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In Which Egos Play Dungeons and Dragons

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It’s the middle of fall in the land of Severee. Amber and topaz leafs whisper in the cool breeze as they fall from the trees. The little village grows quiet as night drapes across the mountainous landscape. Warm light spilling from the windows of homes and shops invite weary travelers in like a gentle hug from a loved one. You each find yourselves entering a similar tavern called The Wandering Clover. Cool drinks of Ale and hot meals at the ready as if you were expected. And as the hours of drinking and songs go by, you all eventually join together at a table for a game of cards-

 

“Wait, you can’t be serious!”

 

The table groaned loudly as Jackieboy Man interrupted Jack’s storytelling… again. It was DnD night at the Septic house and all the egos were gathered at the round kitchen table with bowls of popcorn and pretzels at the ready. Colorful dice were scattered amongst papers and pencils.

 

It was about two years ago now when Jack got the idea to run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (getting inspiration from the podcast The Adventure Zone for their first go around). It started off pretty rough. None of them really knew the rules or inner-workings of the tabletop game, but they wanted to give it the ol’ college try. Marvin the Magnificent did most of the research on how the mechanics worked while Jack worked out a story. It was… to put it nicely, a rough ride. Jack stumbled over his story-telling, Jackieboy Man kept trying to derail everything and make himself the main hero of the story. The good doctor was constantly close to death because Anti kept tricking him to go headfirst into fights while he stayed back and laughed. And Chase had to keep taking rainchecks on game nights because of either fights with Stacey or having to watch the kids for the weekend.

 

But as time went on, things started to sort themselves out. Jack watched a lot of youtube videos and got better at being a good Dungeon Master, and the other egos learned how to not dick eachother other and enjoy the game.

 

They wrapped up their first campaign around the time when Jameson came around into existence. Jack got busy with making more videos, and in turn the egos got wrapped up in their own work. Nobody had time for Dungeons and Dragons anymore.

 

That is, until Robbie the Zombie and JJ found the box filled everyone’s old character sheets, DnD books, and dice while they were cleaning out the hallway closet looking for something to do. The two got stars in their eyes. Excitedly asking about the other’s game and how it went and who they played as. With fond smiles and memories, they all sat around the living room and recounted their past adventures, funny moments, and the somber ending of the game. The older egos were a little hesitant at first, explaining that it was a pretty complicated game and it took a lot of time to properly play. But the two youngest egos were determined little buggers and went right for the throat .

 

And one day, Jack “conveniently” found his old DMing books, wooden screen that a fan made for him, and dice- along with a few different DnD world building websites that were mysteriously pulled up on his computer. Long story short, Jack poured two weeks of his life into creating a new session and excitedly exclaimed that they should all play again. And the rest was history.

 

“Zis is ze second time alvready, Jackie. Ve haven’t even started ze campaign!” Doctor Henrik Von Schneeplestein complained, pushing up his glasses up with his middle finger while still making some last minute adjustments to his character sheet.

 

“What, I’m not wrong! C’mon, the whole ‘meeting in a tavern’ is so meta!” Jackie threw his arms up and puffed out his chest before mocking Jack’s narrations dramatically. “ The heros, before a grand journey, meet at the tavern before a mysterious figure approaches the merry group with a quest to find the ancient throne of the lost King Butticus Arseonious the Second. There, you will find his golden chamber pot and bring it back to me for some good fuckin’ money.”

 

There were a few snickers from Anti, Chase, and Marvin. Schneep rolled his eyes at the hero as Jameson laughed silently behind his hand. Robbie was busy concentrating on carefully stacking his sparkly purple dice (that Marvin gifted to him for this game) into a tower.

 

“This is why I don’t show any of you fuckers my notes.” Jack grumbled to himself and striked out a paragraph on his paper. “Fuckin’ hate you all.” This brought a full laugh to the table, accidentally knocking down Robbie’s town when the table got bumped.

 

“Aww..” Robbie whined softly to himself, before picking up the dice one at a time and trying to stack them again.

 

“I don’t mind, personally. It is a classic way to start off.” Marvin chimed in, fixing the collar of his cape that he only wore during their Dungeons and Dragons sessions. It was made from thin forest green wool, and a silver leaf pinned the ends of it together. What could he say? The magician loved to dress up for every occasion (and he LOVED the Lord of the Rings series).

 

Thank you, Marvin.” Jack said flatly, writing a few things down before looking over his wooden DM screen. A fan had heard from one of Jack’s QnA sessions that he was thinking about being a dungeon master. And so when he went on tour, the lovely girl gifted the custom screen to him. It was polished oak with celtic-looking designs in the corners. And of course, front and center was a runic-stylized Sam. Jack was so excited when he got to use it for the first time. “Are we ready to continue, Jackieboy ?”

 

The hero rolled his hazel-blue eyes playfully with a smirk and nodded, “Yeah yeah, sorry- Ow!” He sent a burning glare in Anti’s direction when a solid black D4 with green numbers hit him square in the forehead.

 

“W͝h͘at?̴” The glitchy demon smiled like a cat, the rest of his dice floating around his head in a small cloud of small green pixels. “I̷’̨m̢ j͏u͞st ̛w̢a͡i̶ti̕n̢g ̷for̶ o͢u̷r ̶boy͏ ̴t̛o c͡o̷nt͏in̛u͜e.” Sticking out his tongue a bit, Anti recalled the small pyramid die back to his hovering halo of shapes.

 

Jackie looked like he was about to make a comeback but when Schneeplestein gave him a look saying “ So help me GOD just shut up so we can start the campaign” the hero slumped in his chair with a pout. Pulling his spiderman hoodie up over his head, the hero tenderly rubbed his forehead where a small triangular welt was starting to form.

 

Anyway, ” Jack cleared his throat before finally being able to continue narrating the opening of their adventure.

 

The tavern itself wasn’t too shabby. High ceilings, lots of warm candlelight from hanging antler light fixtures and the roaring fire in the harth. Hunting trophies and other weapon memorabilia decorated the walls, and you can make out a few names carved into the pillars and tables.The lot of you pull up chairs and sit around the table as a worker in the tavern sets out the deck of cards as well as the next round of drinks.

 

“If any ah ya fucks break tha table yer payin’ fer it.” A busty barkeeper said in a thick accent before going back behind the counter, leaving the heros to play their game.

 

“Who’s playing and who’s just watching?” Jack asked the table of egos.

 

“Deal me in! I just got paid for my last hunt.” Chase said with a smirk, already getting into his character as a Ranger. Anti simply raised his hand silently to signal he was playing.

 

Jack wished to himself Anti wasn’t going to pull a “Lonely Dark and Mysterious Brooding Rouge” in the campaign again .. Those guys are never fun to play with. But he was shaking it up by being a Changeling so that’s something new.

 

“You better watch your money, friend. You could lose it all with one wrong play” Marvin said in a slightly deeper tone to signify that was his character’s voice. The Dragonborn was dealt a hand of cards as well.

 

“Vise vords from ah Sorcerer.” Schneep, the High Elf commented, getting dealt some cards as he set aside his vine-woven satchel filled with potions and remedies.

 

Jackie pulled up a chair last minute, turning it around backwards and sitting with his legs either side of the back of it. It creaked a bit under his weight, but the Half-Orc didn’t seem to mind as he set his sword beside himself on the table, rattling the drinks and whatever coins were there.

 

“Make an intimidation check.” Jack told Jackie. “Everyone else roll to see if you’re at all phased by Jackie’s boldness.”

 

Jameson clapped excitedly with a big smile before signing to his fellow egos, “First. Roll. Excited!” The others smiled and picked up their D20s.

 

The satisfying sound of dice clattering filled the game room. A moment of quiet before Jackie scrunched his eyebrows a bit, looking up to Jack, “How does a 15 sound?”

 

Jack chuckled a bit, “You’re a pretty intimidating dude to anyone who rolls a 10 or less. Whatcha got guys?” The DM asked as he looked around at the others.

 

The Undead Robbie smiled happily up at Jackie as he kicked his feet under the chair lazily. “Shiney.. Sword. Pretty!” He beamed, having rolled an 18.

 

Jackie was pretty surprised about that. But he smiled fondly, large tusks poking out of his lips. “Why, thank you my small, stinky friend.” He said in a gruff voice, ruffling Robbie’s hair.

 

“M͘i̧ne̢’̧s ̷bigger͢.͡” Anti smirked, shapeshifting so his teeth appeared sharper. He rolled a nat 20. Character not even phased by the fact that the sword was almost as big as he was and the Rouge only worked with smaller knives.

 

The others didn’t roll quite as well.

 

Chase got a 11, so he was weary about the burly Fighter being there, but shrugged as he took a long drink from his ale. Henrik’s character scooted his chair away. Having rolled a 9, his character was really cautious of both Jackie and of Anti- just to be safe he was going to sit out of this card game. Marvin rolled 15, making his eyes glow a bright purple to match the intimidation check with a coy smile. JJ rolled a 13 so he was pretty alright with the situation. Not partaking in the game of cards himself, the mute Halfling Bard pulled out his hand-sized street organ from his top hat (the box was about the size of a small animal carrier) and started to slowly crank the handle to play some lively music.

 

In reality JJ pulled out his phone and played some similar music he found on Youtube. Robbie quietly clapped his hands to the beat of the song with a giggle, making the other egos smile endearingly for the two youngest egos.

 

Jack chuckled, “Alright alright. Everyone has their hands.” He pulled out a real deck of cards and dealt them out to the boys at the table. “Go on, place your bets.”

 

“You’re actually making us play poker?” Chase asked with a small grin on his face. When Jack just nodded, Chase made a small fist pump before looking at his cards and almost, almost losing his game face. Oh dear.

 

A small crowd of bar patrons gathered around their table, half to listen JJ’s music, the other half to watch the card game unfold. To start, everyone threw 10 gold into the middle of the table. The shiny coins clattered like small bells onto the scratched up polished wood. The players were quiet as they shuffled their cards around. The undead man looked at his cards a little confused, sniffing them before hesitantly giving them a small lick. Instantly cringing at the taste of old sweat and beer that have been soaked into them over the years. Immediately Robbie put his hand down and pushed it as far away as he could reach. Folding his hands in his lap, he decided to just watch and listen to JJ’s music.

 

So now it was just Antil, Marvin, Jackie, and Chase in the poker game.

 

The four adventurers were staring each other down over their cards. Marvin had an advantage with his draconic features trained to remain calm and collected, but so did Anti with his pulled down black leather hood which shadowed the majority of his face. Chase glanced between them and pulled out another 5 gold, adding it to the bet. The other three looked at him, surprise on Jackie’s face morphed into confidence- dropping 5 more gold as well. Marvin and Anti silently matched it. Then Anti, smirking under his hood, dropped in another 10 gold. Chase gaped and groaned, putting his cards down in defeat and taking a long drink from his stein. Henrik patted him on the back in condolences.

 

The Ranger was out of the game. And out 10 gold. He needed another drink.

 

The game continued on and the bets slowly rose. The heros have put in the majority of their gold, small weapons, healing potions, and their socks and.. Shirts? Oh god there goes their pants-

 

“Oi! This ain’t ta kinda establishment for strip poker! Get yer clothes back on or I’ll throw ye out by the brim of yer undergarments!” The busty barkeep yelled from her spot while cleaning out a stein with a rag.

 

The three players rolled their eyes and put their clothes back on. And after a while, Jackie broke the tense silence, placing one of his wrist guards into the pile of loot.

 

“Call.” The half-orc said smoothly.

 

Marvin took off one of his golden ear bands and set it down as well, showing his cards. “Straight.”

 

Jackie’s eyebrows furrowed just slightly as he glanced at Anti with a small smirk. “Three of a kind.”

 

The rouge pulled out a long, shiny silver dagger and stabbed it into the table, turning his cards around to show the players and the on-lookers. Even under his hood you could see his huge, victorious smile.

 

“Ŗo̢yal.̶ ̨F͞l̡us̸h̸.” With that, Anti pulled the pile of loot towards himself, yanking the blade from the table and sheathing it at his hip before dumping the rest of his treasures into his inventory. Leaving Marvin and Jackie penniless and a little grumpy.

 

Marvin reached his hand out to the victor, “Well played.”

 

Before Anti could take it Jackie slammed his hands on the table and pointed an accusatory finger at the rouge.

 

“You cheated!” Jackie yelled gruffly, startling the fellow tavern-goers and causing JJ to stop playing his music.

 

“Strength check.”

 

“Wait what?” Jackie asked as he looked over to his DM. “Why do I need to do a strength check?”

 

“You slammed the table.” Jack said coyly.

 

Jackie groaned and grabbed his red-and-blue swirled D20 and gave it a roll onto the table.

 

19 plus strength modifier makes it 22.

 

“Yeah you broke the table.” Jack laughs and continues to describe the scene.

 

When you slam your fist on the table, a sizable chunk gets broken off of it. Along with that, everyone’s drinks spills all over the place and whatever coins that weren’t pocketed got flung into the crowd. And since not everyone is super well off in this establishment like you all, a scramble for the fallen coins quickly turns into a brawl. The barkeep is yelling but her voice is drowned over all the shouting of the fighters.

 

“Are you guys joining the fight?” Jack asks his players, a small smirk on his face.

 

JJ shakes his head quickly, pointing at Robbie and miming picking him up and then signing, “Goodbye.”

 

“Make a strength check to see if you can pick up Robbie. I’m gonna give you advantage ‘cause Robbie is pretty fuckin’ light. Bag ah bones.”

JJ rolls his simple transparent D20 and just barely makes his strength check.

 

Picking up lanky undead bridal- style, the stout halfling bobs and weaves around and through the crowd of people duking it out, all the while Robbie cheered out like a child on a rollercoaster.

 

“Wheeee! Faster JJ!”

 

Jameson smiled and wiggled his mustache back-and-forth, making Robbie giggle.

 

With a second roll for Dexterity to avoid anybody else, they make it out the tavern’s front door without a scratch on their little heads.

 

The others, however… Are stuck in the middle of the fight.

 

“First one of the game! Let’s roll for initiative, dudes.” The DM smiled brightly, getting a few cheers from the others at the table.

 

The sound of dice skittering across the table joins the sound of fast Irish tavern music beginning to play via Jack’s phone through a mini speaker. Robbie bounced in his chair excitedly, the music energizing him as well as the others. Jack writes out the order of the fight on his notes and declares that a huge brute is gonna throw the first punch at Chase in the gut.

 

“Why me??” The single father whined.

 

“Because you’re there.” Jack laughed, “And it’s a lil bit of payback for all those games you missed. What’s your AC?”

 

“Okay, wow, rude. None of those were my fault. Uhh.. 15..? Is that right?” He asks, showing his sheet to Henrik since Jack was right. He wasn’t really there for their first game so… he was a bit more than rusty.

 

The doctor nods and points to the small shield where the AC is written in, “Zere it iz.”

 

“Thanks, Doc.” Chase said, Jack rolls for the brute.

 

“Ouch. He hit you with a swift and hard wallop in the gut. And you’re gonna take..” Jack rolls his heavy chrome D4 with a loud clink. “Two damage.”

 

With a sigh, Chase subtracts the 2 from his main hit points. “Can’t I roll to dodge or something?”

 

“Nope, sorry. That’s not how it works. Next in the order is… Jackieb-”

 

“I swing my sword at Anti.”

 

“H̨uh̛?”

 

“Wait why??” Jack asks as everyone looks at Jackie confused.

 

“Because he cheated at cards and took my shit! My character wants justice!

 

With a groan Jack turns to Anti who is cackling as he hovers above his seat.

 

“I͜t’s̴ ͜not ̢m̷y͡ fa̕ul͟t͠ y̨ou̕ s͝uck a͟t ̨c̢ard͡s͟,͡ one͠sie ̡bo͞y!” The glitch laughed loudly.

 

Jackie clenched his fists on the table, “I change my mind, can I just punch the real Anti?”

 

“Roll for it.” Jack said amused, resting his cheek on his fist propped on the table. He could already tell this was going to be a looooong campaign if they keep this up. But, a fun one to say the least.

 

Jackie rolls and adds his modifier. It’s… not good.

 

“You swing your sword at Anti but you just miss and scratch the front of his chest. Next up is Schneep. What are you gonna do, Doc?”

 

Henrik put his hand over his mouth in thought, giving a small hum as he looked over his character sheet. “I could set off a gas and clear out ze bar. But it would also affect us unless ve make a visdom check to cover vour shtupid pie holes.”

 

Chase and Robbie snickered quietly to each other after sharing a look. The Doctor’s face went red. “IT IZ A CHEMICAL REACTION OF MY SUPPLIES TO CREATE ZE GAS- IT IS NOT ME PASSING IT!”

 

Everyone burst into laughter as Henrik sat there boiling in embarrassment with arms crossed over his stomach. “Fine zen! I vill just avoid ze brawlers and try to meet Robbie and JJ outside.”

 

Wiping a tear from his eye, Jack lets out one more giggle, “No no! You can still do your first thing! So you’re wanting to just clear them all out with stink, or make like a smoke cloud?”

 

“I vas planning on just chasing zem out, but eithzr vorks I suppose. Eh, fuck it. I’ll do ze smoke bomb instead.” Schneep picked up his frosted white dice and rolled, mumbling to himself. “Lets see.. 12 plus vone- I got a 13.”

 

“Alright-”

 

As you roll the smoke bomb on the floor through the legs of people, there’s a long pause before anything happens. Did… did it not work? When suddenly a loud explosion sounded and a huge puff of white smoke filled the room, causing everyone inside to cough and hack.

 

“Make a wisdom save for yourselves while I roll for the ones you’re fighting.” Jack said as he rolled the die a few times and writing down the results. The others simply roll. “What was the save for that, Henny?”

 

“I believe it iz 10 or higher. And everyone has dizadvantage because vision is obscured.” Rolling his own die, Schneep groaned, “Aaaand I failed. Shit. I am choking on mein own smoke.”

 

Jameson raises his hand a bit to get everyone’s attention, then pointing between himself and Robbie signs, “Us?” to ask if they have to roll as well.

Jack shakes his head, “No, you guys already made it outside. So you’re safe from the smoke. But you can’t see inside.”

JJ gives a thumbs up with a smile while Robbie was being told quietly by Marvin not to eat his dice because they’re not candy despite hoe colorful they were.

 

“Next in the order is two smaller rowdy boys, who are gonna attack a disadvantaged Marvin.”

 

Marvin nods, his dragonborn ready for his foes.

 

Jack rolls twice and pauses before promptly slapping his forehead. “Both of the smaller men try to come at you, but they trip over each other and end up slamming onto the floor in a pile of limbs. The first rolled a one and the other rolled a 3.”

 

“Ha! Suck my ass!” Marvin laughed triumphantly.

 

“Alright, alright. Your turn.” Jack threw a small handful of popcorn at the giggling magician with a small smirk.

 

“Fine. I’m just gonna smack ‘em with my staff.” Taking his roll with sparkling galaxy-themed dice, Marvin slumps his shoulders and rolls again for disadvantage-

 

“YOU GOTTA BE FUCKIN’ KIDDING ME! Looks like I’m suckin’ my own ass.”

 

“What.. Mar.. get..?” Robbie asked, looking over at the older ego’s dice, “... One.. good.. Right?” He asked, sounding hopeful. Marvin slowly shook his head.

 

“I means I didn’t do anything. And on top of that…”

 

As Marvin goes in to hit the two men with his staff while they’re down like a chump, he ends up tripping over their bodies and landing flat on his face. The two guys laugh at him as he feels his pride shrivel up and die.

All around, chaos is still ensuing as the heros struggle to find their feet to stand and other people’s heads to crack.

 

“Okay Robster Lobster, whatcha wanna do in this fight?” Jack asked the young zombie ego with a smile.

 

“Um…” Robbie thought for a moment then looked to Marvin for help. It was his first time playing as well as JJ’s, so they were very new to the whole system. Marvin looked over Robbie’s sheet and at his spells he had and pointed to one.

 

“You can do this to make a light in your hands so we can find our way out of the smoke.”

 

Robbie hummed and nodded quickly, his purple and black hair falling into his face as he did so. “I... do... that one!”

 

“Nice, dude! Now you gotta roll the biggest die there to see if it happens like you want it to.” Chase explains to him.

 

The zombie nods slowly and picks up the sparkly D20 and then lets it gently roll from his palm onto the table.

 

Pointing his palms towards the entrance of the tavern, Robbie creates two flames in his hands, lighting a path through the smoke so that the others could find their way out.

 

It was now Anti’s turn. A crooked grin split across his lips as he stared down the half-orc through the smoke. Silently pulling out his silver blade, the rouge rolls to attack Jackie.

It’s not the best roll, but it hits the fighter through his AC. And since he couldn’t be seen, his sneak damage doubles. Rolling his D6 twice, Jackieboy Man ends up taking 7 slashing damage from the changeling’s attack.

 

A random man sees the light from Robbie’s hands and starts to stumble towards it, hoping to get out of this place quickly. When he gets there, he thinks of the two runts as easy targets. The undead druid steps back, intimidated by the much bigger brute with scars down his face. JJ quickly steps between them to protect Robbie. This made the man laugh.

 

“Little man, I can punt kick you over this building. Do you really wanna pick a fight with me?”

 

The halfling shook his head with a smile, pulling out his mini street orgen, JJ rolled for intimidation.

 

“W-What are you-?” The brute stammered.

 

Before the he could properly react, JJ was quickly cranking the handle on his musical box backwards, playing his previous joyus tunes in reverse. With an overly-happy smile frozen on his face, he slowly stepped towards the man. The tune sounded off and manic, and the fact that it was being played backwards was really off-putting. The much larger man stumbled back.

 

He failed his save roll.

 

JJ continued to step closer and closer, backing the man up enough until he tripped and fell over a fence, landing in the mud next to the pigs. Once he was satisfied, the little bard stopped playing and gave Robbie a thumbs up, making the druid giggle.



The tavern fight continued for a few more rounds similar to the first. Chase got grabbed from behind and he head-butted his apprehender, giving him a bloody nose. Schneep and Marvin ended up back-to-back as they got surrounded. Marvin cast a wall of flame to keep them at bay while Henrik threw flash bombs. And off to the side, Jackie and Anti were still throwing and taking hits from one another. From outside, Robbie and Jameson made sure those who came stumbling out wouldn’t pick any more fights. It was easy enough with JJ threatening to play his musical box again.

Eventually the smoke cleared and the heros were able to get some proper hits on the brawlers. Not enough to kill them, but by the end of the encounter, most of the tavern cleared out, leaving them with an angry barkeep to deal with. Few could argue they’d rather keep fighting big sweaty pig farmers.

 

“I WARNED YA, DIDN’T I? Ya went and broke mah table! Not only that, but ye started up a huge tussle in the wake of it! Lookit this mess!” The woman gestured around the drinking hall. Chairs broken, tables turned, spilled drinks everywhere, and a few scattered teeth here and there. “What do ya have to say fer yerselves?” But before any of the adventurers could answer, she held up her hand, “Op! Don’t tell me sorry, show me. Yer all big boys, arn’tcha? Clean up yer own damn messes that ya make!” Going down the line, she moved her hand up and grabbed each of their ears and gave everyone a harsh yank to emphasize her words, (well, Robbie and JJ got slightly softer ones, but it still hurt) “Do. I. Make. My. Self. Clear?!”

 

The boys all mumbled quiet ‘yes ma’ams’ and soft “geez she’s got a strong grip.”

 

“And don’t even THINK about skippin’ out.” She warned, going over to the front door and closing it with a loud bang, locking it closed with a board before crossing her arms in front of her chest. “I’m watchin’ yeh.” She warned, pulling up a stool and sitting in front of the wooden doors with her legs crossed under her skirts and appren.

 

The boys all shuffle in place for a moment before Jackie moves first to get a mop that the lady had propped up beside the counter for them to use. Schneep followed him and started putting the tables upright with the help of Marvin cleaning up chairs with a bit of levitation magic. Robbie carried around a bucket of water as Chase used a cloth and wiped off the booze from the walls, hunting trophies, and pictures. Anti stayed off to the side, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. That just wouldn’t do. Not one bit. The woman came over again, pulling the Rouge’s hood off, exposing his face for the first time, and grabbing his elongated ear again before dragging him to the back kitchen to wash the dishes if he wasn’t going to clean up in the front!

 

It took hours before the place looked decent again. After they were all exhausted from cleaning, Schneep went around and looked at all the wounds the others had sustained from the brawl, handing out healing potions to Jackie, Anti, and Chase since they lost the most health.

 

After that, they all decided to just sit and chat, finally introduce themselves to one another.

 

Chase was bouncing in his chair as he pulled out his character sheet and showed it to the other egos proudly. There was a somewhat messily sketched out anime man with large eyes and making a little peace sign with sloppy hands.

 

“My little girl Mia designed him herself! Isn’t she so talented?” The single father beamed as Anti gagged, banging his head on the table and making all the dice jump. “His name is Owin Arthek. He’s a Human Ranger who lives in the middle of the forest where he journeys out to hunt for his family- he keeps a special pendant that’s carved into a little heart with him so he always knows to come home safe. She thought of that herself, can you believe it! He’s got a fuckin’ sick longbow AND a mini crossbow and he’s proficient in athletics, survival, and animal handling! Back home he’s got like, a pack of a dozen dogs that his kids love- Haha, it’s supposed to be like how we have two dogs and my princess just ADORES them so much and-”

 

“O̵h̵ f̵or͝ th̸e lo͡v̶e͞ ͝of̷ - j̛us̸t ̸de̕s̷cri͞b͞e how̕ ҉h̷e̵ ͏lo̢ok͝s ̵a̧lr̶ea͘d͜y!” Anti never liked how Chase gushed about his kids. It got on his nerves really fast.. “Yo͏ur daugh̸te͠r’̧s̢ ̷sh͜it̡ty͘ dr͞aw̵ing dǫes҉ņ’t h̕elp̶ a̵nythi͝n’.͟”

 

“Okay, wow, rude. She worked very hard on this.” Chase puffed out his chest in defence, but sighed. In a less enthusiastic tone he continued, “He has short black hair, a trimmed beard, a hood and cape with his family crest on it. Owin wears leather armor with fur accents, and he has tall boots. He’s a family man with strong morals, but is always seeking a thrill. There, happy?” Chase glared at Anti and stuck out his tongue.

