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Fanfic / Cultstuck

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Cultstuck! by elanor_pam is a completed Homestuck fanfic in which the Cult of the Signless survives to the present day on Alternia, and is a major influence (and irritant) in Karkat's early life.

Not long after his sixth wriggling day, Karkat's mutant status is discovered. He must flee from his hive, while his friends plot to save him and preserve themselves, and the Cult plots to move him to a planet that has never heard of the Empire.

The plot alternates between Karkat's escape from his hive (headed towards the cult's stronghold) and his friends' conversations and attempts to take matters into their own hands. It is completed, but ends on a Sequel Hook; the author states that she will continue the fic. A fan-made audiobook is in progress, though it only currently covers the first two chapters.

There are two shorter side stories: Bringing down the moons, about Karkat as a young child, and the in-progress > Karkat: half-heartedly attend your own wriggling day celebrations, which tells the story of what Karkat did on his sixth wriggling day in this universe. There is also a spoilerrific intermission set after the main story. Earthbent is the sequel to the fic proper.

There's also a (sadly inactive) Fourth-Wall Mail Slot here, where Karkat's combat teacher Blade Dancer answers questions about the day to day life of the cult, but not the plot of the story. Like the story itself, it is illustrated.

     Tropes in Cultstuck! (Act 1) 

  • Accidental Truth: The cult tries to convince the Empire that they have the Summoner on their side; come Tavros meeting the cult several chapters later, they actually do.
  • Adaptational Badass: Played with. Power levels are, if anything, lower than they were in canon, but many of the characters are saner and more emotionally stable than they were in Homestuck. Aradia is a particularly noticeable example of this.
  • Action Survivor: Tavros.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: Of the "No Sburb/Sgrub session" variety. Also, the Cult of the Signless lasting to the present, and whatever happened differently so that Aradia survived.
    • In Spite of a Nail: Despite that, some things remain the same. For example, nearly all characterization remains intact, Terezi is still blind, and Gamzee and Karkat still become moirails. Strangely, despite the lack of time travel, Aradia still uses a Cosbytop.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: The Cult when compared to the Empire.
  • All There in the Manual: The author often responds to comments, and has clarified many things about the fic's setting. Her blog also supplies concept art.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Tavros can't tell if the cloaked cultists are male or female. He finds this very awkward, as he worries that he could offend someone through not knowing.
  • Animal Motifs: The canon characters retain theirs. Blade Dancer's is hummingbirds; his lusus was one, he moves very swiftly, and he tends to wave his arms around when he gets overwhelmed.
  • Arc Number: Scrapped, according to Word of God.
  • Arrow Catch: The Grand Elder effortlessly catches Tavros's thrown daggerlance.
  • Art Shift: The illustrations are in different styles for different characters and moods- blocky and simple for the Cultist Greenblood chapter, sketchlike with animations for the early part of Karkat's escape, psychedelic for sobering-up Gamzee, and so on. The murals that Aradia found in her explorations also reveal that the cultists' religious art has undergone a lot of change over the years, becoming more complex and abstract over time.
  • Bait-and-Switch Sentiment: In their last conversation before Karkat is moved offworld, Karkat says goodbye to Terezi and tells her he loves her. Terezi feels awkward until Karkat clarifies that he loves all his friends, platonically.
  • Bathtub Scene: Tavros in Chapter 14, though it isn't played for fanservice. During the scene, we get insight into the Cult's thoughts on the hemospectrum and Tavros' opinion of Vriska.
  • Battle Couple: A meowrail variant: Equius and Nepeta become this after he switches allegiances.
  • Becoming the Mask: Aradia speculates that this must have happened to any spies who tried to infiltrate the cult.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not threaten Karkat. Gamzee will go off sopor and kill you. Do not threaten Nepeta, or Equius will kill you.
    • In a more negative example, Vriska's response to being reminded that she crippled Tavros is to repeatedly shout, "Fuck you!"
  • The Blank: "The Faceless", an urban legend of beings with gray blood and no faces, based on the Cult of the Signless. Who definitely do have faces, but wear hoods (shadowing their faces) and dark glasses to hide all signs of their blood color.
  • Black Market: The cult have roots in it; for example, Sollux describes buying an illegal computer part from one of their people. This is likely where they get the money to outfit their Elaborate Underground Base so luxuriously.
