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Act 6 Intermission 5, Part 2 of 5
Imagine a gigantic balloon shaped like the number 100 filling your screen right now.
Well, I did it. After four long years, I’ve reached the 100th installment of my Homestuck post series (which will hopefully not be my last Homestuck post of 2019) on the first anniversary of this post series’ resurrection. I worked on this post sort of on and off over the course of a month, because I know well that with my Homestuck posts I’m either absurdly fast or absurdly slow. I’m rather pleased with what material my 100th post turned out to cover: Aranea’s explanation of Lord English’s backstory, a villain we’ve known about since the Midnight Crew intermission.
I must say, having these posts’ numbers in the triple digits now is really goddamn weird. It now officially feels like this is a project I’ve gotten way too carried away with—not that it didn’t before, but this is just the nail in the coffin for me getting carried away. If I keep doing about 50 pages per post, this means that I’ll reach the end of Homestuck around post 140; realistically, probably quite a few more posts than that. The end of Homestuck won’t be the end of this post series though—I will continue with the epilogues, and IF IT BECOMES ACTUALLY GOOD, Homestuck^2 as well. Again speaking realistically, I estimate that I will reach the end of Homestuck in these posts in early 2021, which is a weird date to consider, almost like I’m a Hollywood studio announcing the release date for a movie or something. In any case, 100 posts is one HELL of a milestone.
POST-COMPLETION UPDATE: After reaching the end of Homestuck, I no longer have plans to make blog posts going through the epilogues—no not out of dislike for the epilogues, but rather because I feel like I’ve already said everything I wanted to about them in other posts. Also, Homestuck^2 never happened.
… Alright, let’s stop rambling and get on with Cookie Fonster Dissects Homestuck Part 100!!!
A fitting image for my 100th post if I say so myself.
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 2 is immediately followed by a scene showing us what John is up to. He’s sleeping on the couch, dreaming in a bubble amidst the cracks in paradox space formed by Lord English to complete an enormous circle of stupidity, which I mean both literally and figuratively. This image humorously calls back to Caliborn’s approximation of a circle with a mess of lines, showing that some things about him just never change.
Oh man, I forgot how good all this shattering dream bubble art was. John enters the damaged memories of an expansive ocean and is noticed by Meenah and Aranea, who start the scene off with a silly moment:
This scene’s going to be a lot of fun to go through, I can just tell.
Vriska and Tavros are there too, and all four are wearing pirate costumes of some sort. Tavros is in a variant of his old roleplaying Pupa Pan outfit, Vriska also in the roleplaying spirit with a long pirate coat, Meenah same as usual but with a fish-branded hat, and Aranea has gone full fashionista with a replication of Mindfang’s dress. Meenah’s outfit humorously shows us that she doesn’t care much for fashion, while Aranea’s outfit is a hint at her more sinister side.
Vriska boasts to John about her progress fighting Lord English: her plan to chase English’s cracks in reality has gone exactly as she hoped and she isn’t brought down much by the fact that English sent them all in a huge circle. She then introduces John to the rest of her crew, which happens to include these two oddballs:
Aradia isn’t wearing a new outfit at all, just dressed as the same perpetually smiling time fairy as ever. Sollux isn’t much in the pirate spirit either, aside from double eyepatches colored red and blue for throwback’s sake.
VRISKA: These are my friends, Aradia and Sollux.
VRISKA: I have recruited them for this expedition as specialists.
VRISKA: They aren’t really here to do any fighting. 8ut their a8ilities will 8ecome useful once we retrieve the treasure.
JOHN: are you alive?
JOHN: your eyes do not look spooky and ghostly.
ARADIA: yes im alive
VRISKA: Yeah, and apparently she intends to stay that way?
VRISKA: Hence her principled if somewhat lame commitment to pacifism.
VRISKA: 8ut considering our history together, I’m willing to let 8ygones 8e 8ygones. I’m happy to have her on my crew in whatever capacity she likes.
JOHN: your history? what happened?
JOHN: wait, that’s a rude question. sorry.
TAVROS: (vRISKA KILLED HER TOO,)
TAVROS: (sHE USED THE OTHER GUY THERE, tRAGICALLY, aS THE DEATH WEAPON,)
VRISKA: What did I say a8out 8ygones 8eing 8ygones? That’s like rule fucking ONE of this ship.
VRISKA: Anyway, she 8ecame a ro8ot and killed me 8ack, so o8viously we’re cool now.
JOHN: jeez, why does everyone always die so much?
SOLLUX: (l0l, like this guy’s 0ne t0 talk.)
ARADIA: (sollux dont make our guest uncomfortable)
SOLLUX: (he’s already unc0mf0rtable, and he sh0uld be. we all sh0uld be.)
ARADIA: really i havent thought about any of that in a long time
ARADIA: ancient conflicts dont mean anything to me anymore but i was more than thrilled by the opportunity to go on another adventure like this
ARADIA: we used to enjoy such campaigns together all the time when we were younger
ARADIA: of course now the teams are a little different 🙂
VRISKA: Yeah! Man, those were the days.