 

“Wḩat҉ a ͜la͝m͟e̕ ͡a̴s͜s ͝design.” Anti laughed. “Mine҉ i͞s̵ mu͢ch̨ c̷oo̧lȩr..” The demon showed his… drawing(?) to the others. It looked like he ripped the image off some DnD website then tried to recolor it in photoshop. The character had white hair and grey skin, his face covered in darkness of his hood. Full black leather armor with green detailing that Anti added himself. And in the hood you could see a drawn, toothy smile and glowing green eyes. “Vil̴ ͠i͞s ̛a ҉C̴hang̕e͟ling͟ ̸Ro̸uge. He ca̴n ̶loo͢k̸ ͝li̴k͟e̛ ̕ąn͞yon̢e̢ at ͢a̢ny ti͟me, ̨s͘o he ̨f͝u̧ck̶s ǫv͟er peoplȩ ̵by ̶ma̸k͟ing̷ hi̸ms̨elf͜ l͘ook̵ like̡ ͞th̸e҉iŗ ̶lov͝ed ones̵ to͏ t̨hr̢ow ͝ţhęm o͜ff͏.̷” He snickered as Chase shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Us̕ually he̶ l͟o͜o͢k͞s̸ lik͘e ͜a s̴ķin̸n҉y p͢ush-͞ov҉er,͟ b͢ut h̢e͏ c̸an t͝u̵ŗn ̢ar̷oun̨d̴ ͟a̶n̸d ͘s̶ta҉b҉ ̢y͟o͜ų be͝f͜or̸e ̡you͏ ev̶en r̛e̶a̕li̛ze̴ ̛i͞ţ.͢” Glitching in his seat as he laughed, he put his sheet down, “P͢rofic͡ient͘ ͘in per͏suasi̴o͡n, ͟ste͡a͡lth,҉ ̴an͠d ͜de̵c͢ep̧tion, you̢ ͘w͏o̕n’t͟ ̷e͟ven ̶k͏now w͏h͜a͘t hit ͟y̵o̷u͜. H̕e͏ ͜do͡esn’͜t͘ li͜ke͏ ̷t͏o tal͠k to ̡pe̷op͜le and̛ ̶like͝s t̴o ke͏e͏p t͟o him̸self̕-̵”

 

“Aaaaand there it is.” Jackie said flatly. “Dude, you can’t be the edgy bitch every time we play! It’s no fun and gets boring really quick.”

 

“I’m ͢s̛ure ̡y̶our҉s ͜is͘ ̧ so ̶much̴ bet͘t͢er.͠” Anti said through gritted teeth as he summoned a knife in a cloud of green pixels to fiddle with.

 

“Um, yeah it is!” Jackie beamed proudly and slammed his character sheet down in front of them. “Marvin helped me with this one!”

 

“Dude shut up..” Marvin tugged at his mask with a small pout, showing that he was a little embarrassed. He was never really confident with his art, but he HAS been practicing a lot recently, and the improvement has showed. The drawing was a headshot of Jackieboy Man with a bit of a sturdier build and bigger forehead. Large tusks with chips missing, and a few scars on his cheeks and across his big nose. He has an earring in his right ear and red warpaint over his eyes. It was supposed to be like his mask, but looked like he just smeared his bloody fingers across his face after a battle.

 

“What? It’s really good! Okay, so like, he’s a Half-Orc Fighter named Jok. He was in a few wars and is pretty battle worn, so now he roams around looking out for people who are smaller than him. Protecting the weak. He’s super big and buff and carries around HUGE sword on his back. For everyone he’s killed he scratches a notch into the blade ‘cause really, he doesn’t like killing unless it’s necessary. Oh! He also has tattoos running down his back and leg on his left side. They’re the names of his fallen comrades and lovers past.” He winks playfully and Marvin chuckles.

Henrik picked up his three sheets of paper and tapped them on the table twice to straighten them, “I decided to go a little more big this game since last time I vas just a human cleric.” He cringed at the memory of almost getting one shot every-other turn because of how shitty his stats were. “Very boring it was. No, zis time I am a High Elf Alchemist. Yes, iz is new and a little home brew, but I have very high hopes for Theren Galanodel here.” He nodded proudly, showing his character sheet to the other egos around the table. It had been quite a few years since he dropped out of art school, so his drawing was a little off, but still decent. His elf had silvery-blond hair pulled back into a braid to show off his pointed ears. Goggles over his eyes and big leather gloves, the doctor’s tall alchemist had a big apron on over his clothes that was covered in many pouches and scorch marks. “Hiz specialty is in demolition and creating verrying bombs or explosives. But because of this, he vas sent away from his home to find work elsewhere that vould not catch the trees on fire.” He chuckled to himself at that. “Vhat else- oh yes! He iz proficient in history, medicine, and perception. Do not vorry, ze good doctor vill do his best to keep you all alive… unless you do something stupid. Zen you are on your vown.”

 

“Thanks for the encouragement, Doc.” Chase commented sarcastically.

 

“It iz vhat I’m here for.” Shneep said confidently with a nod.

 

“Can.. Robbie.. Next?” Robbie looked around the table to ask for permission from everybody elses. Jack smiled and gave him a encouraging nod. The zombie smiled brightly and grabbed his paper, wrinkling it before trying to smooth it out again, turning it showing everybody. Well.. it was Robbie’s drawing alright. Done in crayon, and going outside of the designated character design box- from what they could make out, the drawing showed Robbie with a green cape and flowers in his hair. Around him there were vines growing up from the ground and a deer and bunny stood next to him. There were little crosses in yellow showing that he was using magic to make it all happen. “Druid! Name Beebe!”

 

“Beep?” Jack asked for clarification. Robbie quickly shook his head, exaggerating his words.

 

“Beh-EEE-b. Beebe!” He smiled again. “He.. magic. Like Mar! But.. make.. Things.. Grow!” He threw his hands up with a giggle as Marvin peeked at his sheet to read off what he helped him write down for stats.

 

“Beebe is proficient in animal handling, nature, and persuasion. He likes to focus on using the area around him to his advantage. Doesn’t have any weapons per-say. But he does use magic and.. Biting damage. Since we home-brewed the undead character, he made it so that whoever he bites in-game grows slower and loses one or two HP per turn; depending if Robbie makes the coinflip.”

 

“Heads.. Means.. Two!” Robbie said cheerfully, holding up the quarter Marvin gave him to use for the game.

 

“We haven’t made up a backstory for Beebe yet, so let’s just assumed a wizard or something got drunk and rose the dead.” The magician chuckled.

 

“W̢el̛l now ̕doe̴sn͠’͘t̴ t̢h̢at ̷s͢ounds͢ ͞f͠a̷mil͢i̶ar.” Anti smirked. Marvin covered Robbie’s eyes before flipping the floating demon the bird with a perfectly painted forest green fingernail. “Alr̡ight, ͞smar͏ta͢ss, ̛tel҉l͞ ̸us̶ y͢ơu͜r̸ c͘ha̢ra͘c͟t͞er͜.̵ ͝Is͘ it͠ anotḩe̸r͢ fur͜ry͜?̛”

 

“If anything, it’s a scalie.” Marvin mumbled with a roll of his eyes. “Medrash Yarjerit is a dragonborn sorcerer.”

 

“Bet you can’t say that ten times fast.” Chase whispered to Henrik.

 

“Are vou kidding me? I can’t even say it vonce.”

 

“Medrash travels the lands to try and further his learnings. Born in the mountains it was hard to learn control of his powers. But as he got help from an old sorcerer, he started to wield his magic properly.” Marvin explained with a small smile, a little nervous to turn his paper around and show the others his character drawn out. With a heavy sigh, the kitty-masked magician turned his paper around. His character had a green dragon head with three horns that grew out of his head to look like leafs. Similar horns decorated his shoulders and elbows and the end of his tail. Medrash’s robes were draped around him and then given shape with a thick leather belt over his stomach. His clawed feet were wrapped in cloth to work as shoes, and his arms were wrapped similarly. In his right hand he held a staff that looked like a tree branch grew around a golden wand. He also adorned multiple rings, ear piercings, and a glowing blue pendant hung from his neck.

 

“Duuuuuude that looks fuckin’ sick, bro!” Chase gaped, his eyes wide as he looked at the drawing. “You got some real talent there, Marv!”

 

Marvin shook his head, “Practice. I’ve been working hard to try and make something decent.. It ain’t easy let me tell ya.”

 

“Practice. Make. Better.” JJ signed, patting the magician on the shoulder. Picking up his paper, he handed it to Jackie, “Read. Please?” He asked the super hero.

 

Jackie beamed like the sun, picking up Jameson’s character sheet. He gave it a quick glance over before narrating what the mute had wrote out in a big, dramatic voice. “The humble Wellaby Pipestringer is a hobbit hailing from the shire. Learning how to operate his father’s crank organ, he soon made his own lighter version and traveled the rolling hillsides to bring music to the hard working, and merry hobbits alike. Some could compare him to a performing monkey on the side of the road. But mind you all, this lil gent can pack quite a wallop if you piss ‘im off!” Jackie paused for the table to laugh as Jamie folded his hands and rested his chin on top of them, blinking his long eyelashes to give the air of sweet innocence. Jackieboy pushed the mute gentleman’s bowler hat over his eyes with a chuckle before continuing. “He didn’t draw, but made some kind of clipart? It’s like a bunch of pictures cut out of magazines and glued to the page. That’s pretty cool, J. Real creative.” Jameson signed a quick thank you before Jackie continued.

 

“His character is mute by choice, but can speak, and has some pretty casual hobbit clothes by the looks of it. White shirt, loose trousers, blue knitted vest. Curly black hair… His main feature is that fuckin’ sick top hat he’s got going for himself. It’s covered in swirl-patterned patches. Proficient in acrobatics, performance, and stealth. He also carries around a small sword at his hip and hides his instrument tuning tools.. In his hat?” Jackie looked to the mute ego, “Wait, how? Wouldn’t the hat just fall off?”

 

“I gave him it to be like a bag of holding. And he asked for it to be a top hat. So, there you go.” Jack explained, amused. “I told him it would probably fit Marvin better, but he was very insistent that he called dibs.”

 

Jameson crossed his arms over his chest and looked very proud of himself before Jack waved him off and looked around at his party. “So everyone introduced themselves?” With a round of nods and hums of agreement, Jack clapped his hands together and gave them a little rub, “Nice! Let’s back into the good shit.”

 

The redheaded barkeep brought out the last round of drinks for the heros along with a very grumpy thank you. Well, she didn’t say thank you, per say. It sounded more like;

 

“Next time, don’t break mah shite, ya geebags.”

 

Apologetically, Chase (or rather Owin) handed her an extra three gold as a tip. The woman accepted them, but not without a roll of her rich green eyes. Pocketing the money, she looked over the the seven men sitting around the bar table. “Yer all not from ‘round here, are ye?”

 

Sharing quick glances, Schneep (erm, Theren) spoke up, “I do not speak for all, but no. Ve are very far from home.”

 

“You̶ could sa̛y ̡we’҉re… lo͡o͞k҉ing for a bit̴ w̢or҉k.͘” Anti (Vil) seemed to hiss like a snake from under his dark hood. They couldn’t see it, they could almost feel his grin getting wider from within the concealing shadow.

 

“Work, eh?” The woman hummed to herself before clicking her tongue, “Well... I may know someone who could use some adventurin’-types help.”

 

“Is it taking down a band of thieves??” Jackie (heck- Jok) exclaimed before reeling himself back and repeating in a calmer tone, “Is it.. Perhaps.. Taking down a band of thieves?” Nobody bought the coolness.

 

“Finding a long lost treasure deep in the forest?” Owin asked, a sparkle of curiosity in his icy blue eyes.

 

“Music?” JJ (Wellaby) signed, slowly bringing his crank organ up from under the table.

 

“M͏urḑe͏ring some͝o͟ne͞ wh͘o͠ ̛c̶ross͝ed̡ hi̡m?” Anti asked with an echoy giggle, sliding one of his sliver knives out of their sheath.

 

“No… I’m afraid it’s a bit more dull than all that.” Eyeing the men up and down one last time, she let out a long breath. “The man you want’s name is Collinsworth.” Silence filled the tavern as the barkeep hesitated. “‘Is daughter has gone missin’.”

Chapter Text

“Missing?” The ranger repeated, setting down his mug of ale as concern etched into his brow. “When was the last time she was seen?” Owin asked, voice getting louder as he spoke. He couldn’t help but think of his daughters back home, and how he would go mad looking for them if they went missing.

 

“Calm down, friend. Panicking won’t help anything.” Medrash reasoned, placing a clawed hand on his shoulder to try and comfort the human. Looking to the barkeep, the dragonborn nodded, “We shall assist in any way we can. Where can we find Collinsworth?”

 

“J̧us̡t̡ l͢i̢ke ̛thąt̴? Y͠ou̵’͝r̨e̛ n҉ot̴ ̧go̡ing to ̵a͠s͏k̢ how̧ ͘the͘ f̧u̸ck ͡s̴ḩe ͡d͠i͞s̕a͡p͘p̷eared͡? ̷She͟ c̶o̡uld be l͝on̢g͝ d͞ead̕ ąn͏d w͘e’̨re͠ ̷go͠i͟ng҉ ̧o̶n̶ a wil͘d ho͢g̵ ch͟as͘e.͠” Vil sneered, his fangs poking out from his lips with a glint in the warm light.

 

“We cannot just do nothing.” Jok protested, standing from his seat proudly and strapping his sword once again to his broad back. The others followed suit. Except for Vil, who wasn’t convinced.

 

“Y͠eah,̶ we c͠an.” The changeling laughed bitterly, propping his feet up on the table and leaning back in his chair. “I͏’m͝ m̷ore ̵i͝n̨t̸eŗest̨ed įn ͜ m͢aking͠ co͜r͡pse͜s, n͞o̸t ̸fi͢n̡di͟n͢g̴ ͏th͝em.͡”

 

“Fine, fine.” The woman sighed airily, taking the empty steins and heading back to the counter. “Collinsworth is ah rich bloke from up tha hill, ya’know. He’d pay anyone well for findin’ his little girl. And if brought back in one piece, even more.” The barkeep called over her shoulder casually. And before she could even set down the tray of mugs, Vil was behind her.

 

“Ho͠w ̛mu̢ch̡ a͝re̕ wȩ t͘a̧lking?”

 

“I vould assume as much as finding a wealthy little mädchen would bring. Are vou coming vith us or not?” Theren asked Vil flatly, pulling his once-white cloak over himself.

 

The changeling hesitated, and just before he opened his mouth, he felt a small tug at the end of his black leather chest piece. Looking down- er, rather up, he found Beebe standing there with big, milky white puppy dog eyes.

 

“Please... help... us. Girl... must be… scared… being… alone.” With very little control over his vocal chords, it was pretty hard for the undead to speak. But he was still able to put emotion into his words, making any icy heart melt.

 

Vil stiffened for a moment, before letting out a small growel of defeat. “ F̸in͏e. I’͜ll̷ c͝o̢me. ̧Bu̢t̨ I ͞g͜e͞t ̴a ̡thi͝r͘d ̢o͠f͞ t͞h̕e̡ b͟ou͡n͞t͜y .

Wellaby huffed loudly at that, showing that what Vil was asking was a ridiculous amount to take from the reward! “Share.” The little bard signed sternly. “With. Me.” He gave the rogue a devilish smirk and a wink.

 

“.͟.̕. I ͜like ̡th͢i͟s h͟al̶fl͘in̢g͡’s ̡st͡yl̡e.”

 

The curly-haired beamed like the sun before skipping away to get his miniature crank organ and cloak.

 

“So yer all goin’ then?” The busty barkeep asked, a hand on her hip and a grin on her face.

 

“It seems to be that way.” Medrash said confidently, “Where can we find Collinsworth?”

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

After the woman gave you directions to the man’s house, the band of heros set off through the town. The sun was rising over the hillside, bathing everything the stone and wood buildings in the pink and amber light of morning. The only souls awake at this hour were shopkeepers preparing to open their doors to customers, and drunks rousing from a night spent in the cold alleyways.

 

The Good Alchemist Theren saw them holding their heads in hangovers and went over to offer assistance. But as he got close to one, they spit on the ground in front of him and gave him a sneer. With a bristling huff, the elf tossed the man a small healing potion to cure him of his headache. Turning, he briskly caught up with his new-found adventuring companions.

 

“Some people just don’t appreciate ze humble alchemist trying to help zem.” He huffed irritably as the group walked along the stone path, coming to the edge of the small town.

 

“Y͘ǫu͟ sh̡ou͠ldn҉’̕t͟ w̶a͜stȩ ͏you̷r̸ ͠s̷u̕ppl̸i͜e̷s̡ on̴ straņgers̵.̵” Vil sneered at the elf of magical science.

 

“Oh, so I guess no more healing for you zen.” Theren smirked, folding his hands behind his back as they carried on.

 

Down the road, you could see the house you were looking for. It was kinda hard to miss to be perfectly honest. It was more of a small castle than a normal home in comparison to the rest of the village. A tall gate of heavy logs surrounded the lush green grounds, and on the side hung a banner of what they could only guess to be the family crest: a golden profile of a deer head made of winding knot designs, who’s antlers spiral up to create a crescent moon on a dark blue background.

 

“I know the woman told us the man was rich. But she never said that he was a nobleman.” Jok commented in awe as they neared the entrance of the large structure. Making a fist and raising it to the door, the half-orc moved to knock. But before his knuckles could make contact with the wood, the door slowly swung open.

 

“That’s… not at all ominous and creepy.” Owin mumbled to the others as the party cautiously entered the hall. And soon enough a little round maid walked up to the strangers and gave them a small bow.

 

“Sir Collinsworth is in his study. May I help all of you?” She asked them in a soft, bell-like voice as she smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirts.

 

Owin stepped forward and spoke to the shorter woman. “We were sent by the woman who runs the tavern. She told us about how Collinsworth’s daughter was missing and we came to see if we could be of any assistance in finding her.”

 

The little maid’s eyes went wide. “You are really going to go search for our young mistress?” Tears started pricking the corners of her eyes but she quickly wiped them away, “Apologies. She’s very dear to all of us here at the Montdrey house. Please, come this way and wait in the lounge. I’ll have one of my girls bring you refreshments while I fetch Sir Collinsworth.” With a wave of her chubby hand, she lead the band of adventurers into a large room with plush couches and chairs. Books lined the walls and all but one of the curtains to the windows were drawn closed. “Make yourselves comfortable, I’ll be back as soon as I fetch him.” And with that, she scampered out of the room and closed the door behind herself and the sound of her footsteps echoed down the halls until they vanished.

 

Leaving the boys to explore a little.

 

Medrash was excited by the sight of so many books. In this world they were quite hard to come by undamaged. So the dragonborn made quick work of inspecting the shelves as Theren joined him with similar curiosity. Jok moved to look out the single open window. Peering out, he could see a groundskeeper trimming the edges lining the inside of the massive wall, and just beyond there laid the forest. Jok hummed before leaning against the wall to wait. Beebe quietly sat down and immediately sank into the couch cushions. He stayed there for a while before struggling to get out again with a whine. Thankfully, Owin helped the poor druid stand up… for him to promptly plop back down and sink into the cushions again with a giggle. Observing this, Wellaby thought, given his size, he’d be completely swallowed up by the piece of furniture. So the halfling decided to simply wait by the door for the refreshments that were promised.

 

Vil, however, was wandering the room, looking at the paintings of landscapes until he found a small drawing of what he assumed to be the family. A tall man standing behind a sitting young woman, and then two children with the same face standing either side of their parents. One holding their mother’s hand, and the other their father’s. And in the woman’s arms, there was a bundled up baby. Studying the faces carefully, Vil saved them into his memory before setting the picture back down where he found it and returning to the others when there was a quiet knock at the door.

 

Wellaby opened the door and smiled at the surprised girl. She wasn’t expecting anyone to open the door for her it seemed as she put her hand back down on the little cart she was pushing full of small jam-filled biscuits and tea. On the second rack of the cart was a bottle of alcohol and small glasses, just in case guests wanted something a little stronger.

 

“Good morning.” The girl greeted the adventurers with her head bowed down shyly. “Please, help yourselves. My master will be in soon to speak with you all.” She raised her head and the party held themselves back from flinching. The poor girl was missing her left eye, and the side of her face looked like it was attacked by something with claws. The scars were new and freshly healing. Noticing their stares, her cheeks flared red before blowing again and quietly excusing herself, “If you need anything, don’t be afraid to holler.” Just like that, she was out the door, leaving the cart and it’s goodies behind.

 

“Bear of… owl…” Beebe said quietly, walking over to the cart and gingerly taking two of the biscuits from the platter.

 

“How can you tell, my friend?” Jok asked, moving towards the second rack to get glass of scotch, but not passing up on the jam biscuits- Theren and Medrash following suit of Jok while the others settled for a warm cup of tea.

 

“Seen… before.” Beebe explained, taking a small nibble from the sweet treat… before stuffing both in his mouth at the same time with a delighted hum. “Long… ago.” The druid explained as crumbs fell from his mouth. He pulled up his shirt a bit to reveal long claw marks running down his chest. They were shallow, but the same shape. “Played… rough… but… fluffy.” He smiled, pulling his tunic back down and reaching out for another cookie.

 

“An Owlbear…” Medrash mumbled to himself, gently tracing down the spines of the leatherbound books with a clawed finger. “I didn’t realize they were in the area. Perhaps they migrated here?”

 

Theren gave a shrug as he poured himself a dark amber a drink, “Not sure. It iz getting colder. But zey usually do not come down from ze mountains zis far.”

 

“You don’t think one of them could have gotten to the girl… do you?” Owin asked somberly as he nursed his tea cup.

 

The room went quiet after that. Wanting to avoid the question, the seven of them sipped their drinks and munched on the snacks provided. After another few minutes, a tall man with dark hair entered the lounge. And another moment after him came the first maid that greeted them. Clearing her throat, she introduced her employer, “This is Sir Collinsworth Montdrey, head of the Montdrey house.” She turned to the man and in a softer voice told him, “These men said they would search for Miss Sara.” And with one last glance to the band of heros, the maid excused herself from the room.

 

Collinsworth looked absolutely exhausted . The half-elf had deep bags under his hazel eyes that showed it has most likely been a while since he last got a proper night’s rest. “You…” He started slowly, his voice gruff as if he had just been woken up (his bed head would agree with that assumption). “You’re… going to look for my little girl?”

 

“Are you going to pay us?” Vil asked flatly, no warmth in his voice.

 

“Anything!” He said desperately, running a hand through his shaggy hair, “It’s been three days already, and there hasn’t been any sight of my daughter.” Collinsworth looked through the adventurers and out the window. “She went out to play with the dogs…” He sounded absolutely miserable as his voice wavered on the brink of tears. “She went too close to the woods- and when the dogs ran off to chase something she followed them.” Now moving to the window, he tapped the glass where the treeline laid in his view. “I sent servants out to search for her. But all of them came back bloody and injured- screaming there’s something in there.” His knees gave out, greif overcoming the man as Theren and Medrash caught him by each arm and lead him to a chair to sit in. Everyone shared glances of worry and fear as the man put his head in his hands. “Please… It’s all my fault- I-I-I should have had the servants watch her closely- no , I should have been watching her! But I was so busy with... Gods… I’d do anything to have my daughter returned home to us.” The man choked out a quiet sob as his body shook.

 

Owin and Wellaby stepped close to his chair, the halfling handing him a cup of tea from the cart while Owin got down on one knee in front of the other man, face serious as he kept his voice soft. “Mister Montdrey,” The hunter started slowly, putting a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. “One father to another…” Collinsworth didn’t look up, but he flinched at the touch. That was enough for Owin to know he was listening to him. “We will do everything in our power to find her. I give you my word.” He said, putting a hand over his heart.

 

“You just need to tell us where she went into the forest and her name so we can call out to her.” Medrash explained slowly. And Collinsworth let out a sob.

 

The air in the lounge was thick with awkwardness. The only ones knowing how to comfort were Owin and Wellaby. The others just kinda… stood there on shuffling feet and waited quietly, not really sure what to do.

 

With a roll of his bright green eyes, Vil took his leave from the room, wanting to get this over with already. Nobody noticed him sneaking away. That is, except for the curious Beebe.

 

“W̸e’re not g͘e̴t̶ting̕ fu͟cki̶n̶’͜ ͠a̕ny͟where at t̶his ra̵t̵e̡.͏” The changeling mumbled to himself as he strode down the hall, his footsteps falling silently on the polished stone. The walls were sparsely decorated with various swords and tapestries and pieces of armor. Along the way, Vil would quietly open the doors and peered inside before closing them once again. He was searching for someone. Someone who could give him proper information about what the fuck happened to this little girl. The rogue didn’t care for the girl herself, that much was clear. He just wanted to get paid so he wouldn’t have to travel around with these chucklefucks for much longer-

 

“Vil?”

 

G̢̡҉̛͡A̷͝͝͡H̸͡!̷̨̨̢͡ ” His eyes flared bright as he spun around with a start, drawing out his knife from it’s holder in a fluid, practiced motion and branded it against the neck of whoever snuck up on him.

 

The druid didn’t even flinch as he stood there, head tilted much like a curious puppy wondering what his owners were saying to him. He looked down, trying to see the knife being held against his throat, and the shining blade cut him. But he didn’t bleed. “Pretty…”

 

“B̸e҉͝ę̵b̶e” Vil breathed, stance instantly relaxing as he pulled the knife away and glancing at the unstained silver... “H̢ơw ͡did͢ ͞y̡ou…̴” Sheathing it away at his hip safely, he shook his head, glaring up at the undead man before him, “W̷hy ͟ąre y̢o̴u f̴o̸ll͟o̴w̴in͏g m̷e͢?”

