A human has fallen into the Underground. It had been the third since Asgore declared his war on humans, and... this seems to be the first human who decided to war back. The dust count is rising, and so is the fear of what havoc the child with wreak next.
Grillby... doesn't want to get involved. He really just wants to hide in his bar and wait for all of this to be over.
But the human has disappeared somewhere in Hotlands, dangerously close to where Gaster works, and Grillby hasn't heard from his friend in hours. Now he's... seriously wondering if he should try to make it to the labs, to make sure his friend doesn't become another number of the fallen the the murder-child's wake.
There was a human in the Underground.
The news had gone out faster than lighting, and their world slammed to a halt when they heard it.
There was a human. There was a human in the Underground.
It had been a while, Grillby remembered, since the last one fell. This was the second? The third, since Asgore had declared his war, and it seemed with this one the humans were finally warring back. This one was dangerous.
The guard had spread the news as quickly as they could manage, as soon as the first bits of dust started appearing in the forests outside of Snowdin. Grillby was grateful for their quick action, and for how fast word spread in such a claustrophobic world. Grillby had closed his bar in an instant, locking himself and his patrons inside. And then he’d stood by the door, waiting, watching, flame pitched low and cool while the rest of the monsters huddled close by the bar counter. They probably didn’t realize just how nervous he was. He didn’t talk enough to let them know, and few of them could tell the difference between a normal flicker and a shiver of fearful sparks.
Grillby… didn’t want to confront a human. He didn’t even want to see one. Grillby had always held a small hatred for humans, a justified fear that echoed back from his time in the first war. The King and Queen’s adopted child had made him nervous enough when they fell. And like a bad omen they had only spread despair when they left and took the King’s son with them. Ever since then, whenever a child fell the elemental felt a new chill down his spine, a dread in his soul. It had been bearable because the children had never really been dangerous. He could safely ignore them from within the confines of his bar, watching silently as they made their way to the King.
This destructive child threw a whole new ache through his soul, a fearful pain, a shiver. They were killing monsters. Some stirring thought in his soul told Grillby he should… do something about this. He was an elemental after all, and was only really harmed by ice or water magic. And from the news he’d been hearing, this child wasn’t a mage. He could confront them fairly safely, knowing that he could harm them and they couldn’t hurt him back.
Then his soul squirmed, and he brushed the thought away. Grillby had given up any ties he could have to the King and his guard years ago. He’d sworn he’d never do the dirty work for his crown again. He had enough nightmares. He didn’t need to add child murder to them - even if the child was a killer in their own right. This was a problem for the guard to handle. This wasn’t his business anymore.
Grillby had sighed a breath of relief and smoke when the guard came knocking on his door, giving the all-clear and announcing that the child had passed on into Waterfall. They’d killed a few of the guard on the Snowdin outposts when they’d gone. Apparently they were a force to be reckoned with. None of the guards remaining asked Grillby for help, and this was a relief as well. Not that any of them would really know who he was or who he had been. There were very few monsters old enough to remember the war or who fought in it. And the only monster who Grillby might actually listen to for that wouldn’t ask in a million years.
Grillby’s phone started ringing a bright, electronic tune and the elemental crackled an ironic chuckle.
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
“Everything going okay over there, Gaster?” Grillby asked quietly into the phone, his voice a subtle crackle of sparks.
“Yeah fine, just fine!” came the nervous, and slightly static-filled answer - the labs were never kind to cell phone signals, “We’ve all locked ourselves in one of the offices. The radio just said Snowdin got the all-clear. I decided to check in.”
Grillby flickered an appreciative smile, “They passed through Snowdin without incident, it sounds like. Heard we lost a few guards though. And maybe a few of the forest-dwelling monsters as well.”
There was a sharp, muffled sound over the line - probably Gaster cursing.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said a bit more clearly after a pause, “Have they said anything about Waterfall?”
“Just that the child has entered,” Grillby hummed, “Gerson’s got his shop though, so he should be fine at least.”
“Right, that’s good...” Gaster said almost absentmindedly, “... just as long as he actually stays in the shop.”
There was a pause, and a shuffle as Gaster waved some thought away - his habit for moving his hands as he talked always made phone conversations interesting, “Anyway, I was just checking in! Glad everything’s alright on your end! I’ll call you when they give Hotlands the all-clear too, alright?”
“Sure thing,” Grillby sighed, trying not to let his worry lilt too far into his voice, “Stay safe Gaster. Don’t do anything rash.”
“Pfff what? Me? Rash?” Gaster laughed with an exaggerated flare, and Grillby couldn’t help but smile at it, “Don’t worry firefly, I’ve got interns to take care of. I’m not going anywhere.”
Then to someone behind him, “Right guys? You’ll keep me in line?”
There were mixed remarks back that sounded mostly like muffled static through the phone, but all of their tones were joking and pleasant.
“There you go, reassured?” Gaster said, a grin in his voice.
