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Summary: Roxy Lalonde is led all over her city by a mysterious admirer's riddles, while in a parallel universe and on another world Eridan Ampora follows a series of riddles left by an equally anonymous messenger.

Characters: Roxy Lalonde, Eridan Ampora, Dirk Strider, Vriska Serket
Ships: Roxy <3 Eridan, Eridan <3< Vriska


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The sunlight shattered through the thin cloud cover and reached the masses. A new day had dawned. It was just a shame today was just like any other Thursday. Roxy Lalonde sat on the porch, watching the morning commute crawl by. The exhaust fumes coated the air like milk chocolate around delicious nougat, except it was not chocolate but deadly poisons and smog. In a monstrous city like this, it was to be expected. The day slowed to a snail’s pace after the traffic disappeared, just in time for the mail truck to show up. Perhaps a letter from one of her pen pals would be just the thing to brighten her day. The mail lady dropped off her assortment of letters. As she waved goodbye, Roxy leapt up from the porch and sprinted to the mailbox. Pushing that red doohickey on the mailbox back down, she opened the latch and took out a scarf. It was bright blue, quite pleasing to the eye. It was soft in the way kittens and pillows wished they could be. There was a rubber band attaching a slip of paper to the cashmere bliss. She slid the note out and read it to herself.

Our threads are connected
Our paths interwoven
In the light perfected
To take the path we’ve chosen
Follow the streets
With broken yellow streaks
To a place where art pours
From silver containers
Connect my heart to yours

The note intrigued Roxy. She had caught someone’s eye, though she hadn’t the slightest clue how. She hadn’t flirted with anyone hard enough to warrant stalker mail, but whatever. “Time to clear my schedule.” Roxy giggled at the thought. It was riddle-solving time. She set out down the road, not knowing exactly what she was in for.
---

Waking up at nightfall, Eridan cursed his numb fingers, realizing he’d accidentally fallen asleep in his rings again. Last night’s hunt for Gl’bgolyb food had nearly lasted until sunrise, and in his exhaustion he’d forgotten to remove his jewelry. He decided the best way start the night and return circulation to his digits would be to head outside and relieve some tension through rifle practice. However, something sitting on the deck of his sunken-ship-turned-hive caught his eye. It was a toy meowbeast dressed in wizard’s robes with a scroll tied to one paw.

“Wwhat the hell?”

Eridan picked up the doll, read the note, and scowled. Some obnoxious FLARPer, completely out of her league challenging someone of his level, was trying to tempt him into some kind of treasure hunt. She had no doubt heard of his legendary campaigns and deluded herself into thinking she was worthy of challenging him. Why she thought so highly of herself when she couldn’t even manage to spell correctly he couldn’t fathom. This was beyond a quirk; it was embarrassing. He was about to toss both note and doll into the sea when he noticed the prize she was offering:

solve my riddlys and youll find sometting for realz magical at the end of ur quest ;)

He scoffed. Magic was fake, as anyone with actual intelligence knew. She’d probably stumbled across a scientific artifact and been so bewildered by its complexity that she’d assumed it was magical. It would be worth playing her game, he decided, just to relish her crestfallen face as he exposed the truth about her precious “magic.” Her first riddle read:

where what cant be beaten breaks, follow the line to place wher the lights deffy Order

He arched an eyebrow. He had to admit, she wasn’t off to a terrible start.

---

Roxy walked down every road in town, reading the clue aloud as she walked. Her trek was long and arduous, and sweat coated her face under the blistering heat. She sat down and wiped her face with her shirt. Her feet were tired and her shoulders were burnt. She kept repeating the poem from the letter.

“Where does art flow? Like, does art even, y’know, flow? This riddle sucks major ass.” Roxy was beginning to get irritated. She crossed her arms and clenched her fists in frustration. Her face turned red.

“Think, Roxy, think! Silver containers, what the shiznit could that mean? You mean like coffee container thingies? You want me to go to some hipster-y coffee hut?”