 

“Help…” Beebe said slowly, fiddling with his hands shyly. “I… help.” He smiled, walking to the next door and opening it and peering inside the room. There, he saw a little boy who was playing with a wooden horse look up in surprise. Beebe turned back to Vil. “Nothing... here. Just… a… child.” He beamed, about to close the door when Vil stuck his black boot in and barged into the mostly empty room. The child looked just like the drawing in the lounge. Giving a shout, the terrified boy scrambled to hide under his bed and cower.

 

“A-Are you bandits?? Are you going to kill me?!” The little boy shrieked from beneath his bunk. “M-M-My father will come for you! He’s a knight!!”

 

“N͠ot ̵unless̕ ̷we have̶ t͟o.” Vil smirked under his hood, letting out a cold laugh.

 

Beebe frowned and lightly hit Vil’s shoulder. Taking careful, lopsided steps, the druid walked over to the bed before sitting on his knees to peer under. A few strands of lavender hair falling over his eyes as he turned his head upside-down. “We’re… going to… look… for… little… girl.” He said slowly, his tongue fumbling in his mouth making it harder to speak. “What… is your… name?” The gentle druid asked. “Mine… is… Beebe!”

 

“...” The little boy was frightened, but calmed down ever so slightly thanks to Beebe. “... It’s Glenn. My name is Glenn.”

 

“Nice to… meet… you… Glenn. My… name… is… Beebe!” He smiled brightly.

 

Glenn giggled, “You already said that.” He carefully crawled out, but then when he looked up at Vil standing over them, he shrunk back again. “He’s not going to hurt me, is he?”

 

Beebe looked up at Vil expectantly, forcing the rogue to sigh. “I ͘won’̴t s͜ta̶b ̸y͠ou.” Beebe elbowed his shin, making the changeling curse and sigh LOUDER, “F͞ine̵! ͢I pr̨omis͜e I ͠w͘on’͢t h͡u͝rt ̨yo͟u.̸ N̕o̡w͝ ͞get ͏h̡ere,̡ ̕y͡a ͞mi͞te͏.” He hissed, being around TWO children were getting on his nerves. Then again, it seemed like everything got on the changeling’s nerves.

 

Cautiously, the young man crawled out from under the bed and promptly sat on top of it with a small bounce. Folding his chubby hands into his lap, he kept his vision on Beebe, still nervous about Vil. “What do you want?” He asked in a helpful tone.

 

“Tḩe little͘ gir̨l,̴ wa͞s̵ ̶sḩe ̷y̛our si̸s͏ter͝?”

 

Glenn slowly nodded, his face falling solemnly. “Yes.” He paused for a moment. “You said… was. Like she’s…” Swallowing saliva, the young boy hesitated, his words sounding as small as he was. “Dead…”

 

Vil and Beebe glanced at one another before Beebe rose from his spot on the ground and sat on the bed next to Glenn. “We… don’t… know… that.” He said surely. “We are… going… to… find… her.”

 

“What̶’s the͜ ͞b̷rat’s͢ na͞m̶e͞?͝” Vil asked, sounding more snappy than usual.

 

“She’s not a brat!” Glenn suddenly shouted- before immediately pulling his knees up in front of him as a barrier. “... Her name is Sara.” Clutching the fabric of his pants, “We were playing with the dogs in the yard when-”

 

“You̴r ̷fathe҉r͡ s͞ai̶d it w̷a͏s̷ j͏ust҉ h̶e̴r͞ p͡layi̛ng wi͘t̨h̨ ̨thȩ dog̶s̸.҉” Vil quickly countered.

 

“I-I stayed by the wall! I don’t like going near the woods.” The child explained, biting his lip, “I tried to call her back, but must not have heard me… It’s my fault she’s lost...”

 

“B͜l͏am͝in̴g yoųr͝s̡e͜l̸f̴ ͟won͠’͟t get yo̡u ̛an͘y̕whe͞r̶e̴. T̵ha̷t’̕s̷ j̸ust a fact o̧f ̛li͟f͏e̕.͟” He said flatly.

 

“Good… Advice… Vil!” Beebe smiled up at him.

 

Stuttering and turning a light pink, the changeling simply explained, for the record, it’s not supposed to make you feel good.

 

Glenn tried to hold back a smile. Watching the two strangers banter was quite entertaining… and surprisingly calming. “So you’re really going to find my sister?” He asked, hope shining in his eyes.

Nodding firmly, Beebe wrapped the boy into a side-hug, “We… will find… her.” Holding up a slim pinky, he offered it to him, “Promise.” Glenn smiled brightly and wrapped his pinky around the undead’s with a small squeeze.

 

Vil rolled his eyes and left the room to join the others again. Beebe patted Glenn’s head once before standing and following the rogue with a small bounce to his off-balanced step.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

Sitting at the windowsill, Theren realized a while ago that they weren’t getting very far asking the man of the house where to go. Collinsworth was still sobbing in his chair as Owin tried to console him into speaking to them without blubbering. It… wasn’t working. Closing the manuscript he was skimming over, he set the book back on the shelf and excused himself from the lounge.

 

Entering the hallway, the elf noticed how heavy the air felt in this house. Saturated with sadness and grief. The elf folded his hands behind his back and ascended the wide staircase towards the middle of the building. Running a hand along the smooth railing, when he pulled it back he noticed a light dust has built up on the wood. Wiping his fingers on his leather appren when reaching the top, the alchemist scanned the upper floor before idly wandering in a random direction.

 

Before long, he could hear crying from one of the rooms. Carefully heading to the source of the noise, he knocked on the door and waited for an answer.

 

There was a quiet gasp sniffle before the sound of items shuffling around and feet walking to the door. Theren took a small step back as the door handle rattled and opened, revealing a woman with the ghost of eye makeup running down her pink cheeks. She looked surprised to see him there. “C-Can I help you?” The woman asked, giving the elf a quick look up and down before settling on his face.

 

“Apologies, ma’am. I did not mean to startle you. My companions and I vere hired to find a little girl who haz gone-”

 

“Missing.” She gasped softly. Opening the door and ushering him in, “Please, come in.”

 

Hesitant, Theren cautiously stepped into the master bedroom, decorated with many thick tapestries and a full suit of armor in the corner. “I hope I am not intruding. I am simply looking for information to help locate her.”

 

“Yes- no, of course.” The woman pulled out a small bench and sat on her own vanity stool, quickly looking in her reflection and using a cloth to wipe her face a little better. Turning to face the elf, she gestured for him to sit. “I am the lady of this house, and let me start by thanking you for volunteering to search for my daughter Sara.”

 

“Of course. I uzed to have a daughter before she vent to the city to study.” Theren smiled, but quickly reeled his pride back in to stay on task. “Might I ask vour name?”

 

“Oh! Yes. Marina. Marina Montdrey.”

 

“A pleasure to meet vou. Now zen, vhat can you tell me about vhat happened to little Sara.” Theren asked, preparing for Marina to act similarly to Collinsworth back in the study. But to his surprise, her eyes stayed dry as she nodded slowly.

 

“She and her twin brother Glenn went out to play with the dogs. Sara is the more bold of the two, and when the dogs took off into the woods, she followed them. Glenn stayed behind and was the one to come inside to tell us that she hadn’t come back in hours. After that, we sent our servants out to search for her before it got dark.” The mother paused and her gaze went distant, “But… they couldn’t find her.” Her voice slowly drifted off as she looked to cry again.

 

The elf kept a firm face as he snapped his fingers in front of the human to keep her attention from wandering too far into guilt.

 

Blinking quickly, Marina cleared her throat and quietly apologized. “Sara has been in the woods before. She has gone with her father and brother when they go sporting for game. Hah, she loves it more than Glenn, I think. Such a timid boy… But Sara knows her way around. She would have been able to find her way back home. Perhaps she wanted to catch the dogs, but I’m not so sure. She knows it’s dangerous out there.”

 

“Dangerous? How is it dangerous in ze voods?”

 

“Well… One of our maids, Tally, while she was out searching, she... she got attacked by something… something large.”

 

“Mein friend suggested an Owlbear was the attacker by the sight of those scars forming.”

 

“You saw her?”

 

“She served us tea and biscuits and beer.”

 

“Lovely. Yes, that would be a reasonable explanation, but we don’t know for certain. They usually don’t-”

 

“Usually don’t come down the mountain zis far, we know.” Theren leaned forward in his seat a bit. “Can vou tell me anysing new zat vould help us find her?”

 

The woman paused, looking down in thought.

 

“There are ruins. At the base of the mountain there are ruins where Collinson took us all there for a trip. She might have gone there... B-But it’s a days journey from here!”

 

“And she haz been missing for how long now?”

 

“... Four days at sundown today.”

 

“Let’z keep it at three and see vhat we come back with.” Theren stood and gave a small bow.

 

“Thank you…” The worn mother breathed. “Thank you- you have no idea what-”

 

“Believe me.” He turned to leave, mumbling quietly while opening the door, “I do.”

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

Joining once again at the front of the house, the party exchanged the information gathered to one another before turning their heads to the forest, and it’s possible secrets that lie inside.

 

“A̶re we ̸ŗea͡l̛l̕y̢ ͜go͞ing̵ to̷ ͞do ̴t̡his?” Vil asked one last time, “W̢e͡ ha͞v̛e͟ no ̶şo̶lid evid̵en̡ce t͟h̡at ̕t͟he̸ brat i͜s̛ ̧e̵ven̴ ̡s̵til̨l͜ a҉li͠ve͢, ҉l̨et͞ a͡l̶on̛e ͘no͏t i̶n̴ ͡t̴he̕ ͡b͢ell̵y̡ of s͜o̢me͜ ̶c̷re̸a̷tu͟ŗe.͝ We̴ ͏do͏n͏’͢t h͠ave t͡o ̛st̷ick ͜ou͜r ̴nec͜ks ̛out͘ ͝f҉or t̸his͟ sh̨i̸t.͜”

 

“See, that’s where our morals differ, my friend.” Jok said solemnly, as he stepped forward ahead of the group and towards the gate, “Even if Sara is dead, her parents deserve to know that instead of having the idea that she’s still out their plaguing their minds.”

 

“But ͢isn’t͠ i̴t ͜a lit̶tl̴e st̷r̕ange҉ ̴th̡a͟t̕ th͞ęy̡ have̸n͏’t s͡e̵n͟t͠ a͟ny҉o͞ne from̨ ͟t͜h̢e to͝w̧n͟ ̷to se͝ąrch f͘o҉r her?͝ I mȩan̢, ͝yo̡u ̕s̕aw̕ ͜alļ t͘ho͢se̴ ͡big͏ b̴urly͡ ͜men in ̨th̡e̷ b҉ar̵. ̡Col̴linsw̢or͘t͟h̷ ̷co̶ul͜d̢ hav҉e̶ ̧hir͝ed̴ a͢n͝y̧ ͢o͘f̧ thos͠e ҉suc̕kęr̡s to̷ g͟o ͘f͢in̸d he͞r͟.͢ So w͠h̨y h҉a͜v҉e͢n̴’t they?”

 

This made the band of heros give pause. Why hasn’t anybody else aside from the servants gone looking for Sara? Surely a little girl gone missing would be enough motivation to have people go out searching in the forest… there must be more to this than they knew. But what options did they have? At this point, they had two.

 

The half orc lowered his thick brows in determination, “You can stay and be a coward if you so please. But I’m going to search for her.” He said, raising his head proudly, looking to the others with an air of leadership, “Now... who is with me?”

 

There was no hesitation from Owin, Theren, and Wellaby. Medrash looked between them all, taking a deep breath, he joined Jok’s side to join the search party. Beebe looked to Vil, confusion evident on his face.

 

“We… promised…” The druid said, his eyebrows knitting together slowly, “We promised… that… we… would… find… Sara.”

 

Y͞oư prom̷i͘se̛d̕.̡ ̷d͞i͞dn’̵t,͏ ͟Be̡e̶be͞.͜” The rogue said flatly, turning to head back to the village, leaving the party behind.

 

If it was physically possible, you could see steam coming out of Wellaby’s ears in anger. Stomping up to the changeling, the halfling grabbed Vil by the tail of his cloak and dragged him along the path towards the forest. Vil yelled, kicked, and screamed much like a child having a melt-down, but the others turned a blind eye as the halfling dragged the much taller man along. Hiding their snickers not so well, the campaign continued on as Wellaby gave Vil a earful- well, so to speak. Using one hand and his expressions, the bard did his best to convey his disappointment and half-hearted rage towards the rogue. Vil just got dragged along the ground of the pathway with his arms crossed over his chest in a pout as he rolled his eyes at the scolding from the mute. But instead of talking back, he took it, mildly afraid that if he talked back that he would be dropped.

 

Getting dragged wasn’t that bad, as humiliating as it was. It just meant Vil didn’t have to walk..

 

The party stopped as they reached the trail’s end. The stone road faded under fallen leaves and browning grass. They gazed upwards at the towering trees before looking towards the hidden path ahead into the woods.

 

They pressed forward with Jok and Owin in front to lead the way.

 

It was time for the search of Sara Montdrey to begin.

Chapter Text

As the party reached the edge of the forest and peered in, all seemed normal. However, as they cautiously made their way in, they could see a stark difference than the town they left behind them. It was almost like the trees swallowed the light before it could get past their first layers of branches- casting eerie black shadows over the grey-ish foliage. No birds sang… there were few signs of life the further they went in. The only thing keeping them on the right track through these dense woods was Jok and Owin’s apparent tracking skills.

 

Following bore-in deer trails, they looked for any signs that poor little Sara was through here. Old tracks left by small feet pointed them in the right direction to go.

 

Wellaby, having released Vil before they entered the irrey forest, had long since switched to clinging to the grumpy changeling’s arm instead. Beebe followed similarly; loosely holding onto the back of Vil’s black cloak.

 

“W͡ḩy are̢ you͝ b̶o͡t͠h͢ c͡li͏ng̷ing ̴to̷ ME͝ of̴ all ҉peopl̢e̵?” The rogue asked, agitation concealing most of his growing fondness. Mostly. His words didn’t hold as much bite as normal.

 

“Scary here…” Beebe said, gripping a bit tighter to the heavy fabric as Wellaby nodded quickly in agreement.

 

“Y̨ou cou͏ld̛ go ͟wi̛t͝h T͢heren ̧or ͘M͢e͠d̛r̷as͡h̴ o͞r- l̸itera̵l̢l̢y an͝y̡bod͠y̛ el̵se͜.” Vil tried to snap, but he felt his cold heart melting every so slightly for the two. The two fellow party members shook their heads again silently. Internally Vil was smacking himself, telling himself to get a grip already and just shove them off. But the strength for it never came. Much to his… slight dismay.

 

“Everyone! I think I found something!” Owin called from a few yards away, having gone off a bit to look for any clues they could use. Now he was crouching down over whatever it was he discovered.

 

The other men quickly joined the ranger and peered over his shoulders to get a look at what he found. And there, laying hidden in a small mud puddle, was some kind of rabbit trap. Owin took a stick and triggered it for the others to watch. The loop snapped into action and pulled the small branch from Owin’s hand, a young tree bobbing slightly from the new weight as the stick hung there.

 

“Did that little girl make this herself?” Medrash asked in awe, studying the tight knot closer.

 

“Most likely.” Owin said, standing from his crouched position, “Theren did say that she had learned from her father how to hunt.”

 

“So zen she must not be very far?” The alchemist pondered aloud. “She vould have to check ze traps in order to feed herzelf, yes? Ve could vait here for her to return.”

 

“No. It’s better if we keep moving.” Jok stated gruffly. The half-orc looked around the dark, mangled trees. A silent breeze made the branches wave their claws in response. “Keep an eye out for more traps Sara could have set. It’s still a day’s journey to the ruins Lady Montdrey spoke about. Our best bet of finding the girl is going there.”

 

All nodding slowly, the seven carried on deeper into the woods, deeper into it’s shadows. Medrash, Theren, and Vil could feel something in the back of their heads… As if a spindly hand was gently stroking the backs of their skulls as eyes bore into their necks. But as they turned to look, they found nothing but empty branches staring back at them.

 

It wasn’t until a few more yards when Beebe stopped in his tracks, hand still gripping onto Vil’s cloak and causing the changeling to stop and turn to the druid. His body was stiff and his milky white eyes stared ahead, focus blurred.

 

“Be͘eb̧e,҉ c̶’͝m͞on͝. ͡We g̛o͜tta͡ ̨ke͘e͏p̵ m̨ovi̷n͝g.” The rogue said flatly, giving his cloak a little tug to try and urge the undead forward. Wellaby turned around as well and gave Beebe a concerned look.

 

But again, the thin druid didn’t move. His once elvish ears twitched like a deer’s to locate a silent sound. Eyes darting around ever so slightly as he turn his head side to side. “Wind…” He finally spoke, letting go of the fabric and alerting the others to stop and turn to the back. “Air… is… too… still.” Beebe backed up slowly from the others, turning in circles as he looked around the forest in an almost dazed state.

 

The others took notice of the world around them. The air had gone stagnant and not even the rustling of the autumn leaves whispered to them. The only sounds left in their ears was their own breathing. Beebe shook his head, clutching to his scrappy tunic as if to get it to stop moving. To stop making sound. The poor druid was starting to become overwhelmed by the pressure of silence weighing down upon him. While the others felt it as well, Beebe clutched his ears and let out a yell that reached above the treetops. “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!! THE QUIET IS TOO LOUD! THE QUIET… IT’S TOO LOUD FOR ME!!” Sprouts of green vines started to form around him from the ground and wrap around the screaming druid in a sort of cocoon-like hug. Whether he was doing it on purpose, the other’s could not tell.

 

They weren’t sure what to do. They’ve never seen the poor undead this upset, let alone scream in full sentences. But Medrash quickly ran up to the druid, now hyper aware of how his jewelry and necklaces clinked and jangled with each step against his chest. He gently reached his clawed hands out to the druid’s face and softly cupped his hollowed cheeks. Instantly Beebe stopped screaming and looked at the dragonborn, fear evident in his empty eyes as he still whimpered loudly. For a moment, Medrash turned to Wellaby, “Could you play us a quiet song, friend? To help fill the quiet?” He turned back to the panicked Beebe and started to hum a lullaby-esque song.

 

Wellaby was a little taken aback from the whole situation, but when he saw Beebe instantly settling down to Medrash’s quiet humming, he took off his patchwork top hat from his curly haired head and pulled out his crank organ. Securing the strap around his neck for stability, the halfling slowly turned the handle and played a soft tune as requested, filling the all-too-quiet forest with a song. Much like you would hear from a music box, the sound was light and chiming. Medrash matched his humming to the tune as he carefully rested his forehead to Beebe’s.

 

The thick vines slowly unraveled from the druid’s shaking form as he closed his eyes and focused on the music, attempting to ground himself- to bring him back from his panic. Slowly but surely, it was working.

 

As the music continued to soothe the lanky druid, Theren felt a chill graze the top of his spine. He moved his hand to rub the back of his neck, but something caught it and picked the alchemist up from the ground with a yank. The elf let out a shout, alerting the others instantly.

 

When the party spun around to see what was wrong. And they found Theren floating in the air, his body struggling and his arm held firmly above his head. The elf tried to yell, but his mouth appeared to be held open- blocked by something so sound couldn’t escape from his throat. With his free hand, he looked to be trying to pull whatever was lodged in his mouth out while baring his teeth. Nobody could see what had captured their companion, but they all knew he wouldn’t be trapped for long.

 

Let’s roll for initiative.

 

The first one to charge forward and help was Jok. The half orc drew out his sword and took a bounding leap at the nothingness, aiming to punge the blade into whatever was holding his comrade. “Hold on, Theren!” Boot digging into the ground before his leap, an unseen force knocked the fighter out of the sky. Landing on the ground with a roll, Jok slid to a stop down on one knee with his sword outstretched in front of him. Glaring up with fire alight in his dark eyes, he charged again, this time aiming lower- to where he thought legs or a lower half of the body would be located.

 

At the same time, Medrash was trying to figure out a spell to use that would reveal something of the creature they could hit. On a similar train of thought, Wellaby looked around on the ground until he found some mud. Confused, the sorcerer focused back at the task at hand  and ignored the halfling’s antics for now. Closing his eyes to concentrate, the dragonborn realized that whatever was cloaking the beast wouldn’t last forever. They just had to get in a good hit and then-

 

With all the strength in his little arm, the small bard chucked a harty handful of mud in the direction he thought the creature was in. Flying just over Jok’s head (a little splattering against the back of it), the mudpie landed with a loud, wet SLAP onto an invisible surface- now seen. Eyes wide with shock, Medrash cast a surprised grin at Wellaby, who was getting another handful of mud ready to fly and hopefully reveal more of the creature holding their friend hostage. “Creative little halfling.” Medrash mumbled to himself as he looked back to see how the good alchemist was holding up.

 

“ET E WON OM ERE!!” Theren tried to yell through whatever gag was in his mouth as he kicked and punched and over-all tried to make a fuss in its grasp. He figured out quickly that it wasn’t working. And when he saw his fellow party members using their gear, his mind snapped to the small glass vials attached to leather straps over his body. Using his free hand to feel around, the elf quickly grabbed one and popped open the cork to immediately pour it all over whatever was holding onto his arm. The smell of acid and burning flesh quickly hit his nostrils and made him cough and hack, but those went unnoticed as the creature let out a bellowing scream of agony from the burns it had received. But they didn’t drop Theren- if anything, it’s grip grew only tighter around the alchemist’s arm, almost to the point of breaking.

 

Owin cursed quietly to himself as he tried to aim his bow. But without a clear target, he was afraid of hitting Theren. So for now, he stood helplessly in the back beside Beebe and Wellaby. Both of them were now trying to throw mud at the creature. It helped show it’s form a little, but it was still too risky to fire willy-nilly. So instead, the human pulled out his waterskin and poured it’s contents onto the ground for the others to make more mud to throw. He hated simply standing by, but this is all he could do until an opening showed up.

 

With all the commotion going on, nobody, not even the creature, noticed as Vil slipped into the trees and vanished without a sound. Perfect.

 

Seeming to get agitated with all the things being thrown at him, the beast swung Theren around before using his body to knock Jok back again. The party members were blown back with a gust of hot air accompanied by an ear-piercing scream so high in pitch that it made their ears ring and brains rattle in their skulls. For Beebe, Medrash and Theren, with their ears being super sensitive to sound, their ears started to bleed a bit. Not enough for permanent damage, but they couldn’t hear anything being said to them directly for the moment.

 

Beebe tried to cover his ears and focus again. Taking a deep breath and slowly removing his lightly blood covered hands, the druid whispered a spell to the earth and it started to rumble. It wasn’t an earthquake. Oh no, Beebe wasn’t that strong yet. However, the movement of the ground shook his bare feet for a moment before thick tree roots shot from under where he assumed the creature was and pierced upwards like spikes at the bottom of a ravine. Another terrible howl was let out from the creature, but it wasn’t like Beebe could hear it, so who cares?

 

Theren cared a bit when he had to dodge a root heading in his direction through the creature. Kicking his legs up and hoisting his body, he was able to avoid the natural spear penetrating through unseen flesh. He couldn’t hear it either, but the elf could feel the vibrations of the creature’s roar before he was dropped. With a yelp, the alchemist landed with a thump onto the blood-soaked tree root and had to quickly gain his balance before slipping off. Riding it like a twisted version of a water-slide, Theren slid down the root until it dropped off and he free-fell into Jok’s strong arms.

 

“Zat is the mozt excitement I evah vant to have in my life.” The elf breathed, speaking a bit too loudly since he could not hear himself properly. Jok laughed and quickly put the alchemist down.

 

“This fight ain’t over yet!” The fighter readied his sword once more as the roots seemed to be thrashing around by another force before quickly retreating back into the earth where they belonged.

 

Grunts and growls of pain sounded from the blood and mud-covered thing. Piece by piece, their shroud of invisibility was beginning to slip away like stips of cloth, revealing itself to them all for the first time. It was some kind of tree giant, with long, lumbering arms that thinned into sharp fingers. Their chest looked like roots that had grown around a large bolder and held it there. It’s face was a woven network of branches and vines to create a hideous, ape-shaped mask with glowing yellow eyes and large sharp teeth. Thick bark cracked and black with mold, this tree was not happy with these travelers being in his forest. As thick brown blood pooled under it’s form, the giant doubled over, much like how someone would like they were about to throw-up their last meal. Resting on it’s elbows, hands curled into fists in front of it, the tree giant remained still.

 

Beebe was horrified about what he had done. The poor druid quickly ran to the giant before anyone could grab and stop him. Slowing his step as he got closer, the undead carefully approached it. Looking up at it’s heaving form, tears slowly built up in his milky eyes. “I’m…” He started before choking back a sob, “I’m so… sorry.” Beebe fell to his knees in the dirt between the hands of the giant. “Didn’t… mean to…” The druid felt grief for what he had done as his shoulders shook with sobs. He didn’t even realize that one of the giant’s hands was moving upwards with a curled fist above him.

 

“BEEBE WATCH OUT-!” Jok tried to warn the deaf druid, but his words fell silent as a figure fell from a tall tree above the giant and landed on it’s back. Digging in his heels and plunging his knife into the tree giant’s head, Vil smiled viciously under his hood as he yanked his blade sideways. This caused the giant to scream again and follow the knife’s direction, throwing itself onto its side away from Beebe- who only looked up in shock when he felt the creature crashing down into the earth.

 

“NO!!” Beebe cried, but before he could run towards it, Jok wrapped his arms around his thin frame and dragged him back.

 

“IT WAS GOING TO KILL YOU, BEEBE!” Jok yelled back, struggling to keep hold as the druid clawed at his arms desperately.

 

Vil slowly rose from where he crash-landed when the giant fell. Looking at the damage he had done, he nodded to himself proudly, pulling his blade from it’s skull and wiping the blood off with his cloak. Heading back to the others, he was confused to see Beebe crying in Jok’s arms while being comforted by Theren. The changeling decided it would be best if he stayed back for now.

