Alright, sorry for the astronomically long wait. I think I’m going to be putting up this story soon on ao3, something to watch out for, I guess. Anyway, welcome back! To those who have never read it or want to refresh their memories, you can read the first and the second here. I had a lot of fun, writing AR. And uh, I might have to go back to the previous chapter to fix up the Condescension’s personality to something more “ghetto-ish.”
Disclaimer: As always, I do not own Homestuck, Howl’s Moving Castle, or that one quote from AR.
The cast as of now:
The Condescension-The Witch of the Waste
AR-Calcifer (Oh hell yes.)
As you stare at your now very aged appearance in the mirror, you wonder, “What now?”
“How am I supposed to…” Your voice, now hoarse and wavering, trails off.
That blasted witch! You need to find some way to contact her.
"Da dopest part bout dis is dat you can’t tell anyone you’re under a spell. Doubt you’ll be up in any shape ta help Pimp Strider wit any sort of rocket rebellion anytime soon anyway.”
You can’t tell your dad what happened to you. He would…you’re unrecognizable. You suppose it is a bit of an insult to doubt your father’s faith in his own child but…the spell. You can’t even hint that you are under a spell. Even if by some miracle your father realizes your predicament, he’ll go after that witch.
And be killed.
You shudder at the thought. Telling Dad is definitely out of the question.
And to think…Roxy was right all this time. You wish you could apologize for how stubbornly skeptic you were all these years. You make a mental note to do so as soon as you free yourself from this troublesome situation.
So who could help you?
…No. Why would someone like Dirk help you? If he was really involved with the Derse rebellion and looking for Jake like Roxy mentioned, he had no reason to go out of his way to help you.
How can she even help if you can’t tell her your problem? If anything, given your current appearance, you are in no shape of acquiring help from her. She would immediately be weirded out and rebuke you. That slim chance that she does realize your situation, she would meet the same hypothetical fate as your father if he went after the Batterwitch.
You heart sinks when you realize that no one can help you. In other words, you suppose you’re on your own. Biting your lip with a nagging hopeless feeling in your stomach, you nod to yourself and quickly wobble to the counter as best as your aching knees can allow.
Formulating a plan, you quietly write a note that you were missing one cake delivery and had to make a quick trip to some angry customer. It is a flimsy excuse but it is enough to give you enough time to slip away before your dad notices and goes after you in some fatherly berserk.
Besides, you only predict that you will be gone for, at most, a day. Hopefully, there won’t be any “PROSPIT PRINCESS GONE MISSING?!” headlines when you get back. This city already has enough on their plate with one missing dream prince. Your father will be, without a doubt, livid and worried-sick when you come back but you need to do this. You figure you have SOME advantage over that witch. LIke she said before, she can’t KILL you so there’s a start. To be honest, you’re mostly making up the plan as you go but the mere guarantee of your life is enough to push you forward.
Maybe you can threaten the Condescension by boycotting every CrockerCorp product or something. That’ll be a sight to see. The CrockerCorp heiress boycotts her own goods. This plan would have to do for now.
You grab your bag from the back and slip some of the unsold pastries into your bag before taking your shawl from a hanger and patting your pocket for your lucky baking spoon.
With that, you slip away into the night in silence.
After bribing a boy whom you often thought as your younger brother with one of your beloved book of pranks (You meant to give it to him on his thirteenth birthday anyway.), he happily disregarded the fact that you asked him to take you to the countryside in middle of the night and took you to the outskirts of the city.
“Be careful out there, Nanna! They say a witch lurks beyond these hills!”
“Yes, I know.”
“So, like, it’s said that the Batterwitch lurks in the Waste/. I dunno much about it but I always try my best to steer clear of that area! Like…is it in the far west of the outskirts of the city? I think so. Yeah…probably is.”
It is not hard for you to recall many of Roxy’s fervid ramblings about the dangers of the witch.
…You would be lying if you said that you were not feeling like an idiot at the moment.
Perhaps, it’s out of desperation. Perhaps, it’s out of blind faith for your friend who had told you the truth all along. Whatever the case, you take a step of faith in the direction that you think is the west and start walking.
Who would ambush and attack a poor little old lady like you?
You are just thankful that no rabid animals have appeared and ripped you to shreds yet. Maybe they don’t like wrinkled long expired meat. You snort at your own pathetic joke.
