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Land of Maps and Treasure

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?GG ?:?? HOURS AGO opened memo on board LUCK BE A LADY. 

?GG: hi!!!!

?GG: i don’t think the weird temporal thingie works anymore so just respond when you get this :o

?GG: anyway, it’s been way too long since we’ve had a game session together

?GG: sooooooooo i was thinking it would be fun to get together and play, just us girls!!!!

?GG: no stinky boys allowed!!!

?AA: yes i agree it’s been far too long!

?AA: over a sweep is too long to go without seeing my favorite humans!

?AA: I’d love to join in the game

?GA: As Delightful As This Excursion Sounds Im Afraid Rose And I Have Already Made Obligations That Cannot Be Broken

?GG: ooooooooooooooooooooh

?GG: okay, have fun!

?GG: tell me all about it later

?GG: unless I don’t want to know………

?TT: That very well may end up being the case.

?GG: ack

?AC: :33 < and I’m going to take purrfect care of Mutie while they’re gone!

?GG: :3

?GC: TH1S SOUNDS L1K3 TH3 P3RF3CT OPPORTUN1TY TO TRY OUT MY N3W C4N3

?GC: 4ND G1V3 K4RK4T’S POOR L1TTL3 NUBBY SKULL 4 R3ST >:]

?GG: okay, and feferi is busy running the empire…

?GG: that leaves me, aradia, terezi, and vriska!

?GG: is that okay? vriska?

?AG: Fiiiiiiiine, I’ll play.  8ut only on one condition!

?AG: We play in teams, and it has to 8e on LOMAT.  O8viously that’s the 8est and most exciting land, and I have way too many irons in the fire to waste my time on dum8 games for wigglers!

?AA: thats two conditions vriska

?AG: What8ver!  Are we playing or not?

?GG: okay, this all sounds good!  loading up the game now

?GG: see you soooooooooooon :D :D :D :D

 

 

Jade closed Pesterchum and, as she double-clicked the icon for SBurb, a felt a broad grin spread across her face.  It had been nearly three years since she had last seen any of the trolls, and her heart thumped gently in her chest at the idea of adventuring once again.

SBurb’s menu appeared in front of her, the colored lights of her holographic monitor dancing in midair.  Soon these colored lights would transfer into the all-too-real and thrilling worlds of SBurb.  She navigated the menu with practice ease, selecting multiplayer, then team, then versus modes.  She flipped through the two dozen or so unlocked world, each colorful and exciting in its own way, until she landed on the watery Land of Maps and Treasure.

A shining gate appeared in front of her – now that the main quest was completed, there was no need for a server player to build up to it, and she stepped through with ease. 

The spirograph flashed in front of her face, spun for a moment, and then faded away, leaving gazing at a sky etched with ancient pirate maps.

One by one, gates appeared and disappeared, leaving Terezi, Aradia, and Vriska in their wake.  The latter two were clad in their god hoods, as was she, with their extravagant butterfly wings slowly opening and closing behind them.  Had their horns grown since she saw them last?  Had their eyes been so jewel-bright, without even a trace of grey remaining?

Jade squealed with joy and rushed to them, tightly hugging each one in turn.

“Oh my god, it’s so good to see you all again!  You all look so great!”

“It’s great to see you again, Jade!  How have things been?”  Aradia was all smiles and light, red eyes shining with joy.

“Oh you know, same as usual.  Not too much exciting in my life, except kicking Dave and John’s butts at video games!”  She kicked the air, as if to illustrate.

“Don’t you two think you’re being awfully insensitive?”  They turned to Terezi, who was leaning against her cane and frowning fiercely.

“What?”

“All this talk about seeing and looking, when I’m blind!”

“Oh, I’m sorry…” Jade was taken aback by Terezi’s sudden sensitivity.  “I didn’t…”

Terezi interrupted her with a cackle.  “You really thought I was serious, Little Miss Black Licorice?  Oh, I’m going to have fun with you!”