  • Bring It: Feferi's response to the threshcutioner asking for her location.
    CC: You've got some glubbing N—ERVE asking for my location, Mr. Guy in Karkat's Computer!
    CC: But I'm not t)(at )(ard to find. You just )(ave to sink into t)(e sea.
    CC: Come at me! My trident awaits. 38)
    CC: And bring your lusus, so I may F--E--ED )(IM TO GL'BGOLYB!
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The cultists have some traits of this. They're spacey and fanatical, but they are also extremely competent, and probably have the most advanced medicine in the empire. Blade Dancer, Karkat's combat instructor, is the best example so far- he waxes poetic about the founder of his style and can apparently be driven to tears by a bad stance, but is really good at his job.
  • Brick Joke: The hallowed pink marker.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Karkat does not believe he is the Messianic Archetype, and does not want to be. Unfortunately, everyone else disagrees. Most importantly, the Empire disagrees, and sends out threshcutioners to kill him and everyone who knows him.
  • Character Blog: The "Ask Blade Dancer" tumblr, a handy source of Word of God about the cult.
  • Character Development: Eridan has gone through some since the game (didn't) begin. It's lampshaded by the others, although they also remind him how insufferable he used to be.
    • Tavros can apparently, if the situation demands it, be quite the Cowardly Lion. Yes, he leads the threshcutioners to his hive but most everything he does after that is concentrated awesome.
  • Censor Box: Used to hide uncovered eyes and symbols in the Ask Blade Dancer tumblr (the cultists take hemoanonymity very seriously).
  • The Chew Toy: Tavros, as he himself acknowledges: "I guess sometimes it's so sad it goes back to being funny..."
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Whenever one of the modern troll kids (besides Karkat) sees a mural, they automatically think, "How many people died to make that paint?" (Answer: none. The cultists use vegetable dyes.)
  • Cool Old Lady: Elder Plucker.
  • Cult: The Cult of the Signless. They're sympathetic, in that the rest of their species is a whole lot worse- but Karkat's discomfort with them is entirely reasonable.
  • Cultured Badass: Normal trolls, such as Tavros, consider the Cult this. They have singing! And textiles!
  • Crapsack World: It says a lot about a culture when they have interplanetary travel, but such medical advances as stitching wounds closed and the use of antibiotics are apparently known only to a persecuted, highly illegal cult.
  • Creepy Souvenir: When Tavros arrives at the Cult's hideout, his clothes are covered in Karkat's blood. He's surprised when the cultists request the clothes for this very reason. As a young cultist puts it, they "have the magic blood on them."
  • Dance Battler: Karkat, his teacher Blade Dancer, and the founder of their style, Troll Nijinsky use a style that is basically ballet plus scythes.
  • Dark Secret: Dave claims that every suburban family has one. Given that he's talking to John Egbert, whose uncle is sheltering the alien Karkat he's probably right.
  • Defector from Decadence: The blog (and Cultstuck's last chapter) mentions that many highbloods have converted to the Cult, and secretly support it.
    The system only favors them on a surface level. If you're a highblood, you have to act as expected from a highblood or be steamrolled by your own peers. Lowbloods will always expect the worst from you, unless they're quadrantmates. And you'll have to watch as your lowblood quadrantmates are slowly and inexorably crushed by a system that for all intents and purposes values and favors you — and yet, despite all these resources you theoretically have access to, there's very little you can actually do for them without losing this favor and becoming a target as well. You gotta be on top of things to preserve yourself and yours, and you gotta toe the line or lose your grip, and toeing the line means giving lip service to the very bullshit that threatens you and yours.
    After an entire highblood lifespan of losing however many good, decent lowblood friends/quadrantmates/underlings to this ocean of bullshit, all while watching from the top of your safe little boat with full knowledge of how precariously held together it actually is, and surrounded by assholes trying to convince you that it should be in your nature to not give a shit, wouldn't you be thoroughly sick and tired of upholding this bullshit?
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Vriska's fear of being weak amounts to this.
    Her fears are interesting. She's afraid you might not count on her anymore. She's afraid you'll think less of her for not being a perfect manipulator, for being overeager, for a moment of clumsiness. She's afraid you'll think her weak.
  • Did You Die?: Terezi during Sollux's story.
  • Dying Alone: An unnamed threshcutioner, one of the squad that tried to cull Gamzee. He's eaten by Gamzee's lusus.
