Fandom: Hollow Knight: Silksong

  • Hornet/Lace
  • Alternate Universe - Dungeons and Dragons Setting
  • Character's Attempts At Flirting Are So Bad They Are Constantly Mistaken For Attempted Murder
  • Character's Terrible Attempts At Flirting Are Also Real Murder Threats
  • (To be fair Lace can't take all the blame here; Hornet is also bad at this)
  • Unexpected Mercy
  • Enemies to ??? to Future Lovers
  • Not Even Slightly Canon Compliant

Length: 3.6k, Oneshot

Date Posted: 2021-07-26

Collections: We Die Like Fen: Time Loop

What is a duel? A miserable little pile of homoeroticism. But enough talk. Have at you!


"After rigorous testing, I consider you a worthy opponent," the priestess explains, as if she is speaking to a very small child. "One awarded my respect, and my... admiration."

There is another, longer pause. And then it clicks.

The faint warm shadow on the priestess's dark cheeks. The coy stance, the playful smile. Her laughter. (Laughter that echoed bell-like in Hornet's head for hours after their first meeting, that seemed like it would haunt her merrily forever--)

"You," and Hornet has to take a breath here, in and out, to steady her stance, "have been hounding me by blade and foot-soldiers through your kingdom for a fortnight like some common beast of the hunt, and now you claim you have all along aimed to court me?"


Written for fencesit.

welcome to a weird niche dnd AU fic for a game that doesn't even exist yet. if you look up canon compliant in a dictionary, this is under antonyms.

It's over. It's absolutely over, and Hornet knows it.

She's been fighting since the moment the bells began ringing, and she's been running since the moment her gilded cage splintered by the force of her overcharged web spell, pitched over the side of the crumbling bridge into Pharloom, and yet, here, now, every act of defiance has come and culminated to a terrible pin-pointed end.

She will not flinch away. She is a princess, and she is hatched of Drow and of Dragons, and she will not be seen weakened, even in her dying breath.

(Perhaps she will see Mother, soon. An irony -- to travel back to the kingdom of her ancestors' roots, all for her only reunion to be with the dead she's left behind.)

It doesn't even hurt. The adrenaline must numb the sting of it, overwhelming her pulse and wounds and the pounding behind her eyes from the aboveground brightness she's never quite learned to tolerate. Her next breath comes tentative, expecting all the pain to crash in at once, but nothing moves through her lungs but air.

Under her tongue, it still reeks of blood and roses.

Distantly, Hornet feels her wounds start to ache again, and her injured shoulder resumes complaining alongside the steady drip of deep and unmistakably inhuman blue blood.

Almost tentatively, she opens one eye, then the other. The room still glints and gleams with gold, shadowed in a way that reads more clearly to her than the bright surface and citadel towers. And--

"Why so still, little spider?"--

The huntress, the priestess, the dancer in white, is still staring at her eye-to-eye with a smile like a stalking cat.

The tip of the pin-blade rapier presses almost gently into the front of Hornet's chest, just barely dimpling the silk of her cloak. Handed an unforseen window of safety, Hornet seizes the moment for all its worth, and breaths in and out once again, watching the crest pinned at the front rise and fall a finger's width from the blade.

One breath. That's all she'll allow. One breath, and no more. If she is to live, she will not hand herself over to the enemy -- she is simply... using the break to her advantage.

"Ahhh," says the priestess, with a coy little flourish of one delicate silk-gloved hand, "shy, are we? What happened to all that fire?"

The moment is gone. Hornet darts back, landing on two feet and five claws to steady herself, blade already angled to parry. Her collection of tools may be spent, but well so; the dancer has taken blows just as she has. She need only land another strike, true as she can, and the whole fight will turn, but the dancer isn't moving.

"Why are you doing this?" Hornet demands. The priestess's smile comes the closest Hornet's seen to faltering.

"In what way have I ever been unclear?" she replies. "Such a delightful little morsel you may be, but I'd hardly taken you for clueless!"