 

Yet again, it took some effort to calm the druid down after Wellaby helped to heal their ears. Beebe just didn’t understand why the giant had to die. This time, Theren and Owin sat him down and carefully explained how Theren was in trouble and they needed to save him. Beebe stayed quiet and wiped his cheeks, but he listened to them, nodding numbly and standing up after they were finished.

 

Medrash was over where the giant now laid on its side. Dead. Looking around, the sorcerer picked up a stone and set it down in front of their still form. Then another. And another until he made a shape. A triangular looking letter B. Beebe walked over, head tilted in sad confusion until the dragonborn stood and quietly explained the rune’s meaning in one word.

 

“Berkana. It means Rebirth.” Slowly opening his scaled palm, Medrash showed the druid an odd looking acorn that seemed to have intricate swirls grown into it. “I found this while you were talking to Theren and Owin.” He said softly, gently placing it in Beebe’s hand and closing his fingers around it. “You can replant it here, if you’d like. Or you can wait and plant them wherever you wish.” Giving him a warm smile, the druid decided to pocket the acorn and save it for later.

 

Vil silently watched the exchange from a distance as he leaned against a tree, arms crossed over his chest as he let out a small huff, “Aŗe w͡e̕ ͞re̢ad͢y͏ ͞t͠o go y͏et? It’̶s͡ ̕going̡ ̢t̴o ̵g͞et͢ ҉d͡a͘r̕k ̴so̧o͏n ͝and̴ w̴e ̨n̸e͟ed̨ ţo f̡i͝nḑ ̡a̸ p̨lac҉ȩ ͞t҉o͜ ̵ma̷ke ͡ca͝m̵p fo͞r t̸h͝e̕ ni͘ght͞.̸”

 

Medrash nodded in agreement, “He’s right. If there’s more things out here like this, then we need to find someplace safe- and who knows how far the ruins are from here.”

 

“Let’s get a move on, then.” Jok spoke up, finishing cleaning his sword before sheathing it once again on his back.

 

“I’ll scout ahead. See if I can’t find anything for the night.” Owin mumbled, securing his bow onto his back as well before starting to jog ahead as the rest of the group collected their belongings and thoughts.

 

Wellaby quietly walked over to Beebe who was still staring at the giant’s body and the rune Medrash left in small stones. Looking up at his face, the halfling took the undead’s hand and gently pulled him along. He didn’t resist.

 

With that, the group was once again on their way deeper into the forest. Many thoughts plagued the backs of their minds, but a single one sounded above the rest.

 

How could little Sara survive this place on her own… ?

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

It was easy enough to find a place to hunker down for the night. While scouting ahead, Owin had found a large mouth of a cave in the side of the mountain they were nearing. Lighting one of his arrows on fire and sending it flying in the darkness, the human found that it was not as deep as he expected- perhaps 20 feet into the stone. Walking in, he leaned down and picked up his burning arrow from the ground before putting it out in a puddle nearby. He took note it was a little chilly, but it wasn’t anything a fire would not fix.

 

Exiting the small cave, he stuck the brightly colored arrow into the cliffside as a marker, and journeyed back to his companions to lead the way.

 

Setting down their traveler’s packs and other equipment along the sides of the cave walls, the heros started to work together to get a small camp set up. Medrash built a fire, Wellaby brought out some small cooking pots, and Beebe and Theren traveled back out to collect some dry wood and leaves from the ground. Both for the fire and for some type of bedding on the hard ground. Jok watched the fire while sharpening his sword while Vil was standing outside of the cave to keep first watch.

 

It was quiet amongst them all as they rested and ate the small meal the halfling cooked up.

 

“Aaaand I think that’s a good place to take a break!” Jack grinned as the egos around the table made their complaints of the idea shown.

 

“C’mon bro, you can’t just do that to us!” Chase complained, throwing his hat down onto the table and rubbing his face with a groan.

 

“It was just starting to get good!!” Jackie agreed, grabbing the last handful of popcorn and shoving it into his mouth.

 

Jack simply laughed at their dismay. “Yeah well, this Dungeon Master needs to fuckin’ pee.” With that, the youtuber got up from his seat and was followed by loud groans and “boo!”s. He lightheartedly flipped his egos two birds and turned the corner to head to the bathroom.

 

“This… fun!” Robbie smiled brightly, fiddling with his dice once again.

 

“You’re not actually upset with the giant dying, are you Robster?” Marvin asked, putting a hand on his shoulder in concern.

 

The zombie shook his head, much to everyone’s relief. “Nope! Just… pretend!”

 

“Zat is correct. Very good acting sough, my friend. You veally had me choked up sere.” Henrik let out a small laugh, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes for a moment before replacing them on the bridge of his nose.

 

“I. Get. More. Food.” Jameson signed before standing up and grabbing the two empty snack bowls. Getting everyone to play dungeons and dragons really made his heart feel light. It was one of his and Robbie’s better ideas in a while. It was just so warming seeing the others get into their characters and have an overall good time. Entering the large kitchen they all shared, JJ placed one of the empty bowls under the popcorn maker and pulled down the jar of unpopped kernels from the cupboard. Anti joined the mute in the kitchen and opened the fridge to grab more drinks for the others.

 

Jameson noticed the glitch’s form was… more stable and put together. Less erratic and twitchy. It was very rare to see him this way, with a small grin on his pale face. Anti turned and rose an eyebrow at JJ, having being caught staring. The silent man quickly turned his gaze back to the machine as he poured a cup of the kernels into the popcorn maker.

 

The kitchen was still for a moment. Jameson gripped the edge of the counter. He was… still nervous around Anti. Sure, the video they filmed together was just a bit. But it still scared the silent movie ego to death. Being taken over by the glitch demon.. Even for a moment- for an act … it was pretty terrifying for the young ego.

 

A hand came down on quickly on JJ’s shoulder, making the dapper man jump and spin around to face the green-tinged ego. Anti was staring intensely at him, his dark eyes scrunched in confusion for a moment before a light smirk took over his features. “G̸o͝ttcha̕, Ja̵y.̛”

 

Jameson blinked quickly and visibly relaxed, wagging his finger at Anti with a smile raising his mustache. The other ego let out a light laugh, grabbing the drinks he was after and teleporting back to the gameroom.

 

Anti wasn’t evil. Well, not truely. Everyone in the Septic house knew this, but sometimes Jameson forgot how much of a goofball and prankster the glitch really was. Sure, he was sassy, a bit of a brat, edgy as all hell, and got annoyed by the little things (most of the time it’s when the fans make memes about him). But he was the top prankster of the house right behind Chase and Jackie- causing chaos and harmless mayhem wherever he went. It kept everyone on their toes, to say the least. Not to mention he was very protective when it came to the other egos. Being the oldest of them all, JJ looked up to Anti a lot like he would to an older brother. Jameson didn’t think Anti would ever admit it out loud, but the silent man was pretty sure the glitch appreciated being thought of that way instead of the bad guy for once.

 

Once JJ returned to the gaming room with two full bowls of fresh popcorn, he noticed Jack had returned, but Marvin had vanished. “Where. M.A.R.V?” He signed after setting the bowls down on the table.

Jackieboy took one of the sodas Anti brought and cracked it open with a soft fizz, “He said he had to check on something real quick. But he’ll be back.”

 

“I vote zat if he takes more zen five minutes, we continue vitout him.” Schneep mumbled, taking a few pieces of popcorn and munching on them. “Ve are just traveling at zis point. Ze kitty boy von’t miss much.”

 

The table nodded in agreement and took the time to replenish their hitpoints and spell slots. Jack took out his phone and scrolled through his twitter feed idly as pencils moved over paper to reset for the next part of the campaign.

 

Marvin quickly ran down the stairs seemingly out of breath as he took his seat between Jameson and Robbie once again.

 

“You. O.K.?” Jameson asked, raising an eyebrow almost comically.

 

The magician panted, trying to regain his breath as he nodded a bit too quickly, “What? Yes- Everything is fine- I mean- I’m okay. D-Don’t worry about me.”

 

Everyone stared at Marvin for a moment. Even his white cat mask couldn’t hide that something was off with the ego.

 

“Well… If you say so, bud. But you know we’re here for you, right?” Jack said, trying to reassure his magical counterpart.

 

Swallowing and forcing a smile, Marvin nodded, “I really appreciate it. But trust me- there’s nothin’ to worry about.” He said, levitating a can of soda towards himself before opening it with a small flick of his wrist. Taking the can from the air and having a long sip of the carbonated drink, it was his way of showing that he was done talking about this.

 

The dungeon master hesitated before giving a shrug and reminding him to reset his spells and hitpoints.

 

Jackie wasn’t buying it. He knew Marvin for probably the longest next to Anti, and the hero knew when something was was going on with him. The little tick of bringing an object in to add some kind of block between himself and everyone else was the main teller. But… if Marvin said everything was okay, Jackie would believe him. For now.

 

Clearing his throat to get the ego’s attention, the youtuber pulled out a small metal figurine and set it in front of his wooden screen. Schneep leaned forward a bit and pushed up his glasses to get a better look at it.

 

“Iz zat a golin or demonic child?” The doctor squinted.

 

“Yes.” Jack answered with a laugh, making some of the others groan at the joke.

 

“Haha, nice.” Chase commented, reaching behind Henrik to give the DM a high-five, which was received with a shit-eating smile from Jack.

 

“It’s the next day and you are all fully rested. Thankfully there were no random encounters since Vil insisted on taking watch all night.”

 

Anti puts his hands up in surrender, “Hey,̨ no̕bod̵y ̶else̷ of̡fe̷r҉ed̛ t͠o̸ ma҉k̵e͟ s̢ure͢ ͜w͘e didn͜’͠t̨ ̛get͡ o͟ưr̶ asşes ea̸t͠e҉n ͡in ̷th͜ȩ mid͜d̶le͘ o͘f̛ t̶he̸ ņi͞ght.”

 

“You didn’t wake any of us up!” Jackie protested with a small roll of his eyes.

 

“W̸ha̷t̸eve͏r͘.̨” Anti deadpanned, “I wa̕s j͠u͝st jok͜i͡n̕g͟ you u̶p̸tight ̵piece ̡of̷-̛”

 

“ANYWAY,” Jack interrupted the impending argument, trying to steer them back towards the game at hand. “As you all make your way tracking the girl’s trail through the monochrome forest, a few hours in you start to notice some color slowly coming back into the world. And as you all cross over a small hill, there, you spotted the runes in the distance.”

 

Overgrown with moss and vines, the crumbled white stone lay stained in green. Reaching the center of the round courtyard, when the heros gazed upwards at the trees, they saw the golds, rubies, and coppers of the autumn leaves again. Birdsong filled the sweet air and everything seemed… peaceful.

 

The ruins appeared to be the remains of a small church of some sort. Shards of stained glass crunched under their boots as they tread over small piles of leaves.

 

“We should spread out to see if we can find any signs of Sara.” Owin declared to the others, heading towards a forgotten stone staircase to try and get a better view of the area.

 

Wellaby pulled out his boxed instrument and began to play a happy tune. In case their initial presence scared the girl, the mute halfling hoped that the music would both calm her, and alert the her of them meaning no harm.

 

The adventurers spread out to search the old stones. And after a while of looking, they met back at the center courtyard, most coming up empty-handed.

 

“I found zis on thorny berry bushes.” Theren said, holding up a small scrap of shiny yellow fabric with swirls sewn onto it for the others to see.

 

“That means she must have been here!” Jok grinned triumphantly.

 

“I could try to use a tracking spell to find her with this.” Medrash spoke up hopefully.

 

“W̢ait ͏waiţ, ͜d̴i͢d͝ ͢we f҉i҉nd ̢any̴th̡in̷g e͢ls̶e?̶” Vil spoke up, calming the others of their excitement.

 

“Beebe… found… bed! And… fire pit.” The druid smiled, pointing to a small covered area off to the side a few yards away. Inside was a pile of flattened leaves and as Beebe described, a small pit with charred wood resting inside. It had been cold for a few hours at minimum.

 

“So she has been here!” Jok smiled again, taking the scrap of fabric from Theren and stuffing it into Medrash’s hands. “Well go on! She can’t be too far now.”

 

Startled by the half orc’s eagerness, the sorcerer unfolded the cloth and smoothed it out while closing his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he concentrated on the energy weakly still attached to it. And when he opened his eyes, he could see a soft glowing thread winding around the ruins. Medrash looked to the others to follow him as he held out the cloth and began to follow it’s trail back to the berry bush and winding around the stone rubble. The path the child took as if she were playing. Eventually, the thread continued away from the site and back into the forest, following another deer trail.

 

The heros were ready to follow.

 

As the magical thread became stronger, Medrash sped his steps, the others hurrying to keep up with the dragonborn. And soon enough, the seven had broke into a run to keep up with the trail. Dodging branches and hurdling tree roots, they didn’t even realize being caught up in the moment- when the glowing trail lead them over a cliffside.

 

Medrash’s eyes went wide as he skid to a stop at it’s edge. Breathing in relief for only a moment before Wellaby rammed into his back. Followed by Owin, Theren, Vil, Beebe, and Jok. The half orc tipping them over the edge, causing all of them comically crashing into one another from behind before they were sent flying over the ledge and tumbled down the mountainside. A chorus of shouts of surprise, screams of fear, and grunts of pain followed them all the way down until they crash-landed into a dog pile of limbs and sheathed weapons and equipment.

 

Staying still in the heap for a moment, the heros carefully untangled themselves from one another and rose up with groans of pain.

 

“Damnit all, Jok!” Theren snapped, slapping the half orc’s side to get him off of the elf’s form. “You veigh as much as ten sacks ov bricks!”

 

Jok scoffed in offence, “Excuse you. I weigh as much as twelve bags of bricks at least.” With a roll the half orc got off his companion and offered the alchemist a hand up. The elf took it and stood, brushing off his off-white jacket before moving to check on Beebe- who was sitting up and holding his severed right arm in his left hand.

 

“Oh dear. I vould ask if you are alright. But it appears you are more left zen right.” Theren chuckled and Beebe tilted his head in confusion, “Sorry. Zat is little joke.” Digging into his shoulder bag, the alchemist pulled out a needle and thread and kneeled next to the druid.

 

“Yo͜u҉ l̕e͢a͟d̶ ̴u̧s̡ off̷ a f̵u͜cki̸n҉g ͠c҉l̵if͏f̴!!” Vil growled at Medrash as soon as he stood from the pile.

 

The dragonborn glared up at the changeling and put a hand on his hip while still laying in the dirt, “Well excuuuuse me! I was just following the trail!”

 

“A͡ tr̵ail t҉ha͜t͘ ̶le͡a͠d us͞ ͞off a͡ c͝liff!͜”

 

Owin rolled onto his knees then stood, holding out a hand to help Wellaby up and dust off his cloak. “Guys relax. Nobody got hurt-”

 

“Beebe lost an arm.” Theren called behind him matter-of-factly as he carefully stitched the undead’s arm back into place, but there was no real concern in his tone.

 

“Okay, Beebe lost an arm, but everyone else is fine!” The ranger huffed, looking over at Medrash, “Can you still follow Sara’s trail?”

 

Medrash looked around, his golden earrings swaying from the movement, and he looked back with a frown. “I lost it.” The others looked about to riot but he quickly corrected himself, “BUT we’re close. The thread was strong before we went down.” Standing up and brushing the dirt and foliage off of himself, Medrash looked upon the trees and cupped his hands around his mouth. “SARA!” He called out, his echo being quickly softened by the tree branches.

 

Wellaby caught on quickly, picking up his crank organ once again and started to play again as the others started calling out the nobel girl’s name. They spread out to search, still within earshot of one another in case they found her.

 

They searched every tree, every bush- any kind of small space a little girl could hide in.

 

Vil changed his form and jumped from tree to tree as a large black wildcat with green eyes. He slowed his prowel when he spotted something move. Flattening his body to blend in with the blackened bark as much as he could when he saw the movement once again. The padding of dog feet running was unmistakable. And it was confirmed when one smelled the air and started to bark up at the tree the changeling was hiding in. He stayed still and watched them with a lazy swish of his tail, ears picking up when he heard another set of footsteps running across the underbrush just out of view.

 

Owin was closest to Vil when he heard the dogs starting to bark. He picked his head up from searching a hole dug under a tree’s roots in time to see the blur of a figure run past him and hide behind another tree. “... Sara?” He called out. No response. Stepping closer, he tried again in a softer tone, “Sara… we were sent by your father to bring you home… We’re not going to hurt you.” He said, patiently waiting on the other side and not moving to force her to show herself. “... Can you come out please? We’re here to take you back home.” The ranger kneeled before the tree they were hiding behind and waited patiently for a minute before speaking again. “My name is Owin. Owin Arthek. My companions are Theren, Medrash, Wellaby, Jok, Beebe, and Vil…” Still nothing. “... I have two daughters myself.” He tried, and this time, heard a small shifting of feet on the other side of the trunk. “Their names are Kaylee and Meg. I also have a son named Duren, but he’s just a baby.”

 

“... And you left them?” A timid voice asked, soft as a sleighbell.

 

Owin was taken aback by this, but shook his head with a grin, “Not for long. I’ll be returning to them once I am able to bring you back to your family.”

 

“Oh…” They whispered, still hesitant.

 

The ranger couldn’t rush this in fear of scaring Sara off again. So he stayed still and waited there.

 

Eventually, the voice behind the tree spoke up once again, “Do… you have any... food?”

 

“Yes, yes we do. Plenty to go around. Here,” Owin reached into his pocket and pulled out a corner of a loaf of bread. “Take it.” He reached his arm out in offering.

 

Small foot shuffled were heard…

 

Before a long, spindly hand reached around the tree and snatched the bread. The sicking sounds of lips smacking and teeth tearing into the crust followed.

 

“S-Sara..?”

 

A crashing sound from upstairs startled the men around the table, snapping them back into reality.

 

“The hell was that?” Jack asked, staring above them at the ceiling.

 

“Oh no…” Marvin was quick to rise from his seat, almost causing his chair to topple over.

 

“Marv, what’s wrong?” Jackie asked in a worried tone, standing to follow his magical friend.

 

“N-No! Just stay there. I’ll check on it.” The masked ego quickly ran from the room and up the stairs with socked feet. The others looked around at one another at the table before quickly rising to go after Marvin. Dice clattered to the floor in their rush to follow their friend.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” The superhero mumbled to himself, but everyone heard.

 

Something was wrong.

 

And if it scared Marvin this badly…

 

It had to be serious.

Chapter Text

“Marvin??” Jackieboy Man called out before moving towards the staircase quickly. Exchanging worried looks, the other egos and Jack followed the superhero up.

 

“Are you okay, Marv?” Chase shouted from the back of the small stampede up the steps.

 

The magician quickly slammed the door behind himself and locked it, preventing anyone from getting into his bedroom. Muffled by the wooden door, he stuttered, “E-Everything is alright! Nothing to worry about! Nope! S-So it’s best to just go away!” He sang nervously, another crash of glass and a thud sounded soon after.

 

“If̡ ͏ḩe b͠ur͝ned a͞ h̡ole i̢n ̵the fl̶o̕o̸r ̨a̵g͟a͡i̸n͡,͠ I ̕sw̛ear to ͞f͢u͠c̡kin’̷ g͏oḑ I’m ͏gonna͠-̸” Anti grumbled as he teleported himself in front of Marvin’s bedroom door as the rest of them just made it up the stairs. Jackie glared daggers at him and the glitch rolled his eyes, knocking on the door twice with one hand and with a flick of his wrist unlocking it before just opening it and barging in. “Mar̨v̷in ̵what̢ ͝t͜h͟e fuck di͝d̷ yo͝u͡ b̸re̴a̕k̵ ̛t͠his͡ ͜ti-”

 

In the middle of the room, Marvin was struggling to stand as his cat mask flew off his face and landed somewhere in the corner of the room. His arms were out in front of him, bright light beaming from his hands as he struggled to keep something contained in an orb of magic.

 

“MARVIN!” Jackie cried out, about to rush in and help, but Anti beat him to it, using his own pixelated powers to attempt to hold down whatever the magician was struggling to keep in check.

 

Papers and books were being whipped around the room like a hurricane as the others carefully made their way into the room- sticking close to the walls so they hopefully would stay out of the way. Marvin saw them enter in the corner of his eye, but he didn’t respond.

 

“DUDE WHAT’S HAPPENING??” Chase yelled over the growing wailing of wind picking up along with potion bottles being shattered to the ground and on the walls. The single father tried to keep Robbie and Jameson behind him in order to protect them from on-coming debris. The youngest egos clung to his arms and shirt out of fear.

 

“MARVIN! WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?!” Jack shouted, ducking quickly when a thick book came flying towards his head. “THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING !”

 

Beads of sweat were starting to fall from the magician’s forehead as his eyes turned a bright green the more he used his magic. He quickly glanced over at Anti, realizing he too was starting to loose his stance, his feet desperately trying not to slide across the hardwood floor while being pushed back.

 

The magician didn’t want his family to get hurt, so he responded with the only thing he could think of.

 

LEAVE! ” He spun around and tried to use one hand to keep whatever was contained still while throwing the others out of his room with a wave of his hand- but all that accomplished was throwing them all to the floor.

 

Marvin lost his focus. He couldn’t hold it for much longer! With one last push, he tried to bring both of his hands back up and use the last of his resolve to keep it steady.

 

But it was no use. The magician was blown to the ground as if a bolder had crushed his form, and the light vanished from his hands and eyes as he blacked out.

 

Anti grit his teeth and let out yelled, using all of his power to keep whatever this was as small as possible But soon enough, he lost his grip and was thrown back as if he got punched in the face with a wrecking ball. Crumpling to the ground next to Marvin.

 

The bubble of magic and virus burst- and a dense ball of black swirling energy took its place.

 

“GET DOWN!” Jackieboy yelled, throwing himself over Henrik and Jack as Chase kept Robbie and JJ under him for protection. The egos and youtuber covered their heads and necks with their arms in fear of something flying on top of them.

 

The entire septic house rumbled and shook like an earthquake. Elsewhere in the house they could hear books falling from shelves, plates and kitchenware shattering downstairs, and anything that wasn’t strapped down toppled over. It was as if a hole was opening up from the bottom of the house and was about to swallow them whole.

 

The dark energy in the magician’s bedroom turned into a bright expanding light. Swirling colors blinded their vision through closed eyes and the sounds of booming thunder and crackling lightning filled their ears. The winds were spinning faster and faster and faster until the men on the ground could feel their breaths being ripped from their throats. The egos scream in fear but the sound of their voices were lost to the room-sized hurricane.

 

An overwhelming white light grew from the center of the room, lighting pulsating like a heart. The room spun faster, all of Marvin’s belongings being thrown around as it orbited the light.

 

For just a moment, everything went still, as if someone pressed the pause button in the middle of a disaster film.

 

All was quiet. And from his place on the ground, Jack slowly lifted his head and was in awe at what he saw. He looked to his egos- all of them seemed to have passed out- before slowly rising from the protection of Jackieboy’s strong arms.

 

Carefully moving around the papers, books, and other items floating in midair, he made his way to the center of the room where a palm-sized crystal softly faded in and out of light as it lazily rotated in a circle.

 

Remember that old saying? That one about the cat? In that moment, neither did Jack as he felt his arm raise on it’s own and his hand wrapped around the strange reflective stone.

 

Suddenly, blinding cold-white light blasted out to all the corners of the room through the cracks of his fingers, filling it completely with sparking energy and loud white noise. Jack screamed as a feeling of burning overtook his hand and rushed up his arm to the rest of his body. But the sounds of his pain were drowned out by the sound of nothingness. Clawing at his hand to force himself to drop the crystal, he found the corners of his vision going dark. Frantically the youtuber looked behind him- to his counterparts lying unconscious on the ground- helpless he cried out to them.

 

Soon enough, the burning cold energy over-took his entire form and his knees buckled, sending him to the ground with a hard thud.

 

Sparkling colors and dancing lights filled his eyes and visions of pleading, scared hands reaching towards him invaded his mind.

 

Jack wanted to go back to playing their game!

 

He wanted this all to stop!

 

With the last of the creator’s fear-fueled awakeness, he wished with all of his heart that this was just a horrible nightmare. And he would wake up soon and be back at their gaming table with the sounds of laughter and rolling dice filling the room. And then-

 

Blackout.

Chapter Text

Falling.

 

That’s what it felt like.

 

Or maybe he was flying? In this moment, he couldn’t tell.

 

He was rolling over himself forever through the ocean and clouds of space dust. Gently being turned by the wake when an shooting star lazily flew past. The tickles of stardust and bubbles danced across exposed skin and though dark floating hair.

 

He couldn’t see anything. Then again, he couldn’t force his eyes open to look as he drifted through nothingness. Spreading his palms and tenderly hovering over passing galaxies. The sensation both soft and grainy, much like warm sand on the beach.

 

It was almost… peaceful. All sound of the realm around him was muted like he was at the bottom of a swimming pool. Holding a brick in your lap to stay under longer, warm light danced over his face as he gazed upwards through the chlorine.

 

Shadows of figures swam playfully overhead and bubbles turned to warm solarwinds when they hit his face.

 

But alike in either space or sea, you eventually have to come up for air. Even if the beauty of the vastness was overwhelmingly magnificent…

 

Everyone eventually has to breathe.

 

Everyone had to wake up.

 

When bright blue eyes opened, they widened much like a newborn’s, quickly trying to take in their small part of the world all at once. Even now that so much more of the world has been seen in his time, it’s still too much. Tears float up from his icey eyes like fragile bubbles before condensing and turning into crystals… forever falling away and catching the soft glows of distant stars and jellyfish.

 

There was nothing but harsh darkness and quiet echos.

 

What is this place…?

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

To Anti, it felt like he just jumped off a two story building and crash landed face first into a goddamn dumpster filled with bricks that miraculously caught on fire and then was promptly put out by a block of ice that first cracked open his head… And then everything was hit by a 2 ton truck.