  • Elaborate Underground Base/ Tunnel Network: Where the Followers of the cult live, though some other cultists live on the surface. Tavros is surprised at how beautiful it is- most surface trolls don't consider beauty in their architecture.
  • Everybody Knew Already: It turns out that many lowbloods have some knowledge of the "the gray cultists", at least enough to know that they worship "the forbidden iron messiah". Although most of Karkat's friends didn't know about them, Sollux and Aradia have both had dealings with them, Nepeta knows something, and Aradia has explored several of their former bases.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Tavros realizes that the cult feel this way towards him. They were expecting a valiant hero, the fearsome Brethren Of Beasts; what they got was a young, shy cripple.
  • The Extremist Was Right: The cultists are utterly blind to reality. But they are spot on about Karkat's (and Tavros') past incarnation, and Karkat does have a very interesting mutation (see Wham Line below).
  • Famed In-Story: Karkat (and later, Tavros) is this, though the cultists aren't really honouring him, just his Ancestor.
  • Famous Ancestor: The examples from canon are further explored. Many of the canon Ancestors hold significance to the cult; when the cultists meet their Descendants, they have expectations.
    Tavros' POV: It's just... it's too much like the setting introduction for a rulebook-standard FLARP campaign. Your Ancestor was Overwhelmingly Awesome! Go find his Stuff and be Awesome too.''
  • First-Name Basis: The Grand Elder calls Karkat by his first name, appalling some of the cultists who insist on using formal (not to mention bizarre) titles such as "The Grubloaf of Life", which Karkat finds embarrassing.
    • The Grand Elder also gave Blade Dancer the right to do this with Karkat, being his teacher and all. Blade Dancer notes that doing so in public has made a few cultists angry at him.
  • Foreshadowing: Karkat specifically has to avoid the sea, and a cultist begins to address him as "Higher than the highest, lower than the lowest..." In this AU, Karkat's mutation also gives him gills. He's a seadweller, and his blood color is directly between the highest and lowest on the hemospectrum.
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The "Ask Blade Dancer" tumblr account, which takes questions when it's active.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Gamzee theorizes that this happened to the troll who saw that Karkat was a mutant and alerted a culling drone.
    TC: fucker's probably dead by now, just knowing you can have a mix of sea and landdweller is hells of censored.
    TC: probably not knowing they'd be up and culled too when they were done.
    • This is also why Karkat's neighbours and Team Adorabloodthirsty are being hunted; the Empire wants to erase all memory of Karkat.
  • Glory Seeker: Vriska, who brainwashes the threshcutioners and lures them to her hive mostly because she can. She actually bitches out Gamzee when he tries to do the same thing.
  • Going Native: Aradia theorizes that any spies who tried infiltrating the cult ended up joining for real, based on the fact that it has obviously survived.
  • Got Me Doing It: According to Word of God, Karkat is so used to pompous elders calling his favourite tabard "the sable tabard with silver threading" that he describes it that way even in his own narration.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the fic's backstory Executioner Darkleer switched sides after killing the Sufferer, and joined the cult. This is a small change from canon, but it has wide repercussions.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Nearly everyone in the cult is this towards the Sufferer.
  • Heroic Suicide: Cultist Greenblood, even though he lied and told Karkat that he would change the original plan and escape.
  • Heroic BSoD: Karkat has one in the main story's last chapter, when he realises how much the cultists have sacrificed to honor him and how little he knows them as people.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Elder Inditer has a tendency to do this, likely as a result of his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • I Lied:
    GA: Youre Still Putting Yourself Into Unnecessary Risk As Terezi Put It
    CA: swweet a you ta wworry but no
    CA: cause i came up wwith this fuckin revvolutionary strategy
    CA: its called
    CA: lying
  • I Kiss Your Foot: One of the cultists does this to Tavros. Tavros is confused and a bit scared, since he can't feel what they're doing to his foot and suspects they might be trying to eat it.
  • I Think You Broke Him: Sollux about Equius after the latter goes on a paranoid rant about how Karkat is the leader of a smuggling ring.
  • It's All My Fault: Tavros after Karkat is severely injured on their journey through the tunnels. If Karkat hadn't needed to protect Tavros from the threshcutioners, he'd have been better able to fight them.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Equius.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Why the Empire tries to Unperson Karkat and cull everyone connected with him. They can't risk another rebellion, especially given that most adult trolls and authority figures are off-planet.
