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Short Change Hero

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Chapter 1 - Prologue

 

I can't see where you're comin' from

But I know just what you're runnin' from

And what matters ain't who’s baddest,

But the ones who stop you falling from your ladder

 

Xephos had always taken pride in thinking things through. He had always been the controlled part of the duo, and had always been prepared when things went wrong. When things got rough, he had always been the one calming everyone else down, and always the one to find a way to get through it, and return home safely.

Xephos had always been the one taking the first step to protect the things he cared about. He had always taken the role of the leader in wars and negotiations. He had never let his loved ones down. He never disappointed anyone. No one ever saw Xephos rattled, panicked or overpowered. He could solve everything the world might send his way.

Xephos also seemed to have a curious sense of prognostication. He would always know when something big was going to happen, and prepare everyone else for the upcoming event. Never once had he not known, never once had he not been prepared.  

The years had taught Xephos many things, but the most important thing was the difference between knowing and preparation. Just because you know something is about to happen, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are prepared for it.

Being prepared is hard work and prognostications. Knowing is only cold, hard, dead facts.

Most saw Xephos as some kind of hero. Most thought him to be untouchable by darkness, but a select few knew otherwise.

When he came, Xephos had known, but he had not been prepared.

 

This ain’t no place for no hero

This ain’t no place for no better man

This aint no place for no hero

To call home

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2 – Some Nights

 

Some night I stay up, cashing in my bad luck. 

Some nights I call it a draw.

 

Xephos sighed as he turned in the bed, for what seemed to be the millionth time that night. He had had some trouble sleeping for a week now. Every night he tried to go to bed, he would get that overwhelming feeling that he shouldn’t, that he should stay awake because something was about to go terribly wrong. The first night he felt it, he had stayed awake, refusing to go to bed even when Honeydew had told him to. Nothing happened during the night, and when the sun finally rose the feeling had disappeared. When he had wondered why out loud, Honeydew had frowned at Xephos and told him, that it probably was something that he had eaten. Xephos had huffed at him, but had gone back to work, going through the day without any incidents.

When night came, Xephos had started believing that it was all going on inside his head, and had prepared himself for bed. As he let himself fall back into the mattress and was just about to surrender to the heavily needed sleep, the feeling had returned. He had opened his eyes, sitting up, deciding again that sleep was going to have to wait.

The cycle had continued, and after the fourth night without any sleep, Honeydew had called for Ridgedog. Xephos had scolded him, annoyed that Honeydew was sending him of all people.

Ridgedog and Xephos hadn’t spoken since the incident a couple of weeks ago. Everyone had thought that the two of them had gotten into a huge fight, but the truth was somewhat the opposite. Xephos had yelled at the demigod in one of his fits. He had wanted answers about him, about himself, about everything.

The immortal had said what he always did; that he didn’t know, that he wasn’t allowed to know and that he didn’t make the rules that bound him. Xephos had gotten mad, more than usually, and had slammed the demigod into a tree with such a force, that had the victim not been a demigod, it would have left deep bruises along most of his spine. The demigod hadn’t cared, hadn’t reacted, and Xephos had been so angry, so clueless as to what to do, that it ended with him pressing his lips against the immortal’s. The situation had escalated in a way that Xephos was not able to think about afterwards without his cheeks burning red and having to excuse himself.

That was why, when Ridge came to check on him at the request of Honeydew, Xephos had refused to meet the demigods eye. Ridge had tried to talk to him, tried to reason with him, acting as nothing had changed between them. Xephos had told him that he didn’t understand, that he didn’t needed to understand. It wasn’t like the demigod understood him anyway. Ridge had frowned at him and crossed his arms. Xephos had squinted at him angrily, meeting his gaze for the first and only time, before turning on his heels and walking in the opposite direction.

Xephos had stormed into the factory’s first floor, slamming the door behind him. When Honeydew had carefully asked him if everything was okay, Xephos had turned to him and told him to never ask for help on his behalf ever again. The dwarf had been startled, never having heard Xephos this angry before, and just nodded, eyes wide open.