Jade’s ears folded back in irritation, but perked back up when she saw Vriska standing off in the corner, tossing her dice up and down.

“Hi, Vriska!  It’s good to see you again!”

Vriska smirked, revealing her shining white fangs, and tossed her tangle of black hair back over her shoulder.  “Yeah, yeah, nice to see you again too, Harley.  Now, let’s roll teams and get going!  I have a lot of…”

“Irons in the fire,” the other three chorused.  “We know.”

They rolled the teams: Jade and Terezi versus Aradia and Vriska.  This survived Jade somewhat, as Terezi and Vriska were usually inseparable as teammates, but she didn’t have any complaints.  She was sure her mind powers would come in handy!

“So, how is this game going to go?”

“Usually there’s a consort to give us a quest… Like that handsome fellow over there!”  Jade pointed to a quivering gecko atop a hill.

“Avast, ye lovely ladies!  Might ye be interested in a quest for treasure?”

-

The task was simple: each team was given a map, and the first pair to find the treasure would win.  It was a quest designed as a quick, single-day game, which suited the four just fine.

“Wouldn’t it be easier just for us all to work together, though?” Jade asked.

“That’s booooooooring, Harley!  Are you really so dull that you want to play such a dull game?  Competing is what makes it interesting!”  Terezi cackled in agreement.

“Speaking of making things interesting…”  Vriska gave a sinister grin and put her hands to her temples.  Jade felt her mind go blank, and what seemed to be moments later, she found herself and Terezi in a completely different place, their opponents nowhere in sight.

“Where the fuck are we!”

“Spidertroll used her sneaky dirty mind powers on us!”  But Terezi didn’t seem too terribly upset by the matter – the too-wide, shark-toothed grin never left her face.

“Well, guess we have no choice but to explore!”  It was hard to get discouraged or depressed with Terezi by her side, even if her lack of personal space did occasionally make Jade a little uncomfortable…

As if on cue, Terezi was practically on top of her.  “Let me get a closer look at the map…”

Jade held it up to show it to her, and couldn’t help but feel a little taken aback as the troll girl took a deep sniff and, as if that weren’t enough, dragged her tongue across the paper.

“A little blurry, isn’t it?  How do they expect us to find the treasure with the map like this?”

“It wasn’t before…”

-

 

“Do you remember this spot, Megido?”

Aradia looked around.  The land here was flat, and mostly featureless other than some forest and palm trees.  It was vaguely familiar, but her memories of her days in that metallic shell, so many sweeps ago, were hazy at best.  Try as she might, she could not recall what took place on this land.

“You really don’t, do you?”  Her flight patterns grew increasingly erratic as she grew more and more agitated, flitting up and down and back and forth without any distinguishable patterns.

“I’m sorry, but I really don’t…”

“Unbelievable!  I’ll never forget this spot as long as I live.  I guess I shouldn’t have expected you to do the same, though!”  She had her dice out now, tossing them higher and higher with each flick of her wrist.

“Vriska, I don’t know what you’re talking about!  Please, just tell me.”

“Fine!”  She snatched the dice out of the air and flew in, so close that Aradia could feel her breath against her face.

Her eyes blazed with blue fire, burning her from the inside out and threatening to consume everything in her vicinity.  “This is where, three sweeps ago, you beat me nearly to death and left me to die.”  Then, with a sudden sharp motion, she hurled her dice to the ground.

Aradia pulled her whip out, just in time to deflect the knives flying toward her with a crack.

 “Do you know how much it hurts, being beaten to death and slowly bleeding out?  With only that coward Toreadork to help me?”  Vriska shot toward her, and Aradia was barely able to dodge out of the way in time.  Another flick of the wrist, and she was wielding a saber.

“Don’t act blameless, Vriska!  You’re the one who started the whole thing by forcing Tavros off a cliff!  Did you forget that part?”

“You didn’t have to continue it!”  Each word was punctuated by a thrust of her sword.