  • I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Some of the children raised by the cult were picked because the adult cultists thought they were cute and couldn't bear to let them into the harsh world. The majority are orphans note  or were too weak/sickly/injured to survive as little grubs, though.
  • Insistent Terminology: In a sidestory drabble.
    Protocol required different responses for different threats. This particular threat appeared to be a lone one — perhaps a subjugglator on one of the one-wheeled devices they favored. Depending on his or her apparent degree of hostility, misdirection could be employed, or murder might be required.
    (Never shy away from that word. Murder is murder is murder.)
  • Jumped at the Call: Nepeta takes the news that the Empire's trying to kill her surprisingly well.
    "Pounce! We're going hunting!"
  • Kill the Ones You Love: The Summoner and Spinneret Mindfang. The cult wrote a song about it.
    She his matespirit, new-fast forged
    Calmed a time the righteous flame
    For her crimes she had to die
    Passing on in blaze of light
    Love's lance through her breast...
  • Lame Comeback: Vriska's response to Gamzee reminding her about Tavros.
    TC: you don't manipulate shit by pushing it off a cliff, spiderbitch.
  • Legendary Weapon: Invoked; the threshcutioner cultist kills himself with a replica of the Summoner's famous lance, so that The Empire will be scared and think that the cult is more powerful than it actually is.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Equius in Chapter 19.
  • Love Epiphany: Gamzee realizes he's pale for Karkat after getting off sopor in Chapter 6. He retroactively confesses it in Chapter 4.
  • Love Redeems: Karkat is trying to gradually wean Gamzee off sopor, and travels to Gamzee's hive to help him with this. Karkat also considers bringing Tavros along, thus invoking this trope in two quadrants.
    • In a later chapter, Gamzee quits sopor entirely, fighting through the withdrawal pangs with memories of Karkat's moirailing and The Power of Love.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Karkat's possible connection to the Signless' memories. The author's response when asked? An Evil Laugh.
  • Meaningful Rename: The cultists choose new names that reflect their interests or jobs within the cult; it is entirely possible for them to change their name several times, or indeed as often as they like.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: Tavros sees Karkat's blood color while he is being tended to by the cultists.
    ...and it suddenly, finally hits you that Karkat is a Mutant and that you should care but still don't.
  • Mook Horror Show: The chapters in which threshcutioners attack Gamzee and Vriska.
    Your body creaks as you push to your feet, heavy and sluggish. Carrying her tied-up body all the way up seems like such a chore! Regardless, she's proven too dangerous to allow any freedom, and too important to leave behind.
    You hear the tapping of feet above your head, and can't believe your eyes as your fellow tealblood makes it to the bottom of the stairs.
    "Hey!" your voice sounds nearly two sweeps younger as you approach him. "Most of the team is lost, but the target is secure, just help me get her to the buggy and we'll be able to interrogate—"
    He walks by without any sign of acknowledgement, and you already have a very bad feeling even before you hear the shuffling behind you.
    Your lungs lock up. You turn around, slowly, but not enough to miss the way the girl discards the rope on her arms. Your eyes track the ends. There's no fray. The other ropes are similarly unwrapped, as if kept only for show.
    You walk out of the door, heart on your throat. You don't know where you're going, you just want to leave the ghastly corpses, the ghastly girl, you just want to be away from your failure, just for one second, just to catch your breath. You blink at the path, and it ends just in front and something in you does not like that, or what lies beyond. And beyond there's white, and snapping jaws, clicking pincers, baleful eyes. Several of them. They're all staring at you, and you know it.
    Your legs are still kicking after you walk off the end of the road.
  • Moral Myopia: Sober!Gamzee cares deeply for his moirail, but knowingly lets the threshcutioners murder children because it would be too much trouble to save them.
  • Mundane Luxury: Tavros is given a new wheelchair by the Cult upon his arrival. He realizes that this means they actually care for their weak (unlike the Empire he grew up in), and cries Tears of Joy at their compassion. The Cult is touched, but they don't exactly get why the gift is so significant to him; most of the cultists grew up underground, and know of the Empire's culture only distantly.
