon her words. "We were thinking that you would announce your solution for the infection. It appeared that you said that you reached a breakthrough a good while ago and just needed some time to finish the project."

It was the dreaded question. The still lingering infection over their heads and he had abandoned the one plan that could have saved them all... or not, judging that Hollow was not pure. At the word infection, Hollow went rigid themselves and Pendry felt how they searched for his hand again.

"Unfortunately, the solution we had for the infection turned out to have a fatal flaw.", Pendry said, feeling how Hollow squeezed his hand, uncomfortably tight. He suppressed the need to hiss in pain and continued, calm and collected. "At the same time, our child's condition improved, so that we focused on their wellbeing first. Now that they are healthy, we plan to go back and work on our solution for the infection until we have found it."

"I see... thank you very much, your majesty.", the woman said and then left with all the other nobles, them whispering to each other.

Pendry took a deep breath and opened and folded his wings, he felt so cramped up. Next to him, he could see how Hollow shuddered, lightly, but they shuddered.

"Do you need a moment outside?", he asked and they nodded.

Without hesitation, Pendry led Hollow to the next best balcony connected to the hall and stepped outside. Hollow went the few steps to lean on the railing and looked down into the court.

After a minute of them steadying their breathing, they turned to Pendry and signed: "They were talking about me. I was the solution. The one with the fatal flaw."

"Hollow...", Pendry said and wanted to hit himself in the face. He should have used a different kind of word. "I am sorry... I didn't want to hurt your feelings... You... you are not a fatal flaw. You are the best thing that has happened to me in my life. Besides marrying my Root maybe."

Hollow just stood there and stared at him, then the leaned over the railing again. If they would have a voice, they probably would have sighed. After a few seconds they turned around again and signed: "I still feel like a failure."

"You are not a failure.", Pendry was quick to reassure them. "I am the failure. I put you through so much pain for an incomplete plan that was doomed to fail and almost would have put you through even more pain."

Hollow raised their hands and signed in return: "I just don't know who I am. Vessel. Heir. I feel obliged to be the Vessel, but I am not up for the task. I don't feel like the Heir. Just who am I? Can't I just be Hollow?"

The last word, clearly their name, but at the same time, it made Pendry shudder. It felt like such a throwback to them as the Pure Vessel, especially after they had said they still felt obliged to be the Vessel.

"Hollow, remember what you said to me earlier.", Pendry said, taking both of their hands in his own. "We are in there together. We will find a solution together. You don't have to be the Vessel anymore. I won't force you to be the heir. I... just want you to be my child." He felt tears well up in his eyes as his words and in front of him, Hollow shivered and he saw a bit of void leaking out of one of their eyeholes.

"The king having a heart to heart with his child, what a heart warming moment." The voice of Monomon came so sudden that Pendry startled and jumped up in the air, flaring his wings and hissing at the intruder.

"How long have you been standing there?", he growled.

"Once poor Hollow had their identity crisis.", Monomon said. Next to her, Quirrel stood and shifted around.

"I am sorry, your majesty, I tried to prevent her not to peek, but she wouldn't listen.", he said.

"Child, finally I meet you in person.", Monomon came floating closer and took Hollow's hands in her tentacles, which they took, cocking their head in confusion. "Don't worry about finding out who you are. Do you think Quirrel here knew at your age? Nooo, he had a pretty big phase where he obsessed over the Grimm Troupe and designed his mask and wardrobe in their style after reading about them."

"Ma'am, please!", Quirrel gasped, both hands in front of his mask, Pendry could only assume the shame he just felt.

"That's... the affectionate embarrassing of your child.", he said, as Quirrel continued to grumble in his hands and Hollow's body shook a tiny little bit, indicating a laugh.

"Well, has Quirrel joined the Grimm troupe?", Monomon said and with a look at him, Hollow shook their head. "See, you have time. Take your time figuring yourself out, nobody expects it from you right away."

Hollow cocked their head again, this time in the other direction and then they nodded at Monomon. "Are you feeling better now?", she asked. Another nod. "Very good.", she let go of their hands and observed them more closely.

"You look so close to your father, especially the horns and the eyes, but look how big you already are, are you planning to grow as big as the queen? Has my Quirrel been of good help to you? He's such a good boy, but he won't stop calling me Ma'am, isn't that frustrating?"

As Monomon rambled on and on, Hollow just looked at Pendry and he came over for help.

"Let us talk later, Monomon.", he said. "Hollow seems to be a bit overwhelmed."

"Oh, of course, of course.", she said and put her attention back on Quirrel "Shall we go say hello to the Troupe Master, Quirrel? We can tell him about your obsession when you were Hollow's age." Quirrel gasped and murmured something which Pendry couldn't hear, but Monomon laughed and answered: "Oh Quirrel, when you do this, it is just more work for you."