“Plenty,” Grillby, “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Over and out,” came the chipper reply before the line cut out.
Grillby pocketed his cell phone and, with a bracing sigh, went about the regular business of taking care of his bar now that the threat and worry were both out of the way. He kept the radio playing through the day, listening patiently for news as it cycled it’s way through the Underground. A few of his patrons left because of it, preferring to stay willfully ignorant of the dismal statistics that poured through the crackling speakers. It was… disheartening… hearing about the losses in Waterfall. Grillby couldn’t blame people for not wanting to hear about it. Just listening to the news made his stomach writhe with nerves. But eventually the all-clear was sounded for Waterfall as well, and the vigil began for Hotlands.
It began and… as Grillby watched the clock and paced and pined… it never ended. And he was getting outwardly nervous now, and his patrons were becoming nervous because of it. How long had it been for the all-clear to sound in Waterfall? Two hours? It was getting close to that for Hotlands now… surely the child was nearly gone?
Grillby glanced at the clock, time slowing in between the laps he walked around the bar.
I’m sorry, were you waiting on another drink sir? Just a moment. Ah, yes ma’am I’ll have your order out in a few moments, my apologies I’m a bit scattered at the moment. Oh I’m just… waiting on a phone call. Oh jeez something’s burning! Back into the kitchen to try and salvage an order of fries that were looking a bit too much like charcoal to be of any good. How much time had passed?
By the time Grillby was closing up the bar that afternoon, he still hadn’t received his call, the radio still hadn’t announced the all-clear, and the reports coming in from Hotlands were scattered at best. No one had seen the child in over an hour. There were guards posted on every road to the Capital and they had seen nothing. The guards in Waterfall assured everyone that the child hadn’t backtracked. They were starting to organize a few groups of the guards together to assess the damage in Hotlands and try to find the child.
One reporter mentioned the Hotland labs, and how labyrinthine they could be. Monsters got lost inside if they didn’t know where they were going. How would they root out a dangerous human if they were lurking around in the labs? What would happen to the Core and the power in the Underground if the child hurt or - heaven’s forbid - killed any of the Core operators - !
Grillby had turned off the radio then, his whole body feeling shaky, a hand clutching at the chest of his shirt as if that could ease the panicked tightness of his soul just beneath. He felt like it was getting hard to breathe. His head was spinning.
Gaster. That thing might be trapped with Gaster. Fragile, breakable, skeleton Gaster. Hadn’t fought anything in years, Gaster. Terrified of powerful humans, Gaster. Just trying to protect the students working with him, Gaster. Laughing, smiling, absolutely genius, wonderful, very nearly the only thing Grillby was living for, Gaster.
Should he call? Should he text? What if Gaster had his cell phone volume on and the child heard it? Was it worth that kind of risk just to ease his own anxiety? What if he was hurt? What if that child had found them? What if he was gone?
What if? What if? What if? What if!?
Gah! Grillby thought he might go insane just thinking about it. With a full-body sigh he slumped to the floor in his kitchen, head bowed, forehead resting against the cell phone clutched in his hands. Please let Gaster be okay. Please don’t let this end in disaster. Please please please!
Grillby hit send on a text message and held his breath.
> You okay?
He perched there on his floor, huddled as small as he could be, his phone so close to his face that the blaring screen nearly took up the entirety of his vision. His gaze flicked up to the time in the corner.
One minute passed.
He glanced back at his messages.
Glanced up at the time.
Two minutes passed.
Glanced back at his messages.
Grillby let out a pensive sigh and leaned his head back against the cabinets behind him, focusing on his breathing, counting backwards from some obscure number that he couldn’t rightly place in his mind. His fingers twitched and typed nervous gibberish that he didn’t even glance at, just for the sake of the movement and the outlet of his nerves. When he was done counting he deleted the gibberish, taking painstaking care not to look at the time.
He glanced back at his messages.
It had been ten minutes.
Should he text again? Should he have even sent the first message? Maybe he should find something to do… something to take his mind off of everything. Maybe he should give the bonehead some more time to actually check his phone. Maybe… Maybe he should… W… What if he…?
What if he… checked on Gaster…?
Grillby shook his head. No that was insane. The guards had shut down the roads for one thing. It was for everyone’s safety that they stay indoors and just wait for the threat to pass. Besides, he… probably wouldn’t do any good anyway. He’d just make things worse -- or -- or more confusing. He was a civilian. What could he hope to do that the guard didn’t already have covered? He should just… stay home and wait and…
… and Grillby was… almost impossible to harm. The child didn’t have magic, and they were out of Waterfall. That would be the only place Grillby would be at a disadvantage. He didn’t even have to fight the child. He could just… walk right past them. Or… or even tire them out, so they couldn’t hurt anyone anymore! Maybe he could even get to Gaster before the child did.
Grillby glanced down at his phone again - still nothing.
“This is a horrible idea,” he voiced aloud, his breath a sigh of smoke, “I shouldn’t do this.”