    • Another example in Chapter 2, when Karkat disagrees with the Greenblood Cultist's plan to commit suicide. The Cultist sees this as an awe-inspiring expression of the Sufferer's nobility and compassion for all beings, and he writes poems about it. Karkat sees it as doing what any sane troll would do and preventing a pointless waste of life.
  • Neutral No Longer: After he learns that the Empire is hunting Karkat, Equius settles into a sort of neutrality, refusing to actively fight against either. Then he learns that because of her connection to the Disciple, the Empire is also hunting Nepeta. Cue Equius curb-stomping a couple of nearby threshcutioners and going on the run with her.
  • Never My Fault: Vriska, as in canon, towards the incident that crippled Tavros. Tavros comments to a cultist that he could forgive her, but vowed not to until Vriska actually acknowledges that what she did was wrong.
    "So," you go on, hesitantly, "I'm not really as scared of her as I used to be, and, I'm not that angry anymore either... mostly I'm annoyed that, every time she sends me a message, she's apologizing for the wrong thing, in the wrong way, and then gets angry when I don't answer her back... and then she tries to mind-control me into messaging her back, which is just sad, because it just means she's holding a conversation with herself, which she must have eventually figured out, because she stopped trying after a while now that I think about it. And I actually... I miss her, kind of, and the fun we used to have, and I think she also misses me, from the volume of messages she keeps sending, but when all of this went down I made the decision, which I intend to stand by, that I wouldn't be her friend again until she knew what she really did wrong, and what she really should apologize for, because if not then she'll really never learn why we were sad, you know? And... I really hope she'll learn soon, because we're all supposed to stand together... we have a lot of stuff to do..."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Equius, giving Tavros a suggestion for obscuring his location that ended up informing the impostor the location of Tavros's hive.
  • No Name Given: The greenblooded Threshcutioner cadet who's also a follower of the Signless, as well as the rest of the group.
    • Nominal Importance: Averted. Several Empire-aligned characters aren't given names, but the fic characterizes them nonetheless.
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: A serious example; this is what Gamzee thinks when he realizes the threshcutioners have found Karkat.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The cult's Elders. Fortunately, Grand and Plucker are there to sort them out.
  • Oblivious to Love: Sopor!Gamzee to Karkat.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Eridan's trolling of the Threshcutioner who was impersonating Karkat. Apparently, he proposed red once, black twice, referred to himself as Lord High Snappertail, and implied Tavros was his kismesis and Vriska his moirail.
    • Offscreen no longer! See Chapter 5 of Earthbent.
  • Only Sane Man: Karkat probably feels like this, having to deal with the cultists.
  • Open Secret: The cult is this among lowbloods. Everyone knows about it, if only through rumors, and some trade with it- but nobody talks about it. (The highbloods know considerably less, because, you know, insurgents.)
  • Out-of-Character Alert: At the beginning, a threshcutioner hacks into Karkat's account and tries to use it to impersonate him. The other trolls notice that 'Karkat' isn't using his regular typing style and realize that something's wrong.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Tavros saying that Equius "isn't too bad either, for a weird hoofbeast pervert."
  • Papa Wolf: Gamzee to Karkat, and Equius to Nepeta.
    TC: i threw my pies out the window and my ice hull up into a wall all from the pain of this sharp diamond
    TC: straight through my chest and up my throat
    TC: screeching at me to do whatever however right the fuck now
    TC: to find him and save him
    TC: it shakes you up to the core, don't it.
    TC: moirallegiance.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The cult often puts Karkat into these. They're so elaborate that you can't help laughing and feeling sorry for him at the same time.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Karkat and Tavros both quickly come to the conclusion that the incompetent Threshcutioner's weapons are poisoned.
  • Pun: Toddler!Karkat's crayon drawing is described as "adorable"- a word which usually means "cute" today, but in archaic Catholic studies was often used to describe Jesus, in the sense of "worthy of adoration". Given the fic's religious themes, this was likely intentional.
  • Purple Prose: The chapter narrated by the greenblood cultist consists entirely of this, except for one sentence at the end. For comparison:
    Greenblood's narration: He then vehemently disagrees with the plan.
    Surprise makes you raise your eyes, and you witness his holy rage in action as he forcefully refuses to sacrifice your life - as if, as if, and you can barely even finish the thought, but it's as if he truly, genuinely, personally values an existence he wasn't even aware of a few minutes ago.
