Strange things happen in the woods, and even stranger things happen in the woods of Gravity Falls, Oregon. For those who were in the little town during the summer of 2012, things would never be the same, and though that is an important story, it is one for another time.
Our story, however, takes place five years later. Allow me to set the scene ...
It's a lazy Sunday morning, not two weeks into Summer Break. A time-worn shack stands stubborn and proud against a sea of red fir and spruce, and inside, a family of four (and a pig) is conversing over breakfast.
A few miles down the road, a sleepy community is going along with the same routine that it has for many Sundays past with a sluggish contentment.
Deep within the woods, creatures of all sorts scurry, creep and slink though the forest that they call home... Save for one place. In a mossy, abandoned glen, a statue lays, half-swallowed by earth and grime, the legacy of a mad tyrant.
Birds and other animals avoid this spot, and though many of the fantastical residents once came to take their anger out on the effigy of the monster that had caused them pain, the statue remained undamaged through some magical means, and now it lays, ignored and nearly forgotten.
But, reader, even forgotten things can be remembered.
"Mabel, just because you kissed a merperson doesn't mean you know everything about them! You flirted for like, a day! What if they DO have powers like sirens, they just don't use them?" Dipper Pines gestured absently with his fork, determined to debate his sister's argument away.
"Lots of sirens are all people-hungry and stuff, so they need the magic voice powers to catch food. Merpeople eat, like, fish or something, so why would they have a power they didn't need? Plus, Mermando wasn't just a merperson, he was a prince! And I'm not the only one who kissed him... " The girl waggled her eyebrows at her brother, bringing up one of her surefire 'Mabel wins this conversation' topics. She then looked at her eldest Great Uncle. "Grunkle Ford, I'm right, right?"
Stanford Pines observed the conversation between his great niece and nephew with a thoughtful look. He opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by a snort from his brother.
"Heh, funny you kids should mention that... When we sailed the coast in February, Ford almost smooched a fish-chick. He didn't wanna tell you 'cuz he thought it was 'undignified'" Stan's hands rose up to trace quotes in the air at the last word.
Ford sputtered, his face tinting pink.
"Wha- Stanley! That's not the entire story and you know it!" Collecting himself, The polydactl researcher adjusted his thick-rimmed glasses and turned to the teens, looking a tad sheepish: "We encountered a pod of merfolk on our way back up from California, and I may have fallen overboard when Stan attempted to avoid them... Long, awkward story short, I nearly landed on one of the ladies when I fell, and Stan here likes to pretend I was involved in some sort of ocean tryst."
Later, Mabel promised herself, she would draw that. (And hadn't Ford once dated a Siren?). But for now...
"Did you get her Shellphone number, Grunkle Ford? I think it would have gone swimmingly."
Ford groaned, though he was used to these sorts of jokes, and Mabel began giggling her head off. She was joined by Stan's rough chuckling, and even Dipper smiled as he rolled his eyes. The meal continued smoothly after that, debate forgotten, and as the sticky dishes were loaded into the sink, the Pines were all thinking about what to do with the hours until sunset. Ford cleared his throat, drawing the attention of his brother and the two teenagers. He addressed the latter.
"Will you two be going into the woods today?"
The younger set of Mystery Twins shared a glance, and in a moment, they'd had the kind of silent conversation that only siblings and very close friends can have. Dipper answered for both of them.
"Yep. I wanted to examine the stream that I found on Tuesday and check out the creatures that visit it, and then we're going to go see Kellie. You know, the huldra that lives way out in the east part of the woods... Mabel wants to give her the sweater that she made for her this school year. Do you guys wanna come?"
Stan seemed to be considering the offer. Ford hummed thoughtfully, running a six-fingered hand through his thick grey locks. He then slowly shook his head.
"I have some research that I had planned on doing. Perhaps the next time you go to visit her. I do have one request, however. Would you bring me back samples of the bioluminescent mushrooms in that area? My last sample set was too close to an experiment I was conducting, and they, tragically, were reduced to dust that I had to dispose of. You know the ones, Dipper."
Stan scratched his five-o-clock shadow.
"Huldras are those hot forest babes with tails and tree backs, right?"
"Ugh, Grunkle Stan!"
"What? Just askin', kid." The con man grinned a scoundrel's grin at Dipper's affronted look, then waved a dismissive hand. "Nah, I'll stay here and watch TV with the pink menace or something. Not up for a lot of walking. Say hey for me, though."
Mabel smiled. "Will do. And Waddles is a gift to this world, Grunkle Stan, not a menace." She chirped out. The 'dapper kitten' decal on her cyan sweater bobbed, as if doing a little dance. Ford rolled his eyes at his brother's comments and addressed the kids once more.
"Will you be bringing one of my journals, or yours, my boy?"
"Mine. Oh, but I wanted to cross-reference some things with yours later."
