(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized liberated jokes.)
As it turns out, Act 6 marked the introduction of two sessions with import on the final outcome of the war, and the other one isn’t the one that has come to be called “A1”, the pre-Scratch troll session, though we have become quite acquainted with it. Rather, it’s the supposedly two-player session involving the two personages who have made contact with the kids.
The first sign of this, of course, was the cryptic panel during Dirk’s description of the rise of the Condesce depicting what appeared to be Lord English with his legs in shackles with the Ophiuchus and Serpentarius symbols on them. Recently, however, we’ve also seen actual events within their session (and their home) depicted, even though we didn’t even know their names. We’ve also learned a lot more about the relationship between them, the sort of world they live in, and the backdrop for their session.
As it turns out, the two of them are not trolls at all, but an entirely new race called cherubs. Considering some of the things Calliope has said in the past that backed up the notion of her being a troll, combined with her explanation for presenting that impression, it’s worth wondering how many of those things are still trustworthy. If they can, then cherubs have unique blood colors like trolls, with Calliope being a “lime blood” and her brother having human- and Karkat- like red blood.
What we know for certain is that, if you thought the trolls were isolated, they have nothing on cherubs, who apparently live their entire lives completely isolated from anyone else, to the point that the only other person who knows what Calliope looks like is her brother. This isolation also explains why her brother got so turned on by two humans merely touching one another when Dirk drew it for him. Although cherubs apparently do have a form of romance, they have no equivalent to human romantic love and only ever meet another cherub to mate, in a “highly confrontational and violent” fashion; my impression is that it’s probably what it would be like if humans only had “spade” relationships instead of “heart” relationships. (In addition to the clues from her brother, Calliope once told Dirk that “my species has a completely different Understanding of romance than yoU do. it woUld probably offend yoU deeply. it might even sicken yoU!”) Calliope also once told Jake, though she was still keeping up appearances of being a troll at the time, that she “never knew those who one woUld identify as my parental eqUivalents”, explaining that “oUr ancestors precede Us by millenia.”
Oh, and she also happens to bear a striking resemblance to Lord English.
Apparently they live inside a building on a meteor that’s stuck in some planet with a bunch of Statues of Liberty very near a red giant on the verge of death, which is probably what they need the game to escape from. It’s been implied they may be the only two on the entire planet, and that they have no idea who previously inhabited it (cherubs don’t even have a “home planet”), but it’s likely to be a planet long past going through the Reckoning.
According to Calliope, the two of them have been “forced” to play a game (separate from Sburb) “for as long as we’ve known each other”, a game so all-encompassing it has affected what she’s been able to say to the kids. The rules, according to her, “are complicated, and often shifting. and they don’t always make sense! at least, they woUldn’t to yoU.” Her brother takes the game so seriously he refuses to drop it even for the sake of the new game they’re taking up, to the point he hires Jack Noir to kill Calliope’s dreamself. (And somehow, the “porn” he made Dirk draw has something to do with it.)
The two are basically confined to a single room, with each being confined to a single side within that room. Each wears a shackle bearing the other’s symbol (reminiscent of that cryptic image from earlier), which only the other can remove, and each shackle is connected to some sort of block thing in each side of the room. When one of them goes to bed, they slip on the shackle removed earlier, enter a “sarswapagus”, and come out as the other. (They apparently also switch when someone utters the name of the dormant sibling, but they have agreed not to give their names away to anyone else, presumably so the woken sibling doesn’t free him- or herself of both shackles.) Much of the “game” and its “rules”, therefore, presumably consists of the agreements they’ve made to keep one party or the other from taking too much control of the aggregate. (My hunch is, most of the rest have been imposed by the brother, who certainly sees killing Calliope as his desired win condition.) There are other weird things about them, such as the “juju modus”, with which anything one of them captchalogues can only be accessed by the other.
I’m morbidly curious to know more about the nature of cherubim and how this “game” got started, and whether it’s more accurate to consider them one person with split-personality disorder or two people who happen to share a body. (Calliope once cryptically claimed “we are genetically similar, bUt in many ways qUite different.”) I get the impression that cherubs are quite different from any other race and may in fact be a part of the game. Their session, a two-player session that Calliope has admitted will actually be more like one, was already rather weird; all the depictions have some sort of dark, gray tint to them, and Skaia is completely clouded over, utterly shrouded in storm clouds, a far cry from the bright, blue place we were first introduced to. But that weirdness would be increased exponentially if the player(s) was/were from a race that never should have had the ability to play to begin with – especially one with the potential for as much power as Calliope’s brother might turn out to end up having.
Calliope’s surface resemblance to Lord English (and her outfit’s resemblance to that of Doc Scratch, and her talking as though she was British – get it?) is not the only thing linking the demon to them. There have been some pretty strong implications that her brother is, in fact, a young Lord English. Some of the earliest, subtlest signs were his repeated vows to kill not only Calliope, but the (post-Scratch) kids as well. But the hints have been piling up once we entered Calliope’s home, from his vow to “paint everything – even my words” with her (green) blood, to the white gun in her strife specibus, to the “sarswapagus”‘ resemblance to the casket Lord English travelled in. Even Calliope’s interpretation of the page in Rose’s book with Dave and Karkat’s random scrawlings, as evidence of the presence of her brother in their session, could prove to be a case of being “right for the wrong reasons”. (He has helped Dirk and told him to destroy Lil Cal, but who knows what his motivations would be there; at least part of them may be his own fear of Cal.)
If Calliope’s brother is, in fact, a young Lord English, that implies he’s probably not one of the horrorterrors, which means it’s likely that he’s the one menacing them, especially when the plot of Complacency of the Learned is taken into account. On the other hand, we have likely gained more insight into his eventual defeat as well, namely from Calliope’s admonition to Roxy to say her name to him and, hopefully, wake her up; the cryptic panel from earlier suggests that the shackles might be used to control him as well. For the first time in Act 6, I actually feel like we’re approaching the climax we’ve been building to for more than three years.