This lighthearted troll reunion scene has some rather morbid undertones with all the Vriska morality, but thankfully god tier Aradia is probably the most forgiving character in the entire comic. She’s been an oddball member of the trolls ever since she was first introduced. When Vriska killed her through mind controlling Sollux (which EVERYONE FORGETS, HOW DOES EVERYONE FORGET THAT), she permanently destroyed Aradia’s role as a regular character with a regular arc; when she came back to life, her role in the story shifted to a friendly mystical fairy troll who everyone’s vaguely acquainted with. It’s quite obvious Sollux cares so much about her only for nostalgic reasons, because most of his interactions with her from her resurrection onwards are a bunch of one-sided bickering.
Here’s an example of Sollux playing the role of the straight man. His moral debate with Vriska has her point out a bit of hypocrisy on Sollux’s part regarding “inferior” alternate selves, and serves as a precursor to an extremely memorable scene with her and John that can range from being triumphant to an absolute gut punch depending how you feel about Vriska. Whatever your position is, you can’t blame someone like Vriska for not taking the time to get to know all a bunch of dead copies of her friends.
ARADIA: ive met most of those nepetas theyre all very nice
VRISKA: Oh shut up.
Aradia then humorously chimes in, revealing that she actually has taken the time to get to know the myriads of doomed troll ghosts. Only she could say that all the dead Nepetas she has met are very nice without coming off as taking a side in this moral debate; it’s just a random smiley remark characteristic of god tier Aradia.
JOHN: and what about all those ships up ahead?
JOHN: are they part of the treasure hunt too?
VRISKA: Of course!
VRISKA: That’s my army.
VRISKA: Ok, I mean OUR army.
VRISKA: 8ut like, on 8oats.
JOHN: isn’t an army on boats usually called a navy?
VRISKA: John, help me out. I seem to 8e having trou8le remem8ering which one of us is the captain.
VRISKA: Was it the dork in 8lue pajamas, or was it the veteran sailor in the rad captain’s coat?
VRISKA: That’s right, the captain was me! And I say it’s an army that happens to 8e on a 8unch of 8oats.
TAVROS: (oHHHHHH, oHH DAMN,)
TAVROS: (hE GOT SMOKED! wOW, sO SMOKED,)
TAVROS: (mEENAH, dID YOU CATCH THOSE SICK FIRES,)
MEENAH: (no but for reel it pretty much is a navy)
MEENAH: (just sayin)
It absolutely cracks me up that Vriska knows so little on military matters. It nicely fits her character that she isn’t knowledgeable on such matters, instead focused on geeky roleplaying metrics, especially those involving the number 8. We’re going to get quite a few more such gags as this act, wait I mean this sub-intermission, goes on.
Fun fact: all twelve Alternian trolls except for Equius make a visual appearance in Act 6 Intermission 5.
Morality debates aside, you can’t argue that Vriska’s pirate obsession is a genuinely endearing classic Homestuck-style character interest. She took the time to give her crew a bunch of different pirate titles like Captain, Admiral, and Poopmaster without having a clue what those titles mean.
JOHN: how do you mind control so many ghosts at once?
JOHN: isn’t that kind of hard?
VRISKA: Well, I do have a little help.
VRISKA: John, did I mention?
VRISKA: My ancestor……..
VRISKA: She is THE 8EST.
JOHN: she is?
ARANEA: I must admit, I was not in favor of the idea at first.
ARANEA: 8ut Vriska made a very strong case for using our com8ined powers in this way.
ARANEA: In a perfect reality, no one would have to get hurt. 8ut the stakes are too high to 8e shying away from such measures.
VRISKA: See what I mean??
VRISKA: The 8est.
ARANEA: It has 8een wonderful spending so much time on this adventure with my descendant.
ARANEA: Not just 8ecause it’s helped me get to know her 8etter, 8ut 8ecause it’s opened my eyes to things a8out myself I was never really in touch with.
ARANEA: There are certain capa8ilities within me I have never quite 8een a8le to face, and she’s helped me realize I’ve 8een hiding from them all my life, and well 8eyond.
ARANEA: It must 8e true what they used to say on my world. That if you really want to know who you are, look to the legacy left 8ehind 8y your ancestor.
ARANEA: I think that wisdom works in 8oth directions!
VRISKA: Well put, Marquise. I’ve always felt the exact same way!
I have an important announcement to make:
Aranea Serket is FUCKING EVIL.
Despite my extremely conflicting opinions on Vriska-related matters, I don’t think Vriska is at all to blame for Aranea awakening her sinister inner self. The very existence of Aranea’s exposition booth in the Openbound games shows that she never perceived her teammates much as people and thus was barely friends with any of them, except for Meenah. Meeting Vriska probably made Aranea start to see other people even more as pawns in a game, which led to the catastrophic events of [S] GAME OVER.
MEENAH: oh my glub the serk twins bein adorbubble again
MEENAH: nitram get your mop ready for swabbin up all this vomit comin out ma mouth
TAVROS: eW, nO,
MEENAH: can you two stick a fork in the sentimental carp
MEENAH: maybe pretend you aint hit it off so good
MEENAH: you ever stop and think how this makes me feel
ARANEA: There’s no reason to 8e jealous, Meenah. You know nothing has changed a8out our friendship.