She turned her head and, luckily enough, there stood the Hipster-y Coffee Hut™, a giant building with a large porcelain coffee mug mounted over the top of the store like a prized large-mouth bass. She wondered whether there was actually coffee inside it or not, but that was irrelevant right now. She might have found the first destination. Pumping her fist, she walked inside. The doors slid open for her, and she was greeted by a blast of air on her sweat-dripping face. Roxy marched toward the counter, where she was again greeted, but this time by a barista. He had a chipper tone to his voice, but when his eye hit Roxy’s, the glimmer faded. His only word: “Letter?”

Roxy handed him the letter in exchange for another, this time sealed by a vibrant purple sticker. She opened it to find the next riddle.

Victory is fleeting
There does appear to be hope inside
the void however,
continue on to the place
that leaves the whole world
singing forever
whatever the weather

---

Eridan sat in the crow’s nest atop one of his hive’s warped masts. The thin, cold sea air helped him think. He’d re-read the note, looking for clues about its sender, but found nothing. He was only aware of her gender because she called herself a “sexy mystery lady” twice. Still, he was certain the sender was a landdweller. No royalty would ever write “i challenge you” as “i challengify you,” he was certain.

It took him about fifteen minutes to solve the clue. He felt foolish when he did; it should have been obvious. As soon as he realized that “where what cant be beaten breaks” meant the shoreline, where the ocean “breaks” in waves, he knew where to go.

The shore was deserted. Footsteps crunching across the wet sand and night sky reflecting in an ocean like an oil slick, it was admittedly a relaxing walk to the cave the riddle referenced.

Inside the coastal cave the shadows were pierced by pinprick lights, from the shallow-washed base of the cave all the way to its natural domed ceiling. There were luminous crystals embedded in the rock, their coloration determined by the amount of salt they’d been exposed to. The ones at the bottom, wetted almost constantly, were a pinkish purple. They gradually became an acidic greenish-yellow as they reached the ceiling. Yellow and green higher than purples, defying the hemospectrum order.

He found an empty wine bottle containing a second note. In the darkness of the cave, Eridan read:

i went easy on you i hope you know.
i didn’t want to scare you off just yet!!!
second riddlel riddle:
if i through this bottle out to see idk where itd wash up
but if i had to find it again i think my first guess would bee pretty grate

“Is there supposed to be a clue in there somewwhere?” he asked, bewildered. His voice echoed from the sparkling cave walls, answerless.

---
She winked at the cashier as she rushed outside, eager to find this next location. Albeit, she found the first location by sheer dumb luck. The recitation began. “Where does the world sing forever, screw the weather? A karaoke bar? Sounds like my kind of place!” She visited every karaoke bar in town. There were a lot of them, even for a city this size.

The mindgames were fun at the beginning, but Roxy was beginning to get seriously steamed, like delicious carrots. Again, she was forced to think about what “whatever the weather” meant. She was stumped. This time, she’d have to phone a friend. A certain anime-shades wearing, all-knowing best friend was the perfect lifeline. She punched the numbers in and the dial tone began.

Dirk Strider picked up the other line.

“Roxy, what’s up?” Dirk asked.

And so, Roxy told Dirk the entire story from the very beginning.

“Well, it seems like you’re in a bit of a pickle. I hear that there’s a concert going on tonight downtown in that preposterously huge MegaDome. Maybe that’s what your mysterious gentleman caller is referring to.”

“It’s worth a fucking shot, hot pants. Thanks for the advice. I was lost down Dunderfuck Avenue before you came round, wink wink. I’m winking if you can’t tell.”

With that, Roxy Lalonde waited for the evening, when she could make her next move.

When nightfall came like a comforter of blackness over the horizon, Roxy stepped in line. When she got to the front of the line, she handed the letter to the ticket taker. He pulled her aside and they swapped poems. The poem was short this time.

Take a chance, climb skyward.

---
Hours later, Eridan Ampora was back home, slumped onto his desk in defeat. He had no idea what the riddle meant. As much as he wanted to blame it on the stranger’s incompetence with riddles, he was unsettlingly sure the clue was there. He just didn’t see it.
Trollian made a chirping noise. ArachinidsGrip was now online. He stared at her cerulean username, trying to decide if he should message her. On one hand, the girl had an unnatural talent for treasure hunts. On the other, she was a huge bitch. She made the choice for him.