 

In simpler terms, everything hurt like a goddamn fucking bitch.

 

And without opening his eyes, the glitch could hear the other egos painfully groaning in agreement around him. Digging his nails into the ground below him, Anti slowly raised himself from a push-up position to sitting on his knees, his back and legs protesting the movement. Rubbing the back of his head, the ego slowly opened his eyes, blinking the crust from it as if he had just woken up from a long night’s rest. Except his wake up call was his entire body screaming at him “ Oh fucking christ everything hurts.”

 

Running a hand through his messy dark green and brown hair, Anti finally took in his surroundings- and upon seeing the other egos scattered around him on the ground, his memory flashed back to him like a slap in the face.

 

We were playing Dnd

 

Something broke upstairs in Marvin’s room

 

We all ran in to help

 

Marvin couldn’t keep control-

 

“M͜a̷r̛͞v̛in҉̷͏!̵” The glitched cried out, frantically looking around until he spotted one of the figures in a dark green cloak curled up a few feet away from him, their face hidden. Scrambling on his knees, the oldest ego crawled over to the magician to make sure he was okay. Hands hovering hesitantly over his covered form for a moment, Anti gently shook his shoulder as if waking him up for breakfast, “̡Mar̨vin..͘? ͘Ma̵r͘vi҉n̶,̷ ͟yo͜u ҉t͘w͡a͜t- ̧a҉re ̸you ͡oka̷y͜?”

 

A tired moan was the only response he got.

 

“N̸̸o͢t̴͜ ͘ḑ͟e̡͞a͘d҉.̢͡ ̴̢͠G͠ǫ̕͞o͟͢͏d̕͟.͘” Anti mumbled with a sigh of relief… and then promptly tackling the magician with a shout. “ I͟͡’͜m̕ ͟͢g̸͢ǫ̕i͜ng͢ ͡t̢ơ͠ ̴k̶̷͠i̵̡ll̵͜ ̵̴y͟o̶̶u̸̕!͘ ” Marvin yelped under his hood as the two egos tussled, each trying to pin the other down and ending up just rolling around in the dirt.

 

“What did I even do?!” Marvin shouted, their little wrestling match slowly rousing the others from their spots on the ground.

 

“Yo̶u s̵c͠ared̨ ̨t҉h͞ȩ ͟ev͜erlov̷ing shit͏ ou͝t ͢of͟ m̶e̢,̴ t̴h̷a̷t’s wha̕t!͜” With one final movement, the glitch demon pinned the magical ego down by the shoulders, simultaneously tossing his hood back-

 

Revealing a green and white draconic face.

 

“O̵͘͠H̵̕ ̶F̵U҉̴͜C̷͟K!̕” Anti shouted in surprise, stumbling back quickly and falling on his butt. “W̵̨-͢W͏͜h͞ǫ ͘a̡̕r̶͢͢e͟ ͞͡y͢ou̢͘͘ an͝d̕ ̶̛w̷h̴͏͝e͏҉r͠ę͠ ̨̡͟t͠he ̧͏h͏̕e͜͟͝l͏͘l̡͘ ͏i̵͜͞s͢ ̢M̷͡ą͞r̕͜v͠i҉n!?͏”

 

“The hell do you mean? I’m right- OH SHIT!” Marvin echoed as he pointed accusingly at the glitch, “What happened to your ears?! Jesus your eyes are fuckin’ freakier than usual too!”

 

I̡͠’̷͢m͜ f̶̡̛r̕͝e̢ak̶̛i̷̕e͝r t̵ha̷̡̕n͢ ̵͘u͢s͜u̸a̢ļ͢͜?͟! L̴͡ơ̸̕o҉k̢̨͘ ̷̡i͢n̨ ҉̛a̷͠ ͏m̶į̵r̴r̴͘͜o͜r, ̢͘pa̕ļ!̡͞”

 

Hands quickly going to his face, Marvin instantly felt the scaled texture of his cheeks and the flare of wing-like horns surrounding his eyes. Hands following his jawline, he followed it all the way down… and out to his short snout. And that’s when he caught a glimpse at his hands. Which now were slightly larger, covered in green scaling, and long sharpened claws.

 

Marvin screamed in horror, finally alerting the others to sit up from their spots and look over worriedly.

 

“Marv?! What’s wro- Oh god!” Jackieboy Man gasped at the sight of his friend... before realizing how much deeper his voice was… and how much higher off the ground his vision was. “What-?” The hero breathed, quickly able to feel his lips pushed outwards by a pair of tusks and his muscles much denser than before. A quick look down at his hands revealed he now had only four thick fingers on each hand instead of five normal slim ones. And he realized his skin was now tinged a sap green. “... If I hear a single Shrek joke from anyone, I will riot I swear to fuckin’-”

 

“Vhat is happening? And vhere ze fuck are we??” Henrik asked loudly, groping around blindly for his glasses before a small hand tapped him on the shoulder. “Vhat?” He turned with a squint and could make out a blurry image of what he assumed was Jameson handing him his glasses. “Ah, sank you, mein friend.” The doctor said, taking the glasses and quickly cleaning them off before pushing them up his nose. Blinking quickly, he squinted at the silent ego. “... Is it just me, Jameson... or have you gotten shorter?”

 

Giving the doctor a confused look, JJ looked down at himself for the first time, and he realized how baggy his clothes were on his now-smaller frame. Additionally how his shiny black dress shoes felt like they were cutting off circulation around his feet and looked ready to burst. Promptly, he unlaced them and pulled them off along with his too-tight socks. And there before himself, was the largest pair of hairy feet he’s ever seen. “Oh.” He mouthed, eyes wide with fascination when he looked back to the good doctor, miming points over his own slightly pointed ears before pointing to Schneep.

 

Henrik was a little confused until he moved one hand to feel the side of his head where his ears had grown into slightly curled points. “ Fascinating.” He breathed, feeling his other ear as well before checking over the rest of his body, thankful not much else had changed about his form.

 

Rolling onto his back, Chase, missing his signature skull cap from his head, released a long sigh before sitting up and taking in his surroundings with furrowed brows. “Where… are we?” He muttered mostly to himself, catching the other’s attention. They all were in some kind of dirt clearing surrounded by tall, lush trees with a bright sun bearing down on their heads. A light breeze tossed their hair around and left them baffled. “Last I checked, this isn’t Marvin’s room… Unless he did some serious redecorating while we were all K.O.ed...”

 

“Marv,” Jackie slowly looked to the now dragon-like magician, “What was that… thing that broke in your room?”

 

Slitted eyes wide, Marvin slowly shook his head while trying to keep it covered by his hood, “I-It was…”

 

“Vhat vas zat… zat thing zat vent BOOM in vour room?!”

 

“I-I can explain!” The magician said quickly, holding out his newly clawed hands in reassurance.

 

“Do̢͢ ̸͜i̶͜͠t̨͜,̵̧ th͜͟e̛n̵!”

 

The egos all turned to Marvin and waited with baited breath to figure out what the fuck had happened to them all and why they were sitting in the dirt in the middle of a forest.

 

Taking a deep, shaky breath, Marvin opened his mouth to speak- but was promptly cut off by a yell a ways off into the treeline.

 

“Robbie?!” Chase yelled, bolting from his spot on the ground towards the direction the zombie had cried out. Not even looking around at everyone else, the other egos quickly scrambled up to follow. “Robbie, where are you?!” The trickshot vlogger called out again when he heard another yell, twisting and turning to avoid the trees and smack the small branches out of his face as he ran. It seemed like Chase didn’t change at all as he leaped over a fallen log covered in moss while the others struggled to find their new feet.

 

It didn’t take long to find the zombie. He was sitting in a patch of lively green grass and flowers with his back to the approaching group, arms drawn in close to his stomach.

 

“Robster, are you okay, little bro?” Chase kneeled behind the youngest ego and gently put a hand on his thin shoulder. “Robbie...?”

 

The young man slowly turned his head to look back at the father, big tears in his pale eyes as his lip trembled.

 

“Oh, buddy, what happened?” The older ego asked softly, pushing some purple locks from the younger’s eyes.

 

With a sniff, Robbie turned and showed his arms to the others. Everyone was taken aback at what they saw- dark, lush ivey was growing from his skin, weaving in and out through his thin forearms. Noticing the slight bulging under his sweatpant legs, Chase assumed the same thing had happened to his calves. “D-Doesn’t… hurt.” The zombie said slowly, his already weak voice trembling. “Just… weird.” He explained, lightly ghosting a hand over a leaf that poked out from the skin of his wrist.

 

Chase’s face paled as he tried not to throw up at the sight. Henrik quickly stepped in and took Chase’s place beside Robbie. “Are vou sure it does not hurt?” He asked, keeping his voice even through practice from working in the intense surgery unit at the hospital. “May I touch your arms?” He asked. Robbie quickly shook his head no and the doctor retreated, respecting the zombie’s space. “If it evah starts to hurt, vou tell me immediately, right?” Slowly Robbie nodded and stood up with the others.

 

The ego blinked and let out a small snort. “You all… look… funny!” A wide smile broke across his face, the plants growing in his arms temporarily forgotten. Silently, small white and purple flowers bloomed around the zombie’s bare feet.

 

“Why didn’t Chase change at all?” Jackie complained as he toyed with the shredded remnants of his Spider Man hoodie still hanging around his enlarged chest. “I don’t understand how the Hulk deals with this all the time…” He grumbled before pulling off the pieces of fabric and stuffing them into his blue PJ pants pocket.

 

“Because he was a human in the Dungeons and Dragons game.” Marvin said softly, catching everyone’s attention once again.

 

“Wąnt to fin͢ally͢ exp͝l͢a͜in̨?” Anti asked coldly, trying really hard to resist from reaching up and messing with his elongated pointy ears. He had comments from the fanbase before about how pointed they were already, but this was just ridiculous!

 

Taking a deep breath, the magician looked to the others and saw how scared they really were. Being transformed and dumped into a strange new place would have that effect on people… even if they weren’t entirely normal to begin with. Slowly releasing a sigh, Marvin looked down to the soft earthy ground.

 

“You might want to get comfortable…”

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

I think it was around last year when I was working on this new spell… one that would hopefully help Jack. He was feeling so depressed I wanted to surprise him with something that would allow him to travel to places to film or be just with friends. But teleportation spells that are supposed to take you a longer distances than just around the block are really complicated to pull off. So I talked to other magic users in the area and online and worked for months on this spell that would tear open a tiny rift in the fabric of reality just long enough to step through to your destination.

 

But… I miscalculated. I knew it was risky, but I just wanted to cheer up Jack.

 

When I was starting to put the finishing touches on it, the rift opened, and I could see a whole nother WORLD on the other side. It wasn’t what was supposed to happen. It was supposed to stay within the confines of our world.

 

So… I scrapped the project and sealed it away. I put it on the shelf.

 

I guess… I guess I didn’t realize how strong it really was. I think it ate at it’s seals over time and eventually broke out on it’s own.

 

And… well.. You all saw what happened when I tried to contain it again, even when Anti jumped in to help.

 

The rift was stronger magic than I thought it was. Stronger than I ever thought possible from someone of my shitty arse magic skills…

 

And for why we changed… My theory is the rift somehow picked up our Dungeons and Dragons characters from our subconscious when we traveled. Or maybe when someone travels through the rift it configures your form to match to the destination you’re going to… But I can’t be certain. I don’t entirely understand how that works since I used a lot of newer magic to create it.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

“I’m… I’m sorry.” The magician apologized meekly, head down as he fiddled with his claws in shame. “I… I just wanted to help Jack.” He explained, raising his head to show the regret in his eyes.

 

Where… Is Jack ?” Jameson signed slowly, worry flooding over his features.

 

They had forgotten about Jack.

 

So wrapped up in what happened to their appearances and where they were, they didn’t even realize the youtube creator himself was not with them at all.

 

Oh fuck.

 

“I’͠ll g͏o b͟a͏c̨k̡ t͜o th͡ȩ cle͞a̢ring a͞n͏d ̴l͏o̧ok fo̶r ͢his ̸fuck͝i̶n͘ ̧arse-̕” Anti declared with a sneer, attempting to use his glitch powers to teleport back. But nothing happened as he tripped over his own feet and stumbled a bit, expecting the pixels to catch him like they usually did. He took a breath and tried again. Nothing. Quickly growing angry, he kicked at the ground, tossing up dirt and a bit of grass with a yell. “Fuck͝i͟n-҉ ̨CO̸ME O͠N!͟” Anti yelled in frustration… But his voice didn’t glitch or alter like it normally would. In fact, his entire form was stable. A solid form. Breath catching his his throat, he quickly tried to summon his knife. Nothing came. The glitch spun around and glared daggers at the magical ego.

 

Slowly the others were beginning to realize how royally screwed they were. If Anti couldn’t use his powers, then… At the drop of a hat Jackie, Marvin, and JJ all attempted to use their own powers.

 

Jackieboy closed his eyes tightly and when he opened them the normal green transformation of his hair when he activated his hero abilities was missing, remaining it’s usual dark brown. He even pulled his bangs down to eye-level to double-check. Nothing.

 

Pulling his arms in, squishing his eyes closed and puffing out his cheeks, Jameson found that his colors weren’t melting away like they could on his command. Nor did the fancy black text boxes of dialog appear over his head like he used for his silent films. (Nobody had time to make all of those by hand.)

 

Alternatively, when Marvin closed then opened his hand, a small ball of light glowed from his palm. The magician let out a sigh of relief, much to the other ego’s mild envy.

 

“W͞hat d͠id y̡o͢u f͏uck͢įnģ ḑo҉ t̡o ͞u̵s?!” Anti snarled, practically lifting the smaller man off the ground by the collar of his shirt. Well, maybe “mild” wouldn’t be the word to use for how the eldest felt. Good to see the demon’s strength didn’t leave him at least.

 

“Hey, cut that shit out!” Jackie called the older ego out while puffing out his chest and marching over, easily breaking the two up with thanks to his new, larger form. “While for once in my life I agree with Anti in wanting to know what the fuck happened-” He turned and gave Anti a pointed look, “There’s no need to get violent with each other.”

 

“L̕i̶c̕k th͏e͢ ̸i̸ns͠id̕e͝ ̕o͞f̵ ͡m̕y ͜ ent͟i̛re҉ ̨a̸şs҉, ҉Ja̛c̵ki͡eboy̶!̢” Anti spat, attempting to shove the now taller hero away. “I̧f͞ Ma̢rvi͝n ̷the Mo̸t͘h̴erf̵uc̨ke̢r͏ ͟here͜ di̶d͢n̴’t ̧m͏e͟d͢dle in r͜i̛pp̨i̵n̷g ͟op͘e͞n̷ ͡t͢he͟ ̕fabri͡c͠ of̕ g͝od̨d͜amn͝ ̨reaļi̶ţy, w͟e w͡ou҉ldn’t͡ ͡be ̴in̢ ̴t̨h̸is ͝m̸e҉ss̴ and ̢p͢o̸we͠rļe̛s͜s!”

 

“Anti, vou are starting to panic. Vou need to calm ze fuck down. Doctor’s orders!” Schneep piped up, holding Robbie’s hand to comfort him. The young ego never liked it when his older brothers fought.

 

“One͜ ͏pr̸oblem a͘ft̸e̡r̨ ano̴t̡heŗ! A͝nd it’̴s͝ all̕ th͏an̡ks͠ ͘to̕ ̸liz̡a͡rd face o͡v͡e̵r͟ here!”

 

Okay, now Marvin was getting mad. Magic crackled and sparked from his hands violently, but before he could take a step forward and lash out at Anti, everyone was frozen by the sound of a large branch snapping in the distance.

 

What was that? ” Jameson signed, slowly taking a few steps backwards before bumping into Chase’s legs. The silent ego’s new height barely stood taller than the vlogger’s hips.

 

“I… I don’t know, bro.” Chase said, following Jameson’s lead and backing up towards the others. “Maybe… We should… head back to… the clearing...” He said, voice slowly growing softer as it trailed off.

 

“Zat might be vize.” The doctor agreed, starting to pull Robbie along with him as the band of egos slowly took a few steps back… and at the sound of a loud, ground shaking roar, they took off into a sprint back the way they all came. Another deep roar and the bounding of large steps following soon behind them.

 

RUN !”

 

“OH SWEET JESUS-!”

 

“GOGOGOGOGOGO-!!”

 

FUCKING SHITE !”

 

“DON’T͡ STO̢P ̡J͝U҉S͞T͠ ̵RUN̛!̡”

 

This was bad, this was really bad. With Anti or Jackie’s powers to protect all of them, they could only hope they only got chewed up little enough for Henrik to stitch them back together later.

 

When Jackie turned his head back, he noticed that Robbie and Jameson were falling behind- the former not being very fast to begin with, and the later having much shorter legs now that they were in this world. Skidding to a stop, Jackie pivoted on the balls of his feet and ran back, scooping up the two smaller and lighter egos in his arms and over his shoulders like sacks of potatoes. Turning in a long curve, the hero ran with heavy footfalls that dug into the dirt as he sprinted away.

 

Bursting into the clearing with (frankly hilarious) screams of panic and fear, all seven of the men ran to the center. They had no idea where to go, no powers or weapons to protect themselves… turning to face whatever was chasing them, they all braced- making sure to keep Robbie and Jameson behind them. Sure, they were strong in their own sense, but the others didn’t want their younger brothers getting hurt. So Anti, Jackie, and Marvin stood in front of the two youngest, Chase, and Schneep, ready to protect them however they could.

 

They could see the tops of trees shaking as the beast grew closer; accompanied by breaking branches and birds flying away from their homes, the seven knew whatever was chasing them was big . And more likely than not, it was unfriendly .

 

Suddenly, the creature broke through the treeline and let out a mighty roar towards the group.

 

“No way… I-Is that a-” Chase stuttered, pale blue eyes growing wide.

 

The giant made from bark and vines was down on all fours with features similar to a farel bear- except this bear was the size of a fucking pickup truck. With a protruding lower jaw to show off it’s sharp stone teeth and thick golden sap dripping from various gashes around it’s body, the root-woven creature showed it meant business when it stood up on their hind legs.

 

The group of men shrank back, clutching their ears when the beast let out another ground rattling roar, more sap flying from it’s mouth like spit.

 

“T-That’s a b-b-big bear.” Marvin stuttered, moving to hide slightly behind Jackie.

 

“Yeah, you can’t find a teddy bear that big at the grocery store on Valentine’s day…” The hero nervously quipped with a shrug, trying to make the grave situation a little lighter as he raised up his hands- looking as if he was going to fight the thing fisticuff style.

 

Anti shook his head and got into a stance- if only he had his knife with him, he’d cut this bear down into tinderwood. But he didn’t. And he didn’t have his teleporting, virus manipulation, or any other powers as far as he knew. And the only one who for sure kept his abilities was Marvin- and even then they didn’t know to what extent. They were sitting ducks here in the middle of this clearing. They should keep running. They should-

 

From behind everyone, Robbie moves towards the forest giant, his composure calm and steps even as he straightened his back from a slouch to stand tall and give an air of confidence.

 

“Robbie, no-!” Marvin tried to grab the zombie’s arm but he brushed his hand off, keeping his steady walk towards the bear-like beast.

 

The creature slammed its front paws to the ground and shook the earth once again. It eyed the approaching zombie with obsidian orbs and let out a snarl, warning the undead man to back off.

 

The purple-haired ego did hesitate, but only for a moment before they moved a few steps closer and slowly dropped to one knee, offering out his hand like he would be cooing a dog in the park to him. The other egos behind him watched helplessly in horror as the giant bear stomped towards their youngest brother.

 

Jackie was ready to run out there and snatch Robbie away, but a hand held him back by his forearm. Looking down, he could see it was Henrik holding him. Giving the doctor a confused look, Schneep slowly pointed back towards the situation. And upon looking up, the hero was stunned.

 

The forest-made creature was sniffing the young man, making him giggle at the sensation of warm air being blown into his face. One of his thin hands was rubbing behind its ears, feeling the rough texture of bark mixed with soft moss.

 

Everyone was frozen. Both in complete surprise, and in fear that if they moved it would make the giant angry once again and attack Robbie.

 

But no harm came. The zombie boy laughed as he was pushed down by the giant’s snout and let out a childish “Eeeeewww!” when it licked his face with a leafy tongue, leaving a trail of sap along his hollowed cheek. Soon, though, Robbie sat up and the forest giant backed up to give him some room. Wiping his face with the hem of his striped sleeve, Robbie held out his hand to the creature and it met him halfway- placing the side of its face in his slim palm. The zombie slowly touched his forehead against the creature’s and they stayed quiet like that for a moment.

 

“Go… home… friend.” Robbie whispered, just loud enough for the giant and other’s to hear. And with that, the beast rose it’s head up, looked between the lanky zombie and the rest of the egos once, and then left. Much quieter than when it entered the clearing, the forest giant seemed to disappear and blend into the trees silently.

 

After it was gone, everyone tackled the youngest ego, fretting over him and warning him loudly to never scare them like that again! mixed along with smaller cheers of That was amazing! The purple-haired man simply giggled, lavishing in all the attention he was getting. Sure, he was sorry for worrying them, but goddamn if he didn’t love getting taken care of by his older brothers.

 

Once they made sure Robbie was 100% okay, the seven of them looked around to one another and stood, worry and doubt growing on their features and sinking into their body language.

 

“How are we going to find Jack out here?” Chase asked, wrapping his arms around his stomach in a self-hug, “I mean… Robbie was close enough to find… but then we got attacked by that- that thing and-”

 

“Krover.” Robbie huffed. “Her… name… Krover.” He said, crossing his arms over his chest sternly.

 

“Uh, sorry..?” Chase started hesitantly before picking up his panic again, “We got chased down by Krover, you guys don’t have your powers anymore,” He gestured to Anti, Jackie, and Marvin. “We’re in the middle of nowhere!” His voice cracked as he threw his arms in the air, “AND I CAN’T FIND MY HAT!” Feeling a slight tug on his grey t-shirt, Chase looked down at Jameson and followed his finger pointing towards the top of a tree…

 

Where his hat was hanging lazily from a branch high above the rest.

 

“Well… I guess that’s one thing to check off the list.” He said flatly, heaving a sigh as he moved himself towards the tree, looking to attempt to climb it and get it back.

 

“Ch̛ąse, it’͜s͠ ͠j̵u͘st̛ a͠ h̛a͏t̢!” Anti said with a dash of insult to his tone, watching the other ego walk to the other side of the clearing.

 

“Fuck you! You know my kids gave me that hat for father’s day!” He countered before reaching the base of the tree and looking for a hand-hold to start his climb.

 

Anti rubbed his face with both hands before sliding them down his cheeks, revealing dark eyebags starting to set in.

 

“Chase does have a point.” Schneepelstein spoke up, a hand resting on his chin in thought. “Ve do not know vhere Jack ended up, and ve are in a new vorld entirely- vitout any vay to navigate, ve von’t have any hope in ze slightest of finding our friend. Let alone not getting lost owahselves.”

 

The doctor had a point. Looking around, they had no idea where they really were. Large trees towered over them like skyscrapers, devoiding them from any kind of landmarks to follow. And if there were more creatures like that bear... giant... thing, then they would be in some deep and troubling shit.

 

Struggling across the clearing, Chase couldn’t hear the others talking as he tried to climb the tree. Living in the middle of Brighton and being a full-time youtuber, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to go out and climb trees. Sure, they were around in parks and stuff, but there was a reason Chase made trickshot videos and not parkour ones. He was only halfway up and his legs and arms were shaking in fear. Probably a bit stronger than Jack, the ego has a chronic fear of heights. Sitting on a branch, the man clung to the trunk of the tree with his eyes shut tight.

 

“Just… don’t look down, Brody. You can do this ! Just keep going and don’t… look… down.” Opening one eye, he masochistically looked down. Finally seeing how far off the ground he was, Chase’s world swayed nauseatingly and he quickly shut his eye again and clung tighter to the bark. “Oooohh fuck why’d I do that??” He whined to himself, bumping his forehead against the trunk and taking a few quick breaths to psyke himself up again. “Alright alright, you can do this, you can do this-” Narrowing his eyes in determination, he stood up on the branch and kept climbing upwards. Hand over hand he kept moving, wanting to just get up there, get his hat, and get down ASAP.

 

He ignored how his stomach dropped and heart stop for a moment when one of the branches he was holding broke under his weight, quickly grabbing onto the next sturdy branch he saw and clung to it for dear life. “Fuh-huh-uh-ck me in the buh-huh-uh-utt~!” Chase started to sing nervously, trying to distract himself as he went higher and further from the safety of the ground. “I am going shi-hih-it my pants~! But IIIII~ just gotta keep on swimming!” Laughing shakily, he loudly began to hum an exaggerated version of “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. His son Cody adores that movie. It’s the only one he demands to watch whenever the kids came over to Septic House. The warm memory calmed the father down remarkably, and it pushed him even more to get his beloved hat back.

 

And before he knew it, Chase had reached out for his hat and snatched it from the branch with a triumphant grin. Snuggly putting his cap back onto his head, a soft breeze made the ego look up- his eyes going wide at the sight above the treeline.

 

Acres upon acres of trees stretch on for what seemed like miles. There were no skyscrapers or tall buildings, and in their place were high trees and a towering mountainscape. Airplanes didn’t rumble overhead in the empty, brilliant blue skies. The air was clean and devoid of car exhaust and other pollutions. It was like something out of a movie or a dream, everything was too beautiful and perfect to almost be considered real . The bright greens of the leaves, the way the sparse fluffy clouds caught the bright sunlight and seemed to sparkle. It was all breathtaking.  

 

As Chase gazed at the world around him, his eyes caught sight of something in the distance- maybe a few miles from where they all were. A grin grew slowly across his face as he looked towards the other egos and back again, doing a double check to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. When he sure he wasn’t hallucinating, Chase carefully started making his way back down tree. Once he reached the bottom branch, he sat on his butt and allowed himself to fall to the ground, softening the impact by bending his knees and bouncing back up. Favorite hat still firmly on his pale green head and image of what he saw still fresh in his mind, Chase started jogging to the group with a wide smile.