    It's more emotion than a troll can handle. You hurriedly lower your head back down, all sorts of nameless feelings roiling inside your blood-pusher cavity. Romance beyond quadrants is an ideal all Followers strive for, and what you're feeling right now is strange and soft and wonderful and it must be heretical to even think of it this way but you feel so stupidly blessed to even be this close to a divine revelation—
    Above your head, the Sufferer's Scion innocently insists on your escape together, offers you a position as one of the Hallowed Guardians of the Scripture, and tears escape your eyes unbidden as you shake your head to yourself.
    Karkat's narration: "That's a bullshit plan!" you spit out, jumping to your feet in a surge of angry energy, your previous terror forgotten. "What the hell are those bastards thinking!? Isn't it enough that all my neighbors are in the culling row, you have to add your own color to the shitty murder picture? All to make the highbloods think we're stronger than we actually are!? This is the most bulge-kickingly awful plan I've ever had the dubious privilege of having my auricular sponge clots assaulted by."
    The greenblood raises his head at your outburst; his eyes meet yours, his pupils dilate, and then he slams his face back into the cement with a dry thud. You pointedly do not think of it.
    "Look," you say, squeezing the bridge of your nose, "just... forget the shitty plan and come along with me. You're already a—" you hold back your distaste for the word "—a Follower, so you could just, I dunno, hide in the catacombs with the others. It'll suck hoofbeast teat, yeah, and you'll be surrounded by scripture forever, for which I can't even begin to apologize, but at least you won't be dying for the hell of it!"
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Played With. The Elders claim that Karkat once went into a trance where he remembered being the Signless, but given the cult's habit of twisting the truth, this may not be true.
  • Reincarnation Romance: A moirail variant. As in canon, Equius/Darkleer is forced to choose between his beliefs and the life of Nepeta/The Disciple. And just like in canon, he chooses Nepeta.
    • Subverted in the case of Tavros and Vriska. They were apparently matespirits in a past life- when Tavros was The Summoner and Vriska was Spinneret Mindfang- but in the present day, Vriska is simply his obsessive Stalker with a Crush, and Tavros feels indifferent about her.
  • Reluctant Psycho / Tragic Monster: Gamzee while going through withdrawal in Chapter 6. He gets urges to kill Karkat, and takes sadistic glee in murdering a gang of threshcutioners. But he knows what he has become.
  • Retired Badass: Elder Charter, by Word of God, used to be "a pretty damn badass action guy, and the possibility is high that he's still a pretty damn badass action guy."
  • The Reveal: Karkat has gills. "Higher than the highest, lower than the lowest" indeed.
    • The Grand Elder is Darkleer, and he knows Jake.
  • The Rival: In his blog, Blade Dancer defines a healthy kismesitude as a rivalry- trying to outdo the other person rather than hurt them.
  • Sanity Slippage: Played With. As Gamzee progresses through withdrawal, he actually gets saner, but his narration grows more violent and uncontrollable. Its conclusion results in Sanity Strengthening.
  • Secret-Keeper: Gamzee already knew about Karkat's blood and his gills and a little about the cult.
  • Secret Underground Passage: Karkat's hive is full of them, all leading to various places (and, not coincidentally, the Cult's hideout). He enters and exits through them in order to avoid being seen/culled.
  • Serious Business: The cultists treat everything relating to Karkat as this. It's the source of most of the fic's comedy.
    • As exemplified when a ceremonial robe is made for Karkat:
    "Where the fuck is Silk Weaver!?"
    "He locked himself in the hygiene block, says he made a mistake on the gloves—"
    "Somebody dig 'im out!"
    "He keeps sobbing and asking for an honorable cull—"
    "Somebody remind 'im we don't do that, and then dig 'im out!"
  • Selective Obliviousness: The cult worship Karkat as the godlike, infallible reincarnation of their messiah. Karkat is a grumpy, snarky, normal teenager who doesn't want to be worshipped and would prefer it if the cultists just thought for themselves. The cult prefers not to believe this.
    • Equius' belief that the Empire is just and can be reasoned with continues for far longer than it should. It's justified though, given his characterization.
  • Shout-Out
    • A hilarious one so subtle most readers require several read-throughs to catch it: "The sclera in his eyes — what little you can see of them under saggy, bushy eyebrows — is white, and the pupils are a weird, bright olive. It's like looking at a pair of fried eggs."