Hornet bristles. It's literal, for her: her hair puffs and the fine scales around her horns raise like spines beneath her mask. "Call me a fool again, and you'll be ended by my blade. You chose that I would live. Why?"

Almost a frown, now, and Hornet's only another twitch from lunging. "You must be joking, little spider. Was it not obvious?"

"No?!" Hornet's gesture flicks the tip of her sword arm's length from the priestess, who only stares, incredulous. "You've sought to kill me since we met. Your kingdom would see me in chains, at the citadel's peak, or else toiling below it. What reason could you possibly have to let me leave alive?"

The priestess stares. "It's called banter, Drow-daughter." When Hornet does not respond, she sighs, audibly exasperated. "Have you never partaken in a duel before?"

"A what." Hornet can no longer blame all her dizziness on the heat of battle, blinking and shifting in places as if expecting to time to somehow rewind and the priestess to ask a different question. Surely something has gone wrong, after all. Perhaps she's hit her head harder than she remembered against the rose-cushioned floor. That, or the flowers are poisoning her and driving her to madness.

She curls her fist and clenches until the claws prick her palm, but the pain is undulled, and the world has not filled with light. She cannot be dreaming, despite every other sign.

"A duel?" the priestess prompts, with an impatient twirl of her rapier that might have startled Hornet into skittering had she not been so preoccupied with utter bafflement at the statement. "A test of skill? Blade against blade?"

"I've dueled before," Hornet snaps, fighting the urge to bolt now before she's closed in again. "You offered no such thing. Had I proven weak, you'd have skewered me. You said so yourself."

"My standards may be high," admits the priestess, "but you've exceeded expectations, time and again! Of course I'd return for another round!"

Hornet's teeth grind under the mask, and she fights the taste of blood where it meets her tongue. "Is that all I am to you, then? Sport? The thrill of the match?"

The priestess's confident air shrinks ever so slightly, and she twists the rapier closer to herself. Hornet can see by her mind's eye, too well, how fluidly it might become a parry or riposte.

The threat has not faded. She cannot afford to forget it.

"Only if you wish to be," she says at last, and Hornet wants to scream. If she never hears another word of cryptic nonsense again, it'll be too soon.

"And what exactly is that to mean?"

A hint of impatience, now, in the priestess's stance. "I cannot believe you're this dense, little spider. It's getting terribly disappointing."

Biting back a dozen sharper jabs, Hornet replies, "Either speak plainly or not at all."

"After rigorous testing, I consider you a worthy opponent," the priestess explains, as if she is speaking to a very small child. "One awarded my respect, and my... admiration."

There is another, longer pause. And then it clicks.

The faint warm shadow on the priestess's dark cheeks. The coy stance, the playful smile. Her laughter. (Laughter that echoed bell-like in Hornet's head for hours after their first meeting, that seemed like it would haunt her merrily forever--)

"You," and Hornet has to take a breath here, in and out, to steady her stance, "have been hounding me by blade and foot-soldiers through your kingdom for a fortnight like some common beast of the hunt, and now you claim you have all along aimed to court me?"

"Less than ideal circumstances, but I hardly can help the actions of our haunted citizenry," the priestess replies, and it sounds like a defense. "I believed myself quite clear nonetheless. After all, you engaged, with banter to match! Did you truly so detest the words I offered?"

"I was challenged by your blade," Hornet retorts. "What else was I to do? Surrender?"

"You could have fled! Or refused!"

"Then I'd be a coward and a fool. You stood directly before my goals, and any retreat or diversion risked further ambush for no gain." Her mind races. "And why should I believe you, even now? I've heard your collusion with that lieutenant Sharpe, and I hardly think he wishes me well."

"We... may have gotten off on the wrong foot," the priestess admits. "I admit I was officially sent to kill you, but--"

"Surely you jest," Hornet hisses, more to herself and incidentally aloud. Surely, surely the dancer-in-white cannot be serious. "And you still wonder why I'd not noticed your overtures?"