Grillby pulled himself to his feet and pocketed his phone. He started walking through the bar, silently bargaining to himself.
If Gaster hasn’t texted back before I’ve locked up the bar, I’m going.
It took him a few minutes to go through his regular motions of wiping down the tables and cleaning glasses and the like. A few less minutes than normal - he’d be lying if he said that in his worry he didn’t rush. Gaster still hadn’t sent him a message back and, now, Grillby’s mind was made up.
He texted and prayed he wasn’t making things worse.
> If you get this, tell me what part of the lab you’re in. I’m coming to get you.
Then he was off, marching at a stiff pace across town, doing his best not to look too urgent and hectic as he went. The thought crossed his mind briefly that he should grab his raincoat from his house before he left - he’d be traveling through Waterfall, after all. In the end though, he was in too much of a hurry to stop. In too much of a hurry to even bother with walking the distance.
Grillby stormed straight for the ferry. The riverperson perched dutifully on the makeshift Snowdin dock, their little boat tethered in place - probably an order from the guard. If they were keeping the roads closed to try and minimize casualties, they’d want to keep anyone from using the river to slip past as well. They rose to their feet when they saw Grillby, some glint in their eye reflecting back from the depths of their hood. Grillby’s stomach gave an anxious flip when he approached. The river. He was going to be on the river if he did this. But… he needed to get to Hotlands. He… oh heavens this was going to be nervewracking.
Grillby checked his phone one more time.
Still no answer.
“I uh… don’t suppose I could ask for a ride?” Grillby asked as he pocketed his phone again.
The riverperson chirped their strange little laugh, “Tra la la! We’re supposed to stay put.”
“I realize,” Grillby said nervously, “But… this is an emergency. Please. I need to get to Hotlands.”
The riverperson wrapped him up in their mysterious, sideways glare, as if they were measuring up what he’d said to some hidden knowledge they had. They were always so cryptic… one more reason for Grillby to be nervous around them. But after a pause, they stepped back and untethered their little craft. They glided into place at the helm, an air of casual pleasantry radiating off of them.
“To Hotlands we go! Tra la la…!”
“Thank you,” Grillby breathed, both relieved and fearful all at once. He paused just at the water’s edge, eyeing the gap between the boat and the safety of the riverbank. The riverperson offered their hand to help Grillby aboard, and the elemental shakily stepped onto the boat for the first time. He stood in the very center of the narrow craft, as far away from the water as he could possibly be. The riverperson chuckled their chiming laugh again, obviously finding his nervousness funny.
Grillby was a bit too sick with worry to be mad at it. He probably did look ridiculous huddled in the center of the little boat.
He didn’t know what was worse, the ride itself or the dread that came with it. The boat was moving altogether too fast and too slow. He just wanted it to be over the minute the trip started. He wanted to close his eyes and wait for it to be over - but at the same time he was terrified if they hit some bump or took a sharp turn he wouldn’t be able to see it before they hit it and he was thrown into the water. Which was absurd, he told himself. He’d lived in the Underground for how many years and never once had he heard of anyone falling off the riverperson’s ferry! Even now the thing glided gently yet quickly through the water, never once so much as hitting a snag that could rock it. And all the while the riverperson laughed that chiming laugh.
“Tra la la! This little trip is the least of your worries, tra la la!”
Oh that was just great. Just what Grillby needed! Ominous. Premonitions.
At last the craft slowed to a stop in Hotlands, and Grillby disembarked, his whole body shaking. He managed to compose himself enough to rifle through his pocket for some spare gold as a tip, only for the riverperson to hold up a hand and stop him, signalling it wasn’t necessary. He murmured another ‘thank you’ to the riverperson before turning to leave, and as he did so they whispered after him.
“The left one is death.”
Before Grillby could ask them to elaborate they were gone, their craft speeding back the direction they’d come. Grillby shook his head, stowing the warning away for now. That was something to bother with later. Now he needed to be getting to the labs. Grillby fished his cell phone out of his pocket again, fingers jerking to punch in another text message. He was startled to see he had a missed call and several texts. He read through them, his stomach tying itself up in knots with worry and growing panic.
> Hey! Sorry for not answering. Had a tense moment there ha-ha. But seriously, stay home okay? It’s not safe.
> Grillby I’m serious, this thing has been wandering around the building for like two hours okay? You can’t come here.
> Grillby answer me
> Firefly come on
> If you show up here I swear to god
> We already contacted the guard okay? We’ll be fine just sit tight wherever you are.
> Grillby I’m serious
> Listen the guard is coming down the hall now okay? We’re fine stay home
There was a time skip between messages, and then finally:
> We’re in the bottom floor of the labs down the hall from the entrance to the Core complex, office 6, passcode for the elevator is 1304.
> It killed the guard
Grillby started running. He barely managed to punch in a message in reply as he went.
> Stay put, I’m on my way
> You better not be dead before I get there bonehead