Aradia was speechless.  Three sweeps later, Vriska still had no sense of the consequences of her actions.  Was it because the world bowed to her as a Highblood?  Hadn’t they all suffered enough at her hands?

She felt a burning in her chest, at once icy cold and blazingly hot, that spread through her whole body, threatening to freeze and scald her all at once.  She was flying backwards, trying to put some distance between herself and Vriska.  She didn’t have enough space to use her whip effectively.  But Vriska, with all her luck powers, seemed to be able to perfectly predict each of her movements and kept in close.

“Why don’t you use your time powers, little red fairy?  You’re just as much a god as I am!”

Why didn’t she?  It was a good question.  She could easily have gotten away with the aid of her abilities.

She didn’t want to.

This heat, this thrill, was something she’d never truly felt before.  It was the last piece of the puzzle, something essential that she had always lacked before.

It was hate.  Real, true kismessitude.

Since her resurrection, she had worked to spread joy and comfort wherever she went, bringing comfort to the dead and cheering the living.  She loved her newfound vivacity and never hoped for anything more, but now she knew there was more to being a troll than that.

She continued to dodge, now fiercely enjoying the chase.  She wondered if she could use her time powers to stretch it out, make it last an eternity, a never-ending dance across the atlas in the sky.

The hunt was more important than the treasure, but without the treasure, it was ultimately pointless.

They left the land and continued over the water, the warm sea breezes lifting them up.  An enormous cocoon rose from the water, standing tall and isolated in the middle of nothingness.

Aradia swooped into the narrow opening at the top, knowing that it would do little to slow her pursuer.

She was right.  Vriska followed close behind her and slammed into her, knocking her to the platform below.

A small part of Aradia acknowledged the jolt should have hurt, but pain was of little consequence now.  Vriska drifted downward, hovering just over the platform.

“This is where I died for the first time.  Let me tell you, between you and that useless Nitram, it was not a pleasant experience.”

She fluttered over, landing so that she was straddling Aradia’s prone form, pinning her down by her upper arms.

“Really, I should be thanking you!  After all, it was thanks to you I was able to win the game in more ways than I could have imagined possible!”  She was so close.  Aradia wanted nothing more to leap up, to hurt her and feel her and kill her and kiss her, but Vriska’s hold on her was irresistible.

“Break the game, you mean.”

Vriska snorted.  “Same thing!  Who plays a game the way it’s supposed to be played, anyway?”  She was getting lower and lower, closer and closer.

Aradia didn’t answer.

Vriska stroked her face, running a sharp yellow around Aradia’s jawline.  Nobody would call it a caress, but Aradia craved more.  “Well, you caught me!  What are you going to do, pin me here like a butterfly in your collection?”

Her finger continued its exploration, traveling down Aradia’s throat and under the neckline of her hoodie.  “Maybe later, but not now!  That’s a boring idea.  I have something much more interesting planned…”

“Interesting for you, or for both of us?”

“Both of us, I think.”  Aradia could feel the words, hot against her neck.

-

“We made it!”  Jade couldn’t stop herself from jumping up and down with joy at the sight of the treasure chest.  “I can’t believe we won!”

“Wait…Spidertroll could be up to something…”  Terezi paused, sniffing the air. 

“She’s nowhere near here, Terezi!  I checked with my neat Space powers.  It’s all ours!”  Jade yanked the chest open.  Inside were mounds and mounds of boonbucks.  They were totally useless in the real world, but as symbol of their victory, it felt pretty good.  Jade tossed some in the air, allowing them to rain down on their heads.  She cried out in pain as they hit her on the head.

“Good thinking, Licorice Woofbeast!”  Terezi didn’t seem to notice the coins falling on and around her, other than to laugh at Jade.

“Wow, I don’t know what I was expecting to happen!” Jade laughed.  “Totally worth it, though!”

A pair of gates appeared next to them, ready to transport them back home.  “Should we wait for the others?”

“I think we’d be waiting a long time,” Terezi smirked.  “Good game, Witch of Licorice!”