That was three days ago. Fortunately for Xephos, Honeydew had just continued with his happy self the day after, going on like nothing had happened. Xephos hadn’t heard from Ridge since, and was unsure whether or not he should care about it. He rarely spoke with Ridge daily, always going at least a couple of weeks between their talks.

Xephos sighed at the attic as he hit his pillow a couple of times, before slumping back into it. He was on his eighth night with no sleep, and he could feel the effects of insomnia slowly taking over him. He had thrown himself down onto his bed and told his intuition that he didn’t care about what it had to say. He needed sleep. He had heard pieces of worried conversations between Lalna and Honeydew, when they had discussed what to do about Xephos. He had ignored them mostly, but he had to admit, that some of the things that he had heard, was starting to get to him. They had called him paranoid and scary, and several other things that made Xephos feel guilty. He hated letting down his friends, and if sleep was going to ease their minds, then Xephos would just have to get over himself and sleep. If not more, than at least for an hour or two.

He closed his eyes, his intuition screaming for him to open them again, but Xephos ignored it, trying to focus on the sound of Honeydew’s steady snoring from across the room. He quickly found a rhythm, breathing out as Honeydew breathed in, always focusing on the sound of air leaving a pair of lunges. He could feel his tension leaving his body after a while, allowing himself to relax for the first time for a week. He could feel himself growing more and more tired, as sleep prepared to overpower his mind. He sighed comfortably and snuggled up in his pillow, looking forward to allowing his brain to be refreshed. As he was just about to surrender, a sound broke Xephos’ trance instantly.

A creaking filled the room, creeping through the air, giving Xephos goose bumps all over his body. He sat up quickly, looking around the room franticly. Honeydew was happily snoring away in his own bed, no indication that he had heard the sound as well.

Xephos exhaled relieved as he let himself fall back into his covers. Maybe the guys had been right. Maybe he really had started getting paranoid. He sighed at his own paranoia and settled himself against the mattress. It would take him ages to get back to sleep now. He rubbed his eye with the palm of his hand and rolled over to his side. The sight that greeted him made his blood run cold in his veins.

He was looking straight into a pair of bright, glowing, red eyes. Xephos gave out a yelp, as he scrambled up against his headboard, wanting to get as far away from the eyes as possible.

As he withdrew, the creature straightened up.

An inky silhouette surrounded the eyes. The silhouette was not made by flesh, Xephos quickly realized. The silhouette consisted of concentrated inky fog, and if he looked carefully, he could see the fog swirling around as the air hit the shadow creature. The creature looked unlike anything Xephos had ever seen or read about, and as he quickly went through the list of known creatures in Minecraftia, his hands desperately searched for his diamond sword that he usually had beside his bed.

The creatures fainted lips curled up into a smile, the eyes gleaming through the inky fog as it looked at the petrified spaceman.

The creature hissed at him, lips trying to depart, but never quite making it, leaving strings of fog connecting the two lips.

“Hello Sssssephoss.”

Xephos froze in his movements. He’d know that voice anywhere.

Israphel.

His hands quickened their search, Xephos eyes glued to the monster, and finally closed on the hilt of his sword. He lashed and lashed out at him, the sword going straight through the shadow creature, without his blade meeting any resistance. The shadow seemed unmoved by the blow and the gash quickly closed behind the sword, leaving no trace that it had ever existed.

The horrible face smirked at the man and was about to jump at him, as someone lounged out at it with a torch, earning a shriek from the creature before it slithered across the floor, apparently disappearing through the gaps between the tiles of the floor.

Xephos jumped from the bed, not bothering looking at his rescuer. He rummaged through the chest beside his bed franticly, murmuring the word ‘light’ over and over, his own chest still rising and falling at an unusual pace.

“Xephos.”

The voice was rough, but the tone was gentle. Honeydew.