Ford nodded. "You remember the six rules?"
Dipper groaned softly, though he was smiling. Mabel answered, counting on her fingers as she listed the aforementioned rules.
"Make sure to be back before dark; Don't make promises to faeries or thank them or tell them your real name, even pretty ones like the seelie court; if we meet a creature too big to handle, find help; bring at least three different weapons; don't steal anything you can't conceal; aaand..."
She paused, making a show of trying to remember the last thing. Her brother flipped her long hair forward over her eyes with a grin, and as his sister squawked out an indignant "Hey!" and tried to smooth her curly locks back into place, he finished her sentence:
"And 'embrace the strange'. We know, Great Uncle Ford. You both remind us every summer!"
"Ya haven't forgotten yet, kid, so I'd say it's working pretty well. Besides, What would we tell your folks if you got eaten by a giant purple worm, or bound into pixie servitude or something?"
"Faerie servitude, Stanley. While most pixies are a subclass of fairy, they're more likely to tie your laces together than bind you with a magic oath."
Stan fixed his brother with a deadpan look that clearly suggested the mistake was, in fact, deliberate. Before he could comment, Mabel looped her arm through Dipper's, quickly piped up with a speedy,
And dragged her brother out of the kitchen, the latter letting out a surprised yelp as he quickly adjusted his footing and ran behind her. No way was he getting pulled up the wooden stairs by his ridiculously strong (she survived on like, pure candy, how???) teenage sister.
In a few minutes, the two twins were tearing out the door and into the woods, fully equipped with everything adventurers could need.
Including gummy caterpillars and extra pockets.
The visit to the creek was mostly uneventful, with the exception of a few peaceful supernatural creatures that came to drink and socialize. Mabel contented herself with taking pictures using the new digital camera she'd gotten, while Dipper sketched a peryton fawn and doe that came to drink, wrote observations about various curious forest animals, and noted that some of the silvery frogs at the edge of the creek were speckled with gold and occasionally croaked out a tiny, melodious note.
Strangely enough, after a few summers of visiting Gravity Falls, both of the younger two Pines' seemed to be extraordinarily at ease with the local paranormal inhabitants, and vice versa. Even the more cautious ones, who hadn't interacted with the twins before, seemed to accept their presence; and the two younger twins were even permitted to, on occasion, visit the paranormal black market pocket dimension that was connected to Gravity Falls (This was largely due to a later misadventure in which the Underdark-esque society had learned of the Pines' part in stopping the oddpocalypse).
Ford was disappointed to learn that he did not have the same easy relationship with the native species, but shrugged it off as pertaining to his old methods of collecting and 'preserving' his specimens. (It was, however, noted that the supernatural was not as secretive around him as it was around tourists, a fact which Stanford resolved to study later.) After a long conversation one previous summer with Mabel, he had been alerted to the fact that, while scientific, keeping some specimens locked in cages to study was not very nice, and a 'jerk-face' thing to do, especially to social beings like the gnomes.
Ford had considered it, and (largely due to his travels to certain dimensions) had agreed to maintain a short-term 'catch, study, and release' routine. Mabel had beamed, put a glittery 'Good choice' owl sticker on his cheek, and proceeded to join Soos and Wendy in the gift shop. Ford left the sticker on for the rest of the day (and stuck it in his Journal afterwards). He received no taunting words from Stanley, who simply observed the sticker and made a comment about there being no more soda left.
Around noon, Dipper and Mabel left the creek and began to make the trek east, taking a scenic deer path. The teens had been walking for about half an hour, merrily chatting and eating the snacks that Mabel had brought in her backpack, when Dipper suddenly halted, blanching. Mabel looked over, ready to tease him about spotting a humming-hummingbird or something of that ilk, when she noticed his face. She frowned.
"Dipdop? What's up?"
Dipper, who had been staring deep into the trees to their left, seemed to snap out of his thoughts. He glanced at his sister and blinked hard.
"I don't know. I just feel like something is wrong, all of a sudden. Mabel..." he hesitated. "Do you hear anything?"
Mabel Pines had extremely good hearing, however as she listened closely she couldn't hear a single odd noise, though there was something off. She couldn't put her finger on it. Her frown stayed.
"That's what I thought. Mabes, there are no animal noises. No birds, no chipmunks, nothing."
That was it. That was what the teenage girl hadn't been able to place. She reached back and retrieved her trusty grappling hook gun from her pack. Better safe than sorry.
The two continued on, warily, and though the hair on the backs of their necks was standing straight up, nothing attacked them. The forest around them seemed to be holding its breath, and the twins soon found out why it dared not make a sound.
Mabel was the first to spot the statue, and when she did, her immediate reaction was crouch into the Pines' signature 'about to kick some butt' stance with her gun. The second thing she did was glance at Dipper, whose whole body was quivering with tension. She was afraid for a moment that his glasses would vibrate right off his nose.