AG: Hey nerd, get ready to 8eat some chumps at FLARP.

CA: im busy right noww

AG: That w8sn’t a question you fish-f8ced dork. We’re going to pl8y and that’s th8t!!!!!!!!

CA: wwats wwrong youre doin that thing wwhere you use 8s in places they dont go like youre upset

AG: Nothing! I don’t want to t8lk a8out it!!!!!!!!

CA: fine wwhatevver

CA: actually i could use your help wwith my thing if youre done bein a demandin bitch

AG: Why should I help you?

CA: it invvolvves treasure

AG: Reeeeeeeeally? Tell me more. ::::)

Eridan explained the situation to Vriska, giving her a transcript of both notes. However, she wasn’t in a helpful mood.

AG: This is hilarious!!!!!!!! Seeing Eridum8 8ested 8y some rookie with the world’s worst typing quirk.

CG: if youre so fuckin smart tell me the answer to the riddle

AG: Nah. It’s so much more fun to watch you squiiiiiiiirm with it.

CG: i fuckin hate you

AG: <33333333<

He signed off, fuming. Like Vriska had any right to criticize him, or even the stranger. World’s worst typing quirk? Coming from someone who messed hers up at the slightest agitation, that was a laugh.

He picked up the note, examining the typos. Maybe she did have some kind of system, but it was just invisible to him, like her clue.
Something clicked. The typos weren’t random. The previous words were misspelled, but the words in the riddle itself were misused heterophones. Through. Bee.

Pretty grate.

A location flashed immediately to mind. Within the hour he was on the shore again, miles past the cave. An indigo blood’s hive sat on a rocky outcrop over the sea, and set into the cliff face was a sewer pipe. Gingerly stepping along the shore, Eridan saw the wrought iron grate over the drainage pipe. It was made in the whimsical shapes that a religious indigo might call “mIrAcUlOuS.” Most others would just call the design “pretty.”

There was a second wine bottle half-buried in the sand.

---
In that moment, it started to rain, and Roxy made a break for the top of the MegaDome. She jumped onto one of the brick half-walls, and then jumped from there to the hanging rail on the edge of the dome. She used her trademark Lalonde parkour to reach the dome, which was made of slippery rain-slicked aluminum. She’d managed to attract a lot of attention, especially from the authorities, so she moved quickly. Lalonde got onto her hands and knees and began to crawl all the way up to the top. The rain had begun to fall in sheets, coating the dome.

Nevertheless
she
continued
to
climb.

Her hand grabbed a large metal pole at the very top of the dome. Taped to the pole was a note. The writing was smudged, but still legible. Of course, it wasn’t hard to read, because it was just one word in bold black marker.

JUMP.

“Was this his plan, for me to kill myself off?” She asked aloud. Helicopters whirred overhead as she leaned on the cold, wet, metal pole, trying to keep her traction. She ripped the letter off the pole, only to find another note, again with one word.

PLEASE?

“Well, I guess I can’t argue with that logic.” She sighed. She gathered her feet under her and sprinted to the edge of the dome. She jumped. In another life she may have been a bird, but she was not a bird in this life, and she didn’t fly. Her body fell like a ragdoll, arms and legs flailing. Suddenly an arm from the window of a nearby building reached out and grabbed her. Another arm soon followed. The two arms pulled her inside.

They met each other’s eyes and sparks ignited. Roxy couldn’t believe her current state: alive. Her body was laid down on the hardwood floor of the arms’ 32nd floor apartment. The room smelled like coffee and the music was catchy. All she knew was magic and breathing. All he knew was that he made quite a catch. Roxy sat up, still breathing heavily. Eridan just crouched, staring and smiling with tears in his eyes.

“Why are you crying?” Roxy finally broke the silence.

“Shouldn’t I be the one crying?”