MEENAH: bitch no
MEENAH: just makes me think about my kid descendant
MEENAH: an how instead of having this cool friendsy relation with her i just got this uncontrollable urge to stab her to death so she dont threaten my supremacy
MEENAH: which is a shame cuz she so cute 38(
MEENAH: cod damn my royal blood and the cray junk it makes me have to do
MEENAH: aw well
MEENAH: maybe some day ill find an heiress who my genes dont instinctively make me wanna murder on sight
MEENAH: then i can teach her the badass ways of being a boss n shit!
JOHN: (god, trolls are so weird.)
This upsetting bit probably serves as a justification of sorts for keeping Feferi out of the story: because of her fuchsia-blooded instincts, Meenah just can’t form a bond with Feferi like the other dancestor pairs have. Meenah’s struggles with morality in this act (screw calling it a “sub-intermission”) are going to be pretty fun to analyze.
Oh man, here’s where Aranea’s exposition instinct kicks in. I forgot that the role Aranea plays in the story aside from being FUCKING EVIL is as an exposition fallback character. Exposition sequences narrated by characters became a necessity once the comic stopped using its usual narration as often, and I guess Hussie decided it would be convenient to make exposition a defining trait of Vriska’s corresponding pre-scratch troll. As I said just a few paragraphs ago, I think this absurd love for storytelling tells you a lot about what kind of person Aranea is.
Oh man, I love the ship crew’s exasperated reaction to Aranea gleefully restarting her cherub story, which John supposedly interrupted when he arrived on the ship. Again, their reaction tells you a lot about Aranea.
The shot of Caliborn’s face with the text “WORLDBUILDING.” is the exact same one we saw in an extremely facetious trickster sequence where we learned about the seven Zilly kingdoms of cherub folklore. Or maybe it was six kingdoms? Damn, I can’t remember. In any case, both instances of this gag are blatant jabs at the tendency for sci-fi stories to include enormous amounts of gratuitous fanservicey worldbuilding in place of meaningful plot development. I think Hussie has stated before that he doesn’t enjoy worldbuilding at all, which makes sense the cherubs’ storyline frequently makes fun of that concept, just like it does with many other things Homestuck fans enjoy.
The text of this exposition sequence also begins on a humorous note, with Meenah jabbing at Aranea for her storytelling style. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, you can quickly tell Hussie had a lot of fun writing this prose-styled exposition sequence, especially because it had been quite a while since the last one. Or at least what feels like quite a while because of how incredibly slowly I went through the first few sub-acts of Act 6.
It shouldn’t take a very sharp eye to notice this cherub’s wings look like the Hope aspect symbol.
ARANEA: She spent eons roaming her galaxy, completely alone. 8ut the time had come for her to find a m8.
This is no small task for a cheru8. 8eing an asocial species, they spend virtually no time in each other’s presence at all. Aside from when it is time to m8, they may go their entire lives without encountering another. And so they scatter their num8ers throughout space, each staking a territory spanning many lightyears.
8ut like a predator is a8le to track the scent of its prey, a cheru8 can sense the presence of another near8y. This sense is especially strong if that cheru8 shares the same qualities its other half once had long ago, 8efore it experienced the matur8tion process known as predomin8tion.
Remember all the stuff Calliope told the alpha kids about her species back when we didn’t know she was a cherub? Here’s where it starts too become clear that what she said was a bunch of unintentional lies of omission. While it is true that cherubs never meet their genetic ancestors, and that their ancestors precede them by millennia, cherubs’ and trolls’ methods of reproduction and mating are as different as can be.
Here’s where Aranea’s words shift form a little bit: instead of speaking in the usual dialoglogs with lines preceded by character names, she’s now speaking in paragraphs resembling an easier to read version of Mindfang’s journal, which was no doubt the intention. This shift in narrative style may be intended as buildup towards her grand villainous turn.
Anyway, let’s go through the text itself.
You see, when a young cheru8 hatches, it would appear that only one creature has 8egun its life. 8ut the appearance is not to 8e trusted. The young cheru8 actually consists of two completely distinct 8eings, a male and a female each sharing one 8ody. The two halves are endowed with polar opposite predispositions as well. One predisposed toward malevolence, another toward 8enevolence. Good or evil, if you prefer to deal in simplistic terms, or at least those which are convenient for the sake of this story! I prefer to view the dichotomy as a kind of moral alignment, like an attri8ute that dict8tes the choices a character makes in certain types of games I used to play. The male and female halves can 8e aligned either way, as long as they differ from each other. The resulting conflict 8etween the two personalities is central to life as a cheru8, 8oth 8efore and after predomin8tion.
The underlined text has a detail I never noticed before: Aranea used to play roleplaying games much like Vriska and a few other Beforan trolls. Could it be that Aranea, Latula, Rufioh, and Damara all played a part in the cycle of revenge that led to Latula losing her sense of smell? That would make for an interesting (and humorously pathetic) parallel to the Alternian trolls’ cycle of revenge. Rufioh and Damara were passionate fans of all those pseudo-Japanese card games, while Latula is of course the certified GameGrl™.
On a less wildly speculatory note, Aranea notes that “good or evil” is a massive oversimplification when it comes to cherubs—a point that is heavily explored in the epilogues when ultimate selves start coming into play with Dirk, Rose, and god tier Calliope.