"I'd thought my message clearer," the priestess mutters, a fresh tinge to her cheeks. "And you weren't supposed to hear about that part!"

Hornet sighs. "Unfortunately, I have ears."

The priestess bites her lip, barely visible in the shadow of her habit. The rapier's hilt twirls between her fingers.

"So, then... am I hearing my courtship is unwelcome?"

The next words from her mouth should be of course it is, but they stick in Hornet's throat like honey crystals, and she's frozen still.


This can't be right. She's been on death's door time and time again, fighting and fleeing the ghosts of her distant ancestors' kingdom; before this, she lived an endless age in a land cursed with eternity, stitching together the pieces as they rotted forever beneath her. Surely, any desire for such plain, mortal things -- for courtship, for (dare she say it) romance should have died long ago with all the other things her birthright stole from her.

Searching, she cannot find her conviction to reject it.

"I cannot say," she manages, at last. It's the closest she can come to speaking her mind on it. (She has no hope of speaking her heart, when she cannot decipher its whims in the slightest.)


"I hardly know you," Hornet elaborates, fumbling for reasons as she's seldom done before. "You've not even offered your name."

"Is that all that's bothering you?" The priestess laughs, that beautiful ringing sound, and gestures something like the shadow of a curtsey. "It's Lace, if you're so impatient to know. Yours?"

"Hornet," she says, regaining her usual conviction. Something so bright and warm bubbles up in her gut that she very nearly, out of long wariness, wonders if it's infection. It's utterly unlike the plague, though, no rage behind it, only a questionably-welcome mixture of panic and delight.

Lace's smile twists and quirks at the corner. "An odd name for an odd Drow."

"As though yours is any better."

"I'm human, little wasp -- there's no name under the sun too unusual for me."

"You're human?" Hornet doesn't mean it to sound like a surprise. Lace's silken habit covers her ears entirely, and Hornet's knowledge of this kingdom has come piecemeal at best, scavenged between local gossip and the old stories Mother and her driders and the Weavers used to tell her.

She assumed her opponent... not old enough to rival herself, no; even elves don't live so long. But the skill and grace Lace carried herself with -- for a human, how old can she be? Twenty, thirty? Another decade more than that is old, Hornet is fairly sure, but she hasn't dealt with humans in so long -- maybe it's less. It all adds to mere decades of swordplay, at the most.

(Had she grown so stagnant, trapped in the same endless age as her father's rotting corpse of a kingdom?)

"Of course," says Lace, as if there's no cause for surprise. "This kingdom's home to all sorts, so long as tribute is paid." She narrows an eye, but the tone is teasing. "How long did you say it's been, since you last visited?"

"I've never been here in my life," states Hornet. "I took no part in the Weavers' exodus and return."

Lace laughs again. "You really are lost here, aren't you?"

"Yes. Well observed," Hornet deadpans. "Truly, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"You'd still be stuck in that cage, quite possibly," Lace comments, and Hornet blinks and jerks with startled, undirected motion as a second revelation wracks her unbelievably weary body (which, as she now realizes, is still in a great deal of pain.)

"That flitting light that broke the cage's seals-- that was you?"

"One of my messengers," Lace admits, with her cat-in-the-cream smile. "And a risk well rewarded, clearly!"


"Impatient, aren't you, little wasp? There's really no need to rush. I ought to keep at least some of my secrets!"

Hornet has another question on her tongue, but the tolling of the bell interrupts it. The cavern resonates with the ringing echoes, bone-deep reverberations like the distant rumble of digging beasts back home, and for a moment, in her growing fog of exhaustion, she cannot think, cannot question anything at all, before the deeper, fiercer part of her fights and tears itself free of the sound's paralysis.

Lace carries on as if completely unburdened, but Hornet's beginning to realize that's a lie. She's seen the priestess pained in their battles, masking with a smile and a laugh, and the expression has burned itself into her memory. It should be branded with a rush of victory, but the taste is soured now.