Xephos didn’t turn, his fingers finally closing on the tightly bound bundle that he was looking for. He pulled it up, dropping himself down to sit in front of the chest. He pulled at the string connecting the bundle, releasing its hold, making torches fall to the floor.

Light. He needed light.

He struggled as he found his flint and tinder, lighting one torch in his hand.

It wasn’t enough.

He put the torch down carefully, pulling another torch towards him and lit it too. He placed the torch beside the other, quickening up his pace, frantically lighting torches, as a drop of sweat collected itself at Xephos’ brow. He was about half way through the bundle, torches covering the area around him, when he heard Honeydew speak once more;

“That’s enough, friend.”

Xephos ignored the voice. Still murmuring words that only himself was able to hear, he kept on lighting torches until none was left. He looked around at the well-lit area around him, before slumping back against the pulling his legs up against him, and burying his face in his knees. He listened intently to the crackling of the fires around him, as he fought to get his breathing under control.

It seemed like hours, before another sound broke his bubble.

“Xephos.”

He slowly turned his head upwards, leaning his chin on one of his knees as he took in the sight of the dwarf. Honeydew was sitting on the edge of his own bed, his own torch still clenched tightly in his hand. He was looking at Xephos, eyes full of empathy. Xephos swallowed hard as he tried to muster his voice together to form a coherent sentence.

“It was him, Honeydew. He’s back.”

The dwarf looked back at the man, sadness filling his eyes, before replying quietly;

“I know, Xephos. I know.”

 

Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle,

Some nights I wish they would just fall off.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 – Kiss My Eyes And Lay Me To Sleep

This is what I brought you, this you can keep

This is what I brought, you may forget me

 

Sips was not a complicated guy. He appreciated the small things in life, such as the tenderness of his shoulder after a long day of hard work, or the way the smell of sulfur would burn within his nostrils when he got particularly close to the rock that defended the planet’s core from uninvited inhabitants. He appreciated things that made him feel like he was alive, and kicking.

Sips didn’t care about anyone’s problems except his owns. Why should he? He had never had a reason to. He wasn’t dependant on anyone to get his work done. No one could tell him what to do, and if the others stayed out of his business, he would stay out of theirs.

The only exception that had ever existed to that was Sjin. Sips had found himself growing addicted to the architect. When the man was off helping some of the others, Sips would find himself unable to do anything else but pace around their bedroom until he returned. That was why Sips had started joining the architect on his helpful adventures. Sjin made Sips feel comfortable. He made him feel safe.

Sips would never admit it to anyone, but lately he had started looking at the factory as more of theirs instead of his.

Maybe he could care a little bit about Sjin’s problems too. You know, for business purposes.

Sips drew the back of his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat that had collected just above his brows. He had used most of his day mining. And mining… Well.. Mining was hard work. Maybe even harder than chopping down trees. The material was tougher after all, and you had to hit the correct spot with the pick, or else you’ll get nothing but rubble.

Yes. Mining was hard work, but Sips loved it none the less. He loved the feeling of being in his own little bubble with no noise, but the sound of the pick hitting the stone and the occasional growl from a nearby monster.

Sips sighed contently and rolled his shoulders as he took a second to breathe properly, from the stone-breaking. He was going to sleep very well tonight, he could just feel it. He smiled at the stone wall in front of him, and was just about to swing his pick once more when a figure rammed straight into him, almost making him topple over. The familiar scent of his companion surrounded him, as it occurred to him that it was Sjin that had ran straight into him.

“Sjin, what the hell? Can’t you see I’m mining here?”

The lumberjack turned to yell some more at the smaller man, but stopped dead as he saw the expression covering Sjin’s face. The architect was breathing hurriedly, his pupils big and expression scared. He clenched a torch tightly in his hand, as he returned the lumberjack’s gaze. Sips reached out and rested his hand on his shoulder, forgetting everything about keeping up his façade.

“What’s wrong, Sjin?”

Sjin shook his head as he panted, meaning that he couldn’t say anything right now. Instead he just pointed towards the other end of the hallway that Sips had mined out.