Shortly after hatching, the two halves 8egin vacill8ting, taking turns controlling the 8ody. The only physical differenti8tion 8etween the two is the color8tion of their cheek swirls, which indic8tes alignment. There is otherwise no way to tell male and female apart 8efore a cheru8 predomin8tes. The vacill8tion process is demarc8ted 8y sleep. When the male goes to sleep, the female wakes up. And when the male wakes up, again the female sleeps. And so it goes, 8ack and forth like this, as the two identities vie for dominance over the other, and ultim8tely, permanent control over the 8ody. They grow to detest one another, and develop a view of social interaction centered entirely around animosity and confront8tion. For good cheru8s, this readies them for a long life of isol8tion, as they will prefer to avoid the sort of conflict that comes with social interaction as they have 8een conditioned to understand it. 8ut for evil ones, the contentious up8ringing only serves to fuel their inclin8tion to harm others.
And though this duality makes for a tormented childhood, the inner conflict it cre8tes is an extremely important part of a young cheru8’s life. The defining part, actually. It is the struggle a cheru8 must overcome to mature, and this process culmin8tes in predomin8tion.
God tier Calliope and Calamity (according to the Skaianet Systems files) are both perfect examples of benevolent cherubs fulfilling their fates, while Lord English is just as good an example on the malevolent side. This gets me thinking about regular Calliope, who gets a happy fluffy friendship ending in Act 7 but fades into the background in both epilogues with little more than a vague mention of some existential hangups. It’s quite a tragic ending when you think about it, especially when compared to god tier Calliope’s abundant plot relevance.
One half will prove to have a stronger will than the other. The less dominant half will then weaken over time, and it will eventually 8ecome clear to 8oth that one will not survive. The dominant personality will then completely consume the other, integr8ting it in such a way that only one is left. The cheeks will 8ecome solidly colored, and the cheru8 will grow to maturity as a single 8eing, endowed with the alignment of the dominant half, and with all his or her personal qualities at the forefront of the union.
In the case of our heroine, she was the good half, and the day of her predomin8tion was in a sense the day her 8rother died. And though it was to her 8enefit and personal growth, 8ecause of this loss she would always live with a sense that something was missing. Every sexually mature cheru8 lives with this feeling. It drives them to seek out another cheru8 similar to the half they lost, the part of their 8eing which they grew up in perpetual conflict with. The desire to travel the universe in hopes of reigniting that conflict is very important to their species. It’s the force which compels them to procre8.
More stuff that gets me thinking about the non-god tier version of Calliope, who doesn’t wind up seeking a new rival or anything and instead starts living on Earth C with some upsetting existential discomfort. The part about sexual maturity is one of many reasons keeping Roxy and Calliope’s relationship ambiguous in the epilogues was a good decision.
So she set out to track his scent, as it were. And soon, she found a physical trail as well. A path of carnage left 8ehind 8y a particularly destructive male cheru8. She followed the de8ris from civilized worlds and star systems he left 8ehind, as if to mock her, to make it clear he knew of her pursuit and was all 8ut paving her way with the dead. His 8rutality made her more furious, thus setting the mood, so to speak, for their imminent courtship.
Let’s cool off on talking about the epilogues a little bit and instead make comparisons to earlier parts of the story. In this image, Calamity (the name of Calliope and Caliborn’s mother, according to Skaianet Systems) strongly resembles the Prospitian Monarch with the ring on, and her furiously chasing a trail of destroyed celestial bodies is sure to remind readers of Bec Noir. I knew for quite a while the cherubs’ parents had parallels with Noir and the Monarch, but I never realized until now how deep these parallels run.
Also, since Calliope and Caliborn’s mother has a questionably canon name now, it only makes sense that I make up a name for their father. I’m going to be calling Calliope and Caliborn’s father Callisto from here on out.
You probably already know the story of how these two fantrolls got into Homestuck. In case you don’t know, I think it went something this: two people paid for the absurdly expensive second highest tier on the Hiveswap Kickstarter, which allowed them to get their fantroll into Homestuck for one page and led to this panel.
These trolls are all of course brutally vaporized in the next panel. I have to say, though it’s very easy to tell this scene was a gratuitous cameo of someone else’s original characters, having them appear on one of the alien planets Callisto destroyed was a clever way to incorporate them, as well as raise some plot mysteries about the universe the cherubs come from—mysteries that are now commonly believed to have something to do with the meat/candy divergence. Hanging mysteries like this MIGHT be resolved in Homestuck^2, though it’s hard to get excited for it because the little we have so far is very poorly and sloppily written and just… not good. Like, I know the writers can do better than this.
… Damn, I’m getting off topic again. Let’s move on.
A cheru8 of his alignment is seemingly motiv8ted 8y little other than to conquer and destroy. From a 8ioexistential perspective, they 8ehave somewhat like viruses attacking the system from within. 8ut as with all sym8iotic organisms living within a universe, there are 8alancing factors. While those inha8iting an evil cheru8’s territory will regard it as an unpredicta8le tyrant, those in the territory of a good cheru8 will likely come to view it as a protector, waiting quietly for millenia in deep space, ready to attack any encroaching threat. In that sense, they are not unlike cells in a universal immune system.
