ZHOFRPH WR JUDYLWB IDOOV.
The Crystal Gems had always loyally followed their respected leader anywhere she led without question. They had followed her into battle against their former Homeworld. They had followed her into the unknown after the war, in her resolve to eternally protect the earth from harm. They followed her on all of their countless treks across the planet over the past several centuries.
Which was why it wasn’t such a ceremonious event when they found themselves wandering the thick forests of a territory that the humans had only recently dubbed “Oregon”.
Even though it had been midday when the Gems had entered the woods, the towering canopy of lush pine trees shielded a great deal of light from the forest floor. The path they were taking was a relatively new one, as told from its rugged boarders and footprints and wagon tracks that told of recent travel upon it and seemed to be what they were following. A rather unsettling breeze wafted through the light needles of the trees, whistling in tune with the chirping of the birds and the buzzing of insects. Aside from the sparse natural lighting, an array of summer fireflies also danced loftily through the trees, giving the forest both an enchanting, yet undoubtedly mysterious vibe.
The sudden hooting of an owl perched upon a nearby branch was what caught Pearl’s attention specifically as she kept close behind Rose, never straying too far from her beloved liege as usual. Garnet and Amethyst marched single-file behind her, the former keeping up a firm, resolute pace and the latter meandering about in wide-eyed curiosity. Pearl herself at long last tore her eyes away from Rose’s cascading pink ringlets in front of her, to the eerie low lighting of the woods all around them, a frown crossing her features as she tried to reason what purpose their esteemed leader had in bringing them to such a seemingly empty place.
Pearl quickened her pace a bit to keep up with Rose, her lithe legs not missing a step as she held her hands close to her, trying her best not to let her worry show. And yet, she couldn’t help but feel apprehensive all the same. Pearl had always been one to air on the side of caution in most situations, her carefulness and precise nature often being both a strength and a weakness depending on the task at hand. And yet, even with her fretful traits aside, the white Gem had picked up on the obvious. Something was strange about these woods, something that she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Neither her nor the other Gems could reasonably admit to sensing the presence of any rouge Gem monsters in the area, which was what their usual targets were. But if that was the case, then why had they even wandered out this far away from human civilization in the first place?
“Um… Rose?” Pearl finally spoke up, unable to retain her bubbling curiosity any longer. She reached a hand up towards her superior’s shoulder, but she quickly retracted it as a spark of the usual excitement and nervousness that came along with so much as even touching her illustrious Rose Quartz ran through her. “Are you sure we’re heading the right way? We’ve been wandering these woods for hours and we haven’t spotted a single sign of… well, whatever it is we’re supposed to be looking for.”
“We’re heading the right way,” Rose assured in her silky, melodic voice, her tone unusually serious as she kept her sights solely on the path ahead. “I can feel it.”
Pearl raised a confused eyebrow at this, but before she could press as to what Rose meant, Garnet, who usually used what few words she spoke sparingly, ventured the question instead. “Feel what?” she asked, her tone as stoic and calm as usual.
“We’re close…” Rose said, hiding the small hint of apprehension in her tone well as her luxurious curls twisted gracefully as she walked. “Of course, you all remember me telling you about the rumors of… anomalies that humans in this part of the continent have been spreading around? Well, I have reason to believe we’re heading towards the source of such strangeness.”
“Anomalies?” Amethyst spoke up, her tone emanating her obvious confusion. The youngest and smallest Gem of the bunch, Amethyst had no qualms about letting her curiosity be known, especially when it came to human-related affairs. After all, humans were such fascinating, often hilarious creatures; spectating them was something of a sport for the small purple Gem. “As in… Gem monsters?”
Rose shook her head, taking in a deep breath as he dark eyes scanned the forest ahead, feeling the chill on the wind even more than her companions did. She was admittedly more sensitive to such things than other Gems; she always had been. She could feel that there was an imbalance of energy all around them, in the air, in the ground, in the very flora and fauna that surrounded them. And under her sworn duty to protect the earth, she was determined to find out what was causing it.
“No…” she said solemnly, still not turning to face her fellow Gems. As she spoke however, Garnet found her attention briefly diverted away from her leader. Amethyst sauntered past the taller Gem casually, while she stopped for a brief moment, her head turning with the breeze as it blew past her. The rustling of the trees percolated her attention, and though she almost summoned her gauntlets, she refrained from doing so unless Rose called for action.