Repressing your fear of wild animals and muggers, you keep your head high and your feet walking.
Because you are not as young as you used to be (ha!), you soon stop to sit on a nearby rock and eat a piece of bread to regain your energy. You sigh and look down. Your feet are aching like a…Well, you should just leave it to that. You are interrupted from your thoughts by a slight rustling to your right. Your head cranes to the left to a bush. With a large fallen tree branch (yet there are not exactly any trees around) sticking out of it, the bush stands a foot away from you, rustling.
Your heart starts pounding, thinking it may be a rabid animal hiding and here to ambush you. You take out your emergency Groucho Marx glasses and your fork (you had to make do) from your pack, inching to the bush closely. You are ready to attack anything that may jump out and hurt you.
You pause for a moment to hear more rustling. You then realize how foolish you must look.
An old woman wearing Groucho Marx glasses and armed with a fork is about to battle a rustling bush.
Ha! That must be something!
Whatever the case you decide to lunge forward and attack the bush with a battle cry that comes out to sound more like a croak.
Your fork buries itself into nothing. No animals or lurking people appear.
You step back and realize that it is the large tree branch that was causing all the movement.
Yes, that’s probably it. Nevertheless, your legs are aching and the longer you stare at that branch, the more you begin to see it as a potential walking stick.
Removing your glasses and tucking your fork away back into your bag, you raise your sleeves and take a deep breath before gripping the branch firmly and pulling backwards. You wince as you feel your back scream in protest. Nevertheless, after much exhausting effort, you land on your bottom to see that you pulled out a scarecrow.
Which seems to be standing by itself.
You watch in a dumbfounded manner as it jumps eagerly in front of you.
Dressed in a shabby gray overcoat with a green skull symbol embroidered over the breast pocket, something black underneath, a white bowtie, a pair of old white gloves, and…tattered shorts (?), the scarecrow completes his odd look with an equally gray and scruffy tophat. The scarecrow’s face appears to be a turnip with a crudely drawn happy face.
You decide to call him “Turniphead.”
Something about Turniphead bothers you. The more you look at him, the more you wonder if he had stolen Jake’s wardrobe. The goofy smile drawn etched into the turnip’s face is also eerily reminiscent of Jake’s…
Look at you, you’re already juxtaposing Jake with a magical scarecrow. Are you growing this senile already? Whatever the case, you already had your fair share of magic for the day.
“Well…you’re welcome, I guess,” you mumble as you slowly stand up and grab your bag to continue your journey.
You’re walking but you hear the soft sounds of something wooden hitting the ground repeatedly. You turn around to see Turniphead following you.
“Oh no! Don’t mind a little old lady like me!” You wave your hand dismissively in his direction. Turniphead pauses for a moment but bounces towards you anyway. He stops to offer you one of his limbs. Hanging off of his arm is a walking stick. You suppose that this is his thanks for getting him out of that bush.
“Oh, thank you! This is just what I needed!” you say gratefully, accepting it. You begin to walk more easily and quickly but a few minutes later, you notice that he still insists on following you.
To be honest, you do not feel that comfortable about being stalked by a magical scarecrow. It is a bit awkward.
“Well…if you want something to do, maybe you could find a place for me to stay, Mr. Turniphead?” You suggest. You figure if Turniphead is still nice to you, you might as well take advantage of it.
As he bounces off, you chuckle to yourself, inwardly praising your own slyness.
After a couple minutes of walking, you hear a loud rumbling in the distance, accompanied by heavy footsteps. A little later, a huge shadow covers you and you’re forced to look back. To your surprise, you see that the scarecrow has come back to you, followed by your “place to stay.”
…Good god, this was not what you had in mind.
Towering over you was a strange steampunk walking house on mechanical chicken legs.
You stare with your mouth agape as it walks over you until the scarecrow bounces past you to gesture towards the tiny door at its back.
His message is loud and clear. You need to get to that door.
Ignoring your limbs’ protests, you break into a run towards the door and yell for the home to slow down. To your amazement, it seems to listen to you and allow you to reach the door before speeding up again.
You silently thank the gods and turn to Turniphead who is slowly being left behind. You shout out in a grateful voice, “Thank you, Turniphead! Even if you weren’t my favorite vegetable, I’ll never forget you!”
With that, you fumble your way inside the wheezing mechanical home. You make your way up the staircase to be confronted with a huge room—dirty and littered with mechanical parts and puppets—and walk towards the fireplace in the middle, eager to warm your body from the chill outside. Settling down the conveniently placed chair in front of it, you sigh and absorb the fire’s warmth before relaxing.
“Howdy, lady. That’s one wicked curse you got there, sweetheart. And you can’t even say anything about it. You have some rotten luck.”
A voice, sounding eerily like Dirk’s, speaks out from nowhere. You sit up with a start and look around. You do not see Dirk anywhere.
“My sensors are picking up a rather mean curse. Got the Batterwitch’s name stamped right on your forehead,” The voice continues. “It’s nice being called that name. You know, usually the me who created me would sometimes blow his lid or argue with me about this whole screwed up name issues. Anyway, be lucky that, with your cosmically high levels of pure “ha-ha-ha-Batterwitch-here,” you’re allowed in this humble abode.”
You are rather confused. It is then when you start to notice that the voice has an odd robotic undertone. It speaks as if it has emotions but the mechanical tone laced in the sound is noticeable. Like…autotune, you suppose? “So…you’re not Dirk?”
“As much as I’m classified as an ‘autonomous entity,’ I regretfully must answer that I am given the name, “Lil Hal” or “AR” as most people address me.”
“Although I’m a soulless being installed and programmed into a goddamn pair of shades, I really prefer the name, Lil Hal. Who the hell wants to be called, ‘Auto-Responder’? Looks like you’re lost. Try locating those human eye sockets of yours to the pair of ironic looking shades above the fireplace.”
“…Lil Hal then.” Your eyes finally land on a pair of glowing red shades peering at you, resting above the fireplace.
“Much better. So start feeding me some information so I can run it through my data banks to understand how the hell did you get into Dirk’s home. I control the mightiest security system here.”
“This is…Dirk’s house?”
“My initial calculations are reaching to the inclusive result that you are a very slow idiot. Yes. Yes you are.”
“I used the backdoor.”
Silence passes between the two of you.
“So you’re a pair of shades,” You start, staring at the eyewear. “What are you, exactly?”
“It seems you have asked about DS’s chat client auto-responder. This is an application designed to simulate DS’s otherwise inimitably rad typing style, tone, cadence, personality, and substance of retort while he is away from the computer. The algorithms are guaranteed to be 96% indistinguishable from DS’s native neurological responses, based on some statistical analysis I basically just pulled out of my ass right now,” Lil Hal answers.
Huh. He really is a machine.
“So how do you that I’m mmphadjkh.” You cannot speak. Your lips suddenly seal tightly together and it is impossible for you to open your mouth at all.
“Like I said, I ran a quick biological analysis on you to make sure you’re not some henchman sent by the Royal Queen Bitch herself,” Lil Hal answers simply.
“This is great! So you can help me?”
“I could but it is highly improbable that I will perform such action without payment.”
“So you’re asking for something in return?”
“I’m asking for you to DO something in return. You see I want to get out.”
“Yes, I’m bound to the fireplace of this shithole and holy fuck, there is a good 99.999% that I would love nothing more than to escape and become a real boy like Pinocchio.”
Wow, you never expected an outburst like that. You press on. “I’m not usually the one to make deals with a pair of shades though.”
“You should if you have no other options.”
That is also true.
“Say if I do agree, what do I have to do to free from this horrible life you’re living?” You ask, thinking the risks of making a deal with a shady pair of…shades.
“Simple. Convince Dirk that-Error. DS’s chat client auto-responder is not programmed to make this statement. There are no available algorithms in this application to process what is to be said,” Lil Hal answers. “Goddammit. Happens every single time.”
“…Well, boohoo to you. I can’t help you if I don’t know how to…I’ll just get up and leave now. Obviously, I can’t find any help with you,” You sigh as you make a move to get up.
“Wait!” Lil Hal exclaims. “Look, lady, I really want to help you. I really do. Thirteen-year-old Dirk may be a prick but he isn’t a cold-hearted douchebag. However, I…come on, don’t leave me alone like this. I don’t get that many visitors and I’m crunching all of these numbers and I’m getting the same result that you could…”
In his auto tune voice, you can hear a note of desperation.
You hope that you don’t regret this. You sit back into your chair and sigh tiredly. “…Well, it’s very nice to meet, Lil Hal. I’m called Jane and it looks like we have arranged ourselves a deal.”