This 8alance of forces allows sta8ility, such that life and new civiliz8tions can 8lossom and thrive within a universe, thus assuring the possi8ility of its own ela8orate procre8tion process. 8ut if that 8alance was ever distur8ed, it would lead to chaos in that 8iosystem. The universe could not survive for long. And if 8y some means a cheru8 with such destructive tendencies were to achieve unprecedented power, the resulting im8alance would 8e catastrophic for paradox space itself. And though the heroine of our story could have no way of knowing, this is exactly what would result from the pursuit of her kismesis.
What Aranea is saying here is that the cherubic biological balance in whatever iteration of Universe C this might be came to a boiling point when Calamity and Callisto mated and gave birth to one incredibly resilient cherub boy. Peaceful times erupting into unprecedented boiling points has been a theme in Homestuck since Act 1, and it only makes sense that Caliborn’s birth marked such a boiling point.
Like humans, cheru8s perceive romance through only one quadrant. Unlike humans, their rel8tionships are exclusively 8lack. 8ut their m8ting ritual is much more violent than any practice trolls would, or even physically could engage in. And though it is critical to the perpetu8tion of their race, the confront8tions can sometimes 8e lethal to one or 8oth cheru8s. Regardless of the outcome, the stakes are always high. The winner of the duel will assume control of the other’s territory, while the loser will slink away to 8ear the offspring. So as she toured the planetary wreckage, she knew her quest for a m8 was not just a8out the propag8tion of her species, 8ut the li8er8tion of 8illions from a monster.
She pursued him for many sweeps with mounting o8session, until one day the trail came to an end at a 8lack hole. Cheru8s typically seek out 8lack holes as the setting for their m8ting ritual. 8ut not any 8lack hole. Once long ago it was a star, and circling that star was a planet. That planet was home to one of the presently sparring cheru8s. The male in this case returned to the site of his hatching to m8, a loc8tion now conspicuously occupied 8y a truly massive 8lack hole.
This was where she found him. And this was where they would duel.
Aranea’s description of cherubs seeking black holes is incredibly reminiscent of what god tier Calliope does in Act 7, which is a parallel I never realized until now. God tier Calliope carried on her mother’s spirit in a rather extreme way: instead of seeking out a black hole to confront an enormous evil, she made a black hole. How goddamn badass is THAT?! It’s also uncomfortably incestuous when you think about it.
White wings, black wings… the Noir and PM parallels are more obvious than ever.
The rainbow aura coming from the mating cherubs suggests that some of Lord English’s powers are regular adult cherub powers, not god tier powers or first guardian powers.
Aranea then reveals something mind-blowing: cherubs turn into GIGANTIC SNAKES when they reproduce.
The intertwined snake tails strongly resemble Calliope’s little suit icon.
The tangled struggle 8etween the green aus is exceedingly 8rutal and can last for sweeps. While dueling in such a monstrous form, their energy is inexhausti8le. The transform8tion taps into the cheru8s’ latent connection with the enigmatic forces presiding over all that is eternal, and perme8ting all those endowed with immortality. Normally this power is only accessi8le to them during m8ting. In this form, they are only a8le to 8e injured 8y one another, and are otherwise indestructi8le. Hence the ritual can never 8e stopped 8y an outside force until it is complete.
I think I get it now. What Aranea is implying is that Lord English gained permanent access to the powers cherubs normally only have when mating, presumably after he became muscular.
This image is the grand fulfillment of the little glimpse at intertwined snakes we got right before the trickster arc: turns out that brief shot is exactly what cherubs look like when they’re having sex.
After losing the reproductive duel, Callisto laid the egg that would hatch Calliope and Caliborn on Earth, reportedly after it had been relocated to a new sun and after the rise and fall of new civilizations.
This panel calls back to the crater left by the meteor in John’s house in [S] WV: Ascend, which is a pretty fun thing to throw back to.
Also note the JPEG Statue of Liberty near the crater, in case this planet being Earth wasn’t obvious already.
From that egg hatched one very special cheru8 with two names – one that few will ever know, and one that few should ever say.
What’s the word for a plot point that’s hyped up and never turns out to be relevant in the slightest? Whatever that word is, it perfectly describes the deal with Calliope and Caliborn’s names—I think the whole thing of saying their names being incredibly dangerous was probably devised only because it sounds cool, like the Mirthful Messiahs or the numerals of the blind prophets. I’m guessing that Calliope is the name few will ever know (which turns out false, she is a celebrated creator on Earth C) and Caliborn is the one few should ever say (I mean, no characters have tried it, so what do we know).
A fascin8ting thing a8out cheru8 reproduction is how the parent’s alignment is passed on to the young. If the male lays the egg, the alignments of the child’s two halves will 8e the same as the parents. If the female lays the egg, the alignments will 8e flipped, and the young male and female halves will 8e endowed with opposite alignments of the parents. As such, the male half took after his father. Perhaps the son even exceeded him in violent tendencies. It is hard to imagine there has ever 8een a cheru8 more willfully destructive or as stu88ornly dedic8ted to conquest than the monstrosity he would grow up to 8ecome.
The difference between what happens when cherubs lay eggs depending on their sex is the closest cherubs seem to have to gender roles, which sets them apart from humans and trolls. This is just something I’m pointing out because I can—I don’t care much for analyzing Homestuck in terms of gender allegory like a lot of readers seem to adore doing, mostly because I have no idea most of the time what those people are talking about.