A breeze suddenly grabbed onto Sips clothing. What the hell? They were 50 feet underground, there was not supposed to any wind here. Sips squinted towards the end of the long, underground hallway.

The torches.

They were going out. One by one, all the way back from where the hallway turned. Sips grabbed Sjin’s wrist roughly and pulled the architect behind him, shielding him childishly with one arm. He pulled out his diamond sword, and pointed it towards the hallway. Sips eyes followed the darkness as it plummeted towards them carelessly  until the only light left, came from the torch that Sjin held in his hand. Sips could not see any further that 10 feet in front of him. His knuckles turned white as he clenched his diamond sword tighter, embracing himself for whatever was to emerge from the darkness.

Sips’s eyes sought franticly in the darkness, looking for any sign of another presence. The silence was deafening, only being interrupted by the sound of breathing and the crackling of the torch behind him. The tension rose as they kept the position for what felt like hours, when in reality, it had only been a couple of seconds.

Sips flinched as a loud hiss filled the air around them. A pair of red, glowing eyes was staring back at him from the darkness, and for a split-second, Sips’s tension disappeared as he looked back at the thing that he thought was a spider, staring at him. That was, until the creature stepped forward, out of the darkness, and into the outskirts of the light erupting from the torch.

Sips eyes heart rate went flying as he stared perplexed into the creature in front of them. The creature had the silhouette of a human, but that was it. He wasn’t anymore than a silhouette. No flesh, no bones, no blood, just pure living shadow with terrifying red eyes.

“Who are you? What do you wa-ant?”

Sips’s voice broke in the middle of the final word and all hopes of retaining a stable façade shattered. The creature’s lips, which Sips hadn’t noticed were even there before the monster started moving them, curled upwards into a smirk. It looked thoughtful at them for a second, almost as if it was trying to remember the reply to the lumberjack’s shaky question. When it finally spoke, a shiver ran down Sips’s spine.

“Issssraphel.”

Israphel? No, that couldn’t be – But.. That was only supposed to be a myth!

Sips’s train of thoughts was interrupted as the creature hissed at them once more. A light breeze surrounded the lumberjack and the architect. The wind rose slowly in strength, and Sips quickly realized what the monster’s – Israphel’s – intentions were. He backed up, standing closer to his architect.

“Fuck.”

The word slipped from his lips as a whisper on its own. Sips’s hand sought backwards, searching for Sjin’s hand. The hand that greeted him was cold and clammy and felt dirty, but it didn’t matter. Sjin was with him, and that was all that Sips really needed.

 A big gust of wind hit Sips’s face. He closed his eyes, clenching tighter on both the sword and the architect’s hand, and waited for the inevitable. He could feel the warmth of the torch disappear and took a deep breath.

Sips gasped as it felt like the earth disappeared underneath him. His skin tingled as every inch of air was pushed out of his lunges. His inside felt like it had turned to liquid, and it only made him hold on tighter to his companion’s hand. He could feel the content of his stomach threatening to resurface as his feet once again touched ground.

He opened his eyes as fresh air filled his nose and mouth. He was outside. In front of him was Ridge, looking worried at them. Behind him was a group of people, standing close to each other. He recognized some of the faces, but a bunch of them was unfamiliar to him. Sips let go of his sword, making it fall to the ground in front of him, as it occurred to him what had just happened.

Ridge had teleported them, out, away from the terrible monster. Sips swallowed hard, but to no use. His breathing hitched when finally let go of Sjin’s hand, only to relocate it to support him on his thigh, as he leaned forward and vomited.

He could hear a grunt of repulsion from Lomadia as he straightened up again. He wiped away the vomit from his lips with the back of his hand as he allowed himself to fill his lunges with fresh air. He stepped away from the vomit in front of him, shuffling closer to Sjin, and looked at the group once more.