 

“Hey, dudes! I think I found something!” He called, catching his breath when he rejoined the others, who were all giving him odd looks.

 

“What did you see up there?” Marvin asked, his brow raising in curiosity.

 

Letting out a weak laugh, he pointed behind himself in the direction of the place that he saw, “You’re not gonna believe this.”

Chapter Text

“Woah...” The six breathed in unison at the sight that laid before them.

 

“I told you you wanted to see this!” Chase beamed, using his arms to gesture forwards, taking the lead and moving down the softly inclined hill towards a small cobblestone town next to a river. The little houses were made from mostly grey with a few colorful river stones inbetween. The roofs were made from large pieces of bark acting as tiling. And along the river they spotted a few kids splashing around while some women washed their clothes on one side and men fished further upstream on the other. In the streets were a few vendors with fish, cloth, and other goods waiting to be sold or traded. Further down, they could make out a taller structure that they all assumed to be a church. It was made of pristine white stones that stood out from the other buildings.

 

“How did vou find zis place?” Schneep asked, pushing his glasses up his nose with his pointer and middle fingers.

 

“I saw the tower when I was getting my hat out of the tree. C’mon! Maybe someone will know where Jack ended up!” The man said with a wide smile. He turned back and saw that none of the others had moved yet. “... What’s wrong?” Chase asked, furrowing his eyebrows slightly.

 

“We̴ ͟do no͝t͡ kno͡w w̴hat͢ t̛hese̶ ͘p̶eo͘pl̨e͜ ͡a҉re͠ li̡ke.̕” Anti said, stepping forward and squinting suspiciously at the buildings that laid ahead just past a few more trees. “I͏’҉v̛e ͏go̕t͡ ̶a b͞ad̛ fe̕e͝ļing ab̕out thi͡s̢ ͠p͏la͠ce̴.҉”

 

Oh don’t be such a worry-wort, Anti! ” Jameson signed and patted his arm- he would have pat his back but uh… he couldn’t reach it without touching the other’s butt. So, his arm it was. “ You always think the worst of people before you even get to know them! ” He smiled, walking next to Chase while trying not to step on any of the sharp twigs or acorns littered on the ground now that he was barefoot and not running for his life.

 

“T͟here̵’s͜ ͘a ̨go̸od r̛e͘asoņ f͠o̸r̨ ̢t͞h̛a҉t͏.̸” He muttered to himself and crossed his arms over his chest. But when he saw the others join by Chase, he rolled his eyes along with his whole head to dramatically express: You know I’ll say I told you so when shit hits the fan later. Giving up with a loud sigh, Anti rejoined the group at the bottom of the small hill, taking Robbie’s hand in his without a word when it was offered by the zombie. Anti was still uneasy, but he had to admit he felt a little more laid back with the youngest ego skipping beside him (well, trying to anyway. He kept not being able to get his legs up high enough to properly skip, so it ended up more as just small hops. It was still a cute sight to the other egos nevertheless).

 

However, when the band of seven odd looking strangers stepped onto the stone road, they immediately had eyes on them.

 

Marvin tightened the hood over his head self consciously as two children chasing each other stopped to stare at his lizard-like features under the thick fabric. Jackie stepped between the magician and the children as they kept walking. The much larger hero raised a thick eyebrow at the kids that sent them scrambling away without a word.

 

Henrik kept his head level, but subtly glanced around at the windows and shop doors. Some they were passing closing with a loud clunk , signifying they were being locked up. The doctor leaned over to Chase and whispered just loud enough to be heard by the other, but the sarcasm rang loud and clear, “Do you think zey get many visitors?” Chase lightly nudged him in response, prompting the doctor to return it with a smug look.

 

Psst. ” A small but hasty voice called to get the stranger's’ attention.

 

Jameson noticed first and pulled on Henrik’s sweater to signal the others to stop as well. When the men looked over, they saw a small woman peeking out from behind a shop door. She waved them over hurriedly, her eyes darting around at the other villagers who were secretly watching.

 

Glancing at one another for a moment, the egos made their way over and quickly got pulled in by the petite woman with surprising strength. Once each of the men were promptly tossed inside, she glanced around one last time before closing the wooden door and moved to close the heavy curtains as well. “Yer all not from ‘round here, are ya?” She asked with a stiff, sarcastic laugh.

 

No̶o͝o.̴ ̸I̧ ͟t͜h͘o̶ugh͝t͡ ͠it̴ wa͠s͜ ̵o͏bvi̷ous. Anti sneered, checking around the room without moving from his spot.

 

“Don’t go and get sharp with me!” The redhead turned on her heels and pointed at Anti with a raised eyebrow. “Count yerselves lucky that I pulled ye in first.” Picking up her pale green and off-white layered skirts and heading deeper into the shop, picking up a candle and with a smooth motion of her hand going around the wick, lit the small flame. Opening up a trap door behind the counter, she gave the men another “stern mother” look. “Sit. Stay. I’ll be back in a tick.”

 

“Wait, who even are y-” Chase tried to call out, but the turn of her pulled-back bun and sounds of flat shoes descending stone stairs cut him off. The soft bang of the door closing against the floor once again left the men in silence.

 

... I like her. ” Jameson signed with a grin as he adjusted his black bowtie, his slacks still barely being held up off the ground by his tightened suspenders under his now oversized blue pinstripe vest. Even then, the pant legs bunched up around his ankles and the wrinkles stacked up to his knees unflatteringly. “ A no-baloney kind of gal.

 

“I think she’s... nice.” Robbie smiled as he started to wander around the store, making sure to keep his hands close to himself so he wouldn’t knock anything off the small tables that were displaying different types of hand-made shoes. The pairs on display seemed to mostly be knee-high boots and simple flats. Curiously giving them a sniff, the zombie recoiled and covered his nose as it scrunched up. Leather and thick polish was not his favorite smell in the world, the musky scent being too much even for his decaying nose.

 

Marvin, on the opposite hand, was in love with the smell. It reminded him of old restored books and crafter’s fairs. Making him feel a tick calmer despite the fact that they were just pulled into a random store by a stranger in a riverside fishing town in a different dimension. All things considered, this is the most relaxed he’s felt since they woke up in that clearing with their new… creature features.

 

“Vhere do you sink she vent?” Henrik pondered aloud.

 

“Do you think she’s got a secret lair under this place?” Jackie suggested with stars in his eyes, “That would be so cool! Like- everything in this town is all run down on the outside, but she’s got a secret high-tech lab!” The superhero broke into a wide smile, comic book-esque ideas flying through his head. “And-And-And the store is a cover-up for her performing experiments on the townspeople so they’re all secretly robots or they shape-shift into these weird monsters at night-”

 

“I think we’re in the wrong genre of universe, bud.” Chase laughed lightly, continuously glancing back and forth between the group and the trap door. “I just hope that last part you said isn’t true.” He muttered more to himself than anyone. Now having walked through the town and gotten all of those stares… the father was starting to feel Anti’s worry in his own gut.

 

“If I still had my powers I would tell ya if there’s any tech in this place. But in that sense I’m flying blind.” Anti pouted with crossed arms as he absently scratched around the wound in his neck.

 

Soon enough, the section of the floor rattled and all the egos turned to see the redheaded woman lifting up the trap door with one hand, “Could one of ya’s be a dear and help a woman out?” She called with fake frailness in her voice, making it sound an octave higher, “I’m small and not very strong at all.” She bat her eyelashes mockingly and prompted for Jackieboy to step over and offer a helping hand. “Grand!” The woman called, dropping the top of a large canvas back into his hand. As soon as she let go, Jackie had to catch himself from lurching forward from the surprising amount of weight.

 

“God what’s in here, bricks??” He groaned, hoisting the large sack up once he found his strength again. He dropped it to the floor behind him and turned to have another sack tossed up to him.

 

“You’ll be findin’ tha’ some items in there are a lot heavier than bricks. Now hurry up, start passin’ it out.” She waved her hand just in sight of the open door as she went back down the steps. “I just need to grab a few more things.”

 

“Wait, seriously- who are you ?” Jackie called down.

 

The footsteps paused before coming back up again. Poking her head out enough for the others to see, she blinked once and stated flatly, “You can call me Ms. Aina.” And with that she went back down the steps and vanished into the darkness.

 

Hesitantly, Jackie picked up both sacks and brought them back to the others, setting them onto the main counter and opening one up. Surprise decorating his face, he pulled out several shirts- most of them normal cloth, but a select few maid of chainmail. The other egos quickly gathered around and started looking through everything.

 

There was simple cloth clothes including multiple different colored shirts, many pairs of earth toned trousers, and enough grey socks for a small platoon. But there were more shirts and vests of chainmail ranging in many sizes, simple armor plates with straps attached, gauntlets in both leather and metal, and heavy-duty belts (some with small pouches attached to them)… The men didn’t know what they expected, but they could say they were pleasantly surprised as they started looking for shirts in their new-found sizes.

 

When Ms. Aina returned, she had a load of thick fabrics draped over her right arm and shoulder and a roll of leather under her left. She looked to the strange boys pointedly. “Ah, good. You’re already findin’ your own stuff. You all stand out far too much. You can count yerselves lucky that I dragged ye in instead of… Well, anyone else in this town really. They don’t much like strangers to begin with. But with that…” She looked the group up and down and grimaced. Brightly colored polyester t-shirts, jeans, sweatpants, sneakers… “ Fascinating clothing choice, you boys stick out like a rotting fish at a fresh fruit stand.” Laying the fabrics over a chair, she picked up her skirts again and marched right up to Henrik.

 

The doctor froze in place as Ms. Aina inspected his face intensely, “Iz.. zere someting wrong, ma’am?” He asked nervously and pushed up his glasses out of habit. And before he could process, the woman snatched them off his nose and walked off. Schneep blinked rapidly, “... Vhat are you doing?” He squinted in the general direction of where she went, “No vreally, vhat are you doing? I cannot see vitout my glasses.”

 

“They stand out too much. I’ll see what I can do to make them less noticeable.” Scanning over the other boys, she then went up to Anti. Not even phased when the glitch glared at her, she reached out hesitantly ghosted her hand over his wound- before moving up to his ears and tapping on the black plugs. “Nobody has these. Take them out.” She turned and moved to the laid out shirts, picking up a deep green- almost black- shirt with a thin turtleneck to it. “Wear this to cover up your…” The freckled woman waved her hand in a small circle gesturing to Anti’s neck before moving on.

 

Grouping Chase, Jameson, and Robbie together, she curiously tugged on their colored hair. “What is this?”

 

Hair dye. It’s like a special paste that changes our natural hair color to stand out more. ” Jameson explained with his hands, but Ms. Aina didn’t understand BSL- let alone sign language in general, so Chase quickly translated.

 

Nodding slowly, “Can it be washed out quickly?”

 

Sadly, Jameson shook his head, “ Unfortunately, it is quite permanent .”

 

The redheaded woman looked around her shop as an idea popped into her head. She went to one of the tables and opened a drawer, pulling out a round ceramic jar and popping off it’s cork. Inside looked to be like a deep brown polish… The boys didn’t like where this was going. Pushing the jar into Jameson’s hands, she let out a huff when they hesitated. “Ye can’t go ‘round with hair like that.” When she saw Robbie violently shaking his head and covering his nose, she gave pause. “What’s wrong with him?”

 

“H̨e̷ ͠does͏n’̸ţ like͜ ̴the҉ ̶s̨mell͠.” Anti called out from the other side of the room, having already taken out his plugs and was now standing shirtless as he figured out the right way to slip on the new one, “He͟’s̸ v͢ery ͡s͠en̨si͡tive҉ to ͠stŗo͠ņg̵ sce̕nts. ̸D͏on’t ͞e̕v̵e͢n ͟t̶ry ̢it, he’̷ll ͡b̸ite̛ ̵you̡r ̢fingers͠ of͘f ͞b͜efor̛e͜ yo͟u̧ ̕g͟e͞t͏ any in.͡”

 

Clenching her jaw, she let out a short huff, “Hun,” She turned back to Robbie and he looked down at her, meeting her eyes while still covering his nose. “Nobody has purple hair. And if they did, it would mean they had a very high status… People are not very nice around here, especially to people who they think might have good money. Are you sure you want that kind attention?” The zombie’s eyes filled with fear as he looked to the older ego for help.

 

“Can’t we like,” Chase stuttered, trying to think of an alternative option, not exactly hype about the idea of putting tar in his own hair, “... Cover it up some other way? Something that would pull people’s attention from his hair?”

 

“You could cut it.” Marvin suggested off to the side, still looking through the pile of clothing to find something that would fit both his style and his new form. “The purple is only on his bangs, right? Just cut it.”

 

Robbie blinked, bringing a hand up and pulling his curly bangs down until they reached past his nose and stopped at the top of his cheek. Slowly he nodded, liking that idea better than the alternatives.

 

“C’̨mer̶e̸,͘ b̴u̵d.” Anti walked over- his new shirt on inside out and backwards- and held out a hand to the zombie ego. “You need̶ed̴ a ҉hai͜rcut an҉ywa͞y̧s. ͠I͜’l͟l j͢ųst̢ ҉get ̢t͠h͡e ̵p̴u͠r̨pl̕e ͝ou͏t so͟ i͟t͏ ͘won’t be to̢o͜ ̷s͝h͟ort fo͜r̴ y̴a.̴”

 

“O… Kay!” The ego chirped happily, taking Anti’s hand and following his oldest brother to a stool pushed up against the wall. But when Anti held up his hand expecting his signature knife to appear, he swore under his breath. Quickly looking around the shoe shop as Robbie pulled out the stool and sat down, the powerless demon looked to Ms. Aian.

 

“Do͝ ̨you҉ hav̧e͘ ̵a̶n̸y kn͞iv͟es͘?”

 

The woman blinked once as her brows rose just slightly. “I have leather clippers.”

 

“I̵ wo̵rk b͢e͜t̴ter ̧w̡i̕th͘ b̶la̕d͞es ͡t̵h͢an͟ ͜s̸c҉iss̛o҉rs.” Anti said flatly, irritated at his own inability to summon what he needed for himself. Shifting on the balls of his feet, he also was starting to feel for the first time what it felt like to be standing idly and not just floating. It fucking sucked.

 

The owner rolled her eyes, but with Henrik’s glasses in hand she moved to a seperate room in the back of the shop and went in. When she came back a few moments later, she came back and handed Anti a piece of sandwiched metal. Raising an eyebrow, Anti flicked up a propped-out bit and a straight razor flicked out from it’s crude holding.

 

“T̶h̷i̷s͟ ̷wi͞l̶l̴ wo͏r̨k.” He mumbled and went back to Robbie, who was sitting patiently with his hands folded between his bend up knees. The stool was a bit short so it caused the lanky zombie to pull his knees up as his feet rested on the ground. “Al̷r͜ight, ̵R͟obbie͟,” He started softly, kneeling next to the young ego and showing him the razor, “Remem̧b̛e͏r t҉hę l̶a͡s̡t ti̸me I çųt͠ y̶ou̸r ̨h͡air?”

 

The zombie nodded, shifting a little uncomfortably, “Hairs… itchy.” His eyes dropped to his lap, “Didn’t… like… it.”

 

“҉I͏ ͠know̡ it s͞uc̴ks.͘ Th͏a̴t’s w̛h̨y we d̨idn’͝t ͝cu͢t ̵i͟t fo҉r so ̡l͜ong.͜” The demon looked around and picked up one of the extra chainmail shirts laying around. “I ͝wa͟nt yo͞u t̴o͡ hol̨d thiş ͢for ͞me, ̧okay? ̸Fo̸cu͏s ̸on̸ the te͟xture̢s̷ ͝and ͜wei͜gh͞t͏ ̸an͡d̴ ͘te̷l̨l m͟e ͢ab̢ou̵ţ th̷em.̨” Anti stood up and waited.

 

Robbie slowly nodded and took the heavy mail and cradled it in his lap, running a hand over the little bumps of the metal links. The feeling of it was cool to the touch under his dead finger pads and reminded him vaguely of a light weighted blanket.

 

“I҉’̶m̛ ̵goi͢ng to ̵sta͘rt͏ ͠now,͟ ͟okay̴?̵” Anti said, when the zombie hummed in response- his attention on the shiny shirt- the elder got to work. Gently using two fingers to pull out sections of Robbie’s hair straight before using the razor in small motions to slice away the faded purple hair.

 

Ms. Aian paused with a hum, watching the two interact. Whenever Robbie started freak out over the loose hairs touching his skin, Anti would stop and make sure to brush them all off with an extra shirt before settling the younger zombie down again. Asking him questions about the chainmail shirt and then continuing. Getting a tap on her shoulder from a large green finger, the woman was drawn away from the moment. She turned to Jackie, who was standing behind her empty-handed. She had to crane her neck up slightly to see his face. “Yes?”

 

“Ms. Aian, I’m sorry. But... nothing here is going to fit me…” The transformed hero mumbled around his new tusks. “I think I hit a bit of a growth spurt recently.” Jackie chuckled weakly, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.

 

“Well that just won’t do. Will it, young man?” She tisked, reaching into a pocket in her skirt and pulling out a crude-looking tape measure made of thinned white leather with little black lines along it. The motioned for him to lift up his arms

 

“Er, you can call me Jackie.” The hero said, raising his elbows up slightly- and Ms. Aian bumped them up more and straightened his arms outward.

 

“No- wait, don’t-!”

 

But it was too late. Ms. Aian’s eyes widened, face-to-face with two white, clean scars under Jackie’s pecs.

 

Jackie felt small all of the sudden, and off to the side Marvin looked ready to jump in and defend his friend, as if it was rehearsed at this point. But both boys froze at what came out of the woman’s mouth.

 

“What battle had you earn these?” She asked softly, sincerity and concern in her voice- almost like a worried mother’s.

 

Jackie sucked in a breath and slowly let it out, allowing himself to relax. “It was a long, hard-fought battle that I won years ago.” The side of his lip turned up into a small smile. Now with more confidence, lifted his arms up allowing Ms. Aian to move around him and take measurements without further questions.

 

Marvin looked ready to cry tears of joy, so he quickly hid them as he pulled on a loose-fitting flowy cream-colored shirt that fell to his soft hips.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

Night fell upon the small town. Warm candle light spilled from the windows onto the quiet cobbled streets. Children laughed as they chased each other home and laughs could be heard sung from the tavern down the way. The surrounding forest was at peace as the animals rest their heads for the night… Allowing the shadows a turn to come out and play.

 

Behind the humble shoe shop, seven men and a woman sat around her table to eat a meal together. If this was a fairytale, it might sound familiar. But alas, this was the men’s current and unfamiliar reality.

 

A flame roared in a stone fireplace with a pot of stew bubbling over it. The cottage was small, but cozy enough through it’s clutter of tools and scraps of leather and fur laying about. Not only was this her home, but Ms. Aian had made this her workshop- evident by the long work bench that lined the entire left wall of the single-roomed house. A ladder lead up to a loft where her bed was located, but everything else was on the first floor, lit by warm candlelight dotting the room and casting soft shadows every direction.

 

Not much room around the simple dining table, the egos had to squish close together to all fit. Henrik made sure to sit between Jackie and Anti so they would not be elbowing each other the entire evening. Chase was quietly complimenting Robbie’s new haircut. It was much shorter, but still had the puffy floof that the zombie (and everybody else) loved.

 

Dressed in their new clothes- customized by the woman who took them all in- they now could blend in with the common folk if they so desired. By this point the egos had all introduced themselves to Ms. Aian and thanked her profusely for her generosity. They went ahead and tried to explain their situation to the fiery shoe maker. She tried to understand, bless her heart she really did. But she couldn’t wrap her head around how these strangers were from another world entirely and lived such strange lives so different from her own. Not even phased by their new apparent appearances, she struggled to grasp that they all were once human- them not even knowing what the hell they were now.

 

“I’m no expert, but ah can make assumptions by yer appearances if ye’d like. Labels are not the most important things in the world, but to some they do bring comfort.” When Ms. Aian got quick nods from around her small table, she sat in a large comfy-looking chair and turned to Chase first. “You are easy enough, hun. You’re a regular human by the looks of it.” Chase nodded slowly as he spooned himself another bite of the beef stew that was given to them. Hair now hidden under worked-in layers of the dark ink-like polish, making his hair look dark brown once again. It took hours and it smelled fucking horrendous, but it had to be done one way or another. And if the father had to admit, he kinda liked it being back to brown.

 

Pointing to Henrik, she said, “You look like them High Elvish folk who pass through ‘ere from time to time, Doctor .” He adjusted his new spectacles. Ms. Aian reshaped them to look instead of rectangles, more circular and bound with wire instead of plastic.

 

Gesturing to Jameson she said simply, “Halfling. Or, Hobbit, if you’d prefer.” The silent man brightened at that as he lasily swung his legs under the table, not able to each the ground anymore. He had found a way to hide his teal hair instead of using the impromptu hair dye- he simply stuffed it all under a new (well, that term was a bit of a stretch) short top-hat. It was worn and barely fit on his noggin, but it worked to hide the bright color.

 

Standing from her chair, she moved towards the fireplace and along the way played a small game of duck-duck-goose with the boy’s heads. Patting Marvin’s, Jackie’s, Anti’s, and Robbie’s heads in order of quick answers, “Dragonborn, Half Orc, don’t know, and was-an-elf.” Giving the last one’s hair a quick ruffle, making the zombie giggle, she moved to the pot over the fire and stirred the stew a bit before serving herself a bowl.

 

“Wa̷i̕t͞, w̷h͞a͢t̵ ͟do y̢o͞u͞ ͝me̛an̴ ̴y͠o͝u̧ d̕on’t kn̴ow̢ ̸w̨hat ͜I̴ ̧fu̴ck͡ing̛ am̷?̷?” Anti stood from his chair quickly, eyes bright as he glared at the woman. “So ̧i͟f ̴I̡’̨m̡ ͘no͢t ̕an ęļf ̵or ̨w̨hat̶ev̸er,̕ t͞han ̶wh̵at t̵h̡e͡ hell ͠a͜m I?̧” He asked in a threatening tone- to which Ms. Aian turned her head and raised a single eyebrow, not phased by Anti’s quick aggression.

 

She loudly slurped on a spoonful of stew, not giving an answer.

 

Body tensing in place for a split moment, Anti reminded himself again that he couldn’t teleport. So he stomped over to the red haired woman and got up in her face. “T͘a͝k̢e anothe͟r̕ looķ.̛ I can’t be s҉ome-̷”

 

“Monster?” She supplied calmly, standing her ground even though she only came up to his shoulders in height. “ Anti ,” She started, setting her bowl on top of the mantle and crossed her arms over her chest. “I may seem to know ah lot o’ things. But I don’t know every breed of dog in the world off the top of mah head.”

 

Anti fumed in silence for a moment, glaring the woman down until he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning his head to the side, he saw Henrik giving him a stern look. A signature look telling the glitch, “Don’t be fucking stupid.” Forcing his hands to unclench at his sides, Anti pushed the doctor’s hand off his shoulder and headed for the front door of the cabin.

 

“Anti! Ms. Aian told us to stay inside-” Marvin called, standing from his seat and looking ready to go after the older ego.

 

“I̷ ͞just̕ need ̶s̵ome air.” He grumbled in response, slipping out the door and slamming it behind himself.

 

Leaving the small cabin in silence.

 

“I am very sorry. Anti, he... is a vlot of vork to say de least.” Schneep explained apologetically to Ms. Aian. “Mood swings, anger issues… But like ze rest of us, ve are… vell… scared.”

 

Jameson “spoke” up to add on, Jackie translating for him, “ We do not know where we are and we lost our friend. It’s very stressful... ” His face fell and his mustache seemed to droop along with it. “ But that does not excuse him yelling at you.

 

Letting out a small sigh and picking her bowl back up from the mantle, Ms. Aian gave the egos a sad smile, “I don’t mind none. I can’t imagine what you boys have been through today. Losing someone close to you is… hard. But find that you’ve changed so drastically without knowing why , I’d be pretty stressed as well if I were in yer new boots.” Giving a light chuckle, she couldn’t help but glance at her handiwork adorned by the gentlemen. Each of them (outside of Jameson, Marvin, and Robbie- who decided to go mostly barefoot with wrappings instead of having their feet crammed into shoes) were wearing new pairs of boots that she whipped up along with a few pieces of clothing for some, and an entire custom leather and fur get-up for Jackie since he was too big for everything else.

 

“We really can’t thank you enough, Ms. Aian. For everything you’ve done for us today. Even when we were acting like butts you didn’t turn us away. Is there anyway we could repay you?” Marvin asked earnestly. He didn’t want to take this woman’s clothes and generosity for nothing in return. “There has to be something.”

 

Ms. Aian chuckled and waved her hand dismissively, “There’s no need for that. Ye can all repay me by not windin’ up dead before you get back home.”

 

In agreement, they all finished up their stew and decided to get ready for bed- Jackie and Marvin washed out all of the ceramic bowls in a bin of water as the others helped Ms. Aian gather up extra furs, pillows, and blankets for them all to sleep on over the floor. Robbie sat cross-legged by the front door away from the others, his white eyes trained forward.

 

Jameson saw this and walked over with a slightly tilted head, “ Waiting for Anti? ” He asked before sitting down beside the zombie who nodded yes.

 

“Ant was… angry.” Robbie said quietly, lightly toying with the plants growing in and out of his arms. “When… will he… be... back?” He asked, turning to JJ with sad puppy eyes.

 

The silent man’s shoulders rose as he took a breath then let them relax when he sighed. “ I’m not sure, chap. But I know he will be back soon! ” He gave his younger brother a large smile and playfully rolled his eyes, “ He’s too paranoid to leave for long. ” JJ laughed soundlessly, making Robbie perk up a bit as well.

 

“You… Right.” The zombie ego smiled, turning back to watch the doorway.