Pendry watched after them until they were out off sight and then turned to Hollow: "Do you want to leave for the evening?"

Hollow shook their head and stepped at his side again, searching for his hand. "Good. But if you need something, and even if it just is something little like a snack or a bathroom break, tell me, alright?"

Hollow nodded and straightened themselves up. This actually felt a little strange for Pendry, because Hollow would normally walk slightly hunched over. He quickly realized that it was because of their horns, when they held his hand, they didn't had too much trouble holding the balance, because he would help them out. The still wobbled a tiny little bit as they walked back into the hall.

Just as the two of them entered the hall again, music started and Pendry looked up to see that his Root had organized a band. Hollow looked up at the sound of the music as well and their gaze locked on the band. With their interest in playing an instrument of their own, Pendry stopped and let them watch, now and then glancing at them. He only stopped when a ball of fire materialized in front of him and Grimm appeared.

"Your majesty, may I have that dance?", he asked and bowed in front of him, extending one of his winged arms to Pendry.

"What have you planned, Grimm?", Pendry said and moved in front of Hollow, who stopped looking at the band in favour of looking at Grimm.

"Does everything I do need to have a reason?", Grimm chuckled. "Maybe I just want to reminiscence in old times. Maybe I just want to check your dancing skills."

"Maybe you just want to embarrass me.", Pendry added to which Grimm reacted with a loud and dramatic gasp.

"Oh, it hurts that you think so low of me. What have I ever done to you to warrant such mistrust?", he said, one hand put on his forehead and body dipped in a way as if he was about to faint on a bench. It wouldn't even surprise Pendry if he would form a bench out of fire.

He was about to answer "Do you want a list?" to Pendry when his gaze fell on Hollow and he rather didn't want to play out a petty argument in front of them. Instead, he said: "I can't leave Hollow alone."

It was Hollow who surprised him by signing: "You can go, Father. I stay here and watch."

Pendry's mouth fell open, had he really just gotten betrayed like this by his own child?

"No excuses anymore, Wyrm.", Grimm said and practically dragged Pendry on the dance floor, taking in the dance stance, because of his bigger size he would take the leading role, Pendry knew it and also, because he was the better dancer. Pendry just wasn't the best dancer, he had to admit this to himself. Also, because with a wife as big as Rydellia, it was hard to dance without being lifted off the ground all the time.

"You better show me some respect.", Pendry growled as Grimm started with the first steps. "This is my house after all."

"It's not about respect, it's about getting you out of your shell.", Grimm grinned as he moved with the rhythm of the music, dragging Pendry around without effort and guiding him into moves that he would have never managed on his own. The both of them rushed so over the dance floor, that everyone next to them actually stopped with their own dance and started to watch. Pendry could feel how his face started to flush at the unwanted attention.

"Don't you dare dipping me.", Pendry hissed as Grimm feinted an appropriate move.

"Oh, I won't dare. I do.", Grimm grinned and just as he finished his words, he dipped Pendry so low that his horns scraped the ground, a very inappropriate word stuck in his throat. The song ended just as Pendry was pulled up again and landed in Grimm's embrace.

Applause sounded around them and when Pendry looked around, wishing that he could vanish into the Abyss right here and then, he saw even his Root standing between the applauding and, that felt even worse, Hollow next to her, giving applause just like her.

Pendry now was sure that his face was flushed as blue as it could get and fled the scene while Grimm was busy giving bows to everyone. Pendry, not watching where he went, just having the intense desire to not be seen, only stopped when he ran into someone, soft and small from the feels.

"Your majesty, is everything alright?", that was Lurien's voice.

"Lurien, we should ask you this question.", Pendry said. "We hopefully haven't hurt you."

"No, don't worry.", Lurien said. He currently was holding a glass of wine, but didn't seem to be tipsy. Which was a good thing, because Pendry didn't need to deal with drunk Lurien right now. "What got you so riled up, your majesty?", Lurien asked.

"You haven't actually seen this whole thing?", Pendry sighed in relief, that at least not everybody had seen how Grimm had made him look silly.

"No, I was busy studying the decorations, I was thinking about painting them later and wanted to etch the image into my mind.", Lurien said softly. "Your wife has a very good grip on colour theory. So, I haven't seen anything happening. Was there something I should have seen?"

"What? No, no, there was nothing.", Pendry said hastily, a little too hastily maybe. He wondered why he felt so awkward around Lurien. He had known him for ages now, put the important job of managing the city in his hands and often would meet up with him over politics and Lurien had been the first one to agree to be a dreamer.

Maybe it had to do something with what Hollow and even Rydellia had said. That Lurien may have a crush on him. That certainly was why he felt so awkward. Pendry didn't even knew if he reciprocated his feelings, if Lurien even had any. As much as his Root told him that he should take a partner amongst the mortals to warm his bed when she wasn't around, it just didn't came as easily to him as it came to her.