"That's your cue, I suppose," says Lace. Her voice carries only the slightest raw edge of discomfort. A skilled actress, this one. She could be pretending still, when she frowns, gesturing with one hand to Hornet's tattered cloak and ragged stance and tapping her chin with the other. "Ah, but your wounds need binding. I could run you through myself, right now; you'll have no chance against the kingdom's ghosts like that."

"I have no need of aid," Hornet grits out, her hand already drifting unconsciously to her shoulder. Stupid, stupid. She forces it back to her side.

"You're barely standing," Lace retorts.

"I've weathered worse."

"And will you continue to weather it, until you finally give out?" Lace shakes her head. "Honestly, I've the worst luck in girls. Not a lick of sense in their heads some days. It's a shame I can't help falling for them."

"I am far from lacking in sense," Hornet snaps back, but it's an embarrassing excuse of a parry, and she knows it. Hot-cheeked, she averts her eyes to add, "I'll patch myself up before I go."

"You'd better," says Lace. "Here, the floor's fine to sit."

Hornet stays standing. Lace sighs, and waves a hand at the far end of the room.

"If you'd rather use the bench outside, be my guest. But you're not going to be caring well for wounds, trying to stitch yourself while standing."

"You've seen me do so before."

"I'm not a fool, little wasp. You had magic for that. If you had any left, you'd have fended me off a minute ago."

Hornet bites her lip. It's a mercy Lace can't see it. After a long, stubborn moment without words, she sits.

In interest of keeping her mouth shut, Hornet turns her focus to the spool of spider's-thread clipped at her belt. The bobbin is nearly visible through the thin remainder, mostly spent on battle and older wounds still unhealed. She resolves to clean her cuts as best she can, and stitch the worst with what's left.

She has no proper needle to work with -- her closest tools lie scattered in the roses, spent as projectiles -- so she's no choice but to work the thread by spell, instead. It's more effort than she prefers. Her eyes refuse to focus fully when she tries to narrow in on the end of the thread, and her head throbs as she draws on what little energy remains to try and grasp it.

Lace is right about the magic, too. Her reserves are exhausted, and each time she digs further for dregs it's as if she's digging through her own skull with a chisel -- but she's out of options.

Whispering the incantation under her breath, Hornet grits her teeth and forces the thread through.

The moment of nearly passing out doesn't last long, only a second, but it's enough that her stubborn, traitorous body pitches sideways between blinks, and suddenly Hornet becomes keenly, overwhelmingly aware of Lace now supporting her with a hand, gloved fingers pressed against her good shoulder.

"Worse than I thought, then," muses Lace, as if only to herself. "You're no actress, but an excellent stoic, it seems."

"It will be fine," Hornet lies, uselessly. The motions come by rote, more spoken to herself, from a lifetime of buckling down and bearing it.

"You're on the brink of collapse," Lace points out. "Had I not caught you, you would have fallen."

"It's not as if I've any other way to--"

Lace interrupts her with a bottle of something blue and faintly luminescent pulled from an unseen pocket, pressing it into Hornet's hands before before she can refuse.

"You needn't waste this on me."

Lace offers her a flat stare. "Little wasp. We cannot have a rematch if you are dead."

"... only if you're confident parting with it," Hornet acquiesces.

Pharloom seems dominated by crude, mechanical advances, both familiar and utterly unlike the enchanted works of Hallownest's old artificer-king. Magics such as potions are far and few between -- Hornet has only chanced upon healing draughts and their like a handful of times, most of them brewed by a witch in the Moss Grotto who'd been willing to trade potions for ingredients and errands. The value of such a thing would be far beyond a necessity, given time to mend and rest.

"I intend to see you at full strength for the challenge above," Lace reminds her, and her silk-gloved hand comes to meet Hornet's own. Hornet, for no reason at all, cannot stop paying attention to the way their fingers brush together as she pushes the bottle back into Hornet's hand for emphasis. "As I said, it won't do to lose my favorite opponent because she couldn't patch her own wounds before running off into peril."