 

Jameson sighed fondly, tapping Robbie’s shoulder to get his attention again before signing, “ Your bed is made to be between mine and Anti’s. Show him where to sleep when he comes back, okay? ” He losely instructed, trying to make himself look serious but failing miserably, “ It is your job to get that crackerjack to bed. Otherwise, he won’t get any sleep on his own. Understand? ” JJ knew Robbie was probably going to be passed out when Anti returned, but he knew from experience it was futile to convince the child-like ego to come to bed without his big brother.

 

Robbie beamed having been given an important job to do, and he wackily saluted, using his full arm to bring his hand to his forehead then harshly swing it down and around so his arm wrapped around himself. Giggling, Robbie gave Jameson a hug, “Good… Night… Jay.” He smiled even brighter when Jameson hugged him back before standing with a ruffle of the zombie’s freshly cut hair and heading back to the fireplace. And once again Robbie went back to waiting for the glitch demon to return, carefully twirling a leaf growing from the side of his wrist. His eyelids growing heavy as time went on.

 

“Roight. Get some sleep. You all have to leave at first light.” Ms. Aian announced from her work table as she was using a raven feather quill to write directions on a parchment map. “It’s not safe for you ‘ere in Mellow Brook. But I have ah friend who could help ya up in Delone. He’s a traveling merchant and follows a caravan that goes all over.” Allowing the ink to dry, she rolled up the map and handed it to Henrik- who she has established in her mind was the most mature of the group. (They didn’t tell her how they ALL were basically big babies when it came to certain things. It just conveniently never came up in conversation about what big dorks they all were in their own ways.) The good doctor proved her point by instantly storing it into his pack- another item which Ms. Aian has gifted to the strangers- along with the provisions and means of survival they would need whilst traveling.

 

“Honest, if zere is ANYTING ve can do to repay you-” Henrik tried to plead, guilty for taking so much from this woman and not giving anything in return.

 

“I insist, Doctor. I want to do this from what kindness is left in mah heart.” She smiled up at the doctor warmly before turning and walking to the small stairway leading up to her loft bed. “Sweet dreams, boys. And when yer friend gets back, be sure to tell ‘im to use tha’ board there to block the door closed.” With a small wave, the shoe maker slipped into the shadowed corner of her loft and tucked herself in for bed. Leaving the egos to quietly chatter as they got ready for sleep themselves.

 

Robbie still sat in front of the door half asleep as he waited for Anti to return. Nobody understood why the zombie clung to the demon so much. Heck, the egos who probably raised him the most were Marvin and Henrik. But it was an instant gravitation when they both met one another for the first time. Many assumed because they were the ones who looked more creepy and inhuman than the other egos that they got along so well. However… there seemed to be more to that.

 

The youngest ego made the eldest smile and feel loved when nobody else could, and in return, the older protected the younger from any harm. Physical or emotional, he was right by the other’s side in an instant of distress.

 

Now, it was Robbie’s turn to help again. But it was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open when Henrik draped a blanket over his shoulders to keep him warm, then returning to the slumber party style of sleeping arrangements with the others.

 

But he had a job to do gosh dang it! And he was going… to… stay… awa-

 

The zombie quietly tilted over to the floor, wrapping the blanket more snuggly around himself as he faded into sleep in a loose ball.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

The sky was clear and the air was cool against the ego’s grey-green tinted skin. Having struggled to get onto the roof to sulk, Anti settled on a tree- which he almost fell out of trying to climb up it three separate times.

 

But now sitting comfortably on a branch with his back leaning against the trunk, the glitch demon looked through the leaves and up to the stars. He let out a long sigh he didn’t realize he was holding and looked down at his hands.

 

They were the same as he always knew them, but when he pressed two fingers into his palm, his form didn’t shift or glitch in and out of existence. Solid. Warm. If he blurred out the rest of this world eating at the back of his thoughts, Anti would almost say he was human…

 

Unfortunately, he could still feel the deep cut in his neck and how his new ears caught more of the chill breeze that whispered through the town and surrounding forest. He pulled his hood up over his head to block it out.

 

“W͜h͘a̢t ̧a̕m̵ I ͢n҉o̷w?” Anti mumbled to himself as he gazed upwards to the stars once again. “I̷ k̛n͝o͡w̶ I wa͞s a͢ mo͡n͟s͘t̴er ͢befo̸r͝e, ͞bu̴t I ͜k͜ne̸w͞ ̴what͘ ͢kind I ̛was. ̨Nơw,͟ ̷th̡o̡uģh͜?̡” He lightly thumped his head against the bark of the tree, “F̵u͜c̛k.̷” He breathed out harshly, allowing his eyes to slip shut for a moment as he hit his fist against the side of the branch he was sitting on.

 

He was angry.

 

Angry that they all got sent here. Angry that Ms. Aian didn’t know what kind of creature he was. Angry that Marvin made that stupid rift in the first place! Angry that they all had to change so much about themselves to supposedly survive. Angry that they had lost Jack somehow . But mostly…

 

He was angry at himself more than anything else.

 

His lack of control over the situation. Him being powerless- literally and figuratively. But mostly he was pissed at himself for not being able to control his emotions and not knowing when to bite his snarky tongue. Groaning to himself, he rubbed the heels of his palms into his closed eyes. He could have been the reason that he and the others got kicked out by Ms. Aian. He lashed out at her when she’s been nothing but helpful and kind…

 

But knowing himself, Anti mentally hit himself because he knew he wouldn’t have the balls to properly apologize to her. “I͝ ͟wish͘ ͜I ҉h͢a̵d ̷my̕ knif̨e̸…̕” The demon complained half-heartedly as he let his hands drop into his lap, finally letting his mind go numb for a moment as he closed his heterochromia eyes.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

Not realizing he had dozed off in the tree, Anti was rudely awoken when he felt a hand grab the ankle of his boot- having the swift moment of “Oh fuck” before he was harshly torn down to the ground face first.

 

Groaning extra loud to be dramatic, the once resting demon clutched his forehead as he picked himself back up one limb at a time, “Fuc͝ķing̷ ̧h̴el̕l- do̸ you a͡l͢ways̴ w̸ak͝e u̡p st͞ran̨g͡e̴rs ͞s̛leepin̴g͠ in̢ tr̨ees҉ by ҉t̶hrow̶įng ţh̴e̷m to ̛the̡ ҉gro͞u͜nd? Not the͝ b͟e̕st fi̶rst i͠mpre̶s͠sio͠n͞ y͟ou͏ c̕o͝u͞l̢d͡ g̴iv̡e̕.” He giggled manically- before getting silenced by the feeling of sharp metal being pressed against his back. Expression changing from a shit-eating grin to a glare, Anti tilted his head just enough to see whoever was threatening him from the corner of his eye. “N̵ot ̵mu̸ch o̧f͘ ̢a͡ n͞ight pers͡on̸,̴ ͡are ͞ya?” He grumbled, the pressure from an unmistakable blade slightly increasing to make him shut up again.

 

“Strangers aren’t welcome here.” A deep, grumbling voice replied as the blade in his back was replaced with a harsh heavy boot coming down on the ego’s spine.

 

Attempting to muffle his cry, Anti clenched his fists and bit the inside of his cheeks- breaking the skin and tasting a little copper on his tongue. Quickly recovering, the ego let out a breathy laugh, “Oh ̴y͘e͏ah? ̵I ͢ca̕ņ’̡t͏ i͏m̴ag͡i̕n͞e̸ an̢y͝bo͘dy̡ ̷not ̶f̛eeli͢ng ͝w̢elcơme from͟ ̶t͜h̴e̵ g͠lo͟wing ̧h̴o̕spit͡ali̛ty.̶” A swift kick to the ribs caught him off guard and sent him tumbling back a few feet, landing on his knees and instantly sitting up- a fire now lit in his eyes. “ D͜o ̨t͘h̴at a̷g͏ąin,̴ I f҉u҉ckin’҉ dar͝e͟ ͞y͢o҉u̷. ” Anti growled, position making him almost look like a pissed off wild cat ready to pounce it’s hunter.

 

Anti could now see that the single douchebag wasn’t alone. Sure, the man was the largest, but the two other guys were still bigger than the glitch himself. In the back of his mind gears started to turn as he rose to his feet. Do they know about the others? I bet they do. We did just waltz into down in a fucking herd. I can’t let them know where they are, though. They’re probably still sleeping and god knows what they’d do to Ms. Aian if they find out she-

 

“Oi! If yer thinkin’ about runnin’, don’t even try it!” One of the smaller men with short blonde hair called out in a mocking tone, “We’d catch ya before you make it to tha river.” He snickered. Anti highly doubted that. Sure, they were bigger. But Anti was faster. Or so he thought until he attempted to glitch forward and ended up going nowhere.

 

Eyebrows creasing slightly, the ego realized how fucked he really was in this situation. Built like slightly buff a twig, no stamina on these stupid legs, and powerless. He was ripe for the picking for these brutes and his shift in expression alerted that to the men, making them laugh.

 

“Aww look, he’s scared now! What’s wrong, kitty? Realise you’re fightin’ against big dogs?” The other man with longer black hair asked. The three men stepped closer, working to close in on the ego.

 

Backing up a single step, it was dawning on Anti that he couldn’t take these guys alone… Empty handed, anyway. He noticed the large sword in the original attacker’s hand and put his own up in mock surrender. “F͡e͟ll̡as ̧fell͏a͏s, y͏o̡ų w͢oul̕d҉n’҉t ͟hur͢t an̕ una̶rm͠ed̴ man̢,̡ wo͏u̷l͏d y͟a͡?̨” He asked coyly, hoping they would take the bait. “If y͝ou ̵wanna͢ fig̢ht me, ̕f͡i̡ne. A̢nḑ ̸wḩi͞le ̕I̷’̨m̧ ̡a̕ll about ̴c̸r̕u̶s͞hi̸n҉g ͏peo̢ple ̨wea̧ker҉ ̡tha̧n͡ m̷e,̷ ̴bu̵t where͘ ̡I’m ͝f̧r̴om, ͡we͞ at͏ l̶east͠ g҉ive th̸em͜ ͏a͠ c͠hanc͡ę to ͠d͝efend ̧th҉em͡se̴lves͘.̢” A smile itched at the corner of his lips, slowly dragging itself up his cheeks. “If y̡o͞u ͟win͏,̢ ̵you ̨k̴i͡ll ͢m͞e! ̢Ho̶w̛ ͟nice is҉ ̵t͠hat͘?” He tilted his head with the slightest of phantom twitches, “Bu͠t i̡f ̨I ̴win,͞ ̕you ̵tur̕n͞ ̛ar͡o͢u͡nḑ and̨ w͢ąl̢k h҉om̢e. He̢l̴l̷,̶ I won’̨t ̸e͝ven͝ make y͏o͢u͠ b̛l̸eed ̡tha͘t̶ muc̡h͡.͝”

 

If he could just get his hand on a dagger… The fingers on his right hand twitched and grasped at empty air at his side, subconsciously wanting his own knife to appear so he could toy with it. “J͜u̴st͞… ͠give͜ me a sword͞- ơr ҉a kn͞i҉fe!” His manic smile broke wider across his face, body shaking slightly in anticipation for bloodshed. “If ҉I͢ ͟w̴i҉n̴ w҉it͞h a kn͘i͞f͏e҉- yo͜ų g̛o h͝o͠me̵, aņd͠ ͢I’͘ll ͝leave͢ to҉w͞n̴.͡ ͝De͘al?” He asked hurriedly as his voice kept changing in pitch, fangs starting to poke out from under his lips as he gestured frantically with his open palm up, “C͞’͘m͜o̡n! It͡’s̢ a w̨in-wi̛n̶ f͟or yo͝u, rea͟l҉l͜y.”

 

The men shared smirks with one another, the leader glancing back at Anti with a thick raised brow. “And where exactly are ya from?” He asked with a laugh.

 

Trying to contain his giggles with a deeper chuckle, his eyes caught the light of the moon over their heads and flashed menacingly, “ Your͏ ̵wor͘st̨ ni̧ght̶m̸ar͏e̵.̵

 

Barking a final laugh, the largest of the group took a puny fish cutting knife from the blonde’s side and tossed it to Anti. “You’re funny, freak. Let’s see what ya got.” Drawing his sword up in front of him, the brute readied to fillet the stranger who dared enter their town.

 

Anti caught the knife by the handle mid-air before it had a chance to come back down. Yes, it was smaller than what he was used to, but as bubbling giggles rose from his throat the ego bounded forward without any warning for the men to catch. And before they could even react, Anti was holding the fish-stained knife to the man’s thick neck, a full face-splitting smile breaking across his features.

 

A full set of fangs growing from the glitch’s mouth gone mostly unnoticed by the man under his knife when his eyes started to physically change shape- morphing into large spheres of green with small black slits floating in the pools.

 

“You͠ŗ f̴i̡r͡st̨ m̴i̶s͞t͜a͡ke…” Anti whispered, reviling in the feeling of how the man’s adam's apple bobbed under the knife in fear, “ W͟a̧s̡ ̢w̷a͏k͝in͏g me up.

 

In a flash of silvery light and sputtering of red, the knife glided through skin and beard stubble like cutting into a warm doughnut with fresh jam filling.

 

As the huge lug fell to his knees coughing and sputtering in surprise and fear while holding his bleeding neck, the two lackies stood frozen in morbid surprise as Anti rose the knife to his lips…  and took a slow lick of the thick ruby liquid, cleaning the blood off the face of the knife.

 

“O̡h grow a ͟p҉air,” Anti rolled his cat-like eyes, kneeling in front of the brute with a sicking smirk. “I bare͝ļy ͠b̷r̷ok̕e͟ sk͜i̕n.̶” And he laughed in his face.

 

Little did any of the men or Anti know, from the window of the shoe cobbler’s house, they had a small audience with many pairs of varying blue eyes. All of them a combination of shock and mild annoyance.

 

Looks like Anti called it after all.

Chapter Text

The loud commotion from outside woke up Robbie first. At first he was dazed from sleep, but when he heard strangers taunting he ran to the window to see what was happening. And finding that Anti was being surrounded by three large men, the zombie quickly moved to the harth to wake the others up.

 

Keeping quiet as to not wake up Ms. Aian the egos all rushed to the window to see what the hell was going on out there.

“Should we go out there?” Marvin asked with narrowed eyes, something in the back of his mind yelling DANGER at him.

 

“This is Anti we’re talkin’ about here.” Jackie mumbled lowly, looking back into the house to check if the woman had woken up yet. “He can take ‘em easy.”

 

“Yeah but he doesn’t have his powers!” The dragonborn hissed, making the others catch their breath.

 

“Zat… Might be a problem, zen.” Henrik said nervously.

 

“Yeah no shit, Doc.” Chase muttered sarcastically.

 

But before any of them could start to argue, Jameson snapped his fingers to get them all to look out the window again just in time to watch the largest man toss Anti a puny knife.

 

“Oh, well. Now there’s nothing to worry about.” Jackie said flatly with a roll his eyes. Everyone agreed that was a dumb move on the stranger’s part. And once they witnessed Anti slash the knife across the man’s neck, they let out a chorus of small groans and “For Fucks Sake”s before moving away from the window back into the house. Robbie stayed put at the window and continued to watch as the two smaller strangers ran up to the boss of them and frantically started looking over him while being swatted away. Anti was just standing back with that creepy smile on his face.

 

Robbie watched his expression drop as his head snapped to the window where he was watching. The zombie let out a quiet eep! and ducked down to hide, the top of his curly black hair still showing.

 

Lips quirked up into a small grin at the adorale sight of the younger ego, Anti turned back to the men in front of him. “It may not look like it, but I’m a man of my word.” With a flick of his wrist he sent the knife flying back towards it’s original owner, embedding itself into the dirt. “O͝f̕f͠ ̴you g̢o͡, t͜hen.” He twiddled his fingers in a wave before turning and moving to climb back up the tree he was previously sleeping in.

 

“H-Hey!” The brunette lacky called out, his hands balled into fists at his side.

 

Anti turned his head and rose an eyebrow, “What̶ ҉n͜ow͠?̨”

 

Putting on a false brave face, the man forced a smirk, “Where’s the rest of yous? Huh? We saw more of you come into town. So where are they now?” This made Anti freeze as he reached for the first branch, stopping before he could feel the rough texture under his fingertips. “They can’t be too far.” He turned to his companions still on the ground, “Ain’t that right, Bogger? Crudis?” The man made a small motion with his hand, as if encouraging his companions to add on.

 

Anti didn’t dare glance at the house again. He couldn’t out of fear of these men finding the other egos (to his knowledge) still fast asleep. The glitch forced a cruel smile, “I̸f I͠ w҉ere͜ ͜you,̨” He started lowly, turning back to the men on the ground and tilted his head, “I woul͝d̵ r͡u͡n̸ ͞a͜l̶o͟n̨g.҉ ̶A҉ d͏e҉aļ is a d̡eal. ҉O̢r ar͟ȩ you ass̷ ̛cork̡s ̴to͢o͏ ̷stup̶i̷d t̷o ̵re̷alize you’̴v͢e lo̢st?”

 

The largest man- Bogger, Anti now assumed- looked up at the thin man with a look of pure rage burning in his now pure black eyes. Shakily taking his hand away from his still-bleeding neck, he stood tall like a bear on its hind legs. “We aren’t the kind of folk who let dangerous lads just walk away.”

 

That’s when Bogger started to change . The thick black hair of his beard and arm hair grew along with his height and body structure.

 

“What ͜the fu-!” Anti stuttered in surprise as he spun around fully, back hitting the base of the tree as the shadow of the man stretched and cast a darkness over him. Back inside, Robbie ran back to the others in a panic, alerting them that the man attacking Anti was now a-

 

The ego barely had enough time to throw himself out of the way of the charging goliath of a black bear coming at him on all fours and taking a swipe at him- thick sharp claws slashing the bark of the trees into splinters. Tucking in on himself to roll a few feet away, Anti quickly popped back up to his feet with wide eyes and dread settling into his stomach like a ball of lead. “F͜-F̢e͜l҉l҉as̡ f̢el̢las! We ca͢n͠ w͟or͏k ̧t͘his̵ ǫut lik͝e͜ g̢e҉nt͠lem͜e̢n !” Another shout of fear leaped from Anti’s throat as he practically scrambled up another nearby tree with the speed of a cat being chased by a dog.

 

Following the leader, the other two men transformed as well. Not as big or as intimidating, but still fucking massive bears nonetheless.

 

Hand over hand and branch after branch the ego climbed up the tree, trying to get as far away as possible- but he could already feel his damned useless mortal body starting to get tired. “C’mon̸! I͞s t̶h͟i̕s ̡ rea͞l̷ly fu̴ckin̶g ҉neces̴sa͟r͢y?!” He shouted, forcing himself to cling to the trunk as the whole tree started to sway and shake. Looking down, he saw the three bears now starting to bash against the tree in order to knock it over entirely. “ CA͏N͘’̶T W̧E͠ S̷ĘTTĻE TH̛IS ǪVE̸R ̷A̧ ͟P̴INT̷ O҉R͢ S͜O͞M̧ET̸HIN͠G?!̕ ”͢

 

Huh. Fear. So this is what it feels like. Can’t say I’m a fan. Anti thought to himself sarcastically as a particularly harsh shove from below almost made him lose his grip around the tree trunk. At least the others are still hidden and safe-

 

“HEY CHUCKLEFUCKS!”

 

Motherfuckers.

 

All four heads turned. And standing there was the green-skinned hero that was Jackieboy- awkwardly holding the discarded broadsword out in front of him. His arms were shaking violently from both the weight and his bad grip he had on the handle (both hands holding the end of the pommel as if he was merely pointing a baseball bat at the attackers). The transformed men turned their snouts to one another and let out what Jackie assumed was laughs through roars.

 

“L-Leave him al-alo-one!” Silently cursing his stutter, the half orc adjusted his grip and squared his feet, “If you want him you’re gonna have to go through me first!” He threatened with the most amount of bravery he could muster up while facing three FUCKING BEARS.

 

The smaller brown bear laughed, droplets of slobber flying from his maw, “You and what army??” He barked out, voice much more gravely and deep than before.

 

J͞A͜CKIEB̴OY F͞U͜CK O̢FF I͡ ͟CAŅ HA҉NDLE TH͞IS҉!͏! ” Anti yelled from the tree, cursing again when the black bear pushed the tree again- threatening to finally uproot it and make it come tumbling down.

 

Forcing a sideways grin, Jackie stepped forward in challenge. The bear with dirty blonde hair growled, stepping back from the tree and moving to face the trembling half orc, “If I was you,” The bear said, pushing off the ground to get up on his hind legs. At this height Jackie was only a bear’s head shorter than his opponent in front of him. “I’d put the sword down like a good little lad and bugger off!” The bear finished with a roar, not as loud or as earth rattling as their leader’s, but still intimidating nonetheless.

 

Jackie puffed out his chest slightly while taking a steadying breath through the nose, making his nostrils flare out, “That’s the thing that’s different between you and me, my good bitch. I’m not a coward .” He smirked while tensing his muscles to brace himself for the inevitable attack on him.

 

As expected, the blonde bear yelled in rage before slamming back to the ground and charging at Jackieboy full speed. Fat and muscle moving under the thick fur coat as dark black eyes trained on the ego for the kill.

 

Bouncing his knees three short times, Jackie yelped and dodged out of the way of the furry freight train- still being knocked over by the sheer force of speed the bear was running at. But the hero quickly recovered after sliding in the dirt and using the momentum to turn his body around and get back to his feet in a fluid motion. The tip of the broadsword hit the ground as he awaited for his attacker to turn around and come at him again.

 

When the bear did, at last minute Jackie raised the sword up with a huff and managed to slash against its chest. It didn’t go in deep, but blood was starting to seep out and stain the dirty blonde fur crimson. The hero never liked killing people- villian or not- so he always tried to do the least amount of damage as possible while still getting the job done.

 

He didn’t have his regular powers, however. And he had no idea that it took so little of his current strength to slice through thick skin with a sword. It… startled him. But when he heard Anti curse again at another shove at the tree from his attackers, Jackie knew what he had to do to protect him.

 

They didn’t get along, sure.

 

But that’s what brothers do. And right now?

 

It was time for Jackie to protect his brothers.

 

Getting distracted for the slightest moment was apparently enough for the bear to get around again and knock the blade from Jackie’s hands, sending it a few feet away before full-on tackling the half orc to the ground. Jackie let out a loud grunt as he started to wrestle the bear in a feat of strength. Tusked teeth bared in adrenaline, the hero managed to get his arms around the beast and flip their positions temporarily until they went back to struggling. Jackie had to be careful as large paws with thick claws came slashing at his face at the same time as massive teeth threatened to tear his arm off if it got too close to its face. Sweat dripped down the hero’s face as he fought the creature. “At least that’s one away from Anti.” Jackie thought to himself as he got caught with his back to the bear’s chest- allowing him to start ramming his elbows into it’s gut.

 

As the hero grappled, he didn’t see how the brown bear moved towards Ms. Aian’s house where the others were hiding out.

 

Anti’s eyes widened to the size of saucers when he caught sight of this. The brown bear’s snout searched the door and moved to the windows- the glitch felt his heart leap when he saw the curry head of Robbie’s hair quickly duck down out of the way before he was seen. Many scenarios were playing through Anti’s mind at rapid speed. If Jackie was killed then there wouldn’t be anything they could do to stop it. If the bear found the rest of the egos he could very well kill them all himself. And if Anti was murdered right now or if he fell to his death from this tree (unlikely but it still crossed his thoughts), then he couldn’t protect them after this.

 

If there was more after this.

 

But his mind was rattled from that train of thought when there was a loud CRACK coming from below him. The tree was slowly starting to tilt over and-

 

Thinking fast, Anti rose his place of clinging and took in his surroundings quickly. Jackie was wrestling. The other bear was at the door. And the largest one was at the bottom with it’s mouth open wide. A glint caught his eye and he saw the puny fish gutting knife still on the ground, and next to Jackie was still the sword a few feet away. Being forced to make a quick decision, Anti started to run down along the trunk of the tree as it tumbled to the ground with a loud thud . At the same time before it hit the ground, he jumped into the air, using one leg to land on and smash the bear leader’s head in before using the vault to throw himself towards the knife stuck in the ground. He landed hard, his knees giving out for just a moment as he tripped. But scrambling on his hands and knees like a kid playing tag in a plastic playground tube, he snatched the knife and rolled out of the way when Jackie and the bear attempted to throw each other down again.

 

Quickly getting to his feet, Anti ran towards the house and towards the brown bear now attempting to break down the door.

 

Within the shoemaker’s cabin, the band of egos had shoved the chairs, table, and anything else that was heavy enough against the door to block it. Using their bodies as well to hold everything back when the pounding became stronger. With their combined strength, they managed to hold the bear off. For now.

 

“Vhat are we going to do now??” Shneep asked, using his back to push against the pile of furniture, getting pushed back with another loud bang but he quickly adjusted his footing. “If zis FUCKING BEAR getz in, ve are going to become snacks and vittle toothpicks!”

 

“Calm down, Doc!” Marvin barked out, standing back and attempting to use some magic to keep everything in the frankly comedic pile from toppling over. “We can’t figure anything out if we panic.” The dragon-faced magician looked frantically around the room for anything they could use- or another exit out of the small cabin. Robbie was at the other side of the room working quickly with Chase to pack their things into the bags Ms. Aian gave them to travel with. If they find an opening, Marvin figured they could make a break for it. But if they couldn’t find another way out, then it looks like they were going to be magical bear chow.

 

Jameson was standing on top of the table and pushing directly against the door to assist in keeping it closed. His eyes widened and he let out a silent yelp of surprise when a set of claws stuck through the wood of the door. Frantically looking around the pile, the small man quickly picked up a hammer and with a moment of hesitation, he lifted the heavy tool and slammed it down over the claws- effectively breaking the thick nails in half. A roar of pain was heard as the paw was retracted- now a few claws short. The silent man paled at the sight of the bear’s claws on the table with splatters of blood at their bases.