Oh my fucking god, it’s Gamzee again. Hussie has said in his book commentary that he intended for the Con Air Bunny to become a plot-relevant item and figured out how to make it relevant as he wrote the story—I wonder if Gamzee’s presence on the cherubs’ earth was similarly designed as something for Hussie to figure out as he went along? Maybe that holds true for Gamzee’s plot relevance in general, now that I think of it.
Due to his indomita8le nature, I 8elieve victory over his sister was a foregone conclusion. 8arring a highly impro8a8le glitch in causality, it would 8e almost impossi8le for her to predomin8te over someone like him. And even so, he didn’t have the patience to w8. Unfortun8tely for everyone to ever exist, he discovered a way to predomin8te early. Yet it was not this act alone that would prove ominous, so much as the means through which it was achieved. He was allowed to 8ecome the solo player of a game which his kind was never meant to play.
And so, it is with the predomin8tion of her son that our heroine’s story ends, and the story of our villain 8egins.
Aranea ends the first half of her exposition segment with a description of Caliborn’s extremely dangerous narrative relevance, a relevance that I almost view like an Achilles’ heel now. Towards the end of the comic, being “relevant to the story” is all Lord English has going for him and eventually characters talk about how he’s not worth caring about; by the time the kids are 23 years old, the only reason Lord English still has to be defeated is to seal a hole in canon, which Rose’s visions tell her is important. I actually think it’s a cool narrative thing to have the fulfillment of Caliborn’s Masterpiece to come from “outside canon”, which makes for an interesting deconstruction of the concept of plot point fulfillment.
Meenah then says she has to go to the bathroom, switching the story back to goofy troll shenanigan mode. Feferi and Nepeta are here too now, ready to have some cute little background moments because Hussie didn’t care enough to give them dialogue.
Aradia, Sollux, and Tavros scoot towards Nepeta and Feferi, making for a cute little troll reunion. Aradia looks friendly as ever, Sollux stoic as ever, and Tavros smiles and presents them a chest…
… with pirate accessories for both of them. Looks like Tavros had brought this chest with him in case any other trolls were to join the party. Not every day do you see the guy coming so prepared like this.
Through humorous jabs, Meenah feeds readers some hints about what sort of person Aranea is about to turn into. I’ll save further analysis of how Aranea’s evil twist is executed for when she starts wrecking things in Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 2.
Please take a moment to appreciate Nepeta and Feferi’s new pirate outfits.
JOHN: can we hear more about the snakes and whatnot? it was a pretty cool story.
ARANEA: Yes! ::::D
ARANEA: As soon as Meenah returns from her visit to the load gaper.
MEENAH: HOLY MACK-ER-EL CAN YOU S)(ITFUCKS JUST -ENJOY YOUR SPAC-E LIZARD PORN W)(IL-E I TAK-E A FUCKING PISS???
ARANEA: I think we could all stand to take a 8rief intermission from the story regardless, to let all these intriguing facts a8out cheru8s sink in.
MEENAH: you and your intermissions
MEENAH: what is with your intermissions they aint even intermissions most of the time
MEENAH: they just an excuse to tell another dumb story inside a longer dumb story
And fish puns are Meenah’s weakness as usual. I do appreciate that the story is doing an interfishin instead of an intermission to spice things up.
The Interfishin is a short little flash where most of the trolls on the ship play Elevatorstuck while Meenah goes to the bathroom and Sollux falls down the stairs, then Meenah comes back up very confused. This page is fun because it shows us what instruments some of the trolls can play, a pattern we had seen with the beta kids in the early acts. Feferi as a bassist reminds me of Jade, while Tavros on acoustic guitar is only natural given his Spanish bullfighter theming. Nepeta on maracas matches her role as a joke character, Aradia on chimes matches her role as the mysterious one, and Aranea on flute matches with how she dreams of being a mystical exposition fairy. Vriska on marimba is an unusual choice that seems to arise from the process of elimination.
Back to the cherubs’ story, Aranea narrates Calliope and Caliborn’s birth without knowing that Gamzee was there for it as a sweet, loving clown guardian.
ARANEA: When a cheru8 hatches, the two undeveloped personalities mingle together in the same 8ody. There is not yet a clear division 8etween the two.
ARANEA: It will then consume the egg shell for the vital nutrients it contains. The sugary snack is irresisti8le to the starving wiggler.
ARANEA: Once it finishes its first meal, the two personalities will 8e pulled apart for good, and the child will pup8.
ARANEA: The two halves then 8egin vacill8ting with their sleep cycles, as I descri8ed.
As Aranea explains, cherub eggs are made of candy which is one of their two vital nutrients. Kind of funny to think that to humans, cherub eggshells would taste like extremely sweet candy instead of something indigestible.
Gamzee’s codpiece diapers for the cherubs are a little detail that cracks me up whenever I notice it. His newly revealed role as the cherubs’ guardian seems frightening at first…
ARANEA: As you might expect, the female child was as cheerful and friendly as could 8e.
ARANEA: She took after her mother in every way. At least, the way her mother used to 8e, long 8efore she was hardened 8y centuries of isol8tion and o8sessive pursuit of justice.