"Your generosity is appreciated," Hornet manages, at last.

"Glad to hear it." Lace taps the bottle with a finger. "Now drink up."

Hornet's well of replies runs dry, and she focuses on the potion, now, instead. The draught is best consumed, but applying directly to wounds has been helpful, for sparing dosages. If she's careful, she might keep enough for a second use later.

"... what drew you to me?" she finds herself asking, appraising the bottle's contents. Perhaps best to drink some after all, just to start with; stitches are too much to deal with now, her tolerance for pain waning with headache. "Surely you did not choose to aid me for mere whim."

She uncorks the bottle and takes a small, hesitant sip, waiting for Lace's answer. The cool comfort of the healing draught rushes through her limbs, incomplete in only a half-swig, but already easing the worst of the ache to her wounds.

"I heard of a drow Weaver brought in from faraway lands," Lace says, softly. "The last of their kind, perhaps. I know well what this kingdom would do to one. I hoped to set the poor thing free." She makes a vague, swirling gesture with one hand. "That lightshow of yours was entirely unexpected."

The potion is thick as soup, barely watered down form the life-seed gel used as its base, and Hornet is able to carefully fill her palm with another quarter-swig's worth to rub like salve on her unstitched cuts. If she can coax the wounds closed enough, she mightn't need to suture anything.

"I've been told it's a gift of my heritage," Hornet hazards, still a touch untrusting with the details. Bad enough she's wanted for her mother's blood; she's yet to hear of Pharloom's opinions on half-dragons.

She drinks another rationed swig of the potion, and Lace folds her hands as if preparing herself to ask something.


The bells' tolling ripples through Lace's query, echoing around through Hornet's head like her own skull contains the chime. It's dizzying, setting her teeth on edge; she fights through the disorientation only a few seconds quicker than she did the last, but that barely gives her window to brace herself as the next rings out and turns the chamber into something alive, harmonic and vibrating until her bones rattle and buzz.

She's breathing heavy as it subsides.

Twice, this time. Three, and it will be too late. A glance shared with Lace says she's thinking the same.

Hornet's mouth is open, and the question that trips onto it in the place of her last reply is, "When will I next see you?"

Lace glances to the shaft of light at the far end of the chamber. "I can't say. Perhaps some little fluttering thing will guide you to me, when all this is over."

When all this is over. Hornet finds herself fighting a sort of vertigo that has nothing to do with the bell ringing in her ears or the blue blood on the floor. She is going to challenge something, something far greater than herself. She is, perhaps, about to fight a god. And should she live (and she will live), she will not be coming back to stay.

"I can't say when that will be," says Hornet.

"I'll be patient, unlike someone," Lace teases. And then, more seriously: "Come back in one piece, little wasp. I'll not be losing my match in a duel so quickly."

Hornet shakes her head, regret building. "You misunderstand, perhaps. I can't stay. I've somewhere to be, after this."

"And maybe I'll have nowhere," Lace replies, in the airy way of someone who can't possibly be suggesting what Hornet hears it as, until she continues. "After all, who's to say there'll be much of this haunted kingdom, by the time you're through with it?"

"You'd betray your kingdom for this?"

"We do not choose our birthplaces. I've never much liked mine. Any illusions of loyalty are entirely an act, I assure you." Lace stabs her rapier decisively into the roses at her feet, and gestures a mock salute. "Go, little wasp. Do what you must. I'll be waiting in the wings. In good fortune, I think we'll meet again."

"... I'll see you soon, then."

It's all there is to say, but somehow, with a certainty she cannot explain but has felt before time and time again, Hornet knows it's true. Maybe it's her father's gift of divination, finally manifest in what little ways it can -- but Hornet's not one to rely on the uncertain offerings of the long-dead past, so she chooses instead. She doesn't only know; she will make it so.

She will fight, and she will return.

(And maybe, there will be someone to return to.)