 

Henrik looked over and grimaced at the sight, “Now zat iz vhat you call a broken nail.”

 

Definitely not just chipped. ” Jameson signed lamely while using his foot to nudge the claws to the floor- not his favorite decision to make since he was barefoot. Internally he regretted not taking Ms. Aian up on her offer to make him special hobbit-sized shoes. Another, much angerier bash on the door snapped him back to attention- dropping the hammer and pushing against the door once again to keep it closed.

 

“Is there not another way out??” Marvin called back to Chase and Robbie, his magic starting to slowly falter.

 

“Not unless we wanna break Ms. Aian’s windows!” Chase replied, nervousness settling into his voice.

 

“Tha’ won’t be necessary, boys.” The egos looked up as Ms. Aian quickly stepped down the stairs with dainty barefooted steps. Her bright red hair messy and voluminous while freed from it’s bun. “Ta’ front door is the only direct way out of ‘ere.” Deep bags under her eyes and her unamused tone alerted the men to not to anything stupider than what they were already doing.

 

“Then what are we gonna do?” Marvin asked, glancing between the woman and the splintering door as the bear outside continued its work.

 

Before Ms. Aian could reply she was interrupted by another loud roar just outside the door and the attacks on it ceasing. Henrik cautiously went to the window to see what had happened and the doctor let out a gasp. “It’s Anti!” The others once again crowded around to watch the fight take place.

 

The ego had got up behind the brown bear attacking the door and leaped onto its back , plunging the small fish knife into their thick neck. The bear was now trying to shake off the glitch but Anti held on tight and repeated the action before to try and get some kind of result in keeping the beast from the others. And it was working! The bear was stumbling backwards- until it fell and landed on its back- crushing Anti underneath their weight. Gasping for air and trying to wiggle out from under the bear’s body, he glanced over to Jackieboy- who was losing ground in his own battle- and then to the largest black bear- who was now heading towards Anti.

 

He started struggling faster, trying to kick his pinned legs and shove the fatty fur off of his torso.

 

We have to do something! They’re going to kill them!! ” Jameson signed in a panic, wishing he could scream or do anything to help- but it was too dangerous and it would take too long to move everything away from the door again!

 

Beside them there was a loud calamity of crashing furniture as a new reddish-brown bear used its strength to shove everything out of the way, leaving the men speechless in shock.

 

“Ms… Aian?” Robbie asked, head tilted slightly as the new slimmer bear turned its head to look at the egos and nod. Turning back to the door they shouldered it open clumsily and rushed outside- running right to the trapped Anti.

 

When he saw the new bear coming, Anti let out an unmanly shriek and started to wiggle around faster. The reddish bear leaped and the ego thought that was the end so he shut his eyes tight so he wouldn’t have to witness being torn to shreds. But when the black bear roared angrily, Anti’s mismatched eyes shot open and was astonished to see the smaller bear standing between him and the other.

 

“These men are no danger to you, Bogger.” The female bear growled lowly as she acted as a protective barrier.

 

The black bear- Bogger- laughed once, “You can’t be serious , Mel! Lookit what they’ve done to to me- what they did to Gerrit!” He nodded his head to gesture to the bear now passed out over Anti- still breathing, but bleeding heavily. “ These strangers are dangerous . They have to go. Now!”

 

“They were going! They were going to leave in the morning-” Ms. Aian countered, stepping forward to keep Bogger at a distance.

 

“You let ‘em stay just that much longer and look at what they’ve done.

 

“But they were harmless before you came and roughed him up!”

 

“And imagine what they would have done if you crossed them, huh?” Bogger took a few steps forward, moving to go around the female. “Let’s just finish them off now- they’ve seen too much now as is-”

 

“An’ whos fuckin’ fault is tha’?!” She growled, stepping into his way with her hackles up. “Harm them anymore and I will hurt you, Bogger.” Baring her teeth and extending her claws out, Ms. Aian lowered her stance in ready to protect- and attack if needed.

 

“Aw c’mon, Mel. What are these strangers to you anyway, eh?” His beady black eyes narrowed and body shifted to make itself look more intimidating. “Remember when strangers took your husband away? How they took Danial-”

 

You’re not allowed to say his name. ” She snarled.

 

“Why not?! He was my friend-”

 

“You left him to die, you bastard ! ” Her voice broke and whatever calm she had disappeared as she charged at the black bear head-on, going right for his still-bleeding neck wound with her teeth. Bogger roared and blocked her with a swipe of his massive paw, but she kept coming- slashing, gnashing, and finding any way to break this larger bear down. He wasn’t going to attack his own kin- but when Ms. Aian managed to sink her claws into the meat of his neck, he let out a deep cry and began countering her with his own attacks.

 

Anti’s heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest from the adrenaline rush of watching two bears fight right in front of him. But he snapped out of it when he heard the sound of quiet footsteps through the roars and shouts from the two pairs fighting bears. The glitch looked up and saw both Marvin and Chase making their way over to him. Quickly looking between the bears and his brothers with wide, scared eyes, Anti was so thankful to see them for once. He reached out his hands to them and each ego took one of his arms- using their combined strengths to try and pull Anti free from his fatty and furry prison. “H̵u̶rry u͏p hur͡ry u̢p̴!” The glitch whispered in a panic.

 

“We’re trying! You’re really stuck under there.” Chase grunted, switching from pulling on the elder’s arms to kneeling on the ground and attempting to shove the bear off with his back.

 

“I’҉m̕ ̶g̵on͢n̷a̧ ̸say͠ ̴it̴.” Anti laughed bitterly as he tried to push with his trapped legs.

 

“Oh god please don’t-” Chase groaned as sweat dripped down his brow as he gave the bear’s body one final shove, allowing just enough of leverage for Anti to scramble out with the help of Marvin pulling on his arm.

 

“I ̸fu̶ckin̕g̛ ͏to͢ld ͢yơu so̡.”

 

“Aaaand there it is.” Marvin rolled his eyes, helping Anti to his feet and the three egos turned when they heard Jackie cry out in pain. The hero was on the ground, the blonde bear’s jaws locked around his left shoulder with it’s teeth sinking deep into the skin. “JACKIE!!” The dragonborn screamed in horror. Neither Chase or Anti could catch him fast enough before the magician ran forward, hands glowing bright to match his eyes that sparked purple.

 

Tears blurred Jackie’s eyes as he still continued to try and fight off the bear- but he was growing weak. When he heard his name his head snapped up and could make out the blurry figure of Marvin coming towards him with rage crackling in his magic. “No Marv wait-!” He got out through gritted teeth. But the ego ignored him- as the magician leapt onto the bear’s back and dug his own claws through the fur and into flesh.

 

The bear on top of Jackie instantly released its bite and reared up to try and shake his new attacker off his back. But that just prompted Marvin to dig in deeper- the magic in his hands sparking and popping like firework sparklers as it seemed to seep into the bear’s body. The beast roared and their body started to twitch and convuls as if it were being electrocuted from the inside.

 

Jackie quickly rolled onto his stomach and got to his knees, clasping a hand over his shoulder to stop the bleeding as much as he could, “Marvin!” He called out, but the other couldn’t hear him through his blind rage. “Marvin! Let go!” He tried again, getting to his feet and looking to the others standing by. “Help him!”

 

After a moment’s hesitation between them, Anti groaned loudly without hiding any irritation, “I͞ go͏t͜ta ̵d͘o͏ f̕u͠ckin̷’̶ ̢ e̷ver̡yt͢hin͏g̕ a͠ro̕u͠nd͏ ̴here.” Running to the magician, reaching up the bear’s back and literally tearing him away . Once disconnected, the light in Marvin’s hands and eyes went out and he collapsed in Anti’s arms. The bear still shook for a moment before falling as well into a lump of fur. “Foŗ ̛f͏ucks͜ ̴şak̶e, ͜M̷a҉rv.͝” Anti muttered under his breath, turning to others while holding Marvin bridal-style, “H̨el̕p ̨J҉a̧ckie ͞and ge͝t͟ back͏ in͘s͝ide͠!”

 

“What about Ms. Aian?” Chase asked with panic in his tone. “She needs our help!”

 

A loud and deep female’s yell of rage signaled that she was fine- this idea reinforced with the largest black bear went down with the reddish brown bear’s maw locked around his neck.

 

“I think she’s handling herself just fine.” Jackie smirked, moving back towards the house himself and Chase met him halfway to awkwardly help the half orc inside.

 

Clenching his jaw, Anti looked from the ongoing bear fight to the smaller dragonborn passed out in his arms. “H͡ang̵ ̧on͜, l͘iza̷rdfa̵ce. ̸We̸’re͟ ͟getti̸ng ̷ou҉t̶ ̡of he̡r͘e.͠” Quickly jogging into the house, Anti was met with Jameson and Robbie quickly passing out the packs to everyone as Henrik scrambled to wrap up Jackie’s shoulder enough so they could move out.

 

“Do we even know where we’re going to go?” Jackie asked, wincing slightly when Schneep pulled the bandaged a bit too tightly.

 

“No. ̡Bu͟t̷ we̡ ͜obviousl͟y̵ c͝a͠n͞’͡t s̴ţa̷y͘ ̷her̢e.͢” Anti said sternly, setting Marvin down on the table- promptly ignoring the bloody bear claws on the ground- and moving to help Robbie and Jameson.

 

“So we’re just going to leave Ms. Aian here by herself?” Chase accused bitterly, “After everything she’s done for us? We can’t just leave!”

 

Anti’s nostrils flared a bit as he took a breath and shot a harsh glare at the single father, “D̛o w̴e͟ h̸a̛ve ͟a̴ny ̢o͢t͜h̸er ͘optio̷n̛s ͡h̴ere̵?͡ ̸S̛he’s͠ g̡i͡v̶ing u̵s͡ ̨a̛n ̡o̢p̷ęnin̴g t̸o ͞ru͘n ͡b̵y fig҉h҉tin̡g t̛ha̴t ̨B̶og̛ger̸ dude. W͢e͠ have ͏to leave ͜ no͟w ͢o̢r s͟ǫmeon͘e̢ e͡l͢se is ͜g͠onn͝a͠ ̧g̨e̕t͟ ͡hu̴r̛t.”

 

Chase jumped at Anti’s harsh tone, but he glared right back and went back to packing quickly with a loud huff.

 

Anti rolled his eyes and turned to see Henrik lightly slapping Marvin’s scaly cheek to try and wake the magician up. If he had his powers right then, the glitch would have poof a glass of water over his head and soak him. While it was a humorous thought to him, he had to focus on helping Robbie slip on the smaller pouch he was given around his shoulder.

 

A bit of food, water skins, and very little medical supplies, and no weapons… Aside from each other It was all the egos had in this strange new world. And stumbling into a village of aggressively protective polymorphs that (as far as they knew) strictly turned into bears wasn’t exactly the best first impression of the place.

 

When everything Ms. Aian offered that they could carry was packed and secured onto their backs and around their shoulders, the egos waited by the door for an opening to run. Jackieboy had one large pack slung over his shoulder and Marvin in his arms.

 

With Anti taking the lead, he snuck the egos out of the house, ducking behind bushes as they go. All of them stealing looks towards the dueling bears with heavy hearts. At the edge of the forest, Anti sent Chase ahead to lead the others away as fast as they could manage. The glitch waited until all of his brothers made it through the treeline before looking back one last time. His eyes were met by Ms. Aian’s dark black ones. She looked exhausted, but the determination burning in her features told Anti that she would be okay. He wanted to tell her he was sorry- that he was truly thankful for everything this woman had done for them. And she could see it in his face and gave the ego a solemn nod and a grin that told Anti she already knew.

 

With regret in the pit of his stomach, Anti tried to brush it off as he slipped away after the others. Disappearing into the moonlit night under the shelter of trees casting shadows.

 

The town grew smaller and the sounds of the fight grew fainter behind them as they continued to run deeper into the woods. The further they got away, the safer they would be. Or so they all hoped silently through pants and huffs of breath as they kept their quick pace.

 

Jackie was injured. Marvin was still out cold. Anti was roughed up and fighting his body to keep going. Robbie and Jameson were scared. Schneep was concerned that everyone was pushing too hard. And Chase was angry that they just left Ms. Aian behind on her own.

 

They were lost and confused. But not alone.

 

Unsure sure where to go now in this strange new world, the only way they knew that was safe now was forward. The true reality settling in to their bones as night melted away into dawn;

 

They were screwed.

Chapter Text

YO DOODLER WHERE'S THE FANFIC

Short/ cop-out answer: Depression is a bitch

Better(?) answer: I... don't actually know how to continue this. ^^" I have a very VERY basic outline of how I want this story to go, but everything in between is up in the air. So... Let's cut a deal, eh? If you want to see a certain thing happen/ have an idea of what the boys could do while searching for Jack, comment it down below! It can be anything from different encounters, towns/ cities they visit, or just interactions between them all.

I've started the next chapter but I'm pretty stuck about what they should do next. Soooo yeah! If you have any ideas/ DnD stories that could be worked into this story, I'm all ears! <3

(I'll delete this when the next chapter goes up so if you have more ideas after that just leave it in the comments)

Again, I'm super sorry for no updates. Woe is me and finding a job is hard and all that bs.

Hope ya'll are having a lovely day. <3

~Doodler

Chapter Text

How long had he been just floating there? Or maybe it was falling? He still couldn’t tell.

 

Has it been minutes? Hours? Years? He couldn’t figure that out either while drifting through nothingness. It didn’t help that he was unable to open his eyes in the first place. He tried so many times- not like there was anything else to do here- and failed each and every one.

 

Strangely he could wiggle his fingers and toes- able to touch the pads of his fingers to his palms- but the rest of his limbs felt too numb to do anything. It didn’t bother him too much. It was almost relaxing in a strange way.

 

His mind was too fuzzy to really think about anything in particular for too long. If he tried- and oh boy did he try- he could focus on the immediate world around him that he was all but blind to. Opening his palm, he felt the gentle burn of a thousand tiny stars (were they stars? Or were they fireflies..?). Or when a wave washed him over he didn’t feel the blood rushing to his head (or did someone push him..?).

 

But all thoughts were quickly washed away with the tide. Keeping him in a limbo much like when you’re first waking up in the morning or going to bed late at night.

 

He didn’t mind even if he could. It was nice to turn your brain off for a while and just.. Drift. He was comfortable enough. And he couldn’t think of anything that he should be doing.

 

So he slept with no dreams.

 

Everything was quiet. Everything was peaceful. Everything was…

 

Where am…?

 

The world faded to white, and Jack blinked open his eyes tiredly.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

Back sore and brain slow, Jack peeled his face off the flat surface of his recording desk and looked around much like a zombie. With no coffee in his system he might as well be a blob in flamingo shorts.

 

Glancing to his computer, he realized his camera still had the small red light on and the youtuber let out a groan as he reached to turn it off.

 

“Can’t believe I passed out while recording..” He mumbled, pushing up his hoodie sleeve and flicking his wrist to check the time.

 

9:13 AM

“Fucks sake..” Pushing back in his chair, Jack slumped out of his seat and made his way out of the recording room to the kitchen. Which, slightly to his dismay, was already alive and active with other morning-goers. Even though he looked like he could collapse and fall asleep again any minute, a soft smile was present on Jack’s features when quiet (also still sleepy) voices greeted him good morning.

 

“Schneep made a new pot of coffee before he left and there should be some pancakes still on the table.” Marvin informed Jack lazily, his nose buried in a thick leather-bound tome as he sat at the kitchen table. His own cup of coffee was suspended in the air nearby with a faint purple aura around it. Without looking, the magician reached out for the cup and took a sip then returned it to it’s mid-air suspension.

 

“Thanks.” Jack sighed appreciatively, taking down a large black mug and pouring himself a cup. As the dark liquid warmed his hands, he idly watched the Spiderman logo appear in a cloud of blue and red on the side of the mug. Jackieboy Man had picked the color-changing mug up at some comic book shop and added it to the house’s ever-growing collection of coffee cups.

 

The only ones who didn’t drink the bitter life-giving bean water were Jameson, Chase, and Robbie. The two former prefered tea and argued many times how it still has enough caffeine for them. And Robbie doesn’t like the strong taste of either- so he sticks with water and juice boxes.

 

Speaking of those three-

 

Jack leaned against the kitchen counter and glanced over into the living room where the sounds of Robbie’s giggled and turned-down wacky cartoon noises broke through the quiet morning. Jack could see Chase’s cap and arms draped over the back of the couch and JJ laying on his stomach on the floor as he watched the TV with the zombie next to him.

 

A small smile on his face, Jack plated himself two blueberry pancakes- leaving the one with a sizeable Anti-sized bite taken out of it (“ That little shit” )- and moved to join the other egos in the living room.

 

Chase turned his head and grinned, one hand holding onto a mug of tea as he held out the fist to the fellow content creator, “Ey, he’s alive!”

 

“Hah, barely.” Jack tapped the top of the young father’s fist with his own, being careful not to spill his precious coffee onto the other’s lap. “I didn’t realize how tired I was- I literally passed out at my desk last night.”

 

“Damn, bro. That’s gotta suck.” Chase took a sip of his tea, turning back to the TV where a marathon of classic Disney cartoons were playing in black and white. “What’s on the agenda today?”

 

Carefully stepping over and between the legs of the two youngest egos, Jack took a seat on the other side of the couch and rested his plate of fluffy pancakes in his lap. “Record a video, send it to Robin.. Uhh.. I think I promised Robbie we’d go to the park.” He shrugged, bringing his mug to his lips with both hands, “But first, coffee.” Taking a loving sip of the dark liquid, Jack could already feel some energy returning to him.

 

“Lit. We still doing game tonight, right?” Chase asked with a soft grin and quirked eyebrow, “ Kinda left us on a cliff-hanger back there.”

 

Jameson rolled onto his back- showing off his blue striped button up pajamas- to face the two men on the couch and sign grumpily, “ That was right rude of you, ol’ chap!” And gave Jack a little pout under his mustache.

 

Jack just snickered while folding a pancake in half and taking a bite out of the corner, “It’s supposed to keep you comin’ back fer more!” He laughed through a mouthful of breakfast.

 

JJ rolled his eyes playfully before rolling back onto his stomach, bumping shoulders with Robbie who was in a similar position on the floor with his eyes glued to the TV. The zombie ego blinked and turned his head to smile at Jameson, who returned it brightly before they both turned back to the cartoon.

 

“But yeah,” The creator said after chewing and swallowing his food like a civilized person, “If I can get all the footage sent to Robin early enough I should be able to take Robbie out and get ready in time.” Finishing off the pancake, Jack washed it down with a large drink from his now fully-red spiderman mug. “What about you?” He asked Chase casually, “Anythin’ goin’ on?”

 

Chase shrugged, leaning back into the cushion and cradling his mug of tea, the paper of the teaback hanging over the rim. “I was thinkin’ about texting Stacy to see if she’ll let me take the kids to the park with you guys for the afternoon, but.. Ya’know how she is.” He grimaced into his cup to try- and fail- to hide his bitterness.

 

“Won’t know until you try.” Jack suggested gently. He wasn’t crazy that Chase always wanted to bring his kids around- but usually when the two rascals showed up Jack falls in love with them all over again. Even so, he always tried to be supportive and help Chase out when it come to facing his ex wife.

 

“...” Chase took a deep breath before slowly letting it out. He glanced to Jack who gave him an encouraging nod as he pulled his cell phone from his back pocket and unlocked it.

 

“You got this, dude.” Finishing up his pancakes, Jack stood up from the couch and stepped over the two youngest egos on the floor- turning Chase’s signature skull cap around backwards on his head- as he walked back to the kitchen to deposit his dishes into the skink.

 

Returning to the living room with his second cup of coffee, Jack walked in just in time for the lights to flicker off and on and green. The music playing from the cartoons started to warp and slow and speed up at random intervals. Static and glitches filled the TV and cast eerie shadows through the room- despite it being a beautiful day just through the open windows. Jameson and Chase tensed up instantly while Robbie sat up with excitement when a clawed, gray-green hand burst through the screen.

 

“Morning Ant!” The zombie ego cheered, backing up from the TV set to allow Anti some room to step through and into the living room with a large smirk on his face.

 

Jack rolled his eyes, “Do you always gotta be so fuckin’ dramatic?”

 

“Always.” Anti snickered as he pulled his foot out of the TV- sending the room back to normal. “It’s part of my charm.”

 

Chase scoffed quietly to himself and when Anti looked over at him the young father quickly buried his nose back into his phone.

 

“Anyway.” Anti rolled his eyes, ruffling Robbie’s hair before floating past Jack into the kitchen, taking care to bump Jack’s shoulder. Thankfully the creator was used to it and easily kept his coffee from spilling, sticking his tongue out at the eldest ego- who in return pulled down both of his bottom eyelids with his middle fingers and stuck out his own tongue. That pulled a chuckle out of Jack before he moved to sit down on the again.

 

“So, Robster Lobster,” Jack grinned, leaning forward and propping his elbows on his knees, holding his cup of coffee out lazily, “You still wanna go to the park for lunch?”

 

The lavender-haired zombie looked up in thought, sheepishly turning his head down and pulling his shoulders up to his ears, “Can.. stay.. inside.. today?” Robbie asked, shyly meeting Jack’s baby blue eyes. “Don’t.. wanna.. go.”

 

Tilting his head, Jack asked him, “How come?”

 

Robbie shrugged again without verbally replying.

 

Jack glanced to Chase for any hint of a reason, but the ego was useless to the creator since he was texting with fast thumbs and a scrunched brow. He turned back to Robbie and slowly gave him a small smile, “If you don’t want to go out, we don’t have to. Nobody’s forcing you outside, Robbie.” The zombie looked up and smiled thankfully at Jack before moving to lay back down on his stomach and continue watching TV.

 

-

 

About an hour of lazing around had passed and now the house activities were in their usual full swing.

 

Jackieboy Man was out on the town patrolling for crimes to stop or prevent from happening.. Schneep was at his clinic taking care of people to the best of his ability. Jameson was in the living room- now fully dressed in his usual vest a bowtie- and practicing his swing-dancing by himself as the record player sang in the corner. Chase, by some miracle, convinced Stacy to let him take the kids out. So the three Brodys were now heading towards the park and ice cream shop. Marvin was upstairs in his room hanging out with Robbie. The zombie sat on the magician’s bed as he watched in wonder as Marvin practiced for his upcoming show. And Anti was in the (thankfully sound-proofed) instrument room where they kept Jack’s electric and classic drum kit. Everyone assumed he and Jack were exact opposites, but he and the glitch did have one thing in common- which was evident by the way Anti attacked the classic drum kit and sang along to the heavy metal song playing in his headphones.

 

Alone in his recording space, Jack smiled into camera and greeted the fans with his loud opening. In the back of his mind he can just see the millions of fans frantically turning their sound down and it makes him laugh to himself as he pulled up the game of the day.

 

Two hours rolled by and he had finished the game and sent the footage to best buddy Robin to edit. Now that he had the rest of the day to himself…

 

Heading out of the recording space to his bedroom, Jack pulled out a big binder from under his bed and flipped open the hard plastic cover and to his last page of notes. Snatching a pencil from his bedside table, the dungeon master started to write furiously, a slow smile growing across his lips. Let’s just say he had gotten inspired by today’s game and NEEDED to incorporate it into today’s session. He was sure the guys were going to hate this. And by hate, he means love. But recently he’s tried to dick over the egos on multiple occasions through this session- to spice things up a bit since they complained last time how bland it was.

 

“This is gonna knock their socks off.” Jack grinned to himself as he flipped through his monster handbook and wrote down a few notes as well as bookmarking the page with a green sticky-note.

 

Everybody took a break from their own activities and piled into the dining room for lunch. Jackie and Henrik were a little late as usual- both normally caught up in their work- but nobody minded as they passed them the pizza box. With Mia and Cody joining them at the table, Anti and Shneep opted to sit at the kitchen’s island that broke up the space. The talking was mostly done by Chase’s kids and Jackie, but everyone went around and told how their days had been going and other chit-chat along those lines.

 

It was… nice. Jack looked around and couldn’t help but smile at the little family they had made. Without the egos around, he’d get really lonely. But now with them all being roommates, it really made their house a home. Everybody brought their own life to it, and if any of them were gone it would feel a lot more empty without their touch of flavor in the hotpot. In the beginning it was absolute hell getting used to them all in his space. But over time Jack adapted and even welcomed them all being there. At this point, they were all basically brothers. And you can’t tear a strong family apart easily.

 

Jack laughed when Jackie cracked a joke, and almost snorted out his soda out of his nose when he saw Cody and Jameson having a silly-face-making contest across the table from each other. Marvin tossed his fork behind his shoulder and it flew and landed into a cup in the sink- making Chase and Anti freak out in excitement for him (though Anti tried to play it off and accuse the masked ego that he used his magic to pull that off. To which Marvin put a finger to his lips and winked). Henrik rolled his eyes and scolded the older men for acting so immature- all the while hiding his grin behind a mug of coffee.

 

Home. This is home. Jack thought to himself warmly.

 

When all around him, his world slowly faded to black around the edges. At first he was concerned and tried to get the other’s attention- but when he put his hand on Jackie’s shoulder, his hand went right through.

 

Jack let out a gasp and moved back in his chair to stand up. “Guys?” He called out. The memory ignored him as he waved his arms around fanatically, his voice growing in fear, "GUYS!!" Backing up through the chair, the youtuber’s breath started to pick up quickly as his world swirled like it was pouring down a faucet drain.

 

He reached out to them and screamed in fear when the floor was taken out from under him, sending him down down down back into the unending black.

 

☆゚.*☆゚.*☆゚.*

 

His body jolted when his mind came back into itself, but quickly relaxed once again in the zero-gravity, his head resting on a pillow of stars.

 

Immediately he felt calm wash over again when a water bubble kissed his cheek and a wave turned him over.

 

All thoughts, including the memory, faded into blissful nothingness.

 

Once again, he was alone in the vast expanse of swirling sea and space.

 

He felt… colder.