Dipper spoke quietly at last, shattering the heavy silence with a tired, cracked tone.
"It didn't disappear with the other Weirdness."
Mabel knew he was referring to the stone body that Bill had abandoned to enter Stan-as-Ford's mind, but there was a millisecond of fear in which she pictured the demon returning through the effigy. She relaxed slightly, joking tensely:
"No wonder it's so dang quiet! I mean, I wouldn't wanna build a nest near a dumb ugly statue. Decreases the market value, you know?"
Mabel was relieved to see a small (albeit tense) smile flit across her brother's face. She was startled, however, when he began to robotically approach the eyesore in the clearing ahead of them.
"Uh, Bro-Bro? What's with the weird conscious-sleepwalking vibe?"
Dipper didn't reply for a moment, and Mabel briefly entertained the scary thought that he was under some sort of trance. Then he spoke again, so quietly even she was straining to hear, and ran a hand through his wild chestnut hair. Wendy still had his cap.
"I sometimes think about what I would say to him if he came back. What I would do."
He paused, teeth grit, then took another step toward the statue, and as Mabel approached her brother, stowing her grappling hook but ensuring she had easy access to the pink aluminum bat her Grunkle had gifted her, she could see his posture change into one of anger. Well then. His voice was clearly audible when he next spoke, and it cracked with audible hatred.
"Do you know how many nightmares you caused me, Bill? How many nights of sleep I lost? I couldn't exactly go to a psychiatrist, either." The young man's voice began to drip with a sarcastic and mocking edge. "'Oh, what are my nightmares about? Just the sadistic, egotistical, insane demon that tried to kill me and my sister and start a worldwide apocalypse, you know, the usual."
Mabel stilled, making no attempt to calm her brother. She'd felt the exact same way, and Dipper wasn't the only one who'd had his restful nights snatched away by memories of looming horrors and the screams of their friends. She clenched her fists tightly at the reminder as Dipper continued his emotional diatribe.
"You're a monster, Bill, but you already knew that, didn't you? God, I wish I could make you feel even a fraction of the pain and suffering you caused everyone. But, hey... If you can hear this, maybe it would be suffering enough to know that this is your legacy."
The boy gestured pointedly at the statue with both hands, and the motion caused his navy jacket to make a sharp, billowing motion.
"You thought you were going to be some sort of ruler? That you were going to make a name for yourself throughout the multiverse, and be a king? Well, now look at you! You're nothing but a stupid, rotting, shit-covered hunk of rock!"
Dipper startled even himself with that one. He and his sister rarely cursed, but for the most serious situations. He was probably not overreacting though. Besides, there was bird poop on the hat. Mabel stepped up to her brother's side and glanced up at him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He relaxed somewhat under her touch and sighed.
"You wanna have a turn, Mabel? It's... Actually really good closure."
His sister smiled softly at that, but the smile vanished when she turned her attention to what remained of the triangular tyrant. She stood up straight and her uncharacteristically serious face stared the large eye down. She was silent for a long moment before she finally began:
"You know, I don't really hate anyone. Even guys like the shapeshifter and Giffany, I was mad, and scared, but never hated them. You're not the only one who's tried to kill us, and at one point I just thought you were a mean, rude, weird person who did bad things. I even thought about trying to make friends, briefly. Before..."
Weirdmaggedon. Even saying it out loud was difficult. The teen took a deep breath.
"But now I know you're not just bad. You destroy just to destroy, under whatever demented delusions run through your demon mind. And you know what, Bill? I don't hate you either. I'm not going to give you the satisfaction. I'm going to forget you, and ignore you, and make sure you really die."
With that, Mabel quieted. She glared at the statue for a moment, as if daring it to retort, before looking at her brother.
"Let's get out of he-" "RIIIIIIP"
She was interrupted by a loud tearing sound in front of them, and both twins felt their hearts skip a beat as a rift about their height opened just behind the statue. They felt no pull sucking them in, but a moment later they heard a muffled shout as a figure was thrown roughly out. The person landed hard, then as they pushed themself up onto their hands and knees, the twins noticed three things.
The first was that the person was completely nude, and very much male.The second was that the person had thick, jet black hair and dark tattoos tracing his body, though in the moment the twins could not tell of what. The third was that the person was, at the moment, dry heaving on the ground, though it appeared that there wasn't much coming up.
Mabel approached him cautiously, keeping her eyes on his pallid face and definitely nowhere else.
The man coughed for a moment before he looked up, and the moment his eyes landed on the twins his face contorted into an expression akin to a sneer. He hissed out, in a very familiar, nasally voice (which was no longer echoey and demonic), "Pines." then tensed as if to suddenly move. Whether it was to stand, to attack Mabel, or to escape, the twins would later wonder, but they never found out because in the next moment Mabel's sparkly bat was connecting with the man's head.