… but it turns out his style of parenting meshes perfectly with Calliope’s personality. This little scene is genuinely adorable and sweet, which is the first time in ages the comic has portrayed Gamzee anywhere near that ballpark.
Baby Caliborn is as hilarious as he sounds: unlike Calliope, he reacts to Gamzee the way any even remotely sane person would. Both cherubs’ relationships with Gamzee express extremes of Homestuck fans’ viewpoints of controversial characters: Calliope thinks he is a sweet and kind person deep down and deserves a wholesome redemption arc, while Caliborn tries to murder him upon first sight and keeps doing so until he realizes the clown is useful for advancing his schemes.
ARANEA: And to just as little surprise, the male child was an insuffera8le 8rat.
This scene tells you all you need to know about Caliborn. Usually he’s a petty immature brat who whines about everything, but he can be surprisingly vicious whenever he wants.
ARANEA: It is just as well that cheru8 parents a8andon their offspring. Raising such a child 8y the familial standards of any race would 8e a monumental challenge.
ARANEA: Nevertheless, it would seem there were those who tried.
ARANEA: Details in my research suggest our villain had a num8er of acolytes oper8ting in the shadows, preparing for his arrival.
ARANEA: We will pro8a8ly never know who these scurrilous conspir8tors were. 8ut it is evident that at some point the cheru8 was locked in a room, either out of exasper8tion, or for its own good, until it was old enough to enter the session.
That’s some amusing dramatic irony right there. Aranea has no idea that one of the post-scratch trolls raised the cherubs due to his sheer narrative relevance, probably because she never put stock into Kurloz’s clown religion and would similarly ignore any evidence that Gamzee is relevant to the plot.
This image upholds Homestuck’s longstanding tradition of incorporating real-life brands into the story’s plot and characters. Though not as prominent of an example as the likes of Betty Crocker, it’s rather fitting that Jujubes are among the candy Calliope and Caliborn were provided with during their childhood.
ARANEA: The children were left with everything a young cheru8 could ever want. Meat, candy, computers, a lifetime supply of special stardust, and of course their precious jujus.
ARANEA: The acolytes had clearly gone to gr8 lengths to harvest such items from all over the cosmos, so they could lavish their young master with gifts.
ARANEA: They may have 8een prisoners, yes. 8ut if you ask me, these children were very spoiled.
“Harvest such items from all over the cosmos”? Hahaha, yeah right. Gamzee probably just made all of this stuff using the alchemiters on the trolls’ meteor. (Why did I never think of that until now???)
Aranea proceeds to recap some stuff from the cherubs’ storyline that we already knew, with a few scenes from [S] Caliborn: Enter adapted into gifs. She reiterates what Hussie told Caliborn about his near-unbeatable session, and repeats that he is a very special cherub.
I like how there are blank spaces in this image where two words describing the planet would normally go.
As Aranea explains, Caliborn’s Sburb session is focused around meticulously unlocking features that are available right from the start in most sessions—a challenge the cherub was eager to take on and performed every step of as needed.
ARANEA: With perseverance, he found the final door and unlocked it.
ARANEA: W8ting for him on the other side was a terri8le creature named Yalda8aoth.
ARANEA: His denizen would allow him a 8rief audience. One just long enough for him to make The Choice.
ARANEA: No denizen has ever 8een mistaken for pleasant company. 8ut the self-proclaimed god of all monsters is notoriously inhospita8le to his players.
ARANEA: His choices are known for their wild extremes.
ARANEA: And to this player, in this session, he offered his most extreme choice of all.
ARANEA: It was the choice 8etween a path of conquest, and a path of sacrifice.
ARANEA: 8ut this is putting it lightly.
ARANEA: In a tongue only his player could understand, he descri8ed what the path of the martyr entailed.
ARANEA: In short, it involved nothing.
ARANEA: The player chooses to walk away from the tempt8tion of power. To surrender all am8ition, and to welcome death.
ARANEA: In exchange for this pledge comes a promise. The player’s sacrifice is assured to 8enefit all who will ever live.
ARANEA: In death, the player would later 8e in the position to help 8ring an end to a force of unfathoma8le evil and destruction.
ARANEA: A force which was unleashed, for instance, 8y someone who once opted for the other choice.
Aranea is hinting at the existence of other dead session players who counteracted Lord English by accepting Yaldabaoth’s alternative choice. She’s quite clearly referring to the version of Calliope who predominated, which is a little weird because her denizen was Echidna and not Yaldabaoth. Though maybe it makes sense because both of them are described in the story as the big deal denizens.
ARANEA: Yalda8aoth then descri8ed what it meant to choose the path of the conqueror.
ARANEA: It was a path for a more active player, to 8e sure. The player’s mettle as a conquering force would 8e tested directly, and repeatedly.
ARANEA: One 8y one, he would have to conquer and destroy a num8er of planets spawned for him in the session. Each would 8e more difficult than the last.
ARANEA: After destroying them all, his true land would 8ecome unlocked.
ARANEA: He would then return to face his denizen again, and defeat him in com8at.
ARANEA: If successful, his reward would 8e unprecedented.
ARANEA: He would receive the 8oon of unconditional immortality, where resurrection would not 8e linked with the just or heroic nature of death.
ARANEA: It is unclear how this 8oon would 8e awarded, since to my knowledge it is 8eyond even the a8ility of a denizen to allow this.