But even so, Garnet hid her own bewilderment well underneath her glasses as she noticed a lone tree, peeking out of the woods amongst countless others. The tree had been a long time withering, no longer fostering any pine needles but rather decaying, brittle branches that rustled with the almost morose wind. However, what caught Garnet’s eyes the most was the visage that had been crudely caved into its dead bark. It was a triangle, large and lonely amidst the rest of the peeling wood, a piercing, rounded eye marked into its center. Though Garnet had never been one for superstitions, even she couldn’t deny that she felt a small shiver run through her form as she felt its strange scrutiny almost physically, even if logic deemed such a thing absurd. What wasn’t absurd however was the fact that Rose’s beliefs seemed to be proven true upon seeing the one lone word painted underneath the triangle in large, rugged, blood-red letters:
Garnet kept her focused gaze upon this disturbing sight as Rose went on, her words echoing well with the warning on the tree. “I fear that something much more sinister lurks around here…” she said, keeping her professionalism up even despite her ominous words.
Upon hearing such troubling information, Amethyst turned her glance towards Garnet behind her, who still had her gaze fixated upon the tree that was just out of the purple Gem’s line of sight. “Hey, Garnet?” she asked, her voice but a whisper as she looked up at the towering Gem expectantly. “You ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or somethin’.”
Garnet was quick to turn her attention back towards the rest of the group at this; thankfully, Pearl and Rose were still on the move, the white Gem softly whispering her concerns to their leader all the while. That was a good thing; after all, whatever the warning on the tree meant, the tall Gem was almost certain that Rose knew something about it, perhaps it was even related to why she had brought them here in the first place. Which was why Garnet saw no need to make Amethyst, who was much more carefree and innocent having not fought through the Gem war, worry about a warning that, as she tried to caustically reason, might not even have any bearings.
“It’s nothing,” she said succinctly, yet easily, picking up the pace as she walked on and left the marked tree behind. Amethyst let out a huffy sigh of disappointment, knowing that she was often left out of the loop because of her relative youth compared to the other Crystal Gems, but all the same, she let it go, pressing on close behind Garnet.
However, it was only a few moments later that the entire line came to a sudden halt behind Rose. The pink Gem stood before what looked to be but a mere wall of trees, yet clear, crisp daylight was peeking out from behind them. “Gems…” she spoke, her voice soft yet careful as she addressed her wards. Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl all held their breaths, anxiously awaiting whatever she was about to tell them.
Rose’s full pastel lips perused into a frown as she took another small step forward, placing her hand against one of the trees as she strained her eyes to look at whatever lay beyond them. All three of the Gems could hear their leader take in a sharp breath, something that put them even more on edge than the ominous atmosphere of the darkened forest did.
“What?” Pearl asked in a breathless whisper, finally working up the nerve to place her hand on Rose’s shoulder. “What is it, Rose? What do you see?”
“A town,” Garnet spoke for Rose, not even needing to look through the tree line thanks to her special abilities in foresight.
“Yes…” the pink Gem confirmed with a small nod, pushing aside a branch that was blocking both their path and their view. Rose was the first to pass through the small hole out of the forest she had made, and though the other Gems were a bit more uncertain, they all eventually followed suit after her.
“We’re here…” Rose said resolutely as they all stood on the other side of the woods, now drenched in the golden sun of the Oregon afternoon instead of the eerie shadows of the woods. The air was much more natural and refreshing here, laced with the sweetness of summer and the hints of what felt like a new beginning.
All four Gems stood upon a high hill that slanted down into a vast open valley. Expectedly, the entire area was awash in thickets of pine trees, which the Gems had grown used to seeing on their exploration of Oregon thus far. However, what attracted the most attention were the dual cliffs on the far edge of the valley, a few miles away from their position. The imposing cliffs stood adjacent to each other, towering high over the valley that was nestled in their large shadows. Both cliffs oddly looked as though they had been cleaved straight through the middle, giving them clifftops the illusion that they were floating to the point that one would wonder how they had not crumbled apart. A large waterfall cascaded down from the far side of the right cliff down into a large, pristine lake, which was fed by a twisting river that snaked through the valley. Within the valley itself were a few sparse, primitive, relatively new human dwellings, showing that civilization was present here, even if it was clearly in its infancy.
“Whoa…” Amethyst whispered, her eyes wide as she clung onto the skit of Rose’s gown and peered out at the valley with wide, excited eyes. “This place is HUGE!”
“This is it?” Pearl asked, frowning caustically as she surveyed the area, unimpressed by the small human settlement before them. “But… there’s hardly anything here…”
“So it would appear…” Rose mused, though unlike Amethyst and Pearl, both her and Garnet refused to believe that there was nothing in this largely untamed valley. “But there’s much more to this place…” The pink Gem’s determination to discover more prompted her onwards, heading down into the valley and whatever secrets awaited them there. “I can feel it…”
And so it was that the Crystal Gems followed their leader once more, even into this unknown frontier, none of them able to guess that ultimately become the place they would come to call home. And of course, all four of them embraced themselves for whatever might come, just as they always did before embarking on a new mission, as they passed under the brand-new sign that gave all travelers a simple greeting as they entered, the Gems included:
“Welcome to Gravity Falls!”