The stupid dwarf was there, along with both of his workers, the spaceman and the weird scientist. Beside them, a big, bearded man stood with a man that Sips could only guess was his brother, as they looked very similar. Both of them had traces of coal covering their clothes and gave out a strong smell of metal that made Sips want to vomit again. Two boys, one blond and one with brown hair, that seemed painfully out of place with their apparently young age stood behind the brothers, the tallest brother holding a protective arm in front of them. Behind them stood a red-haired girl, holding the hand of a man that Sips recognized as Rythian. The purple mage looked at Sips and Sjin with a frown that Sips wished he had the power to return. To the duo’s right was a small, human-sized dinosaur and scruffy looking man in a kilt, desperately holding on to what seemed to be a lever. The dinosaur growled shortly at them, showing off a sharp set of teeth, decorating the inside of his mouth.

“Teep, stop it.”

The dinosaur stopped at the request of the redhead, and Sips let his eyes wander over the remaining group members. He recognized Nilesy’s attire and glasses, as the former pool boy smiled at them nervously. Lomadia was at his side, staring at the architect and the lumberjack, her arms crossed and head slightly crooked. Minty was at her right, her brown dress flowing slowly in the lazy wind. The barmaid smiled sadly at them, eyes full of empathy that Sips would have never thought she would give him of all people. The last two group members stood at the outskirts of the group, both with their arms crossed, and both sneaking angry looks at each other. One of them had a big mustache, bigger than Sjin’s, decorating his face. He had a streak of grey hair, and he reminded Sips of an old gangster, straight out of one of Sips’s old mob-films. The last man wore a coat, somewhat similar to the one that Ridge wore, looking like he was supposed to be a captain of something. A monocle hanged lazily from its chain, dangling against his chest as he shifted his weight onto the other leg.

Sips could count seventeen people, nineteen if you counted himself and Sjin.

“Ri – Ridgedog?”

Sjin’s surprised voice almost seemed to roar through the silence even though he hadn’t talked very loudly.

“Sjin, Sips.” The demigod nodded at each of them as he spoke their name. “Good to see you’re okay.”

Sips gave out a frustrated yelp.

“Just barely, big guy.”

The spaceman took a step forward, brows furrowed, and stared intently at them.

“Israphel?”

Sips’s gaze snapped towards the spaceman as the name slipped loud and clear from his lips. Sips squinted at him suspiciously and nodded slowly. Xephos shook his head, almost as if he was giving up, and turned towards the demigod.

“See? I told you – I told you this would happen!”

He gave out a frustrated sigh, and threw up his hands in defeat.

“How are we supposed to fight a shadow?”

“What do you mean how? Can’t Mr Fancy-Pants over there do something about it?” Sips asked.

Weren’t these the situation that gave the Survival Games purpose? Wasn’t this exact situation why everyone was risking their lives over and over again?

“I can’t do anything about him. My powers doesn’t seem to have any effect on him.”

Ridge supported his elbow with the hand of the other and rubbed his chin, seemingly going through the library that existed within mind.

“What? If you can’t help us then what are we paying you for, you big bastard?”

“Because I know someone who can.”

The spaceman’s eyebrows rose on his forehead.

“Another one of you?”

Ridge twitched his lips upward almost undetectable, seemingly amused by the statement.

“I guess you can say that.”


I promise to depart, just promise one thing;

Kiss my eyes and lay me to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 – Teenage rebel

Xephos had heard the tales and read the stories about the mythical beings. The children of Notch they were called, and they were well know across the entire planet. The myth told them to be Notch’s first creations. Three siblings, gifted with the powers of creation, made to look over the dimensions of the universe. There would supposedly be three of them, two brothers and a sister.

Tarro, Kigaroth and Madrina.

Fierce and just, they were silent watchers that kept everything functioning, everything in check. The stories said that at the first dawn, each of the siblings had favored their own dimension. Tarro had been mesmerized by the dark corners of the End, Kigaroth had favored the hot shores of the Nether and Madrina fallen in love with the green hills of the Earth.