ARANEA: 8ut through whatever mechanism the 8oon is 8estowed, immortality is only the 8eginning.
ARANEA: The player is somehow also im8ued with a limitless supply of power. Enough to destroy anything he wanted, for as long as he wanted.
ARANEA: And knowing the villain of our story, anything he wanted would be everything. And as long as he wanted would be forever.
ARANEA: Yes, knowing our villain, the choice he would make is quite clear.
ARANEA: Knowing him, in fact, proves it could hardly 8e considered a choice at all.
The mystery of how Caliborn got conditional immortality is answered in Act 7 in anime form, which is an unusual format to fulfill plot mysteries. I find it funny in retrospect that the ending of Homestuck’s canon was a cryptic anime flash—I accept it as a deliberately confusing part of the “experience”, a leadup to the epilogues and the issue of John’s anime dreams.
After choosing the path of the conqueror, Caliborn’s Skaia collapses into a black hole and unleashes fifteen pool ball planets for Caliborn to destroy. However, three of those planets—the ones corresponding to the Felt members who were already killed before the intermission started—were sucked into the black hole, leaving behind twelve planets to destroy just like the trolls’ Sburb session. The beta kids’ Jack Noir destroyed all twelve of the trolls’ planets without even thinking about it; is it any wonder Caliborn cooperates so easily with his version of Jack?
Caliborn’s pool ball planets are bigger than I thought they were, given the helpful Earth size comparison on the top right corner. Each of them is about the size of Mars! That’s something I never realized before.
Aranea tells us that Caliborn’s mission isn’t quite to detonate these planets, but to do the following for each planet in order: conquer the planet, defeat its boss, retrieve a bomb from the core, take the bomb to a designated location, and move on to the next planet before the bomb sucks the planet he is on into the black hole. The obligatory callback to Snowman, the one Felt member the Midnight Crew could not kill, is done interestingly: Caliborn must destroy the eighth planet last, or else it’s a permanent game over.
And once he destroys the eighth planet, his true land will unlock: a land whose name is currently obfuscated, not to be revealed until the grand finale of Caliborn’s narrative shenanigans.
This panel calls back to one of the first times we ever saw the Felt, back when they were just characters from the beta kids’ favorite comics.
The serious portion of Aranea’s tale concludes with a tie-in to where we are now in Caliborn’s story arc: he’s in the process of unlocking his army of leprechauns who would later be named the Felt. We already knew this during Act 6 Intermission 5’s sub-intermissions, making this a fitting place to switch the tone to extreme fandom satire.
ARANEA: With each planet he destroys, he will 8e awarded a new leprechaun follower.
ARANEA: Even if a planet was destroyed in the 8r8k, he will still 8e awarded that planet’s leprechaun upon destroying the planet preceding it. Sort of like a two for one deal!
ARANEA: Yes, John!
ARANEA: I’m delighted to see you have pounced on what is clearly the most interesting part of the story thus far.
ARANEA: Leprechauns are a fascin8ting mythical race, although there is some dispute among scholars as to whether they are actually a 8reed of gnome.
ARANEA: I can’t say I 8lame you for 8eing speechless. There are no dou8t hundreds of questions swirling in your head at once a8out these wonderful creatures.
ARANEA: Where do I even 8egin? You must forgive me, I find it very difficult to resist going on at length a8out them. I just think they are so gr8.
ARANEA: For instance, I can and have given lectures for weeks at a time on their marvelous and widely varying magical a8ilities.
ARANEA: More intriguing yet would 8e any medium-to-longform harangue on the topic of their culture and customs, most of which revolve around luck.
ARANEA: 8ut most captiv8ting of all, and the su8ject upon which I will now assiduously expound, would 8e the positively scintill8ting su8ject of leprechaun romance.
This image cracks me up every time I look at it.
Aranea’s obsession with leprechauns is a parody of Homestuck fans’ obsession with trolls, even more farcical than Calliope’s obsession with trolls. I don’t care what anyone says, this parody of the troll romance exposition section is the funniest fucking thing in the world. Like seriously, I’m reading this exposition and I can’t stop goddamn laughing, it’s so good.
ARANEA: While their romance is endlessly captiv8ting, leprechaun reproduction may 8e the most interesting su8ject of all. Particularly from a perspective of detailed anatomical study, which I will get to shortly. 8ut first it 8ears pointing out that while for humans reproductive relationships are exclusively heterosexual, and for trolls they are 8isexual, for leprechauns they-
VRISKA: WOW, WHAT A STORY!!!!!!!!
ARANEA: 8ut I wasn’t fin-
VRISKA: WASN’T THAT STORY GR8 EVERYONE?
And of course Vriska has to interrupt and ruin the fun because she’s a big meanie.
Vriska transparently pretends to praise Aranea’s story and gives her dancestor a hug, then this happens:
This is an amusing little moment that shows the start of a new friendship: ghost Meenah and ghost Vriska. It’s a very fun dynamic that would later become a ship, but it backfired HARD when Hussie started to notice fans debating over Meenah and Vriska’s age difference, which makes this whole relationship and the way it was handled a matter of controversy that I’ll probably discuss when it’s addressed in-comic.
That’s the end for today. See you next time as OH MY GOD TEREZI WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT.