Fandom: Hollow Knight

  • Ghost
  • Hornet
  • Post-Canon
  • Ambiguous Ending
  • Crack

Length: 1.4k, Oneshot

Date Posted: 2022-10-24

and every word i said (didn't make it across)


A barely comprehensible not-so-first contact between the kingdom's ghost and its mortician.


Okay, so, for context: this fic was written for a prompt on fail_fandomanon in October 2022, during which the comm was affected by a sitewide Dreamwidth bug that mucked up text encoding for half the comments (but not all of them!) and turned everything into approximately 50% eldritch ASCII gibberish.

No long-term harm was done, but it was hilarious while it lasted. If you want a glimpse into the chaos, it looked something like this.

Anyway the prompt (inspired by ongoing events) was "100 words of speaking incomprehensible horrors". Didn't quite hit the horror mark, I think, but it was fun!

"Ãâ??âÃ:?‚£‚¬Å¡�??Ãâ???�?/€šÃ‚£," said the shape in the puddle of shadow.

Hornet, who had been making good time down the tunnel toward the western Crossroads district on yet another hunting run for the newly-living town of Dirtmouth, stopped short like she'd been yanked back on a string, spinning to face the source of the sound.

A puddle. That was all it was. All it could have been. The dark corners of the cavern filled its depths, black as the lake under the distant village, two lumafly-lights or the facets of a geo shell reflecting brightly near the center like a pair of gleaming eyes.

Still, Hornet did not continue. She was far from any thinking prey; the tiktiks and crawlids did not flee her needle with ease. A moment's wait would not harm her yet.


Out of long-ingrained instinct, she still did not greet the voice aloud.

Had it been a voice, though? The sound had been like and yet utterly unlike one, alien in the way of creatures foreign to bug or beast -- almost indistinguishable from the sound the puddle might have made, had she landed in it. Only the lack of running water here had allowed it to catch her attention at all.

She was nowhere near the lake's shore, too far from Greenpath's humid air, and it did not rain in the Crossroads.

The puddle rippled again, as if of its own accord, then shuddered like a living thing.

"??]S??0?b/{1?o(?????X?""???C??@ ?k4/?Z?1??y?Kb???o?Y? ???;Y?@?n?uXZ???jiJ3??Lw?3???E?H?PG ??k?3?#oI?Q?????Xt?"

Hornet's grasp on her needle tightened.


All at once, the edges of the puddle began receding in tidal spasms, contracting and expanding as a nearly organic mass. The puddle had been no wider than her single outstretched arm, but an impossible depth asserted itself now, as though the water had not filled some mere shallow incline in the faltering tiles but the shaft of a bottomless pit. It gathered into itself by something like a conscious effort, struggling to hold a central mass as each contraction sent ever more lumafly-light glimmers across its surface, then reached some unseen breaking point and collapsed again, the surface a lashing tangle of impossible limbs.

Focus. Calm. She had lived long enough under the burning light; she would endure whatever came of this strange darkness. The needle stayed steady in her hand, though whether it would harm the thing was another question entirely.

The tangle slowed, and the motion grew more deliberate in appearance, almost painstaking, long limbs like tapered vines gingerly extracting themselves from the mess. Most melted back into the center of form, definition creeping in by faint degrees, while others hung from the core in thick Uoma tendrils, bearing long strings of faint white lights.

A row of tendril-lining lights all blinked in sequence. Hornet amended the description: eyes.


... What?

"?Ãâ�siste????:??_?:@?-??r horn???et????n?i???D?"


"????#can?@ ?,???*&??unders�??tand?6!:a??"

No, that wasn't-- or was it possible? For the shadow--for one of her kin to be--?

Hornet's grip grew ever tighter. She forced it to relax. An ice like the void's own chill filled her heart, even as hope sought to sink its root.

She had seen so many of them dead. Shadows of their unliving selves had pulled themselves free of those pitifully small shells, wandering until her needle set them to rest, but they had always been thin and wavering things, and the little Ghost's living shell had always come back.

"What are you," Hornet growled, more to herself than to the thing. A split second later, she all but froze, taking a step back before her conscious mind could decide, for every eye on the shadow-shape's limbs had opened at once to look upon her.


"Ghost of Hallownest is dead," she told the shape, as if it cared for how she thought the world ought to work. As if the little Ghost had ever cared for that.

"%[???came?????� ?%??:?{backZ???jiJ3??Lw!/]"

"That's not..."

The shape that, had Hornet squinted somewhat and tilted her head a few degrees clockwise, might have passed for a poor mud-sculpture of the little Ghost's shade, began to rise out of the tiles where it had pooled, nearly floating. A few stray tendrils anchored it haphazardly to cracks in the stone.

"You can't possibly be..."

"?b/{sorryS??01?o(????? no+63#;6&t good spea??a????lO?_??0?king tryQ?r Ãâ€more soon???????=?"

... Forget it. Who did she hope to fool?

(What other living being in the kingdom of Hallownest could have ever learned that name?)

"... How?"

"(J,+\?�??fought#g?a?1 ?Gh??ldream,?!??�?? ?ate li?f4?,ght, ascend??[$?qed?4=??-?`?"

"You consumed the burning light within our kin." It was the most reasonable translation she could muster.

The puddle shade did not respond in words this time, but offered a heavy liquid sound that might have meant happiness, if happiness sounded like the slap of a wave on the shore.

"But you did not take its place," Hornet continued. "You... did not contain the light."

She watched the lumafly-light eyes blink together, like a line of candle flames buffeted by a single breeze.

"You devoured it, and in doing so, made your mark upon the world."

Another liquid slap, meaty enough to send the free tendrils vibrating like plucked strings.

"You ascended. Not merely from your birthplace, but unto your own thrice-cursed birthright renewed."

The form reached out a tendril toward Hornet. A fraction of herself considered how best to evade, while the rest observed it: how the tip had tried to split into her sibling's nubby, grub-soft claws. Two eyes, near the center and larger than the rest, had by now come to stretch neotenously wide beneath a facsimile of cloven horns, and somehow managed a pleading expression.

The tendril fell short a hand's width from her cloak.

She did not embrace it. She did not recoil.

"You are a god in all but name. What would you want of me that you do not already possess?"

The Ghost tilted its head, if the general upper half of its body could be called that. "]??F?A??8?sis?#ter!??"?~??!"

Hornet bit back an unnecessary sigh. "Your implication escapes me. We were born from the same sire, yes. What of it?"

The Ghost's many eyes stared back at her without answer.

"You..." This was absurd. Utterly absurd. "You see me as kin," she realized. "What little of your blood remains among the living. And now, like a ghost, you see fit to haunt me once more."

": *)??si??ster�??,/}" the Ghost repeated, as if this motive made perfect sense. Perhaps, to such a childish spirit as one raised from the infant dead, it did.

Haunted from conception by her mother's shadow, haunted from the end by her siblings' sacrifices, haunted over her shoulder by her father's burdens. It almost seemed too fitting, that now all those ghosts were laid even half to rest, another would come back to find her.

Hornet gave the little Ghost a long, silent stare of her own, and wondered.

"Will you cause trouble in my hunt?"

Her sibling's head swayed, side to side. A no, then.

"Would you intend harm, to myself, or to those I guard?"

Another no, more vigorous this time.

"Do you mean me any ill at all?"

The same reply, again.

"And I can't imagine I'd be able to stop you from lingering."

The tendrils writhed and twisted in what might have been a probably not, and then tried for a "???/,sta?�??y with?0you?}???"

"Is that... all?"

Her sibling's increasingly amorphous head offered a nod. Once recognized for what it was, the Ghost's form had begun to melt back down like candle-wax, as though it no longer cared for the effort of maintaining it.

Under her observation, more and more of that melting mass receded back into the ground, wiping away any traces of horn or claw as smooth as stone worn down by rain. A handful of eyes lingered to float across the surface, tiny lights bobbing like rowboats on an abyssal sea.

It seemed her little Ghost had no more to say.

Well, then.

Taking a sharp turn, Hornet began again down the tunnel, west, as she'd been traveling before. "If you've no quarrel with me, I've none with you. Don't follow too near, don't trouble any surviving citizens, and don't disturb my prey."

She could deal with the particulars later, but perhaps this haunting would be... tolerable, after all.