When Rythian had first mentioned them to Xephos all those years ago, he had listened, but not really interested in the tales. This was clearly a part of Minecraftians way of thinking, their religion, another part of the country that Xephos found to be a bit silly. He had convinced himself to at least try and research the way of thinking a bit more, evolving his understanding for the Minecraftian culture.

Yes, he had heard the stories, but he had never, ever, expected them to be true.

And yet, there Ridge stood, telling them that they should find one of these creatures.

The group had gone quiet, the only sound engulfing them, was that of their own breathing. No one dared speak, all covered in a haze of disbelief. What seemed like hours went by before someone finally pulled together, opening their mouth and criticizing the demigod.

“That’s it. Fancy-Pants have gone insane.”

The sarcastic comment swept through the flock of people, breaking their apparent trance.

“They exist?”

Lomadia’s breathless voice filled the soundless void.

Of course. How could he forget?

He knew that the children of Notch held a special place in the heart of the owl-keeper. He had heard her whispered prayers, in the middle of the night, when she had thought him to be asleep. She had never mentioned anything to him, and now Xephos was sure that she never would.

There had once been a time where Lomadia had been Xephos’s confidant, his special light at the end of the tunnel when he had first arrived. But that was in another time, and now the blonde shared her secrets with someone else. Xephos had expected it, known that it was inevitable. They were different, their trains running in opposite directions, and the poor girl’s heart could only take so much.  In the end it had been Xephos that had stopped it, knowing that Lomadia was too loyal to do it herself. He had taken her hands in his and told her that it was okay to say yes to something more. The girl had smiled relived at him and wrapped her warm arms around him, whispering a tired ‘thank you’ in his ears. They were still friends, of course, but the level of secrets shared had decreased tremendously since.

Ridge’s lips formed gentle smile, knowing exactly what moved behind Lomadia’s desperate eyes.

“Of course they do, Lomadia.”

“How can we be sure they can help?”

18 pairs of eyes frowned at the scientist that had dared question the myth. Lalna shifted uncomfortably onto his other foot and elaborated;

“I mean, if Ridge can’t even do anything about it, why should they?”

Ridge gave out a small irritated huff.

“Because we’re not the same.” The demigod stated flatly, prompting for the scientist to shut up and agree if he wanted any help. The young scientist blushed slightly and stared at the dark grass beneath his feet. An awkward silence spread across the party once more.

Sjin coughed awkwardly.

“So.. H – How are we going to find them?”

“Don’t worry about that. I know where she is.”

“She?”

“Yes. Not all of them live close by.”

Ridge paused shortly, weighing the situation in his head before continuing.

“When you get there, don’t move.”

Sjin didn’t have the time to question the demigod further before the immortal flicked his wrist, dissolving the architect into motes, moving faster than Xephos’s senses could detect, across the gloomy midnight landscape.

He did this with Sips soon after, and then Lalna, continuing throughout the group, until it was only Honeydew, Xephos and himself left.

“See you on the other side, shitlords.” The dwarf muttered, poorly disguising the nervousness thickening the rough voice.

Ridge flicked his wrist once more, and the dwarf followed the other group members, dissolving into motes before disappearing up, over the hills of the area that had started to be so very familiar to the spaceman.

The demigod turned to Xephos, readying to teleport the spaceman.

“Wait.”

Ridgedog stopped in his movement, hand raised and prepared as he eyed the man patiently.

Xephos shifted uncomfortable, and daringly took a step towards the demigod, reaching out and grabbing his wrist. Ridge’s gaze shifted towards their hand before slowly creeping his gaze up his chest and neck, lingering at Xephos’s lips, before finally returning to look back into the spaceman’s glowing eyes, a small heat spreading across his face.

He felt like he had to say something.

“About the -…”

He closed his mouth abruptedly, not really knowing how to complete his sentence. His mouth worked on his own, as he continued to blabber unfinished words at the demigod.

 “I -.. We -.. I don’t think -.. I’m -..”