"Your majesty, are you sure that everything is alright?", Lurien said again, startling Pendry, so that his tail flicked and his wings flared up for a tiny little second.

"What? Yes, yes, everything's alright. Um, colour theory, you were talking about this. Tell us more.", Pendry rambled on, only to say something, anything, to not get too distracted by his thoughts.

"Oh, certainly.", Lurien said and started to talk. Pendry couldn't say that he understood everything that Lurien said to him, but he heard the passion in his voice and listening to him actually made him feel at ease, the embarrassment of his dance with Grimm starting to wash away and soon he sat down next to Lurien and and participated in the conversation, which had turned from colour theory to something completely different, Pendry didn't even knew how he they had managed to get there.

Only when Lurien excused himself and left the table, Pendry noticed that he had left Hollow alone all this time and that after he had said to them that he wouldn't leave their side. Luckily, he found them not far away, right next to his Root. Rydellia made a face of glee that he didn't like at all.

"See, my Wyrm, this is what I am talking about.", she said and embraced him, lifting him up from the ground in the process. "At this rate, the confession won't be far away."

"But Root, I don't even know if he likes me that way.", Pendry grumbled. Rydellia chuckled as she sat him back on the ground.

"My Wyrm, it's obvious. Even Hollow can see it. Right, Hollow?", she laid a branch on their shoulders and gave them a little squeeze.

Hollow nodded and then signed: "But wait... if Father and Watcher turn into a couple, doesn't that make him a homewrecker?"

"Hollow, I thought I told you to not use this word again.", Pendry scolded them while Rydellia broke out in a clear laugh.

"Hollow, my dear, relationships between Higher Beings work differently. I have half of his soul, see?" Rydellia presented her half of the Kingsoul to them. "As long as I have his half of his soul, I know that he is loyal to me, because he would only share his soul with another Higher Being. Taking a mortal as partner on the side is normal and expected from Higher Beings. Your father is just an outlier."

"It just feels awkward, alright?", Pendry said and crossed his arms. "I haven't done anything like this before."

"That's the lie of the century, Wyrm.", Herrah's sharp voice sounded next to Pendry, Hornet perched on her head, giggling and waving when she spotted Hollow, who shyly waved back.

"Herrah, the dalliance with you was solely business.", Pendry said and turned around, not up for even more teasing.

"Is that so?", Herrah said and when she wouldn't have worn her mask, Pendry would have seen how her mouthparts turned into a grin. "Because you certainly knew what you were doing."

"Of course he did. He had me to practice on for centuries.", Rydellia said.

Pendry only gasped and covered Hollow's ear holes. "Not before the children!" He then dragged them pretty much away from Herrah and his Root. Once they were away, Hollow looked at him and signed.

"What was that about?"

"Something I have to teach you eventually, but would like to put off a bit more.", Pendry sighed, not exactly ready for the details of the talk.

"But... is it something bad they were talking about?", Hollow inquired.

"No, you just are too young for it.", Pendry sighed and gave them pleading eyes, to please not ask further questions and spare him even more embarrassment.

Hollow cocked their head a tiny bit and raised their hands, but then lowered them again, dropping the topic. "Thank you.", Pendry said and sat down on a random chair. "I will tell you, eventually, just... there is a place and a time for everything and it isn't here."

Hollow nodded and sat down next to him. A comfortable silence spread between them until a few of the party guests spotted them and came over to congratulate Pendry for his offspring as well as getting a closer look at the Heir. Hollow did like they were told, nodded and bowed when they were talked to, but didn't engage in any conversation, leaving the talking entirely to Pendry.

This continued on for a while until there was a commotion and one of Pendry's Royal Retainers came hurried to him. "Your majesty, we need your help. It's about Queen Vespa's knight."

Pendry had his face in his hands once he heard the words. "You don't have to speak any further, we know exactly what is happening.", he sighed. "Please watch over Hollow, we have to make clear to a certain bee that our windows are not the enemy."

The Royal Retainer nodded and stayed at Hollow's side while Pendry had to spend almost the rest of the party, alongside his Root and Vespa, to convince Hive Knight that the window he had run into wasn't a threat.

(Author's note: Pendry is like "Plz, cease your inappropriate talk in front of the child!"

You probaby noticed that Grimm didn't use Pendry's name this time, this is because he respects that it is a secret to his followers, but please imagine him saying "Your majesty." in the most drawn out or dramatic way possible.

The dance scene with Grimm was actually inspired by some fanart from chipper-smol from tumblr, which you can find on their blog. Check out their blog, they have some fantastic AUs going on.

This chapter turned long, so I cut it a bit short in the end, I would have liked to put some more scenes from the party in it, but well, I put everything in that I deemed important.

As always, leaving me a comment would be very appreciated.)