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Gamzee's response to Equius telling him that Karkat is a "subtrollish deviation of nature."
  • Sociopathic Hero: Gamzee, very much so. He's a terrifying homicidal maniac, insanely protective of the one or two people he cares about. However, given that the trolls trying to kill Gamzee are trained to be cold-blooded killers (and he's showing this side in defense of Karkat) it's hard not to see him as sympathetic.
  • Southpaw Advantage: Karkat (and the Sufferer) have the opposite dominant side than do the rest of their species. This gives Karkat an advantage in combat with anyone who's used to opponents who are dominant in the other side. (It's never specified which side is their dominant, but it works out to this trope for either them or every single other character.) In canon, however, Karkat is actually right handed, which is like being left-handed on Earth.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Aradia is alive in this universe. She's also the leader, or at least organizer, of her friends when Karkat goes missing.
  • Stealth Pun: Equius makes a crossbow- literally, a %bow.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: This fic summed up in three words.
    You've rebelled often before — hiding in crannies and cupboards and vents, kicking and screaming when found — but you've learned in time that it's a pointless display; it failed to convey the cause of your distress (which you were too young to understand or verbalize anyway), and it only ever gave the followers the impression that you were shunning them because they were somehow at fault.
    ...which they were, except not in whatever fanciful ways they came up with in their impressionable minds — but how do you even express that? "I'm not angry because you're doing things wrong, I'm angry because you're such dumbasses about things!" That sure would go over well, if they even parsed your words in a way that wasn't completely opaque.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Vriska tries to control Gamzee mentally, it's represented by his narration briefly becoming this.
    There. Now he thinks he's got dirt on a super heretic moirail sucker, and with your main Spidersister putting her convince on in his mind that these weak-ass fuckers will know all about where a heretic mutant gets his hideout in, you just have to kick back and enjoy some rest before you get to rid the universe of this one batch of moirail-hunting thresh-holes. Life is good. Time to relax. It's totally okay to let your guard down for now!
    You know what's going on before you even catch the skittery little tickle in the back of your head. You're not surprised. That's how the spider plays. She really ain't subtle at all, is she?
  • Sunglasses at Night: The cultists all wear dark glasses at all times, despite living underground. Justified, as they wear the glasses to conceal their eye color (which is the same as their blood color), not to protect their eyes against excess light.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The POV chararacters for non-chatlog chapters thus far have been Karkat, Gamzee, Tavros, Equius, and two different OCs.
  • Tears of Joy: Karkat and Inditer's reaction to the events of Chapter 20.
  • That Came Out Wrong: During a conversation about secret passages, Terezi mentions that she's been to Karkat's house. Cue Vriska, Aradia and Feferi going, "Oooooh."
    Sollux: Let me nip this bullshit in the bud. I was there too.
    Eridan: Oooh, kinky, Sol.
  • These Hands Have Killed: At one point in the story, Karkat fights a threshecutioner, and while the threshecutioner is bigger and stronger than Karkat, Karkat's done far more training than him, so he can easily hold his own- in fact, he's better. However, while Karkat's been taught to fight, he's never been in a fight for real, so when he draws blood, he's shocked and horrified and it nearly gets him killed.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Tavros takes his FLARP manuals along in his flight from his hive for this very purpose (they are heavy books).
  • Throw It In!: This is basically where the frog ceremony in one side story comes from. The author commissioned an artist to draw Cultstuck!Karkat; picture had Karkat with a frog in a bowl; this went into the sidestory.
  • Too Much Information: In Chapter 12, Feferi and Eridan end up having a fight over Trollian and Kanaya asks them to move it to a private chatlog.
    AA: if anybody else feels the need to discuss their quadrant issues in this space
    AA: please dont
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Equius becomes a lot more sympathetic to the reader after his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Tranquil Fury: Equius goes into this once he realizes that the Empire are trying to cull Nepeta.
  • True Companions: Team Adorabloodthirsty upgrade to this, rapidly becoming a loyal, cohesive team once it becomes clear just how much danger all of them are in. Much of the early chatlogs are just everyone asking if everyone else is okay, and praising each other for their efforts in fending off the threshcutioners.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Neither Karkat nor the Threshcutioner he was fighting expected Tavros to be able to play any role in that fight.
    • Also, in Chapter 4, the threshcutioners do this, trying to lure Team Adorabloodthirsty into revealing their locations so they can be culled. They never know what hit them.