Roxy examined him from head to toe, his hair brown with a purple swoosh. He wore a scarf the same as the one with the note. His eyes were a striking hazel, and his hands were warm. He wore stripey pants and a cloak. He seemed like a real goofball, and maybe that’s what drew them together.

“Eridan. My name’s Eridan.” He said, offering his hand. Tears were streaming down his face.

Roxy grabbed his hand to pull herself up, and then she hugged him.

“I’m so sorry. I just—needed to know.”

“Know what, crazy riddle man?”

“If anyone still trusted me. Life’s been rough. You remind me of someone I knew a long time back. I hope I didn’t terrify you.”

“Terrify me? You mortified me, entombed me in a shroud of fear and then drowned me in a river of tears and mayhem. But, you know what? I’m completely fine with it.” She said, entirely satisfied of her decision.

“Care for some coffee? Maybe we can get to know each other in a way that’s more… traditional,” Eridan said, with a smirk crawling on his face.

“Sure! I’d love that.”

The two, bound by thread, sat down and started talking.

Image of Roxy and Human!Eridan embracing

---
As Eridan unfolded the last riddle, he felt a thrill rising in his chest. Part of the feeling was relief that he finally overcame the second riddle. Part was a newfound respect for the game he was playing, and its orchestrator. Hiding her last clue in her typos showed both a self-awareness and an imagination Eridan found himself not only respecting, but enjoying. He saw the riddles in a different light. It wasn’t as a laughable challenge from a moron, but an intriguing quest from a worthy opponent. Perhaps the girl could even be a seadweller. The note read:

good job eridan ;) one more to ggo
just pour me a drink on the rox

Something was off. This was too obvious. Nearby there was a small waterfall where fresh water tumbled onto the rocky shore. He reached it in a few minutes, and couldn’t help but smile. He hadn’t overestimated her after all.

Some kind of portal, a yawning black void, had been opened in the rocks behind the water. Above it, she had written:

do you trust me?

He knew he shouldn’t. He’d killed a thousand troll’s lusii. He had enemies. Even as he stepped into the portal, he couldn’t call the action “trust.” His trust wasn’t won that easily. However, neither was his respect, and she’d somehow managed to win that.

There was dark, and cold, and falling in the void. He almost didn’t believe it when his feet touched down on solid ground. After his eyes readjusted to reality, she was there. Sitting on her bed in what was unmistakably her hive was a pretty rust blood with an unrestrained grin and a nearly drained martini glass.

“Wwho are you? Wwhy me?”

“Roxiin Lalond. A lil’ spider told me all about you, seemed super keen to vent. Prob’ly meant me to take it to my grave, all of her pretty backhanded black compliments. But I have crazy awesome psychic powers. Teleported outta there before her spidermom got me like a straight-up fuckin’ boss. I had’ta see what all her fuss was about. Have to say, I’m not disappointed.”

He wished he could say he wasn’t, but he couldn’t. Her blood color was a disappointment. However, he’d guessed her hemospectrum position the second he saw the portal. Something like that had to be psychically produced, and only lowbloods had that kind of power. He’d still stepped through. He’d still wanted to.

“I think it’s time for your prize,” she said. “Close your eyes and get ready.”

He did, feeling incredibly foolish for both taking a lowblood’s order and entertaining her delusions of magic. Footsteps crossed the floor, and suddenly her arms were around him. To his own surprise, he found himself hugging her back. Maybe that was all the “magic” she had, but strangely enough, with that touch, he wasn’t disappointed anymore.

“Is this the magic?” he asked.

“No, just a preview. The magic’s just getting started.”

Image of Eridan and Troll!Roxy embracing

Date: 2012-08-05 11:08 pm (UTC)
grausam: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grausam
Nicely constructed :) I wondered how they could meet and this was a nice solution.
She wondered whether there was actually coffee inside it or not, but that was irrelevant right now.
Oh! I know this is a reference to something, but I just can't remember!

Date: 2012-08-19 01:27 am (UTC)
drbl1ndlov3: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drbl1ndlov3
Eeeee, this was really cute and creative! I was wondering how they'd end up together at the end of it. The riddles were pretty clever too. Good job! :D

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