Xephos cursed himself mentally.

As Xephos gave up on trying to find the right words, he gave out a groan of frustration, and yanked the demigod forwards, mashing his lips against Ridge’s, tongue needy and teeth clashing. The immortal reacted immediately, seemingly having anticipated this, and opened his mouth in the kiss, roughly pushing his tongue forward to twirl around Xephos’. A hand grabbed Xephos’ waist with a familiar kind of roughness and dug its fingers deep into the flesh below the clothes.

Xephos gave a soft, involuntary moan into the kiss, enjoying the sensation that his subconscious had missed for the last couple of weeks. He pulled his lips away from the immortal’s, leaning his forehead up against the other’s. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, savoring the smell of Ridge.

“I’m sor –“

“You don’t have to say it Xephos. I understand.” Ridge cut him off. Xephos could feel the edge of his lip twitch. Of course he did. He always did, even when Xephos claimed otherwise. Xephos sighed and settled on another approach;

 “The only thing that helped afterwards, was you.”

He didn’t realize the reality in the words before they left his lips. After Israphel had showed himself, Xephos had panicked, his anxiety clouding his mind, keeping him from interacting with anyone but himself. Honeydew had tried to calm him down, tried to reason, but nothing helped before the dwarf had called the demigod. The minute that Ridge had touched his feet to the rough stone floor of the room, the cloud had lifted, leaving no trace behind. It was as if Ridge’s arrival had brought peace, had brought clearness, had brought serenity.

Ridge hummed satisfied at Xephos’ words, freeing his wrist from his grip, and tangling it in Xephos’s short hair, as he pulled the man forward, connecting his lips to the spaceman’s once more, for a brief passionate moment.

As they untageled, knowing that they couldn’t afford to let this moment go on, Ridge’s face fell into a satisfied grin that made Xephos groan and roll his eyes, before he could stop himself.

“You are such a smug bastard.”

Ridge laughed loudly and raised a playful eyebrow against the alien.

“Ready?”

Xephos nodded and took a deep breath as Ridge flicked his wrist. Xephos closed his eyes hard and braced himself. He had never liked being teleported, but always endured it when needed. Teleportation had never felt right. His entire body, reduced to a handful of motes, and still his mind was able to think, to react, meanwhile. It didn’t hurt, it never did, but the feeling of being torn apart, atom by flippin’ atom, was enough to make Xephos want to puke every time.

As his feet touched the ground breathed heavily through his nose, swallowing back the urge to wretch. As soon as he felt gravity pull at his now-complete body, he allowed himself to take a deep breath through his mouth. He choked on his first gasp of air and coughed loudly across the area. Several members of the group hissed at him to stay quiet, and it wasn’t until he got himself back under control and straightened up, that he knew why.

He was standing in a clearing. A house stood firmly in the middle of it, the surrounding area covered with circles of torches. In the middle of each circle stood a stone figure, varying between an enderman, a zombie and a creeper. In some of the others, a small pile of rubble was decorating the middle. The macabre scene made goose bumps spread across Xephos’s pale skin and the question of whether or not this had been real creaturesonce shot through his mind.

The house itself was quite large, built in three floors, and made out of simple grey bricks. If it hadn’t been for the weird choice in lawn ornaments, Xephos wouldn’t have given the house any second thoughts.

“When we go in there, you should let me do the talking.”

The group turned, almost in unison, away from the house and towards Ridge’s voice.

“I doubt she will be happy having this number of unexpected guests.”

The weak attempt of joking only made the tension thicker, and everyone took a moment to just close their eyes and breathe. Xephos still couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. As he opened his eyes again, he found Ridge looking at the group expectantly.

“Ready?”

Nodding spread across the party, even though Xephos knew that they probably weren’t. As the group turned around, they stopped dead, as the first thing they saw was a diamond sword pointed firmly against them.  

“Move and I will kill you.”

 

 

I used to be old, but now I feel young

‘Cause I was a boy when I learned how to run