  • Warrior Poet: Nijinsky appears to have been this; he saw combat as an art to be refined, not just a means to an end. Unfortunately, the trolls Nijinsky trained didn't agree, ("One day he looked around himself and saw that his students were using his lessons with no passion other than that of killing. They did not believe in beauty for its own sake. No no no, they could not comprehend it. They could not understand his unhappiness in having to use his skills for conquest!") and after a Heroic BSoD, he disappeared.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The cultists.
  • Wham Line: The end of chapter 14, where Tavros finds out why Karkat's blood is indeed, higher than the highest and lower than the lowest.
    You don't pay them much attention; most of what little you can gather is wholly transfixed by the round, crystalline pool inlaid in the floor, and by Karkat's unconscious shape floating in it — hair swaying, eyelids translucent, the wide-slit gills lining his ribs gently pulsing in the current.
    • This exchange:
    Alien: Horuss, my old friend.
    Grand Elder: Jake.
  • Wham Shot: In-universe, Aradia's picture of the old temple is this, as it reveals to most of the main characters that Sollux, Kanaya, and Nepeta's ancestors were involved with Karkat's. The reader already knows, but they're all quite shocked- especially Equius, who sees his moirail's symbol on the columns and promptly punches his computer.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Aradia, Sollux, Terezi, Kanaya, Eridan, and Feferi to Equius. Twice. First, for his reluctance to help Karkat after finding out he's a mutant. Second, for not taking Tavros's peril seriously and giving him a suggestion for obscuring his location that ended up informing the impostor of his location (although the latter was unintentional, and they get him to apologize for it).
  • With Great Power Comes Great Perks: Karkat doesn't have superpowers, but the trope's spirit still applies. He comments at one point that being a member of the Cult would be awesome, if he were a normal cultist rather than their messiah.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: How Blade Dancer explains the intellectual equality of long-lived highbloods and short-lived lowbloods; it is one's experiences that make them wise, not their age. (Therefore, a comparatively young lowblood is as likely to become a cult Elder as a highblood.) He specifically cites Karkat as an example.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Equius says this about Karkat, rather than to him, but it still counts as the trope.
    Tavros: I just don't think of him [Karkat] as inferior at all.
    Equius: That is because of his force of personality, which I recognize is praiseworthy. He is a credit to mutants everywhere.
    Aradia: Equius, no.
    Sollux:...Facepalming really hard here.
    Equius: Certainly if they were more like him they would not be systematically culled as they currently are.
    Feferi: I am embarrassed for the both of us.
    Equius: It is a pity that the culling drones will not make exceptions, but steps must be taken for the preservation of our race as a whole.

     Tropes in Earthbent! (Act 2) 
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Cultstuck focuses entirely on the trolls; Earthbent opens with a chatlog between John and Dave.
    • Chapter four focuses on some trolls we haven't met before, namely the ones investigating Karkat.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    GT: anyway, dad talked to me all the way home about attitudes and responsibility and blah blah blah i won't bore you with it.
    GT: he made me bake like five cakes, though. five! he said it was to commemorate my manly decisive attitude which finally brought justice to the schoolyard, but i think it was also some sort of subtle punishment, because, well, i do admit i was incredibly lucky and things could have gone hells of wrong.
    GT: and if they were really meant as a prize i really don't think he'd make me stay up until 2am learning how to pipe roses.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: The Alternian bureaucracy. Most of those tasked with investigating the heresy are either spectacularly incompetent or far more interested in their personal drama than in actually doing their jobs. Standouts include the high-ranking official whose main agenda is getting a romantic rival killed and the random go-between who posts pictures of a crime scene including the Lance of the Summoner and coded cult messages cut into the walls of Karkat's hive to the Alternian equivalent of the Internet.
  • Love Hurts: Eridan flips pale-red for Feferi, and is torn between wanting the moiraillegiance he's in with her already and matespritship.
  • Mind Screw: Chapter 2 of Earthbent is narrated by a half-asleep Eridan, who acknowledges he is going insane. It's implied that he subconsciously remembers what he did in the canon timeline.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Bro starts to become one.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: John does a prankster's version of this to his bullies.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: One of the trolls in chapter four writes a ridiculous report where she puts in as many long words as possible (misspelling half of them) in order to make it sound better.